Brent sexually abused me over the course of our year-and-a-half-long relationship. At the start of our relationship Brent was 39 and I was 19 (I’ve had healthy age-gap relationships, but in retrospect I think this was an unhealthy one); I was coming out of an intimate relationship with someone who believed all BDSM is abuse, and my attraction to Brent was in part a rebound from that; I was also dealing with an anonymous party sending Berkeley SVU to my house with false reports that I was being abused. I had a desperate need to be taken seriously as an equal, adult partner, and I think Brent took advantage of that need and of my age-based inexperience to abuse me.
Brent pressured me into BDSM scenes with gear I hated, pain and discomfort well past my tolerance, insufficient safety protocols, and sometimes drug use. There were dozens of times that he verbally pressured me into an intimate situation I wasn’t comfortable with, saying that if I loved him or cared about him I’d do it. There were fewer times, but probably still dozens, that he didn’t ensure I had a safeword when going into a really heavy scene, or disrespected my safeword when I gave it. Safewording was never safe. It routinely led to him complaining, afterwards, about the fact that I’d ended the scene, and was occasionally completely disregarded.
Throughout the relationship he talked about how his ex had submitted much more completely and usefully than me, and how it would be great if I didn’t believe I had the option of escape, if I didn’t have a safeword or social support network. Once, in response to this and wanting to make him feel better, I proposed a scene where my safeword was irrelevant. He put me in full bondage — ballet boots, a corset, a posture collar, an armbinder, and a breath-restricting gag — and left me like that for hours. Several times over the course of the scene I tried to safeword, he or my then-husband noticed the attempt, and it was ignored. I eventually escaped when our roommate got home; I cornered them in the bathroom and nonverbally begged them to take me out of the bondage. I feel that this was negligent and abusive of Brent; I think it was significantly due to his influence that I suggested the scene, and I think a reasonable version of Brent wouldn’t have gone through with it.
We had a good time on the second-to-last day of Burning Man 2015, and I was on MDMA at the time, so two weeks later he had me come to Folsom Street Fair with him, in bondage and on MDMA, in the hopes that the MDMA would be a general-purpose “make Elizabeth okay with things” drug [sic, name use is intentional]. It wasn’t. I had a terrible time, got stuck in the ballet boots, it took a long time to get me out because the laces got stuck, and he scolded me for crying because I was making him look bad.
Brent wrote and had me sign several slave contracts which an experienced kinkster friend of ours objected to as too extreme and not in my interests. They involved obeying Brent totally and in every particular, even to the point of injury, and one involved large monetary penalties if I backed out. I think this was abusive of him.
Brent had a habit of responding to me saying I wanted to break up, or that I didn’t want to do a scene, with something like “If you deprive me of this thing I want, you’re doing violence to me; please just punch me in the face so it can be universally recognised as violence.” Refusing to punch him and sticking to my guns re. my preferences would go nowhere, and often he’d self-injure to get me to agree to do what he wanted. Once, we had a fight which made me so angry I felt I was a safety risk to him. I went on a walk, and when I got back, he was loudly telling someone that my leaving the argument had been a performance to get what I wanted. I went into his room and yelled at him about that, which I think was a mistake on my part. The argument escalated really fast, until he was banging his head on the windowsill. Our landlord had complained before about us making too much noise in that room in the evenings; in the moment, I decided that the best way to get him to stop really fast was to punch him in the face (and that this was okay because he had a history of hurting me with dubious consent / he’d been giving dubious consent for months with the “hit me” comments). Immediately after it was obvious to me that I’d been wrong and used terrible judgement, and I decided I needed to get therapy, to avoid ever doing that again. Brent pushed back against that idea. He told me that previous partners had been manipulated, by their therapists, into thinking that he was abusive, and that he interpreted me seeking therapy as me losing trust in him. I think this is pretty good evidence that he has historically been abusive in his intimate relationships.
The event that caused me to leave was sitting in the attic with Brent, trying to break up with him. Brent told me I owed him for his losses over the course of the relationship. He said I owed him: receiving a punch in the eye, because of the single previously-described event where I had punched him; a new car, because I’d been in a collision in his car; and a long span of days where I gave him focused intimate attention, because I’d broken several contracts promising as much. I agreed, because I actually agreed about the car and receiving a punch didn’t seem like a big deal to me and I felt guilty about not attending to him more. Several minutes later I realised I couldn’t actually follow through on the focused intimate attention, and I told him so. He told me I now also owed him “losing all my friends and loved ones”, and “finding out that something I’d being relying on wouldn’t happen”. I objected, left the attic, wrote up the event, and showed it to a friend. They were appalled — they hadn’t known that Brent was repeatedly encouraging me to promise things I couldn’t follow up on which then left me deeper in Brent’s debt. Brent basically said that he’d been being metaphorical, and if I loved him I’d have tried to see what he was really saying. Following that, I stayed at a friend’s house for a week, and didn’t get back with Brent when I returned.
My basic feeling is that I’m not sure how harmful Brent is to the general population, but I know he’s enormously harmful to teen and early-twenties girls and women he finds attractive. He encourages them into relationships with him by showing his best face, then abuses them quite painfully. I know of this having happened to at least two other people. By his own account he’s been kicked out of at least one other BDSM community, and I think it’s reasonable to assume it was for similar behavior.
As a result of the things he did to me, there’s large swathes of BDSM I’m no longer comfortable with, and I have a scattering of other more mundane triggers; tying my shoes too tight, going up on my tiptoes, men who look like Brent, having my breathing restricted, etc. I think girls and women who date him will often leave the relationship with damage like this. He’s up-front about a little of this, but not enough for his partners to give meaningful consent, only enough that they feel, during the relationship, that they knew what they were getting into so it would be unfair to leave. He also claims that he’s teaching his partners coping skills and improving them as people. I was not meaningfully improved by my relationship with Brent, and I don’t know that his other partners would say they were, either.
None of my relationships before or after Brent involved this magnitude of abuse and misery. Brent had relationships before me, and I believe will go on to have more relationships, involving this magnitude of abuse and misery. So I think Brent’s options should be limited, somehow, and he should face consequences.