BDSM and Self Harm Part Two(TW: Self Harm)

I’m going to start with another warning. I know we went over it yesterday, but today is a new day and a new situation. Please take a moment to make sure you’re in a good place to continue this conversation. Police your own triggers by making sure you can handle reading this before continuing, as there will be info that could potentially trigger people.

There were certain things that needed to go in the first post. I already knew it was going to be on the long side and I had to be careful where I ended it, so this might feel a little disjointed, but I want to revisit a few things.

People who are into BDSM are often considered to be mentally ill by vanillas, not because of side issues, but specifically because they are into BDSM. We now know this isn’t true and the DSM has been changed to reflect the new understanding of how human sexuality works. For those interested: BDSM VS DSM

Originally, doctors felt like an interest in BDSM either as a masochist or a sadist was a mental defect because it was outside the norm. Studies have gone a long way in showing that’s not actually the case. I think attitudes are continuing to evolve on this, and more mainstream vanilla people becoming interested in D/s has helped to encourage a lot of new studies.

I mentioned in the first part of this, that BDSM has been really helpful for some people who have self-harm issues and that I thought it could actually be used as a safer, healthier outlet for people with self-harm urges.  There are studies to back this up, and I’ll be linking you to one further in.

I would also like to point out that there have always been socially acceptable ways to self-harm. It’s not always about cutting. Anything you do to deliberately to cause yourself pain or damage your body is considered self-harm.

Incidentally, this means that most people engage in self-harm at one point or another, even if they don’t realize they are doing it. When you get upset and pick at hangnails, or bite your lips until they bleed, or peel the skin of the bottom of your heels you are engaging in self-harming behavior. It’s just that some forms are what people think of when they hear the words, and others seem to get a pass on it even though they cause the same amount of damage and give the same results.

Tattoos are acceptable. Piercings are acceptable. Participating in sports to such extremes that you permanently damage your body is acceptable. And there are many more examples. They have a few things in common. One obvious thing, of course, is the permanent damage (marks) that are left on the body, but the other is the sense of euphoria that people get from them.

People in sports describe the feeling they get when they push their body to the limits, and it’s really not much different from the pain and then euphoria you get when you get a tattoo. Both are extremely similar to what subs/bottoms experience in BDSM. The pain, the excitement, the rush, and then the floaty feeling of happiness and relaxation afterwards—there’s very little difference between them.

Yet BDSM is considered strange? Well, it used to be. Society is coming to accept it more now, and I hope that continues to grow. There are a number of interesting findings in the things I’ve read. Now, studies and results are not concrete facts. There aren’t many unchanging facts when it comes to how people’s minds work with trauma and emotions, but by taking information and creating statistics from a large pool of people, we can get a basic idea of a few things.

The first thing you want to know is that, just because you self-harmed at one time during your life doesn’t mean that your interest in BDSM stems from a need to hurt yourself. In fact, most likely the two are unconnected.

There are a lot of people who self-harmed when they were younger and later end up in BDSM, but science has found that BDSM isn’t necessarily a substitute for self-harm in these people. Many teens self-harm and grow out of it completely. An interest in BDSM can be totally unrelated or only marginally related because BDSM is usually more connected to your sexuality than your past trauma. This is a change from previous thinking, which is why BDSM was once considered unhealthy.

In other words, you might use BDSM in place of self-harm, but most people would likely still be into BDSM anyway because it fills other needs as well. That’s an important factor because it means BDSM is its own entity in your life and not just a replacement coping mechanism. Past studies that have attempted to connect an interest in BDSM to trauma have been disavowed for the most part, since they went into them with flawed assumptions that people only gravitated to BDSM because they wanted to abuse or be abused.

New research has found that BDSM is not a pathology and can be healing and effective at reducing instances of self-harm. If done correctly, in a safe manner, BDSM can even be used as a kind of therapy. There are a number of articles on this, but this one, published in Psychology Today, is my favorite but another trigger warning on this, because there’s a photo of someone with cuts from a scene, and old scars in it: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/standard-deviations/201610/bdsm-harm-reduction

It validates my own lived experience because this is how it’s always been for me—a healthy alternative, but basically a very small part of what I get out of D/s. So, if you use BDSM to get over self-harming urges you now have an official opinion that it’s fine.

I do want to bring up the movie Secretary at this point. It was a groundbreaking movie for a number of reasons, when it came out back in 2002. While it didn’t exactly show the healthiest of relationship dynamics, you did get a fairly realistic view of how a submissive can put aside cutting because a Dominant has ordered it. It was one of the few kink movies coming out back then, and well worth a view if you’ve never watched it. (TW because it does show cutting and scars.)

It was the first time I ever saw cutting addressed so bluntly, and definitely the first time it was connected with BDSM in a positive way. Their relationship had some issues, but as far as the self-harm went, her Dominant turns her away from that through rules, as he introduces her to BDSM. Watching it was the first time I felt seen.

At the time, the whole movie was a shock. First seeing spanking and kinky scenes playing out in detail on center screen was new. Then the fact that they showed both the positives and negatives of the relationship these two people have. They both had mental issues, but in a way, they clicked and helped each other get better.

It was very different from previous BDSM/Kink movies which focused more on the sex aspects, keeping things strictly to the bedroom. And on the rare occasion when it stepped out, it was always shown as unhealthy. Like 9 ½ weeks, for instance. That started as a fairly lighthearted and sexy kink film, but it rapidly descended into him being dangerously controlling and the relationship spinning out of control until she had to end it for her own safety. You really didn’t get happy endings with movies like this, prior to Secretary.

There are complaints that they put BDSM in a bad light, because she had recently been released from an institution, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. She was in there because of the self-harm and suicidal tendencies, and he pulled her away from that through their D/s relationship. Being angry that she was shown as unstable, feels like another attempt to pretend that everyone in BDSM is perfectly healthy.

It would be nice if that were true, but it’s not. Many of us do have issues, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that we’re into BDSM because of them. It does mean that sometimes BDSM can help us cope with things.

But if you feel like Covid is keeping you from getting what you need to fill those urges, then I’d like to refer you to part one where I list some options that might help. I’d also like to suggest you read through my Long-Distance D/s series. If you’re used to meeting in person but can’t right now, you’ll find that there are still ways for you to get what you need.

Subs in long distance relationships know how you feel. It’s a problem they deal with frequently and there are many things you can do from a distance that can help you. It might even be easier to consider yourself in a long-distance relationship for the moment, even if you live across town from each other.

And before I move on, I know you probably get tired of hearing this, but I’d just like to remind you that communication is essential. If you are using a D/s relationship and BDSM to move past self-harm to any extent, then your Dominant needs to be aware of it. It’s a conversation you have to have because they need to know what to expect and what to look for.

Now, there’s something really important we haven’t covered yet, and I think it’s essential. I’ve said that I feel like BDSM is healthier than self-harm for many people and I’ve explained the reasons for that, and even the science behind it, but it would be irresponsible of me not mention that this is only true for some people, in some circumstances.

There are people who use BDSM to harm themselves. They may or may not realize they are doing it. Like biting your lips and picking at skin, it can be entirely unintentional, but the end results are still the same. BDSM cannot be a healthy outlet for you if you aren’t aware of the risks and don’t take them seriously. Refusing to use a safeword even when you’ve gone long past your limits can be self-harm. Playing with strangers without any safety precautions in place can be self-harm.

Even diving into relationships with people you barely know and ignoring your warning flags can be self-harm. It’s possible that you’ve never really looked at it that way before. If so, consider it now and try to think about what might be motivating these choices. There could be other, healthier, ways to deal with it, but it helps if you understand what you’re doing so you can channel it differently.

There is absolutely no judgment from me on this issue. I’ve been there and I understand, but if you suspect that self-harm instincts might be what’s causing you to make dangerous decisions you need to realize it before you can change anything.

One last thing I’d like to mention is that Tops/Doms can also, obviously, self-harm and at times their triggers can conflict with their subs. That doesn’t mean that subs should hide it from them. It’s still something that will have to be discussed, but it’s important that you check if they have triggers and then you both need to find a time when the Top can handle the discussion.

Because of this, it’s best for the sub not to put it off until it’s an urgent issue. You may find it helpful to set up a code word that means “Help I want to hurt myself” without coming out and saying that. That way the sub can let their Dom know they need attention without triggering them too.

And Doms can also find BDSM a healthy outlet for their self-harm reflexes, though they may come at It differently. Some do bottom for the pain catharsis, and I’ve known many who do that. Others may just channel it into causing pain to others. And of course, they can also be guilty of using BDSM as an unhealthy outlet too.

Doms/Tops are human with the same issues. It might be harder for them to talk about them because they are trying to be the strong one. They may self-harm but hide it from their subs. I would say that whichever role you have in your dynamic, this should be discussed, if only so that your partner can avoid triggering you. I do understand though that it can be harder for Doms to admit to these things because it feels like weakness.

It’s not. It’s a coping mechanism. But there are better and healthier coping mechanisms out there that you can learn.

On that note, I’d just like to do a short recap on both parts before I wrap things up.

BDSM works as a replacement for self-harm because you get the same basic things from it. Pain, catharsis, relaxation, euphoria, etc.

You are probably not into kink and BDSM because of self-harm, and they may or may not be connected at all.

BDSM is healthier emotionally for some people than self-harm because it’s coming from an outside source and can be safer physically as long as precautions are taken. You avoid triggering the guilt-harm-guilt cycle because you aren’t harming yourself; you are just participating in a consensual activity.

People who use BDSM in place of self-harm are likely going to start falling back on those old coping mechanisms, if their outlet to BDSM gets cut off and they need to take that into account. If that’s happening now because of quarantine, then they can consider some of the long-distance suggestions I’ve recommended.

People can self-harm without realizing they are doing it. Not all forms of self-harm are physical, and some forms are subtle.

If you are a submissive who self-harms, your Dominant needs to know. It needs to be discussed and if your relationship leans in that direction there might be things, they can do to help you.

If you are a Dom/Top who self-harms then you should discuss it with your sub, along with what your triggers are. Really anyone you have a deep relationship with should be aware.

Self-harming is not a weakness. It’s not a failure. It’s not bad or shameful, but it is not the healthiest coping mechanism you could be using and there are better ways to deal with stress and upset.

This has been a really intense piece to write. It’s probably been intense to read too, so please take care of yourself after going through this and keep yourself safe. Remember that no one can be strong all the time and that we’ve all had to deal with a lot more this year than we could ever have expected.

If you’re struggling, please open up and talk to someone you trust. Don’t shut down, if you can avoid it. At the end of the day any coping mechanism that gets you through things is a win. We want to aim for healthier ways to manage stress, but the goal is surviving. So, do what you have to do to make it through the dark patches.

You’re not alone, no matter what the bully in the back of your head says.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home ❤

One Reply to “BDSM and Self Harm Part Two(TW: Self Harm)”

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