fieldofyellowdandelions asked:

Do you have any thoughts on Jian Ghomeshi? I’ve had two conversations in the past week about him. In the first, a friend and I were talking about abuse and consent violations within the BDSM community, the “it’s not BDSM if it’s abuse” mentality and BDSM being a fertilization of abuse. In the second, I found myself bringing up the concept of “Consent as a Felt Sense”. Since these are both things you have spoken to in the past, I was wondering if you have any thoughts.

Yes, I do. But I have very little to say about Jian Ghomeshi specifically because nothing in his case is novel or interesting or new. Instead, I have stuff to say about the systemics behind what’s at play in cases like these.

For those who are unaware of the story, Jian Ghomeshi is a famous Canadian media icon who was recently accused of rape by three women, each approximately 20 years his junior. Ghomeshi responded by saying that, in each case, the sex was part of role play scenarios of a BDSM nature. In other words, Ghomeshi claimed the rape wasn’t “rape rape,” but rather rape play.

I first learned about the story when a friend on Facebook asked me, just as you did, if I had any thoughts about it. Here’s what I said:

I haven’t read anything about this yet but my understanding is that this person is describing their relationship as a BDSM one and therefore he is not a rapist?

Obviously, that sounds like something abusive BDSM’ers would say, probably because it is something abusive BDSM’ers say all the time. I am not at all surprised that would happen and I would expect to see a lot of people who affiliate with the BDSM subculture do whatever they can to distance themselves from him.

However, as BDSM becomes more widely known as a good structural cover for rapists and abusers, you will see more of these stories, not less. You can quote me on that. I’m confident of that prediction.

Now a month later, this is exactly what happened. In lockstep, BDSM’ers, even Ghomeshi’s close friends, were quick to denounce his behavior. Obviously, statements denouncing rape are better than statements supporting rape. But talk is cheap. Here are just a few more names for you to Google along with Jian Ghomeshi’s that have broken headlines recently:

  • John Hauff
  • Bob Bashara
  • Ed Bagley
  • Jim Brown
  • Mark Yu

(Hey, Tumblr, feel free to reblog and add the names of other folks. Let’s show folks just how far this goes.)

And then there are plenty of other incidents for whom laws of various kinds restrict the publication of the assailants’ names. Here’s an example of what those stories often sound like:

Man convicted of raping wife in alleged BDSM scenario gets retrial:

It turns out “no” may not always mean “no” – at least in the world of domination and submission.

That message comes from a surprising corner – the Court of Appeal, which this week ordered a new trial for a Toronto man who was convicted of sexual assault despite arguing that his wife had been a willing partner in dominant-submissive sex and he had assumed her “no” really meant “yes” that night of Feb. 8, 2008.

[…]

“She insisted he knew she meant ‘no’ and that he did not care,” [lower court judge] Quigley said of the man, whose name can’t be published so as not to identify his ex-wife. “The onus was on him to ascertain whether ‘no’ did, in fact, mean ‘no.’”

Ontario’s highest court disagreed[.]

[…]

That night, the husband said his wife lay down with her back to him. “He reached over and grabbed her hair and said in his dominant voice, ‘You want it, don’t you?’ to which the complainant responded, ‘No.’ However, the appellant testified that his wife’s ‘no’ was spoken in her submissive tone, the tone she would take whenever they engaged in role-play. This, to him, indicated consent.”

The trial judge called that “convenient fabrication.”
Instead, Quigley accepted the wife’s version of events: that her husband threw her down on the bed, put his arm over her throat so she could barely breathe and then sexually assaulted her, ignoring her demands that he stop as she sobbed and tried to get out from beneath him.

They separated several months later and despite several attempts, failed to reconcile.

And then there are all the stories that don’t mention BDSM specifically by term but nevertheless have all the trappings of a BDSM scenario, complete with grown men driving getaway cars stark fucking naked save for adult diapers. I. Shit. You. Not. (A TL;DR, courtesy unquietpirate: This couple dressed up as cops, broke into another couple’s house, tasered and handcuffed them, then stabbed tortured them with knives until one of the victims was able to set off an alarm somehow. The attackers fled, were chased by police, and eventually arrested in their car, where the man was discovered to be driving totally naked except for a diaper.)

I’m not trying to point out that these people are rapists. That’s not a judgement for me to make. And I don’t think it’s something for courts to determine, either. I think it’s something for the survivors to judge. Obviously.

What I am trying to point out here is that there is an undeniable pattern in which people (and overwhelmingly Dominant men) use BDSM as a defense against accusations of rape and, moreover, that this defense often legally protects them. Further, so many of the cases where the “but BDSM!” defense does not protect them are so egregious that I find it difficult to believe that what’s actually being prosecuted is rape at all, but rather murder or kidnapping. The rape charges in these cases almost seem incidental, which stops being surprising when you consider that laws against rape were never enacted to protect people from rapists but rather to put Black men in jail.

I think it is at least noteworthy that these articles seem like they get written as though mentioning rape was one of the many crimes committed goes without saying. The popular attitude towards rape seems to be “well if someone’s kidnapping you obviously they’re gonna rape you so watch out for kidnappers!” And it’s that very attitude that enables people who “only” commit rape instead of rape and kidnapping, or rape and murder, to continue raping with impunity.

Obviously, impunity of this sort is a problem for people who advocate winning mainstream cultural legitimacy for the BDSM Scene, because it means people who want to justify their desires for or engage in actual acts of non-consensual sex (i.e., rape) are very likely to find fertile, well-protected grounds to do so in their spaces. These are people and acts that mainstream values consistently reject. Everyone, literally everyone, thinks that rejection is warranted. Only BDSM’ers object to that.

But by and large, the reaction of these BDSM assimilationists has not been to combat rape culture. It has been to eroticize it. The people, organizations, and institutions who grab at legal and political powers for the BDSM Scene are not fighting to stop rape. They’re fighting to normalize it.

Time and again, BDSM’ers openly and brazenly silence rape survivors. Time and again, BDSM’ers and others closely affiliated with sadomasochistic subcultures show themselves to be the most vocal opponents of survivor support tools, such as the Predator Alert Tools. Oh sure, BDSM’ers say they are “all about consent and respect and sex-positivty.” But those words, recited ad-nauseum like an invisible script for far longer than the decade in which I have personal experience in that community, are hollow lipservice. Even if the intentions are golden—and I, personally, do not believe they are—the proof is in the pudding.

BDSM as a (successful!) defense for rape is not becoming less common, it is becoming more common.

Hence, the pattern, which I’ve posted about before, when Mark Yu allegations arose, then dwindled, and then were brushed aside by major BDSM commercial outlets:

I observe the same predictable cycle repeat.

  1. Adept public relations grandstanding by VIP Scene’sters who are part of the problem in the first place. (Archived FetLife version.)
  2. The usual community shock—SHOCK!—and outrage. (More of that on FetLife, too, of course.)
  3. Various derailing comments by the piece of shit humans who really, really, really want to support rape, and rapists.
  4. An empty public statement using a lot of English words (made of real letters!) that says absolutely nothing while claiming to address all the important issues but doesn’t actually do a damned thing.
  5. Obsequious groveling by everybody who profits off the fact the BDSM Scene is a place to make some money or get laid thanks to rape culture—even the patently transparent grandstanders—at the feet of Shibaricon [the commercial venue], and a renewed, self-delusional confidence that everything will surely get fixed now.

Congratulations, BDSM’ers. Your culture is a peg below pure scum.

So, to summarize, Jian Ghomeshi doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters instead is all the BDSM Scene’sters decrying his behavior on the basis that it’s somehow different from “all these other GOOD Dominants over here.” That’s a defensive deflection, and a transparently bad one at that. In doing this, they once again fail to meaningfully agitate for rooting out abuse in BDSM communities.

But the fact they continue failing to agitate for change should not be attributed to incompetence. These are not stupid people. These are not poorly resourced people. The people with the most power in the BDSM Scene are typically white, wealthy, straight, men who take on Dominant roles. They are not unable to agitate for change. They are unwilling to.

Furthermore, I am not even arguing that their unwillingness to resist rape culture is rooted in personal moral failings on their part (although obviously I think their claims to a moral high ground are ridiculous). Rather, I am arguing that their unwillingness to resist rape culture is the inevitable result of their refusal to identify the defining element of BDSM: the fetishization of abuse. Instead of facing this reality honestly—a reality I have no moral objection to—they have built supporting institutions whose explicit purpose is the deflection of criticism to save their own reputations (and boners) from critical scrutiny. (I’m looking at you, NCSF).

That they then double-down on these actions in cases like Ghomeshi’s prove that they do not now, nor have they ever, had any intention of honestly addressing where abuse comes from in BDSM communities: it comes from BDSM, because that’s what BDSM is.

I said this two days ago and I’ll say it again: BDSM’ers know there’s something problematic about their orientations towards power, but they don’t care.

See also:

Donate Bitcoin

Flattr this!