Breaking the Silence
Kitty Stryker says a mouthful:
It says a lot to me that I had to do some digging to find posts on this subject, yet I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her. So many sites are focused on saying how BDSM isn’t a cover for abuse that we willingly blind ourselves to the times that it can be.
The smaller and more cohesive a community, the more its internal politics will tend to make it incapable of effective self-policing. It’s fair to call me a critic of how the BDSM community handles sexual assault in its midst. I take that stance because I know too many people whose trust has been violated not only by community members or play partners, but also by the community as a whole if they’ve tried to report.
The BDSM community is not an island free of rape culture. It is a group of people existing within rape culture and subject to it. BDSM spaces are spaces that new people come to these days with an expectation that they will be safe, and where people generally say all the right things about negotiation, consent and respect for boundaries. But there really isn’t a lot of protection behind that. People who have been accused of sexual assault, if they are well connected, don’t actually become persona non grata, and the BDSM community has its own liturgy of victim-blaming. As Striker says,
Even now, if I was in a dungeon setting tomorrow, and someone grabbed my hair or ass without my permission, god forbid if someone stuck it in me without a condom, I wouldn’t honestly know how to deal with it. In theory I should talk to a dungeon monitor, but in practice? I’d probably talk to someone I knew. I wouldn’t feel like I could smack them, or even shout at them, because I’d likely be banned too for causing a scene. Plus, no one wants to be a tattletale, right?
It all looks so familiar. The blame-placing on particularly female subs (and that’s what I have in mind, though partly that may simply reflect my lack of insight into queerer BDSM communities) looks a lot like the blame-placing in the general population. “She didn’t negotiate right” looks a lot like “she didn’t really say no.” “She’s a drama queen/wants sympathy” looks a lot like “she regretted it and changed her mind.” It’s the same bullshit.
Men I didn’t know at all who touched me in public, and when I yelled no one cared. I’d ask around, and of course he’d done it before and maybe he’d gotten a slap on the wrist, but no one was not inviting him to things because of it. When I tried to bring this stuff up, men and older women both would lecture me on being patient, on staying in the scene and trying to make it better. They would imply that the men were just socially awkward, that they didn’t know better. Screw that. I was a very small, very young woman and I was in need of protection. One incident undoubtedly met the legal definition of assault, and I should have called the police. The older men knew exactly what they were doing at that they could get away with it.
I have more thoughts on this. I have endless thoughts on this. The biggest thought I have is that silence doesn’t change anything. We need to be, and we can be, better than this. People who talk about consent a lot should be able to practice it better than the general population, and we could.