Discrimination, Prejudice & Politics

There is a reason why BDSM groups and individuals often seem invisible.  The myths, misconceptions and distortions about us remain a powerful force for political, legal and social discrimination.

In a 2008 survey of over 3,000 adult participants involved in BDSM or other alternative consensual sexual expression, 37.5% reported experiencing discrimination, harassment or violence as a result of their sexual identity.

People have lost their jobs and experienced harassment – even violence – when they come out as kinky, or are forced out by others.  Many in the Scene have difficulty finding doctors or counselors who are open to their sexuality, even fearing that a doctor will misread the marks they receive from consensual play as signs of domestic violence.  Private parties in people’s homes, or in legally rented spaces, are often raided and participants arrested on trumped up charges.  In some states, some of the consensual activities which we do are often regarded as criminal assault and battery, even though there is no “victim” and the activities are no more harmful or dangerous than many sports.

BDSM also faces the dilemma of being attacked from the Right and the Left.  Radical Right groups denounce BDSM as “perversion” and “obscenity” while radical feminists see BDSM as inherently violent and misogynist (despite the fact that many women are openly and proudly involved in BDSM).

As with other marginalized groups, kinksters also experience a number of microaggressions – subtle, unintentional statements and behaviors which serve to invalidate or denigrate kink-oriented people. Below is a table showing common examples of kink-phobic microaggression:

Theme Example(s) of Microaggression Message
Avoidance and/or minimization of BDSM/kink/fetish sexuality and identity Refusal to use identifying terminology even when used by kink-identified person Your identity/sexuality is not “real”
“We’re not here to talk about your sexual practices.” [in response to disclosure of kink identity with no discussion of specific sexual behaviors] Your identity/sexuality makes me uncomfortable
Attempts to over-identify with kinkster “Yes, a good friend of mine is kinky, too.” I understand your issues because I know someone like you
Making stereotypical assumptions about BDSM/kink/fetish sexuality and identity “I don’t get how people can be turned on by pain.” All kinksters are into sadomasochism
“Wow, you look so normal!” Kinksters are oddities
Assumed superiority of non-kink relationships “Why do you need to do all this?” Sex should be easy
Pathologizing of kink “Why do you let your partner abuse you?” You are sick and damaged
Denial of individual kink-phobia “But I’m queer myself! I work in diversity training!” My experience with homophobia and/or anti-oppression work makes me immune to kink-phobia
Passive-aggressive opposition “It took years to overcome homophobia.” You don’t deserve recognition or support
“Talking about kink will damage our efforts in other areas (e.g., marriage equality).” Your concerns are unimportant

Many local, regional and national BDSM groups are part of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an alliance of groups dedicated to protecting the rights of consenting adults to freedom of sexual expression.  NCSF and its members (including L&G) provide educational and support resources for the BDSM, polyamory and swing communities, including outreach to law enforcement and medical professionals.  They also maintain a listing of “kink-aware professionals” (doctors, lawyers, therapists, etc.) on their website.