What can the BDSM community teach us about bystander intervention: A qualitative analysis of dungeon monitor decision-making


The BDSM community (bondage and discipline (BD), dominance and submission (DS), and sadism and masochism (SM)) endorses consent as a key component of any interaction. This community attempts to limit consent violations and enhance safety by utilizing dungeon monitors (DMs), individuals who watch over activities in semi-public BDSM venues. While the academic literature mentions DMs a handful of times, little research examines how DMs think about and engage in their work. This research explores how DMs view their role plus the factors of the socio-ecological model (SEM) (Bronfenbrenner, 1977; Stokols, 1996) shaping DM decision-making across Latane and Darley’s (1970) situational model of bystander intervention (BI). This study utilized thematic analysis of 22 semi-structured interviews with DMs in the United States. DMs view their role as monitoring activity, facilitating experiences, and accepting a responsibility to the community. The DM process involves two steps not in the situational model: active monitoring and pre-scene guidance. Monitoring includes maintaining awareness of what is happening in the dungeon. Also, DMs guide scenes to appropriate locations and ensure play is unlikely to violate club rules. DM decision-making is influenced by factors on all levels of the SEM, including player status and management support. Findings have implications for sexual assault BI training programs, clinical practice, and the BDSM community. Bystander intervention deviates from the situational model in different contexts. Dungeons may provide enhanced safety for clients interested in exploring BDSM. This research points to ways the BDSM community can support DMs plus ways the community may benefit from exploring interpersonal and community factors influencing monitoring and intervention.

Academic Presentations

Haymond. A. (2022, August 4). Hall Monitors and Ambassadors to Ecstasy: How Dungeon Monitors View Their Role in Semi-public BDSM Venues [Virtual Presentation]. SSSS BDSM/Kink Special Interest Group.

Haymond, A. (2022, July 6-9). Every Move You Make, I’ll Be Watching You:  How Dungeon Monitors Move through the Situational Model of Bystander Intervention [Poster presentation]. IASR 2022 Annual Meeting, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Haymond, A. (2021, November 18–21). BDSM and Bystander Intervention: Dungeon Monitor Decision-making [Conference presentation]. SSSS 2021 Convention, San Juan, PR, United States.

Wright, S. & Haymond, A. (2017, June 8-12). BDSM and Intimate Partner Violence Training [Conference presentation]. AASECT Convention, San Juan, PR, United States.


Professional Affiliations


American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality