Is BDSM violence?

My community has non-violence as a core ideal.  This seems like an easy one to agree on.  But i remember finding myself uncomfortable when i was giving a tour to a group of Richmond vegans, who asked about how we killed the cows we eat.  ”With a shotgun” i replied.  ”hardly seems non-violent” one pointed out to me.

The current debate about non-violence is around BDSM.  Specifically, should the community conduct BDSM workshops at our annual Women’s Gathering.  This is not an issue about feminism as it is sometimes framed.  Twin Oaks does not have an agreement about being a feminist community, tho we often talk about our feminist principals in our presentations and our propaganda.  There is no generally agreed definition of feminism (i have always liked the idea that feminism was the practice of the philosophy of anarchism – but this will upset some folx).  But even if there were an agreed definition of feminism, Twin Oaks did not subscribe to this belief set at our inception and we do not embrace new philosophies easily now.  We are an “embrace diversity” community, which often means there is no consensus.

Many members argue compellingly that if there is consent in rough sex play, then it is not violent.  And one might think that this would be a away out of this bind, but our community history gets in our way.
Some years back, well before i joined in 1998, the community hosted a couple or refugees from Latin America.  They used to occasionally physically fight.  When confronted about this by concerned members of the community they both said “oh this is how we resolve our problems, it is consensual, so it is not violence.”  The community wrestled with this rationale.  And ultimately, we could not deal and asked them to move on.
I support consenting adults being able to do what ever they like.  I dont want my community policing what people do in their bedrooms.  And i dont want to pretend that this is an easy issue.  Perhaps a good definition of violence will get us there.  You got one ?

The picture i wanted was censored by Photo Bucket