If anyone you’ve played with accuses you of mistreating them, you are guilty of playing with them in such a way as to leave them feeling mistreated.
If you’re sure they agreed to the things you did with them, and they say they didn’t, you are guilty of failing to communicate.
If they did agree to those things, but afterwards they say they didn’t like what happened, you’re guilty of failing to check in throughout your time with them and ensure that they were still in a good place.
If a vindictive ex accuses you, you are guilty of breaking up so poorly that you turned someone who once cared for you into an enemy.
If they are a “crazy person,” and change their story about your relationship after the fact, you are guilty of choosing partners who aren’t stable enough to be engaging in kink.
If someone else manipulates them into accusing you, you are guilty of playing with partners who don’t know their own minds well enough to be engaging in kink.
If you get accused publicly, you’re guilty of leaving a partner feeling so negatively towards you that they’d prefer to bare their pain to the scrutiny of strangers rather than deal with you directly.
This isn’t the kind of guilty that gets you sent to jail. Even in cases where someone’s behavior in their kinky relationships has broken the law, prosecution and conviction are incredibly rare. But is “Not enough evidence to prosecute,” really the standard you’re aiming for?
It could possibly be the kind of guilty that earns you a bad reputation or gets you blacklisted from some kinky communities, but even that is pretty uncommon. It takes a lot of concerted effort from a community to spread the word, build consensus and enact a ban. But is that your standard either? Is “People felt shitty about how he treated them, but it wasn’t quite bad enough to get him banned,” how you’re hoping to be remembered?
I’d like to think that the standard you want to set for your kink is that your partners have a positive experience with you, and remember you fondly. By that standard there isn’t any question: an accusation from a partner means that you have fucked up severely.
If you ever find yourself in that situation, it is not a time to defend yourself. It is a time for unflinching self-examination of how you have fucked up. Focus on figuring out what you can do to make things better for the person who had a bad experience with you, and on how you can change your behavior so as to not fuck up in the same way again.
Maybe you need to negotiate more clearly.
Maybe you need to learn to stop hearing what you wish your partner was telling you instead of what they’re actually saying.
Maybe you need to learn how to check in and monitor your partners’ status throughout the time you’re playing with them, instead of charging blindly ahead until they have to tell you to stop.
Maybe you need to learn that someone with a manic eagerness to “do anything” probably doesn’t really understand what they’re getting into.
Maybe you have some privilege you need to learn to recognize and moderate.
If you’re a leader or a star, maybe you need to acknowledge the power that gives you, and do a better job of being extra careful with people to compensate for it.
Maybe you need to learn to just plain care about your partners, instead of only thinking about what you can get out of them.
The good news is that if you set high standards for how you treat partners, hold yourself accountable, and keep working to improve, then you have very little cause to worry about being found guilty by your community, let alone by the law.
You can even fuck up sometimes. Kink plays with tricky and delicate emotions, and some kinks add technically complex or risky physical practices on top of that. Everyone who practices kink long enough fucks up eventually, and no howling mob materializes on our doorstep.
The big FetLife shitstorms you see? The people who get banned? The exceedingly rare criminal prosecution? Almost always those are people who refused to acknowledge and address their missteps and failed to care for their partners. They hurt people and made excuses for why it wasn’t their fault. The valued their own convenience, reputation and gratification above their partners’ well being. They defended their right to keep making the same mistakes. They set their standard at “What I can get away with,” rather than “What makes a great time for both of us.”
And, eventually, other people stepped in to deliver the guilty verdict that they didn’t have the integrity to give themselves.