TW: BDSM, rape. I tried to be vague, but proceed carefully.
Oh god, do I have feelings about this.
I think there are a lot of problems in the BDSM community, and I’m very grateful that I was warned away from it when I was younger. I also understand why BDSM could be triggering, or even traumatic, for many people, which is why I encourage caution.
However, I find the argument that all BDSM is abusive/a form of self-harm incredibly dangerous. If you insist that all BDSM is abuse, and someone who enjoys BDSM is abused in the context of a BDSM relationship or sexual act, what message are you sending them? Well personally, I believed that I must have wanted it, that it couldn’t have been assault—or, if it was, that I must have wanted to be raped.
It is so, so important to distinguish between BDSM and abuse masquerading as BDSM, because if you don’t, how are people going to recognize abuse when it does happen to them? And if you don’t make this distinction clear, other people who hear about the assault will keep victim-blaming as usual.
And I know the counterargument: “Well, it is abuse. We can’t lie just to make people feel better.” But fuck no it isn’t. I’ve been raped, and I occasionally enjoy BDSM. (Less so now, but I used to be really into it.) I know the difference, and I wrote about my personal experience here (heed the trigger warnings). Honestly, conflating consensual sexual activities with rape is incredibly offensive and fucked up.
I’ve had people tell me that BDSM is a form of self-harm, and one person informed me that I “fetishize [my] own rape,” but that’s so fucking arrogant and infantilizing. I’ve self-harmed plenty, and my enjoyment of BDSM doesn’t mirror that at all.
Also, equating BDSM with rape can perpetuate the myth that rape has to look and feel a certain way—that is, violent. But my rapes, for example, were incredibly quiet and brief.
Oh, AND that argument conveniently ignores the fact that not all BDSM relationships involve a male dom and female sub.
It’s just a really shit argument and it gives me feels. Angry, angry feels.
As for anti-sex worker feminists, um, I’ll prioritize the perspectives of actual sex workers every time. And the sex workers I follow have very nuanced and intelligent perspectives that prioritize people who are forced into sex work while still standing up for sex workers who enjoy their jobs.
Plus, you know, they actually distinguish between sex trafficking and sex work. Which is important.
In fact, I think the common thread that joins these two issues is the ability to distinguish between abuse and consensual acts. Anti-BDSM feminists conflate BDSM with abuse, and anti-sex workers feminists (not that these are two wholly separate groups—there’s a whole lot of overlap in that venn diagram) conflate sex trafficking with sex work. And it really pisses me off.
I hope that answered your question?