There are so many positive things about BDSM. It can be so powerful, and bring people together in such harmony and closeness. At the same time, BDSM has a dark side.
Something I think about a lot as a BDSM writer is that tricky, meandering line between “kink” and “abuse.” Even within the BDSM community, the line can’t be agreed upon. People shove it back and forth and argue. One person’s abuse is another person’s pleasure. There are fringe players who do things that would horrify most people. Yet, these acts are done between partners consensually. Abuse, or not?
In my book Comfort Object, my publisher slapped a label on it that surprised me. “Dubious consent.” To me, the consent was always there, but I could see, reading back through the story, how the line of force was pressed just a bit at certain times. My book Mercy also played with pushing boundaries of consent. In both those books, it was more a case of people being imperfect, than any cruelty or intentional malice.
In my most recent book, Deep in the Woods, I felt moved to confront the abuse/kink specter head on. I wrote from the view point of a heroine who had been in a relationship where she was taken advantage of...where the line of consent had been maliciously manipulated to a point of abuse. It felt great to help her move past that on the page, and find a Dominant who respected her limits and nurtured her psychological health.
So I think, for me, after going on this journey in my writing, the difference between kink and abuse is easier to spot. The “line” is genuine caring and consent between partners. Malice and thoughtless brutality are on the bad side. Nurturing and thoughtful communication are on the good side.
BDSM sometimes hurts. But it should always be the “good” kind of pain.