Recently, I conducted a survey to do some research around consent and violations and the management of these within BDSM.
The reasons were two-fold, firstly for my own understanding.
That, I of course have my own opinions and understanding, but it’s important to know how people feel about this wider.
One potential problem sometimes is being in our own little bubbles and I can’t present ‘facts’ without them.
So, secondly, to present facts.
Do people feel their concerns were, or would be, dealt with – and general attitude towards the scene.
Whilst I did have some of my own expectations on the result – some things came back differently to how I expected, some better some worse.
THE HEADLINE FIGURES
First off, some headline figures
Only 20% believe the scene does a good or OK job of dealing with complaints of breach of consent. While 41.6% say more needs to be done to support those who raise concerns.
And a suprisingly small 6.1% say that it’s those whom complaints are made about that need more support.
I was expecting this figure to be larger, because there’s a lot of shouting online about how allegations ruin reputations – but it seems this is just a minority concern. Just people who shout about it like to shout loudly.
Other key figures when crunched
45.5% of those who raised a consent violation to an events organiser saw, what they deem, suitable action taken (48.2% believe action would be taken if they raised it) however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 68.9% found they were generally believed (compared to 48.2% whom thought they would be believed)
However, there does seem to be a cross section between ‘being believed’ and ‘sufficient action taken’
Of those that said they reported and were believed, only 55.6% saw what they deemed suitable action taken.
ATTITUDES BY DEMOGRAPHIC
The demographics I most looked at were gender (now many people selected their own valid genders but, for the sake of this article I’m going to loop these as ‘other’ – I appreciate there is a big difference between, say, agender and genderfluid – but there’s also a lot of patterns in experiences)
The gender break down was
I also looked at roles
and experience levels
I’ve been about a bit 30%
Quite experienced 40%
very experienced 16.9%
Prefer not to say 0.8%
And that ratio you sometimes here sub guys go on about “there’s 100 guys to every woman!!!” actually…
Sub guys 15.2%. Dominant Women 9.9% – which works out around 3 guys to every 2 women.
Factor in switches and you get 27.4% for sub or switch guys and 22.9% for Dominant or switch Women – so around 6 guys to every 5 Women.
WHO ABUSED CONSENT?
I didn’t ask too many questions about the identity of the person who breached consent. Some information I hadn’t felt important, like gender, but now in hindsight I wonder if people were more or less likely to believe it if the named abuser was female vs male.
The two questions I asked was how known they were to you and also how known they were on the scene.
It did fit my expectations that only 26.8% had been abused by someone they just met and as high as 50.1% it was someone known and active on the kink scene.
We very easily jump into things around ‘personal responsibility’ but in the vast majority of these cases – it wasn’t like play was jumped into.
MOST LIKELY TO JUMP INTO PLAY
Equally, my questions around being approached for play revealed people were generally more likely (25.4%) to jump into play with someone we kind of knew vs (3.1%) we’d just met but found attractive.
So, I’ve always agreed that people should do some of their own vetting – but these instances seem to have come from reasonable vetting.
To further break down.
Those who were likely to play if approached by someone they kind of knew
The largest chunk is sub males, at 33%
(followed by Dominant Female 12%, sub other 12%, sub female 9%, Dominant male 9%, other switch 9% – other roles lower)
And to play with an attractive stranger – again – men in general rock up at 67%
WHO FEELS CONSENT WAS VIOLATED
Headline figures again
40.5% are submissive, 32.4% switches and 24.3% Dominants.
with a further breakdown
26% are sub female
15% are switch female
12% are Dominant female
12% are Dominant male
9% are sub male
with lower percentages below that.
So, again the groups most likely to have felt their consent is violated are NOT those most likely to jump into play.
BIAS TOWARDS FRIENDS
I had three scenarios set up about someone telling you about an incident. It was unsurprising that 94.6% were likely to believe their friend if told that a stranger abused their consent. But this arc of belief dips when it’s the friend accused by a stranger (39.2%) or friend accusing friend. (43.8%) the “Don’t know” arcs on those are understandably high.
Now, I do think a little bit that some of this is down to the high ‘I don’t know what I’d do’ arc – which could be between genuinely not knowing and also, that, well, there’s a lot of context.
For example – whether you’re imagining in your head a friend whom you trust completely, or imagining a friend who means well but you accept there could be a risk they make a mistake, or despite them being your friend you
might have reservation with their attitude to consent.
So if we disregard the don’t know’s – the weighted answers become 70.8% for friend accused by stranger
and 81.4% for friend vs friend.
Understandably all these figures sharply increase if I filter on those who’ve felt they themselves have had consent violated : 95.9%, 84.3%* and 88%* (*disregarding ‘don’t know’) and slumps towards those that have not (91.5%, 65.6%*, 76.1%*)
The points within this. Whenever there’s been a big revelation on consent abuse, it’s never really a loner, so to speak. Because amont anything else, it seems there’s a 94.6% chance of being believed if the person you make a claim against is unknown, so presumably more chance of action occuring.
(Action may be just “you know not to do that, right? Don’t do it again” and that might be sufficient depending on context.)
But : 50.1% we have abuse allegations against someone known on the kink scene and 73.2% where it was someone the victim already knew.
This points more of the risk on individuals already active within the kink scene then a newbie who doesn’t know any better.
WHEN NOT REPORTED, WHY NOT?
For this, I allowed multiple answers so the figures here will add above 100%
Some key points I take out of it
19.2% – we sorted it out between ourselves.
Because, that’s quite an important metric. Someone who gets a little bit carried away and needs to be told not to do that again, sometimes that’s all it needs.
So, nearly 20% whom didn’t report because the nature was something they could sort themselves. Which, does of course mean 80% of the cases not reported are more serious.
It Seemed Small – 42.3%
It wasn’t until later I realised it was wrong – 34.6%
Not wanting to cause “drama” 23.1%
I didn’t know who to report it to 23.1%
Fear of not being believed 19.2%
No evidence 19.2%
I think some of these figures are important to consider.
That there are people not coming forward for not wanting to cause drama, feeling they won’t be believed – or – feeling it was small (but still large enough to consider a breach of their consent)
Another high figure to be cautious of was the “not knowing who to report it to”
Also, of course, another high figure of concern is not realising it was wrong until later.
I think common factors on that are around the “subs thinking they have to do everything they’re told” or consent being asked for during subspace or under pressure.
88.8% of those who responded that were sub or switch.
DO READ THE COMMENTS
I left a space at the end of the survey for comments on how people felt the scene could be better at dealing with claims.
I don’t feel there’d be much benefit in reposting all of the comments, especially as many were in similar vains.
A common theme was to have some form of independent panel which makes a decision based on reports of abuse.
22% of the comments gave some form of mention towards that.
However, there were also a handful of comments which stated that matters should be left to the police to resolved.
I guess, from there it depends on what we deem the violation to be and also where it happened.
Strawman arguement : if someone says they were groped at your event, do you really want them getting the police to come in and investigate? Particularly if there preferred resolution is to put out the abuser or have more staff in place?
Speaking of staff…
“More women in authority” and “male organisers run a lot of events and many lack empathy” were from two different commenters.
Add in “Some organisers are too quick to dismiss the accusations as misguided”, “Leadership at events needs to work harder” and “Organisers should deal with things directly”
Couple this in with figures from above that only 20% feel the scene in general is doing a good job – this comes from 25% male, 19% female 9.5% other.
For many, education seems key.
Only 27.7% of my sample group had been to a workshop on consent. This doesn’t mean they are mandatory, but couple this in with some figures above about some violations being small, or so forth.
Some comments “…understanding that something minor can still be violating consent even if not full on assault or rape would help”, “I think more awareness workshops about the boundaries between consent/abuse would benefit people”, “In the event of misunderstanding or similar, attempt to educate the person who has erred.”
And you know, some areas are really good for this, some not so much.
There’s lots of I think potential “I thought that was OK” kind of holes.
But, one very good point on education and awareness:
“Just cut the bullshit that the difference between kink and abuse is clear. It is not, especially in the case of darker play. Greater awareness needs to be spread of the subtle ways potential abusers can use sadism as a mask, and the signs that someone may not take consent seriously or that it may have been violated.”
Some called for more support to those raising complaints:
“Less animosity to those accusing, calling it ‘gossip’, ‘badmouthing’ etc. Accusing someone of a consent violation is way more than gossip.”
And some stating both may need support “The scene needs more compassion. Allegations are made because someone is distressed. Having an allegation made against you is distressing… the current system polarizes.”
With also a valid point
“There is also currently no framework where someone can put their hands up and say “I fucked up” and have help and support to reevaluate their attitudes and practices”
Which is also true.
“I have seen many male predators get away with bad behaviour for years because they prey on young innocent girls and they themselves are considered pillars of the kink community”
There’s been two high profile cases recently involving guys whom were in positions of responsibility (event organiser, ‘consent advocate’) – an also common abuser trait involves being friendly and welcoming to newcomers, not necessarily to ‘groom’ but certainly to already cast divides. So that when someone else names them as a danger, your experience with them is already positive and you tend to believe the person who’d welcomed you.
And, finally, from the responses.
One simple and to the point…
“Listen to people”
CONCLUSION AND MY OWN VIEW
I think a key point to take from this is that only a minority of people think ‘the scene’ does a good job of dealing with reports of abuse.
A lot is not black and white, nor open and shut cases – but there are points where we can all look at what can be done better.
I guess a point here is what do I mean by ‘the scene’. There are many events I can consider to be well ran and this is not designed to be taken as an attack. But, I think attitudes in general – being supportive to those who come forward and helping where possible.
This goes beyond just event organisers but also in the friends we keep.
I often see talk of personal responsibility – but my figures show that these instances of consent violation were by people who they had known for a while and/or were active and known on the fetish scene.
They also show that people tend not to jump into play haphazard (and those more likely to, are amongst the groups least likely to be abused).
So, while personal responsibility is important, these are people who tend to be responsible.
That perhaps, even those who’ve been about for a bit could do with the odd refresher group on consent.
I also feel that more events and organisers should always consider pushing out the odd reminders. Certainly play events should have rules clearly displayed, to reduce the chances of people claiming they “didn’t know”.
I also think events should, within reason, consider diversity. That their events may attract people from a lot of different sexual identities and backgrounds. So, making sure people are available that these individuals would feel comfortable raising problems and concerns with.
This is something where, I’m not saying you need a disabled, transgender lesbian – or whatever – but just someone who can be seen to be supportive, who can be seen to speak up for minority groups.
I do agree also that the kink scene is not the police, but also, generally speaking we want to keep the police away from doors. Some issues will be simple, some complex and not black and white. But, that responsibilities are upheld to keep things under our doors to be safe, sane, consensual.
And if someone is using our events to prey on newcomers. That steps are taken to keep them away and also keep newcomers educated on dangerous behaviours.