A Fine Line Between Pleasure and Pain: Would Decriminalising BDSM Permit Nonconsensual Abuse?

Theodore Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The increasing social visibility of Bondage/Domination, Discipline/submission and Sadism/Masochism (BDSM) within Western society has placed pressure on the criminal law to account for why consensual BDSM activities continue to be criminalised where they involve the infliction of even minor injuries on participants. With moralistic and paternalistic justifications for criminalisation falling out of favour, one key justification that is gaining traction within international commentary on BDSM is the “bogus BDSM argument”. The bogus BDSM argument contends that BDSM activities should be criminalised because otherwise false claims of BDSM will be used by defendants to excuse or minimise their criminal liability for nonconsensual abuse. This article refutes this argument by showing how it relies on premises that are unjustifiable, illogical and irrelevant. This article concludes that the decriminalisation of BDSM would not permit nonconsensual abuse so long as legal officials were equipped with sufficient knowledge about the norms and conventions of BDSM culture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLiverpool Law Review: a journal of contemporary legal issues
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2020

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