Thus begins a discussion for really the answer is not clear. 50 Shades of Gray got ONE thing right: all that it is that practitioners of BDSM do are varities of shades of gray. There may be no easy answers, but we can have a pretty good idea if something is life giving to our experience or detrimental to the wellbeing and health of our person. While it has been posed by one analyst that the BDSM in the afore mentioned book is in many ways negotiated almost ad tedium, the relationship itself is toxic. All things positioned accordingly: the same act (i.g., face slapping) may be wrongfully diminishing to one person in one relationship whilst in another relationship the same activity could heighten the positive intensity and give strength to both partners. It is important to develop tools for looking at both the context and individual capacity of each person in a relationship.

Last week myself and my teaching and spectacles partner, --j-- of MWxj, taught a class at BDSM Community Stockholm membership club for The Academy called "BDSM v. Abuse." We based the talking points of the class on a best practices manual we are creating with RFSU for medical practitioners treating people who happen to have alternative sexual interests. It was a perfect audience to tease out these issues, including forty year veterans to fired up newbies.

As it should, a large part of the discussion focused on "consent." What is consent, how do we know we have it and can it change or become moot? These are vitally important considerations when you get down to it.  Consent is not just about "yes" and a "safeword." In fact, safewords are arguably unsafe if the top relies on that singular signifier in a circumstance when a bottom may not have the mental capacity to use a safeword when most needed.

The discussion however found that the hallmark issues dividing BDSM from abuse can be marked with the following questions: Does the person have the ability and space to say "no"? Do both persons understand the activity, the risks therein, and accept those risks willingly? Does one of the partners fear for body, life or living conditions? All of these distinguishing questions get down to the core of respect and care in the relationship. Unfortunately to really look at the issues clearly we have to accept that there are relationships which are not consensual because those persons never bothered to discuss the content, boundaries and personal needs within the relationship. --j-- likes to point out that this is as true if not more so outside of our community. Non-BDSM couples could get a lot of value from using our methods and practices (informed consent, expressed respect, safe and consistent boundaries and clear communication).

The BDSM community like many other communities must paint its image to be more ideal than it truly is for political reasons. Although this may seem unnecessary in certain situations, reality must be heeded. The reality is shocking to those of us in the community who want to believe our own PR. The reality is that we do attract sexual predators and pathological sadists who want to prey upon others in a way which may seem to be consenting interactions between people to the general public. The reality is that there are mentally and emotionally unbalanced people in our midst who need support and guidance, or sometimes to be excluded for our own survival. Too many times outsiders want to focus on what is TOO EXTREME in a given activity or practice. When the reality is that non-kinky folk practice all kinds of activities which are potentially maiming or life threatening such as free climbing, skateboarding, cheerleading ... all of which are more likely to cause serious injury than ethical BDSM (baseline ethics including only participating in an activity of which you are capable of). This does not include scarification, tattooing, and other forms of body modification like plastic surgery which are all more permanent. We suggested that what we are doing in our chosen controlled environment is no different from the risks and choices of others in their lifestyle choices.

Even more troubling to some than the physical risks are the cultural risks. Our equality driven western culture (article originally printed in Sweden, a socialistic country where this is very true) is bothered by people participating willingly in a power dynamic relationship. It is often assumed that it is unhealthy. In reality, it is not always easy to know if a relationship is healthy or not regardless of the dynamics unless you look at the overall effect on a person and in the life of that person.

There was a study I read once that was very telling. (Please if anyone knows where I can find the complete study, contact me directly.) It involved simple statistics. The researchers took a control group of the general public and a sampling of people identified as BDSM lifestyle persons and counted the number of psychological diagnoses. There was no significant difference. That is interesting. Of course further research is necessary to really understand the properties of the information, but it does point to the general group of self-identified practitioners as being no different in psychological make up than the general public.  That alone was a big step toward normalization of BDSM.

I agree with --j--. Instead of focusing on BDSM and whether it is healthy or not, we should be focusing on relationships in general and what makes them healthy. How do we support ourselves in our personal growth? How do we support others in their process?

Coming back to the discussion at BDSM Community Stockholm, to their honor the primary question of the participants was "how do we do things more safely and in support of the larger community?" We the community leaders and the activists care about how the general public view BDSM and our communities. We care about expressing our rights and preserving the rights of others. We intend to develop places for people to get solid information to learn and make informed decisions with as well as developing personal friendships is they so desire. We have a community for those who want the support. We have the knowledge for those who want to know. Those who have gone before want to make it easier for others... and it is not about telling people about how to do it the right way.  What is right for me is not necessarily right for the next person. The Elemental way of looking at things opens the possibilities by looking at the individual and what is right for that person in full context.  I urge that we keep our eyes wide open along with our hearts. The reality is that we are in this together. How do we all live more abundantly?

​​​​​Reprinted from 11/4/2014

Is it Abuse or is it BDSM/Fetish?

 Reprinted from 2015

"While S&M is the regulated exchange of power among consensual participants, sexual sadism is the derivation of pleasure from either inflicting pain or completely controlling an unwilling person. " - Luc Granger, PhD, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal on sexual aggressors vs. the (BD)SM community

​​​The Difference Between BDSM and Abuse

Holistic sex positive lifestyle coach

BDSM Pony Play: The Beginning
First of a series

Delving into pony play based on BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance/submission, and sadomasochism) could easily slip into the common fantasy of the slave forced into becoming an equine animal so easily found in fantasy material, especially on the internet. However, that type of play often limits itself to that one theme alone rather than delving into a broader vision of pony play seen in the role play type of pony play. BDSM-based pony play exhibits a clear use of a human as an animal in forced behavior with an equine theme. Pony role play combines BDSM play with roles taken out of bio-equine equestrian themes. It could be argued that the two views, in their simplest forms, could be expressed as pony slave versus BDSM pony role play.

How does one tell the difference? Pony slave and the BDSM pony activities often look alike from the outside. The real difference exists within the headspace of both the trainer and the pony. The pony slave indulges in more human-oriented sex themes and devices. Sex fantasies sometimes concern human trainers having sex with human ponies. Although some consider this interest in mock zoophilia strictly taboo, it can also be looked at as using a taboo theme to create excitement. The participants often just do what comes to mind without analyzing, even switching back and forth in their headspaces and play themes, first being humans, then human and animal, and back again. The variety of potentials pushes the limitations of definition and it is not unreasonable to see the BDSM pony as being simultaneously human and animal.

The BDSM pony and trainer adopt activities from biological equine life and accentuate the potential for BDSM therein. For example, a veterinary check-up presents opportunity for a great scene and is something a biological equine will experience on numerous occasions. The equine is checked by a veterinarian for the purpose of sale, sports, racing, basic health check, and so forth. This aligns with BDSM medical play. Whether or not the person playing with the pony identifies as a veterinarian, the play can take on this theme quite easily and adapts to all types of BDSM pony play. Other biological equine themes that adapt well to BDSM play include old school horse breaking, bronco busting and riding, training for a particular discipline, circus pony training, and work pony training. All these themes present opportunities for punishment and discipline, training, forced exercise, resistance play, serious bondage, and role play.

In BDSM pony role play, the human pony tries to experience the pony headspace rather than that of a human forced to be a pony. If the pony likes forced play, or resistance play, then her or she can be a naughty pony and "misbehave."

There is natural potential for BDSM in the life of a biological equine. The life of the biological equine is a life of bondage. Unless the equine spends its life out to pasture or roaming wild, it likely trains to a discipline. Dominance and submission play a part in the relationship-building between any handler and equine, even for an equine with a dominant personality. Sadomasochistic themes exist in the life of a biological equine beyond just force play and impact play. Objectification, service, exhibitionism, fetishism, and medical play are other potential areas of enjoyment. Even sissification can be worked into a scene based on the life of the biological equine!

A bruise is not just a bruise. The following guidelines designed as a best practices compilation will give you a few simple guidelines to assist understanding regarding the differences between BDSM and abuse. It is by no means the source for all knowledge. Please take any symptoms or signs of abuse seriously. There are many professional resources for understanding domestic abuse should you need more details. What is offered here is the distinction of what makes BDSM and Fetish activities a respectable and ethical choice. It is the safer and best practices of conscious and conscientious BDSM and Fetish practitioners. Again, not everyone practicing BDSM and Fetish practices is a safe and respectable practitioner. But keep in mind that many times that bruise is a cherished mark from a lover that brings joy.

What is BDSM/F?

  • Bondage - the physical, emotional or mental restraint of a person
  • Discipline - character trait and actions of someone valuing control. It is sometimes used as a synonym of corporal punishment.
  • Dominant/submissive relationship - a consensual relationship based on a power differential
  • Sadism - in the sense of sexual sadism it is the pleasure derived from someone else receiving satisfaction from physical, mental or emotional pain
  • Masochism - in the sense of sexual masochism it is the pleasure derived from physical, mental or emotional pain
  • Fetish - Sexual desire or arousal which gratification is linked to something other than a person
  • Kink, erotic theater, WIITWD (What It Is That We Do)… all of the non-standard activities that get categorised under these umbrella terms signifying sexual interests loosely related to BDSM and Fetish.

There are many many examples of activities that could take place in both an abusive relationship and a consensual, loving BDSM and/or F relationship. Take for example humiliation, physical force, control over choices and power differentials; those can be in the context of a loving, respectful and ethical relationship as well as an abusive relationship. The biggest difference is consent.

Key Concepts

  • Hurt not Harm, there is a big difference between hurt that is consensual, acknowledged and accepted extreme sensation(s) and harm that does actual damage to a person
  • Usually nothing in consensual kink is more dangerous than extreme sports
  • Marks are usually temporary and much less intrusive than body modification
  • CONSENT - giving express permission to a specific activity or group of activities that is defined and cohesively understood by all parties involved

Is it Consensual?

  • Does the person have the ability and space to say NO or end the activity?
  • Did they give their EXPRESS informed consent?
  • Are they afraid for their life or terms of living conditions?

If the person cannot choose to end the activity or does not feel safe to end the activity for any reason is not in a consensual relationship. Any person that does not understand what the consequences to an activity are or the potential risks did not consent to that activity. If the person feels that their body, mind or spirit is at risk if they do not comply with the demands of their partner they cannot be considered to have given their consent freely. Generally speaking this is the biggest difference between looking at abusive relationships and loving relationships. In a loving relationship, each party knows that the other person actively chooses with the intent for the best for their partner. They feel safe in the relationship to negotiate, make requests, express their opinion and does not fear for life, body or lifestyle. A person in a freely consenting relationship knows that the relationship is safe and healthy regardless of their choices within the negotiated boundaries of said relationship.

Qualifications for Erotic Sadomasochism

  • Always consensual
  • Informed
  • Negotiated
  • Respect for limits
  • Win win for all partners
  • Trust based relationship
  • NEVER done with intent to harm or damage

Complexities to consider

  • Self-destructive behavior within the masochist/slave role
  • Pathological sadist
  • Sexual predators
  • How extreme is too extreme is individually defined


Harm or Hurt outside of consent
Consensual BDSM
Hurt with consent; Power to stop Act

Anger, ffear, past history...out of control extremes
Consensual BDSM
Self expression: release, satisfaction, pleasure...clear intent

Consensual BDSM
Negotiated relationship

Abuser often feels remorse after
Consensual BDSM
Top/D has a clear conscience, often feels like they are helping

True pain and degradation
Consensual BDSM
Intense sensation within context

Victim ashamed of marks
Consensual BDSM
Pride for the marks (may hide, but more about protecting lifestyle, not ashamed)

Victim isolated by perpetrator
Consensual BDSM
No interruption of everyday life

Victim employs defense mechanisms
Consensual BDSM
Participants think back happily about the activities often reliving in fantasy

Victim employs complicated coping schemes
Consensual BDSM
Partners yearn for more

BDSMF Community Ethics

There are three common versions of ethical standards shown in brief below.

     SAFE – knowledgeable about the techniques and safety             concerns
     SANE – knowing the difference between fantasy and reality
    CONSENSUAL – respect for limits of all participants; ability         to stop at any time, often employing a ”safeword”

     RISK – calculated for known and unknown factors
     AWARE – conscious and conscientious choice
    CONSENSUAL – all parties have agreed to terms of the risk       involved
    KINK – Takes into consideration that there are relatively no       limits to what it is that we do

Four C’s

When analysing a relationship look at the deeper questions.

  • Where are the boundaries and limits?
  • What is the level of consent and relationship definitions?
  • Where is the power and respect?
  • How is the power differential defined?
  • Is there mutual respect?
  • Is there self regulation and ethical values present within the relationship?
  • How is the integrity of each person maintained?
  • Are the persons involved given room to be healthy and freely self-expressed?

How to approach a person you feel may need intervention:

  • Respect
  • Acceptance
  • Non-judgment
  • Confidentiality
  • Empathy
  • Caring
  • Honest discovery questions

Think about it...
What do I really need to know to assess this situation?
Be curious and respectful
Not a time to be educated, focus on the individual
Ask Open-ended, nonjudgmental questions:
What kind of support do you need from me?
Is that impacting your life in a detrimental way?
Is that something you need to talk about today?
How will you respond when you feel shocked or repulsed?
Know your own triggers
Prepare ahead of time
Refer to another person or professional
Prepare Referral information and Hotlines