This post originally appeared April 30, 2012 on BDSM Book Reviews.
Included in Chapter Six of Connecting to Kink
Sometimes, only a thin line separates BDSM from abuse in a relationship. Especially online, you find people who claim that their “naturally dominant” personalities entitle them to demand submission of others: to take ownership of mind, body and soul. The only thing creepier than Dominants who profess their superiority are the submissives who offer themselves up for this sort of abuse.
True, many submissives simply echo the erotic fantasies that haunt them, reciting the words they’ve seen others type. Most shun real-time opportunities. Although a few may go so far as to present themselves for service, reality and pain soon send them back to the comfort of their online world. But some actually put themselves in the hands of the those who have no education, little experience, and less understanding of the responsibilities that come with accepting someone’s submission.
I especially worry about the submissives who have low (or no) self-esteem, who think enslavement will solve their vanilla-world problems, who make decisions based on the reaction between their legs instead of the one between their ears. They get damaged — emotionally, physically, and financially.
“I am dominant by nature and like to be in control,” more than one profile claims. They makes no reference to experience, knowledge, or caring for a submissive. “I am a True Master seeking a true sub/slave to serve Me,” another common declaration. Exactly what does that mean?
BDSM organizations have defined abuse as: “Physical, sexual or emotional acts inflicted on a person without their informed and freely given consent.”
But without training and experience, without care and consideration, abuse can happen even with consent. Someone who consents to a D/s relationship without prior knowledge of what it involves or the person to whom he/she is submitting is a perfect candidate for emotional abuse. This statement, in a “slave’s” online journal, speaks volumes about what the person writing it has experienced in the past. “i need some security and to feel good that i am not going to be thrown away for a simple reason.”
That boi consented to a D/s relationship. He offered himself as a slave to someone who professed experience and presented a “leather resume” that was, for the most part fabricated. What he didn’t get from the Dominant to whom he gave himself was references from others who had served him. The emotional abuse that ensued took its toll, and it required the better part of a year for the boi to heal from a month-long enslavement.
To work, a Dominant/submissive relationship must offer symbiotic benefits to everyone involved. Even a slave should ask: “What’s in it for me?” Dominants who do not ensure that their submissives’ needs get met, as well as their own, do not deserve the title of Master/Mistress. Those who abuse their submissives — who don’t respect and treasure them as human beings — give all a bad name.
Friendship, love, intimacy, respect, and trust form the core of all relationships. Without any one of those, the connection between two (or more) people will not last. The strongest D/s relationships I know are the ones that started out as two people in love. Often the D/s aspect grew organically out of their love affair/marriage. Their unions have endured for decades. However, those who seek Owners or slaves without developing deeper relationships, most likely will not survive together a year.
One can meet one’s soul mate online. I know a number of couples/families who have done so, including those who started out geographically very far apart. And it helps if you share common interests in S&M and D/s, so seeking that soul mate on a site for alternative lifestyles offers advantages. But, look beyond the labels at the person. Get to know the man or woman on many levels before venturing into a Master/slave contract. D/s demands incredible trust. You cannot achieve trust without scrupulous honesty, and that requires a lot of communication.
The best way to avoid abuse is to take precautions from the moment you meet a potential new partner. I highly recommend Jack Rinella’s book Partners in Power. Not only does he address safety, but he also talks about types of real-world relationships and what it takes to find the right partner and actually make a D/s relationships work.
If you got involved in a relationship without taking precautions, if you allowed fantasies and desire to overrule common sense, it’s critical that you be honest with yourself now. Anyone who suspects they (or someone they care about) has suffered from abuse, needs to ask these questions (developed at Leather Leadership Conference in 1999):
“1. Are your needs and limits respected?
“2. Is your relationship built on honesty, trust, and respect?
“3. Are you able to express feelings of guilt or jealousy or unhappiness?
“4. Can you function in everyday life?
“5. Can you refuse to do illegal activities?
“6. Can you insist on safe sex practices?
“7. Can you choose to interact freely with others outside of your relationship?
“8. Can you leave the situation without fearing that you will be harmed, or fearing the other participant(s) will harm themselves?
“9. Can you choose to exercise self-determination with money, employment, and life decisions?
“10. Do you feel free to discuss your practices and feelings with anyone you choose?”
If any of those questions generates a “No” answer, the relationship is potentially abusive. You can find help by contacting the National Leather Association-International Domestic Violence Project at http://www.nlaidvproject.us, your local domestic violence hotline, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or http://www.ndvh.org/