Wednesday, June 25, 2014

30 Days of Kink: Day 13.

Day 13: Explain as best you can what the appeal of kink/BDSM is to you?  Why are you drawn to what you’re drawn to?
I went swimming in the lake today.  The water was cool and clear and I floated away from the children splashing by the shore, away from the noise of the road, drifting alone with the trees and the sky.  Out in the deep water, I swam laps for a good hour before paddling back to shore.  I found a comfortable sitting log among the shade trees by the lake and sat with my toes dangling in the water, resting and communing with nature.  (Nature was mostly spiders.)

My muscles were sore from the effort of swimming.  It was a little achy, but overwhelmingly it was a feeling of comfort, like my muscles were better settled on my bones than usual, better able to relax.  In a way they almost felt virtuous, like they had earned this comfort.

Sometimes being hurt in kink gives me this same feeling.  It's the good hurt, the hurt of strong muscles and days in the sun, a hurt that brings pride as well as comfort.  It's a little pain mixed with a lot of endorphins.

Of course that's all well and good, but there's a whole lot of stuff that "oh yes, endorphins, just like a good hearty workout, totally understandable" doesn't actually explain.  My interests cluster around humiliation and control as much as they do around endorphins, and that's harder to explain with wholesome workout metaphors.

The appeal of those things is... complicated.  But for me, it's often about freedom.  Submission frees me from guilt and uncertainty about how to please others--I just have to do what I'm told, and I will be pleasing.  Humiliation frees me from impossible expectations--nothing is expected of me but to have receptive flesh.  Roleplay frees me from being myself at all.  And a violent scene frees me from thinking about anything but here and now and ow.

When I say "when I'm bound, I feel free" I'm not speaking in baffling contradictions or engaging in willful denial.  I mean it takes a huge freakin' load off my mind.


  1. Y'know Cliff, I'm a newbie and have hung around BDSM websites a lot and a lot of them seem to be filled with abusers. And there are a good many 'masochists' who have self-harm tendencies which is not a kink but means that they're psychologically fucked up. I've come across slaves who say that their masters denied them food and water and didn't respect their safeword and that they're absolutely fine with it.

    So how do you know which people are 'kinky' kinky and how do you know which people are just covering up their psychological issues under the alias of BDSM. Note that I myself am kind of a submissive but there are really disgusting, abusive kinksters who creep me out.

    1. "And there are a good many 'masochists' who have self-harm tendencies which is not a kink but means that they're psychologically fucked up."

      This rankles me a lot. People with mental illness have sexualities too, yo. There's nothing inherently wrong with that.

      (TW self-harm tropes?)

      For this masochist, pain can be soothing in the way that Cliff describes - bringing the body into immediate focus. When someone else makes that sort of mind-fuzzing pain happen in risk-aware consenting situations, that's an OK kink, but if I were to make the same pain happen to myself to serve the same ends, that's "fucked up"? Buh?

      My mental illness might be a dealbreaker for you (and that's fine - you get to have those), but please don't conflate that with abuse. :/

    2. Seconding Muse142; I have no interest in BDSM myself outwith intellectual, but it's upsetting to see you claim it as a front for people who are 'fucked up' (also, saying that you're a newbie but then going on to make sweeping judgements about the whole scene?). Both abusers and those with mental illness aren't 'fucked up'; they're people with interests outside of those identities. There's also just as many abusers in normal social scenes as there are in kink, and I don't think there's a correlation between being an abuser and being interested in kink. Abusers are just going to abuse, and there's a difference between consensual humiliation and actual abuse.

      I'd also suggest that you may not intend it to be so, but the way you're coming across both in this comment and the one below makes it look like you're trying to troll. Just a heads up.

    3. I am a masochist, and I self-harm.

      These are two entirely separate things for me, with vastly different motivations. I suffer from bouts of depression, and when the badfeelings feel like they're getting out of control, that's when I self-harm, as a coping mechanism. I'd never ask my partner to do any kind of painkink with me at those times, because I know he'd be uncomfortable with hurting me in a non-fun way. I'd never pretend to be fine and happy to get him to hit me in that state because it'd be a massive breach of trust.

      Fun, masochistic pain for me can only happen when I'm in a good state of mind already. Basically the opposite situation to self-harm. The more calm and content I am at the start, the better the hittyfuntimes feel. I feel closer to my partner than ever after. I'm still doing it for the feeling of being hurt though, it's just pain to make me feel good, instead of pain to cope with the bad.

      So please, don't conflate masochism and self-harm. What I do when I'm depressed is a million miles away to what I share with my partner.

    4. Some people in the kink world self-harm and bottom and those are different needs being met, and for some people it meets the same need. In my communities there has been a lot of intellectual debate among experienced players over whether people 'should' indulge in masochistic play if it scratches the same itch as self-harm. But it's kind of irrelevant because some do and that's their play and not really anyone's business. I agree with the above commenters that it is wise to be careful how you talk about this going forward, and I can see how as a newbie it might seem kind of strange, and thus scary. But mental illness does not preclude the right to good sex/play of the type someone wants unless it precludes the ability to consent. I would like to offer that your kink doesn't have to be their kink and to just be aware of your own motivations, needs, and feelings as you go forward so that you can advocate for your personal limits and figure out what is and isn't healthy for YOU. What about this makes you uncomfortable? What are the stories in your head about yourself that makes this feel weird? Can you finish the sentence: If people ___ that means I am ___ and that means ___ will happen in the future? Is that a true or helpful story for you? Just some things to think about/try on as you explore. In short: if they're not hurting anyone else, try to figure out why you're squicked. It's likely to be more in your mind than anything else. It might help to try to figure out what your judgements and fears are going forward

      As far as abusers go - kink does not justify abuse. Period. Some people are into denial of food/water whatever (your kink may not be their kink), but in no circle I've ever been in has ignoring a safeword been okay. In my experience the overall rate of abuse is probably the same or maybe lower in kink-land, but there are some communities that somehow seem to keep a lot of unsafe people around. And the internet is frequently on that list because it's so easy to get away with things online that are obviously not okay in real life. Try to meet some people in your area in person and get to know them. What are your community's rules and responses to people who seem unsafe? Do people who have multiple complaints against them still get to come to play parties, munches, etc.? I would suggest that avoiding abusive people is the same in kink as it is in vanilla life. Are boundaries respected? Is this person trying to isolate their partner (or you) from others? Is there un-negotiated power exchange? Does this person squick you out? Do they impose on your space or body without consent? Getting to know someone in a vanilla context before you play can do wonders for one's creep-dar, and I recommend it highly for everyone but especially for newbies. In contrast to self harm, abuse is also not a psychological issue. It is a behavior pattern of cruelty to others which, while it might be associated with mental illness, should not be excused by sympathy for that mental illness. It rarely gets better with therapy for counseling. I have worked with a domestic violence project for years and have yet to see an abuser become a non-abuser because of psychological or psychiatric interventions, and only one for whom I was hopeful. I know it does happen, but it's rare. So, in short, trust your gut, find friends who are not partners in the scene so you can bounce ideas off of them and use their gut feelings too, and take it slow. Kink is a no more dangerous world for exploring than vanilla life is. Good luck.

    5. "How do you know who's abusive or being abused?" is an important question. "How do you know who's fucked up in the head?" is a poor way of putting it.

      I mean, I'm incredibly fucked up in the head! I have a history of being abused, I self-harm, and if you've noticed this blog sometimes goes dark for months at a time, that's usually because I'm in yet another depressive episode. I don't think this makes it unhealthy for me to do BDSM, anymore than it's unhealthy for me to do any other form of going about my life. (I mean, look at the little story up top; swimming causes me fun pain, but no one is demanding I justify why my swimming isn't a form of self-harm or if it's okay for me to swim when I'm so crazy.)

      Also, I'm a little bothered that you seem to be lumping "abusive" and "being abused" into the same category of "fucked up." Someone whose partner ignores their safeword isn't a creepy dangerous person--their partner is! And this goes even if the submissive talks about enjoying it. For people to convince themselves "this is just his way, I like it, really..." isn't at all uncommon in abusive relationships.

      Tell if people are abusive by whether or not they respect consent, safewords, and boundaries. Tell if people are psychologically damaged by nothing because you don't actually need to know that.

    6. Thank you.
      These claims that people with mental health issues are not allowed to engage in BDSM always strike me as incredibly patronizing. They seem to assume that mentally ill people are entire incapable of reflecting on their own motivations.

    7. I'm a newbie to the BDSM scene, too, and I note that Cliff's written some good, important posts on the consent problems in some communities (search for "The Missing Stair" for instance) in the past.

      Other than that...well, you're new, which means you're learning. Maybe act like it?

    8. Wow, everyone else here has been way more polite than I was going to be. I am a masochist, and I have self-harmed, and (while I don't think there's anything particularly "psychologically fucked-up" about anything I've done) I am in fact cognitively fucked-up in some ways, which means you could say I have "self-injurious behaviors" instead if you wanted to, how fun! Being at this little intersection has cost me a lot of angst and anxiety. I could go on about how much I've thought about this, and how (like Codeless already said) you should give people the basic respect of assuming that they've thought through their own choices.
      But people don't actually have to be thoughtful and not-fucked-up to deserve respect.
      What really bothers me here is that you're going all judgy and "ew" at... people you're saying are probably depressed, and/or might be being abused. Does that sound good to you when you think about it? You want to judge who's Good People to Be Around, and being in trouble and needing help is what makes people Bad?
      I can understand not being able to help and wanting to just avoid the whole situation.
      But you're coming off like people with mental illnesses, and abusers, *and their victims*, are like people with bad fashion sense or smelly breath, who you want to avoid so you can feel good about what nice company you keep. It's just plain disgusting to act like that about mental illness. And when it comes to the people who're being abusive-- abuse does not just equal things that creep you out. "Ew" is not a sufficient response to it.

  2. This post really resonates with my friend who is very much of the same mind. This is exactly what she's said re: taking a load off of her mind.

    In a parallel way, from the top perspective, being in complete and utter control gives me the same kind of relief. She enjoys not worrying about whether or not she is pleasing; I enjoy not worrying about whether or not she is pleased. I make explicit expectations, she follows them, and we both end up feeling... relieved, happy, comfortable.

    And then when we're done, we curl up and it's just... Happy. Close. Together.

    Thank you for posting these. They're wonderful posts.

    1. "I enjoy not worrying about whether or not she is pleased."

      So how do you know if she's feeling uncomfortable in a scene? Safeword? And if she's simply not having any fun, how does she tell you that?

    2. This is all IMO, so take some salt as you read this.

      These kinds of things (kink like this) only work if you have a solid foundation of trust and communication between the involved parties. Full stop. You can't walk into this stuff with a near-stranger and expect a good outcome.

      In my case, I trust that she will tell me if something doesn't work for her and she knows that she has a voice (in the metaphorical sense) and that I will listen when she uses it. I may or may not choose to heed what she says -- such is the nature of our particular arrangement! -- but she is never silenced.

      Also, don't take my statement to mean that there is a disrespect of limits. I respect my partner's limits even though she wears a collar and calls me sir. Even when I objectify and dehumanize her. We've built that foundation of trust and understanding so that, even when down in the dark corners of human sexual behavior, I am pretty sure where the lines are and that I won't hurt her (in the bad sense of psychological harm).

    3. There's a big difference between "I don't need to worry whether everything I do is pleasing you" and "I don't care about anything you want." Pretty sure bitblender is talking about the latter.

    4. I'm really sorry if I offended anyone and I repeat that I DO NOT believe that all people who engage in BDSM are people with issues. Just that in BDSM circles I've seen a good many Doms who have outright stated that the slave should have no rights at all and not even a safeword and many slaves who openly acknowledge that they are just 'doormats' who don't have a say in things. I know BDSM is supposed to be safe, sane and consensual but there are lots of people who don't seem to believe that and I am curious about how come these people just get away with what they do. Again, I'm not saying that everything that goes on in BDSM is abuse but I've read about some people's accounts of their BDSM relationships which are definitely rape and abuse under the alias of BDSM. I'm really really very sorry to have offended you guys but I was really curious and thought that I could get some valuable input here.

    5. I understand it wasn't about "all BDSM is abuse," but in your initial comment you did seem to be putting "abusive", "being abused," and "mentally ill" in the same category of badness, when One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.

      That's what people were responding to here.

    6. Hmm. I should sort of have been careful in that direction. Heartfelt apologies to all.

    7. Funny, bitblender, your description of how you feel when topping - relaxed because you don't need to worry about how your sub feels - is completely opposite to how it feels for me. I suppose I'm something of a 'service' top, because I am always very focused on how my partner feels. I enjoy inflicting pain, but only when I know it will be well received. My sense of relaxation & completeness comes from having used my partner and given them pleasure, which I feel sympathetically. I don't think I could de-prioritise my partner's feelings in a scene if I tried... Such a contrast.

  3. I don't mean to be all feelingsy, but I'm super glad you are feeling well enough to blog here again! This blog has helped me figure my own self out a lot and put into words and thoughts a lot of my own feelings, and this post in general has put into words a lot of my own thoughts that I wasn't sure were, I guess, good enough reasons to be into something, so I wanted to say thank you! (And congratulations on graduating nursing school! Too many exclamation points!) I guess it made me feel lazy to not want to have to worry constantly during sex whether or not I was doing what was expected of me, or doing it right, or doing it well, even though everyone has a better time when I don't have to, but that might be to do with lots of subtle things I've overheard from my many dude friends discussing their sex lives. Hearing someone else say it makes me feel way less like The Worst Partner Ever about it.

  4. I've been thinking about this question a lot, particularly because I enjoy humiliation scenes that would be incredibly abusive if my partner meant what they said.

    I am someone who spends a lot of time worried that other people are secretly disappointed in me. It used to really twist me up inside - I was desperate to please but didn't know what to do better and the whole thing was so scary I could not admit my fears even to myself. It turns out that having someone be openly and vocally disappointed in you is actually a relief in comparison. As Cliff said, being told exactly what to do frees me from worrying or managing people's (imagined) expectations. We finish off those scenes with cuddles and reassurance and somehow airing out those fears, even out of context, makes them easier to deal with 'in real life.