Consent! A study of consent violations in the Dutch speaking scene

 

This summary of the referenced and linked-to study of consent violations in the Dutch-speaking scene in Holland are by Guilty, reposted by permission.
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** Voor Nederlandstalige conclusies, scroll down **

Introduction

Last month KinkyMinds held a survey on consent violations in the Dutch (speaking) BDSM-scene. Not just about the prevalence of consent violations, but also about how consent violations were experienced, where they took place, if they were considered abuse, about doubts about scenes by other people, interventions in scenes, and about party safewords.

The results are, though more nuanced than the results by the NCSF, with some understatement, quite shocking. Almost 65% of all respondents have at least experienced one consent violation. And that’s just one stunning figure.

Below you can find the final conclusions in English and Dutch.

The full 30 page report and analysis is probably more interesting than just this brief summary and contains a lot more analysis and explores many relations between key concepts. The report available for download (PDF) in Dutch and English from the KinkyMinds website.

I wish to thank all the respondents for their time to answer the survey questions, and Pluu, Marijke and Nichi for proof-reading the draft version. Special thanks also to Voleuse for doing the reliability analysis. Without you, the report would have read like a wet newspaper. Of course, all responsibiliity [sic] for the report is mine and mine alone.

English

What is the frequency of consent violations in the Dutch (language) BDSM scene?

Often. The idea that consent is absolute in the BDSM-scene doesn’t hold. Consent is very important, but at the same time, it gets violated on a pretty large scale. Almost 65% of the respondents have experienced at least one type of consent violation. There are significant relations with gender, orientation and experience. Consent clearly is the norm, but not always actual practice.

How are these consent violations experienced by those involved?

Not always equally bad. “Just” 14,6% has experienced at least one bad consent violation and 20,6% has ever experienced a consent violation as abuse. But there are many cases that are not experienced as bad. Women experience more consent violations as abuse than men. Still, only a very small part of the respondents considered filing charges or actually did so.
In this sense too, consent is less absolute than often suggested. It is violated quite regularly, but that´s not always bad. Still, a substantial part of the respondents has experienced a bad consent violation.
Considering the frequency of consent violations and the fact that such violations aren’t always bad, it is a valid question if consent as ultimate division between BDSM and abuse holds up. Consent violations, to some extent, seem to be part of the game. Not necessarily intended, but neither something to be prevented at all costs (which might not even be possible)

How often do people doubt the consensuality of other peoples’ scenes?

Almost a third (28,9%) has doubted consent in scenes of other people, and that tends to make them feel bad. Their concerns are not entirely unjustified. Of the total population 13% has experienced an ignored limit, 5,9% an ignored safeword and 11,8% a scene gone too far at a party. The idea that parties are the ultimate safe place for a first scene is need of some reassessment too.

How often is intervening in other peoples’ scenes considered? And: How often do we actually intervene in other people’s scenes?

A large part of the people who have doubted consent in scenes of other people, has considered intervening. Only a part of them has actually done so. Notifying a DM or asking participants if they are still okay are the most prevalent interventions. Only a minority directly intervenes themselves. But even many of those that do not intervene, tend to discuss the situation first with other people or a DM before deciding not to intervene. There is no massive bystander effect regarding doubts of consensuality.

Can a party safeword contribute to preventing consent violations and doubts about consensality [sic]

A majority of the respondents (60%) is of the opinion that a party safeword can contribute to preventing consent violations. And 7,1% of the respondents has felt the need for such a safeword for themselves. On the other hand, most consent violation do not happen at parties. The victims of ignored safewords at parties are of course the main beneficiaries of a party safeword, but even amongst them “only” 30% has felt the need for a party safeword themselves.
We may conclude that a party safeword can contribute, but certainly will not prevent all consent violations. The question remains if that would be necessary and desirable, as not all consent violation are bad. They seem to be part of the game, and perhaps other attendees should do well to keep that notion in mind as well. It might well be that they experience a possible consent violation as worse than the participants themselves. Nonetheless, there is a case for a more active and attentive DM-policy, beyond introducing a party safeword.

Recommendations

Parties who wish to retain a profile as being safe would do well to consider introducing a party safeword and to uphold an active, albeit not overdone, DM policy regarding consent. Some additional publicity to attendees about what to do when you doubt consent might also help, as a substantial part seems to do nothing.
But we should not forget that the private sphere is a much bigger source of consent violations. More attention for such violations in the private sphere would certainly be necessary.
Finally, we should ask ourselves if consent as absolute demarcation between abuse and BDSM is still valid. Sometimes, by accident or not, limits are violated and this is not always experienced as bad. Perhaps it would be better to relate BDSM to some form of meta-consent. In general, there should be consent, and if things really get out of hand it becomes abuse, but where people play, accidents do happen.

Nederlands

Het hele rapport vind je hier

Hoe vaak komen consentoverschrijdingen voor in de Nederlandstalige SM-scene?

Vaak. Het beeld dat instemming in de SM-scene absoluut is klopt niet. Men vindt instemming wel in hoge mate belangrijk, maar instemming wordt tegelijkertijd op forse schaal overschreden. Bijna 65% heeft ervaring ten minste één soort consentoverschrijding. Daarbij zijn er significante verbanden met onder andere geslacht, oriëntatie en ervaring. Consent is wel de norm, maar lang niet altijd de praktijk.

Hoe worden deze consentoverschrijdingen ervaren door de betrokkenen?

Lang niet altijd even erg. “Maar” 14,6% heeft ervaring met tenminste één erge consentoverschrijding en 20,6% heeft weleens een consentoverschrijding als misbruik ervaren. Maar er zijn ook veel gevallen die niet als erg worden ervaren. Vrouwen ervaren consentoverschrijdingen vaker als misbruik dan mannen. Toch overweegt slechts een klein deel van de respondenten aangifte te doen of doet daadwerkelijk aangifte.
Ook in deze zin is instemming dus minder absoluut dan vaak wordt gesuggereerd. Consent wordt regelmatig overschreden, maar dat is lang niet altijd erg. Toch heeft een fors deel van de respondenten ervaring met consentoverschrijdingen die wel erg waren.
Gelet op de schaal waarop consentoverschrijdingen plaatsvinden en het feit dat dat lang niet altijd erg is, is het de vraag of consent als het ultieme onderscheid tussen misbruik en SM wel houdbaar is. Consentoverschrijding lijkt voor een deel part of the game. Niet noodzakelijkerwijs de bedoeling, maar ook niet noodzakelijkerwijs iets dat ten koste van alles wordt voorkomen (of wellicht niet voorkomen kan worden).

Hoe vaak wordt er getwijfeld aan de vrijwilligheid van andermans spel?

Bijna een derde (28,9%) heeft weleens getwijfeld aan de vrijwilligheid van andermans spel en dat wordt als vervelend ervaren. Dat is ook niet geheel onterecht. Van de totale populatie heeft 13% weleens te maken gehad met een overschreden grens op een feest, 5,9% met een genegeerd stopwoord op een feest, en 11,8% met een spel dat te ver ging op een feest. Ook het beeld dat feesten een veilige plek zijn om af te spreken in verband met de sociale controle klopt dan ook niet geheel.

Hoe vaak wordt overwogen in te grijpen in andermans spel? En: Hoe vaak (en hoe) wordt daadwerkelijk ingegrepen in andermans spel?

Een groot deel van de mensen die twijfelen aan de instemming bij andermans spel overweegt in te grijpen. Slechts een deel van de mensen die het overwegen grijpen ook daadwerkelijk in. Een DM inseinen of aan de betrokkene)n’ vragen hoe het gaat zijn daarbij de meest gebruikte middelen. Slechts een klein deel grijpt direct zelf in. Maar ook degenen die niet ingrijpen doen dat veelal niet zomaar. Een groot deel van hen overlegt met een DM of andere bezoekers alvorens te besluiten niet in te grijpen, of neemt achteraf contact op met de betrokkene(n). Van een massaal bystandereffect is dan ook geen sprake.

Kan een feeststopwoord bijdragen aan het verminderen van consentoverschrijdingen en twijfels aan consent?

Een meerderheid van de respondenten (60%) is van mening dat een feeststopwoord kan bijdragen aan het voorkomen van consentoverschrijdingen. Een 7,1% van de respondenten geeft ook aan daar zelf weleens behoefte aan te hebben gehad. Toch geldt dat voor lang niet alle consentoverschrijdingen die op feesten plaatsvinden. De slachtoffers van genegeerde stopwoorden op feesten zijn er logischerwijs het meest bij gebaat, en zelfs onder hen heeft “slechts” 30% er zelf weleens behoefte aan gehad.
De conclusie is dan ook dan een feeststopwoord wel iets kan bijdragen, maar zeker niet alle consentoverschrijdingen kan voorkomen. De vraag is ook of dan nodig en wenselijk is, gelet op het feit dat lang niet alle consentoverschrijdingen even erg zijn. Consentoverschrijdingen lijken deels ook part of the game te zijn, en wellicht doen twijfelende bezoekers er goed aan dat soms ook in hun achterhoofd te houden. Het zou bvest eens zo kunnen zijn dat zijn een mogelijke consentoverschrijding erger ervaren dan de betrokkenen zelf. Desalniettemin valt er iets te zeggen voor een actiever DM-beleid dat verder gaat dan letten op een feeststopwoord.

Aanbevelingen

Feesten die zich willen profileren als veilig doen er goed aan te overwegen een feeststopwoord in te voeren en een actief, zichtbaar, zij het niet overdreven, DM-beleid te voeren op het gebied van instemming. Ook zou het kunnen lonen nog wat extra voorlichting te geven aan bezoekers wat je kunt doen wanneer je twijfelt aan consent. Immers, een nog altijd substantieel deel van de mensen doet helemaal niks wanneer zij twijfelen aan consent bij andermans spel.
Maar men moet niet vergeten dat de huiselijke sfeer een nog veel grotere bron van consentoverschrijdingen lijkt te zijn dan feesten. Meer aandacht voor consentoverschrijding in de privésfeer zou dan ook niet onwenselijk zijn.
Ten slotte is het de vraag of het onderscheid tussen misbruik en BDSM volledig aan instemming relateren wel houdbaar is. Soms worden grenzen, al dan niet per ongeluk, overschreden. Dit wordt lang niet altijd erg gevonden, en zeker niet altijd als misbruik ervaren. Wellicht is het onderscheid tussen BDSM en misbruik beter te relateren aan een vorm van meta-instemming. In principe moet er instemming zijn, en als het echt uit de hand loopt wordt het misbruik, maar waar gehakt wordt vallen ook weleens spaanders.

Why the Reasons for Consent Violations Matter, and What We Should Do About Them

A post I just made the other day on a thread about whether or not a particular top should be banned for consent violations, and how long that should last. The reason that a person violates consent matters, as I outline below, with some additions to the original post.

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Yes, I think we should hold people like this accountable, but no, I don’t think they should be banned forever just based on one or two reported issues – IF they are obviously and documentably actually getting help and honestly working on themselves. AND it is obvious that they are making progress.

It takes guts to stand up and admit to what one has done, as X did, and to take responsibility in public. Even if he did the same thing before and then fucked up again, as plenty of people pointed out to him.

It also usually takes time to change what might be long-ingrained behaviors even once one recognizes a need to do so, sometimes a very long time.

But once that need is in fact recognized and the issue squarely and honestly faced, a person has to start somewhere. It takes establishing a new track record, and that cannot happen (at least that we can see) if the person is totally banned.

Anyone who isn’t willing to face the whole community once called out and to not only seek and accept help, but to obviously welcome it and work really hard at it, is the person we should be fully banning, not the ones who are at least trying to take full responsibility publicly, and sort themselves out honestly and visibly.

There are plenty of assholes out there who try to shift the blame for what they did onto their victims, or at least completely deny they did any wrong or harm at all. Or they try to minimize the harm done, and enlist minions to agree with them that oh-it-really-couldn’t-POSSIBLY-have-been that-bad-now-could-it-and-while-we’re-at-it-we-should-ban-and-ostracize-the-VICTIMS-for-DARING-to-speak-up.

These are the types we should be banning, not the ones who are honestly trying to accept responsibility for their own fuck-ups and demonstrably trying to do get help and do something about them.

So maybe we warn people we see these people playing with about their history, and suggest that they be extra-careful in their negotiations with this person.

Or maybe we just keep an overall extra close eye on the known and accused perpetrators as a community as a whole. And if evidence surfaces that despite whatever claims they’ve made to seeking help and trying to change that the same shit keeps happening, then perhaps we ban them.

But if we are going to still penalize and endlessly demonize people who are actually honestly trying to take responsibility for their actions and any harm they have caused, what does that say about us?

We must also be cognizant that if we ban these people altogether, that will just drive them underground and out of sight, where we have NO hope of being able to keep an eye on them (and rehabilitate them) or warn their potential victims.

All this said, I think a “break” should certainly be more than a week or three. I would not expect someone who is claiming to be stepping back and seeking help to be showing his face for a minimum of 3-6 months, any more than I’d expect to actually see any meaningful, visible progress in less time than that. Taking just a couple of weeks off from attending events or volunteering is simply not a remotely meaningful “break” in this sort of situation, IMO, and would cause me to at least question the sincerity.

So for me, the question is, exactly what are they doing to get help? And how will we know when they have been successful? How will they know? Why has the inappropriate behavior surfaced? Is it reasonable to believe that in a given case it will be resolved in a reasonable period of time, or is it due to something like a lifelong character disorder that means that this particular person is never going to be able to learn his lesson?

The reality is that many perfectly decent people come into the scene and turn into assholes thanks to a lot of programming/community mores that somehow they interpret to mean that is what they are supposed to be doing now that they’ve assumed the mantle of DOMLY DOM. This “top’s disease” affects different people differently, and for varying periods of time. Some never do drop it, but many more (I think) actually do eventually outgrow it or at least learn better, and go back to being the decent people with reasonable boundaries they were before they came into the scene.

Others may have social issues like Aspergers that render them unable to easily manage normal social cues. Or they are some personality-disordered flavor of sociopath, psychopath, narcissist, etc. who may also not be able to respect normal boundaries, or may be completely unwilling to.

The reason that people violate consent matters because a) it speaks to intent, b) it affects whether or not we can have a reasonable expectation of change, c) it affects what sort of time frame is reasonable to expect a change in, if such is likely to even be possible, and d) it impacts the sort of response a victim might expect once the perpetrator is made aware of the problem.

In short, it affects whether or not a given person is “trainable” to behave himself better in the future or not, and what might actually be involved in accomplishing that.

The harm inflicted by a consent violation happens regardless of why that behavior happens, and I would be the last person to minimize that –
but why it happens directly impacts the likelihood of it happening again, and may also have a big impact on how the victim eventually processes the event.

People who have difficulty with social cues are always going to have some difficulties with them, but they are not bad people as a result, especially if they know they have these problems and actively work on finding solutions and workarounds as many do. They usually know they have such issues, and can help manage damage control by being up front with their play partners. You can tell they are trying, and that they mean well. They may make repeated and varying mistakes over time, but they can learn – and usually want very much to do so. You often see them doing things like actually asking earnestly how to interpret a given cue and discussing the implications of this or that behavior, quite obviously trying to understand.

Someone who is suffering from “top’s disease” is also usually trainable, and a good heavy clue-by-four to the head with one or two major fuck-ups may be all they need to straighten up and fly right. If it takes them more than two or three, then maybe they are in a different category, but intelligent people who actually mean well will usually get it pretty fast even if they’ve fallen into this trap initially. “Fast” being a relative term, though, since these types may still leave a trail of destruction several years long with repeated failed relationships that often leave their now-former submissives quite angry, bitter, and disillusioned.

The personality-disordered are likely completely hopeless, however. They are perfectly capable of putting on the right front when they need to, and of blithely continuing on with doing whatever they want when out of the public eye, and even twisting things ad infinitum to get out from under the mantle of blame while pinning it instead on their victims. Some of them know they have these issues and seek help to control them, but others either don’t know, or don’t care, and in many cases, actually fully enjoy their disorders and totally get off on the harm they cause.

This last group are the true abusers we really don’t want in our midst. Ever. Unfortunately, I think they are disproportionately represented in our circles. They also leave a trail of destruction – but they don’t change.

Some of them will be willing – and able – to make at least enough changes to render themselves at least reasonably socially-acceptable, but most others won’t, and will represent the majority of the long-term treatment failures for both regular therapy, anger management, etc. – if they even start those things at all.

Equally unfortunately, these types are also quite frequently considered very charming and personable, and are often extremely popular, which allows them to operate under the radar for a very long time, and in fact, to enjoy protections they definitely do not deserve.

I suggest that a dialogue around all of these sorts of things may be more constructive than screaming for absolute, forever bans or allowing anyone who violates consent unlimited access early on in the resolution process.

We cannot – and should not – actually try to diagnose anyone, but certainly we can all spend some time learning about these various types of issues and how they present so that we can have at least some hope of spotting and avoiding the truly problematic, for our own protection – and for trying to form some reasonable thoughts about how a specific situation should be handled.

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Please also see the marvelous post about why we should carefully choose who we are kind to by @TheFerrett