Danielle Paradis and Dylan Richards explore the ways in which rape can be prevented with in kink and BDSM communities.
Danielle: I had always thought that kink held the golden standard when it came to obtaining consent. I mean, it’s a place where you explore things that usually don’t come without some planning. When I wrote my first GMP piece about safety party tips, for men and women, in response to a piece that seemed to suggest rape was some sort of inevitability, I mentioned “munches”, informal gatherings in the kink community as a good place to begin for the novice kinkster.
However the kink community isn’t without the same consent issues that are everywhere else. From the Yes means Yes blog last year comes stories about a “war” within the Kink community that speaks about abuse within the community:
“Do rape and abuse happen in kink communities? Yes. Yes they do. In any forum where people have the space to talk about it, stories come out. For most of my adult life (and I’ve engaged with other kinky people in some forum or other for just about my entire adult life) the only forums where those stories were welcome were small conversations among friends. Recently, that has started to change, and there is a new paradigm of open discussion which threatens to upend the applecart and actually change the way things operate.”
We’ve seen in cases like Steubenville that when people become immersed in a subculture they can turn a blind eye to abuse. In this way you see a culture rise up to protect the abuser often by seeking to discredit victims. Last year Salon.com ran a piece by Tracey Clark-Flory, discussing the problems of sexual assault in the BDSM community. She recounted the experiences of Maggie Mayhem and Kitty Stryker, two kinksters who are speaking out against the abuse in the BDSM community.
I’m not really a kinkster (or at least not a very public one) so I asked my friend Dylan Richards to weigh in on this. We met at a rope bondage class—he was teaching I was watching fascinated, so I felt he was qualified to weigh in on this subject.
Dylan: In the various BDSM communities that I’ve presented to and partnered with, consent is considered paramount. Both newcomers and long-time community members are regularly reminded “don’t touch anything without asking—toys or people.” Those who choose to ignore this basic rule often find themselves blacklisted or unable to find people who will agree to play with them. Unfortunately, like any other rule that excludes those who break it, this can foster a sub-culture of unsafe BDSM practitioners that are outside of the social pressures of the kink community.
The simple fact of the matter is that the kink and BDSM community, like any community, has the potential to become a breeding ground for the worst parts of human nature. Kink doesn’t exist outside of the greater culture we live in, and the same sicknesses can sneak in. But what I see in the kink community is a potential for change, an example of a better way.
This raises the important point: while not perfect, the kink community is actually a great model for obtaining consent. Far more care is given to negotiation and consent than in other sexual situations. What we need to begin is a dialogue and sharing of experience in HOW to consent. For example, one great negotiation tip is that it’s much easier and safer to “consent” rather than “not consent”. ie. “I will let you tie me up until I call the safe word, and you will stop no matter why I call it” rather than “You can’t hit me with anything heavy”. Focusing on the things that are permitted rather than those completely off-limits shrinks the area for confusion or “you didn’t SAY not to” a great deal.
In the same article from the Yes means Yes blog, the author states “It’s easy to be against rape and abuse, you see, as long as it’s in the abstract… as long as the proposed solution does not require any tough choices to be made, expose anyone with important friends to actual accountability or threaten to actually change the way things are.” Harsh words maybe, but actually taking steps to confront what allows rape to keep occurring calls for more than the application of rhetoric. The kink world isn’t immune to the scourge of rape and sexual abuse plaguing our ill society, but they have both models and experience on what consent means and how you obtain it.
Talking about consent, clarifying what consent is, may at least be the beginnings of a vaccine.
*This post has been slightly edited from the original version.