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There’s A War On Part 1: Trouble’s Been Brewing

March 23, 2012


b. Arming Sequence. First remove the safety clip, then the safety pin, from the fuze by pulling the pull ring. Be sure to maintain pressure on the safety lever: it springs free once the safety clip and the safety pin assembly are removed.

c. Release Pressure on Lever. Once the grenade is thrown, the pressure on the safety lever is released, and the striker is forced to rotate on its axis by the striker spring, throwing the safety lever off. The striker then detonates the primer, and the primer explodes and ignites the delay element. The delay element burns for the prescribed amount of time then activates either the detonator or the igniter.

-from US Army Field Manual 3-23.30,  instructions on use of hand grenades

[Trigger Warning.  The whole thing is about rape, abuse, and apologist tactics.  There are descriptions of rape, abuse, and apologist tactics.]

It’s invisible to the mainstream.  There’s a war on within the BDSM community[1] about whether to face up to abuse within.  There are a lot of dynamics overlapping here, and it’s hard to see the whole picture even for those of us who keep up with these things.

There is so much that I want to say, so much ground to cover, that I don’t know where to start.  I’ll start here:  I have certain advantages.  I can speak about BDSM as a kinkster; my critique is an internal critique.  At the same time, I have little to lose by pissing all over other people’s opinions.  I don’t currently belong to any formal organizations, and I don’t play in public.  I engage with other kinksters socially and politically, mostly politically.  I don’t need to stay in anyone’s good graces to have a place to play or people to play with.

I say this because one sex educator I know said to me privately that they will take no part in this dialogue, because of the reaction they got years ago trying to have the same conversation: vicious personal attacks.  It’s easy to be against rape and abuse, you see, as long as it’s in the abstract, as long as the abusers are some nebulous other, as long as the proposed solution does not require any tough choices to be made, expose anyone with important friends to actual accountability or threaten to actually change the way things are.  Everybody’s against rape as long as we’re not proposing to do anything about it.

Do rape and abuse happen in kink communities?  Yes.  Yes they do.  In any forum where people have the space to talk about it, stories come out.  For most of my adult life (and I’ve engaged with other kinky people in some forum or other for just about my entire adult life) the only forums where those stories were welcome were small conversations among friends.  Recently, that has started to change, and there is a new paradigm of open discussion which threatens to upend the applecart and actually change the way things operate.

I’m going to go ahead and credit two people with finally breaking through and making this conversation unavoidable, but they are not alone.  Those two people are Kitty Stryker and Maggie Mayhem.  In July of last year, Kitty posted I Never Called It Rape, about her own experiences of rape and assault:

When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into “the BDSM community”, I can’t actually count them. And I never came out about it before, not publicly, for a variety of reasons- I blamed myself for not negotiating enough, or clearly, or for not sticking to my guns, or I  didn’t want to be seen as being a drama queen or kicking up a fuss. Plus, the fact is, these things didn’t traumatize me, and I didn’t call it sexual assault or rape, because I felt ok afterwards. There was no trauma, no processing that I needed.

 That makes me really angry, because I realized I didn’t feel traumatized because it happened so bloody often that it was just a fact of being a submissive female. WTF, right? I used to see on and female submissives talking about predatory behaviour in the BDSM community, and I still see it on CollarMe and Fetlife. I remember being given the stage whisper not to play with this person or that one because they had a history of going too far, something that was often dismissed as “gossip” and kept on the DL to avoid that accusatory label of being overly dramatic. Being in the scene meant learning how to play politics- how to be polite, even good-natured, to people that you kept an eye on.
 As I reflected on the number of times I’ve had fingers in my cunt that I hadn’t consented to, or been pressured into a situation where saying “no” was either not respected or not an option, or said that I did not want a certain kind of toy used on me which was then used, I’m kind of horrified.

This turned into the kickoff of a project, and with Maggie Mayhem, Stryker is now leading the Consent Culture project.  Their work hit the mainstream when Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory wrote this article in January.

But Stryker isn’t the first or the only person to try to address abuse within BDSM communities.

Kinkylittlegirl’s blog has been addressing abuse since late 2009.

Mollena Williams, probably the most visible African-American in BDSM, has written about when her consent was violated:

And maybe you are thinking

Oh but how could that happen?! You’re an expert! You TEACH other perverts how to do the perverted shit? How could ANYONE take advantage of you without your consent?

I asked myself that after this encounter.

I blamed myself.

I thought “Well, I didn’t say “No.” forcefully enough. I didn’t insist. I didn’t hit him, push him away. It must be my fault.”

I sat in a narcotized place of self-blame and self-hatred for months around something for which I claimed100% responsibility.

I blamed myself for “letting” someone violate one of my strongest boundaries. And I sat on this alone and in reflexive revulsion, because clearly I was too stupid, weak and foolish to handle myself like a responsible adult.

And because I had so much shame around this, because I was so afraid that others would look at me and think “What a fucking idiot. What kind of dummy lets something like them happen to them?” I didn’t tell anyone for months. Then it began to eat me alive, woke me up at night, freaked me out.

I finally told several people close to me, And then a few more. And no one told me I was stupid.
In fact, to my dismay, my story was common. Standard. Typical.

And that is horrifying. THAT is shameful.

[Plain bold Williams’s original, except the final bolded portion, which is my emphasis.]

There may be no name in BDSM more widely known to the public than Jay Wiseman, and here’s what he has to say back in 2008 in Are We Men A Bunch Of Lying Pricks?:

One of the things she *wasn’t* interested in was that the play be sexual. Given that “sexual” is a somewhat vague term, I proceeded to ask her if several different acts would or would not be OK. All of them were not. OK. Candidly, I don’t much like doing nonsexual scenes but I figured what the hey. I find her attractive, we seem to have a certain rapport, the scene will probably be “adequately” fun anyway, and who knows what the future might bring, right? So we do the scene, and it’s actually not half bad. (For a non-sexual scene, anyway.) Oh, and no, she couldn’t get loose. <G>

So the scene is finished and she’s getting dressed when I hear her quietly say, almost more to herself than me, “You actually kept the agreement to not be sexual. That was interesting.”


I turn to look at her, my jaw hanging open.

“What do you mean?” I ask her.

“You’re the first one who ever did that,” she replies.


“Yeah,” she continues, “All of the other men have just gone ahead and had sex with me anyway.”

I cannot believe what I’m hearing.

“What do they say afterwards?”

“Usually something like, Oh, it just happened.”

Asher Bauer’s story is here (my post, with link to the original); it has the added complexity that it happened pre-transition and he has a hard time finding a place to talk about his experience where his gender isn’t ignored or misused:

That night, he raped me again. This time there was no “ambiguity” about it, nothing “gray area” about the twelve hours that went black, permanently lost to my memory, after I accepted a drink from him.

And it didn’t stop there. For two more days it went on and on: the repeated failure to stop when I said stop, the refusal to use contraception or even let me buy a morning after pill. For a week after we parted ways I was in and out of the doctor’s office with mysterious bleeding, various infections, and finally, an STD. So much for “clean.”

I didn’t have a baby, no thanks to him. I did finally get hold of the pill on my own. Perhaps part of the motivation for his actions can be found in what I had thought was a sick joke. Once, when I’d told him I never wanted children, he’d threatened, “Don’t make me tie you down and breed you.” Only maybe it wasn’t a joke after all, since that is more or less what he did.

[Bold mine.]

Tacit, a cis man, writes eloquently about these issues, and links his friend CircleofLight about the assault she experienced:

In the BDSM community, victim-blaming can be more subtle and more insidious. I’ve heard folks say “Well, everyone knows how so-and-so likes to play. She should have known what she was getting into when she agreed to play with him.” I’ve heard folks say “Well, she should have checked his references (or established a safe call or not played with him in private or any of a dozen other things) and this wouldn’t have happened.”

These “she should have” games play out after the fact, too. I’ve heard folks, including one person I know who I consider to be basically a decent guy, say “She should have done thus-and-such after the assault happened.” Usually it’s “She should have reported it” or “She should have confronted the perpetrator directly” or “She should have gone to a community leader and let him know that there was a problem”.

To me, all these “she should have” statements are a little fucked up. See, here’s the thing: Often, the folks in the BDSM community who end up assaulting someone are well-respected leaders in the community, with impeccable references and strong community support.

[Bold mine.]

I could point to several more, but there are a lot of things I don’t have the right to write about.  There have been scandals where members of BDSM communities have been accused of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.  I have seen only one that was handled in anything like a way that gave me comfort.

Much of this discussion, for the last few years, takes place primarily on Fetlife.  Fetlife requires a login, but more importantly, two things really limit the visibility of these discussions on Fetlife.  The first is the structure of Fetlife: it is a series of walled gardens without any search functionality for text or discussion topics. Whoever is talking about, say, the Salon article or Mollena’s post, you can’t find it.  You’d have to look in every group and check the discussion topics.  You can’t pull up old discussions even if you know the date, there’s no chronological archive, and the default setting is that the order changes to move topics with current comments to the top.  This structure has led multidimentsional activist and queer kinkster Maymay to conclude that Fetlife is harmful.  Since on Fetlife your friends can see your activity, people’s workaround is to comment on a discussion and say, “breadcrumbs,” so that their friends will know to follow the discussion.

The other problem is that Fetlife’s Terms of Use and caretakers (the “Carebears”) are opposed to anything but a theoretical discussion of these problems.[2]  The TOU bars anyone from accusing another member of a crime, and the Carebears discourage crosslinking to another group to discuss a particular member, so that if one starts a discussion saying, “what so-and-so said in this group is a rape apologist crock of shit,” it may not be around long.  There are suggestions in the suggestion box group to change the TOU around speaking out about assault and abuse and I support those and I encourage my friends to as well, but I’m not optimistic because Fet is a business now, and pretending everyone can all get along is better for business.  And worse, Fetlife’s TOU bars quoting without written permission, so while I can quote people who I agree with because I can usually get permission, I may be in violation of the TOU if I quote wrongheaded or fucked up things that people say in response to efforts to deal with abuse.

I’ve spoken up before on abuse in BDSM communities, FWIW.  If you want to read what I’ve written in the past, here are the links:

No Chosen People

Tracking Shit On The Carpets (sadly, Halo P. Jones’s original post is gone, and that’s not an aside.  You can’t find her anymore unless you know her well because she was stalked and harassed by a nasty piece of shit, and now she keeps a very low profile.)

Not What We Do was my first post about the Bagley abuse case, winding its way through federal court in Missouri now.  I have posted several more, all with Bagley in the title, for those who wish to follow the case; everyone except Bagley and his wife, charged in March 2011, has pleaded guilty and the Bagleys face a phalanx of cooperating witnesses.

Breaking the Silence, my response to Kitty’s landmark post, with a short reading list.

And more generally, I’ve written (making extensive use of ethnographic dissertations by two academics who immersed themselves in major city BDSM communities) about Domism as a dynamic.  Reactions to this piece have been decidedly mixed:  lots of folks say they see the same things, lots of folks say this doesn’t reflect their communities, and some folks have started discussions about to what extent these dynamics play out in their communities, which is the most productive reaction.

I’m usually a fan of long posts.  I’m okay with four to five thousand words, and I’ve never written something long and said to myself, “I’d better make this a series.”  But I have to make this a series.  There’s too much to talk about:  the cops and the criminal justice system and how they interact with BDSM, self-policing in formal and informal ways and how it has failed, abuse situations at the fringes and at the center of communities and how communities react to protect themselves like institutions, how what we know about predator theory and mythcommunication apply to rape and abuse in BDSM, why people are resistant to actually making change … it’s a lot to cover.  There are seven parts to the series, and it comes within shouting distance of twenty thousand words in all.

[1] What community?  It’s a very loose term.  I’ll be more specific in other places.  Maybe.
[2] That’s not how they’d characterize their views. That is the conclusion I have drawn from watching how the TOU are and are not enforced in certain particular instances, and from Fet’s resolute silence in response to repeated requests by many of us for an explanation of the TOU and the intent behind a certain provision. If they don’t mean to stifle discussion of rape — in reality, not in the abstract — then they should stop acting like it and engage in a dialogue. More on this in a later part.

55 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 3:40 pm

    I’m really glad you’re speaking out about this.

  2. March 23, 2012 4:36 pm

    Thank you so much for this.

    When I wrote my blog post “Assault and Consent in the BDSM community” after my friend was the victim of a sexual assault within the local BDSM scene, the thing that most surprised me was not that such assaults occur (sadly, that wasn’t a surprise at all), but rather the way the community–which, at least on paper, prides itself on consent–closed ranks behind the assaulter.

    I was appalled at the level of victim-blaming and misogyny that came to light after the assault. On top of the ordinary, run-of-the-mill victim-blaming that inevitably seems to accompany any sort of sexual assault, there was an added layer of “Well, she’s a submissive so she should know that that’s OK” and “If she didn’t want that she wouldn’t have played with him in the first place.”

    Interestingly, I became aware of the Yes Means Yes campaign as a result of conversations with one of my partner about the blog post. Thank you very much for the work you’re doing here. It’s something everyone needs to see.

    • Mark permalink
      June 22, 2012 5:09 pm

      “…but rather the way the community–which, at least on paper, prides itself on consent–closed ranks behind the assaulter…”

      Sadly, that’s no surprise to me either. Look how some actors closed ranks around Polanski pinning down his crying victim and raping her, how some Brits closed ranks around marital rape (see ), how some fraternities closed ranks around their brothers who rape party guests, etc. 😦

  3. March 24, 2012 11:46 am

    I’m extremely pleased to see you tackle this issue this way, Thomas! Thank you.

    I’m also particularly interested to hear more about the FetLife TOU from you. In particular, “watching how the TOU are and are not enforced in certain particular instances, and…Fet’s resolute silence in response to repeated requests by many of us for an explanation of the TOU and the intent behind a certain provision” is the kernel of something I’ve been working on for a few weeks now….

    Anyway, the only other thing I’d like to add is that I recently had a difficult conversation about abuse with a rape survivor that made a few things clearer to me than they had ever been before:

    This person’s rapist was a self-identified woman.
    The way in which rape and abuse is discussed generally, but also in large part the way it’s being discussed in these very conversations, including this post, tends to ignore or render invisible the possibility of female-identified abusers.
    It was difficult as hell for the survivor to talk about their experience in the first place because the rapist was a woman, making almost everything they had wanted to say to others about it illegible, which hurts like hell.

    Learning from that, I wonder: what if this important conversation can be had in a way that doesn’t add to the illegibility of people’s experiences in which women are the abusers, regardless of the gender of the survivor?

    • Jericka permalink
      March 24, 2012 5:21 pm

      People make assumptions that Dominants are male and Submissives are female. Without specific male examples of victims it IS easy to read the situation as male on female abuse when pronouns are not used.

      Because I know of female Dominants, and male Submissives, I don’t tend to assume the gender of a submissive where a pronoun has not been used. I can very easily imagine situations where the guy is the one tied up, and the woman is the one who has broken the negotiated boundary. I can also see that it might feel harder to speak up or even process that internally because of the BS our culture feeds us about guys always being up for sex.

      A lot of my awareness of boundaries and negotiations, though, started here when I found this site. I’ve explored a lot further, but, this one was my start, and I appreciate these articles very much.

      • March 24, 2012 6:32 pm

        Without specific male examples of victims it IS easy to read the situation as male on female abuse when pronouns are not used.

        True. That’s (just) one (of many) reason(s) why it’s so important for submissive men who have been abused to speak up about it. It’s not as if specific examples don’t exist. 😦

  4. thirdxlucky permalink
    March 24, 2012 1:39 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been watching this brewing from the periphery, and resonating because of ways that it ties into related but not-identical things I’m dealing with re: the intersections of BDSM and abuse in my own life. But I haven’t felt like I had an entry point into the conversation that wasn’t totally informationally overwhelming. This round-up was succinct and really helpful to me. I look forward to reading the rest of your series.

    Also, to maymay’s point: There are (unsurprisingly) not very many good resources available for talking about abuse and assault between women. Most of what’s available online are fairly dense academic papers and a lot of it is focused on lesbian relationships and the lesbian community specifically. However, there’s a fact sheet here that’s worth taking a look at: and a short-ish paper (“Relationship Violence in Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgender/Queer [LGBTQ] Communities: Moving Beyond a Gender-Based Framework”) here: which starts out with the quote:

    “I feel like I can’t talk about it, I mean how many therapists/social service providers are going to understand queer, s/m, abuse, intersexed, interracial [all features of her abusive relationship]–It’s too complicated, there is too much explaining that I’d have to do.” (Natalie)

    For those who want to go deeper, there’s Claire M. Renzetti’s “Violent Betrayal” (, a widely-cited 1992 study of domestic violence in lesbian communities that I think is particularly salient to this discussion because it “derives from a common theme expressed by the subjects: the sense of having been betrayed, first by their lovers, and subsequently by a lesbian community which tends to deny the problem when victims seek help.”

    Specifically, “Violent Betrayal” describes social dynamics in which the community “closes ranks” to protect abusers/rapists because:

    a) The community’s existing feelings of marginalization, precariousness and vulnerability to homophobic violence from mainstream (heterosexual) culture make those within the community afraid to draw any additional negative attention from the powers that be by displaying internal conflict.

    b) The smallness of the community encourages conflict-avoidance. There’s a sense that, since there are SO FEW people like me and we count on each other for survival in the face of a hostile mainstream culture, nobody ought to rock the boat or ostracize anybody else.

    c) Admitting to violence within the community destroys the idea of a “lesbian utopia” where women can feel safe from abuse and sexual violence because of the assumption that that these acts are only perpetrated by men. (This puts me in mind of BDSM community rhetoric about how BDSM’ers are less likely to be exposed to violence because BDSM’ers know how to talk about consent. Or Poly community rhetoric about how polyamorous relationships are less likely to be abusive because poly folk are so good at communication and boundary-setting. Every community has a story about why “it doesn’t happen here.” But the truth is that rape and abuse happen in every population — and, percentagewise, at roughly the same rate in every population, too.)

    Also and finally, as a pointer toward not just talking about what’s happening but about what to DO about it, there’s the amazing “The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence within Activist Communities” which exists in downloadable ‘zine form here: and book form here:

    Anyway, that’s a starting place, for what it’s worth. Thanks again for speaking up.

    • Mark permalink
      June 22, 2012 5:18 pm

      “…a) The community’s existing feelings of marginalization, precariousness and vulnerability to homophobic violence from mainstream (heterosexual) culture make those within the community afraid to draw any additional negative attention from the powers that be by displaying internal conflict…”

      This one is so key and happens so damn much. 😡 Abused by your mother? Shut up or else you’re helping society bash mothers. Abused by a Jew or Muslim? Shut up or else you’re anti-Semitic or Islamophobic. Abused by an artist? Shut up or else you’re yet another philistine. Abused by someone who’s not white? Shut up or else you’re yet another white supremacist. Abused by a shy person? Shut up or else “or you will be an Evil Ostracizer and might as well go out for the football team” (see ). This shit boils my blood. 😡

  5. Snarksy permalink
    March 25, 2012 3:24 pm

    Thomas – I am unsure what the best way to contact you outside of comments are, but I would love to be in conversation with you at some point. I am a student researcher at XYZ large university, and am preparing to undertake an ethnography of sexual assault in the BDSM/Kink scene specifically because of the sort of thing you are writing about here.

    My email is Snarksy at gmail dot com. I am reaching out over the next month or so to activists who are engaged with these issues, to find way the best ways to structure this research. I’d love to include you.

    Much thanks for this, and all the writing you do.


  6. orangedesperado permalink
    March 25, 2012 5:49 pm

    I had an alienating experience when I came out to several female friends who are very socially and sexually involved in the BDSM community. I was involved socially with these people due to my business but not sexually or in a play context. What I came out to my so called friends about was an escalating level of psychological abuse from my long term male partner.

    I was astonished at the level of judgement and blame that was leveled at me from self identified kinky dykes. One of these women was a sex educator, who does workshops on a variety of play topics from basic 101 to very advanced/marginal. Another of these women is a professional mistress( 20+ years). A third was a former mistress who had completed a degree to be a therapist. Every one of these women were thoroughly schooled in the concept of safe/sane/consensual, and all had years of experience being on the margins, either as a dyke and/or sex worker. All were over the age of 50.

    One of these women basically told me that she would not “let this happen” to her. Another told me that I was neurotic and in denial. The third listened to me tell her what was happening (and what was happening was intensely destructive and frightening, including explicit threats of calculated violence towards a third party), then spoke to my former partner separately on a different day, then came back to me to tell me that my partner felt justified in his actions towards me (due to the amount of money he had spent supporting my meagre student lifestyle — while ignoring the fact that he made 10x the amount of money that I did, but I was expected to contribute equally to all household expenses) and how they had both noticed I had seemed to “lose my confidence”.

    I guess that I found it extraordinarily shocking that while there was such an incredible amount of endless discussion concerning consent and power dynamics within these women’s BDSM lives, that the basic MO of non physical abuse was utterly invisible to them. In short I felt as blamed as a rape victim who is told they were asking for it by — ( insert illogical reason here) — . In disclosing my circumstance, I had hoped to find support but all I found was a different kind of violation. I terminated all of my friendships with them as there was no repairing this damage. I had spent many hours attempting to explain and educate them about the dynamics of non-physical battering, in general — not just how it pertained to me. One woman’s comment after I lent her a book that is very well regarded about the tactics of abuse, that I had found incredibly helpful: “I didn’t think that book you lent me was very sympathetic towards men.”

    I don’t know if my disclosure made them perceive me to be weak, or if it pushed uncomfortable buttons for them about their own experiences being a victim of assault, but I have to say that all three of them chose to identify WITH the aggressor.

    There are uncomfortable and contradictory dynamics within the BDSM community, particularly dominant male/submissive female — but I think that the tentacles of abuse are spread throughout all configurations/genders/dynamics, etc. I feel the BDSM community must, as in really imperatively, absolutely MUST begin self educating about the dynamics of abuse. Some of the power dynamics are far too deeply entrenched to be put on and taken off like a costume. I think it is every kinksters nightmare to have the safesaneconsensual utopia they have worked hard to create exposed to be exactly like the stereotypes that people far outside assume it to be.

    • lalouve permalink
      March 30, 2012 9:17 am

      This reads so familiarly to me – I have seen women identify with men, including abusive men, so often. I think it is the reaction of wanting to identify with the powerful, not – as they see it – the powerless victim.
      And I’m sorry this happened to you; I hope you found support and help with healing elsewhere.

  7. Holly permalink
    March 25, 2012 6:37 pm

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful piece. I’ll be sharing it widely as well as looking forward to reading more.

  8. ChrisC permalink
    March 26, 2012 9:06 am

    Thomas –

    Great summary of the issues currently facing a large portion of the kink community. I really appreciated the excepts you posted, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

  9. March 29, 2012 10:43 am

    Thank you sooo so much for continuing this conversation. It is such an important discussion for us to have. I’ve posted a link to this in the bay area consent culture working group, and in the sf kink liberation squad resources. We need to continually amplify the voices of those routinely silenced. As the late great Audre Lorde said (I’m paraphrasing) ‘your silence won’t protect you’.

  10. March 29, 2012 1:08 pm

    Thanks for posting on this topic.

  11. nadiawest permalink
    April 2, 2012 6:55 pm

    As you know, Thomas, I have my own experience of assault within the community – and have experienced much the same reactions as most do. Thank you for this series, I can’t wait to read the rest.

    Kitty Stryker is awesome. She was on a panel I organized at this past weekend around working towards ending the silence about abuse. All our panelists were fantastic, but Kitty is working hard to get people talking about this stuff and admitting it happens.

    Also, thirdxlucky and maymay – wonderful points in your comments. Thank you.

  12. Lilith permalink
    April 5, 2012 8:46 am


    long time reader from Germany here. I’ve witnessed many of the behaviours you and others describe in my local scene (at least the parts of it that I am familiar with), and it’s for this reason precisely that I decided to withdraw. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who’s had these kinds of experiences, and that people exist who are willing to not sugarcoat the issues that do exist, but to address them. Thank you. Just thank you.

  13. bloodquail permalink
    April 20, 2012 12:27 pm

    You are my god damn hero. Thank you for this.

  14. Nova permalink
    May 8, 2012 2:20 am

    This should be required reading for everyone. Thank you so much for writing this.

  15. May 14, 2012 8:55 pm

    Hey There! Glad to see a long a thorough analysis of this issue. When the *fundraiser* I did with Kitty was covered by Salon, a lot was left out and I’ve done a fair amount of writing on this issue at my blog as well. I just noticed that my blog wasn’t linked to anywhere at all in this article. It is NSFW and there are some porny pictures (I am a sex worker by trade) but I’m also very proud of my writing and would love to share my un-interpreted ideas with anyone interested. Cheers and thanks for posting this!

  16. Rose permalink
    August 31, 2012 10:39 am

    It’s been said, but I just want to thank you for this as well.

    It’s, reassuring’s the wrong word, but in a way refreshing to see this open conversation or know that my disillusionment with the community in the aftermath of an abusive relationship isn’t an isolated incident.

    Some years ago I was in a relationship which had D/s elements to it, we were both young, and perhaps it was mishandled on one or both sides, but it got to the point where I no longer felt I could say no, where decisions being made were clearly just about controlling me without considerations of my best interest (trying to derail my career for instance), and in the argument that ended things ultimately, my partner confessing that when he had punished me for trying to end things previously, that had been because if he made me feel at fault, I wouldn’t leave.

    It took strength and a little luck really but I ended it then. (I lost my phone, we didn’t live together, he didn’t have a car) but it very much made me question a lot of the relationship dynamics. What had I asked for, what had I wanted, what had I received? It was really easy to blame myself, but at the same time, I wasn’t the one who asked to be abused, just explore consentual kink.

    I think, since trust is so at the center of bdsm, it’s almost easier for kinky relationships to turn bad. And learning of one abuse of that trust recolours everything else. I’m not saying the entire relationship was abusive, but I am saying he abused me emotionally and to a point physically. But I stopped saying anything in kink communities because I can’t count the times I was told “no you weren’t” or “that doesn’t happen here” or blamed for overreacting by people who knew nothing more of the situation than the fact I said I was in an abusive relationship. But then, I have trouble talking about it with non-bdsm abuse survivors because, there’s a complicity in initially starting down the bdsm path.

    Had I not, would it not have escalated? I don’t know, but it sucks. So, thanks for this. It means a lot to see abuse in the bdsm community frankly addressed.

  17. January 7, 2013 8:15 pm

    I am an active member of fetlife and know some really decent people on there but the way in which the community can so easily ‘group together’, eg individuals getting ‘references’ from their friends/people they’ve already played with, building support networks etc, having someone to ‘vouch for them’ in case of an accusation kind of worries me because it assumes that as long as x people trust you, you wouldn’t do anything bad and anyone who accuses you of rape etc is a liar. It’s intimidating.

    • January 8, 2013 11:28 am

      Indeed, ceedling, it’s a broken model designed for a time that no longer exists. Thankfully, there are ways to break through that particular busted system, but it relies on people using tools that so far many (including, I’m sad to say, the author of this post) have not been willing to share. Read my blog post, Tracking rape culture’s social license to operate, for an example of exactly this sort of thing and one way we can counteract its toxic effect.

  18. Amalg permalink
    July 8, 2013 11:36 am

    I am extremely late in this conversation, but feel the need to contribute.

    I am a recent member to Fet, in particular. I am monogamous and use the site to explore my kinks and learn about variety in sexual experiences. I don’t consider myself part of “the community” and do not attend events, munches, etc.

    Even in the brief 3 months that I’ve been a member of the site, I have been met with cyber aggression from individuals wanting me to respond to them immediately, meet up with them, share my number, etc.–even after I explain that I’m not looking for a partner, nor am I interested in being dominated outside of fun consensual sex. Of course I have the luxury of ignoring their messages when they inbox me, yet it doesn’t stop them from sending escalating messages. And I often wonder how much more aggressive they would be in person.

    That said, I don’t think the “community” as a whole is to blame. Rapists and abusers infiltrate all communities of every variety. I’m not sure that rape activity exists more prominently amongst BDSM, but it does exist and shouldn’t be ignored. I do believe that some in the BDSM community feel that no means yes. And a louder no means keep going. For that reason I have made the intentional decision to remain on the perifery and not get deeply involved in the “community”. It’s just sex for me.

    • July 17, 2013 12:34 pm

      “That said, I don’t think the “community” as a whole is to blame. Rapists and abusers infiltrate all communities of every variety.”

      That’s true, but it’s also the responsibility of a community to make that community a place that is not protective of abusers.

      It is not, as you say, “the community’s” fault that rapists and abusers exist, or that rapists and abusers can and will infiltrate communities of any sort.

      But the fact is that in my experience, which extends back a couple of decades, the BDSM community by and large has utterly failed to create a culture of consent.

      Communities are collections of people. They can become hospitable to rapists and abusers when the people in those communities refuse to get involved in cases of abuse; when leaders or organizers in the community are abusers themselves and other people refuse to stand up against abuse from community organizers for fear of losing access to the things the organizers provide; when the people in the community themselves don’t value consent; when cases of abuse are seen as someone else’s problem; when people who are abused are marginalized; and when the members of the community fail to recognize abusive behavior for what it is.

      I have seen all of these happen in the BDSM community. For all the fact that the BDSM community talks about consent, I do not believe that many of its members seriously prioritize consent–at least, not enough to get involved when failures of consent happen. I have seen the BDSM community protect leaders and organizers who are abusers or rapists. I have seen the BDSM community close ranks against people–particularly self-identified submissives–who report abuse. (In one rather horrifying example, a friend of mine was raped by a prominent leader in the local BDSM community and when she came forward, other members of the community said things like “well, if you were a REAL submissive you would be okay with what happened” and “if you didn’t want that to happen, you shoudn’t have been at his house.”)

      So the community itself can, by the actions and priorities of its members, create spaces that are accommodating to abusers, and create a community culture that encourages abuse. It is not the fault of the community that abusers exist, but it *is* the community’s responsibility to create an environment that does not encourage abuse!

  19. October 28, 2014 12:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Ravenna Rose.


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