(This post was originally published on my other blog.)

Over the past week, I wrote a series of posts starting with “Dominants are rapists” that really struck a nerve with a lot of people. Some people just dug their heels in the ground, stuck their fingers in their ears, their head in the sand, and started shouting ridiculous insults at me for writing it. Other people genuinely seemed interested in trying to understand, so I took the time to break it all down, step by excruciating step.

And still others had questions to which I only had politically analytical answers, rather than compassionate emotional responses. If you’re familiar with my personal history, the fact that I lack emotional eloquence responding to other people’s concerns shouldn’t come as a surprise to you; after all, I was in large part raised as a social being by the abusive BDSM Scene. That people entrenched in that subculture now openly hate me for being a “traitor to the lifestyle” or whatever is a point of pride for me—fuck those shitwads, and I hope they kill themselves.

But, thankfully, unquietpirate has compassion for things I do not have, and she has it in spades. If my “Dominants are rapists” series made you anxious or uncomfortable or even just self-conscious in ways you’ve yet to fully understand, consider reading the following pair of posts she wrote. Excerpts from each are below.

From “I want Submissives to take better care of themselves”:

If BDSM is the fetishization of oppression culture, and Dominance is the fetishization of being an oppressor, then submission is the fetishization of internalized oppression.


So, when we ask what healthy submission looks like, what we’re asking is what it means to cope with internalized oppression in a healthy way. There’s no easy answer for this. Classic tactics include working to understand your own internalized oppression, prioritizing self-care, building community and solidarity with other oppressed people like yourself, reframing your identity as a source of pride rather than shame, taking action against injustice, opting out of relationships with oppressive people and institutions, resisting oppression whenever you can and, perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself when you can’t.

I have some ideas about how these tactics might look within the context of play. For example, understanding your own internalized oppression involves a very similar process to the one I encourage Dominants to undertake of investigating both the roots of your kinks, both their individual psychological sources AND how those kinks fit into a larger social and historical picture. Prioritizing self-care might look like putting your own needs and desires first to what feels like an extreme degree when setting limits with a Dominant partner. You could reframe some of your erotic experiences not in terms of being forced to do things by a Dominant but, rather, as a Dominant helping you get something you want. You might develop solidarity with other Submissives by building cooperative relationships between multiple Submissives into your scenes. And separatism could look like choosing not to play with people who identify as Dominant, or even choosing to play only with other people who identify as Submissive. There’s more I could say about this that I’ll save for a later post, but I’m interested in your ideas, too. How could you map your everyday skills for coping with living in oppression culture onto your erotic experiences playing dress-up as Oppressed and Oppressor?

From “I want Dominants to spend more time with the parts of themselves they’re scared of”:

I imagine most people are on board with wanting to have authentically consenting erotic interactions. So, why is there so much resistance to the idea that Dominants might want to spend some time meditating on what their desire to play dress-up as rapists has to do with rape culture? And why is there so much resistance among Submissives to the idea that this might be a valuable practice for their Dominant partners to get into?

One possible answer: Fear of loss. What the questioner above seems to be asking is, “What if my partner and I do the work to better understand our kinks, including taking an honest look at the parts we’re not very proud of, and we wind up not being into each other anymore?”

It’s not so much a fear of being told not to have a certain kind of sex; it turns out nobody else gets to decide what kind of sex you have, not even people who are really opinionated about it. It’s the fear of a future in which you no longer WANT to have certain kinds of sex, or sex with certain kinds of people, that you find super hot right now.

That’s a legitimate fear. There’s always the possibility that if you look at yourself too closely, you’ll discover you want to change. You might investigate your kinks and discover that some of them are based in personal trauma or in a political belief that doesn’t gel with your sense of ethics. If you do, you might choose to work on healing some trauma, and potentially lose that erotic trigger in the process. Or you might decide you want to bring your sex and your ethics into alignment, which could result in choosing different partners or kinds of play than you currently do.

From the beginning, our bottom line has been pretty anti-climactic:

All I’m saying is: what BDSM’ers call “D/s dynamics” is just one manifestation of how people relate to each other.


BDSM is “just” a sandbox in which we can play with oppression. If that’s not what you’re doing, you’re just giving “BDSM” to people who want to use it—and are using it—as a way to justify rape.

And people who are okay doing that will rot in hell.

I find it rather telling that these simple ideas inspired such vocal opposition.

See also: this is one of the ways the BDSM Scene trains new Dominants not to take Submissives’ consent seriously.