Bound by consent: concepts of consent within the leather and bondage, domination, sadomasochism (BDSM) communities

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Fulkerson, Anita
Matson, Ronald R. (Ronald Robert)

This study is a qualitative examination of the definitions, beliefs, practices and the importance of consent within the Leather and Bondage, Domination, Sadomasochism (BDSM) communities using the experiences of those who identify as members of those communities. Through interviews with fifteen self-identified practitioners of BDSM/Leather, the research attempts to define consent, identify the importance of consent, and how consent is practiced within those lifestyles. It also seeks to address some of the commonly held misconceptions concerning the BDSM and Leather communities held by those outside the communities. The research attempts to establish how members of the communities define and practice consent in both their sexual and everyday lives. The standard definition of consent given was an "informed agreement between persons to act in an activity which is mutually beneficial for everybody involved." (I1) Additional elements to the basic definition included the necessity of a sound mind (I2 & I3), that the agreement is made willingly, free from coercion and outside influence - either from another person or from mind altering substances (I1,I2, I3, I6, I14), and that consent must be given by both the dominant and submissive partners. Also, consent for the Leather and BDSM practitioners interviewed included an understanding by all parties about what was expected, what the parties were and were not willing to do during the course of the interaction (the scene), and where consent stopped. At its most basic level the idea of consent was stated as "the ability to say yes." (I13)

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Program of Liberal Studies