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On Being "Broken."
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Written by Amanda Gannon   
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 01:15
One of the things I hear occasionally from people who aren't well-versed in BDSM subculture – or people who are just jerks – is that those of us who enjoy hurting people or being hurt, dominating people or being dominated, serving or being served, must have something "wrong" with us.  That we are "broken."

These people look for excuses.  They can't see any reason for a perv to be a perv besides "damaged goods."  This person was spanked as a child, that one's a rape survivor, that person over there had an overbearing mother, this one was bullied, one was raised a fundie, another was in an abusive relationship.  All of that shit will fuck you up, it's true.

I'm not sure if this is just because people want explanations for behavior that is foreign to them, or because they are seeking ways to dismiss behavior that they find appalling, or because they want to reassure themselves that "that could never be me."  Surely some of it is relatively innocent ignorance which, while often annoying, is not intended to be malicious.  This sort of ignorance can generally be remedied with a little patience and gentle education.

But a lot of it is used to dismiss and belittle, sometimes even within the kink scene itself.  Even a kinky person can look at someone who has a kink they consider out-of-bounds and say "It's because you were toilet-trained at gunpoint, isn't it?"  Sometimes they even judge someone with their same kink: "I like being beaten because it makes me feel strong and sure of myself.  That person likes being beaten because their last boyfriend was abusive, and they're just acting out what they know."

It's rude to reduce someone to a set of formative circumstances like this, but it's also human nature.  If we didn't like trying to understand how and why things work, we wouldn't have airplanes and antiviral drugs, refrigeration and roller coasters  The assumption that every kink can be explained away by some previous experience or circumstance is annoying, but using that explanation – even if it is true – to dismiss or judge someone is downright poisonous.

Here's the thing.  When it comes to what people think of us, it doesn't matter why we are the way we are.  .  .

I'm not saying that the bad shit that has happened to us is not important as a part of personal identity; it is.  They are part of us, and whether you think it's made you stronger, or just wish it never happened at all, they are important.  But that's personal.  If you want to explore your own motivations, that's awesome, but it should only matter to other people as much as you want it to, or as much as they care about you and want to understand and support you.  It shouldn't be used to judge you.

It doesn't matter what "made" us this way.  Maybe I am the way I am because I'm compensating for the powerlessness and weakness I often feel in everyday life.  Maybe I would have been this way even if I didn't have that to deal with.  Why should this have anything to do with whether or not people think my kinkiness is "acceptable?"  Are there really such things as "legitimate" and "illegitimate" reasons for what forms of sexual expression we find meaningful?  If this is how I cope with what's fucked up in my life, then where's the harm in that?  I don't hurt people without their consent.  That's a lot more than a lot of non-kinky and theoretically not broken people can say.

I deserve respect.  We all do.  Our lifestyle choices deserve respect.  I'm not saying that everyone should address us as Master or Mistress or what-have-you, or that our kinks make us better than other people or mean we are more highly evolved or open-minded.

We deserve real respect as adults making our own decisions about our lives, and the validity of our identities should not be questioned or labeled as illegitimate or inferior because of someone else's assumptions about why we are that way.

That is the kind of respect I mean.  And we all deserve it.  "Broken" or not.

And I want to touch on another angle of the "damaged goods" thing while we're discussing it.

Dismissing someone as "damaged goods" is shitty because it shows an incredible lack of understanding. Like past abuse or current mental illness is a huge defect, one great enough to merit dismissing the person and their intricate individual needs.  Like it makes a person dirty, and all their activities and desires are then suspect because they might spring from that "dirty" part of them.

Now, if you don't want to date or fuck or even associate with someone who has serious issues, that's fine.  A little dickly, since a lot of us are fairly capable of keeping our shit out of your chocolate, but fine.  We do come with a certain amount of drama, and I understand not having the emotional resources to deal with that, I truly do.  If you aren't attracted to people who have issues, fine.  I'm not going to argue.  I'm not even going to have that discussion with you, the one where I insinuate that your Issues with people with Issues might stem from some unresolved Issues of your own.  I'll let it go.  I know I am not attracted to certain kinds of people, and I am even willing to admit that some of that is because of ugly prejudices I am working on but may never fully overcome.

But there's a civilized way to go about not involving yourself with "damaged goods," and there's a jerkface way, and deploying the phrase "damaged goods" shortly before jettisoning the individual as a social contact is a pretty reliable indicator that you're acting like a jerkface.

You don't get to discredit people as people based on bad shit that happened to them in their past or shit that is not quite right with them in the present that they couldn't or can't control.

That shit doesn't make "damaged" people less human, or worthy of less respect.  Period.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 02:02
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