On swords and spanking, sorta

When I was a kid I went through a phase of self-harming – an ugly phrase that I don’t like using.

For a start, it isn’t true – I don’t think I did myself any harm. Physically I was pretty cautious, probably no worse than living with an angry cat, and mentally, well, we all have to confront our demons somehow.

Or to be less glib, I can’t say whether it helped or hindered my journey through life, but at this point there isn’t anything about myself I’d change (except I’d like to live nearer to my mum), so the net effect hasn’t been detrimental.

My other issue is that the term is so melodramatic. It conjures images of angst-ridden teens and Ritchie Manic (ahem), or else desperate psychiatric wards and Sylvia Plath. There’s definitely a social stigma attached to both these perceptions, so for that reason I avoid talking about my cutting spell too much.

There is also the fact that my growed-up self is slightly embarrassed by my teenaged self’s approach to dealing with problems, which is a stupid response – life is a learning curve right?

The final reason for my reticence is a bit different – the experience was always very sensual and ritualistic, and felt quite private because of that (and I like, never talk about private things, evah).

So, flash forwards 14 years. I’m older, a little wiser, and I also happen to know a hell of a lot more about BDSM. I realise now that should I give another person consent to do the cutting for me, it is no longer self-harm. It is knife play, or blood sports.

I understand that the physical endpoint is the same as it was when I was 14, and I know that BDSM can sometimes be a powerful emotional release (when I was a kid it was about release and control). What I don’t understand is whether the two things are still different despite this.

If I were to open a packet of new scalpel blades now (there are some in the desk drawer), would it be self-harm or auto-erotica?

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