Monday, 13 October 2008

Domestic abuse

A number of commentators to this blog (and thank you to all of you) are involved in "Domestic Discipline" relationships. Each of these will be different and all such relationships have their own dynamic. I know that the commentators to this blog in such relationships are self confident women who are clear about their relationships, what they want from them and what they are prepared to give. Some may even be feminists.

I am just wanting to emphasise that my following comments are not directed at a particular approach to D/s but are intended to raise some issues that I think are worthy of discussion.

I want to ask a question. It is not intended as critical but I am aware some may take it as such - in which case I apologise.

The question is this.

What is the difference between a 24/7 domestic discipline relationship and domestic abuse?

I can sense you all rushing to answer. Yes - of course - consent.

But there are those who are genuinely victims of domestic abuse who appear to consent. They love their partner and need his attention. They accept the violence that goes with it as part of that. It might be that they were abused as a child and associate violence with love. There are many vulnerable women trapped in such relationships.

There is the matter of love and trust. But these are so hard to define. Is a domestic discipline relationship only acceptable amongst those who are articulate enough to analyse and justify their situation? From the outside how do we understand the level of love and trust?

Perhaps there is also the issue of harm. Is that a damaged organ, a broken bone, a bruise? How does one define physical harm? There will be many reading this who have been happy to suffer bruising - but others may not like to be marked and damaged in such a way.

Psychological and emotional harm is even more difficult to recognise and define.

There are clear extremes at either end that are easy to define. However there is a middle grey area that is more difficult to define. Are there no "Doms" taking advantage of vulnerable women as "subs" who are really enjoying a relationship that without the D/s trappings might well be considered as abusive? What is the role of power in this and when does the transfer of power in this lead to abuse?

I would also like to add that I am aware that this is as much an issue in M/m, F/m and F/f relationships as in M/f. The issues I raise could apply equally to many bdsm relationships not just DD.

I know there is no easy answer to this. I feel I know the difference but can't put words to it. Perhaps others can help me.


Dragonfly said...

Opening quite a can of worms this Monday morning!

There are many differences between the dynamics, and I have spoken to folks in both situation, professionally and privately... and the very very short version (as I do not want to hog up all your space!) is this:

DD/D-s etc. is a mutually agreed upon dynamic in which personal and relational growth and strength are the impetus and goal.

Domestic Violence is when one mentally unstable individual exerts control and violence toward the other to diminish them on all personal levels.

And this is just the very tip of the "how they are so very different" iceberg.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and there can be DV involved in DD and DD in DV.... But the key is to look at the submissive in the relationship.. is she aglow with happiness, joy and emotional fulfillment? Or is she a shell of a human being barely able to survive?


Pygar said...

Dearest Dragonfly

Your wisdom is as great as your legendary beauty! ;) You are welcome to hog as much space on this blog as you wish.

But having given such a full answer I'm not sure there is much more for any of us to add!

To try to maintain and develop the discussion a little though I wonder if the exemplars you give of the difference between DD/D-s and Domestic violence are describing each end of the scale - but that there can be a grey area in the middle where all is not so clear.

However your analysis of the difference is very sharp.

I wondered still though how one can tell from the outside - and again you give us such a good answer - to look at the sub herself. But again - I wonder if on a day to day basis many subs are slightly less than aglow with happiness! Every relationship has its ups and downs.

But in reality I find it hard to quibble with anything you have said.

Thank you.

I think I need to come up with a new post now!!!!


Constance said...

Dragonfly has made the same point I meant to make, namely that a woman benefits from a successful Domestic Discipline relationship while no woman benefits from abuse. I have been in both types of relationships. While with my verbally and sometimes physically abusive husband, I was depressed, I contemplated self-harm, I thought I was ugly and worthless, and I drank lots and lots of bourbon! Now I'm in a really wonderful DD relationship, and I am so happy, so much better off, more relaxed, more productive, a better parent...etc. etc.

I think there are relationships where the partners call it DD or D/s but where it is in fact abusive, but as Dragonfly has said, does the submissive partner cower or stand tall? That's where you see the difference. (I wrote a fantasy about a cop thinking a bruised wife might be the victim of dometic abuse, but she stood tall in front of him and explained, proudly, that her husband disciplined her when she misbehaved. It was a just a fantasy, but I think there's some truth there.)

Pygar said...

Thank you for your personal perspective Constance - having experienced both sides of this issue. I am pleased you are now able to "stand tall".

I suppose in the end as long as the sub is genuinely happy and fulfilled then it does not matter what we call the relationship.


Anonymous said...

Having been in an abusive marriage I can state catergorically that there is no happiness or pleasure to be found in that kind of relationship if you are the one being verbally, emotionally and or physically abused.

I have not got the experience of being in a DD D/s relationship but everything I have read leads me to believe that each woman who is in such a relationship is there out of her own choosing, even if there are times when she is less than happy.

I can quite understand you questioning whether this is abuse by another name. Why would any woman chose to be abused by her partner yet many women and men choose to be disciplined by their partner which strangely I can understand.

lexa said...


I love reading your posts (and all the comments they generate) because they're fantastic reasons to make me think of something different or from a new perspective (plus I always learn something too).

I'm in complete agreement with all the comments left by the other ladies here. But to respond to your comment about the 'grey area in the middle where all is not so clear,' maybe the best way to determine an abusive vs. DD relationship is to look at the dominant's level of respect for the submissive.

In my experience (helping a few others out of bad situations) there was no respect for the woman involved. The men all had no issues with physically, mentally, or emotionally harming my friends, and one even went so far as to 'allow' his buddy to 'teach her a few things' with his fists. Clearly no respect for her.

Whereas with the BDSM Doms that I've met, they all seem to respect their partners - whether it's a one time play partner or their collared slave. Not only do they respect their partner, but they also demonstrate basic respect for others.

Of course, you could always go by the old saying that my granddaddy was fond of: 'if he'd kick his dog, he'll kick you.' Oh, and the 'never trust someone who says trust me.' Both good ole' Southern American clich├ęs...

Pygar said...

Thank you secretly naughty.

Quite - few would want to be abused but many enjoy being disciplined. However there are some subs who might express their need for subjugation as a need to be abused. Perhaps then it is the intent of the Dom and the nature of the relationship that is the defining point.


Pygar said...

Hi lexa. I'm pleased you enjoy the blog. Thank you for saying so.

You are so right that trust is something that has to be earned rather than commanded.


Anonymous said...

Of course consent is the difference, but nobody is going to consent to abuse. That is nonsensical. DD and DA are comepletely different in every single way.

Abusers come from a place of weakness. They are out of control. They cause harm. They are self-centered. Often times they abuse substances or have other out-of-control behaviors.

Doms come from a place of strength. They are in control. They bring benefit. They are sub-centered. They would never, ever discipline a sub while in an impaired state (intoxicated, high...).

Beyond that, the behaviors are different, too. Abusers don't calmly sit down and discuss a problem and listen carefully until you are both agreed about the infraction and the consequences. They don't have rituals and positions, etc. They don't spank. They hit or pull hair or throw things... again, out of control.

And afterwards, Doms don't promise to never do it again and beg their subs to take them back or guilt them into staying. I can't find a single similarity between Doms and Abusers. I really can't.

Oh, and abused persons never "ask for it" regardless of what the abuser says while dishing out violence. Subs actually do ask for discipline, very respectfully, and within a context of great trust. Subs are never forced. Ever.

Finally, I have never given serious thought to how to find an abuser in my life and whether or not I would flourish with such a partner. I do seriously consider actively looking for a Dom.

Pygar said...

Thank you Maryann. You make lots of interesting points that deserve serious thought.

In particular I like your point that Doms are in control whereas abusers are out of control.

It has just struck me that I know Dragonfly who started the comments on this post is writing a story in which this distinction is clearly made.

I also liked it when you wrote:
"Subs actually do ask for discipline, very respectfully, and within a context of great trust. Subs are never forced. Ever."

Good luck in your search for a Dom.


Kim Fernino said...

Good morning from NY - I agree with just about everyone on this thread - consent. The difference between sadism and abuse can be a fine line. An abuser could actually love his/her partner but does not cherish them. In a consensual DD relationship, that component must be there from both partners. Although this type of arrangement is not my cup of tea, I have an online Dom friend in such a relationship. Works for them and I applaud their ability to make it work - especially with kids around which requires behavioral discretion.

Mr.C. said...

I thought Maryann's comment was absolutely excellent.

The only thing I disagree with slightly is that abusers are out of control. I do think that many, if not most of them are, but some are not. Constance's ex husband is an example. He was always careful to hurt and to frighten without causing a reportable injury. Most of his 'rages' in my opinion were actually quite calculated, feigned in fact. That to me is actually worse because it is so cold blooded.

I think a telling point is simply this, is the dominant behaviour self serving or altruistic? Abusive behaviour is always self serving, dominant behaviour in a DD relationship is always altruistic.

Constance always comes first. Always.

Pygar said...

Good morning to you too Kimmy.

Yes - the difference between sadism and abuse ... I think these continue to be difficult questions.

I am interested in your distinction between being loved and being cherished and look forward to hearing more of this.


Pygar said...

Thanks Mr C - it is heartening to know there are some Doms out there reading this blog too! Thank you for contributing.

I think your point about abusers being in control or out of control is very well made. However it is also very frightening.

I guess an abuser totally in control of his actions and emotions is a psychopath.

How is a sub to recognise such a person in time?

- P

Anonymous said...

beyond control I think you must look at motivation or intent. There are many exaples of insane or just mean people who were in control of their actions. I think along with looking for a sub all aglow a few questions of the dom's motivation will likely tell you what you need to know.

just a thought.

Pygar said...

Yes Sir J

I believe you are right to highlight the motivation of the Dom.

However establishing that motivation from outside - or even inside - the relationship is the hard part.


Anonymous said...

oh yes I agree pygar motivation is a hard one to nail down and I would hope if I were in the position of questioning lifestyle vs abuse I would pursue it, besides I like challenges.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I'm guilty of not having read all the comments so if someone else has said this please forgive me.

The difference between domestic violence and abuse is probably most clearly found in the mental health of the partner who is on the receiving end.

Abusers denigrate, belittle, isolate and generally destroy the joy and self confidence of their partner.

Hopefully, in a D/s relationship that includes domestic discipline we see growth, strength, blooming self confidence and a glow of love.

The first would hide their bruises, the second would rather NOT hide their bruises.

Although I am not 24/7 with my Maitre discipline has been part of our dynamic. I have never ever once felt he has been unfair in either degree or reason.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is a bit like a description of mysticism given by Joseph Campbell (I believe; not sure it was he.)

In any event, what was said is that it is often difficult to tell the true mystic from the schizophrenic because they are both in the same sea, but one is swimming and the other is drowning.

Similarly, the experience of healing hypnotic trance has many of the characteristics of schizophrenic dissociation, yet they are very different experiences.

D/s and domestic violence seem to relate in a similar, yet how is one to know?

How we manage allocation of power in relationships is central to their success. Do it consciously or just let it happen willy-nilly, it still is happening. Perhaps the "on purposeness" of D/s is a key.

And as for someone else deciding what is sick, what is abuse, for me or you goes, there is an excellent discussion in the book Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, Harper Collins:2007 that is well worth a read.

Pygar said...

Thank you John for your very interesting perspective - and for the reference to the book.

- P

Kristy H said...

although it was explained quite well by others, I felt a need to add my .02 worth (hey I'm an attorney - go figure!). I practice family law, and deal with abused spouses, men & women, on a regular basis. I'm currently involved in a Long Distance D/s relationship, and have been previously involved in both live-in D/s & DV relationships. so, I believe I know of which I speak.

Two elements in a DV relationship which were not mentioned here are 1) fear and 2) blame.

In a positive DD or D/s relationship, there is no fear for one's safety. There may be discipline due to one's actions, or disappoinment due to one's actions which can bring about sorrow and "pains" one's heart if they disappoint their Dom/Master/HOH. However, there is no fear, and certainly no fear for one's safety.

And, there is no blame. No one gets "blamed" for being too insistent that rules are followed, nor does one get "blamed" if dinner isn't cooked to perfection, or if one's shirt isn't ironed properly.

In a positive D/s relationship, the two are a team, and when mistakes are made, each one takes responsibility as to what happened, and how to rectify it. There is no blame, and no "blame game."

and, that brings to mind a third missing element: responsibility. In a DV relationship, the abuser takes no responsibility for his actions. This leads directly back to the "blame game." It's always the abuser's claim, "well, if you weren't so annoying, I wouldn't have hit you." Or, "If you weren't so stupid, I wouldn't need to hit you." Or, "if you would have listened to me, and gotten out of my way, I wouldn't have had to hit you."

In a positive D/s relationship, both parties know their responsibilities, and each takes their responsibilities seriously. And each respects the other, and trust the other will be responsible for their own behavior.

This is where the two can move from codependent relationship (clearly evident in a DV or abusive relationship) to an interdependent relationship where each wants to be interconnected and looks to meet the other's needs willingly. Because there is trust and responsibility rather than denial of responsibility, blame, and fear which is the crux of all codependent relationships.

thanks for writing such an interesting blog!

Pygar said...

Thank you very much cutesy pah for your very thoughtful and well informed contribution. I like very much your use of the concept of "blame" in your analysis. There seems to be a lot of truth in how you connect this to taking responsibility for actions. I also like the notion of being able to make mistakes - but to admit them and take responsibility for them - and also I suggest then perhaps being forgiven for them.

By coincidence a couple of days ago I received a long email from a reader. Through reading other parts of this blog she had come to realise that she was not in a true D/s relationship but was instead suffering abuse and being continually harmed psychologically. She realised too that it didn't need to be like that. It had given her the strength to realise she could do something about it.


Willow Rosenberg said...

I know this is a pretty old thread but one I've actively looked up now that the D/s in my marriage is deepening and the question of "if so many things inside me are changing as they are now, will I be less able to spot if things turn abusive?"... The answer, especially after reading all these thoughts here is a big fat nope, quite the opposite.
But I thought I'd add one point that resonates with the last commenter before me.
In the town where I live, they've got a screening question for domestic violence that they ask everyone who comes for treatment at the hospital, no matter why they come, and even the mums who bring their kids with fevers or peas stuck up their nose: "Do you ever feel not safe at home or with your partner?"
And that, really, brings home the whole point of fear of an abusive or out of control partner.
As our D/s is deepening, if anything, I feel closer and safer to my man than ever and trust him more, not less. And that is pretty amazing.(And more than worth the occasional, consensually sore backside... which is also kinda hot, after the acute sensations have dulled down a bit. Ahem...)

Pygar said...

Thank you Willow for adding to this interesting thread. The fact that you have given such thought to whether you would recognise abuse if it started to happen is very positive - especially when you have come up with such a clear answer.

The question about whether one feels safe does seem quite central and I hope it may help others who have doubts.

I know at least two readers of this blog have divorced their husbands (one very recently) as a result of coming to realise that their long term D/s relationships were in fact abusive. So it is good to always be reflective and aware of this issue I think.

It is an issue that crops up in many of the posts on this blog but there are two other more recent posts where it is discussed again explicitly. You can find them here and here.

Enjoy your consensually sore backside!


P xx

Pygar said...

By chance Dani has just posted a comment to another thread where she described her own personal experiences of how a D/s relationship became abusive.

I think followers of this thread might find it interesting. You can read it here.