Surprise surprise, the BDSM scene is as much a patriarchal, victim blaming rape culture as the rest of our patriarchal, victim blaming rape culture

The BDSM sub-culture is often held up as being somehow ‘better’ or ‘safer’ than the ‘vanilla’ mainstream, and even as being ‘feminist’, because it supposedly operates a ‘culture of consent’ where sex is actively negotiated, boundaries are respected and ‘no’ (in the form of a safe word) means ‘no’.*

An article up at Salon today invalidates this, with prominent women within the ‘community’, including women described as ‘sex educators’ only now (after almost a decade in one woman’s case) standing up and talking about the abuse they experienced within the ‘scene’.

[Maggie Mayhem,] 27-year-old sex educator and fetish model has never before publicly shared the story of her sexual assault, but the purpose of this evening’s event, a “consent culture” fundraiser, is so that she can start telling it, again and again. Her mission, along with fellow activist and sex worker Kitty Stryker, is to raise awareness about what they say is widespread abuse within the BDSM community and a tendency for players to either turn a blind eye or actively cover it up. They’ve developed a workshop meant to combat the problem and want to take it on the road.

We’re talking about real abuse here, not the “consensual non-consent” that the scene is built around, as Mayhem’s story of her first assault makes clear. As an 18-year-old freshmen and member of a kinky student club at the University of California, Berkeley, Mayhem helped raise money to bring a prominent BDSM educator to campus for a workshop. Afterward, he singled her out for a private “play date” and she was flattered. “I thought this was the best person I could start to learn from,” she says.

The scene that they negotiated was “fantastic,” Mayhem says, but then things took a turn. “I found myself tied up and unable to get away when that individual decided that he was going to have sex with me,” she says, tears welling in her eyes, “even though we’d specifically negotiated against it, even though I was saying that it needed to stop, and even though he was not wearing a condom at the time.”

For the most part, she kept the experience to herself, but on the rare occasions when she did tell people in the community about it, she says, “I got one response … which was people saying [things like], ‘I don’t do drama. This is a respected person in the community. I’m very sorry that you had a miscommunication during your scene that made it not very fun for you, but I don’t want to hear about it.’”

As she pushed deeper into the scene, trying to put this experience behind her, she had countless more encounters where her boundaries were blatantly ignored. As she gained experience, she started to talk more confidently and openly about these experiences – but, again, she got the “I don’t do drama” line. At the same time, she realized that such abuse was prevalent: “It started to look more like a systemic issue,” she says. As Stryker wrote last year in an essay for Good Vibrations magazine, ” I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.”

I never found the whole ‘culture of consent’ thing convincing, and suspected it was more about protecting male sadists from outside interference than anything else, and that goes double for a BDSM porn set. The article also covers how women feel under pressure not to use their safe words:

The problem spans from unwanted overtures to rape, say Mayhem and Stryker. “When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into ‘the BDSM community’, I can’t actually count them,” Stryker wrote in Good Vibrations’ magazine. “As I reflected on the number of times I’ve … been pressured into a situation where saying ‘no’ was either not respected or not an option, or said that I did not want a certain kind of toy used on me which was then used, I’m kind of horrified.”

Beyond black-and-white cases of rape, there is a cultural disdain for safe words, they say. “When I was a submissive,” says Stryker, now a dominant in both her personal and professional life, “I felt the pressure to not safe word because I felt like that made you a bad submissive.” That’s because she witnessed submissives who used their safe word being criticized as “difficult.” At the “consent culture” event, Stryker asks the audience, “Is it the fault of the submissive who didn’t safe word when they should have or is it the fault of the dominant who didn’t notice that their submissive didn’t safe word [when they should have] or is it the fault, as I think it is, of the community that makes it complicated?”

So, within this so-called ‘culture of consent’ women are under constant pressure and bullying to allow their boundaries to be crossed, and to not complain about it afterwards, regardless of how abusive or traumatising they found it.

The pressure on women within the ‘scene’ to keep quiet may be higher than that on those outside it, as they risk making their ‘community’** look bad to the outside world. Men within the BDSM ‘scene’ will know this and use it to their advantage, it may be even be easier for men within the ‘scene’ to be abusive, because they have a whole ‘community’ shoring up the illusion of ‘safety’.

Also, as women who are seen to actively choose a ‘deviant’ lifestyle (how genuinely free any such choice is under patriarchy is a question for another blog post), they are unlikely to get much sympathy or help from the mainstream, male dominated world – not that many women do, but if very few women manage to be, in Andrea Dworkin’s words, ‘clean enough’ to be raped (as opposed to being dumb sluts who asked for it and wanted it really), then no woman who is part of the BDSM ‘scene’ ever will be.

We know the kind of pressure women are put under on a porn set, BDSM porn is often held up as ‘different’ because of BDSM’s so-called ‘culture of consent’. The evidence of the Salon article suggests there is exactly the same kind of pressure on women within the ‘scene’ as there is outside it – to conform, to do what you’re told, to keep quiet about abuse – so why should we believe a porn set (where there is the extra pressure of the need to perform in order to get paid) is any different?

The ‘counter culture’ of the BDSM ‘scene’ looks exactly the same as the male dominated mainstream. It engages in exactly the same victim blaming (and, as in the male dominated mainstream, it uses a woman to do the victim blaming):

One critic, Janet Hardy[***], author of several popular BDSM books, including “The New Bottoming Book,” tells me, “My general thoughts are that it is tremendously important to build a safe word culture but that bottoms have to hold up their share of that responsibility,” she says. “A bottom who refuses to safeword when he or she has actually withdrawn consent has just turned me into a rapist or assailant without my consent, and that is not OK.”

Hardy, co-author of the bible on polyamory, “The Ethical Slut,” doesn’t deny that sexual assault is a problem in the community, but she takes issue with arguments about the social pressure to not safeword. It has “some of the flavor of the kind of victimhood that we see from some second wave feminists,” she says, “and I don’t want to get too deep into this because I’m going to get myself into trouble, but you know where I’m going with this.”

There is a distinct ‘what about the poor men’ flavour to this victim blaming, even if it’s a woman casting herself as an ‘accidental’ rapist who is the real victim here – how can the poor men avoid being rapists if women don’t take responsibility for not being raped, and ‘refuse’ to make it clear that they are being raped?

Hardy is also going for a shaming and silencing approach, by comparing the women who do speak out to “some second wave feminists”, ie anyone who speaks out can be ridiculed as in some way ‘anti-sex’.

The simple fact of the matter is that men within the BDSM ‘community’ are exactly the same as the men outside it, they will do whatever they think they can get away with, then blame the woman herself for not saying ‘no’ clearly enough; and if a man is really clever, he’ll attack the woman he raped for ‘miscommunicating’ and ‘forcing’ him to be a rapist.

I imagine these women will take a massive amount of abuse from within their so-called ‘community’ for speaking out, we should be grateful to them and applaud them for having the courage to do so.

 

* Let’s put aside for the moment that erotising dominance, submission and violence is profoundly anti-feminist in and of itself, and how condescending the ‘vanilla’ label is, implying that women outside the BDSM ‘scene’ are unable and unwilling to actively negotiate sexual activity and are being raped without even knowing it.

** The biggest mistake any woman can make is to think she is part of any genuine community with men, where her interests will be weighted equally with those of men. This goes for any type of community, sexual, religious, cultural, political. The men (and most of the women, who will stand by the men to protect their own position within the community) will conspire together to cover up the abuse of women and children, and any dissenters will be cast out.

*** I read this amusing description of Janet Hardy recently:

“Janet Hardy, famous among neanderthal kinksters for her vanity press, submits an essay about how she’s been living as a biological woman in a relationship with one biological man for a good long while and why that’s queer. Longtime followers of the kink community’s vanity publishing will recall that she did something similar when she wrote The Ethical Slut and went on to live the very same monogamous, heterosexual, suburban life described above. If Janet Hardy has taught us anything it’s that all it takes to be queer and polyamorous is to be a straight monogamous person.”

50 responses

  1. Another point I’d like to make, after thinking about this some more, is the complete lack of respect there is for women in the BDSM ‘scene’.

    The party line is that the ‘culture of consent’ means that women are respected more than in the mainstream, because they get to set clear, unambiguous boundaries, and have those boundaries respected.

    What the Salon article shows is that there is no respect for women in BDSM, they can negotiate boundaries, they can say ‘no’ very clearly, but that won’t be respected, and afterwards, they’ll be told it’s their own stupid fault for ‘miscommunicating’. They are treated as things to be used, to be exploited as much as it is possible to get away with.

    Women get as much respect within the BDSM ‘scene’ as they do within the mainstream, which is to say, very little indeed.

  2. And to pre-empt any ‘what about male submissives?’ comments, yes, I am aware that there are men who take on that role, and women who act out dominant roles, but I would be very, very surprised if there were significant numbers of men routinely, systematically having their safe words ignored and being sexually assaulted or raped by women.

    I imagine women on the whole are very careful to respect safe words and all the ‘culture of consent’ rhetoric. Given women’s roles and status in mainstream society they have much more invested in believing in their sub-culture.

  3. The whole BDSM scene is a set up for men to be able to abuse women. It’s a racket.

    Men create these situations all the time, where social structures that they control allow them to sexually abuse and exploit women with impunity. Marriage and prostitution are the classic examples and the BDSM community is yet another one.

  4. There is nothing remotely transgressive about the BDSM community because it has been set up by men to enable men to subject women to systemic male sexual violence and torture whilst these self-same men claim ‘look how transgressive we are’.

    As delphyne astutely commented ‘men set up this scheme in order to rape women with impunity.’ Oh but wait within malestream society men do precisely the same thing – rape women and commit other forms of sexual violence against women and we hear the same lies from these men claiming ‘she didn’t say no/she didn’t say the safe word(s) loudly enough; she remained silent etc. etc. All of which are accepted as truths because as we know men always tell the truth do they not???

    So no BDSM is not transgressive – it is rigidly conservative and very, very traditional.

  5. Brian James Langford

    A question to both the author and the other commentators here. Have any of you actually participated in the BDSM scene or community? Or are you basing your assessment of it on one single article highlighting only the very worst experiences of a few people?

    I have to say that the scene & community I have experienced and am a part of do not resemble the one the Salon article describes in the slightest and judging the entirety of the BDSM scene based on the article in question is like judging the entirety of the feminism movement based on extracts from the SCUMM manifesto – at best naive and at worst intellectually dishonest.

  6. Well done Brian, you’ve just demonstrated clearly how men within the BDSM ‘community’ cover-up and minimise the abuse of women.

    Of course you haven’t seen any abuse, as a man, you are in the privileged position of not having to see it, and as a man, you actively benefit from not seeing it.

    Maggie Mayhem has been on the ‘scene’ for almost a decade, and it’s also her livelihood, which she is putting at risk to speak out about this. As a BDSM ‘educator’ she will have spoken to many many women, and she says: “I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.”

    But what’s the testimony of any number of women worth compared to the ‘truth’ as dictated by one man?

    We don’t need to participate in any BDSM ‘community’ – we participate in patriarchy everyday already – and talk of ‘intellectual honesty’ from a practitioner of an ideology that espouses such doublethink as ‘freedom through slavery’ is laughable at best.

  7. I identify as kinky. I identify primarily as dominant, and I primarily play with women, though I have a male submissive partner along with a female submissive partner. I don’t believe it’s the fault of the desires to play with bondage, spanking, or role play that makes consent culture difficult- I think it’s the false belief that talking about safewords and consent being important means we, as a culture, can avoid thinking critically about how entitlement culture affects kinky spaces. And that’s wrong. I don’t believe either that abuse happens more in BDSM play than anywhere else- but as Maggie said in her own personal blog:

    “It doesn’t matter if sex communities are coming in at the national average for rape when the national average has been estimated to be at a 64% prevalence for women with 70-80% percent of sexual assaults coming from individuals that the victim knows.

    It stands to reason that there is sexual assault and abuse occurring in a community where there is increased access with decreased outside support. Saying, “safe, sane, and consensual” is not the same thing as clicking your heels together and saying, “there’s no place like home.” Safe, sane, and consensual are a series of actions. What I’m working to do is isolate how to best respond to them when good faith and bad faith are indeed muddy concepts.”

    That’s what this is about- not banning kinky play, but rather actually talking about this consent thing we all claim to understand and yet struggle to implement. And man, the backlash when you say “hey, guys, let’s talk about how to deconstruct the entitlement culture out there and make it better for ourselves in here using these steps”. I’ve had some of the worst victim-blaming attempts to discredit what I’m saying, Maggie’s gotten hate mail- which, sadly, underlines our point exactly.

    “As a BDSM ‘educator’ she will have spoken to many many women, and she says: “I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.””

    Actually, I said that, just FYI.

  8. This blame culture isn’t just about person A ignoring person B’s safeword and then Person B being made to feel as if they did something wrong by their peers, but also about people who know what person A did, and try to educate and warn other people/friends and being told that they are “spreading” lies/rumours etc or causing “drama”, even with proof that person A did something wrong, their wrongdoing is ignored because they have people wrapped around their finger or are prominent in the “community”.

    Rape, abuse and other wrong doings within the community should be aired without fear of being belittled or accused of “making it up” especially if you have proof. The victim(s) have a right to warn friends and other people within the community.

    But I think there has been a lot of “crying wolf” which has led the majority of the community to ignore warning bells, which has allowed the wolves to creep under the fence and into the community, rather than us being led by the privileged society leash.

    It’s a shame that there are people who are afraid to speak out against abusers/rapists/convicted people etc for fear of being shunned by a community that accepted them.

  9. Kitty,

    My apologies for my mistake with the quote.

    “I think it’s the false belief that talking about safewords and consent being important means we, as a culture, can avoid thinking critically about how entitlement culture affects kinky spaces.”

    I think that’s pretty much one of the points I was trying to make; we’re fed a line that the BDSM ‘community’ is better than the outside world, and that the outside world can learn from the BDSM ‘community’ because of xyz, when the reality, it turns out, is (unsurprisingly) starkly different.

    If anything, the self-mythologising of the BDSM ‘community’ would act as a magnet to abusers.

    Also, as a radical feminist, I disagree that being ‘kinky’ is fine in and of itself; the eroticisation of violence is part of the patriarchal mainstream.

    “That’s what this is about- not banning kinky play”

    Straw-woman alert! I didn’t talk about banning anything either.

    Meomix,

    Talk of ‘crying wolf’ sounds exactly like the kind of victim blaming you claim to be against.

    And I have no idea what “being led by the privileged society leash” is supposed to mean.

  10. Antiplondon

    Sometimes I find it hard to put into words what I am meaning, and so they can be taken the wrong way, so I will do my best to explain what I mean.

    “Talk of ‘crying wolf’ sounds exactly like the kind of victim blaming you claim to be against.”

    By “Crying Wolf” I meant that there are people out there (and have been people out there) in the kink, and non kink world, be it for what ever malicious reason, who will say person A did x to me, when they didn’t. Because of these people, communities, I feel, have become less likely to act the way we want them to (being thankful for warnings/advice or taking on board knowledge that a person may posess) when someone says “Hey, beware of person A because they did X to person B” or “You do know person A systematically refuses to follow set rules” etc.

    I think due to those malicious people, the real people (real isn’t the right word, but I can’t think of what would fit here at the moment) are not being listened to and are said to be “causing drama” when trying to promote a safer environment.

    I hope you are familier with the tale of “the boy who cried wolf” otherwise my anaology seems to look like I am blaming the victims, where as I am not, I am putting more blame into the apathy of the majority because they “heard it all before and it was untrue and thus don’t bother to listen to the real victim”.

    I was told once that the accused is as much a victim as the abused, as you can’t prove an event happened and it’s a he says, she says world. I feel that this has to change, but I am unsure how.

    “And I have no idea what “being led by the privileged society leash” is supposed to mean.”

    I was refering to the “privileged” people noted (ie men), leading the “unprivileged” people (ie women) that was noted a bit back, and how I am unsure if the blame culture comes from this leading or from the apathy i’ve described above. If I have got the wrong end of the stick on privilege, then I am sorry, I understand the basics of the privileged world, but it still confuses me at times.

    I hope that helps explain, and I am happy to debate and listen to points of view and am happy to see if, in your eyes, I am seeing things wrong, or just not in the right light.

  11. Oh, yeah, I was actually a little surprised at how much I was nodding at what you were saying.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you were suggesting the banning of kinky play, and I should have clarified that I have heard that as a response in the past. In the context, however, I think I meant it more as a response to kinky people, not you- there’s a defensiveness of the kink scene being somehow idealized that comes from a fear of society judging BDSM and people who do it. It’s a dangerous defensiveness, though, because I suspect that the fear of having your kinky “safe spaces” taken away helps give people the leverage to pressure silence from of victims. And yes, I see that very much as linked to the larger entitlement culture.

    Meowmix-
    I think you’re right, the victim blaming often comes from, not just the assailant, but their friends and local leaders, etc. That’s what’s so hurtful to me.

    But on Crying Wolf- I have been in the scene for a long time. I have watched as people who fit the legal bill for sexual assault, who had court cases and restraining orders, were told that they were just being dramatic. I’ve been through the process of reporting a rape- once my own, once my girlfriend’s. It’s not something you do for shits and giggles. It’s a day long process of being humiliated, locked into a room for hours, asked invasive questions (often with a “answer this and THEN we’ll help you”). And yet the community still dismissed it as drama.

    In my experience, if the kink community can’t handle dealing with it when the legal process is being followed, I don’t see how they can possibly say what’s “real” and what’s “just drama”. We need to hold our sex spaces accountable, and really question if we’re promoting consent culture, or just more of the same, tired entitlement culture.

  12. Meowmix,

    I know what ‘crying wolf’ means.

    By claiming that lots of women ‘cry wolf’ you are claiming to have some omnipotent level of knowledge that you really cannot be in possession of.

    How do you know lots of women were ‘crying wolf’? How could you know? By making such a claim you are victim blaming.

    I think you still need to do some more thinking re. privilege. It’s not simply that men are leading women around passively on leashes (and I still don’t see where you got ‘leashes’ from because it’s not in anything I wrote), it’s that men and male interests control the power, control the discourse, get to define the status quo of what is right and normal; women are enforcers too, either to keep the little scrap of power the system throws them, or to help maintain the illusion that they are safe.

    I think calling it ‘apathy’ is wrong too, society (in general, not just the BDSM ‘community’), doesn’t victim blame out of laziness, they do it because it serves the interests of the status quo, and those with power within the status quo; this is an active, if sometimes subtle process, and chalking it up to laziness is letting people off the hook – most of them know what they’re doing, the rest know, but can’t afford to acknowledge what they are doing.

  13. Kitty,

    Thank you for being so honest about your experiences.

    I genuinely hope that you manage to effect some positive change, but if I’m honest I don’t think you’ll be able to. The BDSM ‘scene’ and it’s cross-over with the sex industry make it, in my mind, intrinsically entwined with patriarchy; it’s hierarchical and it eroticises hierarchy – it couldn’t exist post-patriarchy, because post-patriarchy no one would think that violence could be sexy.

  14. As a queer sex worker and porn performer, along with a kinky person, I’d always disagree- but I do believe that we don’t think NEARLY enough about privilege and entitlement in these spheres, and we really, really need to. I’d like to work towards a world where sex workers have the right to get legal, medical, and emotional assistance- where we acknowledge that sex workers are parents, students, children, and lovers- where porn performers are unionized and have their contracts respected, able to whistleblow on companies that don’t hold up to their words- where kink is about sensation and exploration, not a pissing contest to see who is the hardest.

    There are major issues in the sex industry and in the altsex community. I’d like to see if we can encourage awareness and demand a commitment to consent culture and mutual respect.

    I have some hope. It may be crazy, but hey. :D

  15. Oooh, ooh, also, think you might enjoy reading these:

    http://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/under-duress-agency-power-and-consent-part-one-no/

    “Conclusions from Part One: “No”

    -“No means no” is an non-negotiable line; no feminist theory allows an undermining of “no means no”

    -As well as being a bottom-line, “no means no” is also a resistance against assumed-default-consent in women, a feature of patriarchy

    -Even if you respect a verbal “no”, you’re not really respecting it if you don’t create and nurture opportunities for your sex partners to give a “no” at any time before and during sex

    -Ambiguous sexual requests can help both parties save face, but they can also be used against women who say “no” – be aware of how this functions, don’t do it yourself, and call it out in simple, clear ways when you observe it – try not to get trapped by the surface logic of the situation

    -Sexual refusal can be implicit as well as explicit; implicit is actually much more common

    -In situations involving alcohol, concentrate less on legal definitions of rape and more on how willing you are to maybe rape someone (the answer to this should be “I am not”)”

    http://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/under-duress-agency-power-and-consent-part-two-yes/

    “Here’s a quick summing up of the points made in this article:

    -It’s long past time we thought of women as people who have their own sexual desire and agency, not just as sexual gatekeepers

    -While we do that, we should remember that society does treat women as sexual gatekeepers and punishes them for stepping outside that role – blame society, not women who remain in the role

    -Perpetrators can rape down more power gradients than just men raping women

    -This should never be used to minimalise or erase the historical and ongoing global reality of male rape against women

    -Consent is never 100%; there are always pressures working against it, and so you can never know for sure that another person is consenting

    -Saying that consent is not 100% is not the same as saying you, personally, have no agency or ability to consent; whatever your circumstances, you make the best-seeming possible choice at the time

    -Somebody trying to understand another’s level of consent must not cherry-pick a feminism which allows them to interpret it as “yes”, when the truth may be “maybe”

    -If you would like to have sex which is as close as possible to consensual, work on identifying and reducing power differentials between parties and removing negative consequences for non-consent

    -Sexual consent over power dynamics (such as parent-child) is non-negotiable, over others (such as sexism) it’s such that anybody soliciting consent should be regarded with suspicion and potentially resisted unless they make significant and visibly effective efforts to defuse their personal power”

  16. Being abolitionist regarding prostitution (wanting the prostitute her/himself to be decriminalised, but the pimps, johns etc to be criminalised) is not incompatible with recognising that prostitutes are fully human, in fact an abolitionist stance starts from that standpoint.

    Pornography as it currently exists couldn’t be made without abusing the performers, any meaningful unionisation would make porn production impossible.

    http://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/footage-the-porn-industry-doesnt-want-you-to-see/

    Re. the “radtransfem” blog, there’s nothing there that Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, Sheila Jeffreys, or hell, even Twisty Faster/Jill Psmith haven’t said already.

  17. Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the work of people like Courtney Trouble and Crash Pad- queer porn made by and for queer people, who pay their models a reasonable amount, with an embracing of gender and ethnic diversity?

  18. I’ve written about ‘alt’/’queer’/’feminist’/’better’ porn frequently on this blog, and, also, it was covered by the academic Dana Bialer in her talk during December’s Challenging Porn Culture conference in London, so my opinions have been augmented by her work.

    I don’t buy the ‘alternative body types’ line, saying someone isn’t too fat/brown/funny looking to be in porn is up there along with ‘you’re not too ugly to rape’ as a compliment.

    Bialer found that a lot of the imagery in ‘queer’ porn was just as violent and degrading as that found in the heterosexual mainstream, for example she found one image labelled “cum stained lesbian”, and these images legitimised the degradation.

    She also high-lighted the commercialisation of sexuality through ‘feminist’ pornography, with ‘feminist’ pornographers also selling their own ranges of sex toys (she gave two examples, unfortunately I didn’t include the names of the pornographers in my notes, first, a description of a porn film that listed all the brands of sex toys being used before mentioning ‘orgasms’, and second, a porn film where half way through the pornographer instructs the viewer to get out her credit card and shop for sex toys).

    Also, there is the bigger picture of what it actually means to embrace pornography as an intrinsic/important part of ones sexuality – to believe that ones sexuality must be ‘on display’ to be valid. The idea that our sexualities cannot exist or be valid without porn to ‘teach’ it and show it to us is very dangerous, as it means accepting anything as ‘good’ out of the fear of there being no other alternatives.

    One other thing Bailer mentioned was how creating ‘queer’ pornography was seen as a political act in and of itself, and somehow being ‘subversive’ – this is one of the problems of queer theory, it places individuality over notions of social and/or collective justice

  19. [...] recently responded on a comment thread re. my opinion of ‘queer’ porn – the subject deserves a [...]

  20. The Salon article has now been covered on I Blame the Patriarchy, and the comments thread is essential reading too, particularly starting from this comment:

    JR

    At the risk of being kicked off Savage Death Island by the legions of thee who are too feminist to have ever stooped so low as to have let a man tie you up and beat you – yes, I was involved in this hideous underground for years. I am still struggling, deeply, to process it. Things I have come up with so far:

    One: former subs/slaves almost never talk on the internet or indeed, at all, because they are bullied and brainwashed to a degree almost unimaginable outside of “the scene”. You are told no one will believe you, that you will lose your job, you will lose your children, you will be seen as equally culpable – and if you go ahead and talk on your blog anyway, they will watch you for years after you leave and harass and stalk you until you retract or delete your comments. The only acceptable reason to say you left the scene is “I decided it wasn’t right for me.”

    Two: Yes, I was abused as a child. Scenesters LOVE to say this had nothing to do with it. Maybe it even doesn’t – so many women are sexually abused under the Patriarchy trying to link it to anything is almost impossible. What I do know is that I was deliberately groomed for the Scene after running away from home and while still a minor. They spent a lot of time grooming me and then waited to actually make the “will you be my slave it will be cool sexxxyfun times” proposition after I turned 18. I was suffering from PTSD and not exactly playing with a full deck.

    Three: after that, of course, a lot of things like Stockholm Syndrome and trauma bonding start to come into play, and the mark is yours. To segue into a conversation I had with a Vietnam vet one time, it’s a little frustrating talking with outsiders who think they could never fall for something that has been used to hurt you. He talked about how much he hated Vietnam War movies, where there would be stupid torture scenes and the torturer would slap someone in the face and yell “you will talk!” and the brave American soldier of course will always say bravely “No I will not talk!” he then went on into an unnecessarily graphic description of real torture and said yes, you would talk. Anyone would talk. Tactics used to break a person are used because they work. These tactics were used on me and they are used on other subs, and they work. You must always keep in mind that when you are talking to a sub who is in the life, that you are talking to a thoroughly brainwashed person who is not in their right mind. Now, when I say that, people in the scene go absolutely insane angry crazy, but it’s the truth. I speak as someone who used to publish rants about “why don’t they understand I’m a feminist sub?!” while rubbing my bruises (given in love, of course! With my consent!) Therapists are useless for trying to help a sub, since for the most part, sadists have invaded the psychiatric establishment and now kinky sex is something to be tolerated as diversity, not a sign that a woman needs immediate help and deprogramming to recover from.

    There is no help for the sub exiting the lifestyle. Everyone turns from her. Feminists sneer at her. If she speaks, she is attacked. Even if she is believed and pitied, her story is listened to more for the exciting sexxxxy value – people want to know the EXACT details of what he did, please. It is utterly soul-destroying. By the time they are done with you, there is nothing left of you.

    Then they throw you away.

  21. “Also, there is the bigger picture of what it actually means to embrace pornography as an intrinsic/important part of ones sexuality – to believe that ones sexuality must be ‘on display’ to be valid. The idea that our sexualities cannot exist or be valid without porn to ‘teach’ it and show it to us is very dangerous, as it means accepting anything as ‘good’ out of the fear of there being no other alternatives.”

    I agree with that- I’ve been thinking a lot about moving away from the “sex negative/sex positive” dichotomy and moving towards “sex is neutral”. Speaking, I mean, for the act of sex- there are certainly behaviours/cultures that create that act being positive or negative. But, for example, I don’t feel there’s a lot of space for being a woman who doesn’t want to have sex in “sex positivity”, which means it’s not that positive about people’s choices!

    I will say about the post on “I Blame the Patriarchy”- one thing I felt you did which Twisty did not was you respected my voice. I feel that Twisty, by saying I’m an “activist and sex worker”, in quotes, is discrediting my voice as another feminist woman… it annoys me to be told “there there, dear, you’re just brainwashed and don’t know any better”, no matter who’s saying it. And in the comments, there’s a lot of “well, what did she expect, stupid girl, BDSM is always abusive!” that I feel is EQUALLY victim-blamey. :/ It reminds me of the Magdalene Asylums, and how THOSE started. Ick ick ick.

    I don’t believe that sexual acts on film, kinky sex, or sex work are inherently degrading. I do believe that all these things are actively affected by a world that makes women’s sexual choices a complex maze of pressures. Only by reflecting on that and pulling these things apart can we really support women.

  22. I never bought the transgressive bs, this is progress to them? What exactly are they crossing?

    Anyway thank you Kitty for speaking out about the rape culture in BDSM.

  23. Rachel Kantstopdaphunk

    I’ve tried to decide what bothers me most about this articulation. First let me say, there is no outside of discourse. So, do the same power imbalances exist both within and without the kink community? Of freaking course. Now, as someone who is wildly interested in the creation of a consent culture both within and without, I find fault in the notion that ALL bdsm is abuse, one could just as easily say that ALL heterosexual relationships ARE abuse. If we merely extrapolate outside of bdsm the same power imbalances.

    Here’s where I start to get angry, however. I’m not just annoyed as all hell that you’ve erased me and my existence as a queer woman, and my lover’s existence as a queer woc, from this discussion. And really, perhaps I ought to be grateful that you’ve failed to critique how my relationship as a white queer woman to a black queer woman who happens to be my GF, how that is and can only be abuse because of our kink… Well, whatever. I can only assume that you know better than I if what we do could be termed abuse. Please note that I am by no means implying that abuse cannot or doesn’t happen within queer communities. I’m not that naive.

    What’s pissing me off THE MOST about you anti-bdsm’ers; is the EXACT same bullshit that pisses me off most about the mainstream hetero kinksters –to wit, the willful and complete and entire erasure of the queer kinky community, to which BDSM owes its very existence. That’s like keeping the cotton gin but forgetting that Eli Whitney invented that shit.

    You wanna have a presumptuously gendered and oriented discussion of porn? Cool, what do I care? You wanna presume that everyone is hetero and binary gendered for the purposes of critiquing patriarchy? Allright, whatever… have fun, I guess. But you wanna come out as virulently anti-BDSM without even acknowledging that the origins of the kink community are to be found in the gay community? Specifically, gay men. That’s both mad heterosexist *and* wildly misleading. Because the thing is, kink enacts dynamics of power and control that typically play with and against typical power structures. Meaning, instead of merely reinforcing existing dynamics; new and sometimes contradictory ones are introduced. Now, where there cases where the typical imbalances were replicated? Sure, but there were also tons of instances where new and different ones were created. That’s what interests me.

    Do I have problems with the way a BDSM dynamic plays out in terms of hetero male dom female sub relationships? You bet your ass I do. Just like I got MAD critiques of the folks who want to *reinforce* racial power structures by playing with white ownership of poc. The kinky community is vast and wide; and has a huge range. Within it, it seems, you could find damn near any kind of dynamic you could imagine, and several you never would. Are some of them wildly problematic? Of Freaking Course!!! But its largely your erasure of queer and trans folks from this discussion that allows you to draw your conclusion that ALL BDSM is abuse and can only ever be that.

  24. Kitty,

    I’m glad we’ve been able to have a civil conversation here, and I hope we can continue to do so.

    I don’t think any of the commenters at IBTP were victim blaming, they were just saying: are we surprised by this? No we are not! Also, I think it is very unfair of you to suggest we are so dumb and complacent/complicit that we’re about to help set up a new generation of Magdalene Laundries, just by having an opinion on the subject.

    “I don’t feel there’s a lot of space for being a woman who doesn’t want to have sex in “sex positivity”, which means it’s not that positive about people’s choices!”

    This is again something that is obvious to me and other radical feminists, so-called ‘sex positivity’ is part of the patriarchal status quo, it’s about saying that anything that involves a male orgasm can’t be bad, and can’t be analysed/critiqued at all without being ‘sex negative’ which is the worst thing in the world ever.

    I don’t want to sound condescending, but it seems to me that you’re only just beginning to work these things out; if you really do follow everything through to its logical conclusions, you’ll find radical feminism, not ‘sex positivity'; you’ll also realise that the whole game is set up by and for men, including your BDSM ‘community’, at some point you’ll have to pick a side.

    “I don’t believe that sexual acts on film, kinky sex, or sex work are inherently degrading. I do believe that all these things are actively affected by a world that makes women’s sexual choices a complex maze of pressures. Only by reflecting on that and pulling these things apart can we really support women.”

    Pornography and prostitution are an inherent part of male entitlement and male supremacism, it’s how men show their dominant status, and why they get so murderously angry if you try to take it away from them (see here for example, men want to kick a woman in the vagina because a UK branch of Hooters closed). You can’t make it ‘nice’ you can’t make it ‘better’ and even if you can create a 0.001% of the sex industry that isn’t woman-hating, so what? All it does is help legitimise the rest – also feminism isn’t about a handful of individual (already privileged) women doing ok, it’s about the structural conditions of all women.

    I think you need to get your own house in order a little bit more regarding the sex industry. You are an articulate, white (and I’m assuming not an illegal immigrant) adult, and you work as a dominatrix, which is about as safe as you can get in the sex industry while you’re still in the same room as the john (only webcam, phone sex work and the kind of ‘peep show’ where the woman is behind glass – if such a thing still exists, would be safer, as there is a physical barrier between the woman and the john), the global sex industry is a pyramid with a very broad base, and you are at the top.

    I’ve looked over your blog, you are towing the ‘sex worker rights’ party line, and you even talk about the ‘agency’ of children in prostitution. You are enforcing the idea that unless someone in prostitution is literally chained to the floor, or literally with a gun to their head 24h/day, there is no coercion.

    This creates a two-tier system of human rights, where conditions that would be obviously abusive under any other circumstances, becomes ‘just work’ or even ‘freedom’ when there is transactional or survival sex involved. It’s no coincidence that the people who get this 2nd rate concept of human rights are more likely to be female, poor, runaway/homeless, non-white, young, gay, trans gender, illegal.

    If you find this difficult to understand, imagine someone said that you didn’t have a gun to your head when you became part of the BDSM ‘scene’, so anything that happened within that ‘scene’ was basically ok, and anything that wasn’t was because radical feminists were taking your ‘agency’ away with their opinions (because as we all know, the opinions of radical feminists are so powerful they can literally reshape reality)

    You also said, in an earlier comment that you wanted a world where “kink is about sensation and exploration, not a pissing contest to see who is the hardest.” I read on your blog the account of a woman who had had a knife inserted into her vagina without her consent. How can inserting a knife into a woman’s vagina be about “sensation and exploration” (for the one doing the inserting anyway) and not about violence domination and degradation?

  25. Rachel,

    I suggest you get over yourself, I am not ‘erasing’ you, I am one person writing a blog, is your existence really so fragile? – I could equally claim that you are ‘erasing’ me by assuming that I think the whole world is straight and ‘binary gendered’ (here’s a hint, I’m a radical feminist, I don’t believe in ‘gender’ at all). And do I, writing my blog, really have more power to ‘erase’ you than the hetero-white-male dominated BDSM ‘community’ (your ‘community’) you complain of?

    BDSM does not owe its existence to gay men, it owes its existence to patriarchy and male supremacy, which eroticises hierarchy and inequality. It’s a shame that some of the ‘gay community’ (if such a thing can be said to exist across time and space and widely differing social groupings), which had the opportunity to break away from these dynamics, instead decided to replicate them.

    “Because the thing is, kink enacts dynamics of power and control that typically play with and against typical power structures. Meaning, instead of merely reinforcing existing dynamics; new and sometimes contradictory ones are introduced.”

    What a load of self-serving rubbish. You tell yourself whatever fairy tales you need to in order to justify your eroticisation of the status quo, I am not obliged to believe any of them.

  26. And not only does pornography unjustly sexualize and therefore legitimize male dominance and female submission which are the epitome of gender inequality, but when men outside of pornography (or rarely in it) are submissive, and a woman is dominant, he’s only temporarily reversing the sexist male dominated unequal gender roles, and playing the “female” role as object and/or victim which only helps keep these sexist unequal male dominated roles in place, instead of getting rid of them in place of gender equality!

    And as gay male anti-pornography educators and activists John Stoltenberg and Australian Christopher Kendall point out, not only everything I said above too, but that in gay male pornography there is the same femiphobia, and woman-hating, with one of the male partners treated with contempt in the “female” role as a passive, submissive, used and abused sex object.

  27. [...] on from this post in January about the BDSM ‘scene’, tumblr blogger The Unsexy Feminist has written a report on the [...]

  28. [...] on from this January post about the BDSM ‘scene’, it seems, unsurprisingly that nothing much has [...]

  29. [...] with the rest of this so-called ‘community’ there is a lot of talk about ‘safe, sane and consensual’ and ‘education’, [...]

  30. Chocolattruffaut

    I love the logic pro-BDMSers use when they encounter the often brilliant take downs of misogyny employed by radical feminists. Here is the rationale beyond all the cries of “but BDSM is feminist b/c women can be dominant!!!”:
    -When women are submissives: “It’s really the submissives who have all the power b/c of safewords and boundaries!”
    -When women are dominants: “It’s really the dominants who are in control b/c of power reversals your feminist lady brain can’t grasp!”

    Oh, really? In BDSM it’s women who have all the power no matter what role they’re in, because everyone in the BDSM scene is sooo pro-woman. Oh okay, I guess us radical feminists can pack up our toys and go home now.

  31. You’re absolutely right! Everything about male dominated rape culture (not just when focused on BDSM) is about invisibilising men; women get raped, and murdered, and abused, but there’s nobody actually responsible for doing it, it’s a force of nature women bring down upon themselves.

  32. I would like to go on record as saying that this article may have some truths to it as to their individual stories, but in no way should be used to generalise the entire community. Im in a community in the midwest with about 100 to 150 people that cycle through the same three host parties and we all know each other or someone who knows them pretty well. Bottoms (read: male AND female) are encouraged to safeword out if need be. Ive been to dozens of parties and its usually the tops (read: men AND women) that apologize for missing the signs that caused the bottom to call out in the first place. Because tops/Dominants can be both male and female its incorrect to describe the community as patriarchial.

    I find this to be a very biased and negative article on a topic that can be very enjoyable and freeing. But to say that all bdsm is even worse than vanilla is highly irresponsible. And I encourage you to get out into the community and see for yourself instead coming to conclusions based on bad instances. Its hardly representative of the entire movement. There is a lot of respect for both tops and bottoms in my community.

  33. Hello,
    While I tend to believe there are few ‘absolutes’ with anything, and I am extremely saddend, sympathetic, and furious that this woman endured being raped under the “hidden/disguised front” of that being BDSM, it is not! My wife and I attend a few BDSM functions and they are fun, exciting, interesting, sensual, educational, and the others who attend (for the most part) have become what I consider ‘friends.’

    Please don’t blame an entire culture of wonderful, ethical people (from average educational backgrounds to PhD’s) who truly enjoy and embrace the fact that these ‘fabbo’ venues exist…because of some examples that went terribly wrong and obviously had unethical and illegal activities taking place. Those examples of rapist are not accepted in this community and are not even remotely what BDSM is about.

    My wife & I have an amazing marriage, we’re still enjoying exploring our sexual fantasies, and we have been together almost 18 years. If you look at the staggering rate of dissolved marriages…I would contend that BDSM has helped spice things up, keeps us interested in pleasing each other sexually (as well as considering each other’s feelings and wants/needs) while not playing in the BDSM scene and raising our family.

    We, as a collective nation, have worked together tirelessly to all but rid our society of racist, sexist, (supporting the ERA movement), and simply establishing a better, more pleasant and enjoyable society, for us all to embrace and live in.

    Don’t “YOU” be irresponsible and perpetuate negativity and hatred (segragation) and compare males in BDSM as rapist (sexism) with YOUR perspective of the BDSM community via sensationalized journalism, based on a few stories which may (or not) be entirely accurate.

    Thank you!

  34. Megan,

    The best environment for allowing abuse is one where the inhabitants insist that abuse never happens there.

    Nothing bad has ever happened to you, that’s great, I’m glad for you. Kitty Stryker who is part of the BDSM ‘scene’ has said that “I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.” Is Kitty a liar, have you gone to her blog to call her a liar?

    There is no such thing as a ‘vanilla community’ (how am I being ‘irresponsible’? Where am I claiming the mainstream is safe?), there is patriarchy, which is full of abuse, and there is the sub-culture of the BDSM ‘scene’ where the abuse is codified, ritualised, and eroticised more obviously; you may like to imagine that you are some how ‘subversive’ with your dorky hobby, but BDSM is the status quo.

    The fact that there are male ‘submissives’ and female ‘dominants’ is irrelevant, abuse doesn’t stop being abuse if it is perpetrated by a woman, or against a man. Such a ‘reversal’ is still patriarchal, because it is still eroticised abuse and inequality, a male ‘submissive’ is considered to be feminised, and ‘like a woman’, male ‘submissiveness’ wouldn’t work without the mainstream model of female masochism to feed off.

    Tiffy,

    Your comment is pure excrement, and I am only letting it through so that others can see it and laugh at it.

    “My wife & I have an amazing marriage”

    Says you, is your wife allowed on line? Is she too busy doing the housework, so you get to speak for her?

    “We, as a collective nation, have worked together tirelessly to all but rid our society of racist, sexist, (supporting the ERA movement), and simply establishing a better, more pleasant and enjoyable society, for us all to embrace and live in.”

    Ha ha ha! You’ve “all but rid” society of sexism and racism? What planet do you live on? Or is allowing women and ‘coloreds’ the vote your idea of a society free of sexism and racism? Only a heterosexual white male could be so full of oblivious privilege so as to believe that!

    “Don’t “YOU” be irresponsible and perpetuate negativity and hatred (segragation) and compare males in BDSM as rapist (sexism) with YOUR perspective of the BDSM community via sensationalized journalism, based on a few stories which may (or not) be entirely accurate.”

    Oh no! I’m hating on BDSMers! I’m causing them to be socially ostracised!

    How is my having an opinion causing BDSMers to be ‘segregated’? Are there ‘vanilla only’ water fountains now!?

    And saying that men commit rape is ‘sexism’ now! Those poor poor men!

    How is a woman telling the truth about her experiences ‘sensationalized journalism’? Oh yes, she’s saying something you don’t like, so you naturally want to discredit her.

    And PS, learn to fucking write, I’m sick to death of idiots who can’t master basic grammar, but think that using some long words will make them look clever.

    ~Fabbo~

  35. [...] got a lot of visits today to this page from Facebook and Mumsnet, I can never actually see who’s linked to me from Facebook, but I [...]

  36. Thank you so much for posting this. My rape occurred in the context of a BDSM encounter. I was given a safeword, but when it became clear the activity was getting too much for me, he strangled me and yelled, “Don’t you ever say no to me.” In a split second, I understood that he was very angry, he enjoyed being angry and trying to stop him would make him angrier still – which he would like. I was scared for my life, seriously wondering if I’d survive the night, so I just tried to keep him as calm as possible. Being too terrified to say no is not consent. Saying nothing to save your life is not consent. I knew from that very instant that what he was doing was rape, but I never spoke out in the community about it because I knew what kind of crap would probably follow. And now, years later, I understand how damned clever he was to arrange things the way he did. He knew I wouldn’t dare speak out – not to the police, not to the community, not to an nurse. I guess now that I wasn’t his first, and I probably wasn’t his last. It’s a sick community that lets things like this flourish in its midst. I’m no longer in that community and haven’t been in a long time, but I’m glad some people are finally talking about this.

  37. Hello Temira,

    Thank you for your comment and thank you for having the courage to share your experiences.

    I fear the whole ‘consent culture’ thing may have become something of a white wash, and not much is actually changing in reality (see this comment thread here).

  38. Being dominant means accepting ALL responsibility for all outcomes – good/bad/indifferent. Those who do not accept responsibility are abusers and any submissive so abused has every right to haul said abuser over any coals said submissive desires.

    There are no ‘bad submissives’ (use your safe words as soon as the play stops being fun) – only bad dominants/abusers. To quote the title of a short course of the Black Rose Society “Dominant or Just an Asshole in a Black Vest?” Well-respected? Piffle! Once a dominant has crossed the line into abuse he/she has become worthless for the first person a dominant must control is him/herself. If he/she cannot do that – just how ‘dominant’ is he/she? Not at all is the answer. Submissives – feel free to publicly laugh at his/her pretensions. Your abuser is “just another asshole in a black vest”.

    I am a ‘soft’ dominatrix. I guarantee no pain, no abuse and no humiliation. All restraints are those he can get out of any time he chooses, if I use any restraints at all. He is never left alone when restrained and is never restrained for more than 45 minutes at any one time. If he were it would leave me open to a charge of felony kidnapping, you see. The only ‘punishment’ I meet out is him being ignored and all play stopped. I do not demand obedience but only compliance. If he complies, then we have mutual pleasure. If he does not comply then the entire interlude is just called off and we all go home.

    I strongly encourage all submissives to use their safe words whenever they feel like it especially with a new dominant. They should avoid any dominant of whom they have the slightest doubt. Do not feel guilty about ‘not being a total doormat’. If you’re bored – use your safe word. If tired, use your safe word. If it is ‘just because’, use your safe word. Heck, if your collar is tied to something with some slack in the cord and you’re standing there naked tottering in your high heels and he’s gone off to answer the telephone – dance the Charleston and when he complains – use your safe word. Listen to your instincts and go with them. Listen to your fellow submissives. Exchange notes with them. While dominants may not like to discuss such things, they do notice when a dominant (well-respected or not) ‘has trouble holding onto a submissive’ so talk with them as well.

    To highlight the point. I watched Gene Simmons come to NYC to ‘audition’ dominatrices for some new business venture of his. They all came out togged in the usual getup and played their little faux dominatrix games. Very ‘cute’. (Me? I’d have come in a standard sheath dress and stilettos and just sat there, very relaxed, quietly looking at them all while sipping a neat single-malt. If Gene’s instincts weren’t totally dead, he’d recognize me for the dominatrix I am. Most men seem to have no trouble doing so.) No pretenses, no posturing, no ‘cute little games’ and never any boundary breaking.

    Your submission is a gift to be humbly received as well as a reward that the dominant must earn but respecting your personhood must come first.

  39. Again, so what?

    A safe word is meaningless when the ‘dom’ ignores it.

    Relying on the so-called ‘community’ is meaningless when said ‘community’ always turns a blind eye.

    Also, the experiences of men paying a woman (a dominatrix) to do what he wants, are going to be very different from those of a woman in a relationship with a man that makes her extremely vulnerable to abuse.

    PS: I removed your website address, this is not the place for you to be touting for business

  40. Antiplondon, while I don’t take too much issue with the premise of your article and even agree with a few of your sentiments, but I take issue with this comment you just wrote in response to Megan:

    “…you may like to imagine that you are some how ‘subversive’ with your dorky hobby, but BDSM is the status quo.”

    Why do you claim to know her thoughts? Didn’t you just criticize another commenter for this very thing? Megan never claimed to be subversive, all she did was share her own experience and perspective. Why did you feel the need to belittle her with the word “dorky”? Is this what is passing for feminism these days? Disrespecting other women because they enjoy something you don’t approve of? She had an experience in the very kind of community you just wrote a post about, and you just discounted it seemingly without a second thought. Why? Because it didn’t fit your narrative?

    Here’s a culture I want to be a part of: A culture where women value one another’s perspectives, learn from one another, and treat each other with respect.

  41. I think all BDSM is dorky, and the vast majority of BDSMers think they’re doing something subversive. I’m not apologising for my reply to Megan, and I’m not apologising for my critical thinking; if you want an ‘every choice is valid’ ‘feminism’, then this radical feminist blog is not for you.

  42. Also, I find it amusing that you picked out me calling Megan ‘dorky’, but don’t mind me describing Tiffy’s post as ‘pure excrement’, what are you, some kind of ~misandrist~?

  43. […] BDSM porn will still be ok, because that’s all ‘safe, sane, consensual’ and nothing bad ever happens in the BDSM scene or on a BDSM porn set […]

  44. I think it’s extremely unfortunate that these women had the experiences they did in the BDSM community. The fact that these things can happen point to very serious problems with the scene. In fact, within the BDSM community itself, there is an ongoing battle–fought in writings, in conversations, and in the choices we make–to try and be better than the world at large in terms of respecting boundaries, ostracizing abusers, and creating a “culture of consent”.

    I could cite competing examples of times we got it right–including a recent incident where a respected educator violated boundaries and got blacklisted in numerous places; or other people who get banned from parties and events for allegations far less serious than rape.

    But to me, the central point is: just because the world has problems, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a world. And just because there are problems in the BDSM community, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. I think in both cases, fixing it comes through the ways we encourage others to think about things a little differently. It’s ongoing, and even though it can be humbling, I think it starts by recognizing the imperfections in our own communities–whether that’s a workplace, a church, or a BDSM party.

  45. Looking at the way Kitty Stryker backed down from her criticisms of the BDSM scene, I’m pretty confident saying that that it’s a lot of white washing to put a respectable face on something that is inherently abusive, and one show-trial isn’t going to convince me otherwise.

    “just because the world has problems, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a world”

    Yeah, because I’m really saying the world shouldn’t exist, that’s so flimsy, it doesn’t even count as a straw woman argument.

  46. As you say antiplondon BDSM is maintaining the status quo. I see no difference between a hetero ‘kinky’ woman and a non kinky one. Submitting to men is what women are expected to do in hetero relationships, so a few accessories and a different language isn’t going to change that.

  47. I haven’t “backed down” from my criticisms of the BDSM scene or community. I still feel pretty strongly that the BDSM community is racist, sexist, classist, transphobic, and heterosexist. I also think it ignores rape culture’s influence regularly, and I spend a lot of time and effort fighting that, including coming out and naming people who are serial abusers.

    Just saying. I sometimes take a step back from constantly fighting, because it’s fucking exhausting and I burn out on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean my critiques have changed at all.

  48. Oh, ok, I see where you get that from. I do stick with my belief that in order to talk about consent it’s vital to talk about things beyond violent abusers and unfortunate victims, to discuss how people who are abusive can also have histories of being victims, and how victims can turn around and be abusive to others. That’s a pretty reasonable conclusion to draw when doing any sort of reading on women in abusive relationships, or who have histories of having been abused. I guess I can see how that would seem like backing down, but if anything, it increases accountability. It’s not just some group of evil abusive men, but abuse is rather something *anyone* is capable of. We see that over and over again, in a variety of ways. If anything it means we need to be MORE on our shit, not less so. Hope that clears it up.

  49. Kitty,

    Unless your public statements have changed radically (in which case, please point me to where), I still maintain that you went from giving a damning indictment of the BDSM ‘scene’ as a culture that not only makes abuse easy, but also covers it up afterwards, to saying ‘consent is hard’ and ‘we need to educate ourselves about consent’, as if abuse were something that happened by mistake, by accident, which is simply not true, in any area.

    Your first (new) comment here doesn’t seem to bear much relation to anything I’ve said regarding BDSM (or about abuse in general actually). There’s nothing much wrong with what you’ve said, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do specifically with holding the BDSM ‘community’ accountable for the abuse it allows to flourish.

    “I still feel pretty strongly that the BDSM community is racist, sexist, classist, transphobic, and heterosexist”

    That’s pretty irrelevant to me; if you want to make BDSMers ‘equal opportunity’ abusers, go right ahead, but don’t expect me to be impressed by such ‘activism’.

    “I also think it ignores rape culture’s influence regularly”

    All culture is rape culture, rape culture isn’t some unpleasant little ‘scene’ in some grotty backroom, it is the very air we all breathe every day. The BDSM ‘scene’ is a part of rape culture, it doesn’t sit outside of it. That sentence alone tells me you either don’t understand what rape culture is, or you are not prepared to engage fully with the reality of the subject.

    I grew up in rape culture, I have to make efforts to de-programme myself from it all the time. Rape culture is effectively just (an aspect of) patriarchy, but there’s no opting out of that because there’s no outside of it to get to; we call it rape culture sometimes because that makes it easier to understand what’s going on.

    I can guess why you decided to comment on this post, and not this other, more recent, post where we had a discussion in the comments thread.

    You ran away from that conversation, after accusing me of ‘not listening’ to you and ‘invalidating’ you, even though the people who came to leave comments under that post (all three of them!) after you tried to instigate a dog-pile against me on twitter, just couldn’t work out where I’d got the idea from that the BDSM ‘scene’ was full of abuse – looks like I was listening to you more than your ‘supporters’ there Kitty.

    There were several other ways you were dishonest in that conversation, like deliberately and cynically ignoring that the abolitionist approach to the sex industry involves decriminalising the prostitute her (or him) self, but please do explain to me Kitty, how making it impossible for the police to arrest you for prostitution makes it easier for the police to abuse you?

    Also, you never said anything accountable about ‘juvenile sex workers’ on this blog, and never linked to any of your work elsewhere on the subject.

    You also failed (twice) to answer this question, which I think is actually quite essential to understanding what BDSM actually is:

    How can inserting a knife into a woman’s vagina be about “sensation and exploration” (for the one doing the inserting anyway) and not about violence domination and degradation?

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