Gender and Sexualities Workshop

Event Date: 

Friday, October 13, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm

Event Date Details: 

Event Location: 

  • SSMS 3105
Cierra Raine Sorin, UCSB Ph.D. Student
Exacerbating Social Inequalities via Consent Discourses: A Case Study of BDSM Communities
Why do consent violations happen in communities so focused on educating and practicing consent well? And what role does consent play in these communities when violations occur anyways? Drawing on over 75 hours of audio data from interviews with 56 BDSM practitioners in more than 20 distinct communities in the United States, I examine consent discourses within BDSM
communities to answer these questions. Though consent is often invoked as a social equalizer within interactions, I find that consent discourses in BDSM spaces sometimes do the opposite. At both the interpersonal level of practitioners engaging in individual activities, and at the group level regarding participants’ inclusion in play spaces more broadly, I find that discourses of consent including responses to consent violations, are used to exclude BDSM practitioners with more marginalized identities, exacerbating already-existing social inequalities within communities that are relatively privileged. I thus argue that consent rhetoric is a weaponization of neoliberal responsibility focused on the individual, rather than the group, which hinders the creation of an inclusive culture of care that both prevents and adequately responds to various forms of harm.