In Part I – It was Illustrated a commonly used comparative flow charts between BDSM and Abuse to hi-light the differences between the two.
In Part II, It is my intention to take this a step further and break it down a little more:
The following Principles and Guidelines are intended to help law enforcement and social services professionals understand the difference between abusive relationships vs. consensual sadomasochism (BDSM). BDSM includes a broad and complex group of behaviors between consenting adults involving the consensual exchange of power, and the giving and receiving of intense erotic sensation and/or mental discipline.
BDSM includes: “intimate activities within the scope of informed consent that is freely given.”
Abuse is: “Physical, sexual or emotional acts inflicted on a person without their informed and freely given consent.”
The common dominator in the two threads is the difference between informed ‘Consent’ that is freely given verses an act that consent has not been given or withdrawn, and in this case it can be deemed as abuse.
The BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities recognize the phrase “Safe, Sane, Consensual” as the best brief summary of principles guiding BDSM practices:
Safe is being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
Sane is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times. One of the recognized ways to maintain limits is through a “safeword” which ensures that each participant can end his/her participation with a word or gesture.
Informed consent must be judged by balancing the following criteria for each encounter at the time the acts occurred:
- Was informed consent expressly denied or withdrawn?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?
These guidelines were created by activists and leaders at the Leather Leadership Conference in 1998.
Now lets look at consent and an easy way to look at this is through ‘Tea’…
Now if you do not have consent for sex or as depicted in the video above ‘Tea’, then that is a form of abuse.
Doing something against a persons will is abuse. In BDSM, communication and agreement is key to a successful BDSM Scene, play space or relationship. In short negotiation is the underlying principal of BDSM. This inculdes the use safe words or signals. All parties involved are upfront with each other and there is an agreement between the parties to what they consent or not consent to, and how safe words work to remove consent or let the other participant(s) know that they are no longer comfortable with the scene. This can be referred to as limits, some people have soft limits, whilst others have limits they would like to explore. So what about ‘Hard Limits’ – These are generally areas that are off bounds. These limits must be respected. In a healthy BDSM relationship limits and what has been agreed to are respected, in and abusive relationship they are not.
Im not saying that in BDSM relationships that there is not abuse, sadly there is.
A great essay to read on this very topic, was written by Jan Hall and the author has authorized for the essay to be redistributed.
Source: Pandora’s Project
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE S/M COMMUNITY
From the program of the International S/M-Leather-Fetish Celebration; text provided by Jan Hall. The Celebration specifically authorizes and encourages the reproduction and redistribution of this information so please feel free to distribute this.
Domestic violence is not the same as consensual s/m. Yet, abusive relationships do exist within the leather-s/m community, as with all groups. Unfortunately, due to our sexual orientation, abused persons who are into s/m may suffer additional isolation and may hesitate to turn to available resources for fear of rejection or of giving credence to stereotypes. No group is free of domestic battering; but fear, denial, and lack of knowledge have slowed public response to this serious social problem.
Domestic is not restricted to one particular group within the s/m community. A person’s size, gender, or particular sex role (top-bottom, butch-femme) is irrelevant; anyone can be subject to abuse.
Abuse tends to be cyclical in nature and escalates over time. It is a pattern of intentional intimidation for the purpose of dominating, coercing, or isolating another without her or his consent. Because of the intimidation factor, where there is abuse in any part of the relationship, there can be no consent.
Defining the Problem: The following questions can help a person to define the problem, which can have characteristics that are physical, sexual, economic, and psychological.
- Does your partner ever hit, choke, or otherwise physically hurt you outside of a scene?
- Has she or he ever restrained you against your will, locked you in a room, or used a weapon of any kind?
- Are you afraid of your partner?
- Are you confused about when a scene begins and ends? Rape and forced sexual acts are not part of consensual s/m. Battering is not something that can be “agreed” upon; there is an absence of safe words or understandings.
- Has she or he ever violated your limits?
- Do you feel trapped in a specific role as either the top or bottom?
- Does your partner constantly criticize your performance, withhold sex as a means of control, or ridicule you for the limits you set?
- Do you feel obligated to have sex?
- Does your partner use sex to make up after a violent incident?
- Does your partner isolate you from friends, family, or groups?
- Has your partner ever destroyed objects or threatened pets?
- Has your partner abused or threatened your children?
- Does your partner limit access to work or material resources?
- Has he or she ever stolen from you or run up debts?
- Are you or your partner emotionally dependent on one another?
- Does your relationship swing back and forth between a lot of emotional distance and being very close?
- Is your partner constantly criticizing you, humiliating you, and generally undermining your self-esteem?
- Does your partner use scenes to express/cover up anger and frustration?
- Do you feel that you can’t discuss with your partner what is bothering you?
No one has the right to abuse you. You are not responsible for the violence. You are not alone; connect with other survivors.
There are reasons for staying in abusive relations: fear of (or feelings for) the abuser, and lack of economic or emotional resources. If you stay, help is still available. Find out about shelters, support groups, counselors, anti-violence programs, and crisis lines in your area; ask a friend to help you make these calls. Plan a strategy if you have to leave quickly. Line up friends and family in case of an emergency.
Battering is a crime. Find out about your legal rights and options. You can get the court to order the person to stop hurting you through an Order for Protection or Harassment Restraining Order. You do not need a lawyer.
WE CAN REDUCE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence does exist in the s/m-leather-fetish community. We can make it clear that we will listen to those who have the courage to speak out. Understand that leaving is difficult. Let the person make his or her own choices. Keep all information confidential. Encourage survivors to take legal action and seek support. Help find safe housing and legal advocacy. Hold batterers accountable and urge them to seek treatment. Deny that drug or alcohol use can excuse battering. Support changes in that person’s behaviors.
Leather groups in our are crucial to reducing violence. Invite knowledgeable speakers; lead discussions; print up a list for members of what resources in your area are s/m-supportive. Educate your local legal and social service system about our lifestyle; encourage their appropriate intervention.
Domestic Violence have of late been a topic of much discussion, and the previous Australian of the year Rosie Batty, put domestic violence and abuse front and centre, and also moved for many positive reforms in Australia. This also allowed abuse to be brought out of the shadows and allowing the subject to be on the national agenda. However with everything mainstream, BDSM is not a discussion point, even with the clear differences between Abuse and BDSM as previously illustrated.
Kinky abuse and community response
Source: April 11, 2007 — pepomint – Kinky abuse and community response
The question before me is, what do we do about kinky abuse? BDSM practitioners are a group of people who engage in activities that often closely resemble abuse, and sometimes that play crosses over the line into actual abuse. Sometimes this abuse is accidental, the result of a scene gone wrong, but other times it is downright purposeful. While I suspect that the incidence of abuse is lower within the BDSM community than outside it (and surveys such as this one seem to confirm), there are still a certain number of habitual abusers within our ranks. Worse, abusive people can use the trappings of BDSM to disguise their abuse. What can we do about these people? How can we as a community (to the extent we are a community or multiple communities) identify and stop abusers?
When confronted with this issue, a common first response seems to be to refer it to the legal system. After all, abusive kinky situations do make it into court, so the idea is that we should let the usual authorities do the work of regulating abuse within the community, as they do outside the community. I consider this a cop-out (no pun intended). The law, the police, and the state have failed to significantly reduce abuse outside the community, and there is every reason to think that they will be even less effective when dealing with the BDSM subculture.
Much as it might be popular to show dominatrices and kinky marriage scenes in mainstream movies, BDSM play remains a marginalized activity, one that is nominally illegal in most places. Because it fails to distinguish between kink and abuse, the law itself is therefore insufficient to handle this sort of situation, and there is no reason to think that courts, juries, and police officers will be any better. In fact, the failure of the law in this regard is evident in the composition of the jury: if it were truly a jury of one’s peers, there would be twelve kinksters sitting in it.
Also, depending on legal remedies will of course fail those BDSM practitioners who are marginalized in various ways beyond their BDSM practice. It is foolish to expect that African-Americans, Latinoamericano/as, queers, and people in poverty will be able to get a fair hearing in a kinky abuse case (either as plaintiff or defendant) given that they often do not get such a hearing even when kink is not in play.
We cannot depend on the law to handle abuse. To the extent that we are able, we need to develop extralegal mechanisms around kinky abuse, not just to protect community members from abuse, but to find positive ways to rehabilitate abusers. (Prison, it should be noted, does not rehabilitate violent actors in most cases.) After all, the BDSM community is all about creating positive pursuits for what would otherwise be destructive behavior. If we can teach people to administer serious beatings that are still safe, then we should be able to teach people to overcome their abusive tendencies. The rest of this essay will focus on things we as a community can do that can be found at the source, The view points in the rest of the essay are that not of my own and many of the recommendations I do not agree with, so if you wish to read the authors view points on community responses please read the essay in full.
What I feel needs to occur is that resources and workshops are made available within the community outlining the differences between BDSM and Abuse. These need to focus on both the victim and the abuser, one providing kink-specific resources allowing those who may be crossing the lines into abuse materials that will educate to ensure they understand and know the difference. This also ensures an education program that provides and understanding and underlying values of SSC (safe, sane, consensual) or RACK (risk-aware consensual kink), and PRICK – (personal responsibility informed consensual kink).
What is BDSM?
Normally I would illustrate this at the start, but I have already written a blog article on the definition so, for all intended purposes I am going to illustrate in the diagram below the definition of BDSM that I use for all my writings:
BDSM vs. Abuse
- Safe, sane and consensual play is the standard of the organised SM community; it relies on the use of a “safe-word” or “Safe-signal” that allows the submissive or bottom participant to stop the action at any time. Without informed consent, it is not BDSM, it is abuse.
- BDSM always requires free, informed consent of all parties involved. A propensity to violence is therefore a fallacy, since the only time we engage in BDSM behaviors is with our partners.
- It is an inherent fact that BDSM practitioners take great care to make sure that their activities are as safe as possible. In many cases BDSM does not feel like it looks or can be interpreted by an ill-informed individual looking in from the outside.
- BDSM partners do not have to apologise to each other. Instead, they are happy and satisfied. Unlike abuse or violence, where one party has not given informed consent to the activity.
- It should be noted that Children or anyone under the age of consent cannot give informed consent, therefore are never a part of BDSM activity. And if a minor is then that is abuse.
- BDSM happens in the context of an erotic relationship. Just as context helps differentiate between an organised boxing match and a street brawl.
- Technical reference material and participation in organised groups provide the tell-tale signs for differences between BDSM and violence or abuse.
- Tell tale signs of the differences between Probable Cause and Consensual BDSM:
a) Signs of significant preparation. e.g.. Adult toys, music, bondage furniture, lubricants and safety supplies.
b) Restraints. Abusers tend to restrain their victims with fear and intimidation, not safety clips and quick releases.
c) We call emergency services in a medical emergency, not when there are loud noises.
d) The availability of mentors, reference materials and technical guides.
NOTE: The above information was gathered from the NCSF Law Enforcement Information Project of Consensual SM Activities. The purpose of which is to provide law enforcement with a basic understanding about adults whose sexuality and lovemaking includes BDSM activities and to provide them with information to assist when they encounter an BDSM event.To further the idea of the differences between SM and abuse, I found other information that may also be useful when dealing with Law enforcement.
1. SM rarely results in facial marks or marks that are received on the forearms (defensive marks).
2. There is usually an even pattern of marks if it is SM, indicating the bottom held quite still during the stimulation.
3. The marks are often quite well-defined when inflicted by a toy like cane or whip, whereas in abuse there are blotches of soft-tissue bruising, randomly distributed.
4. The common areas for SM stimulation is on the buttocks, thighs, back, breasts, or the genitals. The fleshy parts of the body can be stimulated intensely and pleasurably.
Two Definitions of Abuse
“An abusive relationship is one in which substantial physical, mental, or emotional harm is inflicted, that is not temporary in nature, and is not clearly compensated for by positive and loving experiences over a long period of time.” — by louise, 1997″Acts inflicted on a person without their freely given consent.” — Leather Leadership Conference III, Statement on Abuse, San Francisco, April 16-18,1999
D/s or Abuse?
|D/s is about the building of a trusting relationship between two consenting adult partners.||Abuse is about the breach of trust between an authority figure and the person in their care.|
|D/s is about the mutual respect demonstrated between two enlightened people.||Abuse is about the lack of respect that one person demonstrates to another person.|
|D/s is about a shared enjoyment of controlled erotic pain and/or humiliation for mutual pleasure.||Abuse is about a form of out-of-control physical violence and/or personal or emotional degradation of the submissive.|
|D/s is about loving each other completely and without reservation in an alternate way.||Abuse is hurtful. It is also very damaging emotionally and spiritually to the submissive.|
|D/s frees a submissive from the restraints of years of vanilla conditioning to explore a buried part of herself.||Abuse binds a submissive to a lonely and solitary life of shame, fear and secrecy… imprisoning her very soul.|
|D/s builds self-esteem as a person discovers and embraces their long hidden sexuality.||Abuse shatters and destroys a person’s self-esteem and leaves self-hatred in its place.|
|An SM scene is a controlled situation.||Abuse is an out-of-control situation.|
|Negotiation occurs before an SM scene to determine what will and will not happen in that scene.||One person determines what will happen.|
|Knowledgeable consent is given to the scene by all parties.||No consent is asked for or given.|
|The bottom has a safeword that allows them to stop the scene at any time they need to for physical or emotional reasons.||The person being abused cannot stop what is happening.|
|Everyone involved in the SM scene is concerned about needs, desires, and limits of others.||No concern is given to the needs, desires, and limits of the abused person.|
|The people in the SM scene are careful to be sure that they are not impaired by alcohol or drug use during the scene.||Alcohol or drugs are often used before an episode of abuse.|
|After an SM scene, the people involved feel good.||After an episode of abuse, the people involved feel bad.|
This article is partially based on material produced by:
American National Leather Association
Dutch S&M Media Information Center
POWERoticsFeel free to redistribute, but please make reference to these sources:
c/o The Domestic Violence Education Project
National Leather Association
548 Castro Street #444
San Francisco, CA 99114
1 415 863 2444
And since we say, “Safe, Sane and Consensual” so often, I figured I’d give you some background to what that means.The community-wide standard of “Safe, Sane and Consensual” was codified more than ten years ago.
1. Safe is being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
This includes protection against HIV, STDs, and hepatitis. It also includes notifying your partner of any physical condition that may impact on the scene, like asthma, bad back, epilepsy, etc. It also includes psychological safety, such as you were abused as a child and don’t like a particular part of your body touched.
The SM community concerns itself with safety issues by supporting educational and social organizations that teach people the proper way to use their equipment. Such as: how to tie wrists without putting pressure on the insides; how to properly clean equipment; which areas on the body are unsafe to stimulate.
2. Sane is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and acting in accordance with that knowledge.
Sane includes being of clear mind, and the community strongly recommends that mind-altering substances should be avoided during a scene that impair judgment.
3. Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times. One of the recognized ways to maintain limits is through the “safeword” .
If it’s nonconsensual, then it’s abuse or assault. SM must be consensual.
Another alternative for Safe, Sane and Consensual, is Risk Aware Consensual Kink, or RACK. RACK is used by some internet-based players, by those who don’t necessarily agree with the subjectivity of Safe, Sane and Consensual, and certain others. Some people who are extremely”edgy” in their play habits also admit that they use the term “Risk Aware Consensual” in place of SSC. RACK’s main focus is on pre-negotiation with detailed informed consent, rather than the focus on the safety issues at hand. Those involved in these risky play behaviors, consider themselves well educated enough that they are willing to overlook certain safety precautions in order to enjoy the pain and the danger. RACK assumes better negotiations, as well as more detailed informed consent, than concern over the safety of the play. Most well established BDSM groups, clubs and private parties consider SSC much more appropriate for SM play than RACK.
To determine if informed consent has been reached, you can ask the following questions:
a) Was informed consent expressly denied or withdrawn? (similar to rape standards, if one of the participants withdraws consent during the activity, that must be respected)
b) Were there factors that negated the informed consent? (alcohol impairment, drug use, underage participants)
c) What is the relationship of the participants? (first encounter or long-term partner?)
d) What was the nature of the activity? (did it cause permanent harm, was it unsafe, was it enjoyable?)
e) What was the intent of the accused abuser? (to cause pleasure, to gain dominance, to hurt?)The above information was gathered from various sources, including Tammad Rimilia’s web site.
Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink
Finally PRICK was coined to add another degree of complexity into the BDSM dynamics and that is to add personal responsibility, similar to that of RACK where the focus is on pre-negotiation with detailed informed consent, but ‘PRICK’ adds a layer of the persons personal responsibility to be informed, and risk aware, moving back to taking into safety as an element of PRICK. Safety is an important component of personal responsibility as you are personally responsible to be informed and maintain a safe scene, and this is for both the Dominant and the submissive.
As above it is essential to ensure informed consent is reached between all parties involved in the BDSM activities.
Sadomasochism Isn’t What It Used to Be
Why Would Anyone Participate in S/M
Copyright © 2000 by Keith L. Kendrick, RN, Ch.
NOTE: Keith Kendrick is a Portland, Oregon Top who wrote the following essay. Permission to reprint this is freely granted, but please email him at Keith and let him know.
In major American cities today small groups of otherwise relatively normal people get together to discuss, and to a lesser extent practice, S/M. But wait a minute — doesn’t S/M mean one person who enjoys deliberately inflicting pain on another person who, for some reason, likes receiving that pain?
The answer certainly is yes, but to understand why these people gather to discuss and practice S/M, you first need to understand the difference between the old, traditional mainstream concept of sadism and masochism and the newer concept of S/M that is currently being practiced in a healthy manner. In the old concept, a sadist was usually someone who enjoyed inflicting pain on a person who had not consented to it, and a masochist was someone who felt compelled to experience the pain though it was usually considered “sick” to enjoy it. Furthermore, these participants usually had a significant psychological imbalance or disorder, and their S/M activities quite often could easily cause long term harm, both physically and mentally.
The people who gather today to form small communities and even clubs devoted to S/M enthusiasts are very different from this old concept. Before discussing this difference though, let’s examine the perception and image of pain. When most people think of pain, they attach very negative connotations to it, and the more negative the connotation, the more likely they are to think the experience of pain is awful. However, in some cultures the stoic endurance of pain has been viewed as a character builder, and consequently in such cultures it is not always thought of as something bad. In a similar vein, in medical “pain clinics” people are taught to change their thinking towards pain so that the “hurt” doesn’t bother them as much. Many of these pain clinic patients also report that as a result of creating a new attitude towards dealing with physical pain, they have made similar attitude changes and corresponding improvements in other aspects of their lives as well.
Another facet of pain is found in the “runners high,” which also occurs in some other sports activities. In this type of “high,” as a result of exhausting physical exertion people experience muscle pain that causes the body to produce endorphins, which is a natural pain-killing response. Endorphins are similar to morphine and produce pleasurable euphoric feelings. They are also a significant factor in why some people can discover pleasure in feeling pain, but there are other factors as well.
Now back to the new versus the old concept of S/M. In contrast to the old concept, this new S/M has come to emphasize the motto of “Safe, Sane, and Consensual.” This means that the S/M “play” is done in such a manner that will not cause or transmit any long term physically disabling injury or disease. Foremost is the concern with disabling muscle, skeletal or nerve injury, and the transmission of hepatitis and AIDS’s viruses as well as other diseases.
Secondly, this means that the S/M play is to be engaged in by participants who are free of significant mental impairment, whether by psychological disturbance or disorder, or by mind-altering substances.
Then each participant must willingly consent to whatever S/M activity that is performed. If during an S/M “play scene” one person indicates he or she wishes to stop, whether through a prearranged signal or an outright request, then the other person must stop immediately. Of course this requires prior communication–and people who don’t communicate well usually don’t do well in this type of S/M.
One element of the contemporary S/M scene is also associated with the safe, sane and consensual motto: respect and tolerance for other people. Most people in S/M communities act with respect towards each other even though they may dislike certain aspects of some members– this is what is meant by tolerance. Those who don’t follow this implicit rule are usually quite effectively ostracized from the group. About the only time tolerance is not shown is when someone engages in activities that are not regarded as safe, sane, and consensual, or when someone expresses hate or hostility based on unjust discrimination.
Something else also occurs due to the growth of S/M communities: their members form close relationships and often these relationships become somewhat spiritual in nature, much as the bonds that develop between “churchgoers” can enrich their spiritual lives.
Another development in this new S/M is the spiritual growth from an individual perspective, whether from that of the giver (the “top”) or the receiver (the “bottom”). This spiritual development occurs as a result of learning greater self-mastery, either in the sense of developing the ability to administer pain in such a manner that ultimately provides pleasure, or in the sense of learning to approach pain as a challenge to meet and come to enjoy. Sometimes these two perspectives will be combined in one person (who is indeed fortunate) in his or her ability to “switch” between “top” and “bottom” roles. And sometimes the development of this self- mastery becomes a varying combination of artistic and athletic expression, though it usually would be judged extreme by our cultural norms.
But regardless of whether one is a top, bottom, or switch, the accompanying inner growth brings a sense of satisfaction and sometimes real joy. Then when such personal growth is shared with someone of a similar mind in an S/M play setting, and you know you are enriching the other persons psychic/spiritual life, the energy between the two people is multiplied in a synergistic effect known as a “power exchange.” This synergy is further enhanced when the power exchange takes place among like-minded members of the S/M community.
There are also other reasons why people are attracted to this relatively new style of S/M. Some people enjoy its rebellious quality of going against society’s taboos and cultural norms. For many the allure of S/M would be significantly reduced if the majority of people were openly practicing it. But there probably isn’t much need to worry about this happening in the near future. And by no means insignificant, the thrill of doing something that goes against cultural norms, as well as the stimulation of pain itself, can cause the body to produce extra adrenaline that can be very exhilarating.
Furthermore, for many people the practice of this contemporary S/M leads to what many psychologists refer to as “flow.” This is a pleasurable and virtually universally sought after psychological experience in which a person is so immersed in his or her experience that to a great extent the “self” is forgotten and time becomes significantly altered, and the person feels enriched from the experience. This is similar to the flow experience that artists and athletes often experience. And just as extreme sports enthusiasts such as skydivers and motorcycle racers often experience this enriching state of being, so do practitioners of this new blend of art and sport called S/M.
Though this style of S/M may be an extreme in comparison to most of what society enjoys, rather than being “sick,” as some people who have narrow minds would call it, it can lead to a multifaceted enrichment of one’s spirituality. Lastly though, safe, sane and consensual S/M is simply fun–or at least it should be. If you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be doing it. But if you don’t enjoy it–which is fine, not everyone needs to–please be opened minded enough to allow others the freedom to enrich their lives with it. After all, the individual’s freedom to pursue happiness is the foundation that our country was built on.
By providing various extracts and views from different authors, and including my expressions of my experiences I hope that I have provided an informative article(s) on the difference between BDSM and Abuse. I am always happy to have a robust discussion on this topic, and to be provided with any other resources or articles that can assist with better education and removal of stigma from our beautiful communities that have the various sub cultures of BDSM and Leather.
Once again communication, trust and education is important in building positive BDSM relationships, and removing the stigma around them.