Good Kinky Fun vs. Abuse

If I am really honest about some kink behavior, it looks like abuse out of context. I have seen more than one play scene where the bottom was clearly in distress and the top did not stop (no safe word was used, but the distress was real). I have watched people who carry out punishments in protocols that outside of a kink arena could not be distinguished from abuse.

However, in the context of a consensual D/s or BDSM relationship however, much of this behavior has a very different meaning and is in no way abusive. So, how is someone, especially a newbie supposed to tell if something is abusive or appropriate.

There are a lot of different behaviors that should be red flags for abuse. I have written about some of these before. You can see it here. I bring the topic up again because, once again, I see more and more people using “BDSM” to mask abuse. We need to call it out as a community and work to protect one another.

1. A person claims there is ONE and only one way to do kink. The reality is there are lots of ways to do D/s and BDSM. I have my preferences. I have the teachers I will recommend because I agree with their philosophy. I have definite opinions on kink. What I will never claim is that I have found the WAY to do kink or D/s correctly. The reality is there are many ways to do D/s and BDSM. Additionally, preferences and styles change for an individual over time and with partners. Any person insisting they have a lock on D/s or BDSM is often trying to force someone into a specific type of relationship, and that often comes with abuse.

2.  The person “hates” the local kink community and refuses to take part in local activities (or is a total unknown in the community). First of all, there is a lot of drama and BS that many of us in the kink community get sick of. Local communities can by trying and tiresome. However, BDSM and the D/s communities have long functioned on community education and recommendations. If a kinky person (or someone claiming to be kinky) says they don’t do anything in the local community and refuses to ever participate in any group, it is a red flag. If the person is a total unknown to local kinksters this is also a red flag. Sure, you may take time off from your community. We all have lives. But someone who is totally unknown may never have practiced kink and instead be looking for a newbie to force into an abusive relationship. Someone who is on the outs with the entire local kink community is most likely not “unjustly disliked” but instead has done some questionable shit any potential partner should know about.

3. The person plays when angry. This is pretty simple. You never hit in anger. You never degrade someone in anger. You never work out all your angry, hurt feelings through kink. Sure, you can discipline a sub or a slave for violating protocols, but in a healthy relationship, this discipline is done when the D-type is calm. If you hit in anger, it is abuse.

4.  Your boundaries mean nothing. This goes for both s-types and D-types. A partner who cares about you and is not abusive will respect your boundaries. S-types are more attune to a boundary violation because we talk about our limits a lot more. We tend to forget that D-types also have boundaries. A s-type can be abusive just as much as a D-type. If an s-type refuses to recognize their D-type is uncomfortable with doing something then humiliates or degrades the D-type, that is emotional abuse. Boundaries are there for a reason. They need to be respected.

5. Using “needs” as a way to ignore or manipulate the other person. Again, this happens on both sides of the slash. Yes, everyone has needs. But meeting those need and demanding someone else cater to those needs at the exclusion of the other person is abusive. I see this behavior a lot in couples where one person lives with an undiagnosed mental health issue or depression they refuse to address. Routinely the person will insist on cancelling plans and be unable to meet the needs of their partner. They are not emotionally available, the won’t discuss the issues of the other person, they are not psychically available. Everything in the relationship becomes about catering to an emotional disorder.

Depression is a difficult disease and there are many people who live with it. It is treatable. People living with depression (or in my case, Manic Depression) will go through periods where they simply cannot deal with very much or may have no sexual response. However, there is a difference between allowing for some mood fluctuation and space when needed and living with a person who demands that the world revolve around their illness. It is one thing to go through an emotional crisis and then find a way to address the core issue to help mitigate the health issue. It is another to know you live with depression and use the “I feel suicidal” excuse to get out of having sex with your partner for three months and do nothing to treat your illness.

Refusing to work to find a way to manage your mental health or physical health issue and simply demanding the world cater to you is abusive.

6. Wanting a collar ASAP. This goes for both sides of the slash. A collar is a serious commitment. Wanting to be taken in as a sub/slave or take someone as a sub/slave in the first couple of months of a relationship is a red flag. A strong D/s relationship is based on getting to know and trust someone. Anybody can keep crazy under their toupe for a couple of months. Pressing to either be collared or collar someone should be an immediate red flag.


There are plenty of other ways abuse masquerades as BDSM and D/s. The above are some of the more common issues I have seen crop up in the community lately.

If you are in a relationship you think might be abusive, reaching out to your local D/s support groups can be a good start. Many cities offer Dom(me) and sub support groups. I encourage kinky folks to look within the community first. Oftentimes vanilla groups do not understand what a healthy D/s dynamic looks like and find all BDSM play abusive. You can also check the Kink Aware Professionals listing on the National Sexual Freedom Coalition page for therapists who are kink aware.

3 comments

  1. This is a great post! I would like to add my two cents on the local community issue. Local BDSM communities vary widely from place to place, and as you say, interpersonal drama and BS can really drag them down. However, some local communities are also, unfortunately, run by individuals who promote unsafe practices and use the group as a way to attract vulnerable, inexperienced partners. If the local community is unsafe, the likelihood of experiencing abusive interactions there is much higher. So I don’t feel that choosing not to participate is necessarily a bad sign. Some people also are simply not inclined to go to gatherings. If someone is brand new with a blank profile, I would certainly ask them about their real life experience, and consider the possibility that they are not inexperienced at all, but hiding their identity due to having developed a bad reputation. If someone doesn’t like to participate in groups but does have some friends and acquaintances who share their interests, I would tend to consider that a positive.

    Another thing to consider is whether the other person encourages or discourages you to participate. If they say, “I don’t care for it myself, but you should go check it out and see how you like it”, great. If they say, “that group is bulls*it, don’t bother,” well, that’s less encouraging. If they actively discourage you from talking to anyone else or engaging in any kind of community, that relates back to number one, and also, the abusive tactic of separating the victim from their friends and supports. Banning people from your life without consent is never, ever okay.

    And yes, I would like to echo that threatening suicide or repeated instances of out of control behavior, especially while refusing to seek psychological help, is not okay. Submissives and Dominants alike make poor therapists. The old saw about a Dom needing to be in control of themselves before controlling another person can sound harsh, but it is still generally true. You don’t have to be perfect to be Dominant, but it does help to be emotionally healthy.

    Like

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