Kinks in my punishment kink: 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.

7 thoughts on “Kinks in my punishment kink: The ghost of abuse

  1. Sara

    Natty, that was simply powerful. It is a wonderful testament to the gains to be had from bringing our secrets and hurts into the light of day. They are NEVER as bad as they were, and yes, as much as we are able to fight repression, the more in control we really are. Abused or not, we all fight that battle, to look inside and face our demons. It seems to me that choosing to ’embrace your discipline fetish’ is not only empowering but very brave.

  2. Jigsaw Analogy/Dyke Grrl

    that dream is a powerful one, and the changes are even more powerful.
    i’m sure you’d guess this post resonates with me. i’ve written somewhere, several places, no doubt, about the ways that my personal abuse history interacts with punishment in my adult life.
    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
    i think that communication you describe, and the trust required between partners, is one of the most empowering thing about punishment in adult relationships. i know, all the way through me, that if a punishment is triggering, or if i am too triggered for a punishment, it will stop, or it won’t start in the first place. and that has done perhaps more than anything else to help me make a clear delineation between the present and the past. as a child, it didn’t matter whether i was in a space where a punishment would cause lasting harm, let alone whether i was in a mental space where it would do any good. if i was going to get punished, it would happen, for as long as the person doling it out felt like doing so. but now, even if it’s a simple thing like an implement landing in a way that doesn’t feel right… the punishment stops, until the problem is corrected.
    there is a degree of security i can feel now, with clear rules and consequences, consistency, safety… consent. it’s worlds apart from what i experienced as a child.
    in my own life, the abuse started far before i could have known what spankings were, let alone before i could develop a punishment kink. yet, it did come. i remember being puzzled, and spending a lot of time trying to figure out why i both wanted–needed–physical discipline *and* hated the way i experienced it growing up. by the time i was nine or ten, i’d decided the issue wasn’t the spankings themselves, but the way they were given, and i longed for a family where discipline was comprehensible, predictable, related in some way to what one had or had not done.
    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.
    🙂 i sometimes consider writing a guide to this thing we do for survivors of abuse. there is so much in the healing literature that, in trying to help people heal, shames them about engaging in any kind of kink, let alone a punishment kink. and yet, i’ve seen it be such a therapeutic force for survivors of abuse. i think i would not feel nearly as safe in my present life without being able to heal through discipline.

  3. Natty

    Sara — Thanks. 🙂
    Dyke Grrl — You’re point about being able to stop a punishment is dead on. I was getting tired by the end of writing this piece and found it difficult to flesh out a bit more regarding what I meant by “choice,” but that was exactly it. Being able to stop a punishment is at the heart of why this empowering and healing.
    Yeah that dream fascinates me now as I’ve watched the room become more “manageable.” My dreams have been a lucid nether land where I’ve worked through a lot of the past. In some dreams my stepfather has even cried while I held him, a more demonstrative version of what happened in real life where he apologized with misty eyes and I grabbed his hand in forgiveness. Most of the time I hate having such vivid dreams because I feel so tired afterward. But sometimes they are powerful medicine.

  4. Mija

    Thanks for writing this Natty — it’s excellent.
    Like you, I feel I’m kinky and into spanking despite rather than because of the abuse I experienced in childhood. I also decided a while ago that even if the abuse were the reason (though I sure know plenty of people in the scene from all kinds of parenting styles) I don’t care — this is how I work and what works for me.
    I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Dorothy Allison’s writings on abuse and childhood and bdsm were a huge influence on me when it came to embracing my kink and just enjoying who I am and what works for me.
    And yes, what I do now, I do by choice. My own choice. And that’s all the difference in the world, how ever similar the actions might appear from the outside.

  5. Mandias

    I’m so glad I found this. Thank you for writing it.
    I was never abused in childhood, but my first girlfriend raped me repeatedly throughout our relationship… Throw the fact that I’m trans into the mix, and sex – particularly the bondage-heavy D/s sex that I most desire – becomes a wonderland of triggers and panic attacks, and causes my current partner to bring imaginary psychological implications into it. I just wish I didn’t have to explain myself, in agonizing detail, every time I want to stop in the middle of things.
    It’s comforting to know that there are others out there who deal with similar sorts of issues. I’m also very happy for the fact that you have someone like A.

  6. Adrian

    I don’t know if it’s too late to comment on this post from February (but it seems apt, when the whole idea is how reminders of the past keep echoing.) Natty, you’re right that most discussions of abuse-recovery and kink are pretty strongly anti-kink. Some people are scared by kink, others are offended…and those of us who have found it to be a positive force in our lives are often very uncomfortable talking about the subject in the presence of anybody who might find it triggering.
    With all that looming in the background, somebody wrote a guide for abuse survivors reclaiming their sexuality. (“Survivor’s Guide to Sex,” by Staci Haines.) Unlike most such guides, it goes beyond “now you can say no,” and suggests ways to feel safe and connected when you want to say “yes.” I haven’t read it, but I know several survivors in the bdsm community who spoke very highly of it. I don’t think it covers domestic discipline or lifestyle submission, but does include d/s role-play, and spanking as sensation play, as well as vanilla and solo play. It seems to be more about emotional ways to explore, rather than a guide to physical techniques.

  7. Mija

    I just found this reply, Adrian. Thanks for mentioning this book. I haven’t read it yet, but suspect the information will be really useful.
    It’s never too late and I’m so glad you replied!


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