Happy birthday to…you all!

Today is my birthday! Unfortunately, I’m spending it at home in front of my computer rather than out celebrating, because I’m in the middle of a very nasty allergy attack and I feel miserable.

However, I’d like someone to have a good time, and it might as well be you. So, in honor fo my birthday, I’ve created a coupon to let people download my BDSM novel Nineteen Weeks from Smashwords for a discount!

Nineteen Weeks is a story that takes the tropes of a conventional bodice-ripper romance and turns them all on their head. It follows Amy, a housewife to a successful lawyer, who discovers him cheating on her and decides to turn the tables by taking control of her husband…and his mistress. And it’s been getting a bunch of lovely five-star reviews on Amazon.

Anyway, for the next month, you can download it at a discount by using coupon code VE87E. Enjoy! And if you like it, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads or Amazon!

Threesomes and intrigue and kink, oh my!

As some of you may know, Gentle Readers, among all the other things I do, I write porn. Well, erotica, I guess. I’ve never been entirely clear on the distinction. Sex stuff. I write sex stuff. Novels about people having kinky sex.

Long novels about people having kinky sex.

These novels are published under a pseudonym, and I’ve just released a new one. It’s called Nineteen Weeks.

The premise of Nineteen Weeks is straightforward: Amy, a suburban housewife married to a successful man, discovers that her husband is having an affair. But after she catches him red-handed with his mistress, she decides to deal with his infidelity in an unusual way; since her husband and his mistress had been sleeping with each other behind her back for nineteen weeks, she demands that they give her back that time, and pledge themselves to her to do anything she asks for nineteen weeks.

I deliberately tried, in this book, to take every one of the tropes of a conventional romance and flip them all on their heads. The powerful man takes control of the shy and inexperienced woman? Nope. The torrid affair ends with them settling down? Not quite. The–well, you’ll have to read it and see.

Plus it might be the only porn novel that quotes Ovid.

Anyway, check it out! You can find it here. If you despise the romance genre and you like kinky sex, this book might be exactly what scratches your itch.

Now through the end of September, you can get it for $2.00 off using the coupon code XQ68N. And patrons who support me on Patreon get a coupon code to download it free!

Help make the world a sexier place!

I have a friend named Emily Bingham. She’s a rope bottom and a fetish model, and if you’ve read this blog for a while you’ve doubtless seen photos I’ve done of her, like the ones of her tied up in the ruins of an old house I posted here (link is not safe for work, of course).

What you might not know is she’s also a writer, and a damn good one at that. She’s one of the top erotica writers on Amazon (under a pseudonym), and now she’s launching a new project: a true memoir of her experiences and adventures in rope. The book is long, and covers thirty stories, some of them funny, some of them sexy, some of them heartbreaking.

And she needs your help.

Emily is running a crowdfunding campaign to finance the memoir. I’ve been lucky enough to see an early version, and it’s awesome. I highly encourage you to check out her crowdfunding and help support it.

It’s an important book. It covers the ups and downs–sex, erotica, assault, consent–of life in the world of BDSM, and does it unflinchingly and with absolute candor. It’s the kind of book we need if we’re going to help move the BDSM community in the direction of ethics and consent.

And did I mention it’s sexy?

Please, check out the crowdfunding. If it appeals to you, support it.

BDSM Ethics Part 2: Some Thoughts on Making the World Better

In Part I of this essay, I wrote some initial thoughts about the BDSM Pledge Web site. To recap briefly (as if I am ever brief): The BDSM Pledge site is an attempt by Kink.com, a producer of BDSM-related porn, to start to codify a set of guidelines for responsible, ethical BDSM.

This is not really a new idea, of course. Folks have been thinking about how BDSM is distinct from abuse for at least as long as there have been words for consensual BDSM. A lot of folks have coalesced around two short, bumper-sticker-sized expressions: “SSC” (for “Safe, Sane, and Consensual”), and “RACK” (for “Risk Aware Consensual Kink”). They both have the notion of consent in common, but after that, things go a bit off the bend.

The RACK folks like to point out that no activity, from whipping your lover to climbing a stepladder with a hammer in your hand, is really entirely ‘safe,’ and ‘sane’ is often in the eye of the beholder. The SSC folks, on the other hand, see the notion of risk-aware consensual kink as overplaying consensuality to the point where it leads into some decidedly questionable territory; if two folks decide they have a cover-the-submissive-in-chum-and-drag-him-through-shark-infested-waters fetish, does that mean the unfortunate outcome is okay because they both knew the risks and were on board with the idea?

Honestly, I see both points. It makes sense to me that both SSC and RACK are reaching toward something that’s simple in conception but slippery in the details: different people have different tastes, there is no such thing as perfect safety, and as long as the folks involved understand that and aren’t being totally reckless with one another’s safety, there’s value in letting people get down to it.

But I don’t think SSC or RACK are, by themselves, sufficient for ethical BDSM. In fact, I think they’re both so narrow in focus that they miss something really important: There is more to ethics than what you and your lover get up to in the bedroom (or attic or kitchen or dungeon, as your tastes may dictate).

It’s one thing to be ethical to your partner, your confidant, and/or the source of your nookie. It’s an entirely different thing to be ethical toward members of your community, even ones you don’t like, and toward the great mass of humanity as a whole. After all, we as human beings are arguably hard-wired to behave very differently toward people in our inner circle than we are toward acquaintances or strangers. One of the failings I see in many conversations about ethical BDSM is that the discussions tend to focus on the ways we behave toward our partners, but not on the ways we behave toward folks we aren’t involved with. I think that’s a shortcoming of ideas like RACK and SSC; a code of ethics needs to be broader in its scope.


I’ve written before about how we in the BDSM community tend to talk the talk about consent, but we often don’t walk the walk. I have seen behavior at BDSM events and play parties which I think violate the ideas of consent and autonomy, in ways large and small–swatting the ass of that cute submissive who walks by, wrongly believing that just because she’s a submissive so that makes it OK; disregarding people’s boundaries because it’s an acceptable thing to do (after all, isn’t the point of BDSM to challenge people’s boundaries? Right?); even full-on sexual assault. Granted, no community is perfect; take any group of people (folks interested in BDSM, folks with red hair, folks with medical degrees, folks who drive Toyotas) and if it gets sufficiently large you’ll find some bad actors.

But it’s particularly worrisome, to me, to see people behaving poorly in the BDSM community, precisely because the BDSM community claims to value consent so highly.

Consent is the cornerstone of what we do. Consent is the defining element that separates us from abusers. Yet, in spite of that, I have seen far too many examples of non-consensual behavior in the BDSM community for my liking, and more to the point, I’ve seen non-consensual behavior tolerated. That’s something that a code of ethics needs to address.

When we talk about people behaving unethically in the community, it’s surprising how many times it seems that everyone knows who the bad actors are. There’s a good essay on this topic called The Missing Stair over on The Pervocracy. When something bad happens in any community, far too often everyone already who the perpetrators are. The bad actors are like a missing step in a staircase, in that when you become accustomed to jumping over that step, you can forget how dangerous the missing step actually is.

A comprehensive set of ethics must include not only ethical treatment of our partners, but also ethical treatment of other people in the community. And, as an important element of that, it must include creating a community that does not shelter people who behave badly.

I’ve seen the BDSM community close ranks behind a member who sexually assaulted submissive women in the community, without their consent; I’ve seen how people who came forward to talk about the assault were ostracized. This is something that simple slogans like “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” or “Risk Aware Consensual Kink” don’t address. Ethics means more than “I will only engage in consensual behavior toward others;” I think it also extends to “I will not excuse non-consensual behavior on the part of others in my community,” too.

I read recently about sexual assault that took place at Burning Man, and one of the things that struck me about the story was the commenter who said “I’m sure this guy [the rapist] knew someone out there… where were they to keep him in check?”

Which, I think, misses the point. In any community, it is not the responsibility of the people who know the bad actors to keep them in check. It’s everyone’s. If you’re there, that means it’s yours. If I’m there, that means it’s mine.

It is incredibly difficult to intervene when we see something bad happening. It’s easy to ignore evil; it’s easy to rationalize non-intervention. Someone else will do something, we say. It’s not my job to police the community. Where are his friends? They should be the ones to keep him in check. I don’t even know this guy; why should I be the one to step in?

And so, nobody does. The missing stair goes unfixed.


So, let’s get down to the meat of the issue. If I were to invent a set of ethical guidelines for BDSM, what would it include? It’s important to understand that ethics go beyond simply taking responsibility for our own actions; they also extend to not standing idly by while other people behave unethically. And, most importantly, any reasonable code of ethics must include the idea that each one of us bears responsibility for making our community an ethical place.

So I were to invent a set of ethical guidelines for the BDSM community, it would probably look something like this:

• In my interactions with partners, I recognize that their ongoing participation is voluntary, even in total power exchange or M/s style relationships. I recognize the agency of my partners, and I understand that the moment I attempt to do things to a partner that he or she no longer wishes to participate in, or that a partner attempts to do to me that I don’t wish to participate in, we have moved away from BDSM.

• I recognize that my tastes are not shared by everybody, and other people’s tastes may not be shared by me. Because of that, I respect the agency of the people around me. They are more than simply a role; I will not make assumptions about what is and is not permissible to do with someone simply because that person identifies as “at top” or “a bottom” or “a submissive” or “a dominant,” without actually considering that not everyone regards these roles to have exactly the same meaning.

• I acknowledge that unethical behavior is something that can happen in my community, and when it does, that is a reflection not only of the person who is committing the unethical acts, but also on me, and on the rest of my community. I can be judged positively on my willingness to intervene against unethical acts, or negatively on my willingness to look the other way.

• Consent is the cornerstone of ethical behavior. Even small violations of consent are unethical acts. Therefore, I will make consent a priority. Sloppy attitudes about consent, such as swatting the ass of any attractive submissive who walks by, or barking orders to anyone who presents as submissive regardless of whether or not any sort of relationship exists, are not acceptable.

• In addition, I will expect the rest of my community to step up and make it clear that sloppiness about consent isn’t OK. There’s a Geek Social Fallacy that says “Ostracizers are always evil.” This fallacy needs to be recognized for what it is. Folks who behave inappropriately need to be told they are behaving inappropriately. It needs to stop being ignored. A person who witnesses inappropriate or non-consensual behavior in the community and does nothing about it, becomes complicit in it. It is not evil to take a stand against people who behave inappropriately. If I am the person witnessing inappropriate behavior, it is my responsibility to be the person who steps forward.

• I will not behave with hostility toward people, especially women and most especially submissive women, who come forward to report abuse. (When my friend was raped–and let me make clear that this was not an edge case, a fuzzy boundary thing, or an after-the-fact buyer’s remorse thing, but a he-physically-restrained-her-and-put-his-penis-in-her-vagina rape–the amount of backlash she experienced when she came forward to talk to other people about it was astonishing. And not just from self-described dominants or from men; the number of women who responded with some variant of ‘well, if you were REALLY a TRUE submissive then you wouldn’t have problems with this’ was just amazing.) I will make it my responsibility to build a community in which this kind of thing is not acceptable. I recognize that people who engage in victim-blaming and rationalization are part of the problem; whether it is their intent or not, they are providing cover for abusers.

• It is an unfortunate fact that abusers can exist at any level within a community, even among community leaders. This creates a particularly difficult situation, because when abuse done by a community leader surfaces, there can be a powerful incentive to look the other way. Rationalizing is astonishingly easy to do. “Well, I wasn’t there and so I don’t know what REALLY happened, and I’ve hung around with this guy and he seems like an OK dude to me, so you know, maybe there’s nothing really to it, I bet she’s just causing drama…” If I learn about inappropriate behavior in the community but do nothing about it, I become complicit in it.

• Reputation and references alone are not necessarily reliable indicators of a person’s character. When a community punishes abuse victims from coming forward and shields abusers, then says “If you want to protect yourself, just see what other people have to say!” the result is to create an environment that makes it almost impossible to spot the bad actors. Of course people who have had bad experiences aren’t going to come forward and say so; the price is too high. The result is a situation like the one my friend experienced where she asked a lot of folks around the community about her attacker and got glowing reviews, even though he was a serial abuser…because the community is so hostile to people who talk about abuse that none of his previous victims came forward.

• Affirmative consent is important. If someone does not say “it is OK for you to put your penis in me,” I will not put my penis in that person. It’s not enough that she didn’t say “no, you can’t put your penis in me.” I will not assume that simply because I haven’t been forbidden to do something, that means it’s OK to do it. (This does not necessarily mean that it’s not OK to play with consensual non-consent, of course. I personally am a big fan of consent play and consensual non-consent. I talk to my lovers about it before doing it; it is absolutely possible to have affirmative consent to engage in consent play.)

• It is my responsibility to be compassionate and receptive if I am told of abuse within the community. There are significant barriers to disclosure, both institutional in the community and personal in the shame that tends to follow sexual assault. I will not add to these barriers. I will not become part of the reason that victims feel they can not step forward.

• Consent for activity A does not imply consent for activity B. Consent to a light spanking scene does not imply consent to a singletail scene. Consent to being tied up does not imply consent to sexual intercourse. At the end of the day, if person A puts his penis in person B without permission, anything that happened in a BDSM context up to that point is utterly irrelevant; it’s assault and it’s not OK.

• There needs to be less trivializing and minimizing when assault happens. “So he fucked you after you agreed to be tied up. That’s not REALLY rape; I was assaulted in an alley by strangers, and that’s far worse than what you experienced!” is not OK. While it is part of human nature to do this, and identifying with the attacker and minimizing other people’s victimization are part of the defense mechanisms we employ against abuse, this kind of minimization of poor behavior creates an environment where poor behavior is tolerated. A policy of no tolerance for assault, violent or not, in the BDSM community is an important part of ethical BDSM.

• On the flip side of the same coin, it is important to understand that if I am assaulted, the assault is not OK even if I did agree to be tied up first, or even if I did agree to play with this person first. People who are assaulted will often tend to trivialize their own experience. Better policing of the community, less tolerance by members of the community for assault, and better education for what constitutes assault are all important.

• It is not OK to play the “shoulda game.” When my friend was assaulted, a lot of folks came forward to say “well, she shoulda done this” or “you know, she shoulda done that.” When the “shouldas” are about things that happen before the assault (“well, she shoulda got more experience with him before she agreed to let him tie her up,” “well, she shoulda said ‘no’ more plainly”), it’s just plain old-fashioned victim blaming. When the “shouldas” are about things that happened after the assault, they’re a form of abdication of responsibility. After the assault, I heard one person in the community who is generally an otherwise decent bloke say “Well, she shoulda gone to the police after it happened,” and then used that as an excuse not to support her, but to support the attacker instead. We can’t expeect victims to follow some script that we make up in our heads and then withdraw support from them if they don’t follow that script. The community needs to be better at policing itself and enforcing standards of acceptable behavior regardless of whether or not people who are assaulted respond to the assault the way we think they should.

Many of these ideas center around the way we conduct ourselves in our community rather than simply in private. This is necessary, both to create a vibrant, healthy community that does not shield abusers, and to help ensure that our community is not targeted as a haven for abusers by the outside world. Whether we like it or not, and whether we agree with it or not, when members of our community behave poorly, it is a reflection on all of us…particularly if we fail to step up and stop it.


My buddy edwardmartiniii has written an essay on the value of policing our social groups in order to create ethical spaces. He also has some suggestions about fixing the problems we see around us. I have linked to these before, but I think it needs to be mentioned again. If we are to do what it is we do ethically and with compassion, these are important ideas.

To that end, I now wear a blue button on my jacket. That button is a reminder to myself: if I am to be an ethical, compassionate human being, it is not enough that I do no evil. I must also choose not to look the other way when others do evil within my community. If I want a community that does not offer a haven to abusers, it is my responsibility to make that happen.

Interview: So your girlfriend has read 50 Shades; now how do you start with BDSM?

A short time ago, I received an email from a writer for Men’s Health magazine who’d found me online and wanted to interview me about BDSM. Specifically, the interview was about how someone who’s read the book 50 Shades of Grey and found the ideas in it interesting might take the next steo and start exploring BDSM in a relationship.

The interview was focused mainly on maledom/femalesub dynamics, presumably because that’s the type of D/s described in 50 Shades. As of writing this, the issue of Men’s Health containing the interview isn’t on the newsstands yet, but I’ve received permission from the interviewer (@ peachesanscream on Twitter) to post a raw transcript of the interview here.


I’m writing an article for Men’s Health magazine as a beginner’s guide to BDSM. The idea behind it is that their girlfriend has read 50 Shades of Grey and they’ve experimented with sex toys, but now they want to go a bit deeper into BDSM.

I was wondering if I could please ask you a few quick questions and in return credit you in the article?

I realize that 50 Shades of Grey is credited with helping to popularize the idea of BDSM, but I don’t think it’s actually a very good introduction to the subject. It’s a fantasy story, and as fantasy it doesn’t paint a good picture of BDSM. It’s a bit like taking marriage and relationship advice from the Disney movie “Sleeping Beauty,” only with the added problem that many of the activities described in 50 Shades aren’t very safe.

Still, it is helping to open a dialog about BDSM. If it helps open the door for people who ‘ve always wanted to explore spicing up their relationship but haven’t been able to figure out how, that’s awesome.

Role play: how do you get started? How can a man act dominant without being mean or scaring his partner? Things like eye contact, instructions, body language etc?

As with any new thing in a relationship, you get started by talking. Sounds simple, right?

The hard part is that we live in a society that does not teach us how to talk openly about sex. It can be scary to talk about exploring something new; what if your partner says no? What if your partner thinks you’re weird? What if you try it but it doesn’t work? Does that mean your partner will reject you? How do you bring it up? Is it normal to want to do these things? It’s easier to just not talk about it.

Getting started with role-playing (or with any other kind of BDSM) requires being able to talk about it, and that takes courage. The best way I know of to start that conversation is directly, with “Hey, you know, I love having sex with you, and there are some things that I would like to try. I think it might be fun to explore ___. What do you think?” As tempting as it is to try to bring things up indirectly, by dropping hints, that almost never works. After all, if it’s something that’s too scary for you to talk about directly, why would it be reasonable to expect your partner to be willing to talk about it directly?

Communication is important because being dominant is different for every person. What one person thinks is sexy, another person would find intimidating and a third person would find mean. Some people like the idea of having their partners tie them down; other people don’t like that, but might want to be held down; still other people don’t want to be restrained at all, but might be turned on by the idea of being spanked; and other folks might not like any of that but be thrilled by their partner telling them what to do. All of those things count as “acting dominant.” It’s important for the dominant partner to learn what gets the other person going (and what doesn’t), because this sort of thing really only works if it works for everyone.

Talking about what turns you on and what you don’t like is the key to creating a safe, happy, healthy space to explore things like role-playing or dominance.

What sort of things should he say?

That’s something that depends on the people involved. The most wonderful thing about BDSM is there isn’t just one way to do it. It’s something that every couple creates themselves out of the things that turn them on.

Sometimes, a good way to have a conversation about what you’d like your partner to say or do can be started by reading erotica. If there’s some passage in 50 Shades or a letter in a letters magazine that revs your engine, sharing it with your partner and saying “I like this, what do you think?” can help get the conversation going.

Whatever he (or she; it’s not only men who are dominant!) might say, one important trick is to say it with confidence. A simple “Go into the bedroom and wait for me” spoken with confidence is a lot sexier than the most elaborate scenario spoken with hesitation.

One of the things I personally enjoy is taking my lover close and whispering in her ear exactly, in precise language, what I would like to do to her body. It’s fun to do this in public, say if we’re out running errands, to help prime the pump and get us both thinking sexy thoughts. When we get home, she will know what to expect.

Another thing I’m quite fond of is lying in bed close to my lover, snuggled up against her while I tell her how to touch herself.

As with anything else, different people have different tastes. Exploring, experimenting, and finding what works is the key.

What about verbal abuse? Is it ok to call women names eg. filthy slut, during sex? How does he know not to go too far?

One thing I believe quite strongly is that abuse is never appropriate.

Having said that, anything that is consensual and done for the pleasure of everyone involved isn’t abuse. If a woman is aroused by her lover whispering filthy things in her ear and calling her dirty names, that’s very different from a stranger on the street calling her the same names. The first one is not abuse; the second is.

I have had partners who like being called names during sex and partners who don’t. For me, it can be fun and sexy, if it’s something she likes. I can often tell how a lover will respond to this kind of verbal play by asking her “Do you like being a dirty girl?” while we’re making out. If she finds that arousing, it’s usually pretty obvious.

This is something that a lot of men have difficulty with. I’ve talked to many men who have partners who’d like to try dirty talking, but the men don’t know how to start. There are a couple of things that can make it hard: fear of feeling silly, and a deeply-ingrained belief that it’s wrong to talk to women that way.

Fortunately, both of those things tend to go away pretty quickly with practice. There’s nothing wrong with feeling a little awkward when you try something new. After all, nearly everything we do is awkward the first time; remember how awkward it was the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? And it’s never wrong to talk to a woman the way she wants you to talk to her. In fact, treating someone the way they want to be treated is, to me, the highest kind of respect. I can say all kinds of dirty things to a lover, call her all kinds of sexy names, and still keep in mind that it’s a form of role playing; it doesn’t actually mean that I don’t respect her, or that I think less of her.

What signs should he look out for that she’s offended? How can he tell if he’s gone too far?

That comes down to communication again, and to paying attention to what she likes and how she responds. The simplest way I know of to find out how far is too far, or what a woman does and doesn’t find sexy, is to ask her!

Different people have different tastes in dirty talk. Some women love being called a dirty, filthy slut, but don’t like words that go to their self-worth, like “stupid” or “worthless.” Some women love the C-word, some women hate it, and some women don’t have strong feelings one way or the other. And, of course, some women don’t care for dirty talk at all.

It gets a bit complicated because most of us, no matter how well we know ourselves, have a hard time predicting how we will react to something new. I’ve known women who believed they wouldn’t like dirty talk, but who found it arousing when they were turned on. I’ve known women who liked reading stories involving dirty talk but didn’t like it in real life. That’s all a normal, natural part of human variability.

So the only way I know of to stay within the lines and keep it fun and exciting is to go slowly and to pay attention. Start simply–“Are you a dirty girl?” Invite a response. And, as always, talk about it.

Do you have any other tips for how a man can play the dominant role as a beginner in BDSM?

Whenever you try anything new, it won’t always go 100% the way you expect it to 100% of the time. Be willing to be surprised. There may be times when your partner has an unexpected reaction to something, and you have to stop what you’re doing. That’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re doing things wrong; it just means that when you explore something new, things won’t always be perfect.

A lot of people who talk about BDSM talk about it from the perspective of taking care of the submissive partner and being aware of the submissive partner’s limits. But it’s also important to understand that being in the dominant role can make you feel vulnerable, too. Dominants also have limits, and it is possible for something to happen that triggers a reaction in the dominant partner. The people involved should keep the limits and responses of the dominant in mind, too.

BDSM is about exploring pleasure and trust together. When you look at it from the outside, it can seem like one person doing things to another person, but it’s really more about two people doing things together, but in different roles. The goal is to have fun. If you’re doing that, it’s all good.

Unlike what you tend to see in books and movies, BDSM doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Sometimes, it can be very silly. There’s a game I like to play called the “two frogs” game. A frog has two eyes and four legs, so two frogs have four eyes and eight legs. I’ll say “Three frogs! One frog! Four frogs!” and if she doesn’t respond instantly with the right number of eyes and legs, she gets spanked. It’s very silly, but also a lot of fun.

How do you broach the idea of using stronger sex toys such as nipple clamps on your (female) partner? (( we’re assuming that they’ve already experimented with sex toys at this point. So it’s not totally virgin **ahem** ground)) Should you start by squeezing her nipples during sex, then asking her after? Is there a smooth way to do this?

I’m a big fan of communication in a relationship, as you’ve probably guessed. A good general rule abut sex that I’ve found works pretty well is don’t just do things and hope for the best; talk about them first. You can’t always be expected to know where someone’s boundaries are, and you don’t want to find them by accident.

When it comes to anything, from using a vibrator to using nipple clamps to chaining my partner to the wall and spanking her until she’s squirming, I find out whether or not she’s interested by talking to her about it. A great way to do this is by discussing fantasies (and this is a two-way street; talk about the things that interest you, and also encourage her to talk about the things she fantasizes about). And remember that being receptive is also a two-way street…if you’d like her to be open to the idea of having nipple clamps on her, you can’t freak out if you discover she’d like to use them on you!

A lot of people ask me “How can I get my girlfriend to do so-and-so?” I think that’s the wrong approach. You don’t GET your partner to do things for you; this person is your lover, not a circus animal. Instead. you talk about things you’d like to explore, you listen when she talks about things she’d like to explore, and you find the overlap.

How do you broach the idea of trying anal sex? Is there a non-offensive way to do this? Should you try touching her there first to see how she’d react?

People tend to be touchy about their asses. Legions of bad advice columns in Cosmo magazine aside, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go poking at a lover’s ass and hope for the best.

Is there a non-offensive way to ask? Sure! “I’m interested in exploring anal sex. How do you feel about it?” Talking directly and openly about what interests you is never offensive, provided you’re okay with hearing “no” as an answer. To me, it only becomes offensive if you have an expectation that the answer has to be “yes.”

And remember the part I said about being receptive to what she has to say if you want her to be receptive to what you have to say? If she says something like “You know, I’ve always wondered if it would be fun if I stick my finger up your bum while I give you a blowjob” and you freak out about that idea, then you can’t really expect her to be calm about the things you suggest. It’s okay if that idea doesn’t appeal to you, just like it’s okay if anal doesn’t appeal to her; if she suggests something that doesn’t work for you, a simple “Well, that doesn’t really do it for me” is enough.

How can you gain her trust enough to get her to cede control to try light bondage? Would it be something like agreeing safe words before? Or using ties that don’t tie up too tightly? Or maybe letting her try it on you first or using your hands?

I don’t think that you “get” someone to trust you. Instead, I think people trust you when you are a trustworthy person. There is no secret to getting people to trust you other than being a person who deserves trust.

Part of the way that you earn trust is by respecting your partner’s boundaries. Part of it is by treating your partner with respect and compassion, even if she says things that surprise you or that turn you off. And I shouldn’t really have to say this, but part of it is by being a person who’s honest, someone who can be relied on to behave with integrity.

I had an acquaintance many years ago who was a serial cheater; he would brag about all the women he’d cheated with, and he tended to go through partners pretty quickly. He always wanted to try bondage, but he never found a woman who would say “yes.” I think on some level all the people he slept with knew that he couldn’t be trusted. One of his partners, for a brief time, was a model. I was a photographer at the time, and I did a bondage photo shoot with her. He was very surprised when he saw the pictures, because he’d asked her about trying bondage and been told “absolutely not.”

I think that people often are apprehensive about trying new things in the bedroom, and bondage is no exception. Starting with light bondage is perfectly appropriate, as is agreeing on a code word that means “untie me right now.” I also advise that people keep a pair of bandage scissors handy when they explore for the first time. You can get these for a couple of dollars at any drug store. They have one pointed blade and one rounded blade, and they’re designed to be slid underneath a bandage to cut it off without risking cutting the skin. If you get into trouble with bondage, they’ll cut your partner free in seconds.

Being willing to respect a partner’s limits, being willing to show that you are trustworthy, being willing to suggest ideas without trying to pressure your partner into saying “yes,”and being willing to talk about what you can do if things go wrong goes a long way toward creating a safe environment for exploring bondage.

Are there any important points that I should include?

Safety!

Safety is a bit tricky, because sometimes what feels safe and what is safe are miles apart.

For example, when we think about bondage, a lot of folks think “pink fuzzy handcuffs.” But I know several serious, die-hard, long-term kinksters who won’t play with handcuffs because they’re just too dangerous. A lot of people who first dabble with tying their lovers up might use silk sashes or nylon stockings, because they feel less intimidating than using ropes or leather cuffs. But these, too, are dangerous.

Handcuffs are dangerous because they are completely inflexible and they put a lot of force on a very small area. If you struggle when you’re wearing handcuffs, it can be surprisingly easy to do permanent damage to the bones or nerves in your wrist, and it can happen very quickly.

Silk and nylon can have a tendency to pull tight, making them almost impossible to untie. They can also cut off circulation without warning. When you get into trouble, it can be hard to get them off quickly. Ropes are a lot safer for bondage, which is why kinksters use them.

It’s usually a good idea for people exploring BDSM to create a “safe word,” which is a special word that means “stop, really, I mean it.” Especially if you’re trying role play scenarios where words like “no” and “stop” are part of the role play and don’t really mean “no” or “stop.”

There are a lot of resources out there for people who want to learn how to explore these things safely and respectfully. My own Web site at www.xeromag.com has a beginner’s guide to BDSM and a list of resources, and there are many more as well.

Some thoughts on ethics, safety, and conduct in BDSM: Part I

Part 2 of this essay is here.

The largest producer of BDSM porn, by far, that I am aware of is Kink.com.They’re headquartered in the old Armory building in San Francisco, where they produce controversy, BDSM porn, and demonstrations, though as near as I can tell it’s only the second one that actually makes them money.

Bear with me for a minute; this is just backstory. I’m going to get all Ranty McRanterson in a minute here.

Kink.com has something of a mixed reception in the BDSM community, as far as I’ve seen anyway, though my experiences with them have always been positive, and I quite like all the Kink.com folks I’ve met personally. (Their reception in the Christian anti-porn community is less mixed; when I was at Baycon talking to some of the folks who work for Kink, I heard stories about a Christian group who’d been picketing the Armory building with signs reading “End Torture Porn.” The irony in that is left as an exercise to the reader, though there was a part of me that wondered how many of the protesters were wearing crucifixes around their necks. But I digress.)

Kink.com was founded by a guy with a genuine interest in BDSM, and one of the things the company has done is try in various ways to support and give back to the BDSM community. There are some folks who take exception to that, and an argument can always be made that it’s hard for a for-profit company of any kind to really have the best interests of the community that supports it at heart; having said that, I do believe their heart is in the right place.

Recently, one of the folks from Kink.com called me to talk about a new project they’re launching, the BDSM Pledge Web site. The idea, as I understand it, is to create a kind of BDSM ‘Code of Conduct’ that folks could sign on to, post on their Web sites, and so forth.

It hasn’t formally launched yet, and they’re still soliciting comments about it. My opinion is that it’s an interesting idea, but I’d like to see more from it. A lot more.


Before I get to the rant, I need to digress for a moment about two of the notions anyone who’s at all familiar with the BDSM world has almost certainly encountered: “SSC” (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) and “RACK” (Risk Aware Consensual Kink).

These are two different-but-not-really notions about what it is that sets BDSM apart from abuse. The SSC folks emphasize that BDSM activities should, naturally, be safe, sane, and consensual. The RACK folks rightly protest that the notions of ‘safe’ and ‘sane’ are highly subjective. No kind of sexual activity (and indeed no activity in general) can ever truly be ‘safe,’ and ‘sane’ is a pretty damn slippery concept that’s often used as a blunt instrument against folks who do things in bed that other folks don’t much like. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that homosexuality was considered inherently ‘insane’ by the psychiatric community. They prefer instead to acknowledge the risk and say that BDSM is OK if the participants are aware of the risk and still consent to the activity.

Quite a lot of column inches have been wasted on the feud between these two camps. The BDSM Pledge comes down on the side of Safe, Sane, and Consensual, and the person I spoke to at Kink.com ruefully conceded that it’s got some of the RACK contingent’s backs up.

I personally am in neither camp. I think that both ideas are a load of bollocks.

Not because of what they say, mind you. I’ve written quite a lot about BDSM, and the issue of abuse is a central one, a defining element of kink as opposed to abuse. It’s what they don’t say that I find most annoying. Or, to be more precise, it’s the way that members of both camps often fail to apply their own principles that I most object to.


So here’s the part where I start to rant.

It has been my experience that the BDSM community as a whole gives a lot of lip service to the idea of ‘consent,’ but the practice doesn’t track with the preaching very well. I’ve already written about a friend of mine who was sexually assaulted by a prominent ‘leader’ in the BDSM community, but the problems that I see go beyond out-and-out assault.

The problems as I see them exist in three areas: constant, low-level non-consensual behavior, an inability to distinguish between consensual non-consent and real non-consent, and predatory behavior. And I think the three are all related.

Now, I’m absolutely not suggesting that everyone in the BDSM community is a bad person, of course. I’ve met many wonderful, interesting, compassionate, intelligent, friendly people in the community who are absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, however, the bad actors can mess things up for the people who are fantastic.

And I’m not even saying the BDSM community is any worse than society as a whole. But we can, and must, do better.

First, there’s the low-level non-consensual stuff I sometimes see at a conferences or play parties. It most often manifests as harassment of submissives, particularly female submissives; people swat their asses as they walk by, give them orders without negotiating whether or not it’s appropriate to do so, and otherwise behave as if their boundaries are irrelevant. (This isn’t entirely limited to men harassing women; it’s happened to me at play parties when I’ve been with a partner who was holding the reins.) In its more subtle manifestation, it’s a disregard for, sometimes even extending to a refusal to acknowledge, anyone who’s clearly in a submissive role.

Look, I get it if that’s your kink. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. You see those two ideas up there? You see the word they have in common? It’s “consensual.” That means, the submissive consents to the activity. Nobody should ever make assumptions that it is okay to disregard someone’s boundaries, or to touch someone, merely because that person is a submissive. This should be common sense. If you haven’t asked, don’t touch.

The folks in Master/slave or “TPE” (Total Power Exchange) relationships get wrapped around the axle on the same point. I know I’m likely to catch a lot of flak for this, but listen, guys: It’s a fantasy. You may feel like you have a relationship that is a “true” or “real” Master/slave relationship, and you might even feel like those folks who aren’t in relationships are poseurs or players, but it’s still a fantasy. The millisecond, and I mean the millisecond, the “slave” stops granting consent, it’s over. And if you try to make it keep going on after that point, you’re not a dom. You’re a rapist. You may think you’re entitled to be a rapist, because total power exchange whatever whatever, but then every rapist always feels entitled to rape, so it’s not like you’re special on that point.

I had an acquaintance, many years ago, who carried on to great length about how he was a “true” master and his slave was “truly” his property and how other people could “play” at BDSM but for them it was real because he owned her just as surely as he owned his toaster and yadda yadda yadda. He kept on about it right up until the moment she served him with divorce papers. Poor guy was gobsmacked; he never saw it coming. One’s toaster does not normally walk away with custody of one’s child and alimony when it wants a change of scenery. Again, this should be obvious. No matter how firmly someone has convinced himself (and it’s almost always a “him,” though I’ve seen a couple of women fall into this trap) that he he really owns his slave really for reals, the instant that person stops consenting to the arrangement (even if part of the fantasy is that that person has given up consent), it’s done. Anyone who can’t acknowledge that fact is best left as a matter for the police, not the BDSM community, to deal with.

Which brings me to the third variety of problem person, the out-and-out predator.

These people are difficult to deal with. They’re charming. They often rise to positions within a community that gives them respect and power. They host parties. They teach lessons. And folks don’t want to deal with the fact that they are bad people.

We are, as a species, breathtakingly gifted at ignoring evil. Part of it is selfishness; we don’t want to lose access to the things they give the community–the play spaces, the parties, the instruction. We find them likable, and don’t want to believe bad things (and guys, seriously, if somebody says “so-and-so assaulted me” and your response is “Well, I’ve never had a problem with him,” that’s fucked up on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start). We find it easy to blame the victim if we do become aware of something hinkey going on. (Astonishingly, I’ve seen women do this to other women–“Well, she should have known what would happen if she agreed to play privately with him; why was she leading him on?” or “Well, if she was a REAL submissive, she would be GRATEFUL for what happened!”) We talk the talk about consent, but when an uncomfortable problem manifests in our faces, we find it hard to walk the walk.

This stuff–all of it–needs to stop.


Which brings me back to the BDSM code of conduct and the tussle between SSC and RACK.

Folks, I don’t care. SSC and RACK come at the same general idea from different directions. Fighting about which one is better is squabbling over who should put the dishes away while the house is burning down. It doesn’t matter how you define “safe” and “sane” or what level of risk is acceptable between consenting adults. What matters–what really matters–is acting like consent is important. Not just talking about it.

All the time. In little ways and big ways.

That means, no casually swatting some self-identified submissive on the ass just because you’re a big domly dom and you think she’s cute, and that’s what you do with submissives. That means recognizing that consent is always important. It always matters, even when part of the fantasy is that it doesn’t.

And that especially means not making excuses when other people fail to respect the boundaries of those around them.

Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when you think it might cost you something.

My friend edwardmartiniii has this to say on the subject of inappropriate or abusive behavior in a community: “Don’t allow this behavior in your social group. It’s your group and that means that it’s your job (as well the jobs of everyone else in the group) to not allow the behavior you find undesirable. It’s your job to stop it. The people who are doing it might be clueless, or they might be malevolent, and I guess you are going to have to make that call, but the bottom line is that you are responsible for policing yourself and those around you. If you see something, then speak up. Right then. Act.”

And I agree.

So I would like to see a code of ethics that goes beyond “be safe, sane, and consensual, negotiate, and respect limits.” I’d like to see something that covers a lot more ground: Understand that roles are roles, but people are people, and it is your responsibility as a decent human being to treat everyone with respect. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t step on boundaries because you think the roles permit it. Don’t excuse others who do.

There’s more, and in Part 2 of this article I plan to talk quite a lot more about the things I’d like to see the community do.

Before that, though, I’d like to hear your reactions. What do you think? What problems, if any, have you seen in your communities? What would a code of ethical conduct for the subcultures you belong to look like?

Thoughts from BayCon: Polyamory, kink, community, divisiveness, and us vs. them

I’m just back from BayCon, an annual science fiction convention in the San Francisco Bay Area. I quite like cons, and I’ve been going to cons of various flavors for more than two-thirds of my life, though this was a bit unusual in that it was a much more businesslike trip than most of the other cons I’ve attended. My expenses were paid by a group of folks who really wanted to see me present (which was awesome, and I’d like to say “thank you” to the con organizers for helping make that happen), and I spent three days on various panels talking about everything from polyamory to creativity.

There’s quite a lot of interesting stuff that came up during those panels, some of which I’ll no doubt be blogging about for the next several days or so. One thing in particular that I want to talk about, though, concerns the way those of us who are active in alternative lifestyles tend sometimes to create and foster–sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally–an atmosphere of exclusion and ostracism that perpetuates the very same kinds of things that we claim to be working against.


One of the panels I was on concerned the topic of defining alternative relationships. Throughout the panel, several folks, both on the panel and in the audience, referred to people who are neither polyamorous nor into BDSM by terms like ‘mundane’ and ‘muggle.’

And this is, I think, a huge problem for those of us in the kink and poly communities, or indeed in any sort of non-traditional social or relationship community.

Now, it seems to me that the problem with doing this should be self-evident. It’s self-congratulatory and divisive. It creates a completely unnecessary schism. It lumps everyone who isn’t into whatever we’re into in together as though they are all part of one great undifferentiated lump, which is just blindingly stupid; there are lots of folks who are neither kinky nor poly but who nevertheless are anything but normal. (I’ll warrant that the life of folks like James Cameron, who designed and built the world’s deepest-diving submersible because he wanted to check out what was going on at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, or Elon Musk, who designed and built the Falcon/Dragon successor to the Space Shuttle entirely privately on a shoestring budget because he thought that starting a private spacefaring company might be a cool thing to do for a living, are rather more interesting than the life of the average sci-fi fan even if those folks never once lift a flogger or date more than one person at the same time!) It does exactly what kinky and poly folks complain they don’t want others to do to them–it judges other people based on stereotypes mostly ridiculous and assumptions mostly baseless.

And, all those things aside, it’s simply bad policy.


I am a pragmatist. I tend to be less concerned with how people “should” behave and more concerned with what sorts of behaviors actually work.

And I think that every single derisive use of words like “mundane,” “vanilla,” “muggle,” and so on actually ends up hurting the folks who use them.

The problem with describing people outside of one’s community this way, aside from the fact that it’s arrogant, dismissive, and inaccurate, is that it recognizes no distinctions between all those “normals.” To someone who dismisses anyone not kinky or poly as a “mundane,” a Unitarian who works for acceptance, sex-positivity, and compassion is no different from someone who belongs to Westboro Baptist Church, America’s most well-known trolls.

And not only is that stupid, it’s counterproductive. It alienates potential allies. It pre-emptively antagonizes folks who are simply neutral. It creates an us vs. them mindset which, at the end of the day, the “us” is almost certain to lose; when the “us” is a single-digit, or perhaps at the most optimistic a low double-digit, percentage of the size of the “them,” fabricating an us vs. them mentality is simply bad tactics.

It is also exclusionary. A lot of folks who are poly, or kinky, or both, tend not to be part of the kink and poly communities, because this “us vs. them” mentality subconsciously shapes attitudes and opinions in ways that limit participation in the community.


When I lived in Tampa, I was for a number of years a regular host for PolyTampa, which appears to be as of this writing the longest-running polyamory support group in the country that’s still ongoing.

Anyone who’s been part of the community for any length of time has probably noticed that a disproportionate number of folks in the poly community tend to be geeky, middle-class, pagan, gamer…the stereotype of the “bi pagan poly gamer geek” is prevalent for a reason.

But it might not be the reason that people think.

I’ve watched a lot of folks talk about why the poly and kink scenes are so overwhelmingly gamer geek pagan bi (and, though it rarely gets mentioned, white and middle-class), and the explanations I hear usually fall along the lines of “Well, once you’ve started questioning monogamy and relationships, it follows naturally that you’d question other things, like religion and culture and stuff too. It’s because we’re so openminded and unconventional!”

Which, honestly, sounds like self-congratulatory horseshit to me.

There’s another reason, though I think it’s more subtle. It’s something I think a lot of folks in the poly and kink communities are blind to; namely, that the communities are hostile to anyone who ISN’T cut from the bi pagan gamer geek cloth.

I don’t think it’s deliberate or malicious, mind you. (At least not usually; there are some exceptions, like one exceedingly unpleasant chap I encountered on Facebook recently who claims quite stridently that all monogamous relationships are abusive, anyone who prefers monogamy does so only because he wants to control his partners or he simply hasn’t broken the brainwashing of conventional culture enough to look at relationships critically…but I digress. Not everyone in the community shares anything like those beliefs.)

During the course of the time I spent hosting PolyTampa, I noticed a fair number of people who would come to a single meeting, hang around for a bit, and then leave, never to be seen again. I also spoke to several folks who talked about being polyamorous but also about how they felt unwanted and unwelcome in the poly community, because they weren’t pagan, New Age, geeky, gamers, or techies.

I don’t think there’s a lot of pagan New Age gaming geeks in the poly community because being poly means challenging accepted social norms about religion, hobbies, or attitudes. Quite the opposite; I think there are a lot of pagan New Age gaming geeks in the poly community because the poly community can be quite unfriendly to folks who aren’t pagan New Age gaming geeks.


Now, let me be clear that (with very, very few exceptions) I don’t believe it’s intentional. Aside from that one unpleasant Facebook fellow, I’ve never encountered anyone in the poly community who would tell someone else “you’re not welcome here.”

However, as I’ve said before, any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

It doesn’t matter that it’s down to social incompetence more than maliciousness; the fact is, the poly and kink communities do tend to see the world in a polarizing, us vs. them light, and do often make themselves unfriendly to folks outside the pagan New Age gaming geek mold.

It’s subtle–so subtle that the folks who do it are probably totally unaware that they’re doing it. It happens through a process of normalization–of seeing everyone who doesn’t fit the pagan New Age gaming geek mold as a “mundane,” a “normal,” a “muggle,” part of an undifferentiated mass. It happens through tacit, rarely acknowledged expectations that if you’re poly, of course that means you aren’t Christian, you prefer video games to NASCAR, you have the free time and the money to meet and socialize at restaurants, you get the jargon and lingo of the geek crowd.

I’ve had folks come up and talk to me after poly meetings to say that they feel unwelcome because they are evangelical Christian, or because they’d rather go fishing than play World of Warcraft. Like I said, it’s not intentional, it’s subtle, but it shows in a thousand different ways. There are subtle little expectations, occasional barely-acknowledged disparaging remarks about all those other folks who, heh heh, just mindlessly cling to some mainstream religion instead of, you know, something more spiritually thoughtful like paganism, the offhand remarks about how the rest of the world is just stuck in the boring rut of vanilla sex… All of these things create an unmistakeable social subtext: this is who we are, and if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them. The Mundanes. The great boring unwashed mass of People who Just Don’t Get It.

And we’re cleverer than they are, oh yes. We appreciate diversity more than the mundanes do. We understand the value of being our own individual, something all those people don’t. Because, you know, they’re all the same. And they aren’t as smart as we are, or as tolerant, or even able to challenge their own assumptions. You know, the way we can.

It seems that being subjected to unwarranted prejudice and unfounded assumptions tends to make one skilled at doing these very things to others.

During the panel, when a few of the panelists had derisively referred to non-alt people as “mundanes” and “normals” several times, I chipped in that I don’t use that sort of language because I find it unnecessarily divisive and totally inaccurate. It creates a myth of “normalcy” that doesn’t actually exist; the mundanes that the other panelists derided do not, in any real sense, actually exist.

After the panel, a woman approached me to say that she was Mormon and in a D/s relationship, and found the kink community to be quite hostile. The assumptions that came from her being Mormon rather than pagan–she must be politically conservative, she must be anti-gay, she must be a blind puppet of organized religion–were subtle but real to her. When people in the community assume a baseline of pagan New Age gaming geek and talk about “mundanes” and “muggles,” she saw a rejection of her in that–or, perhaps, a rejection of a distorted funhouse mirror picture of her, as rife with unchallenged assumptions as any that poly or kinky people will ever be targeted with.

And that’s a damn shame. We need to do better than that.

I Know Why the Caged Bunny Sings

Last November, zaiah and I hosted an 11/11/11 party, because 11/11/11 is an aesthetically pleasing date and parties are fun.

My sweetie emanix flew into town from London to attend. zaiah‘s Canadian boyfriend had planned to be there as well, though last-minute illness delayed his trip, with the result that only three nations were represented instead of four. The party was great fun; zaiah‘s cage was broken in for the first time, there were enough Jell-O shots to sink a battleship (at least a reasonably small battleship, whose crew were perhaps not the heaviest of drinkers), a large pile of Barbie dolls was cast into bondage for the benefit of some tentacle monsters, and I erroneously recorded elsewhere that at one point a total of three threesomes were going on simultaneously in the basement. The correct number of threesomes is four.

However, none of that is what I came here to talk about. I actually came here to talk about what happened afterward.

A couple of days later, emanix happened to mention in passing that she’d quite like to be stuck with needles, and that on a possibly related note she brought an assortment of birthday candles with her.

As I may have mentioned earlier, there just so happened to be a quite large cage, trimmed in LED rope lights, sitting in the living room from the party. It turns out that normal, regulation-sized birthday candles are just a tiny bit too wide to fit into the hub of normal, regulation-sized needles–a sad commentary on the lack of coordination among standards-setting bodies, and something that will be remedied when I rule the world, oh yes. A bit of work with a kitchen knife soon remedied that difficulty, however, and we were ready to begin.

Shortly thereafter, there was, as sometimes happens, a bunny in a cage.

For reasons not clear to your humble scribe, I often seem to get this look when I spend time with emanix.

The photos that lie beneath this cut are, unless your work environment is a statistical outlier, SO not safe for work that even thinking them while in the workplace may be cause for termination. Click here only if you’re OK with nudity, needles, fire play, and caged bunnies.

Web projects ahoy!

Occasionally, visitors to the polyamory section of my Web site at www.xeromag.com ask me if I can move the poly information to a new domain, so they can share it with friends or family members who might not be comfortable with the rest of the content on the site.

I am pleased to announce the creation of a new Web site dedicated only to polyamory, More Than Two. The More Than Two site contains all the pages from the polyamory section of xeromag.com, rearranged in a more logical order, and several new pages as well. The existing pages on the Xeromag site can be found in both places, but new articles and essays about polyamory will be found only on More Than Two.


In kink news, JT’s Stockroom is having a sale on violet wands; just $110 for a complete set, which is an amazing price. I’ve placed a link to the sale, as well as a $6 off coupon for my sex game Onyx, on the Special Offers page of my site Symtoys.com.

And speaking of Symtoys, I’ve finally created an eBook of the first part of the porn story I talked about in my Analysis of User-Generated Replies to Porn Stories of Non-Consensual Sex blog post. The story, which is rather longer than I remembered, has been extensively broken into two full-length novels, the second of which has an all-new ending. The first part is available in PDF and as a Kindle and Nook eBook, and the second (and more stories besides) will be available soon.


And finally, just a reminder: zaiah and I are still looking for artists to work with us on our tentacle monster hentai Tarot deck. If this sounds like a project you or someone you like might be interested in, let me know!

Assault and consent in the BDSM community

I had planned to spend this afternoon writing about the Long Now Project, which inspires some of the most optimistic parts of me and speaks to the parts of me that are profoundly in love with the potential of the human race.

Instead, I’m going to write about something that saddens me greatly.

A short time ago, a friend of mine was sexually assaulted during a play session with a person who’s prominent in the local Portland BDSM scene. The situation was complex, as these things often are; most rapes, whether they’re within the context of BDSM or not, usually don’t involve some perpetrator springing from a dark alley onto an unsuspecting victim. Yes, it can happen that way, but more often than not the victim knows the perpetrator, as was the case here.

This situation started out as consensual play, and turned into assault when my friend’s boundaries were overrun. And what happened next makes me especially disappointed and angry.

The purpose of this post isn’t to discuss the details of what happened. The things I’m going to say hold true regardless of the exact nature of the circumstances. Instead, what I want to do is talk specifically about the BDSM community, and how it often falls short of its own stated ideals, and often plays into cultural norms about men and women even while it supposedly enshrines values of individuality, negotiation, and consent.

Cut for potentially triggering content: rape, BDSM, consent, misogyny, and victim-blaming behavior