BDSM: Abuse Any Way You Like It

torture2A friend of mine called me yesterday and told me some very shocking news.  She moved in with a guy not long ago who is wealthy, owns four homes, and is about to inherit a large sum of money from his father who is in his nineties and isn’t expected to live much longer.  She’s known him for several years, but had never before lived with him for any extended period of time.  Now she is finding out, to her dismay, just what kind of guy he is.

Jamie, as I will call her, has a small child. Her number one reason for moving in with this man was for security, so that she could raise her child and look after it as a stay-at-home mother.  She loves that child dearly and believes, as I do, that there is no substitute for the care that a mom can give her child. She cared for the man and knew that he had some faults, but was willing to make some compromises if she could give her baby a decent home.  He’s a photographer and spends most of his time taking photos of nude models.  He could make a living from it because he is an excellent photographer, but for some reason chooses not to, perhaps because financially he doesn’t need to, and pursues it more as a hobby than as a profession.

Yesterday, Jamie, who considers me one of her best friends and confides in me frequently, called me and told me that he had been spending a lot of time on the internet looking at porn.  And it wasn’t just porn.  It was photography of BDSM, or “bondage, discipline (alternately domination), sadism and masochism.  On top of that, he had asked her if he could photograph her child in a bondage situation.

This was of course absolutely outrageous.  I couldn’t believe it.  The stories that she had been telling me were bad enough, but this really went over the top.  BDSM is legal in most states, but participants must be of legal age to give their consent. That he is into this sort of thing explains some of his actions, and how he has treated her. Using her child in some kind of exploration of bondage was clearly criminal and could land them both in jail and cause her the loss of her child to Child Protective Services.

His behavior had already been raising questions about his motives for having her there.  He had invited her to live with him in his condo but did not provide a room for her and the baby. It’s a two bedroom condo in an expensive neighborhood, and he uses one of the bedrooms to store stuff he doesn’t need, and did nothing to clear it out and provide private space for her and the baby despite repeated promises to do so.  He is conspicuously a hoarder, wants everything just as it is, and even keeps food in the refrigerator so long that it turns moldy.  He feigns illness or breathing problems when she asks him when he’s going to make a space for her.  Meanwhile her belongings sit in a U-Haul storage lot.

He wanted to sleep in the bed with her and her daughter, which she refused, because it caused her consternation, and he has so far done nothing to baby-proof the apartment after two months have passed, despite promises to allow her some breathing room and make the  home liveable for the child. He complains loudly if the baby touches anything.   He demands that she do all the cleaning, cooking, and general maintenance of the household, including even the purchase of the groceries, her gas and all her own expenses.  It wasn’t supposed to be a “Dutch” arrangement.  Yet he pays for almost nothing, despite his wealth.  He did buy some groceries on one occasion, and then demanded that she go out to the car and bring them in.  He came home early one morning about 1 AM and woke her up and demanded that she get up and wash the sheets on the bed.

She had spent all the money she had traveling to California from the Midwest and having her personal belongings shipped there with a U-Haul shipping box.  Now she is broke, and doesn’t know how to get out of the situation.  There is no housing for moms like her, no agency that will help that we know of, and she is trapped in an abusive situation that clearly threatens her child’s safety. His behavior suggests clearly that his interest in BDSM reflects a desire to reduce her to complete submission, completely under his control, with no alternatives but to give in to his every whim.  The chance that he would use a photograph of her child to blackmail her seems probable, in order to even further gain complete control over her.

I knew almost nothing of BDSM, so I had to do a little research. What is clear is that in bondage, you have a dominant role and a submissive role.  The submissive is usually strapped in with belts, handcuffs, and other devices, including straight jackets, and placed into a situation in which he or she cannot escape by themselves. This permits the dominant to do whatever he or she wishes, very often punishment and sometimes torture.  The pictures I’ve seen on the internet are horrendous.

In my friend’s circumstances, her boyfriend is using a dominant mentality to try to crush her into complete submission not through conventional consensual BDSM methods but through financial ruin and extreme male oppression.  That was becoming clear with each day that passed, except the BDSM aspect of his psychology wasn’t apparent until his porn habits became obvious, and most significant in his asking her to involve the child.

Studies show that the majority of people involved in BDSM are middle to upper middle class.  Because kinky sex is so deeply a part of it, many of the participants are gay males or lesbians.  Almost all of the photographs I’ve seen involve same sex relationships.  One participant has written that the social groups who engage in this practice are riddled with rapists, because the opportunity is ready made, and anyone who wants to remain in these groups better shut up or give up their place in the practice.  They are so obsessed with it that everyone stays silent and protects one another. Yet the fundamental need that is being satisfied is about power, not sex.  Group leaders, who are typically the hosts who provide a home for these practices are very often those most guilty of rape, and more likely to take advantage of it than others, because of their controlling position. Submissives use “safe words” to indicate that the dominant abuse has gone far enough, but many do not stop.

It would seem to many, I would think, that we live in an enormously sick society. Interestingly the American Psychiatric Association removed BDSM as a category in the 1980s from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but continues to regard it as “problematic,” and law enforcement regards it with deep suspicion. More than that, it would appear that child abuse is a central theme used in the theatrics of BDSM. Submissives very frequently wear diapers and are strapped inside a child’s crib.

In an article in the Guardian, Pamela Stephenson Connolly wrote that she had “carried out an extensive psychological study of people in the BDSM community – the largest empirical study ever done at the time – to examine their psychological attributes and determine if there was any justification for the notion, commonly held, even within my field, that they were all psychologically disturbed. After giving each of the 132 participants [the study actually indicates 32, not 132] four hours of psychological tests, as well as a face-to-face interview, I found that, in fact, the group was generally not mentally unhealthy, and the instances of early abuse that had long been associated with the adult practice of BDSM were present in just a few.

“BDSM,” she said, “played in a safe and consensual manner, is not proof of mental or physical illness, essential badness or emotional damage from trauma or abusive parenting, and that people cannot – and should not – be treated to cure.”

So we are to believe that people who exploit the weaknesses of others are normal?  And those who want to be exploited, and who immerse themselves in alternate identities solely to do so because presumably the ones they have are dissatisfying to themselves, are also?  Is a mother who beats her child normal too?  Why should we believe that someone who wants to beat on another who represents a child to him or her is anything close to sane or is safe with real children?  It is bad enough that the psychiatric profession has determined that dealing in drugs is the solution to all our health problems. I suppose that it is also a national catharsis for our nation to have conducted 13 years of constant war around the globe, taking advantage of weak nations, destroying billions of dollars of infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of lives. It would seem that our nation’s leaders are all practicing a form of BDSM. And this we now consider normal.

In a review of the widely popular book trilogy which celebrates the practice, Fifty Shades of Grey, writers M. Catharine Evans and Ann Kane say that

“In a normal world, the author [E. L. James]would have been ostracized by literary critics for her lack of plot and her juvenile language.  But much worse than the poor writing are the disguised themes of pedophilia and child abuse.

“After a review of the language used in the book, and having done research on pedophiles, we agree.  We would be hard-pressed to claim that the trilogy is anything but a sick story of an adult 27-year-old male dominating through coercion, sex, and complete control a young lady claiming to be 21 years old but who acts and talks like a child.”

The book evolved out of an original fanfiction work based on Twilight. “In the original fanfiction version,” on the issue of Fifty Shades association with pedophilia, a commenter wrote,

“Christian/Edward was the long time child/teen victim of his mother’s friend who taught him BDSM, and due to his age (I think he started the relationship when he was 13/14 with her) was the victim in their pedophilic relationship.  Christian/Edward makes it clear he doesn’t view it as pedophilia, but then again, we also know he’s a diagnosed socio/psychopath. Christian/Edward poo-poos Ana/Bella’s cries that he was abused in this relationship, that his previous lover/abuser should be in jain, and the author pretty much gives the thumbs up to women of a certain age seducing young teen boys, because it helps them mature and gets them through their wild teen years with more discipline and focus.”

According to Wikipedia, the combined novels have sold over 35 million copies in the United States, and over 70 million copies worldwide, setting the record as the fastest selling paperback of all time.

In 2012, the author was added to Time magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World, named by Publishers Weekly as “Publishing Person of the Year., won the National Book Award in the UK for “Popular Fiction Book of the Year, and a National book Award for “Book of the Year.  E. L. James topped the Forbes list in August 2013 of the highest-earning authors with earnings of $95 million.

Whether the American Psychiatric Association thinks so or not, it behooves us to ask why anyone would find pleasure in hurting another human being. Why does it feel good to see someone else suffer?  And why is it that those who achieve the most material success in life those who are the most interested in doing so?  Why is that “erotic”?  What kind of disease does our nation suffer that we have come to believe that this is quite normal?  Why has this abuse been legalized in so many states?  And why do we have so many submissives in a society that promotes in tandem with it the concept of feminism, or the liberation of women?  And why is it that women themselves have been so taken with this incomprehensible aberration?  The majority of these people, I’ve read, appear to lead normal lives in other respects and raise families.  What kind of children are they raising, and what is this doing to the fabric of society?

SMH.

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