Childhood trauma

A common theory amongst old school psychologists is that most people in BDSM/F have experienced some sort of childhood trauma. According to sexologist and BDSM activist Gloria Brame there is no scientific proof for this theory.

In my work as a photographer I have photographed hundreds of people in the BDSM scene. I work in a studio and I take my time. Four hours is an absolute minimum for a photo shoot. I do not need all that time for photography, I need it to get to know the people I photograph, since I look at my pictures as portraits.

So, what happens when people come into my studio? They often start to talk quite openly, because there is no real connection. They can say whatever they want, because there is no social barrier. They often live miles away from my studio and there are little or no common friends or connections, so I get to hear things they probably would hesitate to say within their own social embedding.

Of course I have heard a lot of stories about sexual abuse, but I hear them from many people in different scenes who come for photo shoots with a sexual context. Sex is the obvious subject to discuss. This goes for swingers, transsexuals, transvestites, etc.

I hear a lot of stories about sexual abuse from gay men raised in Catholic areas of Europe. Sexual abuse by the clergy. Would it be fair to state that these men ‘had become’ homosexual because of sexual abuse? I think not.

What I do see is that traumas can sexualize. I look at it as a self healing process of the human brain to prevent further mental damage.

A grown-up rubber fetishist once told me a story about how he was driven by his mother to the beach with his sister. He lived under the impression that his mother loved his sister more than she loved him. He thought he saw evidence of that when they started packing for the beach. His sister got a nice swimming suit and a rubber swimming cap. He had to wear colorful underpants that weren’t actually meant for swimming.

Whenever his sister was not around he would play with the rubber swimming cap. As he grew older he noticed that the feel of rubber would give him sexual arousal. He was aware this was different from what other adolescents experienced and he even considered therapy. As he told it to me: ‘I was ready to be cured from the cause of being different, but I was too attached to the symptoms!’ And he laughed.

He was a successful man who lived a happy life with his wife and two children. I have to add that his partner completely accepted his fetish. Acceptation is crucial.

Fact and Fiction

At age sixteen I was first confronted with the works of D.A.F. de Sade, better known as Marquis de Sade. I guess my early interest in Sade’s works was a form of protest against the kind of literature my teachers wanted me to read such as the works of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Françoise Sagan.

Apart from studying my native language Dutch I was also taught English, French, German, Latin and Old Greek. Even at that age I specifically disliked Dutch literature.

Unlike Anglo-Saxon literature where the main character in a novel is often a self-reflecting antihero, Dutch writers like to claim center stage in their works as superior beings, know-it-alls, teachers or vicars if you please. But most of all their Calvinism shines through in everything they write and I do detest Calvinism with its depressing morality.

So reading Sade definitely was a kick in the groin of my teachers who had high expectations of me since I seemed to do well in both language and mathematics.

The school I studied at was participating in an experiment. Students who were good at math and literature were offered a chance to follow philosophy classes. Interested as I was in philosophy, I signed up.

That was one of the best decisions I ever made. My philosophy teacher, born and raised a Calvinist was also an existentialist, a pedophile and an absolute moralist when it came to the ideas and writings of D.A.F. de Sade.

So, the anti-authoritarian in me had a ball challenging his views on life and society.

To top it all off my new philosophy teacher seemed to be convinced that all of Sade’s writings were based on facts instead of fiction. I disagreed with him then and I disagree with him now.