British Columbia

Vancouver 'kink' society locked in legal combat with exiled dungeon master

A non-profit society dedicated to Vancouver's kink community is preparing to do legal battle with a Burnaby dungeon master who claims he was unfairly and publicly accused of sexual abuse.

Anti-SLAPP argument highlights issues of public protection in wake of '50 Shades' interest in BDSM

A B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit claims that the success of the Fifty Shades series of books and films — a scene from which is shown here — has contributed to concern about consent and safety in the kink community. (Universal Pictures )

A non-profit society dedicated to Vancouver's kink community is locked in legal battle with a Burnaby dungeon master who claims he was unfairly and publicly accused of sexual abuse.

Seann Lyncaster — also known as Lord Braven — sued the directors of the Metro Vancouver Kink Society last year in the wake of an open letter and two town halls alleging wrongdoing at Braven Manor, his Burnaby home.

The case highlights contentious issues within the kink community — which the court documents say has expanded rapidly with the success of the erotic 50 Shades novels.

In New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court Thursday, the kink society will cite B.C.'s new anti-SLAPP legislation to argue that Lyncaster's suit should be dismissed. That's SLAPP as in "strategic lawsuit against public participation."

"Kink communities around the world have been wrestling with how to manage issues of consent and sexual assault," the kink society argues.

"[Lyncaster] has created a chill around such public discussions through his use of litigation and his threats to out members of the community through that process."

'Open letter to Lord Braven'

According to the initial notice of civil claim, Lyncaster has been an active member of the bondage, discipline, submission and masochism (BDSM) community for many years.

He hosts "events" in the home where he lives, which a YouTube video shows to be equipped with themed rooms, a fully equipped dungeon, and "naughty rooms." 

A promotional video for Braven Manor boasts a 'fully equipped dungeon.' Seann Lyncaster claims attendance at the manor has dropped as a result of allegations made by the kink society. (YouTube)

Until recently, Lyncaster was also head of the Vancouver chapter of "Master And slaves Together."

In 2016, someone posted allegations about Lyncaster on the online forum FetLife.

The next summer, Lyncaster claims the president of the kink society posted an "open letter to Lord Braven," terminating the society's relationship with the dungeon master.

The letter accused him of outing "a former partner as kinky to her family," inviting a "minor into [his] home for a BDSM-related discussion," and claimed that "inexperienced young women" were "being abused at the parties by both [Lyncaster] and other attendees."

Lyncaster claims he was also the subject of two town hall meetings at which similar statements were made.

He says the kink society complained to "Master And slaves Together," resulting in the end of Lyncaster's tenure as that group's Vancouver chapter leader.

Lyncaster claims he has been publicly shunned and bookings at Braven Manor have plummeted.

He also writes that he is pursuing the claim "in an attempt to salvage his reputation within the kink community, which is a significant part of his social circle."

'A libel suit with very distasteful aspects'

Metro Vancouver Kink Society claims that part of its mission — beyond education and awareness — is to protect the "physical and psychological well-being of the kink community."

"Traditionally, the kink community was relatively small and the community was able to use self-policing methods to attempt to regulate safety," the society argues in an application to dismiss Lyncaster's claim.

But all that changed with the success of the 50 Shades novels.

The 50 Shades trilogy sold tens of millions of copies. It also sparked a series of movies and now appears to have contributed to a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit. (Vintage Books/Associated Press)

"There was a rapid growth in the Vancouver kink community," the society claims.

"One of the effects of this growth was that traditional means of self-policing within the kink community were no longer an effective means of regulating safety."

The society claims its members also had to be responsive to concerns about sexual assault and consent raised by "the #metoo movement." They claim to have acted in a leadership role with regards to Lord Braven.

The court documents claim at least 100 people attended each of the town halls. Lyncaster allegedly came to one with his "slave."

The society claims the open letter was published to be transparent and because the concerns about Lyncaster's behaviour were "serious enough that they could not in good conscience keep them secret."

They also claim that Lyncaster emailed a number of people in the Vancouver kink community prior to filing a public lawsuit.

"Each and every board member will be a co-defendant in this libel suit. What will be the ramifications for their kids, family, friends and careers," he allegedly wrote.

"Do they realize that for the rest of their lives a Google search will show that they were defendants in a libel suit with very distasteful aspects?"

A matter of public interest?

The B.C. Legislature unanimously passed anti-SLAPP legislation in March — ostensibly as a means to prevent people and companies with deep pockets from targeting critics who speak out on matters of public interest.

The society has applied to dismiss Lyncaster's suit under the provisions of the legislation, arguing the open letter and town hall statements were "part of a good-faith attempt ... to address community concerns."

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said that anti-SLAPP legislation would ensure the protection of free public debate. It is now being cited by the Metro Vancouver Kink Society in a defamation battle. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"The members of the board are afraid to continue their work with respect to education and community regulation about consent and other conduct affecting safety," the application reads.

The society says Lyncaster has brought claims against 15 named individuals to date. A fundraising website has been set up to offset legal costs.

But Lyncaster — who is bankrupt — says he's not the kind of rich plaintiff the NDP government had in mind when it introduced anti-SLAPP legislation.

He argues the law shouldn't give the kink society protection for making defamatory comments on what he says is not a matter of public interest — notwithstanding "mere curiosity or prurient interest."

"The communications relate to alleged incidents which took place in the plaintiff's own home at privately held events," Lyncaster claims.

"The subject of the communications has not attracted significant notoriety or controversy."

Both the lawyers for Lyncaster and the Metro Vancouver Kink Society declined comment. 

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.