While conducting research for Deliberations Season One (featuring an alleged murder associated with BDSM) two cases appeared in my google news search I was surprised and dismayed to discover. The first was the Dublin homicide of a woman named Elaine O’Hara. She was a suicidal childcare assistant with a history of mental illness, including depression and borderline personality disorder. Her murderer was a man named Graham Dwyer, a married architect with children. Graham nursed a fantasy of stabbing a woman to death during sex since his adolescence, and he preyed upon the vulnerability and psychiatric fragility of Elaine O’Hara to meet that end in August of 2012.

It’s understandable the Irish public would consider this killing related to BDSM. They met on (a kink website). He told her what to do. She complied. He called her slave. She called him Sir. Check check check check check. Seems kinky so far.

However, when one reads their messages it seems less like a relationship (BDSM or otherwise) and more like a bully forcing an unwilling subject to repress her own needs and do what she deems unpleasant and wrong.

Another murder was the heartbreaking death of Shirley Beck, who moved to Clarksville in 2012 to be part of the BDSM community there. While acting as a house slave for a Mistress Cynthia Skipper, her kitchen cleaning was being supervised by one roommate Alphonso Richardson. Richardson discovered residue on the cups she’d cleaned and accused her of lacing the cups with boric acid (at the time being used to treat the house for a roach infestation) to poison him and his girlfriend. In “punishment” Richardson enlisted the help of two other other male roommates to string up Shirley Beck and beat her senseless for a period of four hours.

At trial, Assistant District Attorney Robert Nash led opening statements by saying Beck had 116 fractured ribs, a fractured sternum, bruises over 80 percent of her torso, contusions and abrasions on her legs, multiple lacerations to her liver and damage to her small intestine, among other injuries.

Source: The Leaf Chronicle

Her safe word (Jacob, the name of her son) was unable to be uttered due to the sock shoved in her mouth.

Since my understanding of BDSM is that it’s a culture of -above all things- consent, it seems what we have here are two fucked up murders laid loosely o’ertop a BDSM backdrop.

This study out of Northern Illinois University showed “BDSM practitioners reported significantly lower levels of benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance, and victim blaming than did college undergraduates.”

That’s why the co-author of this study, Psychology researcher Kathryn Klement, believes teens should be taught about BDSM and kink practices to better understand affirmative consent. “A sex education program [including BDSM] would help people understand what’s consensual and what’s not.”

Why, then, if BDSM is a shining model of affirmative consent behaviors, is the practice associated in the headlines with the most heinous violations of human trust imaginable?

To many members of the public, BDSM presents a nefarious underground of human indecency… something they can hold onto the way we hold onto “drugs” or “cults” as causes for unimaginable acts. There’s a comfort in attributing all that wrongness to a practice or system of belief. The alternative is trying to understand a person just like you or me committing that act. Trying to relate to or understand such a person is mentally stressful to us.

The problem is a misconception of BDSM emerges as a result of these interlopers’ actions. The aforementioned murderers exploited the culture and community of BDSM to find and engage victims, as well as mask their despicable intentions. They found masochists and submissive women to use as outlets for their cruel pursuits, because those were the easiest targets.   

To any explorative women who finds herself enchanted by a man in the “BDSM lifestyle” (or any other subculture), pay careful attention to whether the attitudes he’s exhibiting are actually aligned with his community’s values.