Daddy issues: navigating healthy kink expressions as a sexual abuse survivor

TRIGGER WARNING: This article talks about sexuality, expressions of kink, and how a history of sexual abuse impacts your sexual awareness and expression. Please protect yourself. 

“Who touched you?”

“You were abused, weren’t you?”

“You know, I think you’ve just internalized the abuse.”

It never ceases to amaze me what questions folks feel comfortable asking when their inner social worker is on the war path. Before you send me a rash of emails explaining why social workers rule, please know that I don’t think social workers are bad folks. Unfortunately, when you get a few righteous, white women chattering about sexual expression, you’ll find that they are all about your rights until you mention the daddy thing. Then all bets are off.

I know. I used to be one of those well-meaning, white, social worker types. I’m still white and well meaning, cis gender and a social worker in my alternate reality. But, I have long since had a paradigm shift of epic proportion when it comes to kink, sex, sex work, and all that jazz.

Now, here’s a dialectic that is going to blow your mind:

You can be a rape/sexual assault/incest survivor,

AND

have a perfectly healthy, non-abuse related, daddy kink.

It’s possible. I should know. I have a wicked daddy kink that never fails to make me tingly. I am also an incest survivor. Now, I went to grad school, I know that anecdotal information is not proof. I did a Google Scholar search for empirical research and found zero scholarly articles on “daddy kink and sexual abuse.” Surprise, surprise. If you know of research, please email me.

So, here’s what I know from my personal experience: I did not disclose the abuse that occurred within my family of origin until I was 34 years old. It took almost a decade of therapy to find peace with my history and develop healthy coping mechanisms to confront the PTSD, depression, and anxiety that resulted from the abuse I experienced.

You can probably guess that sexuality and sexual expression were challenging waters for me to navigate. Before treatment I was shy during sex and found it emotionally painful to talk about what I wanted and how I wanted it. Most of the time sex was okay, but even if it didn’t feel good or I didn’t orgasm, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to talk about pleasure.

The first five years of my recovery the sex I had was vanilla, but gloriously so. I was learning to love my body and trust the person I was sharing it with (I ended up married to that fella, by the way).  I was finally in an equitable and healthy sexual relationship. Time passed and my husband and I started exploring kink together. My tastes changed because I had changed. I found the dynamics of spanking and power exchange exciting, but that excitement had nothing to do with my past and everything to do with my present.

Here’s the thing: sexuality and sexual expression are yours. Your needs and desires change over time, just like you do. It’s not surprising that the things that turned you on at eighteen are different than the things that turn you on a forty. If one day you wake up and find that you get off calling someone “daddy,” while you’re draped over their lap with your panties around your ankles, then go for it, providing the experience is safe, sane, and consensual. That means that everyone involved knows what role they are playing and why.

Be ready for folks to challenge you if you’re a kinkster and you like to talk about it. People love to throw their opinions around, myself included, and somehow feel obliged to tell you why you’re wrong about what feels right to you. I’m a huge proponent of talking about this stuff, because we need to demystify sexual expression and challenge what the dominant, white, male, Christian culture tells us is healthy.

Next time someone asks if your daddy kink, your D/s relationship, or the plushy puppy costume  hanging in your closet is a result of past trauma, turn the question around. Ask them how their experiences inform their sexuality and sexual expression. Ask how they negotiate safety and consent when they want to get down and dirty with someone. I promise you, you’ll either begin a purposeful dialogue or send them running for the hills. Either way, you’ll have stood up for yourself and spoken your truth, and in the end, that’s what matters.

Be true. Be wonderful. Be you.

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