Educating Police Officers about BDSM

As BDSM, short for bondage, domination, and sadomasochism, becomes more popular, it is important to teach police officers about the topic.  If they confront it in the field without the proper knowledge, it is easy to confuse safe and consensual play with criminal acts like domestic abuse, sexual abuse, kidnapping, or assault (The Spanner Trust, 2015) (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, 2015).  Police officers should be taught that, when done correctly, BDSM includes pre-planning, safe words, safety precautions, and enthusiastic consent from all involved parties.

When starting the training, it is important to assess the views of BDSM that the officers hold in order to more easily form the class according to the pre-existing biases.  What are their opinions on BDSM in general?  How do they feel about having to take a class about it?  The teacher might be facing stubborn students that think that BDSM is nothing but a form of domestic violence and feel that it is a waste of their time to take a class on the subject.  On the contrary, there might be students that have encountered BDSM in their lives and are open to learning more about the topic and how it relates to their job.  This is why performing some sort of assessment in the beginning is so important.  It is also important to keep in mind the work environments of the police officers (Silberman, 2006).  Some of the officers might deal with domestic violence calls weekly, so it might be hard for them to understand how slaps to the face could ever be considered consensual.  Because of situations like this, assessment either before the class or at the very beginning of the class will help form the content of the lesson (Silberman, 2006).

Police officers might learn better if they hear about BDSM from someone in that community.  A guest speaker can help put a face to the abstract thought of BDSM and would help clear up any confusion that the officers might have (Gilbert, et. al., 2015).  First, the educator would prompt the class before the speaker comes in.  Remind them to be polite and respectful because this person is donating their time and opening up about a personal part of his or her life.  The speaker will then come in and speak about his or her experience in the community, as well as answer any questions that the officers might have.  Once the speaker has left, the class can then share their feelings about hearing about the speaker’s experiences.  The officers and the educator can discuss what the speaker clarified, and if the officers’ views of BDSM might be changed.

Adult learners like lessons that they can apply immediately to their own lives (Gilbert et. al., 2015). They also use their own experiences to shape how they absorb information (Gilbert et. al., 2015).  For example, form the lesson using real-life examples that could apply to their everyday work lives.  Explain how they can assess certain examples to tell if it is a simple case of two consenting partners, or a possibly criminal situation that they need to investigate.  First, give one or two examples that the educator works through with the class.  Then, the educator can give more examples that the officers work through themselves.  Vary the examples between ones that involve BDSM and ones that involve criminal activity so that the officers can learn the difference between the two.  That way, they will be more prepared to assess real-life situations in the field.

The police officers might learn well if role-play was used with an example or two.  Role-plays allow the students to work out these complex situations through communication and experimentation (Gilbert, et. al., 2015).  While training for the police force, the officers went through vocational simulation training that prepared them for work in the field (Sjöberg, 2014).  Role-play mimics that vocational simulation training that the officers are used to. The officers would act out the scene until the officer has come to a conclusion as to how to react to the situation.  The class would then discuss what he or she did right, and what actions could be improved upon in order for the whole class to learn from the scenario.

Learning about BDSM can help police officers understand complex situations in the field.  Using the right education techniques, such as assessing the class, bringing in a guest speaker, and role-playing scenarios, can help the officers learn how to understand if a call is a criminal act, or if it is simply the safe play of consensual adults.

 

References

Gilbert, G. G., Sawyer, R. G., & McNeill, E. B. (2015). Health education: Creating strategies for school and community health. (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. (2015). Consent and bdsm: The state of the law. Retrieved from https://ncsfreedom.org/key-programs/consent-counts/consent-counts/item/580-consent-and-bdsm-the-state-of-the-law.html

Silberman, M. (2006). Active training: A handbook of techniques, designs, case examples, and tips. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Sjöberg, D. (2014). Why don’t they catch the baby? A study of a simulation of a critical incident in police education. Journal Of Vocational Education & Training66(2), 212-231. doi:10.1080/13636820.2014.896405

The Spanner Trust. (March 2015). The history of the Spanner case. Retrieved from http://www.spannertrust.org/documents/spannerhistory.asp

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3 responses to “Educating Police Officers about BDSM

  1. This is an excellent and informative post! Police officers are definitely a demographic that should know more about the topic of BDSM and should have practice differentiating between consensual sexual behavior and abuse. Assessing attitudes beforehand, and giving the officers space to process their beliefs and biases is integral to this process and I am glad that you gave this proper attention. Guest speakers and role plays are also fantastic techniques that can personalize the situations and prepare officers for what they may experience on the job. Perhaps familiarizing police with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), which you cited in your references, would be beneficial for officers, as this is one of the most widespread resources that kinky folks turn to when faced with police or legal action having to do with their BDSM sexuality.

  2. This is a really interesting article. I spend a lot of time thinking about consent, and I’m sure a lot of other people, especially sexuality professionals, spend a decent amount of time thinking about it, too. I think sexuality scholars like myself spend so much time thinking about it that some concepts, like BDSM being a totally acceptable expression of desire and exploration, begin to feel like common sense. This article makes me think about how consent and BDSM scenes can look to other types of professionals. I’m sure many police officers are well-intentioned and feel as though they are saving/helping someone in need when they arrive to BDSM calls. But by educating them about the lifestyle, and by urging them to think and assess the situation first, a lot of people could really benefit.

  3. Here is a subject I had never thought about but I can see why it is important to discuss. Of course police officers could confuse BDSM with domestic violence! That makes perfect sense.

    What I wonder though is at what point would the officers take part in these trainings, would it be part of their initial trainings or something supplementary? I also wonder how these trainings or workshops would be marketed. Also, how would they be funded.

    My next question is, how common is it for police officers to confuse BDSM with domestic violence. Is it seen enough that specialized officers need to be trained? I recently attended a suicide prevention training and they talked about specialized cops who trained to responded to someone who is having a psychotic episode or who is attempting suicide. Those specialized cops were a response to issues that were being reported a lot. Even then, very few cops have this training.

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