If you want a good primer on how to identify abuse-masquerading-as-BDSM, you could read 50 Shades of Grey and take notes on Christian’s behavior.
I wish I were kidding.
The thing is, it’s very easy for people who know nothing about BDSM save what they’ve read of a few Gor novels or, possibly, 50 Shades, to categorize all expressions of it as abusive, or woman-hating.
Because, you see, the kink subculture is a microcosm of our larger culture. And our larger culture is abusive and woman-hating. So you’re going to get a lot of that sort of shit — the tropes of kinkdom, I call them. The male-dom/fem-sub dynamic seen as the only TWUE way; the view of submissive as subhuman; the equation of submissive to “liking pain and humiliation” and vice versa; the belief that all women are naturally submissive and would be so much happier if they would just submit to a Domly Dom who would show them their TWUE nature; an actually abusive relationship that uses BDSM as a cover-up. You’re going to get these tropes, and worse ones, as much as you’re going to find sex-positive, queer-positive, liberating, non-tropey expressions of BDSM. More, in fact.
I’ve been through two abusive relationships that used BDSM to cover up the abuse. (And one other fairly vanilla relationship that was abusive.) They were so pernicious that I didn’t realize what was happening until far after the fact. I didn’t even realize that because these relationships were my introduction to BDSM I ended up letting my true nature as a domme be subsumed under my partners’ needs for me to submit. The fact that I enjoy being topped made it easier.
Towards the end of the first relationship, we were talking seriously about doing 24/7 Master/slave relationship, complete with collaring ceremony for me. I didn’t even know enough about myself to know that I’d never do that with a human being (gods are another matter). I was so enamored with my first boyfriend, oh my gods you mean a man actually finds me attractive what the hell I should settle for him, that I didn’t take any of my own needs into consideration. I let him manipulate and use me to his own ends, and then I lashed out and did really crazy shit that eventually led to his dumping me (and thank the gods for that).
When I was on the rebound from him, I met another guy who proceeded to put me through psychological torture for six months before telling me I was just an easy lay and that’s all he’d ever wanted from me. During those six months we were long-distance, and I wore a collar for him. To this day I get nightmares about him, and I can’t speak his name without having a minor panic attack.
So when I read the recaps of 50 Shades of Grey at Jenny Trout’s blog, and saw all the excerpts of the book…first, I was really glad I’d decided to read the recaps before picking up the book myself, because now I know it would have triggered the hells out of me. Second, I was horrified. Continue reading