I'm feeling rather tired of the interminable feminist bickering about BDSM. I've been studying the arguments on both sides of the sex wars since college and into graduate school. I know them backwards and forwards, whether that's the arguments of people in Against Sadomasochism, or with the that's the arguments of Califia and Rubin.
So there's not much knew I have to say. All I really want to mention is that, as a woman who tops not only women but also men, there really isn't much about us in the internal warfare. And I wonder why this is. on the one hand, I know that it's because the radical feminist analysis (Yes, I realize that not all radical feminists agree with this analysis, but that's what it's most often called, so that's the short cut that I will use.) is concerned about dynamics between submissive women and dominant men. I know that their interminable analyses of lesbian sadomasochism, as well, center around a faulty idea that all leatherdyke are butch-femme, and at a butch is emulating men.
All that means that a woman top, unless she is very strongly masculinely identified (oddly, I think I might actually qualify on some of these analyses, though I doubt people would expect me to top men since this would slot me into "butch" if anything), doesn't make any sense and doesn't show up on the radar at all. Neither does a male bottom, unless he is into such stuff as feminization, in which case he's slumming for fun. ( gay men don't fit into this well at all either, since these sorts of feminists pride themselves on not caring much about men. The assumption is sometimes a similar butch-femme dynamic, which totally misses the hypermasculine emphasis in much of gay leather.)
So the fascinating thing is that these radical feminists have nothing to say to me. They have nothing to say about what it means that my Barbie doll locked Ken in towers and kept him captive there, a boy Rapunzel -- and let's not forget that to a little girl like I was, boys don't grow out their hair!
They have a few things to say about my fascination with pain, since the fantasizing little-girl me was pretty indifferent to who that happened to. But even there, the idea that it's fun at least in part because it feels good, rather than because of incredibly polarized power roles, doesn't show up much at all when you look at their analysis.
And that's the thing. I happen to believe, probably unlike many other sadomasochists who've run afoul of these people, that their analysis is actually impressively internally consistent, and difficult to argue with in some ways because of that. But the big problem with it is that it's extremely narrow. It works, if it works at all, for a tiny set of textbook cases. Not only are they all male dominant and female submissive, or *maybe maybe maybe* *possibly* butch-femme in an extremely traditionalist way, but they are all male dominant and female submissive in a cartoony way. No one's dynamic actually looks like that, not even the M/f folks I know who consider themselves old-fashioned.
And that's the problem. What they've come up with is a theoretical analysis of a theoretical problem. It's internally consistent enough that it can convince people that they understand what's really going on -- if said people don't actually know or want to know about the real nuts and bolts of sadomasochists' lives, play, and (possible) power relations (remember, they're optional!)