BDSM vs Abuse

by | Dec 10, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

BDSM vs. ABUSE

We have been asked many times over the years about the difference between BDSM and Abuse. Sometimes it’s hard to put words to…..abuse is kind of like porn…..you know it when you see it. 

But, then again, that’s not always true. BDSM, Power Exchange, …, it’s different from the vanilla world. It can involve control, violence, degradation, humiliation, etc. Which from the outside can look like abuse. 

So, how can we tell the difference? 

Basically, BDSM and Power Exchange requires informed consent of all parties involved. Being Kinky doesn’t obligate you to do anything you don’t want to do, regardless of what side of the slash you fall on (Top/bottom, Dom/sub, etc) – consent is crucial to all sexual activity. 

Usually, partners in ‘the scene’ take great care to make sure their activities are as safe as possible. Many follow SSC, Safe Sane and Consensual play….or RACK, Risk Aware Kink. With abuse, this doesn’t happen. Though, just because someone doesn’t follow one of these methods, doesn’t automatically make them abusers. 

There’s more….

  • Partners do not have to apologize to each other, barring any mistakes, of course. Instead, they are happy and satisfied because consent has been given. 
  • Many ‘scenes’ involve ‘safewords’. This is a word that can either slow down play, have the Dom check in, or stop the play altogether. Obviously, someone being abused does not have a way to stop it, especially with a word. 
  • These types of relationships or play happens in the context of an erotic relationship. Or at least an agreed upon one that is consensual by all parties. 

Signs of Consensual BDSM vs. Abuse

  • Consensual BDSM
    • Signs of significant preparation. e.g., Adult toys, music, bondage furniture, lubricants and safety supplies
  • Restraints built for safety. Abusers tend to restrain their victims with fear and intimidation, not safety clips and quick releases. (though the use of rope, chain, cling wrap and other non-quick release items doesn’t necessarily point to abuse)
  • We call 911 in a medical emergency
  • The availability of mentors, reference materials and technical guides.

NOTE: The above information was gathered from the NCSF Law Enforcement Information Project of Consensual SM Activities. The purpose of which is to provide law enforcement with a basic understanding about adults whose sexuality and lovemaking includes BDSM activities and to provide them with information to assist when they encounter a kink event.

And…there’s more….

  • BDSM rarely results in facial marks or marks that are received on the forearms (defensive marks)
  • There is usually an even pattern of marks if it is BDSM, indicating the bottom held still during the stimulation (my doctor can attest to this when she came across my marks…which then involved an in-depth conversation – dawn)
  • The marks are often quite well-defined when inflicted by a toy like a cane or whip, whereas in abuse there are blotches of random soft-tissue bruising.
  • Marks from BDSM play are usually (but not always) on the butt, thighs, back, breasts or genitals. Marks from abuse can be random and have different coloring from happening at different times (again, according to my doctor when checking out my bruises. ~dawn)
  • BDSM is about a shared enjoyment of controlled erotic pain and/or humiliation for mutual pleasure. Abuse is about a form of non-consensual out-of-control physical violence and/or personal or emotional degradation/shaming.
  • BDSM and/or Power Exchange gives freedom from the restraints of vanilla conditioning to explore buried parts of the self. Abuse binds a person to a usually solitary life of shame, fear and secrecy. 
  • A BDSM scene is a controlled situation. An abusive incident is usually an out-of-control situation. 
  • Negotiation occurs before a scene to determine what will and will not happen in that scene. There isn’t any negotiation in an abusive situation. 

Obviously, this doesn’t cover everything, but can give you an idea of how to determine if abuse is happening. 

Don’t assume though. We had 2 people in the BDSM community try to get me out of my relationship with Dan, because they didn’t understand our Power Exchange Dynamic. I didn’t talk much, Dan did most of the talking. I walked behind him and he rarely introduced me. That concerned people. 

BUT, it’s exactly what we negotiated and what I wanted. As a painfully shy introvert, I was in heaven with not having to talk to anyone, hug anyone or anything. I kept an eye on him and did what he wanted. I didn’t have to mingle. My sole attention was on him. Bliss. 

They were concerned that I was being oppressed and wasn’t allowed to have voice in anything. I finally convinced them…..after one came to my house to see what our living condition was, and the other took me out to coffee for a 3 hour conversation to tell me I didn’t have to live under a man’s thumb……I convinced them that I was in my happy place. It is what I chose and being a submissive was my seat of power. 

Since then, they’ve both entered into consensual Power Exchange relationships themselves. 

That was over 20 years ago when there weren’t many role-models. Now, there are events to go to, books to read (like ‘Hearts and Collars’). Yet, some still don’t know what to look for. Maybe this blog post will help. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800 799 7233 

(live chat and texting is also available. Info is on their website)

 Kink Aware Professionals

Trauma-Informed Therapy for Substance Use Disorders resource guide: https://bocarecoverycenter.com/treatment/trauma-informed/

The dangerous relationship between domestic violence and addiction: https://bocarecoverycenter.com/addiction/addiction-domestic-violence/

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