What You Would Tell “Them” About “Us” – or What BDSM Is vs Abuse

by Rick Umbaugh, reposted with permission:

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BDSM is only done between consenting adults. This is what deliniates it from criminal behavior. If there is no consent it is not BDSM. Consent can be withdrawn at any time by either the submissive partner (see below) or the dominant partner (also termed the Bottom or the Top).

BDSM is only done in as safe a manner as possible. The reason that it is only for adults is that adults are aware of the risks they are entering into, as small as those risks are. The people participating in a BDSM scene or relationship know what they are getting into, how they are going to bring the scene or relationship into being and how they can protect themselves if something goes wrong.

BDSM is aware of the difference between our fantasies and the reality of what we can do to bring those fantasies to life. Some fantasies are too dangerous, or too unhealthy to bring into reality but with a little work a simulation of this fantasy can be created which will make it safe.

BDSM is about turning our sexual fantasies into real experiences. This can extend from what happens in the bedroom, or other rooms in the house, to lifesyle changes which can make it feel like we are living those fantasies 24/7. This is not to say that BDSM brings these fantasies into real life, but only that we can make is seem like those fantasies have been extended into real life.

BDSM is also about a Power Exchange between two people. One cannot exchange power with powerless people so, while some members of the community call themselves submissive or even slaves, this doesn’t mean that they are powerless. Many very powerful people are submissive in the BDSM world and the fact that they can withdraw their consent at any given moment allows them to reclaim that power. While the Power Exchange would seem to flow from the submissive to the dominant, it also flows the other way, as the trial the submissive is living often gives them the power they need in their real life.

BDSM is not about violence. Violence is non-consensual. It is one person imposing his or her needs upon another person without that person’s consent. A victim of violence has had their power taken from them involuntarily. In a BDSM scene both participants should walk away from it feeling better about themselves than when they started the scene.

BDSM is the universal solvent of sexuality. It can encompass any kind of sexuality, from simple missionary fucking, where one would have to be aware of BDSM to see the power exchange going on, to all he various different fetishes, to determining the way one conducts one’s relationships.

BDSM is about sexuality. While some of the ways BDSM manifests itself are not explicitly sexual, the aim is always to enhance one’s sexual life. Simply living a 1950’s husband dominant, wife submissive lifestyle, without the sexual components of BDSM is not enough.

I suppose it is rather longer than you asked for, but there it is.

Rick Umbaugh
qui bene amat bene castigat

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.

Pushing Past Hard Limits

From The Mistress Manual, in a post decrying Mo’s rape:

A Dominant pushing past hard limits, ignoring the sub’s refusal, has just crossed over from BDSM into the very different, very ugly world of rape and sexual abuse.

Dom/mes need to hear this too, need to hear that pushing someone past their stated limits is not being one badass hawt tough Master or Mistress, it’s being a fucking asshole rapist. Your honor as a trustworthy, skillful Dominant is on the line. You deliberately violate a sub’s consent, you’ve lost that honor. You’ve joined the ranks of leering, pawing sexual abusers. Don’t do that.

Because Lorelei is right, and this needs to be repeated everywhere.

And because someone in particular who also badly needs to hear it, from someone else other than me, is still reading this blog for reasons I know not, and won’t find this on his own otherwise.

I’d add that pushing too much past soft limits is in the same category.

Report on RACK Panel

On March 22, SF Citadel hosted a RACK panel of leaders and educators from the BDSM community dedicated to discussing this question, including its relationship to abuse.

The evening’s discussion was terrific.  Panelists included Levi (who was previously employed by NCSF), Queen Cougar, Disciple, Asher Bauer (Gaystapo on Fetlife, and author of “A Field Guide to Creepy Dom”, which I reposted here), and Chey, who together represented an excellent cross section of various branches of the kink and leather communities, which tend to have some different opinions on a number of issues.  Thorne did a masterful job of moderating, and asked some very important questions.

In the first half of the program, issues such as participants’ preferences for RACK vs SSC, attitudes towards breath play, and a couple of other matters were discussed, with a pretty predictable range of thoughts and opinions, with no two people seeing any of it quite the same way.

Asher felt that RACK is an edgier concept than SSC, because it implies more edge play and Disciple sees the two as falling along a spectrum.  Queen Cougar gave a history of the evolution of both concepts, and pointed out that the entire goal is to keep people safe, which is best accomplished, in her estimation, by just using plain old common sense, and not by mindless adherence to any particular acronym.  Levi spoke eloquently about how both are about safety in overall communications, the value of safety education, etc., distinguishing WIITWD from abuse, both being a “social expression of unified purpose” – and how NCSF feels that identifying with and playing as RACK actually increases players’ legal liability vs SSC.

Someone described RACK as often being used as “a coverup and club” for abusers, which everyone else nodded in agreement with.  My personal feeling is that they are both used that way.

The second half, however, was fully devoted to the question of consent, what it means, and whether or not violations of it should be reported to the police and/or made known to the community at large.  Thorne and I have been discussing these issues together for a while, and a number of the questions she asked were born out of issues I raised and my thinking on the subject.

Levi commented that he felt that consent is a construct, and fantasy container, that responsible masters hold the container for it, and must also take legal, emotional, and physical responsibility for their actions, as well as for their limitations.  He commented about the frequent involvement of coercion in obtaining “consent”, and how consent is sometimes used as justification for abuse, which brought murmurs of agreement from all of the participants.

Queen Cougar spoke eloquently and powerfully about how you “retain your personhood” even in the most intense relationships, and have the right to step out of it and protect yourself no matter what, despite any peer pressure to retain the M/s kind of dynamic and the twisted thinking that comes out of all of that.  Thorne added that that self protection includes emotional safety, as well as physical.

Disciple said that there are many savvy predators out there for whom consent really means nothing and are able to hide behind all the right language, and when he said straight out that they need to be “brought to light”, it drew a gasp of shock from the audience – and vigorous assent from the other panelists.  It was almost like someone had finally given everyone else permission to say out loud, and in so many words, what they had all been thinking, but hadn’t quite had the guts to say in so many words, and a virtual torrent of agreement came out.  He recommended setting aside your pride for the sake of the relationship, and not to rush into anything, taking your time to learn how that prospective partner reacts and treats others when he is under duress before you get involved, because that is highly predictive of how he will treat you.

We often speak about red flags that may clue one in that a particular person is a predator and likely to be dangerous.  Chey mentioned out that it’s a red flag if they’re not willing to come out of role and speak with the sub as equals, and Asher pointed out that sometimes there really aren’t any red flags at all, and that it’s “important not to victim blame”, no matter what.

What really stood out in this portion was that without exception, every single one of these community leaders and educators all agreed as the discussion ensued, particularly once Disciple came out and stated it so clearly, was that not only are violations of consent completely unacceptable, but that they should be reported to the police, as well as publicized widely throughout the community – and with names named.

What’s more, they all agreed that this should apply to all violations, that it is no longer acceptable to sweep so much under the rug as we have been doing for so long.

When I came into the scene a decade ago, this sort of scenario would have been absolutely unimaginable. I can’t think of anyone back then who I ever heard say such a thing, and to even bring the idea up would get one looked at with all kinds of suspicion, and generate a lecture on the importance of confidentiality, policing our own ranks, not involving the police because it would only serve to prove to the vanillas that we were indeed abusers and undermine our attempts to communicate just the opposite, and more – all of which would generally ultimately serve to protect the perpetrator and further victimize the victim.

No one would have said that abuse or violations of consent were OK, but no one would have been willing to actually advocate taking this kind of action.

And a lot more protection was given to D-types who were in M/s relationships in particular, and blame heaped on the S-type, with the admonition that she had entered into this arrangement voluntarily, and that it was all about the dom so he could do no wrong and she had to obey, etc., etc.  Sadly, we still hear some of this claptrap, but on the whole, it thankfully seems to be diminishing.

I’ve written and spoken a lot about what I see as the issues with abuse of various sorts in our circles, and while virtually every individual I can think of with whom I’ve spoken privately has also expressed similar sentiments, there is something about it being said out loud by five separate people who are respected in the community, in front of an audience of probably somewhere around 50 people, that to me, really brings home what I’ve been saying all along for several years, that abuse and violations of consent are huge and growing problems in our ranks, that we absolutely must deal with very differently than we’ve been handling it in the past.

In the “old days”, when the scene was much smaller and more underground, self-policing was much more feasible, and much more essential.  Nowadays, though, attitudes are changing, the police and the rest of the vanilla world are increasingly aware of WIITWD as a fundamentally consensual activity, and as a result, it is less taboo to discuss openly, and in a number of jurisdictions, local law enforcement is actually quite enlightened, so reporting abuses to them, when indicated, is far less likely to have negative repercussions for others than it probably was in the past.  We still have a long ways to go to achieve full understanding and cooperation from law enforcement, but the road is better paved than it was before – and just by virtue of our sheer huge increase in numbers and accessibility, self-policing the way it was back then, especially as a sole solution, is truly no longer a viable solution to these problems.

Rape, Assault, Battery, and Police Reporting

I came across a fantastic post the other day by Saynine about the problem of rape within the BDSM context entitled “This Isn’t Play…BDSM and Rape“, following on the heels of reports by my friend, the outgoing International Ms Leather, Mollena Williams, of her rape by a prominent member of the Dublin kink community.    These are just the two latest posts I’ve encountered speaking out on this topic, and on the importance of reporting these rapes to the police, as well as publicizing them within the BDSM community.

Both posts and the ensuing comments discuss the potential implications of such reporting, both to the individual victims – and to the community as a whole.  The conclusions drawn pretty much without exception in these posts and many others I’m seeing, as well as the opinions of numerous other concerned individuals with whom I’ve been discussing the overall issues of abuse and consent for several years, the participants in San Francisco’s recent RACK panel, etc.,  is that reporting is essential – and that not only are the overall community’s needs secondary to supporting the victim and ensuring as best we can that others are not also harmed, but that doing so can only serve to help our image in the world, by conveying openly to everyone else in the most obvious way possible that we not only do not condone rape, assault, etc., and that that is not what WIITWD is about, but that we stand behind those words with actions that support them.

The question of rape and consent is important, but it’s also important to realize that rape as legally defined (basically, any kind of vaginal, anal, or oral penetration without consent) is only one part of the consent and abuse puzzle.

The other big issue that we face is the problem of either ongoing abuse of various sorts in BDSM relationships, and both in that context or in individual, one-off scenes, the issue of assault and battery if anything other than vaginal, anal, or oral penetration are involved – the questions of other types of play occurring without consent, limits being violated in the process, etc.

What happens when other limits are violated, such as beatings that go beyond the physical limits of what the bottom can take, too much force is used and the bottom is injured even in the course of something she did basically consent to but not to that level?  What about other situations such as if a knife is pulled nonconsensually, undesired cuttings, needles, or take your pick of various forms of humiliation play?  Or you tell your partner (who has been injuring you repeatedly with impact play and ignoring both feedback and ultimately safewords) that you now have a new hard limit, that he absolutely may not hit you with any kind of toy again until he gets some formal instruction and practice with it – and less than a minute later he starts right out doing it again, with a different implement than before, coming out with some lame excuse like, “I didn’t realize that was what you meant” when you protest and safeword yet again?  When even generally innocuous requests or demands happen to cause you intractable problems and yet he won’t relent and continues to demand that, throwing a fit when you object or try to stop it?  Or any number of other possibilities of hard or even soft limits being violated?

Legally, most if not all of these kinds of things are actually assault and/or, in the case that contact is actually made and not just threatened, battery. (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Different states have different laws that define each of these things (and domestic violence) differently, and laws and policies regarding arrests and prosecution vary even by jurisdiction within a given state, so it’s not possible to say what will or will not happen in each of these kinds of situations.

Another area that also seems pretty grey (although I’m sure the lawyers and police must understand it) is where the line is between domestic violence and assault and battery – and which one would apply in situations of the sort we kinksters often find ourselves in.

One thing I find particularly disconcerting is that much of what I’ve read about assault and battery seems to require that some sort of obvious and grievous injury occur in order for the concepts to apply and arrests to happen.

But what about those whose injuries never become visible?  Does that mean that they will not receive the same protections as anyone else who is assaulted by a partner or stranger?  I’ve been injured on multiple occasions where nary a bruise or mark ever showed up – but when I’m still in pain weeks and months later, I sure as hell considered myself just as injured as if some bone had been fractured or I’d been cut with a knife.

Regardless of the legal terminology, when limits are violated in any way, it sure still feels like rape.   The feeling of violation is terrible, and the violation of trust is almost as bad and sometimes even worse than the actual event.

I’ve had things done to me that in and of themselves may not have actually been that big a deal, but when they were things that because of other issues in the relationship, or other personal or medical reasons, I had set as a limit, it is precisely that breach of trust of a partner going ahead and doing it anyways, despite agreement not to, and then his negative reactions to my protests, that has often been far and away the bigger problem.

I would add to what both Saynine, Mo, and many others are saying about the importance of reporting rape (as well as other types of violations of limits) is that you need to do it right when the assault or rape happens, or very shortly thereafter.  Otherwise, the police are really unlikely to take you as seriously if you do it later.  Even if you do wait too long and they tell you they will not investigate it as a result, still insist on filing a report, so that at least there is something on record about this person’s behavior to help establish the pattern in case someone else runs into trouble with them and seeks police assistence.  There is also something very personally empowering to just tell your story to the authorities, to name what has actually happened.

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.

Being a Sadist if You Have Buried Anger

CloudyHead asked if he should be a sadist if he’s dealing with buried anger towards his mother and feeling resentment towards women.  Here is my response:

I completely agree that acting on buried anger of this sort is not healthy, and I can tell you from experience on the receiving end that it will not end well unless you’ve done one hell of a lot of work on yourself, by yourself, after you’ve recognized the problem – and you are really completely willing to accept your partner’s input and feedback.

You are at least ahead of the game in that you recognize the issue and are asking the question. What’s really scary is those who don’t recognize the connection between those pasts and present relationship issues, particularly in the D/s realm. Sadly, there are many.

So no, I don’t think you should avoid being a sadist, if that’s how you lean, but you do need to be extra careful to be sure where you’re coming from at any given time is healthy, as well as to educate yourself very, very well about wiitwd, and how to have a healthy BDSM relationship.

Learn the signs that indicate that your partner is having an issue as a result of something you are doing, and learn how to step back, evaluate that as objectively as possible, and to do something about it.

And if at any time you are aware of feelings of anger coming out – or your partner is complaining about that, cowering in fear of you, etc. – do not play until you’ve calmed down. Playing when angry is a recipe for disaster, especially if it stems from childhood issues such as these.

As to whether these are the “right” fantasies or not, there is no right or wrong when it comes to that. Your fantasies are what they are. The better question is whether or not you ought to act on them or not, and if so, how, when, under what circumstances, etc. Only you know how well you can control your own behaviour, what will set you off, etc.

And, as @FreakShow said, it’s also quite possible to have buried resentments you’re not even aware of, and behaviors that result from that that you are also not aware of. That’s one thing I’m struggling with myself. One very helpful way to deal with this is to watch your partner and others around you for clues, in the form of how they react to you – and to ask people you trust for honest feedback and to point out when they see you doing something. If you are not getting the response you want or expect, check yourself first to see if there might be something you are doing to generate that. Let the people around you, and those you are closest to, be your mirrors to help learn what your effect on others is and when.

Ask for feedback, and suggestions about what you might do better – and pay attention to it. It might not make sense to you initially, but if you already knew how to monitor your own behavior, you’d be doing it. This is another tool to learn how.

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

I received a private message from someone who was commenting on how BDSM per se doesn’t inspire abuse, but that “…people watch vids on the internet, get it into their heads that subs are just human punching bags that will do anything for anyone and that misunderstanding of everything does cause abuse”.

Yup, you’ve hit the nail on the head, guy.  No, it’s not BDSM per se that is the problem, but all of the rest of the crap – and I include the books, including the Story of O and all of the older books and videos, not just the new crap and the Internet influences – that cause the problems.

Or, more precisely, giving them too much weight is what does it.  There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from these sources, but one has to understand the limits of that.

I’ve found that the ability to separate fantasy from what’s viable in real life is sadly lacking in many, and it is the use of these books and videos essentially as “how to” manuals instead of recognizing them as pretty purely wank fodder that leads people astray.

Couple that with the emphasis on secrecy and confidentiality, and a whole lot of really bad – and nonconsensual – stuff gets swept neatly under the rug where it never sees the light of day, and the perpetrators get away with it with more and more people.

Those who eventually wake up to the abuse they are suffering are often too embarrassed to be open about it for many reasons, including embarrassment that they fell for it in the first place, plus fear of being ostracized for breaking the code of silence, especially if the perpetrator is popular or friends with the local community’s leaders, or is powerful in some other way perhaps outside the scene altogether.

Interestingly enough, at the class that Midori and I both attended, when asked how many people in the room had been raped, half the hands went up – and when asked how many of us had reported the rape, all but one went down.  The pressures to not report it are strong, even in the kink world.

Sadly, those who will not or cannot keep their bottoms safe on various levels tend to screw things up a lot for everyone.  I cried when reading an excellent post this guy wrote about why we do wiitwd, going into depth about the passions invoked and the challenges of taking a hard scene and coming out safely on the other side with a trusted dominant, because I do so crave being with someone who can do that with me.  Continue reading

I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading

On the Use of Labels in the BDSM World

This has become more and more of a pet peeve for me over the past several years.

No one fits neatly into any of these little boxes, in my experience. Even those who most seem to always have elements that don’t fit what someone else sees as “the definition”, once you get right down to it.

The older I get, the more I realize this – and the crankier it makes me to see everyone else and their cousin still wanting to stuff everyone into the same little boxes, and to make those boxes and labels mean the same thing to everyone – or more precisely, the same as it means to them. I’ve ranted about this publically for years in a variety of locations, but I’m crankier than ever about it.

We are much too complex to be reduced to one or two word definitions as labels to fully describe who we are, whatever those labels may be – at least any of us with more than a few functioning neurons who aren’t so completely damaged that we let anyone kick us around any way they want. The more neurons, the more complex, and the less well these labels generally function as definitions or descriptions.

Even doormats have limits and issues that may often belie whatever simple label anyone might hang on them. And God knows that even the most fully M/s-identified people certainly do. It’s never, ever as simple or clear-cut as it may look from the outside.

These labels are, at best, starting points for a discussion. Shorthand, if you will. Continue reading