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Drupal Developer Larry Garfield Ostracized Over Involvement in Sci-Fi Based Kink Community

The scandal has exposed odd taboos in the liberal-leaning Drupal community and how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be.

covers of Gor books by John Normancovers of Gor books by John NormanHere's another good example of the limits of liberal "tolerance": in the name of equality and diversity, tech leaders have turned against a long-respected member of their community over his private and consensual sex practices. Sure, the scandal has revealed that Drupal developer and spokesman Larry Garfield has a penchant for BDSM broadly and also for a specific sub-genre of the kink centered on the fictional land of Gor, in which a subset of women serve as men's sex slaves. But more importantly, the situation has exposed strange taboos in the liberal-leaning Drupal community and how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be.

Taking the brunt of the hypocrisy criticism is Drupal trademark owner Dries Buytaert. Buytaert's main gig now is chief technology officer for Acquia, a company he co-founded in 2007. But he's better known as the the creator and original project lead for the open-source content management software Drupal, which has attracted a huge and devoted community since its 2001 launch. Drupal is "supported and maintained" by the nonprofit Drupal Association, which also organizes Drupal conferences.

According to Executive Director Megan Sanicki, the association began looking into Garfield last October at the behest of another member of the Drupal community. That person had discovered Garfield's profiles on membership kink and dating websites and shared some screenshots with Drupal leadership.

But a Drupal Community Working Group investigation into Garfield found that he had not violated anything in the Drupal community's Code of Conduct, which probably should have been the end of things. No one has offered any evidence that Garfield discriminated against women in his professional life—in fact, many women whom Garfield has worked or associated with have rushed to his defense—let alone committed any more severe offenses or violence against them. Garfield himself says he believes women are every bit as intelligent as men and that his desire for female submission extends only to his own personal romantic/sexual partnerships. "The [dominant/submissive, or] D/s and Gorean community in general places a heavy emphasis on explicit, active, informed consent and constant communication," he notes, adding that he personally has "never, ever advocated for treating women, as a class, with anything other than dignity and respect."

But even if Garfield did hold sincerely sexist views in private, it hardly seems grounds for community expulsion in the absence of publcly articulated views or actions. The idea that women should be submissive to their husbands is a prominent feature of many religious faiths, and a value that plenty of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others still hold dear—typically with way less add-on feminism than you'll find in BDSM relationships. Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission?

If—as Buytaert says—the association is commited to treating people equally regardless of "their heritage or culture, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, and more," they seem to doing a pretty terrible job. People's preferences toward certain types of sex or particular fantasies can be no less innate than a sexual orientation toward same- or opposite-sex partners (and no more reason for alarm). And it's hard to imagine a woman receiving the same treatment and derision if it came out that she once worked as a dominatrix or wrote 50 Shades of Grey fanfic.

Meanwhile, Garfield was disinvited from the upcoming DrupalCon Baltimore, had his status as a conference track coordinator revoked, and (in a February phone call that both agree on at least the basics of) was asked by Buytaert to stop contributing to the Drupal community. (The request might not seem like a big deal to those outside the tech world, but "open-source communities/projects are crucially important to many people's careers and professional lives," explains John Evans at TechCrunch, "so who they allow and deny membership to, and how their codes of conduct are constructed and followed, is highly consequential.")

At this point, Garfield went on the offensive, telling his side of the story in a blog post that professed "no choice but to clarify some private details" of his life that were the subject of "a whisper campaign going around the Drupal world," one which was hurting him greatly professionally. Garfield explained his involvement in "hierarchical relationship" communities based on dominance/submission practiced with "informed, active consent," admitting that he is "involved in two such communities, specifically the BDSM community and the Gorean (Gor) community." From Garfield's post:

The former is by far the larger of the two and more varied, although I spend more of my time and activity in the Gorean community. It's a small community, and sadly much of what is found online about it is utter crap, just as most in the BDSM community find the '50 Shades' representation of BDSM to be harmfully misleading. The Gorean subculture is inspired by a science-fiction book series written [by John Norman] from the 1960s onward to today, and predicated on a strong sense of personal honor, integrity, and community. It also practices consensual Master/slave relationships, and has a strong gender bias toward male-Dom/female-sub relationships, but that is not the cornerstone of Gorean culture. [...] The idea of consenting to give your significant other outsized control over your life may seem strange or uncomfortable to some. That's fine; it's not for everyone, nor does anyone claim it is, nor should anyone ever be forced into such a relationship. [...] Yes, I have been involved in several consensual Master/slave relationships with women. I will continue to do so, but only with those who are also interested in such relationships. I discuss the social and personal dynamics of such relationships on private forums set up for people with similar interests. I know many people who are happily coupled in such relationships

After Garfield's post was up, Dries Buytaert responded with a post of his own, explaining that he was trying to break off the relationship because "Garfield holds views that are in opposition to the values of the Drupal project." Buytaert stressed that "the Drupal community is committed" to not discriminating against anyone based on "their heritage or culture, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, and more" and works hard "to foster a culture of open-mindedness toward difference." But Garfield "actively promotes a philosophy that is contrary" to these values and the basic belief that "all people are created equally," Buytaert wrote.

In a sentence now deleted, he stated that "when a highly-visible community member's private views become public, controversial, and disruptive for the project, I must consider the impact," and ultimately was not able to "get past the fundamental misalignment of values." Buytaert's explanation was updated several times in the face of public response, with him later apologizing for "causing grief and uncertainty...to those in the BDSM and kink communities" and stating that the situation was "never about sexual practices or kinks." It wasn't "Larry's alternative lifestyle" that was the problem, Buytaert suggested, but "confidential information" that he cannot share, as well the the underlying "beliefs conveyed in Larry's blog post."

What beliefs would those be? In Garfield's decade-plus association with the Drupal community, no one has publicly accused him of treating women as inferior, trying to coerce people he knew professionally into sex, or even talking about his sex life at all in professional settings. Many men and women who know him from these settings have spoken out in his support, including 120 Drupal "developers, supporters, and funders," who told Buytaert that they are concerned with his actions and, if Garfield did not violate the law or Drupal's Code of Conduct, he should be welcomed back and offered an apology. The Drupal community should not "discriminate against people for who they are on the outside, for what they believe, for what they value, or for how they lawfully, consensually, and peacefully live their personal lives," it said.

It's equally unclear what sort of other behavior of which Garfield is being accused. Garfield says he does not know, and has publicly asked Buytaert and the Drupal Association to enlighten him; they have stayed mum, not even revealing the basic nature of the alleged info. As John Evans writes at TechCrunch, "Dries & co. could surely have told the community substantially more (indeed, anything) about Garfield's problematic behavior, if any, without revealing sensitive information. For instance, they could have said they'd received reports of threats, harassment, or coercion by Garfield, if any such reports existed. They have said nothing of the sort."

But "just trust us is not enough," Evans continues. "Especially since it also seems possible that the CTO and co-founder of a heavily funded pre-IPO company has participated in expelling a man from what has been his professional community for the last twelve years, ignoring that community's own Code of Conduct and Conflict Resolution Policy, because it was decided he was guilty of, essentially, thoughtcrime; that no real accusations have been made, and no allegations of problematic behavior have been cited, because none such exist."

The few Drupal threads floating around as evidence that Garfield's chauvinistic views crossed over into his tech life are laughably non-offensive (see some examples below) or only suspect if read in the least likely and charitable light possible. And the writing being used as "proof" that Garfield truly believes in male supremacy come from the kink forums he posted to—i.e., places where one's persona, comments, etc., tend to serve as an extension of sexual fantasies or fetishes, not credible indicators of full-time values. Some have claimed that by not hiding his identity better in these forums, Garfield deserves what he is getting, but keep in mind that these were registration-required sites in which he had been participating for over a decade that only came to light after another Drupal devotee found them last year and then (against the site's terms of service) screenshotted them to share more widely.

Throughout all this, Buytaert and others opposing Garfield insist that it isn't about "sexual practices and kinks" and what Garfield does in his own time is fine—it's the fact that he "flaunted" it online which made a difference, or it's the "underlying" belief system behind his sexual kinks. Their statements sound a lot like some of my older relatives talking about gays and lesbians a decade or so back—if a man wants to have sex with another man in his own bedroom, that's fine, just don't go holding hands in public, or calling another man your boyfriend in front of the children! Buytaert et al. seem to suggest that sexual practices and kinks are relegated to things that happen in the flesh, in the bedroom, and entirely on the physical level. But for many BDSM practitioners, part of the fun lies in rituals and rules that extend beyond the bedroom, and role playing often (or exclusively) happens in online forums. Saying you're cool with someone's sexuality unless they ever talk about it or allude to it in public doesn't really hold water.

"In the past, Dries might've kicked Larry out because 'BDSM is a threat to family values'," notes Nadia Eghba at Medium. "Today, leaders like Dries kick Larry out because 'BDSM is a threat to gender equality;. Unfortunately, the end result is the same....If diversity is our dogma, call me 'spiritual, not religious'. I still pray for the same things as you, but I won't be at the witch trials."

John De Goes, organizer of the programming conference LamdaConf, expressed similar sentiments in an Inc interview. "In this new world order, it's not sufficient to conduct yourself with the highest standards of professionalism, as Larry Garfield has reportedly done," said De Goes. "Instead, you must have the right private beliefs and values, and you must restrict your private consensual sexual behavior to the list of approved behaviors. Everything you say and do must be examined with a microscope to judge whether you are morally worthy of inclusion into the community."

Inc points out that "the deeper question about how much tolerance should be afforded to controversial views is one that has popped up multiple times in open-source communities" in recent years, from Brendan Eich's removal as CEO of Mozilla over his opinion on same-sex marriage to the drama surrounding LambdaConf's inclusion of programmer Curtis Yarvin (who runs a neoreactionary blog in his non-professional life).

Buytaert was at first quite explicit on his answer to this question. In a section of his blog post that's now been deleted, the Drupal head opined that "someone's belief system inherently influences their actions, in both explicit and subtle ways," and wrote that he is "unwilling to take this risk going forward" with regard to Garfield's potential beliefs about sex and gender potentially spilling over into his professional life. And here's the real rub of it:

Larry's continued representation of the Drupal project could harm the reputation of the project and cause harm to the Drupal ecosystem. Any further participation in a leadership role implies our community is complicit with and/or endorses these views, which we do not.

Whether Buytaert himself believes that Garfield is a sexist pervert is irrelevant—he's clearly worried that other people will perceive Garfield as a sexist pervert, and afraid that this will create bad public-relations for Drupal. Rather than practice what he preaches about tolerance, respect, and creating "a culture of open-mindedness toward difference," Buytaert offered up Garfield for social-justice sacrifice in order to appease prudes and busybodies. Here's hoping the tech community continues to reject this sort of phony promise of diversity and attempts at inclusiveness through exclusion.

Below are a series of allegedly problematic posts that Larry Garfield (username: Crell) made in Drupal community forums related to gender, sex, and a "master/slave" naming convention within Drupal:

Photo Credit: Gor book covers

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  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Larry Garfield has a penchant for BDSM broadly and also for a specific sub-genre of the kink centered on the fictional land of Gor, in which a subset of women serve as men's sex slaves.

    Nerds have all the fun.

  • Gene||

    Just ask McAffe.

  • Finrod||

    They even write things like Houseplants Of Gor:

    http://www.rdrop.com/~wyvern/data/houseplants.html

  • Cynical Asshole||

    liberal-leaning ... how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be.

    Gee, what a shock. /sarc

  • John Thacker||

    Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission?

    Maybe, or at least it's not impossible to imagine an open source group that would be less tolerant of religious reasons as weird SF subculture kink. The inventor of Javascript got fired from Mozilla for having donated money to the anti gay marriage proposition in California.

    To be certain it is very easy to imagine some jobs and industries who would accept traditional religious marriage submission but not this sort of kink.

  • John Thacker||

    Obviously you refer to Eich, I just think that your understandable point about religious conservatives makes more sense in other industries and groups. (There it is highly relevant.)

  • Illocust||

    Well, devout supporters of Islam wouldn't receive this sort of treatment in leftist communities no matter what their religious life advocated.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission?

    Islam is a protected class, therefore they're safe. Those evangelical Christians Christfags, OTOH...

    ...keep in mind that these were registration-required sites in which he had been participating for over a decade that only came to light after another Drupal devotee found them last year...

    Was this other person also kicked out? After-all, they had to specifically seek out the site and register as a member. Why were they seeking out BDSM related sites if they weren't also into it? Or are they safe because snitches get stitches rewarded?

    I'm gonna guess that this probably has nothing to do with Garfield's kinks and everything to do with some kind of personal beef between him and Buytaert. Perhaps some kind of power struggle or other conflict between the two? Buytaert is just using this as an excuse to get rid of someone who was a threat to his little fiefdom. Happens all the time.

  • Mark22||

    Why were they seeking out BDSM related sites if they weren't also into it?

    What makes you think they weren't? Buytaert may have wanted to go onto the site as a submissive Gorean slave girl and then gotten angry when nobody was interested in a fat Belgian transsexual with a bad attitude.

  • nicklewisatx||

    An important fact that you have left out is the person who initially brought forward the info about Larry *was* found in violation of code of conduct and after review voluntarily left all leadership positions.

  • ||

    But ideally the head of Drupal should be able to say "you're fired" to anyone for any reason, right?

    If the community has a stated policy of acceptance and explicit bylaws denoting behavior that's not allowed, a reporter (and members) should be free to call them out for not adhering to those policies, right?

    IMO, Buytaert should've just broken up the band and cited creative differences rather than making it a moral issue.

  • Mark22||

    But ideally the head of Drupal should be able to say "you're fired" to anyone for any reason, right?

    Legally, Drupal can do whatever it wants to. It's not even a business, it's a volunteer organization running an open source project.

    But others are also free to call these people intolerant hypocrites for their views and their actions. That's legal to.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Everyone has their Code. Some people just lie about the tenets.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Re: That person had discovered Garfield's profiles on membership kink and dating websites...

    Just happened to run across them, eh?

  • ||

    Their statements sound a lot like some of my older relatives talking about gays and lesbians a decade or so back—if a man wants to have sex with another man in his own bedroom, that's fine, just don't go holding hands in public, or calling another man your boyfriend in front of the children!

    Sure, the same way 'The roof is on fire!' at a Quad City DJs concert sounds a lot like 'The roof is on fire!' at a Great White concert.

    One is an explicit respect for private behavior while, without invoking shame or public mockery, expresses a sincere desire not to see current social norms trampled pointlessly. The other, is being used in the absence of social norms as a justification to shame someone for their private behavior.

    At least, I assume your older relatives weren't lurking around gay peoples' bedrooms looking for juicy secrets that they could use to shame them out of their occupation and/or the community.

  • SQRLSY One||

    LOVE the titles and cover art!

    Suggested next title:

    "Snugglebunnies of Gor".

  • dantheserene||

    I'd upvote that.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Y'all know who else was "... of Gor"?

  • SQRLSY One||

    "Kinky Tranny Grannies of Gor, Who Always Want MORE!"

  • SQRLSY One||

    "Prim & Proper Church Ladies of Gor"

  • ThomasD||

    The Chakra of Gor.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "The Regulators of Gor, Who Loved to PUNISH All of Us Naughty, Disobedient Slaves"

  • SQRLSY One||

    "The Socialistic Self-Righteous SJWs of Gor, Whom We Must All Obey, on College Campuses at Least"

  • Thomas O.||

    Tex of Gor (with his rugged boots)

  • Brandybuck||

    Drupal geeks are just jealous that he's getting some.

    I mean, sheesh. I'm a software geek, I sort of understand what's going on in the community. And this fiasco is just alien to us. Maybe scifi geeks are like this, but not software geeks where merit is 101% of everything. No one cares who is sleeping with who, we're all just glad that someone is finally getting some.

    I suspect that this is nothing more than a power play. This is also common in software circles. Being the Alpha Male able to belittle subordinates is big. Doesn't matter what poo you fling as long as it's stinky and cohesive enough to stick to the target. It USUALLY doesn't go anywhere, however. People try, but meritocracy is still king. Sounds like Buytaert is just showing everyone who to suck up to and no one has gotten around to telling him to shut the fuck up.

  • Hank Phillips||

    So the message is that conservative looters have goofy sex hangups--that's a given. But looky here, these other, progressive looters do too--surprise, surprise!?
    Ayn wrote "Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life." Yes it sounds farfetched, but here we are confronted by similarities between looters of both the Senior Antisex League and the Junior Antisex League in a conflation of Atlas Shrugged,the Old Testament and 1984! That's kinky...

  • Jay Dubya||

    Well it wouldn't be the first or last thing Ayn was obviously, glaringly wrong about.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    According to Executive Director Megan Sanicki, the association began looking into Garfield

    Well that's a bit creepy.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "causing grief and uncertainty...to those in the BDSM and kink communities"

    I like how everything is a "community" and the whole thing devolves into community outrage over being marginalized.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    who runs a neoreactionary blog

    I don't know what this is. I know what reactionary is. Is there a new, more modern way of being a reactionary?

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's ideal for soi-disant libertarians who realise they don't actually like freedom for others all that much.

    Ah, so Bill Maher.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    (The term "neo-reactionary" was also used by George Orwell in 1943,[24] to refer to conservatives who felt that human nature was not perfectible and that any changes to society were therefore not worth pursuing

    Huh, I prefer this Orwell fellow's approach.

  • MarkLastname||

    And for those of us who don't consider "rational wiki" to be a reliable source, but an ironically named self- parody?

  • Mark22||

    The neoreactionary movement (a.k.a. neoreaction, NRx, the Dark Enlightenment) is a loosely-defined cluster of Internet-based political thinkers who wish to return society to forms of government older than liberal democracy.

    I guess I must be "neo-reactionary" then because I prefer a classically liberal state founded on enlightenment values, self-determination, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and free markets.

    Of course, even simple "reactionary" was a political insult hurled by socialists and communists at people who opposed them (an insult often followed by reeducation, imprisonment, or worse); so being "reactionary" was a good thing even back then.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Whether Buytaert himself believes that Garfield is a sexist pervert is irrelevant—he's clearly worried that other people will perceive Garfield as a sexist pervert,

    No. Buytaert is projecting and signalling. He's running a 1000 meter sprint to make sure everyone understand HE'S not a sexist pervert. Because he took action, firm and deliberate. See? He's evolved. He's conscious. So woke.

  • ToCa81||

    Interesting story. I know someone who's into that whole scene (not sure if specifically Gor or not), and it boggles my mind that anybody could really be bothered to care. Twenty bucks says this guy Dries is into pegging.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Several Reason posts this past week have expressed surprise that the Liberal/Progressive Left is intolerant/racist/censorious, as if this were un me way inconsistent with long established patterns of behavior. The cold facts are that the Left community has always exhibited tendencies that could realistically be called Stalinist. The always reviled HUAC witnesses who 'named names' about hollywood were mostly people who had been ostracized by a Stalinist clique for wrong think, taking revenge. Whether any of the 'blacklisted' were at all effective in promoting International Communism is seriously doubtful - they tended to be incompetent idiots - but they were surely assholes.

    Not that the Right is free of assholes. But the reputation of the Left for being Tolerant, Free Speaking, and generally Virtuous is utter hogwash. They are vile. And have been for some time.

  • Redcard||

    We'll need to go through Stalinistic scale purge of intolerant rightwads before you get to the Holocaust Centers for the left that you so claim to find so plentiful.

  • ThomasD||

    Enforced conformity is a form of equality.

    Sort of.

  • dchang0||

    Re: "Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission?"

    Yes for the evangelical Christian, no for the Muslim.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    And the evasions they would engage in if they were ever questioned about the Muslim would be truly epic.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Just FYI, Gor is not a 'land', it's a planet.

  • markm23||

    It's a planet - but since the author unrealistically assumes a planetwide monoculture, it seems much more like a "land".

  • ||

    Why is nobody talking about the real scandal here: the fact that it's 2017 and people are still doing active web development in PHP!

    That makes them all filthy degenerates in my book.

  • Morgan44||

    Hah, now that's preciously funny.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Drupal Developer Larry Garfield Ostracized Over Involvement in Sci-Fi Based Kink Community
    The scandal has exposed odd taboos in the liberal-leaning Drupal community and how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be.

    We should not be surprised by this.
    We all know there are principles of toleration for the far left, and there are principles of toleration for us little people.
    That's for the best.
    After all, we're all so unenlightened and ignorant of the judicious and successful ways of socialism.

  • Emberesque||

    I do wonder how much of the kerfuffle was around BDSM generally, or Gor specifically. Mainstream feminism had been skewing more sex- and kink-positive recently, but there was always a line drawn when it comes to any discussion of "innate" masculine/feminine desires and hierarchies, which I believe the Gor books delved into a bit.

  • Aaronsmith174||

    I read this article twice, and I still have no clue what it's about. I guess I'm not engaged.

  • Redcard||

    reason.com Republicans posing as libertarians whining about some private entity exercising their totally Maoistic freedom of association.

  • Dread Pirate Roberts||

    They told me that if Donald Trump was elected president, people would have their lives destroyed for their alternative sexuality. And they were right!

  • Redcard||

    Even the left has joined in?

  • gzuckier||

    fictional lives matter.

  • Mark22||

    Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission?

    You bet. But they likely don't have to because they probably have already eliminated anybody like that from the project.

  • theBuckWheat||

    I used to believe that what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms was their own business. I soon found out that private matters never stay completely private, as God warned. The real problem comes when people demand that I approve of what they do in private, which violates my liberty and my conscience.

    More recently such people have found ways to compel me to enable their private behavior. My private assets can be commandeered to enable behavior that I find highly offensive. In some jurisdictions I can be criminally liable should I decline to use the pronoun that confirms their objectionable private behaviors and identity. And now, at least in Canada, I can be compelled by government to utter words that I find objectionable, all in the name of equity.

    We are headed for a society that is distinctly anti-liberty and a lot of people who are helping us to get their are libertarians.

    #BakeTheCake #LoveWins

  • markm23||

    To illustrate the difference between fantasy and the real world: my wife was once very much into the Gor books, but no one has ever described her as submissive. I read one of the books back then, and it was a turn-off; when I married, I chose a strong woman as an equal partner.

    But from what I remember of that book, this article and Garfield's defense of his tastes seriously understate the "ick" factor. Gorean women aren't submissive, they are _slaves_. There is no "voluntary BDSM", as the power relationship is so unequal that consent is indiscernible. A woman might beg her master for sex, but she's either a victim of Stockholm syndrome or angling for a reward in the form of power over the other harem slaves.

    OTOH, what is far worse than indulging in Gorean fantasies is condemning a person on the basis (or pretense) of undisclosed evidence. Garfield's fantasy life is not the business of those he works with; if they don't share his tastes, they should just stay off those websites. When Buytaert claims to have evidence that he cannot disclose, he is utterly in the wrong.

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