Thursday, 1 January 2009

Two Ways Of Coping

Over at an old thread of Ren's, I got into a conversation recently with Rachel Cervantes, who had this to say about her visceral squicks about BDSM:

I had this to say, which may get me into trouble for that "oh oh you must have been AB-UZED!" thing (I was, though that's not the particular trauma I'm describing here), but eh. If people don't get that being changed is not the same thing as being broken, I really have nothing left to say to them:
Trinity and Ren...sorry I missed this. It's a good question. What makes me uncomfortable is cruelty. I cannot separate inflicting unnecessary pain from cruelty. Also, deriving enjoyment from infliction of pain is very troublesome for me.

I've seen far too much pain and cruelty. It just hurts. It hurts me whether I'm involved or not. I know that may be over-identification, perhaps even intrusive. Then again, maybe not. I’m not inclined to analyze why it is painful to me, but one thing is clear: A lot of people have been victimized throughout humankind’s history. An unfathomable amount of pain has been inflicted needlessly. Small cruelties are on a continuum with huge cruelty. I’m not equating small with large or gigantic; but it’s on the continuum. I cannot separate unwanted pain from “voluntary pain.” Intellectually, I see the difference. Emotionally, no.

I’m not trying to “defend” my position, only explain it. And since we’re talking about feelings, my reactions will not be logical. That’s as it should be, I think. If emotions were logical they’d stop being emotions and start being cognitions.

After writing a lot of words, it seems I’ve not answered the question. Right now it is the best I can do. The idea of BDSM makes me anxious, very much so. Do I condemn it? I don’t think so. But I don’t understand it.
Rachel,

Your feelings are your feelings. If something makes you anxious, it makes you anxious. You're not alone in that, and you're not in bad company either. Your feelings are your feelings, and I don't believe anyone should shame you for them.

From my observations, though (and all they are is the observations of one person, not some grand undeniable conclusion), people who've been through horrible pain deal with it in two different ways.

Some are like you: just plain hurt by it, suffering from it, overwhelmed with compassion and wanting to wipe it all out and make the world... soft and soothing and gentle after such horror.

And then there are people like me and some others, where what happens is... different, and they actually end up fascinated by pain and cruelty to an extent, and to want to play with those emotions in a controlled way. They don't like real, senseless violence, but they do have an interest in that side of humanity.

I don't know how to explain this in general, but I also think it's why some people like violent video games, aggressive music, horror movies, dark dramas, whatever.

And I don't know how to explain how it happens, other than how it happened to me. And that was that before my trauma as a teen I was one of the other kind, the kind like you. I couldn't watch horror movies or even, really, listen to heavy metal, or... anything.

And then the trauma happened, and everything I thought I knew exploded and broke. And the painless Utopia in my head that I ran to didn't comfort me any more, because it suddenly seemed horribly, horribly fake. I tried to flee from my pain and it caught up with me.

And the only thing that I found that enabled me to heal was to let myself feel all the emotions I had inside me then -- including pain, anger, the desire for revenge. I had to turn inward. I had to experience my pain and see it as a worthwhile thing, a worthwhile part of me.

And that changed me. That showed me that pain isn't all bad -- that it's part of life, just as pleasure is. That knowing myself meant experiencing my pain.

But if that's true, then how can I really be intimate with someone, really be close to someone, if sex and cuddling and togetherness is all scrubbed clean of suffering? It just doesn't make sense to me any more, because that whole way of looking at the world doesn't make sense to me any more.

Yeah, some things in life just feel awful... but I'd rather believe that my pain means something beautiful than that we're just put here to suffer and die and at least there are some laughs along the way that maybe balance it out, sort of.

53 comments:

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I come at pain from a third direction, but my abuse experiences were all psychological. (Which may make it the fascination thing, just looked at weird. I don't feel like putting a lot of brainpower into it right now, I'm exhausted.)

Pain is an altered-consciousness thing. It changes the way my mind works, in various specific ways. I've used it as a tool (as you know, 'cause I've commented on it at your place); I'm starting, occasionally, to explore it in other formats.

What I am is an altered consciousness junkie. Pain is ... not relevant to my kink, but changing mindstate is. So if pain changes mindstate in an interesting way, then it's a useful tool for kink.

I'm a control freak, and this is partly a survivor thing. But I'm a control freak in weird ways -- I don't really believe I can run my mind properly unless I know how it behaves in all kinds of situations, including altered-consciousness ones. Which means I have to know what it's like to be there, otherwise how will I be able to make it work if I wind up there unexpectedly?

So I suppose I am kind of the fascination kind. Just ... weird. World on a slant again.

Trinity said...

Kiya,

That makes perfect sense to me.

I think the trauma is part of why I am this way, and for me a lot of the trauma was physical.

Also though, I had the beginnings of a fascination with pain from the time I was young (that, I don't know the origins of.) I think when things changed for me -- when the trauma made it impossible to grow as a person without finding some way to integrate my pain into who I was rather than run from it -- part of what I had to do was give myself permission to explore that interest.

Where beforehand, I'd basically felt that that part of me was the part of me that I should disavow. The part that has impulses in it we're supposed to resist.

directionlessbones said...

I think maybe there is a further response to pain, which goes something like this: like you said, a pain-free world comes to seem fake and unreal, it doesn't match up to your experience. As a result you are, on some level, more comfortable in painful (or traumatic, however specific) situations.

Which can mean in action that you allow yourself to enter into painful situations again and again,

or can mean in thought that you are always poised to slip into painful thoughts, to return to mental self-abuse and dissatisfaction.

I've known people who have responded in this way (or perhaps 'whose minds have responded in this way'?) and it's not good. One person, it may yet take their life.

So basically I'm just saying, maybe this way of dealing with and responding to pain is by far "healthier" than other options - options that may be extremely widespread.

rachelcervantes said...

Trinity, I wish I'd known about this thread. I just responded to you at RenEv's blog. If I'd known, I would have posted it here,too.

rachelcervantes said...

With apologies to Ren...my response on her blog is as follows:

Trinity, I don't mean to sound trite, and I'm not sucking up or any of that fake shit. But your willingness to honestly discuss this topic, one that is so terribly sensitive and difficult, is (to me) a precious gift.

I'm often driven to understand that which is unfathomable to me. Cruelty is one of those things. I grew up with an unpredictable, violent, and likely sadistic father. That's where I'm coming from. I have a need to understand in order to protect myself. That small, defenseless child hiding deep within all of us, is terrified of cruelty.

My defense was to become powerful, but powerful in many different ways. One source of power is self-esteem. I've come to know that I'm of value and worth defending myself from attack. Power also comes from economic status and social status. I have a moderate amount of both. The most important source of power, though, is knowledge.

Therein lies the gift you've given me. I hope to continue to learn from you, to have honest exchanges with people like you and Ren and Snowdrop.

I don't understand it, not yet. But I'm getting closer.

Thank you.

rachelcervantes said...

With apologies to Ren...my response on her blog is as follows:

Trinity, I don't mean to sound trite, and I'm not sucking up or any of that fake shit. But your willingness to honestly discuss this topic, one that is so terribly sensitive and difficult, is (to me) a precious gift.

I'm often driven to understand that which is unfathomable to me. Cruelty is one of those things. I grew up with an unpredictable, violent, and likely sadistic father. That's where I'm coming from. I have a need to understand in order to protect myself. That small, defenseless child hiding deep within all of us, is terrified of cruelty.

My defense was to become powerful, but powerful in many different ways. One source of power is self-esteem. I've come to know that I'm of value and worth defending myself from attack. Power also comes from economic status and social status. I have a moderate amount of both. The most important source of power, though, is knowledge.

Therein lies the gift you've given me. I hope to continue to learn from you, to have honest exchanges with people like you and Ren and Snowdrop.

I don't understand it, not yet. But I'm getting closer.

Thank you.

rachelcervantes said...

Don't know why the damn thing posted twice! Ooops!

Trinity said...

Directionlessbones:

I do think that sort of... unhealthy obsession with self-destruction, or unhealthy fixation with a traumatic past, is possible, and actually is the case for some people. I worried for a long time it would be the case with me, but I found that it wasn't

(unless, of course, I'm entirely deluding myself and currently obsessed, but I don't think that's the case. As I've said, I think for me SM has been positive for me and helped me to accept myself and move on with my life.

Trinity said...

Rachel,

I apologize for not telling you about the link at Ren's -- I hope that wasn't rude of me.

I want to say I really appreciate your thanks, and you're very welcome. I'm glad that my talking about this is helpful to you.

As far as knowledge and understanding being power, I totally agree with you... and like I said in the post, self-knowledge and self-understanding are part of why I decided to try BDSM in the first place.

But that doesn't mean anyone else needs to, or should. People know much better than I do what's healthy for themselves and what's not.

As far as understanding real abusers, I wonder about that too. The therapist that hurt me and some other kids, I always wonder about. I wish I knew if she really did enjoy causing pain to us, or if she just felt frustrated and when she was laughing, it was that kind of nervous trying to cover for knowing she was doing wrong.

I really don't know which it was. I'd like to, but I'm not sure it would actually make the whole thing any less absurd or terrifying if I did understand.

I just know... I like to hurt consenting people (and to a lesser degree I like it when they hurt me, too.) I don't fully know why. I mean I know part of why I'm interested and all, but other parts of it are just mysterious to me.

But I know that I don't like causing harm. I want people to like what I am doing. Maybe not enjoy every second, but enjoy or value the experience as a whole. I wouldn't want to destroy someone, and I feel confused by people who really do want that.

So I don't know if the things in me are the same things as the things in those people, only less intense, or only bounded by conscience, or something, or if it's something that's only superficially similar. I don't know what makes me not want to go there and really sick people want to go there.

rachelcervantes said...

Is it this? Does BDSM allow you to "defang" the monster, in some respect? Sometimes, facing that which frightens me allows me to take the threat out of it, de-power it.

I understand if this is too personal and intrusive. If you choose not to answer, I totally get that.

Trinity said...

Rachel,

I think it is that, at least in part. I'm often frightened of my own negative emotions, particularly rage. I think the reason why is that when I was a child, people didn't take seriously the abuse that had happened to me and that I'd seen happening to other kids, so they didn't understand that I had PTSD, that I really was filled with intense bad emotions. It was like:

I'm angry.
Everybody gets angry, honey.
No, I mean I'm angry. There is something at the center of me and it's twisted and deep and coils over itself, waiting, and it's going to come out someday and... I don't know what will happen, then.
You seem like a normal kid to me.
I... don't know if I am.

I probably was a normal kid, at least in the sense they meant. What I thought was me being tainted somehow was, though I didn't know it then, PTSD that I didn't know the name for. I meant that I needed help, but I didn't know how to say why or what for.

And I was right that I was able to keep it all inside me until I got older, when a second intense trauma (this one medical) happened that just... shattered my life as I was then living it, and changed everything. I do think it made me stronger, but it made me have to deal with life differently.

And yeah, I think some of what SM lets me do (and my partner do, too) is let those demons out, a little, see them in the light, let myself experience the emotions... and know that, though it's scary and intense and a little creepy it's ultimately okay.

rachelcervantes said...

I think I might understand part of that.

About shrinks (therapists): A helluva lot of them are unbelievably harmful and too arrogant to even consider that might be the case. The whole field needs overhaul.

Trinity said...

Rachel,

I agree... though, as is true in any field, a distinct minority are angels.

My current therapist is, thankfully, one of them.

But I had to hunt for decades.

Erin said...

Some are like you: just plain hurt by it, suffering from it, overwhelmed with compassion and wanting to wipe it all out and make the world... soft and soothing and gentle after such horror.

As someone who reacts on a visceral level to S/M and especially D/S like Rachel, possibly because I also have had to deal with a lot of mental stuff (depression/anxiety disorder and peer abuse, but nothing as bad as you and others describe), I feel like this is an oversimplification. I don't want to "wipe out" what S/M-ers do, and I don't know that I'm completely unable to deal with unpleasant realities, and the media I enjoy and create isn't all dewdrops and bunnies. I'm beginning to find that accepting my anger and anxiety and other unpleasant emotions and not constantly trying to push back against them is key to lessening their impact on my day-to-day life.

But you know, since I do have to deal with daily anxiety and unwanted mental compulsions (and I very much experience those things as pain), that's not something I want to keep replicating endlessly in my recreational activities or my relationships with loved ones. (Alas, some amount of interpersonal strife seems to be inevitable even so.) What I would really like is a break. I am never going to get one, but I would like one.

Unfortunately, according to a so-called sex-positive so-called friend (now very much ex-whatever, but never a friend), this makes me shallow. Not "healthy." God knows I'm not healthy, but I don't think it's because I don't want to pile pain on top of pain. Not that others experience BDSM that way, but I'm beginning to figure that I'll only ever be able to understand on an intellectual level.

Trinity said...

Erin,

I'm sorry for oversimplifying, and you're right. I am indeed making it sound like people who aren't into BDSM are totally against any dark-themed stuff, and that's not fair.

In my personal experience, though, some folk I know who have this visceral response to BDSM have also expressed visceral disgust at other things, like violent video games, dark-themed media, etc. So I do think there are *some* people whose desire is not just to avoid BDSM, but to avoid pain, to not explore it.

In fact I see a hint of that in what you're saying: "I don't want to pile pain on top of pain." Please correct me if I misunderstand you, but that seems like you're saying that you're not really all that interested in exploring pain. Or do you simply mean you are carefully bounding *how* you do so, say, doing it in writing but nothing else? Just not doing BDSM?

I guess what I'm saying is I don't really have that feeling of "wanting a break" any more. I remember it, and I do feel it sometimes, but that's usually only when I'm in so much pain that it starts to shut me down.

The general idea of pain being a part of my life, or even the idea of my life being a particularly painful one, doesn't really bother me any more.

Both because I think my life can have purpose and beauty in it despite my pain, *and* because I no longer see the pain in it as precluding the pleasure in it. Sometimes they're opposing waves that cancel one another out.

Sometimes, for me anyway, they're not.

rachelcervantes said...

I get part of what Erin is saying.

I am one of those who despises violent media for the sake of violence, violent video games, and the like. I've seen far to much pain to want to seek it out when I don't have to.

On the other hand, I'm writing (revising) my first novel. One of the problems with it is that, as it stands, it's a whole lot of angst without much lightness, without leavening. It's about two women who journey through terrible emotional hurt and find a way to reconcile that hurt and go on with their lives.

That's how I'm dealing with pain. Trinity, you deal with it through sexually-linked physical pain. That had never occurred to me. It's giving me much to think about on a number of levels.

Again, thank you.

Ms.Pet said...

*sigh* Does this mean that we should outlaw giving birth? Which is one of the most painful acts (I've been told) of female sexuality?

And what about all us chronic painers who dragging a feather over our arm has us screaming and crying out? Should we outlaw feathers and the lightest vanilla touch? Has this woman bothered to consider just how rediculous it is to equate pain with "wrong" and "badness" in the eyes of someone who lives their lives in 24/7 pain?

One of the problems I struggled with, coming out kinky, is the ablism and classism within the local kink community I was coming out into but also kink discourse in general. People would ask me, "are you into pain?" And I'd look at them like a confused rabbit?


"Uh...what do you mean by "pain?"

It was like asking me if I was into breathing. If I'm not breathing I'm dead. If I'm not feeling pain, I'm dead. I don't understand the concept of a life, of being alive and not being in pain. So, finally, after struggling in confusion, etc. on my own, I came to the realization that I needed to talk about pain the way we now teach children to talk about touch, as in "Good Touch/Bad Touch."

For me there is "Good Pain," and "Bad Pain," and what might feel good for me, having a flogger whip down deep into my muscles, thudding against my body as it goes. Using acute pain of clothespins all over my body, to manage long term chronic pain, might not be good for someone else.

I am sick of women who talk about "pain" as if it was one thing. Who don't bother to explore or educate themselves on the varieties of pain there are: nerve pain, muscle pain, chronic, acute, pain of childbirth, pain that signals something is wrong, the emotional pain that signals your therapist is doing something right and your healing. Bruises, after all, generally look worse when a person is healing, not when they are hurting.

And I'm sick of women who can't distinguish between being hurt and being harmed. If I'm hurt, my body has a wound, a cut, a skinned knee, a deeper wound, I know I will, eventually, assuming infection doesn't get in, heal. My body will heal, my heart, my mind will heal, on it's own accord.

If I've been harmed, emotionally, sexually, physically, my body cannot heal on it's own. No matter how I try, I can't heal, without getting a surgeon, or a therapist, or some outside help, the natural healing process has been broken. In some cases, a glass is shattered and simply can never be "fixed" but one can take all those pieces of glass, and add various paint, glue and other mediums to it, and transform them into something that is strong, powerful and which brings hope, healing and empowerment to others. Transformation, in many ways, is more empowerment then trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Most PWDs who have lost abilities have had to learn to transform the pain of that loss into something beautiful and powerful. BDSM when done right, is about exploring pain, power, energies, in a way that boosts me up my ladder while I boost you up yours, taking both of us to a place we couldn't get to alone.

And who the hell is anyone to say how I, a Chronic Painer can manage my pain! I mean, lets look at their inherant Ablism and Predjudice in the assumption that living isn't painful, 24/7. For millions of PWDS the most "gentlest" of vanilla touch is painful, it HURTS like hell, so, does that mean we shouldn't allow ourselves to be touched, EVER?

It doesn't MATTER what the Top's action are, because it's not about the Top, it's about the Bottom. If I have the capacity to decide whether to abort a fetus in my womb, goddess damn it, I have the right to decide if I want someone to flog my ass or pussy! How can one say women should have reproductive choice while at the same time saying we're not capable of sexual choice?

Some women choose to have abortion, and afterwards, realize it's the wrong choice, that it has caused them serious harm, they will never get over it, some kill themselves the harm is so great. Does that mean we should take reproductive choice away from ALL women? Of course not.

Some of us, don't have the luxury, the privlege to live in a world where there is no pain, and if we choose to use acute pain, to manage chronic pain, if we choose to eroticize pain, because it's better sitting there never being touched at all, who the hell are these women to claim authority to take our right to Freedom of Sexual Choice away from us? You take away freedom of sexual choice, you take away freedom of reproductive choice. If we can't choose what is done to our bodies sexually, we sure don't have the capacity to choose what is done to our bodies medically or physically.

How come they think we're capable of choosing between the pain of having a child we can't raise, and killing that child in the womb? But we're not capable of deciding if we want to whipped, or cut, or branded? Either I have full authority and control over what happens to my body, or I don't.

Who cares if the Top is or isn't abusive? It's not ABOUT the Top's actions. It's about the Freedom of the Bottom to make both sexual and reproductive and medical choices regarding HER Body.

It's MY body, and if I want to use acute pain to manage chronic pain, then THAT is what I damn well will do. And NOONE, not the state, not the church, not a man and not a bunch of Feminists has the authority to take my Freedom of Choice, both Sexual and Reproductive away from me.

Trinity said...

Rachel,

You're going to have to stop making sense. :) One might think you're actually not interested in a proper argument! *laugh*

I think what this discussion is bringing out is that I wasn't really right in my post to suggest that people choose only one way of dealing with pain. You can write about dark themes, but eroticizing pain doesn't work for you. I can do that, but some other thing people do I can't, etc.

Which goes right back to "it's a personal thing."

Which like I've said is part of the reason some forms of radical feminism put me off -- not so much because I don't get why other people would find BDSM or whatever else negative for them, but because there's a lot of overarching theory that says "if you want this/like this, you must be confused or deluded." Which I don't think is the case for a lot of people -- and I don't think a theory is really the right tool to help us determine when it is and when it isn't.

Erin said...

In fact I see a hint of that in what you're saying: "I don't want to pile pain on top of pain." Please correct me if I misunderstand you, but that seems like you're saying that you're not really all that interested in exploring pain. Or do you simply mean you are carefully bounding *how* you do so, say, doing it in writing but nothing else? Just not doing BDSM?

Hmm. Well, I definitely don't want pain visited on my body for the pleasure of someone I'm involved with. (I guess it shows the depth of my squick that I had to stop and force myself not to type, "...by someone who claims to love me.")

As far as writing, art, etc., while I don't know if I would consider exploring pain an *interest*, per se, I do in many circumstances find it *interesting*. In some fictional contexts I even find it erotically interesting (some scenes in Yoshiaki Kawajiri's anime films, for example), but it only works for me at that level of remove.

When I'm deeply depressed and/or extremely anxious, I can find some violent, painful media cathartic -- the Berserk manga, for example, or some of the more twisted sketches on Robot Chicken, like this one for "Cuddles Fabric Softener". Perhaps oddly, I still enjoy those things even when I'm not depressed, but they bother me more on an emotional level. (The ex-whatever considered me unhealthy for liking fraught fictional subject matter at the same time she considered me unhealthy for not wanting to experience a gang bang for real if I could ensure I wouldn't get pregnant and/or STDs.)

It may be that my feelings regarding certain sorts of violent/painful media are similar to your feelings regarding certain sorts of violent/painful sex, and my innards just have trouble making the leap.

Trinity said...

"Hmm. Well, I definitely don't want pain visited on my body for the pleasure of someone I'm involved with. (I guess it shows the depth of my squick that I had to stop and force myself not to type, "...by someone who claims to love me.")"

The wording of this is interesting, because I've met very few people who just do SM for the pleasure of the person topping.

I don't think it would be anywhere near as arousing for most SM tops I've met if our partners didn't get *anything* out of it besides pleasing us.

(Though I wouldn't condemn people doing that if they really wanted it.)

As far as the love comment, I know you don't actually intellectually mean that, but my emotional response is, basically, "Hey! Don't say that until you actually have some knowledge of my relationship to go on, please!"

"It may be that my feelings regarding certain sorts of violent/painful media are similar to your feelings regarding certain sorts of violent/painful sex, and my innards just have trouble making the leap."

Probably. I think everyone's innards are a bit different that way.

Erin said...

As far as the love comment, I know you don't actually intellectually mean that, but my emotional response is, basically, "Hey! Don't say that until you actually have some knowledge of my relationship to go on, please!"

FWIW, I apologize for the implication -- from what I've seen of how you and Dw3t-Hthr and DevastatingYet and others talk about your relationships, there's very obviously love there on both sides. I speak only of how I'd feel if someone I loved told me that, for their sexual fulfillment, they really felt they needed to beat/cut/hurt me. It wouldn't be a fair reaction, of course -- on their end it would be a matter of wanting to explore something that drives them, not a matter of wanting to make me miserable. Even so, I suspect my knee-jerk internal reaction would be, "Oh great, even someone I thought I was safe with wants to hurt me and will leave me if I don't submit to it." I realize that speaks to my paranoia (in the colloquial rather than clinical sense), and that stems from baggage, but there it is.

I want to return to this and the rest of your response at some point, but today I think I'm too wiped out.

Trinity said...

Erin,

Thank you. :)

SnowdropExplodes said...

I've done a partial response to this over at my blog - that post is already pretty long, and yet I feel it's only touched the surface of the issues I could mention or bring up to try to answer the points in comments here and in the OP. I get the feeling that the more I tried to cover all the points, the more would need to be said and I would never finish!

Ms.Pet said...

RE: "Hmm. Well, I definitely don't want pain visited on my body for the pleasure of someone I'm involved with. (I guess it shows the depth of my squick that I had to stop and force myself not to type, "...by someone who claims to love me.")"

************

If someone is allowing themselves to be cut, burned, hit, flogged, etc. because they are afraid another person will leave them, or because they want to please this partner, NOT because they are interested in it, it makes them feel good, it brings them spiritual renewal, it teaches them about the healing aspects of their body or it turns them on, etc. THEY...

Are self abusing. Just the way if someone drinks because they think it will make someone "love them," THEY are self abusing.

If the writer of this comment, finds herself in relationships, vanilla or otherwise, where she is willing to do things to keep a man, or a woman interested in her, things that she doesn't enjoy and would never seek out herself, then SHE needs therapeutic help.

NOONe in BDSM ever, EVER, EVER suggests that ANYONE EVER allow themselves to be tied up, or cut, or burned, just to "please" someone else. If a particular woman is so broken, that she would do this, in order to keep someone, she needs to take responsibility for herself, and get herself the obvious help she needs.

Now...if a woman has been battered, and beaten, is already in an abusive relationship, and allows herself to be cut, caged, etc. in order to keep herself alive, a SURVIVAL decision, this is all together a different situation.

But abuse is about POWER and NOT about Pain. There are many, many,many children who are sexually abused who never, ever experience an ounce of pain during the abuse, there isn't a bruise, there isn't any kind of cut, or mark on them, but the harm caused is severely damaging. To say Abuse is about pain, is to make all of us who suffered abuse that was in no way painful, and maybe even pleasurable invisible. With respect, as one of those people, please don't do this. It does nothing but protect abusers.

Abuse is about Power, it is NOT about pain.

Beatrice said...

The discussion of being interested in pain in media like books or movies versus being interested in it in a sexual way is interesting to me, I think because I love pain in a sexual context but I have trouble reading about people in pain or watching it on TV.

I have a huge squick about blood, and graphic violence in movies tends to make me want to throw up, and has more than once made me cry. But I love to be hurt, in a sexual context.

I think maybe it's because when I am being hurt, I know that I'm enjoying it and that if I give my safeword it will end immediately. If I see someone being hurt on TV usually it's evident they're not enjoying it and don't have enough control over the situation to stop it, and I have a really visceral reaction to that. If it's not too graphic, or removed enough from reality (Kill Bill didn't upset me, for example, because it was so stylized) then I can handle it, but I can't take realistic violence.

Subbing or bottoming is fun for me because I know it's our game, and I can explore that darker side of things in a context I ultimately have control over. So I can let things get scary, because I know the person scaring or hurting me cares for me and is going to cuddle me and give me orgasms somewhere in there. If the intent were harm rather than pain I'd be terrified.

rachelcervantes said...

Ms. Pet, I have to be honest...I'm seeing you as somewhat judgmental. Now, when I go back and reread what you say, I can see that you're not the way I initially see you. The ironic thing is that I think I’m responding to a particular presentation style…one that I often slip into without realizing it. (I guess I’m the proverbial pot calling the kettle in this case.)

The reason I’m bringing this up is that I believe there is much in what you say that I’ll want to respond to, but need to take a little time in order to really get what you’re saying. I’m probably not saying this well and most likely going to piss you off. That is not my intent. Rather, I’m trying to be honest so that we can have a “meaningful dialogue” (and oooooooooooh does that sound like Oprah-speak or something! Alas!).

Trinity said...

Also, Erin,

"Even so, I suspect my knee-jerk internal reaction would be, "Oh great, even someone I thought I was safe with wants to hurt me and will leave me if I don't submit to it."

That actually makes a lot of sense, as far as knee-jerk reactions go. I can totally see how it might feel that way to someone who has stuff in her past that makes trusting people difficult.

As long as you understand that there exist people who would not mean it that way -- and it sounds like you do -- well, feelings are feelings. And it sounds like these would help keep you out of a situation that wouldn't work for you.

rachelcervantes said...

Ok, Ms. Pet's comments make a lot of sense. I'd say it differently (which does not mean better, mind you). Rather than say a woman who submits to keep a relationship needs therapy (to get her head screwed on straight is how I read it), I'd say she needs support to help her see that she may have choices she is not aware of. Rather than blaming the woman (and I apologize if this is not what you are doing, Ms. Pet) I'd say women, having been raised in a culture that conditions them from birth on to please men, may need help breaking free of that massive, all-consuming indoctrination.

But, still and all, I agree with the gist of what Ms. Pet is saying. If a woman finds herself enduring a relationship, or submitting to keep a relationship, she's in a bad place.

Trinity said...

"I think maybe it's because when I am being hurt, I know that I'm enjoying it and that if I give my safeword it will end immediately."

Makes sense, Beatrice... though there are some people out there that actually want to be pushed a bit, outside of the realm of pure "This just plain feels great."

Beatrice said...

@Trinity

though there are some people out there that actually want to be pushed a bit, outside of the realm of pure "This just plain feels great."

Oh, I know that. I'm often one of them. I didn't mean enjoyment in the sense of "every second of this is physically awesome" -- when I say I'm enjoying something it can be that it feels pleasurable, or that it hurts so badly I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it, but find it rewarding on a mental or emotional level. Enjoyment for me encompasses the things I love to hate, too. :)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

One thing I'd like to throw out as a bit of a tangent -- it kind of bugs me a lot sometimes when people who want to express distaste for "BDSM" then go on to express that they dislike painplay.

I guess what I'm saying is I'd rather hear people saying "Painplay eeps me out" than "BDSM eeps me out" if the only thing that they're interested in talking about is pain. (Or people saying "Power imbalance eeps me out" or "Restraints eep me out" or whatever the hell they're eeped out by, because it's not all the same thing and not everyone does all of it.)

It's weird for me to go read a discussion about BDSM legitimacy or whatever that's all about painplay. What am I supposed to say, when people are arguing about something I don't really do and using common terms that include me? It's confusing as all hell.

rachelcervantes said...

"Painplay?" Damn, there is a whole world out there I know nothing about! Will google and see what I can learn!

Erin said...

Dw3t-Hthr:
I can see why you'd feel annoyed by the extent to which I've been conflating BDSM with painplay -- it's not so much that I think they're synonymous as that that's the direction I pursued due to where the conversation started (ways of coping with pain). Actually, the practices falling under the umbrella of BDSM that bother me most tend to be neither purely S/M nor D/S, but the places where D/S and moderate to severe pain and/or body modification meet. Some of those things I think I may be right to be bothered by; most, probably not.

And really, even that's an oversimplification. There are a fair number of painplay and/or D/S situations I can read about and not be bothered by, which actually makes me glad, because one of the reasons I've tried to educate myself on S/M and D/S is that I don't want to be a bigot.

I do feel bad for where I've caused people emotional distress in this thread; I've been typing a lot of this through moderate anxiety and probably haven't been as clear as I should be.

Ms.Pet:
Given my focus on pain as something that (can) bother me, I can see where you'd feel I was equating pain and abuse; FWIW, that was neglect rather than intention. As for my being fucked up and needing therapy, I feel like I've been pretty upfront in this thread about having mental issues, so, well... I guess I don't know what else to say in that regard.

Erin said...

That actually makes a lot of sense, as far as knee-jerk reactions go. I can totally see how it might feel that way to someone who has stuff in her past that makes trusting people difficult.

Yeah, and unfortunately I do have trust issues do to various stuff.

As long as you understand that there exist people who would not mean it that way -- and it sounds like you do -- well, feelings are feelings. And it sounds like these would help keep you out of a situation that wouldn't work for you.

*nod* I think you're right. And actually, I think reading about BDSM has helped me get to a point where I'd be more likely to be able to negotiate, if that was possible, or get out, hopefully without shaming the other person for their desires or allowing myself to be shamed for mine.

Erin said...

and unfortunately I do have trust issues do to various stuff.

Er, that would be "due to."

Trinity said...

Okay, as official threadmaker here,
I've avoided this so as to not munge up discussion, but now I feel I have to say something:

Plenty of people get into relationships that are unhealthy for them. In some cases this is due to psychological problems. In others it's due to things like manipulation.

There do indeed exist some people who use things like pain play as self-harm, or submission as a way to be treated like they feel they deserve (badly.) These people would benefit from a shift in attitude, and sometimes from professional mental health help.

While I personally didn't read Ms. Pet's comment as implying anything about anyone here, I do feel it would be better for us to avoid armchair psychoanalysis of people who do BDSM or don't do BDSM. It would be better, I think, for us to stick to our own stories here.

roykay said...

Something being ignored is hybrid relationships where semi-fucked-up/semi-perfectly-"healthy" people get together.

Relationships usually aren't binary situations. People have strengths and weaknesses, awarenesses and obliviousnesses. If one person is "good for" another, it may not be purely good. This really fucks up the abuse issue, because the same action cane be a mix of helpful and harmful.

One non-BDSM example is being quick to make decisions for someone who constantly vascilates. To what extent does this help them get on with life and to what extent does this get in the way of natural consequences so they learn to be decisive enough to be self-sufficient.

Likewise, as with greed - too little can lead to starvation, too much can lead to starving someone else. Few hit perfect pitch on greed and most of us know people who should learn to either take more or give more.

So, in BDSM, it mostly makes sense to learn what you and your partner desire and need, then work towards that in ways that prove helpful and enjoyable over time. I know I have made mistakes as well as be truly resonant and inspired. We do have to allow humans to be humans in all this.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I do feel it would be better for us to avoid armchair psychoanalysis of people who do BDSM or don't do BDSM. It would be better, I think, for us to stick to our own stories here.

A-men to that!

After all, what I'm getting from this thread in particular (and in general from all the kinky folks I know) is that there are as many different reasons and ways of coming to kink/pain play/etc. as there are people who do, so trying to psychoanalyse based particularly on the pain play or what-have-you is like trying to draw conclusions about a person's personality based on what clothes they're wearing right now.

Ms.Pet said...

Re: rachelcervantes

Hey RAchel! Don't know if you'll get this comment or not, but in case you do...

I wanted to thank you for writing that you were perceiving my style as "judgemental," and that you were taking the time to read the points vs reacting to the style, or "voice" of the writing. I really, really appreciate your response, because, I"m not sure what area you consider to be "Judgemental?" I mean, what area you feel "sounds" like this. So, perhaps, in order for better communication you can point it out to me. YOu might want to email me at typeractivefemme@hotmail.com instead of doing it in the thread, just because the thread isn't on communication styles. Again, thanks for taking the time.

Back to the issues, I'm hoping I'll read your response. Alas, I find I tend to miss the back and forth of online communication, many times missing some of the emails, getting them out of order, not checking my emails on a regular basis and so on. So if you DO write something and I don't respond, just email me. I've probably just "missed" it. It's hard to follow for me, with so many people responding.

rachelcervantes said...

Ms. Pet, I'll be happy to do that, but first I need to take time to figure out how much of my response is idiosyncratic to me. In other words, I need to figure out what I'm reacting to. Fair enough?

I hope you didn't feel I was attacking you. I believe honesty is important and I needed to be upfront about how I am reading your style. Certainly, all of our perceptions are seen through the veil of our own histories (and that is true for everyone).

I'm curious, do you see my reaction as totally off the mark?

rachelcervantes said...

One other thing: "Judgmental" is not always a bad thing. It means we have certain values and standards. (The "bad" part enters when we unfairly apply our standards to everyone without looking at circumstance. And...I'm NOT saying you're doing that.)

Ms.Pet said...

Re: rachelcervantes -Blaming the woman(or man)

Hi again! LOL I'm just doing the heading on top, to try to keep track of discussions and who I'm talking to. *friendly smile*

I have actually been in abusive relationships, starting in my teen years. I spent twelve intense years in therapy learning and relearing, all sorts of stuff, to get to the point where I could put my own needs first, say "No" and mean "No," not just sexually, but in all areas, refuse to participate in something that I felt would cause me harm, etc. So...NO, I am not BLAMING her or him for where they may be at. I've also spent fifteen years on welfare/disability system and I'm quite aware of all the exterior realities that affect our behavior, put us in positions where we have no GOOD choices and so on.

I am NOT judging her, I'm not calling her wrong, or bad, or so forth, I am judging her BEHAVIOR. If she is lying to a Top, aggreeing to do behavior that she doesn't want to do, behavior like this, being tied up, beaten, flogged, etc. then she is being decietful, to the Top and to herself and putting herself in harms way. That is NOT okay. It might be understandable but it's NOT okay. She is worth more then that, she is more valuable then that, and if her behavior is sending her the message that she isn't, then the person she has the biggest trust issues with, in my experience, is...herself. If she can't trust herself to stand up and protect her self, how can she trust others? Now...

We all experience these issues from time to time, we all have various pressures that affect our abilities to care for ourselves to varyin degrees, as a Pwd I'm quite aware of these truthes. But if your putting yourself in harms way to "keep a guy" or "keep a girl," when there's no issue of financial, etc. dependence, involved, but only emotional dependence, fear of not being loved, not having a partner, being alone, etc. then...she, we, anyone, NEEDS HELP. And there's nothing shaming in saying, "I...Need Help. I'm not caring for myself well and I need to find out why and learn how to." THAT is an incrediably powerful statement and place to be. It isn't our fault what others do to us, but it IS our responsibility to do all we can to heal ourselves from those actions. We're the only ones who CAN do it.

pS

It was only after 12 years of intense therapy, and getting a "healthy enough" label from a variety of counsellors and psychiatrists that I started exploring BDSM. When I decided I want to, I got myself a therapist, I asked him to play the role of "safety net," and I went slowly and am continuing slowly. I was in a ten year, egalitarian commited vanilla relationship with a woman, wonderfully healing. Now I'm in a poly, BDSM relationship...with the same woman and it is...wonderfully healing.

rachelcervantes said...

Ms. Pet, thank you for that post. I suspected there was much more to your story than I was reading and I appreciate your taking the time (and honesty!) to be so forthright.

Like I said, I think there is a lot of truth in what you are saying.

People being honest and direct is so very very important. I'm grateful to all who have been so generous in sharing such personal things in this discussion.

BDSM still makes me very uneasy but I'm closer to "getting it" now.

Thank you.

Ms.Pet said...

Re: rachelcervantes

I have to tell you, I'm having difficulty following the thread. I haven't been reading it, from the blog, which I'll try, but from emails I've been getting and so, I don't know what I'm missing, but I'm missing parts of it.

I find it very difficult to follow along online, in conversations, forums, etc. It's not a format that is easy for me. I can read find, but I process information differently, and that makes it easy for me to miss whole posts, or get overwhelmed fast, by the shear degree of text I must process. It's nothing personal. Just letting you know, I'm completely lost and trying to find a way to follow.

Ms.Pet said...

RE: rachelcervantes - THANK YOU

LOL Sorry, I've switched my email to sorting by name, so, I'm able to read all your posts at once, I think I was probably reading some over again, others in the wrong order, or whatever. LOL

I've written a post about Good Pain/Bad Pain and BDSM, you might find helpful.

http://sexability.blogspot.com/2009/01/bdsm-people-who-enjoy-skating-are-sick.html

YOur welcome for my sharing. And thank you for being willing to acknowledge that you might be reacting to the style, tone, or "voice" of my writing, more then to the points I was trying to make. I appreciate you taking the time to look at your reaction and not just assuming that any anxiety you felt meant I was somehow wrong, bad or a threat. *smile*

I much prefer folks asking for clarification, or checking in to see if they have understood what I"ve attempted to express, as you have, rather then just start attacking my character as many folks do. *smile* So *big hugs*

rachelcervantes said...

Ms. Pet, I have to say...it's been a delight working through this with you. It seems all to rare that people (especially on the internet) are willing to be honest, look past the stereotypes and give each other a chance. I feel like you did that. :)

ginmar said...

AP, there's no good place to put this, and I wanted it to be public, because the shit I said about you was public. Ergo, this.

I'm sorry for what I said, all of it. It was below the belt, personal, and disgusting. It was unreasonable, inexcusable, and uncalled for. Making peace with Ren has made me realize how much I offended and how unreasonable I was. I was incredibly out of line. I'm sorry. No excuses.

Helen said...

Forgive me for being off-topic, but I wondered about your take on this: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/multimedia/2006/12/wiredphotos9?currentPage=1&slideView=1

Trinity said...

Looks like fun to me, Helen.

Unless you were asking about the clientele?

In general, I don't approve of cheating. However, I don't think that the hotel staff should be required to look into whether people are going behind partners' backs (how would they, anyway?)

SnowdropExplodes said...

In general, I don't approve of cheating. However, I don't think that the hotel staff should be required to look into whether people are going behind partners' backs (how would they, anyway?)

There was a whole episode of Fawlty Towers dedicated to the comedic potential of Basil Fawlty trying to find out whether or not an unmarried couple were using their double bed for more than sleeping. His wife, naturally, was unhappy about this (but mainly because she thought they should take the couple's money and then turn a blind eye)

Gennie said...

I'm really enjoying this blog.

Are you guys planning on doing a response to the piece on 'rageagainstthemanchine'? I was absolutely flabbergasted by it, not only by the questionable content, but the style it was written in; I had to double check I wasn't reading the Daily Male.

*is a woman who likes to switch - and free of mental illness/past abuses etc*

Trinity said...

Gennie,

There's a new piece up there? I hadn't even looked. :-P

Have to get on that.

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