Getting Back Out on the Kinky Dating Scene After Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Content warning: While Amy doesn’t discuss abuse in detail within the post, the topic clearly touches on it. Take care of yourself first and foremost. Read this when and if you’re up for it.

For better or worse, writing about kink and abuse seems to have become my “thing.” I’ve written about the difference between D/s and abuse, about what it’s like to be trapped in an abusive D/s relationship, and about what it’s like to finally leave one. Perhaps it’s because I’m a survivor myself, and if I can use the things I learned to help other people then my experiences won’t have been for nothing.

Any survivor will tell you that leaving an abusive relationship isn’t necessarily the end. The trauma of abuse stays with you – sometimes for years, sometimes in some form forever. When you’ve been abused, you cannot un-experience the things you experienced and you cannot un-know the things you now know.

But what about when you’re ready to date again? What about when you’re ready to have sex and get kinky again? How do you go about getting back into kinky dating when you’ve been so badly hurt?

The only person who knows the correct timing for you is you

Well-meaning friends might tell you that it’s far too soon for you to be dating again. Others might be pushing you to get out there before you’re ready. But the only person who knows when you’re ready is YOU.

The time it took me between leaving my abuser and hooking up with my now partner? About 8 hours. That timing was right for me. Whether it’s hours, days, weeks, months or years, your timeline is your timeline and it’s valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Build a community and surround yourself with kinky friends

If you’re not already active in your local kink community, this is a great time to start. Go to munches, classes and events with the intention to learn and make friends, rather than find a partner. Being a member of the community means you can eventually meet potential partners more easily, but it also means you can check references and get other kinksters’ opinions on this person you’re thinking of dating.

Having kinky friends also means you’ve got people looking out for you who understand the nuances of kink and D/s, and may be better equipped to call it out if they see your new sweetie doing something they don’t think is okay.

Frequent kinky spaces where your abuser isn’t

One of the hardest things after leaving an abusive relationship is having to see your abuser in public spaces or at events you both go to. You’re allowed to prioritize spaces where they’re not going to be. Either go to events you know they don’t go to, or – if you feel safe – consider speaking up to organizers and asking them to ban your abuser from events you want to go to. Speaking of which…

Whether or not you speak up is your choice

You’re not obligated to speak up, but you’re also not obligated to stay quiet! If your experiences feel too raw and painful to share right now, that’s okay. You are not responsible for anything your abuser does, including going on to harm somebody else. And if you do speak up, you don’t have to feel guilty for “spreading drama” or getting your abuser banned from events. Speaking up about abuse isn’t drama. And if they wanted to continue to have access to those spaces, they should have behaved better – access to sexy spaces is a privilege, not a right.

Again: speaking out or not is your choice, and either way is fine.

Watch for red flags when you’re dating

Many abuse survivors become highly, highly attuned to red flags in potential dates. This is your gut talking to you based on the wisdom gained through experience, and I strongly suggest that you listen to it. If something doesn’t seem right, pay attention. If something they’re saying doesn’t quite ring true, question it. And if they start pushing small boundaries, beware – this is testing the waters and they’ll push big boundaries later.

Get references

This system is far from foolproof (the kink community, like the rest of the world, often has a problem with protecting known abusers). But it does help. If you’re interested in someone, ask around. See what others know of them. Seek multiple viewpoints. The information you get might be surprisingly illuminating.

Interact in public first

Again, the wonderful thing about the kink community is that it gives you a safe(r) space to spend time with other kinksters and get to know people in a public or semi-public setting. That cutie you’ve been chatting with on Fetlife? Why not meet them at a munch the first time you interact face to face? And if you’re afraid to play in private with someone, playing at a public dungeon or a play party gives you an extra level of safety.

Move as slowly as you like

Many survivors of abuse have trust issues and take time to open up. This is okay! This is normal! You’re allowed to move as slowly as you want in a new relationship. Do not allow anyone to pressure you into a pace you’re not ready for. (But if you want to move faster, that’s okay to – you’re not obligated to go slow just because you’re a survivor. It’s your choice!)

Work with professionals

If therapy is accessible to you (and I realize it isn’t to everyone because of insurance premiums, geographical location, cuts to mental health services, etc.) please find a trauma-informed and ideally kink-informed therapist to work with. You deserve support in sorting out the scars that abuse can leave behind. If therapy isn’t accessible to you (or even alongside therapy,) consider looking at services supporting victims of domestic abuse, intimate partner violence or sexual violence.

You could also work with a trauma-informed, kink-aware sexuality coach. Coaches function slightly differently to therapists but their job is to help you build a stronger and healthier relationship to sexuality, and overcoming or processing abuse can absolutely be part of that.

Finally, if you want to explore some kinky play again but aren’t sure you’re ready for dating or a relationship, consider working with a Pro Dom(me) or sub or a sex worker.

Whatever path you take, know this: you deserve sex, kink, love and intimacy if you want them. You are still allowed to be kinky after suffering abuse. You did not deserve what happened to you. And you are the only person who knows exactly what you need.

Amy Norton

Amy Norton is (amongst other things) a sex blogger, digital sexuality journalist, erotic fiction writer and kink community organiser. She lives in the UK with her primary partner and frankly ridiculous collection of vibrators.

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