Abuse, Intimacy, and BDSM

I've been reading the genius S&M feminist writer Clarisse Thorn once again. Her post, "S&M Aftercare... or Brainwashing?" was, as always for Clarisse, a gem. She is such a great writer and does a great job with tough topics like BDSM and abuse, rape, and nonconsent.

This post was all about the similarities between BDSM and abuse and how to tell the difference. There are many articles about this on the web, and it's a popular topic for bloggers. I'm proud of the BDSM community for working so hard to make clear boundaries of what is and is not abuse to keep its members safer.

Clarisse Thorn bravely points out that having an orgasm or enjoying a sexual act does not mean you gave your consent. She quotes one of her readers:

And part of that mechanism, that involves the desire for the abuse to continue, is that many of us are designed to want more intimacy once intimacy has been initiated with a person. Many of us don’t want to be left.
This is terrifying and real for those of us who have been abused. You hate it, but you want more of it. You hate it, but you enjoy it. You hate it, but you are aroused by it. You hate it, but you have an orgasm from it. You hate it, but you feel loved and desired anyway.

The above quote can help us let go of some of our guilt. How can we want it and not want it at the same time? Well... we just can.

Studies have shown that those who practice BDSM are no more likely to have been abused in the past than the general population. However, for those of us who have been abused, it's possible BDSM gives us a safe place to work through unsafe experiences. Clarisse Thorn continues quoting this woman, who said:

For some number of people who have experienced abuse, the greatest split within the self does not simply come from how horrific the acts themselves were but from the feelings of desire and pleasure that can happen in human beings even during horrific unwanted acts. For some of us, BDSM can be a safe way to explore unpacking some of this desire and how these arousal patterns got mixed up with horrific things — or were already hooked up to horrific things and that pre-existing fact was exploited by a harmful person.
There is no evidence that abuse creates a desire for S&M — but there’s also nothing wrong with people who use S&M to process past trauma.
Can I just say, "YES!"? Sometimes I want to be insulted and hurt. Because that is how my twisted childhood went: love, insult, hurt, love. My basic understanding of love is that it is stronger after hurt. Cycle of abuse? You bet. Still the best way for me to feel love? Yep.

My first sexual experiences were not consensual. This left me feeling that sex is gross, disgusting, and something that men to when they hate you. Sex = used. I'm learning that my Dom loves me, does not use me, and does not use sex to overpower me or hurt me. That's nice. But when I know I can trust him, that he is not, in fact, abusing me, I still struggle with craving "abusive" sex. I may not enjoy sex by itself, but I love knowing he is using me, enjoying me, abusing me. Mentally, I enjoy it. That translates into the physical, making sex much better than it could ever be just physically.

Clarisse herself goes on to conclude:

I do use BDSM to process past trauma. Not all the time. Sometimes it's just fun, sexy, about achieving the "high" of subspace, feeling owned and relaxed.

But sometimes. Sometimes I feel more wanted if he takes it from me. Sometimes I feel more loved if he makes me cry, then holds me. Sometimes I feel more secure if he's mean to me, then nice to me.

Because then I know what to expect.

I've already blogged about how the BDSM relationship between my Dom and me helps me deal with my mental illnesses. In times of stress, depression, or anxiety, especially when for whatever reason I can't be on medicine or the medicine isn't working, I rely on his power, on our BDSM, to keep me sane. I need that. It keeps me centered. He can control me when I can't.

I need that.

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