NCSF Launches the Next Chapter for Consent Counts February 27, 2012 The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) announces two new publications as part of its nationwide campaign, Consent Counts. The Consent Counts Project was launched by the BDSM-leather-fetish communities in 2006 to decriminalize consensual BDSM in U.S. law by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. "For the past 18 months, NCSF's Consent Counts Project has almost exclusively focused on the legal and policy issues surrounding decriminalization of BDSM activities," says Leigha Fleming, NCSF Chairperson. "We have learned that the Consent Counts project also needs to do more to work within our own communities to better understand and articulate what consent is and to better educate about the importance of prior informed and ongoing consent." NCSF is proud to announce the publication of two new guides "The Aftermath: A guide for victims of sexual assault and/or intimate partner violence in the BDSM community," by Natalie Quintero, and "When the Levee Breaks: A guide to dealing with and avoiding arrest and prosecution in BDSM scenes." "The Aftermath" is a compilation of advice that is regularly provided to victims who ask for help through NCSF's Incident Reporting & Response project. This guide will educate anyone in the BDSM community who has been victimized on what one might expect to experience after an assault, what one's options are, things to consider when weighing options and making decisions on what to do next, what one might expect if one decides to report the experience, as well as the resources available to assist in coping with and healing from abuse. "When the Levee Breaks" is a companion to the NCSF publication, "The Aftermath," and is a guide to provide a perspective for those who have, through mistake, misunderstanding, or a fleeting lapse of reason, committed an act of criminally actionable sexual assault. It is not intended to provide a defense for indefensible acts. "When the Levee Breaks" also provides information on how to better protect oneself against arrest and prosecution. Both guides are now available on the NCSF website: www.ncsfreedom.org/consentcounts.html You can join the NCSF Consent Counts community at FetLife to talk about these two new NCSF guides online! Join our Consent Counts group www.fetlife.com/consentcounts to discuss issues of consent with kinksters both in the US and around the world."Sexual abuse and…
BDSM activity, even where clearly consensual, can be and frequently is prosecuted under state criminal laws dealing with assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault or sexual abuse. Such criminal prosecution can arise in various circumstances, including: The BDSM “scene” turns out to be more intense or painful or harmful than the submissive participant anticipated, and she or he goes to the police. Injury is caused that is sufficiently serious or sufficiently visible that it is brought to the attention of the police by an observer, by hospital personnel or by a friend or relative of the submissive participant. The police raid a BDSM event and observe conduct that they interpret as unlawful. A BDSM relationship ends, leaving the submissive partner with bad feelings, and he or she complains to the police about assault or abuse. Someone with a grudge against a participant in the BDSM scene or relationship makes a complaint to the police. Or pictures, videos, emails, film or sound recordings of BDSM conduct somehow come into the hands of the police. The Critical Issue: Consent The nature of the criminal offense here is that one person causes physical harm—injury and/or intense pain—to another person. It is important to understand that the law sees this as causing harm, not engaging in mutually beneficial conduct. This means that the law treats BDSM as violence, not as sex. That explains why the issue of consent is different in BDSM cases than in rape cases. In a rape case, the sex act is not viewed as criminal unless it can be shown that one party did not consent. In a BDSM case, however, the causing of physical harm is, in and of itself, criminal. The question is whether and to what extent the law will allow such criminal conduct to be excused by the fact that the injured participant consented to have harm done to her or him. As long as courts and lawmakers put BDSM practice in the same category as criminal assault—which is a view that the “Consent Counts” campaign will try to change—it is not surprising that they will be reluctant to allow consent as a defense to anything more than minor harm or injury. And sure enough, that is the pattern shown by the court cases, even where a court is interpreting a statute that seems on its face to allow consent to be a defense in any case…
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) believes that the most important issue facing the BDSM/Leather/Fetish communities today is the consistent practice of courts and law enforcement officials to prosecute BDSM as criminal assault, with no defense of consent permitted. We know that BDSM is not assault, but rather is pleasurable, loving adult erotic activity, as long as it is mutually consensual.NCSF is leading a major national campaign – Consent Counts – to change the laws and police practices that our communities now endure, and to establish that consent is available as a defense in criminal BDSM prosecutions. Best Practices in the BDSM/Leather/Fetish Communities The practice of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, SM) consists of intimate mutually pleasurable erotic activity within the scope of informed consent. The following “best practices” have been developed by our communities to ensure that the standard of “safe, sane and consensual” is met by all BDSM participants: Guiding Principles “SAFE” All participants are knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what they are doing, and all act in accordance with that knowledge. “SANE” Knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and acting in accordance with that knowledge. “CONSENSUAL” All participants understand the nature of the activity in which they will be engaged, and the limits imposed by each participant, and respect such limits at all times. Best Practices Each participant should fully understand both the desires and the limits of each other participant. Such understanding may be based on long familiarity with the other participant(s) or, where participants are new to each other, on a full discussion in advance of the BDSM activity. Consent must be clearly given to all aspects of planned BDSM activity and such consent must be freely given. Each participant in a BDSM activity is free to withdraw previously given consent at any time. Each participant should fully understand any limitations on another participant’s ability to understand and consent fully to the planned BDSM activity, such as age, diminished mental capacity or use of drugs or alcohol. A means should be provided - normally a “safe word” - for the “bottom” to signal clearly her/his desire to terminate the activity. Relationships among BDSM practitioners should be fully respected by others. It is the responsibility of each person to make clear to others any relationship that imposes limits on that person’s participation in BDSM activities. At parties or other events, the use…
The Consent Counts project involves the BDSM communities in a nationwide education and activism program coordinated and led by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. This multifaceted campaign includes a comprehensive is analysis of current laws and court decisions, the development of legal arguments for changing the laws, participating in court cases, and ultimately, through lobbying, education and grass-roots activism, changing state laws and the way the public and the courts view BDSM. An important element of the project also includes an Educational Outreach Program (EOP) to educate our own communities of the current state of the law, of the effort NCSF is undertaking and to involve them in our strategic planning process and development of “best practices” by which we can protect ourselves and facilitate change. Click here to go to the Consent Counts Program Page
by Judy Guerin If you practice BDSM in fully consensual ways, you may still be criminally prosecuted for assault under many laws throughout the U.S. The BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities have focused heavily for years on defining “safe, sane and consensual BDSM practices” for practitioners as well as to help the broader public better understand what it is that we do. It was, after all, only in 1994 that the DSM criteria of the American Psychiatric Association changed their categorization of sadomasochism, paving the path for us to do more effective social, legal and political change. Until 1994, BDSM was defined automatically as a mental illness. Prior to 1994, it was difficult to organize effectively to protect and advance our rights as BDSM practitioners. This categorization and long-term societal view of BDSM as a mental illness resulted in severe consequences for many practitioners over the years—loss of child custody and jobs as well as criminal prosecutions. Fortunately for all of us, NCSF was formed in 1997 to work on these issues and to protect and advance our rights. Although things have certainly improved for us over the years, we still have significant legal, political and societal issues facing us. The majority of us are not “out of the closet”, still fearing the very real threat of being prosecuted or losing our jobs or families. BDSM is still prosecuted criminally as assault, and the legal precedents related to consensual BDSM assault prosecutions are not in our favor. Many of the laws intended to protect victims of domestic violence and rape need to be modified in their application to consensual BDSM activities. The DSM criterion still needs further reform—it is still used against us, and we can still be defined as mentally ill for what it is that we do. And, members of our communities still routinely face ongoing issues of divorce, child custody, job discrimination and even criminal charges. NCSF has two major national projects aimed at protecting and advancing the rights of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. First, NCSF has taken charge of the “Consent Counts” initiative that was launched in 2006 at a Leather Leadership Roundtable as the single most important national priority of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. Our goal: to decriminalize consensual BDSM throughout the United States by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. The Consent Counts project is a…
The following Principles and Guidelines are intended to help law enforcement and social services professionals understand the difference between abusive relationships vs. consensual sadomasochism (SM). SM includes a broad and complex group of behaviors between consenting adults involving the consensual exchange of power, and the giving and receiving of intense erotic sensation and/or mental discipline. SM includes: "intimate activities within the scope of informed consent that is freely given." Abuse is: "Physical, sexual or emotional acts inflicted on a person without their informed and freely given consent." Principles The SM-Leather-Fetish communities recognize the phrase "Safe, Sane, Consensual" as the best brief summary of principles guiding SM practices: Safe is being knowledgeable about the techniques and safety concerns involved in what you are doing, and acting in accordance with that knowledge. Sane is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, and acting in accordance with that knowledge. Consensual is respecting the limits imposed by each participant at all times. One of the recognized ways to maintain limits is through a "safeword" which ensures that each participant can end his/her participation with a word or gesture. Guidelines Informed consent must be judged by balancing the following criteria for each encounter at the time the acts occurred: Was informed consent expressly denied or withdrawn? Were there factors that negated the informed consent? What is the relationship of the participants? What was the nature of the activity? What was the intent of the accused abuser? Whether an individual's role is top/dominant or bottom/submissive, they could be suffering abuse if they answer no to any of the following questions: Are your needs and limits respected? Is your relationship built on honesty, trust, and respect? Are you able to express feelings of guilt or jealousy or unhappiness? Can you function in everyday life? Can you refuse to do illegal activities? Can you insist on safe sex practices? Can you choose to interact freely with others outside of your relationship? Can you leave the situation without fearing that you will be harmed, or fearing the other participant(s) will harm themselves? Can you choose to exercise self-determination with money, employment, and life decisions? Do you feel free to discuss your practices and feelings with anyone you choose? These guidelines were created by activists and leaders at the Leather Leadership Conference in 1998.
Developed Educational Programs and Outreach Materials
Built Alliances With Sexual Freedom Advocacy Groups
About Consent Counts
NCSF is leading a major national campaign—Consent Counts—to change the laws and police practices that our communities now endure, and to establish that consent is available as a defense in criminal BDSM prosecutions.
BDSM is prosecuted as assault in the U.S., even when it is consensual.
No state or appellate court has allowed consent as a defense to assault in BDSM cases.
Consent Counts is a nationwide project to decriminalize consensual BDSM.
Program Goals: Consent Counts is a nationwide project to decriminalize consensual BDSM through education, advocacy, legal actions and lobbying.