Can BDSM be truly "safe, sane and consensual"?

spiced spiced
In this article (and in this follow-up from yesterday), William Saletan argues that BDSM won't ever be completely accepted by "mainstream" society, and that one of the main reasons it won't ever be fully accepted is that the line between consensual S&M and abuse is inherently a blurry one.

He cites this study by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) which concluded that "There is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault". Saletan goes on to call lifestyle BDSM "consensual domestic violence".

What do you think? Is lifestyle BDSM really akin to domestic violence? And is it possible for BDSM to be truly "safe, sane and consensual"?
03/08/2013
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AmethystQueen AmethystQueen
Of course it's possible for BDSM to be safe. It's real easy to figure out if it's consensual....ask. If someone is hesitant in the least or isn't able to tell how they love it and why it moves them, then it's not consensual. Most lifetime BDSM'ers love what they do. If you love what you do, you'll love to talk about it to those who are trying to understand. When it's not consensual, it's abuse. He's obviously not well travelled in the BDSM world to draw a conclusion that it's usually not a voluntary act between two people.
03/08/2013
Tigerlily808 Tigerlily808
I'm in complete and total agreement with AmethystQueen
03/08/2013
Vanille Vanille
It's nowhere near DV.

BDSM is always SSC unless one plays under RACK but still, consent was given.
03/08/2013
spiced spiced
I like these answers so far. I'm just a dabbler in BDSM, but I'm glad that your well-informed opinions are very similar to my näive opinion. It seems ridiculous to me to compare consensual lifestyle BDSM to domestic violence, although a lot of lifestyle BDSM does include violence occurring within a domestic setting. Of course, the key element of separation is consent.

I didn't phrase my second question properly, or at least completely. I probably should have asked if it's always possible for BDSM to be SSC. I do think it can get blurry. Saletan talks about masochists who enjoy having their boundaries pushed and sadists who enjoy pushing masochists' boundaries, as well as situations where submissives go so far into subspace that they no longer have the presence of mind to stop the scene when things go too far.

He also brings up "permanent" contracts. From the article: “There are people that believe that if you write a contract giving up your freedom, you give it up forever,” says one BDSM teacher. In these relationships, “if the slave gives up their freedom, that’s it. It’s over.”

I believe that these and other situations are only problems with bad or clueless players. Who unfortunately give the rest of us a bad name.
03/08/2013
ShadowedSeductress ShadowedSeductress
I always ASK my partner to "beat" me much more often than he ever starts it. We both love it of course but it's always consensual and completely safe. (our safe word is umbrella, we wanted to make sure it was a word we'd never say in the bedroom)

I feel that "going too far" is true not only in the BDSM lifestyle at times, but is possible with sex in general. As long as both are in agreement beforehand then it's safe.

As far as sane goes, I'm sure many would agree that the lifestyle is a little crazy Either way, it's an exciting one!
03/09/2013
gsfanatic gsfanatic
Yep, it can definitely be SSC. The real key is with a new partner, talk out explicity what is okay and not okay before anything starts. As long as both people are willing and have a way to back out, and it stays within the agreed upon boundaries, it's fine
03/09/2013
Roz W Roz W
I think what's confusing -- and particularly if you spend a lot of time on fetlife and sites like that -- is that some of the people who are most vocal about BDSM are going to be edgeplayers. Because people who do things that seem weird or crazy to outsiders (even if they're doing them incredibly responsibly) have the most need to seek out a community, because they can't do these things anywhere else.

What sucks about Saletan's argument is that he doesn't realize that BDSM communities exist to keep people INFORMED. That people who are willing to discuss their stuff in public are the people most interested in learning about safety, and about how to do it right. That's not to say there aren't abusive people in kink, or people who don't understand the difference between play and reality. But being able to be open about BDSM -- to really hammer out the difference between consensual, prenegotiated play and abuse -- makes people safer. Applying BDSM negotiating skills to "normal" sex makes people safer.

He also doesn't differentiate between risky and non-risky activity; there is a right way and a wrong way to do almost all of the risky stuff! BDSM people have a responsibility to minimize risk, and they should get props for doing so, not just uninformed rambles about how dangerous it is.

Here's a good (pretty long!) blog post refuting Saletan: link
03/10/2013
Roz W Roz W
I don't mean to say it's always safe. I don't even mean to say BDSM communities are basically safe, because I don't think they are! But "BDSM is dangerous, don't do it" is not the argument. Because driving something underground will only make it *less* safe.

If you polled all the people in the world who have sex...I bet you'd find some confusion about the difference between sex and sexual assault. Being able to talk about sex, (and what sexual assault means!) instead of saying "don't do it, you might get assaulted" makes people safer.

The most dangerous thing is irresponsible, inconsiderate people. People in "the lifestyle" do have a responsibility to call out others who aren't being safe, and that doesn't necessarily happen, say, if someone's too popular. Self-policing doesn't really work.

I'm semi-rambling now, but the mainstreaming of BDSM could potentially make the average person more aware of safe & unsafe practices...and I wonder if that's the only way forward. Ideally this could happen without big egos and other problems getting in the way (some lifestylers are really, really sexist!) but I don't know about that.
03/10/2013
spiced spiced
Thanks, Roz W!

The blog post was informative (if a bit longer than it needed to be). I, too, felt that Saletan wrongly lumps everybody together, both good and bad players. What's wrong about that is obvious to anyone who knows much about BDSM: 90+% of players do the right thing. Unfortunately, what's sort of "right" about it is that almost the whole vanilla world does the same lumping. i do believe that the only thing which will change that is increased awareness of BDSM in mainstream society. To some extent, that's already happening. The fact that Slate published Saletan's article testifies to the fact that this is of interest to a lot of people.

I especially like this comment of yours: "The most dangerous thing is irresponsible, inconsiderate people." That's the heart of the matter. And again, I think the answer is education.
03/11/2013
RemusHalifax RemusHalifax
Wow... That's just great. If you can't tell the difference between consenting adults hitting each other (among other things) for pleasure and an abusive relationships, either you don't know what BDSM is or you don't know what abuse is. Maybe even both. Who knows.
03/11/2013
lolisadist lolisadist
As long as there is always consensual conversation and trust it will be safe
03/11/2013
novanilla novanilla
I find that my bdsm experiences are way more consensual than vanilla ones because we are more conscious of asking before we do things. When people have vanilla sex, they assume things are okay, whereas in bdsm, they want to ask before things, when really they should do it all the time, especially with new partners they don't have an established groove with yet.
03/11/2013
sillylilkitten sillylilkitten
I feel like abuse happens at about the same rates in BDSM relationships and vanilla relationships. There are assholes everywhere. It's definitely possible for BDSM to always be SSC within certain relationships between specific people, but as for the entire community, no. Basically, there can definitely be BDSM relationships where abuse clearly never happens throughout the entirety of the relationship, but there can also be relationships where abuse does happen and the line can be blurred. There will always be people who don't understand SSC or who intentionally disregard it. But just because some people who practice BDSM are abusers doesn't mean that everyone in BDSM might abuse or be abused at some point.
03/11/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
It can be safe (depends on what kind of play, if you know what you're doing, etc). It can be sane (although if you're like doing play where it involves you acting/ being/etc. not sane, that's possible also), and it can be consensual. Hopefully it's always consensual or consensual non-consent
03/12/2013
twelve13 twelve13
Definitely! We are extremely respectful of each other. If it feels good and its consensual, we do it.
04/05/2013
GONE! GONE!
I don't understand why so many people don't understand the consent part of it. Abuse is NOT consensual, that's why it's abuse. Not to mention so many aspects of BDSM are completely different than anything that actual abusers do. Unless getting someone to wear latex and handcuffs is something people do just to hurt each other now which I've never heard of anyone doing outside of consensual BDSM.
04/06/2013
Love Bites Love Bites
Quote:
Originally posted by spiced
In this article (and in this follow-up from yesterday), William Saletan argues that BDSM won't ever be completely accepted by "mainstream" society, and that one of the main reasons it won't ever be fully accepted is that the line ... More
BDSM can truly be safe, sane, and consensual. Most people are very, very respectful of boundaries and the word 'No'. A lot of what happens in BDSM is done out of love, not hate/anger/etc;
04/17/2013
spiced spiced
Quote:
Originally posted by Love Bites
BDSM can truly be safe, sane, and consensual. Most people are very, very respectful of boundaries and the word 'No'. A lot of what happens in BDSM is done out of love, not hate/anger/etc;
Absolutely. As I said in my earlier comment, I really should have asked if it's always possible for BDSM to be SSC, because that's what I meant to ask.

All of the BDSM I've been part of has been SSC (not that I've done a lot or anything). I'm sure that's not true for everyone, but I think the overwhelming majority of players do keep it SSC.

There are always a few idiots at the fringes who can screw things up for everybody, and a sensationalist media always eager to publicize any incident, no matter how rare.
04/17/2013
Love Bites Love Bites
Quote:
Originally posted by spiced
Absolutely. As I said in my earlier comment, I really should have asked if it's always possible for BDSM to be SSC, because that's what I meant to ask.

All of the BDSM I've been part of has been SSC (not that I've done a lot ... More
I'm sorry, I hadn't read above :3

Well, honestly, the players in BDSM communities tend to watch out for one another. From what I know (despite my age, I'm rather knowledgeable about BDSM~), the players in the BDSM community are always watching out for people who aren't being SSC, there are movements to try to teach the person and to protect new players to avoid the person not being SSC.

I agree- someone will take something they don't know much about, focus purely on the bad, refusing to see the good. One person can ruin it for everyone. This just happened recently, and I am now floating along searching for a new online community to join to meet like minded people.
04/17/2013
spiced spiced
Quote:
Originally posted by Love Bites
I'm sorry, I hadn't read above :3

Well, honestly, the players in BDSM communities tend to watch out for one another. From what I know (despite my age, I'm rather knowledgeable about BDSM~), the players in the BDSM community are ... More
No worries. I think hardly anyone reads all the comments.

I wonder how many of the bad players are even part of a community at all? I think with the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, a lot of people are just winging it without bothering to learn the rules or best practices. My wife and I aren't part of any community, but I did a BUNCH of reading online before I suggested to her that we try it. I'm sure a lot of people don't do nearly that much.

How to reach people who, like us, are interested in playing, but aren't interested in being part of a community, is a big challenge. Maybe Saletan's article (and others like it) can be useful, if they get people who are curious but clueless talking with experienced members of the larger BDSM community.
04/17/2013
Love Bites Love Bites
Quote:
Originally posted by spiced
No worries. I think hardly anyone reads all the comments.

I wonder how many of the bad players are even part of a community at all? I think with the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, a lot of people are just winging it without bothering to learn ... More
I was on a site but I feel the site went horribly awry and left. On there, many people were upset at the 50 Shades of Grey series. I have to agree with them- people will read those books and expect that things be the same in real life, which is dangerous to everyone.

Yes, it's hard. But local munches are good.
04/17/2013
smlove smlove
Quote:
Originally posted by spiced
In this article (and in this follow-up from yesterday), William Saletan argues that BDSM won't ever be completely accepted by "mainstream" society, and that one of the main reasons it won't ever be fully accepted is that the line ... More
It is possible to truly be safe, sane and consensual. if someone's not being 100% honest though, that's a problem. there are bad apples in every bunch, they don't make it not okay for the rest of us.
04/17/2013
Total posts: 23
Unique posters: 16