Trust and Abuse Issues
How They Affect Your S/M Play

Author: Lord Saber © 2002

Lord Saber's Web Site

More of Lord Saber's articles can be found on the D/s World E-zine.

This article is copyrighted to the stated author(s) and can not be reproduced, copied, reprinted, or posted without the consent of the author. It is used here with permission of the author.



This issue, Lord Saber explores abuse and trust issues and how they may affect your SM play.

As the column bio mentions, I've done SM for over a decade now. And within the last 2 or 3 years, it dawned on me that one of the major attractions of it for me was the trust involved in doing this kind of play. Having grown up in what I can only describe as a "semi-dysfunctional family" with a sometimes verbally abusive mom, trust is and I suppose always will be an issue for me. I never stop thinking about the irony that trust is something so necessary for successful SM play and yet at the same time trust is one area I have such issues around.

Some months ago I ran into a friend who, besides being a long time Janis member is also a pro Domme locally, told me that is the main reason we do SM. As she puts it, "We're humans, we want to explore our trust issues." Hey, works for me. :)

Anywhere you go in our community you will run into submissives that were abused physically, verbally, or both, and also some Dominants. I met one at a leather conference a couple years back who had effectively "Dommed" his abusive father in his own mind and came to terms with the abuse he suffered that way (and gained a lot of respect in my book with the way he chose to handle it). The debate as to whether or not SM attracts more than its share of the "abused" is one I'm not going to get into here. My suspicions are that our community really doesn't have that much higher a rate of people like this than the so-called "vanilla community" has.

So with this in mind, I set out to try and understand a little more about my own abuse issues and how they relate to trust and SM. I talked with Bill Henkin, a San Francisco-based therapist who has presented related programs for Janus, to get his thoughts about this issue. I asked him about dealing with abuse issues and SM and he pointed out a few things to me. One being that yes there are those in the SM community who "suffered some form of abuse" at some point in their life and there are those who didn't. Just like there are those in the "vanilla" world who "suffered abuse" as kids as well. And yet, they for whatever reasons did not get involved in SM. So he affirms the same point I made in the previous paragraph. And he also pointed out something important, which is that it's very difficult to determine what exactly is abuse. He said there are those who would claim to be abused because, "their parents forced them to eat spinach once a week," just like there are those who, as he put it, "got chased around the table by their parents with a knife", who would claim they weren't abused as children.

And too he felt that my question was a very broad one which when I thought about it realized was true. As he pointed out, it really boils down to what type of abuse you felt you suffered, be it physical or emotional, and also what your "definition" of abuse is and whether or not this so-called "abuse" has affected your adult life in a negative way.

So, assume for the moment you were a "victim of some kind of abuse" as a child, or the person you're playing with was. What is the best way of "handling" this while doing a scene? Bill points out that as with everything else you're about to do in a scene, you need to negotiate this. Perhaps you're playing with someone that used to get beaten with a belt as a kid. So it would seem prudent not to incorporate belt play in your scene. Or if the person you're with was constantly "verbally insulted" as a child, you could promise not to use emotionally charged words, like "slut, bitch, or cunt" in a scene with them. Bill also points out that as kids, "we didn't get to negotiate getting hit." Whereas adults, if we choose to do SM, we can negotiate what does or doesn't happen.

There are those too who talk about how doing SM can be "therapeutic" for people with abuse issues. Bill has always felt (and I do too) that the dungeon is not the place to "do psychotherapy." As he points out, "If you do SM, street cleaning, or any other activity and do this as a conscious pattern, it allows us to move into new levels of conscious patterns," and perhaps come to terms with our old issues. And if you do anything without incorporating these so-called "conscious patterns of thought," you won't grow as an individual and you'll repeat the same mistakes over and over. It reminds me of someone I played with briefly last fall who suffered low self-esteem and yet it seemed ran into the same type of people over and over. Whether or not she is aware of her repeating patterns or not, I don't know. And it may be she feels comfortable repeating them. Since I obviously can't be very objective about this person based on only two scenes, I can't say for sure.

It isn't so much of doing SM specifically that might lead us into coming to terms with old issues, it's doing any activity where you realize "say, this is why this issue comes up for me!" In another example of this, a decade ago I did a scene involving anal play with a bottom who has been sexually abused. She felt it would be "good therapy" for her to try it. I was understandably very nervous about doing this, but she assured me it was OK and she really wanted to try this. We proceeded, and the scene ended prematurely. She became very uncomfortable and we stopped. Everything turned out just fine after about 20 minutes or so, but it convinced me of the dangers of doing what I call "SM psychotherapy." Better to leave those kinds of issues to a trained professional.

Bill made one other point, which bears repeating, even if it sounds like an old cliché, which is, "IF you feel you are being abused in any situation, STOP." Very true.

I suppose my column this month has raised more questions than it really answers, and I feel a bit frustrated about that. But I think it also raises the question for those of you that practice SM and feel there was abuse in your past, how do you deal with it, what works and doesn't work for you?

Until Next Time,







Return To General BDSM
Back To Healing Abuse
E-mail Site Owner
Back To Home Page


powered by FreeFind

Page by: Raven Shadowborne © 2001

Graphics & Buttons by: Aylissa Cair & Raven Shadowborne © 1999 - 2006



LnR Toy Store

Site Map


To hear of changes to the web site, or events taking place in the chat room, enter your e-mail address and click on the button below to join the LnRannounce mailing list. This is an announcement list only and is of very low volume. Or if you prefer, e-mail Raven ( ) to be added to the list, be sure to include your e-mail address and the name of the list within the e-mail.

Subscribe to LnRannounce
Powered by
Link To Domination