Shock of Elaine O’Hara’s murder has left the fetish community living in fear
THE secretive ‘community’ who engage in BDSM and ‘kinky’ sex have remained silent, so far, on the horrific murder of Elaine O’Hara.
Last week, it was claimed that killer Graham Dwyer was planning to write a tell-all book from behind bars about Ireland’s BDSM scene. Here, writing anonymously, one insider explains how the Dwyer trial has forced them to take a hard look at themselves and increased fears about predators stalking their close-knit circle...
"Like the rest of the country, the Irish fetish community is relieved that the trial of Graham Dwyer is over and that he has been found guilty of his terrible crime.
We were shocked by the tragic, perverted and fatal sadomasochistic relationship between Dwyer and his innocent victim Elaine O’Hara.
However, unlike most people, some of our distress came from our familiarity with many aspects of the relationship, which mirrored, to a horrific degree, our own ‘alternative’ relationships. There is a sense that we kind of knew these people.
However, neither Elaine nor Dwyer were known on the Irish fetish scene. No-one can remember them coming to any kinky gatherings, but, Ireland being a small place and the fetish community being so close-knit, both were closer to us than the standard six degrees of separation.
For example, we did know some of those who had walk-on parts in the trial – guys whose numbers were found on Elaine’s phone and who gave evidence of meeting her.
While the overwhelming emotion was one of huge sympathy for Elaine and her family, it’s also the case that the fetish community is fearful of the spotlight being shone on our interests and activities.
There is a visceral and implacable fear and loathing of the media. With some justification. People’s private lives have been exposed, some have had to move out of the country. There are realistic concerns for people’s jobs, for unsavoury evidence being revealed in child custody cases and so forth.
As the evidence of the nature of the relationship between Dwyer and his victim came out we wanted to shout “no, we’re not like that”.
We are all too familiar with many of the items presented as evidence – the cuffs, the rope, the masks, the sex toys. Any ‘ordinary decent kinkster’ will have these and more in his or her bag of tricks.
We’re familiar with the ‘Master’ and ‘slave’ terminology and of the complex dynamics underlying them.
But it’s worth saying that the guiding principle of any such relationship (or one-off encounter) is ‘S.S.C.’ – Safe, Sane and Consensual.
It’s clear from what we know of Elaine and Dwyer that S.S.C. did not come into it.
We’re certainly familiar with the websites cited in court evidence – Alt.com, Collarme.com and FetLife.com.
Fetish websites are how we discover that there are other people like us out there.
It’s through Alt.com that Elaine met Dwyer.
FetLife, a kind of Facebook for kinksters, is our cyber meeting place, our notice board and information centre.
There are threads for advice for newcomers, notifications of public events, much banter, and, yes, personal adverts.
The main Irish group in FetLife has 3,500 members. Even allowing for a large number of lapsed memberships, it still suggests that there are well over 1,000 people in the scene in Ireland.
Since Dwyer was arrested, and throughout the trial, there has been no comment on FetLife. There has been responsible ‘moderation’ of the FetLife Ireland group, stemming not just from an awareness of the sub judice laws, but also out of respect for the process.
Now that the verdict is in, there’s an opportunity for Irish BDSM people to discuss this unwelcome incursion into a relatively private world.
There will be discussions on what to do about predators, on the dangers of extreme fantasies and on acting on them. Primarily, the reflection will be on personal safety.
In the wake of this gruesome murder it may seem paradoxical, but my advice for those with ‘deviant’ desires is to get involved in the Irish kink scene.
It’s an immensely safer option than secretive one-to-one meetings with a succession of strangers.
It takes a matter of minutes to join FetLife, to learn of the regular meetings in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.
These ‘munches’ – usually taking place in a pub – are opportunities to meet like-minded people in a non-judgemental atmosphere.
There is also Nimhneach, a publicly advertised fetish club in Dublin each month. There are regular workshops on bondage and other kink activities, with a heavy emphasis on safety.
As in other areas of society, the dangers come from the ‘lone wolfs’ on the margins.
There is safety in numbers, and the fetish community is, to some degree, self-policing, in that people who are in anyway unsafe are identified.
The impact of Fifty Shades Of Grey on sexual behaviour has yet to be seen but that so many people were engaged by the content of the novels speaks volumes.
The reality is that more and more people are checking out what can be fun, exciting and meaningful approaches to our sexual natures.
The tragedy of Elaine O’Hara will be felt by the Irish fetish community for a long time. That this murderous relationship took place within the framework of kink should give us pause for thought, not just around issues of safety.
The kink community needs to reflect on the dangers attached to secrecy. The reason I’m writing this anonymously is not solely out of concern for my sexual interests being known, but lest I be ostracised by my fellow kinksters for engaging with the press.
This is unhealthy. What’s required is a greater openness on the part of the fetish community and a corresponding reduction in the prurience of the media.
Paraphilia is a fact of life, a fact of many people’s sexual lives. Pretending otherwise is to push individuals to the margins and we now know that the margins can be very dangerous places indeed."