The Difference Between Abuse and BDSM with Elene Sallinger

Posted November 7, 2013 by Shari in Guest Post / 4 Comments

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For many living a non-BDSM or “vanilla” lifestyle, BDSM equals abuse. Full stop. End of conversation. This notion creates a dichotomy that for many who are kinky by nature leads to depths of self-conflict and self-loathing that can take years to overcome, if they ever are. The reality is that there is not now, nor has there ever been any scientific correlation between abuse and BDSM[i]. In fact, what few studies exist suggest the opposite[ii]. To put it succinctly, abuse and BDSM exist at opposite ends of the spectrum in practice despite the stereotypes that proliferate. However, this is not what the populace at large tends to believe. Science Journalist and writer, Kayt Sukel, states it best in her article “50 Shades Of Grey (Matter): How Science Is Defying BDSM Stereotypes”[iii] saying:

“We are conditioned to see those who practice the lifestyle as imbalanced, damaged and potentially violent. We believe they are incapable of building or maintaining successful sexual or emotional relationships. We think these are people to be both pitied and feared — but mostly feared. And most dangerously, we think these are people who need to be fixed.”

In order to understand the difference between abuse and BDSM, it is necessary to understand the true nature of both what BDSM practice is and what it is to be abused. The concepts that pervade and differentiate BDSM are the exact same concepts that define abuse – consent and limitation. When an individual is abused, in any form, there is no consent and no limitation to the activity. The person upon whom the acts are being perpetrated has no ability to control it in any way. Take for instance the victim of sexual assault/abuse, in each and every case, there is no consent to the act being performed and there is no pre-negotiated limitation to how far the act can progress. This lack of both consent and limitation leads to psychological and physical damage. This victim of abuse is, by definition, harmed by the activity.

Having grown up with a sister in a physically abusive relationship and having spent time in one as an adult, I can state unequivocally that while the violence is occurring, the fear derives from the fact that you have no control over the act. You have no recourse to make it stop in the moment once the violence has begun. You have no fore-knowledge if that beating is going to end in bruises or broken bones. You’ve not given consent and there is no limit to the damage that might be inflicted upon you. This is terrifying in the extreme. The psychological damage is lasting and extensive. No aspect of your psyche or personality is unaffected. You feel diminished both mentally and spiritually. You question everything about yourself from your self-worth, your right to exist, to your culpability in the acts being perpetrated upon you.

In all aspects, BDSM is fundamentally opposed to what I’ve just described. The single greatest tenet upon which BDSM is built is consent. If there is no consent, it’s not BDSM. Period. While, I’m not a BDSM practitioner myself, I am fascinated by it and have met, conversed with, and read the writings of many BDSM practitioners as I researched my novels and the thing that struck me was the trust, love, and intimacy shared by the partners in BDSM relationships. Something I’ve never seen to that degree in any of the vanilla couples I’ve known and certainly not something I myself have experienced.

At the heart of the BDSM dynamic is the power exchange. This is a consensual relinquishment of control by the submissive party to their chosen dominant, whether that be a sadist, a sexual dominant, master, etc. The submissive actively chooses to relinquish their control for a pre-determined length of time, in a negotiated situation with pre-determined limitations in place. For some, this may be no longer than the length of a scene, for others it becomes a contracted lifestyle, but in all cases the communication takes place before the activities commence. Consent and limitation underlie every aspect of BDSM.

This notion of limitation may seem counterintuitive to BDSM practitioners who feel that the essence of BDSM practice is that there is no limitation so long as it’s consensual, but my statement is predicated on the practice of using safewords. While it may be true that no act is off limits for exploration so long as all parties consent, the reality is that the concept and enforcement of safewords is fundamental. Once a safeword is uttered everything stops immediately. So, I maintain, consent and limitation shape the practice of BDSM in all its forms.

Practitioners of BDSM – and studies bear this out[iv] – tend to have closer, more intimate relationships. I believe this is due to the level of trust and sharing required to engage in BDSM activities. A fully realized, BDSM relationship is generally synergistic for the partners involved. Deeply rooted sexual and sensual desires are being met in a trusting, safe and accepting environment. Conversely, in an abusive situation, the recipient is being diminished, victimized, and suffering real harm either physically or emotionally all without any consent being given of any kind.


[i]                                   Brame, Dr. Gloria. “Survivors of Sexual Assault and BDSM – Chat Transcript”. The Pandora Project. n.p. 13 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <http://www.pandys.org/bdsmandsurvivors.htm>

 

[ii]                                  Niklas, Nordling M, et al, “Differences and Similarities Between Gay and Straight Individuals Involved in the Sadomasochistic Subculture” Journal of Homosexuality 22 Sept 2008: pp 41-57. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J082v50n02_03#.UlyMsRAXVft>

Richters, Juliet, et al. “Demographic and Psychosocial Features of Participants in Bondage and Discipline, “Sadomasochism” or Dominance and Submission (BDSM): Data from a National Survey” Journal of Sexual Medicine 4 Mar 2008: pp 1600-1668. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00795.x/abstract;jsessionid=C1CD2A236C1A468157E1FCC4EE97CE9D.d02t02?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=>

[iii]                                 Sukel, Kayt. “50 Shades Of Grey (Matter): How Science Is Defying BDSM Stereotypes” The Huffington Post 30 May 2012. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kayt-sukel/bdsm_b_1554310.html>

[iv]                                Cutler, Bert, et al “Hormonal Changes and Couple Bonding in Consensual Sadomasochistic Activity” Archives of Sexual Behavior April 2009: pp 186-200. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10508-008-9374-5>

 

Review-Awakening-by-Elene-SallingerAwakening by Elene Sallinger
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary Romance
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Published on November 5, 2013
Pages: 224
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon | B&N | ARe | The Book Depository |Goodreads

River Rock, Vermont, 2011. This is the story of Claire Ryan and Evan Lang. 35-year-old Claire joins a local book club for romance readers in order to get over the breakdown of her 10-year relationship, there she meets book shop owner Evan, a dominant man who has never recovered from the sudden death of his submissive wife. As their relationship develops and they embark on the path of Claire’s submission, it becomes harder and harder for Evan to keep his emotional distance. Claire is open and responsive and he wants her badly, but refuses to let himself go. As Claire falls deeper in love with Evan, she realises that he is holding back and decides to end their relationship, forcing Evan to confront his own past and his feelings in order to save his new love.

Delighted Reader’s Review of Awakening

“I recommend this to anyone who want a deeper book than sex or BDSM. This is a story about people, the choices they have made and how they can overcome their mistakes and make a better life for each other. The steamy sex did help though.” ~Shari

 

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Shari is the Delighted Reader. Married to her Prince Charming and mother to two Princesses and one Prince. When she is not slaving away as Cinderella she loves to get lost in the pages of a good book. Never without a reading device and a few good paperback books, because she never knows when she might get 5 minutes to read!

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Sophia Rose
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Sophia Rose

Even though I don”t know much about BDSM, the premise of this article rings true with me. Thanks for sharing!

Shari Delighted Read
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Shari Delighted Read

I loved this article because there is a big difference between the two. In the end, the person that is the Dom has to have the responsibility to never hurt someone. They can never touch a person in anger. Even if they are punishing the person, it has to be done while they are under control, the rules explained and forgiveness given. Trust is paramount in a BDSM relationship, that I feel is totally lacking in abuse.

Shari Delighted Read
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Shari Delighted Read

I loved this article because there is a big difference between the two. In the end, the person that is the Dom has to have the responsibility to never hurt someone. They can never touch a person in anger. Even if they are punishing the person, it has to be done while they are under control, the rules explained and forgiveness given. Trust is paramount in a BDSM relationship, that I feel is totally lacking in abuse.