Pictures and stories from of a real life 24.7 D/s couple. Richard and Amy explore bdsm, daily life, and each other, from both sides of the relationship.

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November 18, 2007

BDSM or abuse?

Filed under: D/s, BDSM, Daily Life — Amy @ 8:02 am


A lot has been written making the distinction between BDSM and abuse, but a couple of recent posts I’ve seen whilst blog-hopping have made me want to add my two cents.

I’ll begin with the proviso that I don’t think there is any way to know for sure whether or not a relationship is abusive just from reading someone’s blog posts. Maybe they are leaving out crucial details, maybe they are exaggerating or under-reporting to make a better story (even unconsciously). One of the best things about blogs in which both partners write (like ours) is that you get a real sense of how two people can see the same situation quite differently. I’m still often surprised by Richard’s very different take on something we have done together.

Vanilla people have occasionally wandered onto our blog and been alarmed by a post in which I talk about Richard controlling me or hurting me. I think there are two main reasons that I can say with assurance that I am not being abused.

1. Consent. I have given my consent for Richard to make all decisions in our relationship. I can take away this consent at any time. Of course, that could well be a relationship-ending decision, just as making the decision to have multiple sexual partners or a same-sex partner could be a marriage-ending decision (although it needn’t be).

Richard does what he wants to me, whenever and wherever he wants. But it’s not rape and it’s not coercion because I have given a global consent, if you will, to whatever he chooses. BDSM folks refer to this as “consensual non-consent”.

The reason that I am able to comfortably give this consent to Richard, to give total power to him (Total Power Exchange = TPE, another BDSM term) is because I trust him absolutely. I trust him not to harm me, and I trust him to care for me, better even than I would care for myself. This brings me to the second reason I am sure that I am not being abused.

2. Self-esteem. I feel good about myself, I like myself, I feel sexier than I have felt in my whole life, and healthier and happier. Some of our play involves Richard humiliating or degrading me (”You are such a dirty little slut. What kind of girl gets fucked in the ass and then begs to cum? What kind of girl gets wet from being face-fucked? I have never met such a little whore in my entire life.”) After that kind of play, I feel very submissive and clingy (in a hot, sexy way) for a while, but I don’t feel bad about myself.

I have been in some less-than-healthy relationships in my past, all vanilla. I honestly think it was because I was *looking* for a D/s relationship, but didn’t know it - didn’t even know what it was. So I was attracted to older men, bigger men, domineering men, controlling men, because the submissive in me was searching for a Dominant. But they are not the same thing (although unfortunately they can be packaged together). Those relationships bordered on abusive, my relationship with Richard does not.

So how do you know whether it’s BDSM or it’s abuse? I personally think it’s pretty straightforward. Ask yourself two questions.

1. Do I feel coerced or abused? You should not. If it’s D/s, you should feel that you are in the hands of someone who is calling the shots because you gave *consent* for them to call the shots. Sure, sometimes things happen you don’t like - you get spanked or pinched or told to do something you reallyreally don’t want to do. But you should always be able to discuss it. When Richard was talking about doing orgasm control, I had a very strong knee-jerk reaction based upon a looong history of being with men who couldn’t care less whether or not I got to cum. We talked about it and he decided it that it wasn’t a good idea for me at that time. On the flip side, he will occasionally slap me and I find it just.plain.hot. even though I have seen posts where people have argued that all slapping is abuse. If you’re not allowed to talk about it, if you’re told “suck it up” and dismissed, if you feel unheard, coerced, abused…then you probably are.

2. Do I feel good about myself? You should. Being able to be myself sexually has freed me in a way I could not have imagined. Since I have been in a 24/7 D/s relationship, I am more creative, more productive at work, more loving to friends and family, more content, less judgmental, I bake better bread (OK, maybe not the last, but I was starting to nauseate myself so I needed to make a joke). If you feel worthless or unattractive or stupid or weak, particularly after spending time with your partner…then that is not a good partner for you.

All relationships require work, so I’m not saying that if you have concerns about your relationship that you should immediately bail on it. But you should certainly be talking very seriously to your partner if you feel any of these things.

P.S. I am a big fan of “bibliotherapy”, and a great book for deciding whether or not you should be in a relationship is “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” by Mira Kirshenbaum. It helped me get out of a really awful relationship. It is eye-opening - I highly recommend it. Here’s the link to her blog & info about the book:


  1. I don’t usually post comments, but felt compelled to for this post. You make very good points, and I hope that people understand what you are trying to convey before they judge you.

    Everyone has a right to say that this is not the type of relationship that they want for themselves, but they should not judge those of us who enjoy or prefer to have relationships that involve BDSM.

    Well done, Amy, even though I don’t think you need to justify what works best for you. Keep up the good work.


    Comment by Megan — November 18, 2007 @ 9:22 am

  2. Great post. I have a real problem with some people who think they are in a healthy BSDM relationship but are really just being abused. If you don’t feel good about yourself and happy in your relationship, it becomes abuse. After all, any relationship should be a happy one, whether their is pain involved or not. Thanks for an awesome perspective on this from someone in a BSDM relationship!

    Comment by Rori — November 18, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  3. err…BDSM… I don’t know why I always type that incorrectly. It always flies off my fingers the wrong way for some reason lol.

    Comment by Rori — November 18, 2007 @ 11:27 am

  4. Very well said Amy. While He did recently tell me to “suck it up” I was well aware of the cues I can use that would make it immediately stop. I too feel less stressed, more beautiful, and all around happier in this relationship. Having been in an abusive one before, I am well aware of how negative I felt about myself. It’s so incredibly different.

    Comment by AmyElle — November 18, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

  5. Megan, I’ve found more confusion and concern than judgment. Which is kinda sweet, albeit misguided.: )

    Rori, I agree completely. Thx for your thoughts.

    Amyelle, Yes and you’ve just demonstrated my point exactly that it’s so contextual. It’s never, I think, that a particular statement or action equals abuse, it’s the outcome - how you feel at the end of the day.

    Comment by Amy — November 18, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

  6. Excellent points made here. Thank you.

    Comment by Bunny — November 18, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  7. Very good points made.

    Sometimes our inner selves know what we want.. we just don’t see it and end up in less then adequate situations.

    My book that opened my eyes was Ditch the Jerk. It was real good but one i read AT WORK only. If he would of found that… omg… i dont know what would of become of me.

    VERY nice post!!!

    Comment by Juli — November 18, 2007 @ 6:24 pm

  8. Amy, loved your comments, and feel strongly the same way. I think i’ve been looking for that same D/s relationship since I was a teenager. My husband tries to accommodate me, which is a blessing. And remember all, as long as both people are comfortable with events, what happens in the bedroom (or living room, or car, or where ever) stays in the bedroom.

    Comment by Kat — November 18, 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  9. “I have been in some less-than-healthy relationships in my past, all vanilla. I honestly think it was because I was *looking* for a D/s relationship, but didn’t know it - didn’t even know what it was.”

    That is so True.

    btw, I make better bread now then I did before!



    Comment by Sweat Shop Sissy — November 19, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

  10. Thanks Bunny!

    Juli, the name of the book you read made me laugh out loud. The one I recommended is for people who really aren’t sure whether they should leave or not. I’m guessing you knew lol. : ) Glad it’s better for you now.

    Kat, thanks and you are blessed indeed to have a husband who supports you.

    SSS, I really do make better bread too! I’ve recently stepped up to sourdough and am really enjoying the challenge. BTW, I really enjoy your blog.

    Comment by Amy — November 19, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

  11. Very well said, Amy. I completely agree with everything you said in this post. It is very hard, if not impossible to judge a relationship from someone’s blog. I like what you said about self-esteem and how it makes you feel better about yourself - I’ve got more to say, but I’m having trouble finding the words tonight. I grew up in an abusive household, so maybe it’s that I’m always on the lookout for potential harm in others’ relationships…but I’m just not able to say things how I want to tonight. I’m just tongue-tied, for once.

    Comment by Thursday's Child — November 19, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

  12. What a wonderfully written post, and a great blog! I know that some people in my life that know me pretty well would worry if they saw what goes on between S & I when we play. The trust & attraction I have for Him is what makes it possible for me to become so wet over a face slap or a thigh pinch or a hard caning from Him. Blogs like this should inspire those who are still hiding their true desires.

    Comment by Vanessa Cane — December 8, 2007 @ 8:24 pm

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