Identifying abuse in BDSM

A Dominant that I know in the online community has stated many times that he feels that the BDSM community should up its game in the education towards non-consensual behavior and abuse.

His words “we need to be doing more education within the BDSM community of non-consensual dominance and control, physical abuse, threats of physical abuse, emotional abuse, threatening phone calls, disturbances at one’s place of employment, and stalking that takes place in the D/s-BDSM community under the guise of D/s and M/s.”

And oh how I wholeheartedly agree.

Many people until recently only knew that I supported D/s dynamics, when the reality is that I myself fall more in line with M/s based owner property dynamics that would be described as edge living.

I recently attended a very amazing intensive where a M/s dyad discussed how they have criticisms for how NCSF identifies abuse even for the lifestyle. So of course I went and looked at it because you can find the list in a lot of places.

I thoroughly agree that it can be inaccurate especially when you have consensually giving away all your ability to make decisions and submitted yourself to another or have been put in the position that you have taken on all the power.

We call it power exchange for a reason, because we base these dynamics on our negotiation for creating designer relationships that we have no models for. Because we are taken from our inner most needs and desires to bring our fantasy into a reality.

I know I myself have asked questions to people before about healthy ways of doing this and have often been told, ” It’s your relationship, do what makes you happy!” The problem is that most of us don’t actually know how to do what it is that makes us happy because we have to rewire our brains to understand consent, abuse , and control from a different perspective.

We do need better training and education so that we don’t just default to not my kink. We are a subculture and being able to identify and protect people from predators on both side of the slash is important because we can’t depend on law enforcement to get it.

I come across submissives and littles who are so confused about if they have the right to walk away and say no or slaves who are made to feel that if they find something is a hard limited after they have submitted, they can never voice that. What surprises me most is that some of these people aren’t newbies.

I don’t see abuse in BDSM as blurred line or even a thin line. I think we just have a hard admitting that it’s happening just like the vanilla world and that people are manipulating what we do like abusers always do.

The are the criteria for SM vs Abuse according to NCSF:

Was informed consent expressly denied or withdrawn?
Were there factors that negated the informed consent?
What is the relationship of the participants?
What was the nature of the activity?
What was the intent of the accused abuser?
Whether an individual’s role is top/dominant or bottom/submissive, they could be suffering abuse if they answer no to any of the following questions:
Are your needs and limits respected?
Is your relationship built on honesty, trust, and respect?
Are you able to express feelings of guilt or jealousy or unhappiness?
Can you function in everyday life?
Can you refuse to do illegal activities?
Can you insist on safe sex practices?
Can you choose to interact freely with others outside of your relationship?
Can you leave the situation without fearing that you will be harmed, or fearing the other participant(s) will harm themselves?
Can you choose to exercise self-determination with money, employment, and life decisions?
Do you feel free to discuss your practices and feelings with anyone you choose?

*My problems with this is that too often we don’t understand what informed consent is and how to withdraw it. I have personally been apart of discussions where people are often accused of victim shaming for promoting that people educate themselves on the nuances of the lifestyle because that is the best protection in this lifestyle. It is and you lack of knowledge does not excuse predators, but in the future understanding not to submit to someone or play with someone who does not respect things like limits, past sexual encounters, mental health, etc is a great help to you.

I feel that sex-positive culture is sometimes not critical enough about what informed consent in the BDSM lifestyle is and how to identify needs and limits.

*We preach honesty, trust, and respect a lot, but it is often so one-sided in the lifestyle. We also sometimes fail to actually discuss how to repair trust and respect in the face of dishonesty without pretty much saying you have to make a choice to forgive but not forget.

*Can you function in everyday life is also a very subjective process.

*”Can you choose to exercise self-determination with money, employment, and life decisions?” In a M/s or Owner property dynamic, these are not choices that the slave or property necessarily makes, but that doesn’t mean it is abuse. I know that, but the amount of times I’ve seen people who don’t understand M/s tell a slave to leave just because they no longer make the decision in their life.

*”Do you feel free to discuss your practices and feelings with anyone you choose?” I can no longer count the times I have had to talk to someone about the difference between outing someone and choosing to be authentic, while also taking into consideration that the vanilla world is not always friendly to us. I have also had to explain to people that that doesn’t mean that their partner gets to shut them off from people. I even get people my age and younger who engage in dangerous practices because they can’t tell anyone who knows them.

Now I’m not saying that communities are not doing anything, but I do think in some places we are failing to help people understand the differences and protect themselves. I also think we use NMK and “It’s your relationship” to hide behind.

These guidelines often still don’t fit into the context of what many people understand of the lifestyle and I wonder if it simply focusing on making things seem more palatable to the outside world.

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