In a post entitled Evidence that the BDSM community does not enable abuse, Clarisse Thorn posits that the existence of several different initiatives outlining the differences between BDSM and abuse indicates that we do not enable abuse.
While many such initiatives and lists demonstrating the difference between wiitwd and abuse certainly do exist within our “community” (and there are a number of others listed in the Links section on this blog), I have to conclude from my own experiences, observations, and the experiences and comments of many others that we may not actively condone abuse, but the very nature of BDSM relationships encourage it.
This is not a conclusion I have come easily to, but has become inescapable the more I talk to others about their experiences, the more I read on various social networks like Fetlife, and so on.
Unfortunately, the very nature of wiitwd, in this day and age, encourages and provides a haven for abusers.
No, it’s not officially sanctioned. No, properly done, BDSM by itself is *not* abusive.
However, the very structure of a power exchange-based relationship and SM play sets up a situation in which abusers do indeed thrive, hiding much of what they do behind that cloak of D/s or SM, TPE slavery, etc. It’s a perfect cover, for those who are inclined in an abusive direction. Continue reading
By Deborah Teramis Christian
A submissive explores the piquant terrain of the surrendering of power. It is not surprising that folks engaged in D/s often spend a fair amount of energy determining what are the appropriate bounds of submission and control to incorporate into their play. For those for whom this kind of power exchange is a lifestyle expression, the scope of dominance and submission excercised may be quite extensive.
Into this mix then often comes the tricky word of “slave” – a concept which never fails to muddy the water, especially in discussions on the internet or among kinksters with limited D/s experience. While some people insist that the word “slave”, like the word “submissive”, can mean to the individual anything they want it to mean, it is nevertheless a fact of the established and more experienced leather community that slavery in an M/s sense of the word has specific connotations, and that slavery differs from submission in significant ways. I want to explore those differences here and illustrate why I believe that a submissive and a slave are two entirely different creatures, as unlike as apples and oranges.
To start this conversation I will offer a definition of submissive and slave first put forth by Steven Davis on the old alt.sex.bondage newsgroup on Usenet in 1995, paraphrased here with permission. (Also, when speaking of D/s which is a gender-neutral endeavor, I tend to use the gender neutral pronouns of sie and hir in my discussion. I write for an audience that spans many orientations and I find it helps avoid the pattern of thinking of D/s as happening in any one set of gender configurations). That said:
A submissive renews the choice to submit every time a demand is levied upon hir. A slave makes a one-time choice to submit, up front, and thereafter it is incumbent upon hir to obey.
I am fond of this definition because it describes not only my personal experience of submission and slavery, but with some minimal qualification also applies to every submissive or slave relationship I have known of. To elaborate, then…. Continue reading
How do you tell the difference between BDSM and abuse? The line can admittedly be rather narrow and grey sometimes, especially when you get into the area of consensual nonconsent, but there are some real differences.
While there are many possible signs, consent is the primary dividing line – along with adherence to limits, and whether or not the whole experience overall, whether in a single scene or an entire relationship, leaves the sub feeling more built up or more torn down.
A good dominant (hell, any good partner) will always seek to ensure that not only is his partner/sub well taken care of overall, but will make sure that any tearing down he may do in scene is reversed and the issues raised dealt with sensitively until the sub is put back together again.
If the experience is more of being torn down and not put back together again, then it’s abuse.
“When the party involved… does not enjoy an activity, can see no benefit to the activity aside from the other party’s enjoyment/amusement/benefit and is in some way injured by the activity on more than simply a bruised basis (bruised ego, bruised skin). If an activity causes non consensual damage and is continued after the damaged party has requested it to stop, it is abuse. This point of view of abuse does not have to be shared by anyone BUT the victim party…”
I think this sums it up beautifully.
I’d emphasize that “injury” doesn’t necessarily have to involve visible bruises, especially for those of us who do not mark easily. Continue reading
Someone on Fetlife posted a link to an article entitled “Warning Signs That You’re Dating a Loser”, which is a great primer on abusive relationships. The name is unfortunate, but t’s an excellent overview of the problem of abusive partners, how to identify them, and how to get out.
I actually found the one that follows it entitled “Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser” even more revealing, at least at the stage that I’m at in understanding why I get involved with these abusers myself – and why I stay with them even once I realize what’s going on, or why anyone does, particularly those of us who are well-educated, experienced in life, professionally successful, and have good self-esteem overall. I’ve never heard this paradigm before, but it makes perfect sense. The basic idea is that the bond that happens between an abuser and his victim is much the same as what happens in hostage situations and the like, where the victim begins to identify with the abuser and even to defend him. Patty Hearst’s situation when she was kidnapped was the classic example of our times where a victim actually started to sympathize with and bond with her abuser. This was the case that brought the Stockholm Syndrome into common awareness. It’s a fascinating paradigm that also really explains why people who are stuck in more “run of the mill” abusive relationships stay, often no matter what. It’s the same thing.
This model also explains why the most typical responses of family and friends only seem to drive the abused person away and more firmly into the clutches of the abuser, and what the best (and safest) way to assist us is.
Someone said: “Weird thing is these guys show up usually during period when I am feeling bit more confident about myself, I am more active, less reclusive and soon as they enter my life begin tear all that a part [sic]”.
There’s something of that for me also, but not as much any more – at least not until the breakup happens and I’m torn apart. I’ve gotten a lot better at spotting them in advance and Continue reading
From Deborah Teramis Christian:
“Trust, safety and surrender are a triad that, in combination, can unlock the doors to deep submission and connectedness between D/s partners. Creating that environment takes some work, though.
Here is an online talk I gave on the subject, getting into some detail about how trust, safety and surrender interact, and how to foster them. This chat is left with some participant’s questions scattered throughout, because I think they brought up some good points. Names are replaced by initials to maintain anonymity.
I’m going to talk tonight about the triad of elements that I think best create a healthy foundation for effective power exchange: Trust, Safety, and Surrender. D/s is predicated on trust, unlike in vanilla relationships where we are often content to negotiate relationships that hedge on the factor of trust. You can’t do that in D/s and have a relationship that will endure. Trust is the cornerstone of what enables power exchange to happen (as I will be elaborating)
There is also a given here, a background assumption in what I’m going to be saying: namely, that communications skills exist and are being used, and that you and your partner both have a mutual dedication to creating a trusting and safe environment in which to do D/s. You cannot build trust one-sidedly. It takes two…just as it does to create safety. Continue reading
Why can’t I get rid of this lust? This need? This craving?
Despite abusive relationships and swearing I’ll never go near D/s or anything like it again on more than one occasion, I am still continually drawn back to… whatever it is about wiitwd that draws me and keeps me. I’ve been saying that I’m going to go back to vanilla, but the thought is like death. I’m afraid I’ll really be buried alive.
Reading Dreamwalker’s blog started reminding me of the kind of connection I’ve always sought, that I’ve missed so very much for so long, that showed in bits and pieces with R, but too quickly turned to dust because of… well, because. Because as amazing a lover as he was, and as “charming” as he seemed initially, he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) control himself in a way that kept me safe in any way. Mr. Hyde won out, once he surfaced, and I finally had to face that that was who R really is, not the wonderful guy I thought I’d found initially (at least when I was able to ignore the red flags)…
And that’s no way to have a life or a relationship. I can’t live walking on eggshells all the time. I’m starting to learn more about why I put up with his shit for so long, but I digress…
I no longer believe that D/s is a particularly healthy relationship paradigm, since it’s now clear to me that too many doms in particular use it as a cover for abuse – but I can’t get away from it completely either. Continue reading