The Differences Between BDSM and Abuse

A Guide For People Involved in Consensual and Non-Consensual BDSM Activities

BDSM is an acronym for "Bondage, Discipline, Sado-masochism," terms used by the alternative sexuality community for activities such as Dominance and submission (consensual power play) and other roleplaying games, tying up a partner, spanking, flogging, and a variety of other mutually satisfying, CONSENSUAL activities.

BDSM is not abuse.

Often, BDSM is confused with abuse due to the very nature of its activities. 

However, the differences, as you will see below, are very profound.


BDSM activities are ALWAYS Safe, Sane and Consensual.

Abuse is NEVER safe, NEVER sane, and NEVER Consensual.

BDSM follows established rules. Abuse has no rules.
BDSM is always negotiated for the safety of both partners. Abuse is not negotiated.
BDSM activities are used for mutual pleasure. Abuse holds pleasure only for the abuser.
In BDSM, the submissive partner uses a ‘safeword’ to stop any activity they do not wish to engage in. During an Abusive activity, the victim cannot stop what is happening to them.
BDSM activities are not intended to physically or emotionally injure a partner. Abusers want to hurt their partners physically, emotionally, or both.
BDSM is a loving form of sexual expression. Abuse is a crime of power and control.
BDSM involves 'aftercare' - hugging, cuddling, and caring. Abuse involves ‘aftercare’ for bruises, cuts, broken bones, and emotional terror.
BDSM activities NEVER take place in front of children or other family members Abuse often happens in front of children, family members, and friends.
Practitioners of BDSM never participate in activities while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Abuse often occurs when the abuser has been using drugs or alcohol.
In BDSM, the partners involved give up power voluntarily and temporarily, but ALWAYS maintain their individual rights. In Abusive relationships, the abuser takes away any rights the victim may have.


Anyone who forces you to participate in BDSM activities against your will IS NOT practicing BDSM!
They are engaging in abuse and/or rape.

Written by Ren, Dominant and Co-Founder of CUFSmaine, a Safe, Sane, and Consensual Alternative Lifestyle Support, Social, Educational, and Safety Group located in Portland, Maine.  

Ren is a BDSM safety educator; she is also a stalking survivor.

Copyright 2000 Mistress Ren


Other Relevant Links

S/m Vs Abuse Policy Statement:  Draft from the Leather Leadership Conference, II





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