Leather and steel bondage cuffsThe legal situation of sadomasochistic activities
varies greatly between countries. In Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the
Scandinavian countries, consensual BDSM is legal.
In the UK, BDSM activities which cause injuries which are more than 'transient
or trifling' may be illegal (see Operation Spanner), but the few cases since the
original R v Brown 1990 ruling have been contradictory in their
judgments. A dining club involved in nyotaimori (that is it had
food served on otherwise naked women) in many restaurants in west London wound
itself up because it was thought to be illegal. The UK Government has announced
it plans to criminalize possession of "violent pornography", including faked
images and those involving consenting adults. BDSM groups such as The Spanner
Trust and Unfettered oppose the proposed law.
In other countries it is an example of a consensual crime.
At least in the western, industrialized countries and Japan, since the 1980s
sadomasochists have begun to form information exchange and support groups to
counter the discriminatory image held by orthodox science and parts of the
public. This has happened independently in the United States and in several
European countries. With the advent of the web, international cooperation has
started to develop — for example Datenschlag is a joint effort of sadomasochists
in the three major German-speaking countries, and the mailing list Schlagworte
uses the model of a news agency to connect six countries.