Clarisse Thorn’s new sci-fi story “Victory”

Occasional “Alas” guest-poster Clarisse Thorn has written a science fiction short story, “Victory,” about a mayor who enjoyment of BDSM gets outed when her movie-star ex-husband releases a sex tape. The story includes depictions of consensual BDSM sex, and separately, of rape. It also makes an explicit parallel between lgbt rights and BDSM rights that’s certainly given me food for thought.

Spoilers below!

The solidly-built man behind the overlarge desk nodded. “What can I do for you, Mayor?”

Serena gave it to him straight — it’s what I’m good at. “I’d like your endorsement.” Nick stroked one finger down a blue slider, tapped twice. She suspected he was firming her voice; the suspicion was confirmed as her own words sounded through her earbuds, half a second later.

“Ah. I thought you might call.” Riley steepled his fingers — haven’t seen that gesture before, she thought. Practicing our fatherly image, are we, Governor? “Let me be honest. You’ve got great perspective and it’s been good to have your support opposing this universal surveillance nonsense — the so-called ‘Neighborhood Safety Act.’ But you must be aware that I’ve been promoting myself as a family man.”

“Exactly. That’s why you can help me so well against Barnhart.”

He looked at her over his glasses. “I’m up for re-election myself.”

“Governor Riley.” Leaning forward, she discreetly used her left arm to haul her bad arm upon the desk; elbows bent, she interlaced her fingers demurely. “I know you never campaigned for queer liberation.” Nick’s hands flickered in the sea-colored glow of his screens. “I can see why sexual freedom wouldn’t seem pressing. You and your husband are established. Respected.” Her target was watching warily, but he hadn’t interrupted. “So maybe queer history isn’t a big deal for you. But the S&M Old Guard was at Stonewall, last century.”

The equivalence drawn between BDSM rights and LGBT rights seems strained. Are people being arrested for practicing BDSM, the way the patrons of bars like Stonewall were arrested merely for being gay or lesbian? Are S&M practitioners denied the right to marry, or singled out for bashing or murder? If I were the governor in the above scene, I might find a (apparently) heterosexual mayor trying to pull that equivalence to be presumptuous rather than persuasive.

But at the same time, I don’t believe the equivalence argument should be relevant. Prejudice against people who like BDSM (I’m not sure what the right term to use is, but I’d welcome being told) doesn’t have to be identical to any other bigotry in order to be a valid issue. That the prejudice exists, and is unfair, and hurts people, is enough.

Ignoring political pressures (as the folks in Clarisse’s story seem to do, by and large), the Governor should decide to support the Mayor because he thinks that prejudice against someone for liking BDSM is wrong, not because he’s gay.

I also found it funny that – even though an anti-privacy law called “The Neighborhood Safety Act” is a looming menace throughout Victory - the Mayor protagonist seems not at all bothered by the thought of millions of constituents watching a video of her having sex – it’s just her enjoyment of S/M being outed that bothers her (she even arranges to have a different sex tape, showing herself receiving oral sex, released).

Anyway, feel free to used this thread to discuss any issues raised by Clarisse’s story.

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22 Responses to Clarisse Thorn’s new sci-fi story “Victory”

  1. 1
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    I completely agree that the equivalence of BDSM and LGBTQ rights is strained! (I’ve written before that I find the orientation model of sexuality to be weird, in general.) Although there have been a few incidents of anti-SM violence, for example, they’re much less common than anti-gay violence.

    There are also, of course, many iterations of SM sex that are not at all threatening to the status quo in the same way that gay rights are. I’m a little weirded out by how many cultural conservatives appear to read and enjoy my blog, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just because I sometimes push the boundaries of feminist ideology, it’s also because — by being young and cisgendered, and writing primarily about female submission — I’m incredibly non-threatening.

    One of the odd things about writing fiction is that the way you put ideas on the table becomes really different. I originally wrote the story several years ago, but I sat on it because I was just like, “I don’t know how to publish this while still keeping my actual opinions clear.”

  2. 2
    Ben Lehman says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure. We have a sitting senator who is publicly known to be into diaper play. In terms of election, this seems to me to be a non-issue (particularly if it isn’t attached to an affair.)

    I mean, if it came out tomorrow that — say — Maria Cantwell was into bondage play with her husband, I imagine it would be the subject of a few late-night host jokes (same as if any other detail of her sex life was released) and would not otherwise adversely affect her career.

    There are some serious civil rights issues wrt kink, mostly on the polyamory side — but “invalidates someone for elected office” doesn’t seem to be one of them.

    yrs–
    –Ben

  3. 3
    Myca says:

    Are people being arrested for practicing BDSM, the way the patrons of bars like Stonewall were arrested merely for being gay or lesbian?

    Not in the US, but British law does not recognize the capability of consenting to injury, so BDSM practitioners there have to be very very careful and closeted.

    I agree with your larger point, and I don’t think it compares to the historic prejudice against gays and lesbians, but yeah … my understanding is that people are being arrested for practicing BDSM.

    —Myca

  4. 5
    Myca says:

    Heh. I was just about to drop that link in. I guess I’ll have to drop this one in instead.

    —Myca

  5. 6
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    Oh, and on the note of it not being a big deal politically:

    (SPOILER ALERT)

    At the end of the story, Serena still wins the election by a landslide. So I do agree that BDSM/whatever wouldn’t necessarily ruin someone’s electability, especially if they were already popular. I was more interested in looking at how being known for those preferences would interact with other stuff, like taking a sexual assault case to court, or already being seen as a social “deviant” in some other way (Serena is biologically modified).

  6. 7
    Elusis says:

    Yeah but to what degree was Spanner just using BDSM as a way to get to gay men?

  7. 8
    Robert says:

    I am a BDSM practitioner, and that fact – though introduced only tacitly and through smears-of-implication – was in some measure responsible for the relatively bad child custody arrangement I got in my divorce.

  8. 9
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    The biggest threats to most BDSMers are, in my opinion:

    1) Problems with child custody (as noted by Richard) — this is the biggest one by a LONG shot. People are really freaked out by the idea of “perverts” caring for kids. See also this Califia quotation.

    2) Employability — people get fired for being into BDSM all the time. Say what you will about how culture has become more liberal, this is still true. Sex blogger The Beautiful Kind was just fired in 2010.

    3) Problematic mainstream beliefs about BDSMers’ consent.

    I’ve been working on a short ebook that will attempt to summarize the usual BDSM history, cultural dynamics, community concerns, etc. I have a big section on scandals and legality; here’s the bit where I talk about Spanner –

    * * *

    Raids and Shutdowns

    There have been a few high-profile police raids at BDSM venues and parties. The most famous was called Operation Spanner; the saga began in 1987, when police in the United Kingdom raided a gay BDSM party and seized a sex video. A bunch of partiers were taken to court.

    In 1990, the BDSM sadists from the video were convicted of “assault” — and the masochists were convicted of “aiding and abetting assault.” Yes indeed, they were convicted of aiding and abetting their own assault.

    This verdict was upheld in 1993 by Britain’s highest court, the House of Lords. The case was then taken to the European Court of Human Rights, which also upheld the guilty verdict in 1997. Many of these BDSMers served jail time for their “crimes.” Outraged BDSMers established a fund called the Spanner Trust, which gives legal help to BDSMers in the UK.

    [references: http://datacide.c8.com/what-the-fuck-operation-spanner/, http://www.spannertrust.org/default.asp ]

    A similar case took place in Attleboro, Massachusetts, 2000. Police raided a warehouse and discovered a kinky sex party, then pressed charges against two people there. Fortunately, the charges were dropped, but the chilling effect remained, and a lot of Massachusetts BDSMers withdrew from the public community. BDSMers often, wryly, call the incident “Paddleboro.”

    [references: http://carnalnation.com/content/58485/1476/too-hot-handle-when-bdsm-meets-law, http://www.nerve.com/content/paddleboro, http://www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/features/00/09/28/S_M.html ]

    Paddleboro and Spanner are still mentioned in BDSM discussions about legality and consent. Dominants often express fear that they will be prosecuted for doing consensual BDSM. In one online discussion in 2012, one person wrote: “Consent has been universally rejected as a defense by the courts.”

    However, there hasn’t been a case like Paddleboro or Spanner in years. And it’s worth noting that Spanner, in particular, was a case against gay men. Some people argue that Operation Spanner was a better example of homophobia than anti-BDSM.

    Some BDSM theorists also claim that the culture has become much more accepting, and that the only reason the laws haven’t changed is that they haven’t been formally challenged. In response to the above 2012 comment, the lawyer Thomas MacAulay Millar wrote:

    There is no appellate law which accepts consent as a defense to criminal assault, and this impacts how BDSM is viewed in family court and by employers. However, prosecutors are not really confident that it would stay that way if a case were brought today, and they’ve studiously avoided prosecutions where the [sadists] and [masochists] agree that all acts were consensual. In every prosecution arising from BDSM that I’m aware of since Paddleboro, the prosecution has pleaded and attempted to prove the absence of consent, except where the acts constitute practicing surgery without a license (the Virginia castration cases are what I’m thinking of here).

    The [well-known BDSM-related] prosecutions of Hauff, Longoria, Marcus, Bagley, Senter, Ball and several others, whether they resulted in convictions or acquittals, have had as the core of the case the absence of consent.

    You’ve implied, if not stated, that people can be prosecuted just for doing consensual BDSM in the US. That’s far from unambigously true, and if it were, then Senter, for example, would have been convicted, as it was uncontested that he had done about a dozen BDSM scenes with the complainant. In fact, like sodomy laws before Lawrence [a landmark gay rights case], while the appellate law is clear, the culture has moved so much that prosecutors are simply not going to create a test case. You _will_not_see_ a prosecution for BDSM in the US where the [masochist] is prepared to say from day one, “everything we did was consensual,” unless the scene involved lopping off body parts. So in that sense, it is entirely a grey area in the US.

    [reference: http://www.consentculture.com/2012/03/fetlife-not-consent-counts-but-convictions-count-eh/

    In recent years, I have heard about cases where BDSM venues (like dungeons) were shut down on flimsy legal terms. Yet I haven’t heard of any recent cases where a sadist and a masochist went to court when they both said that things were consensual. Maybe what Thomas says is true, and the culture has moved past those cases because BDSM has gained enough mainstream acceptance.

  9. 10
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    I meant Robert, not Richard.

  10. 11
    AMM says:

    As someone who is more likely to be on the jury than a defendant, my problem with having BDSM be socially acceptable is this: how does an outsider distinguish BDSM that looks like abuse from real abuse?

    The stock BDSM answer is “BDSM is consensual, and abuse is not.” But it’s not that simple.

    (a) The most obvious problem is if the participants disagree afterwards about whether the bottom consented, or if the bottom isn’t in a position to say (e.g., dead.) Also: when tops go beyond what the bottom agreed to (or thought she agreed to), or if the bottom wants to back out — at what point does consensual BDSM become battery? A lot of the cases of BDSM abuse I’ve read about fall in this category: bottom agreed to X, top decided to do Y and Z as well, and bottom was at that point not able to get away.

    (b) There’s also the problem of bottoms/victims saying they consented when they really didn’t, or when they did so under pressure or coercion. This is a well-known issue in domestic violence cases — victims denying they are being abused even when it is obvious they are. I’ve read people in BDSM fora describing how they train their sub to not have a will of their own and present this as the ultimate in D/S. And a common complaint is doms who use psychological arm-twisting to get subs to go along with stuff they wouldn’t have chosen to do on their own.

    (c) Are there activities which one shouldn’t be allowed to consent to? I recall a story (from Germany?) of a man who found someone to cut off his (the first man’s) body parts and eat them. If you don’t argue “anything goes”, where is the line between what you can consent to and what you can’t? Are activities which carry significant risk of death OK (e.g., breath play)? How about serious injury?

    Finally, the term “BDSM” covers a wide variety of practices and contexts, but when BDSM proponents talk about it, they don’t specify which practices they think society should be accepting of. I would find it a lot easier to accept, say, spanking than, say, someone having a shotgun shoved up their butt and discharged (taken from a scene report.)

  11. 12
    dragon_snap says:

    @AMM

    Assuming that the police and prosecutors are acting in good faith, *and* that the law in one’s jurisdiction allows for consent to some forms of assault (the kinds not resulting in grievous bodily harm or death), I don’t think it would be significantly more difficult *for me* to determine if some punching and whipping, for instance, was consensual BDSM* or physical assault, than it would be to determine whether a sex act in a completely vanilla context was consensual or sexual assault. I suppose I’m also assuming that the victim was pressing charges.

    To address the specific points you made:

    a) In a legal context, I have no idea how to deal with this, or more to the point, I think we’re far from a place where we as a society are ready to address the nuances of this question legally. However, as a criminal justice system layperson, I think that renegotiating a scene in the middle of said scene should be generally unacceptable behaviour, because participation in some BDSM activities can render some bottoms and/or subs* unable to give meaningful consent. (I guess I approach it from a ‘yes means yes’ perspective.)

    *these categories aren’t synonymous

    b) for more useful and coherent thoughts than mine, I suggest Thomas Macaulay Millar’s series There’s A War On (TW for discussion and descriptions of abuse, assault, and apologist tactics) especially . (An index and summary of the whole series can be found here; each of the seven parts also has its own specific trigger warning, as some are more graphic than others.)

    c) The short answer: yes, absolutely. I think things resulting in serious bodily harm (damage to internal organs, broken bones, amputations, etc.) or death are not acceptable in a BDSM context. I think this also addresses your final question. (Personally, I think loaded guns should not be involved in the slightest in a scene; the risk of accidental harm is far too great, and I think shooting someone *on purpose* would definitely qualify as resulting in ‘serious bodily harm’ regardless of the particulars.)

  12. 13
    Ampersand says:

    AMM, the same (a) and (b) problems you refer to with BDSM and rape (from a jury’s perspective) are pretty much there with “vanilla sex” and rape. So I don’t see any reason to bring up the “other than the consent, it looks just like rape” problem with BDSM in particular, rather than with sex in general. (Clarisse’s story brought up the same problem, but I think in some ways that was a misstep on Clarisse’s part.)

    Also, the shotgun example seems too bizarre and brutal to be worth discussing in this context. There are a potentially infinite variety of specific acts, and it’s obviously not possible for BDSM proponents to every imaginable bizarre act. A lot of BDSM folks do talk about the importance of maintaining physical safety and avoiding permanent injuries; obviously “don’t jam a shotgun into your partner then pull the trigger” would fit into that general category of things to be avoided.

  13. 14
    dragon_snap says:

    @AMM

    Well, I typed up a nice long reply to your comment, which the internet then ate with no regard at all to the time and effort I’d put into it (or maybe that made it even tastier?). Anyway, here is the short version of my thoughts:

    Firstly, I’d like to highly recommend Thomas Macaulay Millar’s excellent series about abuse and rape in BDSM, “There’s A War On,” especially , which focuses on the criminal justice system. (TRIGGER WARNING for assault, abuse, and rape.) A great summary (and index!) of the seven-part series can be found (again, TW).

    The following thoughts are mostly from a ‘how should I think about this as a member of society’ standpoint, as opposed to one specifically focused on the criminal justice system:

    I don’t think it is/should be significantly more difficult to determine if some punching and whipping, for instance, was consensual BDSM or physical assault than to determine if a particular sex act was consensual or sexual assault.

    a) I think part of advocating a ‘yes means yes’ model of intimate activities (BDSM and vanilla sex, and non-sexual BDSM) includes considering renegotiating a scene once it has started unacceptable behaviour.

    c) Yes, absolutely. I think acts which result in serious bodily harm (which at the very least include damage to internal organs, broken or fractured limbs, and amputations) or death are not acceptable in a BDSM context. (I think this also addresses your last question, as shooting someone definitely falls into the ‘serious bodily harm’ category for me.)

  14. 15
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    (Clarisse’s story brought up the same problem, but I think in some ways that was a misstep on Clarisse’s part.)

    The reason I brought it up is that it’s crucial to how the mainstream understands these issues. If a famous BDSM rape case went to court tomorrow, these are the questions people would ask.

    Since this is a feminist blog, I assume that we all know that the vast majority of rape cases don’t go to court, and that the vast majority of the ones that do result in acquittals. I think that, practically speaking, it’s true that one issue with mainstreaming BDSM is that doing so might put more cases that juries currently perceive as obviously assault into what juries will perceive as a grey area. And while I agree that the mainstream understanding of consent is screwed up and limited, I also think that grand cultural change — i.e., creating consent culture — is a much longer-term issue than the issue of what could happen in a BDSM rape case tomorrow.

    I think this question is more complicated than most BDSMers want it to be, and that we need to start thinking about it more precisely and with more attention to what the mainstream actually believes, not what the mainstream should believe — since BDSM is really not meaningfully in the closet anymore, not after 50 Shades.

  15. 16
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Amp – I agree that AMM’s way of framing the problems in her post is rather loaded, but I think that it shouldn’t be so easy to dismiss the concerns she brings up, either.

    Specifically, while there are other domains – sexual and non-sexual – where the question of determining consent is often an issue, BDSM is a particularly tricky nature since a lot of BDSM involves playing with the appearance of non-consent, such as constraints. The whole idea of a sub/dom relationship is to introduce a power structure of the type that mirrors the power structures of abuse.

    I’m not an expert, but almost every tool or technique used by BDSM practicationers I’m familiar with has started its life in a different context where it is used as a tool of authority on a non-consenting subject. That includes handcuffs, ropes, whips, paddles, and so forth.

    Or to put it another way: I don’t think it is wrong to argue that BDSM is dominance recontextualised in a positive fashion; but it would be extremely bizzare to argue that sex is recontextualized rape. That doesn’t mean that BDSM is wrong or that we should allow discrimination against BDSM practitioners; but it does mean that BDSM faces structural issues with consent that are not present for vanilla sex.

  16. 17
    Robert says:

    I don’t think BDSM is dominance reconceptualized positively; BDSM contains elements of dominance and submission, period. (I have no objection to someone who wants to do the reconceptualization dance with their own sexuality, but for many of us it’s just not that layered.)

    Rather, I would say that BDSM is dominance/submission *limited in scope*. The urge to submit and the urge to dominate are both “primitive operators” in the human psyche; not everybody has the same response to each operator, but most people (at least, most people that I’ve met) have the operator in their wetware. But as it turns out, having people dominate one another in every area of life turns out to be kind of a drag. Being a slave in the bedroom can be fun; having that be part of a seamless garment of slavery that defines one’s whole life is, other than for a very small minority of people, kind of a drag.

    So BDSM is, in my view and experience anyway, more about defining a scope within which these primitive psychic operators will be permitted free or mostly free rein, while largely scrubbing them from other areas of life. Jane ties up Bill, quite ignoring his (mutually understood to be insincere) protests, and has her way with him. Later, Bill tells Jane that he’s decided to quit teaching school and take up the professional clarinet circuit, and she says “wow, what a bold decision! good luck!” rather than “the hell you are, worm.”

    There are some “lifestyle” people for whom this is not true, but a) not many in my experience and b) they tend to get exhausted with it.

    The idea that BDSM presents difficulties of consent that are alien to “vanilla” sex is, I think, also wrong. Most heterosexual sex involves a male with significantly greater physical strength than his partner. Up until very recently, and still to some extent, most heterosexual sex involves a male with economic leverage over his partner. One of the most common sexual positions (if not the most common) consists of the larger (usually) partner climbing atop the smaller partner, holding them down by weight and sometimes explicitly by enfolding in the arms, and controlling the pace and intensity of coitus. All of this requires – as feminists well know – fairly sophisticated disentangling of relationships and shared understandings and social roles and a bunch of other stuff, to get to “consent”.

    It seems, in fact, like the same process whether the sex involves linen sheets and prim missionary intercourse, or whips and chains and bungee cords and cable ties: careful discernment of motives, circumstances, and actions to determine consent and agency.

  17. 18
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Robert – I didn’t say that there are no issues of consent in “vanilla” sex, or that the types of consent issues present for BDSM are totally different from the ones found in sex more generally.

    I also didn’t say that BDSM is dominance “reconceptualized”; I said it was “recontextualized”, by which I meant something more or less along the lines of what you describe in your second and third paragraphs.

    What I was arguing against was Amp’s parallelism of sex:rape = BDSM:non-consensual dominance. That is a false analogy. Sex cannot be described as “rape with a limited scope”. You are right that a lot of sexual acts or positions are such that they can be enacted without consent. That does not change the fact that for most practitioners of consensual sex, the allusion to sex is neither present nor welcome at the act. BDSM, at least in many cases, involves a deliberate reference to non-consensual activities. Now, that’s not always the case, but it is the case for many people, including Jane and Bill in your example.

    I want to make it clear that I don’t think these are arguments *against* BDSM. They are, however, real factors that need to be addressed for BDSM to be able to grow in acceptance. And not only because the mainstream is ignorant (though it certainly is), but because there if both BDSM practitioners and victims of abuse are to be protected at the same time, then a more serious examination of the different shapes consent takes is going to be necessary.

  18. 19
    Robert says:

    Probably should have a (belated) trigger warning on this thread.

    Guh. Sorry. Misread your ‘recontextualization’. It’s hard to see through the eye holes on this gimp mask.

    That said, I don’t think the analogy is flawed. Amp isn’t saying that sex is rape with a limited scope; he’s saying that rape is sex without the element of consent. Similarly, non-consensual dominance is BDSM without the element of consent.

    I think for BDSM to gain acceptance, people have to start giving more than lip service to the notion of personal privacy and sexual diversity. Highly intellectualized considerations of sexuality are not likely to move people; “to each their own” is more likely to resonate.

  19. 20
    Eytan Zweig says:

    “To each his own” is a wonderful principle as long as everything goes right. For anything to get full societal acceptance – beyond societal apathy, or societal turning-a-blind-eye – there has to be some framework in place to address what happens when things go wrong. And that requires actually thinking about the things that people do.

    Which means that juries, for example, will need principles that help them to determine whether two people engaged in BDSM in good faith, or whether one (or both) of them was acting in a way that externally resembles BDSM but did not adhere to the core tenants of consent and safety. You (and Amp) are right that similar principles need to be in place to distinguish sex from rape. And indeed, such principles are *already* in place in many legal systems- though, as discussed in other threads here, they are far from perfect and could use substantial improving. I may have misinterpreted Amp, but it seems to me he was saying that the same principles could be in place for both sex and BDSM. I don’t think that is true, for the reasons I say above. The philosophical underpinnings of consent in BDSM may not differ much from the philosophy of consent in “vanilla” sex. But the practical manifestation of consent is going to be different and that is something that needs to be tackled seriously (and in good faith), not brushed aside.

  20. 21
    AMM says:

    Since I don’t have the many hours it takes me to write a coherent essay, just some points:

    * Determining consent in rape cases _is_ difficult. One reason (but not the only one!) a lot of rapes don’t get reported and ones that are reported don’t get prosecuted is that demonstrating lack of consent beyond reasonable doubt is hard. If it comes down to the victim’s word vs. the alleged perp’s word, you don’t have a case.

    One approach I’ve heard of is formalizing consent — writing something down, or whatever. But that doesn’t deal with the problem of people changing their mind (either way.) And most people would still consider it too unromantic.

    * No one has addressed the issue of the victim/sub being brainwashed into believing (or at least saying) that she consented, or at least not denying it. One of the ways society is trying to deal with spouse abuse is to insist that a person can be convicted of battery even if his (or her) spouse denies it, as long as there’s enough independent evidence that the battery took place. What happens when abusers can claim it was consensual BDSM, and count on their spouse to back them up?

    * I’ve spoken from the perspective of someone not in “the scene,” but it seems to me that BDSM communities have a lot of work to do before I, at least, would feel comfortable (or safe) having BDSM be socially acceptable. The stuff reported by Cliff Pervocracy and on the Yes Means Yes blog was no surprise to me. Back in the days before paywalls and members-only websites had been invented, I used to lurk in BDSM discussion groups. While there were people promoting consent, safewords, etc., there were also a lot of people promoting the practices and situations that were hard or impossible to distinguish from abuse, and it was precisely these practices which seemed to be considered glamorous and “edgy.” (That’s the context in which the shotgun-up-the-butt story was told.)

    As long as BDSM communities themselves are unwilling to grapple with distinguishing legitimate BDSM (whatever that is) from abuse, they can hardly expect outsiders to do so.

  21. 22
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    I have a piece from earlier this year called Aftercare or Brainwashing? (which was also cross-posted to Alas) where I tried to get at some of my concerns about this, which may reflect somewhat on AMM’s as well. I wrote another piece recently, too, called Thinking Clearly About BDSM vs. Abuse.

    What counts as “the community being willing to grapple with” these issues? I’m not asking to be snide, or snarky, or flip, I’m asking because it’s something I honestly have trouble with myself. I’ve sat on panels in the community about BDSM and abuse, and I’ve attended workshops, and there are more and more writings on the Internet about it. How much of this would have to exist for you to feel comfortable, AMM? Again, I’m not asking to be snarky, I’m asking because I actually don’t know how comfortable I personally feel with it, or what threshold of activity would make me feel more comfortable. I’m trying to figure that out.

    I don’t have any answers to the legal questions. But as someone who’s on record as trying to destigmatize BDSM, I also want to be on record as explicitly agreeing that these legal concerns are both legitimate and hard to solve. I think that those of us within feminism who used to focus on destigmatizing BDSM are starting to see that it has become pretty well destigmatized, and hopefully we’ll start looking past the party line towards what the complications are going to be, because a continued focus on destigmatization is not going to cut it.