There is this interesting dynamic that occurs in several kink & fetish communities. It is known as a Binge-Purge Cycle. Most of us probably recognize this term with regards to food, but in the kink community it takes on a slightly different guise.
I’ve witnessed and walked through this cycle several times with my phone sex clients over the last 18 months.
The Binge-Purge Cycle goes through quite predictable stages. I outline them below.
Bingeing: Buying items of their kink or fetish… panties, dresses, make-up, wigs, heels, lingerie, diapers, bdsm toys, sex toys and the like.
Indulging: A period of wonderful happiness, although it can also include some recklessness (unprotected sex, not being particularly careful about physical safety when hooking up, walking the fine line between having fun with the kink-fetish & tempting being discovered, putting pictures on the Internet, etc.).
Beginning of Discomfort: Sometimes this comes with a close call of being discovered (which I see happening almost as a subconscious set-up oftentimes) or someone threatening to tell the spouse or out them at work. Other times are when a life situation presents such as an upcoming business trip or hospitalization (“What if my spouse digs around and finds my stash?”), a near-miss car accident or a fall (“What if I was hospitalized and they saw my panties?” “What if I die and my wife finds my stash?”)
Deepening Shame: It is a short leap from discomfort to the shame that leads to purging. This often has religious overtones. I actually see this around Christian holidays a lot. As we would expect, the more fundamentalist the religion, the deeper the guilt and shame. Spouses and parents tend to really beat themselves up hard at this point. (“I would ruin my kids’ lives if anyone found out.” “My wife would take the kids if she ever knew I wore panties/sucked cock/saw prostitutes/etc.”) I do see this in single folks, too, though.
This Shame phase I have the hardest time with regarding my clients and those in my life. I will talk about this specifically in a few minutes.
Purging: This tends to be a cathartic rather than a sad event. Some feel sad, but most feel remorseful-relief as they pile everything into garbage bags to take to a faraway dumpster. (I try and put the idea in their heads to donate the items instead of tossing them in the trash.)
Newly Abstinent: Huge amounts of relief replace the shame and this phase also has a “high” similar to the Indulging phase. This place without any of ones’ accoutrements around feels safe, clean, unburdened. They are able to breathe easier for awhile.
Bargaining as the Building of Desire Increases: The urge to dress/play/have anonymous sex/etc. increases and intense bargaining occurs. (“I promise not to if you take this urge away.” “I will never cheat on my wife again if I can stop wanting to wear panties.”) No one takes the person up on the bargaining, of course. When they are in this phase, alcohol or medication/drugs often come into play to try and relieve the intense urges to fulfill their needs. As we know, substance (ab)use creates its own set of obstacles in relationships.
Bingeing: When the tipping point occurs, enormous spending sprees tax credit cards, their minds whir with how to not be discovered/where to hide the goods and an enormous high drives the entire production towards that reckless place once again.
Binge-Purge Kinks & Fetishes
A few of the kinks & fetishes that do this cycle are:
I could just as easily pick out any part of the cycle to discuss –and might do others later- but the Shame aspect is where my heart hurts right now.
It breaks my heart when I hear someone in this place. They speak to me softly, usually near tears, hiding in their car or locked in their office, telling me they can’t help it and how much they hate themselves for their horrible behavior. I want to bring them into my arms and comfort them (and do so in my mind).
Knowing how overwhelming and bad this feels, the first thing I do is tell them, with all the love in my voice, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their desire. It is our society and culture that has the issue. That in other cultures and in other times, their kink-fetish was honored and revered.
I tell them it sucks to not be able to be who they really are and that I understand their fears of discovery and, if god is involved, how they think he will judge them and send them to hell.
I tell them I am not alone in believing in them and honoring who they are no matter what they wear or how they behave. I always encourage a kink-fetish-friendly therapist and have helped several find someone in their area. (Definitely not a part of my job and I am not paid for it, but feel it is a natural off-shoot to my love and care.)
My Own Shame
Shame makes me crazed sometimes. Surely because I have had (and am still plowing through) a lifetime of the sludge and muck that colors almost every aspect of my life. I don’t want anyone to feel this terrible filthiness and weight on the heart and spirit. 35+ years of therapy seems to have barely shoveled any into the incinerator. Or else it is self-replacing; some goes out, tons comes back in.
As a midwife, I worked with the shame of clients… sexuality being a common theme. What was nice was I had a proscribed schedule, typically 7-8 months, within which to explore the shame and help them find tools to lessen the guilt and shame they carried.
Here, however, I never know if the call I am on will be the absolutely last call before a purge, so I feel compelled to discuss shame with many clients, especially if they are in what I would consider a high-risk-for-purging kink or fetish.
Delightfully, I’ve talked to a couple of folks who’ve found peace in their kinks and fetishes and have created safeguards against discovery.
Fascinatingly creative, I’ll share one person’s solution.
One gal, dressing (in girl/women’s clothes) almost since toddlerhood, had gone through at least 8 binge-purge cycles in over 40 years when she had the profound realization this need/desire to dress was simply never going away. There was not any lightning bolt moment where she saw herself… the rest-of-her-life Self… not willing to purge again and Be who she knew herself to be. The dawning took many, many years, she telling me that each purge brought her closer to never doing so again.
When the final decision to stop purging was made, she decided to be proactive in keeping her family from ever ever ever finding out about this part of her, yet be able to resume dressing whenever she went out of town on business.
She moved everything out of the house, only bringing something home to wash occasionally and only when the family was gone.
The list of her off-site storage solution is astonishingly brilliant. Mind you, this took her about 10 years to iron out the details, but still… incredible.
• Pays cash for almost everything
• Has an air conditioned storage unit
• Has a post office box and uses this as her address for almost anything requiring an address
• Has a separate bank account, out of state, in her chosen name
• Has a separate computer she uses only for her alter-ego, including buying clothes, going to chat rooms, etc.
• Has a separate phone in her chosen name, out of state phone company
• Has a key in a tiny lock box that opens the safe deposit box at a large bank outside of town
• Debit cards, phone and key to the storage unit kept inside the safe deposit box
• Inside the storage unit, she had a private closet consultant make a lovely closet for her to store her clothes, lingerie, shoes, stockings, wigs, makeup and jewelry
• Inside the storage unit, she has her phone
• Inside the storage unit, she has luggage that she packs in anticipation of the out-of-town business trip coming up next (prepared ahead of time except for clothes that can wrinkle, putting those in before the flight)
Isn’t this the most ingenious solution to leaving shame behind?
She did these things so that if anything ever happened to her… a heart attack, a car accident, any kind of emergency that would keep her from protecting herself, her family would be protected (her word) from knowing this part of her. The several keys and combinations to even get into the storage unit, the storage unit not being in her male name (if she died, they would simply sell her things off), the phones, the debit cards… all for her self-protection and piece of mind.
We did talk for a few minutes about if she was out in a club dressed and some tragedy like Pulse happened, she could possibly be discovered, but I did tell her that most EMS and hospital personnel would keep that part of her secret, it being irrelevant to the next of kin.
All in all, she covered her tracks beautifully.
I asked if I was allowed to share this with others and she said absolutely because she wished she’d had someone help her all those years ago.
I believe there can be ways to offer others support and information for, if not removing, at least relieving, some of their guilt and shame.
I know I am not alone on this side of the amazing people’s journeys. Are you here, too?