Monday, 21 May 2007

Some thoughts on "power play"

This is actually a repost of an older entry from my other blog; since the subject seems to be coming up in comments here, figured: haul it out for another look.

...heh, turns out actually it's mostly links, including one going back to you, trin. There's some good convo in the comments, though.


Otherwise known as "BDSM," and/or "kink." And yet, those terms come with a lot of baggage now, don't they. What does it all mean, dear? in relation to "real life" power dynamics? -Is- there a fresh way of approaching this?

For now, just a couple of links to other people; I have some thoughts of my own, but, later: it needs to cook.

First, Dw3t-Hthr at World on a Slant

A Cat May Look: Fealty and Slavery

Three threads to this braid: respect for support roles, individualism vs. collectivism, power and vulnerability. It starts at the beginning of all the threads, but trying to write that will start putting letters on top of each other and be wickedly hard to read. And I'm not gonna try to be clever and format it into columns or shit like that.

First mentioned thread: there's this fascinating thread of contempt for people who willingly take support roles. That nobody would hire on as the night janitor if they didn't have to. That nobody would settle for being the secretary if they could be the power executive. When it goes into caretaking it gets worse -- the idea that a full-time parent is actually working doesn't cross the mind of many, the people who take care of their elderly or ailing relatives are treated as having a time-consuming hobby.

A better person, a more competent, more capable person, that person would be in charge -- would have ambition, drive to succeed, would want to be the name on the letterhead, not the initials in lowercase in the bottom corner. Clearly, the one doing the typing, mopping the floor, changing the diaper, they're not suited to anything better. Anything worthy of respect.

Second thread: there's this creepy hivemind thing that I see a lot in the name of individualism. I mean, one can hearken back to the whole being a special unique snowflake just like everyone else when being flip, but there are Rules out there. Be a strong individual and follow your dream -- so long as your dream isn't to be anything that threatens the Rules. Maybe you get to pick your Rules a little and only take flak from people using different ones, but the Rules are still there. Shouldn't work, shouldn't work in these fields, shouldn't work for less than this amount of money, shouldn't think that way, shouldn't dress that way, why? Because we're more mature than that now. We know better. This is the right way. We don't want to be mistaken for Them.

Being an individual is all well and good, so long as one knows which ideology one's an individual in. Then there are the neat boxes that can be dragged out, some of them marked 'good' and some of them marked 'evil', and everything is neatly filed away, and nobody has to think about who anyone is.

Third thread: In the presence of a power differential, the people on the low end of things are living exposed and somewhat vulnerable. The power exists to affect them, and they have less to retaliate with. Holding that power is a drug, and like any drug, there is responsible use and irresponsible use. The position of power is a position to compel intimacy, to know and control more about someone else's life; even if one is not using that power, the possibility does exist for it to be used. And if the power does not exist in a framework of agreement and sufficient support for intimacy, people are gonna get hurt. And do get hurt, all the time.

Let's knot those three together with: I am kinked submissive.

And starting to braid:...

Read the rest at World on a Slant.

Then, coming from another angle, here's trin at the strangest alchemy:

When I came into SM, it was a group in town. I hung with the townies. And there were some real class differences between my daily life at school and the people I hung out with, learned from, and beat because it's hot. Talking to other kinky folks I often hear that most perverts are high class: we can afford floggers and very expensive leather clothes, corsets, etc.

But the people I knew were not those people. They were rural folk, some of whom had never heard much at all about highfalutin stuff like feminism. I remember being a little scared of them and quite a bit classist -- "what the fuck is wrong with their teeth?" most notably. When my parents later met the guy I ended up dating, who was quite poor compared to most of us attending school on our parents' dimes, many years my senior, and a townie -- oh, the teeth thing. "That person must be someone who can't take care of himself if his teeth look like that. Isn't it gross to kiss him? How disgusting."

...Anyhoo. Pervy townies.

Quite a few were good country girls and boys who'd never questioned that women submit to men, and discovered that could be made into a shitload of fun if you bought yourself a couple paddles for cheapish from the local guy who makes 'em.

And learned by meeting the rest of us that some people are gay, some people are poly, some straight or bi women dominate their men.

Their minds got opened by being involved in the alternative lifestyle, not by theory or by sudden understandings of social oppression. They went to the meetings, met someone nice, discovered he kisses and fucks other boys and went "oh hell, we're all weird motherfuckers here," and moved on with a more open mind.

So for me... eh. I feel like I'm overstepping if I say I know all about the class dynamics of it. I don't -- I wasn't a townie. I did most of my kink out in the country when I wasn't at home with my lover -- rural Virginia or West Virginia. But I wasn't them.

But they were my friends, my leather community, my tribe. Going back to town and hearing the younger, richer, more feminist women tell me that the screen savers they filled up with porn and looped when they threw play parties was a problem... never felt right. That was a country-boy Master's idea of fun. Maybe it wasn't great -- I have some thoughts both about porn and the porn the person I have in mind picked -- but it sure as hell wasn't about sending messages. It was about how nice it is that in a room full of perverts you can proudly display what you like, not keep it hidden and stashed away -- and some of them might like it, too.

Going back to school and hearing the other women scold me for getting used to the porn, for liking some of it -- well, in addition to "Noneya biz!" it also felt like here we are in an ivory tower deciding what other people's lives should look like. That what they consider manners are sexist, even when they're friendly and loving to dominant woman me. That their friendliness and openness and the fact that at least one of my best friends went from being raised strict Baptist to being kinda fundie but bi and kinky and open to just about anyone else's way of life (and a top!)... wasn't enough....

read the rest.

1 comment:

JackGoff said...

I should probably write up my own ideas with respect to power play, but I am sort of fearful about exposing myself in that sort of way. I'd like to make it clear without bringing too much of my own kink into it, as it were. (I'm not saying this right, but the approximation is pretty accurate, I should say.)

The real point is: fear. Being afraid to say who I really am. I know this is bullshit, but I have to deal with it, because I'm afraid to just blurt it all out, ya know?