This is going to be a multi-part series. I’m not sure how many parts there will be yet, but at least three because it’s gotten long and detailed.
Some of this may seem basic to those of you who have been playing for a long time, but if nothing else, it might show you how things have changed since you entered your first kinky dynamic.
The newer generations of adults are learning about kink earlier and getting involved in playing earlier too. This includes Millennials, the youngest of which are at least twenty-six now, and the oldest members of Generation Z who have been adults for five or six years already.
A lot of things have changed and will continue to change as they come in. Overall I think the updates have been good. There is more focus on safety and conversation than there used to be.
And just to be clear… the BDSM world as a whole has always pushed for safety. The Millennials didn’t invent this coming in. Safewords have been around for a long time.
But… previous generations and elder Millennials didn’t have the same access to learning materials that we have now. When people logged online in the early 90’s there weren’t hundreds of lifestyle blogs around where they could get the facts. And the sexuality section at the local bookstore was restricted to like… three books (Which we’ll discuss soon!)
Many of us learned by exploring and playing. We picked things up in chatrooms, from friends, at parties—not everything we learned was healthy. There is something to be said for having a large resource library ready and waiting as soon as you’re old enough to start looking. You pick up the facts from the beginning and go in with a good idea of what you should be doing.
A negative thing which has happened at the same time, but not because of the younger crowd, is that we’ve had a large influx of people who learned about kink and BDSM from that popular movie/book franchise. And as we’ve mentioned before, fiction is not the same thing as reality.
It’s absolutely fine to love reading about unhealthy dynamics. Alpha males, possessive Doms, stalking boyfriends, dark romance… all of it can be hot in FICTION, but when we’re talking about reality, these are things to avoid.
Do not learn about kink from fiction. I can’t say this enough times.
Fiction isn’t the problem. People have been fantasizing about abduction, rape, nonconsensual punishment, and worse from way back. Many people grew up watching movies where the woman was just grabbed and spanked. No consent needed!
You can fantasize about whatever gets you hot. You can read and watch anything that turns you on. Non-con, dub-con, quasi-consent… Not a problem in fiction.
Trying to base your lifestyle around it… BIG problem.
But once kink became less of a comedic foil, less of a ‘this is just how things are done because we’re old fashioned’, less of a shocking plot device, and went mainstream, it was inevitable that we’d get a lot of interest and curiosity. People who may have fantasized about kink but never thought it was an actual option have realized… ‘Oh! Hey, I could try this!’.
They dive into the kink world confident and ready to explore, but everything they know comes from fiction. Some of them go from that franchise to other fiction. Some of them even find my books (Yay! Thanks for supporting me!) but romance writers are writing to appeal to your deepest, exciting fantasies.
We’re not trying to educate you on a safe and healthy lifestyle. Even though I, and some others, do try to slip in the occasional bits of education, and even use our own experiences to flesh out the scenes and make them feel more realistic, it’s still fiction.
My job when writing a fictional novel is to excite and entertain. Too much explaining how things should be done and listing out the safety precautions detracts and ruins a fun story. We can hint, but we’re not writing textbooks.
So sometimes an interested person goes from one fictional franchise to the next and then sometimes decide to jump in and try things out. Which is fine. If reading fiction opens up a need you never knew you had, or shows you a world that entices you in that’s okay. But not enough curious people take the time to search out valid resources on the lifestyle first.
This leads to the bottom/sub/Little/brat types getting hurt or taken advantage of. It leads to Top/Dom types making mistakes they’ll regret later. Or it leads to awkwardness on both sides while they try to pretend they know what they are doing, but don’t.
And of course, an even bigger problem is that it gives abusers an open door to pretend to be Doms and use what they saw in a movie or read in a book to mask what they are doing.
The BDSM world is, in my opinion, pretty healthy overall.
We encourage levels of conversation and honesty that you often don’t find in regular vanilla relationships, because it’s necessary when you open up such deep parts of yourself, and put yourself in situations where there is some element of physical risk. We push for understanding risk levels, and the use of safety devices and techniques that can help in physical or emotional situations as a normal part of the relationship.
Safewords don’t have to be for kink alone. They can be for hard conversations. They can be for rough sex. They can be used in whatever manner is helpful, but you rarely see it outside of the kink world, and that’s sad. It’s one way that I think kinky relationships can be much healthier than a typical one.
But the BDSM lifestyle is one that does attract predators. Getting to ‘own’ someone? Being able to make them beg and do anything you want them to? Of course it’s going to bring in the abusers.
And kink going mainstream gave abusers enough info to fake being in the lifestyle without any work on their part. They create a persona of what they think a Dom is and then they sneak in and scoop up the nervous new submissives who don’t know any better.
This is something more experienced players hate to see, and we work hard to help when we can. We point out the red flags. We suggest resources so the subs can learn more about what they are getting into.
The problem is, for a submissive, it’s very easy to go deep quickly. When you submit to someone you open yourself wide and give them all your trust. It can be intense and incredibly seductive.
Once a sub/Little/bottom has been sucked in by a predator they often aren’t able to disengage. The abuser becomes their world, and they think any little crumb of affection is better than being shut out. By the time they are able to pull away, or are thrown away, there has been a lot of damage done.
After that, every relationship going forward is going to suffer. It will be harder to trust. There will be abandonment issues. There will be unhealthy attachments.
Clinginess, neediness—these aren’t necessarily bad things. I hate that the terms are used negatively all the time, when they aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with clinging or expressing needs to your Dominant partner… unless it’s because you don’t trust them, or feel like if you don’t give them every bit of yourself they will leave.
Are you feeling needy because that’s just natural for you? Or because your needs aren’t being met? Or are you feeling needy because in the past you were told you weren’t allowed to have needs.
Are you clinging because they are sending up red flags that they might dump you? Or… are you clinging because your trust was broken in the past. It matters.
If you feel like you have to put on a show all the time, or they’ll throw you away then it could be a problem with your dynamic. It could be red flags that this is not the Dominant for you. Or… it could be because your previous unhealthy dynamics trained you to think no Dominant can be trusted to stay.
Working through all of that can be hard. It might take therapy. It’s definitely going to take a lot of patience on behalf of the Dom. They not only have to worry about getting your dynamic settled right, they also have to worry about not triggering your fears from your past baggage.
And then there’s the issue of potentially falling into another unhealthy dynamic, because now you’ve come to expect certain unfortunate things. It can become a cycle of abuse, where you’re subconsciously drawn to abusers because it’s what you’ve always had.
So how do we avoid this when we’re new in the scene, or stop an unhealthy cycle in its tracks so it doesn’t perpetuate?
A lot of that can be traced back to the early conversations you have with a potential partner. And I’m saying partner, not Dominant, because I do recognize that the abusive partner in a D/s relationship is not always the Dom.
I focus on the submissive perspective here most of the time, and in this article specifically because statistically speaking it’s more likely for the Dominant to be the abusive partner. Abusers are attracted to power and an abusive Dominant will be the one holding the power in a kink dynamic.
It doesn’t matter that in a healthy dynamic the power is shared equally with the submissive, and they always have the ability to stop things. An abusive dynamic is, by definition, not healthy, so those rules go out the window and an abuser absolutely isn’t going to tell the sub they have those rights.
While submissives can also be abusive. They tend to do so less bluntly. It’s usually in more of an emotionally manipulative way. I also think it’s less predatory. Submissives may end up being abusive, but they aren’t specifically out looking for Doms because they want to abuse them.
That being said… someone can pretend to be a sub in the same way someone can pretend to be a Dom. It’s just rare to see it being done for the purpose of abuse because of the nature of the sub’s role in the relationship. There isn’t a visible kind of power to attract them.
I’m going to leave it at that for now because I think it’s a different conversation, but I did want to make note of it. It probably deserves its own post.
Join me next week when I continue this in: Exploring a Kink Relationship Safely (Part Two)– Important Questions and Conversation Techniques.