The Problem with Abusive Relationships Masquerading as Kink

Some members of the LGBTQA+ community would say that you’ve had to be hiding under a rock during the past year to not know or even hear of the very highly publicized and tragic death of Australian-born Seattle resident Jack Chapman. Chapman, also known as “Pup Tank”, a member of the Seattle Dom/sub pup play community, was sexually and romantically linked to Dylan Hafertepen, or “Master Dylan.” A well-known member of the west coast Dom/sub pup play community, Hafertepen is primarily known by many of his social media followers as “Noodles and Beef”.

In October of 2018 28-year-old Chapman was admitted into the hospital in Seattle and pronounced dead on October 15th due to a “previously undiagnosed lung ailment.” It was later revealed via information obtained from his death certificate that the cause of death was “silicone embolism syndrome”, which was directly linked to silicone injections that he received in his scrotum as part of a scrotum enlargement procedure that Hafertepen has reportedly required of all of his pups/submissives as part of his extreme body modification fetish.

In addition to scrotum enlargement, Hafertepen has also been reported to have coerced his submissives into body building, in order to achieve nearly, if not entirely, the same “muscle bear/bodybuilder” physique as he and the rest of his bulky family.

Despite being the most highly publicized incident of its type, this isn’t the first time that an incident involving people in unconventional relationship models have seemed to spark controversy in the bear world. Earlier the same year, a popular polyamorous bear cub with a large number of social media followers was called out for nearly driving one of his many partners, a 19-year-old chub from Central Florida, to commit suicide.

In a long post allegedly detailing his many abusive and problematic behaviors, one Tumblr user wrote, “His type is (sic) young, impressionable, fresh out of high school boys or chubby dudes with no self-esteem. He hits them up, says all the right things, and gets them to devote pretty much their entire beings (sic) to him. He makes them dependent on him and then dumps them as soon as he gets bored.” The user goes on to refer to him as “The Trump of Central Florida.”

Though these are two different types of relationships, the two incidents have sparked significant debate within the bear and leather/kink communities regarding the seemingly thin line between consent and mental/emotional/physical abuse in Dom/sub (D/s) and Master/slave (M/s) relationships, or any unconventional relationship that is centered around a specific power dynamic.

Despite the recent negative attention given to these unconventional relationships, it is important to understand that healthy, consensual Dom/sub relationships are possible. Consent and negotiation are key to making them work.

In a Tumblr post from April of 2015, Tank described how “gleeful” he was to accept his Master as his “absolute authority” and “the final word on all matters.” There were even snippets of the pair’s contract posted via Tumblr, with many calling out its ostensibly problematic and abusive guidelines. A truly ethical D/s relationship is built on mutual respect between partners, and a willingness to consent. Doms and subs usually negotiate a contract, with the Dom keeping in mind the sub’s limits and boundaries. The Dom is treated as the “absolute authority” in certain situations, “scenes”, or for certain periods of time, but in reality, the Dom is only given this authority if the sub is willing to submit. This willingness to submit can only be built through trust.

Aside from the questionable guidelines of the “Noodles and Beef” contract, there also seemed to be deeper personal issues that also played a role in creating the problematic structure of this relationship. It was very clear to the thousands of followers who watched the drama unfold on social media that Dylan Hafertepen was, without question, uncomfortably controlling. Many also questioned Tank’s mental and emotional state, as well as his ability to truthfully consent to some of the seemingly asinine demands of his Master. Tank seemed to be struggling with some very severe low self-esteem and self-worth issues, and it appeared that he would publicly shame himself any time he disappointed his Master.

One of the most heavily circulated Tumblr posts since Tank’s death has been one in which he posted a photo of himself with tears streaming down his face and a caption that read, “I am shit. I am a shit person. I do horrible and inexcusable things. I am dishonest. I am deceitful. I am a coward. I am stupid. I hurt my Master. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve forgiveness. I only deserve to suffer.” It was later revealed that Tank’s only offense before writing this post was having a dip in the hot tub with a mutual friend of theirs without gaining Master Dylan’s explicit consent.

The offense may seem minor, but in a situation where the dominant partner feeds off of the low self-esteem and insecurity of the submissive partner, minor offenses are used as an invitation to further erode the submissive partner’s sense of self-worth, thus allowing the dominant partner the opportunity to assert their unreasonable authority. This can render the submissive partner dependent on them emotionally, mentally, financially, or even physically.

A healthy D/s relationship makes both parties feel good. Likewise, a sub who is being respected and getting what he/she/they need out of the relationship can begin to experience an increase in their self-esteem and self-worth. If a sub is being torn apart emotionally, mentally and/or physically by a controlling partner, then this is not a healthy D/s relationship. It is abuse.

Reading through the many online debates about this subject, there appear to be various points of view about where the line should be drawn in D/s relationships. The fact of the matter is that no D/s relationship will be identical to the other. People have different boundaries and needs, so each relationship is modeled according to the needs of those involved. The one thing to remember is that true submission is always about consent, and there is no true consent in emotional or mental manipulation.


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Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.

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