Trust Me…

Of course you can trust me. I’m a skilled top. I mean, you saw me swinging a whip around some and it looked good, didn’t it? You can surely tell I’ve been practicing for a long time, and that I was taught by the best. Safety protocols? Yeah, of course I follow those…

OMG, you have got to run, don’t walk, to read the Sex Geek’s latest post entitled “trust me” [sic], which is an hilarious rant about various ways that some of the so-called more experienced tops, particularly those who are leaders of some sort or another in the scene, get over on the naive and unsuspecting – read “newbies”.

It’s funny, all right, because it’s seriously well-written – but also because she actually nails a number of behaviors and attitudes that are virtually pathognomonic of abusers in the scene right on the head.

Other things to check, although by no means an exhaustive list – what is the ratio of sweet young submissive thangs he’s got on his profile to other friends? Watch it over time, too. Why did some of those seem to drop off and out of sight all of a sudden at some point? And maybe not just one but a handful? Who were his first submissives and longest term partners, and why are they not on his friends list if they’re not?

Make sure to ask people he refers to publicly as his “good friend” if he really is – and watch the reactions of those people very carefully. I’ll tell you right now that there’s at least one such dominant running around in my neck of the woods who is quite extraordinarily deluded as to the actual nature of his relationship with a person whom he routinely publicly addresses and refers to this way. Every arrogant prick is a name dropper, especially when he wants to get into your pants, especially if he’s not as big a name himself.

And oh, yeah, just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they’re safe, either. Many times those are the ones with the absolute most to hide.

They are certainly highly unlikely to let it slip where the bodies are buried, and boy will they get seriously steamed if any of their previous vict^H^H^partners mention what was done to them. They may have even threatened those exes in the past behind the scenes, well out of the public eye, to try to keep them quiet, or had others do their threatening for them. If you look at a pair where one is quiet and is being accused of behaviors by the other that don’t seem to match his public persona, maintain a very high index of suspicion.

And don’t think that what reactions you see from him are the whole story. Some of these people are extraordinarily good at showing the absolute face of innocence publicly while going as far as threatening other people and even ending longstanding friendships of their own behind the scenes in an attempt to manipulate those people into disclosing private conversations with the victim.

I’ll repeat – you cannot, cannot, CANNOT, as in absolutely positively CAN NOT, be sure that someone is safe to play with just because they are highly visible or hold some kind of leadership position in the scene, or even if they say all the right things and look hot as hell.

Perhaps especially not then.

Caveat emptor to the max.

Why People Stay in Abusive Relationships

In a thread entitled “[I]s this abuse?” in the “Submissive Women” group on Fetlife, subbiegirl9 describes a situation in which a male dominant friend of hers is trying to turn a basically vanilla woman into a slave, and is going about it by “[B]asically [doing] the things he is into doing but without her consent, prior discussion or her even liking it”. The woman keeps telling him this is abusive, and not how a relationship should be, but in the end always forgives him and somehow reportedly gives him the idea that she secretly likes what he’s doing to her.  The poster has become very worried about the situation, and wanted to know if this was out of line and abusive, and if so, how to get through to the guy.

Darlin’, yes, it absolutely is abuse.  Even if she secretly likes it, she hasn’t consented beforehand, and continues to object.

It’s also rape, sexual assault and battery, domestic violence, and probably a few other things that could be separately charged.

Bottom line, it’s nonconsensual – and that just ain’t OK.

As often happens in discussions about abuse, other posters wanted to know why she’d stay in an abusive relationship, particularly when she herself already recognizes that it is abusive.

Truthfully, why women stay with guys like this that can be quite a complicated answer.  There are many possible reasons, and often more than one is in operation.

Many of us who end up in and stay in abusive relationships get there because we’ve had a history of being abused, and at some level, it’s not only familiar, but what we’re drawn to precisely because it’s what we know best.  Hope tends to spring eternal that he’ll change, or that you’ll be able to find some way to get through to him that will make the problems stop.

Oftentimes, the victim thinks it’s somehow her fault – and indeed, frequently the abuser tells her that himself.  Denial also is a very strong element operating, because when you’re with someone you care about and have had high hopes for the relationship, you have a strong motivation to try to find some way out of the situation, or to make yourself believe that it’s really not as bad as it actually feels, that you know it actually is.

It can take a very long time for any person who is abused to work their way through to the conclusion that nothing you can try will change things, no matter how smart your abusive partner is, and so, in the meantime, you still end up staying and trying to work things out.  The rest of the world, not knowing what is actually happening (or not believing it), just sits there and passes judgment, saying she should just leave and that because she doesn’t, that must mean she isn’t actually abused, or that it just “isn’t that bad”.  That by itself is a hard judgment to face, particularly when it comes from people you care about and you believe ought to know better.  That alone might contribute further to her having difficulty leaving.

Oftentimes men who see fit to force their partners to do things they don’t want to do the way the OP’s friend is doing to his new partner threaten them if they tell or leave.  Or they threaten the victim’s children, pets, and/or other family members.  The first abusive guy I was with made death threats to me and my whole family when I left, via endless harassing phone calls, in an attempt to intimidate me into coming back.  And that was after he very nearly did kill me in a blind, incoherent rage.  It was beyond terrifying, and took years to heal from.

Or they do actually harm the children, pets, or relatives, or victim herself, or do something else that makes it really obvious that they will indeed follow through if the woman doesn’t stay.  If a woman thinks that others she loves will be harmed if she leaves her abuser (or that he’ll come after her and kill her), the incentive to stay is incredibly strong.

The injuries may even look accidental or incidental – until enough of them happen that a clear pattern of either deliberately or carelessly doing them eventually emerges, particularly despite much communications about them being a problem for that person and maybe promises to not repeat them.  Or they might be things that might not harm another, but do harm this particular woman – and yet they are still repeated anyways.

The net result is still fear that they will happen again if she resists – because they always have.

These sorts of things can still happen quite early on in a relationship.  They are not limited to longer term pairings.

The threats can also be subtle or implied, conveyed only by an attitude, temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, etc.  The effect is the same as overt threats – it creates fear, which includes the fear of leaving, and the fear of what will happen if she does not go along with the abuser’s demands, no matter the cost to herself.

Oftentimes an abused woman won’t leave because she is completely financially dependent on the abuser, and can’t leave, particularly if there are also children involved.  She may have no money of her own, no transportation, no safe place to go, etc.

Then there are possible religious reasons, especially if the couple is married.  Catholicism, of course, prohibits divorce, so many women stay in bad and abusive marriages because they don’t want to be excommunicated, and fear the wrath of the church and going to hell more than they fear the abuser in their house.

In the Jewish community, there is a huge misconception that we don’t even have abuse (or alcoholism or drug addiction) in our midst, as if we’ve got some kind of genetic protection from these problems, which is of course patently inaccurate, but the myth persists.  Mass community denial of this sort fuels an even greater inability to recognize it when it happens to us, particularly when our partners are also Jewish, so we tend to look for other explanations for what is going on because we cannot even recognize it for what it is, at least early on.  If you grow up believing that it’s not even possible for abuse to happen to you for a reason like this, or it’s not even possible for the man you’re with to do it, how would you ever recognize it, much less admit to it and leave when it does?  Even knowing better intellectually, this kind of early conditioning still keeps operating at a deep level and may contribute strongly to why the abused woman doesn’t leave.

For the extremely observant in particular, the fairy tale is even more pervasive than in the more liberal branches of the religion, and people can end up with zero community support (in a particularly tight-knit community) and losing everything at a time when they most need it if they break these kinds of religious taboos.  A frum (very orthodox) Jewish woman may never even be able to get free of her husband and able to marry again, because a) divorce in those circles requires that she obtain permission from a rabbinical court, and b) that her husband give her what is called a “get”, which is his own permission – and it is far from unheard of for husbands to be willing to give the get just to keep control of her life long after she may have left.

She can, of course, still obtain a legal divorce in secular courts, but no one in their circles (including she herself) will ever consider her actually divorced until both the rabbis decree it and the husband gives the get, so that is rarely a real option for these women.  Even if both happen, she becomes “tainted goods” in those circles and others will shun her as a potential mate, and even altogether.  At the same time, religiously, the man can divorce her by something as simple as turning around three times and telling her he’s divorcing her.  With usually a large brood of children to care for, few observant women are willing to risk this, especially if they have no other means of supporting themselves – which women with a lot of children typically do not have.  And if shunned like this, she may well actually be considered dead, which has an even greater set of repercussions to herself and the others she loves.

No doubt some other religions have their own variations on these themes.

Abusive men are often quite charming, too, to the point of being widely loved and respected by others who have no idea on the planet what they’re actually like at home, and to the point that people often don’t believe the victim’s tales of what is being done to them.

These types may then end up turning everyone who might be sympathetic to the victim against her.  Social isolation may result, which makes it harder for someone to leave, because it may leave her without an adequate support system.  This is a particular problem in small communities.  And because people tend to believe him over her (because he’s often much quieter, and apparently oh so nice, and she may be more vocal), people often don’t believe her because what she says doesn’t match what others see.

The woman often ends up with her own support system completely undermined, and even her own friends turned against her, including, weirdly enough, other women who have themselves been abused severely and managed to get out and find a way to avoid abusers, and who claim to understand the whole dynamic because they’ve been there.  The fear of not being believed and ending up without friends and a support system from a situation like this can thus be an extremely powerful incentive to stay in an abusive relationship.
She might also begin to wonder what is wrong with her that she does not see the wonderful angel that others think he is.

Appearances can be exceptionally deceiving, though – look at people like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.  They were quiet and kept to themselves, never caused anyone any problems, were helpful to neighbors, etc., and so everyone thought they were such nice guys.  Their secret lives behind closed doors, however, told a very different story – and should serve as a cautionary tale about the extent to which abusers can go when no one else can see them doing it.

Most abusers, of course, don’t do such heinous things, and if they do, are not able to hide it as effectively for as long, but the issue is still the same – an incredibly nice, upstanding pillar of the community-type presentation to the rest of the world, but a holy terror and perhaps real potential death threat behind closed doors, where no one else can see them operating in their true colors.  And because they are nice and charming to everyone else, people have a very hard time believing the tales of abuse behind closed doors by the partners.

Also, just because they say all the right things in public, or online, that does not mean they actually practice what they preach at home.  It is infuriating and frustrating beyond words to see them promoting appropriate behaviors they themselves have never practiced at home (and maybe violate the very same day or later in the same week in which they have made these pronouncements), ranting rabidly at others for doing exactly the same negative things they themselves have done, claiming to do the “right” things they never actually did, etc.

If a woman tells you her partner has been abusive to her, and particularly if she describes specific actions like violations of limits, ignoring safewords, temper tantrums, etc., especially if there is a consistent pattern to those complaints, please, please, don’t just dismiss her claims out of hand because her partner seems to be one of these upstanding types and has been nice and never shown this side of himself to you.

The smarter they are, too, the better they tend to be at hiding their abusiveness of their partner from others outside the relationship, but also at keeping even their victims from fully registering what’s actually going on – and then pinning the responsibility on them.

And just because another partner says they aren’t abusive, doesn’t mean the guy hasn’t been abusive to the one who says he is.  Abuse is not determined by how many people the abuser abuses, but by what he does to a particular person.  They aren’t always abusive to everyone, including other partners (although such patterns do tend to repeat themselves, at least eventually).  There’s nothing to say that those other partners don’t have such deep-seated issues or depravity of their own that they themselves either don’t recognize what’s happening or aren’t themselves in denial about it.  Or maybe they just haven’t seen that side of him yet for any number of possible reasons.  Or they’ve got their own other set of reasons for not making their own abuse known to others or leaving.

In addition, few abusive relationships are 100% all bad, and are often actually quite good in many other ways.  Along with the charm they turn on to others, abusers can be extremely charming, generous, and even quite wonderful at other times within the same relationship in which they are abusing their partners, as well as to others.  It’s particularly hard when there is a lot of other good happening to decide to give that up, because when you leave someone who is toxic to you, you also leave behind whatever was good about that person and the relationship.  It can be an extraordinarily difficult decision, especially when overall compatibility is extremely high.

Then there’s gaslighting, where they make you feel like you’re the crazy one for protesting what they are doing, or they blame you for being the cause of the issues, when it’s really them, and get you to actually believe the same thing.  When that goes on for long enough, you end up seriously doubting your own perceptions, and then it becomes really hard to leave, because you’re no longer sure that the problem you thought was there really is due to them – or, in fact, is even actually real to start with!  This sort of thing tends to deeply undermine one’s self-confidence and self-esteem, which only makes it all the harder to walk away.

Life with abusers tends to go in pretty predictable cycles, where a lot of abuse will occur, then a “honeymoon” period when everything seems fine and as if things will finally work out, and the abuser may even be quite apologetic and go out of his way too woo his victim back.  For many of us, it’s easy to get sucked back into all of that lovey-dovey stuff that mirrors what they did when things were still fresh and new (and happy), and to think repeatedly (and often for very good reason) that things are finally getting better this time – and then the whole cycle starts all over again.  It can take quite a while for it to sink in exactly what’s happening, and to fully recognize the cycle.

By then, you’ve usually got enough invested in the relationship that it’s hard to walk away from because of what is still good and perhaps other reasons as well.

It’s also not uncommon for the abuser to blame his victim for her own abuse, or to pin the blame for the cycling back to it on her, telling her that she is the abusive one, or that she somehow “made” him do it.

And in fact, her reaction to whatever he is doing may well look like the precipitating factor, particularly if his abusiveness tends to be subtle and potentially plausibly deniable.

Usually no one else in such a woman’s entire life has ever told her that she’s abusive, though, and she may in fact be widely known for her compassion, caring, understanding, and supportive nature – but suddenly she’s abusive with this one person?

Oftentimes these people will leave a trail of destruction behind themselves, a life littered with lovers and others who are close to them who say he is abusive, has a nasty temper, is dismissive or belittling, are afraid of him, or he himself acknowledges in so many words that he has been abusive to.

But suddenly, she is the abusive one for objecting to what he does, trying to maintain her own boundaries and limits, and keep her own self safe?

  Sorry, it just doesn’t happen that way.

Not to mention that the vast majority of women’s abuse of men, when it happens, is actually in response to and often self-defense against abuse by her partner.

But men who pin their own abusiveness on their partners tend to just ignore their own role (or justify it as her somehow “making” him do it), and often manage to convince their victim that she herself is, for one reason or another, either the abusive party herself, or the direct cause of her own abuse. Such things can be absolutely crazymaking, and lead to such self-doubt that that that alone makes it hard to leave.

Then there are the rescuers and codependants, who tend to think they cannot or should not leave someone who is obviously hurting so much as to strike out at the ones they say they love, that somehow just because they started up with these guys that means they’ve got to stay no matter what is happening, particularly if the guy is going through a rough time.  Because you shouldn’t kick a person when he’s down, dontcha know, and friends/lovers should be loyal to each other at all costs, no questions asked, until the end of time.  Even if they’ve only known each other for a very short period of time.

When marriage vows or other promises are involved, a sense of honor and not being willing to break one’s word can be very strong and also lead to an unwillingness or inability to leave.

At one point, I left the guy I was with because of everything he was doing, then realized I’d made a mistake (or so I thought).  We did get back together – but as one of the conditions, he also made me promise I’d never leave him again, no matter what, that if either of us wanted to leave, we’d only do so if we mutually agreed to end things, even if one of us literally threatened the other’s life.  For a time after that, it appeared that we would indeed be OK.  But later, when things really got bad, there were a number of times I dropped large hints that I thought we should end things (I felt I couldn’t come right out and say it because of the promise I’d made), and even went so far as to actually suggest that maybe we should put the relationship out of its misery, but he never picked up on them or agreed, and so I remained committed to trying to work things out no matter what, at times only because that was what I’d promised to do.  I knew there would be no turning back if I did say I wanted to leave, so I’d better be absolutely, 100% certain that that was indeed the only way to end the problems, and that I was willing to live with the consequences – and for a very long time (far too long), I wasn’t, despite the problems.

I also rationalized staying by thinking that every couple had problems at times, and the only way to really deal with them was to meet them head on and to continue to deal with them and work through them.  Even though, in order to stay safe, I had to set new boundaries at times (or make others more explicit) that I told him would be dealbreakers if they happened again (which he took to be threats to leave, but weren’t, because they left the matters entirely in his own hands), I was still bound and determined to honor the promise I’d made him,and to do anything in my power to sort things out.

Long before, we’d already agreed that this relationship was going to be for life, and particularly after the promise not to leave, I took that as seriously as a marriage vow, and my commitment was to do whatever it took to work things out.   And since I consider a collar the equivalent of a wedding ring (absent only the legal status), once he collared me, it became virtually unthinkable to even consider leaving even once I finally came to the conclusion that I really needed to.

Finally, to acknowledge that one is in an abusive relationship in the first place also requires the abused party to face the fact that something is likely wrong with her own “picker”, as one of my friends once put it.  That she either missed some key red flags early on, or deliberately ignored or didn’t recognize the full significance of others she did see.  That is an extremely painful and difficult thing to face, especially if she has done a lot of work on herself and learning how to spot and avoid abusers, and come a long way in keeping herself safe from them.

Oftentimes, many or all of these factors may be operating, and contributing to why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship, especially once she herself recognizes it for what it is.

By the time you sort through all of these kinds of issues and finally realize that you really are in an abusive relationship, it can really be hard to get out because of ties that have been formed, and more.

In some cases of the nature that the OP describes, it’s even possible that the victim is actually drawn to what’s happening (as in may actually be submissively or masochistically driven), but may have a hard time admitting that even to herself.  Or she may think she deserves this kind of treatment for any number of possible reasons in addition to him managing to convince her of this.

To the people who say that it couldn’t really be that bad or she’d have left by now, all I can say is that you’ve simply got no idea how incredibly wrong you are.

To those who only believe him, realize that abusers are particularly good at pulling the wool over other people’s eyes.  If you yourself were not there, you have no right to judge, or to tell anyone else, including the victim, what actually happened – because you don’t fucking actually know.  I can just about guarantee that you’ve been fed a line of BS that’s been totally fabricated by the abuser, because that’s what they specialize in, as part of the way that they control their victims, as discussed above.

Awareness of BDSM Related Abuse Is Growing

Awareness of abuse in the kink community is growing, and I could not be more grateful.

Sadly, my friend Mollena Williams, who recently stepped down from her post as International Ms Leather 2010, was raped and only recently spoke up about it publicly.  The outpouring of support has been unbelievable – although really hardly surprising considering what a truly amazing and widely loved (and lovable) person she is, and how highly visible worldwide.

That decision to speak up is helping open up the floodgates that so badly need to be opened in our circles, and she continues to speak out.  In her thank you speech at the end of her IMSL tenure, Mo brought the issue up in front of hundreds of people, asking attendees how many had personally been sexually abused or known someone who had been, and had this to say about what happened:

It was a very scary decision for me to share my story and to ask for others to stand or raise a hand with me as survivors. And the remaining people I asked to show support if they knew someone who was a survivor of sexual abuse.

Over three-quarters of the room were with me on the first call. EVERYONE was in by the second.

It filled me with many emotions to see this happen. Validation. Pride in US. Rage that so many of us have lived this story. It threatened to take me out. And it was worth it. It was worth the fear and the opening of that wound because so. Many. Of. Us. Live. With. This. Pain.

Seventy five percent of a packed room full of pervs of every stripe were survivors of survivors of sexual assault, and not a single one didn’t at least know someone else who had been, even if they themselves had not had that sad experience.

Seventy five percent – 75%.

Think about this and what it means.

While there’s no way to measure the number of abusers who were involved, and given the size of our subculture and the frequency with which people share partners, either simultaneously or sequentially, we cannot have any certainty of what that number says about how many abusers are involved, that percentage still means that a huge percentage of our group are indeed abusers.  And we all know at least one or two people who are serial abusers.

I wrote earlier in this blog that some people I’ve spoken to have estimated that 80-90% of all dominants (at least male) are abusive.  Others challenged me on those numbers, and admittedly, there’s no way to prove them.

But when you’ve got a room full of people, it’s quite easy to roughly estimate the percentages involved when questions like Mo’s are asked.

I can’t give statistically accurate numbers or percentages.  They don’t exist.  It would be great if there were some high quality studies that were to quantify this problem more accurately, and hopefully someday we will indeed have them, but for now, there simply aren’t.  All we can go by is reports like this, and hearing more and more people speak up privately or publicly about their experiences – a growing general consensus that this is a far bigger problem in the kink subculture than we as a group have known – or wanted to face.  You find out about these things by talking to others, by public presentations about the issue, and people speaking out openly such as in Asher Bauer’s wonderful Field Guide to Creepy Dom, etc.

Mo, I so share your rage and pain, both what you have been through personally, and at the fact that this is such a widespread issue in the kink world, that so many others have also stood in our shoes.

I also fully understand your feeling of validation, as indeed the reaction you got and your report about it help in turn to validate everything I’ve been saying for a few years, and everything I’ve been through myself and continue to suffer from.

And that is why this blog exists, and I will continue to speak out about publicly abuse in the kink world, trying to excise it from our midst, and working to help others recognize it and learn to fight it as well, despite all of the fallout, including some very overt threats.

The time for silence and sweeping this issue under the rug is over.

We speak about power exchange in BDSM as a positive thing, but when it is used as a battering ram, as has happened to so many of us, it’s just plain abuse.  It is time for those of us who have been battered, both literally and figuratively (emotionally and sexually) to take back our own power and stand up and fight these injustices en masse.

It is never going to be possible to entirely excise abuse or abusers from our midst, either in the kink world or the vanilla world at large.  But we can work together to create an environment in which they cannot hide as easily as the current D/s culture both allows and indeed encourages.

We not only can, but we absolutely must.

Because it’s not OK that even one person has to suffer the effects of any kind of abuse, but the fact that it’s such a high percentage is absolutely intolerable and insupportable.

And it’s just as bad that the culture of silence in the scene has covered it up for so long, if not worse, because that means that we have all been complicit in perpetuating these problems.  Indeed the culture of silence and confidentiality at all costs, coupled with the “It’s all about the dom” mentality, has led to frequently victimizing the victims all over again by blaming them and letting the abusers get off scott free without consequences.

These.  Things.  Simply.  Must.  Stop.

Right.  Now.

And we have to all work together to make that happen.

Thank you for speaking up, Mo.  From the bottom of my heart.

The Narcissistic Prince… Is He?

by Ann Bradley,

How To Tell If the Prince is A Fraud

It was all so perfect. He was Prince Charming, and you were the luckiest girl on earth. Until you weren’t.

There were clues.

Sometimes your intuition is telling you something just isn’t right but you aren’t quite sure what it might be. Do you find yourself in a relationship that gives you some concern? Are you afraid this person has some “issues” that might cause a lot of trouble? Does your gut tell you something isn’t right? Do some fact checking and answer these questions:

1. Does he rage and then apologize and promise it will never happen again? How many times do you need to see this before you recognize this as a tactic of an abuser? Once is enough. Two times is too much. Go.

2. Is he ‘too good to be true’? Is he your soul mate? knight in shining armor? And you know this on the second or third date? Better step back and give this one some time. No one is perfect and often abusers are charming and manipulative. It’s the best way to suck you in and oh, boy, do they know it. They can play you like a violin.

3. Does he ask you for money? Does he never take you someplace nice for dinner? Being thrifty is fine, being pathological about money is not. Watch out for clues such as a someone with a good job that never spends money.

4. Does he spend money unwisely? The other pathology surrounding money is that of the show – off. The man with huge roll of bills who is always buying drinks for the bar, but doesn’t know how to save for the house.

5. Is he insensitive to your needs, often making fun of you? Leave. You deserve to be treated with respect. Always. In every situation.

6. Does he have a need to control situations? To control you? While this may feel comforting, it is infantalizing and you are a grown person now who needs to make her own decisions.

7. Does he have a good persona in front of others? Do they think he is “just great”? while you know better?

You have a right to be treated with respect. Call him a narcissist, jerk or sociopath, but get away.  Don’t think you can change him. You can’t.

You can change yourself. More self confidence will lead to less neediness. It’s better to be alone than with an abuser.

Charm is a facade, manipulation will wear you down, and one day you will find dreams have turned into a nightmare if you stay with a toxic guy.

“Love dies of blindness, errors and betrayals.” Anais Nin

What To Do About a Dangerous Top? What If They Are a Community Leader?

Recently I bottomed to a well-known, fairly high-profile member of the Bay Area’s leather community, and I was very upset to find that in real play this person did not live up to the high standards of safety and consensuality I had been led to believe would be all but automatic by the person’s public statements. I am unhappy and disappointed for myself, but I am also worried for the fates of less resilient bottoms than I am. Under the guise of being my Top this individual tried to play in a way I said I didn’t want to, and pushed very hard to persuade me to change my mind even though I stated clearly that I felt doing so could jeopardize both my physical and my psychological safety. Apart from my anger and frustration, which I know how to handle, I wonder what to do with my information about this person in terms of community safety: do I accuse? do I hide what I know? How can I behave most responsibly? [italics added]

In an article entitled “Ask the Therapist: What Do I Do About a Dangerous Top?” that starts off with the above query, distinguished therapist William Henkin, PhD very ably and comprehensively addresses the question of what to do after the fact.

What I want to talk about here is the fact that such people exist, whether or not they are leaders of the community, and the trap that “saying all the right things” can lead to in general, but also particularly when they are well-known, or otherwise part of the leadership of a community – and how to avoid getting into exactly the kinds of situations described in the above quote in the first place.

It is an unfortunate fact that tops not walking their talk is not an isolated occurrence.  It is even more unfortunate when they hold positions of leadership because newbies in particular have a tendency to view such people as being the arbiters of what is right and good, and make all kinds of dangerous assumptions about how safe these people are to play with that may or may not have anything to do with reality.

What you must understand is that there is nothing about the structure of the BDSM subculture or any of our organizations that in any way vets presenters, owners of community spaces, members of the elected board of organizations or its appointees, or anyone else as safe players. No one is responsible to check any of these people out.  No one makes any guarantees about anything.  There are no tests of competence, no checklists to ensure they actually comply with what they say, no one watching over their shoulders to be sure they do it right before they are turned loose on the public.

Nothing.  Zip. Nada.

You are 100% on your own to sort how who is safe and who isn’t, exactly the same as in the vanilla world, although we do have some accepted conventions in this one that can help, if used judiciously.

People who become the community leaders have one or two qualities in common, often only that they are simply the only ones willing to step up to do the volunteer tasks involved.  When an organization is run by volunteers, they take anyone they can get to do the tasks involved, to the point that often even known problem people are allowed to participate, simply because there is no one else to do the job.  

(This is by no means true in all cases, and there are a lot of very dedicated, very safe people involved at all levels, but it comes into play often enough that you really need to not assume anything about anyone involved in the leadership of the community just because they’re there, and to check out each individual yourself, as your personal needs arise.) Continue reading

Protected: Hypocrisy and Abuse

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Does the BDSM Community Enable Abuse?

In a post entitled Evidence that the BDSM community does not enable abuse, Clarisse Thorn posits that the existence of several different initiatives outlining the differences between BDSM and abuse indicates that we do not enable abuse.

While many such initiatives and lists demonstrating the difference between wiitwd and abuse certainly do exist within our “community” (and there are a number of others listed in the Links section on this blog), I have to conclude from my own experiences, observations, and the experiences and comments of many others that we may not actively condone abuse, but the very nature of BDSM relationships encourage it.

This is not a conclusion I have come easily to, but has become inescapable the more I talk to others about their experiences, the more I read on various social networks like Fetlife, and so on.

Unfortunately, the very nature of wiitwd, in this day and age, encourages and provides a haven for abusers.

No, it’s not officially sanctioned.  No, properly done, BDSM by itself is *not* abusive.

However, the very structure of a power exchange-based relationship and SM play sets up a situation in which abusers do indeed thrive, hiding much of what they do behind that cloak of D/s or SM, TPE slavery, etc.  It’s a perfect cover, for those who are inclined in an abusive direction. Continue reading

When Dominance Crosses the Line to Just Plain Abuse

How do you tell the difference between BDSM and abuse?  The line can admittedly be rather narrow and grey sometimes, especially when you get into the area of consensual nonconsent, but there are some real differences.

While there are many possible signs, consent is the primary dividing line – along with adherence to limits, and whether or not the whole experience overall, whether in a single scene or an entire relationship, leaves the sub feeling more built up or more torn down.

A good dominant (hell, any good partner) will always seek to ensure that not only is his partner/sub well taken care of overall, but will make sure that any tearing down he may do in scene is reversed and the issues raised dealt with sensitively until the sub is put back together again.

If the experience is more of being torn down and not put back together again, then it’s abuse.

Someone said:

“When the party involved… does not enjoy an activity, can see no benefit to the activity aside from the other party’s enjoyment/amusement/benefit and is in some way injured by the activity on more than simply a bruised basis (bruised ego, bruised skin). If an activity causes non consensual damage and is continued after the damaged party has requested it to stop, it is abuse. This point of view of abuse does not have to be shared by anyone BUT the victim party…”

I think this sums it up beautifully.

I’d emphasize that “injury” doesn’t necessarily have to involve visible bruises, especially for those of us who do not mark easily. Continue reading

Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser

Someone on Fetlife posted a link to an article entitled “Warning Signs That You’re Dating a Loser”, which is a great primer on abusive relationships.  The name is unfortunate, but t’s an excellent overview of the problem of abusive partners, how to identify them, and how to get out.

I actually found the one that follows it entitled “Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser” even more revealing, at least at the stage that I’m at in understanding why I get involved with these abusers myself – and why I stay with them even once I realize what’s going on, or why anyone does, particularly those of us who are well-educated, experienced in life, professionally successful, and have good self-esteem overall.  I’ve never heard this paradigm before, but it makes perfect sense.  The basic idea is that the bond that happens between an abuser and his victim is much the same as what happens in hostage situations and the like, where the victim begins to identify with the abuser and even to defend him.  Patty Hearst’s situation when she was kidnapped was the classic example of our times where a victim actually started to sympathize with and bond with her abuser.  This was the case that brought the Stockholm Syndrome into common awareness.  It’s a fascinating paradigm that also really explains why people who are stuck in more “run of the mill” abusive relationships stay, often no matter what.  It’s the same thing.

This model also explains why the most typical responses of family and friends only seem to drive the abused person away and more firmly into the clutches of the abuser, and what the best (and safest) way to assist us is.

Someone said: “Weird thing is these guys show up usually during period when I am feeling bit more confident about myself, I am more active, less reclusive and soon as they enter my life begin tear all that a part [sic]”.

There’s something of that for me also, but not as much any more – at least not until the breakup happens and I’m torn apart.  I’ve gotten a lot better at spotting them in advance and Continue reading

Tantrums, Dominants, and BDSM

I’ve been reading in a few places lately about people throwing tantrums, in both the vanilla world and in BDSM. In an excellent post on the subject, entitled “That’s Life (Vanilla and BDSM Tantrums)“, Ooooohhhhyesss concludes that “Tantrums are tantrums independent of being Dom/me, sub or vanilla. It is a lack of training in being a social animal. In the vanilla world, you can blame your parents until you are an adult. In BDSM you can point to your play partners; however, your behavior shouts out about YOU and merely reflects on others”.

So what exactly is a tantrum, and how do they apply to WIITWD?

Tantrums are, first and foremost, a sign of complete loss of self-control.

Continue reading