Should There Be Certification for Practicing BDSM?

25 09 2012

In my many years practicing as a Top/Dominant/Master in the BDSM circles, I have seen this question asked over and over.  I’ve even asked that question myself when I was younger, though I think I said standards instead of certifications. Most recently, it was brought to my attention on FetLife, in the Novices and Newbies group. As a result, I thought it would be a good time to lay out the pros and the cons, then discuss why I feel the way I do about this issue.

 

Those in favor of the proposition usually start out the discussion by focusing on the safety aspects of the training. Some one certified will know the safest places to hit someone, how much force you should use, how much pressure a blindfold can place on someone’s eyes, ect. I can see this as a good thing myself. Safety training is alway a good thing and many BDSM classes/demonstrations focus on safety for a reason. It would seem that this point is a no brainer in favor of the certification.

The next thing I hear often stated is that as a community, certification could help ensure safety by allowing us to set up some sort of list, which someone could check and we put the safe players on it (in some cases only Doms, others it is both Doms and subs). This one offers some potential safety too. When someone completes their “training”, if they don’t behave we strip their certification away. This one seems more problematic to me, but I have heard it brought up several times in the past.

 

Admittedly I may have missed some pro-arguments, but these two are brought up the most often (though, I want to stress that  the second point was not brought up in this post’s original inspiration).

 

So, what do the opponents say to counter these arguments?

 

First, some state that there is already safety training out there.  I myself carry a First-aid and CPR card on me, though i suspect that at least one is past due for renewal if not both. Why cause controversy and stress of reinventing a process if this kind of training is already out there? Just adapt what is out there, encourage people to go get it (many dungeons require their DMs to be certified in First-aid and CPR).

 

Another argument against is that many would use the certification in place of common sense.  They would see certification as a pass to do what they want and run off with anyone who has one without checking to see if they are a safe player. They might ignore warning signs or common sense in the desire to play. The danger is that having a certification is different from practicing safety.  I can see some merit in this, but I think it is the weakest of the con arguments. After all, shouldn’t people be responsible for their own safety? It seems rather paternalistic that we have to “protect” all the subs and slaves out there.  Shouldn’t they take some responsibility of their own?

 

Would some people stay away from our community if we place another obstacle in their path, like Certification? Being in touch with your inner freak is something that is often hard for people used to repressing their sexual side. Why make it harder for them to come out and join the rest of us, when there are already so many obstacles, from inaccurate stereotypes to vetting and the secrecy in our community?

 

And then there is the question of who would be the board to create the standards? Who do we trust enough to give that responsibility? How would they determine what is “safe” when there are so many styles and levels of play. That is an argument just waiting to happen.  Whoever we choose, would be subjected to all kinds of attacks about who put them on a high horse? Dominant types hate to be told what to do. Neither do s-types by people they aren’t in a relationship with.  Related to all this is who would pay for it all?  Who funds the research into best practices? Who pays to generate the tests? The forms that would be needed? Who keeps the records? What happens if the records are subpoenaed.  The implications boggle my mind. Particularly when many are worried about being outted (often with good reason).

 

Then there is the whole concept of liability. Are clubs more liable if they let non-certified players play? Is the certification board liable if a certified player forgets to follow the rules and hurts someone? Rapes, tortures or kills someone? Imagine the insurance requirements. Makes me wonder who would want such a scheme?

 

That leads me to an observation I have made about the people that sometimes propose these things, something largely unrelated to the post on FetLife. Sometimes, when a group gets formed to do this, the people behind all this do not have the best of intentions.  I have seen those that seek to “regulate” our community and censure members are sometimes those we need to watch out for. Some of these people are out to rule their local community, tell people who can play and who can’t, and protect the submissives out there. They want to be the high-mucky-muck in charge. They are the ones most of us would say are the bad actors, the manipulators. Fortunately, the minority of those proposing the regulation are in this mindset, but a distressing number of groups formed to do so seem to be in this vein.

 

For myself, I am firmly in the camp that this is a bad idea, for many of the reasons stated. I have seen the weaknesses outweigh any benefit that may come from it. It is best that we move past this discussion and focus on things more meritorious of our time. You know, things like “what is the best way to torture my slave?”; “Does this outfit match my whips?”

 

You know, the really important things.

 

MV

 

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One response

1 10 2012
Michael Spurlock (@msspurlock)

I don’t know. Before these new “Fifty Shades” posers started showing up, I’d have resisted this idea very strenuously, but there are just so many worthless beta males attempting things they have no idea how to pull off now. They put the untrained slaves in danger, turn new submissives off, and just soil the water for everyone. But I agree, it’s not the best solution. For one thing, reducing it all to a sterile, clinical profession kills it for most people. Policing the culture might be needed, though. Calling out fakes and pick-up artists claiming to be masters of themselves and others, when they’re clearly not equipped, might be enough.

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