"We live in a culture that sexualizes [and normalises] abuse against women. Whether or not an individual enjoys being beaten up does not negate the possibility that eroticizing male dominance is tied to the fact that we live in a male dominated culture. Whether or not an individual consented to being dominated doesn’t alter the context of patriarchy. Just because a person is not an evil piece of shit or a murderer in their day to day lives does not mean that their fantasies are not fantasies that were shaped by sexism and a porny culture that objectifies women and thinks that rape scenes should be masturbatory tools. You didn’t invent power roles and you didn’t invent your sexuality out of thin air. It exists as it does because of the world we live in, in one way or another. We understand sex as we do because of the world we live in and the culture that surrounds us. [Are you trying to] convince me that when a man hits you within a ‘sexual context’ that has nothing to do misogyny?" - Meghan Murphy (Feministcurrent)
If we are going to talk about the normalization of abuse through BDSM, then we cannot avoid talking about 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t care if it ‘doesn’t depict BDSM exactly to a T’ because film is never going to completely replicate life. What 50 Shades DID do when it was in the hands of every 18+ woman in that dark period of humanity was eroticise, normalize, sexualise and desensitise people to abuse. Abuse was now ‘sexy’. A lot of women I knew were testing these acts on their partners at home. BDSM became more popular. What did that do? Normalized abuse.
"We don’t live in normal times, and we are bombarded with the results of the old maxim "sex sells," which now reads "BDSM sex sells." The trilogy which emphasizes BDSM has sold 25 million copies worldwide and has made its publisher $145 million, according to the Wall Street Journal." - Catharine Evans & Anne Kane (2012)
Don’t you think it’s safe to say that wider society is pretty okay with BDSM? Regardless of whether 50 Shades is an 100% accurate depiction of kink culture, it’s something the world is definitely open and aroused by - it is definitely not ‘too extreme’. According to The Women’s Health Journal, normalizing BDSM through any sort of media is problematic - in a lot of ways;
"Problematic depictions of violence against women in popular culture—such as in film, novels, music, or pornography—create a broader social narrative that normalizes these risks and behaviors in women’s lives. Our study showed strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives—including violence victimization—and consumption of Fifty Shades, a fiction series that portrays violence against women. While our cross-sectional study cannot determine temporality, the order of the relationship may be inconsequential; for example, if women experienced adverse health behaviors first (e.g., disordered eating), reading Fifty Shades might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma. Likewise, if women read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviors assessed in our study, it is possible that the book influenced the onset of these behaviors by creating an underlying context for the behaviors" - Bonomi Amy E., Nemeth Julianna M., Altenburger Lauren E., Anderson Melissa L., Snyde rAnastasia, and DottoIrma. Journal of Women’s Health
Beyond ‘consensual’ abuse, kink culture has a ‘systematic rape issue’, according to kinkster and now advocate, Maggie Mayhem in an article by Tracy Clark-Flory.
“Maggie Mayhem: ‘The first time I was ever raped, it was actually on a date with somebody from my local S/M community’…For the most part, she kept the experience to herself, but on the rare occasions when she did tell people in the community about it, she says, “I got one response … which was people saying [things like], ‘I don’t do drama. This is a respected person in the community. I’m very sorry that you had a miscommunication during your scene that made it not very fun for you, but I don’t want to hear about it’”. As she pushed deeper into the scene, trying to put this experience behind her, she had countless more encounters where her boundaries were blatantly ignored. As she gained experience, she started to talk more confidently and openly about these experiences – but, again, she got the “I don’t do drama” line. At the same time, she realized that such abuse was prevalent: “It started to look more like a systemic issue … I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.” Mayhem’s mission is to raise awareness about ‘widespread abuse’ within the BDSM community and a tendency for players to either turn a blind eye or actively cover it up. She says ‘How on earth can we possibly say to society at large that BDSM is not abuse when we so carefully hide our abusers and shame our abused into silence?’” - When Safe Words are Ignored
Overall, there isn’t a lot of research done into BDSM circles due to the ‘what happens in the bedroom stays there’ mentality, and kinksters assuming that their private sex lives are unrelated to broader society. You just have to see the prevalence of BDSM clubs, night clubs, online communities, and even here on tumblr. It seems that MOST people have some sort of ‘kink’. The issue, however, is that kink culture does normalize, sexualise, glorify abuse. It does. There’s no question about it. Our sex lives and choices are not always ‘right’ just because they’re consensual. Since when has just ‘choosing’ to do something been enough to continue without examining it? Why does consciousness end after an erection/arousal?
Kink culture is a social problem that DOES relate to society, it DOES reflect misogyny and unequal power dynamics in the world we live in, and it DOES help perpetuate everything feminism tries to fizzle out. But of course, kinksters assume that I criticise kinks because I don’t like them. No. I criticise kinks because ending oppression, misogyny, porn, sex work, unequal power dynamics etc. is MUCH more important to me than abusive orgasms. Kinks are not biological, do not need to be protected, and are changeable.