A Notice About Domestic Violence
in the SM/Fetish Scene

Comments from Gloria

With the growing number of people getting involved in BDSM, many of them for the first time and all too many of them driven by their hormones and fantasies rather than solid information and guidance from reliable sources, it's not surprising that we are seeing more and more problems arise. Chief among them is profound confusion among submissives about where to draw the line between consensual SM and abuse.

Time and again I hear from submissives whose so-called dominants answer their anxieties and frustrations with the magic words "If you were a *true* submissive you wouldn't feel that way."

Folks, let me reassure you right now: THIS IS A LIE. It's what I call the "lazy dom syndrome." If you are unhappy and your dominant refuses to deal with it, brushes off your complaints, and takes a passive attitude towards making a positive change, something is seriously wrong--not with you, but with the dominant! Dominance is no excuse for laziness or mental cruelty. In fact, one sure-fire way to tell the TRUE dominant from someone who's just getting his or her rocks off at your expense is that person's willingness to work with you to make the relationship as mutually rewarding and joyful as possible.

The following statement on domestic abuse was issued a couple of years ago by the National Leather Association. I'm republishing it here to help you decide for yourself if your SM relationship is in trouble. Please read it carefully. If you or anyone you know is a victim of abuse masquerading as SM sex, help IS available!

Remember: if your relationship doesn't make you feel good about yourself and if the sex makes you unhappy, you must examine where you are and where you're going. And the time to do it is NOW!

NOTE: the NLA and other leather activists are currently working on a revision of this statement. As soon as they have agreed on a final form, I will get a copy of the newly organized statement on this site.

Domestic Violence in the S/M Community

Domestic violence is not the same as consensual s/m. Yet, abusive relationships do exist within the leather-s/m community, as with all groups. Unfortunately, due to our sexual orientation, abused persons who are into s/m may suffer additional isolation and may hesitate to turn to available resources for fear of rejection or of giving credence to stereotypes. No group is free of domestic battering; but fear, denial, and lack of knowledge have slowed public response to this serious social problem.

Domestic violence is not restricted to one particular group within the s/m community. A person's size, gender, or particular sex role (top-bottom, butch-femme) is irrelevant; anyone can be subject to abuse.

Abuse tends to be cyclical in nature and escalates over time. It is a pattern of intentional intimidation for the purpose of dominating, coercing, or isolating another without her or his consent. Because of the intimidation factor, where there is abuse in any part of therelationship, there can be no consent.

Defining the Problem: The following questions can help a person to define the problem, which can have characteristics that are physical, sexual, economic, and psychological.

No one has the right to abuse you. You are not responsible for the violence. You are not alone; connect with other survivors. There are reasons for staying in abusive relations: fear of (or feelings for) the abuser, and lack of economic or emotional resources. If you stay, help is still available. Find out about shelters, support groups, counselors, anti-violence programs, and crisis lines in your area; ask a friend to help you make these calls. Plan a strategy if you have to leave quickly. Line up friends and family in case of an emergency.

Battering is a crime. Find out about your legal rights and options. You can get the court to order the person to stop hurting you through an Order for Protection or Harassment Restraining Order. You do not need a lawyer.


Domestic violence does exist in the s/m-leather-fetish community. We can make it clear that we will listen to those who have the courage to speak out. Understand that leaving is difficult. Let the person make his or her own choices. Keep all information confidential. Encourage survivors to take legal action and seek support. Help find safe housing and legal advocacy. Hold batterers accountable and urge them to seek treatment. Deny that drug or alcohol use can excuse battering. Support changes in that person's behavior.

Leather groups in our community are crucial to reducing domestic violence. Invite knowledgeable speakers; lead discussions; print up a list for members of what resources in your area are s/m-supportive. Educate your local legal and social service system about our lifestyle; encourage their appropriate intervention.

Safe Link is a clearinghouse for materials and questions about domestic violence, specifically for persons who are into leather, s/m,or fetish sexuality. It offers a list of readings and is currently compiling a roster of supportive speakers, shelters, and therapists, and information on understanding and using the law. W rite to Safe Link c/o the Domestic Violence Education Project, National Leather Association, 548 Castro Street #444, San Francisco, CA 94114; or call the NLA at 415/863-2444, or email NLA International

From the program of the International S/M-Leather-Fetish Celebration; text provided by Jan Hall. The Celebration specifically authorizes and encourages the reproduction and redistribution of this information so please feel free to distribute this.

For more important advice on this subject, visit

LOOKING FOR professional counseling? Visit Race Bannon's wonderful resource:




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