NEW YORK (AP) — Many members of what’s widely known as the kink community are outraged that Eric Schneiderman, in resigning as New York’s attorney general, depicted his alleged violence toward several women as “role-playing and other consensual sexual activity.”
Aficionados of kinky sex noted that Schneiderman’s accusers insisted they had given no consent — which is considered obligatory among most practitioners of kink.
The story brought new attention to the world of kink that’s often known as BDSM — standing for variations of bondage, dominance, submission and masochism. The practice — though still a taboo topic in some respects — has made incursions into the cultural mainstream in recent years, in part because of the popularity of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels and films.
However, some of Schneiderman’s critics noted that “Fifty Shades” hero Christian Grey meticulously negotiates a contract with Anastasia Steele before she agrees to submit to his demands.
The Schneiderman story was the topic of conversation on various online communities on social media and blogs devoted to the subculture of BDSM.
A Seattle dominatrix named Mistress Matisse called any non-negotiated encounter “ABUSE. End of story.” Others expressed hope that it would increase public understanding of BDSM and help highlight the distinction between its traditions and non-consensual violence.
Ronan Farrow, co-author of the New Yorker story that first revealed the allegations against Schneiderman, told CNN that the accusers made clear “that this was not role-playing, that this was not ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ It wasn’t in a gray area at all.”
Ej Dickson, an editor with MensHealth.com who writes often about dating and sex, wrote Tuesday that the kink community “puts a premium on consent.”
“It is one of the very basic tenets of BDSM,” she wrote. “Often, sex acts will be negotiated beforehand in the form of contracts, and either way, anyone practicing BDSM responsibly will implement a ‘safe word’ to make it clear if they are uncomfortable with anything happening.”
There have been previous cases where a man accused of violence toward women contended that the incidents in question occurred during consensual “rough sex.”
That was the gist of the defense by Jian Ghomeshi, a former Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio host who was acquitted in 2016 of multiple charges of sexual assault involving three women. He was fired after the allegations surfaced.
The so-called “preppie killer” Robert Chambers used a “rough sex” defense during his 1988 trial for the killing of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin in New York City’s Central Park. Chambers was convicted and served 15 years in prison.
The anger directed at Schneiderman echoed, in some ways, the LGBT’s community’s outrage at Kevin Spacey after he was accused by fellow actor Anthony Rapp of making sexual advances on him during a party in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26.
Many gay activists were furious that Spacey, in asserting he didn’t remember an encounter with Rapp, took the opportunity to come out as a gay man — a step he’d previously avoided despite long-running speculation about his sexual orientation.
Jillian Keenan, author of the BDSM memoir “Sex with Shakespeare,” mentioned both Spacey and Ghomeshi in an email to The Associated Press reflecting on the Schneiderman case.
“Just as sex without consent is rape, kink without consent doesn’t exist – that’s assault,” Keenan wrote.