The Thin Line Between Abuse and Play

by Medic_Rabbit

(c) July 2013 All rights reserved This article is the sole property of the author and CAN NOT be reprinted in any format without express written permission of the author

To preface this, I would like to say that while no type of play is condemned, calling the difference between abuse and play from one person to the next, will be entirely objective and situational. As such, this article will focus more on where/what that line is, and less on defining anything specific as “abuse”.

Abuse defined:

There are actually many definitions for abuse, but for our kink setting, I found these to be the most appropriate.

To Use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.
The improper use of something.

The noun here is the focal point of our definition of abuse. “The improper use of something”. To further expand on that, and to take that definition to heart, one must define what their “proper” use is. Is it proper in your relationship to be caned repeatedly? Is it a free-for-all on verbal humiliation, or is there a time and a place where that is appropriate? Questions like these, and many others, must be asked during the course of a budding relationship. Not only of the sub. But the Dom as well.

The two sided coin

As a Dom/Master/Top,(or however you define the controlling party), is like to think I’m impermeable to abuse. Simply stated, this is false. How can the controlling party be abused? Well simple really. A misuse of a Dom is really the same thing as a subs misuse. If your sub loves dangerous situations, and brings you into them unwilling, expecting you to save her from her mishaps, could this be abuse? Of course it could. The misuse of a given trust is just as damaging for either party. Much in the same way, if a Dom would start breaking their subs hard limits. Both these scenarios are well within our definition, and as demonstrated, no party is truly impervious.

Abuse, however, is not simply performed. A single act in itself is not abusive, until it is forced on you, against your limits and against your will. While pushing limits by itself is not abusive, ignoring safe words and pushing hard limits against someone’s will is. Ignoring pre-established safety and guidelines, even during the most intense, or routine scenes, is abuse. At no point, should any Dom or sub, be expected to do something they don’t want to, or cannot handle. Diplomacy, bribing, and threats are often used by abusers to get their way, and none of these things are needed in a healthy relationship, at least not when hard limits are being discussed. Now, that’s not to say negotiations are unhealthy. But that should be happening at a time and place away from play, not as the act is about to be performed, or as it’s happening.


Where is the line with violence? How do you know when you’re being played with, or abused? With so much of what our kinks revolve around being considered “Domestic Abuse”, by law, or even more generally, by vanilla society, how does one know? The answer goes back to our definition of abuse- “The improper use of something”. For the kink world, simple aggression isn’t abusive. Mundane acts of domestic violence and forced servitude are commonplace. As such, you MUST define what your “Proper use” is. If you’re ok with being spanked until your black and blue all over, every time you “step out of line”, then you’re ok with it. But even if you are ok with that, but can never be ok with a slap to the face, if that has been expressed openly and honestly, you have defined your line. Until you agree to crossing it, violating that boundary is violating your trust, and can easily be dubbed abusive.

Closing arguments

Abuse: The improper use of something. A simple definition with so much weight in our crazy kink world. As oblique and varied as our many, many kinks can be, from the mundane to the extreme, this definition can be easily applied to any questionable behavior. If you feel that you’re being used improperly, your boundaries are not being respected, or you simply feel abused. I’d encourage you to leave your situation and seek medical advice and help, through one of the many resources available.

2 Responses to The Thin Line Between Abuse and Play

  1. John says:

    Abuse is not defined by individuals…abuse is a concrete concept…Which is to say that no matter how a meth addict feels about doing meth, it is abusive to their bodies and their emotional state.

    Hitting someone with anything…clamping someone, tying someone up…causing discomfort and controlling someone…those are all forms of abuse…it does not matter if everyone involved wants it or not…

    That’s a bold statement and means a lot for what’s truly going on in BDSM relationships…but it’s time to get real about BDSM or we run the risk of teaching a bunch of people very incorrect perspectives…

    If you flog someone, its because they enjoy abuse and you enjoy abusing…if you enjoy tying someone up, its because they like to be owned and you like to own people…

    There is nothing in bondage, sadism and masochism that is not abusive…discipline perhaps…but when its done for the top to get off, then its not really discipline anymore…its perverted..and abusive…

    Unless one does think that any humans were meant to be bound, flogged or controlled, then its still all abuse by your very own definition…im pretty sure humans were not purposefully designed to be beat for pleasure, bound for sex or told what to do by anyone but their parents, maybe…

    The bottom line is, BDSM gets people off…and it is what it appears to be…abuse…its just people enjoying it…im not ashamed to be that….but lots of us are ashamed…and its lame…

    I really like the site though…just had some strong opinions on this one…

  2. Ashley says:

    As someone who has been a sub for 10 years I am DISGUSTED by this article.

    Read between the lines and you’re saying abuse is fine as long as abusee and abuser know their roles.

    Most BDSM who accept all that you name – spankings aren’t right in the head anyways

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