I had an interesting discussion with a person the other day where I tried to explain the difference between abuse and BDSM. The hard part with a discussion like that is that I am into BDSM and it becomes natural to me to see a distinct difference between the two. That also makes it a bit harder to communicate the differences and why BDSM has nothing to do with real abuse.

The most important thing that differs BDSM from real and destructive abuse is the consent. All BDSM is built upon trust and consent. Real abuse doesn’t include consent.

The other big difference is what I would like to describe as a theft, the fact that your powers are stolen from you by the abuser in real abuse. In BDSM the submissive hand over the powers to the dominant, voluntarily and with consent. The dominant then treats that with respect and care.

These are two major and distinct differences between BDSM and real abuse, but there are also other differences. Below is a list which DomSubFriends have on their website and it sums up the differences in a good way.

 BDSM  Is based on the safe, sane, consensual theory

  • BDSM is a controlled environment
  • BDSM has safe words to stop the scene
  • In a BDSM scene the dominant looks out for the
    well being of the submissive
  • BDSM can be an erotic sexual encounter
  • In BDSM both partners are enjoying themselves
  • in BDSM the dominant respects limits
  • In BDSM there is mutual respect
  • In BDSM the relationship is fulfilling
  • In BDSM both parties feel they contribute towards
    the relationships
  • In BDSM one can ask their partner to “play”
  • In BDSM relationship there is trust
  • In BDSM a submissive voluntarily serves the dominant
  • BDSM is about building trust
  • BDSM builds self esteem
  • BDSM builds the spirit of a submissive

Real abuse is actually the opposite to all the pionts made above:

  • Abuse is not negotiated
  • Abuse is an out of control environment
  • Abuse does not have safe words
  • An abuser does not give a damn about the victim
  • Abuse is always one sided
  • Abuse is never negotiated.
  • In abuse, no one is enjoying the results
  • The abuser is into non consensual violence
  • The victim has no respect towards the abuser
  • In abuse the victim is harmed
  • In abuse both parties are left unfulfilled
  • The abuser always feel they are superior
  • A person does not ask for abuse
  • In an abusive relationship there is no trust
  • The abuser does not care for consent
  • Abuse has no trust
  • Abuse destroys self esteem
  • An abuser destroys the spirit of the victim

Consent = Is an agreed approval of what is done and/or proposed by another

Abuse = To use so as to injure or damage: MALTREAT

The foundation, which everything revolves around, in BDSM is always the consent. This should never be underestimated and that is, yet again, why boundary discussions is really important. Limits should be discussed and established. This should, in my opinion, also be done even if the dominant and submissive are comfortable with each other – And it should be done on a regular basis as it is a discussion that should be revisited.

We always change as human beings and with that evolves our sexuality and so does our boundaries.

 

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36 Responses to The difference between BDSM and abuse

  1. anon says:

    I really appreciated this article. For beginners (sub OR Dom) to BDSM, it can clear up some painful possible confusion. Well written too. Thank you

  2. Escobar Gagliano says:

    I have a very solid ground rule of “their D/s is not my D/s and vice versa.” However…I am accutely aware that not all Doms treat their pets well. I have heard some horror stories. I have a RL friend that recently told me of what happened to her, without her consent, once she was tied up and I am really rather shocked that she still “plays.”

    To avoid abuse, it really comes back to 3 things in my mind.

    1.) Our previous discussions on what makes a good Dom. Ultimately, a good Dom is going to respect his subs hard limits and push all the rest of the limits to a comfortable level. A good Dom always dominates out of love. If, for instance, I am having a shitty day…I’m not going to tie Empty down and start poking map pins into her nipples. There is simply too much of a chance for me to be taking out undue frustration on my poor pet. I love her, and she’ll get the map pins when I’m calm and in a loving mood.

    2.) Our previous discussions on what makes a good submissive. I have found that MANY subs simply don’t know what their limits are and want to explore them. That’s fantastic and I encourage it! But you can’t claim the victim afterward. Use your safeword. Don’t be afraid of it…if you are getting pushed to far…pull the cord and get out. As a Dom, my rule is that the safeword doesn’t mean you will or won’t have to continue…it means you and I will discuss it, you’ll get a break, and I’ll make a decision on whether we should continue. Since I only Dom out of love, and you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t trust me, you should have no fear that we’ll stop if it’s too much. *I* am more likely to pull the plug than you are and I have yet to have a sub call out her safeword before I backed off.

    3.) Both parties level of experience. Don’t be afraid to tell your sub, “This is the first time I’ve been a Master/Mistress.” And don’t be afraid to tell your Dom that this is your first time either. If you’re new…get it out in the open as early as possible. In RL, that means talking about the whole thing either through e-mails or over coffee. But make SURE you both know where you are coming from. This is also an excellent time to feel each other out (not literally…::pushes Stoltz’s lube vat away::) and make sure you’re both on the same page. Maybe you’ll find out you’re just not looking for the same thing….or maybe you’ll agree on every point. But remember…it’s all just bullshit until somebody has somebody else tied up, so play safe. Being a part of a RL community will help. It is not uncommon for people to let you know who is a “bad” Dom or who is a “sub trying to Top from the bottom” at meetings. Go to a munch. Have some coffee, eat a sampler, and get to know one another. It’s no different than the square on IoP, and knowledge gives you a lot of power.

  3. Diana Hunter says:

    This is an excellent discussion of the issue. Thank you. I find myself having to explain this often, given what I write…and you have put it quite well. :) I suspect I’ll be referring to this often!

  4. Scout says:

    Nice posts.

    I wonder if we can bring up in the future, the possibility of non-consensual Ds?

    I don’t want to go into the concept in depth here, but consider: in a marriage, both partners (generally) agree to certain things. Some are legal, such as joint property, some are emotional, such as not being with other partners.

    So in a committed Ds relationship, is it reasonable to have certain binding consents? For example, if my partner understood and consented to a certain amount of punishment before a binding relationship (or marriage). Later she has the freedom, of course, to no longer give content, but it could mean the end of the relationship. So she is allowing something to happen she does not like, for the sake of the relationship.

    Emotional abuse perhaps?

  5. Escobar Gagliano says:

    Hmm….That’s tough. I would call that a difference between “abuse” and “infedelity.” A sub is a sub because they want to be. Marriage or not. At any time, they can choose to end that servitude. So…in either case, that would be ending the relationship. In a vanilla relationship they call that “you can’t go back to holding hands.” So…in either case, if you cheat or do something behind your partners back…that’s a no no. And ultimately, a deal breaker. :/ Just the way I feel about it.

  6. Stoltz Sinatra says:

    @Scout: Interesting angle of a D/S relationship.

    My response is quite clear tho – There cannot be a D/S relationship in a BDSM context without any form of consent. The consent is the foundation and the “contract” where the submissive hands over the powers to the dominant.

    But the consent is a contract as well in which the dominant has a responisbility. Through the consent, the dominant agrees to respect the hard limits that are established by the submissives.

    The dominant also has a responsibility to continiously revise the consent as the relationship progress. So the consent is “binding” until either of the parties revise it.

    A consent is a dynamic contract that changes over time, just like you could revise your marriage over time.

    An other part of the consent is that it doesn’t have to be explicit in details, as long as limits are established. A hard limit to me as a dominant is body alterfication. I wouldn’t do that to my submissive even if she begged for it. My sub, in return has limits that I need to respect and not cross. My sub has given me the freedom to move freely within does limits without holding back. The dynamic part is that I continously have discussions with my sub regarding the ongoing training and her reactions towards it.

    When I push the training into areas which have not been tested before, but still are within the established limits then I intensify the reading of my sub, so I don’t cross any limits that might have been developed throughout the session. This is the part where the trust comes into play.

    All of the above points towards the fact that non-consentual D/S is impossible within the context of BDSM. The level of consent is rather describing what is allowed to do and what is not. The consent doesn’t reveal when and how things are going to be carried out.

  7. Crys says:

    … I am going to raise a sensitive issue. Having been raped within a non BDSM committed relationship, I would say that in D/s or in marriage, some non-consensual activities are criminal and moral abuse. Can spouses rape each other? yes – and it’s NOT ok. Can Dominants rape submissives in the lifestyle? Yes, and it is not ok, not legal, not excusable, and not part of play.

    Fantasy is different, and when shared can be tremendously powerful. But a clear line protects everyone, legally, psychologically, emotionally, and even then edge play can be tricky. We may play in the shadows but one needs to know the boundaries between reality and fantasy, and between play and harming another and oneself.

    The idea of incremental accumulations of consent doesn’t work for me at all. Frankly one of the most exciting aspects of D/s and BDSM for me is the hyper awareness of all participants that consent is always dynamic, always a mutual gift between a Dom and a sub, always alive. Does TRUST build over time? ooooo YES. But Consent is always dynamic, fresh and of the moment. A contract is NEVER irrevocable, and only binding based on continual consent.

    BDSM is NOT abuse. Victims and predators are doing something else. If someone cannot tell the difference – they need help, or the law.

  8. Cloud says:

    i would be afraid of a Dom without limits, as i would of a sub without limits. Frankly, i don’t think it’s actually possible in a person OR a relationship, and is just a worrisome sign of very poor personal awareness and honesty – which i see as incredible hazards and turnoffs for me in play partners. Assuming consent – very bad idea, very dangerous, not sexy, stupid, incompetent…. shall i go on? How could that be part of real Domination/submission? No more so that ultimatiums and black mail – and if the dance starts to be continually a “My way or the highway”, my way or I will end the relationship, it is not a sign of Dominance and submission, it’s a sign of insecurity and emotional abuse.

    i agree with what Master Stoltz says about contracts and responsibilitity, and it goes both ways, the Dominant AND the submissive have responsibilities for themselves and to their partner(s), and also rights, one of which is the right of confirmed consent.

    Disciplines – established tasks or protocols or ways of doing things – may be long lasting, if they suit the participants and the relationship. But it doesn’t equate with consent, or bestow consent either.

  9. Thank you for this article. It does help to explain a lot of things and misconceptions regarding this lifestyle.

    I’ve been described as an alternate form of vanilla – I do like a bit of spice. And have been in three long term relationships. There has been only a little d/s in the bedroom but nothing heavy. And there has been a lot of the second catagory of Abuse, especially in my last relationship. So, it just goes to show me that without Trust and Consent, implied or not, there can be no type of relationshp. What there was NOT in those relationships, was a lot of talking about what we liked, what we wanted. Regardless of being in the bedroom or not.

    It seems to me, that unless one communicates with their partner, (no matter what the lifestyle) then there will always be misunderstandings. As far as I know, we haven’t evolved to the point of telepathy so actually need to speak things out loud. And be responsible for our thoughts and feelings. Being open to others thoughts and feelings does not mean that we are reponsible for them, just that we accept that everyone has a right to them.

    One last thought, unless one knows self, then the other person in the relationship will find it very hard to know them as well.

    Yes, I’ve learned a few things in my old age. Thanks for reading this comment. ;>

  10. Jammy says:

    I’m interested in any possible link between rape victims and bdsm. I recently was told by the person I’m seeing that she was raped several times by her boyfriend at a young age. I completely understand the difference between BDSM (which is safe and consensual) and rape (which is neither). Can rape be a reason for becoming interested in bdsm? She explains that in a d/s situation, being able to say no actually affirms that she is safe. Should I consider her liking for BDSM completely seperate and unrelated to her past?

  11. To my knowledge there are no PUBLISHED quantative studies of demographics of BDSM practitioners available, though Trevor Jacques et al ‘s survey at http://www.sexresearch.org/ looks interesting. If you know of published demographic studies, please, post!!!

    Cat Tailor’s annecdotal and interesting article _If You Simply Must Use BDSM Scenes as Therapy_ is worth reading in its entirity; I’ll tease you with a quote:

    “Many, if not most, people have experienced some form of sexual or physical abuse in their formative years – formative being any time up to now, when you are of course fully formed as yourself. Some of these people are also drawn to explore BDSM, for pleasure, need, or healing…”

    Some commonalities of demographics do not have significance. I like BDSM. I also like chocolate.

    Can BDSM be healing? Sure, so can vanilla sex. And imho chocolate pudding can be VERY healing. Can BDSM be therapy? Not safely for anyone involved imho. To quote Cat Tailor again:

    “…Let’s talk about why you should probably talk yourself out of using rape scenes or other forms of reenactment as part of your healing process.

    There are better, cleaner, and more controllable ways to do one’s healing work. When reenacting something that was a shattering trauma the first time around, there is a strong possibility of triggering that old pain or creating new pain on top of it. …”

    So rather than take on the SERIOUS psychological, physical and relational risks of metaphorically operating on yourself and your playmates without a license, consider getting some professional assistance, perhaps through the Kink Aware Professionals (Counselors) at ttp://www.ncsfreedom.org/

  12. Cloud says:

    I suppose most of us know, BDSM play (including forced fantasy) and actual rape and abuse are as different as making love and rape. The key distinguishing factor is consent. Is there a respected protected right to say no? Is consent understood to be a living trust, not a resignation of the right to choose? Is trust given and honored?

    A sad example of what BDSM is NOT is shown in recent news; in Afghanistan recently, a law was signed which stripped women of the ability to consent; they cannot deny sex to their husbands, the husbands cannot be accused of rape, and these women also may not leave their houses or seek work, education or doctor’s appointments without their husband’s permission. The law also approves of child marriages – and these are not children married to each other, but mature and older men who take girst as young as 9 as their “wives”. Please – do not joke about this; this situation, which is current NOT under the Talliban but in March/April 2009 under the US-supported “free” Afghanistan, IMHO stands in sharp contrast to every value BDSMers have.

    * BBC News 1 Apr 2009: Afghan ‘anti-women law’ attacked

    * Telegraph 31 Mar 2009: Hamid Karzai signs law ‘legalising rape in marriage’

    IMHO this law shames all those involved; the lawmakers and leaders who sacrifice women and children for the coming election; the men (fathers and husbands) who now are denied consenting partners or adult children; and it defines the Shia women as less than human, unable to consent yea or nay, untrusted and treated as chattal.

  13. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Cloud, I was going to leave this alone but that would just not be true to myself. While I would agree that this seems a step backwards for the advancement of their peoples and races it also occurs to me that nearly all politics in the Middle East and parts of the Far East are heavily entwined in their religous beliefs and their laws often reflect the Dominant religous belief of their country. They grow up in these beliefs and pass them on to the next generation and so on. The U.S. is one of the(but not the only) most progressive political systems in the world and it adapts and changes course frequently. We have no foundation to believe that this would work for everyone in the world. In fact, it could not work for everyone in the world. Evolution is just that, evolution. Some will evolve faster or more slowly than others and some will become extinct due to the choices they make and the rate in which they are able to adapt to the world around them. Some will see that simpler life will lead to their survival and others will see sophistication and technology will hopefully lead to theirs. In fact, for each, their own theory may be true. Or not. I am not sure that we should try to impose our values and beliefs onto these people. As a country that was attacked by the Taliban – a self-proclaimed fundamentalist religous group that operated in a way similar to what we would call a Mafia and who had made us their target – we had to protect ourselves and did so, but we don’t , in my IMHO, have any right to try to “convert” them to our way of thinking. As an added thought, can you not draw any parallels between this and say, fundamentalist GOR in SL? Also, please don’t be naive enough to believe that there aren’t some people out there in the BDSM lifestyle who would not like to see a RL world that was setup as a world of Dominants and submissives. Just my 2 cents, well, with inflation, 3 cents worth. With Love in BDSM, -LordSir Ninetails

  14. Cloud says:

    LordSir I don’t merely tolerate but enthusiasticly appreciate cultural diversity. I don’t imagine my or any culture at any one point in time is the culmination of human creativity. But cultural relativism has IMHO been used as a sad excuse to tolerate genocide (there are cultures in which tribal warfare has been the rule for thousands of years), genital mutiliation, rape of children and adults, so called ¨honor killings¨ murders and more. I don’t give a fuck if raping your own children IS one’s cultural heritage; I am willing to say it’s WRONG. I don’t think citing evolution as a cultural dynamic is entirely valid either, else why in the 21st century are some cultures regressing to MORE violence targetting people for their beliefs, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. I don’t think shrugging off rape as ok for ¨those¨ women and children to live and die with is good enough. If we ourselves will not take a stand for others – what are we?

  15. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Actually, you said it yourself: they are “regressing”, trying to turn back the evolutionary clock to a time that their culture can adapt to. I would agree that simply standing idly by while they do so seems, at least on the surface of it, somewhat cruel and inhumanitarian, however one must consider the bigger picture – what will it cost to your own culture’s advancement? Should we slow down so they can catch up? Should we pour our resources into helping them catch up even when they are clearly not ready for the many burdens of advancement? Despite the U.S.A.’s own advancement it struggles on a daily basis with the morality and ethics of its advancement and where it is leading them. Do you really want to burden these other people with such heavy responsibilies if they have not demonstated an ability to adapt to and survive with it? When do you draw the line in the sand that says you can go this far but no further because if we let you, you will kill us all? The only solution to the problem is to continually upgrade the knowledge (but not too quickly) of the less advanced cultures and through the evolutionary process of those who can absorb the knowledge, adapt to it, survive, and then join the family of advanced cultures. I am not an Elitist, just a Realist; I don’t believe one race, ethnicity, religion, or other questionable measure of human identity is better than another. Still, we all have one; I grew up as a Unitarian-Universalist and consider myself somewhat, to take a term from Buddism, zen-like in my beliefs about the world. It provides me a base in which to anchor myself because all of us need something to hold us together in this plane of existence. With Love in BDSM, LordSir Ninetails

  16. LordSir Ninetails says:

    By the way, have you seen the movie “Taken” yet? You may want to check it out. Also, I have one more question to ask: Would you propose a new Crusades to “save” these unfortunate people from their cultures? -Lordsir Ninetails

    P.S. – I am slightly amused by my previous posting as I am now being persecuted by the Lindens it seems; they have suspended my accounts due to someone telling them(without proof)that I may not be of age(I’m 46)…the irony of it, lol.

  17. Cloud says:

    ;) Well fortunately I am not in fact responsible for observing the Starfleet Prime Directive (no cultural interference) in this situation; I realized some years ago I do not have nor need to take responsibility for Everything and thus have the freedom to actually take positions based on my values.

    My personal values tell me that socially sanctioned rape is the responsibility of everyone who CAN speak up, whether they choose to or not. I don’t ask anyone to take global responsibility – but also, I expect myself and therefore have somewhat of an expectation of others, that I and we do take responsibility for what we can and do affect. Standing by and watching, or inaction when informed and aware, is NOT a neutral act.

    I have rather obnoxiously brought this issue to your awareness (and bear karmic debt for it). You now bear your own karmic burden for choices you make out of your own awareness and abilities. You are an articulate person, LordSir, one who can influence others. :) What are you going to do?

    I realize you have deliberately taken a position that this is not personal to you. I think that is a mistake. Let me challenge that a bit. Imagine your sister is moving with your neices to such a country. Imagine in your own community a religiously fundamentalist enclave arguing for respect for their traditions including the right to beat or kill a woman who by their definition dresses in a sexual provocative manner (maybe showing an ankle or hair). Are you ok with seeking to maintain pseudo-peace and unity by sacrificing women you know to the IMHO pseudo-Higher value of cultural neutrality?

    I enjoy our vigorous discussion :) and assume/hope you do also. Mental contention is a respectful activity to me, and I think to you.

  18. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Mental contention is indeed a somewhat pleasurable activity but I wonder if this discussion hasn’t gotten a little off- track from the purpose of this blog? We are no longer talking about BDSM vs. Abuse in an advanced culture where BDSM is an aspect of that culture’s sexual identity and comparing it to Domestic Abuse. We have taken it into the realm of Geo-politics and the infinite number of variables that contribute to abuse and violence in cultures that are struggling to find or maintain any kind of identity of their own.

    I will address some of your points for the sake of “mental contention” however:
    Point 1: My sister (yes, I have one, and she knows my lifestyle choice as do both of my parents) would not move to one of these kind of cultures – her upbringing, and intelligence, dictate this.
    Point 2: In my community, a priority has been set in law that the Sanctity of Life has precedence over religious values or cultural traditions.
    Point 3: As I stated previously, knowledge giving, over a period of time, in combination with the forces of evolution, and humane aid, is my preferred means of changing the world. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. It is part of nearly every religous tome(though with different ways of conveying it).
    Point 4: You are correct in that standing by and watching, or inaction when informed and aware, is NOT a neutral act. But, it also may not be what you think it is either. It may be simply standing aside to let God, Evolution, Nature, The Force, or whatever you believe is the unifying thread of Life, to take its turn at changing them. :) -With Love in BDSM, -LordSir Ninetails

  19. I was inspired to post this (and a bit more) on another site… and this might warrent another article. But I’ll post this here now, to start with:
    The ethics standards are SSC and RACK. SSC stands for Safe Sane and Consensual. RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. BDSM practitioners are emphatic, without competent adult consent, it’s not BDSM, it’s abuse.

    You CANNOT consent if you are
    * not a competent adult
    * not sober
    * not informed, and UNDERSTANDING what is proposed
    * not able to revoke consent, at any time
    * not able to communicate feedback OR confirmation/revocation of consent at any time (verbally or not)
    * not able to trust AND be trusted
    * not aware of your limits.

  20. LordSir Ninetails says:

    @19. Okay, are you saying Your group of “BDSM practioners” or My group of “BDSM practioners” use these consent rules that you listed here? I am sure you didn’t mean to make a blanket statement that ALL BDSM practioners use these exact rules and if they don’t they then should be considered to be abusers? What “inspired” you to say this, here and now, on this blog? If I share with you what I really believe about the acronyms SSC and RACK and if it is in conflict with your belief about them, will I then be censored or banned from this blog? -With Love in BDSM, LordSir Ninetails

  21. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Okay, I typed too fast…practitioners, not practioners.

  22. Cloud says:

    :) Those are not rules for any group I know, in fact. This is my personal opinion. If you disagree about any part of my statement, or think I failed to mention something, please, post! :)

    I sincerely enjoy differences of opinion or perspectives, and welcome such conversation, om this and anything in the blog. I am not so insecure in my opinions, or so fixed in them, that I would censor posts unless they are personal attacks (and I might even post those, if the one attacked were me and not a guest here.)

    This isn’t a religion or cult; there’s no creed. But I do feel, rather strongly, that for BDSM, for vamilla sex, for medical decisions or business contracts, you cannot consent without meeting most if not all of those criteria.

    I also feel that saying, anyone can do anything they want and call it BDSM, is wrong; I don’t consider pedophiles or real abusers to be doing BDSM. And I think lifestylers and committed practitioners have a :) civic responsibility, to guide the new, and – dare I say it? police ourselves. Master Stoltz just posted on extreme relativism in the piece Fuck Consent http://islandofpain.com/2009/05/07/fuck-consent/

    What is your opinion, Sir? Or anyone else – post as you will.

  23. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Thank you for your openness and willingness to hear another side of the issues.
    I did read the Fuck Consent posting as well as some of the earlier postings.
    I do take issue with many of the points made in this column as well as the Fuck Consent one:
    My first conflicting statement is this – In my opinion I believe that SSC and RACK are outdated,undefendable, and dangerous to anyone in the lifestyle. Safe – by who’s standard; a novices, an onlookers, the Dungeon Monitor who doesn’t play the same way, the jury that has never been in an actual scene but is about to decide your fate? Sane – who is judging that and by what measure? Most people outside of the lifestyle would find any one of us as being Insane to some degree in doing the things we are doing and taking the risks that we are taking. Consensual – when do you get it and how often do you break it in order to keep the flow of the scene going? As an example; Have you ever done knife play with someone and then used ice to make it feel as though you have cut someone without really cutting them? Did you ask first? No, because they would have known that you were using ice and wouldn’t have had the desired response. Risk Aware Consensual Kink – This one is even simpler; There is no way to know every possible risk involved in a scene and do you really think that jury of locals is really going to understand you and care that your submissive was aware of the risk and gave you consent to do it? As far as they are concerned the submissive had to be out of their mind to agree to it, and you, the Dominant, have to be out of your mind to want to do it to the submissive, so the whole concept of RACK means absolutely nothing to them. Do you really think that others in the BDSM lifestyle will come out to your hearing and speak on your behalf to say that what you did was okay because you used SSC or RACK in your relationship? Who would risk the scrutiny they would have to endure after doing such a noble deed? In my opinion SSC and RACK needs to be put to rest. It served its purpose for awhile, bringing in an entire generation of casual BDSM’ers, and providing a certain degree of propaganda to make legislators and courts feel more comfortable with the moral implications of lives being in a BDSM centric lifestyle, and it gave some in the BDSM lifestyle a glimmer of hope that BDSM could become an accepted part of normal human culture. It succeeded to a degree unfathomable at the time it was constructed, but now it is being used against the very people who helped construct it – those who taught the ways of BDSM in the first place, and it has replaced the essential qualities of what it takes to be a BDSM’er with a flimsy construct of propoganda designed to make everyone feel safer when they really aren’t. Have you ever thought about why the “Old Guard” rules were as restrictive as they were? Why they were never intended to be written down? It is something to ponder, and realize that maybe they were on to something, yes?
    I am getting sleepy so I will end for now – With Love in BDSM, -LordSir Ninetails

  24. Cloud says:

    :) A vigorous discussion – I love it.

    LordSir, you say SSC and RACK are both outdated, undefendable and dangerous. Let’s take them one by one.

    “Outdated”: by what? has human behavior changed so that ethical commitments are un-necessary? (Sadly, no. There still are in 2009 submissives getting actually raped, abused and tortured by predators preying on the BDSM communities. There are still dominants who get accused of crimes when consent was assumed, ambiguous or not understood.) Or have the problems which caused people to develop these ethics so changed that they have no ressonance? (Again sadly no. Consent. Safety. These remain basic issues. Advances in electroplay does not change that.)

    “Undefendable”:
    Most of the reasons you use to condemn both SSC and RACK are close to the rationale for teaching RACK in the first place. For those unaware of that history, here’s a resource: http://www.evilmonk.org/A/rack.cfm But arguing that all risks cannot be known, that no general agreement of what is sane or relatively safer (or as some prefer it, “safer”), is a bit absurd. (A nice article which considers “risk management” in BDSM: http://www.evilmonk.org/A/jay.cfm ) The terms were never intended to be used as legal defenses in courts of law, and criticizing their use for a non-intended use is a bit unfair. They were intended as social norms, adopted and defined and defended and taught BY the community FOR the community. But in fact – BDSMer HAVE gone public to defend each other, and explain What It Is We Do, more than once, AND have also condemnded pedophilia, rape and abuse and explained WHY they are not and cannot be BDSM. Have they endured “scrutiny”? Yes, and sometimes harrassment. There ARE heros, and leaders, and community educators in our world.

    “Dangerous”: You say SSC and RACK are being used against the people who constructed it – how? who? If you mean critique of Old Guard, or of kinky people from before articulation of these ethics – well, in fact, we critique our ancestors all the time anyway. Damn few Scandianvians go a-viking these days, in the old sense of rape pillage and plunder, and most Scandinavians, even the kinky ones, seem to think that is an improvement.

    You say “it has replaced the essential qualities of what it takes to be a BDSM’er with a flimsy construct of propoganda designed to make everyone feel safer when they really aren’t.” What are the essential qualities it has replaced? And why are people NOT safer when they are encouraged generally and with specific practical advice like Jay Wiseman’s article on breath play, for example, to take a moment to THINK, THEN PLAY?

    Do you think informed consent for medical decisions is impossible? Should doctors should just go back to doing anything without giving all those ignorant patients any say? Should we go back to arranged marriages? absolute monarchies? serfdom? Because if you say that decisions in which all consequences and circumstances cannot be defined should be avoided, you beg for such tyrannies.

    Many of the Old Guard rules had NOTHING to do with safety, or consent; they were style and etiquette agreements; not bad things, fun in ways in fact; one joined a secret society, an elite. But the mentor apprentice system broke down; people got hurt, or never found their way. It was generosity of spirit, a desire to help and grow the community, not judgement, which moved BDSM from the Old Guard rules to SSC and eventually perhaps to RACK.

    Lastly: You would throw out all ethics and guidelines and standards, and offer nothing to replace them? You think a social standard of ancharchy is better than any rules? Ah if we were all saints and angels, maybe, but frankly I find it helpful to check myself, is my play consistent with my chosen values? And aside from the endless personal search for improvement – among our noble devils and demonesses are also predators – who ARE different from us, LordSir. SSC and RACK help us say how.

  25. LordSir Ninetails says:

    My point is that we have created a nice little box (or coffin, as I see it) in which we say this is what BDSM is and anything outside of the box is abuse. In other words, the more defined you try to make it, the more restrictive it will become in what you are allowed to do, and those who push the boundaries or try new elements that could possibly be considered BDSM will instead be labeled as abusers. The truth is that the Old Guard didn’t write things down because what is written can be used against you as well as restrict you and make you less adaptable. As for those “style and etiquette rules”, they were designed to enhance DISCIPLINE, both within the group, and in self-discipline, much the way the military, and now, school systems, use uniforms or dress codes, and codes of conduct, to enhance Discipline, in their systems of operation.
    And NO, no one from the lifestyle is going to come to your defense and say that it was okay that your submissive died on you because you used SSC or RACK as a basis for your relationship. It is part of the risk of being a BDSM’er in that occasionally things go badly and you have to pay the consequences; if your not ready to accept that risk then your not ready to do BDSM, period. No amount of “Oh, but I used Safe, Sane, and Consensual practices, as per the accepted BDSM communities guidelines…” is going to, or even should, save you. A mistake may have been made by the few Old/New Guard and Old Victorian-Style Doms and Dommes who came out and tried to demystify what BDSM is (in an effort to try to make it more acceptable to the mainstream population). As soon as they started teaching groups of people with the need of using “same for everyone” style guidelines (which eventually became SSC and RACK)they put us all in danger of losing some of the things we cherished most: our individuality and our freedom.
    I will elaborate more later, it is bedtime and I must get up early, so I am going to use a little self-discipline now and bid adieu, -LordSir Ninetails

  26. … Should save one from what, exactly? Prosecution? Burning at the stake? Irrevocable immediate shunning by the community? In fact, BDSMers HAVE defended community members who have despite good practices suffered a tragedy which could not have reasonably been prevented. LordSir, people die during vanilla sex. People die when walking across the street. People die; that is inevitable for all living beings. And heaping guilt on is not necessarily the morally superior path or social necessity to protect one’s own ass. Throwing companions to the wolves really doesn’t give one added security; it merely develops the wolves’ taste for people…

    Discipline does not cost one individuality, freedom or creativity (unless discipline is defined as uniformity); on the contrary, discipline enhances them. Part of discipline, for BDSM, for many things, is developing risk assessment, risk avoidance, and risk reduction. You can do more fun edgy things IF you increase your abilities in these skills, you can play better.

    Understanding the difference between abuse and BDSM play is not a coffin or box. You use the term “allowed to do”; I use the words “choose to do”; I have and exercise in life a degree of freedom and personal choice which many people shy away from, and I perceive personal responsibility for choices to be truly inalienable. No one here has listed activities and said, “these are BDSM, anything not listed here is abuse”. Definitions and discipline and ethics are not tyranny; they are the personal choices and personal expressions which express one’s personal freedom and sociability.

    IMHO of course, LordSir. I look forward to your elaborated thoughts.

  27. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Hmmm, where to start?…I pondered…oh Hell…just dig in and let things land where they will…hahaha

    Saved from yes all of the above, Cloud, and the judgemental eyes of the general public who want to put us into a neat little box and try to crack our nuts when we stick our beady little heads out of it. These same BDSM people you talk about defending other BDSM’ers have put themselves in harms way (they are on a multitude of governmental, moral minded, and ethics groups blacklists I am sure)but may have missed a critical point about BDSM. BDSM is NOT something for everyone to do. Those who are into BDSM as a life (I hate the term LifeStyle too – this is not about what is fashionable or en vogue, but an actual way of life). BDSM is still considered to be Torture or Abuse or Coercion by the great majority of civilized countries populaces whether we call it Consensual, Safe, and Sane or what not. They have history to prove their point. We have a fairly recent idea (SSC/RACK) to try to distance us from our past, our roots. Yet, time after time, when it is held up as proof that we have changed, evolved, it really just looks like a poor mask to cover our true nature. What we really need to do is to stop trying to use cute little acronyms and neat little lists to try to describe what we do. There is no way to fully describe what we do; it changes everyday, and when we try to summarize it, we limit our ability to go beyond the summary because those looking in, the ones who hold the laws, and even the ones who want to try it, will point to the summary and say “but you said, this is what you are, but now you are not doing what you said, and therefore you are not what you said you were, so off with your head(oops,was that BDSM?)or some such dickery.” Ouch! And then the door (of acceptance) gets shut on our poor little fingers again. Too much time is being wasted on trying to be more acceptable to the mass human market. We really need to get back to the basics of personally teaching the ways of BDSM without trying to get cute about it and ending up making a much distilled experience for the sake of trying to be appealling to people who probably shouldn’t be in, or even be aware of, the BDSM life in the first place. Elitist attitude? No, in fact, if you go back and read those “Old Guard” rules and think to yourself about why they made a particular rule, think about the practicality of the rule. Yes, they did separate some(not all)of the chaffe from the grain, and yes, they did enforce a certain amount of discipline, including some uniformity, but the underlying factor was practicality. The practicality of wearing certain things at certain times, some as a statement of your differentness, others for the purpose of discretion, others for stating what you wanted, and so on…practical. The practicallity of having an order…Senior Dom, Dom, Senior Sub, Sub, and so on…practical. Why would they want only those who have shown fiscal responsibility to be in the group? It limits liability…practical idea:0
    Interesting huh? Do we apply this type of practicallity to the masses yearning to be BDSM’ers? No, because we would turn them off to it and those great aspirations of wanting to make BDSM mainstream would vanish. But, What if we did? What if we did scale back, make it harder for them to “enjoy” us? Would it be a bad thing? Would there be less scrutiny or more? Would novices stop trying to judge the experienced players by their own lack of experience and maybe start paying attention to the details the experienced player shows them a little more? Would it then get Safer? Would it then get Saner? Would it then be known to be more Consensual? Would it? Without the cute little lists and acronyms and what have you, making up that nice little box of a coffin for some competitive interest group to use against us? With Love in the BDSM Life, -LordSir Ninetails

  28. LordSir Ninetails says:

    After re-reading the No.27 post, I realized I had started a sentence and didn’t finish it. I wrote, “Those who are into BDSM as a life (and then some words about using the term Lifestyle,yada,yada). It should have read: Those who are into BDSM as a life cringe when we see so many of the newer generation of BDSM players using it as a hobby, something they just do to get their rocks off on the weekend, rather than taking the time to understand that it is a way of thinking and feeling daily, nightly, all the time.

    You may say that is why we must have those silly lists and acronyms and classes is so they don’t bring down the house upon the rest of us, but I say, maybe we should let them swing from the gallos and maybe it will turn them off to it as a hobby. BDSM survived for a long time before trying to make it appealing to everybody and it would survive afterward. But before we go to the radical extreme lets try making it personal again. Lets take the ideas from the past and refresh them, give them new life, we are networked today in a way that they could never have imagined back in the “Old Guard” or “Old Victorian Style” days, but we need to bring the element of one on one personalized experience back into the fold – we must insist on mentorship and/or apprenticeship in order to advance in our way of life. We must re-tune our conferences and get-togethers to impart information on a closer one to one basis with an emphasis on the dynamics of living a BDSM life not just how to swing a whip or put on a clamp but one-on-one hands-on knowledge and feeling for what we are looking for in mastery of the art of BDSM, for real BDSM is more art than science.

    I am sorry for going on these little jaunts of the mind, I am on medication for a severe head and chest cold this past week and my mind has a hard time staying on track. My apologies. :) With Love in BDSM life, -LordSir Ninetails

  29. LordSir Ninetails says:

    In the first part of the original posting I had an issue with trying to take the acronym BDSM and define it as something other than the sum of its parts. The letters stand for: B&D – Bondage and Domination,D&S – Dominance and Submission, S&M – Sadism and Masochism and even some modern deviations I have heard like D&S – Dominants and Submissives, S&M – Slaves and Masters, and so on, ad nauseum. Not once have I seen where these letters stand for Safe, Sane, or Consensual(which doesn’t even have a letter in the acronym BDSM)in any of my reading until I saw it in this posting describing “BDSM is based on the safe, sane, and consensual theory”. Really? Since when? When did someone get the rights to the acronym BDSM and say that from now on it means this? A theory? Thats what it is? Good Grief!

    Now lets take a look at the second part of DomSubFriends list. As I read it I realized it wasn’t accurate(IMHO). See if you would agree with my comments to the side of each item?

    Real abuse is actually the opposite to all the pionts made above:

    •Abuse is not negotiated (Actually, it can be, though the victim may not know that is what they are doing)
    •Abuse is an out of control environment (Doesn’t have to be, it can be carefully planned abuse aka a psycho)
    •Abuse does not have safe words (okay)
    •An abuser does not give a damn about the victim (not always true at all-many abusers do love or like their victims when they are not in the process of abusing them. They actually hate themselves more than they hate the target of their abuse)
    •Abuse is always one sided(again, not always – sometimes both sides are abusers)
    •Abuse is never negotiated. (actually, in a way, it is, as the victim takes the abuse and refuses to do anything about it, they encourage the escalation of abuse)
    •In abuse, no one is enjoying the results (I’ll go with that if you are talking about the end results-the abuser does get a little lift while in the process of abusing before analyzing what they have done.)
    •The abuser is into non consensual violence (really? as opposed to consensual violence? okie-dokie but I’ll just call it violence, period.)
    •The victim has no respect towards the abuser(wrong, they did at first oftentimes, and may even have some left for them afterwards if they feel they “deserved” it – a low self -image problem)
    •In abuse the victim is harmed (yes, and often the abuser too)
    •In abuse both parties are left unfulfilled(unless destruction of the relationship was the objective)
    •The abuser always feel they are superior(actually, its because of their own feelings/fear of inferiorness that drives them)
    •A person does not ask for abuse(Well, some do just because they are so fucked up in their head)
    •In an abusive relationship there is no trust(again, not always true-they trust the partner with some things but not others – for awhile.)
    •The abuser does not care for consent(not true, it justs makes it easier for them to think they are right)
    •Abuse has no trust(in the beginning, the trust is there long enough to catch the victim by surprise, and sometimes even long enough for the victime to believe that the abuser could get better)
    •Abuse destroys self esteem(though for those who recover I have seen some pretty miraculous changes in the way that a former victim can gain a high self image or esteem of themselves from surviving the abuse and rebulding themselves)
    •An abuser destroys the spirit of the victim(I wouldn’t use the term “destroys” but instead “weakens” as the spirit is indestructible, but it is transformable and able to be rejuvenated to a stronger, healthier one.)

    Okay, I think you get it. I and anyone who is in the BDSM life for all the right reasons deplore those who use BDSM as a form of abuse. There are abusers in all walks of life including our own. How can you distinguish the BDSM abuser from the BDSM non-abuser? Listen to their target. Do you hear real terror, real fear? When you have enough experience you can tell the difference. Take the time in your playing to listen. Learn how pleasure in pain sounds different from terror in pain, how elation sounds and feels different from fear. Love for the human beings who share our passions is the difference. With Love in the BDSM life, -LordSir Ninetails

  30. Cloud says:

    Abuse targets do not consent, do not negotiate, do not ask for it. They are manipulated; promises are broken; they are lied to, especially that big lie that THEY are responsible for the abuser’s behavior. Real abuse victims do not always sound like the sounds of terror, LordSir. They can in fact sound flat, deadened, hiding like rabbits caught in the light, hoping the wolf is not hungry or hoping death will come quickly. Even fear can feel like a distant emotion, as victims, like abusers, often disassociate from their actual experiences. You want to argue there is NOT a clear distinction between abuse and BDSM? LordSir, … I am very sad to read that.

    You want Old Guard customs and structures, no guiding statements of ethical principles, and for the young to STFU and let only the “experienced” identify abuse? Why? The experienced, in dungeons or elsewhere, cannot handle predators or the merely as yet ignorant alone. Identifying abuse is NOT art, the young and experienced need to learn to protect themselves and each other better and THAT is the point of SSC and RACK and going to workshops on whipping and ropeplay and all the rest. There was no BDSM Golden Age, when everyone knew instinctively what to do and not to do… not yet.

  31. LordSir Ninetails says:

    Dear Cloud, I am very sorry to read that…you insist on putting words in my mouth which I haven’t uttered, that you don’t pick up on the nuances of language that can lead you to the truth, that you can’t feel reaction to touch and realize when something is wrong or different, or that you don’t have the ability to detect a lie when it is spoken and you are looking into their face, their eyes. This is what you just said isn’t it? Probably not what you meant to say. Or maybe I just read it the way I wanted to and put the words into your mouth?

    The points I made were this; First, you have no right to claim the acronym “BDSM” as meaning that every person who uses BDSM does so under the pretext that they accept Safe, Sane, and Consensual as their mantra. It is not yours (or mine) to take and decide what it should mean to everybody.

    Second, there are abusers who are into BDSM or in the BDSM life. There are also people in the BDSM life who judge others in the BDSM life by their lack of knowledge, experience, or political agenda. They then abuse the veteran BDSM’er by claiming that what they are doing is not SSC or RACK or some such ridiculousness when in fact it usually is something far better.

    Third, great BDSM is art and can only be done with love for the human spirit. Abuse is just violence, overt or covert, aggressive or passive, it is hatred of the human spirit.

    Fourth, I almost regret having played the counterpunch to your obviously close-to-home passions on the subject of abuse. However, it is a complex subject in the BDSM life and should be explored and better understood.

    With love in the BDSM life, -LordSir Ninetails
    I hope that you find peace with yourself one day

  32. LordSir Ninetails says:

    “I hope that you find peace with yourself one day.” , my mother said to me after having hurled some reprehensible phrase at her in my anger, my hatred. I was 16 years old and knew how to hurt people with just the right words.

    Now, some 30 years later in life, I still know how to do it.
    When my wife, whom I love dearly, recently asked me to go to the nearby fast food joint to get her something to eat, I got up from the computer I was intently working with,went to the door and turned back to her and I replied,”What would you like from there?” She usually says something like “Whatever”, which she knows gets under my skin, but occasionally she actually has a taste for something specific and tells me, which I find satisfying because I now no longer have to guess. So this time she says, “Whatever you want to bring me dear.” My ire is raised. I hesitate for a second and then say to her “You know I don’t like when you do that Honey!” It’s loud. She is instantly angered by the attack, “Then I don’t want anything!”, she says, and then in an underbreath,”if your gonna snap at me that way.” I know what she means by that and I feel sorry for having such an outburst. But I also know I am tired of her little game. Still, I go out to the car and go and get some food. I guess at what she would like this time, and wonder if she will even accept it when I bring it back. I guess wrong, of course, as usual, but she accepts the effort, gives me a kiss, and takes the food. I love her and she loves me. Our spirits are sometimes at odds with one another but we always seem to get past them.

    To me, this is not an unusual scenario in a married life, and does not constitute itself to being considered as abuse.
    What do you think? Do arguments over domestic issues, personality differences or spiritual clashes mean that you are in an abusive relationship? Usually, you know each other well enough to know exactly which buttons to push to get the reaction you want.

    For me the real issue is with what are the participants intent in the argument? To win the argument of course is one, and sometimes this is achieved by the one with the better logic. But how often is it won by the one who is the loudest or meanest in their argument? Is it then abuse?
    What if its the only way someone gets heard? Who is the abuser and the abused then?

    Please feel free to let us on this blog know what you think.

    With Love in the BDSM life, -LordSir Ninetails

  33. Cloud says:

    Post 31: :) I challenge you to read this in its entirity: http://www.leathernroses.com/generalbdsm/chrismcivilityone.htm which has 4 pages. Please let’s both refrain from grabbing this or anything else as a club with which to beat the other.

    And as this discussion is starting to use rather nasty rhetoric and personal insinuations, I think I will walk away for now. FYI my inner peace is pretty much found. :)

    Post 32: Your relationship with your wife, if it harms either or both of you, deserves loving attention; the nastiest abuse is often not physical, but conflict is not by definition abuse. I don’t do therapy over the Internet, LordSir, and :) I also don’t even pretend to have all the answers on all relationships.

  34. LordSir Ninetails says:

    I am Sorry if you misunderstand me, Cloud, so I sometimes backtrack to help clarify what I say. I try not to take offense to such things, but alas, I am mortal and occasionally lapse into incivility towards what I perceive to be personal attacks. I am sorry to you for indulging in this. Further, you should know that it doesn’t require a “challenge” to me to get me to read something you believe has bearing on a subject. I have read every article that you have pointed a link to since I began reading this blog, and then some. I value your insights even when I don’t necessarily agree with them.

    As for the Post 32 I was not looking for therapy, I was looking to see where others might draw the line between interpersonal conflict and abuse. I also was hoping to draw out a similar line between a non-abusing BDSM relationship and an abusive BDSM relationship. You claimed that “Identifying abuse is not art”, and though that is not what I said at the time, I thought about it some more, and went back and read several accounts of submissives being in abusive relationships in the BDSM life, and came to the conclusion that it could indeed be very difficult to separate between the two when you are in the midst of such a relationship. Abuse is often only indentified when it reaches a breaking point, sometimes tragically, and then later when looking upon the relationship retrospectively it becomes realized that it had been building up to its climax all along. We as outsiders to the relationship, particularly in the BDSM life, have a hard time recognizing it and even when we think we recognize it we aren’t always sure if it isn’t just part of that couples relationship and therefore dismiss it or just tuck the thought away for further evidence to corroborate it.

    Another backtrack point of reference I will expound upon regards my argument with the “BDSM is based upon the Safe, Sane, Consensual Theory” as it is used with trying to teach the BDSM newcomer how to do what we do:
    About 11 years ago, I was one of those newcomers to the public dungeon BDSM scene. SSC and RACK were the mantra of the day and after a couple of years of playing at this dungeon I was asked to be the Dungeon Monitor. I felt I was a pretty good judge of what was and wasn’t Safe, Sane, and Consensual. I was more experienced than most in the dungeon.
    However, occasionally, someone who didn’t come all that often, but who appeared to be very capable, would come in and play. On one of these nights, an older leatherman came in with his submissive and proceeded to put together a suspension scene. They were obvously very familiar with one another and worked together seamlessly. However, the type of suspension bondage they were doing was outside of my experience level. I noticed they were not using quick release links and knowing that I had to protect the dungeon and its other participants against any possible legal harm I intruded upon their scene and insisted on the taking down of the submissive from their suspension apparatus. They did so,though somewhat disgruntled, and after doing their aftercare, they promptly left. Several months passed by and then I saw them again. However, this time they didn’t go directly into the suspension room. The Dominate sought me out and we sat down and had a conversation. I learned alot about him and his submissive in that conversation; how long they had been doing this kind of suspension scene, what other activities they liked doing(which were also outside of my experience), and so on. Something else they educated me on too, those quick release links I was so fond of were actually hazards in the type of suspension they did. The falling of a 250+lb dead weight submissive from one of these was more likely to damage the submissive than the relatively slower easing down of the submissive with the winch. The links they used also were of much greater strength than you could get with those quick release links.
    I realized I had failed to recognize something. I had failed to because I was so ingrained with the SSC and what I thought it meant. What I failed to recognize was that when it appears that both the Top and the Bottom really knows what they are doing with a particular type of play or scene and they have signed that they understand the principles behind SSC, then they probably know better than you do what is actually Safe, Sane, and Consensual to them.
    This relationship between myself and them turned out alright, however, I have seen several scenes which were obviously of a highly experienced nature stopped by DM’s or dungeon personnel due to their own lack of experience with the elements of the scene. This often results in the loss of that couples participation there forevermore. It can be argued that SSC also extends to the non-participants of a scene and therefore such edgy scenes should not be done except in the presence of only others of equal or higher expertise in the scene type. The question then becomes how low will the bar be set and how long thereafter will such mundane things such as bondage cuffs and heavy floggings become too much because the newcomer is shocked by their use and doesn’t believe that it could be Safe, Sane, or Consensual. Guiding advice, which can or not become someones guiding principles is one thing, but holding out a standard and saying that this is what everyone in this life must use is another. I still believe that the bacic ideas behind SSC is sound advice but I have seen it used to throw shadows on several very good BDSM’ers reputations. That is why I have both fondness for the term and contempt for it. That is why I think we, those of the BDSM life, need to rethink it, retool it, and give the newcomers something better to work with.
    With love in the BDSM life, -LordSir Ninetails

  35. I intended no personal attack LordSir, though I was contesting some ideas you were presenting. :) It’s actually an expression of intellectual and personal respect.

    It seems you regret your behavior as monitor – but recall, the Dom and sub you mentioned chose to stop; and they choose to share knowledge with you, which could be understood as an appreciation for your intent and role.

    SSC and RACK and a few other guidelines developed out of concern like yours. If you have an alternative, I would love to read it. If you don’t – well, maybe you should consider drafting one. And when ready, I would very much enjoy reading it, it would be an honor.

  36. Aaaaaaaaa says:

    i dont appreciate word abuse. it is overused these days and in US and other stupid countries like Australia or UK all see everything as this f u c k ing 'abuse' and because of that u get stupid law

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