Author: has written 57 posts for this blog.

Clarisse Thorn is a Chicago-based, feminist, sex-positive activist and educator. Personal blog at clarissethorn.com; follow her on Twitter @clarissethorn; you can also buy her awesome book about pickup artists or her awesome best-of collection, The S&M Feminist.
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17 Responses

  1. Cyn
    Cyn August 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm |

    Clarisse,

    As a domestic violence and sexual assault survivors’ advocate, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for these ongoing posts you have about BDSM. It takes a lot of courage for someone from ANY community to acknowledge non-consensual violence within their community for so many reasons

    What I like most about this post is that, while you educate so many people who are not aware on issues of domestic and sexual violence, you are ultimately making space for those who are experiencing it to seek help. I want you to know that I often forward your articles (not just this one) to my fellow advocates so that they can acknowledge some of their own biases and be better at their jobs.

    Thank you again for your wonderful insights and contributions.

  2. News: BDSM and abuse, Lesbian heroes ignored by mainstream media, and Sexual violence and mental illness «

    [...] On BDSM and abuse – how they are not the same thing but do, of course, at times cross paths. The author, in response to a comment, said this: I really really really want to feel sure that as BDSM becomes more destigmatized — a process that appears to be happening independent of me and other feminist BDSM writers — that its communication/consent techniques are popularized as well. I want people who engage in these relationships to be understood, but I also really really really don’t want BDSM to be used as a shield to cover abusers. [...]

  3. angelicaliveshere
    angelicaliveshere August 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    There is a huge difference. BDSM, properly and safely practiced can be a very amazing experience. You must have safely procedures in place such as “safe words” to be able to stop what is going on in a moment’s notice. It involves an incredible amount of trust and should never be practiced with someone you don’t know or trust. This kind of ‘play’ can have disastrous consequences if one partner is abusive, drunk or unwilling. People are afraid of it because they do not understand what it truly is
    That being said, it can also be a part of a safe, sane, consensual and loving relationship (and often is). .
    I have had long conversations with my therapist about it. It worried me that I enjoyed it so much. My therapist said that BDSM and S & M can be a safe environment where people work out their past issues. Confronting their fears, and (safely) indirectly confronting some of the experiences (and possibly traumas) that they have had in their own past.
    Sometimes people who have a lot of serious responsibilities in their life want the opportunity to be submissive and passive safely.
    .

  4. evie
    evie August 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm |

    Thanks for this. It is so important the people stop being defensive on this topic (and in every other community too, including queer women, feminists, alternative spiritualities, lefties, etc) because while people are still invested in the ‘it happens less here’ there will be a tendency to minimise, deny, blame and silence survivors. We naturally don’t want our beliefs in the goodness of our community challenged. But we’ve got to challenge them, and having the tools to learn how and why to do it, like the awesome power & control wheel, is so important.

  5. Emily Hauser
    Emily Hauser August 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm |

    Thank you so much for this. I’m vanilla, but curious about what makes other sexualities tick, and have had questions about the BDSM community off and on (not to mention learning not long ago learned of a friend who recently joined the community [as a grandmother, no less]), and often feel like there are bits and pieces to the experience that I just don’t get, even while I entirely support everyone’s right to express their sexuality in whatever consensual relationship makes sense for them. This is helpful, and I thank you for posting it.

  6. James
    James August 3, 2011 at 10:03 pm |

    I think I may have written 10,000 words, and erased 100,000 others, trying to say this: I disagree.

    I hate being asked into BDSM; I hate participating, I hate watching, I hate hearing about it.

  7. the-r-evolution
    the-r-evolution August 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    Nice to see an article about BDSM that acknowledges couples that have full-time power exchange dynamics and that do not use safewords. I still think it is very, very difficult to draw up a chart or list of behaviors that can be labelled “abusive” or not, when it comes to those that enjoy “advanced class” BDSM relationships. Almost everything I’ve seen on those “abuse power wheel” charts are things that we sometimes have in our relationship. I still think one of the most reliable indicators of whether something is “abusive” or not, is how the person feels about it. I love my relationship and am incredibly happy in it, thus I don’t view any of my partner’s actions as “abusive”. However, in another context, those same actions could be abusive if they were causing emotional damage and pain to someone else.

  8. BDSM and abusive relationships « Chicks Dig Me

    [...] have to tell you that I don’t agree with much/most/any?/not sure of what this young woman has to say about BDSM, especially as pertains to white male supremacy and BDSM’s relationship [...]

  9. T. Kulesza
    T. Kulesza August 4, 2011 at 6:10 am |

    Looking back now, those posts still strike me as defensive. I was making good points, but I also think that I didn’t fully understand where some feminists are coming from when they react negatively to BDSM. This past year, I’ve learned a lot more about abusive gender-based violence, power, and control. And I’ve concluded that while BDSM is obviously not equivalent to abuse, we need better theory to describe the difference between BDSM and abuse, and we should try to avoid defensiveness while articulating that theory.

    Interesting. I recently read these (i guess due to your ‘strength’ post) – and your comments in the trackbacks of other bloggers that commented, and had the same impression, that you were a bit defensive. Which saddened me since i value your writing so much. I’m really glad you got insight into your reaction and don’t feel that way anymore.

    “But the way to deal with those mistakes is by apologizing sincerely and making sure the mistake never happens again.”

    So true and so important. It’s basically a litmus test in most cases, IMO.

  10. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza August 4, 2011 at 6:11 am |

    (i changed my name/mail since i had trouble posting comments earlier, but Jill said there shouldn’t be any. I wonder my usual (this one) will pass through…)

  11. LC
    LC August 4, 2011 at 11:38 am |

    I do think that minimizing is where the key element turning it into abuse lies. I’m not sure I ever quite articulated it that way before, but it resonates with me.

    I am at work, so can’t read Pepper Mint’s essay right now, but even when I disagree I tend to enjoy engaging with his ideas, so I will assume it is good.

    As for the comment about vanilla abuse – I often half-joke that the only real TPE 24/7 people I know are hard-core conservative believers in traditional marriage. Mostly because it pisses off both the conservatives and the kinksters, and that amuses me, but there is a core of truth there.

    In fact, to get back to the “minimizing” thing, I think that is my main issue when it gets to larger kink culture. The defensiveness that so often pervades when this subject comes up, along with endless “No True Scotsman” arguments, automatically pushes my “minimizing” button. The moment the backs go up and the wagons circle is the point where I start to suspect there really must be abuse there – why else switch to defensive mode so quickly?

  12. thefallgirl
    thefallgirl August 5, 2011 at 1:31 am |

    Thank you for these posts, Clarisse. I’ve been following the discussion on a different site and really like the conclusions you’ve drawn here. I’ve encountered the “all BDSM is abuse” line of thought before and had a similarly defensive knee-jerk to it without being able to articulate my objection in stronger words than “Nuh uh, because in BDSM people are consenting!” but that has the potential to minimize situations where it’s both BDSM and people are not consenting, and that isn’t my intention at all. I think my own defensive stance has been further strengthened by the fact that the only abuse and sexual violence I’ve ever experienced has been in the context of vanilla relationships. The argument as a whole has made me take a closer look at what I’m saying and how I’m thinking, and on top of loving having a voice advocating for kinky folks on this blog, I sincerely appreciate reading your perspective since it helps me broaden mine.

  13. Jenae
    Jenae August 5, 2011 at 7:22 am |

    Thanks for this. I left the BDSM community over the sheltering of creepy Doms. I met some really great people but the amount of respect given to people (mostly men) who called themselves “Master” or “Sir” was ridiculous. The public scene became this constant game of play-acting and I was just not. interested.

    I will say though that if it hadn’t been for some really awesome ppl I met in the scene, I would never have discovered my own sexuality and I wouldn’t have my partner (we met on CollarMe).

  14. Yuki
    Yuki August 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    James:
    I think I may have written 10,000 words, and erased 100,000 others, trying to say this: I disagree.

    I hate being asked into BDSM; I hate participating, I hate watching, I hate hearing about it.

    Then with all due respect, why are you reading this? Your preferences are your own, but they don’t dismiss the important points Clarisse has made in regards to abuse.

  15. Kate
    Kate August 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm |

    Thank you so much for this, Clarise. I organize a kink group for young adults, and having words to describe this sort of thing to the fresh, bright-eyed people that show up is endlessly useful.

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