Tabuu Wrap-up: It’s a common misconception to believe all BDSM relationships entail abuse. Just like it’s a misconception to believe vanilla relationships are perfect. The difference is that in relationships outside BDSM, it’s easier to notice red flags.

Note: Abuse can occur in relationships regardless of their structure or gender identity of the people involved. Vanilla relationships and BDSM relationships can both be tainted by abuse. If any of the red flags we’ll be discussing in this article are a part of the relationship, please leave and stay gone. You’re not alone and there are available resources. Choose not to stay and be safe!

It’s wrong to believe BDSM relationships are abusive by nature, just as it’s wrong to believe all vanilla relationships are perfect and free of issues. Abuse can happen in all relationships, no matter the dynamic.

The difference is that it’s easier to identify red flags when you’re in a vanilla relationship. When you’re in a BDSM relationship, the line between abuse and dominance can be blurred. That’s why it can be difficult to identify abuse because it’s easier to justify. However, red flags still exist and you must pay attention to them. I hope this article can help you!

You may be wondering, what qualifies me to talk about abuse? Well, I won’t bore you with my entire story, but here’s a summary. I spent over 10 years of my life in an abusive marriage. I was only hit a handful of times, but the mental abuse was constant. So much so, I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. A few years ago, he decided to leave me for someone else, but he still decided to stalk me. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to identify red flags, so here are the most common ones that shouldn’t be ignored.

1. You Believe Doing What They Want Will Make Them Act Be Better

Abusers are known for being controlling people. They’re never happy about what you do and you’ll never get anything right. Things get done in their terms, not yours. So, when you’re in an abusive and controlling relationship, you soon become convinced that if you do what they ask, they will be nicer. They will be happier. Kinder. Better. But that’s not how things work; they will never relinquish control.

What you need to understand is that dominance turns into abuse when they disregard you completely. In BDSM relationships, there is an exchange of power because that’s how the dynamic is. All parties consent to that. That means there’s communication about it and you come to an agreement together, you set rules, limits, and you create a healthy, safe environment.

Masters care about their submissives because it’s not about doing things to them, it’s about having the experience together. The moment someone disregards you as a person, your feelings, your thoughts, your desires, and your needs, you need to leave. That person does not care about you, no matter what they say. It’s actions that matter, not words.

2. You’re Constantly Being Accused or Threatened

We already established that controlling partners will find something wrong with everything you do. That means you will be constantly be accused of cheating whenever you go out to do something. It doesn’t matter what it is. You could be working, spending time with your family, going to church, etc. He will still accuse you of cheating and God knows what else.

On top of the horrible accusations, you will also be threatened. Being accused of imaginary things is exhausting because it takes a lot of energy to defend yourself from something like that. Being threatened also takes a toll. Whether they’re threatening to harm something or someone you love, or themselves, it’s ugly. They will do this at home and they will cause a scene wherever they please. Why? Because they want to isolate you, they want to take comfort zones away from you. And they do that by embarrassing you, being aggressive, and manipulating you.

Dominance turns into abuse when you’re threatened and isolated against your will. In BDSM relationships, some couples enjoy mind games and isolation, but it’s completely consensual. When something is not consensual, it’s abuse. As simple as that. If a kind of kink is not your cup of tea, your partner should respect that. It’s not right to be isolated from everyone and everything you love. It’s not right to use scare tactics to keep you where they want.

3. They Continue Holding On Even If They’ve Left You

When my ex told me he was leaving to be with somebody else, I was elated. I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He wasn’t going to be my problem anymore and I could have my life back. When someone ends the relationship, everyone goes their separate way. Right? Well, an abusive person doesn’t work like that.

They enjoy causing you pain and discomfort, they enjoy having control over your life even if they don’t like you. And trust me, if someone abuses you, they never liked you in the first place. When someone is that messed up, they will continue breaking into your life. They will stalk you, continue to isolate you, threaten you, and control you in any way they can. They think they own you and your life, and they won’t let go.

Dominance turns into abuse when they don’t allow you to move on. When you’re not allowed to have your own life and to move on if things don’t work out, that’s abuse. When you decide to move on from a relationship means you’re setting a boundary. If they cross it against your wishes, they’re violating that boundary and they’re disregarding you as a person.

Ask Yourself the Right Questions

If you’re currently in a dominant/submissive relationship and something doesn’t feel right about your experience, you must ask yourself some important questions.

1. Was there a negotiation? Did you write a contract? Whether you’re into BDSM or not, the fact is that we all fulfill roles in our relationships. Some of those roles are unspoken, but when it comes to kink, you need to write them down. It’s proof of what you’re agreeing to do and not do.

2. Are your needs being fulfilled? Whether or not they are, it’s not a metric for abuse. But it’s important to address the issue if your needs are not being met. After all, the point is that you both experience pleasure. So if his or her needs are being fulfilled but yours aren’t, that’s something you need to discuss openly and honestly.

3. Are you being controlled or isolated beyond your consent? Remember consent is one of the pillars of BDSM. If you’re being isolated or controlled beyond what you’ve agreed to do, then you’re being abuse. And that kind of abuse will escalate and take other forms.

4. Do you consent to everything in the relationship? Including its continuation? When I say consent, I mean consent. If you don’t agree to do something and they do it anyway, that’s not okay at all. If you’re not consenting to name-calling, it shouldn’t happen. If you’re not consenting to punishment, it shouldn’t happen. Nothing should ever happen without your consent. BDSM is as much about your pleasure as it is about theirs. It’s something you do together, not something they do to you despite your desires/needs or vice versa.

What If I Am Being Abused?

If you’ve identified many red flags and you believe you’re being abused, you probably are. Remember abuse isn’t just physical. Emotional and psychological abuse is much more difficult to spot, but it’s just as harmful, if not more, than physical abuse. If you’re not consenting to your BDSM relationship, then you’re in an abusive relationship and you need to leave.

There are many misconceptions about BDSM, which lead many people to believe that it’s not voluntary. So, when you or your partner bring forward the idea by force, you may not think that’s wrong. But it is. It’s abuse and it’s wrong. That’s not what BDSM is about. In fact, three core principles define BDSM: consent, safety, and sanity. The moment any of those core principles are violated, you need to call that person out. The line between BDSM and abuse need to be clear and never crossed.

If you don’t feel safe, if you’re not enjoying yourself, and if you’re doing things against your will, get out. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and ask for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available, and you can always contact your local YWCA, even if you’re not a cis woman. Know where the line between dominance and abuse is and stand up for yourself if that line is crossed. The sooner, the better!


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