Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Melanie Hildebrandt, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alex Heckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kay Snyder, Ph.D.


Practitioners of BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism) sexuality utilize a model of explicit sexual consent including pre-event discussion and "safe words". This research project attempts to map that model of BDSM consent to reveal the social connections that support the creation and use of such a model. Analysis is offered from a Bourdieusian perspective, suggesting that symbolic meanings associated with sexuality and sexual consent are redefined by group consensus in a form of resistance against normalized symbolic meanings associated with gendered hegemonic hierarchy and oppression. It is argued that BDSM symbolism reflects and exposes hidden and normalized symbolic meanings of everyday life that support gendered oppressions. Explicit consent is not utilized due to the content of BDSM sexuality, but due to the content of sexuality in general. Participants were emphatically egalitarian; ethics, not danger, formed the base of their interest in sexual consent.