Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why Do I Want To Be Beaten?

Life is sometimes painful.

Very few people get through life without being knocked around. Even if you haven’t suffered the death of a loved one, a divorce, or some other major catastrophe, life can be stressful even at the best of times.

That stress and pain wear us down over time. In the world of BDSM there is a term called a ‘Safeword’. When people are engaged in a BDSM scene together, either participant can stop the activity by using a safeword. People use various words to stop a scene, but safewords are discussed prior to ‘play’ and both parties agree to honor the use of the safeword if it is spoken for any reason.

Unfortunately, unlike with BDSM, real life doesn’t give us safewords. We can’t opt out of the pain or stress life throws at us. When a loved one dies, or our marriage is miserable and we are at a loss as to how to make it better, or our boss tells us we have to work ninety hours a week until the end of the quarter, we may or may not be able to do anything to change the situation.

My dad killed himself nine years ago and the pain of that event felt unbearable. That was my pain to bear. You have your pain to bear. These things must be endured because we don’t always get to choose our pain and we can’t control other’s behavior nor can we control many things that happen in the world.

When the pain and stress of life becomes unmanageable, people often turn to drugs, alcohol, shopping, comfort eating, affairs, gambling and all sorts of other destructive behaviors in an attempt to feel better. While these behaviors may provide a temporary endorphin release which eases pain, this is a short lived escape with long-range, sometimes catastrophic consequences. All of these coping mechanisms share a few things in common: They provide temporary relief from pain and they have the potential to mask the underlying issue so that the sufferer can ‘suffer’ over something they feel they have some control over.

Most people believe that BDSM is simply about sex. In fact, I would guess that if you asked a hundred random people on the street this question, “What is BDSM and Kink and who does it?” Almost all of those questioned would say something along the lines of, “It’s a perverted sex game people play with each other where they beat each other and do other stuff. I don’t even want to think about it.”

(Well, unless you asked people in Portland, Oregon which has the reputation for being the United State’s Capital for: Kink, organic food, perversion, strip clubs, micro-brews, marijuana and general badness). In fact, if you asked one hundred random people in Portland about BDSM and Kink, half of them would probably ask you if you knew where the nearest party was being held and if you might, by chance, be able to direct them to a delicious food-cart.

I digress.

My point is that there is great confusion in the general population concerning what BDSM is all about. Most people don’t understand why kinky people are driven to it and they believe that it is

mostly about perverted sex games. Often times, even kinky people who have never had the opportunity to experience BDSM/Kink won’t know why they need to engage in activities that may seem abhorrent, even to them.

This perception that BDSM is simply perverted sex is mostly inaccurate and highly destructive. BDSM is a part of a person’s sexuality, but the actual act of BDSM practice is typically not overtly sexual in nature. While most kinky people eroticize BDSM, some people engage in BDSM activities separate from sexual engagement while others combine sex with BDSM activities.

Whether or not sex is involved, focused, intense BDSM sessions can provide overwhelming relief from anxiety, depression, and anguish. When you put yourself in a position where you have no choice but to yield to unrelenting, precisely delivered pain, you feel strangely liberated. You aren’t thinking about your kid’s college tuition or the mortgage. You aren’t wondering if your partner loves you or if you’ll lose your job.

*it should be noted that I am talking about a bdsm scene which has been consensually negotiated and where safewords are respected. I am not talking about domestic violence or non-consensual assault*

Within a well orchestrated BDSM session, the world disappears and your immediate experience takes its place. Your mind has no place to run. You simply can’t think about anything except that next lashing, the next needle, or the wax that may burn hot against your skin.

Once you’ve totally let go, and accepted the pain, everything stops hurting. Your mind empties as your body is flooded with endorphins.

This is the moment BDSM practitioners refer to as cathartic bliss.

This moment offers an unexpected benefit for men in particular. From the time they are toddlers, boys are taught not to cry. Our culture is finally evolving past this but the sad truth is that there is still a stigma against men crying. When we cry, we let go of pain. Crying is a necessary way to release painful emotions. Because men are taught, their whole lives, that it’s ‘weak’ to cry, they learn to stuff painful feelings. They stuff them and they learn to compartmentalize their feelings in ways that can be destructive to their interpersonal relationships. It is difficult to completely suppress pain, while still remaining emotionally open and vulnerable in other ways. But despite the stigma against men crying, we are willing to give a man a pass, and even to comfort him, if he is crying because he is in terrible pain. The man who is suffering knows this, and if his suffering is great enough, he can allow himself to release those painful feelings. Not just the pain of the BDSM scene, but life pain he has suffered and suppressed his whole life. Many men will report what they refer to as cathartic release. One client told me that during a BDSM scene he experienced a, “total emotional breakdown, shedding tears I didn’t even know were there, bawling uncontrollably, like a baby, followed by total peace. A kind of peace I had never previously known.”

After a scene, the participant might discover that the things in his or her life that caused so much pain before, are now manageable. They’ll feel better: happier and more hopeful. For many people, this feeling of relief can be intense for up to forty-eight hours. This intense period is often followed by a less intense, but overall decrease in general suffering.

I am not suggesting that BDSM is the cure all for all mental illness and suffering. There are plenty of ills in life that BDSM cannot ameliorate. I am certainly not suggesting that BDSM is for everyone. What I am suggesting is that if you are suffering and you are drawn to BDSM, you may very well find overwhelming relief as a result of fulfillment of this need.

BDSM is not a therapeutic technique. For people who are drawn to it, and who need it, BDSM practice can provide relief from the pain they feel as a result of leaving the need unmet.

What is BDSM Therapy?

The purpose of this blog is to clarify what BDSM therapy is and what it is not.
BDSM therapy is talk therapy which takes place in an office with a professional psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. Some kink therapists (myself included) also offer online therapy for people who live too far away to see the therapist in person.

This kind of specialized therapy can be, but is not necessarily, narrow in focus. You might go to a Kink therapist to deal with issues around work stress, family problems, financial distress, addictions or any number of other general life struggles. The reason kinky people might prefer a kink therapist, even if the presenting issue is unrelated to BDSM, is because they feel good knowing that if kink related issues do come up, they can talk to their therapist about those things without feeling ashamed or wondering if the therapist will be able to help them.

Kink therapy is professional talk therapy. Kink therapists are professionals who can help you work through all kinds of life issues, including kink.

I work with all kinds of people who come to see me for a lot of the same reasons that ‘vanilla’ people seek therapy. Typically, kink is a small (but for many clients essential) piece of the therapy process.

Kink therapy is not sexual surrogacy. Your kink therapist is not going to engage in sexual contact with you ever. The same boundaries that exist in other professional relationships exist in BDSM therapy.


How do I get rid of kinky thoughts?

During the 80’s and 90’s Christian groups poured tons of money into what they termed ‘Conversion Therapy’. The goal of the therapy was to turn gay people straight.

Conversion therapy was a complete failure. Not only did it fail to make gay people straight, it often resulted in increased anxiety, shame and depression for ‘failed patients’. Many people committed suicide following participation in conversion therapy.

While many might argue that sexual orientation and kink are totally different things, my expert opinion is that the same way that sexual orientation is hard wired in the brain, so are many other sexual drives.

The therapy I provide is based on this science based philosophy; the philosophy that the need for bdsm/kink/fetish etcetera is written into our genetic code. It is as much of who we are as is our hair and eye color.

This can be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it.

The bad news is that if you try to force yourself, either alone or with the help of professionals, to be ‘normal’, you will fail. There are a multitude of reasons why kinky people want to be ‘vanilla’: life is easier for people who easily fit into the mainstream, ‘vanilla people’ don’t have to worry about ‘coming out’ to potential new partners—nor deal with the issue of whether they should come out to an existing partner, they don’t have to worry about friends, family and business associates finding out about their alternative orientation. There is often an interpersonal downside to being kinky. And even if you aren’t struggling with any of those issues, there is often shame, pain and a feeling of isolation associated with being different from other people.

It is important to address the difficulties associated with being kinky. To deny those issues is to add to an already confusing and difficult situation.

If you are reading this blog and feeling hopeless, please continue to read because there is hope.

The good news is that there are benefits to living your life in a way that fulfills, rather than denies, your sexuality.

What if, instead of trying to fight or suppress your needs, you embraced them? Fulfilling the need for kink can mean different things for different people. Some people are in a position to be open with their partners about their needs; others don’t feel that they can. People are able to come out to friends and family to varying degrees.

Whether you are able to engage in kink with a partner, or you feel compelled to keep this part of your life totally private, there are ways to come to terms with your sexual needs so that you can be at peace about them.

And if you are in a position where you can engage in the kink activities you are driven toward, you will find that your life is richer, happier, and enriched in ways you never anticipated.

How do I find a therapist who can help me with…..?

I want to be clear that this blog is in no way meant to show disrespect to the countless, wonderful therapists all over the country who want to help people struggling with issues around BDSM. There are plenty of therapists who advertise that they are ‘kink aware professionals’ or ‘sex positive therapists’. They will include LGBTQ as populations they are comfortable working with.

The problem is that ‘kink aware’ is not the same thing as ‘having extensive knowledge pertaining to BDSM and kink’. Being sex-positive is not the same thing as having a deep and thorough knowledge of human sexuality and the myriad ways that people identify sexually. Sex-positive does not mean that the therapist understands the differences between polyamory and open-relationships, among other relationship types and sexual expressions.

A sex-positive, kink aware therapist is likely non-judgmental and supportive of your alternative sexuality. But all therapists should be non-judgmental and supportive of alternative sexuality. These terms reflect the therapist’s attitude, not the therapist’s knowledge.

If you are struggling with kink issues that are difficult, and perhaps even humiliating to talk about—as a few examples: diaper fetish, cross dressing, a desire to be choked and beaten during sex—the last thing you want is to reveal your deepest held secrets to a wonderful therapist who hears what you have to say and can’t totally hide their shock.

Many clients have told me that they went to kink positive therapists who were wonderful and wanted to help, but who had no understanding of the client’s kink and had no idea how to help him or her. Some therapists even tried to skirt the issue or offered to help the client ‘work through it’ (which does not work).

When you are looking for a therapist, and you want someone who understands your specific sexual issues, you want to look for someone who has extensive knowledge about Kink/BDSM/Fetish/Alternative sexual expression/Alternative relationships. Read their websites and blogs to make sure that their knowledge is broad and deep.

The therapist should not only know the correct terms used to describe orientations and activities, they should show a clear understanding of the complexities of the lifestyle. If you get the feeling their knowledge primarily comes from reading books, you should probably keep looking. A good kink therapist should understand that there are as many variations of kink as there are variations in human beings. They should understand that people are driven to kink for different reasons and that they get different things out of practicing it (and they should be able to demonstrate an understanding of what those things are). They should know the difference between a ‘disciplinary spanking’ , vs a ‘cathartic beating’.

These distinctions are important because when you are confused and struggling, you probably don’t want to see a therapist who doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. Of course it is wonderful to talk to a therapist about your personal struggles and have them support you, but it can be frustrating and less than helpful to talk to someone who can’t walk through the labyrinth with you because they are completely lost on the path.

How do I come out to my partner

The answer to the question about whether to come out of the kink closet to your husband, wife, partner, or potential partner is extremely complex.

While many professionals tend to argue that we should be 100% honest with partners, the truth is that the decision about whether to come out is based on a multitude of factors.

I would like to begin by discussing the issue of coming out to a potential new partner, and then move on to evaluating the issues surrounding coming out to an existing partner.

Today, society is more accepting of homosexuality than it is of kink. It could be argued that it is far easier to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transsexual than it is to come out as a person who desperately needs to be beaten. While many people accept homosexuality, most of our culture demonizes people who practice bdsm.

I recognize that this comparison between sexual orientation and bdsm is a slight detour from the question about whether to come out to a partner, but it is a relevant comparison because we are unlikely to find ourselves in a situation where we are homosexual and our date is heterosexual and neither of us is aware of the confusion. Additionally, there is a far more negative connotation associated with kink than with homosexuality.

I will present two scenarios and predict what I believe would be the likely outcome in each situation.

In both scenarios you live in a reasonably liberal city and are surrounded by open-minded friends and family.

Scenario # 1: You are gay. You are out with a group of friends and you make a pass at someone you think might be gay. You flirt and the straight person says, ‘Dude, I’m straight.’ There might be some good natured teasing among friends and then the conversation moves back to talk about the best micro-brew in town or whether the goat cheese is organic.

Scenario #2: You are kinky. You want to be tied up and beaten. You go on a few dates with someone and feel them out to see if they might be ‘open’. You haven’t directly asked them about kink because it didn’t feel appropriate on a first or second date where the conversation centered around politics and work related things. So here you are on the third date and you’re drinking a little wine and your date seems to be loosening up and the topic naturally turns to sex. You feel your way around and decide it might be safe to ask your date if s/he is kinky. They have read ’50 Shades of Moronic’ and they say, “Yeah, that can be kind of sexy.” Feeling emboldened, you say, “It’s hard for me to talk about it, but I really like to be tied up and beaten with a cane.”

I’ve spoken to countless people who have experienced scenario number two (or some nightmarish version of it) and been met with one of a few different reactions: silence followed by the date fleeing awkwardly, silence followed by hostility from the date, or sometimes a friendly and permanent departure.

When considering whether to come out of the kink closet, it is easiest to broach the subject early in a relationship, when the stakes are not as high. There are ways to carefully introduce the topic so that you can gage whether your potential partner might be open to exploring with you (or better yet, also be kinky). I have talked to lots of clients about this issue and can help you navigate this process.

But what about talking to an existing partner or spouse? Most kinky people have tried to get a feel for their partner’s level of kink acceptance: They’ll drop hints, buy fluffy handcuffs to ‘spice up the sex life’, talk about something they heard in the news about a famous person being caught on tape engaging in bdsm… and the desperate attempts to introduce kink without having a potentially damaging discussion go on and on.

It’s scary and can be dangerous to sit down at the table with your long-term partner and say, “I experience pain as pleasure and the reason I can’t maintain an erection during intercourse is because I have to incorporate bdsm into my sex life in order to feel aroused.”

What if your partner leaves you? What if they want a divorce? What if they tell everyone you know that you’re kinky? What if none of those things happen but they simply pull away emotionally and your previously unsatisfying but existent sex life dies as a result?

I’ve counseled countless people who love their partners and are happily married. They consider their partner or spouse to be their best friend, business partner, companion, co-parent, and help-mate. Unfortunately, despite the deep love they feel for their companion, they live a private sexual hell.

For most people, BDSM is not a desire, it is a need. Over time, if this need is not met, pain and frustration build. This pain is real. Pain and desperation often lead to obsession. I have seen countless clients who were so afraid to come out to their partners, and so filled with shame, that they stayed silent and resorted to doctor prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. Others relied on non-prescribed illegal drugs, and alcohol to ease their suffering.

I have also had some clients who were in situations like I just described who came to terms with their need for bdsm, who were able to get their needs met with or without their partner’s involvement and who were subsequently able to get off of medications.

*I am not suggesting the discontinuation of medications without consulting your doctor*

It is clear that the stakes are high: there is misery in remaining silent and there can be misery associated with coming out to your loved ones.

The greatest factor in determining whether to talk to a loved one about your alternative sexual needs is the extent to which the lack of fulfillment of those needs causes you pain. As I said above, there are many people who suffer to such an extent that they resort to drugs and alcohol in order to cope. There are plenty of other people who are strongly drawn to bdsm but who have fulfilling sex lives and the need for bdsm is on the milder end of the continuum. For those people, the risk-benefit ratio may not be in favor of coming out. I have directed much of this blog toward people who are seriously struggling and I have done that because if you are reading a blog titled ‘How Do I Come Out To My Partner’ I

assume you are in enough pain that you are seriously considering talking to your partner. But the direction of this blog should not imply that every person who enjoys bdsm should consider coming out of the closet. It should not imply that bdsm engagement is necessary for all people who are drawn to it. Some people simply enjoy bdsm and can live with or without it.

This blog is primarily aimed at people who feel compelled to talk to their partner.

Things to consider when thinking about sharing your kink with your partner may include:

* Your partner’s attitudes about sex

* Whether your partner is open minded in general

* The quality of your relationship

* Your mutual ability to communicate and work through problems

* Whether your partner is able to see grey areas as opposed to thinking in black and white terms

* Your partner’s general willingness to learn about and incorporate new things

* Your partner’s level of investment in the relationship

With so many things to consider and so much on the line, you may gain some clarity and comfort from talking about these things with a therapist. If so, I am happy to help. If you live in Portland, please feel free to contact me for an in person consultation. If you are unable to pursue counseling in Portland, please read my ‘Distance Counseling’ page so that we can arrange online therapy.


Ronda Gallawa, M.A.