Tag Archives: bdsm

The End of Fetlife?

There are a lot of things to not like about Fetlife. Their security is terrible, just terrible. They’ve tried to please the creditcard companies by making certain (quite random) fetishes unsearchable, such as hypnosis. Their way of dealing with abusers and bullies has been horrible. But with all its faults, Fetlife has been so valuable to the kink community. I get a lot of emails from people new to the scene and Fetlife was the place I’d send them to, because that’s where you could find events and connect to your local community. The workshops, the munches, the play parties, the discussion groups, everything you need to get started in the kink scene.

FetlifeFetlife has now decided to close down to new members.

In the future there will be an invite system so that people who are already active in the kink scene can ask someone they know to let them in. This is fine if you live in a big city with a kink scene that’s easy to find, just Google ‘Seattle BDSM’ and you’re done.

But it’s going to make live hard for everyone not from those Western well-populated areas. I’ve tried googling “Udaipur BDSM”, no luck. And it’s going to cause real problems for the Dutch community, because we don’t have a serious alternative to Fetlife. Our events are usually small and rarely anything professional, most events don’t even have their own website. Munches are started by a few people saying “let’s get sushi!”, someone creating the event and people showing up. Communities are not static, people join, people leave, we need those new people to find us somehow. Before Fetlife we had some online message boards but they’ve all died when Fetlife became popular. I really don’t know what we’re going to do.

How To Spot A Kinkster In Public

I was at a vanilla wedding the other day, when I noticed some marks on my friend’s arm. Now I met her through the BDSM scene so it didn’t surprise me, but if you’re wondering how you can recognise a kinky person in public, marks like these are a pretty good indication they’re into rope play ;). It’s easy to spot a kinkster in public if you know what you’re looking for!

(Posted with her permission, obviously)

kinkster in public

Why you should learn bondage with Twisted Monk

Good bondage tutorials can be hard to find, so I’m happy I can always feel confident referringTW people to Twisted Monk. Not only is he one of the most popular and well-known sellers of rope (in different colours too, check it out!), his how-to video’s on bondage are really good.

  • Amazing stills. Seriously, pause at any moment and Twisted Monk will have some cool expression or funny gesture. I’ve used his video’s a lot when I was learning bondage and I’ve cried laughing. His wife always looks beautiful and collected though, no idea how she does that.
  • The video’s are easy to follow, well made and as safe for work as bondage videos can be. Just people in clothes and a cool guy explaining how you can tie your babe up so you can do the naughty.
  • All the basics you need to get started. You honestly won’t need much more than the single column tie, double column tie, chest harness and hair tie. Combine them and you can tie almost anything you can think of. If you really want to learn more you can always buy the dvd or visit a bondage class in your area (search Fetlife for events!).

Consent Violations in BDSM scene

In Dutch, "geel" means yellow and "geil" means horny. Which means "yellow" as a safeword can be a bit confusing :P.

In Dutch, “geel” means yellow and “geil” means horny. Which means “yellow” as a safeword can be a bit confusing :P.

Although all kinksters agree BDSM should only be practised with consenting adults, consent violations still happen. In 2013 the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom published a worrying statistic, showing that almost one in three SM-ers had a pre-negotiated limit violated, and 15% even experienced their safeword being ignored. There has been a growing focus on and development of consent culture within the BDSM scene, which has included a tense but fruitful discussion of different types of consent violations. In most simple terms bdsm without consent is simply abuse, but the reality is often more complex and nuanced. Are all consent violations bad?

Reading about the NCSF study I found myself looking back on my own experiences with consent violations. I remember a scene where I gagged my partner and then hurt him. We had the type of relationship where I felt comfortable pushing the boundaries a little, so I went a bit further than I usually did. And then I crossed his boundaries but he couldn’t safeword and I had no idea, because I’d gagged him and forgotten to give him a non-verbal safeword. He was emotional afterwards but not upset with me at all. And I think this exemplary of how consent violations in the scene often happen. I’ve had my own consent violated more than once, but I never considered it a ‘bad consent violation’. Just an honest mistake.

A group of Dutch kinksters decided to find out. They set up a big survey, which over 350 BDSM-ers finished. Their data was analysed by someone who knows what she was doing, so if you’re into statistics go download the paper because it’s good.

A quick look at the characteristics of kinksters
Over half of all subjects were female. This is interesting because there’s still this prevailing myth that perverts are usually men. Over half were submissive, a quarter dominant and another quarter switch (which means they like both roles). As usual they found that men prefer the dominant role and women are more often sub. The age group 18 to 30 was the largest in this sample, though there were kinksters older than 61 as well. People generally had one to ten years of experience, about 10% of people had more than 20 years experience.

Consent violations
Almost 65% of kinky people have experienced some consent violation, often more than once. In this study they asked about pre-negotiated limits being violated, safewords being ignored and scenes that went too far, and all of those things seem to happen regularly. All numbers were higher than in the NCSF study, for example over 20% of Dutch kinksters have had their safeword ignored (compared to 15% in NCSF).

But how bad is it?
One of the great aspects of this study is the nuanced picture it shows of the seriousness of consent violations. They asked respondents about their experiences, how bad they felt it was on a scale from 1 (not bad) to 10 (bad) and their answers were so diverse. There were peaks around 1 to 4, even for the occasions they describe as the worst consent violations. There was another peak at 8 to 10, which shows really horrible consent violations happen.

When asked if they considered the consent violation a form of abuse, the majority of people said they did not. About 15% of all kinky people have ever experienced a ‘bad’ consent violation, and about 20% have had at least one experience they consider abuse. These numbers are, sadly, similar to what we find outside of the BDSM scene. So it seems kinksters are, yet again, not different from non-kinksters.

Kinksters and the police
People how have experienced abuse in a BDSM setting usually do not file charges, even if they did consider doing so. When asked why they did not file charges against their abuser, fear of not being taken seriously by authorities was recurring theme.

Consent at parties
Consent violations usually happened inside someone’s home. Under 10% of consent violations happen at a party. The relationship between severity of the violation and location was not investigated, so we don’t know if consent violations at a party are usually mild or bad.

Around 30% of kinksters have at least once doubted the consent of a scene they saw. Doms report having these doubts most often, subs least often of all. When doubting the consent of a scene nearly all consider intervening, and nearly all do. Most people who worry about a scene notify a DM, which is arguably the best way of intervening since you don’t want people butting in on each others’ scenes the whole time. Many people also talk to the players they’re worried about afterwards. Only 8.7% do absolutely nothing and simply walk away, so there’s no evidence of a massive bystander effect in the scene.

About 60% believe a Party Safeword can help prevent consent violations. Almost nobody has ever needed one, but we believe it might help others. About 44% believe a Party Safeword is very important, and about 28% believe it’s not important at all, so people are quite opinionated about this :).

The study is packed with more facts and figures, so go read it if you’re interested.

Is it normal to like BDSM?

A lot of people who are into BDSM are struggling with this question. “Am I completely insane to enjoy kinky play, am I the only one, or is it normal to like BDSM?” I get a lot of email from people asking for reassurance, because sometimes it can feel as if you’re a freak. The world can feel like a lonely place when you’re alone with your secret.

roleplayThe thing is, a lot of people enjoy some light kink. Many partners play with bondage, enjoy the sensation of nails going down their back, playfully bite or restrain each other or do some role playing. This is something to be encouraged actually, putting some effort and creativity into your sex life and having some sexy adventures can be a bonding experience. Heh, pun not intended. There’s nothing at all abnormal about playing around with sex. But SM-ers often go a bit further than that, sometimes a whole lot further than that. So, statistically, if you’re really into BDSM, you’re not normal.

Then again, normal is of very little value. Kinksters are a big group of people and the worldwide community is ha-huuuuuge, so your chances of finding someone into your particular flavour are quite good. Seriously, you think of it, there’s people into it. Unless you’re really into shitting on dead babies or something then you’re screwed, but other than that, there’s a whole kinky world out there to be explored.

And for what it’s worth: you might not be normal, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Research has shown time and time again that kinky people are fine. Well, we’re as messed up as the rest of the world, but we do have more sex!

Why kinky people are so happy

Wismeijer, A. A. J., & Van Assen, M. A. L. M. (2013). Psychological Characteristics of BDSM practitioners. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10, 1943-1952.

I first met Andreas Wismeijer when we were both invited to speak at an event in Rotterdam, and again when we were both speakers at the 2015 European Society for Sexual Medicine Conference in Copenhagen. I’d heard of his research before that though – everyone in the Dutch BDSM scene had. Because Andreas Wismeijer had researched Dutch kinksters, and turns out we’re one healthy bunch of people!

It wasn’t his original plan to research the psychological well-being of BDSM’ers. Andreas Wismeijer is interested in secrets and its effect on subjective well-being. Kind of funny really – he gets invited to talk about kinky sex all the time now! He’s a good attitude about it though, sharing with a grin how he was just looking for a population with secrets and now he’s an expert on pervs ;). Still, it’s a positive thing when research is done without an agenda, the researcher himself disengaged and results judged in a dispassionate manner. Andreas Wismeijer wasn’t looking to prove anything – he just reports what his research has shown.

So what they did was place a request to fill out their questionnaires on a Dutch BDSM website (and for the control group on a Dutch women’s magazine forum). An overwhelming 1571 kinky people responded – if you’re not a researcher you might not know this but that’s a crazy big sample. Especially when you’re researching a marginalised group. So that was awesome.

The following questionnaires were filled in by the respondents:

  • Attachment Style Questionnaire. Attachment describes the dynamics of people’s relationships. So you can have a secure attachment, which basically means that you trust yourself in your relationships and you trust others. Or you can have a more unhealthy attachment style, like anxious or avoiding attachment styles. Attachment correlates with personality, disorders, trauma and other things related to mental health. Secure attachment is the thing you want :).
  • Personality was measured with the NEO Five Factor Inventory. It’s a measure for the Big Five personality traits, one of the more respected ways of measuring personality in psychology. Lots of research has been done to support it. Anyway, the 5 are: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
  • The Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire measured anxious expectations of rejection.
  • Subjective well-being was measured with World Health Organization-Five Well-being Index (WHO-5)

So all together, with all these people who filled out the questionnaires and all those questionnaires they collected an amazing amount of data. Extra statistical tests were done to see how reliable the measures were, and that was all good, so what they found in these measures is very probably a good indicator of what kinky people are really like. I’m going to skip over the data analysis and results a bit, because it’s unreadable for people who don’t know too much about statistics (you can read them in the article though) and jump straight to what those finding actually mean.

  • Kinky people show favourable personality characteristics! They’re less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences and more conscientious. They’re less agreeable though, which means the have less general concern for social harmony. This has been found to be an indicator of good self-esteem, but it can also indicate they place self-interest above getting along with others.
  • BDSM’ers show lower sensitivity for rejection, which is a very healthy thing. Female BDSM participants had more confidence in their relationships, had a lower need for approval, and were less anxiously attached than non-kinky women.
  • Subjective well-being of kinky people is higher than non-kinky people.
  • Researchers conclude: “these findings suggest that BDSM practitioners are characterized by greater psychological and interpersonal strength and autonomy”.

Although the findings were significant (which means that we’re pretty sure it wasn’t just a random finding, but rather shows actual differences between the groups), the effect sizes were small. In plain English: there’s hardly any difference between kinky people and non-kinky people, difference is super small, but we’re quite sure that super small difference really exists.

We showed that the psychological profile of BDSM participants is characterized by a set of balanced, autonomous, and beneficial personality characteristics and a higher level of subjective well-being compared with non-BDSM participants.

So yeah, I love this study. If you ever have a chance to see Andreas Wismeijer talk about his research go do it, ’cause he’s a good speaker and will tell you so much more about everything they found. His other research is super interesting too!

Wismeijer, A. A. J., & Van Assen, M. A. L. M. (2013). Psychological Characteristics of BDSM practitioners. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10, 1943-1952.

I Loved 50 Shades of Grey

50shadesWhen you go to the cinema in the Netherlands there’s usually an intermission halfway through the movie. As we were standing in the queue to get some popcorn and soft drinks I realised that up till then, Ana and Christian had done almost nothing except negotiate about consent. Half of the movie was about making sure the other person was okay with doing what they were going to do!

I loved this movie.

I’m not saying 50 Shades of Grey is an exquisite piece of art or an intelligent critique of some cultural relevant whatever. It was just a sweet movie, the standard romantic plot where the powerful man falls for the average girl, mixed with some sexy kink. I loved the fuzzy hairs on her legs, the details of her biting her lip or playing with her coffee cup, how awkward and non-perfect their communication was. The part where they had their ‘business meeting’ about the BDSM contract was lovely. It really showed how much fun negotiation often is, that talking about sex is sexy, how power dynamics (she was in charge) can be electric.

People call it 50 shades of abuse, and I get that. He puts pressure on her, prevents her from talking about their relationship with other people, is jealous and possessive, tends to overstep boundaries, gives her gifts when she tells him not to. People oppose 50 shades because they believe it normalises unhealthy behaviour. But I actually think that consent is relatively well negotiated in this movie. Have you ever noticed how Rick and Shane treat Lori in The Walking Dead? How, in fact, women are treated by their partners in almost every movie and television show? In 50 Shades, consent is continually checked, verbalised, negotiated, so much better than in any other mainstream movie.

The only part that I considered almost-abusive and that actually upset me a little was at the end (spoiler alert). In the BDSM culture, aftercare is a big thing. After a session you can feel a little raw, you’ve been completely vulnerable with each other and can need some emotional support from your partner. So Anastasia asks Christian to show her what it really is that he desires, that she needs to experience it so that she can understand, to punish her as he wants. He ties her down, tells her exactly what he intends to do, he hits her six times, shares that part of himself that he keeps hidden from almost everyone, and then she freaks the fuck out. Because it was more than she wanted, but she didn’t safeword, and he didn’t know (could not know) he went too far.

“Is this really how you want to see me?!” she cries and my heart just breaks for him. Of course that’s not what he wants, he doesn’t desire her stepping over her hard limits! She shuts him out completely, tells him to go away and dumps him the next day. That was just so horrible, so unkind. Not safewording when you should is something that can happen, and it’s emotionally upsetting, but own your emotions and don’t dump them on him. It’s fine if you find out your tastes are incompatible and you need to break up, but not like that. Not after explicitly asking someone to do something, and then freaking out because they do what you ask them to do. I missed support, some understanding and kindness. She was just horrible to him and that was not okay.

But even feel-good movies need some drama, and all in all I loved this sweet, kinky story.

Yesterday I met with two sex workers so we could discuss our plans for Sekswerk Nederland, the sex workers’ rights organisation we founded in 2014. Already we’ve met with politicians, attended meetings, been on tv, been quoted in national newspapers and have developed a good network within the Dutch sex workers community. For 2015 we’re even more ambitious, and I honestly feel we will be able to make a difference. One of the most interesting things, for me anyway, is how easy it is for people to change their mind once they find out that sex workers are.. people. Just people who order coffee, go travelling with  their boyfriend, have opinions, make choices. One of the women told me she regularly has the following conversation:

“But.. what if you get a customer that you do not want to have sex with, you really do not want to have sex with?”
“Then I say no and we don’t have a session”
“You can do that?!” MIND BLOWN

There’s something profoundly perverse about many of the ‘grim truth behind prostitution’ and ‘what nobody is telling you, the shocking truth revealed’ articles, documentaries and other rescue stories. “It’s like porn” another activist said, and I replied “I wish”. Porn is honest about the fact that it’s fiction, that its intention is to arouse. Rescue stories read like erotica, but they sensationalise sex workers’ lives at their expense and commodify the experiences of actual victims. They are obsessed with how many penises in filthy surroundings and rape by their stepfather and forced abortions and getting peed on and condomless blowjobs. While sex workers and sex work activists want to talk about human rights, international law, respecting the agency of other adults and stopping violence, rescue fetishists get all flushed as they emphasise that thousands of women get raped with objects and are forced to drink buckets of sperm and they get tattoos so everyone can see they are a whore. It’s so inappropriate. They ignore and silence actual sex workers so they can enjoy their rescue-fetish unhindered.

I’m not morally opposed to getting a certain kick out of hearing about the misery of others. It’s not something to be proud of, but you know, ‘based on a true story’ sells, we gossip about the misfortune of others and many people enjoy a little pityporn now and then. Kinksters get into heated arguments with each other over the question whether it’s acceptable to read true stories about rape and kidnapping as inspiration for their own fantasies. I get conflicted over that sometimes. But you certainly cross a line when you start to use others without their consent for your own sexual gratification. The rescue industry exploits others for financial gain, which is morally reprehensible, but their non-consensual use of vulnerable women for their perverse sexual preferences is a grim truth about the rescue industry that really nobody is telling you.

Consent

Mara is from the United States and it’s interesting to compare her ‘culture of origin’ with the Dutch, because there are so many differences. The way we deal with racism for example. But there’s another thing that I thought was interesting, and it’s something that I’ve noticed when I visited San Francisco and when I read books or articles by American kinksters: we deal with consent differently. I read a writing a while back about ‘consent violations’ at BDSM parties in the USA and how somebody touched her arm or her back without her consent. People were outraged, apparently it’s not considered acceptable behaviour in the United States to make physical contact with another person’s body without their explicit consent. That was weird to me, and I thought it was completely inappropriate to call unwanted touching ‘consent violation’. I think it has something to do with cultural differences. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t go around touching people without their consent in the Netherlands. But I think us Dutch people feel more like our bodies exist in interaction with other people’s bodies, and other people have (to some extent) the right to touch us. I also feel like Dutch people see consent as more of a complex and interactive thing, where certain levels of consent are assumed and everybody tries to be sensitive to other people’s boundaries. We don’t have the same affirmative consent hype here and I’m so glad. When meeting someone new in a non-professional setting it’s quite normal to kiss each other on the cheek (three times!) while resting a hand on their waist. I’ve had sexual stuff happen that I did not want, so I said I did not want it and that was that. I don’t consider that consent violation, I consider that an erroneous interpretation followed by effective communication – success! My colleagues feel free to touch my leg, give me a playful hug or get close to my body. If you tell a person to stop and they don’t that’s consent violation, and there’s a limit to what kind of touching can be assumed to be okay (you can’t grab a breast and then check for consent), but generally speaking, it seems to me Dutch people tolerate touching far more than (some?) Americans do.

At the same time, there’s a lot of awareness about consent and I feel like things are actually still changing for the better. Especially among kinky people consent is considered important even for light touching. But I think it would be an even bigger improvement if we stopped regarding consent as a black-white thing and instead focussed more on the well intentioned, complex and interactive issue of figuring out what everyone feels happy doing. Consent is not simple, consent is not a ‘yes’ and consent certainly isn’t an emotion or performance where you’re constantly expressing enthusiastic consent in a pre-defined way. And I think understanding, kindness, forgiveness and flexibility will get us further than consent-policing.