Why do BDSMers get away with arguing consent?

Deirdre Skye (as a fan of Alpha Centauri, I heartily approve of this nickname), writing for Feminist Current, asks why it is that BDSMers get away with arguing that consent makes their particular brand of hierarchy AOK but we easily see through this ploy when it’s used to support other hierarchies.

Hypothetically, it would be possible for Walmart to create a new private school, Walmart Academy, which would allow parents to send their young toddlers for residential education through the age of 18. Walmart Academy could teach desirable employee traits as personal and civic virtues — or, indeed, as the only behavioral choices that wouldn’t lead to punishment.

After such an education, students would be given Walmart jobs for life. They would be cheerful in their work, trained never to express dissatisfaction, boredom, or anger. Each of them would want his or her job — some would feel their jobs were, in fact, necessary for their life satisfaction.

It is doubtful that many of us would be swayed by the notion that these hypothetical employees chose their jobs. In the same way, most of us would not be comforted if we learned that the North Korean people really did think their leader was a living god, or that they were quite happily starving.

We can see, then, that consent — even enthusiasm — of the exploited is not necessarily a useful paradigm for evaluating whether that exploitation is moral.

This principle is simple, even intuitive, in these situations.

So why does BDSM get a free pass?

14 thoughts on “Why do BDSMers get away with arguing consent?

  1. oopster74 June 25, 2015 at 01:01 Reply

    You’d have to bdsm’ers, but in my experience as a bdsm’er (as I am one), although Dom / Sub relationships appear abusive, and some can be, most relationships see the sub partner being the one with the control. Because of the relationship, consent is paramount. Where’s there isn’t consent, then you have abuse, and that’s a different kettle of fish. I can only speak for my own experience here, but both / all partners need to be willing, and most will have discussed beforehand what they both / all like. I could go on more, but that would just go into detail that isn’t necessary for this debate.

    • Francois Tremblay June 25, 2015 at 01:14 Reply

      Please don’t feed us this line of shit. Consent in BDSM? Go fuck yourself.

      • oopster74 June 25, 2015 at 02:22 Reply

        It’s not shit Francois. Everyone is different and bdsm is a sexual fetish and some are idiots about it and some are sensible about it. You might not understand it, and I’m involved in it and I don’t fully understand it. I like it, I don’t know why I just do, it’s not for everyone, but please try to be a little open minded about it.

        • Francois Tremblay June 25, 2015 at 14:39 Reply

          Please just shut the hell up. I’m asking politely before I use force.

  2. Independent Radical June 25, 2015 at 04:19 Reply

    Once again, a BDSM defender paid zero attention to the actual arguement being made (in the post.)

    What part of “consent — even enthusiasm — of the exploited is not necessarily a useful paradigm for evaluating whether that exploitation is moral” is not clear?

    We get that BDSM is (sometimes) enthusiastically consented to. We think it is fucked up anyway. When we point this out all we get is more “but it’s (enthusiastically) consensual”. The metaphor of talking to a brick wall seems appropriate.

    It is as if these people have never met someone who does not blindly endorse all consensual behaviours (have these people seriously never met people who fight for the rights of consensually exploited workers?) And they have the nerve to tell us to be open-minded?

    If the word “open-minded” is to have any real meaning, it should include being open to non-liberal ideas (e.g. the idea that a particular behaviour is morally wrong, even when it is consensual.) Otherwise it is just another nice sounding synonym for “liberal” and “relativist”.

    • oopster74 June 25, 2015 at 05:05 Reply

      Maybe I missed the point Francois was trying to make with my initial reply, but morals are very subjective to differing cultures for a start ie what’s acceptable in one country is frowned upon in another. And calling me a “bdsm defender” implies there’s something wrong with bdsm that it needs defending. It’s something I and countless other people like and it’s neither morally right or wrong when practiced properly. Now, I imagine Francois wasn’t actually wanting a discussion on bdsm as such but was using it as an example so I’m gonna leave that as it is. As for being open minded, we’ll do I really need to explain that? Weigh up the pros and cons of an argument before coming to an assessment / judgement on something or to put it in other words, don’t judge a book by its cover. An example from me personally I Made that mistake with the film “Fight Club”. If you simply go off the title like I did then “oh great (sarcasm) another film about fighting, like we don’t have a million of them already” and yes, it does have fighting in it, but it’s so much more than that and I can’t even try to explain it if you haven’t seen it because it’s so odd, but I would recommend watching it. Anyway, sorry Francois, I’ve gone way off topic so I’ll shut my trap now.

      • Independent Radical June 26, 2015 at 02:13 Reply

        “….but morals are very subjective to differing cultures for a start ie what’s acceptable in one country is frowned upon in another.”

        Do you accept that sort of reasoning with regard to the exploitation of workers in sweatshops? How about slavery? How about dictatorships? Is the acceptability of those things just a matter of opinion? Because many “cultures” have encouraged and celebrated those things (including Western culture.)

        Furthermore, your belief that consent makes everything okay is just another (Western) outlook regarding morality that not all cultures accept. I do not come from a cultural background in which “consent” was viewed as the only moral standard which should be applied to sex. So by your relativist standards I am not obligated to conform to your liberal worldview. Yeah, that’s right, your own ideology defeats itself.

        “And calling me a “bdsm defender” implies there’s something wrong with bdsm that it needs defending.”

        That’s exactly what I was trying to imply or did you miss the part where I said “We think it is fucked up anyway”? Did you even get to that part of the comment? Funny how liberals complain about the least offensive things and miss the obvious sometimes.

        “It’s something I and countless other people like and it’s neither morally right or wrong when practiced properly.”

        Prove it. Without simply giving me another restatement of the sex liberal worldview.

        “Now, I imagine Francois wasn’t actually wanting a discussion on bdsm as such but was using it as an example so I’m gonna leave that as it is.”

        I can’t speak for him, but it looks to me like he was. Hence the reference to BDSMers in the title.

        “As for being open minded, we’ll do I really need to explain that? Weigh up the pros and cons of an argument before coming to an assessment / judgement on something or to put it in other words, don’t judge a book by its cover.”

        No, you don’t. I was not asking for an explanation. I’ve interacted with dozens of sex liberals and am thoroughly familiar with their rhetoric. But since your definition of “open-mindedness” contains no obvious references to liberalism/consent, I would like to ask. Can someone be open-minded and anti-BDSM? Can they consider the arguments in favour of it and still decide that the arguments are not really valid and that the practice is fucked up?

        “If you simply go off the title like I did then “oh great (sarcasm) another film about fighting, like we don’t have a million of them already” and yes, it does have fighting in it, but it’s so much more than that and I can’t even try to explain it if you haven’t seen it because it’s so odd, but I would recommend watching it.”

        I don’t go off of titles. I go off of the fact that the film received an R rating (in Australia, that is the highest rating possible, it is equivalent to an NC-17) for violence, implying that the violence is extremely graphic. I have never watched films with this rating and thus I have not been desensitised to that level of violence. You liberals would probably mock me for being a squeamish wimp, but the way I see it I am normal human being with healthy feelings of empathy towards those who are physically abused. That’s why I would never watch it, regardless of its intellectual or aesthetic value (which I am not making any judgements about.) I might read the book if I have the time. Same with the Godfather.

        • Francois Tremblay June 26, 2015 at 08:51 Reply

          I don’t want a “discussion” about whether BDSM is consensual or not. That’s just absurd and a waste of time. It’s also not the topic of the quote.

          • Independent Radical June 26, 2015 at 18:17 Reply

            I was refering to discussions about BDSM in general. Not the specific question of whether BDSM is consensual.

            I am sick to death of discussions that revolve exclusively around consent. Yet BSDMers keep wanting to bring it (consent) up as though we have never heard of it. We know they (at least claim to) think that anything non-consensual is abusive. We know they think that consensual BDSM behaviours are sexy fun. We have heard it over and over again. I’m still waiting for an original argument from them. I’m waiting on my blog too, if anyone is interested.

            • Francois Tremblay June 27, 2015 at 00:17 Reply

              I’m waiting too!

              • oopster74 June 27, 2015 at 01:24 Reply

                Why di people do anything? Because they have to, because they enjoy it, because of a multitude of reasons that are far too many to go into on a blog. You might as well ask why does someone like ice cream, and what they’re favourite flavour is.

                Consenting bdsm’ers getting a free pass? If I understand correctly, it’s because done properly, consent is vital, and not just implied consent, but actual consent. All parties doing bdsm must consent to what they’re doing.

                • Francois Tremblay June 27, 2015 at 01:25

                  Okay oopster74, I warned you already. Goodbye.

        • oopster74 June 26, 2015 at 10:05 Reply

          To clarify an earlier statement I made. In a bdsm relationship, if you don’t have consent then you have abuse.

          As for morals, that is another debate that it appears isn’t wanted in this thread, but feel free to pm me independent radical.

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