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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.