A survey of the Dutch BDSM Scene finds even higher levels of serious consent violations than the earlier US-based NCSF survey. The Dutch survey’s abstract:

In the Dutch scene, pre-negotiated limits and safeword are ignored on a regular basis. Likewise, many kinksters have experienced scens that. With hindsight, went too far. This is not always considered bad, and it’s certainly not always experienced as abuse. Consent is a less absolute given as usually assumed. Condent [sic.] is the norm, but not always actual practice.

A substantial part of the consent violations happens at parties. The idea that parties are safe places for a first scene should be revised at least a little.

The survey is also interesting because it went on to ask respondents to assess the “severity” of the consent violation, the first survey of its kind I know of to treat consent violations as graded rather than as the literally insane binary with “totally fine” on the one hand and “end of the world” on the other. The study’s conclusions are therefore unsurprising:

Consent violations are rife in the Dutch language BDSM scene. Many respondents experienced multiple consent violations, many of which also of multiple types. 64,4% of the respondents has experienced one or more types of consent violation. A substantial part of those has experienced mutiple instances of consent violations of one or more types.

For ignored limits and safewords we see clearly groups of instances that were not bad and groups of instances that were bad. For scenes gone too far, by contrast, we see a big group who considered it “medium bad”. A substantial number of the consent violations is not experienced as bad at all, but 14,6% of the respondents has experienced at least one bad consent violation and 20,6% has experienced at least one consent violation as abuse.

Therefore, it seems that the mantra of consent as basis for SM isn’t entirely right. There is a clear discrepancy between the norm and reality. Consent is violated regularly, and sometimes that is bad, and sometimes it is not. But it is obviously something that happens to a lot of people. An interesting question, then, is why some instances are bad, while others are not. There are at least two theoretical explanations. It could be the nature of the consent violation (some violations are less bad) or the attitude of the people (some people consider consent violations worse than other people). We have no data to say anything about the first theory. The second theory is unlikely to explain all variation, as only 3,8% of the repsondents didn’t find consent important. The first theory therefore seems to be the more likely one.

Women experience consent violations more often than men en seem to experience that more often as bad than men (though differences are small). Women also experience consent violations more often as abuse, and although numbers are small it seems that mostly women consider filing charges. The question remains if women are victim of more serious consent violations, or if they experience them as more serious. Based on this study, we cannot answer that question.

Subs experience ignored limits and safewords more often than doms, with switches in between. For scenes gone too far there is no significant relation. Subs experience consent violations as worse than dominants, with switches in between for ignored limits and safewords. Switches consider scenes gone too far less bad as dominants and subs. Subs consider consent violations more often as abuse than dominants, with switches again in between. Hence, there seems to be a pretty clear relation between orientation and consent violations.

None of these conclusions should come as any surprise to regular readers of this blog, who may by now be well-versed with my oft-articulated premise that consent violations are the defining pillar of BDSM Scene subcultural activity. But, if you’re not, you will probably want to read my detailed analysis, “Explaining “Dominants are rapists” in excruciating detail: a step-by-step walkthrough” to get up to speed.

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