What started as a Facebook post now has become a full fledged entry for me as I continue the dialogue around the horrors of what happened with those young women in Cleveland. I have been ruminating for days. Honestly, I am still speechless. I want to flee from my own profession in order not to be associated with such horror. I feel weak and ineffectual. To top it all off, I am presenting a class on Rape Play next week and another on Negotiations that weekend. Rest assured, I will be discussing this incident, (and others), as examples of NON CONSENSUALITY. In the meantime, I invite others to comment on how we can engage conversation around consensual SM practices and the horrors of real time kidnapping and rape. Especially when consent is NOT as simple as we would like to think.
The problem with consensuality, even amongst the most seasoned players is having the bottom fall in “sub space” and not knowing how to call a safe word. I think it may be akin to Stockholm Syndrome in that there’s a deep and intimate connection that moment that inextricably binds the two players together for a “forever” moment. That’s why Dominants/Tops MUST be fully in check with their Submissives/Bottoms before, during and after the scene. One way of checking without ruining the scene is to simply look the bottom in the eyes and ask “do you remember your safe word?”. Further, you may, as the Top, also call a safe word and stop the scene if you feel it is going too deeply or potentially harmfully.
It has been argued by Desmond Ravenstone that “one of the distinctions between the crime of rape and the fantasy of ravishment is which fantasy is the template for action. With consensual ravishment role-play, the sub/bottom’s fantasy is the main template. With criminal rape OTOH, the rapist is fixated on his own fantasies without concern for the victim (which is why they can be profiled — each type based on a particular category of fantasy fixation).” Although I think that using the term template is useful in the distinction, I also know that even in Rape Play fantasies, it can be the Top that initiates that desire. This is not to say that the bottom does not consent, or ideally, is not simply doing it to placate the top, but that bottoms are not the only one with Rape Fantasies. As I suggest in all my classes, negotiating consent and finding parity with your partner is essential to a powerful scene.
I suggest this is an ethical equation. Based on Ravenstone’s proposal of a template, I say it’s not simply Top/bottom, but is actually an template of Power Over versus Power Through. In Power Over dyanamics, there will always be a Perpetrator and a victim. Power Over involves taking what you want with no consideration of the outcome. In Power through dyanamics, there is an exchange of Power that flows from one person to the other. Power Through, (otherwise known as Power Exchange), requires at least the following aspects:
Ample negotiations, determined by both/all partners, not just one.
Continued check in during the process, (ideally in a way that does not stop scene, see above).
Stopping scene immediately if safe word is called by any/either party.
Aftercare that combines physical care, (water, blanket, cuddling), with emotional care, (listening compassionately, dialoging with love). Speaking of love, Play is Play out of Love, not hate, not anger. Non consensual kidnapping and rape are crimes of deep emotional disturbances and Power Over dynamics. I am not a psychologist nor criminologist, but we all might agree that people simply cannot go around taking what they want with no consideration for how it will affect others’ lives.
I have no solid answers. I am still in deep sadness for the lives of these women. I look forward to your dialogue.
Asking for what you want is hard. Getting what you want is harder. Accepting and rolling with it when you do not get what you want is even harder still. How do we get what we want in scene and give our partner what they want so everybody wins?