BDSM play is done for many reasons from the bottom side of the slash. Catharsis, sexual fulfillment, a natural high, or plain old fun. Perhaps as a way to push personal limits and boundaries. Another reason people play is because it can be therapeutic. Either consciously or sub-consciously. Someone might use play in general (as opposed to a specific kind of play) to help them push through anxiety, find “permission” to let out their bottled up emotions, or learn how to trust. Bottoms can also use more specific play to work through past or childhood traumas. Something I see often is when the bottom will recreate a past trauma or pieces of it in their scenes – or simply be “really into that” as a part of their relationships, etc. The difference now being, of course, that they are the ones in control.
For example, a woman is raped with the threat of a knife being used on her and getting held down by her throat. That same woman playing in the scene may create scenes or ask for types of play from her partner(s) that reenacts, if you will, the rape. She may really be into rape play or knife play. Choking or breath play may be something that turns her on. However, now she is in control. Unlike when she was actually raped, she can call red and it all stops. In addition, she may find some healing in that she is experiencing these acts with a trusted partner.
On the other hand, take a different woman with the same experience of rape. She could go the opposite direction. For this woman, bottoming in a consensual-non consent, rape, even rough sex scene could be a huge trigger. Knife play of any kind may be a hard limit, as well as choking. Perhaps even having a hand near her throat causes panic and anxiety.
The point of this is that no bottom is the same and you can’t assume that just because many bottoms enjoy a type of play that all, or even most, of them do. This takes me back to talking about consent and why it’s imperative you don’t start play without it. I’ve seen a D-type walk up to a bottom and grab them by the hair. What if that bottom had the experience I described above and hair pulling had been a part of her abuse/trauma and now is a major trigger?
If something causes you to panic please don’t continue to do it and try to find someone to talk to. However, if a type of play, or play in general, seems to be helping you process trauma or abuse you have suffered or gives you a sense of empowerment then, by all means, I say do it. Just make sure it’s with people you trust. If it’s on that conscience level then maybe even talk to them about why you enjoy that type of play. If you have a therapist talk about it. Combining the play with communication is even more powerful than either alone.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.