Study Recommends Unusual Way To Deal With Past Trauma: BDSM

A scholarly paper published in a a peer-reviewed feminist academic journal decided to examine a most lurid subject: reliving a past trauma and trying to “reconfigure it” by reenacting it using bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

The abstract for the paper in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, which is published quarterly by the University of Chicago Press, stated:

As part of a much larger ethnographic study of lesbian/queer sex publics, this essay focuses on a particular erotic practice—sadomasochistic reenactments of lived trauma. Informed by queer-of-color critique, feminist performance studies, and psychoanalysis, this essay explores the necessary queer conditions enabling such returns, by which I mean the reenacting through BDSM of one’s own lived trauma in order to reconfigure it. This queerness, as an embodied erotics fed by durational—as opposed to impersonal and anonymous—ties, rides on the relational. That is, it is our fleshy entanglements and shared dependencies that enable these returns, returns that refuse and reconfigure lived trauma. The site of lesbian/queer sex publics thus offers critical reworkings, somatically generating as it does alternatively embodied futures.

The author of the paper candidly admitted taking part in BDSM events and conferences, noting:

While this essay is part of a much larger ethnographic project consisting of eighty-five interviews with queer-, lesbian-, and trans*-identified BDSMers coupled with my own participation at dozens of BDSM events and conferences, I focus on a particular subset of sadomasochists, who, as survivors of gender and sexual violence, reenact their trauma through BDSM. … The lesbian/queer communities informing this project are based in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, specifically Seattle, Los Angeles and Oakland. It is with these BDSM communities that I am most familiar, where I developed the deepest connections, and where I most immersed myself in their respective S/M events and play parties.

And an attack on our heteropatriarchal and racist society, as the author writes:

For, invariably and not surprisingly, within our heteropatriarcahl and racist society, to “Not return from this silence is rule rather than exception.” (Laub 1992b, 58). As both verbal and extraverbal articulations, these BDSM encounters expose — make public — “personal” trauma. In their very announcement, such public scenes of private trauma become momentary sites and scenes of resistance to dominant society (Hart 1998). Put differently, the BDSM encounter turns “trauma’s imperative for witnessing into an address” (Reis 2009, 1359). These retellings are testimonials (re)enacted through the body, as they attempt to assimilate, through performative scenes of lived trauma, the unassimable horrors of violence.

There did seem to be a different perspective on getting back to emotional health:

As one bottom, Michelle, (43, black, queer), a rape survivor, explained it, “This violence was a curse that I entrusted with my top through rape play. In repeating my rape on my own terms, I was able to get ahead of it so to speak. It haunted my and my day-to day. But I gave it away, replayed it with others, and it was by giving it away and replaying it, that helped me get grounded with my body, that made me get back to my body, which was hardened and kinda dead. I was numb. S/M was, and is, very healing.”

 
 
 

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