‘A place of healing and a place of hurt’: on abuse and assault in the BDSM community

Content warning: Contains explicit content and references to sexual assault and rape, which may be triggering to survivors.

I just had the most uncomfortable conversation with my mum about some handcuffs she found under my bed which I’d left there by accident. To be exact, what she found were not handcuffs but shackles I’ve used for hog tying people. I decided against pointing this out because: awkward as fuck. I’m just so glad she missed the ball gag and the cat o’ nine tails I’d also left under the bed.

I’m sure my mum noticed the look of horror on my face but it didn’t stop her from saying, “I know you are into BDSM and that’s fine. You should do what makes you happy.”

Oh. My. God. I nearly died. Despite being utterly mortified that my mum had just bought up my involvement in a scene/subculture considered by many as deviant and deranged (and more misunderstood than ever thanks to 50 Shades of Grey), I resisted the urge to shut the conversation down. Instead I told her the initial reason that I had gotten into BDSM was that the cornerstones of kink culture are meant to be: Safe, Sound and Consensual.

My involvement in BDSM goes deeper than the explanation I gave my mum. I have always felt I could have more sexual agency as a woman within the kinkster community than in wider mainstream sex culture. I have more freedom to discuss my sexual fantasies, boundaries and needs with less risk of being ruthlessly slut-shamed by men and, yes, sometimes by women. In wider mainstream culture, women aren’t meant to have their own sexual needs or desires; we are socialised into believing we should serve the fantasies of men, while suppressing our own….

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