(Image Credit: @ User: Gregor / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)
Yowzas, this risky 3-part series has been quite the journey! If you're just joining me, you missed some very helpful info in part 1 and part 2. Catch up when you can!
Let's finish this risky business off with a bang.
As I mention a lot on this blog, some practitioners get very high off BDSM. This is due in part to the mix of adrenaline and endorphins released during play, which work their magic to stimulate our neurological reward centers.
Naturally, some of us develop an addiction to this feeling, but not in the same way that you'd become addicted to drugs that don't occur naturally in the body. Because adrenaline and endorphins inherently exist in each of our systems, we don't develop a physical dependency on them. Practitioners don't get sick when they can't practice BDSM like a heroin addict does when they can't re-up their supply.
An addiction to BDSM is more akin to the way people get hooked on sex, dancing, tattoos, snowboarding, or extreme activities like buildering. It's entirely about chasing the rush.
So at what point does this become a problem? Like any habit, getting hooked on BDSM is no bueno if your kinky activities begin to seriously impact your safety or lifestyle in negative ways. Here are a few possible examples:
You crave BDSM so strongly that you're willing to do it with anyone, even individuals who are untrustworthy, treat you badly, don't like BDSM, or don't know how to do it safely.
Your fetish becomes so extreme that your well-being, or your partner's, has to be put in danger in order for you to feel satisfied. (For example, you can't feel content with BDSM play unless your partner beats you to within an inch of your life.)
These are obviously not good things.
The high is great, but what goes up must come down. If you begin to experience drastic effects as a result of practicing kink, it's time to take a step back, speak to a mental health professional, and get on the meditation train.
Actually, get on the meditation train anyway. 'Tis a luxurious journey.
8. Moral Dilemmas
BDSM's not an unusual phenomenon. People of all genders and nationalities practice power exchange.
However, there are still a lot of people in the world who see what we do as sick, depraved, dangerous, or outright wrong. Some of them simply don't understand kink or have access to reliable information about it. Others have witnessed abusive behavior within the scene and came to the conclusion that BDSM must be unhealthy.
Nevertheless, it's easy for practitioners to become influenced by uneducated voices. This can lead to self-doubt about one's own ethics and/or sanity, and cause subsequent depression and/or anxiety.
"Am I a terrible person for liking this?"
"Am I crazy for my desires?"
"Is it okay for me to get enjoyment out of hurting another person, even if they want me to?"
"Where's the line between what's okay and what's not?"
It's important to come to terms with questions like this. Not doing so can lead to misery and repressing or expressing desires in unhealthy ways.
I felt a massive amount of shame about my fetish for masochism while I was growing up. The thought of anyone finding out that I liked pain mortified me. Regardless, my subconscious wanted it, and I would inadvertently go looking for it with the wrong people. It wasn't until I accepted myself and joined the BDSM scene that I met caring, consent-respecting partners who could meet my desires safely.
If you're kinky, your inclinations aren't likely to disappear, even if you want them to. You've got to sort out how you think about BDSM in order to accept this aspect of yourself.
No one's a bad person or crazy solely for liking BDSM. How you carry out your desires with your partner is what matters. It's important to read up on ethical policies like SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) and RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) to avoid confusion about this.
Also, kindly and calmly educate your haters if you encounter any. Talk to them about how you handle safety and consent in your practice.
"I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you're not in this world to live up to mine."
- Bruce to the muthafuckin' Lee
(Image Credit: National General Pictures / Public Domain)
And last but not least,
A lot of people are unclear on what codependency is, and believe it to be another word for plain ol' dependency, clinginess, or neediness in a relationship.
I used to think the same until I researched the subject after waking up and realizing how many times I'd experienced partnerships like this in the past. (More than I'd like to admit!)
In codependent relationships you have partner A, who displays a destructive pattern of behavior. They may have issues with substance abuse, mental illness, irresponsibility, immaturity, or a similar problem.
Partner B supports or enables this destructive behavior somehow. (THEY are the "codependent" member of the relationship.) B continually sacrifices their own needs in order to make A feel better. It's a dysfunctional, rather than beneficial, form of helping A with their problem.
Partner B does this because playing the role of rescuer fulfills them on a subconscious level. You might call this a hero complex. They think, "I'm the only one that understands and can help my partner. What would they do without me?"
Unfortunately, B is helping to worsen A's situation in the long run. A needs to take action and become accountable for themselves, but they're unlikely to do so while B is enabling their destructive tendencies.
Codependent relationships are in no way exclusive to the BDSM scene. This toxic symbiosis is pervasive in the vanilla realm as well. However, I've seen codependency manifest itself in kinky relationships in two fairly predictable ways:
1. The dominant partner enables a destructive submissive.
Some people are attracted to the idea of submission because they genuinely feel unable to be alone or care for themselves. They may suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or other difficult issues, and crave the support and/or guidance of a more stable or responsible partner. When they don't receive it, they get upset.
"Help me feel whole or I'll sit here like this until I DIE OF SADNESS."
(Image Credit: @ User Gabriel S Delgado C. / Wikimedia Commons via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)
The dominants in these situations often end up sacrificing their own wants and needs to play the role of caretaker. They feel an obligation to be strong and responsible in the ways their partner cannot. This gives the dominant a sense of purpose and identity as a loving top, but one that's primarily built around the problems of the other person. In the long run, the dominant begins to feel empty, exhausted, and/or trapped.
2. The submissive partner enables a destructive dominant.
There are people out there who become dominants because they legitimately desire a partner they can control. These people often suffer from mental illnesses like narcissism and/or borderline personality disorder. To feel validated, they require those close to them to go along with their delusional ways of thinking. When that doesn't happen, they become irrationally hostile, coldhearted, or antisocial.
Submissives who end up with such people often go to great lengths to try to please their partners, believing that's what a "good" submissive is supposed to do. However, there's no pleasing people like this because they blame others for their insecurities. Eventually, the sub begins to feel responsible for their partner's behavior, when in fact it has nothing to do with them.
These are both shitty situations because the destructive partner's condition is allowed to worsen while the codependent partner gradually loses their sense of self and well-being.
These situations, when they involve kink, are risky for a couple of reasons.
First of all, maintaining boundaries is crucial to healthy BDSM partnerships. One characteristic of codependency is the fact that the enabler is likely to have weak boundaries, which the destructive partner frequently pushes, manipulates, or steps over. This is DANGEROUS and in direct opposition to safe strategies for play.
Secondly, partners in these situations can't separate their roles during play from their actual real-life identities. They don't view each other as equal in status, and therefore aren't practicing power exchange. They're caught in the illusion that the status or ability of the dominant is legitimately higher in some way than that of the submissive.
If you're suffering in a relationship like this currently, I send you lots of love because I have been there, my friend.
I'm not going to tell you how to handle your business. The only thing I'll say is this:
We can't solve each other's emotional and/or psychological problems. You can't make an alcoholic stop drinking. You can't make a self-loathing person love themselves. You can't keep someone with rage issues from exploding. It's impossible, and it's up to that person to take the steps needed to improve their situation.
Likewise, our problems are on us. We have to be responsible for our own shit, and shouldn't get into BDSM (or any relationship, for that matter) expecting the other person to validate our existence or pick up our pieces. It's unfair, unsafe, and beyond their power.
Do what you have to do to feel good and whole before diving into the kink pool so you can approach it with a healthy mindset.
BDSM isn't some esoteric entity independent of ourselves. Our experience depends entirely on how we approach it as participants. It can be awesome and beneficial for everyone involved when it's done well. It can also ruin lives when it's done carelessly or without proper knowledge.
It's everyone's responsibility to understand the risks involved in BDSM. When I was starting out as a bottom, I unknowingly put the onus almost entirely on my tops. It wasn't until I got experience switching that I began to understand their position.
Whether you're topping or bottoming, your partner may not have the same information you do about BDSM best practices. Communicate what you know, and always be on the lookout for strategies and solutions that will help make play equally awesome and safe for both of you.
That's all she wrote for now. Take care, and thanks as always for reading!