Years ago when I first started reading around this subject, I spent a lot of time wondering what made me like this. I like to overthink a subject. BDSM in mainstream fiction is pretty much exclusively portrayed as a sickness from which the poor deviant must be cured, and recently Fifty Shades has broadcast that narrow view of it to the world. It’s hard to portray something that is essentially dark and twisted as a healthy state of mind, but can you be dark and twisted, and perfectly sane? I think I am pretty sane and healthy, I don’t think I suffer from any chemical or hormonal balance or bad wiring in any part of me. I wasn’t abused as a child. I got into some risky situations as a teenager and later, but none of this caused me to become a pervert. I’m just a normal person who enjoys sensations like pain and restraint and submission.
I can reflect around in circles to my heart’s content, but navel-gazing isn’t science. This does seem to be quite a well-researched subject, however, and a recent study suggests that kinky people might be generally quite well-adjusted. While BDSM is no longer officially categorised as a mental illness, it’s still probably one of the more stigmatised and misunderstood sexualities. It’s easily confused with domestic violence, but having been in an abusive relationship, I can testify that a relationship with honest and transparent power exchange is not the same thing at all. Giving someone pain because it’s an experience you both love is not the same as thumping someone in the face because you’re angry or drunk or somehow inadequate. Cuffing my hands behind my back and gagging me is so very different from not allowing me to go out to meet my friends, texting to check I’m where I said I would be, or disconnecting the internet so I can’t use chatrooms.
I’ve seen BDSM described as an inability to commit or to love (Fifty Shades again, and this unpleasant article, for example). And yet I’m in the longest and healthiest relationship I’ve ever had, by a country mile. Here’s a quote from the movie Secretary: “I feel more than I’ve ever felt and I’ve found someone to feel with. To play with. To love in a way that feels right for me.”
“Someone to feel with” nails it for me. The point at which my self-indulgent one night stand turned into something quite different was when we started to realise how much we both liked to experience different sensations. We wanted to know what things felt like, and were happy to encourage each other to try things. The power play and pain emerged as we went along, and what do you know? He has no background of abuse or mental illness to attribute his kinks to, either.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Emma writes a blog and some people read it, so you might know her or you might not. Either way, she’s not planning to tell you who she is, but she will tell you that “you don’t know me as well as you think you do”.
Image via Denise Mayumi‘s Flickr photostream.