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"Edgeplay Isn’t Your Grandmother’s BDSM Scene"

on Friday, 21 September 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Vice

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While the mainstream BDSM community has always drawn lines over what is and is not OK (drinking blood, for instance, isn’t cool because of the potential to spread diseases), the definition of edge has changed over time. In the 80s and 90s things like scat play, age play, puppy play, and suspension were no-nos but they now occur semi frequently at kinky events. (Well, scat play is a little more rare because, ew.) Attitudes about what should be forbidden seems to have shifted thanks to people getting better educated. The internet spawned more discussions about sexual ethics, more how-to guides, and more adult sex ed in general. (Don’t you just love the kind of sex ed that results in more and better sex rather than paranoia about STDs?) All of this might have encouraged some of the edgier elements of the BDSM world to explore some dangerous-sounding fun.

“So the edgeplay we do is called consensual non-consent, aka rape play, aka no safewords,’” says Madeline to her audience. She talks lovingly about their rape play. She swears that it keeps their long-term relationship tender and fresh, and likewise, their trusting relationship allows them to do rape play.

Z says that knowing how to do rape play with your partner comes down to knowing your partner. He compares it to selecting a birthday present. “You ask yourself, What do they already have? What do they need? What do they keep bringing up?” It is about observation, which Z says is the flip-side of communication and just as important.

All of this is especially edgy given some recent controversy within the BDSM community. Inspired by the UK’s Consent Culture campaign run by feminist BDSM activists Kitty Stryker and Maggie Mayhem, many people have started coming forward about rape and sexual abuse within their local BDSM scenes in the past year. And in most cases these stories were initially tucked under the rug, never dealt with properly by community leaders. “We were frustrated at how people weren't really talking about issues of consent being violated and when people did it was dismissed as drama. This is really dangerous because BDSM is largely illegal [in the UK], so going to the police isn't really an option,” Kitty told me.

Over on the FetLife threads devoted to the topic, members started calling out abusers by name. The site initially banned this practice, and then the CEO and founder of FetLife, John Baku was called out for sexual assault on Tumblr. During the height of all this, the Harvard Crimson (of all places) pointed to the “glorification of edgeplay” as part of the problem.

I asked Kitty if she thinks it is harder to navigate consent in rape-play. “I think between consenting adults whatever you want to play is fine, but if you are taking it so seriously that you are forgetting you can walk away—or if you can’t walk away—that is not OK,” she replied. She also pointed out that this takes a massive amount of trust. “Do you really trust this person to not only break your limits but put you back together afterward?” Perhaps the Crimson was slightly off. Rather than glorifying it, the BDSM community might be headed in the direction of eradicating the idea of “edge” altogether. That way, the focus can be on how to communicate consent—rather than labeling acts “good” or “bad.” ...

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