Is BDSM “Bad”?

Bita von Seil
5 min readMay 31, 2021

Why are there so many stories of abuse?

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

Is BDSM abuse?

You might be forgiven for thinking so given how it is treated in the media these days. Despite no longer being portrayed as both criminal and a perversion, the real-life examples of its practice that make it into the public sphere and thus consciousness often involve criminal cases of abuse.

The increasing normalization of BDSM in popular culture still seems to involve gross misrepresentations of consent and depict the people involved with BDSM as being somehow psychologically ill or unhealthy. Whether it’s the notorious “Fifty Shades of Grey” movies that show a man being kinky as a symptom of his emotional dysfunction or the various kink-shaming scenarios that are inserted into popular TV shows over the years to shock and awe the public. What comes to mind is Count Odo in Season Three of the Vikings TV show flogging a French noblewoman from the court. Though she appears to be willing to have an affair, she doesn’t seem to quite realize what she’s getting into and they don’t show her enjoying it.

Even TV shows like “Bonding” on Netflix that try to humanize and portray BDSM as “normal” and OK, still manage to do disservices to the alternative lifestyle scene and ultimately shame submissive males by portraying them as ridiculous and using them to provide comic relief, not to mention the total lack of consent in many scenes.

But the recent cases that have come to light of BDSM and abuse are what prompt me to write this and wonder about the dangers of BDSM going mainstream. The results are quite mixed and seem to lead to bad results going public. Though I’m sure many a housewife has been inspired to play with some whips and blindfolds thanks to Fifty Shades and its commercial off-shoots, the following examples involve abuse.

Most are probably familiar with the worst-case scenarios of people getting hurt or dying while practicing BDSM unsafely like death by mummification or auto-erotic asphyxiation. But the cases where, for example, soldiers or politicians got caught doing something bad, and accused of abuse through BDSM are dismaying — even if we may be tempted to gloat a bit about the mighty falling from power. There were victims in these stories. Another case is the former Governor of Missouri, also a soldier…

Bita von Seil

Rope Fan | Kink-Enthusiast | Wordsmith