BDSM and trauma

Polyfractal

Learning
I have been sexually abused by multiple perpetrators for many years. I had an abuser A, who molested and sexually abused me from 2019-2020--she stimulated my genital, the feeling was very new to me, I felt very confused and very traumatized by it afterwards. I never have touched my genital for stimulation by myself. When she touched me, I felt like she had destroyed my purity. When I had the forced orgasm, I felt very traumatized. I am a female, the abuser was female; females also can be abusers too. When I was on my period, the bleeding of my genital had triggered a flashbacks to me when I was a child, raped and bled from the genital. I was so traumatized at my period and also felt very emotional.

My trauma history had me turned to BDSM. I was searching online for some BDSM content and it felt related to my sexual abuse experienced in the past--extreme humiliation and pain. I couldn't feel pleasure without it. The sexual abuse that I had resembled BDSM, but it was the abuse of power and I felt powerless, which is the hallmark of trauma.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I used BDSM as a way of reenacting or feeling 'something' too. For me, when I was doing it I just felt like who gives a f*ck about anything. Push myself and see what happens. I didn't have safe words. Didn't care. I just needed to 'feel' something. Whatever that was.
Now, looking back, it makes me very sad. As I wasn't doing it from a place of being ok and in charge of my sexuality, but a trauma response like you say, and a total lack of care for myself.

The good thing is you recognise what this means for you so you can find healthier ways for you to express yourself.
 

Friday

Moderator
My trauma history had me turned to BDSM.
Mine went the other way.

I might have enjoyed BDSM before trauma, but after trauma it’s far too structured/contractual/rigidly defined.

I’ve spent a great deal of time around BDSM by way of friends, and I used a good number of the precepts with parenting (super useful!), and can deeply appreciate the beauty/artistry/skill… but it’s just not my thrill.
 

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
a good number of the precepts with parenting (super useful!)
*sound of screeching tires, car backs up, window rolls down, slowly pulls sunglasses down* You have my attention, what are the precepts of BDSM that are super helpful with parenting, if you don’t mind me asking? Asking with genuine curiosity. If it’s a thread derailer, can you answer on my wall or in my diary?
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
Don't know if my interest in BDSM was trauma-related or not, but I don't think it was. And it was the best six years of my life. Definitely more talking and trust-building than I have ever experienced anywhere else. I've no interest in it anymore, but then...I've no interest in much of anything anymore.

I did my master's in creative writing and my thesis was about the relationships that develop in BDSM and the various practices. I have known a lot of people who turned to it because of their trauma, though.
 
I can certainly understand how some people can find BDSM to be healing, because consent is supposedly baked into every activity (in actuality, consent in BDSM can be even more amorphous than in real life) and because the happy fuzzy feelings you can get post-scene may not be otherwise accessible to trauma survivors.

But unfortunately for me, during my abuse I thought I was a lifestyle BDSM bottom, but instead I was just getting abused. So I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. To dabble in BDSM again is probably just asking for retraumatization.
 

Friday

Moderator
*sound of screeching tires, car backs up, window rolls down, slowly pulls sunglasses down* You have my attention, what are the precepts of BDSM that are super helpful with parenting, if you don’t mind me asking? Asking with genuine curiosity. If it’s a thread derailer, can you answer on my wall or in my diary?
It ties into the trauma thing (at least my trauma history, and that’s what this thread is about, from my understanding; our own unique trauma histories in relation to BDSM) just fine, actually. But it’s a bit of a long answer, because it’s not something I talk about much. If it were, I could concise it up a helluva lot better than I’m about to.

***

It’s because BDSM is totally normal human behavior (sex, consent, conversations, roles, rules, consequences both positive and negative, negotiation, imagination, experience, constancy, trust, natural and learned limitations, etc.) that’s been broken down into component pieces, each piece given a voice, & everything is explicitly agreed upon …both in advance AND ongoing… accounting for people’s changing & different needs/wants/moments in their life. (Fine yesterday, or 5 minutes ago, does not equal fine now, or in 5 minutes, or tomorrow).

Remove the sex component (as much of BDSM actually does, anyway) and your left with very BASIC building blocks for human interaction.

^^^^ Similar, in a completely different way, to how AA/NA breaks normal life down into component pieces, for equally good reason, as the majority of addicts/alcoholics need to re-learn (or learn for the first time) how to Tetris life.

The entire process fascinated me.

Being ADHD, I have to do a lot of that, breaking normal human interaction down into component pieces, anyway… as most people lie almost constantly (their words and their face/body almost never line up, and one has to decide “which” truth/lie to be listening to, in what degree, and respond to, per the context that you’re in. The more hit than miss you are, in guessing which I what other people want? The less socially awkward, or more charismatic, as people feel seen/heard exactly as they wish to be, or misunderstood/betrayed). But, unless I’m being a walking CliffNotes for someone with HFA? (Aspies don’t see social cues. ADHD’ers see too many). It’s all done in my head.

Being introduced into the BDSM crowd was the first time I ran into people, normal people, doing it OUT LOUD. Doing it at all is relatively rare, and most of us who do have learned to keep that process silent. People having very spirited/calm debates/conversations about every. single. damn. aspect. of life & living, both in-scene & out? Things most people simply don’t talk about, as they’re innately understood by lived experience? Was a mindblowingly awesome experience/group of people to land in. Even if it’s not “my” thing, that produced this subculture, it’s an incredibly “easy” place for me to be around, and I learned a helluva lot.

Jumping back into trauma-land for a second…

…I had to entirely rewrite my own moral code, at one point (unrelated, and prior to the below). No longer able to simply lean on or build from what I had been taught, or absorbed from the worlds around me. ((I think that’s one reason people with childhood trauma are often confused by combat vets having many of the same issues they do, even though they may have had perfect childhoods. The issues of having to choose how to live, and why, are not solely the result of developmental trauma, and coming to disagree with the lessons one learned there.))

…I’ve been tortured, and I’ve also been trained in torture and interrogation. There are universal stressors, and there are also each individual’s personal limits. In torture and interrogation you use both, to deliberately find and stay just beyond those limits, to break a person down in very predictable ways. Too far, too fast, and a person will break in completely unpredictable ways, largely rendering them useless, and completely untrustworthy. The same in reverse, people will say anything/do anything, to make pain stop, before you hit those limits; which is both useless and completely untrustworthy. The only people who do either, are either completely untrained or getting off on it, rather than getting something from it.

BDSM is durn near the OPPOSITE of ^^^that^^^ second one

Which relieved pressure points/friction I didn’t even know I had, trying to live postTrauma

People who are very much AWARE of their own & oher people limits, and take exceptional care to respect those limits. It’s a kind of… compassion/empathy/respect that most people in my experience possess, but few externalize, or attempt to live by.

First off, there is no assumption of mutually held understanding. Everything is discussed, either very quickly if mutual understanding exists (but the points are all still covered), or in great depth and detail, or more often in a combination of both. <<< Outsiders are often included in these discussions as they are anything BUT taboo. Which is where I got my first introduction! 🤣 I wasn’t at all shocked for intimate details of sex to be a part of the general conversation at breakfast, or any other social event, the military treats sex like sports, it’s always up for discussion. What was shocking to me were all of the non-sexual issues/components/pieces up for discussion. The very basic aspects of human interaction, trust, awareness, compassion, disappointment, fear, hope, oops!, embarrassment, shame, duty, expectation, roles, rules, trust, betrayal, stages of learning, etc…. ALL up for grabs. Plenty of judgement, but no “wrong” answers/questions. Seeeeriously crazy-honest. LOVED that.

I also loved how conversations changed, in the presence of others. For example? When children were present, child-appropriate did not “just” include sex (and certain aspects of sex were not disincluded), but all adult issues without express parental approval & consent (Oh! Gloria is doing a paper on the holocaust for school, and is exploring the very difficult aspects of genocide, imprisonment, torture, and human rights… leading to an immediate focus on the CHILD and what they themselves are going through, studying these topics… rather than a free for all on the topics themselves from an adult perspective). <<< So in addition to a rejection of assumptions, there was also a very strict awareness of the roles all of us are in, at various times, and our responsibilities IN those roles. A child being present makes EVERY adult responsible to them, and their well-being, first. A parent’s role, meanwhile, includes not only being responsible for their child, but also for every adult around their child; meanwhile the adults have an obligation not only to the child, but to follow the parents’ lead and not go beyond the limitations/structure laid out… without permission. <<< This is a generally accepted sort of way to deal with children/parents virtually everywhere, but in the BDSM crowd, like most everything else, expectations were crystal clear, and laid out rather than assumed. You could agree, and stay within the boundaries, or leave. Your choice, but choose.

Beyond talking (everything!) out, and (situational) awareness?

One of the primary goals in BDSM is to never push a person past their limits, to not even flirt up against the line… which requires not only the observational skills of the person on the outside, but the very active participation of the person on the inside. That requires a tremendous amount of trust, on both sides. Both in-scene & out.

It is a very dynamic and ongoing conversation between equal partners, each with a very clearly defined role.

PARENTING is NOT a partnership between equals, but one person is wholly responsible for the other, in every way. The child is putting their total trust IN YOU, and that’s an extremely precious thing. (Anyone who has dealt with a toddler, or any other age group doing the independent thing might not think that their trust in you is paramount, on the surface, but trust is NOT obedience. Trust is that they’re taking what you do in those moments and others, as what’s “right” to be doing. That what they get from you is what they “deserve” to be getting. So be dayum careful of what you teach them that they deserve!!!)

If you’re me? You want to encourage independent thinking, action, and responsibility (“Let us see what little Squirt does, flying solo!” // “You so totally rock, Squirt!” “Gimme some fin! Noggin! Dude!”)) whilst also encouraging trust, teamwork, seeking assistance, and discouraging helplessness, self doubt, whinging, and a whole lot of other things. The sum total = the self-confidence that a person has when they know they can do it by themselves, that also allows for including others seeking advice, marshaling resources, making decisions including unpopular decisions or decisions they would make differently next time, making corrections, etc.

Blargh. Lotta words. 😖 Too. Many. Words.

Point being? The precepts provide an awesome framework for very honestly looking at what you need & want, what you don’t, and creating/engineering a path from point A to B.

The culture I spent most of my time in, as a kid, has a foundation that if a student fails? It is NEVER the fault of the student, but the fault of the teacher… for not preparing them for the task. It doesn’t matter if the student is lazy, stubborn, slow, brilliant, eager to please. No matter what the student is “like” as a person. A “good” teacher creates the path for them to walk… by working with both their strengths and weaknesses.

Being around this (BDSM) subculture? Let me see people actively/openly and vey deliberately doing that in every aspect of their lives. What do you want? How do we get there? Keeeerazy goal setting/achievement, wih some mad “crowd sourcing” before that was a thing. (This was not before the Internet, but it was before social media et al).

Now that I’ve used waaaaaay too many words, some examples, below. With. Even. More. Words. LeSigh.

But that’s also the whole point. After trauma I couldn’t simply do what I was raised to do, or what came “naturally”. I had to break everything down and make conscious decisions about what I was going to do, how, and why. BDSM is one of the subcultures that brings that entire process out into the open. Explicit, rather than implicit.


BDSM is not where I got my “timeout compendium”, but if you’re at all familiar with BDSM, you’ll see how strongly it influenced it!

What happened? Why it happened? At least 2 different ways to try in the future? <<< And before ANY of that? Let’s put things right, or as right as they can be, now.

Clearly Defined Roles

I am the parent.
They are the child.

Absolutely ANYTHING the child does? Is from that role. As it should be. They are NEVER, in any way, threatening my role as the parent, nor do I ever need to back them down as if they possibly could threaten that role, or “reassert” any kind of whatever. As there is nothing to reassert. They will challenge, push back, insult, lash out, demand, etc…as a child does. As a child is supposed to. As a child is learning. That is all exactly right, and exactly how things should be. The only possible correction is not what they are doing, but how they are going about doing it. Whining, disrespect, tantrums, on the offensive, martyrdom, etc.

My role, as a parent, is to set the stage, help them explore, teach/model, encourage, set limits, reward in a way inspires, discipline in a way that increases a child’s strength/tools/abilities, provide a soft place to land in time of difficulties, mentor, listen, observe, act in ways that are best for them, inspire opportunity, etc.

VERY clearly defined roles. The aspects rights/responsibilities of which will alter over time, even though the roles themselves do not. And part of my role, as the parent, is to pay attention to when/how those aspects need to alter, and adjust accordingly… until we become peers. Which is the ultimate goal of those roles. Both of us adults, equally responsible for our own selves <<< Eveything prior leading up to that, with that ultimate goal in mind. Not something to demand, or insist upon, but a path to be laid, and a journey to be had. >>> It is a TREMENDOUS privilege to be someone’s introduction to the world. Especially as, in the beginning, you will know nothing about them, about who they are, what they need/want, what inspires or crushes them… anything. Beyond “basic human” stuff, and our own preferences/experiences.

Learning to see someone for who they are? To provide/allow for that? I don’t even have the words for it… beyond “love” and that’s just what you do when you love someone.

Safe Words & Appropriate Action.

Unless it’s an actual emergency (and I had both a word and hand signal for that I’m not sharing publically), or the potential for one (like crossing the street) safe words are sacred. It doesn’t matter how much fun one person is having, or how justified they feel in the moment, if the other person says stop.

We modeled this one, in the beginning, with tickle games; and the very easy/common “stop/go”. The person being tickled has to say go, and the person tickling has to fly their hands away the moment the person being tickled says “stop”.

It’s training, and also trust building. It’s HARD to “stop” when you’re having fun. (Or emotionally invested in other ways, like having an argument.).

We had a handful of other words in play but “stop is a magic word”.

I chose that one because it’s fairly universal in distress/emergency for people to shout/scream/say/whisper “stop”. And also, in normal ordinary life, when you simply need the other person to pause (stop! no cream in that coffee // stop, here, pull into that space // etc.). So it’s a good word to hardwire an “alert” into.

Appropriate Action = what to do when the person you’re with does NOT stop.

You’re a team when both people are following each other’s cues.

But both friends and enemies will ignore your cues, or push past your boundaries, on accident and on purpose. So what do you do then? What YOU decide is right. To the best of your ability, make that happen. It is never “up to” the other person to follow your cues, or do what you say, or stay inside your boundaries. That’s their decision. It is up to YOU to act, when they do not.

What’s appropriate action? Depends. You might talk with them. You might walk away. You might fight them. You might run away. You might call for help, or go find help, or you might decide to wait & watch. All are good choices. Most people have a favorite choice, that they make over and over again, so it’s easy, even if it’s not the best choice for that moment. Watch people, and you’ll see their favorite choices, and the choices they make but find hard, and the choices they never make. The only bad choice is not making a choice, and it is a good thing to practice ALL the choices you can make, so the best one is easy. But easy/hard, best/could be better?

Nothing in life is guaranteed, or fair. You try your best, and you learn. And then try again, smarter, using what you learned. You won’t always be right, and it won’t always go the way you want, and that’s okay. You’re learning. The world isn’t fair, so we try and make our piece of it as fair as possible. But even then? Won’t always happen. So we roll with it, and make choices, and do our best. Even a laaaaaaaazy day has a “best” 😉 . Our best on a hard day, might be our worst on a good day. But? Still tryin. Still making choices. Still getting back up, when we get knocked down.

We give people the choice to listen, or not. So what do we do when people don’t listen? Make the best choice we can, and take action. So! Tell me about your choices, today? Which ones were you proud of? Which ones were fun? Which ones would you make differently, next time?

Gradients

As someone who is “naturally” very black and white? And doesn’t trust other people with my weaknesses? BDSM green/yellow/orange/red type gradients is one of those things that gets me tilting my head and backing away.

I’m perfectly comfortable with using gradients with horses, teammates, kids… non-verbally. Doing so out loud? Sends shivers up my spine. It just feels wrong, somehow.

But? CRAZY USEFUL, in figuring out where someone is having difficulty, then trouble, then is completely in over their head. Again, in the breaking shit down honestly, and finding solutions before there’s a problem.

Because it goes so against the brain (ha! I tried to type ‘grain’ but autocorrect was better), I wasn’t very good at using gradients, but I still made an effort to.

Rules / Why we have rules

Good rules keep people safe. We follow those.
Bad rules do not keep people safe. We decide if they’re worth following.
If a good rule isn’t keeping safe, because something has changed? We change the rule, or discard it.
House Rules = Everyone Follows
Individual Rules = We decide on for ourselves
Whenever possible, know what the rules are, before breaking them.
If you’re going to break a rule, it had better be for a good reason, or a bad rule.
Choose your consequences carefully.
 
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OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
@Friday thank you! I bookmarked it so I can comb through when my brain isn’t racing. Things that jumped out initially are
how AA/NA breaks normal life down into component pieces, for equally good reason, as the majority of addicts/alcoholics need to re-learn (or learn for the first time) how to Tetris life.
Because I have experience with 12-step groups for parents of addicted loved ones (adult children) and yes it talks about how addicts (of anything from substances to anger to fill-in-the-blank) are emotionally stunted and need to be treated like children *in certain aspects* particularly in the boundaries that you hold with them.

And
PARENTING is NOT a partnership between equals,
Because I was deeply influenced by attachment parenting and unschooling as a reaction to the abuse dynamic I was raised in. But I had no concept of “the adult in the room” because I was emotionally stunted, frozen in an immature state, and that was a very long and uncomfortable lesson, which ultimately brought me to therapy and revealed the trauma I had suffered.

But I am digressing. I will digest your response slowly. I am grateful for your level of detail. Human relationships and power balances fascinate me.

Unrelated to your response but kind of related to this comment
To dabble in BDSM again is probably just asking for retraumatization.
Not BDSM, but related is roleplay. For me I have dabbled in roleplay and it seems to sometimes result in me basically replaying some version of the incestuous relationship that my dad had with me. And there is *kind of* an aspect of me gaining power over it or sort of healing, but also a significant amount of confusion and shame, even if the partner is willing and listening and stops if I ask or lets me process afterward. It just feels afterward like it’s leading me in the wrong direction, even though before hand it might have been something I was getting excited about.

It just cuts so close to lived experience which might be a similar place where this comment is coming from
men beating women, but now it’s ok
I feel that way about spanking. My dad spanked the heck out of me and if someone does that to me I want to either leave or hurt them back, I despise it.

Sort of rambling in processing this thread.
 

Weemie

MyPTSD Pro
broken down into component pieces, each piece given a voice

This whole response is incredible, but this jumped out at me as a throwback to our discussion on polyamory! Where we were talking about the roles that relationship partners have, the way things are regimented, rules and regulations and expectations and consequences and whatnot. I think people mostly consign BDSM to the realm of "that's just weird sex," and don't think anything else of it, but there is a whole lot of non-sexual components to BDSM that can be applicable in a wide variety of areas. Primarily, BDSM is about communication, I think.
 
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