Oi, friend. This post talks about rape, assault, and shitty people who do awful things. If you don't want to read about these things, better to move on to happier places, like The 100 Most Important Kitten Photos of All Time.
You've been warned!
When I first got active in the BDSM community, I viewed it through big bright rose-colored glasses, as many newbies tend to do. I was thrilled to meet other open-minded kinksters and got the impression that most practitioners were awesome people.
Generally that's true, but if you spend enough time in the scene, you're sure to encounter at least a few toxic dominants. These are not tops who balance their own enjoyment with that of their partners. I'm talking about self-absorbed predators who habitually cross the lines of consent.
These people try to use BDSM as a socially acceptable excuse to commit what would clearly be considered rape, assault, or sexual abuse under any other circumstances. Many will deny up and down that their behavior is problematic or non-consensual.
There are also many in the scene who enable this type of behavior by minimizing the issue and acting like it's just the way of things. Don't believe them. There are plenty of wonderful dominants who focus on ensuring that everyone feels valued, stays safe, and has a good time.
Violating consent in BDSM is no more permissible than abuse in any other context. It traumatizes people, puts them in danger, and leaves the rest of us in the community screaming "THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS, YA BIG DUMB JERKS!"
In this article I'll share some info I wish someone had told me while I was getting my feet wet. Let's talk about toxic doms and explore ways to deal with them.
("Doms? Tops? The scene? Whatchu talkin' about, Molly?" Check out my BDSM glossary for the low-down.)
First off, don't rely on stereotypes.
You might be envisioning a toxic dom as a typical Creepy Dude™ who makes everyone around him uncomfortable. If so, don't let this impression mislead you.
Anyone can act like an abusive schmuck. This includes:
people of all genders
people who are attractive, popular, or charismatic
people with years of BDSM experience
instructors, performers, volunteers, and professionals working in the scene
I've seen all of the above.
Submissives can also be abusive. However, it's much less common to hear about subs raping or assaulting their partners due to the receptive nature of the role.
The point is, rather than avoiding a certain type of person, you'll be better off taking everyone in the scene on an individual basis. Focus on how people act, not who they are.
Why do toxic doms do the shit they do?
Welp, I'm not a psychologist, but over the years I've seen tops be shitty for a number of underlying reasons, including:
They're selfish. They want to get off on their fetishes but can't handle the massive amount of responsibility and consideration that topping requires.
They're oblivious. Their behavior is scary and unwelcome, but they haven't developed the social skills to understand why.
Their fetishes revolve around genuine sadism. Rape and assault get them off, and they believe the label of BDSM will protect them from accountability.
They have fragile egos and taking power (rather than consensually exchanging it) makes them feel important. Yeah, typical narcissist shit.
They misunderstand the nature of BDSM, the ethical code that the practice necessitates, and the kind of conduct that's required to make the things we do sustainable.
What are toxic and misguided doms misunderstanding?
They've missed or ignored the main memo, which is this:
BDSM is about the pleasure and willingness of everyone involved, in equal measures. We may fantasize and get off on ideas involving non-consensual dynamics. We may love playing around with the illusion of power imbalance. That doesn't mean we genuinely wish to experience these things.
To engage in our fantasies without causing one another harm, we have to approach kink with compassion, maturity, and consideration. This isn't masturbation and we can't be selfish about it. If we can't balance our motivations with the needs of our partners, kink becomes risky and unsustainable.
Are abusers particularly prevalent in the BDSM scene compared with other social spheres?
Predators exist everywhere and aren't unique to kink. There's nothing special, new, unique, mysterious, deep, or surprising about toxic doms, regardless of what they'd have you believe.
However, I imagine that when predators hear about BDSM, many might think, "Finally, I've found my people! Ones who will truly honor my greatness and gladly accept how I want to treat them. People who dig rape play and beatings wouldn't accuse me of assault, right?"
Every shitty dom I've ever dealt with had a pattern of pissing people off. They'd all had a number of explosive fall-outs with past partners. One had actually been accused of rape by a former friend of mine who had since moved away.
Naturally, it took me a while to figure this out in each case, as predators tend to make good first impressions and third parties don't like getting involved in issues that aren't their business.
There are signs you can look for, however, that will help you see through bullshit and steer clear of abusive tops.
Red Flags of Toxic Doms
Whether you're a bottom or switch, or a dom looking to co-top, I suggest you avoid playing with anyone who fits this description:
1. They don't care about negotiation, safewords, aftercare, or other aspects of BDSM best practices. These things exist for good reason and great doms make it a priority to discuss them before play. Tops who don't are either unaware because they're completely new to BDSM, or they don't care whether their partners enjoy themselves.
2. They reek with entitlement and demand you worship them for no reason whatsoever. You can find these people looking for unsuspecting victims online and in person at events.
"You may call me Mistress Jasmine. I'm a rising domme who specializes in training slaves. Now get on your knees and beg to serve me so I can decide whether you're worthy of my extraordinary attention. Blah blah fucking blah..."
... I'm sorry, who are you exactly?
Do these people think we all go through life handing out respect to anyone who woke up one day and decided to call themselves dominant?
Submission is a gift that must be earned and kept, not something to be demanded from anyone. To think otherwise is sociopathic and beyond ridiculous.
3. They push boundaries, even outside the context of play. This can take many forms. Perhaps they try to touch you without permission or demand more of your time than you're willing to give. Regardless, if they don't respect your limits in everyday life, they won't do so during play either.
4. They don't appear to listen when you tell them about yourself and your feelings. Great doms will want to learn everything about you so they can incorporate that info into play and lead a partnership dynamic that's equally amazing for both of you.
5. They straight-up say things like, "I think people make too big of a deal out of consent."
Translation: "I don't understand why people get so mad about sexual abuse. Gawd!"
6. They're obviously just into kink to boost their own ego. Perhaps they brag in public about being able to beat their partners, or they push to play with subs in front of an audience (including the vanilla crowd) to show off.
Responsible doms keep their egos in check. Toxic ones don't, and they take personal offense when subs don't go along with their shit. Rather than considering your comfort, all they can think is that you've caused them to lose face. How very dare you!
7. They can't separate the fantasy aspects of BDSM from reality. They're 100% caught in the illusion that the power imbalance of a dom/sub relationship should be real. These people watch too many movies and adopt unrealistic expectations.
"Safewords? But don't I get to call the shots? Isn't that the whole point?"
Why would they think such a thing? Too much 50 Shades, perhaps?
8. They view your hard limits as a challenge, rather than as non-negotiable boundaries.
There's much to be said for trying new things and stepping outside our comfort zones in BDSM. Some of my most amazing experiences happened while pushing soft limits with great tops.
The purpose of specifying hard limits, however, is to let people know when we're not fucking around and no really means no.
You have every right to change your mind and redefine your limits over time. It's your right to do so though, not your partner's.
9. They try to gaslight you into thinking you subconsciously want to do shit you're genuinely not down for.
You: I want you to spank me and call me a naughty girl.
Shitty dom: That's because you secretly crave a strong man to hold you down and force you to fuck like the slutty little cum dumpster you are!
You: Uhhhhhhhhhhhh, nope. Just wanted a bit of kinky role-play fun, but nevermind! (YIKES...)
I shit thee not, I once woke up and caught a dom talking to me in my sleep, trying to brainwash my subconscious into desiring to cater to his every whim.
You must run from such people. RUN, I TELL YOU!
If you end up playing with a dom who violates consent, how should you deal with it?
We can't always identify red flags in advance. If you end up playing with someone who ignores your safeword, acts like a bully, or crosses hard boundaries, there are a number of ways to handle it.
First and foremost, as soon as it feels safe to do so, leave the person and get to a place where you can take care of yourself and decide what to do next.
If you've been raped or assaulted and want to go to the police, do so. You may run into issues if you tell them BDSM was involved, (or more issues than usual, considering the challenges victims face,) but that alone won't legally protect abusers who violate consent.
If you feel comfortable talking to the person who crossed your boundaries, I highly suggest you tell them how you feel. Misunderstandings happen all the time in BDSM, and even if you never want to see that person again, telling them what they put you through can help you heal and help them get a fucking clue. If you don't want to speak to them, however, I understand that too. It's your choice.
Consider letting your friends and event organizers in the community know what happened. Never run around ruining someone's reputation unless they've truly violated consent, obviously. If they have though, spreading the word can help to keep others from ending up in the same awful situation.
How are toxic doms dealt with in the BDSM scene?
Unfortunately, there's no easy answer for dealing with abusers, and it's difficult for the community as a whole to do so.
Usually, a couple of things happen.
People talk shit, as they should, and abusive doms end up with bad reputations. Many people stop playing with them or inviting them to private events.
Responsible dungeons and event organizers will have what are known as dungeon monitors (also known as DMs). They're essentially bouncers for kinky parties. If toxic doms are called out for non-consensual crap in front of DMs, it's their job to deal with them.
However, in so many situations involving consent violations, it's usually the word of the victim against that of the perpetrator, and in many cases third parties won't want to get involved. Hearsay alone often isn't enough to get someone banned from a public event. That doesn't mean, however, that you shouldn't tell someone (or everyone!) if you've been abused.
If a dom starts to make you feel uncomfortable at an event, that alone probably isn't enough to get them banned either.
Event organizers in the scene are in a tight spot when it comes to creepy people who haven't technically crossed any lines, especially when other guests don't communicate their discomfort. After all, we're sexy perverts with kinky proclivities. A lot of subs look like they're suffering when they are, in fact, having a fabulous time.
You can help organizers by calling out skeevy people and telling them to quit their bullshit. As I mentioned, a lot of toxic doms are oblivious and don't seem to realize when they're making others uncomfortable, or they misunderstand what BDSM is about. Your words could be the wake-up call they need. Plus, once you've laid out a no-means-no boundary in plain English, organizers will have clear justification to warn or throw out anyone who crosses it.
We can't expect organizers to confront every weirdo we come across in the scene if we're not willing to speak up ourselves or help them foster a safe environment. Mutual support is what makes it a community.
HOWEVER, I understand this isn't always possible, and I respect how hard it can be to directly confront creepy people, especially if you're feeling threatened. If you don't feel comfortable talking to the person on your own, ask a staff member if they can do any of the following to help you.
Stand there with you, or stand nearby, while you talk to the person who's bothering you
Stay near you throughout the event and/or keep an eye on the creepster in question
Help you find a means of leaving safely, whether that means walking you to your car or calling you an Uber, Lyft, taxi, etc.
Provide a warning to whoever's creeping you out, without mentioning your name specifically, so they know they know they're on thin ice
A note to my fellow organizers:
As you can tell, I empathize with how difficult it is to bear the weight of policing community members, managing the comfort of all our guests, and making sure predators stay the fuck out of the scene. It's an exhausting task. I believe there are certain steps we can take to help prevent problems from occurring.
1. Let new people know that abuse happens in the scene, rather than painting pretty pictures of the community as enlightened or free of the same consent disagreements we hear about in vanilla spheres. This will help potential victims be on their guard while getting to know people, and let potential abusers know their shit will not be tolerated. It will also help guide new dominants who misunderstand BDSM toward acceptable behavior.
2. Don't allow people who have been accused of sexual assault at your play parties. We may not have undeniable proof that they're guilty. In my opinion, that should be the least of our worries. The discomfort of telling someone, "Hey, you've been accused of rape, so you can't come to my fun kinky party," is FAR better than having someone get raped at my fun kinky party. It's just not worth the risk. My event, my fucking rules.
3. Let people in the community know when someone has been accused of sexual assault or abuse. You don't have to make declarations about whether or not they're guilty, but don't brush off accusations or act like you didn't hear them. If I were new to a local scene, I'd want people to let me know if I was signing up to play with an alleged abuser. That way, I'd be able to make my own judgments, rather than jumping into a harmful situation without a clue.
4. Talk about and show how consent works in BDSM at your events, if possible. For instance, if you put on performances, you could have participants talk about their limits, safewords, etc., in front of the audience before the actual show so they know what they're watching. If you're playing in front of guests at your own play party, chat with your partner openly about how consent is handled between you. People will have a better idea of how to ensure consent and handle it in sexy ways if these steps are more visible in the community.
5. Keep your events drug and alcohol free. People get a lot looser about boundaries after a few drinks, and you don't want people leaving your event regretting their actions.
6. Put policies in place that are specifically designed to ensure play stays consensual. If you can't personally keep an eye out for everyone's safety, hire a DM for your event who knows what to watch out for. Have a "house safeword" system anyone can use at anytime and make it known to all who enter. If anyone uses it and the scene isn't stopped, step in and stop it for them. Also, ask guests to tell you and/or the DM in advance if they're planning to incorporate consensual non-consent into their scene. Otherwise, it can be tricky to tell whether you're looking at rape play, or actually watching someone get raped. Again, NOT WORTH THE RISK.
It sucks to know that bad apples have such a horrible impact within our community. The alternative of not having a community for kinky people breeds opportunities for abusers to label their behavior as BDSM and get away with it in private. Within the scene, we have the ability to support, educate, and watch out for one another.
So in conclusion, let's not let assholes ruin kink for the rest of us.
Some people get so fed up with shitty doms that they end up leaving the BDSM scene. Others get to the point of insisting that all doms are rapists.
I understand why victims feel the way they do because I've been there. Honestly though, it's a shame. As I mentioned before, there are lovely doms out there who want nothing more than to share wonderful experiences with their subs and make them feel worshipped in all the ways that make them happy. They're aware of the massive responsibility they wield and they commit to doing the right thing, every time.
So be on your guard, be picky as fuck about who you play with, but don't feel like you absolutely have to give up kink if it's important to you. BDSM can be healthy when handled safely and consensually.
And with that, I'll wish you luck! Drop me a line if you like, and be sure to subscribe for occasional updates on what's happening with this here kinky site.
Thanks for reading!
HEY. Are YOU one of these toxic dominants?
If you're reading this and thinking, "Hmm, I've crossed boundaries and pissed off quite a few subs in the past. This sounds like me," you may very well be a toxic dom.
Perhaps you genuinely didn't mean to cross boundaries and cause harm at the time. If that's the case, you need to do loads of research on how to handle BDSM better in the future, make more of an effort to communicate with your partner(s), listen and respect boundaries, apologize to those you've hurt (if they're willing to speak to you), and learn to employ self-control in intimate situations.
If you're not willing to take those steps in order to grow, then BDSM is not for you, as you're not willing to accept the responsibility that comes with it. Now kindly GTFO so the rest of us can play nicely. Toodles!