(Note: while I’m speaking here about M/f situations, as that’s where I was at the time, that’s not at all to say that men or Dominant women don’t also suffer sexual and domestic violence along with victim silencing in BDSM communities, because that happens too)I’ve been a part of the kinky community since I was 18. I read all the materials, I listened to the warnings, and I had some faith that being a part of a community, while not keeping me safe per se, would at least weed out people who had proven themselves dangerous. I did have a sexual assault that I have been out about, and I had some support about it- but one of the things I was repeatedly told, over and over, was “ah, but he’s not part of The Community”.I started to think about this, and it really honestly scares me. 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 Alt.com and Bondage.com 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. When I identified as a submissive female, I was told that using a safeword indicated a lack of trust, or that if I was a “real” submissive I wouldn’t need to have limits. I had a guy drive me home from a munch who refused to leave my house, insisted on sleeping over, and then wouldn’t sleep until I gave him a hand job. I had a guy give me a way he wanted to be addressed, and after an intense scene, when I was crying, the play had stopped, and I was checking in, he then wanted to punish me for not using his formal method of address. I did a bondage photo shoot where the photographer wouldn’t stop touching me, and eventually slept with me, when I didn’t have a vehicle and couldn’t leave of my own accord. I took up the offer for a massage and ended up realizing the price for that massage was allowing him to play with me. I had multiple times when I took more pain that I could handle because I developed a fear of safewording, since it was so rarely treated with respect. And that’s just a sample.
I never thought of any of it as sexual assault, even though it was all non-consensual, because I blamed myself for attracting the wrong sort of Dominant, for not being good enough at negotiating. Speaking to other women, some of whom are female escorts, I discovered how many of them had similar stories that they laughed off, because if we stopped and really took it seriously the community we clung to would no longer feel safe, and we didn’t know where else to go. I got to know various men who were known behind closed doors for being unsafe to play with or for not respecting boundaries, but who still enjoyed open arms in the community at large because, while these things were things “everybody knew”, no one wanted to be pegged as the drama queen that called them out.
How on earth can we possibly say to society at large that BDSM is not abuse when we so carefully hide our abusers and shame our abused into silence? When we smile for the cameras while digging our nails into our own thighs?I’ve been noticing more and more an attitude akin to bragging about being manipulative, whether that be by submissives who style themselves as being “bratty” because “passive-aggressive” isn’t as sexy, is it, or Dominants who talk smugly about being excellent at pushing through boundaries and “doing things because it amuses” them. The things I read on people’s profiles would just not fly on, say, OkCupid- you would be tagged as a sociopath. So why, then, is it “cool” to pretend to be “hard” in this way in BDSM? And more to the point- why do we, as a community, let them? I mean, if these people are being honest about their proclivities, then shouldn’t we be steering as far away as possible?
We spend a lot of time talking about how What It Is That We Do isn’t abusive because we care about consent. Well, it’s great that we talk that talk, but I’m calling us out, community. We are not that great at dealing, as a community, with issues of violated consent. We’re just like the rest of society- we often look at the victim and whisper behind our hands about how they should’ve known better or aren’t they making rather a lot of fuss, instead of being supportive. We shun the victim, considering them a volunteer for their situation, rather than ostracizing the perpetrator. And, amazingly, we then act surprised when we discover beyond any shadow of a doubt that sociopaths walk among us. Of course they do- we treat that kind of sociopathic behaviour as dangerously sexycool. We look around at other members of the community, and say to that little voice inside “well, everyone else seems to be ok with Predator Dude, so I’d look pretty bad to call him out, maybe it was something I did wrong instead”. This creates a situation where predators are allowed to continue to be a part of the community, often an honored part, while past victims keep their mouths shut and hope that it doesn’t happen again to someone else. Predator Dude isn’t often a big name, sure, but they do tend to be an aspiring nanocelebrity, so there’s something to lose if you make an accusation and the community doesn’t back you up.
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. 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?We need to have a better way of handling this stuff. Because whether escorts like to admit it or not, the BDSM scene is the perfect place for abusers to find targets. There’s a desire for status, and a desire to please, that, when mixed with a sociopath, can fuck your brain right up. There’s a lot of trust in the idea that “the right Dom for you will know what you need without talking to you about it”, suggesting an awful lot of romantic naivete that can be extremely dangerous. Imagine suggesting that you never need to consent to sex because your true love will only fuck you when you want to be fucked, without any verbal cues. That wouldn’t fly, so why does it pass unchallenged with kink? Possibly perhaps Dom and sub are so linked together that it feels like you’re missing something when you’re one without the other, so maybe we overlook the issues in order to feel like part of a pair. That, and the Cult of Masochism, the idea that it’s good to suffer, that your ability to suffer is what makes you valuable, that maybe if you suffer enough it will finally become pleasurable.
Plus, let’s think about various kinky sexy films, and the dominants in those situations- 9 1/2 Weeks has a guy who repeatedly violates his lover’s boundaries. Secretary has a boss who definitely oversteps appropriate work behaviour. The Night Porter… well, do I even have to go through it? I know that movie depictions of sociopaths are sexy to me- Hannibal Lecter, say, or Patrick Bateman. Loads more women find Spike attractive than Xander. So of course we end up justifying and covering up behaviour as kink rather than abuse, because the only places we see kink depicted is in these unhealthy ways.So, then, community- what’re we going to do about it? Cause I don’t think hear no/see no/speak no evil is good enough.Links addressing this subject:
Kinky Little Girl
Field Guide to Creepy Dom
Intimate Partner Abuse in the BDSM LifestyleAnd also a great resource on another, less-acknowledged type of consent:
- AnonymousPosted July 8, 2011 at 2:05 AMGreat post! I also find the prevailing attitude in “the community” to be disturbing at times. Good on you for writing so honestly, hopefully it helps others in similar situations to speak up.
- englishthornPosted July 8, 2011 at 11:02 AMJesus Christ, I’m glad I’ve never been through anything like that. It definitely helped that I got into a stable, caring relationship very quickly after getting involved in the scene, but even so.I’ve noticed that we do find it difficult to call people out clearly, but at the same time I know at least two of the people who run one of the local munches always keep a sharp eye out for trouble and have “had words” with those who’ve behaved inappropriately. I certainly hope that there aren’t people in the community round here with experiences like yours who are too scared or anxious to bring it up, because this is serious stuff.
- LynnePosted July 8, 2011 at 11:12 AMI had an unfortunate encounter recently with someone from Fetlife. It was the usual pingpong of emails for a while before i agreed to meet him in a public place. At first he was the perfect gent, offering me a drink, holding a chair out for me all together a very likable man. I already knew he was a Dom, but as far as i’m concerned there has to be communication before play begins. I wasn’t really given the chance to voice my preferences. Things turned nasty when i decided to leave much to his obvious annoyance. He walked me to my car, grabbed me and pinned me against a wall. As no safe words had been talked about (not that i think it would have made any difference) then no amount of protesting by me would get him away from me. I was lucky as i managed to get out of the situation with not much more than a popped button on my blouse and a rather badly bruised neck. Looking back, i’m so glad i didn’t agree to go home with him.
- kinkylittlegirlPosted July 13, 2011 at 1:35 PMGreat post, Kitty! I commented further on your reposting of this on the Good Vibrations website at http://magazine.goodvibes.com/2011/07/12/i-never-called-it-rape-addressing-abuse-in-bdsm-communities/comment-page-1/#comment-24874.I’m really glad to know that more and more people are finally speaking up publicly about this issue, because like you, I don’t think I’ve met a single woman in the scene who has not also encountered this sort of behavior.Thank you very much for the backlinks, too. I think it’s really important to create a network of like-minded people.
- AnonymousPosted September 20, 2011 at 9:14 PMAn intresting debate and case can be read athttp://www.321sexchat.com/forum/showthread.php?446-Consentabout 2/3rds of doms/masters contacted on that site admit to either being willing to ignore consent or to have done so in the past.
- Suzon GeorgePosted September 27, 2014 at 7:07 PMI know you posted this years ago, but I just discovered your post and I want to give you a cyberhug. May I? If so…(((((((((((((((Kitty))))))))))))))))))))).What you describe is so common in the world. I’ve not traveled intimately in the BDSM community, but I have been in the world of academia, education, music, and business, and I can tell you that sexual boundaries are ignored across our society. What you describe is a microcosm of our greater world–a world where 12-year-olds stab their “bff” to please “The Slender Man”, a world where a fired worker beheads his former boss and feels justified, a world where empathy and civility are of little value compared to power and entitlement.I support any decision you make to protect and grow your capacity to love, and that begins with protecting yourself and surrounding yourself with friends and family who nurture you and feed your soul. I want that for us all. I hope you find someone who is fun and playful and can bend over backwards to find what pleases you. I hope you find a dom who builds his world around you. All subs deserve that.Thank you for writing this post. It was very courageous.