BDSM and “kink” are not interchangeable terms. Webster defines “kinky” as “marked by unconventional sexual preferences or behavior.” That’s a HUGE umbrella including basically any erotic desire or activity not considered normative in your cultural context. “BDSM” is an extremely narrow subset of kink.
And this is important: The BDSM subculture is defined and controlled by a tiny minority of sociopathic humans whose kink is acting out rape, torture, and abuse fantasies “for fun” i.e. without any meaningful consideration for what it means to enact those fantasies on human minds in the context of a world where rape, torture, and abuse are already broadly normalized.
In fact, the sheer blitheness with which BDSMers — both “tops” and “bottoms” — treat sexual violence as No Big Deal is part and parcel of their fetish. It’s not just that they find rape arousing. (Lots of people get turned on by thinking about rape. Truth.) It’s that they find it arousing *that* rape turns them on; instead of being turned on by rape and finding that, say, disturbing, or confusing, or at least worth asking questions about. Their kink is not for rape-play itself. Their kink is for rape apologism.
Here’s where you come in: This sociopathic sliver of wannabe (and often actual) rapists are not the majority of kink-loving people. They are not even the majority of the BDSM Scene. But they do tend to be very powerful, influential people in both the world and the Scene, and they have a lot of control over how people understand “alternative sexuality.”
The fact is that most of the erotic activities lumped together under the “BDSM” label have almost nothing to do with one another. But by co-opting a vast diversity of unrelated kinks and fetishes and calling all of them “BDSM” — as if that is a single way to play — the abuse fetishists have created a fiendish cover for themselves. They’ve suggested that BDSM is all one thing, and thus if you criticize anybody’s kinks, you’re criticizing EVERYBODY’s kinks.
There are lots of kinky ways to play that don’t involve apologizing for rape or trivializing abuse. My classic example is puppy play in which all of the players are puppies. Teasing your partner with ice cubes. Rope bondage for the comfort of constriction and the joy of knots. There are even erotic ways to (very, very carefully) explore themes of rape, torture, humiliation, slavery, gaslighting, and physical, sexual, and psychological abuse without apologizing for or downplay the severity of horror and trauma involved when those things happen in real life…
But the BDSMers have convinced their flock that if anybody questions them jacking each other off to the fantasy that “Sexual Violence is No Biggie,” then those critics are also threatening every person’s right to get their rocks off in whatever other kinky ways feel fulfilling to them. That it’s either an 100% abuse-trivializing no-holds-barred free-for-all or vanilla sex in the missionary position with the lights off forever — and that you’ve already chosen a side, because you let someone blindfold you and fuck you with a strap-on once and you really liked it, so it’s only a matter of time until you’re a gibbering desperate perverted mess of uncritical rape-loving jelly.
How have a handful of abusive sociopaths convinced thousands of otherwise thoughtful and compassionate people to stick up for them?
As an astute friend once pointed out to me:
“The pattern I’ve seen with BDSM’ers is *all about* exaggerating costs of failure; they want to believe they’re playing a higher-degree game than they are, and so they do all sorts of things to make that *appear* to be the case, even and especially when it’s not. This makes sense: the formalized BDSM structures are designed to put people who consent to uncomfortable experiences into uncomfortable situations, but not to the point of putting them in dangerous ones. Which means that BDSM’ers have a fantastically well-honed ability to dress up lower-degree games in the appearance of higher-degree games.”
They’re using you, kinksters with ethics, to protect themselves by convincing you that you and they are the same kind of people. But you’re probably not.
Meanwhile, the “kink shamers” have fallen right into the BDSMers’ trap by decrying ALL kinky eroticism “shameful” and making the BDSMers’ whisper campaign into a reality. By attacking “kink” as a whole and making it about random individual peoples’ sex lives, rather than specifically targeting the rape apologism and abuse denial of BDSM’s priesthood, they’ve pushed people with kinky desires but some skepticism towards the BDSM Scene, people who might otherwise be on the fence, right into the lion’s den. They’ve made the abuse-denying sociopaths’ prophecy self-fulfilling: “Anyone who’s a threat to us is a threat to you.”
Of course, I understand the desire to push back against anyone who is shaming and limiting your sexual expression. Erotic fulfillment is a core human need. But when you push back against the “kink shamers”, make sure you’re standing up for YOURSELF, not someone else. And stop enabling sociopathic abusers by describing your healthy, thoughtful, and ethical kinks as “BDSM”. Unless what you gets you hot is trivializing others’ experiences of abuse and violence, they’re not.
ETA: Case in point, this bit of Tumblr exchange illustrates exactly the dynamic I’m describing:
survivorsofkinkunite: Do people think that the similarity between “sub drop” and the responses to trauma are actually all that different?
OP points out that there are similarities between “sub drop” and PTSD. Legit.
loli-ass: except bdsm participants consensually involve themselves in particularly rough scenes CONSENSUALLY very well knowing afterwise they will experience subdrop.
I can eat Burger king knowing I’ll get sick after, does it mean eating Burger King is wrong? NO. It just means I pay a small price in order to involve myself in something I love.
Kinky Teenager responds by saying she knows what she’s signing up for when she engages in “particularly rough scenes”. Also legit. The Burger King analogy is pretty apt, actually. She acknowledges that she is “paying a price” for the sake of something that matters to her.
hostilehottie: because abuse is hunky-dory as long as you consent to it, even if it causes lasting psychological damage!!!! are you fucking lost
Kinkshamer drops the institutional critique of BDSM and begins attacking Kinky Teenager’s individual sexual choices instead.
loli-ass: i dont think im lost but im like 900% sure your sex life is boring as fuck
Kinky Teenager accuses Kinkshamer of having a “boring sex life” — illustrating that Kinky Teenager has likely been told that people who critique BDSM are “anti-fun” rather than anti-rape.
hostilehottie: you’re a teenager and you already can’t conceive of amazing sex without literally traumatizing your partner. you are so, so fucked up
Kinkshamer makes the same point I did above but then continues to personally attack Kinky Teen, calling her sexuality “fucked up.”
anymphetaminegirl: If you have never been involved with the BDSM community, then please do not make comments on it. Ever. I don’t comment on your style of having sex, please do not comment on mine. I’m a very happy sub, who is very okay with dealing with the effects of sub-drop. It’s MY CHOICE. NOT YOURS. So please realize, just as if I were choosing to have homosexual sex, it is none of your business, I am not forcing you into it, and you have no right to comment on whether or not it is okay. Thanks.
Kinky Teen, now bullied beyond the point of continuing to stick up for herself alone, falls back on “the BDSM community” for support. Another “kinkster” steps in in Kinky Teen’s defense and, using standard BDSM Scene rhetoric (“if you’re not part of our club, then what we do in here is none of your business”) winds up, instead, defending BDSM as a whole — including a bunch of sociopathic abusers who would probably be thrilled to take traumatizing advantage of a young teenage “very happy sub who is very okay with dealing with the effects of sub-drop” given any opportunity.
Sad face. 😦