I am a mental health professional who has worked in the field for ten years, specializing in trauma related to abuse and maltreatment.
I have stopped contributing to forums because I got tired of feeling like those who wanted to save people from themselves were getting too much air time, which left me feeling an uneasy combination of boredom, frustration, and defensiveness (three things I like to limit as much as possible in my life).
I rarely try to explain Joe's and my relationship to one another, even to our own friends. What they see is a ridiculously passionate couple (after a few years together, that has not quelled) who are very happy—and I do get questions about that... what keeps us so enthralled with each other, etc. But, can I say that DD is what creates the magic?
No, it's really only a part of things, and I think that what really makes us a strong, committed and loving couple is that we share a common vision of what life is about for us as individuals and as a couple. For one thing, we both are committed to our social values, to making a contribution to the lives of others, to nature and exploration, and to spending our time in a balanced way that includes working separately and together, enjoying each other and our friends, and making sure we set aside time for rest, pleasure and fun.
We represent many things to each other on many different levels, so we do not feel stuck like an old record in being only one way all the time. Sometimes, we both go full-on into working-bee mode, when we hardly know that the other exists for hours and days; but, we make sure we touch base with each other and give an affectionate peck and caress as we can. Other times, we shut down everything and take off to the mountains for a few days of fully-engrossed talking and love-making. Then, there are quiet winter weekends, such as now, where we cuddle up inside the house, flounce on each other and read for hours on end or watch old movies.
DD is an undercurrent in our relationship that sometimes comes fully to the surface, but as we get closer and closer, we have found that we live in an intimate harmony that rarely requires the use of real corporal punishment. That doesn't mean we have cut back on use of hands, paddles and straps, though! ;-)
I can really only speak about how it works for us, as I am pretty out of the loop with other couples' private lives other than those whom I see in my therapy practice, whom I do not discuss. I do know some friends of ours tried DD on for size, and both felt that it did not suit them as individuals or as a couple. I am not interested in recruiting people to our lifestyle. The woman in this couple thinks that Joe and I are “the perfect couple,” and they decided to try DD themselves. When it didn't feel good for them, I said, “So why do it?” They didn't persist.
My “subjugation” has not ramped up over time, as some might think it would. Joe does not increase his demands on me. We found a level of control/autonomy that works for us, and we hover around that level, rarely varying much from it in either direction. However, it is true that in a bad relationship the demands could keep mounting until a woman's full subjugation was achieved. I see this happen in marriages that have no DD framework, and I consider it abusive.
I work with one strong and true principle, which is to trust people to consider for themselves what they most want and need, and to help them figure out how to achieve that. I think that, if I am going to argue that self-actualization is an important goal (and I believe it is), then I need not to act as the “expert” who knows what “normal” looks like, and who tells others that they need to raise their game to live up to my idea of normalcy and good mental hygiene. That's another type of social control.
As a clinician, I ask myself a few guiding questions: Is this person living the life they want to be living? Are they living according to their own principles? How high is their level of functioning (a low level of functioning is definitely a sign of a struggle with mental or physical health)? Is anyone else being physically or mentally injured by this person or family system?
If a woman is not displaying clinically significant symptoms, and is not seeking a mental health professional's help for her life, I do not feel that I have a right to tell her what's good for her. It is her right to explore and find that out for herself, in my opinion, as long as she is causing no direct harm to others.
For some couples, undoubtedly DD is a way for the woman to submerge her individuality and fuse into the man in a very enmeshed way that is not very healthy. Can it have addictive properties? Sure. How many couples are using it this way, I have no idea. However, most of the people I remember from DD lists are couples in which the female partner is working and has her own life going on. I think it's hard to isolate a woman like that, because she will have her own work, her own friends, and her own sense of self as an individual, and as a member of a couple, but not as solely an appendage of a man.
Where you are dealing with a woman who has an abuse history, a poorly developed sense of self, low confidence, an inability to negotiate boundaries between herself and others, and an external locus of control, yes, you are asking for trouble ... however, maybe she needs to go down that road before she can figure out that it isn't the path to healing she thought it could be (at the end of the day, there is not really such a thing as the relationship that saves us from ourselves).