Every now and then stories emerge in the media that shock and horrify us. Abu Ghraib, Josef Fritzl, the North Korean regime, there are events, people and places that shock us and question how a civilised society can allow such things to happen. As the true horror of the events emerge, often over days and weeks, we are left feeling numb and shocked and vow to “never let this happen again”.
Yet for those in within the BDSM community these same events can create conflicting emotions. With each tale of humiliation and degradation come quiet voices asking “is it all right if I get turned on by this?” They question whether absorbing a news report about a gang rape into their own fantasies is appropriate. They feel conflicted when they find themselves looking at media reports and imagining themselves in that situation and enjoying what’s happening.
Invariably this hinges on one question:
“Is there something wrong with me for thinking this way?”
There have been times when I’ve found myself in this situation. I’ve come across news stories that have horrified me, only to find myself absorbing elements into my fantasies. At first they were troubling, but now I just accept it’s a natural part of how my mind responds to these situations.
When I was a young man I encountered an accident where a motorcyclist was decapitated. Even though I only saw that situation for a split second it stuck with me. Today I tend to react with greater empathy when I’m told someone has had a motorcycle accident because that image flashes into my mind and produces a strong emotional response as I remember how I felt. The feeling lingers and I connect with whatever news story or personal tragedy is before me.
The same thing happens when I hear a news report about someone being tied and gagged. The reaction here is pleasure though as I love bondage. A momentary flash of excitement is quickly drowned out by my empathising with the horror of what the victim experienced, but it is there. Later my mind might well return to it, playing out the scenario in a stylised, fantasy fuelled way. As time passes so the negativity around the event fades and the desirable amplified to the point a new fantasy is formed.
We do this constantly. The way someone dresses might influence our fantasy playmate. A beautiful medieval home could create a location for a new scenario. A voice can become embedded in our dreams. What’s different is these are pleasurable and aligned experiences, what society says we should feel (excitement) is aligned with what we do feel.
The conflict that is perhaps unique to BDSM players is that society tells us to be horrified, we feel horrified and yet we also feel excitement. It creates doubt that can send an already conflicted mind (BDSM violence is good, other violence is bad) deeper into its secret self. Doubt feeds anxiety and we can start to question our own sanity.
Fortunately you are not alone. Each horror story brings people out into Fetlife and other BDSM communities asking that same “am I normal” question. There is support in place, patient people ready to say, “Yes, I feel that way too”.
You don’t need to feel alone – just reach out.
Image courtesy of Thomas Hawk under creative commons.
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