Our Desire, Our Power: QTBIPOC BDSM and Consent

“The location is secret!” I explained to my childhood friend and current roomie. “I had to dig and find this email, and I’m just waiting for the reply.”

Going to New York City for a year was a weird childhood dream come true. Having grown up as a queer brown kid in rural Ohio, I couldn’t help but fall into the cliché of wishing for a scandalous and exciting life in the Big Apple. Maybe I was a few years late on the stereotypical hajj to a queer Mecca — I had just turned 28, or was it 29? — but my inner child was giddy regardless.

The location, the emailer later revealed, was in Brooklyn. I remember walking down the street and then awkwardly standing before a nondescript door with no number. Still, based on the other addresses around, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. On one side, a small market of some kind with shutters pulled down; the other, a brick building that looked like it could have been someone’s home at one point. Apartment above, Mom and Pop shop below. My brain nervously created stories about everything I was seeing as I sat with the fact I was finally going to my first BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance and Submission) queer sex party and it was in NYC.

Don’t get me wrong — I had been to my fair share of BDSM spaces and events — but a play party in a secret location was definitely a first for me. It was a challenge for me as well. As an introvert who struggles with social anxiety (well, anxiety) and PTSD crowd triggers, I knew it would be a practice in listening to and holding boundaries on behalf of my body, which would be difficult and draining. But I also knew I wanted to experience this opportunity, and it would be worth it.

The space was — let’s say rustic. But it was perfect for the night I envisioned. I managed to decide on the color of bracelet I wanted to wear, which flagged that I was a submissive open to sexual play. I wandered to a room at the end of the hallway and sat at its edge, watching as queer folks shared their scene for observers. Out of the probably 25 people in the room, I noticed at least 8 people of color and began to relax. Someone approached me and we chatted. The person in the middle of the room announced that their play partner would like for other folks to come see their cervix. They evidently liked the attention.

“Have you ever seen a cervix before?”

Later, I found the bravery to leave my safe space in the corner and move into a more social group. They welcomed me even though I stayed quiet. People came and went, and eventually I started feeling a bit dejected. I had wanted to play with someone but hadn’t had any luck. So the cookie crumbles, I thought.

A hand falls on my thigh. I can feel the person before I hear them, I’m wearing sheer tights, so they are basically touching my skin.

“I’ve never been to something like this before.” The white-passing person laughed, and I could smell alcohol on their breath. I politely laughed, too, because for a moment I thought — perhaps I can play with this person. Then I felt anger crawl up the back of my neck, and my jaw tightened. I swallowed and could feel the muscles of my throat push the movement down. I stood up and left the room immediately, stating that I wanted a cigarette and I’d be right back. Instead, I left the establishment altogether, and my thoughts began to spiral.


My consent had been violated, and at first, I tried to rationalize it away. Many people can identify with the above scenario, but something BIPOC people uniquely experience is the survival mechanism of rationalizing consent violations in order to continue on with your day. Your month. Your year.

There are probably as many explanations of consent as there are people in this world. In my own words, consent can be defined as an informed, reversible, engaged and freely given affirmative. In the BDSM community, we talk about our definitions of consent, but we don’t often investigate is the connection between consent and oppression.

The cycle of oppression is a framework that describes how stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, oppression and internalized oppression are all connected and feed each other. Picture a circle with the word “stereotype” at the top with an arrow pointing to the word “prejudice,” and so on. Each word describes the access to power and its impact on others.

For example: perhaps someone is prejudiced against women, believes they are bad drivers and acts on this by insisting that women should not drive. Discrimination, on the other hand, might show up when that same person works at the DMV and then insists that anyone they perceive as a “woman driver” has to do the eye exam twice, while others are only asked to do it once. In the first example, this person acts interpersonally based on their prejudice. In the second, the person wields their access to power by putting a barrier in place.

The piece of this cycle that I want to highlight is that we live in oppression, a systemic abuse of power against a population of targeted peoples. Unfortunately, many people who live in an oppressive world have to actively unlearn all of the harmful stereotypes we’ve been taught through other people’s prejudices, our experiences of discrimination in our daily life and the weight of a system that works against us. It’s hard work to unlearn whiteness as a person of color, and many of us internalize this oppression and even begin to believe it’s true of ourselves.

You could say that BIPOC folks live in an abusive relationship with North America and its foundation of white colonialism. We are gaslit, manipulated and abused to the point where we begin to rationalize many of our experiences to survive another day at our nine to five. As someone with PTSD, this rationalization reminds me of denial — sometimes we don’t even notice what’s wrong, as we’ve been conditioned to accept this as normal.

Interpersonally, the cycle of oppression exists in the form of abuse. An abusive relationship can look like someone running to hide burnt toast outside in the garbage can so their partner doesn’t get up and berate them for burning it. This overvaluing of the partner’s comfort or preference results in the undervaluing of the other person’s emotional well-being. The resulting power shift can be seen in the actions of the first individual working to fit into the other’s expectations or to expect punishment.


The anger I felt crawling up my neck was my body’s signal that my consent was being violated. This white-passing person had come into a space where consent was sacred and had failed to understand the basic right of bodily autonomy and had leveraged their privilege in a way that led me to deny my own violated boundaries and rationalize their behavior. This was an infuriating infringement, since BDSM had been instrumental in subverting oppression for me in the past.

BDSM has taught me how creating a space of consent can become an act of self-love and radical resistance. When you navigate the world as a targeted individual, your consent is constantly being violated and is rarely, if ever, asked for. BDSM can offer a space where consent is centered and honored, an experience that many people of color are not given the opportunity to enjoy. And in BDSM, our desire is celebrated! As a queer, trans non-binary, brown, self-described spoonie, I remember the first time I was able to interact with my body in a space of consent and desire. It changed my life. It was something I had literally never experienced before.

After I left the sex party and made it home, I sat with my feelings and processed my frustration. Not all BDSM spaces are created equal — I had known that going in — but I had hoped that the queer-specific nature of the event would make it a space where I could enjoy a new BDSM experience, where I could reclaim my power and be reminded of why I had started examining BDSM as an oral historian.


I knew there was wisdom and magic in BDSM interactions and relationships, but eventually, I acknowledged that the experiences I wanted to help preserve weren’t just anyone’s in the BDSM community. I wanted to uplift the unique experience of QTBIPOC in BDSM spaces.

One of the narrators that I was lucky enough to interview for Qinky: An Oral History Exploration was Coyote Park (he/they), a 2Spirit (Korean, German, Yurok Native) artist from Honolulu, Hawai’i who currently lives in Tongva Territory (Los Angeles).

As we began to chat about BDSM, I asked, “I’m curious [about] how your racial identity and queer identity — how does that show up in a space? Or how does it make that space different?”

Here’s some of what Coyote shared:

“…I’ve had a lot of white people message me about wanting to tie me up or to do rope work together and I have very conflicting feelings on it. I think a lot too, about how a lot of white people kind of have the freedom to engage in kink and to engage in sex work without the same type of stigma. And also too, with a different amount of accessibility to it as well. I think there’s not a lot of people that know in the white community how to engage in the same level, like after care — to engage in the same level of trauma awareness. Like — there is still that in the white kink community! Don’t get me wrong. But I think there’s not the same understanding of racialized trauma.”

Having my consent violated at the party reminded me of how I can be undervalued by whiteness in any space. Without confronting the cycle of oppression, we reproduce trauma, even in spaces that try to focus on consent. We cannot enjoy empowerment through BDSM and kinky play in shared spaces unless white folks recognize this fundamental part of the cycle of oppression. By centering BIPOC agency and desire through consent- and desire-focused spaces like QTBIPOC-focused BDSM, we can disrupt the cycle of abuse interpersonally and systematically.

QTBIPOC communities have been forced to live with consent violations, violence and oppression in the good ol’ US of A for generations. Accessing our desires, centering and reclaiming the power of our joy and fun and imagination — radical consent can make that possible. To learn how to listen to our body’s desires as consent indicators, to lean into scenarios we never could access in our day-to-day lives and experience moments where we are valued as sacred is anti-oppressive magic. The reclamation of power is beautiful.

I’m not proposing that QTBIPOC can only access this unique state of being in BDSM spaces, but rather that BDSM and kinky play in QTBIPOC-focused spaces can allow us to engage our imaginations and desires as a conduit for empowerment. Each scene is a moment where we disrupt the oppressive cycle that keeps us from accessing full and radical consent. Experiencing this microcosm of subversion, we can re-imagine our joy, our power, our desire and ourselves.


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Noor نور

Noor is an Oral Historian and Storyteller based out of Seattle, WA on occupied Duwamish territory. You can follow them on IG, Twitter and Twitch @crybabyqt_ or visit the QTBIPOC BDSM archive at Qinky.

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1 Comment

  1. “something BIPOC people uniquely experience is the survival mechanism of rationalizing consent violations in order to continue on with your day.” Had to go back and read it twice–incredibly put.

    I hope your next BDSM experience leaves this one in the dust by miles. Thank you for the article.

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