Why BDSM Relationships Are Not Abuse

Author: Raven Shadowborne © 1998

Used With Author's Permission



  Many people look at a BDSM relationship and see only the physical s/m play that many of us in the lifestyle enjoy. What they see is one person beating another. What they don't see, or refuse to see is what is behind that physical play. They don't see what led up to creating the relationship the way it is. They don't see the pleasure each participant is receiving. They are blinded by what society has called an epidemic of domestic violence. Society teaches that striking a woman under any circumstances is wrong. Because of this, when someone looks at a BDSM relationship all they see is the hitting. Here, I will attempt to show what separates BDSM from domestic violence. 

   BDSM is based on consent. Domestic violence is not. You can argue that a battered person does consent by their refusal to leave or fight back. But, the psychological make up of a battered person prevents such refusal, therefor making them incapable of an informed decision to consent. In BDSM the submissive consents fully before hand to the activities which will take place. Through the negotiation period before the relationship becomes a committed one, the submissive usually discusses their needs, wants, desires, likes and dislikes as far as play is concerned. The dominant and submissive are well informed of each other's preferences. It is because of this information, that both are capable of making the informed choice to consent. In an abusive relationship, the abuser does not tell his/her victim that there will be physical violence and emotional subjugation. The victim has no idea that this will occur. From this lack of information, the victim in no way, has made an informed choice to consent. This is the biggest difference between BDSM relationships and ones of domestic violence, informed choice to consent. 

   Other differences are psychological in nature. In an abusive relationship, the abuser works out of fear. Fear of losing his/her partner. This fear is so overwhelming that they must control their partner as completely as possible. Make him/her completely dependent on them, and set out to do so in a fairly similar pattern. First comes the emotional and psychological breakdown of the victim's self esteem which includes alienating the victim from any possible support. Placing the victim in a more psychologically and physically vulnerable position, which makes it possible for the physical abuse to take place and the victim believes they "deserve" it. In a BDSM relationship, the dominant sets about to build up the submissive. Increasing his/her self esteem. Teaching and guiding them in areas where they need improvement. Those areas being ones the submissive themselves agree on and consents to the guidance. A dominant does not alienate his/her submissive from their friends or family. Again, consent and prior knowledge play a key role. The dominant does not tear down his submissive, destroying her self image and her self esteem. The dominant does the opposite. 

   In a BDSM relationship there must be complete trust between the dominant and submissive. This trust from the submissive, includes trusting the dominant with their very life. A firm belief that the dominant has only their best interests at heart and will do nothing intentionally to harm them. The dominant trusts that the submissive will uphold his/her rules and do the best he/she can to meet their role in the relationship. In a domestic violence relationship, there is no trust. The victim fears the abuser, fears for their very life.  The abuser does not trust him/herself nor their partner to be faithful, committed, etc. A submissive may fear possible punishment for a mistake, but in a healthy BDSM relationship, the submissive does NOT fear the dominant themselves.  

   In a BDSM relationship, the b/d and s/m activities (pain play, and bondage) are done for mutual satisfaction. Both parties get some kind of emotional and/or physical pleasure from the activities. Many submissives eagerly anticipate a pain play session, be it a flogging, spanking or other type of pain play. They get great sexual arousal and emotional satisfaction from such activities. Bring into this the existence of sub space (that place where pain no longer hurts, and many liken it to flying, a natural high) and the pleasure a submissive can receive from these activities is even greater. The dominant as well receives pleasure. Be they a sadist who enjoys giving pain, or a non sadist who gets off on the reaction of their partner, either way it is a pleasurable experience for him/her as well. Each participant is getting their needs met. In a domestic violence situation, the victim receives no pleasure from pain. They do not crave it, or in any other way want it. It is forced upon them at the whims of their abuser and is done so in a destructive manner. Designed to destroy the self esteem of the victim. In no way does it mutually meet the needs of both participants.  

   In a BDSM relationship the submissive serves the dominant because they want to. It makes them feel good to do so. It fulfills a need in them, giving them peace, contentment, a sense of wholeness that is lacking when they do not have a dominant to serve. As well as by giving their submission to the dominant, they receives in return what they need to satisfy their inner desires, that being the dominance that only a dominant person can give them. In an abusive relationship the victim "serves" the abuser out of fear of reprisal, that fear can run as deeply as fearing for their very lives. They do not get any emotional or physical pleasure from serving. They do not get psychological completeness from their service.  

   There are other differences between the two, on both emotional and psychological levels. There are far less abusive relationships in BDSM than there are in the community at large. BDSM is, for so many people, just another way of expressing their love, commitment and desire for their partner. It is done is a safe, sane and consensual manner.  






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