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How S&M Sex Helped Me Heal from My Rape

Author Jane Devin overcame fear to embrace an unlikely ally.
 
 
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The following article first appeared in the Good Men Project. 

Human psychology is not always linear or straightforward, and the path to true healing is not, as many assume, always dictated by therapy sessions with a licensed professional. Rather, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people who have experienced emotional upheaval or some traumatic event don’t seek counseling. They lean on friends, time, and their own intuition and survival skills.

By the time I was 14, I had been raped and molested numerous times. The summer of my 10th year was when most of the events occurred. I was sent to live with a perpetrator who took pride in maintaining the integrity of my hymen as some sort of proof, should he have ever needed it, that he didn’t do anything criminal. Instead, he raped me anally and forced me to perform and receive oral sex in front of a camera. He took pleasure in seeing how much he could humiliate me with degrading poses and acts, like putting a finger in my vagina while sucking on a vibrator. When I finally got to go home, I told no one. It wasn’t only that he threatened violence on my sisters if I did, it was because I had no words, and feared that even if I found some, I would be punished and blamed. My home life was not a loving or supportive one, which I’m sure played into the perpetrator’s choice to make me his victim.

At 14, when I was on the cusp of recovery, and beginning to seriously ponder questions of sex and sexuality, I was raped by a 17-year-old, who tore into me so violently that I bled for two days. Again, I told no one.

I don’t disclose these events to be exploitive or sensational, but to try to explain why some former victims find themselves drawn to exploring the submissive side of the BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism) realm. (Please note I said some, not all. Reasons are as diverse as people.) To outsiders, a survivor’s participation in BDSM often seems counterintuitive—why would someone who has been raped seek to recreate their vulnerability on any level? Why would they choose to place themselves in any position reminiscent of a traumatic event?

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BDSM is nothing new, but since  Fifty Shades of Grey became popular, the discussion about sexual submission has ranged from excitement to condemnation. Having read only excerpts from the book, which didn’t inspire me to read any further, I don’t have anything to say specifically about E.L. James’s book, other than I’m glad that it has inspired open conversation about a topic that’s usually considered taboo, or relegated to some corner of the internet where nearly everyone’s anonymous. I’m probably as guilty as others who’ve seen the topic as off-limits for mainstream spaces. While I’ve hinted at some things on my blog, I’ve never actually come out and said, “I’ve been there. I’ve done that.” It wasn’t sexual shame that held me back, but the fear of being harshly judged. In some ways, I was still that girl who feared punishment if she disclosed her secrets to the wrong people.

I also had the belief that my BDSM experiences, and the curiosity that led to them, weren’t shared by many other women: That mine was some sort of unusual history that was relegated to the fringe. Having read so many discussions on erotica and BDSM lately—having seen the spectacular rise of a book popularized solely for its subject matter—I no longer believe that to be the case.

 
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