You hear a lot about predators in the BDSM community. It’s something I’d always wondered about too. Whenever we go to clubs, I look around at the single guys and wonder, “Are you a predator?”
The funny thing is, I was never sure what would constitute a predator. Were they serial killers? Rapists? You didn’t really hear about women falling prey in the community to things like that. (But maybe you wouldn’t; how would I know?) I’d heard about bottoms who got so into the play that they wouldn’t call a safeword and came away with actual physical harm, but did that constitute predation? Or a lack of experience? Or so intense a session they lost their common sense?
In Shanna Katz’s (a well known sex educator) review of “50 Shades of Grey,” she makes an excellent point about predatory behavior in the BDSM community:
I have some issues with the idea that he wouldn’t even consider playing with her (or anyone else, for that matter) a few times before bringing up the idea of a full time (or full weekend?) slave contract. I feel like if someone did that in our local community (“If you’re interested in me, you must sign a 24/7 contract before we can see if you like this and if we are compatible together”), we would call out that person for predatory behavior (actually, this has happened in our community, and said person was banned from multiple dungeons for poaching on newbies to the scene, and contracting them to his “house” without allowing them to get their footing first). (
We were also at a discussion group at our local dungeon a couple of weeks ago where the topic was Predators in the Community. I was really curious to hear what they had to say, specifically if there were any real stories that I hadn’t heard. What they had to say was very interesting, but not nearly as scary as I’d always thought.
Basically, what people label as “predatory” behavior seems, more often than not, to be poor relationship skills. These are people who don’t negotiate well (or don’t disclose everything they intend to do in a scene), play harder than their partners are capable or willing to play, or don’t bother to take their partners’ needs into consideration. They are not necessarily out to hurt people. They’re just selfish and don’t care enough about their partners.
I asked the club owner if there were many actual psychopathic predators who came through the club looking for victims. She said that she could usually tell when people called her for information whether they were interested in the lifestyle or just wanted places to pick people up. The ones who seemed to her to have bad motives were not given the address of the cub or invited to attend. Those who did seem okay to her and were allowed to attend the club generally didn’t result in any negative experiences. The few times someone was questionable they were not allowed to return.
Now, I thought that was pretty interesting. Public dungeons can seem like dangerous places, especially if you’ve never been to one. It helps to realize that they’re full of people who know a lot about the lifestyle and are watching new people to see how they act and what their motives are. So BDSM clubs are actually much safer than regular clubs for just that reason. They are very concerned with public image and so are self policing. Nobody at a nightclub is watching people flirt with you and worrying about their motives, at least nobody that you didn’t bring with you!
I feel a little better knowing that there aren’t likely to be psychopaths wandering around our public dungeon (even if some of the regulars kind of look… well, I won’t go there!). Not that I go there to meet new partners. But that’s the purpose of a community–to look out for each other–isn’t it?