Kink 101 For Purity Culture Survivors

Kink 101 For Purity Culture Survivors February 23, 2015
Image from Samantha Field - Defeating The Dragons
Image from Samantha Field – Defeating The Dragons

by Samantha Field cross posted from her blog Defeating The Dragons

[note: links may include NSFW material]

There are many amazing resources out there for people who think they might be kinky or into BDSM, and I’ll link to some at the bottom of this post. However, if you’re anything like me … a lot of what’s out there seems conflicting and confusing, and because I grew up on the rather strict end of purity culture I didn’t have the tools to start sorting any of it out. I didn’t know anything about sex, and many of us don’t. Someone I met in college thought that semen was green because of a joke they’d heard about grass stains, and I thought that “going through the back door” meant doggy.

And that’s just regular sex. If you think  you might be into kink, things are going to be exponentially harder, because while “safe, sane, consensual” seems like a spectacular phrase, purity culture survivors may not have a personal baseline for “safe” and “sane” and heaven knows we’re not given any sort of education about what consent actually is.

So, I’m going to do my best to give people like me the baseline they need to move on and explore BDSM/kink if they’d like to. I only really have my experience to draw upon, so please keep that in mind. I’m coming at this from the perspective of being a sub/bottom, but hopefully what I share here is applicable to both bottoms and tops.


The Most Very Important Number One Thing You Absolutely Need to Understand is consent. For all forms of sex, I strongly encourage everyone to rely on the idea of enthusiastic consent for a variety of reasons: first of all, the absence of a “no” does not make a “yes,” which is why I disagree with the “no means no” approach to educating people about consent. Second, making sure that your sex partner definitely wants to have sex with you instead of trying to manipulate them into bed means that you’re not a creep. Lastly, when everyone involved enthusiastically wants sex, it just makes it better all around, and I am very much in favor of people having the best sex possible.

However, if you’re going to explore BDSM with someone, you need more than enthusiastic consent– you need informed consent. If you don’t explicitly lay out everything that you’re interested in and what it all means and what all your expectations are, you’re inevitably going to run into something like this:

Person 1: (thinking about spanking) “Hey do you want to have kinky sex with me?”
Person 2: (thinks “kinky” means “oral”) “That sounds like fun. Sure!”

Me and Handsome have this lay-it-out-there conversation all of the time. He’s actually much more interested in the research side of things, so he’ll come to me with an idea, explain everything it would include, and I, especially since I’m almost always the bottom, get to say yay or nay.

A little bit ago,  we were talking about a bunch of different equipment we could experiment with, and possibly using a collar came up. Me, knowing myself and that I’ve been freaked out by high-collared shirts, turtle necks, and choker necklaces since I was a child, didn’t like the idea. Handsome also wasn’t enthused with the visual of me looking like I could be on a leash, so we decided that collars weren’t for us.

But, in that particular situation, I had to know beforehand that I wasn’t going to be ok with collars, and Handsome knows that he’s not interested in the dominationaspect that some play with. For other things I’m open to the idea, but I’m not sure how I’ll react to it while we’re in the midst of things, which leads me to …

Very Important Idea Number Two: boundaries and safewords.

Most boundaries should be set before you enter the “scene.” For example, Handsome and I are not, and will never be, ok with using a belt to spank me. However, let’s say for the moment that Handsome is actually really into spanking someone with a belt. If I say “no, I am not comfortable with that,” it should never even come up during a scene. Ever. For any reason. Period. End of story. This could be what us kinksters refer to as a “hard” or “soft limit,” or it could just be “meh, I’m not into that today.” Subs/bottoms aren’t the only one with limits, either, and all boundaries should be respected. If I said “I don’t want to be spanked with a belt,” or “I don’t want to be spanked with a belt today,” Handsome is not allowed to bring it up during the scene. It is not acceptable for anyone to try to manipulate, pressure, or coerce someone– and while that applies to pretty much any human interaction, it especially applies to kinky sex.

Other things can be negotiated during a scene. For example, I knew I was open to the idea of a riding crop, but I wasn’t entirely sure where he could use it, or where I would like it to be used. In this particular case, I consented to exploring it, and was open to it used almost anywhere. When we began using it, I relied on my safe words– which for us, since we don’t usually do any role play, is “ouch,” “no,” and “stop.” Some people use “yellow” and “red,” but there are a variety of things to use safe words for: such as “I like being hit that hard and this often, I just want you to use that thing somewhere else for a while.”

The most amazing thing about BDSM in my opinion is how communication works. It relies upon complete and total honesty at all times, and if you feel as though you cannot be explicitly honest with your partner, you are not with a good partner. If you feel that you’ll be ignored, you are not with a good partner.

This whole “set and respect boundaries” idea isn’t something that conservative Christians are real good about teaching and modeling. In fact, people who come from a purity culture background were probably taught the exact opposite. You have the right to have boundaries, and you have the right to have those boundaries respected. When people cross your boundaries, you absolutely have the right to tell them so and to enforce those boundaries. If you say “you crossed my boundary, don’t do that again,” you are not being mean. You are not being “unkind” or “uncharitable” or “ungracious” or whatever word was the one that got tossed around in your Sunday school room.

I also want to make it very clear that you don’t have to have a “good reason” to say “no” to something, whether it be equipment, an act, or a scenario. Feeling “eh, not really interested or turned on by that” for no particular reason is the only reason you need. I’ve found that women who were brought up in purity culture tend to believe that we have to justify and rationalize every decision we make, and I’ve found that’s actually really sort of ridiculous. “I don’t want to” is the only reason anyone needs. If that’s not a good enough reason for your partner … get a new partner.

And lastly, Very Important Idea Number Threeknow thyself.

This is probably going to be the hardest one for purity culture survivors to get used to, because it goes against everything we’ve been taught. The only thing most of us know about sex is “just say no,” until we get married and then we’re supposed to Instant Sex Monkeys/Porn Goddesses.

The reality that we struggle to understand every single day of our lives is that being a person means having to come to terms with our sexuality, and that sexuality is a part of our identity in a way that “SEX OUTSIDE OF CISHET MARRIAGE IS A SIN” doesn’t quite cover. There’s no room for gay people, or bi people, or asexual people in this narrative, firstly, and there’s barely any room for straight people, either.

But, if you want to explore kink, it’s important that you explore yourself first of all, and that doesn’t just mean masturbation. It also means embracing your fantasies, whatever they are and however weird you think they might be. Thanks to the teachings I got about “fantasizing about any person living, dead, or fictional is a sin,” I ended up resorting to … well. Google The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife when you get a chance and … yup. There’s a whole wide world out there full of people thinking up interesting things, and I think you should go out there and find them. Honestly, most of my sex education came from a website dedicated to Star Wars and Star Gate fan fiction– and through writing a ton of my own.

Fantasy, thankfully, is a safe way to figure out what you think you might like, and the sky is the limit.

There’s also an element of just being comfortable in your own skin. “I want to be tied up and spanked” is something that takes some confidence to say, and of knowing who you are and what you want. Purity culture is dedicated to the idea of abstinence, of denial, of building our lives and our ethics around refusing to do what we want. Because of that, it can be difficult for us to admit that we might want something. BDSM is the opposite of that– it’s built at least partly on knowing and doing exactly what you want exactly the way you want to do it. That can take some getting used to.


Anyway, this has gotten long, so I want to stop here. I wish it wasn’t so necessary to talk about such fundamentally basic things, but it is, and we all need the occasional reminder. Feel free to ask me anything you’d like in the comments, or send me an e-mail (my contact information is at the top).

Further reading:

“BDSM” category at Frisky Business
“Stay Safe” category at the Submissive Guide
Clarisse Thorn’s list of BDSM resources
A Submissive’s Initiative “BDSM Basics” archive

Honestly, though, the best stuff is in books. The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino is a good book to start with.

Samantha blogs at Defeating The Dragons and is a member of The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

Read Samantha’s detailed review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9  

Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13


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  • SAO

    A lot of this is good advice for straight sex. As for getting over hang-ups, there’s a great story by Dan Savage
    He is really good about talking about sex in a very non-CPM way. Not safe for work.

  • Nightshade

    Food for thought for anyone in the process of ditching the purity culture baggage, interested in kinky sex or not.

  • Rebecca Horne

    I’d add that if you’re going to a public dungeon, do your research. Ask people for recommendations about which dungeons in the area (if there’s more than one) to check out. If you’re not sure how to get a foot in the door, then go to one and spend a lot of time watching and chatting casually–ask people about other places in the area, which ones they’d recommend and why.

    There’s tension in the kink community between people who really highly value consent, and people who don’t. In a lot of places, that results in the people who don’t being kicked out of the community of people who do. In places where there’s a lot of options, and also a lot of troublesome people (Southern California was where I noticed it) the result is that there’s basically two communities–one consisting of the troubling people who were kicked out of the other. If there’s a schism in the local community–like, you find two sets of munches (non-sexual social events), and they’re hosted and attended by different people, message some of them and ask why they go to the one they do.

    Ask how the dungeon monitors handle things like consent/safety problems, and look around for signs clarifying what the safety rules of the dungeon are. They probably won’t be necessary, but posting tons of signs about “Here is what the dungeon-wide safeword is, and here’s our expectations for safety,” is a way that people signal that they value those things and keep it from being an issue in the first place.

    There are pockets of troublesome behavior in the scene, and there are pockets of some of the most amazingly respectful, consent-culture-minded people you will ever find, who will make you forget why you were ever afraid to open up to people. Get your foot in the right door.

  • ConcepcionImmaculadaPantalones

    The majority of dungeons open to the public that I’ve come across here in Southern California are pay-to-play, unless the individual is attending one of the many events that various groups hold in these facilities. I have found that the play-party events that are run by a couple of local Femdom groups are very good about holding attendees to a high standard of behavior which includes: consent is a necessity, respect for people and relationships, and safety in all activities – among other things, but these are the main areas and in my opinion the most important. Clearly my choice of dynamic is different from the one enjoyed by the OP, but neither is the be all end all or the required one to ‘properly’ involve kink in a relationship.

    I do still have the occasional ‘domly dom’ telling me that the problem is I just haven’t met the right man to dominate me yet – usually followed by them telling me why they’re that ‘right’ man and how much I need to submit to them and their most dom dominance. You know, to realize that I’m actually a submissive and to finally find happiness through all I’ve been missing. Usually they quit when I respond with “How do you know that your life hasn’t been lacking because you’ve never found the right woman to submit to? I bet that I can help change your mind, why don’t we arrange for you to be the recipient of some pegging play?”…

  • Nea

    My lived experiences do not remotely match your lived experiences. I also want a citation for “virtually 100%” anything.

  • Sandy

    Women, this is too weird for me. Straight sex is enjoyable enough for me. Question to Samahtha: was kink your idea or Handsome’s ?

  • I’m somewhat torn about how to respond to you. On the one hand, you have obviously been the recipient of some horrible experiences and for that you have my sympathy. On the other hand, I believe that you are wrong about the percentage of individuals who share those same horrific experiences, but I can understand why you would feel that way. If you’ve never experienced anything else, you would logically assume that what you’ve experienced is commonplace, even normal.
    This is why the isolation of abuse is so dangerous and I’m quite certain that you *have* been abused.
    However, I must ask, as gently as I can, for you to *not* attack another commenter like that. You see, this is a safe place for those of us who are emerging from abusive situations of all sorts and attacking someone directly like that is incredibly painful to those of us who have *been* attacked for simply having alternative opinions on a number of different subjects.
    As for the subject at hand, I happen to know someone who has experience within the subculture and they have told me quite plainly that it would horrify them to no end to find out that they had, even accidently, ignored someone’s boundaries.
    And even if my friend is an exception rather than the rule, people like that do exist and they would be highly insulted, even traumatized, by the implication that they don’t value consent and boundaries more than their own pleasure. In fact, from what my friend has told me, honoring the boundaries of their partner means that their partner’s pleasure is as valuable to them as their own. It’s a whole different relationship.

  • Nea

    I secretly suspect this commenter of being someone who is historically in this blog extremely anti-scene (and also prone to making comments about entire groups having the same experiences) flying under a different screen name to avoid being banned for the blatant comment policy violation of the second comment.

  • That might be a possibility, to be honest. I default to taking people at their word unless I have obvious reason to suspect otherwise, but I can see how a troll would find it advantageous to masquerade in that fashion.

  • Nea

    The person I’m thinking of is a regular commenter with a real problem with the scene. Easier to vent via fake name.

    I see one comment was deleted and the other one disappeared. Considering how long they came after my comment, I also not-very-secretly suspect that the author thought only I would see them.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    IP addy doesn’t trace out to another poster.

  • Nea

    Fair enough.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I was going to post this before the post was deleted:
    A rape victim’s allegations should always be taken seriously and investigated.

    However, there is a big gap between “Bob at XYZ fraternity spiked my drink at a party and raped me while I was too dazed to defend myself” and “Every woman who has ever dated a fraternity member was sexually assaulted by them in some way.”

    It sounds like you’ve had some really bad experiences with a Dom or group of Doms who was using ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ as a coursebook. Can anyone “in the scene” tell J. Raven’s Star who she should report this abusive Dom and/or group to, so that they can be blacklisted and a warning posted to all potential subs who might be tricked by them?

    It strikes me that a victim of the rare Dom who doesn’t respect boundaries would be in a rough situation. Legitimate members of the scene might discourage her (or him) from reporting the assault to law enforcement out of fear that the resulting witch hunt would would take out the innocent as well as the guilty. Even without this factor, the victim would still face massive kinkshaming from the police, on top of the usual harassments suffered by rape reporters.