Vice Squad
Sunday, February 25, 2007
S&M and Consent

A trial in Brooklyn is coming to a close for a man facing federal charges of obscenity, sex trafficking, and forced labor. The man operates a BDSM website. The charges arose when one of his former "slaves" went to the FBI after he refused to remove photos of her from the site. The stories of her treatment at his hands during their master/slave relationship are not for the squeamish.

Consent is always tricky in sexual relations, but the fact that a pose of non-consensuality is part of the point in some dominance/submissive relationships complicates matters considerably. In terms of public policy, I think that for particularly painful or harmful behaviors, substantial evidence of consent could be required. And I think that it would also be OK to require periodic verifiable consent or consent to specific practices, so that an initial signal of consent does not unintentionally provide carte-blanche. But these are tough issues.


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