BDSM and the Law

This is not an easy job. Not just because of everything you have to learn or acquire or manage, but because of the mores of the society in which we live and how they have affected the creation of laws and the enforcement of those laws. It’s a consideration that those of us on the providing end think about regularly — if not daily.

Offering BDSM/kink professionally involves navigating some choppy waters. While many of us have been doing what we do without incident for years — if not decades — there have been some arrests, prosecutions, and lawsuits relating to the practice of BDSM. This can create what is called “precedent”, or a court decision used as an example or authority to help resolve subsequent cases which are similar in nature. Though rulings in our favor can offer potential help, they can only help if they’re out there. And I don’t think there’s a lot of precedent out there.

While we tend to live in what one kink-friendly attorney called, “a culture of tolerance”, which means that while some things may technically not be deemed “permissible”, the laws around them are not really enforced. As a result, the unpredictability of this, mixed with a lack of precedent, means these waters are uncharted. So, if you want to explore these waters, it behooves you to understand what you might find in them.

People may not be aware of this but offering BDSM professionally is actually illegal in some places. New Jersey is one of them*. This means that someone could conceivably be arrested for offering to tie you down and spank you for payment. (Wild, huh?) It means that advertising yourself as offering or looking for pro play would be a violation of the law.

In other places professional BDSM itself isn’t illegal but certain activities might be. Do you have a fetish for strap-on play (aka “pegging”) or forced “cock” sucking? Or do you have a fantasy of being Dominated by more than one person or being in a “forced bi” scene? That’s hot and all, but in some jurisdictions those things could be construed as “prostitution” or “pimping”, respectively.

“Is this truly risky?”, you may ask. This is the nature of uncharted waters. We don’t always know the level of risk we’re taking. It’s dependent on various factors — some which we have control over and some that we don’t.

This is one reason why you may see differences in how Dommes advertise themselves. Some don’t advertise at all or don’t talk about what they do or don’t discuss payment. This can be because it’s beyond Her comfort zone to be so open, whether it’s for privacy reasons or legal ones.

If you’re thinking, “If this is true, then why have I seen Dommes offer all these things?” Sometimes it’s because the Domme honestly doesn’t care and is willing to assume the risk, in other cases She doesn’t know the law and the risk She’s taking.

Whatever the reason for the Domme, it’s in your best interest to learn the law in the area in which you play. This does not mean you have to give up on your kinky dreams. It just means you should be wise and pursue your passions carefully.

So, before sending a message to a Domme and asking, “Can you fuck me in the ass?” or “Can you pimp me out to your other clients?”, know that it may be met with silence and ruin your chances of sessioning with Her. You may need to prove yourself trustworthy before some of these things are discussed — if they ever will be at all.

*In statute 34:1, it defines “prostitution” as including “sadistic or masochistic abuse and other deviate sexual relations.”

The others states in which their prostitution statutes specifically includes sadomasochistic abuse or some variant as a “sexual act” or “sexual contact”:


States in which toilet play (urine and/or feces) is included in the statute about prostitution:

New Hampshire
North Carolina
North Dakota

States in which the definition of “touching genitals” and/or “masturbation” could include CBT:

Rhode Island
South Dakota

States in which there are extremely broad definitions which include anything designed for “sexual gratification” or that which is “lewd” and “lascivious”:


State in which a live BDSM show is considered illegal due to “indecency”:


State in which “basic dominance and submission” are specifically EXCLUDED from the prostitution statute:

New York

This is not a complete list of all statues and it doesn’t qualify as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney.

(Credit to attorney Steven Sandler for the source I’m citing.)

If you want to better understand the law, I recommend starting at the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s (NCSF) write up. You can also check their legal resources tag.

If you’re outside the US, you can start on the BDSM and the law Wiki page which mentions the law in other countries. (You probably want to verify the sources, though.)

After that, I advise you to contact an attorney in your area. The type of attorney who is most-likely to be able to answer questions about this are criminal defense attorneys.

NCSF’s website also has a searchable database of kink-aware professionals, which includes lawyers. (Be sure you select at least a country or you will get zero results.) Please note that not every kink-aware professional in listed in this directory; only those who have submitted a request to be listed.

Interview about SESTA with Swedish Radio

I was interviewed by Olivia Wikström from Swedish Radio about SESTA.

The clip is here: Mistress Tissa on Swedish Radio

Here’s the translation of the text on the site (not the full transcript):

The new US law SESTA punishes sites if someone is exposed to trafficking there. But many sex workers believe the law will fail.

SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, is a new law in the United States that wants to deal with online trafficking by making the sites themselves responsible for their presence. So now people behind sites can be punished with large fines or imprisonment if it is discovered.

This raises concern with sex workers, partly because it can limit what we can say about sex online, because no one will dare let it be there. In part, they mean that the law forces an exposed group in an even more vulnerable situation.

Removing these platforms will increase the proportion of people taking risky decisions about their jobs.

Mistress Tissa, dominatrix

With the help of the network, those who work with sex and eroticism can volunteer do more research on their clients and not expose themselves to the same risk as walking the streets.”



Mistress Tissa in Playboy article about FOSTA/SESTA

I’m included in an article about FOSTA/SESTA written by Graeme McMillan for Playboy.

You can read it here: The President’s War on Online Sex Work

Interview with Coalition Radio

On Friday the 16th, I was interviewed by Pat of Coalition Radio. In the interview, I discuss the SESTA bill. I touch on various related issues, but focus on what I believe are the psychosocial origins of the legislation.

You can listen here:

(This is an hour-long interview. Those who have attention issues [raises hand] may find it more palatable to listen to it in smaller chunks.)