All through my exploration of the BDSM lifestyle, my Dominance, and my sexual Sadism, I have heard well reasoned reports, some from well respected scientific journals, about the causal association between early physical and sexual abuse and a later interest in Sadomasochism. Everyone around me, until I found a community, confirmed that Sadomasochistic behavior was so twisted and destructively perverse that it must have come from some traumatic event, for it could not be a desire born naturally into anyone other than a psychopath.
In discussion groups held through BDSM communities to which I began to belong I heard an inordinately large number of reports of early abusive relationships and met people who talked painfully of going from one abusive relationship to another before finding a BDSM community where they were able to experience their desires and needs in a safe and caring relationship. The message was so clear that I began to search through my memories to try to find instances of abuse in my early life which might have caused my interest and enjoyment in sexual Sadism.
Well, as anyone who has looked into the Salem Witch Trials can tell you, if you are convinced that something is there, you will tend to find it, and I did. But the memories seemed so tenuous and questionable that I felt very uncomfortable accepting them. Then I saw a study that seemed to say that there is little difference between those who identify with interest in the BDSM lifestyle and those in the general population, not only in general socioeconomic criteria but in history of abuse. While I would love to see further study, this did not explain to me the high number of reports I heard among people in my local communities of early abuse.
Before I continue, I would like to state, with homage to Robert Young, that I am not a therapeutic professional, though I have played one one TV. What happened was that I began to question the assumptions of the early messages I heard stating that any interest in Sadomasochism must have come from abuse for it could not be a naturally occurring interest. I began to wonder what would it mean if these desires, on either side of the relationship, were naturally occurring interests, and what would happen to someone who had those interests but were raised in a society where the interests and desires were so unacceptable that they could not be explored nor even acknowledged?
Well, I suggest that each person would be naturally drawn to someone of the opposite inclination, sadist to masochist, masochist to sadist. I further suggest that if that coupling occurs between people who have strong desires in their (dare I say) God given direction, but with no training in how to experience them safely, adding to that an environment of shame and possible self condemnation, that combination could make for a volatile and possibly abusive relationship.
[I feel I must say at this point that abuse does occur, both inside and outside of sadomasochistic relationships. I am not trying to redefine it, explain it nor excuse it. No matter what the cause, abuse is inexcusable and should be something that requires immediate therapeutic care.]
Does this explain the number of stories I have heard, the tales of coming from an abusive background? Not necessarily. As I say, I am not a therapeutic professional, nor a sociological statistician. But it does answer some questions for me and so, until something better comes along, I will tend to go with it.
I do believe that you can be a born sadist or a born masochist. But I also believe that in the complex world of human sexuality and interpersonal relationships, no matter what your inclination, SM or not, it is wise to get a great deal of competent sexual education, something unfortunately very difficult to find in this society. I also believe that it is possible to have a deeply sadomasochistic relationship that is at the same time joyous, fun, affirming, healthy, and physically safe and enjoyable. You just have to learn how to do it. What I do not believe is that SM is inherently abusive. So, as Sergeant Phil Esterhause used to say, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”
There is an excellent post by one of my favorite bloggers, Clarisse Thorn which seems to fit here. She is truly so much better a writer that I.