Leading Irish sexologist Emily Power Smith has said it is important to distinguish between BDSM as portrayed within the context of the trial of Graham Dwyer for the murder of Elaine O’Hara from the world of “ethical BDSM”.
Although the murder trial which led to Dwyer’s conviction featured evidence of BDSM-related activities, Power Smith says there is “absolutely no connection” between his behaviour and that of the BDSM community in Ireland.
Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on 2fm, she said, “We have to separate what we’ve been hearing about in that case from ethical BDSM because there’s absolutely no connection other than he used some of those sites to find his victim”.
“There’s a very strong community in Ireland and, as far as I know, an ethical bunch of people. You’re going to get dangerous people walking amongst us all over the place but the sort of people who realy, realy want to damage and hurt people, there aren’t many of those.
“But they’re certainly going to be found throughout society, not in this area of society in particular”.
Whilst blood-letting and knife play were mentioned within the context of the trial, Power Smith says those activities were not carried out in accordance with BDSM guidelines.
“BDSM would have very strong boundaries and guidelines on how to be safe, sane and consensual. They’re the three words they tend to use an awful lot.”
“And then they would have very specific guidelines on how to set up a relationship where you might engage in something that may be a power exchange.
“Anything where you have not had a conversation, or many conversations, in advance of any kind of power exchange is not going to be classified as ethical BDSM. It’s something else. It’s coercion, it’s manipulation, it’s abuse of some kind.
“If you haven’t been asked if it’s okay to take your power, and therefore you haven’t given your power in advance of some kind of play, it’s not BDSM. It’s something else and that can happen throughout any kind of relationship.”
Regarding power exchange, she said a “gentle version” could be allowing your partner to make all the decisions on a date.
“You have absolutely no say from what you’re going to wear, where you’re going, what you eat, what you drink, how long you’re going to stay out and what’s going to happen afterwards.
“That can be a gentle form of power exchange but you have to have arranged that in advance. Otherwise it’s just being bullied.
“It can go all the way through spanking, tying up, blindfolding and then it can get into the more extreme stuff where actual pain is encountered.
“People who engage in that ethically, the people who are giving the pain will be trained and they will be very boundaried and they will be very caring and very aware of the limits that have been set by the person experiencing the pain.”
She pointed out that a dominatrix, for example, will be trained in techniques and safety by other professionals.
“For blood letting and knife play, the people who do that ethically are very highly trained,” she said.
“Equally they’re not going to engage in that kind of behaviour while they’re in a sexual act because they wouldn’t be able to control what they’re doing and therefore keep the person safe that they’re doing it to.
“What [Graham Dwyer] did was nothing to do with [Elaine O’Hara’s] safety. He was trying to hurt her. It was different.”