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Categorie: Sexual Abuse

Robin d’Angelo: a regulatory strategy

Written by CAPP International, translated from French with DeepL.

At a time when the debate on pornography is beginning to gain momentum in France following the opening of an investigation against the Jacquie & Michel website, and the subsequent arrest of several pimping “producers” thanks to a tip-off from three feminist associations, the filmed prostitution lobby is organizing to fend off the blows of abolitionists.

Together, we will analyze the way the media have communicated on the subject since the opening of this investigation, in order to pinpoint the strategy of the defenders of porn-prostitution, notably through the example of Robin d’Angelo.

Robin d’Angelo is a journalist who has “infiltrated” the porn industry in order to write a book on the subject. Some abolitionists relay his work to show the misogynistic violence that is commonplace in the industry.

Don’t get me wrong: although he’s helped expose this violence, this man is no ally, because he’s a regulationist. His goal? To make you believe that there is such a thing as “good porn” and “bad porn”. This idea obviously runs totally counter to the values of abolitionist feminists, for whom “ethical” porn doesn’t exist.

In all his interviews, Robin asserts that he believes this activity should be “regulated”, not “banned”. He argues that we need to create laws, supervise and protect “actresses”. These are exactly the same arguments as those hammered home by associations such as STRASS, which maintain that there is a difference between “forced” and “consenting” prostitutes.
In this debate, one of the trump cards played by those in favor of regulation is to blur the definitions of rape and pimping, by communicating in such a way as to make them ever more confusing.

For example, porn producer Nikita Bellucci posted on her twitter account the news that her colleague Pascal OP had been arrested for rape and pimping, candidly proclaiming that the industry needs to be cleaned up. It’s hard to believe her sincerity when you consider that she and her husband had known about the facts for a long time, without ever having denounced them… With this statement, we rather get the impression that Bellucci is brandishing this sordid example in order to better dissociate herself from the caricatured portrait of the pimp using violence to physically coerce women into prostitution, thus reinforcing the archaic belief that rape can only be defined by violence.

Yet the legal definitions of rape and pimping are very clear:

“Pimping is the act, by anyone, in any manner whatsoever:
1° Helping, assisting or protecting the prostitution of others ;
2° Profiting from the prostitution of others, sharing the proceeds or receiving subsidies from a person who habitually engages in prostitution;
3° To hire, train or divert a person with a view to prostitution, or to exert pressure on them to prostitute themselves or continue to do so.”

As for rape, it is defined by the penal code as.

“Any act of sexual penetration, of any kind whatsoever, committed on the person of another or on the person of the perpetrator by violence, constraint, threat or surprise”.

Consent is not mentioned.

  • This notion, often invoked by feminists who want to combat rape, but also by defenders of the prostitution system, is problematic. Indeed, when you consider the subject of prostitution and porn, it becomes clear that consent can be monetized and manipulated – particularly in a situation of control – that it is conditioned by our social construction based on sexist stereotypes, and that it can be the consequence of traumatic arousal.

It’s clear that regulators brandish consent to make you forget the constraint that leads women to say yes, a yes behind which lies a whole system of domination and pressure: patriarchy, capitalism.

  • It’s in the very nature of porn-prostitution to buy the yes of its victims, to make them consent, thereby suggesting that they alone are responsible, and to use this to prevent them from denouncing the intrinsic violence of this activity.
  • But back to Robin. In a recent interview on Konbini, he recounts the sexism and violence he witnessed on the Jacquie & Michel and Dorcel shoots he attended. In particular, he recounts how producers manipulate women to force them to “consent” to certain practices, for example, by taking them by surprise during the scene, then insisting, often to impose sodomy.

Robin makes it clear: “actresses don’t have the option of saying no”. So he describes rape, but without ever uttering the word. He also cites the reasons why the women he has met do porn: need for money, to feel valued, to please a boyfriend…

So we have a man who is clearly aware of the damage porn does to women. It would be easy for an uninformed audience to see him as a well-meaning man, eager to denounce an unfair situation and bring about change…

  • The interview starts to become problematic when he admits, with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement, to having taken part in certain scenes. However, he denies having shot penetration scenes, which he presents as the most dangerous for women. An insidious way of mitigating the violence of bukkake, the theme of the scene in which he admits to having made an appearance. Bukkake is a very popular practice in porn which consists in ejaculating as a group on a woman’s body, often her face or breasts. The aim of this practice is clearly to use women as “vessels”, to humiliate and dirty them.

At the start of the interview, Robin introduced himself as a pro-feminist and explained that he had been inspired to infiltrate the porn industry because he felt disturbed by the contradiction presented by watching porn that he identified as degrading to women. However, when he talks about it, bukkake seems to be acceptable to him, although he doesn’t go into detail and passes over it quickly.

It’s at the end of the interview that it becomes clear that his apparent criticism of gender-based violence in porn is very superficial. Indeed, he ends by saying that, in his opinion,

“porn is just a mirror of society and those who want to censor it want to make the mirror disappear as if it will destroy the image it reflects of them.”

We note the use of the word “censorship”, a pejorative term that designates an “arbitrary or doctrinal limitation of everyone’s freedom of expression”.

Speaking of censorship, he presents porn under the guise of fiction, a simple cinematographic work, an artistic means of expressing creativity. This is pornographers’ favorite technique for concealing the fact that, unlike action films in which scenes of violence are produced by special effects and acting, porn “actresses” actually suffer the abuse inflicted on them: strangulation, beatings, penetrations causing anal and vaginal tears, etc…

It’s surprising that Robin should present things this way, after going to such lengths to highlight the power imbalance between men and women in this industry, and the physical damage caused by repeated penetrations and other violence inflicted on “actresses”.

The ambiguity of its positioning is thus obvious from this final statement.

  • To sum up, porn-prostitution is a hotbed of misogynist violence, but the solution is not to “censor” this violence, but to try to improve the “working” conditions of “actresses”. In the end, it’s back to the myth of “good” porn and “bad” porn, “good” pimping and “bad” pimping, etc….

Pour faire passer cette idée – dont dépendent d’immenses profits pour l’industrie pornographique ainsi que le maintien d’un privilège masculin archaïque, la stratégie de Robin d’Angelo est la suivante : il commence par dénoncer des violences qui ne peuvent plus être niées maintenant que la parole des survivantes de la porno-prostitution se libère, faisant croire qu’il se range du côté de ces dernières, avant de conclure que la solution réside dans une meilleure réglementation du secteur pornographique.

It’s striking that all the media reporting on the Jacquie & Michel affair chose precisely the same angle.

  • On September 11, 2020, the newspaper 20 minutes published the testimony of Karima, one of the first Jacquie & Michel victims to speak out.
  • Barely a few days later, a second article appeared in the same daily newspaper, containing several more of the dozens of survivors’ testimonies that followed Karima’s story. The facts of psychological and sexual violence recounted by these women were chilling, but the journalist nonetheless managed to conclude his article… by promoting Onlyfans, presented as a “safer” platform for those wishing to launch into “sex work”.
  • As for Elle magazine, in its September 18 issue it published a double-page article entitled “porno mais réglo”, extolling the virtues of so-called “feminist” or “ethical” porn. The article only hints at the “all-too-frequent abuses in the porn industry”, without a word for the victims, and presents the solution as better salaries, “a more humane environment, and above all better supervision”. Here, the main argument in favor of this type of “porn” is that more and more women are consuming it, and this demand must of course be met.

Nowhere did we read that attempts to regulate prostitution have always failed, nor that studies have proven that desireless penetration, whether on camera or not, is a form of violence in itself, with serious physical and psychological consequences.

  • Above all, it’s striking how quickly the media diverted the public’s attention from these revelations to instantly offer them an alternative presented as revolutionary. The observer’s reasoning is thus short-circuited before the conclusion can be drawn in his or her mind that porn-prostitution is filmed rape, because of the constraint it implies for the “actresses”. Rape is essential to the production of the pornographic images demanded by consumers.

The words of survivors, now too numerous to be ignored, are misused to make them seem like a new wave of revelations in the wake of #metoo, putting them on the same level as those of victims of sexual violence in sport or cinema, for example. It’s as if porn “actresses” could be protected in the same way as figure skaters, and that all it would take to put an end to rape in this field was to raise awareness.

The strategy deployed by the defenders of filmed prostitution, from Nikita Bellucci to the editors of Elle and Robin d’Angelo, lies in superficially criticizing the obvious sexism of this milieu, pretending to be indignant about the violence revealed by the victims as if we were only just discovering it, and then using the “ethical porn” model as a decoy to avoid questioning the industry itself at all costs.

We can therefore measure how far we still are from the demands made by abolitionist feminists and, in the first instance, by survivors of porn-prostitution.

Survivors are calling for an end to the commodification of bodies in all its forms – the only real way to put an end to this unbearable violence.

To this end, they are trying to inform the general public about the disastrous consequences of pornographic practices, not only for the “actresses” – whether “consenting” or not – but for society as a whole.

They insist that content presented as “ethical” is nothing but a scam, both a new loss leader and a front to whitewash an industry that continues to enrich itself on the most despicable macho violence.

They try to dismantle the notion of consent, because they know the mechanisms that construct this famous “consent” based on economic pressure, manipulation, traumatic terrain and sexist societal constructs that lead women to believe that their value lies in their degree of “fuckability”. They also understand that “consent” in no way alleviates the physical and psychological consequences for women who are victims of the violence of repeated unwanted sexual encounters filmed and broadcast on a large scale, with no possibility of controlling these images for the rest of their lives.

Feminist abolitionists are calling for real reflection on what it means for society as a whole, and for new generations in particular, to agree to place our imaginations and fantasies in the hands of profit-hungry industrialists.

Finally, they alert us to the danger posed by lobbies who use every means at their disposal to keep public opinion on their side, using well-honed communication techniques, as the examples cited in this article show. Any intermediate proposal between the current situation and the total abolition of porn-prostitution is a scam.

Written by CAPP International!

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Abused submissives in the BDSM community through a gendered framework


This study examines how abuse is viewed and talked about in the BDSM community. Particular attention is paid to gender actions and how a gendered framework of masculinities and femininities can further the understanding of how abuse is discussed within the community. The study aims to explore how sexual abuse of submissive men is viewed and discussed within the BDSM community, as compared to that of women. The study furthermore focuses on heterosexual contexts, with submissive men as victims of female perpetrators as its primary focus.

To my knowledge, victimological research dealing with the BDSM community and its own views and definitions of abuse has not been conducted prior to the present study. Thus, the study is based on previous research into consent within BDSM, as this research provides a framework for non-consent as well.

To conduct this study I have interviewed six BDSM practitioners. Their transcribed stories were then subjected to narrative analysis. The analysis of the material shows that victim blaming tendencies exist in the community, and that these vary depending on the victim’s gender.

The findings indicate that the community is prone to victim blaming, and that this manifests itself differently for men and women. Furthermore, my results show that male rape myths can be used to understand cool victim-type explanations given by male victims of abuse perpetrated by women. After discussing my results, I suggest possible directions for further research.

Results and Analysis

The most commonly overlapping themes during my interviews were the concepts of shame, blame and responsibility in relation to gender roles and victimization. These themes were often intertwined, and as such it would be difficult to completely isolate them from each other in the analysis. Shame was found in connection with models of explanation that emphasized masculinity in contrast to victimization, but also in connection to female victims of abuse. However, the concept of shame seems to have different implications for men and women. Similarly, responsibility appears to be gendered. This concept was mainly found in stories regarding victimization and what led up to it. Lastly, blame was found in narratives concerning victimhood, often intertwined with ideas about responsibility. These themes will be discussed in relation to theory and previous research.

5.1 Gender roles

To a certain extent, the rules for submissive men and women appear to differ in ways which go in line with the activities assigned to each gender; for instance men still need to retain some aspects of dominance and activity even in their submission, an action which stands in contrast with the actions valued in submissive women:

I: About being a sub… Would you say that there are differences, like different rules for how men and women should be to be a good submissive?

Sophie: Well… yes, I would think so. […] I get the feeling that there are a lot more demands on guys. Girls are expected to look good, to be pretty and all that stuff, but it’s almost preferred if they don’t know too much. If you can, if you have a lot of experience, it’s like no, I wanted to train you from the start, why do you know so much already? You’re supposed to be fresh and new, somehow. While guys, going by the emails I get even though I don’t ask for emails like that, they try to prove that they know a lot and that they can fulfill all my needs, and they’re so good at this and that and they’ve already been trained by someone else.

The mentioned differences between female and male submission go in like with the normative gender actions outlined by Pettersson (2003:142). This suggests that gender roles are stronger than the community-specific roles of submissive or dominant. Furthermore, the narrative indicates that men do not surrender their control the way women do, since men are emphasizing that they are knowledgeable and active, in that they can “fulfill all [her] needs”, as opposed to submitting. This notion also translates into how men deal with abuse, even if they do not necessarily define it as such. For instance, when Sophie dominated a man and later asked how he had liked the scene, he talked about disliking some of the painful elements of it in the following way:

Sophie: [H]e said that “nah, I just took it anyway. I can’t just give up like that!” […] Then, later on he said that “well, you were pretty wimpy” [as a dominant].

By refusing to “give up” while also refusing to admit to having felt overpowered in a negative sense, the man in Sophie’s story exemplifies one way in which submissive men can express a need to retain control. By maintaining that he actively “took it”, but also that she was a “wimpy” dominant, he places himself in control of the situation by making himself out to be the strongest. This kind of controlling actions while in submission was not encountered when participants described submissive women; however several similar accounts regarding 22 submissive men surfaced during interviews. It seems probable that this prevalence of traditional gender actions over BDSM specific sexualities accounts for submissive men’s tendency to avoid discussing abuse as openly as women do:

I: So there’s no support group or some such for submissive men, if there’s abuse? Arthur: We’re men, we don’t talk. No, we don’t talk about stuff like that [abuse]. We don’t come together like that. In general, at least the subs I know, we talk to each other if we’re friends. We can’t talk the way women do, y’know, just because we’re all subs.

This could be understood as a collective masculinity project among sub men, with the purpose of upholding what is considered as normative masculinity. As Fisher and Pina suggest, masculinity entails strength and dominance which stands in opposition to normative femininity, meaning that men cannot be victims of abuse by female perpetrators due to their superior strength. Thus, “if a man [is] to report a sexual attack by a woman he could […] be considered as having lost his masculinity” (Fisher & Pina 2012:58). Arguably, loss of masculinity could induce feelings of shame. Especially given the premise that normative masculinity contrasts normative femininity and the societal expectations attached to these conceptions “discourages men from reporting sexual attacks [by women] because of fear that they will be labelled effeminate and essentially weak” (Fisher & Pina 2012:58).

5.2 Differentiating between grey areas and abuse

According to interview participants, the distinction between grey areas and abuse (to the extent they can be differentiated at all) largely lies in communication, intention and insight. Furthermore, some participants led on that to parts of the community abuse is nonexistent:

Arthur: Sometimes people say that BDSM is consent and that as soon as there is no longer consent then it’s not BDSM anymore, then it’s something else.

This implies that the concept of grey areas is, in fact, the only scope within which abuse can be made to fit in the BDSM community. This could be understood as denial of abuse in BDSM contexts, meaning that the idea of grey areas is to be understood as containing the idea of abuse. In the cases where they are considered as different concepts, grey areas are still not necessarily preferable to outright abuse:

I: So grey areas are not safer or… more innocent, than abuse? Emma: No, no, no. You know that this is the line, then you shouldn’t go right up to it. Maybe you could build up to it, over time, like one small step and then another next time if it feels okay. You can’t just jump right into a grey area and hope you land on the right side of a boundary.

However, there are basic rules for BDSM play most participants agreed the breaking of which constitutes abuse. These are things such as ignoring safewords or other revocations of consent, though not all participants agreed on these rules. Furthermore, some argued that while continuing an act without consent is wrong, it still might not be abuse. As such, the line between abuse and grey areas is difficult to outline:

I: How would you say abuse is different from grey areas? Nathan: I think a lot is in the talk you have afterwards. If someone is really feeling bad and crashes12, that you’d catch that and realize that shit, I messed up, or that, woah, this is my responsibility, I’ve made this person feel bad and that makes it my responsibility to make them feel good again. As a dom you can’t explain it all away by saying “you should’ve said no”, or “you should’ve used a safeword”, no. It’s your responsibility. […] So a lot of it is in accepting responsibility, if you accept responsibility for you actions I think the risk of it being abuse lessens.

I: So it’s not about the act itself as much as it is about the reactions to it?

Nathan: Yeah, that and the talk you have before. If there’s a line drawn, and someone crosses that, and then tries to talk about it a lot… If you’ve crossed an explicit, clearly set boundary and you were aware of that, you meant to do it, then that’s abuse.

What this implies is that a situation can be defined as either abuse or as a grey area depending on several factors, to whatever extent the community can differentiate between the two at all. These factors include practitioner’s intentions, insight into their own actions as well as into the feelings of their partner(s), communication before, during as well as after the scene, and the parties’ willingness to accept responsibility for their actions. Two possible outcomes thus exist in a nonconsensual situation; either it was abuse, or it was a grey area. Furthermore, these two terms seem to exemplify the same type of situation, which perpetuates the notion that the two concepts are mutually inclusive to some extent:

Arthur: We can’t know, in BDSM it’s enough that someone messes up. And I know, I’ve even seen that, someone didn’t hear a safeword, and then that becomes abuse.

When someone does not hear a safeword and continues to act out a scene without consent, this “becomes abuse”, regardless of the dom’s intention. Even though the victimization was unintentional, the situation was still defined as abuse. Thus, intention cannot serve to differentiate between grey areas and abuse. Furthermore, grey areas were described by participants as including all kinds of potentially abusive situations:

William: If you’ve gotten yourself into this, especially as a sub, you should probably be prepared to find yourself in… situations you hadn’t counted on. And then you shouldn’t necessarily blame that on the partner you’re with, rather maybe you should’ve thought it through from the beginning. […] If you’d see abuse as a concept as a grey area, I’d say that in one end of the scale it might not be much to talk about but as it gets worse there might be reasons for dealing with it differently at the opposite end of the scale.

In conclusion, abuse and grey areas are not easily defined in opposition to one another, quite the contrary. This implies that the concept of grey areas could in some cases be a substitute for the concept of abuse or that grey areas serve as a term which includes abuse in its definition. This could be detrimental to a victim’s credibility; since grey areas is a wider term than abuse in that it also incorporates a lot of less severe actions. In turn, this could explain some of the victims blaming tendencies found in the community, since the ideas about shared responsibility inherent to communicating about grey areas in BDSM are similar to ideas incorporated in victim blaming13. Furthermore, this responsibility, as well as the community’s views on abuse, grey areas and victims, seems to be different for men and women.

5.2.1 When situations are defined as abuse or grey areas

According to the interview participants’ stories the community not only defines submissive men and women differently, but also defines abusive situations in different terms depending on the victims’ gender.

Sophie: I think it might be a bit different in different groups, but from what I’ve heard [about female victims] they say things like well maybe she was young and thoughtless, maybe she was a bit credulous, maybe even… a bit stupid. But when they talk about men I think people often have this idea of them as… as having to be pretty… pretty weak, mentally too, not to be able to stand up to a woman.

While women are blamed for their own victimization to some extent, men seem to have not only their actions, but their masculinity questioned. Female victims are regarded as naïve; however male victims are regarded as mentally and physically weak because they were unable to stand up to a female perpetrator. Therefore, according to participants it is shameful for a submissive man to be abused by a dominant woman:

William: If a woman abuses a man, I think a submissive man would have a tough time talking about his experiences because the perpetrator is a woman. Because this is shameful, there is a lot of shame placed on it and there is nothing desirable about that kind of shame, there is nothing pleasant to it.

As opposed to types of degradation incorporated in BDSM play, the kind of degradation men experience from admitting to having been abused by women is described by BDSM practitioners as potentially detrimental to one’s masculinity, as being overpowered by a woman (as opposed to submitting to one consensually) contrasts conceptions of typically masculine actions (Pettersson 2003:142). As previously stated, this goes in line with male rape myths. These, in turn, have been found by previous research to be strongly related to victim blame (Fisher & Pina 2012:57). For instance, responsible submissive men are supposed to know better than to engage seemingly bad dominant women in the first place, but if they fail to do so and are subjected to abuse, they are still not considered as victims. According to the participants, the community is seemingly prone to share an idea of toughness as an ideal masculine behavior, regardless of sexual identity.

I: Do you think the community treats men differently from women, as abuse victims? Sophie: I think that when it comes to men there’s more slut-shaming, like… You should’ve known better, why did you go home with her in the first place, if you thought she was nasty, why did you have sex with her?

One noticeable aspect is that when asked about the community’s attitude towards men as victims of abuse, the participant still talks about a man’s responsibility in relation to consensual sex, and the “slut-shaming” associated with not living up to it. This narrative goes in line with male rape myths and attitudes towards male victims of female perpetrators as pointed out by previous research (Fisher & Pina 2012:57, Davies, Pollard & Archer 2006:277). This could explain the way in which men present themselves as victims. For example, men seem prone to shame dominant women as being incompetent as BDSM practitioners when things go wrong, rather than talk about their own feelings in terms of victimization. This could be understood as a defense, in order to avoid the shame connected to being blamed “for not preventing the assault” (Fisher & Pina 2012:57).

5.3 Responsibility and victim blaming as gendered phenomena

In the early days of victimology Hans von Hentig (1948) stated that the victim of a crime contributes to his or her victimization through the participation in the events leading up to the crime. This has since been heavily criticized as being the foundation for victim blaming (Ryan 1971:3-4). Ryan points out that “victim blaming is often cloaked in kindness and concern” (Ryan 1971:6); which is a statement that my interviews have validated to some extent. When talking about the responsibilities of others, several interview participants led on that the community’s line between responsibility and victim blaming is as blurred as that between grey areas and abuse:

Isabelle: It really is incredibly important that the dominant owns up to their mistake and is mature enough to say that I was wrong and I’m so, so sorry about that, to really apologize. It isn’t to lie down or grovel, to apologize because something went bad. And then the sub has to be able to say that it’s not just your fault, I encouraged you to do this. And then you can straighten out what happened from there.

While Hentig’s notion of varying degrees of shared responsibility14 between the victim and the offender is critiqued as being tantamount to victim blaming, many of my interview participants nonetheless seem to express similar ideas regarding abuse and grey areas within BDSM. This similarity is not to be read as an indication that BDSM has any inherent processes of victimization. Rather, this similarity is brought up to further illustrate the complexity of abuse and grey areas in BDSM, since consensual participation can become non-consensual at any time15. The process of negotiating scenes beforehand, verifying consent throughout the scene and the process of aftercare thus require that both the submissive and the dominant parties accept their responsibilities towards one another and themselves. However, the concept of responsibility appears to be gendered. While responsible submissive men are supposed to know better than to “have sex” with “nasty” dominant women (as examplified in 5.2), submissive women are viewed as irresponsible if they fail to avoid high-risk situations:

Sophie: This woman was just starting out in BDSM, as a sub, and she felt that she wanted to try this out with someone who was experienced, that felt like a smart move. […] So she looked around and found this guy who she thought seemed nice, and he asked if she wanted to meet up for coffee and talk, see how it feels. So she said that yeah, we can do whatever you want. She said that a lot, we can do whatever you want. They go out for coffee, it felt good, he asked her if she wanted to follow him out to his car. She said sure, so he said that they were going out into the woods to enact a scene and asked if she was okay with that. She said that she thought it sounded very interesting and went along, so they went into the woods and he tied her to a tree. She was kind of scared, and then he told her that just so you know, I could do whatever I want to you now. I think you should understand what a bad position you’re in, and that you should never do this again […] He wanted to show her that it’s a bad move to say that you’ll do whatever someone wants, especially when it’s someone new, someone you don’t know.

While underlining the importance of clear communication on BDSM, this narrative shows tendencies of victim blaming. Having said “we can do whatever you want” is viewed by the dom as tantamount to contributing to her potential victimization. While this is a story of a submissive woman and a dominant man, the narrative focus is still on the woman and her failings even though the dominant man could be construed as the one at fault. Seemingly, responsible submissive women should know better than to agree to anything presenting a risk. While this is similar to the “you should’ve known better” line of reasoning in the previous example, the implications are somewhat different. Both submissive men and women are supposed to “know better”; however for men the results of not doing so are discussed in terms implying consensual sex rather than victimization. The previous narrative shows a view within the community which makes submissive men responsible for abusive situations while denying them the role of victim, since they should “know better” than to “have sex”, not know better than to say something (e.g. “we can do whatever you want”) that could lead to them being abused. This implies that the concept of men being abused by women is regarded as unlikely in the BDSM community, which goes in line with previous research into attitudes towards male victims of abuse by female perpetrators (Davies, Pollard & Archer 2010:286).

While both men and women are made out to be responsible for finding themselves in abusive situations, abused women are made out to be bad BDSM practitioners while men are made out to be weak as men if they are victimized.

An example of blaming women for their own victimization, as well as shaming their incompetence as BDSM practitioners, is provided by the following narrative:

Emma: They [dominant men] sent emails like “well this [the abuse she was subjected to] happened because you’re not supposed to use safewords. Then you’re not really submissive, so it’s your fault. It’s you, you’re not really submissive, that’s why it happened to you”. This happened a lot when I crashed, for months I wrote about how I felt and stuff. A lot of people were supportive, but then there were these guys who said that maybe you’re not submissive, maybe that’s why you crashed. Or maybe you need more spanking to get over it, and I was like… well, no! They were questioning me but not the guy I was with. They never questioned him, never.

Again we see how men explain abuse through women’s ineptitude as BDSM practitioners, blaming them for their own victimization while simultaneously shaming them for being irresponsible. According to the dominant men in the narrative, her responsibility can be considered as being towards the dominant man in question, as well as to herself. Someone who is “really submissive” would never use safewords, meaning that if she would have taken her responsibility as a “real” submissive and learned how she was “supposed” to behave to fit in, she would not have been abused. Thus, she is blamed for her own victimization. However, her femininity as such is not questioned, even though her sexuality is.

In conclusion, the case of the male sub who should have “known better” than to “have sex” with a “nasty” dominant woman implies that what he experienced was an unpleasant, but consensual, sexual encounter. His masculinity thus denies him credibility as a victim, as it is assumed that he consented to having sex. The narrative also points out a tendency to shame dominant women for being bad at what they do, rather than to accuse them of perpetrating abuse. In the case of the female submissives, both narratives show them to have been abused (or to have run the risk thereof) due to their own inability to accept responsibility for their own safety. As a result, all three situations include an element of emphasizing female incompetence at BDSM and its social rules as a fundamental part of the explanation. This line of reasoning goes in line with the overall submission of women inherent to the notion of complicit (and thus also hegemonic) masculinities.

5.4 Complicit masculinities shaming female dominance

Connell’s writings on complicit masculinities serve as a useful framework for understanding the concept of shame in relation to abuse the BDSM community. According to the interview participants, shaming women for being bad doms is one way for submissive men to avoid presenting themselves as weak while still addressing the problem of abuse. Thus, the dominant/submissive dynamic is placed as as secondary to the male/female dynamic through “the overall subordination of women” which benefits men in general (Connell 2005:75). As such, submissive men are still higher up than dominant women in the social hierarchy in the community at large. This is partially realized through the masculinity in men’s submission being accentuated by their placing shame on feminine enactments of dominance:

Arthur: We had this… situation at a club. This… old dominant woman was coming on to this young, submissive guy [man 1] like crazy. We could see how uncomfortable he was, like, he really didn’t like it, but as a guy you just don’t say no to stuff like that, we’re not taught to say no to that stuff. And after a while, we sort of, we thought it was getting really hard for him, and he was new there, so… eventually we told a friend of ours [man 2] to go over there and take care of it, help him out. So he went over there and grabbed hold of her, led her away. That new guy made it out okay, he left pretty soon after that [man 1 leaves the club, and the narrative, at this point]. Then it turned out that this woman, she’d beat up my friend [man 2] out on the stairs. And it’s not allowed to play there. I don’t know how much, but I know he was not happy. […] But what he said was that “nah, you have to take stuff like that”, because somehow he’d got that in his head. But no, you really don’t have to take that stuff. So even though it was as wrong as it can possibly be, he just took it, he just accepted it. He didn’t think, if he’d seen that happen to a girl he’d been furious, but when it happened to him he didn’t even consider that it could be wrong.

The dominant woman in question is being presented as unattractive from the start, as the interview participant takes care to underline that she was both older than and unattractive to the submissive man she was “coming on to”, while giving her actions an air of mental instability by adding “like crazy”. As such, she is being presented as enacting femininity which contrasts normative femininity and the expectations placed on a woman. While this study does not focus on age in particular, it is worth noting that the age difference is presented as an important part of the narrative. She is old, and therefore unattractive. This can be understood as a way of emphasizing how unlikely it would be for any of the men in the narrative to consent to sexual activities with this woman. Furthermore, this is a factor I have not come across in previous research regarding men as victims of abuse by female perpetrators; the importance of attractiveness. When describing the woman as old and unattractive, the interview participant implies that this is a key part of why the men in the narrative dislike her advances. In order to clearly show that any sexual interaction between the straight men and the straight woman in the narrative is undesirable, the woman is portrayed as stereotypically unattractive. This can be understood as a protection against ideas of straight men as unlikely victims of abuse by females (Davies, Pollard & Archer 2006:277). This line of reasoning is furthered by presenting her as coming on to them like “crazy”, which in this case seems to mean sexually aggressive; something that further contrasts ideas about normative femininity. As the situation progresses, she is presented as violent as “she beat [him] up”, as well as ignorant of the rules of the establishment as it is “not allowed to play there”. In short, the narrative focus is on her failings which in turn seem derived from a discrepancy between dominance and femininity, mirroring the masculinity/submission discrepancy discussed earlier. Disregarding the dominant/submissive dynamic and replacing it with a male/female one, the narrative presents the situation based on traditional gender expectations; while the woman is presented as contrasting the things a woman is “supposed to be” (Lander 2003:33), the men are shown as active, competent and strong.

5.5 Cool victims

What we are told of the victim’s response in the example above goes in line with Åkerström’s study of cool victim-type enactments of masculinity, as he “took it” without contemplating the abusive nature of the situation, even though he would have been “furious” if a girl was subjected to the same treatment. This model of explanation can in turn be understood through the idea of complicit masculinities as being socially superior to femininities. As a result, the situation is shown to be abusive (since a girl would be regarded as a victim) while the man in question is presented as remaining above being victimized by it, since the feminine enactment of dominance is still socially inferior to his own masculine model of submission. This furthers the assumption that the submissive role is different for men and women, while also implying that “victim of abuse” in heterosexual BDSM contexts is regarded as an exclusively female role by the community. In addition, he “took it” in order to “take care of” the problem at hand, which creates the impression of him as an active, capable man. Underlining what he does (e.g. “takes it” to help a friend) rather than what he is subjected to (i.e. abuse), allows him to retain aspects of normative masculinity in his submission. He was not abused by a woman; rather he acted to help a friend. However, the woman was at fault as she was found to be undesirable as a woman and incompetent in her actions of dominance.

5.6 Subordinate masculinities’ compliance

The archetypes of the hypermasculine man and the submissive woman serve as the extremes of the gender hierarchy as constructed in the BDSM community. Subordinate masculinities (Connell 2005:78) as a social process related to that of complicit masculinities places submissive men between dominant men and women of any sexual identity in this gender hierarchy. Subordinate masculinities are still complicit in this context; since different types of masculinities are not static submissive men are still complicit in the sense that as men, they are above women in the gender hierarchy.

William: About how abuse is defined in BDSM, I get the feeling that… that it’s dominant men who make the rules based on a male culture where the strongest survive. […] I think that it’s a result of living in a society where traditional masculinity is the norm, and I get the feeling that this norm might get a bigger… It’s sort of intensified in this community.

We have previously seen that submissive men are described by participants as enacting submission in different ways than submissive women do. They enact masculinities in submission, meaning that normative masculinity takes precedence over sexuality. Submissive men thus incorporate aspects of “traditional masculinity” in their submission, meaning that normative masculinity is not only “intensified” for dominant men. This also creates active, dominant aspects of male submission, aspects which are ideally lacking in their female counterparts. However, submissive men still enact subordinate masculinities in relation to hegemonic masculinity (the dominant men). Thus, submissive men are socially superior to women, while being inferior to dominant men. Since the definitions of abuse are based on a “male culture”, this places men above women in the gender hierarchy regardless of sexual identity. The narrative also perpetuates the idea of hypermasculinity as hegemonic in the BDSM community, since dominant, “intensified” varieties of masculinity are the norm. These social processes could be used to understand submissive men’s tendency to shame dominant women (thus asserting their own social dominance) for being bad practitioners while giving cool victim-type explanations of non-consensual events (thus avoiding being labelled as effeminate by dominant men), rather than discussing having felt victimized. In this way, ideas associated with male rape myths are perpetuated; (strong, active) men cannot be abused by (weak, passive) women, etc.

6 Discussion and Conclusion

In relation to the research questions, this study has found that the BDSM community largely talks about abuse in terms of grey areas. Furthermore, the study found expressions of denial regarding the existence of abuse in BDSM, thus making the concept of grey areas include abuse by default. While the concept of grey areas is important given the sometimes complicated boundaries involved in BDSM play, it seems to include cover for victim blaming given the premise that grey areas include abuse rather than contrasts it. The notions of shared responsibility which are intrinsic to grey areas then lend themselves to placing responsibility on abuse victims. The implication is that by discussing abuse in terms of grey areas, victims of abuse are found less credible since abuse is often not defined as such, but rather as a grey area where both (or all) parties are equally responsible for the outcome.

The study has also shown that there is a tendency to discuss abuse and grey areas in different terms depending on the victims’ gender. The discrepancies between traditional gender roles and submission (for men) and dominance (for women) could be used to understand the victim blaming tendencies and their gender variation. Abused submissive women are often described as having been labelled as bad submissives by the community in BDSM practitioners’ narratives. However, while they are presented as naïve or irresponsible, their femininity as such is not questioned. Contrariwise, abused submissive men are described as either giving cool-victim type explanations or as mentally and physically weak. Ideas which fall in line with male rape myths seem prevalent, which ties into the cool victim-type explanations given by abused submissive men. Through their denials of abuse, submissive men are in a sense dominant to the women who dominate them sexually in the social interplay of the community at large, since women are thus described as too weak to be a threat. This could be understood as an effort to minimize the masculinity/submission discrepancy. It could also be understood as an expression of male rape myths; the men might not think themselves credible victims. As such, men seem to have difficulty being recognized as victims of abuse by female perpetrators.

As I stated in the introduction, the abuse suffered by submissive men is seemingly missing from the ongoing debate in kink communities. The cool victim-type presentations offered by interview participant’s stories lend themselves to the idea that traditional gender roles take precedence over the dominant/submissive dynamic. Since none of my interview participants’ stories contained information about submissive men openly discussing abuse suffered by dominant women in terms of their own feelings of victimization, one could assume that maintaining traditional enactments of masculinity is valued by the submissive men in the community. This could explain why men seem reluctant to discuss abuse openly online the way women do. However, that tendency could also be understood through the lack of credibility ascribed to men as victims of female perpetrators.

In conclusion, based in the interview participants’ narratives the BDSM community seems to incorporate ideas about traditional gender roles and the expectations attached thereto as well as victim blaming phrased accordingly in its discussion of abuse. This implies that a gender/sexuality discrepancy exists in the (heterosexual) BDSM community. For submissive men this results in their giving cool victim-type explanations in cases of abuse, possibly in order to stay close to the ideas of what a man is supposed to be. It also results in the prevalence of male rape myths, which may be part of the cause for these mentioned cool victim-type explanations of abusive situations.

Written by Tea Fredriksson


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Hooked Up and Tied Down: The Neurological Consequences of Sadomasochism

Neurons that fire together wire together. BDSM causes the neural networks controlling sexual arousal, aggression, and fear to become dangerously intertwined. An examination of the phenomenon of BDSM from the perspective of a psychiatrist.

Fifteen years ago, in an essay titled “Hooking Up: What Life was Like at the End of the Second Millennium,” the novelist Tom Wolfe asked: what will future generations think about us when they looked back on our strange day and age?

He noted that by the year 2000, “dating,” that ritual in which a boy asked a girl out for the evening and took her to dinner, was dead. Drawing on the old use of baseball terminology to describe romantic encounters, Wolf writes:

In the year 2000, in the era of hooking up, “first base” meant deep kissing (which was now known as “tonsil hockey”), and the groping, and the fondling; “second base” meant oral sex; “third base” meant going all the way; and “home plate” meant . . . learning each other’s names. Getting to home plate was relatively rare, however.

This captures the gist of the semi-anonymous, emotionally detached, uncommitted sexual encounter so typical on college campuses today.

Another strange sign of our age appeared more recently, with the enormous popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, which has sold an astonishing 100 million copies, and set a record in the UK as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. The story depicts a young female ingénue who is gradually initiated by a wealthy and powerful man into a BDSM sexual arrangement—Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism— in which she acts as his “submissive.” The heavily marketed movie version of 50 Shades of Grey was released on Valentine’s Day, raking in $94 million over its opening weekend.

Tom Wolfe’s observations suggest that the random impersonal sexual encounter is a defining feature of our day and age. Likewise, the enormous popularity of Fifty Shades suggests that interest in the world of BDSM may be another. What should we make of this? Is there any cause for concern here?

Fifty Shades: A Model of Abuse

My purpose here is not to examine the literary merit of Fifty Shades of Grey (or the lack thereof). Instead, I’m going to examine the phenomenon of BDSM from the perspective of a psychiatrist.

In 2013, social scientist Amy Bonomi of Michigan State University published an interesting study titled “‘Double crap!’ abuse and harmed identity in Fifty Shades of Grey.” In this study, the relationship depicted in the story was assessed for characteristics of “intimate partner violence,” using widely accepted standards from the CDC for emotional abuse and sexual violence.

This study found that nearly every interaction between the male and female protagonists in the book, Christian and Anastasia, was emotionally abusive. Their relationship includes typical features of abusive relationships, such as stalking, intimidation, and isolation. In fact, the book’s pervasive sexual violence meets the CDC’s definition of sexual abuse—including Christian’s use of alcohol to overcome Ana’s reluctance to consent. The researchers also found that Ana exhibited classic signs of an abused woman, including the sense of a constant perceived threat, stressful coping styles, and an altered sense of identity.

A second study published in 2014 by the same author looked at 650 women aged 18-24; it found that the women who had read the book were more likely than those who had not read the book to exhibit signs of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner. Women who read all three books in the Fifty Shades trilogy were found to be at increased risk of engaging in binge drinking and having multiple sex partners—known risks associated with being in an abusive relationship.

There are limitations to this study: it did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviors before or after reading the books, so we cannot say whether the book contributed to these behavioral problems. It’s entirely possible that some women were more drawn to the book because they struggled with these behavioral issues already. But Bonomi argues that the findings are problematic either way. As she explains it:

If women experienced adverse health behaviors such as disordered eating first, reading ‘Fifty Shades’ might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma. Likewise, if they read ‘Fifty Shades’ before experiencing the health behaviors seen in our study, it’s possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviors.

The Problem of Consent

Those who defend BDSM, like those who defend the campus hook-up scene, usually rest their case on one element and one element alone. That element is not love. That element is not fidelity. That element is not commitment. It’s not even pleasure.

That element is consent.

This one feature is seen as all-important and decisive. On this social contract model, as long as both partners consent, then everything is okay. As long as both partners consent, no one is harmed in the process. In Fifty Shades, although Ana is ambivalent and reluctant—it takes her a while to warm up to the BDSM arrangement—she eventually consents to the masochistic/submissive role. Well, then, no harm, no foul. Right?


First, people often consent to things that they are not really comfortable with; they do so for many different reasons and under many different social pressures. We see this clearly in Ana’s reluctance to sign Christian’s contract. Second, people often consent to things that turn out to be quite harmful to them. For consent to be authentic consent, it must be truly informed. To consent, people must understand the risks of what they are agreeing to do. This is a basic tenet of medical ethics, and it applies here as well.

I recall one patient I treated, a young man who was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He was in a committed relationship with a similarly brilliant but troubled young woman. She wanted him to hit her during sex. He consented . . . sort of. That is, he agreed, and he did it, but he never really liked it. He was always reluctant. It troubled him, and eventually it got in the way of things. The relationship, as you might expect, eventually fell apart.

Mind-Body Split

People often nurture the fantasy that sex can mean whatever we want it to. This fantasy involves an unrealistic and strange sort of mind-body split, a kind of dualism. People mistakenly believe that the mind, the sovereign will, is in complete control. The body is just a tool, a sort of appendage, detached from the mind. So, if the mind decides that sex means nothing, the body must obey. If the mind decides that it wants sex to be violent and domineering today, but warm and tender tomorrow, the body must just obey.

But the mind and the body do not work that way. There is no such mind-body split. Rather, the medical and psychological sciences are increasingly demonstrating that there is a profound and inseparable connection between mind and body. And the body—not just the mind—is obviously involved in sexual encounters. The body has its own laws and its own logic; the body has its own wisdom, and it operates on its own terms. The human body must obey the laws of biology, of neuroscience, and of human psychology. And when we push against these, the body will inevitably push back.

Christian Grey clearly believes that his will is in complete control. He insists on having sex without romance or emotional attachment—aggressive, domineering, controlling sex. He actually believes that this arrangement can be secured by means of both parties signing a contract and signing a nondisclosure agreement. A written contract! Consent, do you see?

This approach is based on the belief that the meaning of sex can be turned on and off like a switch. I can experiment a bit with sex and aggression, or sex and violence, or sex and dominance, or sex and submission, or sex and humiliation. Then, when I find a relationship that I wish to be tender, or loving, or committed, or mutually respectful—then I can simply flip the switch in my brain, and suddenly I make sex mean something else.

But the human mind and the human body simply do not work this way. The modern science of neuroplasticity reveals that our brains continue to change—to be molded—across our lifespan, in response to our behaviors, our relationships, and our life experiences. Our brains obviously influence our behavior. But the reverse is also true: our behaviors influence our brain. So our choices have neurobiological consequences: our behaviors hard-wire, and re-wire, our brain in ways that profoundly shape who we are and how we function.

Tied Down: Fusing Neural Networks

An obvious example of this occurs in addictions. In an addiction, we become habituated to something—let’s say, a drug—and with repetition, new things get hard-wired into our brain. The more emotionally charged an experience is, the less repetition is necessary to achieve this hard-wiring. This is why an extremely powerful high from a drug of abuse can lead very quickly to addictive behavior and brain changes.

With this in mind, consider sexual experiences, which are also intensely emotionally charged. With sexual behaviors, things get wired into our brain rather easily; even experimentation or dabbling has tangible physical effects. Undoing these new neural networks (or brain maps) is much more difficult and prolonged than the original process of forming them. Forming the addiction was easy; recovering from the addiction is hard.

In The Brain That Changes Itself, psychiatrist Norman Doidge summarizes research on the neurobiological aspects of sexual development. He writes: “The human libido is not a hardwired, invariable biological urge but can be curiously fickle, easily altered by our psychology and the history of our sexual encounters,” and he goes on to conclude: “Sexual taste is obviously influenced by culture and experience and is often acquired and then wired into the brain.”

With BDSM, the story of the brain gets even more complicated. Here, a person is not just forming neural networks or brain maps in the areas of the brain responsible for sexual interest, sexual arousal, sexual climax, and so on. With BDSM, a person is fusing distinct neural networks that were meant to operate separately.

Sexual Arousal, Aggression, and Fear

Human beings have neural networks related to sexual behavior, and these are shaped in subtle ways by our sexual experiences. We have separate neural networks related to anger and aggression, and these are shaped and strengthened when people engage in violent or domineering behaviors. We have still more separate brain maps for fear and anxiety, which are shaped and reinforced by frightening or anxiety-provoking experiences.

If you think about these three emotional experiences—sexual arousal, aggression, and fear—they are typically quite distinct emotional experiences. There is some overlap between them in terms of physical or bodily response: all three, for example, involve increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, because all three involve activation of the sympathetic nervous system. And yet, for most healthy individuals, sexual arousal, aggression, and fear remain distinct emotional, cognitive, and physical experiences. This is, I will suggest, a good and healthy thing.

So these neural networks and these experiences normally remain distinct—unless our experiences begin to fuse them together. When this fusion happens, the brain gets confused. And this is exactly what happens when people experiment with sadomasochistic sexual practices. These distinct neural networks and brain maps become fused according to Hebb’s principle: neurons that fire together wire together. Once this happens, aggression automatically triggers sexual arousal. Or fear and anxiety automatically trigger sexual interest. When this fusion of neural networks becomes pronounced, people often will present to the psychiatrist with clinical problems. Patients complain, for example, that they cannot get aroused unless they get aggressive or violent. Or they complain that they become involuntarily aroused whenever they experience fear. Once these distinct neural networks are fused, the person is—at the level of the brain—literally tied down.

As with drug addictions, patients also complain of a tendency to build up what is called tolerance. In addictions, tolerance means that a person needs progressively larger doses of the drug to achieve the desired high. With sexual behaviors, the problem of tolerance means that one needs to push the envelope more and more just to get aroused or climax. The aggressive, domineering, or painful behaviors need to become increasingly intense and increasingly dangerous in order to “work.” Frequently, a person who engages in BDSM becomes habituated to these intense experiences and needs to up the ante to stay in the game. As with a drug, what might begin with experimentation can end with a kind of enslavement.

Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body—what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us.

The Allure of BDSM

What is the appeal of BDSM? Some individuals are clearly drawn to these practices because they tap into deep emotional scripts, often based on childhood trauma or insecure early attachments. One psychiatrist studying BDSM practitioners in Los Angeles found that a disproportionate number had a history of severe childhood medical illness, and often underwent painful treatments. In late childhood or adolescence, these individuals often employed sexual fantasies and masturbation to try and escape the pain or anxiety caused by the medical problems or treatments. So the fusion of pain and fear neural pathways with sexual arousal pathways likely started early in life, and disposed them to repeat this pattern later in life.

But not every practitioner of BDSM has a history of abuse or attachment problems, or a history of painful childhood medical problems. There are many routes that can lead a person into the world of sadomasochism, just as there are many routes that can lead a person into a drug or alcohol addiction. Sometimes the path begins with reluctant experimentation under pressure from a partner and proceeds slowly from there. These interests can then develop later in life through experimentation and gradual progression.

It is tragically ironic that at a time when we are recognizing an epidemic of campus rape and sexual assault—and carrying on a national conversation about how to address this problem—we are at the same time rushing to embrace a book and film that pair sex and aggression, and that portray male domination as an enticing or exciting option. But the prevailing orthodoxy on college campuses when it comes to sex is very simple: anything goes so long as it is consensual. This is—I suggest—a very thin and insufficient defense against sexual coercion and sexual abuse. This is not a recipe for a healthy sexual climate on campus.

People deserve accurate information so that they can make truly informed decisions about their sexual choices. Understanding the clinical science on sex and the brain might push us to think twice before hooking up or tying down.


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French porn industry ‘systemically violent’ say Senators in scathing report

The French pornography industry systematically uses violence against women, according to a report presented Wednesday by four French Senators, after six months of auditions following several high-profile arrests of producers and directors.

The Senators want the issue to be taken seriously by the public, and for the government to make the fight against the “commodification of bodies” a political priority.

The aim of the report, which the authors titled ‘Porno: hell behind the scenes’, is to “alert the government and public opinion about violence perpetuated and spread by and in the pornography industry, as well as on the sexist, racist, homophobic and unequal representations that it generates.”

The four Senators, from four different political parties, started their mission in February after several porn actors, directors and producers linked to the video platform French Bukkake were arrested as part of a larger investigation opened in October 2020 into human trafficking, gang rape and pimping.

Three other men were arrested in Paris on Tuesday in connection with the probe.

Violence ‘not faked’ on screen

The Senators – Annick Billon, with the UDI centrist party, part of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling coalition; Socialist Laurence Rossignol; Alexandra Borchio-Fontimp with the centre-right Les Republicains; and Communist Laurence Cohen – found that online pornography has become increasingly violent, and it is being seen by younger and younger people.

“Sexual, physical and verbal violence are massively widespread in porn,” write the authors, who say it is systemic. The violence is “not faked, but very real for the women being filmed.”

The report says the line between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ pornography producers has been blurred with the advent of new platforms that allow people to upload their own videos.

The result, they say, is a free-for-all for producers, who often recruit economically and psychologically vulnerable young women to coerce them into doing acts on camera they might not otherwise agree to.

Some producers will force women to sign contacts ceding their image rights in perpetuity, forcing them to pay “between 3,000 and 5,000 euros, or ten times what they obtained to film the scene” in order to take them down.

And even then, once the images are out on other streaming platforms, they are “almost impossible to remove, preventing these women who were filmed to excersie their ‘right to be forgotten’”.

Of the report’s 23 recommendations, one is to impose on platforms the obligation to respond directly to removal requests from the people filmed, and not just from the owners of the videos.

Scepticism of ‘ethical’ pornography

The two major French pornography platforms, Dorcel and Jacquie et Michel, said in November 2020, after the first revelations of the investigations into the French Bukkakhe case, that they were willing to put in place ethics codes.

Others in the industry have talked about contracts detailing what sexual practices particapants are willing to do or not do.

But the Senators dismissed such proposals as window-dressing for a deeper problem of violence that needs to be addressed more systemically.

“Faced with the systemic extent of pornographic violence, and given the nature of sexual consent that can be reversed at any time, these ‘marketing’ measures do not convince the authors,” they write, adding that productions with more respectful practices are rare in the consumption of pornography today.

Protecting kids

Beyond violence on sets and onscreen, the Senators also focused on who is watching pornography and how it “normalises sexual violence of women”.

According to the report, two thirds of children 15-years-old and under, and one third of those under the age of 12 have been exposed to pornographic images, voluntarily or involuntarily, and each month, nearly a third of boys under the age of 15 visit a pornographic website.

Often the first introduction to sexuality for children, pornography “builds an eroticisation of violence and domination relations, which become norms,” the authors write, adding that it “multiplies and encourages sexist, racist and homophobic stereotypes”.

A large number of recommendations focus on the issue of age verification for pornographic websites, which has proven to be legally tricky, even as several French associations have filed lawsuits against the major platforms.

Only 18+ allowed

A law passed in July 2020 requires pornographic websites to put in place age controls, but the Arcom media watchdog in charge of enforcing it has been ignored by the major sites, including Pornhub, Tukif, Xhamster, Xvideos and Xnxx.

The Senators would like to see Arcom given more power to register infractions and impose “dissuasive” sanctions.

Currently, agents must first get a legal ruling to be able to order Internet service providers to block sites in France that do not put in place age limits.

Another focus for children should be better sex education in schools to address issues of pornography.

Since 2001, primary, middle and high schools are required to provide at least three sessions a year on relationships and sexuality, but the report highlights the fact that the law “is absolutely not applied.

Students often receive just a few science classes dedicated to teaching reproduction” at the end of middle school.

Parents have pushed back and schools have not put in place adequate programmes, but the Senators say it is important to teach about sex and relationships instead of letting children learn it from pornography.

Ban pornography?

Early on in the audition process for the report, the Senators met with members of feminist organisations that fight against pornography and prostitution.

France has generally had a rather abolitionist approach to prostitution, making pimping and solicitation illegal, but not banning it outright.

Throughout the audition process, the Senators drew links between prostitution and pornography, but do not go so far as calling for banning pornography.

However, they write: “wishing to open everyone’s eyes on the global system of violence against women, the authors question the existence itself of the pornography industry”.

And yet, with some 19 million people visiting French pornography sites each month, the public and political debate will not be so much on banning, but creating a framework in which productions come under more scrutiny, and distribution platforms take more responsibility for who sees what.

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French prosecutors want porn violence suspects to stand trial

French prosecutors have indicated that they want 17 men to stand trial over allegations of rape and other crimes committed in the production of online pornography.

Accusations against the men include rape, gang rape, organised human trafficking and aggravated pimping, committed during video production for the French Bukkake platform, according to prosecution documents.

The prosecutors’ call for a trial comes almost a year after French police made several arrests as part of a wider investigation into violence and human trafficking in France’s pornography industry.

The accused include the top manager of the platform, his associate, a talent recruiter and around 10 porn actors, the source said.

Vulnerable women

It is now up to two judges in charge of the investigation to decide whether the trial goes ahead.

Prosecutors believe the recruiter lured young, economically vulnerable women into participating in the filming of the videos in the full knowledge that they would be subjected to “aggravated rape”, according to the document.

Investigators believe the women were told the videos would only be accessible on private Canadian websites.

In fact, the films were viewable in France and the producers demanded large sums of cash from the women to remove them – only for the images to continue to circulate online.

Prosecutors said alcohol and drugs were commonplace during the shoots.

Female actors told prosecutors that they had not been warned before going on set of the type of sexual acts expected of them.

“Sexual acts were performed on them without warning, without them being able to comprehend them, and therefore without being able to give their consent,” the document said.

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VICTORY: The Senate against pornographic violence!

This Wednesday, March 1st, the Senate voted a resolution calling for the fight against pornographic violence to be made a public policy priority. We welcome this awareness and this salutary vote and invite the government to finally act.

On September 28, 2022, the Delegation of Women’s Rights of the Senate published a report entitled: “Porn, the hell of the decor”. After months of hearings, the findings are clear. The pornographic industry is a pimp industry in the most total illegality, which commits sexist and sexual violence on an industrial scale.

Multiple lawsuits, all over the world, are multiplying. In France, the producers are under investigation for rape, aggravated pimping, human trafficking, or acts of torture and barbarism. Dozens of women are speaking out to demand justice. Pornhub is accused in the USA of knowingly distributing child pornography.

The pornographic industry, which represents 27% of online videos, broadcasts millions of sexist, racist, pedocriminal and homophobic videos. Women are humiliated, violated and tortured.

Following this report, Senators Annick BILLON, Alexandra BORCHIO FONTIMP, Laurence COHEN, and Laurence ROSSIGNOL have decided to propose an ambitious resolution asking the government to make the fight against pornographic violence a public policy priority.

The resolution states:

“that the exploitation and commodification of women’s bodies and sexuality have become an industry on an international scale that generates several billion euros in profits each year” ;

“that pornographic contents are today accessible to all and to all, without any control of the proof of majority of the Internet users, in violation of the penal code;

“that these contents convey sexist, racist and homophobic representations, constituting criminal offences”;

“that the broadcasters, platforms and social networks, knowingly ignore their responsibilities;

“that pornography is a place of learning about sexuality by default, which generates a distorted and violent vision of sexuality, traumas, early sexualization and the development of risky behaviors”;

“that the numerous illicit contents published are never completely removed, even after they have been reported”.

This resolution calls for a collective awareness and asks the government to act, starting with an interministerial plan to fight against pornographic violence, and in particular by reinforcing the means at the penal level.

This text was presented by more than 250 signatories, including 7 group presidents, gathering a record number of co-signatures in the Senate under the Fifth Republic, thus showing a strong transparent consensus on this central issue.

We welcome the Senate resolution, voted unanimously yesterday. We demand that the government, as well as the institutions that are supposed to regulate the digital world, finally become aware of the absolute priority of the fight against pornographic violence. Pornography is the school and the legitimization of sexist and sexual violence. We firmly denounce the reluctance and refusal to act of ARCOM, the CNIL and PHAROS. Their responsibility is great in the persistence of the impunity of the pornocriminal industry.

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Revictimization: How Can This Keep Happening?

Moving from judgment to compassion.

Posted May 4, 2020 |  Reviewed by Lybi Ma

Jurien Huggins/Unsplash

Source: Jurien Huggins/Unsplash

I feel like I have “Abuse Me” written across my forehead! Why does this keep happening to me?

Over the years I’ve lost track of how many people have asked me that question.

The first time an individual is victimized, they often take on the responsibility for the abuse. This can be a way for a victim to reclaim control. It is reassuring to believe that changing habits, behaviors, or interactions will ensure that the abuse will not reoccur.

When someone is victimized a second or third time (or more), research shows they are even more likely to feel guilt and shame and to judge themselves harshly. Unfortunately, they are not alone. Family, friends, professionals, and the media often respond to revictimized people with far more judgment than compassion.

Saints, sinners, heroes, villains, the beautiful, the scarred, disciplined, undisciplined, strong, weak, and people of every other type have been victimized. Abuse, whether it is a single or a repeated event, is not elicited by victims; it is perpetrated against them by an offender.

A traumatizing abuse experience will often leave a victim in severe emotional and psychological distress, and sometimes in physical pain. The resulting symptoms, including those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are attempts by the body, mind, and emotions to regain stability and to reduce this extreme distress. Ironically, defensive responses can place the victim at greater “risk for later interpersonal trauma.” (Jaffe et al. 2019) These trauma symptoms include: dissociation, alcohol and substance abuse, distorted perceptions, low self-esteem, risky behaviors, cognitive accommodation to on-going violence, learned helplessness or passivity in the face of danger, willingness to tolerate maltreatment in order to avoid abandonment, adaptation to socioeconomic stressors and discrimination(Briere, 2019) increased irritability and anger(Jaffe, et al. 2019)

Facts, provided by research, can serve as instruments of kindness.

Jaffe, et al. (2019) stated it succinctly: “The most consistent predictor of future trauma exposure is a history of prior trauma exposure.” A child who is abused is at a significantly higher risk of being revictimized in adolescence and/or adulthood. (Aakvaag, et al., 2019; Zamir, et al., 2018)

These facts, established by scientific research and supported nearly unanimously by experts across the fields of mental health and the social sciences, provide a strong rebuttal to knee-jerk reactions that place blame for revictimization on the innate characteristics of individual victims.

The field of psychology has gone through its own evolution in understanding revictimization. In 1920 Freud published Beyond the Pleasure Principle, in which he identified repetition compulsion as a repeating and reliving of painful experiences in lieu of holding them in memory(Zamir, et al. 2018) This theory, part of Freud’s developing understanding of human instinct, when applied more recently to revictimization, places the bulk of responsibility squarely on the psyche of the victim.

As the understanding of trauma and PTSD developed in the field, via both research and practice, new theories of revictimization developed based on the impact of an original trauma on a repeatedly abused person.

The facts establish that when a person is sexually assaulted multiple times or in several domestic violence relationships, the cause of that pattern is not some underlying masochism, a characterological failing, or any other personal flaw. All abuse, original and subsequent, is due to the actions of offenders. A victim’s vulnerability to revictimization is often directly related to the impact of inflicted trauma.

A central component to the theoretical models of revictimization, developed in the 1980s and 1990s, was the role of dissociation as a risk factor. (Zamir, et al., 2018)

Dissociation is a defense mechanism that protects the individual by breaking up consciousness to avoid being overwhelmed by an experience, memory, or sensation. This fragmenting can be as commonplace as distraction or daydreaming, or it can manifest more problematically as emotional detachment, numbing, or out-of-body experiences.

Disassociation may provide relief from distress, but when it develops into a behavioral pattern, outlasting the threat of the immediate abuse, it leaves the person increasingly vulnerable. They miss cues of danger and have a disrupted, discontinuous experience of themselves and their life.

Guilt and shame are two distinct, common remnants of having been victimized. While guilt involves the belief that one “should have thought, felt, or acted differently,” shame is a “painful emotion related to beliefs about threats to one’s social position, including devaluation and rejection.” (Aakvaag et al., 2018)

Guilt can increase the risk of revictimization by focusing our attention, in an exaggerated manner, on our own thoughts and feelings, leaving us vulnerable to missing external cues of danger.

Shame often leads to social withdrawal and isolation. (Aakvaag et al., 2018) Decreasing our connections to others increases our vulnerability because while we may be avoiding people likely to cause us harm, we are also losing access to those who would provide protection, support, an increased sense of personal worth, and the expectation of being well-treated.

Shame is strongly correlated with mental health problems in general and with many PTSD symptoms specifically. The Aakvaag et al. findings suggest that shame may be central to the causal link that earlier studies found between mental illness and revictimization.

Kindness and compassion demand that we consistently hold a conscious place for the role of the abuser in any dialogue with or about victims. Experience has taught me that when an abuser is forgotten, the victim is implicitly left to absorb responsibility for the abusive acts and the resulting conditions, thereby increasing the victim’s feelings of both guilt and shame. This pattern is all the more common when the offender is a loved one, providing further motivation for a victim (child or adult), to absorb responsibility for the actions and patterns of the other in an attempt to rescue a crucial, valued relationship.

Dave Lowe/Unsplash

Source: Dave Lowe/Unsplash

A person who has been victimized needs to heal from the injuries of abuse. Family, friends, support networks, medical, and mental health professionals should be united in promoting that healing for the purpose of restoring health and wellness. A secondary benefit of compassion is the reduction of trauma symptoms, hence a decrease in vulnerability to revictimization.


Jaffe, A. E., DiLillo, D., Gratz, K.L., Messman-Moore, T.L. (2019). Risk for revictimization following interpersonal and noninterpersonal trauma: Clarifying the role of posttraumatic stress symptoms and trauma-related cognitions. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 32, 42-55.

Briere, J. (2019). Treating Risky and Compulsive Behavior in Trauma Survivors. New York: The Guilford Press.

Aakvaag, H. F., Thoreson, S., Strom, I. F., Myhre, M., Hjemdal, O. K. (2019). Shame predicts revictimization in victims of childhood violence: A prospective study of a general Norwegian population sample. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, Vol 11, No. 1, 43-50.

Zamir, O., Szepsenwol, O., Englund, M. M., Simpson, J. A. (2018). The role of dissociation in revictimization across the lifespan: A 32-year prospective study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 79, 144-153.

Gay, P. (1988). Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.Morereferences

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Video news French porn industry (English)

French porn industry in turmoil following shocking revelations of abuse • FRANCE 24 English

The French porn industry is facing its moment of reckoning. A two-year police investigation has blown the lid on widespread abuse of vulnerable women. A Senate report is now aiming to improve conditions by bringing about stricter controls. In this show, we meet three women who are trying to change the way the X-rated industry in France operates.

Read article here ‘Hell behind the scenes’: French Senate blasts porn industry after abuse scandal

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A #MeToo for French porn? Actresses speak out after rape inquiry

[translated from French]

A rape investigation targeting a prominent French pornography website is prompting actresses to disclose their own experiences of abuse, a moment of reckoning for an industry where speaking out has long been taboo.

Prosecutors said last month that Jacquie and Michel, which bills itself as a hub for “amateur” porn videos, and other sites had been under investigation since July after feminist groups collected testimonies from several women.

Actresses warned that users should be aware that the concept of “amateur” porn is a misnomer and belies the experiences that performers may have had to endure.

“Those who might be tempted need to know that they abuse women,” Estelle, who asked that her real name not be published, told AFP.

She is one of a few dozen women, according to lawyers and women’s associations, who have contacted lawyers since the inquiry was opened.

Estelle said that she was 22 when she set her sights on becoming a “star” for France’s leading porn production company, Dorcel.

Unable to get a break, however, she started making videos with smaller producers, many of which were shown on Jacquie and Michel.

The experience turned into a nightmare.

One director forced her to accept certain scenes ― despite her objections ― that left her in intense pain for several days.

“He said, ‘She’s crying because she’s not used to it. Stop crying, we can’t sell that ― Smile!'” Estelle recalled, saying she was paid 250 euros ($290).

She said that she was forced to perform without a condom with a man who had lied about having tested negative for a sexually-transmitted disease but in fact had a herpes infection.

“They pay you hardly anything for doing scenes that you’ve never said ‘yes’ to.”

– Amateur acts? –

Other women told AFP about directors who suddenly demanded additional sex acts they had not been warned about in advance.

But Marion Lew, 32, who documents her adult film career on Twitter, said: “The legal system has a very difficult time recognising sexual assault.”

Additionally many women hope to force Jacquie and Michel and other sites to remove their videos, arguing they were unaware that they would be available permanently.

“Many women complain first about the images, which have the most immediate impact on their lives, and initially play down the serious violence they have suffered,” said Lorraine Questiaux, a lawyer for the Mouvement du Nid, an anti-prostitution group.

Jacquie and Michel has denied any wrongdoing, saying it only distributes films and is not responsible for how they are made.

But it has promised to stop working with anyone convicted of rape or other crimes.

Many actors and actresses scoff at the claim, saying the site effectively requires directors to meet certain aesthetic standards.

“We really need to stop with this idea of ‘amateur porn’,” said Tony Caliano, who has acted in X-rated films for the past 10 years.

“The women are always paid, and the idea is to make you think the girl next door is ready to fool around,” he said.

He indicated however that the women were not likely to have long-term “professional” careers either.

“Jacquie and Michel’s business model is based on always having a new actress,” he added.

“The average girl who gets into the industry will do just 15 or 20 scenes, over three or four months.”

[Tony Caliano arrested, read more here]

– ‘Tough situation’ –

And the reality is that the vast majority of women are paid just 200 to 300 euros per scene, far below the four-figure payments given to star actresses in “professional porn.”

“Most often, these are women who need to get out of a tough situation,” said Eric Morain, a lawyer representing around a dozen women trying to have their videos removed.

Many believe “it’s easy money, because it only lasts two hours,” he said.

“But in general, it almost never turns out the way it should.”

Activists hope the Jacquie and Michel inquiry will raise awareness and demolish the idea that victims know what they are getting into.

“We’re at the beginning of a #MeToo moment for pornography,” said Celine Piques, of the Osez le Feminisme! (Dare Feminism) collective, which also alerted prosecutors to victims’ accounts.

But others, including actresses, remain sceptical.

“Some are starting to speak out, but it’s not easy,” said Nikita Bellucci, one of France’s most prominent porn film stars.

“None of them have been contacted or been publicly supported” by the industry.

“The girls who talk get floods of abuse on social media,” she added.

“Since they act in porn videos, people say they have no right to present themselves as rape victims.”

Or, as Kim Equinoxx, another star actress, put it: “Some people don’t understand why they complain about rapes. For them, it’s like a boxer complaining that he’s getting hit.” (AFP)

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“French Bukkake”: another pornographic film actor indicted for rape

[translated from French]

As part of an investigation on the “French Bukkake” platform, an actor is accused of human trafficking in an organized gang and gang rape.

The investigation into the “French Bukkake” pornographic video platform is progressing. An actor was indicted for trafficking in human beings in an organized gang and gang rape to the detriment of two victims. According to a judicial source, which confirmed information from BFMTV, this 39-year-old man was placed under judicial supervision. This actor was arrested on Monday January 23, said a source familiar with the matter.

This is Tony Caliano, said several sources familiar with the matter. On the IAFD reference site, he appears as an actor in the credits of at least 600 pornographic productions between 2011 and 2021, including many productions of “Jacquie et Michel” and a certain number of Marc Dorcel. After the first crackdown in this investigation, in October 2020, he told the weekly Marianne that the actors were “equally responsible for the abuses of the producers”. “By saying nothing, by not speaking with the actress of the scene, they condone what is happening,” he added.

At least 17 people – actors, directors, producers – have already been indicted in this judicial investigation opened in October 2020 for aggravated human trafficking, gang rape or even aggravated pimping. More than forty victims have joined as civil parties, as well as associations.

Suspicions of pimping

According to elements of the investigation consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the platform of “Pascal OP” identified under the name of “French Bukkake”, named after a sexual practice, first attracted attention of investigators: a subscription allowed customers to participate in priority to these collective ejaculations [bukkake], with places reserved for sessions without condoms. This system, aimed at making individuals pay in exchange for organized sexual relations, has fueled suspicions of pimping in the eyes of the courts.

According to the source familiar with the matter, the investigation is coming to an end and should be closed “by the end of the first quarter”.

The French porn industry has been in the spotlight for two years: another survey carried out in Paris since July 2020 targets “Jacquie et Michel”, the embodiment in France of amateur porn and tricolor pillar of this industry. Michel Piron, the site’s founder, was indicted in June for complicity in rape and human trafficking in an organized gang. Three other men are also prosecuted in this judicial investigation also opened for aggravated pimping or rape with torture and act of barbarism.

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