Commentary on BDSM and Mental Health

I was over at another WordPress.com blog, “You know You’re Borderline When . . .,” when I saw a section on the juncture between BDSM and borderline personality disorder. Borderline is something I’m learning about because I used to have a friend whose ex-wife was diagnosed with it and I try to keep up on what’s going on in the psychology community. It’s a good way of figuring out what therapist is going to work with me and what illusions/delusions she may be laboring under that I need to watch. After reading an article re-posted from another blog, I wasn’t completely convinced that Jaen really understood what BDSM is all about, so I wrote a rather long comment. I am reposting it here since I think I touched on some complex issues.

Like tinyfrogs, I don’t have a BPD diagnosis, although I do recognize certain behaviors that I’ve left behind. Instead, I’ve got major depression and a couple of anxiety disorders to deal with. Consequently, mental health issues are not at all unfamiliar to me. Also like tinyfrogs, I am a submissive/bottom. However, tinyfrogs, if I’m reading correctly, is a switch. That means she can take on either the submissive or dominant role. Me? I HATE being dominant. The only times I’ve enjoyed it somewhat were when I performed CBT. I must admit that it’s terribly fun stuff. *smirk*

I am a rape and incest survivor. I remember reading posts on Usenet back in the day that posit there are many sexual abuse survivors in the scene because we are used to being abused; we are re-enacting our abuse, and/or; we have low self-esteem and feel we deserve the physical pain. I can’t begin to tell you how I wanted to scream with each and every line. The authors just didn’t get it at all. There’s a teeny tiny scream in my head after reading some of your posts/comments too. It’s not your fault. I think you simply need to be educated.

I’ll go out on a very strong limb and admit there are, indeed, a number of female subs who have been sexually abused. However, I believe the context in which you and others have placed us–people re-enacting abuse–is just plain wrong. Most outsiders see BDSM scenes as subs/bottoms giving power to a Dom/Top. I understand why. It’s based on the way vanillas grok the roles because of the labels. However, the labels are misleading. Submissives are really the partner with the power. We *choose* whether to give our power to a Dom. Not only that, we can stop a scene AT ANY TIME if we are uncomfortable physically or emotionally. Safe words are wonderful things. They can be used to mean “slow things down” or “STOP NOW!!” A Dom who doesn’t respect safe words will usually get drummed out of the community because, as tinyfrogs said, they then become assailants and not Doms who take great care not to injure their possessions, the subs. If anything, many subs are spoiled rotten. Their partners adore and admire them, know them like the back of their hands, (although that closeness takes time to build), and understand how to push the right buttons to make a sub reach the pinnacle of their being.

I was introduced to BDSM through my first experience with the man who turned out to be the love of my life. We were just kids. He’d seen a few things in clubs in NYC and wanted to impress me with his prowess. It took me ten years, but I learned that there were really a great many people who liked some of the same things I did. I began reading the Usenet group alt.sex.bondage way before the general public knew there was an Internet. Let me tell ya, nerds are often the kinkiest people to ever walk the face of this earth. And engineers are GREAT partners. They love to build their own equipment. I’m salivating just thinking about it!

Enough of that.

Soon, I found the IRC channel #bondage and asked for an invitation since it was a closed group monitored by a bot that wouldn’t allow just anyone on the channel. It was nothing to sit on the channel and watch virtual scenes. Honestly, those beat out anything people think they’re doing with virtual sex now. I learned a great deal watching and participating in those scenes. In fact, that’s where I found my first and longest Master. He became the second love of my life, but was, I do believe, struggling with his own demons. It got so bad that he really should not have been playing at all, but I didn’t know how to tell him that. By asking for advice from a third person, all of our business got spread around and he caught a lot of flak he didn’t deserve. He was a pawn in a game of revenge played by a very twisted and bitter individual.

I am attracted to BDSM because of the power exchange. Trusting is an incredibly difficult thing for me to do. Even when it appears that I trust someone, I usually don’t trust them at all or only in a limited capacity. My therapist thinks that limited trust is actually good, but I doubt she thinks my strict limits are so healthy. BDSM is a safe place for me to open up and trust completely because of the peer pressure the Dom/Top faces should s/he mistreat me. If I tell one person of being mistreated, it will get around faster than a brush fire in Oklahoma.

The endorphin rush is also incredibly attractive. I get a high that lasts for hours after a good flogging just the way I like it. Imagine the greatest back massage you’ve ever had. Weren’t you loose and relaxed afterwards? Personally, my brain more or less stops working and I just smile a lot while cuddling up with my partner or, if at a play party, with whoever happens to be around and receptive. That’s why there is ALWAYS a quiet area at play parties. A scene can get into some very intimate and delicate territory even if it’s planned meticulously. We all have hidden buttons that can be pushed accidentally. Sometimes, in order to disarm them, a couple will purposely approach those buttons. It is the Dom’s job to know how far to go. A good one will sense when the sub is at his/her limit even if that sub asks to continue. I’ve had Doms safe word on ME because I was getting into territory that could have been emotionally too dangerous or wanted even more lashes than they felt comfortable administering. They were right to call safe word. They had a better, more objective, view of the overall scene than I did. It’s part of their responsibility to take care of me even when I insist on pushing forward.

BDSM requires a great deal of open communication. A good Dom won’t do anything with a new sub without having extensive communication with them. Their relationship may not even begin as Dom/sub (or slave). It may begin as two people who are seeing each other and getting to know both themselves and each other over a period of time. The goal may or may not be to find out if they’d make a good full-time BDSM couple or even part-time pair. If that was not the goal, but the couple sort of stumble into the scene in some other fashion, that’s fine too. Still, they really do have to deepen the level of communication and synergy as a couple in order to make the BDSM elements of their relationship work.

If I had to swear to my reasons for being attracted to BDSM, I’d say that it is because I get to control what happens to me when I had no control while I was being abused. Again, it’s that safe word thing. These days, at least from what I’m seeing across the Internet, which may or may not mirror society as a whole, people are doing incredibly stupid things (IMO) like playing without safe words. Um, no. And if a sub manages to get involved with someone who won’t respect safe word protocol, s/he should get the hell out of the relationship quick, fast and in a hurry. There are so many poseurs these days that finding someone online is dangerous. I can’t say that it’s impossible, but I’d be extremely careful. If the person plays within the local community, ask for references or find someone in the local BDSM group you can call on the QT to inquire about the prospective partner.

In closing, I do appreciate your attempts to understand this life I love but have been away from for years due to physical limitations that are now more or less nonexistent (thank God). I look forward to joining the local group in town and meeting new people. I’m trying to find a group for women only. I did belong to one, but it broke up due to dyke drama. I really hate it when that happens, but it’s unavoidable sometimes.

Jaen, would you mind a question? How did you happen to develop an interest in the juncture of BDSM and BPD? The reason I ask is that I have seen so many people try to attribute our kinkiness to some sort of pathology and, I must admit, I’m a bit wary. There are plenty of people who are perfectly emotionally healthy in the scene. I’d say most of them are completely emotionally healthy, but different. I understand a person’s desire to keep themselves away from kink, but I don’t believe it’s particularly helpful to draw spurious conclusions about the participants. I’m really hoping that’s not what you’re doing. Nevertheless, you’ve provided a space for me to consider the issues intellectually. That wasn’t necessarily your intent, but I do appreciate it anyway. *smirk*

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2 responses to “Commentary on BDSM and Mental Health

  1. I wasn’t sure where to put this, I’ve nominated you for the strong person award. Because you are.

    http://halfwaybetweenthegutter.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/strength-in-numbers-the-strong-person-award/

    • Hi halfway! I’ve just posted a comment on your blog, but I’d like to tell you again that I’m very honored to be nominated and that you’ve been an inspiration to me. Can I be you when I grow up? *grin* Seriously, you are an amazing person and I’m very glad to be sharing this blogging space with you.