Archive for January, 2011

In a case that seems to finally be putting BDSM to the test in the context of rape culture, an Arlington, VA man is being tried for rape after ignoring his partner’s safeword.

While I obviously don’t want to see anyone raped, and I certainly hope there’s a special place in hell for people who use BDSM as an excuse to rape someone, I find the setup for this case much more encouraging than other cases that have arisen like it. In most instances of S&M rape cases I’ve seen, it’s been about some psycho guy who draws young women into his weird, dungeony web and winds up imprisoning them in his basement. Generally, Very Bad Things happen, ranging from a woman being traumatized with PTSD to women getting killed. The subsequent trial then becomes a circus, with all three rings displaying the evils of those creepy BDSM people.

If I haven’t made it very obvious in this space before, I really, really hate it when things like this happen, not just because people are hurt, but because it gives the media another excuse to make us out to be psychotic supervillains.

What I like about this case so far is that it seems to be handling the BDSM question as just another kind of sex, and to define the breech of the agreements endemic to that type of sex as rape. This seems to me to be an entirely appropriate and reasonable approach to the problem, and doesn’t spend time demonizing the acts in question. From the article:

Senter and the unidentified woman met for about a dozen encounters that involved consensual bondage, discipline, dominance and submission.

But during an encounter on April 2, prosecutors told the court that the role-playing escalated out of control. They say the woman told authorities that despite telling him to stop, Senter disregarded a “safe word”, a word or phrase used to immediately stop the role-playing. The woman says Senter hit her with a cane, bit her and dragged her by the hair.

The defense acknowledged that the woman confronted Senter about the incident the following morning. But Spencer told the court in May that Senter sincerely thought the matter was resolved after he apologized to her in person and later through a text message.

Note the use of the word “consensual,” the explanation of a safe word, and the dry reporting of the acts performed. I have no idea whether this case will go anywhere, since it’s hard to say whether a rape case will be able to proceed without an explicit act of legally-defined sex having occurred. She might do better to claim she was assaulted, which she most certainly was.

But it’s an interesting turn in journalistic affairs to see this article amidst the usual sensationalizing crap.

Anyone know anything else about this case? You don’t want to know what comes up when you Google for “BDSM rape.”

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