BDSM: my early years

Old Maid copyright MRLately, a couple discussions circulating in recovery forums I frequent, brought up the issue of BDSM (Bondage & Discipline / Sadism & Masochism). Coincidentally, I have also been triggered in this area of my sexuality lately. It got me thinking. My history with the leather and fetish world is long and has changed over the years. In short, I have played both sides of that fence, but my personal inclinations led me to a once heavy involvement with masochism. Today, I do not see myself as part of that community, nor do I pay with masochism beyond the mildest forms, such as an occasional slap on my ass or mild hair pulling with a lover. I have a healthy fear of BDSM play now and see it as something that is a slippery slope. I need to be vigilant to not cross into areas that are re-traumatizing. Because I can take it too far; to an edge that is not healthy for me.

For those unfamiliar with BDSM,the BD refers to Bondage and Discipline; it involves service and mental power states; while the SM refers to Sadism and Masochism and involves the physical doling out and acceptance of pain. Sometimes they occur within the same fetish for the person, sometimes they do not. An example of being into BD is a person who likes to be restrained in some way and told to obey service related orders like “lick my boots . . . kneel . . . or rub my feet” while a person into SM craves the doling out of physical pain from things such as sound caning, whipping, etc. Many bottoms (the submissive and/or masochist) enjoy both BD and SM simultaneously, hence the common phrase BDSM. There are as many variations in this fetish as there are variations of personal style and histories. For myself, I straddled (pun intended) both camps at different times. Sometimes together; but, for me, my BD and SM “play” were mainly separate. As a teen, I was taught to dominate men and developed a part that does this. I have another aspect of me that played with masochism.

As a young woman (teens), I ran away from home. It was short lived and I returned home in a few weeks. But it was enough to give me a crash course in the BDSM world; and that harsh initiation had a profound and long-lasting influence in my life.  I was deeply troubled, with family discord at home, deep feelings of isolation that lead to drugs and sexual activity at too young an age. I also endured a pregnancy at 14 that was traumatically cut short in my 6th month and I was incredibly sad and anxious.

When I ran away, I crashed with a guy that immediately connected me to his sordid activities. I saw him as my boyfriend and had no idea that he was secretly gay hustling and had connections with older gay men who wanted some kink with their sex**. It is a cliche story: young runaway gets pulled into seedy underground world. But that is exactly what happened. I remember being brought to his “friend’s” home and how the older man’s eyes just lit up. They treated me so grown up and were so polite. But the next day they had clothes for me to try on. Before I knew it, they had me in full fetish Domina (Dominatrix) garb and put a whip in my hand and simply instructed me to whip them and do not stop no matter what. I was high as a kite of course, as were they*. My “boyfriend” was there  helping me do it, I was grossed out and scared but did not feel I could get out of it as I was staying with him and they were so nice and all, and …well … like I said, my mind was majorly impaired! So, voila! a femme top was born.

I saw things I wish I could un-see to this day, learned aspects of male sexuality at way too young an age, before I could put it into a mature context, and I was disgusted. But I guess,I was able to hang in there because I already had experience containing secret sexual taboos with my incestuous grandfather. So I learned to compartmentalize and just give them what they wanted. I think I was able to do extreme things because I had already been experiencing some instances of aggressive sex with my boyfriends. I remember being so angry with my boyfriend after my pregnancy (because of how it was handled) that I would sometimes spontaneously take to slapping his penis and bossing him around in a bitchy voice during sex. I surprised myself by these mini episodes. And while he was equally freaked out and rebuffed me, his stiff member taught me that he didn’t really hate it. But that is as far as it ever went, once in a blue moon, and we both did not talk about it afterwards. The runaway experience took that impulsive acting out and pushed it out of the box.

Fairly immediately, I knew I was in over my head. This was confirmed to me when, in a tragic fluke, that older gentleman that turned me out, was murdered. It was all over the local news, he had been shot in the head by a young male escort! That was scary enough to jolt me back to reality and I called my older sister who was attending college in another city and I went to stay briefly with her as she talked me into returning home. Once I was reunited with my family, my compartmentalization took back over and I was the good Latina daughter again, albeit troubled. And I kept all that had happened secret. But it changed me, and it would continually come up with that boyfriend, who continued to exploit me. I changed my style of dress, becoming a super sexy sophisticated vixen. I was harsher and preferred solitude. I was not able to relate to boys my age anymore and had a series of exploitative trysts with older men. Like the flannel shirt scrap I kept in my Pandora’s box,( mentioned in a previous post,) I rolled this chapter of BDSM into a tight coil and put it away inside me, not to be taken out for close to 15 years.

So why is this initiation into BDSM a topic in my recovery blog? Actually, it is a topic that is a constant in trauma recovery forums all over. I think there are an inordinate number of sexual trauma survivors who have or currently do take part in this scene. I do not have a definitive analysis of my BDSM  activities. If anything, I have a bunch of questions that I am sifting through.

I do believe some people can “play” safely, sanely and consensually with BDSM. That is not the type of play I am referring to in this post. I refer to the play I enacted while blind to the driving forces internally that made it impossible for me to not act out abusive themes in my life; mainly self harming themes., In hindsight, I can see that when I was coerced into a dominant BDSM relationship with those older men, I drew upon the violating persona of my perpetrators and I accessed my deep anger, dare I say, rage, towards men in general. This is not easy to admit. I used to feel incredibly guilty for the brutality and violent actions (however desired and asked for by the submissive/masochist) in a scene in which the submissive male asked  “to be broken” (taken past their comfort zone to an edge of emotional and physical surrender). I worried it meant I had some  tinge of perpetrator in me. I worried over the fact that I would get an emotional high that was sweet and tender at the moment of their emotional and physical collapse. At that instance, the submissive is all love towards the dominant and I, the dominant, was overcome with feelings towards my submissive. It was only then that I could genuinely utter soft words of comfort and affection.

And I was troubled by the fact that I couldn’t connect with the man emotionally until they were a groveling mess at my feet. The possibility that I was enacting some kind of sexualized rage against the male species, who had so constantly violated me throughout my life is something to be considered. When he was  broken, was I finally able to access tender love towards my younger self, abused and pushed past my physical and emotional limits? Was I able to finally look upon my own violated body with compassion, love and acceptance in those instances? Is that why it was so powerful? I suspect that is the case; and if so, it is an indirect and dangerous way to get a cathartic release.

I once described this exchange as a beautiful gift given to each other when talking about it with my therapist. But I have to ask myself: why do I want a gift that requires pain from another? Isn’t that a hold over from the brainwashing of a perpetrator who asks you to ‘take it’ for him? The parallels are too strong for me to ignore.

This post deals with my early exposure to dominating men with BDSM, future posts in this series (although not sequential) will describe my role as  the bottom, the masochist. On both counts, I am not active in that lifestyle any more. Luckily, I am not white knuckling my abstinence from BDSM. Mainly, I just lost the interest. Without fanfare, without a concerted effort, it evaporated. I found that the more I have worked on my recovery, the more my extreme fetish/leather activities just dropped away. I do find I get triggered at times and a resurgence of thoughts about  these types of activities surface. When that occurs, it is because something in my life is making me feel unsafe and threatened and I go to the mind state of the runaway girl that put on a harsh armor. I’m now happily in a place that finds my life offering so many exciting choices, that I do not need the danger, and drama of that kind of play any more. Now, the drama of SM scenes have been replaced with the drama of engaging in authentic sexual intimacy, full of recaptured innocence and connection. And let me tell you, that is far edgier than any play I ever did in the SM world.

*It is important to note, that unlike my wildly unsafe initiatory episodes describe above, I later learned to do this play safely, consensually and sober.

** I hesitate to to highlight the fact that these men were gay identified because homophobia in our culture has erroneously painted a predatory picture of gays and lesbians, out to molest, seduce and recruit vulnerable people.; and I do not want to promote that false belief. Just as in heterosexual society, there are some  homosexuals with these inappropriate fixations – they are called perpetrators! Coercing or forcing underage people into sexual situations is a characteristic of abusers and not a characteristic of being gay or lesbian. But the above scenario is how my personal story played out.

*** This self portrait shows me today in fetish preening. I painted it spontaneously and quickly while in the mindspace of that young dominant harsh self. She is still around, she is learning new skills and remains a tough cookie that bails me out of scary situations.

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Categories: BDSM, Recovery, Sexuality

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4 replies »

    • Thanks ellen, I started unpleasantly. But when I got involved in SM as a bottom in the SF Bay area decades later, it was more positive. I was safe, sane and consensual. But I was not dealing with my trauma history so I was acting out things no doubt. I do not know if i could ever return to it now that I am clearer about my past traumas . . . But I am referring to more extreme play, not the ilk of tame spankings lovers may give in play. I am fine with that and enjoy it.

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  1. First thank you for sharing your story Deborah. I totally understand the need for it and how it can hold some healing for some. I don’t have any strong opinions about it either way as I have had no experience with it. I was grateful you shared such an honest look at it from both ends so to speak. And this right here is so beautiful: I’m now happily in a place that finds my life offering so many exciting choices, that I do not need the danger, and drama of that kind of play any more. Now, the drama of SM scenes have been replaced with the drama of engaging in authentic sexual intimacy, full of recaptured innocence and connection. And let me tell you, that is far edgier than any play I ever did in the SM world.

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    • Thanks Stephanie! I’m finding that open vulnerability in love and passion with another is thrilling, scary and beautiful in a way I would have never thought
      decades ago 🙂

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