[originally from November 24th, 2014]
OK, so there is this ethical problem with publicly engaging in D/s activities. The official position held by most is that it is unacceptable since it violates the requirement of explicit consent from everyone involved by exposing bystanders to the activity. And it actually makes sense to consider the bystanders to be a part of the scene: I imagine that for many activities like, I don’t know, walking your partner on a leash the experience may drastically differ between doing that privately and in public. Thus, the very fact that the activity was observed by the bystanders, and the knowledge of that by the parties directly involved changes their perception of the activity. That does sound like involvement, so it has to be consensual.
Buuuut… The same can be said about publicly kissing and otherwise expressing love, can’t it? It is also indirectly linked to sexual activities, and in many cases people have specifically reported the satisfaction from knowing how everyone around can see that the love each other. It’s not even that walking on a leash is done for sexual satisfaction, while kissing isn’t – many will get aroused from the latter, whereas the former is not necessarily done as a sexual thing per se, especially among the people in lifestyle D/s relationships. We simply rather arbitrarily defined acceptable and unacceptable forms of exposing the public to the fact that two people are attracted to each other. I imagine that if somehow third wave feminism happened before the sexual revolution, then one of the criticisms of public kissing, among its being disgusting decadent abomination, would be the idea that it engages random bystanders without without their consent. We just defined kissing an a non-sexual act before that happened.
How do we define then what activities are sexual and engaging enough to require consent from everyone who even just observes it, and what are not? Also, for specific activities, what is the acceptable degree of involving public in it? Requiring consent only from parties physically involved won’t really work unless we want to legalize public sex, masturbation, and flashing (the latter gets particularly odd in the jurisdictions that allow public nudity). The status quo doesn’t appear to be exceptionally consistent either.