Consent and Fantasy: Ruminations on Amanda Berry et al

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.


As always, in love and kink,



7 replies
  1. ModeNarr
    ModeNarr says:

    Dear Eve,

    I couldn’t agree more. There have been several similar Clevelands in Europe in the past. There are even movies made out of these happenings.

    It can’t be tolerated by any society that someone just takes what he/she wants to have. In no respect. I get deeply sad when I think about the crucial things that happened in India in the last months. Unbelievable.

    It is more than difficult to draw the right border line between Consensual SM Games trying to widen limits and non consensual crime.


  2. aleacat21
    aleacat21 says:

    I agree with you Eve but, I also think that there should also be a strong distinction between sanity and insane. Clearly these men were highly disturbed in that they were only thinking of their own desires and that they were willing to go beyond merely pushing the boundaries between Dom/sub role play. They were down right disregarding it and were willing to break the law and cause real harm on another human being. I highly doubt that these men were even a part of the BDSM community. They were a group who shared sick fantasies with each other and then decided to go out and act them out.

    I think that the same parallel can be placed on gun ownership. There are many people out there who are responsible gun owners. They have a license and they store their weapons in a gun safe. They attend classes and learn how to properly handle their weapon. Then, there are those who are completely outside the fringe of this group. They abuse the weapon. They obtain it illegally and sometimes, these people are completely insane and then innocent lives are lost.

    • eveminax
      eveminax says:

      ah, sane and insane, more complications..I like your analogy of gun ownership and lets’ say Anti-Social behavior, but unfortunately the sane/insane paradigm has caused a tremendous amount of heartache in our society. Hell, most people think that anyone into whipping or bondage is “insane”.

      What I’m trying to tease out is consent. Not the victims consent in this situation, although that may be a relevant philosophical equation later down the line for others. I am considering how we, in the world of kink/SM distinguish consent. Like sanity, I do not think it is always apparent.

      Finally, one of the reasons I prefer RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) over SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) is that it does not evaluate sanity as much as awareness of risky behaviors, much like any extreme sports. Consensual in both cases can still be dissected I think.

  3. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Dear Eve,

    probably the hardest human relationship to define, would be that of the loving and devoted Dom & Sub. Though I know exactly what you are writing about, I had to get here first through my own experience. Rape on the other hand, will always be violence, as in “My will be done unto you” and is as old as the scriptures. It is very rarely in affect and often premeditated, the victim might be selected on weekness, or based on other psychological criteria, or the rapists defintion of revenge.

    It is a violation of the most intimate kind, for all men, women and children that have been raped. It is also an experience one will carry to the grave. The law needs to understand, that there is no law to stop it, but certainly laws to punish it. No slap on the hand convictions and excuses are going to help anyone involved. Not the rapist the victim, or society. We live in the year 2013, but somewhere in caves, as far as verdicts for rapists are concerned.

    I am a big believer in the strength of public opinion, against justice systems that condemn the victims rather than the rapist in rape trials.

    There is no such thing as a consensual crime. If you asked me to cut off your head and I did, I would have commited a crime. You ask me to rape you, same thing.


    • Zia Marie
      Zia Marie says:

      Ask me to pretend to cut off your head and we “play out a game of beheading” I think all can agree no crime has been committed. Not quite so clear if my guy wants me to pretend to rape him but again, as long as we both agree it is fantasy no crime is committed.

  4. Hillary
    Hillary says:

    Speaking as a woman who has entertained her share of rape fantasies, probably because I am seeking catharsis around my own desire for power vs fear of powerlessness, I can say that no line is clearer than that between fantasy and reality, consent and non-consent. No woman wants to be raped. I know lots of women who want to re-enact, or enact, their rape fantasies, but that always takes place in a controlled environment, with trusted partners.
    If you want to get into the reasons why a woman might want to play at rape, it’s no different than the reasons men play with their own fringe experiences of violence. We find the edges of who we are by finding the edges of who we are not.
    It is uncomfortable that women fantasize about violent assault, but men fantasize about violencel the time. And the sexual component of violence between men is every bit as virulently sexualized, if more sublimated.
    For those of us who aren’t actually violent, all of our fantasies of violence are really about sex. Male or female.


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