Is BDSM Inescapably Racist:4 years later

Four years ago I posted about the difficulty of navigating BDSM and racism. The language we use (Master/slave) and many of our practices (whipping, suspension) are very similar to practices used during America’s 400 years of slavery. The fact that people engage in these things with consent now is not enough to decouple the connection to slavery and racism.

When I initially posted about the connections between racism and BDSM four years ago, very few folks were engaged with the discussion. I felt alone, awash with kinky folks who did not want to engage in the conversation. Things have obviously changed. In the past year, the International M/s title holders Sinclair Sexsmith and rife have begun an international conversation about the use of Master and slave titles in the community. It is an important conversation which needed a title holder level individual to bring the conversation forward.

It is a hard conversation for many of us because an M/s relationship represents a distince and deeply important entity to many of us. The language helps define that. The terms themselves have been used for generations, especially among white folks. However, the language has always been problematic.

Many white folks are beginning to become aware of the issues of race in America. Because we have held the power in the community, it means some of us are finally engaging in a conversation which other members of our community have had and rehashed for decades.

I have been trying to figure out how to deal with the language for years, and pretty unsucessfully. At the core, I discovered that we cannot continue to use the language because it will never be decoupled from American slavery. The debasement of enslaved people, the harm done to them, their decendents and Black folks today has never been dealt with by America. This means that the link between M/s language and American slavery cannot be broken. Continuining to use the language is continuing the harm.

I have had many white kinky folks argue to me that consent makes this all better. It doesn’t. What I have learned after hundreds of community interactions is that the presence of white folks will always change a dynamic. Simply having white folks present will make racism an issue. It does not matter how anti-racist a person is, we live in a country which has never dealt successfully with racism and what it does to America so we cannot pretend its not an issue when we come together for events.

Continuing with language which embodies the system of American slavery and raises it to an honored status in the community will continue to do harm. While some argue we are better at dealing with racism now in the community than the past, the voices of kinksters belie that point.

Dirty Lola (a sex educator for NYC and founder of Sex-ed-a-go-go) did an interview with Buzzfeed discussing the increasing levels of racism she experiences on Fet. White folks becoming aware of racism in America worked to increase the amount of racism on the platform, not reduce it. Ali Mustaq wrote a piece about the leather community and racism post-BLM which also delves into the racism which still permeates the leather scene. Alexandra Gold reviews the Overwhelming Whiteness of Kink as well.

For those of us who have been priveldged enough to not to have to think too deeply about race and kink, this can be a new and difficult conversation. It is one we must work through. We cannot consciously continue to use M/s language knowing it will always be tied to slavery and the dehumanization of an entire people. What we will use to replace these terms is still up in the air. However, we need to end the use of this language with or without an immediate replacement.

#kink #bdsm #masterslave #MsLanguage #slavery #racism #race #langauge #blm #community #politics

5 thoughts on “Is BDSM Inescapably Racist:4 years later”

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve felt this way for quite some time, and like you felt I was the only one noticing. Just a conversation to discuss the language is a great start.

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