Friday, 8 June 2007

"Smashing" Binaries?

I had written up a long post, but it got eaten.

I've been thinking a lot lately about binaries. The binaries in SM sex. Top and bottom. Giver and receiver. Dominant and submissive. The way that these roles complement one another. The way that they're designed to fit together perfectly and create an intense experience precisely because of the contrast between them.

A lot of feminism is suspicious of binaries. Gender is a binary that we love to discuss smashing or subverting, even if we often find ourselves creeping back to essentialism when we try to justify destroying it. We love to talk about the societal roles imposed on men and women. The way that, if you haven't been paying attention, they seem to be complementary and maybe even sweet, but really they raise the men at the expense of women.

But a beginning to wonder about binaries. I'm beginning to wonder but the people who fit into them. People like me who like being tops or bottoms. People like the more traditional transsexuals, who I occasionally see getting shit from people who think that they should be helping to smash or subvert the gender binary. Who get told to be less traditional, or less stealth, or more genderfucked in general for political reasons. Or even people who get told they're not really straight, or not really gay or lesbian, because everyone must be a little bisexual.

I'm beginning to think that many of us fit in -- and even like -- some binaries. I'm beginning to wonder if we don't all have some secret hidden polarity that we find exciting, or interesting, or the just plain fits. And I'm starting to think that we need to talk less about smashing binaries and who should be doing it, and more about enabling people to really and truly fit anywhere on continuums, even the ends. Because we're not really trying to destroy the ends. We're just trying to make sure that being on one end of the other is not compulsory.

And yeah, in one sense that "smashes" the idea that everyone is 0 or 1. But people tend to confuse that with "getting rid of 0 and 1." "There will be no bottoms (and by extension, no tops, the tyrants!) in utopia." "'Man' and 'woman' will lose their meaning." "No one will be 'straight' or 'gay', because no one will 'feel locked in' to a certain kind of partner -- oh, those weird people who don't behave omnisexually? They're just unevolved."

And that... uh. No, not really the world I want, thanks.

50 comments:

belledame222 said...

Orwell had something cogent to say about "smashing," which, if i find it, I'll post.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

My response to this is mostly theology, actually.

I tend to think that sorting things into binaries is a human trait; we see it in a lot of places. I thing that making those binaries clear-cut and oppositional is a Western trait, and probably derives in part from the Manicheanism that crops up in a lot of forms of pop cultural Christianity -- God vs. Satan. One doesn't see that level of oppositionality in Taoism, where the yin drawing has a little yang-dot in its head and vice versa.

I think a lot of people want, at some level, to collapse binaries into The One Binary. And I think this is, again, Manicheanism, so if there's, say, the good/evil binary, and people say, 'There's a male/female binary too', they spend some processing on which maps to 'good' and which maps to 'evil'. And madonna/whore binary is pretty explicitly good/evil mapping on women. And so on.

The problem is not the binaries; the problem is taking a single binary as the essential truth. The real world is full of so many glorious dualisms and ways of melding them and so much nuance is brought out in their interplay. To pick a couple out of just my primary theology, order/chaos, law/strength, fertile land/desert, earth/sky, material world/unseen world, hidden power/revealed power, celebration of beauty/avenging of beauty corrupted, existence/unmaking .... The world dances to the vibrations of these dualities, but there are many different notes.

Binaries are broken if one tries to fold them all together, male-butch-top-sadist-dominant, female-femme-bottom-masochist-submissive, with your good/evil split on that one depending on politics. Binaries are broken if one has to take a place in one or the other -- be male or female, straight or gay, top or bottom -- when one works that duality from the middle, or just can't resonate on that frequency at all (butch/femme bewilders the everliving fuck out of me, for example). But that's not a problem with the dualisms; it's a problem with coercion.

Raven Kaldera figures that "Aphrodite is a Mean Femme Top." (Link to a poem.)

SnowdropExplodes said...

I was saving up some thoughts on exactly this topic because next week I'm guest-blogging over at Feministe, and it's an area on which I've had some ideas gradually developing for quite a while. Kind of a coincidence that it's cropped up here, too!

dw3t-hthr, your comment regarding Taoism is along a similar line to what I plan to talk about over there - I guess I'll just link back to this thread and have done with it!

I've got plenty to say on this topic, can I save it up for my big debut on Feministe?

Trinity said...

"
I tend to think that sorting things into binaries is a human trait; we see it in a lot of places. I thing that making those binaries clear-cut and oppositional is a Western trait, and probably derives in part from the Manicheanism that crops up in a lot of forms of pop cultural Christianity -- God vs. Satan. One doesn't see that level of oppositionality in Taoism, where the yin drawing has a little yang-dot in its head and vice versa."

That's really well-said. And that whole... oppositionality seems to be both part of why we love them and part of why we hate them.

Hmm.

"Binaries are broken if one tries to fold them all together, male-butch-top-sadist-dominant, female-femme-bottom-masochist-submissive, with your good/evil split on that one depending on politics."

Yeah. Definitely.

Itr's when people start going

"okay, so you're 'female top', good... but then you're 'masculine-top-sadist-dominant' and doesn't that make you just a little too identified with whoodlezeeblah, such that we should never listen to you?"

that things get nutsy. I mean they can't even see oppositions because they look at someone and go "too many clumps"

it's just... um not useful.

Joan Kelly said...

Belle,

Thanks for this post. I have had so much personal frustration around what plays out in the BDSM circles I've been in, around ideas/expectations of top/bottom, male/female, dominant/submissive, etc. It's one of the reasons I don't know if I'll ever get to be with someone who is kinky and who I fit with in any other aspect.

I agree with you that rejecting compulsory placement in a binary system doesn't need to mean nobody gets to enjoy or choose those particular placements. I do feel like, fuck if I haven't had it up to here with people who say things to me like "oh, you're a personal assistant now? How perfect since you used to be a pro sub!" Or who used to say back when I was doing sessions "hey you'd make a perfect slave for me around the house, ha ha" when what they meant was they were looking for a domestic worker who wouldn't mind being treated the way they wanted to treat a domestic worker anyway, before they knew I was a pervert. Point being, I hate it when people respond to the information that I sometimes like bottoming, under some circumstances with some people, by deciding "You are x type of person, and couldn't possibly have any likes/personality traits/behaviors/whatthefuckever of a type y person." Never mind that it then supposedly precludes you from liking what is considered the "opposite" role. Or, that there is a fairly big spectrum of what top, bottom, submissive, dominant, sadisist, masochistic means to people. I wouldn't fit in ANYWHERE on some people's list, and I would fit everywhere on my own. And outside of it.

Granted, most people don't give me enough thought to have decided anything about me, ha, but it is definitely the thing that's made me feel that fuck-binaries-altogether anger and dismissal that you address. I don't know what it is that makes it uncomfortable for so many people I've met who are into BDSM, that someone might get off on some pretty explicit power differentials without needing to romanticize or revere the concept of "you are this and I am that and that's what makes it so hot." Sometimes, yeah, that applies for me. But as an identity? Totally irrelevant.

Trinity said...

"you are this and I am that and that's what makes it so hot."

actually part of the reason I said this is that... that IS what makes it hot for me a lot of the time.

for example: i was watching clips from that godawful 60 Minutes "do hormones make you GAAAAAAAAAAAAY" episode. and I'm watching this scientist who's saying "I chemically castrated this male rat at birth, and now it performs lordosis when mounted by another rat."

and he's demonstrating and I'm watching this, and it's actually kind of hot to me.

because I'm thinking of a human doing that and... I respond to that. not because I "decided" that I wanted to like complementary sexual whatevers, because I DO.

That's what I mean by sometimes smashing binaries is a Theory Thing (tm) that just doesn't play out in the world.

I may be misreading your comment horribly, but it seems to me you've taken it in a way exactly opposite to what I intended.

Trinity said...

dw3t-hthr,

I never liked Aphrodite much. Or most femme tops :)

I think it's that I don't like the concept "love." What's that mean? Sex? Desire? Valentine's-day gushiness? The devotion and care you feel for friends you love? Filial emotions toward your parents?

It's too vague for me. I can't figure out what the hell She's the Goddess OF.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

The Greeks have never been my strong point. ;) But I think 'love' is a kind of sucky descriptor of what She's about, in any case, except perhaps in the 'all's fair in love and war' sense (she has battle-related titles and epithets, in addition to the Hot Femme ones).

My point in referencing the poem was mostly that Her binary set (as Raven portrays it) violates at least one set of cultural these-things-go-togethers. (And is in accord with some different ones, but that goes back to 'no way of doing it that doesn't fit one stereotype or another'.)

Joan Kelly said...

fuck me, and I didn't even read that it was Trinity who posted it and not Belle. Gah!

I think I was agreeing with you, incidentally, but it's not the first time and surely won't be the last that my way of run-on sentences and other skills have left a reader not knowing what the hell I meant, or thinking I meant the opposite of what I actually meant.

I *am* actually a person who can get turned on by difference/binaries/whatever you want to call it, whether real or manufactured or even imagined. What I meant was that I don't like the way opposites get defined in a static way in the first place ("dominant" means you're above the other person and get served by them, "submissive" means you will hear some lip service about "we're all equal," and then - speaking of Orwell - you'll hear the "but dominants are more equal than others so if you're attracted to someone who identifies as dominant, and are turned on by what they do, then that makes you submissive and this is what submissives are (selfless), and what they do (subvert their own needs/desires for their partners)," and meanwhile none of it has anything to do with a fucking thing except self-serving definitions. I don't mind the binaries. I mind the ways I've been told I don't get to fuck around with it unless I conform to some idea of authenticity for one role or the other.

I just read over what I wrote and it probably doesn't make any more sense. I should have just said in the first place: I feel alienated by what I've encountered of the BDSM scene, and the disappointment and sexual frustration inherent to that often leaves me tongue tied when it comes to talking about it. But thanks for your post! ; )

Alon Levy said...

I feel alienated by what I've encountered of the BDSM scene

What is that, exactly - the requirement that you conform to a scripted dominant or submissive role?

Trinity said...

okay, thanks... that makes a lot more sense to me.

and it's not the first time i've totally misread shit, either. :)

"I don't mind the binaries. I mind the ways I've been told I don't get to fuck around with it unless I conform to some idea of authenticity for one role or the other."

Oh. Yeah. I mind that too.

I think, though, that having been around for seven years makes some of the bullshit just slide off my back. I'm enough of an old hand to know by now that my dominance is personal and someone else's submission (if they are submissive at all; plain ol' bottoms do exist too, and that's a perfectly fine thing to be) is personal too. There are plenty of things I want that others don't, and plenty of things others deem "key" to dominance that I don't have much, if any, interest in.

Whoch can be hard to remember when you're in a roomful of people who disagree or attending a lecture by Some Really Famous Person. But it's still the truth -- and if you talk to people who are really committed to the community and to making relationships work, they tend to say the same.

I think the problem is that, as you say, some people are ridiculously attached to the binary (particularly novice dominant folk who are actually ridiculously insecure and hope that posturing will cover it) and also that people use the binaries as a substitute for communication.

Which we all tend to admit in the abstract never works, but most of us keep doing anyway.

Joan Kelly said...

Trinity - Yeah. (To everything you said.)

Alon - Yes, some of that, although it's tricky because the things that bother me about compulsory heterosexuality and the "normal" hierarchies and misogyny in so-called "vanilla" culture are, in BDSM, sometimes subverted, sometimes exacerbated, sometimes completely rejected, sometimes so reinforced as to make me feel like fucking crying right there on the spot. And all of those behaviors may be performed by people who say the exact same things - we're all equal, the submissive is the one who really has the control, I/we love women and would never harm them, I care about my partner's feelings and well being, we're all happy as clams please be on your way and stop analyzing.

So -

1) I know that my compulsion to think about and talk sexual stuff to death is a buzz kill for many people. Not for me, although sometimes I wish it would. But I know that some people just want to get it on already and if they all say they're happy who am I to judge any of it, unless I'm getting it on with them?

2) I don't know if I'm that good presently at talking about the misogyny and other problems I've seen in so-called "freer" BDSM circles without it coming across as criticizing people for *what turns them on*. I think that's part of the above, why it gets on people's nerves.

Not to compare myself to or argue on behalf of Andrea Dworkin but my dilemma here, the off-putting-ness of my approach (as I see it) makes me think of the way she writes about heterosexual sex. She never said "all sex is rape," but she did write extensively about the way both rapists and women who have been raped will often say that the fucking-as-rape felt exactly the same as fucking-that-does-not-get-called-rape. And I know many women who were like, whoa, now she's telling me my boyfriend is a rapist and I'm a stupid victim and I'm supposed to not fuck guys anymore or else I'm participating in an evil dynamic? Thanks for harshing my sex mellow, Dworkin! I'm outta here!

Me, I just read it as - yeah, that makes sense to me, and is troubling, and sorrowful, and makes it clear that rape is something much more complex than "rape laws aren't severe enough" and "what sucks is that women get attacked in court when they press charges," and "rapists are deviant monsters who ruin it for everybody else." I never felt like she was suggesting I shouldn't fuck men anymore, so it never felt personally threatening to my pleasure.

I worry that my critiques of, again, what I've encountered of BDSM culture (over the course of the last 10 + years) comes across as betrayal, accusation, complaining. Also, the fact that I have not had a lot of personal satisfaction on that front (finding a suitable partner(s)) makes me wonder sometimes - is some/all/none of my negative reaction to BDSM folks just sour grapes?

My major discomfort comes from the concept of consent and the way it plays out. I have bottomed to a fairly large number of people and entered willingly into all of those encounters - consented. It is my experience that there are many factors that can make it difficult to either say "hey that's not okay with me," and/or to be HEARD when you say that, once you're vulnerable in bottoming/submitting. Lucky for me I had a lot of experience with hating myself for not speaking up afterwards so that it became easier for me to protect myself and harder to go along with shit. But - I want to know why it even comes up that I should have to protect myself if this other person supposedly cares about/is paying attention to me/would never harm me. And it has come up over and over, and it is not with people who are assholes. Where and why does misogyny get a pass in BDSM communities, get called something else, get excused or denied? And how come THAT buzz kill is less important than the buzz kill of talking about it?

And if you get turned on by something, by definition it is not what I'm talking about when I talk about people being subjected to things they don't want to be subjected to. Even if what you get turned on by is a feeling of having zero control and the other person having zero concern for your pleasure/feelings/protests. If that's what you want, then it's not what I'm talking about when I talk about what bothers me. And having been turned on by plenty of things that would freak out non-kinky folk, I do have some ability to perceive what the hell I'm seeing. And other people will confirm that "that doesn't look/feel right" (say, at play parties, or in videos) but it's considered bad form to talk about it/stop it, unless or until it gets to a point that people REALLY can't bear and then someone with "authority" (so-called dungeon master, etc.) will intervene, and then it's simply "that person was an asshole making us all look bad. Not welcome here anymore." I want to know why, if BDSM culture is so safe and enlightened, why is it so detrimental to even bring up the question of:

What are we doing/not doing, that makes it possible for harm to happen right out in the open and no one's comfortable addressing it lest they seem uptight or judgmental? How is the dismissive attitude about "one bad apple" different from the dismissive/simplistic attitudes about rape being "a few bad guys who don't respect women?"

There are so many ways that people participate in control/lack thereof, pain/pleasure, that it also easily becomes about "I don't know who you've been talking to/dealing with, but I'm not like that and none of the people I know and respect are like that." When, in my case, virtually all of the people I know and love have - just like in the non-kinky population - participated in/exhibited good old fashioned misogyny in various forms. Including me. And a lot of it is subtle, and a lot of it is not about overt "hate." And all of it alienates me.

Trinity said...

"But - I want to know why it even comes up that I should have to protect myself if this other person supposedly cares about/is paying attention to me/would never harm me."

whoa whoa whoa

BACK THAT TRUCK UP.

Tops are not gods. We're not telepathic.

Yes, some of us are jerks. But honestly, the expectation that things are never, ever going to go south EVER because any top, even one you just met and decided right there to play with, "cares" so much that mistakes never get made.

Communication happens from both sides.

And there are a good number of bottoms out there who don't, or won't, communicate because it ruins their fantasy of the ideal top who is just so loving and caring and nurturing that on the first play date, bing! she knows exactly what to do and not to do.

so the notion that there's nothing to protect, no way at all in which a bottom should look out for herself --

no.

just no.

not unless you're talking the love of your life who knows you inside out. and probably not even then.

geez.

Trinity said...

"Where and why does misogyny get a pass in BDSM communities, get called something else, get excused or denied? And how come THAT buzz kill is less important than the buzz kill of talking about it?"

Okay, so let's talk about it: what exactly do you mean? what's being created? what do you want to see done?

I mean, are you saying, for example: "those M/f, 'humbled females' kind of groups and websites, should be shut down?" if so... well, okay, but if people are doing it in their own little enclave, what jurisdiction do you have to stop it, exactly?

or are you saying The Community, as a monolith (is there one?) should be putting out Official Manifestos against gender-supremacist BDSM? (Or is female supremacy, which is also popular with a certain set, okay?)

What do we expect this to do? It might drive the gender supremacists further underground -- and yeah, that's probably a good thing. But do we then get upset that they exist even if they're off in their own little enclaves?

The mere fact they existed at all used to piss me off so bad I used to seek out those groups online to argue with. After a while, though, it became clear to me it's useless. Some people just don't GET, or don't want to get, the critiques of traditional gender roles.

And so now what do I do? Keep getting annoyed at their existence, or buzz off? I finally got to the point where, y'know, *I* was the one being the gadfly and I had no chance of changing minds so... really, g'bye.

Because... what we need I think to examine before we start with the radical cleaning house is: who are these people? what effect do they really have?

are they the major population of a big-city BDSM group where a lot of women go for support? are they a little Gorean bunch on the 'Net that no one else would ever find? are they two or three loudmouths ruining a playparty for everyone else?

the answer to that question I think had a LOT of impact on what we should do. And IMX the answer to that question is usually "it's one asshole" or "it's one subgroup that it's not much hassle to ignore"

but I live in an extremely liberal big city and a lot of the leatherfolk are queer.

and also I'm a female top, so I'm not looking in the same pool for dates... so they probably aren't around me nearly as much.

but yeah, "it's in a woman's nature to submit" IS sexist, and IS prevalent. I just don't think it's something one is expected to accept at least not in the big groups... and aside from the big groups not standing for sexism I'm not sure what else we can do.

Other than hassle local club owners and party hosts. But even that is likely more effective if you're willing, say, to BE on staff at those clubs... to change what's filtering from management by BEING part of management.

If you're just one feminist saying to other feminists "I've seen some sexist shit in BDSM" and all the others nod sagely... what's that *change*?

That's the big question I have issues with. Lots of anti-SM people go "I found a group and it was sexist, so I left. I'm not coming back until the Scene is clean"

okay, so: now. here we are. Scene folk. what does our activism LOOK LIKE beyond blacklisting egregiously sexist gits?

Trinity said...

for a preliminary stab at an answer to my own question:

it seems to me that the less generally-sexist het/pan groups are those with strong ties/alliances with the queer leather community. It's kind of hard to argue that all women are secretly kajiras and all men are dominant if your group is eagerly expecting presentations from a locally-famous dyke top, or if it meets in a gay leather bar and male slaves wander by all the time.

it's also hard to ignore leather history if your community values understanding BDSM's past, in all its forms. Which connections to the leather community can also foster.

so one thing I think could help is to strengthen and foster those ties.

Trinity said...

there's also, i think, more impetus on tops to "prove" themselves worthy of the label if there are local legends about, against whom they clearly don't measure up. and I get the impression more leather-based communities value their elders a lot more, generally.

Trinity said...

"but she did write extensively about the way both rapists and women who have been raped will often say that the fucking-as-rape felt exactly the same as fucking-that-does-not-get-called-rape."

also.

um,

studies? I mean I get what she is saying, but it seems to me there are a LOT of survivors for whom rape and sex have felt or do feel completely different.

so I think the point WAS very handy when marital rape was "a man's right"

and still CAN BE handy because some women DON'T own their sexualities

but i still look very askance at "rape and sex are/feel the same."

and really, if they do -- what is someone doing in the Scene? I mean, that's not very Grand Ole Feminist Theory of me, but it would seem that that person either

1) wants the meaning of sex for herself personally to change, which then makes the theory a bit less true

or

2) really believes that that's all sex is, in which case, okay, DUPE O' TH' PAT, sure, but... why have sex?

okay IT'S EXPECTED!

but then, well... how do feminists help that person? it seems to me that help would be both systemic and personal. which that theory... doesn't handle too well, imo.

Trinity said...

and if you're a Dworkin-follower about sex and you've read the theory, and still want to sexually submit -- what's really left for you other than abstinence?

"oh this sucks and feels exactly like rape, but I need to get off somehow?"

eh?

pepomint said...

I agree with everything in the original post. I wanted to add one reason that I think people get into the whole "smashing binaries" rhetoric without realizing that they might be taken wrong:

Sometimes it is not the binary that they want to smash, but rather they want to problematize the continuum. For example, being bisexual is NOT (usually) like being half straight and half gay, but that's how people, often including bisexuals, end up thinking about it. The goal in this case is not to get rid of straight or gay, but rather to create a new understanding of sexuality that actually acknowledges bisexuality as its own domain. Or one that de-centers sexual identity so that it is described as a series of tastes rather than a continuum. Doing this does not necessarily mean getting rid of straight or gay, but it might mean understanding them differently.

Of course, the right way to go about this is definitely not by saying everyone is bisexual. That just does a different kind of violence to people's actual desires.

belledame222 said...

I never liked Aphrodite much. Or most femme tops

:(

Trinity said...

ee!

no frowny Belles! NOT PERMITTED!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I just had the weirdest, weirdest damn experience that I'm gonna write about over at my place, I think, but since it's so on-topic to what I was saying here I'm gonna do the summary:

Someone was talking about their own encoded sexism and a bunch of "must reject feminine stuff because it's weak" on soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm, and brought up someone who had been trying to present a "non-male way of being dominant" in the past. And it blew my tiny little mind, this notion that "dominance backed with force" was coded "masculine" and people could say "masculine" and expect that other people would know what the hell that meant.

It's a case of folding in different things, and I really notice it when people are trying to fold things into gender because I'm so damn genderqueer, I get all, "Why the hell can't you people say what you mean rather than go around handwringing about how you need to put skirts on your piano legs?"

I don't have the phrasebook for the crazy moon language that codes styles of scene by wabbly bits. So there's a certain amount of "smash binary!" in my emotional response to this, but it's mostly because it's folding gender stuff into topping style or whatever, and while I can see someone coming up with a way of threading their topping style and their gender performance together, they aren't the same thing. Og smash. Eesh.

Trinity said...

"
Someone was talking about their own encoded sexism and a bunch of "must reject feminine stuff because it's weak" on soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm,"

Okay, that I get. Because I do wonder, sometimes, if I think of femininity in women as weak. I think I've done a lot of processing about that and the "ugh, feminine women!" thing is gone... but there's still a part of me that's uneasy about femininity, and I'm not sure my only reason why is feminism.

(which I think is important to remember when we get too enamored of MacKinnon, etc., too actually. smells like "feminism" but sometimes... is just hatred of femininity.)

"and brought up someone who had been trying to present a "non-male way of being dominant" in the past."

non-male?

fuu?

um, how about not being male?

if you are male and dominant, i can't see how you're... not being male when you're being dominant.

or how you're not being male when you're being submissive, for that matter.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

As far as I could follow it, dominance backed with force is masculine dominance in this encoding, and other ways of being domly aren't. (And the person I was talking with had some parsing issues with them, because since they weren't in some way backed with the threat of force, which is Manly, they were Weak.)

And I'm just kinda going, "Uh, force is force. It doesn't have balls or tits."

Trinity said...

"And I'm just kinda going, "Uh, force is force. It doesn't have balls or tits."

well there IS cultural encoding to that effect, and the cultural encoding isn't something BDSMers are immune to.

but yeah.

eh. which goes back to the whole "how do we root out the sexism in BDSM" kinda thaaaaaaang

Except, you know: should we really be wasting our time on these people?

Not feminist orthodoxy to say it but: do we REALLY CARE?

does some dom who thinks he's ubermensch really MATTER TO FEMINISM?

on a radfem/radfemlike view, yeah, because the more of them there are the more likely there's the conglomerate that shames/diminishes other forms

but really? who are these people? and what do they MATTER unless we're a unit taking THEM on as a unit?

Eh. I think there are productive ways to, say, attempt to change The Face Of The Scene.

But I think a lot of what people notice isn't really a generality so much as: y'know, many if not most heterosexuals have never thought about this shit.

so rather than considering them Das Problemm, maybe like I said the best thing to do is foster alliances with people who think differently

get 'em into some alternate environments

where, y'know, to really count in the community as Mr. Butch Uberdom, you have to compete with gay leather titleholders who could out-butch pit bulls... and who fuck submissive MEN

y'know?

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I tend to think in general people could do with exposure to more different modes of thinking, especially ones that challenge unarticulated axioms.

Joan Kelly said...

oy, my brain is slipping into sleep mode, will read all your responses, trinity, tomorrow, but wanted to say something about the first thing i caught -

i know that tops aren't gods or telepathic, because i have also topped a ton of people, and i won't play and never did play with the kinds of bottoms who are out of their fucking skulls, which is what it is to me when they're living in a fantasy (wherein tops are not people but basically living sex toys meant to behave in some scripted way that has nothing to do with two people genuinely interacting). (not talking about role play, here, either.)

one of the best things i got out of doing professional sessions for so long, as both a top and bottom or dominant/submissive whatever you want to call it, was some pretty intense communication skills. not to pat myself on the back, just saying it was necessary, for physical as well as emotional survival, even and especially when topping. for me, it was much easier to figure out who i was a good match for as a bottom. "this is what i like, this is what we will not be doing, and you can take it or leave it," was how those interviews went. as a top, even after i had a lot of experience at it, i felt a lot more responsibility to the other person, and i think many if not most people who top have that same sense. the thing i was trying to talk about and again, more later on it, and also again, still not fantastic at articulating it - is that a person - me for example - could know someone well, have played with him or her before many times, been clearly and abundantly communicative about boundaries etc., and repeatedly find myself going "what the fuck flip just switched in this person that he/she is pushing something they've been told - and agreed! - not to push, or not to do?" and i have heard it in the ways people talk - there is this undercurrent of "doms know best", and if anything it can be worse in women who top. but it's this decision-making thing that goes on where once you're vulnerable with a partner, he/she decides FOR you what you have not in any way consented to have them decide. almost like "well ha ha, no means yes because of the context in which we're doing all this shit, plus you shouldn't sweat it because it's not like i'm going to HARM you in a real way."

blah, i think you asked for concrete examples, i should stop talking until i can write more.

Trinity said...

"is that a person - me for example - could know someone well, have played with him or her before many times, been clearly and abundantly communicative about boundaries etc., and repeatedly find myself going "what the fuck flip just switched in this person that he/she is pushing something they've been told - and agreed! - not to push, or not to do?" "

hrm. I can't say I've generally seen this at all. I HAVE seen people grow out of soft limits -- I've facilitated that myself. But I've never gotten anything but positive feedback in terms of THAT

which generally happened in relationships, anyway.

with that it was kinda

"well, Sir, what are your fantasies?"

"well I like X and Y and Z and, y'know, I think Q is really fuckin hot."

"Q!! Ay caramba... I could never Q! are you sure you still like me? I'm a very plain, X-ish kinda guy!"

"Oh, that's totally fine. I'll X you backwards forwards and sideways -- sounds fun!"

"Awesome!"

*much fun had by all*

*three months pass*

"Y'know Sir... I never thought I'd even be remotely itnerested, but I was reading some of your stories about Q. and I can't stop thinking about it."

"Oh, cool. Are you saying you want to try it?"

"Uh... yeah."

"Okay."

Joan Kelly said...

whoa whoa - one last thing. trinity, i advocate none of the things that you listed as shitty "solutions" or attempts at action that you seemed to be wondering/implying might be up my sleeve, with the policing or blacklisting or shaming other people or fighting all the gorean weirdos. and yes, i do think they're weirdos, if any of them are reading this. but, i actually get along fine and even have an easier time discussing issues like this without rancor, with people who are firmly entrenched in the men-are-born-dominators-and-women-are-born-submittors set. they don't bother me. i know who they are, what they're up to, it's all out in the open. and it's not my thing. and they're not trying to force it on me. and i wouldn't worry about anyone who was trying to force it on me in that blatant way because i know how much luck people have with me when they try to get me to do any fucking thing i don't want to, in or outside of sex. there's no "them" that i'm angry at or want to hunt down and expunge. that's what i meant when i said i feel like it's hard to even talk about this shit without it being taken as an attack on somebody, anybody, or even everybody who does the kink thing. i'm talking about people i know, people i love, people i trust, people i respect, people who respect and love and trust me. i'm also talking about the queer leather folk i've been with. i am definitely not just talking about straight men who top - if anything men are usually more skittish of overstepping things than many women tops i know. i'm not on a mission to clean house. and i say good luck to anybody whose waiting for any group of people on this earth to be devoid of misuse of power before they jump in and get laid. i'm certainly fucking not waiting for that, in or outside of kink populations. and, i'm talking about things i do/participate in/deny as well. i'm just talking examination here. if that's something that feels futile to you or gets on your nerves or at least insofar as the way i seem to be going about it, that's fair to me and i won't keep on about it here.

Trinity said...

that is: my personal policy being:

if you have a limit that is something I like, I DON'T ask you to do it. if your mind changes and you want to do whatever it is, you ask me.

if something that was a dealbreaker for me was a limit for someone, I would not date them.

Trinity said...

but as far as people doing this "I wanna do that thing I said I'd never do, with you?"?

it happens. ALLLLLLLLL. the. time.

Trinity said...

"to be wondering/implying might be up my sleeve, with the policing or blacklisting or shaming other people or fighting all the gorean weirdos."

hmm actually

if people are totally fucking up a space I DO think blacklisting is in order. so why that's shitty or why I implied it, I don't see.

I actually think it's a good solution. Looked at in a MacKinnony way it's not, because kicking out one loudmouth doesn't create a culture in which males no longer believe females are born to suck their cocks.

but changing that culture... is something we have to find creative ways to do. when we say "I see misogyny here"

sure, OK, I see it too, but what are we *doing*, since we've already said blacklisting is out?

that's the thing that the systemic kind of approach needs to be able to handle, and to my mind isn't very good at. so... now what?

Trinity said...

"i'm talking about people i know, people i love, people i trust, people i respect, people who respect and love and trust me. i'm also talking about the queer leather folk i've been with. i am definitely not just talking about straight men who top - if anything men are usually more skittish of overstepping things than many women tops i know."

so what ARE you saying? because at this point I'm utterly confused. it sounded at first like you were talking about misogyny in kink, as exemplified by male supremacists in the scene.

now you're saying it's people you love and queerfolk: okay, what are they doing? why is it threatening? because i can't make hide nor hair of what you're talking about now. there's a trust issue and it's borne out of... feminist concerns, as voiced by MacKinnon, but... whuh?

If you're not quite at the point where you can talk about how the Scene's culture in general should change*, okay, step back: what ARE you seeing? from whom?



*though as I've said, I'm personally not so sure that talking about problems is good unless one's eyes are at least somewhat turned toward solutions.

Trinity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Kelly said...

Not that you've been waiting by the proverbial phone, but I meant to respond sooner to this. I've not been sure what I wanted to say, that's been part of the cause of delay.

I don't identify as "a submissive" or even as a bottom, and never have. That's part of the delay, too. Those are things I've done in some times and places, they're not identity choices for me. Like, I have given blow jobs plenty in my life, and I don't think of myself as "cocksucker." Although I do enjoy it as a swear word. (Sidenote, I'm not against naming things, I'm not in the "don't try to control me with labels!" camp on this subject, I just don't relate to these particular descriptors as applying to me personally. I found labels quite useful for advertising purposes when I was doing various types of professional kink sessions.)

Maybe it was lazy of me to answer Alon's initial question in a general way, but sometimes I am prone to laziness. And then when you started responding, I felt like, damn, why is this woman presuming that I'm submissive, and that I'm mad because some dominant partner disappointed me or couldn't read my mind, or that what I'm talking about has some relationship to personal victimhood on my end. (Not saying you even intended that stuff to come across, just that it's how I felt when first reading your responses.) From there I started thinking, well, am I prepared to talk specifically about my personal experiences that *do* play into my perceptions of bdsm practices? And/or is it fair to expect anyone to spend their time engaging in this discussion if I'm not? Right now, I think it's no and no.

I will say - I didn't mean that it was shitty of you or anyone else to not want creepy abusive folks in your midst at parties or elsewhere. I meant that overall the tactic of appointing myself the kink police would be shitty, and off topic from what troubles me as well.

Thanks for the thought you put into your comments here, and I like the name of this blog.

Moira said...

but as far as people doing this "I wanna do that thing I said I'd never do, with you?"?

it happens. ALLLLLLLLL. the. time.


Oh hell yes. When I first poked my unpedicured toes into the waters o' BDSM a few years back, I had plenty of limits. Now? Not so much. I figured I was a masochist and maybe a submissive back then. These days I still like pain, but I like to give as well as receive, I'm fair dominant but still like serving my wife and master, and I amuse myself sometimes trying to think of a word to describe me.

So far I haven't had a whole lot of luck with that particular project. The binaries are fun to play with -- I have a thing for suits and ties and it's a lot of fun being a transwoman cross-dressing in a men's suit. Short skirts and tall boots? Also yum.

Trinity said...

"I felt like, damn, why is this woman presuming that I'm submissive, and that I'm mad because some dominant partner disappointed me or couldn't read my mind, or that what I'm talking about has some relationship to personal victimhood on my end."

I can answer that.

Because first you were saying "well, MacKinnon's got a very good point" and then went on to draw a very direct parallel between the way "sex-as-sex" and "sex-as-rape" feel. Which sounded like you were saying something like "putting oneself in a 'submissive' position is like inviting rape"

and then spoke about dissatisfaction with BDSM partners and the tendency of tops (even those "you love") to limit-push.

Which sounded an awful lot to me like "I wanted to submit because it turns me on, but it's very rape-like at the same time"

which then leads me to wonder: who would want something that she admits feels like RAPE?

not just a bit violating, but LIKE RAPE?

that's one of the reasons I think MacKinnon's got a lot of flaws (or perhaps simply only applies to a historical moment.) Rape is a deeply traumatic and violating experience that stays with those who have experienced it for years. It's hard for me to imagine people really are holding that sheer degree of violation in their minds when they draw these parallels

UNLESS their own experience, even with consensual sex, has all been very similar and they don't expect better.

Which is understandable but also totally confusing to me because I don't experience all sex that way, and know many others who don't as well.

and that just flummoxed me utterly. so I wondered why you would go back to tops if you experience bottoming in this way.

which led me to presume that you must have deep submissive needs, such that you'd take that risk over and over.

re-reading it, that's not what you said... but I'm considerably puzzled by what you DID say, then.

What are you saying?

Joan said...

Ah, okay, and thanks for responding.

So, the MacKinnon thing - I actually was thinking about Andrea Dworkin but both of them talk about what I was referencing. It was the first comparison that popped into my mind when I was thinking about how much trouble I have talking to other kinksters about what's unsettling for me in the kink scene. I think I'm saying something straightforward and from a place of empathy (for everyone, not just people I agree with), but the reactions I get make it seem like the way I *come across* is very extreme and attacking. That's what I meant about Dworkin and the rape/sex thing. I read her as coming from a straightforward place of giving a damn (although I will say a couple of her very last books flummoxed me) but she tends to get received like "this hysterical bitch is trying to ruin all our sex lives with her crazy accusations!"

But, since I did bring up that example and since you asked about it, I do want to address the rape/sex thing and also the bottoming/submitting thing from my end.

I was raped about 14 years ago and although I understood what Dworkin meant before being raped, I *related* to it afterwards. The trauma for me was not physical in the regular sense. It was someone I knew, he didn't beat me up or have any weapons, the way that he overpowered me and forced his way inside me was with surprise and near-suffocation (I am small and he was a lot bigger than I am). (And I am not intending to apply what Dworkin said to all women who've been raped, or my experience to all women who've been raped, or to all women who have heterosexual sex in a culture where heterosexuality is compulsory.) The thing that made me lose my marbles while the rape was going on and for a considerable time afterwards was the psychological/emotional/spiritual horribleness of it. It feels both ugly and accurate for me to say that I was lucky at that point in my life to have never previously been confronted with someone who I did not exist for as a full human being. I felt, I don't know, cancelled out. That's the only word I can think of right now.

Anyway, the penetration part of the rape did not actually feel different than sex I'd had before that. I mean just in simple physiological terms - it felt like having someone inside me, it was all the same sensations as if I had wanted him to be there, and that also is part of what fucked me up. I was like, wow, I must be some kind of fucking monster myself that this only feels bad in my heart and mind and it's not hurting me physically.

So - all of that is to say, for me physically it felt like having sex - and technically it is, when rape involves strictly penis-in-vagina penetration. Same body parts, same motions. But I am not just body parts and physical in nature - for the whole of me, it felt nothing like having consensual intercourse. But I can not think of a better context for the use of the word "mindfuck" when I think about what it was like to experience the forced intercourse of the rape as feeling physically exactly like all the happy intercourse I had prior to it and that I've had since. I can't speak for Dworkin or MacKinnon or other people who have been raped, but that is what I mean when I say I understand the concept of rape and consensual intercourse not feeling like precise opposites. And it is what made sex I *wanted* to have feel unbearable for a (thankfully) little while afterwards. Now it's like, I don't know, not something that has been "healed" or exorcised out of me; it's more like I have benefitted from a lot of help that's lifted my rage and self hatred around it, and left me with some cyclical grief. Which I consider peaceful by comparison.

I did not really go head first into my kink urges until a few years after I was raped. (I have always had them, especially a lifelong spanking fetish.) I never felt "re-raped" by anybody or by anything I've done or experienced in my kinky endeavors when bottoming. I don't feel at ALL like submitting to someone is an invitation to rape, and it is rare that I hear about, let alone meet, people who approach topping as an opportunity to harm someone, or a chance to get their rape on.


"which led me to presume that you must have deep submissive needs, such that you'd take that risk over and over."

Although separate from the whole rape conversation, I got a chuckle from this because it's true in another context. I did have some really deep needs that caused me to take risks over and over again, but that was when I was doing professional sessions. I got into the pro kink business in the first place because of a need to have some of those kinds of experiences (as a submissive/bottom/whatever). And although I almost never *felt* like I was taking actual risks when I met with strangers to do those things, certainly it would cross my mind every once in a while when I was with a new person. "He feels right to me, but, wow, I am in a position right now where if this person turned out to be a serial killer who just happens to have a knack for making people feel completely safe before he whacks them, I would be totally screwed." And - there was something about being that vulnerable and having it turn out well, instead of bad, that I did get a little high off of. Like, hey, I just stuck my head in a tiger's mouth and he didn't crush my skull. Good times! That, however, was secondary to the things I actually liked doing with these people.

Regarding the limit pushing stuff - I totally agree with the phenomenon of people saying "no thanks to this one thing, forever and ever amen" and then having some curiosity sparked and having it sort of poke at them and poke at them until they finally bring it up and go "hey maybe I do want to see what that's like." I have done that with partners I trusted, when bottoming. I fucking love that, actually, from both sides of the D/s coin.

After all this, I feel like the least I could do is actually mention an example of what I was talking about, way back when I first mentioned feeling alienated from the scene. My fear has been that it will be like any other place where someone says "that felt misogynistic to me," or "that came across as racist." Some people will go, "yeah, see your point," and some people will declare you hypersensitve, paranoid, delusional, and tell you you're seeing things that aren't there. Let's just say that even after the years of getting tied up by men I didn't know, I've got trust issues with strangers and laying it all out there.

Just taking my spanking fetish as one example - I used to watch I Love Lucy every morning before I went to kindergarten, and even at that age I was obsessed with the few episodes where Ricky spanked Lucy. I didn't know that what I felt back then was arousal until I hit puberty and had those same feelings. Except, a feeling I also had was hating Ricky and whoever wrote the show (I know, Lucille Ball had a lot of control, but I'm just talking about what my young mind saw at the time) because it so insulted me that a man could feel entitled to spank his wife, a grown woman. I didn't even agree with parents spanking kids, I always had a sense of outrage about that, and thinking it was disrespectful, so certainly to see a grown up doing that to another grown up, and it just being treated like a normal thing - it infuriated me. I didn't have these words for it at six, but what I always thought was - "I will never be with a man who infantilizes me that way, and who apparently doesn't even think infants deserve basic bodily integrity!" The ways that I have engaged in BDSM, since my first experiences, have always included a rejection of that dynamic. But, especially in the spanking fetish scene, that infantilizing of the person who's on the bottom often extends outside of role play and is just an attitude that makes me feel like, wow, these people are in a time warp and think it's the 1950's and women are children who are always trying to "get away with things" and need to be put in their place. And by put in their place, I'm not even talking about spanking - I'm talking about the way people talk to each other, the attitudes of who knows what, who knows better than who, who should be looked up to with fluttering eyelashes, who is - basically - the classic patriarch figure (even with women tops). And then I feel like, fuck, I am never going to find what I like because these are supposedly my people and a lot of them give me the creeps.

Absolutely it is not this pronounced or this prevalent (in my view) in the non-specific-to-spanking-fetishists BDSM scene. But I do and have encountered it. And honestly I will say that I could stand to be more persistent in my search. I know people who are not kinky who have spent large amounts of time going on shitty dates but because they didn't give up they eventually met someone they really clicked with. I do feel more vulnerable when I am more aroused, more opened up, which is what happens when I'm with a top who floats my boat. And so anything that doesn't sit right with me feels more threatening when the rest of me is in a heightened state. Add to that the fact that I love topping someone I click with as well, but I'm not a good candidate for the whole "poly" option, and... it's not impossible, but there's not a HUGE pool of parnters that I would be sexually compatible with, let alone compatible with on other personal levels.

Anyway, I don't know if that is enough of an example to talk about what I meant when I answered Alon's question. There are other aspects, but again it's more about examination and my desire for consensual shifts in dynamics I see (and that effect me personally), not about, you know, pointing my finger at individuals or groups and going "You - OUT." I don't care if other people get off on or even have a deep need for the infantilizing stuff, and I certainly don't want to make them feel shitty about it. What alienates me is when people say things like "Well, that's just how it IS, that's what doms DO, that's what it MEANS to be submissive." And people do say it, and socially enforce it to some degree, and the fact that I don't have to go along with anything anybody else wants from me doesn't make it less lonely to feel like my only option sometimes is to walk completely away.

Hope you have a good weekend.

Trinity said...

joan,

Thanks very much for sharing that. I really didn't think of it that way at all, and since I didn't I totally didn't understand you.

I think part of it is that, for me, I'm really not all that interested in being penetrated. So for me it doesn't happen unless it IS a specific sign of my trust in someone.

And of course I could be raped by someone I deeply trust, that happens all the time to people, terrifyingly enough. But there's still not the same sort of link in my mind from go: "ah, THIS is sex, so I like it and want it from you when I want sex."

Also my disability makes penetration hurt like HELL unless I am totally relaxed, and sometimes even then. If I were to be psychologically weirded out, it would automatically *be* excruciating for me to receive penetration. So I doubt I'd ever experience something like you describe, so of COURSE I didn't understand!

*blush* I'm sorry. Wow, this is all obvious now you've said it. *blush*

So I really... had no idea that what they meant could apply in that way to the sensations themselves.

"But, especially in the spanking fetish scene, that infantilizing of the person who's on the bottom often extends outside of role play and is just an attitude that makes me feel like, wow, these people are in a time warp and think it's the 1950's and women are children who are always trying to "get away with things" and need to be put in their place. And by put in their place, I'm not even talking about spanking - I'm talking about the way people talk to each other, the attitudes of who knows what, who knows better than who, who should be looked up to with fluttering eyelashes, who is - basically - the classic patriarch figure (even with women tops)."

AHHHHHHHHHH okay.

this makes a lot more sense to me now. thank you.

that whole "I'm a BRAAAT! *batbatbat*" thing.

Yeah, I puzzle over that too.

I don't really have the same experience of it being overwhelming though. In a few of the rural communities where most people are M/f, yes, I do see it.

But... hmm. What exactly does one DO about that?

Because some of it IS an ageplay thing, a particular sort of "little girl" role.

And I don't always know quite how I feel about carry-over. I'm sometimes really bothered by it, and sometimes really not at all.

Because on the one hand, yes, it seems a bad place to linger. And what does it mean that adult women want to see themselves that way a lot of the time?

But on the other, it seems to me like that's about childhood more than gender. It seems to me that, with the bratty bottoms twirling their pigtails at least, the fascination is with the idea of being a spoiled -- as in, beloved yet unruly -- little girl.

And that seems to me like it's tied more directly into wanting to re-write, re-experience, or play around with a certain idealized form of girlhood to e me than like it's about sexism.

But then the question becomes: what about the tops? What about "Daddy"? Where's he coming from?

I know plenty of "Daddy" types who I think are doing it in a healthy way, but they tend to be queer. I don't know as many straight Daddies at all, in general -- but with the online ones, certainly, there's an infantilizing element that goes beyond role and gets... squicky for me, too.

But again, how much of it is carried over into offline M/f D/s, I don't know myself. You suggest a goodly amount and I see no reason to doubt it.

So... hmm. Where does that leave us? I don't know either.

verte said...

Joan:

Wow. That was an amazing post. An awful lot there I can relate to, particularly this:

I was thinking about how much trouble I have talking to other kinksters about what's unsettling for me in the kink scene. I think I'm saying something straightforward and from a place of empathy (for everyone, not just people I agree with), but the reactions I get make it seem like the way I *come across* is very extreme and attacking.

I mean, word for word, really. I expressed a personal squick for gendered supremacies on a forum a while back and a few people seemed to think I was attacking their preferences and being intolerant, which, well, not at all. Logically, I know it's a fetish, and that's cool. But emotionally, I find it tricky to deal with and I won't have other people's preferences for it imposed upon me on the scene. What I was really hoping someone would do was explain why they get off on that dynamic, and no-one did, which was a shame. I've asked similar questions on a thread on gor about respecting all men and as yet haven't seen a response.

As to the other stuff, I'll reply to Trinity's post... :)

belledame222 said...

I totally agree with the phenomenon of people saying "no thanks to this one thing, forever and ever amen" and then having some curiosity sparked and having it sort of poke at them and poke at them until they finally bring it up and go "hey maybe I do want to see what that's like." I have done that with partners I trusted, when bottoming. I fucking love that, actually, from both sides of the D/s coin.

Yep.

Trinity said...

Yeah.

And honestly for me, that's why I'm studiously neutral on The Big Baddies of BDS

age play, Nazi play, race play, etc.

because I KNOW that I have the tendency to be totally indignant and disgusted by something some other BDSMers do and then three months later I think about it when jilling off.

(and yes, I have thought about some of those. I am not giving specifics because I don't want to upset/squick people OR give more ammo to antis than I just did. If people REALLY want to know they can ask for a locked post at TSA and I'll confess. ;)

And.. well, part of the fear of the antis is that that progression of limits ending/falling away is desensitization or sexual obsession or Relentless Pursuit Of The High, but I don't think it is.

I think honestly that a lot of us have sexual fears and shames, and as we find safe places to let that down... we allow ourselves to see the darker and scarier turn-ons we harbor without the same kind of absolute terror and

"do I endorse this if it makes me wet? is it OK to think about something I'd never think was REALLY okay, and get off?"

Trinity said...

...and non-consent/"rape" fantasies. but i have never hid that i have those. :)

verte said...

...and non-consent/"rape" fantasies. but i have never hid that i have those. :)

Well, me neither. And they were probably the first proper, really developed sexual fantasies I ever had...

Been dying to write about rape fantasy and play since Ladyfest. I do think that being part of the BDSM community means you feel more freedom to talk about those kind of taboos, and sometimes perhaps become desensitised to JUST how offensive it is to a lot of people. And I think that's what happened when I wrote that fatal blurb..

But yeah. I'd like to explain what it means to me a bit better here but, well, I think I've given the antis a lot of ammo as it is without adding that to the list....

Trinity said...

"and sometimes perhaps become desensitised to JUST how offensive it is to a lot of people."

Yeah, that.

But the thing I always wonder about is: okay, so this makes person X screaming mad, but I like it.

What's my obligation to X, then? Obviously I shouldn't offer to do whatever it is with X, but if I'm doing it with Y, who is perfectly fine with it and there's no internalized oppression I can easily sniff out

and THAT'S what offends X

even if it's for a valid reason

well, what THEN?

That's what always confuses me. Because it's like "how can you even be around someone who does Nazi play (for example). don't you know that person is hateful and evil?"

and I'm going "er, no, I'm not so sure that person is. MAYBE he is and MAYBE he's not."

Like... I remember a discussion over on a message board a long time ago, and it was a bunch of kinksters all nodding their heads about how we all as kinksters need to recognize there are some fantasies we're just not permitted to play with.

and one person mentioned that she knew someone who'd been fascinated with the Holocaust since he first heard about it as a kid. and that this guy was like "I didn't know what exactly 'Jewish' even meant at that time, but ever since then, I had fantasies of torturing people that way"

and EVERYONE is going "he hates Jewish people! ugh!"

while I'm sitting there thinking, "no, he's a young child... who is going to grow up to be a SM sadist... and this is the first image of torture he's discovered, and it's burned into his brain. there isn't necessarily more to it than that."

and... was it privileged? sure? is it creepy? well... YES

and that's worth discussing

but the way everyone just auto-magically decided "this person despises Jewish people, and that's all this ever could mean"

I just... no. Kids don't always know what they're seeing.

Joan said...

Trinity,

Thanks for what you said. In terms of understanding each other in this thread, I think it's also important to note that I STILL have mental laziness around using the word "sex" to signifiy only "male-female intercourse." Sex is all kinds of things obviously, but damn if I haven't been pretty loyal to that one definition in my head, and so often use it that way without clarification most of the time. So much so that a couple of years into my pro kink career, I was telling people I "hadn't had sex in almost four years." I was having tons of erotic interaction with people, having orgasms in sessions, blah blah blah, but because I wasn't "fucking" a man in or out of session, I felt (resentfully) celibate. Pretty silly.

Regarding the one example of male dom/female sub stuff that weirds me out:

Strangely it's the "non-bratty" types who I am more uncomfortable around. The phenomenon where women subs will talk about being strong and smart and capable and independent and blah blah blah and then...as if this occurs totally outside of any problematic contexts...it just so happens that "he" is more capable of making decisions for her, he's wiser, he "makes" her into a better person through his infallible shepherding. Now, I absofuckinglutely get what the draw could be to WANT someone else to just make all the decisions. I mean really, how could a nap-loving person such as myself not get the relief of less responsibilities on any level? It's more the proclamation that always (to my eyes) goes along with it - that somehow he is just more capable of having and exercising that responsibility that she is. It reminds me of when I used to talk to this super Christian fellow at my job when I was around 19, and there was nothing hateful or malevolent about his views of men-as-head-of-household-and-ultimate-decision-makers, but to me there was also nothing logical about it either. It relates to your thread about gender supremacy stuff. And you and/or others said something in that thread to the effect of how a desire to wield power gets justified by making up and clinging to universal "truths" about gender. Why not just say (which I know some do) "I love to feel looked up to and I love it that she defers to me and I love it that I have the final say no matter if we disagree or not." Or "I feel more aroused and at ease in my life when my partner also acts as, basically, my parent. It's not about his wizardly skills of rightness, it's just about what floats my boat." Again, I know some people do frame things that way. I just know that when there is a marked lack of that acknowledgment and it is presented as an egalitarian norm (somehow you have less power and equal power at the same time, and I'm not supposed to mention Animal Farm), I am a then buzz-killing a-hole if/when I want to talk about it. Not talking about seeking people out and picking arguments with them (that is a-hole behavior in my opinion) but addressing it when I'm in situations where other people bring it up, usually as something they feel some sense of superiority about in relation to "vanilla" relationships.

One reason it is hard for me to just go on about my business is that when I first started messing around with the kink stuff, what I encountered (which was much of the above) was what I came to think my options were. I see that sometimes, among other men and women who like to be submissive - the feeling that "I may not like all of what goes along with it, but apparently in order to get ANY of my kinky urges fulfilled there are some things I will inevitably be subjected to, because it's what this thing is all about." For people who are like me, who get off on all kinds of things but are not down with ever being slotted into even supposedly harmless sexual hierarchies, I just want it to be known that consent really extends to that, to everything. You CAN bottom/submit to others and like every single thing that you do with that person, and abstain from every single thing you don't in terms of the way you act out your kink. I *didn't* know that until I finally broke up with my first sexually dominant partner. He (and others I was talking to throughout the relationship) said, for example, that "punishment" was non-negotiable, was just something that was part of D/s relationships, and that it was okay for me not to like it and to discuss that, but that didn't change what it was. And certainly I was "allowed" to have limits around that concept (I wouldn't submit to punishments that involved things I was flat-out not okay with, like humiliation of any kind), but it was just like, this is it, take it or leave it. And when I finally said, dude, I tried to just deal with this as part of an imperfect relationship (in the way all relationships have imperfections or things you don't love about them) but I am just fundamentally opposed to this concept, let alone the way it gets executed. (I make mistakes of any kind, I get "punished." You make mistakes, all the ways adults deal with such things are what the consequences are [discussion, sometimes apologies, understanding, forgiveness, etc.].) That issue was the main reason I finally said fuck it, I'm outta here. And his response - "You know what, we don't even have to do that anymore if you don't want to. Don't leave." You mean to motherfucking tell me that after all this time of my saying "I am not okay with this," and you saying "It is not negotiable," it is suddenly negotiable if it's a choice between you continuing to get to fuck me versus not? Why was it not negotiable when the choice was between me being happy and comfortable versus not, in this relationship while it was going on?

Gah, so much else involved in that situation - mainly the issue of me taking responsibility for what *I* do and go along with, not just leaving it up to someone else to supposedly do the right thing if I'm telling them what I want and what I don't. Still, it was an eye-opener for me. And I would like to have heard even one other person talking about that before I spent a year and a half tormenting myself with my misconceptions. Personal resistance = great. Even one other person in the neighborhood who is not yet a Stepford Wife = monumental relief and source of strength.

I agree with what you said about the re-living or re-working of childhood stuff. I see things pretty simplistically in that aspect, as applied to me personally. Having no control and being hurt when I was little did not feel safe or good, obviously. Being helpless and experiencing pain where those very things are now a source of sexual pleasure is like being able to control what I couldn't when I was young. A kind of psychic do-over. For me, anyway. I should say, that's at least one thing that plays a part for me. I think if it were the only thing, then recognizing it should generate some ability to override it, neutralize the draw of it, and no matter how much I've thought it to death, I have not been able to reduce my perverty-ness. (And I used to want to, badly.)

Thanks again for talking about this stuff with me.

verte:

Thanks for the kind words.

-Joan

Joan said...

P.S. on the judgements of others about taboo kink stuffs:

I want to insist that there should be room for someone else to question me or what I do, and room at the same time for me to stand behind, so to speak, my choices. I worried a lot about being open about the things I do, when I was younger. Especially about writing about it. I didn't want to have to fight a) people who would claim that my sexuality was proof that women like being hurt and/or b) people who claimed that my openness gave a) the amunition to make their claims and that my personal life was less important than an idealized universal struggle. To me it's a little like the what-she-was-wearing argument re: rape. I'm not going to argue with people that it is or isn't slutty/misleading/teasing to wear short skirts or low cut tops, or to dance close, or to be at certain places with certain people under certain circumstances (ex. frat house, frat guys, drunk). I say emphatically that I and anyone else should be able to walk down an alley at night, naked, smiling at strangers, kissing one person, and still have the right to not-fuck any and everyone I choose. I don't have experience with some of the taboo examples, like Nazi stuff, but I do feel like yes, it's okay to talk about why that turns someone on and no, it's not okay to tell someone they are betraying others somehow if they choose to act that out with someone. If you use your arousal to start trying to spread the word that it's right and good to do Nazi scenes? Yeah, I object. But if you talk about it because it troubles you but you can't seem to shut down those urges and you're trying to sort out your relationship to it? Isn't that what almost everybody does with their sex stuff at some point, kinky or not? And if you REALLY think it's harmful, how do you expect anything to change if you just shut people down about it when it comes up? ("You" being the hide-your-taboo camp, not either of you in this thread, Trinity or verte.)

belledame222 said...

well, i think that, y'know, sure, there's a way in which to talk about this stuff, but, as with all really volatile subjects with the possibility of becoming really intrusive and breaking delicate shit, there needs to be really clear parameters around any such discussions.

like, just to draw a sort of parallel:

sure, I think there's an interesting conversation to be had about the sexual continuum, sexual fluidity (i.e. on the gay-straight continuum), how much of it really is genetic or at least unchanging, and to what degree, and for whom, and why, etc. etc.

what i DON'T want is to end up having to keep going back to 101 and flamefests with some ignoramous with an agenda who wants to keep throwing sand about "that lifestyle" and how harmful it is.

if that makes sense.

Trinity said...

'"Thanks for what you said. In terms of understanding each other in this thread, I think it's also important to note that I STILL have mental laziness around using the word "sex" to signifiy only "male-female intercourse." Sex is all kinds of things obviously, but damn if I haven't been pretty loyal to that one definition in my head, and so often use it that way without clarification most of the time. So much so that a couple of years into my pro kink career, I was telling people I "hadn't had sex in almost four years." I was having tons of erotic interaction with people, having orgasms in sessions, blah blah blah, but because I wasn't "fucking" a man in or out of session, I felt (resentfully) celibate. Pretty silly."

and for me, personally, that is a HUGE pet peeve. I've been told that the ways I prefer to have sex are not sex at all, and it's just... really freaking annoying. What was I doing all those times I was fucking people, then? Playing video games? Knitting?

And why it's "not sex" when I do it, but it is sex when someone with different body parts does it absolutely boggles my mind.

so yeah. i've never been a fan of that elision, personally, common as it is.

"The phenomenon where women subs will talk about being strong and smart and capable and independent and blah blah blah and then...as if this occurs totally outside of any problematic contexts...it just so happens that "he" is more capable of making decisions for her, he's wiser, he "makes" her into a better person through his infallible shepherding."

Oh, yeah. I see that too, and I don't like it either. I always want to ask "what makes him so much better at making decisions?"

I much prefer the sort of stuff I hear IRL around here: that some people have a need to be of service, and some people have a corresponding need to hrm. it's often less clear just WHAT a Master/Mistress' needs are. but it's... about a complementary relationship based around service and a sub's need to serve.

THAT never bothered me (and is why I went back to D/s finally, after a lot of years of feeling similarly squicked.) Because to me, if someone has "a servant's heart" where that means feels most gratified when serving

well, that says nothing about whether s/he's more or less intelligent or capable than anyone else. Hell, hir service may even take the form of making the house-managing decisions so Master/Mistress doesn't have to be bothered with them!

So yeah... totally. I agree with you. Of course I want someone to trust me and put things in my hands, and I'd like that to have something to do with respect for my intelligence or my drive or my... whatever. But I wouldn't want someone who thought "she's smarter than me." Not at all.

And that's the thing. I always thought that that's what I'd find if I explored D/s again -- it's what my ex-"sub" seemed to want me to be, and then was hella disappointed when my answers to "what should we do now?" were "I've no idea" and the like.

But when I actually sought out a group of people I knew had had successful long-term (I mean years) relationships, and not the "six months and poof" D/s... well... I found people who thought of it all, as I said, in terms of service rather than in terms of decision-making prowess.

(And for me, that also happened in leather circles with more queer influence, though I don't want to generalize too far from that because you've mentioned you see this among queers, as well.)

I mean I do hear "ze's good at making decisions." But the whole "I could never figure this out myself, thank the stars for Sir"... that I don't really see any more. I mean I HAVE seen it, but not from most people these days.

Trinity said...

"If you use your arousal to start trying to spread the word that it's right and good to do Nazi scenes? Yeah, I object. But if you talk about it because it troubles you but you can't seem to shut down those urges and you're trying to sort out your relationship to it?"

Well, yes, of course, but there's a middle ground that you're leaving out here. And that's

"I do that. I find it fun, and I seek out partners to do it with who consent to it. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

and THAT's what I want to talk about. Because the objections I often hear are that even THAT person has it wrong. That there's got to be guilt and angst involved because if there isn't, you're not seeing through your priv.

Which, y'know... eh. I can see WHY folks say that. But at the same time, it's weird to me.

Because here a lot of us are, women, saying "oh, yeah, I've got no problem with my male top pretending to rape me. We love it. I wouldn't want him to feel bad about liking those role-plays or fantasizing about that sort of thing; what we do has got NOTHING TO DO with gendered violence."

But yet you turn to these other taboo kinks, and the idea that they could, similarly, be fantasy and that's that, is taken to be a huge priv marker.

And... that puzzles me. It COULD be that the case of a man fantasizing about/consensually role-playing doing things to women that would otherwise be violence just IS different in kind from (member of privileged group) fantasizing about/consensually role-playing (whatever).

I get that. I get that not everything parallels.

But still, in this case... I wonder why those things DON'T parallel. I can't quite make it make sense in my head.

Part of me just goes "hmm, is it that women in general, having already had some Sex Wars, are more easygoing... or am I missing something huge?"

Does that make sense?