Telling The Difference Between Abuse & BDSM

Author: Cindy R. © 2002

used with permission



This paper is about the differences between abusive and dominant/submissive relationships. For ease of writing, I am using the male pronoun for the abuser and dominant person, and the female pronoun for the abused partner and the submissive. However, all of the people involved could be either sex. First I will discuss the characteristics of everyone involved and will conclude with a summary on both types of relationships.

First I will look at an abuser and a dominant, then the abused partner and the submissive.

The abuser usually has an uncontrollable temper. He is extremely jealous, sometimes to the point of flying into a rage at his partner if another guy even looks at her. He will blame her for everything. He has a fear of being abandoned, so he will purposely manipulate her activities so that she has minimal contact with others so that he will have almost total control of her. Usually an abuser comes from a bad background, where he was either abused himself or watched another guy abuse his mother and maybe even his sisters. Several abusers grew up thinking that this is the way that guys are supposed to treat women. The abuser also does drugs or drinks to the point of excess. He will use verbal abuse to make his partner feel bad. He is usually reckless and will drive under the influence, or start fights, etc. He refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. He blames everyone else when his life doesn't go well. He is sometimes cruel to animals and children. He will lash out at nearly anyone or anything that gets in his way. He uses threats of violence to get his way. He usually has a low self- esteem. He has to make others look or feel bad to feel good about himself. He has no respect for interpersonal boundaries and does not hesitate to invade someone's space. He has very distinct mood swings where he can go from very loving to violent in a split second. He believes he has all the power and needs to control everyone and everything around him. He sometimes has a chemical imbalance called bipolar disorder.

On the other side is the dominant. He has the following qualities about him. He cherishes his submissive or partner. He is a supportive friend and partner. He is always in control of himself. He would never ask a submissive to put him before her career or family, although in her mind he is always first. He is very trustworthy. He has a good sense of humor, is kind, and very warm and affectionate. He is romantic, very protective of his submissive, and chivalrous. He is old fashioned in the way he treats women, although he is new condescending. He respects all women. He is strong and unyielding however he would never force his submissive to do anything she does not want to do. He is always careful not to hurt her either mentally, emotionally or physically. He believes in communication and listens to her needs and wants. He is very secure and can laugh at himself and life when everything seems to be crazy around him. He is courageous enough to ask for help when he needs it. He is always learning new things. " The most important thing about a dominant is that he knows that love is only tie that really bind". (Miller p. 53)

An abused partner generally has an intense need for love, because she more than likely came from a home where there was very little love and like the abuser she was probably either abused herself or saw her mother being abused and grew up thinking that is the way women are supposed to be treated. She generally has a very low self-esteem. She has a very strong need for a relationship to make her feel like she is worth something. She gains her self worth by becoming a caretaker. She tends to be very loyal to the abuser, even when he is harassing her. She defends everything he does. She blames herself for everything that is wrong and strongly believes that it will all change if she just tries harder. She finds it very difficult to express anger and keeps everything bottled up inside. She has no idea where her boundaries are, she does not have any personal space. She has virtually no idea of how a woman is really supposed to be treated. She either uses drugs or alcohol or the men in her life do. When she realizes that something is wrong, she will make repeated attempts to leave, but has an inability to follow through and more often than not goes back to him over and over. It can sometimes take many years for the abused partner to finally leave.

A submissive on the hand has a very self-esteem. She is not weak willed or weak in any sense of the word and usually has high goals and standards in her professional life. She is usually a giver who tries to do her best in every situation. In her work life, she is in a care-giving career such as nursing or teaching. She is a leader, rather than a follower. She is very capable of intense joy and pleasure especially in a fulfilling or sustaining relationship. She is also a sensitive person who is in tune with other people's emotions. She is usually aware of subtle shifts of emotions in others. She finds relaxation, in the place where she is most comfortable. She knows who she is and what she wants and is able to adapt to nearly any situation she finds herself in. She has no more than the usual cultural conflicts about her body, and its goodness and beauty than anyone else and she usually has less because she has generally come to the conclusion that you can either accept me for who I am or just leave me alone. She is proud of her accomplishments, whether it be in her personal or professional life. She has a very playful side to her. She loves to have fun in anything she does. She finds nourishing and fulfilling relationships and if her partners do not live up to her standards and expectations, she will leave them behind in a heartbeat. She is tolerant of other's views , but will not accept anyone telling her what she should believe in. A good submissive knows her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Her highest goal is to be understood. When she finds that kind of relationship, she will be totally devoted to that person.

The characteristics of an abusive relationship are extreme jealousy, emotional withholding, lack of intimacy, rage, sexual coercion, infidelity, verbal abuse, threats, lies, broken promises, physical violence, power plays and control games. Abuse does not have to be physical. There is emotional abuse. This is where one partner constantly puts down the other partner, some ways are telling her she is worthless, and you are lucky to have me because no one else would have her. He is always criticizing her and keeping her in isolation. He always has to be the boss. This is also verbal abuse. This is name-calling, intimidation and threats. Intimidation can be making angry or threatening gestures; the use of physical size; standing in doorways during arguments to prevent escapes; out shouting the other partner; or driving recklessly. Another form is financial abuse where he controls all the money. Physical abuse is beating her, pushing, shoving, slapping, grabbing, choking, kicking, and biting. Sexual abuse is RAPE. Sexual abuse is using force to have sex or forcing your partner to do something sexually that she does not want to do. Sexual abuse is any nonconsensual sex act. Abuse relationships usually start out with the abuser showing only his good and loving side. He may start with verbal abuse, but this escalates over time until usually the abused is a former shadow of herself.

This is the exact opposite of an ideal Dominant/submissive relationship. In a Dominant/submissive relationship, there is no jealousy, because the dominant loves to show off his submissive, and likes people to know that he has someone special. A Dominant/submissive relationship is very close, loving and caring. A dominant is always telling her how he feels. These relationships are sticky sweet, because they are always holding hands and telling each other how much they love each other. The dominant also tells his submissive how valuable she is to him. There is more communication in a Dominant/submissive relationship than in nearly all other relationships. In a Dominant/submissive there is very little anger, if either of the partners is upset, they talk over the problem and find a way to solve it. While a Dominant/submissive relationship may look controlling from the outside, everything is consensual. Sex is never forced or coerced. A dominant always asks his submissive what she would like to do. They do play games in the bedroom; however, the submissive has the power to stop them at any time if the need arises. If either partner sleeps with someone else, it is consensual with all parties involved. While a dominant is in control of nearly everything that goes on in the relationship, he values and listens to the submissive’s opinion. A Dominant/submissive relationship usually starts out very slowly and develops over time as trust and communication improve. The main components in a Dominant/submissive relationship are love, trust, and communication; everything they do together is SAFE, SANE, and CONSENSUAL. A Dominant/submissive relationship looks like one person has all the power, but it is actually a very equal partnership. Both people make all major decisions. People in regular and abusive relationships should take a hint from the Dominant/submissive relationship and communicate more about what they need and want in a relationship.

Submitted by: Cindy R


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