Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

November 29, 2018

Google employees: "Our Executives Engaged in Abuse. Don’t Let Kink and Polyamory Be Their Scapegoats."

Google employees walking off the job on November 1 (Mason Trinca / Getty)

On October 25th the New York Times published an investigative report on top executives of Google abusing their power over women employees and the company letting them go quietly on good terms: How Google Protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’.

It included these bits:

In 2013, Richard DeVaul, a director at Google X, the company’s research and development arm, interviewed Star Simpson, a hardware engineer. During the job interview, she said he told her that he and his wife were “polyamorous,” a word often used to describe an open marriage.


[Andy] Rubin often berated subordinates as stupid or incompetent, they said. Google did little to curb that behavior. It took action only when security staff found bondage sex videos on Mr. Rubin’s work computer, said three former and current Google executives briefed on the incident.

...Mr. Rubin, 55, who met his wife at Google, also dated other women at the company while married, said four people who worked with him. ... In a civil suit filed this month by Mr. Rubin’s ex-wife, Rie Rubin, she claimed he had multiple “ownership relationships” with other women during their marriage, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. The couple were divorced in August.

The suit included a screenshot of an August 2015 email Mr. Rubin sent to one woman. “You will be happy being taken care of,” he wrote. “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”

These stories, and others like them at other tech companies, have been reverberating around the tech industry and its critics, including conservative-world. Now some Google employees have published this on Medium:

Our Executives Engaged in Abuse. Don’t Let Kink and Polyamory Be Their Scapegoats.

A New York Times report exacerbated stigma while bringing wrongdoing to light

By Liz Fong-Jones

...On October 25, two New York Times reporters released their yearlong investigation, and the scandal burst into the open. ... A week later, 20,000 employees walked off the job to protest [Google parent] Alphabet’s systematic mishandling of harassment and discrimination. ... We as workers certainly cannot be safe while our leaders engage in, reward, and cover up sexual harassment and abuse.

Although the New York Times article shed light on workplace harassment, the stigmatizing depiction of polyamory and BDSM counterintuitively hurts victims and makes them less likely to speak out. We cannot agree with its characterization of the practice of polyamory and BDSM as inherently abusive or salacious. The executives’ excuses about their participation in polyamory and BDSM are yet another layer of deflection of responsibility. In fact, it is victims who are polyamorous or who practice BDSM who fear being shamed, isolated, and further retaliated against when reporting abuse, should they be outed in the process.

As women and nonbinary people who work at Alphabet (but who do not speak for our employer), and as people who have dealt with sexual harassment and assault, we want to set the record straight: Our existence as sex-positive and polyamorous people is not inherently abusive or scandalous. The abuses reported in the New York Times arose from corporate power dynamics and misogyny, not from polyamory or BDSM.

Ethical practice of polyamory and BDSM does not entail abuse or harassment. To explain this, let’s briefly define polyamory, BDSM, abuse, and harassment....

Consent is key to the practice of both BDSM and polyamory. Given the position of these men, however, meaningful consent was impossible. ... Adding in the dimension of stigma around polyamory and kink exacerbates the power dynamics in play. For one thing, if someone isn’t out as either polyamorous or kinky, threatening to expose them as such is an easy way for abusers to preemptively silence them. Even victims who aren’t polyamorous or kinky may be afraid to expose the abuse for fear of being publicly perceived as such because their abuser has used those words. Because of how polyamory and kink are often portrayed, being known as either can result in anything from social shaming and ostracization to loss of employment and custody of children.

...If people don’t feel safe seeking out support or asking questions about whether behavior they’re experiencing is normal, they will be easy prey for predators. ...

As a culture, we need to separate abuse and harassment from the ethical practice of BDSM and polyamory. As long as journalists and the public continue to conflate such practices with abuse, victims will face far too many barriers when seeking justice. If people don’t feel safe seeking out support or asking questions about whether behavior they’re experiencing is normal, they will be easy prey for predators. Communities dedicated to education about polyamory and BDSM practices exist, but they’re forced to exist in the shadows because of the fear of being outed and losing jobs, children, and more. Let’s work together to destigmatize ethical polyamory and BDSM so that powerful men will think twice before offending and past victims of abuse can seek justice.

Emily R. and an anonymous Googler contributed to this story.

Read their whole, much longer piece (November 29, 2018).


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