BDSM and Child Abuse

Author: Raven Shadowborne © 1998

Used With Author's Permission



   This is a topic that comes up very often in discussing BDSM. It is guaranteed to cause some very emotional responses. Many try to link a submissive personality to past child abuse. Saying that a submissive personality is a psychological remnant of the past abuse. Some try to say that BDSM is just a way for survivors to continue in the victim mindset created by that past abuse. Some also say that those who are into BDSM are more likely to abuse both children and adults. 

   Saying that being submissive due to past abuse just doesn't completely hold water. I believe that submission is an inborn trait. This inherent trait may preclude the person to being abused or victimized both as a child and an adult. But, from personal experience, I must say that BDSM can give the survivor the tools he/she needs to heal such abuse. By advocating SS&C, learning your own needs and those of your partner, by advocating strength and independent thought, this lifestyle teaches the submissive that she does indeed have control over what happens to her body. That she doesn't have to be a victim and it is her choice whether or not to submit to a dominant. A victim of abuse had no choice. 

   It is a possibility that some survivors get into BDSM because their past abuse trained them to be submissive, but from what I have seen the majority of those who entered this lifestyle as a direct result of abuse in their pasts, do so as dominants not submissive. A victim of abuse has an intense desire to be in control of themselves and their surroundings and what happens in those areas. So it makes more logical sense to me that a survivor of abuse would be more likely to become dominant as a direct result of the abuse than submissive. That is, if the past abuse is the reason they entered the lifestyle in the first place. Many dominants, usually dommes, have stated that they became dominant as a result of past abuse. Due to the past abuse, they are more comfortable in a controlling role than in giving up control to another. This is typical an expected for a survivor of abuse. 

   There does indeed exist a small number of people in the lifestyle who are stuck in victim mode. These are the ones who have not healed past issues of abuse and get into BDSM as a way of finding what it is that they consider to be normal. Now there is nothing wrong with this if the person truly enjoys BDSM. The problem comes in when the person is in the lifestyle to punish themselves for what they consider to be their fault. Or to reenact the dynamics of their past situations because they feel they deserve nothing better, or have no idea that anything different exists. These are the people most likely to be more masochistic than they are truly comfortable with because they believe they deserve the punishment. They are likely to seek out more and more physical pain than they truly desire to have, this need driven by their belief they deserve to be beaten. This is different than a person who is a masochist because of their nature. A true masochist gains physical pleasure from pain, a victim mindset masochist, does not. They are likely to lack self esteem and become involved with an overly domineering partner. Many times those partners are indeed abusive. To the submissive who is in BDSM for those reasons an abusive dominant is what a dominant should be. They do not look for someone who treats them better, because they feel they don't deserve anything better. 

  To understand that abuse does not equal submission one first has to understand the mindsets of both and the motivating factors behind each one's actions. 

   A submissive, gives his/her submission out of a need within themselves. To do so brings them a sense of peace, completeness, and pride (amongst other good results). They strive to please their dominant because it pleases them to do so. The motivating factor is not fear, but is that emotional satisfaction their submission gives them. 

   A person who is still in victim mindset has a motivating force of fear driving their actions. They gain little to no personal pleasure from their activities. They do them to prevent reprisal (beatings, emotional/psychological abuse). 

   A submissive trusts, respects and in many cases loves their dominant. A person in victim mindset does not trust, respect or love their abusive partner. They usually fear and hate that person. 

   The idea that people in this lifestyle are more likely to abuse children and adults is one that I totally disagree with. Those in this lifestyle are vehemently opposed to child abuse. They are more open and receptive to the signs of abuse. For both children and adults, abuse, it's ramifications and signs are often discussed within the lifestyle's communities. Though there do exist some people who use the lifestyle as a front to hide their truly abuse natures under the guise of BDSM, those people are the exception rather then the rule. 

   Could there be links between past abuse and BDSM? Probably for some people, yes. But there is not enough evidence to support the blanket statement that BDSM is a psychological after affect of past abuse. There does, at first glance, appear to be more survivors in the lifestyle than not. But, if one does a bit of research, they will find, very quickly, that there are just as many survivors, if not more, in non-BDSM relationships. They will also find that there are more currently active abuse relationships outside of BDSM than there are within BDSM. I think that the appearance of higher numbers in BDSM is a direct result of the open communication this lifestyle advocates. The people within BDSM, for the most part, are more open to discussing the topic than vanilla people are. They have fewer inhibitions for forbidden topics due to the seemingly forbidden nature of BDSM itself. A submissive is encouraged to delve deep into his/her own psyche and share this with his/her dominant, this kind of searching and communication opens the pathways to talking about such issues and being comfortable doing so. 

   For the reasons I state above, and because of my personal experiences with both BDSM and past abuse, I hold the opinion that abuse does not create submissives and BDSM is not a direct result of such past abuse. 






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