matters of safety – negotiations

besides knowing the basics about how to let blood safely and how to reduce the risk from transmittable diseases, negotiation is probably the most important factor for keeping you safe. in other words, talk things through with your partner.

this is good advice for any relationship, but in relationships which go beyond the common it is even more important. for normal relationships you have a ton of accumulated experience to fall back on, if not your own experience then that of your peers, that presented on tv and in movies and books. in unconventional relationships like that between vampire and donor there is no such store of experience at your disposal, you have to work things out as you go along.

when i said that there is no shared experience about vampire/donor relationships i was not exactly correct. vampires have had donors for as long as we know, and there’s quite some texts about how they should treat us. often these form part of guides of conduct such as the various versions of the “black veil v1 v2 v3 v4” (which i don’t like, but lets not get into that), or as in this set of “rules” left by one vampire to her “offspring” (i found this just recently and think that it’s totally cute. she talks of as “food”. then she spoils it by claiming descent from lillith). however, i don’t think either of these texts (and others) are really useful. they’re very idealised and oversimplified, based on fantasy or role-play, sometimes deeply cultish. they are also, and that is where i have most trouble with them, geared exclusively towards vampires; donors are to be treated with care and respect and such, but when we get right down to it those texts don’t grant the donor any agency. in those texts we are, when we get right down to it, cattle; appreciated and cherished, but nonetheless dumb cattle.*

a text which i find much more appealing is the “donor bill of rights“. i have some issues with the language, which i find a bit stilted, and also with some of the items in the list. or perhaps i should say this differently: i mostly agree with the content of the text, but its presentation as a list of rights is misleading. aspects which i like is that the author suggests that the vampire/donor relationship is negotiated and needs to be regularly re-negotiated. i really like that the author shows a good awareness of how abusive relationships function; several items in the list concern behaviours typical of abusive relationships. in particular items 6 (right to seek outside guidance) and 7 (right not to be blackmailed) are important in that regard. an aspect which i dislike is that the donor bill of rights has become a kind of default text which everyone refers to, often with a horribly bad understanding of its meanings. this leads to unfortunate statements such as the following:

“according to the donor bill of rights, before bloodletting occurs, a contract between vampyre and donor must be notarized to affirm the donor’s willing to bleed and to avoid any claims of assault” (all caps removed, taken from this site which pops up when i run searches for my blog).

nowhere in the donor bill of rights does it say anything about a contract being obligatory, much less notarised; this might sounds like nit-picking, but the point is important: negotiations are important because there are no fixed rules. if you believe that there are any rules which everybody knows and follows will leave you in a false sense of safety.

possibly the best guide i’ve found so far is the “vampires and donors guide to negotiation“. this doesn’t tell you what your relationship with your vampire or donor should be like, but it lists a number of points which are likely to come up in your vampire/donor relationship. it’s a relatively long list, much longer than the donor bill of rights. but i would really recommend that you use this list at least as a guideline for issues you ought to be aware of. this doesn’t mean that you have to print it out and sit down with your vampire or donor and work through it item by item. many of the issues in there will come up in normal conversation anyway. but it won’t hurt if you sit down for yourself with the list and see what issues remain unanswered and what extra questions you still might have.

a last point, which i haven’t seen mentioned nearly enough, is reality checking. very few of us have much experience in negotiating vampire/donor relationships, very few of us know how these relationships really work, in particular if we’re just setting out on this journey. the only real way to work around this is to talk to people. talk to other donors, talk to other vampires, if anything seems weird or strange or just surprising, ask others what they think. in particular if something the other does scares you – not just vampires are scary, sometimes us donors scare our vampires too – you really should talk about it with others. this goes beyond point 6 of the donor bill of rights; it’s not just a right, it’s something i believe you should actively pursue. that is perhaps one of the best gifts the internet has given us, it allows us to find others in similar situations and to speak with them in safe settings. so check out blackswanhaven, join the vcmb or another non-dogmatic forum, and talk with people.

finally, there’s no way around thinking for yourself, working out for yourself what is good for you, what you can agree to and what you can’t. remember that nobody can tell you what you must or mustn’t do!

p.s. the various documents i’ve referenced here (various versions of the black veil, the donor bill of rights, the guide to negotiations) are quite widely known in the vampire community and can easily be found all over the web. i’ve linked to versions on mainly out of convenience.

*you must forgive me if i sound a little militant here. voice and agency are two of my main academic and activist interests.

  1. June 15th, 2009
  2. September 20th, 2009

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