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The Tiger had a little fun recently testing for folks’ likes and dislikes with kinky sex. This is a good moment to wonder: is media sensationalism of BDSM harmless good fun or a trigger for abuse?

There was considerable social debate over the “Fifty Shades” movies about whether it was safe to glorify kinky sex. Two sides emerged: do we treat adults as adults, or do we take a wider view that presenting kinky sex as safe enjoyment is encouraging potential abusers?

Is it fair to consider this as particularly relevant on a college campus like Clemson, where rape culture is considered a concern? Last year, 75 percent of those sexual assaults which were reported to the police occurred in on-campus accommodations. In other words, very likely (please note the caveat), the assaults occurred between people who knew each other.

The statistics provided by Clemson University itself report that 7 percent of students have experienced sexual touching without their consent within the last 12 months, and 8 percent of students experienced an emotionally abusive intimate relationship within the same timeframe. 20 percent of all first-year women experience some type of sexual victimization; 15 percent experience unwanted sexual contact; 5 percent experience sexual coercion; 5 percent experience attempted rape, and 3 percent experience completed rape. According to Clemson, most women know the offender: 37 percent are acquaintances; 32 percent are partners or romantic acquaintances; 23 percent are casual or first date, and 8 percent are strangers.

Is it responsible to introduce into this environment the causal notion that kinky sex is just, well, you know, kinky sex?

Yet surely, anyone exploring kinky sex knows the rules. They know about “safe words,” don’t they? Hmm. Do they? Does every teenage freshman know that there can be limits to kinky sex? More to the point, do they know that the person insisting on the experimentation is aware of those rules and will stick to them? In other words, do those same teenagers know that there may be folks who believe there should be no endgame to kinky sex, except for the gratification of the dominant party?

Games of domination are not new in society, and neither are those who abuse these games. There are clubs, groups and individuals for whom the concept of limit destroys the point of the game. The whole idea is that gratification can come as much from anticipation and pushing limits as it can from the act of sex itself.

Is the safest course of action to assume that anyone raising the subject of BDSM is most likely someone who does not know the rules or is wanting to abuse their potential partner? Is the safer course of action to check with mutual friends that a new partner is safe? If asking embarrasses a potential participant, is the safest course of action then simply to refuse?

What if a partner insists? Then, it is fair to assume that anything that follows against the wishes of any participant is a sexual assault?

Adulthood is a new adventure for most of the students at any college. Freshmen are experiencing being away from the constraints of home, parents and teachers for the very first time. College should be a time of safe exploration. Along with exploration comes responsibility – for oneself and one’s fellow students.

So, explore, learn, find out and enjoy, but remember, fun editorial aside, BDSM is not always harmless fun; it is a pastime that can involve very considerable pain and injury, and these negatives can last a lifetime.

 

The Tiger only condones safe and explicitly consensual sexual activity.

If you have experienced sexual abuse and need someone to talk to, you can reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. 

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