Is it BDSM or is it abuse?

This blog post has been a long time coming.  What finally triggered the desire to actually go ahead and write it, was seeing this list on A Good Womans Dirty Mind today.

At 20 I was stupid enough to mistake sexual abuse for BDSM.  I was young, I was inexperienced, I was uninformed.  Sadly I am sure that I’m not the only person who has been in a situation such as the one I will go on to discuss, and it is my hope that by posting about my own experience, it will make people realise that lines can be blurred, particularly when we’re younger.

THIS is why adult sex ed is vitally important, and I wish now I had decided to do this post as part of #AdultSexEdMonth in June!  It’s not just important for adults, it’s important for young people who, while they are ‘educated’ about sex, only seem to hear about the black and white of sex.  Have sex when you are in love.   Sex without consent is rape.  Use condoms.  While all of that is important, not enough is done to educate about the blurry muddle in-between.

Nothing is said about the fact emotional/mental manipulation can be used, that people take advantage, that it often isn’t until you are deep in the middle of it you realise just how wrong the situation is.

This is my story.  Yes, it’s long, but something like this can’t be covered in a few paragraphs.

If you had asked me a year ago to give my thoughts on the BDSM lifestyle, I would have answered very negatively.  I would have acted on assumptions tainted by my own personal experience as a young woman who had been in a relationship with a man who wasn’t a believer in consensual BDSM.

I was a mere 20 years old when I met J.  He was 26 and seemed oh-so mature.  He dressed nicely, he smelt divine, wearing proper cologne as opposed to the putrid body spray other guys wore.  He’d travelled, worked on a film set, lived abroad, he’d had experiences that seemed so exciting, so adult-like.  He had lived, something that at the age of 20, I felt I hadn’t.  He was different from the other guys I knew.  He was very confident, almost to the point of arrogance, but blinded as I was by him, I found that confidence sexy.

The night we met I should have known he was bad news.  Bad bad bad news.  I was at a nightclub – rather drunk – and this guy begins dancing behind me, dancing really close, pulling me back at the hips so I could feel him against me.  For a chubby young woman with very low self-esteem, it felt amazing that someone like him could be interested in ME.  I laughed as he led me over to a big booth, my friends followed, as did the friend he was with… we sat down and tried to talk over the loud music, without much success.   I was having a great time.

And then his hand slid up my inner thigh and before I realised what was happening his fingers were inside me.  Part of me was horrified, part of me thought ‘wow, this guy is adventurous!’, and in my naivety, I let the ‘wow this guy is adventurous’ part of my brain win.  I sat there while he fingered me, my friends, my sister, his friend all sitting right there.  It was okay to start with, but then he became rough and put more fingers inside me.  I should have known right there and then that I was in over my head.

But the attention, God, I loved the attention!  My friends always had guys flirting with them and most were also in long term relationships.  My longest relationship up until that point had been two months!  I willingly gave him my number but didn’t expect to hear from him, particularly because he hadn’t wanted to give me his number!

Hear from him I did though.  I convinced myself he must have been really interested in me, and walked around with a certain spring in my step after agreeing to go on a date with him.

We went ten pin bowling with his friend, and afterward his friend dropped us off at my house, I took him inside and we went on to have sex.  He was rough.  It hurt.  But I put that down to the fact it had been months since I’d last had sex.  We had sex in positions I hadn’t tried before, and though the positions didn’t do anything for me (other than cause discomfort), I thought it was so exciting… I loved how ‘adventurous’ he was, that he clearly wasn’t quite as ‘vanilla’ as the other guys I had dated.  I had always been curious about more adventurous, non-vanilla sex, and decided perhaps it was my chance to experience that type of sex.

There was no cuddling after we had sex, and that disappointed me a little.  I figured we’d cuddle the next morning, but no, after we had sex again he made up an excuse to have to leave.  If I remember rightly he had to go to his parents’ house.  He used that excuse a lot.

After that first time having sex, I think I knew that there was something not quite right about it, and looking back, I should have cut all contact with him then, but I didn’t.  I longed to be loved, I longed for the attention of a man, I wanted to be wanted so badly, that I ignored my gut feelings and continued my relationship with him.

Soon he began referring to me as his slut.  While I didn’t particularly like being called a slut, I did enjoy that he had a pet name for me.  I knew he was a highly sexual man, and convinced myself he only referred to me as his slut because he loved having sex with me, that he was using the term in a fond way, not in a controlling way.

I read something around that time about BDSM relationships, and realised that THAT was what we were in!  It was BDSM, a legitimate lifestyle, a legitimate type of relationship.  I was able to justify his actions as being part of a BDSM relationship.  He was the dom, I was the sub.  It was all okay!

Not long after the ‘my slut’ name calling began, he began to tell me what he wanted me to wear when he took me out.  Short skirt, no panties, boots, my hair done a certain way.  Again, part of my brain registered that what he was doing was wrong, but the other part of my brain took it as a compliment, that he thought I looked sexy wearing a particular type of outfit.  He wanted me to look sexy, was there anything wrong with that?  I reassured myself that no, there wasn’t.

To start with the sex was all indoors, and at my house… but one night he took me to a pub and at some point told me to go outside with him.  I did and he took me around the back of the pub, dropped his pants and demanded I give him a blowjob.  Taking it as part of a naughty game, an order from dom to sub, I knelt in front of him and did as I was told.  I hoped no one would catch us, but figured that if they did, what was the worst that could happen?

Afterward he praised me.  Called me a good girl.  Told me I was a good slut.  I had pleased him, and it felt good to know I had made him happy.

Our relationship continued like that.  Me, his obedient little slut.  Him, my adventurous, non-vanilla dom.

Only in reality, it was more a case of abused and abuser.  I failed to see it that way though, because we were in a BDSM relationship.  It was what BDSM was about.  Domination and submission.  It couldn’t be abuse if I knew it was happening, or if there was a reason for acts and treatement which would be defined by others as abusive.  What did they know?  I was enamoured by him.  Still amazed that this 26 year-old would be interested in pathetic little me!

After that episode at the pub, he began to exert his dominance more often and more openly.  One day that sticks in my mind is when he asked me to meet him at the mall and told me we’d be going for a walk.  I happily met him and we walked to a nearby park then played on the playground.  We were acting like kids, it was fun, I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time.

Then he pulled me into a tunnel, pulled his pants down and ordered me to give him a blowjob.  It felt very naughty to be giving him a blowjob on children’s play equipment, but it was during school hours so I figured we were safe.  When I finished he did his usual praising of his little slut, and for about two minutes he was the kind, caring, sweet, affectionate boyfriend I had always wanted.

When he led me from the playground I admittedly felt relieved that he wasn’t going to make me do anything else on that playground.  I didn’t want to get caught, and by that point I was feeling a little sick of him being the one to get all the sexual gratification, while I got none.  I don’t remember having an orgasm when I was with him.  Not a single one.

Instead of walking back to the footpath he pulled me into the public toilets and playfully pushed me inside one of the cubicles.  Toilet sex.  Okay, I could handle that.  He pulled my underwear down from beneath my skirt and when I stepped out of it I was grinning in anticipation of what was to come.  Maybe I would finally get some sort of enjoyment out of the sex?  He turned me around so my back was to him and told me to put my hands on the wall.  I did this, feeling rather excited about having sex in a position I’d never had sex in before.

Instead of initiating the sex I had been expecting, he anally raped me.  The one thing I had always said a big resounding NO to was anal sex.  I wouldn’t give it to him, so obviously he felt he was within his rights to take it.  I told him no.  I told him to stop.  I made it clear I didn’t want it.  But he didn’t care.  I was too scared and dumbfounded  to try to push him off me.  I bit my lip and tried to think good thoughts until he was finished.

The walk back to the mall was a quiet one on my behalf.  He was full of praise for me.  Congratulated me for ‘letting go’, told me how proud he was that I had let him take our relationship to the next level, told me how pretty I looked, told me that it was my fault he had lost control the way he did, because he just couldn’t get enough of me.  He held my hand, he acted like a real boyfriend.  So much so that by the time we were back at the mall I was wondering if it simply had been a case of him losing control because he was THAT sexually attracted to me.  He promised me that next time wouldn’t hurt as much, and that the first time was always the most uncomfortable.  Next time, he told me, we could do it at his house.

Wow.  His house.  He was actually going to let me go to his house?  He really must love me!  That was what ran through my mind.  I felt honoured that he thought enough of me to take me to his house.  I told myself it must have been the real deal, that WE were the real deal.  I imagined the wedding, I imagined the kids.  He could be sweet, it seemed.  He could be be kind and loving, it seemed.  He was just very sexual, and got a bit carried away in the heat of the moment.

He informed me he was very busy at work so I didn’t hear from him very often over the next few weeks.  One night I was out on the town with my friends and got a text message from J while we were waiting for a taxi.  Did I want to go back to his house?  Of course I did!  Silly man!

He told me where he was and I walked to meet him.  He was, as usual, with his friend and we all got a taxi back toward J’s house.  His friend was in the front and I was in the back with J.  Like that very first night we met he was very naughty and began to finger me.  It was dark and I knew that if anyone turned around he could just stop moving his hand and no one would be any the wiser.  I thought I noticed the taxi driver adjusting his rearview mirror, but didn’t think anything of it.

J asked the driver to let us off at the shopping centre near his house so they could get cash from the ATM to pay him.  With the driver paid, J’s friend announced he was going to go ahead, give us some time alone.  I thought that was incredibly sweet of him, and hoped he would be asleep by the time we got home so he wouldn’t hear us having sex.  We started the walk across the carpark but he stopped me at the trolley return bay, bent me over it, pulled my skirt up and proceeded to have (vaginal) sex with me.  I told him that I didn’t want to, I was terrified of getting caught, but he told me to shut up and just enjoy it.  I tried.  I convinced myself it was fun.  Sex in public, what a rush, right?

When he was done he took my hand and quickly led me to his house, obviously in the mood for more sex I figured!  He took me into his bedroom, pushed me down on the bed, took my skirt off, tied me at the wrists and began having sex with me.  Profanity after profanity flowed from his mouth, he called me every nasty name under the sun, while telling me how fat I was, how ugly I was, that I was no good, that he was the only man who would ever have sex with me.  The more he spoke, the rougher the sex became until I was pleading with him to stop.

Did he?  Of course not.

When he pulled out of me I felt immense relief and tried to work out how I would get home.  I didn’t have money for a taxi, my house was kilometers away, but I didn’t care… I wasn’t staying there!  The relief wasn’t very long lived though, and for the second time he began to anally rape me.  I said no.  I said I wanted him to stop.  He responded by telling me I was his slut, that I had to do whatever he said and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. ‘You belong to me’ was repeated over and over as he refused to listen to my requests for him to stop.

Eventually it was over… he untied my wrists, he held me.  I was so confused and torn.  Had a friend told me her boyfriend had done something like he’d just done, I would have been disgusted.  But there in his arms with him telling me how ‘good’ I was, that he didn’t want anyone else to have me ever again… my resolve started melting.  Domination and submission.  That’s what it was.  That’s what I told myself.  Over and over, while I tried to ignore the physical pain I felt.  I numbed myself to the emotional pain, convinced myself there was none.  I was very good at pretending by then.

The next morning at 6.30am he woke me up and told me I had to leave because he was going to work.  I walked to the nearest bus stop and waited almost an hour for the bus.  I went home.  I went to bed.  I tried to forget what had happened.  He texted me at some stage, telling me how much fun he had had giving me what I supposedly deserved, and that he was hard just thinking about the taxi driver watching him finger me in the rearview mirror.

I felt dirty.  I felt used.  For the first time I allowed myself to acknowledge that I also felt abused… only to shake my head and remind myself that no, it wasn’t abuse, I was simply a submissive woman who had been well and truly dominated the night beforehand.  Yes, I had said no on more than one occasion, but surely if I had really wanted him to stop, I’d have been more forceful about it?  I would have found a way to get him to stop?  Maybe I wanted it as badly as he did – something he often told me was the case.

It wasn’t long after that that my best friend at the time informed me J had been flirting with her, and had asked her to go away with him for the weekend.  I was at work when she broke the news to me… and suddenly the overwhelming reality of what was actually happening hit me.  I locked the office, I lay down behind my desk and proceeded to have a breakdown.  I don’t remember a lot about it, only that I cried a hell of a lot, and that I was shaking uncontrollably.

Up until that point I hadn’t thought that rape wasn’t only vaginal, that it was possible to be raped anally.  The feeling I got when I realised I had been anally raped was… it was crushing, it was… I can’t really describe how it felt to acknowledge I had been violated and abused like that.

Finally I saw him for what he was.  He was sexually abusive.  He was controlling.  He was manipulative.  He preyed on young girls and with his smooth talking lured them into a world they didn’t want to be part of.

What had started out as dancing in a club, ended up in sexual abuse and anal rape.  I couldn’t believe how stupid I was, that I had let myself get so deeply drawn into his world… that even though I wasn’t really comfortable with our relationship, I justified everything he did to make it seem okay.

If that was BDSM, why the hell would anyone want to be a part of that lifestyle?

For a LONG LONG LONG time, hearing about BDSM would send shivers up my spine, I would be taken back to that pub, back to that playground, back to that carpark, back to that bedroom.  I would re-live it all and feel numb all over again.  BDSM in my mind was all about one-sided control, it was about wanting to control one person so completely that you almost brainwashed them.  It was about getting someone to submit to your every sexual desire, it was about sexual gratification for one person and pain for another.

Then in December last year I decided to become more open about the fact I write erotica.  In doing so I joined Twitter, I joined a few Facebook groups, I began reading a few blogs… and was shocked and stunned to find how many people loved BDSM, how many people felt that BDSM was a HEALTHY part of their relationship.  I researched more, I spoke more, and realised that under the right situations BDSM could be something amazing shared between a couple.

I learnt that in a healthy BDSM relationship it isn’t about control, it isn’t about sexual pleasure for only one person, it isn’t about taking away power, it isn’t about hurting someone, it isn’t about non-consent.  It is about love, it is about trust, it is about respect, it is about empowerment, it is about communication, it is about excitement, it is about agreeing as a couple to what is okay and what isn’t. It is about consent.

What I had with J wasn’t a healthy relationship of ANY sort.  It was a man controlling a woman because he wanted to, and felt it was his right.  It wasn’t something we agreed to as a couple, it wasn’t something we had conversations about.  It was him exerting his power, his authority, his sexual desires…

After learning that BDSM can be healthy, it helped me to heal in someways, because I realised that not everyone else’s experience with the BDSM lifestyle is the same as what I experienced.  I now feel guilty for saying negative things about BDSM, for stereotyping all BDSM relationships negatively… because it seems that for a huge majority of the men and women I have spoken to, BDSM is something that enriches their relationships, something which strengthens their bond, and is a way to express their love for one another.

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