Columns Aug 12, 2010 at 4:00 am

Don't That Beat All? Crazy-Bottom Tales.


I blame Laura Antoniou's "The Marketplace."

Well, sort of.

In particular, it is true that some bottoms come into the space with expectations set by BDSM literature, not realizing that tops are, well, real people, not fictional characters. Thus, not every top can be gorgeous, rich, buff and psychic to a bottom's precise desires with possessing infinite stamina and emotional and physical availability. Not to mention being a good father/mother figure, too.
Great column, Matisse!
Unfortunately, I have my own crazy bottom story. Still recovering from the brunt of it. My solace? Everyone will eventually know this person as crazy and I have a good reputation. Sigh.
Wow. I am blown away by the disablism in this column, and I would be interested to know how you define 'crazy'. Would you apply that term to someone with, for example, OCD or social anxiety disorder? Both of these are mental illnesses, yet neither indicates a tendency towards the kind of behaviour you're describing (which sounds more like an anger management problem).

A person can experience mental illness at any point in their lives, whether it be the result of trauma, genetic predisposition or a chemical imbalance. They still retain their agency, sense of dignity and personhood, even in the midst of great suffering. It's not ok to make sweeping generalisations about a group of people for the sake of humour.

As a submissive who has complex PTSD (as the result of surviving rape and abuse), I am sick of the conflation of mental illness with unacceptable and/or violent behaviour. I usually enjoy your writing, but I felt it necessary to comment.

Please reconsider your use of the word crazy as a pejorative, and try to understand how that use affects those of us who live with mental illness.
I have bipolar and borderline personality disorder, and I have no problem with her using the word crazy. I use it myself. You've gotta have a sense of humor about stuff or you're going to wind up offing yourself, crazy or not. Good column, Matisse.
Adrasteia - I don't claim to speak for everyone who has experienced mental illness, but I do think it's important to realise how language can perpetuate stigma and oppression. Your experience does not invalidate that of others.

I do have a sense of humour, but it tends to be pushed aside when I feel that my identity is being attacked. Accusing someone of being humourless is a typical silencing tactic directed towards members of marginalised groups (even from others within those groups).

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written extensively on how slurs cannot be divorced from their social contexts, for example:…

I didn't comment on this column just for the hell of it, and in fact I am often reluctant to express my opinion online for fear of being criticised. I commented because I see Matisse as an intelligent and gifted writer, and I wanted to provide a perspective that I think she may not have encountered previously.
My problem with a lot of feminists and activists along those lines is that the overwhelming disgust directed towards kink. I can appreciate the dislike of crazy, however. What would you have used instead?
My problem is mostly with the use of the word crazy as an all-encompassing term when someone is talking about socially unacceptable or boundriless behaviour. Most people with mental illnesses, whether organic or trauma-related, are perfectly civil and pleasant to interact with. Some people with uncontrolled psychotic symptoms might behave confrontationally, but that is a function of their disorder rather than a reflection of their personality. They are still human beings deserving of respect, and I think the use of slurs such as 'crazy' attempts to deny that.

It would be better if more specific, and more accurate, terms were used to refer to problematic behaviour, e.g., violating personal boundaries would be labelled as disrespectful or stalkerish. Admittedly, this wouldn't be as catchy as what Matisse wrote, but neither would it add to the harmful rhetoric surrounding mental illness.

I agree that some feminists can be kink-negative, but many are quite the opposite. It is entirely possible to be a feminist and also kink-identified. I personally identify as a sex-positive feminist and also a submissive, a masochist, a slut and many other things.

Anti-kink feminism seems to result from the same attitudes that fuel hostility towards those with mental illnesses - fear of the unknown, reluctance to see from another's perspective and the conviction that one's intuition is always right.
@ anguisette~

I am sympathetic to your desire to not have an illness that was forced upon you translate into an identity as damaged goods, or less than full personhood. I've survived rape and emotional abuse myself.

However, as someone who has been in (and recovered from) major relationships with 1. a diagnosed manic-depressive who introduced me to kink in the first place and then betrayed my trust, refused medication (because "love is supposed to be unconditional and this is who I am"), stalked me post-relationship and attempted suicide -


2. an ex-Navy SEAL alcoholic w/PTSD who verbally and physically threatened me, stole money and prescription meds from me, cheated, and lied about me to an entire circle of friends -

To me "crazy" means someone who is *incapable of behaving rationally, because of their chemical imbalances, issues, or a combination of both.* And while people like this deserve compassion and support when they engage in recovery efforts, I am not responsible for their well-being. We are all only responsible for our own happiness, and ultimately have to protect ourselves from harmful relationships.
Twice I was pulled in by charisma and a desire to be there for someone when no one else had, and twice I was burned very badly.
And while my current partner (and top) of 5 years may not inspire the same kind of exhilarating passion as either of those other relationships, he's also not crazy. And I don't see protecting myself or recommending that friends protect themselves from relationships with crazy people as "oppression."
Both my Mistress of two years and I have pretty serious PTSD [among other things]. One could easily call either of us "crazy". However, our relationship is just about the healthiest I've ever been in. Why? Because we communicate effectively and have enough self-knowledge to let each other know when we need support. As a mental health consumer going on fourteen years now, I think I've earned the right to call myself crazy in the reclamation sense of the word. Mistress Matisse, what gives you the right to use such ableist language? I'm a lot more complicated than being either an exciting lay or a headcase, and luckily I've met people in the scene who understood. It's too bad that there aren't more people out there like that.
This was a very good column for getting out a very important message. It seems that the greatest risk of seeing someone in BDSM that is - as defined by MM - emotionally unstable is that they tend to take their issues public in forums such as social networking sites. Since I gather that trust is an important component of BDSM, besmirching of reputation has double the impact that it might have on a boring sex proponent such as myself. Someone smears me on facebook and I won't get laid... but then again what else is new? "Crazy bottom" says that his dom is hurting him in unwelcome ways and the social shunning is more painful than any whip.
Oh my god if I see the term "ableist" one more time I will possibly scream, and I am disabled myself. "Crazy" is defined here as a set of bad behaviors - throwing things into wood chippers, stealing credit cards, and spreading vicious rumors. If you present these behaviors, then yes, you are being "crazy", and if your issues are that close to the surface, then someone did indeed make a mistake by pushing you toward the breaking point. (And arguably you also made a mistake by hooking up with them when you weren't ready to be pushed.)
@12: word.
One of the guidelines that's served me well in live (especially hanging around with artists and Burning Man people) is, "Never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself".
Someone with a controlled mental illness isn't, in my mind, "crazy". "Crazy" is not a medical term - it's vernacular for anything heightened and unexpected. It can be positive or this case, negative.

Someone with uncontrolled mental illness - or who is acting out in "crazy" ways regardless of their clinical mental health - still deserves respect and compassion as a human being, but they do not make good casual play partners. I believe that's the point of the column.
Leah, I can give you an idea of where that right comes from.. I'm one of the crazy bottoms that Matisse has played with. And yeah, I do mean 'danger to myself-bat-wacko bed buggy nuts'. But like she said, in the beginning, I wasn't so crazy- I was a sensitive artist-type of girl-fresh from college- madly talented, also- prone to artsy mood swings. Matisse could soothe me easily then, she was like Ms Pacman the video game; she could swallow my ghosts.And when we played together? It was as she says.. Yeehaw! I rode highs that required cabin-pressure seating, the flights lasted days and took full nights to come down from. In short, it was some serious big fun. So years passed and life happened, with my going through periods of artistic productivity, and active health, alternating with shorter times of poor life choices, or life- obstacles knocking the wind from my motivational sails. Id climb back with her encouragement to months of productivity. Slowly there were longer periods of depression, and deeper depths to my despair. I began to engage in relationships that were (to everyone around me) clearly toxic for me- and I began to have fears I'd never had- they would keep me distracted from being present while with her and when she noticed it she would draw it from me somehow asking the right questions to bring out my ghosts again-then she she would listen to me as I cried- and give advice only when I asked for it .After, only if she saw me taking her advice would she let me ask for more.- but more and more I slipped to 'spinning my wheels' and darker fears- I was not showing up to social events she invited me to- Id promise to come but not show up for parties, dinners, instead dealing with the created drama that toxic relationships pollute our worlds with - and then there was a horrible-to-remember Christmas morning when I stood her up. Let her wonder where I was, she, waiting for me in her home with people and presents and a tree and fire while across town I cried, laying on the floor of a vermin-infested filthy apartment while my partner was not letting me sleep in her excitement, and her buzz- she was impossibly high on drugs she refused to name and wouldn't share. I cried, she raged, manic, and panicked, she sang and sweat and was pacing,and pacing above me and all around the room - Merry Christmas.!
And there are more things too, Leah, I could tell you about-too many to list here though, and too sacred in my memory to share with you. The point I'm saying to you, Leah, is that through those years Matisse did all sorts of these things BECAUSE saw me as more than a headcase- more than a bottom, more than a girl, an artist, a lay or a peer, and thank goodness as more than the burden that other people said they thought I was- She was my mentor when I needed, my peer when I wanted and my champion against any and all that would hurt me even at a holiday party, when I hadn't even recognized my tormentor for who he was. She defended my actions to those that disparaged me, came up with ways to bring me to laughter when I was hurt deeply or not.. She listened to my rages, held me when I cried, gave me just enough perspective to make it through my night at least 100 times. She went with me to counselors, drove me to therapy, kept me company in the exam rooms, and even paid for doctors appointments when I couldn't. She came with me to get prescriptions, and saw me safely home. Socially, she included me on invitation lists. I suspect more than once she has created opportunities for me to work when she saw I was hurting financially . The times I didn't called her as I promised, she worried, called me, and left message after message on my voice mail, called again to check on me, e-mailed me messages, fretted, called once more just in case, got upset, grew determined, get the idea, right Leah? And she did this for YEARS. -To my shame while it was happening I wasn't fully aware-not consciously, of the bigger picture -My brand of crazy kept me from always feeling clearly the greatest parts of her affection with consistency and from seeing the enormous effort she was making in these actions, or how she was working to keep a connection between us- when the day finally came and my toxic relationship ended- or more accurately, it was ended for me. After I was literally drowning in grief and loneliness, even as I retreated from my friends efforts to seek me out. I let my phone ring and ring- more than once-I hate to admit, I lay on my couch and cried and pined for the very person that was calling only to get my voice mail- again. Id be aching to pick up the phone, wanting to ask her for the touch I felt starving for and that i knew would make me feel better- i was just self aware enough of my weirdness to be paralyzed by my shame and embarrassed that touch could matter so much.Another year , and a half passes- I am assaulted in my apartment before one of the Mistress' parties and decide to smooth it over with the rest of the chaotic emotions I'm feeling-For the first time I lie to the Mistress, not telling her everything that happened that night.and sugar-coating what did. Of course -this lets me sink farther from reality in my efforts to pave myself into a productive member of society- the kind of person I really want to be-..someone more like the Mistress. The disastrous months that follow are when i learn that: 1.only discipline looks like discipline-
2 integrity cant be faked-
3. if someone talks incessantly about something- say working out-its almost sure that they aren't really doing it.
It goes without saying I didn't emulate Matisse very well at all. Another year is gone, and my dysfunctions were present the majority of the time. clearly leading toward my being homeless and hopeless.. Watching me through all of this was hurting the Mistress in ways I don't expect to fully know really. But what I do know is that She has gone far above and beyond what most Tops are ever presented any need for-She's given this particular crazy bottom everything I could think to ask for from a friend, a top, a teacher, mentor, an intimate, and a Mistress. No one has ever seen all of me the way she has, right from when we began playing- (all good tops see into us when we connect that way-) but she kept that connection, past our play in the dungeon and she didn't even look away on occasions when I've been at my worst. Shes' made herself look past my actions sometimes- and shes seen through the veils of my crazy behaviors to what I am underneath- even more- she saw in me great things when I couldn't see them clearly yet. Shes' loved me inspite of and inclusive of my crazy and shes loved me for my potential.
When finally, the time came she had to step back and let go of wanting to save me from my fate, she did it with a written declaration about what she saw happening to me- and she presented it in such a way that I couldn't possibly miss it. Her words cracked my nut'sshell and then they broke through to shed just enough light for me to see what steps to take toward finding the path of my life and to take it back to myself.
That was a couple of years ago now, and so much is different for me. I take medication that turns the volume down for 97 of the 100 radio stations that play in my head at the same time- so These days my crazy tends express itself through fits of artistic production, designed interiors expressions- and other performance related projects. And the risks Ive been taking have been more in the realm of telling someone pretty that I really want to kiss them.

Matisse has every right to say every word that come out of her mouth Leah, and I'm just one of the ways she has earned it.

If I were you I would apologize to her

Using the word crazy and then saying you only meant to refer to people who are acting out or doing harm is remarkably similar to saying "that's so gay" and pretending you don't mean it as a homophobic slur. The reality is that β€˜crazy’ is a word that is used to denigrate and oppress those with mental illnesses.
I have no problem with mentally ill people using the word crazy to refer to themselves, but it’s not ok to impose it on someone else without their consent.

There is a strong tradition of marginalised groups reclaiming words that have been used against them. Problems occur when those who are privileged in whatever way – male, straight, white, cis, able, neurotypical, non-survivors and so forth – pretend that this gives them the right to continue using slurs.

Some links that might help people better understand this issue -………

As someone with mental health issues who is also congenitally physically disabled, I've started this reply to you about five times. I'm going to try to put this clearly and simply.

You have a right to prefer or dislike whatever language floats your boat, but your preferred language is not universal, and picking fights over semantics is a waste of your time and everyone else's. You want rights? You want respect? You want people to look at you as a person and not as "that person with [whatever condition you have]?"

Good, great, me too, totally with you. GO FIGHT FOR THOSE THINGS. Fight for them even if you can't leave your house. Be proud of who you are (whoever that may be) and the positive things you do (whatever those are).

But picking fights over the fact that you don't like a word someone used is a losing battle, especially on the internet. I say this as someone who loathes the word "retard" and has explained why I don't like that word in this very space... but if your goal is *explaining*, not namecalling in return or being holier than thou, then you need to be a little more careful in walking that line, cause you're missing it here (lots of loaded language in your comments that will, quite rightly, put people on the defensive). Life isn't a Disability Rights Seminar, and "normals" don't like being lectured at any more than "not-so-normals" do.

Just a piece of advice from another uppity gimp.

Liked your column, Matisse.
When did I call anyone a name? Calling people out on privilege is not name-calling. You seem to be the one resorting to personal attacks here, seanchai. I think you would do well to educate yourself about disability theory, because one of the fundamental tenets is that language matters. I wrote my comments after years of staying silent when disablist language hurt me, but sometimes it is necessary to break that silence.

I never tried to pick a fight, and indeed have risen above some comments that, quite frankly, seemed to completely miss the points I'm trying to make. Have you even visited the links I included? They explain much better than I can why disablist language is a weapon.

I'm sorry if you interpreted my words as being 'loaded', but struggles for recognition and visibility tend not to be light topics.

You are not being compelled to read what I wrote, and therefore have no right to try to silence me. I obviously misinterpreted this site as a place where intelligent discourse could occur on a topic not many people have considered, and so I am bowing out. Reading comments such as yours is becoming detrimental to my wellbeing.
anguisette, it's not that people are missing your points. It's just that the martyr complex false outrage routine is insulting and disgusting, as it trivializes ACTUAL insensitive behavior and hurtful language. Nailing yourself to the cross over an accidental or unknowing slip by a person with no ill-intentions of a term that could only arguably, controversially be considered insensitive in certain contexts only muddies the water, and unfortunately could be seen as crying wolf.

"I think you would do well to educate yourself about disability theory." Well, I think you would do well to take a break from the theories. Saying "crazy" is not like calling someone a "retard" or using the N-word, no matter how high you pile the righteous indignation and false outrage. Yes, words matter. But intentions matter too.
Sure is crazy in here...
anguisette just needs to shut up. stop taking everything so personally, stop taking everything so bad.

I, being a crazy bottom (one that doesn't post things publicly, tho I still get pretty torturous when things fall apart... my top is VERY tolerant thankfully) agree whole-heartedly with Adrasteia in saying you have to be able to poke fun at yourself, call yourself crazy. And I know A LOT of gay people that say "that's so gay" for just the same reason. These things are only hurtful if you make them, and if you surround yourself with the wrong people that are going to use those words to hurt you.

So stop it. Stop being around people that would use those words to hurt you, and instead use them to make yourself laugh and have fun. Great article, Matisse. They don't all apply to me so this one was nice, and it's nice to know that there are other "crazy bottoms" just like me
I can be distracted by my pussy!

Yeah, that happens to me, too! She starts meowing for food or jumps on the keyboard and-

Oh, wait. You were speaking of something else.
@ anguisette

I know what your name means and I also know where you got it from. Do you think the woman that you are naming yourself for would act as you have in your comments? I don't think so. She would calmly walk away from the distraction and put her entire body and mind into doing something to prove herself more than what others say or think of her with out being worried about any "words" that might be said. You might want to either rethink your name or start acting like a real anguisette. Remember that they don't whine unless demanded to do so and I didn't see anyone here demanding that you whine over the use of the word "crazy".
Carey's pretentious drivel...

"That's bananas, girl!"

-- It's Always Sunny In Philadephia
i always think it's interesting, how people who do BDSM as an activity find it suprising that someone might have bigger needs than that.

a lot of happy contented, owned slaves in Owner/property and Master/slave relationships came from a background of being "unstable".

a lot of people who are desperately looking to satisfy thier submissive need go to BDSM first thinking that it might help..

a form of release fromthe preasure as it were, but what they are really looking for is someone who can take them on as a project, and as a relationship who can understand and help them.

a lot of BDSM Dominants don't see or get the deeper needs of these people and think "hey i'm getting a great time! she submits to my every need!". well of course she does. it's just taht she has greater needs than you, and to many in the BDSM area of kink a submissive who has submissive needs are not ok.

Tghis is because most of the people who do it for fun do it just for that, for fun.

They don't understand people who need to do this for a lifestyle, and so occationally someone who would probably be better off owned, slave, in a responsible Master/slave household, ends up the bottom for a BDSM play activity instead.

She finds she doesn't get her needs met, or only gets a taste, and gets desperate, and acts out.

My Master calls this a "submissive freakout".

it means the submissive person has gone for so long and has had so little of thier submissive needs met that it can overwhelm them in a volcanic eruption of desperation and panic.

They are so desperate to submit they will do anything, even self destruct thier life.

i've seen this happen many times.

Many a good slave, came from an unstable background, only to finally find peace and stability with a good Owner who really cares about them.

As yet another person who has weathered the storm of mental illness, I would like to respond to you anguisette. To me the ability to use a negative term casually takes away its power. You compared calling someone "crazy" to calling someone "gay" earlier. To me using the word "crazy" is more like when someone who's homosexual uses the word "fag". A word that was once harsh and damaging becomes a word to rally around. My struggle with depression may not have anything to do with my friend' PTSD, but we help each other through our "crazy" days.

Long story short, I don't like being treated like a delicate flower and when people tip-toe around vernacular it doesn't help.
Perhaps we need to examine a bit more what draws a person to be a bottom BDSM. Now before you all jump all over me saying: "Thats a misconception!". Hear me out. Example: I have found in my travels that A LOT of people in the social work/psychology field were attracted to it because they have issues themselves. Ive seen it in action. They go through therapy for years and they become part of that life and end up going into that field. I was informed by someone on the inside of for Pharmaceutical field that a lot of people who abuse pharmaceuticals are drawn to that field. You see where I'm going with this. Why are people drawn to be masters or slaves? Perfectly normal people totally dig doing this. But percentage wise, you will probably encounter a higher percentage of people with serious issues who are drawn to BDSM because of their issues. Totally fucked up people are having vanilla sex too. But, I would hazard a guess that the percentage of crazies who sign up as slaves might be a tad higher.
@ LZito

Actually there have been some very famous studdies that show mental illness, child abuse, etc. percentages are no higher in the kink community than in any other area. Such views are a common, and thoughly debunked misconception.

I'll admit to having *been* a "unstable bottom." Once.

I played a scene with an acquaintance after the death of a parent, when I was going through all kinds of personal upheaval and taking a trip into subspace was NOT the best decision I could have made. Whether this person used me or realized it was a mistake before I did, I didn't hear from them after that. In retrospect that was a very good thing, but at the time I felt doubly abandoned.
@ownnedsara: It just seems like there's more crazy in BDSM around here because Seattle's crazy.
One form of crazy is being overly-sensitive, quick to take offense, and demanding that others modify their behavior to make you happy. Sticks and stones, sticks and stones.

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