Relationships

Does BDSM promote violence?

Does BDSM promote violence?
WRITTEN BY
08/23/21
vs

Megan (No)

When practiced in accordance with its foundational ethics, BDSM doesn’t promote violence. In fact, the confusion of the two disrespects both trauma victims and individuals with non-normative sexualities. In BDSM play and relationships, everything must be “Safe, Sane, and Consensual,” and education on both theory and technique is integral to the community of active practitioners. If injury or trauma occurs, this bedrock principle has been violated, something equally present in non-BDSM relationships. 

Both abuse hotlines and psychotherapists differentiate abuse from BDSM. Because BDSM looks violent, The Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center draws careful distinctions between abuse and safe BDSM, which “pushes the limits of control and autonomy” but focuses on “consent and respect.” Similarly, while some psychotherapists stigmatize BDSM practitioners, others seek to correct these misconceptions. They find it necessary to separate BDSM and non-normative sexuality from both domestic violence and non-suicidal self-injuring (NSSI) behaviors. Some even promote BDSM as a healthier alternative for people drawn to the sensation element in both BDSM and NSSI.

Studies have disproved the hypothesis that BDSM is a pathology resulting from trauma or psychological problems. On the contrary, BDSM practice may even have therapeutic potential for some (not all). For example, control play helped at least one person contend with rapid-onset disability, and a few sexual-abuse survivors have turned to “trauma play,” re-engaging their experience in a safe environment.

Finally, the kink community underscores community, while domestic violence relies on shame, secrecy, and social isolation. Readers, please stop conflating the two. That slippage enables abusers and is genuinely offensive to their targets and consenting adults who practice safe sex.

 

Maha (Yes)

Sex experts and members of the BDSM community always emphasize consent being the crucial element in these erotic practices. However, this doesn’t mean that certain acts of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism (BDSM) follow this simple rule. 

It’s quite easy to ignore the small print that needs to accompany BDSM practices. Especially as many people simply aren’t schooled in safe kink practices. As a result, subs end up becoming victims when the line between kink to abuse is crossed. 

This was the case for the victims of New York prosecutor Eric Schneiderman, Canadian musician and radio host Jian Ghomeshi, and adult star James Deen. All three claimed they were practicing BDSM, but their victims allege they were physically abused since they didn’t grant consent.

Even with consent, BDSM may easily be compared to abuse. This is because both follow the four phases of the cycle of abuse: building tension, incident of abuse, reconciliation, and calm. The Dominant (or Dom) has tension building in them, which they release through their play. They then act sweet with their Submissives (or Subs) as they grow calm again. 

Moreover, BDSM can create a trauma bond or emotional ties that develop between two people where one person harasses, beats, threatens, or intimidates the other half of the couple. This bond is created from an imbalance of power, sporadic abusive behavior, and the Sub’s denial of the abuse. These, in turn, result in people failing to recognize signs of emotional or physical abuse. 

With just a thin line between BDSM and violence, it’s important for those practicing their kinks to properly analyze their relationships.

Fact Box

  • WebMD describes BDSM (shortened for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadochism and Masochism) as an aspect of sex that involves “dominance, submission, and control. The practice typically involves one partner taking on a more dominant role during sex, while the other is more submissive.” 
  • Consent is a requirement of BDSM along with “safewords.”
  • The popular book and film series Fifty Shades of Grey is a story that centers around a couple engaging in BDSM. 
  • The British Journal of Criminology conducted a 2021 study analyzing sexual violence in pornography that found “overlaps between BDSM pornographic content and content depicting aggression and assault” on three top porn websites. 
  • The World Health Organization defines ‘sexual violence’ as “Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”
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