Sunday, 20 May 2007

Introductions, and a review

Trin has a good overview of common stereotypes of BDSM, both mainstream and from a particular feminist analysis. In passing, as it were, she notes, of a certain stereotype which is only reflected irl, if at all, in a very narrow subset of actual player:

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

...which is as good a segue as any into my review of a performance I saw last night. Speaking of "cartoony..."

First of all, I should say a little something about my own background. Hi, my pseud is belledame222, and yes, I have been asked before if I am "sans merci," and the answer is: sometimes. Mostly I post over at my other blog, fetch me my axe, which tends to be more political than personal. My -other- other blog, sense and sensuality, was meant to be more intimate, but I haven't been updating it as much as I'd like. Maybe this will be an impetus to put more into that one as well. Kink-wise, I haven't really done more than obliquely touch on my tastes; this post in particular might give you a bit of an idea of my particular bent.

My current career trajectory is in psychology/counselling, and funnily enough, I see my interest in BDSM, particularly my as-yet-mostly-novice-irl toppishness, as...not unrelated. The shadow side, if you will. The way I like to think of it, sometimes...there's a quote from Angels in America, where Belize the nurse has Roy Cohn at his mercy in a hospital bed, weak and debilitated from AIDS but still a nasty, racist, imperious bastard. Finally, Belize gets fed up and says, "very fiercely:"

Watch. Yourself. You don't talk to me that way when I'm holding something this sharp. Or I might slip and stick in your heart. If you have a heart.
...Now I've been doing drips a long time. I can slip this in so easy you'll think you were born with it. Or I can make it feel like I just hooked you up to a bag of liquid Drano. So you be nice to me or you're going to be one sorry asshole come morning.

Of course, there's no room for the "Drano" side in counseling (Dr. Laura or even Dan Savage aside, whose method I emphatically do -not- approve of; no fucking safeword, and even for professional assholes, there really are limits). In real life, though, as opposed to fantasy, you need empathy and compassion for both--topping and counselling. Both require self-awareness. Both require learning about -really good communication,- and boundaries. Each has its own protocol to maintain those boundaries. And both require an intense attention to what's going on with the person who's placed hir trust in you, who is, for the duration of an hour or so, in your care.

I definitely plan to explore this relationship more in later posts, particularly in relation to my experience with more body-centered forms of therapy, drama therapy, and most of all the explicitly erotic healing work I've done with an organization called Body Electric, among others.

Before my interest in psychology, my passion was theatre. Which, too, has many connections with BDSM: there's a reason they call a scene "a scene." Costume, props...power play. These are all things I learned about in my stage training, and possibly part of the reason why some of the things that seem to upset some people so, I just took for granted. Tricky bits of technical stagecraft that can and often do go wrong, setting up, improvisation within a pre-set structure, even the physicality. Most of all, the understanding that what's "real" and what's "not real" is, in such a milieu, rather...ambiguous. This is also a subject I plan to come back to again and again.

For now, though, I want to get back to this performance, which was of the "straight" (hah) theatrical variety, last night.

The set-up: I'd gone to a sort of American Idol for the stage, interesting concept,in order to see the excellent Black Amazon's audition piece(s). After the main "contestants" had finished their performances and received their critiques, as a special treat, we got to see an excerpt from the play that was being auditioned for. A monologue from the POV of a professional domme.

So the lights dim, and out struts this skinny white chick in a black vinyl three-piece that looked like it came straight out of a Halloween costume catalog--ruffled micromini, bra top, and, bizarrely, a neckerchief--fishnets, and lavender "fun" wig. Plants one foot up on the chair placed center stage, jutting the hip of the standing foot out provocatively. Riding crop clutched stiffly in one hand, extended, for some reason, behind her. Already I'm thinking "this can't be good."

She starts her spiel. And, first of all, 1) kink aside, this is just basic: given a choice between a completely inept "accent" and none at all, ALWAYS go for "none at all" 2) yes okay, a German accent, that makes the whole thing much more Serious Domme, not at all Mel Brooks, okay.

But that was the least of it. The speech itself, even if she'd given an adequate performance--even if I hadn't already known it was written by a (probably straight, almost certainly vanilla) dude, it was pretty obvious that the author's knowledge of kink came from similar cutesy-snickery performances and references in mainstream media. The gist: all men, zey are slaves, a real man knows his place is at the feet of his mistress; but, dammit, a good man/slave is hard to find. Where o where have all the good slaves gone. And ends with her sitting alone on stage, as started. Disconsolate. Which -in no way- resembles every other "pushy broad at the top of her career, but just can't get a man" riff.

But even without that, the performance itself...Oy.

YOU! (oo goody, audience participation). Vat are you looking at?! Vell?? Are you looking at ZIS? (thrusts out ass). Vell, DON'T look! (little smile to break the mock-severity!) I zaid, DON'T LOOK! NO ZPANKING FOR YOU! (hands on the knees, little ass-wiggle, grasp crop in both hands as though flexing a police baton, another coy little smile, strut back to the chair for another contorted pose...)

And so on. There's nothing worse than bad theatre; it's actively painful, there's nowhere you can go, you feel embarassed for the actor, and then annoyed for feeling sympathy for someone who's for all intents and purposes keeping you hostage.

What interested me was, the same rather macho writers/directors/coaches who'd been critiquing the auditioners, in many cases with on-the-money observations such as (I paraphrase) "don't wave your hands too much, and don't shout; this character is powerful, and too much motion, especially with your hands, too much shouting, actually make you -less- powerful"--

--and yet, here was this dame prancing about, presumably with their blessing, as the writer/director of the play was in the house and she'd been an actor in a previous performance--and yet, if they had any problem with any of this capering, they gave no sign.

And predictably, when the cheeseball "M.C." that was hosting the thing came back out, mock fear, hoo, I'm scared now, you know.

Of course, he -also- did that in response to BA's not at all sexual but very fierce monologues (angry woman! not kidding! no smiles! SCARY), and even with the pixie-sized actor who did a piece wherein she hectored some unseen henpecked husband, clutching a pair of tongs in one hand (she was grilling, see). Whatcha gonna do with -those-, oo, cower.

And I thought to myself: those same feminists that trin was talking about, the ones who, if/when they mention femdom at all, tend to dismiss it as just a cutesy let's-pretend game for the pleasure of the mens--

--annoying as that is, I can understand why, if this sort of thing was what they, like apparently everyone involved with that play, imagined a female top to be like--well, I can understand why they wouldn't see it as "empowering."

And it's not the first time I've made this observation. Take "mainstream" hetporn, which I don't watch often, but f'r instance the last one I saw, a big deal production called The Fashionistas, which might or might not be worth a review in itself at some point, but basically: same deal. Yes, there were some scenes in which actual, serious technique were shown, but: the female "domme," while lightly bitchy, never really gave the impression that she was to be taken seriously. And in fact, she and her sub "girlfriend" ended up catfighting over Rocco Siffredi, who never really did "bottom" in any real sense. And even before that, I remember, there's a blonde sub who's been "punished" by the leading domme and then left, provocatively posed, for Rocco to find; when asked if she's "all right," she responds, among other things,

"She's just a woman, after all. She doesn't hit very hard."

--with, of course, the suggestion that Rocco do her right, which of course he promptly does (more vanilla than anything else, if I recall). Hetnormativity and sexism 101, ahoy!

And I remember thinking of Midori, of her demonstrating the "Queen's Walk" in a workshop; of the gleeful, evil-six-year-old smile on her face as she nimbly brought a man twice her size to the ground and tortured the tender spots between his toes with a toothpick; of the sensual near-ballet she did with a swooning young woman and a flogger; or her ability to bring a laughing, chattering room to silence without...saying...a word.

Command presence.

You learn it in any number of places besides the dungeon: the stage, yes, but also in politics, in (so I'm told, by Midori, for one, who was actually in it) the military, in front of a classroom. Any place you're expected to -lead.-

The costume, in feminism and elsewhere, is nearly always what gets focused on first: the heels, the cleavage, the long eyelashes, the lipstick. And yes, costume matters, although not always in the starkly gender-binary way so many people seem to take for granted. (Is makeup always pink girlie froufrou? Or might it be "war paint?" Does a glistening scarlet mouth make you think of submissive pouts and blowjobs, or of fresh blood from her latest victim? Do you teeter on your heels, or use them for kicking and crushing?). But it's far from the most important thing.

It's--well, yes, -acting.- Body language. Voice. And...something more ineffable.


It's not what most people think it is, either. It's really more a verb than a noun.

But that, too, is for another post.

I'll just wrap this up by noting, with amusement, that I got three quarters of the way through this without realizing which shirt I'd put on today--a shirt, by the way, I did -not- get at a kink-related event or anything of the sort. I think my (liberal, square, blissfully kink-ignorant) mom got it for me, actually, perhaps through a catalog, or at the mall.


Blackamazon said...

AND YOU WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Trinity said...

"She's just a woman, after all. She doesn't hit very hard."


that's infuriating.

belledame222 said...

It's mainstream porn, Jake.

Trinity said...

my name is not Jake!

and yeah, I know, but everyone was so *excited* about it being BDSM and all.


belledame222 said...

yea. 'twasn't. except, like I say, for some scenes in a dungeon. mostly: pretty latex outfits, a very silly storyline, and a lot of ass-fetishisizing.

Trinity said...

Latex outfits: eh. sexy, but no huge thang for me.

Silly storyline: what else is new?

Ass-fetishizing: nummy, though actually I am more excited by the idea of assfucking boys than assfucking girls. I dunno what my brain is doing there.

Maybe some weirdness whereby on a guy, an ass is a substitute cunt, and a girl already has one? Meh. My brain is a big dorkus malorkus. Silly brain.

arrogantworm said...

A lot of that seemed to be a mockery. I have trouble imagining a sub saying something like that about their domme, female or no. Who the hell writes a 'cutesy' don't-listen-to-me domme who doesn't seem to know how to hold a crop. And why hold it if she wasn't going to snap it once or twice? Would've added to the nonexistant control.

Please tell me the play at least got better.

Count my blessings I haven't seen mainstream porn in a few years, for a bit there I thought I might be missing something.

belledame222 said...

actually, it was at least as much rimming, and...smothering. (that was the main event of the "female dommeing").

Louisefeminista said...

Bit off topic...I am a bit late in saying hello and welcome to you all and it is good this blog exists. I read some of the posts on Verte's site and can empathise with when she writes about the "feminist guilt"

Anyway on the blog I share I have written a post saying hello to you and good luck with the blog. Hope it is ok.

Trinity said...

"I have trouble imagining a sub saying something like that about their domme, female or no."

Some very bratty bottoms lacking in clue actually will do the "is that as hard as you can hit" or "you hit like a girl" junk. It's a signal to, if you're forgiving, wallop them within an inch of their goddamn life, or if you're not, end the scene right there. :)

NEW MISSION ACQUIRED: Beat the shit out of Rocco Siffredi.

*grinning and laughing*

belledame222 said...

Hey, thanks, lf! welcome, and welcome, aw.

belledame222 said...

...and welcome, BA, and glad you like/agree.

(how come your comment popped up at the top?...she asked rhetorically. oh well, blogger).

Octogalore said...

I'm liking this blog. Frustrating, the main places I've seen BDSM done well are in novels rather than any porn I've seen -- having fairly minimal IRL experience with it.

I love the shirt too, any links for where to get one?

belledame222 said...

sadly, no, you know how long ago I got this? it may well be the oldest piece of clothing in my wardrobe that I can actually still wear. if I do see it anywhere, though, I'll let you know.

Trinity said...

oh yeah, can't believe I forgetted:

HI BA!!!

JackGoff said...

Oh, and just to say, all the BDSM porn (granted, all the regular porn, as well) that I have been subject to has been terrible, and sort of boring. And very misogynist, if I may say so, though I would assume my own understanding would be different than that if women BDSMers. I'm (confession) pretty new to all of this scene.

Thorne said...

Love this new blog! I'll be comin' round... Love exploring Top and Bottom play, although my serious BDSM days are past.
Trin, "Ass-fetishizing: nummy, though actually I am more excited by the idea of assfucking boys than assfucking girls. I dunno what my brain is doing there."

Watch out, hon... It's been my experience that once you assfuck a guy you can never get rid of um!! LOL

Trinity said...

"Watch out, hon... It's been my experience that once you assfuck a guy you can never get rid of um!! LOL"

That or if they're real dickheads they split right after, having gotten what they really wanted.

Trinity said...

Oh, and no calling me hon unless we're close friends.