There are many commonalities in the kink community. As hard as it is to admit, many of us have a history of trauma. Though the causes vary, they impact our interactions in BDSM heavily. So we are going to explore what you can do if you need to renegotiate or build a scene after recent trauma.
Trauma is defined as “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”
This is a broad definition. We often equate trauma to incidents that result in physical injuries or abuse. But trauma can be anything. Trauma can happen as a result of a death in the family, stress from work or family, near death experiences, abuse, accidents, and mental health imbalances. This is, by no means, a comprehensive list.
For example, due to repeated deaths in my family in a short period of time, and a couple of traumatic experiences from when I was a teenager, I deal with the effects of PTSD. My brain just sort of short circuits at times. On an average day, it does not affect me much because I have learned to cope with it. However, when I delve into play, the closer I get to sub space, the less control I have in my head. Sometimes, that means disassociation. Sometimes it is moments of extreme panic or fear.
Outside of play, and regardless of the control you have over your mental health, your trauma does influence all aspects of your life. It can change the route you take home from work or where you work. It can change how you sleep or whether the light stays on at night. It can affect how you talk and who you talk to.
In kink, and often as a result of trauma, many suffer the effects of PTSD, severe depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, fear of men/women, nightmares/ Night terrors, and more. Some people lose their sense of self and their independence.
Some seek help. Some don’t. Some find relief in a bottle and some in pills. Some never sleep and some only sleep. Some learn to cope, and some don’t. Some move on and some don’t. Some give up and some don’t.
It is an individual experience and recovery.
As mentioned previously, you don’t need to look hard to find a lot of trauma survivors in BDSM and Kink. We all have our own reasons for delving into kink and dealing with our mental health.
Some use kink to reclaim their independence. It allows them to reclaim the moments they felt helpless and take back control. Some use kink for coping.
And, for some, they attempt to keep their trauma and their kink separate.
I do not personally believe the last statement is possible. Even the most careful of individuals can be triggered unintentionally. Because of this, it is important to figure out how to renegotiate and build a scene after trauma, to meet the needs of both yourself and your partner(s).
The steps below are built on the premise that you were involved in kink prior to the traumatic event.
Step 1: Be honest (to yourself and your partner) about your mental and physical state.
As much as we would love to pretend the trauma has never happened, it did. You and your partner need to accept that. You also need to clearly state your current needs. Do not allow yourself or your partner to assume that your wants, needs, and desires are the same as they were prior to the traumatic event.
Step 2: Negotiate with what you can do, not what you can’t
Feeling powerless is common with trauma. You may find yourself hesitant or even fearful of things you consider to be “simple.” There is no shame in doing what is best for you. If you cannot handle hugs any longer, or need someone to ask ahead of doing so, be clear in those expectations. Because there may be so many more things that you cannot do/have done as before, it is important to not lose yourself in what you “cannot do.” Instead of negotiating with your partner about what is off-limits, change the parameters.
“I would like you to do X, but I need you to keep eye contact with me.”
“I would like to feel your weight on me, but without restraint.”
“I need you to use my name when you talk to me. Please speak clearly so I know it is you.”
“I need skin to skin contact and I need you to stay above the waist.”
“I want to be flogged with my shirt on.”
Any of these options are considered green behaviors for this individual. It states what you wish to do and how it needs to be done to minimize triggering.
Step 3: Watch for frenzy. It can happen after long bouts of inactivity, not just to people new to the lifestyle.
Sometimes we remove ourselves from kink all together when trauma occurs. When we feel strong enough to get back into the scene, it is easy to lose yourself into frenzy. The feelings that you had thought forgotten come rushing back, and with it, so does the desire to get back into everything.
Watching for frenzy also means watching for extreme drop. We, as people, like to believe that we will always be able to do everything at the level we currently do it. Maybe, prior to your break, you could take an hour long beating with a cane. Most likely, after that break, you will not be able to. To play safely, it is better to start as though you are new and gauge your tolerance from there. But it can be a blow to both your ego and your self-esteem to “feel less than” we once were. Tolerance can be relearned. Pushing too fast, though, can reignite the trauma responses that required the break in the first place.
Step 4: If needed, write down the negotiation. This way you can review it and revisit it before play, if needed.
I am not suggesting a contract. I am suggesting more of a journaling exercise. Write down where you want to start, your goals, and your reactions to things as they occur.
This includes determining who will be involved in the scene, participating or watching? What will happen? What is your safeword? What are the boundaries? Are the scene boundaries different than your everyday ones? Do you have a panic option if your safeword becomes unuseable?
What happens though if the trauma happens during kink? Or if it happens with your current partner? Does that change how we renegotiate or build a scene?
In my mind, it does.
Trust is paramount in a dynamic. When that trust wavers, it can make kink so much more dangerous. For example, you can lose the comfort and confidence needed to safeword. As much as most Dominants seem like mind-readers, they are not. They need to know their partner will 22speak up when necessary, to prevent hurting the submissive.
Below, I have an altered set of steps to help guide the reestablishment of boundaries and the renegotiation of terms in an existing dynamic.
Step 1: Make sure you are both emotionally recovered enough to discuss logically.
Was the trauma caused by yourself? Your partner? Did it happen during a scene? Was the trauma an accident, miscommunication, or malicious? Is it unrelated?
These are important questions to ask yourself. Trauma that is unrelated may be easier to navigate with a partner than something caused by them. The same goes for the intention behind what happened.
Accidents and miscommunication happen in scenes. My first scene with Master was at a public party as pick-up play. I thought we had negotiated a flogging. Turns out, he was under the impression we negotiated an impact scene that involved floggers. In this instance, it turned out to be a beneficial miscommunication.
Later on, in our relationship, we did impact play at a party and a couple hours later we tried fire play. Turns out, even a light flogging (one that doesn’t leave marks) can weaken the skin enough that fire play can burn (when it otherwise would not). Technically, I was injured because my skin was burned. It was a small crescent shaped mark and for me, was a plausible outcome to the risky stuff we engage in. In this example, neither instance impacted my trust in Master. But, I have seen similar instances that have traumatized submissives and made them very skittish.
Step 2: Read through the current rules, together, and discuss their meaning.
When we first begin in kink, there are often a set of rules that we put in place to set the boundaries of our dynamics. Over time, those can change or evolve.
Due to personal issues with food in my past, one of my rules is that I must eat 3 times a day (or six tiny meals to help with my diabetes). When my dad died last year, I couldn’t bring myself to eat through my grief. But I had to, because it was a rule. I essentially made myself extremely sick. So, I had to reach out to Master and ask for an amendment. The rule adjusted to eating 2 times per day and I could use a meal replacement shake if needed.
We were not discarding everything that we had set forth, but we were adjusting them as needed to make sure I was ok.
Step 3: Recognize if any of the current rules contributed to the trauma.
**The rules I use as an example below are just rules that I have had mentioned to me by other submissives that have encountered issues. I have a personal belief that as long as rules are consensual, then they can be anything the Dominant and the submissive wish**
Some rules can add to the negative headspace left by trauma. For example, some dynamics have a rule that issues will be discussed once a month during a free chat. This could lead a submissive to believe they cannot speak up when needed.
Another example is a rule that does not allow safewording during a punishment. Is this something that foster’s fear in the submissive? Can this lead to triggering during a punishment without recourse to remove themself from the situation?
Step 4: Remove or adjust any rule that has impacted either the D-type or s-type’s state of mind.
Step 5: Keep the number of rules manageable. Trauma impacts the mental and physical states. If you are still recovering, having too many rules can make you feel like a failure and having too few can maximize your feelings of not being wanted or useful.
Step 6: Make a plan to maintain the healthy mindset. Whether this is through therapy, medication, maintenance discipline, etc. Recovering from trauma is fluid. It does not just stop and get cured.
Ultimately, you are stronger than your trauma. No one will know your reactions better than you. There is no right or wrong answer in your decisions, kink related or not. Your kink goes at the speed that you determine is best. Never let anyone try to force you to change.
Lastly, as cruel as it sounds, your trauma is your trauma. Just as you have the right to play at your discretion and pace, others have the right to choose not to play with you. This is not a reflection on either person’s character. Some people are not willing or able to deal with the aftereffects of trauma. This is their right.
When you vet a new partner, or renegotiate with an old partner, Be honest, clear in your expectations, and open about your mental health.
My name is Joji. I am 29 years old currently and I have been in and around the kink community about 15 years.I am a collared submissive to Magick42. I am also a Daddy to a wonderful babygirl, and have been for more than three years now and I find it very fulfilling. I am being mentored in and being taught electroplay. I am a masochist at heart and thoroughly love impact play, especially caning. I enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on and am a die hard Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan. I am also the secretary for a group in Idaho called Moscow S.P.A.R.K.E (Simply Providing Another Route to Kink Education). It is our mission to teach safe practices to those new to the community and give them a safe haven to ask questions and learn without judgement. We accept all kinks and all we ask in return is respect between all our members.