Good morning, readers! Today I am re-blogging this excellent interview with psychologist Dr. Charley Ferrer, who answered some questions regarding the psychological aspects of BDSM. I have permission from the author Normandie Alleman to re-blog both posts one and two here. The reason I asked Normandie if I could re-post this interview is because I thought the answers to these questions regarding BDSM easily apply to what we discuss here -- loving Domestic Discipline and consensual Dominance and Submission. Please note: Dr. Charley's opinions aren't necessarily my own, and I have no affiliation with her practice. I do think what she's said here is worth reading, though.
Thank you, Normandie, for doing this interview and for allowing me to share it here.
Normandie: This week I was lucky enough to be able to interview Dr. Charley Ferrer, a psychologist with a special interest and extensive experience in BDSM. She’s written books on the topic and even organizes a conference for authors of BDSM. Being a psychologist myself I was thrilled to have the chance to pick her brain and ask her opinions on some of the psychological aspects of BDSM.
Hi Normandie. Thank you for having me on your blog. It’s always a pleasure to speak with authors and their fans about the work I conduct to help provide education on sexuality and dominance and submission in particular.
Normandie: How did you develop an interest in the psychology of BDSM?
Dr. Charley: I didn’t initially go out seeking knowledge on BDSM. To me, these were desires I needed to keep secret so I wouldn’t be seen as the weird one or “troubled child” as I had been deemed as a teen when these desires first came to light to my family.
While working on my Masters in Counseling Psychology, one of the couples I was treating desired to experience spankings. I gave my permission. My classmates and professor—well, to say they disapproved would be putting it mildly. They felt I should be treating his pathology and referring her to a battered woman’s shelter, when all he wanted to do was spank her a little. At that moment, it became a “mission” for me to learn all I could about dominance and submission not only to help others, but to discover it for myself and make sense of all the feelings I’ve had since I was a child and others were experiencing.
Normandie: Considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where physiological needs like food, water, and shelter would account for our most basic needs, and love and belonging is in the middle, with self-actualization at the top, how would you adapt that to create a hierarchy of needs as they relate to BDSM?
Dr. Charley: I’m going to touch upon the most important aspects because this questions itself can be a 10-page response.
In BDSM the hierarchy of need is:
Trust: without it, there can be no true connection between a Master/Mistress and their submissive/slave. Though most see it as the submissive being the one that needs to trust the Dominant, I believe it’s even more imperative for the Dominant to be able to trust the submissive.
Acceptance: that who you are, whether Dominant or submissive, will be honored and respected; where your need to surrender or control is meet in various ways
Shelter: where your truths will be kept secret from prying eyes and you will not be unmasked to the world, your family, or friends–where your D/s needs are not acceptable
Love: where you’ll receive the aftercare you need
Sex/orgasm & subspace: are at the bottom of the list as only in romance novels is that the driving force of a relationship.
At the very top of all the hierarchy, what’s most important–as it is for every person in the lifestyle or not–is self-actualization. It is realizing that your soul requires more and you reach for it. Like gays and lesbians, many men and women who have D/s desires are in the closet—the leather closet; fearful of the prejudices and retribution which they’ll experience if others learned of their healthy normal desires and needs for a more primal passionate connection. It is this self-actualization which will help them grow, heal and come to terms with who they are.
You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide, “I’m kinky!” Yes, there are those that read a book, watch a movie, and want to “play” at kink and have fun. For others, it’s in their blood, in their psyche, it’s the core of who they are whether or not they allow themselves to embrace it.
Many individuals enter the D/s lifestyle thinking they will give up control to another and not worry about responsibilities and their lives will be “perfect”. (Although their version of what it means to truly surrender is false as it’s limited to ONLY those things they wish and the level they wish.) Others enter demanding surrender and wanting to exert control to appease their restlessness and lack of balance in other areas of their lives. These are not self-actualized individuals! However, the good and healthy aspect of this is that they are searching for their connection and exploring as they find their way.
As you make D/s connections with others—and more importantly yourself—you will find the core of who you are and at that point, all your hierarchical needs will fall into place and be there for YOU to accept, deny, embrace and give yourself over to, and come to terms with, in order for you to fully comprehend the depth of your soul and who you truly are as compared to who you want to be and what you wish to share with others. At that point, you’ve found nirvana—inner peace—and your true core self.
Note: the hierarchy structure may vary based on whether the person is a Dominant or submissive.
Normandie: How does someone know when their sexual desires/interests are “normal” and when they need to ask for psychological help? Or is there ever a time when a person needs to seek help because they have “unusual” sexual appetites?
Dr. Charley: Let me preface this with the fact that any actions that are non-consensual, forced or coerced are not healthy, are pathological, and even criminal. This is when you should seek treatment! Others, should seek guidance when their consensual desires or their thoughts negatively affect their ability to work or care on a relationship.
We are sensual sexual human beings no matter how much we try to deny it or control it through our religion, government, or societal dictates. In fact, it is this very control that pathologizes sexuality and creates mental health issues such as depression, self-hatred, criminal acts, and more.
Freud spoke about the Thanatos side of human nature, that primal beast within us “that we try so hard to bury in our subconscious and never let it see the light off day. It is this very burial—this denial—of who we are and our desires which causes pathology; that has us ostracizing others or committing hate crimes because someone expresses their love in a way our society, religion or government has taught us is not acceptable or “normal.” Dominance and submission is not a new desire nor a new phase in our global sexual history; it has been with us since the beginning of time. It’s why Vampire stories are so popular, and why the forbidden is so appealing.
It should also be noted that “normal” implies judgment. “Norm” means common or average”. And thus no BDSM is not the “norm”, however I would say, it’s practiced by everyone at some point in their life to varying degrees. But that’s another topic. Let’s move on to address your question on what is “normal” sexual desire.
Normandie: Some people report being overly interested in some aspect of BDSM (Bondage or spanking for example) from an early age. What do we know about the role or nature vs. nurture when it comes to how we identify certain sexual preferences? Is it like sexual orientation in that we are hard-wired for it, or is it something that we learn?
Dr. Charley: I do not believe people are “overly” interested in a specific aspect of BDSM from an early age, I believe they’re merely connecting with their sensual and sexual desires as well as their core dynamic of being dominant or submissive though they do not have the “sensual” awareness nor emotional/psychological awareness of what it all means.
Let me give you an example: we start our life in bondage—“swaddling clothes” are placed on a baby when they’re born giving the infant the same feeling of protection and safety he or she experienced in the womb—a tight bound feeling. We receive spankings as a form of punishment as a child, and make a connection with a “loving” parent figure who’s merely looking out for our growth and well-being.
Nature or nurture can be seen in all aspects of our psyche as it can be in BDSM. As a sexologist I see it from one perspective, as a psychotherapist I can see it from another, as a woman, mother, lover, etc each has their own—both positive and negative. For instance, some psychologist and sociologist will say, “that person is a masochist because they were beaten as a child”. The same can be said of a sadist. However, if they addressed it from a sexological perspective they’d ask a more significant question, “Does the individual like pain because of the endorphins flowing through their body, the connect of acceptance and affection they feel from the person administering the stimulus, or are they doing it to feel stronger and more in control, feel they’ve accomplished a feat other’s couldn’t (like with athletes and the “no-pain no-gain” mentality).”
And what is commonly stated after a child receives a spanking or a harsh verbal reprimand?
“I’m doing this for your own good.”
“I’m doing this because I want you to be better and expect more from you.”
“I’m doing this because I love you.”
And in those declarations, the individual sometimes finds comfort, acceptance, encouragement and the will to do better—be more.
Thus, here is your “nurture” without labeling it positive or negative as in actuality, it is a little of both. And before you jump on the bandwagon of those who believe the only reason someone is into D/s is because they’ve experienced abuse or trauma in their past, consider the men and women whom have never experienced a spanking in their life and who’s partners didn’t use harsh words to hurt or crush their ego. Those individuals who desire the belt; who want the confinement of control; for these it would be nature that drives them.
Regardless of how they came by their desires, our desires are all normal aspects of ourselves and our true human nature. It is healthy when we share it consensually with others. It is unhealthy and pathological when we force or coerce others to accept our demands for dominance or submission.
Where I think people need help from a therapist—a kink friendly and KNOWLEDGEABLE therapist, is when their core desires battle with their religious or cultural needs and they need a little help in finding a healthy balance between the two. I provide counseling and Mentorships for individuals who seek to come to terms with their true nature; because without doing so, their life will feel out of control and they will experience negative issues in their, including mental illness.as they struggle with their core beliefs and what others demand of them. This dichotomy and internal struggle is what creates pathology, depression, self-destructive behavior, hatred and intolerance of self and others.
I want to make a point about therapists and psychologists. There are many that claim they are “kink friendly”, however, they may later try to help you “overcome” your BDSM desires to “make you better and help you overcome the problems these inappropriate feelings cause”. These are not kink-friendly therapist. They are judgmental jerks who are using therapy as their moral platform and should be ashamed of themselves and NOT treat kinky people or get better educated. When seeking counseling, ensure to find a “Kink Knowledgeable & Accepting” therapist who KNOWS what dominance and submissive really is and can truly help you make peace with your desires without judgment. There are a few of us out there.
Normandie: If you could give some advice to someone who is just starting to explore BDSM what would it be?
Dr. Charley: I would recommend you read non-fiction books such as my book, BDSM The Naked Truth which provides you with the foundation you’ll need to get started in the D/s lifestyle as well as some advanced education. There’s also a list of reference books and resources to help you. Join a D/s organization in your area and attend Munches. Avoid online kink chatrooms as 90% of those participants wouldn’t know a flogger if it spanked them in the ass. And don’t be afraid to explore and ask for help. So many emotions will crop up and overwhelm you. (no pun intended) It’s great to have a Mentor (not lover) that can help guide you and help you make sense of things, allowing you to grow and blossom into the sensual human being you were always meant to be.
Join us at BDSM Writers Con, now annually in Everett Washington and New York City where you’ll discover the various aspects of dominance and submission in a safe no-pressure environment with other readers and authors who are just as curious. We provide over 30-hours of workshops and live demonstrations taught by experienced BDSM Experts. We also hold a Dungeon night and several Mix & Mingles to have you hang out and have fun with your favorite or soon-to-be-favorite authors.
And if you’re more interested in personal private instruction or which to learn in a group setting, I host in-depth BDSM Mentorship programs and weekly Live Chat groups on BDSM. Plus, you can always take one of my eCourses in the privacy of your own home or laptop.
Thanks Dr. Charley for sharing your thoughts about BDSM with us! We hope you’ll come back again soon.
About Dr. Charley
Dr. Charley Ferrer is a world-renowned Clinical Sexologist & Sex Therapist. She has been researching, exploring, and enjoying BDSM for over twenty years. She provides private D/s Mentorships for individuals and couples interested in discovering BDSM and claiming their full sensual identity and divinity. Dr. Charley is the host of BDSM Writers Con the only conference dedicated to authors and readers of dominance and submission. She hosts retreats throughout the US and overseas for women and couples. Visit her website at: www.DoctorCharley.com orwww.BDSMWritersCon.com or contact her at DoctorCharley@DoctorCharley.com for further information on her retreats and Mentorship programs.
A former psychologist, Normandie has always been fascinated by human behavior. She loves writing quirky characters that are all too human. "I'm interested in the kind of relationships people have in real life. So I write about my characters' messy, unpredictable, and inexplicable journeys to love."
If there were another 5 hours in the day, Normandie would spend more time needle-pointing, felting, and playing with photography. Instead, she's a Pinterest addict and sports junkie who lives with her hunky football playin' husband, a passel of children, and her pet pig who's crazy for Red Bull.
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