BDSM, Porn, & Rape

The one good thing about today is that I don’t need to defend BDSM in general; Jessica Wakeman and Clarisse Thorn, among others, have taken care of that. But I still have some work to do…

Today’s issue in BDSM is in regards to Michelle Solomon’s post on porn and sexual violence. In her post, Solomon fairly presents studies on the subject and makes some excellent points too. Among the, the following distinction about rape:

[R]ape is a physically and obviously violent act. Yes, in some cases, rape is exactly that. But according to the South African Victims of Crimes Survey 2012 [pdf] three out of four sexual offences – including rape – are committed by someone known the victim. One in two rapes happens in someone’s home. Therefore, the large majority of rapes are not committed in some overt act of violence. If someone is coerced into doing certain sexual acts, even without the explicit threat of violence, it is still rape. Coerced sex =/= consent. The key point here is consent. No consent = rape. (See the Sexual Offences Act, here [pdf].)

However, that very distinction seems to be missing when discussing “sexual violence in media”. This error is made most of all when it comes to a study published in The Journal of Sex Research (May, 2000), a study which “measures the sexually violent content in magazine, video, and Usenet (Internet newsgroup) pornography. Specifically, the level of violence, the amount of consensual and nonconsensual violence, and the gender of both victim and victimizer are compared.” In the discussion of this study, Solomon offers the following chart along with some analysis:

sexual violence media graphYou can see that the researchers found that sexual violence generally in online porn and was really high – over 42% of the media sampled has some form of sexual violence. Both magazine and video porn had around 25% of scenes with any kind of sexual violence. That’s one in four scenes. The magazine and video porn had various kinds of sexual violence, and doesn’t seem to focus very much on any single one. Online porn was another story though – 25% involved some kind of bondage or confinement, 16% involved a weapon, and 9% had torture and mutilation. I’d say that’s a pretty strong link between porn and sexual violence.

To be fair, Solomon is discussing someone else’s study; which means the language, definitions, etc., are the work of the authors and not Solomon’s. But still, neither the authors of the paper nor Solomon seem to pay much heed to the impossibility of the statement regarding “consensual and nonconsensual violence” ~ particularly, the concept of “consensual violence”.

Violence by definition is unwanted and nonconsensual. Which is why there is the whole safe, sane, and consensual part of BDSM ~ most often identified by the concept and practice of a safe word. I repeat, violence and violent acts violate safety. And, like Wakeman says, “Who doesn’t “believe” in safety? Safety is not like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. It’s not something you have to suspend disbelief to achieve. Safety exists or it doesn’t exist.”

As I’ve noted before, negative assumptions about BDSM contradict reality. Yes, there are problems in BDSM; there are problems everywhere. But BDSM practices, rape fantasies, and the like ~ in our minds, in porn or in our lives ~ are not actual rape; nor must one lead to the other.

On a related note, see also: Porn Use Impacts Sexual Behavior Less Than You Might Think, Says Study.

6 thoughts on “BDSM, Porn, & Rape

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