Hiding in plain sight

When a friend showed me this article today, it was creepy how similar it was to my own experience starting out in the BDSM community.  I’ll excerpt a bit of it here for with my own commentary.

“I Never Called It Rape: Addressing Abuse in BDSM Communities” – by Kitty 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. And I never came out about it before, not publicly, for a variety of reasons- I blamed myself for not negotiating enough, or clearly, or for not sticking to my guns, or I  didn’t want to be seen as being a drama queen or kicking up a fuss. Plus, the fact is, these things didn’t traumatize me, and I didn’t call it sexual assault or rape, because I felt ok afterwards. There was no trauma, no processing that I needed.
This was my experience too.  How horrible is it to be a new in this environment and have to just accept blame for actions that were never truly consensual and in any other context would have qualified as sexual assault?  But just like the vanilla world…we end up carrying that guilt and that burden because safewords weren’t honored, because scenes went too far, because my safety was not of the utmost concern to the dominant in the situation.  Somehow it’s my fault.  I wasn’t more clear when negotiating (stupid me, I thought “no paddles” meant no paddles would be used).  It’s my fault if I expose someone who treated me poorly because everyone else thinks he or she is an “expert” or Master of the craft. 
I had physical wounds.  But more importantly I had emotional and spiritual wounds caused by this type of disregard.  Submission by its very nature exposes a person’s vulnerability.  And the bad and dirty players exploited that vulnerability, betrayed my trust and worse blamed me for the results because I wasn’t “submissive enough”. 
This was traumatizing.  Make no mistake about it.  It would ruin my experience with the next dominant or top I met and make me leery of trusting myself much less ever trusting others.    As for the physical wounds, I had them.  But how do I identify the wounds I consented to and those I didn’t?  Unless it was a clear matter of “I didn’t consent to marks of any kind” how do you distinguish between a literal and unintentional “oops” and the more reckless “don’t give a fuck”?
As I reflected on the number of times I’ve had fingers in my cunt that I hadn’t consented to, or 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… 
As am I.  Because each of these things has happened to me….read on….
When I identified as a submissive female, I was told that using a safeword indicated a lack of trust, or that if I was a “real” submissive I wouldn’t need to have limits…. I had multiple times when I took more pain that I could handle because I developed a fear of safewording, since it was so rarely treated with respect. And that’s just a sample.
It’s loathsome how many times we are pressured into these situations.  Our need to serve being used to disguise a “consent by duress” for more than we can handle.  We are told to trust our dominant, that they know what is good for us…only to have them either neglect or abuse us at their whim.  I have more of these examples than I care to describe in a public forum.  I didn’t develop a fear of safewording like the author did, but I learned the hard way that safewords don’t matter if the DMs aren’t listening for them.  FYI: No one should have to scream red more than once in a public or private space. 
I got to know various men who were known behind closed doors for being unsafe to play with or for not respecting boundaries, but who still enjoyed open arms in the community at large because, while these things were things “everybody knew”, no one wanted to be pegged as the drama queen that called them out
I am still in this boat.  I am known and respected in my local community and I am just as guilty of this as others.  I know of three people in our community who should be called out on their actions and their lack of regard when playing…more if you count by reputation alone.  One sent a woman to the hospital…shouldn’t that be enough?  But he still shows up to every play party, trolling newbies and cracking his stupid-ass whip.  Others left deep emotional scars.  But since there’s no medical or police record for that, who will believe us?  And another lies on a constant basis to the community about his qualifications and experience.  And yet, we still hesitate to call them out and eventually choose not to. 
00241xfeHow is this different from choosing not to report my rape?  Or the time I was drugged?  I didn’t report back then…fearing the double standard of our legal system.  And we are in a community that essentially has to police itself because reporting such kinds of abuse to the police or the law will only reinforce the negative and often discriminatory practices that kinky folk already have to endure.  But what happens when a community doesn’t police itself?  Doesn’t take care of its own?  I think we are playing Russian roulette and eventually the legal system will get involved.   

How on earth can we possibly say to society at large that BDSM is not abuse when we so carefully hide our abusers and shame our abused into silence?

This creates a situation where predators are allowed to continue to be a part of the community, often an honored part, while past victims keep their mouths shut and hope that it doesn’t happen again to someone else. Predator Dude isn’t often a big name, sure, but they do tend to be an aspiring nanocelebrity, so there’s something to lose if you make an accusation and the community doesn’t back you up.

And in my examples, they were “respected” and are still “honored”.  Worse, they aspire to even more.

There’s a desire for status, and a desire to please, that, when mixed with a sociopath, can fuck your brain right up.

And it doesn’t even have to be a sociopath…it could be an ignorant ass or deliberate misogynist or someone who doesn’t believe in continuing to learn even after because declared by the community as a “Master”.  It could be someone who doesn’t like to own up to their mistakes or their jealousy.  They might have anger issues or an untreated mental disorder (or one whose treatment has recently changed).  But combine that with someone who is eager to please, who doesn’t like to disappoint and you have a recipe for a dishonest exchange and possibly disaster. 

(and let’s be clear, to consistently harm human beings you have had to develop an overwhelming lack of empathy over the years, but that in itself does not create a sociopath).

There are a lot of mistakes that can happen in a scene.  A flogger wrapping around your hip or a shadow masking a particular bad welt.  These are honest mistakes and they can happen to anyone.  But the people who are dangerous, who aren’t good players and possibly even predators will show you their true colors in how they respond to these mistakes.  They will show you their integrity by asking you questions before, during or after to make sure you are okay and safe (or at least within your negotiated limits).  They are focused on you.  On giving and receiving.  And they are honest. 

Our job is make sure we are honest.  With ourselves and others about our experiences.  I know for me it’s something I’ve had to train myself to do in a scene over the years.  Adequately express and address when I’ve had enough or when the pain is worse than I can handle.  And it’s so hard.  I have such a great amount of pride in my abilities, in how much I can take, in bringing out the best in others.  But sometimes, my body just can’t take it.  And I still struggle with the disappointment I feel in myself when I have to tell someone to stop a scene or stop flogging my shoulders or to turn the violet wand down.  I have such pride in myself.  And ultimately I am looking for that release.  That tender level of subspace…that place where nothing else exists except delicious and challenging sensation.  And if I can’t have that…because I was pussy enough to not take what I was given…well, then my disappointment is all my own fault.

See how easy it is to turn this around?  For the dominant to never have to take responsibility for their own actions?  See how easy it is for someone to not respect what I communicate as my limits and to escape the duty of listening and being honest both with themselves and with me as a submissive partner?

That, and the Cult of Masochism, the idea that it’s good to suffer, that your ability to suffer is what makes you valuable, that maybe if you suffer enough it will finally become pleasurable.

But it’s not just the Cult of Masochism that teaches this.  Our parents and society teach this as well.  We are told that life is a struggle.  That there is suffering and grief and only the strong survive.  Life is made into a competition of endurance and stamina and the weak are shunned and eliminated.  For some it might not be that aggressive, but think of the messages you were given as a child.  How many of us were taught that we are not “enough” and that we need to improve upon ourselves?  Our value is measured by our ability to endure suffering in almost every area of our real lives.  So, why do we expect any different from a subculture that celebrates the “real/true” submissive and honors the dominants who ignore safety and human dignity?

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