I keep seeing posts wherein people are angry about criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey that runs along the lines of “Christian Grey isn’t Ana’s dom, he’s her abuser.” People see this kind of statement as implying that abuse never happens within BDSM relationships.

And I see their point, but I also feel like that’s deliberately reading statements like this in the most negative way possible. If you heard somebody say “He’s not her boyfriend, he’s her abuser,” would you really take that as a denial that “boyfriends” can be abusive?

Or how about something like “That kid says he’s your friend, but he’s not really your friend, he’s a bully”? Would you really think someone who says that is denying that people can be abused by people they trust as friends?

I feel like the intended meaning is very obvious, namely that the relationship in question, whatever people call it and regardless of whether it fits the broad shape of what we expect that kind of relationship to look like, is not a good relationship, it’s abusive.

I get that on this particular topic, it sounds like people distancing themselves from something they want to avoid thinking about, i.e. that abuse happens in their communities. But that distancing doesn’t reside in this statement about FSOG. Denial that abuse can happen in BDSM communities is a significant problem, but that problem doesn’t live inside this set of words.

“Christian Grey isn’t Ana’s dom, he’s her abuser” is a quick little slogan, and it’s not a great one because nothing that short can be great. Of course it’s open to negative interpretations. Of course it’s not nuanced. For the most part, people don’t use a slogan because they believe every last thing its wording implies, but because it’s a quick and simple way to say one thing. Whether someone says this kind of thing in this kind of way about FSOG is not really going to tell you one way or the other what they think about the overall topic of abuse and BDSM relationships. If you want to find people who are doing the whole “It doesn’t happen here” thing and call them on that, criticizing people who use this slogan isn’t going to help you.


And also… you are aware that there’s a reason some people involved in BDSM feel a need to distance themselves from abuse, and it’s not that they’re any more callous or influenced by rape culture than the average person, right?

You’re aware that a significant number of people think BDSM is always just a sneaky name for abuse? That there are people who think, and loudly say, that everyone who calls themself a dom is abusive? Who think that no one in their right mind could ever consent to any kind of kinky sex?

Lots of communities have a “It doesn’t happen here” problem when it comes to rape and abuse, and by “lots” I mean pretty much everything you can call a community, from small towns to the Catholic Church and everywhere in between. The reason BDSM has both “It doesn’t happen here” resistance to discussions of abuse, and also “BDSM isn’t abuse” infographics? Is because other people insist on saying that BDSM is abuse, inherently.


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