Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Latest Kink-E Magazine: review of articles on kinky mental health

The latest issue of Kink-E Magazine is out, featuring:
"articles by Mistress160, Master Jay, Mistress J, D.Vice designer sex gear, Cuffs and Collars the little shoppe of fetish, Hellfire Resurrection Pictures, kim[MJ], Abode, Pictures Page and event listing, butt toy article by Michael Masterson, and plenty more!"
Editor Kitten has (as usual!) assembled an interesting array of articles, several of which link in with the topic of kinky mental health, including my own article on aftercare for submissives (you can find my original BDSM For Beginners post here), Leonie's "Is BDSM About Self Harm?" and kim[MJ]'s "When circumstances change".

These articles all deal with rarely discussed, difficult subjects. Kudos to Kitten for including them, both from an educational viewpoint and from the point of raising the level of local kinky community discussion. So to encourage that discussion, here are my thoughts on Leonie's "Is BDSM About Self Harm?" and kim[MJ]'s "When circumstances change".

I found Leonie's article disappointing - more because of what's missing than the content of the article itself, which consists simply of definitions of the terms self harm and sadomasochism / BDSM followed by this short concluding paragraph:
"I have tried to remain neutral and will leave you to draw your own conclusions; I am satisfied in my belief that 99% of the time there is no connection between self harm, self harm by proxy and BDSM. But also believe that there are exceptions that break every rule"
Why is this a problem? Well, it means that what's missing from the article is any analysis of how "self harm, self harm by proxy and BDSM" potentially interact with each other, as well as any attempt to posit these issues within the wider (mine)field of abuse, or to related contemporary issues such as body modification or self harm as fashion statement.

It's also very important on a serious topic like this - which will be read by self harmers - that author statements such as "I am satisfied in my belief that 99% of the time there is no connection between self harm, self harm by proxy and BDSM" and "a survey done in the UK found that people who self harm were more anxious, depressed and have lower self esteem than those who do not" be collaborated by appropriate references.

While I agree with Leonie that there is not an enormous range of information on the topic, a quick google search prior to writing this post revealed enough online resources to allow the author to explore issues such as self harm, BDSM and self harm by proxy in greater depth - as Mistress Hypatia does in November 2007, in response to a post ("I thought self harm was a cry for help ... I dont see how this can transfer to a bdsm scene as its a deep emotional disturbance") on an InformedConsent forum thread on "Encouraging self harm":
"the issue here is whether self harm and BDSM can exist in the same person. If one believes that they are completely separate entities, then one must accept that they may occur together, coincidentally, in the same person. And therefore that someone can self-harm and be in a BDSM relationship at the same time.

"There is also the additional aspect of someone who self-harms seeking out the BDSM scene as a way to assuage their need - a kind of 'self-harm by proxy' if you like. I have no evidence for this happening, but there is a certain logic to it so I wouldn't be surprised if others have encountered it.

"Regarding helping someone to self-harm being 'taking sadism too far', it all depends on the motivation of the sadist. Are they doing it solely because it gets them off, or do they have damage limitation in mind as well? Like so much in BDSM, it pays to look at the exact circumstances of each situation before pronouncing judgment..."
InformedConsent's "Encouraging self harm" thread is one of several forum threads full of posts from kinksters who have self harmed or have experience with self harmers, who clearly articulate the differences between BDSM play and self injury. Here velvet minx tells her very personal story:
"I am a recovering self harmer. From the time I was 11 years old I beat my head against the wall until I lost conciousness, burnt myself, slashed my breasts, thighs, stomach and arms with razors. I ended up in hospital many times when I went too far in a frenzy of self loathing and depression. I don't regret it because it helped me survive but it was not a positive way to be living. It released the emotional pain I felt and helped me cope with the life I was leading. I haven't done it now for over ten years but it will always be something I will have to deal with. Like an alcoholic who has been dry, they still remain in recovery.

"I have been cut once by my ex Dom, I trusted him completely and it was a very positive, beautiful,intimate, erotic experience. It had nothing to do with self hate, or depression, or internal pain ... If my Dom wanted to cut me as a submissive, artful act, in love and desire I would be happy. If I was depressed and spiralling into blackness and he wanted to hack my wrist I would not be"
Reading responses to posts like this ("I think [your post] shows self harm in it's literal definition and shows the pain") reveals that the inclusion of such personal experiences provides insight for others wishing to understand self harm. Leonie's article would greatly have benefited from the inclusion of similar material, both in terms of direct experiences (perhaps her own???) as well as discussion of the wider complex links between kink and abuse. Bob King has noted:
"Self-injury is a particular concern for many survivors and those close to them. Often this activity is far riskier than that seen in a regulated BDSM playspace; severe burns, serious cuts and bruised and broken hands and heads are all possible results of self-injurious behaviour.

"The reasons given for this behaviour are very similar to those given by people within the scene; the behaviour seems to focus them and quell or redirect even darker urges. I have suggested self-flagellation to a number of survivors as a substitute for cutting and in one instance I was told that it was a satisfactory substitute. I consider this to be a functional improvement, since, with a proper flogger, the worst thing that can occur is a bruise or two"

King's article is a good one to mention because his views always results in heated discussion lol. But as the owner of a masochist with Attention Deficit Disorder, I find King's comments on BDSM / ADD spot on:
"One thing that I've considered remarkable is the number of people who have said that a beating or a cutting "focuses" them, and much speculation as to why that should be has occurred. One belief is that a properly-administered flogging or cutting releases endorphins and perhaps effects neurotransmitter levels. A great many Adult Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers have commented that they simply can't function as well without regular beatings. I note that often these people ... are interested in a good, no-frills flogging, often developing a reputation for being "bottomless" bottoms, capable of soaking up more than the typical top is willing or able to give.

"It's rather amusing, actually, to see such a bottom, bruised and glowing, leaving two or three exhausted tops muttering about cattle prods and barbed-wire flails. (These are ironic utterances, as both implements are considered to be beyond the pale by responsible BDSM players)"

This is so true!

I'd like to suggest that readers view Leonie's article as a terrific jump off point into the tricky subject of self harm / BDSM, supplementing your reading with further material drawn from the online resource list at the end of this post.

kim[MJ]'s thought provoking article "When circumstances change" explores the issue of how submissives cope with the unexpected loss of their dominant:

"How would i cope ... what strategies could be put in place to help me to get through what would be one of the most traumatic events in my life?

"i do have people in my life who care and would be supportive, i have my son and other relatives and close friends, but that is my vanilla world. The platitudes and sentiments expressed would be meaningful and comforting, but who could i turn to who would ‘really’ understand where my mind is and what i need to make my life work and my soul complete.

"Who is there who would be able to give me the comfort, yet also the control, and the support yet also the structure i need in my days?

"A submissive – especially one who has been living 24/7 - needs structure, and needs control and boundaries… when the Master is no longer around, who is there to give those things?"
This is an important topic, for both subs and dominants, who may also find themselves unexpectedly bereft of a longterm play partner. Kim provides a variety of scenarios that may result in unexpected change: illness, an injury, a private decision to leave the lifestyle, etc, as well as suggestions for coping mechanisms. She also references her own recent experiences:

"The other situation that can occur, and is probably more difficult to deal with, is if the Dominant becomes sick or incapacitated, which again means a role reversal for the submissive to take on a more dominant role. There may be medication to take, appointments to keep, and perhaps the Dominant may even be incapable of doing even the most simple of tasks.

"How do you tell your Master what to do???

"It is no easy task and on the very rare occasion i have been in this position, i have coped by almost resuming the “single parent status” – it becomes easier to be bossy if you can revert to that mindset….. not that you are treating your Dom as a child, just that you are “in charge”. I think almost every submissive would cope, but would breathe a sigh of relief when the situation reverts to normal again"

I completely identified with this, having been injured myself recently.

As part of her analysis on support networks within the lifestyle, kim discusses the merits of the "GodDom" program:
"Sometimes, formal arrangements are made between two Dominants where a commitment is made to care for the Other’s property should an unfortunate event occur.

"It is sometimes known as being a “GodDom” and is very similar to that of a Godfather or Godparent in the vanilla world. This carries a big responsibility for the Dom who makes such a commitment. It means He/She must take care of the submissive who has been left alone – the emotional and physical wellbeing of the submissive must be looked after, as well as practical support if it is needed, such as a place to stay, and if the Dominant has passed away, assistance with any legal arrangements if necessary.

"It is also the responsibility of the GodDom to take care of the submissive in the public sense as well, for example, placing her under His protection when she begins to venture out and about again. The Dominant may also help in guiding the submissive towards safe people to be with, and may also fill her needs with some play if it is appropriate.

"It doesn’t mean that the chosen Dominant must enter into any kind of relationship with the submissive in His care, it just means that He must look out for her, and guide her in her choices, give her the structure and control she will need to get her through her day to day life.

"In reality, it is the power exchange that she will need, and which the Dominant can provide...."
Well worth a read, folks.

For those lucky enough to be able to access Kink-E in Australia, head out to your nearest fetish store to purchase a copy. For others, please check out Changing Circumstances on kim's article page on MJ's Toybox.



BDSM vs Abuse Statement
(Formulated at LLC III in San Francisco.
Over 20 BDSM Organizations participated in it's wording)
Chris aka Zena Flashbacks and Scenes
Clanbear's becca Survivor's Of Child Sexual Abuse and The D/s World
Dakini A View Of Abuse And D/s
Jan Hall Domestic Violence in the BDSM community
Jim Hopper Sexual Abuse of males: prevalence, possible lasting effects and Resources
Bob King The Link between Kink and Abuse
Raven Shadowborne BDSM and Child Abuse
Mistress Steel Dealing with Abuse
Mistress Steel Safe
Silver Oz Abuse in BDSM
Usha Abuse within BDSM
Wings of Fire Survivors - Articles List
(Wings of Fire is an online community in the BDSM lifestyle
dedicated to overcoming and surviving all forms of abuse)


Living with Self Injury
Self Injury: a Struggle
Women and Self Injury

Diary of a Rampant Rabbit - Cutting and Self Harm (post and comments)
Freaksexual Kinky Abuse and community response (post and comments) forum - "Encouraging self harm thread


First Aid After Self Injury
Emergency Self Aftercare Instructions
Kink Aware Professionals


Kink-E Magazine
kim (Property of Master Joe) Changing Circumstances
kim's article page
MJ's Toybox (run by Master Joe and kim)

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