CARAS talk - Under Thewen Force Power: A Framework for Conceptualising BDSM Roles & Behaviours April 19 2022

On May 21st, 2022 I will be giving a 2 hour CARAS Continuing Education Webinar run in the USA as their month of May speaker, on a topic dear to my heart.

 

The talk as I understand it is being attended primarily by academics, psychologists, therapists and university professors. For those interested and for my followers who fall into such groups, the information is as follows:

 

 

Detail of Leopold von Sacher Masoch stationary

Under "Thewen" Force Power:

A Framework for Conceptualizing BDSM Roles & Behaviours through the Hyperarousal Adrenaline-Fear Activation of Fight-Flight-Freeze-Fawn Captive Response Domains

 

Leonora Anne Weston (aka Anne O Nomis) is author of the book ‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’ and an International teacher of Dominance studies. In the last two years, 2020-2022, Weston has turned her attention to the so-called “bottoms” of the BDSM scene, who variously self-identify by terms such as submissives, slaves, masochists, brats, kinksters, spankees and switches.  

She developed questionnaires to draw out insight into the activities, preferences and psychologies of people identifying as submissives, slaves, masochists, brats, kinksters, spankees and switches, in correspondence with a Canadian psychology professor. 

From out of her research data, and 13 years experience, she has developed a novel conceptual framework for interpreting the self-identifying roles and behaviors of BDSM bottoms, which may be of interest to CARAS group attendees and therapists.  

Her novel theory highlights the role of excess “thewen” force power encounters in earlier life experiences, and most frequently in childhood. The old English term “thewen” means: 

“To press, impress, force, press on, urge on, drive, press with a weapon, thrust, pierce, stab, threaten, rebuke, subjugate, crush, push, oppress, check”. 

While the term “thew” meant slave, servant or bondsman, from proto-Germanic *þewjanÄ - to enslave or oppress. 

She argues that the self-identifying roles of BDSM bottoms sit on Fight-Flight-Freeze-Fawn responses, in which “Flight” in captivity may become a yoked toil, in alignment with Complex PTSD theory (Walker, 2018). Added to this is the “Floppy” Tonic Immobility state which is most discussed in the literature in relation to sexual assault victims (TeBrockhorst et al. 2015; Kalaf et al. 2017). She highlights that in BDSM, the surrender state in tonic immobility can be a highly desirable headspace and associated with altered states of consciousness. Her argument sits upon the well-established science of biological activation and role of epinephrine (adrenaline) in activating fear and hyperarousal responses. (Katz et al, 2021; Kozlowska et al, 2015)   

Weston argues however that there is an additional “missing” fight-flight-freeze-fawn + floppy response domain, of “Twist-bend manipulate” to self-advantage and self-preservation. She draws attention to the historical work of the World War I physician Dr William H.R Rivers (1864-1922), who famously gave testimony at the parliamentary enquiry on Shell Shock, and in his 1920 work conceptualized five responses of 1) Flight; 2) Aggression; 3) Manipulative Activity; 4) Immobility; 5) Collapse. (Rivers, 1920)   

In the 1960s psychologists conflated Rivers’ “aggression” and “manipulative activity” into a single “Fight” category, and Weston argues strongly that they erred. 

The “twist-bend” is strongly attested to within etymology (language) of kink. The Indo-European pie root *terkw (twist) gives rise to the English words “pervert”, “queer” and “torture”; and *wen- (2) (bend) words “subvert”, “weird” and “wrestle”. While the word “kink” comes from Old Norse kikna – “to bend backwards, sink at the knees”. She also points to first-person accounts of citizens captured in war or political imprisonment, which attest to twisting and manipulative activities in captivity (Moore-Gilbert, 2022). 

Weston accounts for each response domain approximating BDSM self-identities and behavior in a context of thewen force power activation. She links the data results of self-identified “masochist” and “brat” to the bend-twist to manipulate to self-interest and subjugated into a surrender state by elevated force power; the “submissive” with wishing to propitiate and please the Dominant (although notes variability in the use of the submissive self-identity); and the yoked toil and discipline of the “slave” to the run response as transformed by captivity and thewen force power, and implied by the archaic term “thrall” meaning runner and slave. While the floppy tonic immobility state is achieved by Dominatrices via the use of bondage, body bags, cocoons, latex vac beds, suspension, breath play and adult-baby play, to facilitate immobilized “floppy” helplessness and dependence states. 

Lastly, Weston reexamines the historical record of the Dominatrix craft profession and BDSM arts (Nomis, 2013), and from 13 years research of historical primary materials, under the lens of her theory. She draws attention to the “stubborn consistency” of lion furs and feline catsuits of Dominatrix figures, eliciting an apex predator fight-flight hyperarousal response. She discusses the recreation of specific childhood roleplay such as school teacher punishment and medical and sexual bodily experiences, as encounters with a thewen force power figure with time-travel to childhood lived experience. She outlines her conception of the significance of transfiguring invisible psychological trauma, by way of bondage, punishment and erotic torture made tangible and material, and the discharge of emotional pain through physical embodiment and response states, eroticized and transformed.  

Although trauma is implied within the framework, Weston advocates for the framing of “thewen” force power experience combined with sublime awe, suspension, impact, response state, settling, processing, transformation, life force springing back, and revisiting of site and response domain, its power and potential in transfiguration. Therapists may consider Weston’s approach in supporting clients to examine their unconscious default into conscious choice, without stigma or judgment, and recognizing the transformative and processing power of imaginative self-directed and Safe, Sane and Consensual BDSM play. 

 

Learning objectives: 

1. Describe the fight-flight-freeze-fawn mechanism and tonic immobility states, associated with trauma, sexual assault and Complex PTSD theory.  

2. Understand the historical framework of Dr William H.R Rivers’ distinction of “aggression” and “manipulative activity” in 1920 in the context of World War I, and be able to discuss and debate whether psychologists were correct to conflate the two into a singular “fight” category from the 1960s onwards. 

3. Gain familiarity with self-identifying terms of “bottoming” used in the BDSM scene, of submissives, slaves, masochists, kinksters, bottoms, spankees, switches and fetishists; which clients may use to self-identify with certain preferences implied, within a therapeutic setting. 

4. Evaluate, through discussion and debate, the new conceptual framework outlined in this talk, in relation to fight-flight-freeze-fawn response domains, and BDSM constructed identities and practices. 

 

 

References:  

Byrne, Romana (2013) Aesthetic Sexuality: A Literary History of Sadomasochism Bloomsbury Academic, New York and London, ISBN: 9781501308697  

Gebhard, Paul H. (1976) “Fetishism and Sadomasochism” in Sex Research: Studies from the Kinsey Institute edited by Martin Weinberg. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN: 0195020324 

Kalaf, Juliana et al. (2017) "Sexual trauma is more strongly associated with tonic immobility than other types of trauma – A population based study" in Journal of Affective Disorders 215 (2017) pp.71-76  

Katz, Carmt et al (2021) "Beyond fight, flight, and freeze: Towards a new conceptualization of peritraumatic responses to child sexual abuse based on retrospective accounts of adult survivors" in Child Abuse and Neglect Volume 112 February 2021, pp.1-14 

Kozlowska, Kasia et al. (2015) "Fear and the Defense Cascade: Clinical Implications and Management" in Harvard Review of Psychiatry Vol. 23,4 (2015): pp. 263-87. doi:10.1097/HRP.0000000000000065 Weblink: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4495877/ 

Moore-Gilbert, Kylie (2022) The Uncaged Sky: My 804 Days in an Iranian prison Ultimo Press, Sydney Australia. ISBN 9781761150401 

Nomis, Anne O (2013) The History & Arts of the Dominatrix Mary Egan Publishing & Anna Nomis Basingstoke, UK. ISBN: 978099270100 

Rivers, William H.R (1920) Instinct and the Unconscious - A Contribution to Biological Theory of the Psycho-Neuroses Cambridge 

Weblink: http://library.manipaldubai.com/DL/instinct_and_the_unconscious.pdf 

TeBrockhorst, Sunda Friedman (2015) "Tonic Immobility Among Survivors of Sexual Assault" in Psychological Trauma Theory Research and Practice and Policy March 2015 Vol 7, No 2, pp.171-178 

Van der Kolke, Bessel (2015) The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Trauma of Healing Penguin Publishing Group, Great Britain. ISBN: 9780141978611 

Walker, Pete (2018) Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving Azure Coyote Publishing, Lafayette, CA. ISBN 1492871842 

 

 

Online Webinar Information

Presenter  Leonora Anne Weston (aka Anne O Nomis), MA UCL 

Weblink: https://www.carasresearch.org/latest-news/webinar-may2022

Saturday, May 21, 2022 at 2 - 4 pm on USA Pacific time; and 5 - 7 pm on USA Eastern time. For those in Australia the time difference works out to be May 22, 2022 at 7 am - 9 am Melbourne time. 

To register for the webinar, please visit https://forms.gle/rx7NkZectWEmHCZN8

Attendance is free for CARAS subscribers, and $25 for others.

Email for CARAS is: info@carasresearch.org

 

Best,

 

Anne O Nomis