The Complex Interplay between BDSM and Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Form of Repetition and Dissociation or a Path Toward Processing and Healing?

Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Natacha Godbout, Cloé Canivet, Tal Peleg-Sagy, David Lafortune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this theoretical paper the authors explore the connections between BDSM (i.e., practices involving bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism) and CSA (childhood sexual abuse) in order to investigate the potential unconscious mechanisms at play and the therapeutic functions of BDSM practices among CSA victims. Drawing on the embodiment framework, the authors address how BDSM may serve as a form of unconscious repetition of traumatic experiences for certain CSA victims, with the aim of processing trauma and healing. A review of the empirical evidence regarding the links between BDSM and CSA trauma, along with the potential of BDSM to trigger trauma and elicit dissociation, guilt, or shame, is conducted. Finally, BDSM practices are reviewed through the concept of trauma-play, which involves deliberate rescripting. In short, the complex relationship between BDSM and CSA is highlighted, as well as its implications for understanding and potentially addressing trauma experiences in therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sex and Marital Therapy
Early online date28 Mar 2024
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 28 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology

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