When you start acting abused…
This has been a thing for a long time, really. I’ve had a lot of conversations kind of loop near this topic recently.
I have almost always been a suspected victim of abuse. As a kid, I was neurotic, skittish, a little too eager to please, sometimes underweight, sometimes wore ill fitting clothes, sometimes poorly groomed, and seemingly always suspiciously injured, sick, or absent. Now, my parents were/are wonderful people. I just happened to a) have undiagnosed autism/sensory/motor issues and anxiety, b) grow very fast very early, and c) have undiagnosed chronic physical health issues. This admittedly added up to, well, a certain picture.
Now, I outgrew or fixed some of those things, but not others.
When I entered the BDSM scene, I was an apparently suspiciously heavy masochist. Never mind that I was looking for what some might call the extreme end of slavery; I didn’t even have all the words for that yet, and it wasn’t what I was first known for. Some people were surprised when I went the high protocol, service slave route, even though I thought I was holding up a neon seeking sign for that when I showed up as best I knew how. No, I was a masochism meme. That was what people focused on about me, perhaps fairly, because it was in plain sight. Pick up play at parties. All that. Literal memes were made. A lot of it was good natured and I laughed with it, encouraged it.
Now, I bury it a little at times, because it seems to easily overshadow my other passions, something I have mixed feelings about, because I do love talking masochism—logistics and philosophy—too. Still, I’d much rather have a passionate discussion in the comments section of one my writings—talk ideas, whether service or masochism or protocol—than get awed comments on pictures of marks (which I currently keep to friends only).
But other rumors started to spread, to the effect that I had probably been a victim of physical abuse and that was why I could and perhaps why I wanted to take so much. Let me say it again: my parents were/are lovely people and neither of them ever raised a hand against me. Disclosure, I had a tumultuous relationship with my dad at times, including a few years out of contact, but physical abuse was never, ever an issue, and we were on perfectly good terms when he passed. (Okay, I love my parents, but I’ve yakked about them enough.) I do have some theories on why I am an apparently unique masochist, but nothing specific and solid, and a post for another day.
But, moving forward: then it was Mistress’ turn to be the other variable in the people think Hannah is abused equation. The deep end of M/s—no safewords, no limits, no way out. The controlling high protocol. The housewife, service slave dynamic—little outside life. She picks my uniform, controls the finances, forbids me from having a job, tracks my location, has access to and limits my social media, and all kinds of things that sound bad out of the context of trust, love, respect, and consent.
And there’s the hardcore physical sadism, and the way in which we enact it: which, yes, purposefully mimics random incidents of violence, physical domestic abuse, frequently not looking like consensual kink, sex, play. I might like it at the time, or I might hate it with every fiber of my being at that moment and long for relief. There’s a place for both, but especially the latter.
It’s also kind of a lot to talk about when people ask me, So, what’re you into? at, say, a TNG munch. The service and protocol dynamic stuff I’m super passionate about might be a little boring to some people compared to talking about typical scenes, but I’m not too worried about them trying to leap in to “save” me, or triggering anyone with it, or dealing with surprise or accusations. There’s also frequently less explaining and justifying, worrying that they will copy my style without thinking it through for themselves and ending up hurt. Because it does require trust, communication, and self work that not everyone is up to, and that’s okay. It is always refreshing when it is met well, though, and it does happen.
Now, many adults active in the BDSM scene are used to certain things, and understand others, like chronic conditions. Some bruises and being a little quirky won’t scare them. I’m not too noteworthy out in the vanilla world at this point, either.
But one thing still comes up as a red flag: the flinching. From an out of place twitch to what I call the full Hallmark movie recoil, I am, relatively clearly, constantly expecting to be hurt. Almost every time Mistress reaches for me, I flinch. I edge myself away from dead ends and corners, watching how she’s subtly moving me there. I keep a distance, or get closer—what she fondly calls the snuggle defense, which is strangely effective on her—to make being struck in certain ways harder. I set things down out of the way, especially valuables or fragile items, when I remotely see pain coming, and keep my hands somewhere they can be quick to defend my face from being slapped or throat from being choked or collar from being grabbed or hair from being yanked or leggings from having a hand shoved down them, or wherever the target is. If her hands are out of my sight, I assume she has some impact implement or maybe a knife. I even verbally try to wiggle my way out of the degradation and humiliation, just like instinctively tugging at a rope tie to make sure it really holds. I can usually tell pain is coming from a mile away—it’s a sometimes pleasant, sometimes not, surprise not to expect it—but since I’m not truly going to defend myself, knowing mostly just builds anticipation.
If any of those behaviors sound familiar: yes, I act like a victim of physical abuse. And it’s interesting this time, because my behaviors really are a reaction to being hit or choked or kicked or pinned or shoved or scratched or dragged or bit or hurt or fucked against my (momentary) will. I can’t deny that. And irrevocable consent is messy at times. Did I consent? Yes. Once. Years ago. Did I want to be beaten with no warning or warmup today until I screamed? Casually dragged across the floor by the hair yesterday? How about the sex when I was so sick I cried last week? In the moment? Probably not. That’s where the defense reactions come from. But I really want those things to keep happening overall, and I want to not want it in the moment, to gain that sense of ultimate submission from it, because in the end I submit anyway. I frequently don’t cry or scream, I almost never beg for mercy, I never actually fight her, just flinch and squirm, and frequently the only words out of my mouth in all of it are, “Yes, Mistress; thank you, Mistress.” It’s complicated.
But those incidents largely happen behind closed doors—obviously, I give insight into them in my public writings—but that is still not as visceral. But I can see a few people mentally flinch when they watch me physically flinch, watch that reflex kick in, because it is helpless and fearful, yet clearly expecting.
Frequently, Mistress makes fun of me for this. “You act like I randomly hit you or something,” she’ll say when I flinch because she reached for an object near me, then slap me.
Because the expectation isn’t wrong. She probably is going to hit me, and I’m not going to like it. And so I flinch. And others flinch to watch my constant expectation of pain.
We both continuously look inside ourselves. Can I do this? Should I do this? How do I do it properly? What do I need? What do I want? Why? We continuously communicate with each other. How do those needs get met? How does this get dynamic get run to represent the underlying why and reality both? We communicate on how to communicate with each other. We check in. I am learning to be more resilient, to provide my own aftercare, to take care of myself, when needed. When pain comes hard and fast with no warning, no negotiation, no warmup, no mercy, no cooldown, no aftercare, I learn to quickly get up, dust myself off, and go back to writing or whatever it was I was doing. I have to trust that future me can take what current me is asking for. She has to trust me to not permanently go to pieces. I have to trust her to not give me what I truly can’t take and to give me what I truly need, while still acknowledging that I agreed to anything and everything and I will honor that vow regardless.
And that’s what makes the difference, in my opinion, between helplessly acting abused and truly being abused.