We’ve all heard the self-back-patting that goes on in the bdsm community; BDSMers are more empathetic, better at communicating, more responsible, more enlightened, and just better in general than the ‘nillafolk. And we piss sparkly rainbows. The truth is far from it though. We’re the same people you see out in the world. We come from all walks of life, with varied experiences, opinions, and approaches. There are morons and assholes in the community sitting right next to the solid people you could trust with your life.
In this light, it strikes me as delusional to say that we possess all these happy shiny qualities. The bdsm community is not a utopia. We still deal with the same problems that vanilla people do. One of the biggest I see is responsibility.
Ours is a culture of victimhood. Not only in our part of the world, but maybe even to a larger degree in our community. Nothing is ever your fault. You were powerless to stop it. Other people are to blame. Or fate. That bastard. For some things, these may be true. But why does taking responsibility for one’s own actions seem to be such a hard concept to grasp? Not long ago, if a kid stuck something in an electrical socket, the parents would say, “I bet you won’t do that again!” But now they drag the landlord into a lawsuit and whine to anyone who’ll listen because their poor sweet child is a victim! They even have warning labels on hammers now. Hammers.
Our community is not immune to this mentality.
One example I’ve seen repeatedly is when a bottom doesn’t safeword. They usually say they either felt they’d be a bad sub (or disappoint the top) if they did, that they just forgot the safeword, or they couldn’t bring themselves say it. This is the part where I blow the Bullshit Whistle. If you genuinely feel that disappointing the other person is more of a pressing concern than your own physical and emotional well-being, you really shouldn’t be playing. This is a very irresponsible attitude. If you’re concerned with disappointing them, think about this: How disappointed would the top be if they ended up putting you in the hospital because you refused to speak up when something went wrong? And if you can’t remember the safeword, how about simply saying, “I forgot the safeword”? Or just yell “SAFEWORD!” Not real difficult, right? If you completely shut down and get nonverbal when you play, you either need to work out a nonverbal safeword or have a spotter who knows you well to watch when you play. Either that or don’t play. Safewording when necessary is your responsibility. Your top is not a mind reader. It’s no different than having a medical condition; you can’t expect the doctors to keep you healthy if you won’t follow the necessary steps to manage your own health. Likewise, your top can’t keep you safe if you’re not willing to do your part.
What we do is dangerous. Accidents will happen. If you refuse to react when accidents happen and don’t let the top know something’s wrong, you can’t blame them for not knowing what you refuse to communicate.
Another example of irresponsibility I’ve seen is tops getting handsy at events. They generally see it as being playful and flirty. When the bottom objects, they laughingly respond, “‘No’ is not a safeword” (or “‘Stop’ is not a safeword”, etc.) Here’s a bit of advice, Sir DragonLionWolfBigDick: Safewords only happen when people consent to play. If the bottom never consented to a scene with you, then “no” is plenty. It means stop. It means they don’t consent. It really is that simple.
And by the way, see that pissed-off guy looming behind you? He is the safeword. You’re not going to look very domly while getting stomped on for messing with his friend.
People even think they aren’t responsible for things they did while drunk. “I ended up making out with with someone else, but I was loaded, so it shouldn’t be a big deal to my partner.” Now take that sentence and replace a few words in that sentence: “I ended up driving drunk and killing someone else, but I was loaded, so it shouldn’t be a big deal to their family.” The latter isn’t going to fly, so why should the first? Did anyone hold you down and force that booze down your throat? If you can’t handle your liquor, then don’t drink that much. A judge will still hold you accountable for your actions while drunk; why should matters of sex and love be held to a lower standard? You don’t leave your body when intoxicated. You’re still in control of it, albeit a rather wobbly control. If you know you make bad decisions when drinking, then don’t either don’t drink to that point or accept the consequences of your decisions.
You are also responsible not only for your actions but for your reactions, regardless of d/s orientation. You will come across things and situations that offend you, just like in the ‘nilla world. Being offended does not entitle you to anything. No one is indebted to you because you got offended (unless they deliberately offended you, in which case an apology is definitely in order.) Too often I see people get offended by something and then escalate it with even more ugliness. Rather than communicating like adults, they start slinging mud. They complain about the tactics the other side is using while simultaneously using the same tactics themselves. They act like other people owe them something for being offended.
Triggers get talked about more and more lately as well. There seems to be an expectation that we as a community will always be safely padded and non-offensive. This is incredibly unrealistic. I have one trigger (that I know of.) It wouldn’t be right for me to expect everyone to bend to accommodate my trigger. Yes, it gets hit sometimes, through no fault of the people doing it. When that happens I either remove myself from the situation or I change the situation. Then I do what I need to do to take care of me. Pretty simple. My trigger is mine. It’d be beyond naive to expect an entire community to bend over backwards to cater to one or two peoples’ triggers, much less the various triggers of an entire large community. Much of what we do is a trigger for someone. Even vanilla things can be triggering, e.g. talk of divorce, abuse, or death. If we stopped talking about (and doing) the things that trigger people, we would be silent and still. If you require therapy, get it. The bdsm community does not consist solely of mental health professionals, and we are unable to offer genuine professional help.
What we do is risky. It’s no different than anything else people do for enjoyment, whether it be mountain biking, skiing, or even recreational drugs. Falling in love carries risk too. As an adult, you knowingly accept the risk that comes with the activity. Things will go wrong. You will end up playing with someone you later regret playing with. And you will feel pain. The un-sexy kind. Before you turn and blame others, look at your own actions. Were you acting in a responsible manner?
Own your actions. Own your feelings. Be an adult. Only then can we take back the night from the attention-seekers and drama-mongers who want to blame others for the repercussions of their own actions.