Content Note: This post focuses on rape and rape culture, especially in kink communities. Please refer to our glossary for definitions of a number of key BDSM terms.
Last week, I began this series by describing my own history and love affair with kink and enthusiastic consent. As I wrote–and I’m sure I’ll talk about again–BDSM communities have developed numerous elaborate tools for negotiating boundaries and consent–tools that have gone on to influence more mainstream perpectives on consent as well. It is also true that the community is full of radical allies who care deeply about consent and do their best to honor it. So this is awesome! But it can create a false sense of security, and blind us to the reality that BDSM communities actually have a big problem.
[Edit: For those who have been following debates on abuse in the kink scene over the last 18 months, some of this post may be review, but I hope you’ll find some new material; we’ll dive into original material in earnest in the next parts. For everyone else, I hope it is eye opening—but not paralyzing, for there is much work to be done.]
Evidence of a Crisis
In January 2013, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), a legal advocacy organization for kinky and/or ethically non-monogamous people, released a survey about consent in BDSM communities. At the very end of they summary of findings, NCSF writes:
Additionally, 30.1% of respondents indicated that they had a pre-negotiated limit violated and 14.9% had experienced having a safe word or safe sign ignored. The aggregate total is 33%: 1 in 3 kinky people have experienced a consent violation, further emphasizing the need for greater education.
33%. That’s dramatically higher than the already-way-too-high rate of sexual assault in America (20%).
Susan Wright from NCSF says the results indicate “there is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault.”