Mistress and I were talking the other day and She mentioned that a friend of Hers, who knows about our Lovestyle, is always trying to discover some secret sign of abuse in Her background. Just to be clear, there is none. So the probing, gentle or not, gets tiring because it says, "There is something wrong with You."
I've also heard several people speak about the high incidence of self-identified survivors of abuse in the BDSM-sphere. The connection that is generally made is, "You were abused and that is what made you what you are." Again, the belief behind it is that anyone and everyone who enjoys this as a playtime, pastime, lifestyle, or lovestyle has something wrong with them.
It's total crap. Period.
It is leftover psychobabble from a time when sadism and masochism were identified as mental disorders...right alongside with homosexuality. Now, some people still think that gay people are crazy. But, by and large, our society has evolved beyond that infantile thinking. As gays have come out of the closet and taken their rightful place in society, it has become more and more difficult to see them as being inherently "wrong."
But whereas gay activists have made these enormous strides (and even though enormous ground remains to be taken), BDSM really hasn't had a public face. The HIV/AIDS epidemic forced gay men, in particular, to demand political and social power. The continued segregation of marital rights for most of the country keeps them marching (something I support). But the BDSM-sphere never had a deadly disease that seemed to target its members and, as far as I'm aware, no one has ever been denied marital rights because they are kinky.
Think quick: Name a movie that specifically revolves around a BDSM relationship. Most people, if they think of anything, come up with either "Secretary" or "9 1/2 Weeks." Neither is an example of a healthy, consensual BDSM relationship.
Now name a character on TV that shows sexual dominance or submission in a healthy manner. The programs most likely to deal with these issues are police dramas - Law and Order or CSI or something. But they are ALWAYS investigating a crime when BDSM comes up. CSI flirted with the idea of having a recurring Femdom character, but it was never developed and it was based on a lot of stereotypes (in part, because She was a pro-domme).
When the American Psychiatric Association has long since evolved to consider sadism, as an example, as a problem only if one of two conditions exist: 1) if the patient has "acted on these urges [to hurt someone for their own pleasure] with a non-consenting person;" or 2) if "the urges, or behaviors caused marked distress or interpersonal difficulty." So "safe, sane, and consensual" sadism is only a problem if the person doesn't want to be a sadist.
But most Americans don't even know about the APA's definitions. Most Americans operate from a "gut level" instinct...which generally means they subconsciously rely on stereotypes and judgments they learned prior to become an adult. That means, basically, that most adults are walking around with a 1980 or earlier mentality when it comes to BDSM.
This accounts for the public perception that "something is wrong" with BDSM-ers. But what accounts for the seemingly high level of abuse?
Well, for one thing, more kids are abused than any of us likes to think about. It is not a rare thing at all. However, most people don't actually think that what happened to them was abuse. We all tend to think that we grew up "normal" until we discover differently. There is also the power of denial and repression to deal with. If a person doesn't want to think of what happened to them; then they won't.
BDSM forces one to face their most intimate desires and fears. By its very nature, BDSM forces a person to be more in touch with their sexuality than the general public is. This means we, as a group, are more likely to both know if we were abused and to admit it openly if we were abused.
Everything we experience makes us into the persons that we are. So, undoubtedly, anyone who was abused carries that experience into their BDSM relationship - and that means there is extra baggage to deal with. I've had very open and frank discussions with Mistress Delila about the abuse I suffered as a child because I'm not always able to tell when something isn't going right for me. I have to depend on Her to read me...so She needs to know. And I need Her to know (probably in more detail than She likes).
So what I'm saying is this: BDSM-ers are not more likely to have been abused. We're just more likely to talk about it. But when that is added to the widely held belief that BDSM is a pathological response to abuse as a child...it becomes almost legendary. So the urban legend that everyone in BDSM is a survivor of abuse is a strongly held one, at least in some quarters.
Here's the thing: I was abused as a child. I understand what it means to be a powerless victim. I also now have the experience of being a submissive to a wonderfully Dominant Woman. I understand what it means to be a powerless lover. The two are not the same, or even similar. Even a casual observer should be able to understand the difference.
Childhood abuse is a horrible thing that some people never get beyond. Just like rape is a horrible thing that some people never get beyond. But some people are able to heal from the trauma of rape and have a healthy and loving sexual relationship with their partner.Their sexual desires are not a result of being raped. They are simply healthy and affirming and wonderful. The same thing is true of childhood abuse and sexual submission and/or dominance. Even in a person who was abused as a child, once they heal, their submission or dominance can be healthy and affirming and wonderful.
I'm sure there are people for whom Femdom/malesub is a pathological response to something in their past. I'm sure there are people for whom Femdom/malesub causes immense psychological pain because they want what is "wrong." But it is not any different from other relationship types in the truth of that statement. ANYTHING behavior can be pathological.
For me, malesub represents the apex of my ability to show love to a woman. I am fully engaged in seeing Her as a woman, a person worthy of receiving the totality of my affection and desire. I surrender to Her fully, because to hold anything at all back would be to love Her less. It is not just sexual...it is a transcendent state that connects me to Her intimately in a way nothing else ever can or will.
It also puts me in a state where I can RECEIVE love and affirmation as a man, a person worthy of receiving the totality of Her affection and desire. She takes me fully because I am Hers to claim and because Her love allows for nothing less. I have to judge, from the light in Her eyes and the glow on Her face that is also a transcendent state for Her.
That is not pathological. It is beautiful. In a time where there is no end to the voices decrying the loss of human connection with each other; it is the type of soulful connection that desperately needs to be held up as an example to which we all should aspire.