Littles and Sex – The Importance of Boundaries with Dissociative Identity Disorder
I have written about my Dissociative Identity Disorder before, and the complications and struggles it brings to my life and my relationships. One of the areas that become very complicated is sex. In this post, I want to focus on boundaries, sex and the littles in Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Littles
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a very misunderstood condition. The public’s view is a result of wrongful depictions in the media, in movies and in books. Someone with the disorder is not dangerous, violent or lying. Instead, it is an illness caused by repetitive complex trauma during childhood that resulted in the brain’s inability to form one unified personality. It is a survival strategy for the traumatized brain of a child. However much it helped many of us survive terrible things, later in life, it can cause a lot of distress and confusion.
How Dissociative Identity Disorder works
A child needs to have experienced complex trauma where they felt helpless and did not see a way out before the age of about 8 years to develop DID. In the theory of structural dissociation, that is about the age when a child gets a unified personality. But for a child who has been through trauma, that unification is impossible. Let me explain why. When a trauma happens, the child’s brain aids the child to emotionally and mentally survive by disengaging.
The memories of the trauma get stored in a part of the brain that the child does not have access to. If similar trauma happens again, those memories also get stored in that box. That box is an alter. It is the part of the child that takes all the pain, all the bad memories, and handles them. So when trauma happens, that part is fronting and experiencing things. It is a dissociated part of the child’s brain.
The more different traumas the child experiences, the more alters get created. Once the brain starts using that specific coping strategy, an integration of alters to form one personality naturally is impossible without processing of the trauma. And the further in the past the trauma lies, the harder any kind of integration becomes even with the help of therapy. The thing is, the child has not recollection of the trauma, or doesn’t understand that the trauma is something bad, because of the lack of emotional memory.
The collection of alters is called a system. There is no original, or no one outside the system. Everyone in the system has a role, many hold specific traumas, and many are hurt. You can think of it like that. You have a glass bowl, and that glass bowl shatters into pieces because of trauma. Which piece of broken glass is the original? They are all part of the bowl, they are just not connected anymore. And they all look different, have different thickness, different shapes. They are all their own piece. But they all belong together because they are part of the bowl.
An alter is a person. It is someone who has their own memories, personality, traits, age, gender, feelings, experiences and needs. Inside the mind of someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder, there are many people, who all have to share one body. So who has sex when the body has sex? It becomes very complicated.
Littles and Other Roles
The littles in a system are alters who are children. In my system, there are littles from the age of 2 to the age of 10. There are also teens and adults (you can see a list of the alters in my system here). A lot of the littles in a DID system are trauma holders. But not only that, they are children, meaning that they don’t really have a concept of boundaries, of what is appropriate and what isn’t. I know that this idea is confusing and hard to comprehend. The body of the system is adult, but the person fronting (being out and interacting with and experiencing the world) might not be an adult. So even if you are making out with an adult body, you might by mistake be doing that with a child.
Now, there are many different roles in a system. There are the host (the alter mostly fronting and making decisions), protectors (those that protect the system from hurt through different coping strategies), there are those who know how to function, those who can handle distress, those who are professional and so on. Every alter exists for a reason, and they often come out when triggered by a situation. But sometimes they also come out in inappropriate situations. It all depends on how much communication there is in the system and how strong certain triggers are.
I don’t really communicate a lot with people in general anymore. I feel too uncomfortable making close connections because I might switch (another alter pushes out to front), and embarrass myself. So I am keeping safe that way. But when I am with my partner, I don’t really need to focus on keeping it together. He is aware of the system and every single alter. He knows their names, he knows what they are like. And everyone feels safe being with him. That is beautiful and I am very very lucky to have found someone who doesn’t mind being with someone who has DID.
Sex and Littles
But all this brings on the issue of sex. There are a lot of sexual alters in the system and that is a good thing. There are many different kinks, and fetishes, and we are having a great fun exploring all of that. But what if a little gets triggered and starts fronting? What if a little actually engages in a sexual activity without realizing what it is?
Littles, Hurt Inner Children and DD/llg dynamics
A little in a DID system is not the same as the hurt inner child in Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). And it is not the same as a little in a DD/llg dynamics. I personally think that it might be entirely possible that a lot of those who identify with the little role in a D/s relationship do have DID or C-PTSD, but are unaware of it. Many people with these conditions often take many years to become aware, especially with DID, because the system’s role is to survive, which means it is covert and is not to be discovered. But this is just my theory.
I think it is important to point out that a little in a DID system is a child,, and not to be confused with the hurt inner child or the little role. Instead, it is a child with the view of the world of a child, the memories of a child, the conceptions of a child. They do not understand the idea of sex and what is appropriate or not.
Sex, Boundaries and Littles
When I first became aware of the system and my DID, I wasn’t very much focused on who is fronting when the body was having sex. But as time went by, I started to understand the implications, and made the decision that it is in no way okay for one of our child alters to front when it is sexy time. That is a hard thing to do though, especially if most of us like being physically close to our Master, and some of the child alters are trauma holders of sexual trauma. Sadly, we also have a child alter in our system who actually becomes very compliant when it comes to sex, and offers it as a way to soothe any sort of assumed threat. It is a very confusing and terrible behaviour, and it will take a long time to teach her this is very unhealthy.
So we had to put up boundaries. My boundary is that child alters, littles, are not allowed to front when we are having sex. Mostly, they move into the innerworld anyway, when things are happening. But not always. There are a few older teens (around the age of 18), who are allowed to have sex. But anyone younger than that, needs to step back. That is hard to do.
Most people with DID struggle with internal communication, especially if they don’t have an innerworld where the alters can communicate and settle disputes and discuss boundaries. Fortunately, we have an innerworld. Most of us can communicate with each other. So we have a boundary system set up now. There is one particular alter who has the job to hold back the littles when we are having sex. She is also a little, but more mature and understands what sex is. She is also a protector and communicator in general. And she has been doing a good job.
Every now and then, someone slips through though. It is often about an external trigger, and it is not something that any of us can control much. But my Master is very aware and observant and the moment he realizes that something is not right, he stops all sexual activity. Either he is able to convince the alter to stop fronting, or we stop having sex. I am so lucky to have him in my life!
Every System is Different
I know that being in a D/s relationship and practicing BDSM might seem a bit daring if you have a group of people inside your mind that might get triggered by pain and rough sex. But I think that a lot of the needs for kinkier sex, come from our past trauma. The important thing is that those needs are met in a safe and loving dynamic, and do not escalate things into reenactment. And for once, we actually are in control, we can use the safeword and it stops. That is very empowering!
What works for one DID system, does not work for another. I personally think that no child alter should ever be involved in any sexual activity. But sometimes the amnesia between alters, or the lack of communication within the system, is so strong, that it is not something that can be controlled internally. Then it is all about the partner of the system to set up boundaries and to be aware of who is fronting. I know that for most people, issues like this seem foreign and strange. But for those of us with Dissociative Identity Disorder, it is important to be aware of what is going on when we are in a romantic relationship or have sex, to avoid further traumas.