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Survivors of Sexual Assault and BDSM - Chat Transcript


The Pandora's Aquarium Chat room welcomed Dr. Gloria Brame on November 13, 2011. Dr. Brame is a sex-therapist and clinical sexologist who spoke to members about BDSM as it relates to healing and sexual assault. You can visit Dr. Brame's website at www.gloriabrame.com

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Ash: We're happy to have Dr. Gloria Brame here to talk to us about BDSM and healing. Welcome, Gloria :)

DrGloria: Thank you! :) I'm really happy and honored to be here with you all.

Ash: The first half of the chat will be questions that were submitted in advance, so I'm going to hand the floor over to Susan!

Question: What is bdsm?

BDSM is an acronym for bondage, discipline, sadomasochism. It also includes fetishes. That's the simplest explanation :) It can range from gentle sensual fantasies to extreme acts.

Question: How do I know if I'm only interested in BDSM because of my sexual assault/abuse?

DrGloria: One good sign is if your tendancies ONLY emerged after the abuse. BDSM/fetish sex is founded on the idea of MUTUAL CONSENT. Unlike abuse. If your fantasies only began after an incident, they may come directly from being traumatized. For some abuse victims, however, their tragic experiences happened so young, before they were really sexual (say before puberty).... that it's really confusing to know, "would I have these fantasies if those terrible things didn't happen to me?" That is a question each person has to work out for him or herself, but as a therapist who works on this issue, and a person who has struggled with it herself... if your fantasies always end up with you being hurt and miserable, more than likely it's a reflection of trauma, and it's a BAD place for you to go. If your fantasies are based on pleasure or seeking relief, or seeing a happy or therapeutic outcome (with lots of orgasms!), then you may just be wired this way.

Question: If I'm interested in BDSM, does that mean I'm not healed from my abuse?

DrGloria: No, that's not a logical conclusion. Abuse is not about sex; it's about power and control. It's really an impossible question to answer because it always comes down to individuals. Let's use the example of sexual intercourse. Let's say an abuse victim was forced to have intercourse with an adult as a child. When that child grows up and desires intercourse, does it mean they haven't healed? Of course not. Why? Because they have their own natural sex drive and desires.

Question: I think that I am using BDSM to punish myself for my abuse. What can I do?

If you believe that you are using BDSM negatively, to punish yourself, you should stop, and seek out some counseling.

Question: How can I approach the topic of BDSM with my partner? What if he/she is hesitant because I'm a survivor and he/she is afraid of hurting me?

DrGloria: I wrote a very very friendly user guide to kink called Come Hither. There are other books out there. I recommend you start by asking your partner to read or, if he/she isn't a big reader, for you to mark passages and discuss them together. They will feel better about it if you sound like you've informed yourself too. :)

Question: I think I might be interested in BDSM but I'm not sure. What would you suggest to help me find out?

DrGloria: If you type the terms into Amazon or B&N, you'll be amazed how many books are out there. What can I say? I always turn to books! LOL But there are lots of good resources on the Net for people beginning this journey.

Question: In your experience, are survivors of sexual assault more likely to be drawn to BDSM than people who were not abused?

That's a good question, and one that comes up all the time. No one has been able to make a correlation (scientifically) between abuse and BDSM.

Question: If BDSM was used as part of my abuse, is it possible to find a way to enjoy it?

DrGloria: It would take a LOT of trust in your partner to know that he/she will do it safely and for your pleasure. If you can trust your partner to honor your needs and be careful around your hot buttons, then I think it's very possible.

Question: Is it unhealthy for me to re-enact parts of my abuse if I'm doing it as a way to regain the control I lost when I was abused?

DrGloria: BDSM isn't therapy. It may feel therapeutic, but it is not the same as putting feelings into words and analyzing what you're doing and why.... so I don't support people trying to heal themselves by re-enacting scenarios. I think there are too many potential minefields that could re-traumatize you if something went wrong. Just my opinion.

Question: How can I tell if my partner is being abusive or if it's only part of the BDSM lifestyle?

DrGloria: I'd like to recommend this website's resources: http://www.keepingitkinky.net/basics/ The sections on red flags, SSC and RACK are a basic guide to figuring out if/when your relationship steps over the line into abuse.

Question: Should I be concerned if I have difficulty staying focussed during sex unless it involves BDSM?

DrGloria: Something I like to tell clients, "relax, that's normal for a kinky person" :) If you are wired kinky, then BDSM fantasies are natural for you, and what will give you the best sexual responses. Nothing to be worried about.

Question: Is the fullfillment most take away from a bdsm experience mostly sexual satisfaction, or are there other emotions that are healing or helpful or trust developing...ie therapeutic?

DrGloria: Actually, I think BDSMers are a little more interested in the emotional high they get than the orgasm. BDSM is about open honest dialogue, negotiation, nakedness and learning to TRUST. All of those skills are invaluable to abuse survivors, so yes, it can be very comforting and therapeutic to do BDSM.

Question: If BDSM was part of my abuse, and now I can only orgasm when thinking about being hurt that way again, does that mean it is a desire for that now, or that I havent healed from that part of the abuse?

DrGloria: If you keep re-living your trauma, then you probably have not healed from it. Your BDSM fantasy is your way of trying to rewrite the experience, maybe give it a happier outcome.

Question: What if I know I just want to be hurt, like actually hurt, I WANT to feel physical pain, and there's little interest in the pleasure that's supposed to be a great part of it? When does BDSM stop being just that and becomes too much?

DrGloria: It's possible you would've enjoyed intense sensation or would've been a masochist whether or not you were abused. The abuse may have made it more traumatic and frightening for you. My own rule of thumb is this: do you feel good *after* the experience? Do you feel you got what you really wanted? If so, no harm. BUT...if afterwards you cry, or get down on yourself, or feel like a bad person, you have to stop for your own mental health.

Question: Can you talk a bit about creating a safe word and making yourself use it rather than allowing self to enter the "reenactment" thing. I am not sure I could trust myself to use it soon enough.

I think if you are going to experiment with BDSM, you should begin by taking baby-steps. Maybe you always had a fantasy about something intense, like tight bondage or a whipping... start with LIGHT bondage and a light spanking. See how those things actually feel to your body -- not just in your fantasies. Can you handle it? I recommend that the first few times you experiment you deliberately leave yourself wanting more the *next* time. Trying to fulfill a fantasy all at once is, IMO, risky for an abuse survivor

Question: Is it wrong to derive sexual pleasure from being hurt in my private areas? If so, do you have any suggestions for stopping?

DrGloria: "Wrong" is a moral judgment, and we each have to live with our own conscience, right? To me, there is no right or wrong in sex, just positive or negative. If you enjoy genital pain (as many people who were never abused do), it isn't "wrong," it's how you were made. That's how I see it. Meanwhile, you can't NOT be who you are. If you know that when it comes to sex, you need more or different to feel fulfilled, you have to find a place of peace with it, one that is non-destructive; but you can't stop being kinky.

Question: How can you differentiate between a sub-drop and it being detrimental to your mental health?

DrGloria: Honestly, as a long-time player, I haven't witnessed much "sub-drop" because I think the people most likely to experience it either went too far or weren't prepared for the experience. In other words, I think it's most likely to happen when people still feel conflict or, conversely, are really unaware of how intense BDSM can be emotionally.

Question: Could you also give us a brief explanation of what a sub-drop is, for those of us who aren't familiar with the term?

DrGloria: During submission, people feel a kind of high (adrenalin rush) and sub-drop is when they crash later, and feel sad or confused.

Question: Can BDSM be therapeutic for survivors in any way?

DrGloria: I think it can. Not in direct ways, like talk or behaviorial therapy, but over the long-term, it can help a survivor heal some social skills that were damaged by abuse. For example, successful BDSM requires trust: learning to trust again is HUGE for survivors in the BDSM world, and renews them. Also, being involved in BDSM, you learn to give up some of the shame and guilt about the body -- whether over nudity or having weird fantasies. You develop a sense of loving acceptance -- of others and by others. That is another important feeling that is stolen from victims of abuse by their predators.

Question: I classify myself as sadistic and enjoy inflicting pain on play partners. Does this make me an abuser?

DrGloria: Sadists are some of the nicest people I know! ;) Abuse is all about wanting to hurt someone you think is inferior. BDSM, IMO, is all about wanting to share incredible intensity with someone you respect.

Question: For our last question, we'd like to ask you if you could share any survivor-friendly websites or resources for people who are interested in BDSM. I also have some links that were submitted by members, so I'll pass those along as well.

Member: A good beginner’s book: http://www.amazon.co...m/dp/0964596008

Member: Dr. Gloria's Site, http://www.gloriabrame.com/ :)

Ash: Thank you so much for chatting with us tonight! We really appreciate it and it was very informative!

Susan: You've given a great deal of information

DrGloria: thank you! Loved being here :) :)

Ash: Thanks to everyone for coming out and for submitting your questions!

DrGloria: BIG HUGS to you all. Thank you for inviting me. Hope you'll all read my new book :) "The Truth About Sex: Sex and the Self" :) http://gloriabrame.com/books


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