Thursday, February 26, 2009

The ghost of abuse

It haunts every stroke, every word of a scolding, every moment anticipating a punishment. Years of being afraid and worse. Sometimes it seems so long ago, I start to wonder if it was really me all that stuff happened to. Sometimes the memories are still hot and raw, so much so that a year or two ago when I tried to write this post, I had to walk away lest it break the pieces I've spent years gluing back together.

While there hasn't been a lot of research on those who engage in What It Is We Do, research regarding BDSM in general suggests that child abuse is not the reason practitioners have the sexual orientation they do, even if those outside our community may think otherwise. In my own case, I started fantasizing about being spanked years before the abuse started and I am convinced that I'm a spanko despite the abuse.


My stepfather has delicate lips and a front tooth that is slightly crooked, and when making certain expressions, A.'s mouth reminds me of him. Sometimes when A. coughs or clears his voice, it's almost the same pitch as the muffled coughing of my stepfather that I listened ever so carefully for from my bedroom. When I'm over A.'s lap and he's giving me the full force of his hand, the motion feels almost identical to the full force of my stepfather's rage-filled palm.

There are so many ways that my punishment kink interacts with the abuse I experienced as a child. Memories that I've not thought of in years will suddenly terrorize me as I approach a punishment. Feelings that I can't quite articulate will harass me after, especially when a phone spanking doesn't allow for tactile cuddling.

Of course, communicating with my partner is vital. It means telling A. when I'm beset by the ghost of old chastisements and cannot deal with any new. He faithfully discharges me from whatever disciplinary session is at hand, no questions asked -- even though I may have spent all day worried that he would be mad, would not understand my fear. Sometimes the desire to continue with whatever regime we've agreed to is there, but I just need to make him -- and even more so, myself -- aware of the turmoil brewing just below the surface.

What I have learned is to never repress, though admittedly the habit is hard to break completely. Ghouls of all shapes and sizes never fare well in the light. The more I write (journal) and I talk out loud (mostly to a therapist) about my memories, the more power they lose. Not that it isn't painful. And it scares the living shit out of me at times. But it gets easier. Really.

After my mother and stepfather divorced, I kept having this recurring dream where I was in my old bedroom and it was littered with piles of old clothes, books and knick-knacks. A move was imminent, but I was completely overwhelmed with the disarray, as well as bewildered about what to do with all the stuff. I always woke up distressed and fatigued.

I still have the dream, except now the room is almost empty save for a handful of things that I'm still not sure what to do with. But I always wake up knowing they will find their place.

Yes, there remains a nagging interplay between my punishment kink and my history of child abuse. However, embracing my discipline fetish has been a means of empowerment through choice. It is also a means of healing because this time, there's no yelling, no rage, no belittling. And when there is fear and shame, it's yummy and magical and completely therapeutic.

(Cross-posted at the Punishment Book)


Pandora said...

What a wonderful entry. This is a topic I can't talk about with any authority, not having any experience of it, and I'm always anxious when talking to vanillas that people will say "yes, that's fine for you, but what about people who were abused?" I feel as if I'm a step closer to understanding it, now, especially since I've already done a lot of thinking about the empowerment of choice, and this dovetails neatly into that. Of course I'll never be able to speak for you, but I do feel as if a small piece of understanding has clicked into place after reading this. Thankyou.

Casey Morgan said...

Is "agree" the right word to use in response to this? "Resonate"? I agree that, for me too, tgi interest is basically hard-wired (perhaps God-given?), and therefore exists in spite of negative childhood experiences of it. I never suffered any abuse in childhood, but I was traumatized by pretty mild spankings given by parents who were basically going through the motions and did not fundamentally understand the power (potentially positive or negative) of physical punishment, _especially_ when given to someone already highly sensitized to it (hence my extreme feelings about pretty minor spankings).
In recent months redemption has heavily occupied my mind. To have suffered unsympathetic or outright abusive physical punishment in childhood, and then to experience its opposite now - that to me is an example of grace, of the act of taking broken creation and making it right. The depth of our attraction speaks to its power, perhaps?

Natty said...

Pandora -- Thanks. I'm glad I was able to help something click a bit better.

Casey -- Nice to see you!

I was spanked by both my mom and my dad. While my mother's spankings frustrated me at times, they never left me with the trauma that my step-father's did. It took me years to work through why that was and a lot of it had to do with the lack of intimidation and just sheer wrath. I think you're correct about how being a spanko makes one perhaps a lot more sensitive to what might otherwise seem less eventful.

The depth of our attraction speaks to its power, perhaps?

Mmm...indeed. :-)

Graham said...

Natty, I second everything Pandora said. A wonderful and illuminating post.

I think this is me delurking... I've been reading your blog for years and I think it's just grand. I've started my own blog now, and you're officially linked, if you don't mind : )

Jim said...

My wife and I divorced about eight years ago, after a long marriage. Our sons were ten and eight, respectively. Although I was always on guard, my ex's subsequent boyfriend was a Caspar Milquetoast and never was unkind to my sons, nor was my new love. The boys spent half time with each of us. While my ex and I had been miserable, we never fought openly, and although the Boys never saw us touch and there was tension in the air, there was never any screaming or violence. I think we hid our misery fairly well and made a decent home for them.

Despite all those good things, and the absolute certainty that my boys have had a much better life since then (they are sixteen and eighteen now and live with us full-time), I have never been able to shake the guilt of "breaking up the home" and moving them several time since the divorce. Today my sons seem to be pretty "together" guys, but occasionally they will talk wistfully about our old house, and it nearly cuts me to the bone. They hardly ever hear from their mom.

Which part of your parents' breakup caused you the most anguish? The moving, the abusive stepdad, your Mom's failure to stop it, what? I am especially interested in the unsettled-ness and anxiety caused by taking them from their home and friends to a new location. Obviously I'm looking for some kind of reassurance here; it still bothers me many years hence.


Natty said...

Graham -- Thanks for the kind words and for letting me put a name to one of those numbers on my StatCounter graph. The new blog looks great!

Jim -- To be honest, it wasn't the "breaking up of the home" that caused particular anguish for me. There were times later that I did kind of miss being a family but it was more nostalgia rather than true bereavement. However the divorce of my mother and stepfather was very ugly and certainly the time they were together wasn't a lot of fun either, so I was very ready for them to just be done with it already.

My mother's first divorce was when I was four and while I remember leaving and moving, I don't think I was old enough to truly contextualize what was going on enough to feel...well, anything really. Mostly I just remember being annoyed we left before my birthday because I was looking forward to getting a candy bar for my birthday in Sunday School. ;-)

The moving was hard but then, moving is always sort of a double-edged sword. While you're losing friends and familiarity, you're also gaining new friends and experiences. It's painful in the short-term, but I think (at least, in my own experience, which included moving every year of elementary school) it can also provide a breadth of experience even it may come at the expense of stability.

I think that loss is an inevitable part of life and divorce is one form of loss. While we wish we could protect kids from loss, at the end of the day we can't. People die, marriages end, jobs relocate. To me it seems important for parents to acknowledge the sadness they and their kids are feeling about that loss, as well as emphasize how your love is constant regardless of the situation.

While I don't know you that well aside from our participation on the newsgroup, it seems like the very fact you've been concerned about your kids' welfare through the divorce means that you've probably done the very best you can do -- which is all you can do. Most kids are pretty hardy and if they have that stability of love and care, they heal up pretty well.

Just my thoughts.

Indy said...


This post moved me so much that I wanted to take some time to comment. Fortunately, Pandora's already said it so well that I don't have to formulate my thoughts with any degree of clarity!

Beautifully and poignantly done.


Thursday's Child said...

Truly one of the better, and most honest posts on abuse and BDSM that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Abuse has its place in my past, and there was a time when it affected my relationships and sexlife - reading your words gives me courage that someday I, too, will have the strength to look inside at that part of me.