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What one Englishman learnt from 2 years of online dating in New York - Part 1


How about that online dating eh?

From the number of recent UK newspaper articles I’ve been reading on the subject I think the English are finally coming around the idea. There maybe some remnants of stigma attached, but it seems like meeting people through the internet is quickly becoming mainstream. However, back in 2012 when I was still working on my PhD in Oxford I told a friend that I’d probably start doing a bunch of online dating when I moved to New York later that year. Her response was: “But you’re not THAT weird?”…

She may have underestimated me.

One thing's for sure; after two years in New York and 85 first dates I am definitely a lot weirder.

From that number you might assume that I am either not very good at dating or that I am some kind of commitment-phobic man-whore. I like to think I am neither of those things, but I’ll admit the possibility that I am both, (should you wish to delve into tangled depths of my twisted psyche here is my book to laugh at and judge me with). However, regardless of my personal deficiencies you can’t go on 85 first dates without learning a few things, and so here I thought I’d share some of those lessons with you…

(Well maybe they’re more like observations, I’m not going to try to seriously advise anyone ‘how to date’, that’s for people to figure out on their own, but forewarned is forearmed and hopefully there’s something useful here for all genders...)

Lesson 1 -  Sexism bitches!

Sexism is very much alive and well in America and it affects the very basis of the dating ecosystem. Men usually have to act as the aggressors to get anywhere and women usually act as the gatekeepers. If you want evidence for this you simply have to look at the number of messages women receive versus men on online dating sites. Furthermore the overbearing dating paradigm seems to be that men are encouraged to appear wealthy and dominant, in order to achieve dating ‘success’ (or at least the numerical, notching bedpost, type success), while girls encouraged to be attractive and submissive.

I consider myself a feminist and I am in no way endorsing this model, in fact I’m not sure which gender is more disadvantaged by it, but I’ll accept that it’s probably primarily the patriarchy’s fault that things have gotten into this state [1]. I’m not saying that everyone follows this paradigm either, but we’re social creatures and whether we like it or not we are influenced by the movements of the shoal around us, so I think we have to recognise the market forces of the dating economy we all find ourselves trapped in.

Now it is very tempting to rant about the shittyness of dating culture and how it should change, but I might quickly start sounding like King Canute attempting to command the tide, so instead I’ll move on to the matter of surviving in it...

The fact is that if you’re a guy you’re probably going to have to put in a lot of effort into sending messages and getting noticed. Much of this effort will end up fruitless and you will spend a lot of time sighing over an empty inbox. If you’re a girl on the other hand you’re going to have to deal with a lot of shit being thrown at you (just metaphorically… I hope), and also learn to quickly weed out the deceptive and manipulative ass-hats from the other varieties.

Are we feeling dehumanised yet? I’m afraid it gets worse... but then you don’t want to die alone do you?

Anyway my advice to those sending out the messages is not to take it personally when no one replies to you, it’s just the nature of the game. To improve your chances pick your target audience and try and make yourself stand out to them; it’s a marketing exercise at the end of the day. Still it’s best to remember that you don’t want to be advertising oranges when all you have to sell are lemons; promote what you have!

On the other side of things my advice to those of you suffocated by your clogged inboxes is less well informed. However from a personal standpoint I’d suggest not being afraid to be honest with people about what you’re looking for and whether or not you’re interested in someone or unsure. If a guy isn’t mature enough to handle rejection and throws a tantrum, try not to let it get to you, everyone has to grow up someday. Oh and be suspicious of everything suspicious sounding, there are some real ass-clowns online.

Either way when entering the New York online dating arena be prepared for all kinds of failures and assaults to your ego, it’s a jungle out there so don’t go wandering in expecting it to be a walk in the park. The irony is that when trying to survive in the dating rainforest it can be tempting to abandon a certain amount of empathy and compassion to achieve ‘success’. However at the end of the day I think empathy and compassion are what we all need to make actual relationships work, so if you want to ever really escape the dating jungle then don’t let go of them, however much they seem to slow you down!

(Click here for dating lesson 2 - Girls like sex too!)


[1]-  I do think though that both genders are now responsible for perpetuating this dating culture. Yes my gender is probably more terrible and may have set the awful charade in motion in the first place, but the massive pricks out there are still getting laid enough to continue their dehumanising behaviour. I’d hypothesise this has something to do with them getting too many plus points for ‘wealth’ and spontaneous ‘chemistry’ because of their manipulative social tactics, and not enough minus points for being arseholes. Similarly guys probably put far too much weight on appearance and other poor predictors of compatibility... but anyway, I think we can all learn to do better.

On consent; picking apart the different shades of grey...

#consent #50shades #bdsm #sex #philosophy #flowchart
“It’s fine, so long as it’s between consenting adults.”

That expression sounds simple enough doesn’t it? In fact it might look like a pretty good cornerstone to build a morality around. It’s certainly an idea that’s down there somewhere amongst my own ethical foundations. ‘Consensuality’ seems like a simple line that can be drawn in the sand, as it appears to allow everyone the maximum personal liberty so long as they don’t infringe on the liberties of others.

However while a free reign of consenting adults might seem like a clear enough philosophy, I have been scrutinizing it for a while now and I keep noticing a lot of little loose threads around the fringes that worry me... I’m kind of concerned that if pull on them the whole basis of my morality might unravel... and then where will I be? Well this it the piece of writing where I give them all a solid tug and see what happens…


Well one thing that happens is I make a bit of a mess and I write a lot more words than I initially intended. This is because I encounter a lot of thorny philosophical do-dads and a lot of confusing questions I don’t really know the answers to. However I think I still have a nice piece of moral fabric left at the end, despite ending up with various other confused piles of cotton and potentially defective material that I’m not quite sure what to do with yet.

In case you don’t feel like wading through my ramblings I have made an easily followable if slightly absurd ‘consent flowchart’, to summarise a gold-standard of consent that one might aspire to… Well I just made it up, so it’s only a gold standard if you agree with me and I haven’t missed something major… Anyway, here it is:

And now for a ramble that goes along with it.


The problem with the ‘consensuality’ line in the sand is it can sometimes be damned hard to see where that line actually lies. Someone might look and sound like they’re fully consenting to something, but it’s hard to tell what motivational and psychological mechanisms are at work in the background that might be driving that consent, especially when something as charged and complex as BDSM is involved. Does someone let their partner hit them just because they are afraid of being alone? Does someone want to explore a fantasy of being injured without understanding the consequences? Is someone using BDSM to act out their self-destructive impulses?

There are a whole host of these murky scenarios that can often make a lot of ‘consenting adult’ situations appear very far from ok. In considering these I thought that it would be a good idea to try and distinguish a ‘gold-standard’ ‘bona-fide’ consenting adult from their messier counterparts. This does not mean to say that I am condemning those who fall outside of this definition, and looking back at my own dating antics there were perhaps times when my behaviour did not quite meet the ideals imagined here. However I’m not one to let the risk of self incrimination stop me from asking tough questions[1]! So here goes...

Questions about what makes for a bona-fide consenting adult

Question 1- Is an individual able to properly consent?
I’ll assume we’re all in agreement that only adults can properly consent, because, you know it takes a lot of growing up to understand that actions have consequences, etc etc. Admittedly some adults don’t always seem to fully understand the ‘actions = consequences’ thing, and I’m sure there’s a reasonable debate to be had over what the age of consent should actually be, but that’s a minefield I wish to signpost here as ‘a minefield’ and move on, giving it an appropriately wide berth.

We can probably also agree that someone has to be ‘sane’ to properly consent. Unfortunately in the past our culture has had the nasty habit of labelling anyone who didn’t think or act in accordance with the norms of social behaviour as ‘insane’. Medicine these days seems to have mostly gotten over that, but just to be on the safe side I will clarify that by ‘sane’ I mean anyone who is mentally functioning in a way that they can recognize and sensibly respond to the day to day realities of the world we live in. (Assuming that it is normal people have the correct impression of reality and that the lunatics aren’t the ones really seeing the world as it truly is… [Minefield #2- the nature of reality- Avoid at all costs])

There is also the broader spectrum of mental illness to contend with; all kinds of things can mess with our brain chemistry in ways we have little or no control over. For example those people with severe depression may still be sane, but they might not be in a state to effectively weigh the risks of any given activity, especially if they feel self destructive. Now how much value a person puts on their life and well being is always going to be subjective [Welcome to Minefield #3- the subjective nature of mental well being- twinned with the qualitative assessment of Joy... and Chippenham.] I have a strong gut feeling that anyone who exploits someone’s self destructive urges solely for their own personal enjoyment is a colossal arsehole who deserves to suffer a series of debilitating-if-not-quite-fatal accidents. On the other hand I have a great deal of respect for someone who can dominate a self-destructive person in a constructive way that helps them to turn those pernicious impulses in on themselves, and use the D/s dynamic to improve someone's mental health. Perhaps the key difference here is that in the later case the dom / top is taking on a serious responsibility and needs to value their sub / bottom in a way that compensates for any lack of self worth the sub may have... Maybe.

As well as being of sound mind a bona-fide consenting adult also has to have a clear idea of what they are actually consenting too. ‘Informed consent’ is something doctors make a big deal about, and it comes complete with [Minefield #4 - how informed does informed consent need to be? What about morons?]. Ok so I kind of get the feeling that dumber people might be somehow less responsible for their actions and more care should be taken about ‘informing them’. However I’m not going to put my foot all the way down on that detonator and instead leave this minefield unexplored.

I’m pretty sure though that for the most basic idea of consent to work it needs to be ‘informed’ to the minimum extent that the expectations about what’s being consented to should roughly match what actually happens. For example if a bottom just agrees to a spanking session but then gets punched in the back as well as spanked they cannot be said to have consented to that, and similarly if they agree to be ‘dominated’ with one idea in mind, and receive something completely different, then they’ve not really given informed consent either. However with BDSM there is the significant complication that ‘anticipation of the unknown’ can be a major part of the excitement. If someone had to give informed consent for each thing the top wants to do to them in advance of doing it, then that would ruin a lot of the fun... Lots of people love kinky surprises right? My get around for this is that someone needs to be informed that they are going to be surprised by things before they can properly consent to be dominated in that way. There should also be a safe word or other mechanism in place to let them stop things when they’re not happy with what they've been surprised with, but I’ll talk more about ‘withdrawal of consent’ in the next bit.

Different BDSM practices come with different risks and technical difficulties, and so for someone to give true informed consent they need to have some way to gauge what risks they are signing up for. Part of that means they need to have and truthful impression of the skills of whoever they are allowing to dominate them. [You are now passing through Minefield #5- Acquisition of skills, understanding of risks, and division of responsibility.]  It’s natural for people to try and present the best images of themselves to other people, especially when courting potential play partners. This means that in the highly competitive dating arena the temptation for a top/dom to pretend they know what they’re doing when actually they don’t can be overwhelming. However the more someone exaggerates their skills the more they are to blame if something goes wrong. I don’t think telling outright lies should be acceptable in any situation (regardless of the example set by politicians and the media), and saying you know how to do something difficult and hazardous like suspension when you don’t, is dangerous, stupid, and grounds for intense distrust at the very least[2].

Question 2- How has the individual communicated their consent?

Language is a complex and highly fallible thing. There are obvious sentences and there are cryptic ones, there are clear actions and there are subtle bits of body language. These elements of information fly out from us through the air and into another person’s eyes or ears. This information is then gathered by thousands of interconnected neurons, and gets transmitted to that person’s brain where is sifted through their past experiences and personal biases. Finally it emerges in their consciousness as meaning something completely different to what was originally intended.

Somehow though we mostly managed to rub along as a society and we're always getting past hundreds of little day to day misunderstandings. With sex and BDSM though misunderstandings cannot be easily afforded, as in some cases they can have serious emotional consequences. I’m not saying that consent needs to be in the form of an unmistakable signature on a contract (though this might not be a terrible idea, but I expect that handing someone a contract as an act of foreplay might not always go down well...). However I do think we have to look carefully at how consent is communicated.

‘Did someone say yes or did someone say no?’ ooo, what a nice open patch of ground I’ve discovered, I’ll just dash across here quickly.... “BOOM!”

[Minefield #6 - The space that lies in between yes and no].

It seems pretty unequivocal to me, (and hopefully to you), that if someone says ‘no’ to something, or tells someone to stop something, and then the dominant party ignores them and continues to do it then that dominant party is committing rape/assault, (unless the words ‘no and stop’ have been stripped of their meaning and replaced with a safeword, but then the same applies if a safeword is ignored). Similarly if someone is violated while incapacitated and unable to say ‘stop’/’no’ that is also rape[3].

I don’t see how that should be controversial, but who knows on the internet these days. Maybe someone might say ‘stop’ in a sarcastic voice or give off other contradictory signals, but what did I just say about misunderstanding?! Always safest to clarify!

Unfortunately though the social stigma around sex is so out of control, and our personal fears of judgement so great, that a lot of people may not always feel comfortable clearly stating ‘Yes! I want you to do that *really freaky sounding thing* to me’. Alternatively they may be afraid that someone might interpret saying ‘yes’ to one thing as a complete handover of control to do other things too. Communication is important, but we should recognise that it can also be very hard to do right, and it can be a particularly tricky balancing act when you're first starting to date someone. Personally I think consent can be communicated non-verbally, and if someone continues to kiss you back when they know full well what you want to do to them, then that’s an action that kind of strongly resembles a yes...

Now I am going to try to tip-toe between a whole lot of tripwires because I am going to suggest that if someone is sober and has every opportunity to say ‘stop’ or ‘no’ but doesn’t say these things, and has to reason to be fearful of saying them, then that could sometimes KIND OF be seen as a passive form of consent... This is heavily predicated on the notion that both parties know that CONSENT CAN BE WITHDRAWN AT ANY TIME! Of course it's possible that someone might be too afraid to say 'stop' even though they want to and so the context of the interaction needs to be carefully considered (see next section).

But yes, I’ll reiterate, CONSENT CAN BE WITHDRAWN AT ANY TIME! BDSM is not like an iphone contract; if someone changes their mind mid-scene they should be let out of it as quickly and safely as possible, regardless of what careful negotiations went into setting up the scene before hand. Very occasionally I come across writings about ‘total submission’ where there are no safe words and once someone has agreed to enter that situation, they have no way out except through the mercy of their dom. Even though this makes me feel very uncomfortable I can maybe see that there could perhaps be a level of trust between two people where this could be ok?? Maybe?? Though to be ok I think that this sort of play really has to come out of the submissive’s desire to be totally ‘owned’ or ‘broken’, and that means the answers to the next questions assume extra importance.

Question 3 - Has the individual’s consent been manipulated or somehow incentivised?

[Welcome to : A whole shit-pile of minefields!]
So I’m pretty sure someone can’t be considered a bona-fide consenting adult if you’re holding a gun to their head, (or if someone else is holding a gun to their head either)… but what if the gun is metaphorical? And what if it’s only a little gun and they’re not really afraid of it? and what if and what if and what if...?

For a more balanced example; what if someone is convinced they should do something in exchange for a particular reward? Maybe they’re hoping to secure a relationship by letting their partner dominate them? Or maybe they’re getting money out of it? In both of those cases the consenting individual could be making a free and independent choice, (assuming there are no guns to their heads behind the scenes), and so it seems like they should still qualify as consenting adults. A lot of us would rather not turn up to work every day, but we do it because we get paid, and our bosses aren’t accused of violating our consent are they? However where this starts to get icky is when an individual is somehow inhibited from making a free and independent choice….

Here I start to get seriously lost when trying to disentangle ok-ish scenarios from the bad scenarios, and the really fucking ugly scenarios. If someone’s consent is being coerced by threats of violence or other forms of blackmail, eg the threat of exposing someone’s secret kinky side, or getting them fired, or kicked out of school, etc etc, these all seem like obviously terrible situations. However there are perhaps more subtle forms of emotional blackmail that some unscrupulous people might use to get people to consent to sex (or to being dominated). For example there’s the ‘negging’ technique, beloved of pick up ‘‘‘artists’’’, which consists of undermining someone’s confidence so that they then look to the under-miner for validation… (Apparently it’s actually a thing, and apparently it actually works in some cases?) Anyway how wrong is it for someone to use these sorts of techniques to illicit someone's consent? Is it wrong to to use deceptive and manipulative strategies like negging? How bad is it to say to someone something like “You’re not very good at sex, but you’ll be better at sex if you let me tie you up...” ? It definitely doesn’t feel right, but is it everyone's individual responsibility to recognise manipulative ass-hats for what they are? Also when does persuasion become manipulation? When does putting a positive spin on something become deception? Where are the lines here?

As usual I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I have lingering worries over how pliable people can be in real world situations, and how they’ll go along with things they might not agree with so as not to be seen as troublesome. I certainly don’t want to put anyone I'm dating in a situation where they're afraid to speak up, but how can I be certain that I haven’t? In the BDSM scene at large I also worry about something I’ll call ‘retroactive consent’ whereby after an abusive encounter someone might tell themselves they agreed to having something done to them when they actually didn’t. No one likes having regrets, especially big ones that might haunt us, and I think this gives humans the tendency to look back at our lives through rose tinted spectacles; we re-brand mistakes as ‘adventures’ or ‘character building exercises’. Don’t get me wrong; I’m completely in favour of looking at the past like this normally. However I worry it’s a phenomena that abusive individuals who violate peoples consent may hide behind. I also worry that people who don’t want to feel like victims may take on responsibility for situations they were not responsible for. Perhaps someone might regard their assaulter as a wild beast who was just acting naturally and that it was their own fault for getting bitten. It must be an awful fallacy to deal with.

The fact is if someone can’t control their inner beast then they don’t belong in society; no one else is responsible for their despicable actions regardless of how much tantalizing flesh they were presented with. 

It’s also possible that someone could still like and get on with the person who violated their consent. Maybe a consent violator isn’t always a ‘bad’ person when looked at from any other angle. However so many human interactions are based on trust, if you can’t trust someone to respect another person’s consent, then what can you trust them with?

Taking a step back though I think that the majority of kinksters come to BDSM entirely though their own volition. If they’re lucky they find like minded people to explore it with, completely consensually, and none of the numerous concerns I've probed above are at all applicable. However there is one pesky loose thread left here that I can’t quite ignore; what if the desire to be dominated or to receive specific punishments has somehow been instilled? What if a partner deliberately plants an idea and subtly manipulates someone to think the idea to be dominated is their own? Or what if being in a community of aggressive kinksters changes the way people think and interact as they learn from and emulate each other? In extreme cases some might call it ‘brainwashing’, though I’m not sure if that’s really a scientifically meaningful term. However I do think that human personalities and desires are malleable and constantly being reshaped by all we’re exposed to[4]. So then; is a consenting adult really a consenting adult if they’ve been intentionally or unintentionally manipulated by someone, or by a group of people, to think that they want to do something that maybe they didn’t want to do originally?

If a person thinks they like something, then they like something right?


So yeah, that’s about it for that pile of confusing shit that I thought needed poking. Despite all this I'm sure it’s very possible for someone to be a bona-fide consenting adult, and I’ve been lucky enough to encounter quite a few of them in New York. Surely you can’t have manipulated someone into wanting something if they wanted it before they even met you?! Ok, maybe I am taking advantage of centuries of cultural manipulation, but aren't we all swept up in that same wave? I’m all for social change, but  in the meantime I think that we are who we are, regardless of how we got like this. So why shouldn't we try to have some mutually satisfying and consensual fun along the way?!


[1]  When dealing with these moral grey areas it seems to me that a simplistic binary morality of ‘good vs bad’ isn't very helpful. Instead  it seems better to acknowledge that there’s a spectrum of good to bad behaviour that goes via ‘ok behaviour’, and ‘not great’ behaviour, etc. I also think part of accepting our humanity is realizing that not all acts of ‘not great’ behaviour make someone a bad person, or should necessarily be banned or heavily stigmatized. Take it from the Englishman; sometimes polite discouragement is the best way to keep society on track.

[2] A general problem in the scene is that learning BDSM skills generally requires practice and naturally people are more attracted to individuals with more experience. This may create a bunch of ‘sexonomic’ problems and make it hard for the inexperienced people (particularly guys) to find matches to learn skills with in the first place, but this is probably something engaging with BDSM communities can help with. 

[3] Unless perhaps they have clearly agreed to this treatment prior to incapacitation…?

[4] Maybe when decrying ‘brainwashing’ we like to think there’s a line that can be drawn between learned behaviours and behaviours that originate from someone's deep inner self/soul. However that doesn’t really work when you think like me and see all behaviours as learned, and ‘the self’ as just a mesh of interconnected neurons sitting in a bag of chemicals....


You know that feeling of white hot rage?

You know the kind of rage that makes the back of your brain tickle and your hands involuntarily arch themselves into raptor like claws that are desperate to savage the stupid faces of the brain dead morons who induced your ire?

I have that feeling today. Well I have that feeling a lot of days but I have it ESPECIALLY today. I’m not going to claim that the level of my rage is in anyway rational or proportional to it’s source of inspiration. The facts that I’m fighting with some unreliable Wifi and that I just got a splinter off the desk have definitely further aggravated matters...

These days when I see something wrong in the world I normally try to take two breaths and write about it calmly, rationally, and in a way that will be as approachable to as many people as possible. I should probably do this here. But I don’t want to do this here. Because I am angry. This means that I crave the catharsis of YELLING ABOUT HOW FUCKING STUPID THIS THING IS, and hoping maybe a few people get it.

“So what is it that has got you all wound up Timmy?” You are probably impatient to know by now.

Well I’ll tell you what has got me wound up:


Ok. So I may have instantly lost a lot of you there, but FUCK YOU, listen to me anyway so you can be outraged at me being outraged at you being outraged… Or something. Yes maybe out of all the ill’s in the world the uk banning BDSM porn should not be on the top of my list to get angry about. Undoubtedly there’s a lot of worse shit happening out there, but I haven’t yet seen any rule anywhere that says “One must always get angry in proportion to the level of harm caused by what you are getting angry about.” That one’s probably not yet made it through the cretin committee yet. I am also potentially funnier when I am angry, and as I am kind of one of the ‘minority’ that this ‘victimised’ by this law I feel totally entitled to yell some things IN ALL CAPS!!!! 

If you want to read something balanced about what I am talking about, maybe click on one of these links for Guardian, mirror, Jezebel, or Vice articles. If however you want to ride the whirlwind, keep reading.

Specifically under  Audiovisial Media Services Regulations 2014 the UK is banning the production (and uk based distribution) of a whole bunch of BDSM based material, including:

Aggressive whipping
Penetration by any object "associated with violence"
Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of whether it is consensual)
Urolangia (known as "water sports")
Female ejaculation


I mean that’s just fucking sexist. Men can cum on camera but women can’t squirt… How is that fair?!

In fact there’s a general sexist, bigoted, and “Down with this sort of thing” flavour to these new rules. It could be argued that BDSM is one area of pornography that in some cases can be empowering for women. Mainstream porn certainly doesn’t seem to be. However as a white male I run the risk of sounding like I’m using feminism to cover my true agenda, so I’ll leave that angle of the debate for the soon to be impoverished British dominatrixes and people otherwise more invested than I. But seriously. Fucking hell.

One gets the feeling that the sort of people that drew up this legislative shite-ballon are the sort of people who would prefer to ban ALL ejaculation from porn, as well as genitalia, deep breathing, and any form of suggestive physical contact. They really don’t understand why people can’t just be happy listening to Alan Titchmarsh talking about geraniums. For the most part these are the sort of people who are old and will hopefully be dead soon [1]. However before they shuffle off this mortal coil in their NHS issued orthotic loafers they seem committed to doubling down on the decades of moralizing bigotry and prejudice that they have already saddled our generation with for too long.

There are probably many things to be said about generational divides in the UK. The whole "Kids these days!” - ”Fuck off Grandad!” dichotomy is perhaps more exacerbated in England than in America due to the English experience of post World war II hardships, and reduced cultural diversity due to a rich British History of being dicks to foreigners. However figuring out the finer details of this divide and writing about them intelligently will take time and patience and dilute my ire with the cold water of understanding and consolation. Instead I will summarise


Oh you’re “Protecting young minds are you?” You can take that phrase, write it on “an object associated with violence” and ram it in deep alongside that broom handle which has been up there ever since you completed your national service.

You are protecting young minds from nothing. To begin with this law doesn’t block anyone from downloading BDSM porn from other countries, it just severely disadvantages any UK residents who want to compete in that production economy that generates taxes and jobs etc. (Something even the most geriatric voter should understand, even if they still haven’t got over the fact that ‘the balance of exports’ isn’t a meaningful metric anymore).

However out of extreme charity lets assume that this law could somehow shield young people from the subjects it chooses to ban. Instead of ‘protecting young minds’ what you’re teaching them is to persecute difference. WAKE UP YOU MYOPIC TIT-HEADS! Some people actually LIKE being dominated! Fuck that; A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE BEING DOMINATED, in fact psychologists even seem to be reaching a consensus that it’s not a crazy thing to want. By banning BDSM porn you’re promoting the idea that there’s are right and wrong ways to have sex, and that some people are ‘right’ and some people are ‘freaks’ who should be stigmatized, regardless of how important they consider consent.

Apparently ‘these people’ think what you should be allowed to do in porn should be determined by an arbitrary list of what politicians and unelected turd-munchers decide is unpalatable or ‘dangerous’ according to their impressions (being gay or trans-sexual used to be on that list, but they’re OK now because they’re funny on TV [2]). We shouldn’t be shown dangerous stuff now? Fighting terrorists or driving cars fast or jumping out of planes are all considerably more dangerous than the most aggressive spanking, but no ones talking about banning them… You’re just fucking hypocritical prudes talking bullshit in an attempt to sound ‘balanced and reasoned’.

The BDSM banners might claim that “It teaches that sexual violence is acceptable”...

Erm allowing someone to watch something doesn’t teach them that it’s acceptable. telling someone “This is acceptable!” teaches them it’s acceptable. People learn things from other people around them, and if they choose to get into BDSM then there are actually a host of communities that have been formed around this interest. I’m not really a member of any in particular, but my impression is that these communities teach people more about consent, tolerance, and respect for each other’s limits and differences than anything else an impressionable mind is likely to encounter in this fucked up world of constant manipulation for commercial gain.

For comparison just look at how awfully sexist and dehumanising mainstream porn is! It is also just DULL. I mean how many permutations can you explore of androgenous and conventionally ‘beautiful’ people sticking dicks and tongues in various holes before it just becomes a repetitive act distinguished only by the size of the genitalia involved?

Maybe though instead of protecting us from ‘cultural decline’, (as if ‘these people’ ever really appreciated culture when they were growing up ‘back in the day’), a proponent of this law might argue that they are ‘protecting the performers’.

They might argue this because they really don’t have a fucking clue.

I watched some mainstream porn the other day; (what can I say it was a parody of a recent film and I was curious). It was just fucking awful. Also it was blatantly apparent the women in it were getting nothing out of the experience except a pay-cheque and a moisturised complexion. You can tell they’re not having fun from the pathetic ‘auh yeah’ sounds they make, which are apparently meant to suggest pleasure. It seems like these sounds have been learned from another porn performer, who learned from another porn performer, who learned from another porn performer, who learned from another porn performer who maybe had an orgasm on screen one time. If we continue this game of Chinese whispers long enough maybe everyone in the future will yell “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” during sex and no one will know why.

On the other hand I have watched a sizeable amount of BDSM porn in my time and I am eternally jealous of the orgasmic heights that some women appear to achieve while strapped down, tortured, and generally brutalized and violated. Some sites have little interviews at the end of the free clips I watch (because I am a cheapskate), with submissive performers who are more than happy to describe what a good time they just had being flogged, fisted, strangled, or generally fucked up. (“But HOW CAN THEY LIKE THAT?” you may ask. See this other thing I wrote. (Also you don’t have to understand something for it to be true!))

I don’t deny that there are some thorny ethical problems around consent when money is involved, (I am currently writing about this in another piece that has grown somewhat out of control (I am even making a ‘consent flow diagram’) *Update: I've written it*). After watching James Franco’s documentary ‘Kink’ I was left with a sense that levels of consent and other ethical considerations in BDSM porn could definitely be beefed up a bit (although the film was a vague and my impressions could have been inaccurate). However these are issues with consent that apply to porn in general and specifically legislating BDSM porn out of existence on England’s pastures green is just so dumb it makes Nigel Farage look positively academic, (Ok, it doesn’t, he’s still a twat).

Also there’s a naive assumption that if you ban a thing then it will stop. Are these people completely oblivious to the world they live in?

I expect banning the making of BDSM porn will reduce its production, but what you’ve done there is force the rest of it underground where performers will be less protected and more afraid of coming forward if violations occur [3]. WHAT A FUCKING BRILLIANT IDEA THAT IS! Take an industry which deals with potentially dangerous situations that require clear skills, training, consent, and transparency... and then force it into the shadows. It’s kind of like banning the legal distribution of petrol so people have to sneak it around in jerry cans; shit is gonna catch on fire! (Hey at least then you’ll be able to shake your heads and tut about how terrible petrol is).

If you’re worried about protecting the performers from being hurt and violated against their consent there are plenty of laws against rape and assault that could be better implemented. Maybe in a porn based rape case you might actually be able to get a fucking prosecution for once if there’s video evidence and no one can produce a written consent form. Maybe you should teach the police how to pursue actual rape convictions and generally bolster laws that protect women instead of persecuting those you consider to be deviant or immoral.


Do I disgust you with my deviant interests and defence of BDSM? Well you fucking disgust me with your moral prescriptivism and cultural condescension.

Now go away and stop banning things you don’t understand.

*Update; Someone has set up a PETITION that we should all sign here  *



[1] Excluding my own family members from this equation of course...

[2] How ‘THEY’ may think, not how I think!

[3]This continued approach the sex industry is doubtless costing hundreds of lives globally every year. We need to sensibly legalize prostitution as soon as possible, but that’s an argument for another rant.