Parameters of Consent – Part 1

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and speaking with others about the issue of abuse within the kink community, and how best to identify it, deal with it, and prevent it.  This post is the first in what I expect to be a series on the topic of consent and how that ties in with abuse, identifying it, and helping prevent it.  Many others, including the NCSF (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom), Midori, Thorne, and many more, are also looking in much greater depth at questions pertaining to abuse and consent than we have done before.  This is an idea whose time has come, and is gaining ground quickly.

We must get a better grip on the problem of abuse in our subculture, because it is at an all-time high, and part of that is examining consent much more deeply.  If we want to remain safe ourselves, much less expect to find acceptance by the mainstream, we’ve got to name the beast that lives within our walls in order to rout it out and put our energies more into how to solve the problem rather than continue to try to delude ourselves that there isn’t one.  There is – and it’s huge – and until we accept that, and examine what we do in much greater detail, and look at how we can improve on that, we will never be able to resolve the abuse problem.

Many of the concepts I will discuss here are actually equally applicable in vanilla relationships as in kinky ones.  Healthy relationships of any sort share most of the same qualities, and consent is equally necessary in all, although it is rarely articulated in the same way in vanilla contexts as we do in the kink world.

For many years, we have identified the difference between WIITWD (what it is that we do) and abuse as being about consent, or lack thereof.

And that’s true – always was, still is.  At the most fundamental, basic level, that is what it ultimately comes down to.

If you honestly agree to X, enjoy it, get off on it, etc. – great!  If not, you’re in abuse territory if your partner continues it despite your objections – or if you are the dominant continuing what your submissive objects to.

However, years of reading and hearing about literally thousands of people’s commentaries on and complaints about their relationships and what differentiates kink from abuse (not to mention my own experiences) has left me feeling like this is far too simplistic a way of looking at things, and that it’s time that we take a much deeper and more nuanced look at exactly what consent is, and learn some new ways of eliciting it, ensuring it, and otherwise working with it.

It is no longer enough to say “She consented” or “He did not consent”.  It is no longer a simple “yes/no” question.  Relationships of all sorts – and particularly BDSM relationships – are far too complex to leave such a critically important notion dangling by such a thin thread.  Even the most detailed of negotiations need to look at consent with new eyes.

Consensual Non-consent

The most obvious place where this simplistic definition of the difference between BDSM and abuse breaks down is with the concept of consensual non-consent.  That works when both players really trust one another, and no one crosses boundaries the other objects to enough.

By definition, however, such scenes often do cross them into territory that is truly nonconsensual.  What makes it OK (when it is), and allows it to work, is a whole constellation of considerations, not the least of which is prior agreement that that is OK and desirable, lots of negotiation, knowing each other really well, etc.  I don’t want to go too deeply into this particular question at the moment, but this is one of those most infamous “grey areas” in WIITWD in which the lines between true consent and abuse can be very blurry indeed.

Playing with consensual nonconsent, while an important and often critical part of many people’s dynamics, is basically edge play at its very edgiest, and there are tremendous risks involved.

Contrary to popular belief, too, consent can still be withdrawn during a consensual non-consent scene.

I think we can also place many of the stricter master/slave, 24/7, TPE (call it what you will) relationships in this category.  Many of these relationships operate under an agreement that the slave/submissive is not allowed to leave, and has to do everything the master/dominant requires, whether she likes it or not.  For many, there is the notion that she cannot leave, and many go so far as to turn over control of literally every area of their lives to their partners, and many will speak in terms of being physically “unable” to leave – as if she is somehow permanently chained.  For some, this works great.

At the end of the day, though, this is still a relationship construct that requires a suspension of disbelief, and is unenforceable in most of the world, since slavery is illegal almost everywhere, and even the contracts that people in relationships of this nature often draw up are legally unenforceable.  People do build their lives around these notions, but they are still fundamentally fantasies, and consent is still absolutely essential from the get-go, and on an ongoing basis.  Because slavery is actually illegal, consent can also still be withdrawn in these relationships at any time, regardless of the prior agreements, even though you will hear loud screams of outrage and disagreement at the very suggestion from many quarters.

What does consent really mean, and consist of?

One of the major issues I keep coming back to, and finding new angles to think about, though, is the question of exactly what “consent” means, even beyond the boundaries of consensual nonconsent, and I’ve come to realize that there are many different parameters involved in creating consent that is truly meaningful and useful.

There are a number of these – far more than most people realize – and I will address them a couple at a time so as to not make any individual post too long.

Informed Consent

The first issue we really need to look is at informed consent.  There is far too little of this going on in our little corner of the world, and that really needs to change.

It is not enough to discuss a scene, for example, and say you want to do some flogging, some needle play, some humiliation play, breath play, etc.  An eager bottom may agree to these things without even fully understanding what is involved – and what the real risks are.  Unless the pros and cons, accurate information regarding the anatomical and physiological issues involved in the activity, and real, concrete information as to what the risks and dangers are are fully communicated, then even an eager “Yes, I want to do that!” has no real meaning.

You also need clear definitions, as far as such things are possible.  “Humiliation”, for example, means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and you cannot assume that the person you are speaking with has the same understanding of it as you do.  Until and unless the specific kinds of actions, language, etc. are discussed in detail, and agreed upon, you do not have consent to proceed with that sort of play.

Negotiation

You most assuredly do not have consent if you just start playing with someone without explicit negotiation, or at least there is a serious risk that you don’t, or that it’s not clear cut – and a good case could certainly be made to that effect. This is obviously closely tied to informed consent.

In order to have a valid negotiation and agreement, you need two adults who are of sound mind to basically sit down ahead of time and discuss exactly what will and will not occur and be permitted in that scene or relationship.

The old hand in the submissive’s hair and calling her “slut” as you bring her to her knees is fine, and hot, and all well and good – but only if it’s been negotiated.  If you’re doing even something this simple on the fly, by the seat of your pants, as far too many people do, you are asking for trouble.  So far, most people have been OK – but we are moving in the US in this day and age into an era of far greater litigiousness than we have ever known before, and particularly as kink goes more mainstream, we are going to see more and more lawsuits, arrests, and problems resulting from lack of adequate negotiation of even matters this simple.

Paradoxically enough, too, as we see more and more newbies flooding in our doors from the Internet, and we are less and less able to adequately educate them, we need all the better emphasis on how to effectively negotiate scenes and relationships and to elicit consent properly.

With respect to definitions, likewise, with relationship labels such as “dominant” and “submissive”, “master/slave”, etc., explicit negotiation as to what these means is essential.  No two people mean the same things by any of these terms; the best they are good for is shorthand for starting a conversation.  You must get into much more detailed discussion as to what each term means to each party, and what their expectations are of themselves and each other before you can say that a given relationship (or scene) involves real consent as to the nature of the relationship and interactions.

Absent such detailed discussions, informed consent does not exist, and thus, arguably, no consent at all is present.  The more that is left open to interpretation, the more slippery the slope.

These are the issues that most people think of most readily when the question of consent vs the lack thereof comes up.  There is much more, though, and I will cover those elements in later posts.

What are your thoughts on these issues?

Your Kink Is Not OK

There.  I’ve said it.

The words that will earn me the hatred of a lot of the BDSM world.  Words that are anathema to this subculture.  Thinking that runs counter to the mass-think of our counterculture, that threatens all kinds of people who are supposedly secure in whatever it is they do.

I posted my recent post about consent on Fetlife, and the anti-bestiality petition – and all hell has broken loose.  I’ve been accused of being a Nazi because of the consent one, and more.  I’ve been told – like it’s a bad thing – that I seem to be on a moral crusade with respect to being opposed to bestiality.

Well, yes.  Yes, I am, as a matter of fact. On a moral crusade.

I am very much opposed to things like bestiality, child sexual abuse, porn about both, abuse of all sorts, and to an assortment of other things like play behavior that causes bodily damage and emotional harm, and I refuse to be silenced about it by peer pressure any more.

I believe that they are wrong in every possible way, particularly bestiality, child sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse of others (including animals), both physical and emotional.  I believe (and there are plenty of good studies to back me up) that they are deeply injurious on multiple levels, and that injuring other people and other creatures is just plain wrong.  They are sick, disgusting, perverted in the entirely wrong way, and just plain abominations.  People who do these things are sick, too, and in serious need of therapeutic help.

That is very much part of my moral compass, and I have always vigorously opposed these things.

To have deeply held convictions of this nature and to not speak up about them and work to stamp them out is to do one’s own self damage.

So, yes, I am on a crusade to do just that, particularly with abuse of children, women, and animals.

I won’t try to stop people from doing themselves or truly consenting partners bodily harm in the name of kink, but I for damn sure reserve the right to express my opinion of their doing so, and what I believe their mental status to be.

And the thing is that a huge percentage of the rest of our ranks does the same thing, either in private just in their own minds, or among friends, although we all pretend in public like we don’t.  No one wants to be the one to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

This whole “your kink is OK” thing that we espouse in the kink community is actually kind of hypocritical, in my opinion.  We almost all have opinions about the advisability or sanity of at least one or two things that other people do, and these are routinely spoken of in private, among friends – but no one is willing to actually stand up in public and say the exact same thing, either in front of anyone who practices whatever the activity is, or to the community at large.

The BDSM subculture is, in fact, one of the most intolerant and judgmental groups of people I’ve ever come across – or at least certainly no less judgmental than any vanilla group.  The judgments are just about different things, and on the whole, we do have a lot more tolerance of extremes than vanillas do, and the bar is higher.

It’s ironic, though, that while we attempt to be all inclusive of everything that everyone likes, in the process, what gets shut out is the right to freely state our own real opinions of some of those behaviors without facing a crucifying wall of attack from others.

It’s as if when you sign up to be kinky in the public scene, you have to turn in your rights to stating and sharing your own opinions of what others may do.  I’ve written at length elsewhere, particularly on Tribe in the New to BDSM (Uncensored) group, about the many unwritten rules of the scene.  This is a major one.  You don’t get to have an opinion of what others do, or at least you most assuredly aren’t allowed to express it out loud.

Everyone who has been around for more than a month and started to get to know others knows that there is a large and well-established grapevine behind the scenes.  I was told about it when I was brand new a decade ago, and it exists as a deliberate institution to help submissives stay safe by sharing information about dangerous tops.  It’s not only condoned, it’s actively (although quietly) promoted, and polite newbies are welcomed into the fold.  Get any group of submissives together, and you’ll hear all about how we all need to look out for and protect one another.  But God forbid anyone actually share any of that same information out loud in public, or to more individuals than a particular person deems appropriate – and then all hell breaks loose about violating confidentiality, bad-mouthing people, etc. – regardless of the truth or lack thereof of the information being shared, and the actual experiences of the person sharing it, and then the crowd often turns on the messenger.  All this happens right along with a lot of public verbiage about wanting to stop abusive behavior, and people crowing about how we are somehow better than the vanilla crowd and have less abuse in our ranks.

Hello?  You either want to stop abuse and help protect others, or you don’t.  No, it’s not as cut and dried as may appear that I am saying.  There are indeed nuances and specifics to each situation.  Unfortunately, the victim is often revictimized over and over again by her own peers just for speaking up.

There are also significant pockets of people who not only do not condemn behavior such as child and animal sexual abuse, but who actively practice and promote it, despite the fact that they are generally illegal as hell, much more so than any of the rest of what we do, as well as totally amoral and exploitative.  It is appalling that such abusers try to hide behind the wall of calling their perversions “kinks”, and thereby trying to slide in under the umbrella of “your kink is OK” in our circles.

It’s not OK, folks.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not.

And yes, I’m on a moral crusade – and on a legal one.  I’ve worked for years to help stamp out child and domestic partner abuse, and I will now also not rest until bestiality is likewise recognized legally everywhere as the sick abuse of helpless creatures that it is, and helped to create a legal framework within which anyone who causes harm to people and animals who cannot consent can and will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law – a law on a par with how raping children and others is now treated.

Child abuse and bestiality are not “kinks”.  They are full on perversions, sicknesses, and victimization of others who are helpless to defend themselves.  People who do these things are predators, and mentally ill, and should be locked away for life.

Anyone who thinks it’s OK to fuck children or animals is a psychopath.  And anyone who remains in a relationship with anyone who does either of these things once they know about it is equally guilty of the crime because to stay is to condone it.

What I find particularly puzzling is that I know people whose own friends have told them they are sick and in need of therapy because of the extreme nature of their kinks and participation in bestiality.  Why are those people still friends, when such incredibly exploitative and blatantly injurious behaviors are being practiced by those people?  Why do people stay in intimate relationships with such animals?  Birds of a feather flock together, though – so don’t be surprised if others consider that you actually condone the behavior of your partners and friends who engage in these kinds of practices if you remain in relationships with them once you know about these things. Sadly, I know people who have sounded off vociferously about exactly this – and yet are now in relationships with known, self-proclaimed bestialists, and still there, despite knowing full well about it.  It’s really pathetic when people’s desire to get their rocks off so overrides their own moral compasses – or at least what they said were their moral standards.

Don’t even start me on things like breath play, extremes of body modification, skewers, screws and nails inserted through breasts, penises, and testicles, needle play with unsterile needles, heavy impact play on the same kinds of delicate body parts and other areas that are easily injured, extensive brands, etc.  People have had to have breasts amputated because they haven’t healed from play of this nature.  Others have reported it taking literally years for such injuries to heal completely.  I’m hearing more reports of spinal fractures from flogging older people.  The list goes on.

So yeah.  As long as you are not hurting others, human or animal, do whatever you want.  But don’t expect me to condone it, or to not speak up against it, and to try to educate people to not do it if possible, if I find it either morally repugnant or too unsafe.

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See also Tolerating Criminal Behavior in the Scene, and Judging Others, and Just because it is “your kink” does not make it OK with me

Blog Focus

Because I am so concerned about ensuring that all people who are in abusive relationships or think they may be are able to find help, and my increasing work on trying to stop and criminalize bestiality and other forms of animal abuse, I’m going to try to focus more of this blog’s content on general abuse issues; hence the blog’s new name.

I do believe the time has come that the kink community is starting to look more closely at what differentiates BDSM from abuse, and I will continue to look at that, but the issue is so much bigger than we are – and the general issues apply to us all, regardless of sexual orientation or lifestyle.  I’ve worked hard to put together an extensive listing of resources and am expanding it as I come across new ones; I don’t want people to think this site isn’t for them as well.  I want everyone who needs help to realize that they can find resources here.

Emotional Damage

It is coming home for me more and more just how bad the emotional fallout has been for me thanks to X-man. I mean, I’ve known the damage that happened in the course of the relationship and its aftermath, but realizing just how bad it *still* is, and the ways in which it is affecting me, is turning out to be increasingly upsetting.

I haven’t played since the breakup, by choice, mostly because I’ve known I wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be able to handle it, but I didn’t know by how much. For much of this time, I wasn’t even able to visualize a flogger hitting my back. I could visualize it flying through the air and getting halfway down to my back, then something would kind of jerk it back upwards and away, halfway down, then jerked back away, over and over again, half strokes that never connected, as if some kind of invisible barrier existed halfway between the top of the swing and my body. Eventually, I was able to force the visuals to bring the flogger into actual contact with my back, a fully completely strike – and then, upon impact, I saw myself fly up from the bondage table I’d been visualizing myself lying on, screaming in panic and rage, grabbing the flogger out of the top’s hand – and wrapping it around his head and neck.

That mental scenario has gradually started to give way to just flying off the table screaming, but no longer trying to kill the top all the time, although that unwelcome visual still plagues such attempts to envision myself being flogged more than I’d like. In my mind’s eye, I’m gaining more control over that reaction, and just barely starting to be able to envision the possibility of *maybe* being able to play again someday.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a party talking to some friends, when all of a sudden, something that felt for all the world like a singletail caught me on the left shoulder, in exactly the same spot X-man had once injured me. I turned around in shock, expecting to find some moron cracking a singletail too close to the people sitting there, but it turned out to just be a stray rope end from another friend taking down some rigging he’d been using earlier, and clearly a totally innocent accident. (We were in close quarters because of the way the venue was set up for that event, not because I’m stupid enough to get in the way of someone else’s scene.) I was not injured, but the moment it happened, I just started having terrible flashbacks to everything that had happened with X-man, all the fear, all the emotional trauma, all the injuries, all the panic.

I was able to catch my breath and start to calm down, doing some deep breathing to get a grip, and the guy whose rope it was was extremely apologetic and understanding, especially when I filled him in on the basics of what had just happened and why. After a couple of minutes of chatting, he offered to tie me to the chair I was in, and after a moment or two of thought, I agreed, thinking that since good bondage had always previously been like a safe, calming cocoon, it would be helpful to help me get recentered – and a good, low-key way to test out light play again. So he took a few fairly loose wraps around me, securing my torso and arms to the back of the chair. I don’t think he even tied the ends off, or if he did, it was one loose wrap. It was secure enough to feel and create that enveloping, holding feeling that I’ve always found so soothing about bondage, but in no way completely immobilized me, and I knew I could easily get out of it if I had wanted to, with minimal effort.

As I continued my deep breathing to try to calm myself, and to try settle into the headspace of security in bondage that it used to bring years ago when I’d last been with partners who were good at it and able to tie me securely, I *almost* started to get there – and then all of a sudden, it was like the sky lit up with fireworks, and the flashbacks started bombarding me from every direction, and the relationship flashbacks were mixed with some from the car accident I’d been in a few months before The End. It was like an incoming stream of attacks and light flashes coming at me, like being in the middle of a Star Trek battle scene. I flew into a panic and started screaming to get it off, get it off, so freaked that I stood up, still attached to the chair, and fighting the rope, trying to shake the whole assemblage off, starting to try to run to try to shake it off me. Thankfully my friends were within arms reach, and were able to calm me down enough to sit me back down and hold me still enough to get the rope off. The top in question was at my side instantly, too, and I just flew into his arms, sobbing my eyes out in panic, and sheer upset. I calmed down within a few minutes and was then OK, but still pretty shaken up for the rest of the evening.

This afternoon, following the fundraising auction for the Tour de Cure team sponsored by our local dungeon, I was standing around chatting with the same friends, who had won a marvelous soft, sweet red leather paddle that I’d also bid on. Its handle is very flexible, and one side of the paddle is a cushy leather pillow. I’d tried it on myself earlier, and was absolutely unable to elicit anything remotely resembling pain. It doesn’t even have enough impact to really create any real sensation at all.

J started whacking a bit on some other friends, and then I started wagging my tail at him, thinking that this thing was *sooo* soft and cushy that there was no way it would be a problem, so after verbal verification that I was game for a few swats, he started to pound lightly on my upper back, then started to work over more of my back and butt. For the first half minute (I would estimate), I was doing great. It was lovely, just like a massage.

And then all of a sudden, the panic started to come up again.

The instant it started, I cut things off, and J stopped instantly, and both he and A were checking in with me to be sure I was OK. I must have looked *really* freaked out because of the depth of concern I saw on A’s face.

The freakout was not as intense as it had been with the bondage, but what was so upsetting was that not only did it happen again, it happened with a toy that is really no more of a physical challenge to take than it would be to be hit with an average pillow.

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Response to Fetlife query about how to have sex again after rape or sexual abuse:

I’m still pretty much in the “Anyone who touches me is a dead son of a bitch” stage myself. I panic at the mere *thought* of anything much beyond a massage or light, decidedly nonsexual carress. A stray rope end from someone else’s scene hitting me sent me into flashbacks, a couple of loose turns of rope around me for probably less than a minute triggered a fighting panic, and a few smacks while fully clothed with a paddle about as hard as a pillow brought the panic up also. The very *thought* of trying to have sex with anyone again is enough to send me screaming into the night.

Recognition of the Problem of Abuse in the Kink Community, and RACK vs SSC

There are many signs that recognition of the problem that abuse in kinky relationships is growing, along with concern and action to try to stop it. It is clear that abuse in our ranks is at an all-time high, and I’m delighted to see increasing discussion of it in our community.

Over the past several months, there have been at least two classes given on the topic at the SF Citadel in San Francisco, and on Tuesday March 22, from 8-10:30pm, there will be a panel discussion there entitled “RACK: A Discussion About Risk, Awareness, and Consent” that promises to be a powerhouse exploration of the role of RACK in our community, including how it interrelates with abuse.

One of the major questions that will be addressed is whether this concept is a “shelter for predators or a sophisticated philosophy”.

Admission is $20, and this event is a fund-raising benefit for Community United Against Violence www.cuav.org.  Please attend and support this worthy organization.

Personally, I think that RACK is both a “shelter for predators” as well as a sophisticated philosophy.

It’s a great idea when it’s used judiciously, but is so often turned around and perverted for the benefit of the dominant, to the detriment of the submissive.  Of course this happens in reverse at times as well, but much more abuse – and much more harm – seems to come from abuse of submissives by dominants.

What makes both RACK and SSC so problematic from an abuse point of view is that all of the concepts inherent in both acronyms can be so nebulous that interpreting them can be quite difficult.  SSC is more problematic because it’s even more vague, and leaves out the notion of awareness of risk, but when dealing with RACK, we then get into the question of what, in fact, the parties were actually aware of, what really constitutes awareness of risk, etc.  The very concept of consent is multifactorial.  Both acronyms are also great ideas and buzzwords that anyone can bandy about to look good, even while not walking their own walk behind the scenes.  But they sound good, and seem to know what they’re talking about, so many people get sucked in by just the words.

A surprising number of people seem to think that just because someone speaks apparently intelligently about these topics means that they are inherently safe to play with – but nothing could be further from the truth.

This idea dovetails well with other issues I’ve discussed here, including how just being a community “leader” confers zero special status in terms of how safe or reputable one is.  When you add in those people also speaking the party line, which these concepts are, that only adds to the potentially false impression that people may come away with about such people.

What’s more, oftentimes it’s the quietest ones who are the most dangerous, because they may simply not give enough external clues to arouse suspicion before it’s too late.  The louder they are, the easier they are to spot.

The concepts involved in both SSC and RACK are excellent, and both acronyms came into existence as honest, good faith efforts to try to a) communicate to the vanillas why what we do is not abuse, and b) to help verbalize a set of highly laudable community standards and goals to which many of us actually aspire.  I think both have done much to help us, both inside the community as well as in presenting ourselves to the outside world.  Both are a reflection of concerned, sincere efforts to make our world a better and safer place to play in.

The very notion of considering elements of safety, sanity, risk awareness, and indeed even making consent explicit is, in fact, quite sophisticated.  Verbalizing these things and actively, explicitly negotiating our contacts and relationships is not something most people do, and is certainly not taught as we’re growing up.  Regardless of the degree of individual successes or failures with these techniques and approaches, it is clear that they do very much help in many cases.

Unfortunately, it’s equally evident that they are widely used as a cover for dangerous, unscrupulous tops to hide behind, knowing full well that community ethos as it stands today will support them if they talk a good line, and that the standards that prevent submissives from widely sharing information about dangerous tops, and ending up demonized ourselves when we try to, and shunned by the community.  As long as the top keeps on chanting SSC and RACK, and related verbiage, it is astonishing how many more people will support him rather than his victims.

This is why these mantras are problematic.  I think we have also come to rely far too much on chanting them over and over again without fully examining what exactly goes into each part of each concept, and what really differentiates WIITWD from abuse.

Hint: it’s not just consent.

Or at least consent is far from being as simple a concept as we’d like to think it is.

Risk awareness attempts to get at the need for the element of informed consent, which is lacking in the SSC model, and all too often in actual interactions, but it still falls short of what we need, in large part because it fails to consider long term relationships as thoroughly as single scenes, or completely play-based relationships.  Both concepts – and everything we teach newbies and continue to talk about and run classes about – tends to focus around what my esteemed friend Teramis has described as “scene-delimited” D/s interactions vs those that are more relationship-focussed.

Not only is adequate risk awareness a major component of consent, but so are many other elements, including intent, length and nature of the relationship, duration, effect, presence or lack of coercion vs freely given consent, whether the behavior in question happens in a single scene or more frequently in an ongoing relationship, when in the course of a scene or relationship it occurs, the dominant’s responses to the submissive’s reactions, and much more.

What I think is on the table at this point in time for our community is a need to look much more deeply at all of this, and to realize that consent is a much more multi-factorial concept than a simple yes or no.

How we go about teasing out all of these disparate elements, and then finding some hopefully cohesive way of both quantifying them, describing the different parameters involved, and then finding a way to use that information to help protect people is one of the central issues facing our community these days.  How we address them as a group, and face the problems we have, will have a huge impact on not only how our subculture functions in the future, but how we are perceived in the world at large.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, although I’m researching this and exploring on an ongoing basis.  I am very gratified that other people are also clearly starting to ask a lot of the same questions, and to recognize that we simply must look a lot deeper into the things we do and say about it than we have been.  Kink has come of age, so to speak, as Midori put it, and now it’s time to move past the simplistic stories we have told ourselves for years into looking more carefully at all of the individual elements that make them up.

I also don’t claim that this is an easy task – or one that is widely embraced in our circles.  It’s not either one.  To speak out openly on the problem of abuse in the kink world these days is to invite a firestorm of extremely vocal public opposition, which itself often turns quite abusive.

That alone tells me we are really getting close to the heart of the matter.  If people are treating their partners well, then why would they object to pointing out how others are not?

The answer is that in many cases, those who shout the loudest that we don’t have a problem in this community, and object the most to having the differences between healthy kink and abuse dissected and pointed out, are almost invariably among the people who are themselves the most abusive – or their brainwashed victims.

Others worry that if we admit to the extent of the problem in our ranks that this will somehow turn the vanillas further against us.

Nevertheless, this is an issue that absolutely must come out of the closet – and amongst ourselves first of all.  Until and unless we are willing to face reality, we will never be able to fully identify the problem or its root causes – or solutions.  And until we are able to fully tell the truth about what we do to our own selves, the harder it will remain to ever convince anyone else that what we do is even remotely justifiable.

RACK is a great step in the right direction, going beyond SSC, but it’s time that we move on further still.

Related posts:

It’s the Internet, Stupid!  How the Online World Encourages Abuse in the BDSM Subculture

What to Do About a Dangerous Top if They Are a Community Leader

The Problem of Abuse in the BDSM Subculture

Abuse in the BDSM World Class

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