Sunday, November 23, 2014

No (not always) means no

Those evil kinksters are always in the news and the press loves it. Recently a Belgian couple was convicted for having sadomasochistic sex in their own bedroom, in South Africa a stalker forced an actress to out herself as a domme and in Canada celebrity radio dj Jian Ghomeshi got fired over allegations of rape which he claims were consensual sadomasochistic acts. Where the Belgian couple was convicted of something they both testified to as consensual, Ghaneshi used the consensual non-consent argument "it was just play", to defend himself.


The Canadian Court of Appeal recently ordered a retrial of a man convicted of raping his wife in an alleged BDSM scenario. Maymay's emotionally charged writing can be a bit difficult to read but he brought up an interesting real life case. My first thought was safe word? I also wondered whether or not this was an isolated incident in their relationship and what the bigger picture looked like. The couple separated after the incident and the woman came forward eight months later while fighting over access to their kids. In his appeal, the man argued how his ex-wife had a history of bringing false allegations against him to get the upper hand in family court. He also claimed they had a safe word "cabbage", which the couple had not used since 2003. The woman denied there was one and stated the husband pressed for the rape scenarios which she vehemently rejected.

If the husband did rape her, she is right to fight for her kids, keeping silent as long as possible for their benefit. Nobody want their kids struggling with the bizarre stuff that goes on in their parents' bedroom. If she made up her story to win custody over the kids, she did just that.

A "submissive no" equals consent
The husband argued "his wife's 'no' was spoken in her submissive tone, the tone she would take whenever they engaged in role-play. This, to him, indicated consent." The trial judge called it "convenient fabrication." and accepted the wife's version of events stating the husband's evidence "defied common sense." That seems to be at odds with the him commenting in his sentencing that "it is clear that in the context of their relationship 'no' frequently did mean 'yes.'"

A judge is a trained professional whose job it is to find out the truth and deliver justice in an open court, often under public scrutiny. When a judge calls someone's testimony "defying common sense" it shows how difficult it is for vanilla people to understand, even those best equipped for the job, how some enjoy things like rape play. All the more baffling the judge sentenced the husbands to just four months in jail, a man who raped his own wife. Did the judge have doubts? If he did not, the High Court certainly did. It reordered a trial for not looking at the bigger picture. The husband perhaps made a "honest but mistaken belief that (his wife) consented" means they accept it was non consensual from the part of the wife. Maybe it is a nice legal loophole to clear up some of this mess but it does not warrant the conclusion that "no" may not always mean "no", not at least until there is certainty that there was no safe word or the wife could not use it for some reason. The case will continue for some time and it is near impossible to ever prove who is right and who is wrong, so how about do what is best for the children? I am glad I am not a Canadian judge.

No it does not. sirBDSM.tumblr.com is clearly delusional.

Safe words are so last year

The more you read the more it looks like safe words are a bad thing. I disagree. Safe words may not always be a safe bet but that has more to do with people than the concept itself. Kink is playing with fire. BDSM offers predators the best chance to find their next victim. No safe word in the world will protect you from them.

Some people feel safe words pop the bubble of  their "real and irreversible power exchange." BDSM stands for consensual play and that is a good thing. It is what distinguishes "us" from the predators in our midst. Abandoning your safe word does not change that.

Married with two kids, the couple played at least since 2003 and still after all this time the Court of Appeal accepts the possibility of the husband misinterpreting "no" for "yes" from the one person in his life he knows best. Safe words not only protect the slave from dommes claiming to be able to read their slaves so perfectly they do not need a safe word, it also protects the dominant partner from the potential errors of their own misguided delusion of infallibility. If for no other reason dommes should be selfish enough to use a safe word.

Partners share a joint responsibility for safety and any session should be negotiated beforehand out of character. Unfortunately many players are unable or unwilling to. What if a slave really wants a safe word and the domme does not? Afraid she will turn him away he agrees to play without one. That knowledge alone should make any domme wary of not using a safe word.
At some point the slave relinguishes control to the domme because that is the whole point of the exercise. Not having a safe word does not mean giving up more control but saddling the domme with an additional responsibility. Energy spent on that is better channelled into the play.


A post on Fetlife (reference missing) illustrates how there is always that one scenario beyond everybody's control. One beautiful summer day mistress was playing with a slave when a bee comes in through the open window and the sub immediately uses his safe word or signal. Allergic to bees, a single sting could have killed him. No matter how skilled any mistress is in reading her slave, some things fall outside that boundary.

I started out thinking how a safe word might have prevented the couple's incident but forgot how safe words can be ignored. Safe words will not protect anyone from a sadist looking for the one thing that no slave can give: non-consensual play. That does not mean safe words have no use. Quite the opposite they reduce the risk of misreading consent and protect both partners from the consequences of the unknown.

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