Awareness of BDSM Related Abuse Is Growing


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seventy five percent – 75%.

Think about this and what it means.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We not only can, but we absolutely must.

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

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

These.  Things.  Simply.  Must.  Stop.

Right.  Now.

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

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

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11 Responses to Awareness of BDSM Related Abuse Is Growing

  1. Regyna Longlank says:

    it’s easy to hide abuse behind oh I’m sorry, did I violate your hard limits again once I had you restrained? What a silly miscommunication, I wish you had spoken up sooner, used your safeword, stopped playing with me the first time I apologized for something I did intentionally, enjoyed, and don’t feel the leasr bit sorry about. Let me blame you and shame you and make you feel bad for ruining my fun. When can we play again? That’s not bdsm. That’s bullshit.

    • Sing it loud, sister!

      Sounds like you’ve been there…

      Unfortunately, even those who haven’t been there themselves will readily recognize that person.

    • RJ DALE says:

      I find that kind of thing disgusting too. I hope that you have never, ever had to deal with such a breach of trust. I hope that BDSM in it’s healthy incarnation has been a part of your experience if that is a part of your orientation. Every adult deserve to experience consensual safe and sane sex with other consenting adults, regardless of the details of what is done to get there.

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  6. Those sadists! No wonder there is an S in BDSM… But I don’t think it helps to complain about it… There is a thin line between simulating domestic abuse and actually abusing, if you REALLY hate it, then it probably turns them on even more.
    It is not alright, but it is the next logical step, they do not even have to change their regular behavior. Just intensify it.

    Blogging about it is a lost cause, it is like people who change their profile picture on facebook for world peace. If someone feels the need to tie you up then he probably has a reason.
    Traditionally, that is a act of serial killers and rapists. So be careful, but don’t expect blogs to help with anything.

    • RJ DALE says:

      This is such an uninformed statement. Two adults who are having consensual sex are allowed to participate in bondage without there being any need for violence. Many who participate in Bondage only participate in bondage with no other kinks such as Sado-masochism, they just want to be tied up.
      There is not a thin line between abuse and BDSM, as one is specifically an adult asking to be struck in the confines of a scene, which is a contrived situation with rules, and specific goals. Domestic violence is a disgusting act of cruelty that leaves physical and psychological scars. It has no consent, it has no sexual relationship for the victim, and is no way ever okay. Your perception of kink is biased and uninformed.

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  8. RJ DALE says:

    I am aware abuse occurs in the BDSM scene because it happens everywhere, just not in a scale larger than other lifestyles. 1 victim is of course too many. That must be stopped here, and in any place. I have searched for actual credible cited sources that show something beyond anecdotal evidence and rumor. Those that exist (https://www.bc.edu/dam/files/schools/law/lawreviews/journals/bclawr/42_2/01_FMS.htm) make clear there is an issue beyond BDSM. Predators come to the scene because there are a lot of potential methods to find victims. We as a community have to not only protect ourselves, police ourselves, but we have to become informed, proactive, and treat our lifestyle with respect, and an educated perception. All this can be said about many subcultures, and alternative lifestyles. There are predators everywhere, and it is best to treat the world as a dangerous place. I do not mean walking in fear, I do not mean I am blaming the victim, and I do not mean that this is an accepted fact. IT means acting like our lives are on the line when meeting strangers, they are in any situation. It means not rushing in uneducated, unaware, and presuming that there is no inherent danger. Online dating holds the same perils. And the ways to protect oneself in that arena are just as valid.
    I am constantly looking for somewhere to start the fight against sexual abuse, a victim coming forward, and these cases get buried because of puritanical shame. If the BDSM community were to be exposed for abuse, it might reform the way things were handled. We need to make clear that we are different, not subhuman, and scrutiny will reveal a safe place that creates growth understanding and self exploration. I want the BDSM community to take a stand and make clear that we are not afraid of the police, of helping society, and that we as individuals have something to offer society. We can do it.

    For example
    •Treating BDSM as if it were not a valid sexual preference, so that counseling can be available, and that education and understanding be allowed to create safer scenes, and knowledgeable participants.
    •Not making BDSM illegal according to state land local laws, allowing for transparency with medical professionals, law enforcement, and familial counselors. Being able to report real issues without the victim being persecuted would help not only help prevent abuse, allow victims to report without fear of legal reprisal, allow healthcare professionals to understand the inherent dangers of the related sexual activities, and to help counselors coach

    Here are ways to involve oneself safely.

    So
    •If a person wants to engage you in BDSM activity, check them out, get to know them, interact not only in public places. Avoid people who only want to “play” immediately, There is no rush, and your safety is not worth it. FIND OUT THEIR NAMES, NOT ALIASES.
    • Try to play in public dungeons, where there are rules and dungeon monitors. This is not always available in many states. Websites like Fetlife are a great way to find safe spaces, research potential “play partners”, but they are not a guarantee.
    • Discuss Safewords, and explicit consent. People who seem resistant to either are NOT safe.
    • Because PEOPLE LIE and talk one way and act another there are a couple ways to protect oneself, such as letting people know how long a session should last, the location, the person’s address, name and contact information. I also think it is best have scenes where one is not alone, or has a chaperone.
    •DO not ever be afraid to report a crime. EVER. Even if BDSM is illegal, contact someone if you are hurt, get that person under scrutiny, and get justice for yourself and past/future victims.
    • Discuss Safe, Consensual and Sane with your potential play partners, this should be mutually accepted and understood protocol.
    • INFORM YOURSELF. BDSM is not Fifty Shades of Grey. There are accepted practices, techniques rules, protocols and safety. BDSM is a lifestyle, and a culture, it has tried and practiced methods that are safe, and allow for respect, communication, and healthy practice of activities. If someone is not in the know, DO NOT PLAY WITH THEM. A lot of misconceptions exist about BDSM and if everyone is on the same page, and communicating surprises and miscommunication are less likely to happen.
    •Do not allow your play partners total freedom or tell them to use their best judgement. WE all must secure our safety and autonomy, and when we submit, we must accept, that our decisions leading to that moment will dictate how we are treated while submitting.
    •Create Safe Circles of people you play with… People you know who you can trust and play within that group. Variety may be the spice of life, but Safety is the Roux.

    I hope that we as a community can help show that Abuse is the exception not the rule. Painting kink in Generalizations does no one any good. We can educate those not involved and show that we operate with openness, respect, consensuality, sanity, safety, education, health and s a sense of community. The only way to do this is to act, and to teach, not to wring our hands and complain .

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