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