Dean Martin sang that you're nobody till somebody loves you. But if you've ever published even the most trivial thing on the internet, you know the converse is also true: You're nobody until someone hates you—or at least hates what you wrote. That's as true in the BDSM community as anywhere else. If you choose to grace kinky people with your opinions about the One True Way to do anything, expect some vigorous debate.

The intensity of kinky critique often startles new folks, but one must understand it in a cultural context. Once upon a time, BDSM was so taboo, and its practitioners so isolated, that unethical people could engage in sins ranging from poor manners all the way up into outright criminal behavior and easily elude any consequences. Even where some community existed, there was a sense that kinky partners were so scarce that bad behavior must be overlooked.

Then the internet came, and a lot more people started talking to one another. Still, shame and peer pressure often kept people silent about unacceptable behavior. In the last few years, though, that's changed. And that's mainly a good thing—not that it can't be annoying as hell. The BDSM community does nothing halfway, so the pendulum has swung from "speak no evil" all the way to "trash anyone you don't like." You know what I mean: I mean trolls, pointless snarking, and malicious "I feel I have to warn the community" journal posts. I have seen people be lambasted online for things they simply didn't do. I don't support any of that.

But silence is rarely a good system for any group, and it's particularly bad for us. Every sexual minority group is prone to certain group foibles, and the Achilles' heel of the BDSM community is a tendency to take ourselves a bit too seriously. It's a logical outgrowth of the sort of thing we do. People kneel down in front of you and call you "Master" or "Mistress"? That will go to your head if you let it. And I've met people who approached being a submissive like it was an elimination game on TV and they were determined be Top Slave. The tendency to enjoy kink may (or may not) be hardwired into someone. However, BDSM social culture is not innate but continually invented, and it's prone to absurd extremes if not corrected.

So we're creating a middle ground between those extremes, and as with laws and sausages, the process of that isn't always pleasant to watch. Still, we are a community that eroticizes activities that make other people turn pale—surely we can have some fun with this? I know what the phrase "piss play" means to me. But in England, "taking the piss" means teasing someone. Maybe the BDSM community should add that as a fetish to our common list of options—both the giving and the receiving. recommended