A Chat About Emotional Triggers in BDSM, February 12, 2020

Discussing Emotional Triggers in Kink

Content: Emotional Triggers, Kink, BDSM, Discussion of Racism

#fetchat date: February 12, 2020

#fetchat is a weekly Twitter chat for anyone interested in exploring the world of kinks and fetishes. The responses below were comments made by #fetchat followers. The answers are posted as they appeared in the chat. We’ve removed the identities of those responding out of respect for their privacy.


How would you define an emotional/psychological trigger?

Folks said:

” I’d define it as “something” that one associates with a perceived negative emotion or psychological state. Trigger implies helplessness (like you’re the victim), though. I think I prefer the term “stimulus” because its a bit more neutral.”

“A trigger is something that exacerbates the symptoms of a mental health condition. Eg causing flashbacks, panic, urges to engage in unhealthy compulsive behaviour, or other negative reactions due to a preexisting mental health issue. A lot of people mistakenly think triggers are unique to PTSD, but lots of conditions can be exacerbated by triggers. For example, specific phobia is defined by fear triggered by an innocuous stimulus, and food mentions can trigger urges for eating disorders.”

“Something experienced by one or more of your senses that sets off an immediate, unconscious reaction in you?”

” A trigger can be a person, place, thing, or situation that connects a person to a memory of something that has happened in the past or is happening in the present,The experience that follows experiencing a trigger/triggering situation may involve a high degree of emotional, psychological, and, at time, even physical pain.”

“In & outside kink, I define it as something that elicits an abnormal response such as heightened awareness of one’s surroundings, sensitivity to the senses, or anything that distracts my mind from the present. “

What types of BDSM play have the potential to trigger someone, either in public conversations or in private (or public) play?

Folks said:

“almost anything can act as a trigger. BDSM though, due to the impact of power and heightened stimulation, can be prone to higher chances of trigger moments. But what those are can be highly individualistic. (E.g., 1 person’s choking might be another’s claustrophobia).”

“Anything can be a trigger – even balloons and Jello! But the more likely ones are CNC, pain play, degradation, and anything that plays with systemic oppression such as race play, homophobia play, fat fetish, etc.”

” I would say almost any form of play might inadvertently remind someone of a past experience with an ex, a crush, a family member, a teacher, boss, etc. Not all are necessarily negative, though, some might lead you to erupt in giggles.”

” Anything can be a trigger – the feel of velvet, the smell of candles, a situation, even a word. Ageplay and Raceplay are what I think of right away, but practices like breathplay and impact play can also trigger folks.”

“I am careful with any physical act that might have been used during my partner’s childhood. Most notably things like face slapping. That one is always discussed long before being tried, or just skipped.”

“Many things but I think the one with the highest potential is mindfuck. “

When you’re talking in public forums about BDSM, how do you approach subjects that might be triggers for someone else, like race play or age play?

Folks said:

“I am simply careful of explaining my words and my intentions and also cognizant of the fact that someone else’s harsh reaction may not be their fault but may be due to a trigger. patience.”

“there is the right time and the right place to have the right conversations. Be aware of defensiveness, and check your own ego before you decide to check someone else’s. If things escalate, consider a private conversation, and accept that we all make mistakes.”

“Be thoughtful of the what/where/when/how you’re discussing a potential triggering subject. Understand that not everyone in the BDSM community share the same experiences. Be mindful that the emotional/psychological/and sometimes physical pain experienced…con’s as a result of negative triggers is very real. Listen to the person who is experiencing the trigger is asking of you & take their request seriously – a lot of times their reaction is strong because what they’re experiencing is heightened to the nth degree.”

Let’s take the example of race play. It can trigger emotional/psychological pain. How can you be a genuine ally to POC in a situation where discussion about kink has triggered pain?

Folks said:

“Listen, be there and show up for others, and act in a way the furthers the wellbeing of those involved. And be aware that if you have privilege, you can use it to help others without feeling guilty of having used that privilege. And it’s okay to feel awkward, too.”

” Like any other kink, discussion of it should respect the boundaries of the people involved in the discussion. In private conversations, if someone finds race play triggering, don’t discuss it with them. In public conversations, offer trigger warnings and opting-out.”

“What @thewenchworks said…seriously, if you’re not a POC your job is listen.”

What do you do (or have you done in the past) if someone says they’ve been triggered by public or private conversations or play?

Folks said:

“It’s not my job to argue why someone shouldn’t be triggered,” is a wonderful way to talk about validating someone’s emotional experience. I’ve seen too many conversations go from “the trigger” to being about “triggered by someone not caring about triggering.”

“eh, sometimes it goes well (I speak out), but the negative blowback events are the ones that stand out more. I try to focus more on the person that is being impacted (I can help them) than those doing the triggering (rarely does a public chat “fix” them, but I try).”

“Listen without judgement, recognize their experience is both valid and valuable. Supporting their decision to speak out & not commandeering their platform with my own thoughts (ESPECIALLY if I’m not part of their community, like POC)…encouraging other folks to listen without judgment. Basically, getting out of the way and listening without judgment.”

What is the difference between discussing triggers that occur in BDSM play & kink shaming?

Folks said:

“oh, that’s a good question. I guess I’d say kink shaming is intentional (although some might be from unconscious biases) while BDSM triggers can be quite unintentional (and possibly more impactful).”

“To me, the difference is that discussing triggers comes from a space of emotional/psychological need/experience and kink-shaming is judgment.”

“the difference is all in the approach. if you laugh, or use straw men, that’s kink shaming. if you are calm, ask simple and respectful questions, that’s discussion.”

“A trigger isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and enjoying something that could trigger someone else isn’t bad. It’s a matter of boundaries – you have the right to opt out of being exposed to a trigger, but don’t have the right to dictate scenes you’re not a part of.”

“I think that when there’s a public discussion or public play that everyone needs to know what’s happening before, & that folks in a public convo’s need to be okay listening to the thoughts of members of marginalized communities centered in certain types of play.”

What are ways to support folks triggered by BDSM play in private and in public?

Our guest said:

“In public play- simply apologize and move the convo. It’s simple and it works and it’s an easy way to make someone feel cared about. In private- if it’s a convo, apologize and ask if there’s a way to talk. If there’s not, end the convo/subject.”

Folks said:

“In private, you have a better chance to have that personal, individual conversation. In public, you have to balance both those involved (and maybe take it private), and those indirectly involved (whether watching, or part of the scene but not “your scene”).”

“In public, a good way is to have a designated location for certain commonly triggering forms of play, with clear warnings. When advertising an event, make rules around common triggers clear. And provide a cool-off/aftercare area that’s free of those triggers.For less common triggers, if you know for a fact that someone with a unique trigger is planning to attend, then plan for their triggers, too. You can’t plan for every possible idiosyncratic trigger, but you can plan for a specific person if you know their needs.”

“Listen with empathy and compassion. Check your ego at the door (thanks

@dangelauthor for that). Ask the person what they need in the moment. #fetchat A7.”

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