Category Archives: BDSM

BDSM Lifestyles Interviews Psychosexual Therapist About the BDSM Scene

Question: What is a “sex addict” and do you think that BDSM practitioners are “addicts” or are “sick”?

I don’t presume that I have any kind of inside track on what’s “perverse”, “sick”, or “addictive.” My approach does not include a unilateral diagnosis of what’s “got to go” in a person’s behavioral repertoire and then ferreting out the causes and reasons of the behavior with the aim of eliminating these “unwanted” sexual practices. The question of whether or not a sexual activity or behavior is an “addiction” or “sick” can’t easily be answered.

“Addiction” or “sickness” is very much determined by the individual’s own inner subjective experience.

One common definition of addiction is “continued (compulsive) use despite adverse consequences.” Only the individual can determine what constitutes adverse consequences and whether or not one’s chosen erotic expression is rigid and compulsive.

If I’m “against” anything, I guess it would be compulsion – of any kind, really, even if it were only eating raw carrots. My own personal value system includes the belief that it is only the ability to choose that separates us from animals. Freedom is an important value to me, and I suppose I can’t help but pass that particular value system on to my patients. The importance of relatedness to others is another part of my personal value system that influences my work. Closeness to others is, to my view, part of the sweet fruit of living.

That being said, I see a healthy sexuality as emanating from a healthy mind. A person who’s relatively free from compulsion and who’s open to identifying and empathizing with the needs and wants of others can’t help but have healthy, non-perverse sex. Question. How would you define a sexual “compulsion” and how can a person get free of one? When a fantasy relocates a person into the world of his childhood for the purpose of mastering an historical conflict or traumatic relationship, the quality of his/her scenes will probably be rigid, fixed, imperative and not related to the wants/needs of present-day partners.

If a person is unconsciously seeking reparation of a childhood relationship by looking for an idealized, omnipotent parent to replace the one who failed, or is seeking to control a person who couldn’t be controlled in his/her childhood, his/her scene serves symbolic, historical, and unconscious needs rather than real, present-day, conscious ones. These scenes never really satisfy; they merely trigger the recurrence of a need. The script, while it affords a temporary feeling of strength and self-esteem, has to be repeated again and again with rigid compulsivity because it doesn’t resolve problems within the self.

While a 24/7 “Daddy/Little Girl” script may provide enormous satisfaction through meeting certain mutual needs, a 45-year-old woman isn’t really a four-year-old girl and must, ultimately, take care of herself in real life. The satisfactions that a real four-year-old girl gets from having a daddy who loves, nourishes and cares for her are similar but not the same as those that a 45-year old woman receives from her scene “daddy”.

If certain needs weren’t met back when, they’re gone forever and need to be mourned before the person is free to love the person’s who’s in front of her (rather than the historic one who’s behind her). People need to distinguish between role-play and reality. When the unconscious goal of sex is something unattainable (to get historical daddy to give her what she didn’t get), compulsion sets in and begins to take its toll. With its misery and desperation, its insatiable craving for that which can never be satisfied, the scene represents a goal that cannot be attained yet cannot be relinquished.

The inevitable result of the failure to attain impossible goals is depression. The scene never quite satisfies. Such an individual paradoxically has an impoverished sex/fantasy life. Her erotic freedom is inhibited, limited by her mandatory, imperative script. Sex can only be imagined from one perspective. What’s needed is for the individual to be willing to undergo the hard work of personal healing.

Emotional blockages and perceptual distortions need to be resolved, understood or transcended. As he learns to lessen unwanted self-states through psychological processes, rather than through resorting to compulsive behaviors, his scenes become less driven and less anxiety-ridden. With healing, the person can begin to re-invest energies into real relationships with real people, rather than continuing to populate his world with ghosts.

Question: What is your approach to treating people in the BDSM scene? How is treating BDSM people different from treating non-BDSM people?

What comprises successful treatment for people in the scene is, to a large extent, what comprises successful treatment for everyone. Good therapy facilitates the achievement of a more vital, whole, cohesive sense of self and makes you use your abilities and talents. It helps you find ways to connect meaningfully with people and to exercise intelligence in productive/creative activities. With that as a psychological foundation, interest in the scene can be pursued in a balanced, playful and non self-destructive way.

Of course, issues of dominance, submission and power-exchange are elements of all human relationships. Some level of S&M is present in all sexual activity. Longings for passionate attachments, to feel deeply understood and responded to, to be cared for and have our pain and loneliness lessened by an idealized other, or to be admired by an appreciating other are ubiquitous in human affairs. People who identify themselves as being in the scene, however, tend to be people who are always looking for ways to expand the confines of everyday, moralistic, culture-sanctioned reality. They go against the grain of the status quo.

This, of course, is what the great creative discoveries in the arts, sciences and humanities are also about. If a “pervert” is someone who “perverts” the status quo, well, I guess you’d have to say some of the greatest minds and talents of our times have been perverted. Question: What are your views about the relationship between the therapeutic community and the BDSM community? Why do you think so many people in the scene are wary about psychotherapists?

Therapists are people and are often in denial about their own deepest erotic longings. These split-off and unacknowledged fantasies are defended against and result in therapists often viewing scene activities as misbehaviors that represent weakness or childish indulgences that are subject to moral condemnation.

Therapists often think that the patient’s sense of being judged is a projection of the patient’s own self-judgment, but I believe there’s an element of reality in the therapist’s message of confusion, fear, reluctance or even repugnance. A therapeutic interaction like this becomes traumatizing because the customary response to this atmosphere of nonacceptance from the therapist is further psychological concealment and shame, which is anathema to good therapy and good mental health.

Seeing non-normative sexuality as “deviant”, the therapist often contributes to the psychological symptoms of the patient who already lives with shame and guilt as a daily companion. Furthermore, trying to remove an important outlet for relieving fear, depression, shame and isolation often creates more psychological distress than it ameliorates. Mental health professionals in the west criticize Chinese and Soviet therapists for pathologizing people who hold political beliefs that are not normative. Western clinicians, however, make a similar mistake when they pathologize people who have unconventional sexual predilections and interests.

Question: Submissives sometimes speak of a quality of liberation and freedom they experience during a scene. How do you account for this?

Yes, people often feel that they’re truly alive, or truly themselves, in a scene. They often feel a sense of expansion in the acute vulnerability they experience in their scene. A famous psychoanalyst once wrote that one way that children stay connected to emotionally fragile parents is to develop a “false self”, which is a self that embodies the qualities that they think their parents need them to have. I believe that good scenes allow a person to yield this false self.

A scene can sometimes allow for years of defensive barriers that support the false self to be broken through. The longing for the scene is a longing for the experience of the true self. Deep down we all long to give up, to “come clean”, as part of a general longing to be known or recognized. Being known by an idealizable dom is part of the sense of relief or even ecstasy that many people experience. Scenes can also, for doms and subs, give expression to peoples’ need for play. People take delight in fantasy production. Disneyland isn’t just for the kids.

Scenes have tremendous potential for potentiating fantasy. Costumes, rituals, scenarios, sex props and elaborate sets can reveal the richness of the creative inner life and speak to the very real human need for fantasy play. These fantasies are carriers of a full spectrum of human feelings: to control, to be controlled, to tease, to be teased, to play, to please and to achieve solace from the confines of the mundaneness of everyday life.

They represent the suspension of normal reality that is an occasional necessity for all healthy people. Finally, the submissive achieves a sense of balance from a good scene. The experience of receptivity and sensitivity counters the Western imperative to be strong, rational, unfeeling and constrained. Strength can be a terrible burden. People want to let down and let go.

Question: What elements of the scene, if any, can be psychologically problematic?

In certain individuals, psychological processes such as impairment in reality testing and a split in the integrity of the personality can occur. Question: What in the world does that mean? Enslavement to a fantasy script that is repetitively re-enacted is a subversion of truth. The individual can begin to have a lessened ability to function optimally in the real world.

An appreciation and acceptance of sensible limits can be eroded. Denial of the truth of the fact that problems and conflicts need to be resolved within the self, not through the infusion of someone else’s magical power or through having control over someone else’s behavior, can be deleterious to a person’s ability to make good choices. We see this kind of reality-sense impairment all the time in the scene. A female submissive divorces her husband and takes her children across the country to move in with a man she meets on the net. He holds out the hope of being a benign master who will intuit and satisfy her deepest submissive wants and needs. However, the stronger the need, the more potential for distortions exist.

Six months later, she returns home, alone and dejected, because her hope for the perfect master resulted in psychological and, perhaps, physical abuse. A male submissive gives his credit card to his mistress who racks up frivolous charges. American Express then sends the bill to his wife, and he’s in for a kind of punishment for which he had not bargained. This enslavement to an unreal vision can rent the personality in two – the part that believes what’s real (present) and the part that believes what’s unreal (past).

This “split” results in a failure to achieve a unitary vision of the self. The person harbors opposing and mutually exclusive goals, judgments, feelings and thoughts in different sectors of the personality. The mind of a woman who is a high-powered executive during the day and a meek submissive at night, if not housed in an integrated self, can begin to be exhibit paralyzing indecision and self-defeating compromises. Energy available for creative/productive endeavors is siphoned off, resulting in relationships without depth and in the participation in activities without zest. A sense of having an integrated sense of self is particularly critical for people who walk the line between the scene and vanilla worlds.

In addition, if an individual is involved in a frantic search for aliveness through scenes, it’s possible that he/she is seeking to hide from feelings of inner deadness. If a sense of aliveness is achieved exclusively through scenes, the issues that give rise to this sense of inner emptiness can go unresolved and the rest of the person’s life can be negatively affected.

Oddly enough, sometimes a person experiencing depression in the course of psychotherapy can be a positive development because it can mean he/she’s beginning to experience the inner emptiness they’ve been running away from. Question: You have written “Ritualized suffering seems to be a way of giving meaning and value to human infirmities.” I assume you mean the suffering a bottom feels in a scene. Can you say more about this?

There seems to be no dearth of suffering in life. The pain of helplessness, disappointment, loss, powerlessness and limitation is a part of the human condition. It is my hunch that there is something like a universal need, wish or longing for surrender to the totality of life, including it’s more unpleasant aspects, common in the human psyche.

Submission, losing oneself to the power of the other, becoming enslaved to the master, is the ever-available lookalike to surrender to the inevitability of living. The writer who has most influenced my thinking about the need to embrace the suffering of life is Carl Jung. Submissiveness can be imagined as cultivation of what Jung called the “shadow” – the darker, mostly unconscious part of the psyche — which he regarded not as a sickness, but as an essential part of the human experience.

The shadow is the tunnel, channel or connection through which one reaches the deepest, most elemental layers of psyche. Going through the tunnel, or breaking down the ego defenses, one feels reduced and degraded. Embracing the shadow provides a fuller sense of self-knowledge, self-acceptance and a fuller sense of being alive. The experience of the shadow is humiliating and frightening, but is a reduction to the fullness of life – to essential life, which includes suffering, pain, powerlessness and humiliation.

All Female Submissives are Bisexual and Other BDSM Myths

The world is full of false truths. These false truths tend to be the assumptions of the uninformed or the beliefs of those who want to scare novices out of their wits. Many of these are because of a narrow view of the world or an inability to accept varying viewpoints. In this post I’m going to discuss some of the most popular BDSM myths that novices here and what the truth really is.

What is a myth? A myth is a traditional story accepted as history or truth and serves to explain the world view of a people. In this case the people are BDSM practitioners. We all like to tell tales and share advice, but what if that advice has a false truth in it? Are you willing to pass on possible false information or do you want to get all the facts first before saying anything.

All Female Submissives are Bisexual

A common belief is that all submissives, and especially females are bisexual or forced into bisexuality because of the Dominant’s wishes. The truth is that respectful Dominants will comply with your sexual orientation and if it does not include being bisexual, then there should be no forced suggestion either.

All Dominants Want More Than One Submissive

Dominants are human too, and looking for a long term relationship is hard enough, let alone two or more. There is a large percentage of Dominants that are fine with one submissive and never seek to expand their life. There are, however, people interested in polyamory and having more than one love is normal and accepted to them. You do not have to be in a polyamorous relationship if you do not want to. This is part of your wiring and either you like it or you don’t. There are also online Dominants that will have several online submissives, leading them to believe they are the one and only. These people are predators.

All Submissives are Masochists and All Masochists are Submissives

A huge misunderstanding is that you have to like pain to be submissive. Masochism is a part of your sexual identity; you either have it or you don’t. No one can make you like pain, but you can learn to accept pain for you Dominant if that is your wish. Doing so does not make you a masochist. Masochists come in all forms, the majority are submissive, however I know several Dominants that like pain as well, and instruct their submissive to give them pain during play. Switches are known to like both, but that isn’t always the case.

Slaves Are Better Submissives or Slaves Have a Deeper Submission

No group of people is better than another and no individual can be compared to another equally. We are all unique in our submission and no matter what label we choose for ourselves we can live to be the best we can be for ourselves and our Dominants. Slaves are another form of submission but that doesn’t mean they are better. I believe that all slaves are submissive but not all submissives can be slaves. It’s not a deeper submission, just a different path.

Myths are everywhere in the BDSM lifestyle. These are but a few of the most common ones. What myths can you think of?