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BDSM and therapy – Time to remove the shame.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had two clients express how grateful they have found me.

Grateful as they do not have to hide who they are. Grateful they can sit in my room and speak of their adventures confidently, they will not be judged or shamed.

Grateful I am as open as I am in my advertising and communication around kink and BDSM.

Previously, these clients have experienced unpleasant experiences from other therapists or have not felt comfortable speaking of their preferences. Let’s face it, speaking of any mental health issue can be shadowed by shame or other feelings resulting in us, as humans, hiding away and not being willing to face them. I can tell you I have sat across from a couple of professionals and felt I needed to be silence as my conversation was making them uncomfortable. During my time at university, I have sat in a classroom and listened to a lecturer shape minds around those who enjoy leather, flogging, or sleep with teddy bears as adult.

When you understand the history of kink and BDSM in professional circles, especially psychologists, you can see why they think and feel the way they do. Since 1952, fetish, kink, BDSM or any sexual behaviour that was seen outside of the norm was classified as a mental illness. This included homosexuality, the powers that be decided any non-mainstream sexality was a sociopathic personality disorder. Thankfully we have come a long way, or have we?

..any mainstream sexual activity was a sociapathic personality disorder..

Psychologists are known for treating clients according to the DSM (Diagnositc Statictical Manual). They are trained under the medical model. The DSM is their bible, rarely to they stray from it. I am familiar with the DSM, I also believe any person can find themselves with a diagnosis from the manual. With such a prestigious manual stating non-mainstream sexual behaviours are not normal, why would anyone who is trained in mental health think it is anything but normal?

A revision in 1987 (DSM-III-R) moved BSDM and kink from a sexual deviation listing to being a disorder. Now, if you are kinky you have a mental disorder. Disturbingly, children were being taken away from their parents by family courts because their sexual appetite included spankings or more than missionary position.

‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’

and/or

‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

In 2009, Richard Krueger raised concerned for how stigma and bullying within workplaces, family courts, etc were impacting the BDSM and kink community. He stated the behaviour towards these communities created high levels of stress and was contributing towards a mental health issue, not the sexual behaviours themselves.

May 2013 the DSM-5 was released. Victory, but has the damage been done?

“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”

Moving forward I have been in conversations with clinicians who are open to understanding and learning more, also the opposite. The myths are still believed.

The last thing I want for our BDSM community is an underlying fear of walking into a therapists office and being shamed for enjoying breath play or being blindfolded and tied to a St Andrews Cross.

My aim is to change the way therapists and the wider community see kink and BDSM.

I am not saying everyone should like it, everyone should do it, and everyone should be into spankings. If that’s the case, I am going against one of the biggest pillers of the community – consent.

However, you can sit in my room. You can talk about your vanilla sex life, or you can talk about how much you enjoy primal or pet play. There is no judgement.

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Safewords are fun savers

You’re tied with silk ties to a St Andrews Cross. Your favourite kinky song is playing loudly. The room is warm. You’re engrossed in the feelings of a suede flogger caressing across your butt, slightly twitches. It doesn’t hurt, yet your body reacts with a flinch. You’re engrossed in the play scene. You are enjoying yourself. Your play partner (Dominant or Top) watches your body for reactions and unconscious behaviours. Suddenly, your arm cramps from being held above your head with the ties. You realise you haven’t had enough water today and need to move your arm as it is getting uncomfortable. What do you do? How do you express you need to move your arm?

This is where safe words come into play. Before beginning any kinky play time, you and your partner must have discussed a way to communicate when something is not quite right – or even when it’s spot on. It doesn’t matter if you are new or an old hat in the kink and BDSM scene; safe words are a MUST.

What is a safeword?

Remember the old joke about using “pineapple” to stop something? Most people have played around with using a safe word.

A safeword can be either verbal or non-verbal. It’s a word or phrase to indicate when something is too intense for you—or if something feels good and you want more of it! A safe word can be anything from “green” (meaning everything is cool) to “red” (meaning stop right now). Sometimes you may become nonverbal. Your play partner must know a body signal; this ensures they know when to stop and check on you. They help you and your partner communicate what’s OK and not OK, and they make sure that you don’t feel pressured into doing anything that makes you uncomfortable.

You must choose something memorable. There is no point in choosing something witty and funny if you or your partner will forget it.

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Who can use a safeword?

Anyone can use one! Sometimes the person Topping may not feel comfortable doing something. Or they notice you are not listening to your body and feel you are pushing yourself too far. Safewords must be negotiated if you are in or starting a Dominant and submissive dynamic. I know dynamics where a submissive will use a safeword to use the bathroom, and other submissives will be told to speak up.

Safewords are not negotiable in kinky play, especially at the beginning of a dynamic. After a while, your Dominant or Top will be able to read your body accordingly; even after that, they are not bulletproof and can misjudge a reaction.

If you are at a dungeon or private party and see someone crossing a boundary, this is also a time you can use a safeword.

What happens if a safeword is ignored or not used?

One of the main pillars for kink and BDSM is consent. Safewords are another way dynamics express consent. Green is GO. Orange is WAIT. Red is STOP EVERYTHING NOW AND STEP AWAY. If your Dominant or Top does not listen to a safe word, this IS abuse. Calling orange or red is an explicit message consent has been withdrawn. The same can be said for the submissive or bottom. Withdrawal of consent can happen at any time by any party involved. Abuse can and does go both ways when lack of consent is ignored.

Using safewords is your responsibility. One of the great things about kink and BDSM is it teaches people to advocate for themselves. If you do not feel safe using a safeword, you must reconsider who you are about to play with. Trust is paramount to a fun and safe BDSM experience, and using a safe word adds to that experience. Imagine how you would feel if you didn’t use a safeword and were hurt. The person you play with would feel terrible and most likely blame themselves. However, failing to use a safeword means you have betrayed yourself and the person/s you are playing with.

BDSM and kink is the best time when all parties are on the same page, being careful, paying attention, and being aware. Things can go wrong, and having a safeword minimised the risks. Never be afraid of using a safeword.

Do you find it difficult to use your safeword? If so, reach out today and we can work together to find your voice!

Pssssst….. you can use a safeword in your vanilla relationships and play time too 😉

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Busting the myths around BDSM

Many of us have seen 50 Shades of Grey, The Secretary, or The Bookclub. All these movies have introduced everyday people to the world of kink and BDSM. The BDSM community was outraged by 50 Shades as it did not depict how BDSM ‘should’ be, and they are not far off the money. The question is, have these movies busted the myths around kink and BDSM? If so, why are the comment sections on Facebook still flooded with horror and misunderstandings?

We haven’t fully grasped how the fundamentals of the kink world play out. You will not always see a red room filled with toys that seemingly create pain. The reality is far from it; most people involved in the scene carry their toys in a bag or have them locked away in a cupboard. Granted, there are places you can visit with dungeons set up for high levels of kink and BDSM; even so, the red room can still put them to shame. BDSM clubs are usually member-only invites, so unless you are a regular or have been to their introduction evenings, do not expect to get an invite.

How prevalent is BDSM in the community? One study cites over 46% of the 1027 people interviewed had tried at least one BSDM activity, and a further 22% had fantasies. Regular participants of BSDM accounted for 10% of the interviewees. Other studies cite results ranging from 2% to over 60% of people engage in kinky bedroom activities. These numbers show kinky sex is not the deep, dark secret we believe it to be.

What is more troublesome is that society continues to shame people who enjoy anything besides vanilla sex. The psychology field isn’t exactly helping the stigma as the DSM (the bible for diagnosis by psychologists) still lists sadistic and masochistic interests as paraphilic disorders. How can we reduce shame and guilt in those who enjoy BSDM if the field of psychology still refers to it as a disorder?

Trauma and BDSM go together.

There is little evidence supporting this claim and much discussion around it. I’ve put this myth first as it is the most damaging one. It implies anyone involved in kinky sex is not normal. Trauma or abuse must be why they like being involved in activities such as flogged with a cat of nine tails or being suspended by the ceiling with rope. After all, what other reason can there be? We must note that causation differs from correlation; some studies can correlate trauma with BDSM. However, it is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg.

BDSM is always about sex.

No one is discounting BDSM can be about sex; all you have to do is watch the BDSM porn category to verify this. Yet, many people who enjoy BDSM do not partake in sex or have an orgasm. Activities such as wax play, sensory deprivation, or rope bondage (Sharabi) are not inherently sexual. People will enjoy these as they offer relaxation and general pleasure. Many Asexual people enjoy BDSM. After all, BDSM is all about the senses and experiencing them in a way where your mind just empties.

BSDM is all about pain.

If you are a masochist (enjoys receiving pain) or a sadist (enjoys giving pain), BDSM can be about pain. Yet, even for those people, the act of the pain is not the be-all and end-all. The pain for a masochist is all about the inner body, meaning an endorphin and adrenalin rush. It has been described as similar to a runner’s high. It is about sensations felt on and through the body and the quietening of the mind. A sadist in a BDSM context will never enjoy giving pain to someone who does not enjoy it. It is about giving to them. The reactions of the masochists’ body, the perceived power given to them by their partner/s. BDSM is mutual enjoyment.

BDSM is abuse.

The pillars around BDSM are trust, negotiations and consent. In context, any relationship where these pillars are not present is abuse. Abuse is often centred around power, especially taking power without consent. Vanilla relationships won’t normally involve discussions around negotiations around sex or how power dynamics are divided. References are often requested from previous partners to gauge someone’s experience or reputation or to make sure they play safely. This is not saying abuse cannot occur in BDSM dynamics. There will always be people who inherently abuse the power they are given. Vetting or communicating with potential partners, taking time before playing, and checking references can all offer safety nets. Importantly, knowing yourself and your boundaries are important in all relationships.

Are you interested in learning more about BDSM? Reach out today.

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