I didn’t grow up thinking I was abused. Although I would guess that all of my siblings and I would say that we all had largely happy childhoods, the truth is that we did not. Abuse comes in many forms, and though the degrees of intensity also vary, abuse is evil by any form. It is only recently that I have recognised that some of the things which happened in our family, things that were considered “normal” would be regarded as abusive or potentially abusive today.
I recently wrote about how Mistress took a hairbrush to my backside and gave me a thorough hiding. We were standing together, and she asked me to hand her a bag. She had me put it down and asked me to reach inside and take out what was there. “It’s a hairbrush,” I said. “I know,” she said, “I’m going to spank you with it,” she said. “My mother used to spank me with a hairbrush,” I said, already rubbing my bottom at the memory. “I know,” she said, “you told me.”
And I thought back to a conversation Mistress and I had after the first time we had played together, when she flogged me. And I had questioned the narrative of female submission to a male Dom. She opened my eyes with her explanation, which more or less followed these lines. That submission for a woman in those instances may be about reclaiming her trauma and making it her own. By experiencing submission in a controlled environment, it can be very empowering, and a way to let go or find personal mastery over traumatic events. This spanking, the one with a hairbrush, was going to be therapeutic. [I wrote about it here]. In the end, it was, and has been.
I may be in a minority, but I don’t think that all spankings are bad for a child. I know that this is wrong, but it is less wrong than other forms of discipline. First, verbal dressing down is the most damaging, as it strikes at a child’s confidence. And that is to break the most sacred bond of parenting. Second, I believe that there are different types of spanking. Ritualised spanking, “go get the paddle” or “come over my knee”, are ways to create lasting harm to a child. A quick tap on the bottom at the moment of infraction, however, does not feel as wrong. But in truth, spanking most probably does not have a place in enlightened parenting. But so many parents become overwhelmed, and taking the time to explain, to ensure the child understands, sometimes is very hard to find the time or energy for. In that sense, I guess a spanking is lazy parenting. And it also gets very close to the edge of what might be termed abuse. Tread carefully.
Mistress has given me things to read, because she knows how thirsty I am to learn. One of those books, and one which will be reviewed soon enough, delved into psychological trauma. And as I neared the end of the book, and as I continue to play and explore, some memories of things long buried came to the surface.
Like many children, I was often sent to my room as punishment for various infractions. The thing is, I loved being in my room. All my toys were there. I loved being lost in a world of fantasy which was furnished by my own mind and didn’t require anyone else. I could play happily in this way for hours. Somewhere along the line my mother realised that she was not punishing me by sending me to my room. Message to parents: the need is not to punish. The need is to teach the child that the behaviour was unacceptable by marking it as such. Sending a child to their room, when applied consistently, at least sends this message (though I will note for other reasons that this too, is not a good way of teaching your child).
But my mother’s thirst for vengeance at my misbehaviour was such that she really wanted to punish me. Whatever it is that I might have done is long forgotten and was probably consistent with what any child does. What is not forgotten is being locked in the closet. I was afraid of the dark. Locking me in the closet was a real way to punish me. And she did it. And when she discovered how silenced I was by it, how still after, she did it again, and again. She mistook my silence for contrition. What instead she was getting was a child with a crushed spirit.
I can remember the dark, how heavy it was, and how still the air was—how it was thick and soupy and just wouldn’t move. I was sitting on a floor of hard shoes, feeling them dig into me, being crumpled up like a rag doll on the closet floor, cramped, stuffed under all the hanging clothes, whimpering and crying in the dark, knowing the door was actually locked, begging to be set free. “Please mommy, please.” I never knew how long it was that I was in there, but long enough to stop crying. Long enough to be silent for a long while. Long enough to see shapes and figures of fear, purple or deep red against the pitch dark of the closet. At some point I would start to sing softly to myself, finding it soothing and comforting, and finding it would make the monsters disappear. And then eventually she would open the door and always the first thing I would think of was how fresh and cool the air felt, and how still and heavy the air in the closet was.
I wouldn’t come out right away. I’d lie there in the half light, drinking the air. I’d wait until she had gone, and I couldn’t hear her anymore. And then I would crawl out. I remember how I felt after. I felt crumpled. Fragile. Not really wanting to be around anyone. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t acutely sad, but I was sad, deep sad, existential sad, wishing I was gone sad.
There are many forms of abuse. Even when a parent thinks some form of discipline is for the child’s own good. I don’t think that my mother intended to abuse me, or that she would have ever thought that this kind of treatment was abusive. Message to parents: this is not an effective parenting technique!
It is perhaps uncanny, but my worst childhood nightmare was a kind of replay of this scenario. I was terrified of the dark. I would sometimes wake up at night, filled with fear, and call out to my mother. At times, I was so paralysed by fear that my voice couldn’t make a sound, and I shook with crippling fear in my bed at night, hoping, praying, that she would come and rescue me. I remember that she came once or twice when I was 4 or 5, which was about when these nightmares began, but after, she decided that I needed to grow out of them myself…she told me so over breakfast one morning, and I remember thinking then, “how cruel you are!” and also how I would never not heed the cry of a child? Honestly, you forfeit the right to have a child when you become deaf to their needs. And can you imagine to be so cruel as to be deaf to their needs when those needs are fears and terrors created by you?! My night fears persisted until I was about 12, and my cries went unanswered, and then I learned to keep them to myself. To need someone so badly and never have them. Oh.
Thank goodness I wasn’t a bedwetter. I wonder what cruelty might have accompanied that. One night, however, I must have been sick, as I shat myself. And I mean, really shat myself. I can just remember waking up covered in it. [FYI this is not a fetish, not then, not now]. And I went to the shower to wash it off. And somehow, and for some reason, she came that night. And in total silence, with the shower running, and me under it, she undressed me, she washed me, and she didn’t judge me. She stripped my bed and made it fresh while I stayed under the warm water. All of this without a word. Not then, not the next day, not ever. In that moment I had a mother. A real mother, one that was really there, loving, accepting. It is one of the few memories I have that is pure.
I certainly don’t ask for pity. What I do ask for is that if you are a parent, you break the cycle of abuse, whatever it takes. I also ask that anyone who has been abused, that they seek help in whatever form it is required, starting with the self. And no matter how difficult, that you take the steps to heal yourself. You can’t break the cycle if you don’t make those difficult steps.
I’ve done much of the heavy lifting in this regard through my life: whether therapy, introspection, application of tough self-love. I know that some people might conclude that this evidence of abuse is what drew me to BDSM. I disagree. My kinks may have been forged in my upbringing, but I believe that I was born submissive, that I was born to serve. I believe that submission comes from a genetic predisposition. I also believe that my ability to survive abuse is born from a deep strength, a suppleness in spirit, and it is to that which I turned, when I turned inside and taught myself how to cope. When I wrote about being a believer, it is not belief in a strictly religious sense that I fall back on. Submission is a source of bliss. Feeling that bliss is feeling connected, safe, and protected, feeling that no matter what life and the universe throws at me, that everything will work out, that I will come through the other side with friends, family, and love waiting for me. That’s the same feeling that helped me learn to ride a horse with feeling [read about it here]; is the same feeling that gives me certainty of faith [read about it here]; and is the same feeling that gives me comfort when I think of the word slave [read about it here].
It is all joined together. Submission is this common thread. Sub-space is the purified BDSM version of it. It is a purity of feeling, when all the noise is stripped away. But unlike the calm that followed abuse like my sojourn in the closet, sub space is only positive. It is empowering, liberating, life giving. When I contemplate Mistress, I often describe her as a spirit guide. But she is also a keyholder. Not in the sense of chastity, [though that may be a game for us someday], but in a spiritual sense. She holds the keys to sub-space. She knows how to take me there, she knows how to bring me back, and she knows when I deserve to go there, when I am ready and when I am not, what she expects me to achieve from it, and when my heart is not pure enough. That is her beauty. That is part of what feeds my trust in her, and also respect for her.
As she helps me walk this path, is it any wonder that I am grateful to Her? Is it any wonder that I find comfort in Her collar on me, whether spiritual or physical? Is it any wonder that I have bonded to Her and seek only one Domina? Is it any wonder that I wish to belong to Her, and to feel permanence in that? Is it any wonder that I regard a collar, a piercing, a tattoo, any permanent mark from her in much the same way a baby responds to a pacifier—it is soothing, instantly calming, it shows me the door is open. It also shows me that to go through it takes work, positive investment.
Why do I feel most uplifted when I find myself spiritually curled up at Mistress’s feet? Because it is safe to be there. It’s warm. And you know what? It is more than worth it to strive to earn a place at her feet. And yes, strive. That is the right word. Earn. That too. Work. That too. Why? Because the healing arts deserve gratitude, because this kind of healing requires great strength and suppleness, but perhaps most of all, Mistress, through her domination, gives me something that nobody else can give—she takes away the abuse. With every stroke of the hairbrush. But also with her words, her touch, her affirmation. But also when she calls BS and makes me think, makes me approach her with purity of intent, purity of heart, she is taking away the abuse. Though this may be enlisted in my presence with her, in my service to her and for her, in truth, it is to myself. Learning to submit to her is to remake myself as a person without pain, without trauma, with only goodness of heart.
Who wouldn’t want that? For themselves. But also, for my wife, my children, my friends, my colleagues. Who wouldn’t want someone who can listen, who can bend, and who can be giving from places deep within? Everyone wants that. I believe that Mistress is helping me grow into being a better person, and that learning how to serve her, to truly serve her, is to learn to sublimate the self, one’s own desires, and that doing so is a very important learning experience, and the gateway to the right kind of character.
Sometimes I ask myself why people talk to me, confess their lives to me, confide in me. This is why. Because they know I don’t judge, that it is safe: when you hear people, listen to them, they love you for it. Mistress hears me too, she sees me as me in ways that nobody else ever has, and that is important, but even more important is that she teaches me to listen too, and in this sense, I should very much like to be more like her. That is a gift.