In BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission, Sadism/Masochism), partners consent to activities that can involve varying levels of emotional and physical discomfort or pain. These consensual dynamics are not necessarily abusive due to the informed consent required. However, the BDSM community is not immune to abusers or abusive dynamics. It is important then to ask – how do you tell the difference between BDSM and abuse?

One of the most significant distinguishing features between BDSM and abuse is the consent, communication, respect, and planning involved in BDSM.

This includes these indications:

  • Pre-play negations
  • Educational workshops
  • Having a safe word – preferably two (one for slow down, one for stop completely)
  • Having a discussion on soft limits and hard limits, and not breaking them without full prior discussion
  • Discussions and reassurances afterward, mainly if a scene has gotten very emotional
  • The use of contraceptives (unless in total agreement about not using them)
  • Safety equipment such as first aid kits and paramedic scissors (if one person is tied up and starts to panic, releasing them quickly is of utmost importance)
  • This includes some helpful comparisons, as well:

Predators and abusive people masquerading as Dom(me)s do exist. How do you know the person you are with is an abuser and not just a strict Dominant?

Here are some of the behavior indicators you may have an abuser instead of a Dom. These are by no means fixed rules, nor is it a complete list. Some of the activities on here *can* be done in a consensual, non-abusive setting.

An example would be giving control of your finances to your Dom.

The keyword there is consensual. You need to agree to it and want it, and understand precisely what it entails. If you feel coerced if you feel scared of the consequences of saying no if you feel you have no choice, you are not giving consent.

If it feels wrong for you, there is a good chance it is because BDSM is about mutual gratification. It is about mutual enjoyment, and mutual fulfillment, inside and outside of the bedroom. Yes, you read that right. BDSM is not just about sex, it extends beyond the bedroom.

The most important category for this is the domineering one. The things that fall under the domineering category are all classic examples of abusive behavior because all of them push you beyond your boundaries.

CATEGORIES:

Isolating

• Tries to limit your access to others in your life, friends, and family.

• Forbids contact with others or undermines relationships or activities with others without a valid reason. (A valid reason would be along the lines of they fear for your safety around a specific person with good cause, such as that person having a history of violence.).

• Is negative and unsupportive of other relationships you have.

• Monitors your communications (emails, phone calls, chats) with others.

• Takes control of your finances, the car, and the activities you partake in.

• May want you to quit your job, give up your car or telephone.

• Refuses to allow you a safe call.

• Becomes angry if you show signs of independence or strength.

Deceptive

• Is reluctant to give your personal and information about themselves.

• Refuses to give their marital status before a meeting.

• Gives inconsistent or conflicting information or details about themselves or past events.

• When you ask personal questions, get angry, change the topic, ends the conversation, or answers questions with questions.

• Gets mad if you want to ask others about them.

• Has minimal times/places/methods where you can contact them and gets angry if you try to contact them outside of those conditions.

• Does not give you their home and work phone number at the proper time.

• Has multiple online identities for interacting with the same communities.

• Cheats on you.

• Gives the impression of being phenomenally successful without any evidence of real success.

• Disappears from communication for days or weeks at a time without explanation.

• Are evasive about their activities, especially unexplained absences.

• Only interacts with you in a kinky or sexual manner as if role-playing.

• Will did not have regular everyday vanilla conversations.

Insecure

• Is always exaggerating.

• Always puts the blame on others for things going wrong.

• They resort to extreme measures to prove that they are not at fault.

• Does not take personal responsibility, or acknowledge their own mistakes.

• Their apologies feel insincere, phony, or is insulting in nature.

• Puts you down in front of other people.

• Is continuously comparing themselves to others in a negative manner.

• Will does not discuss what your probable future relationship could be like and tries to keep you in the dark about what might happen next in the relationship.

• Never shows you their human side. Hides their vulnerabilities or behaves in an emotionless manner.

• Hides behind their D/s authority says that their authority should not be questioned.

Disrespectful

• Does not respect your feelings, rights, or opinions.

• Is rude to public servants such as waitresses, cashiers, and janitors.

• Displays little concern or awareness of the feelings or needs of others.

• Never says thank you, excuse me, or I am sorry to anyone.

• Obvious and excessive displays of impatience.

• Believe that they are deserving of some reward or help even at the expense of others.

Manipulative

• Tries to make you feel guilty for not being “good enough.”

• Says that you are not a real sub/slave/Dom.

• Belittles your ideas.

• Blames you for your hurt feelings.

• Tries to make you think that all relationship problems are your fault, and will not admit to having any personal responsibility when applicable.

• Threatens to withdraw their love/leave you if you do not do as he/she wishes

Inconsistent

• Consistently breaks promises.

• Makes plans then make excuses for not meeting.

• Treats you lovingly and respectfully one day and then harshly and accusingly the next.

• Goes through extreme highs (behaving with great kindness) and pronounced lows (behaving with cruelty), almost as though they are two distinctly different people.

Domineering

• Pressures you into doing things you do not want to do.

• Pressures/forces you into sex, whether you desire to or not.

• Does not respect your limits, negotiations, or contracts.

• Pushes you into a D/s relationship too fast.

• Pushes you into a sexual relationship too fast.

• Pushes you into a poly relationship too fast.

• Overly demanding of your time and must be the center of your attention.

• Insists a safe word is not necessary.

Intemperate

• Conspicuous consumption: spending primarily and inappropriately on luxury items.

• Abuses alcohol or other drugs.

• Gambles excessively.

• Is continuously asking for money or material goods from you or others.

• Deliberately saying or doing things that result in getting themselves seriously hurt.

Temperamental

• Loses control of their emotions in arguments. Raises their voice, yelling, name-calling, and blame.

• Uses force or violence to solve problems

• Punch walls or throw things when they are upset.

• Turns on their peers, going quickly from “best friend” to “arch-enemy,” often for trivial or imagined reasons.

• Displays a disproportionately adverse reaction to being told “no.”

• Holds excessive grudges against others and goes to great lengths to get revenge on people.

• Threatens suicide or other forms of self-harm.

• Hypersensitive and easily upset by annoyances that are part of daily life.

The bottom line is…

Kink is many things to many people: exciting, scary, overwhelming, exhausting, breathtaking, and more.

It should always be consensual, with everyone involved feeling like they are supported in communication and realization of their needs and desires and that they may opt-out (with no negative repercussions) at any time.

Without that feeling, it is abuse.

It may ALSO be kinky. But being kinky does not in any way make abuse OK.