,

Sex Spoken Here: Difference between BDSM and Abuse

BDSM

Sex Spoken Here: What is the Difference Between BDSM and Abuse

Welcome to my virtual therapy room!  I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this podcast deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones.   This week I am talking about the difference between BDSM and Abuse.

The difference between BDSM and an abuse or an abusive relationship in a word: CONSENT.

Everything done in a BDSM relationship is done with the consent of all parties.    The consent must be clear and unambiguous and not be as the result of pressure.  The parties need to be able to give consent.    If these conditions are met, then there is nothing abusive about even the most extreme BDSM relationships.

Abuse can be the result of coercion.   It can also be straight forward.  The dividing line is consent.

What does consent look like?

Consent comes as the result of a discussion that talks about hard limits (things you absolutely won’t do) and soft limits (things you don’t think you are interested in or you don’t think you will do but this may change) and things you would like to do.    Agreements are made about limits: activities that are on the ‘yes’ list, activities that are on the ‘maybe’ list, activities on the ‘hell no’ list.  Agreements are made about how we will communicate in the middle of rough sex or a BDSM scene or even an ordinary situation in the world that something is a problem, or ‘stop right now’, or ‘I am enjoying myself.’  For ‘Stop right now’ we often have safe words or gestures.  These are things that cannot be misinterpreted and that will tell the person who is the active partner/top/dominant that a hard limit is being approached or has been reached.

Ethical dominants know that negotiating to push a limit in the middle of a scene is not appropriate as a person cannot give consent in the middle of a scene (because of the power imbalance, because of their mental state – high on the scene).

Even in relationships in which there is a 24/7 authority transfer, there are discussions about limits and consent and importantly how to withdraw consent.

There is a lot of erotica out there that talks about ‘no limits’ relationships and ones in which withdrawal of consent is not allowed.  The premise is that once someone becomes a slave, they no longer have the authority to leave the relationship.    In real life, breakdown of the relationship and how to exit is something that is discussed as part of an extended negotiation when someone is considering a 24/7 authority transfer relationship.    Some people have a ritual involved (the slave has to beg for release) others do not.  In non-abusive relationships, the parameters of the relationship including limits and exiting the relationship are discussed before relationship properly begins and often a written document is made detailing rules, responsibilities and agreements as well as what happens in the event of a break up.

In some ethical 24/7 relationships, the slave or submissive is not allowed to say no to any particular activities however they are given space to say why they would wish to say no and their feelings and reasons are considered by their Master, Ma’am, Sir or Dominant.    If there is no space to express an opinion ever, it is likely the relationship is abusive.

There may be an acceptable format for expressing an opinion or a ritual for expressing an opinion.   As long as it is possible for the parties to raise their feelings, views and concerns, the relationship is likely to be non-abusive.

Many people who pursue BDSM are misled by abusive people telling them that ‘true slaves’ or ‘true submissives’ don’t have limits.

These abusive people pressure their desired prey to give up all control before they know much about the person they are giving control up to.  Many groom online and after a long acquaintance online lull the other person into a false sense of security.  No real life tests of the dominant’s identity and situation have been undertaken and yet there is trust.  In these situations, it is easy for people to fall prey to abuse.  They have invested a lot emotionally in the relationship and don’t want to lose it so they often will relent and say yes to things that they are truly not happy to consent to.

As abusive partners do in more ordinary relationships, abusive partners isolate their ultimate victims.  They make it difficult for the person to talk to family and friends – often saying that family or friends would not understand their special relationship.  After a while, the victim feels as though the only person they have in their life is the abuser.

This can happen in non-monogamous relationships as well.  An abuser can work hard to see everything is kept within the family and the whole family can become isolated.

Abusive partners apply pressure in the form of threats to leave and more subtly through comparisons so the victim fears losing the abuser.  Abusive partners actively seek to denigrate and diminish their partners’ so that they lose self-esteem and confidence.  Ethical dominants seek to support their partners to be the best they can be.  After all, when a person is shining and others see it, they reflect well on those who have them in their care.   If you find yourself shrinking back at my last statement, think about parents and children.  When a child accomplishes something or is well mannered, often parents are complimented as it is assumed that some of the reason the child is this way is to do with the environment of their upbringing.  If you feel pride in your child why would you shrink from feeling pride in a partner’s accomplishments?

The difference between BDSM relationships and abusive ones can sometimes feel hard to unpick as there are abusive BDSM relationships as well as ones that are really healthy.

Here are a few of my guidelines for making the distinction between abuse and healthy:

  • If you feel worse about yourself since you have become involved with them, then the relationship may be abusive.
  • If they consistently ignore your limits even though you have negotiated these, then the relationship may be abusive.
  • If they regularly try to renegotiate when you are tired, in an altered state of consciousness for whatever reason (drugs, alcohol, illness, subspace, tired, stressed), then the relationship may be abusive.
  • If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, then the relationship may be abusive
  • If they work hard to isolate you, then the relationship maybe be abusive.
  • If they consistently do things that make you feel less than or unimportant and fear that they will leave, then the relationship may be abusive.

If you are unsure, find someone who is BDSM knowledgeable to talk through these issues as they are not going to automatically assume a relationship that has authority transfer as part of it is abusive or a relationship in which you are subject to physical punishment is abusive.  They will understand consent and be able to help you parse out what is going on.

You may want to seek therapy or coaching if you find yourself in a situation that feels like it may be abusive or even just feels as though it is not for you.

If you choose to do so (and it can be extremely helpful to work through issues with an objective person), make sure that the therapist you choose is someone who is kink and BDSM knowledgeable.  That way you are less likely to find that you are hearing their own prejudices and you won’t have to teach the therapist about your general world and relationship view, just about the view that applies to you as an individual and your relationships.   You can find a list of kink and BDSM knowledgeable therapist on the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s website (https://www.ncsfreedom.org/) In the UK, many therapists who are kink, BDSM and non-monogamy knowledgeable and friendly can be found on Pink Therapy’s website (https://www.pinktherapy.com/).

Marjorie wrote in:  Alfie and I have been together for about a year.  We met online and our relationship was really strong by the time we met each other IRL 8 months later.  I have become accustomed to thinking of him as my Master and I as his slave as we agreed an authority transfer relationship.  Since we have been together IRL, I have been feelings more and more uncomfortable.  He ignores the limits we agreed on during our negotiations.  One of my hardest limits was marks on my face and neck because I am a medical doctor and going in to work with visible marks causes problems with my colleagues and worries my patients.   The first couple of times he left a mark on my face, he said it was an accident but now it happens almost weekly and it is really making things awkward at work.  When I try to talk with him about it, he reminds me that I agreed to a 24/7 authority transfer relationship and that if I want to leave that relationship, we would not be seeing each other anymore.    I don’t want to lose him so I apologise for making an issue out of it.  But it still doesn’t feel right to me.  This week I talked to a good friend about it and she says that the relationship is abusive and unhealthy and I should leave.  She has no experience with BDSM and I know she disapproves so I don’t know if her advice is accurate or comes from her own biases.  Please advise.

Thanks for writing in Marjorie.  From your description, this is an abusive relationship.  An ethical Master would protect your career as it serves them to have you doing well and being successful.  Successful people who like their work are happier in other aspects of their lives.   An ethical Master would stick with your agreements and if they wanted to modify an agreement, make space for you to express your thoughts and feelings and take these into account.  Ethical Masters do not rule by fear alone.  This man is playing on your fears including your fear of losing him.    Of course my response is with only the information you have provided me – so your mileage may vary.  I would advise you to see a kink and bdsm knowledgeable coach or therapist or peer counsellor and talk your situation through.

Today I talked about abuse versus BDSM. If you were triggered by any of the issues raised or if you simply have a question or comment, please write to me at drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com.

Thanks for joining me for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey.

Write to me with suggestions for the show, questions you want answered at drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com, follow me on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Check out my YouTube channel: Dr Lori Beth Bisbey. For a free 30-minute strategy session with me, go to https://the-intimacy-coach.com/and click the button that says click here! on the contact page.

Please leave a review on iTunes and stitcher if you enjoy the show.

If you want advice via email, I have a relatively low cost plan.

Please email me about it at loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com    If you would like regular information with updates about blogs, courses, podcasts and my adventures, please sign up for my regular list by emailing drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com .

I look forward to seeing you next week.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *