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Dating Apps May Not Be the Best Way to Safely Start Practicing BDSM

Jera Brown writes about the intersection of faith and sexuality on her blog scarletchurch.com. She's an MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago. Follow her on twitter @emotichew.

The troubling trend of men using dating apps to lure kink-curious women into abusive relationships

BDSM fantasies — specifically, being dominated — are pretty common among women. According to one study, more than 60 percent of us have them.

Some women turn to dating sites to start exploring their submissive side, but testing the BDSM waters with someone you’ve never met can be dangerous, especially after the success of the Fifty Shades books and movies, men have felt more comfortable advertising their status as “dominants,” using the sites to find women looking for their own Christian Grey. The problem is, many of these men are intentionally looking to prey on inexperienced submissives. Take it from Amy and Megan.

More: BDSM & Consent: What's the Big Deal?

When Amy began talking to Scott on OkCupid, she was looking for the “strong, take-charge kind of guy — the opposite of her flaky, aloof ex-husband.

“I was emotionally tired of having to be the only grown-up in the relationship,” she explained. “I've always had somewhat submissive sexual tendencies — I love any sort of ravishment fantasy — so the idea of being in a safe place to let go and no longer have to be in charge was exciting for me, not just sexually, but emotionally.”

Their flirting online intensified. Scott told Amy he was going to “punish” her, and Amy had gone along with it as a fantasy. But on their first date, Scott assaulted her, informing Amy she knew what she was getting into.

Megan, who met Jack on a dating site specifically for those interested in BDSM, doesn’t call what happened to her outright assault.

“It's in that wobbly zone of yes and no,” she said. “I was into it at the time, even if hesitatingly. There was a slew of sex-included acts I hadn't OK'd, and stuff at the end made the previous stuff feel way ickier.”

Both women said that they ignored warning signals. For Megan, the biggest red flag was Jack’s inconsistencies around substance abuse. After Jack told her he was sober and in a support group, he had a drink on their date. Megan said she should’ve stopped the date then.

Even though Amy was attracted to Scott’s dominance, he came on too strong from the get-go. Afterward, Amy blamed herself for breaking one of her own rules: Never go to a person’s house on a first date.

“I still can't tell you why I let him talk me into it,” Amy said. “The whole experience was the only time in my life I've ever felt like I was powerless over my own actions. I felt brainwashed.”

Amy didn’t report the assault to the police because of the record of flirting that existed from their online conversations. She was worried it would be used against her in court.

More6 Things Fifty Shades Got Wrong About BDSM

While Amy hasn’t explored her submission fantasies since, Megan has become active in the BDSM community.

“I believed — and still believe — in the potential for shared catharsis and connection, which is possible in [BDSM] scenes,” she said. “Many of the connections I made early on have become chosen family. When BDSM works, it can bring bliss. When we negotiate well and stay close to our authentic voice, we can experience extremely rewarding and fulfilling connection through scenes.”

Megan learned to trust her intuition in order to protect herself. “Our threat-detection system is necessary for survival, and experience has shown that when that system is activated, it's for good cause,” she added.

I was lucky. All my earliest experiences with BDSM were with a partner that I trusted. We were in an open relationship when we learned about the local BDSM community and found others to further explore our interests with. I’ve explored being both dominant and submissive, and it’s important to note that these roles can be fulfilled by someone of any gender.

The kink community itself is not always a safe space, but it does teach awareness of consent and safety practices. In the five years I’ve been active in the kink community, I’ve learned valuable lessons about how to identify whether wannabe dominants know what they’re doing. Here are some suggestions.

Don’t trust anyone who dismisses the need for a safe word

One creepy dude I came across on Tinder had a pic with the text “real men don’t need a safe word. They know what to do, how hard to do it and when to stop.” I was so pissed. No one has the right to decide for another person how they are feeling or what is too much. And if they disagree, they’re not a safe person to play with.

In the kink community, green, yellow and red are standard words used by the person in the submissive role during a BDSM scene to identify how they are feeling and whether they want to keep going.

Saying, “green,” means we’re good to go; yellow is used when someone believes they are approaching their limit, but would like to continue the scene; and red means the scene needs to stop immediately. They’re easy to remember, and if someone has weird reasons for not wanting to use them, this is a major red flag for me.

Ask them how they negotiate scenes

Scene negotiation involves communicating things you do and do not want to do, as well as whether you have emotional triggers, health conditions or other factors your partner needs to be aware of. Negotiating isn’t just about setting limits; it’s also about getting used to communicating with your partner and building trust.

If a dominant isn’t used to these types of conversations, they’re not experienced enough to play with another beginner.

More: BDSM Sex Tips for "Vanilla" Couples, No Red Room Needed

Try out saying, "no," before meeting

Say you’re flirting with a person online, and they ask you for something — like, to exchange numbers or personal information. Try telling them you don’t feel comfortable yet just to see how they react. If a guy can’t take a no politely and understand whatever you need to do to keep yourself feeling safe, they’re not worth meeting.

Educate yourself first

If you’re serious about exploring your kinky side, I suggest checking out The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge or The New Bottoming Book, which offers advice aboutemotional support and ethical interaction during kinky play.”

The troubling trend of men using dating apps to lure kink-curious women into abusive relationships
Image: Liz Smith/SheKnows

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