Friday, 29 June 2007

Wherein I profess my undying love for Sheila Jeffreys

The following quote caught my eye, from a post of Q|D's on a book I really need to look up and read:
Jeffreys was asked to elaborate on her earlier admission that she has had distrubing fantasies or has been aroused by pornographic material. In response, she commented on her efforts to purge herself of undesirable fantasies. She said she has given up fantasizing altogether; she took some time off from sex in order to try something completely different . . . She suggested that giving up fantasies was a strategy to cleanse the movement of S/M.
I love her. Why? Because she has the balls, excuse me, the ovaries, to hate me openly.

Now this may not make sense to anyone like our lovely Verte, who's been heckled and worse for being openly into BDSM. But my experience here in the US, rather than across the pond, is of a murky half-friendship, one hand extended in friendship and the other concealing a knife at my back.

Backed into a corner it's "oooh, you can do whatever you want in private, I wouldn't dream of intruding upon you, ooo!" *titter*

Among The Trusted Good Womyn it's "...and in a feminist utopia no one would get off on that! MAY THE DAY COME SOON AMEN!" with absolutely no understanding of how othering that actually is, and most likely quite a shitfit about how I dare to sully the term "othering" with my foolish little pussy-grounded concerns

or snark on BDSM and how evil it is, hidden where they hope we won't find it.

or the infamous

"but have you EXAMINED YOUR DESIRES?"

as if they look really keen under a microscope.

(To snark less: Yes, I have. No, it did no one any good unless I was doing it for a particular reason or with a particular aim that did not involve self-shaming. Thank you and good night.)

or any number of examples of weird shit that is

according to these people

completely compatible with accepting me in the Movement, theoretically (oh thank you Overlords for your blessing, I kowtow in thanks), and how dare I say otherwise.

And as soon as I say "but all this implies you're trying to kick me out," the caterwauling begins:

"what I think of what you do isn't the issue! don't take this so personally! this is about feminism, not your bed!"

which, y'know, makes no sense when you've just been backhandedly insulted over and over, but is somehow supposed to be logical. SOMEHOW.

Compared to that, "GTFO" is, well... nice. Because I can easily say "Nope, not moving" and get on with my damn life.

I think there is a huge tendency, actually, in all sorts of leftist circles to feel that saying "Nope, you're wrong" is somehow anathema, and therefore end up saying exactly that in these really creepy, masked, toxic ways.

It also makes it easy not to have needed conversations about the implications of a certain theory, view, or opinion. "SM isn't consistent with radical feminism, radical feminism is the only worthwhile feminism, but I'd never kick out a woman!" makes one's position confusing and marginalized and unclear. "Given my views, you cannot be what I deem a feminist" does not.

16 comments:

KH said...

I’ve been told at one time or another that I needed to take a long hard look not only at my desires but at what I don't desire, & most of the rest of myself. I’m not afraid of self-examination, but what these people – a lot of whom themselves seem singularly lacking in self-awareness – have in mind is usually some version of reorientation therapy, which is a feeble travesty of authentic self-examination. Frantic suppression of fantasy, whether in the name of fundamental Christianity or under the aegis of some dumbed-down secular ideology, certainly isn’t the path to self-knowledge. Whatever else flight from oneself might be, it isn’t an honest examination of who you are.

Trinity said...

"I’ve been told at one time or another that I needed to take a long hard look not only at my desires but at what I don't desire"

Usually with me it's what I do desire. "Why do you want to hurt people" (at which point feminist theory is supposed to TELL me why when I don't have an explanation, or worse, say I don't really care. and it's all of course structural.)

or the stock "hey, when we said 'empowerment' we didn't mean your right to be the racy dominatrix of men's dreams!" (which... ummmm not so much!)

"what these people – a lot of whom themselves seem singularly lacking in self-awareness – have in mind is usually some version of reorientation therapy, which is a feeble travesty of authentic self-examination."

Yes (well not yes to the lacking self-awareness. I actually think many of them are very self-aware). The "examining" is supposed to make you come to a specific conclusion about where your fantasy came from and you're supposed to find it distasteful. If you assert some other history, sometimes you're deemed creative but usually you're tuned out.

"Whatever else flight from oneself might be, it isn’t an honest examination of who you are."

Well said. Hell, quoteworthy.

And really.. what about things that don't have much of a big explanation? Like me coming to think that "schoolgirls" could be hot. I'd always found the fantasy a bit gross and that it made my feminist spidey-sense tingle badly.

Then I had a look at some hentai and found myself going "You know, those characters ARE kinda sexy to me" and the next thing I knew I was fantasizing about dressing an adult partner (a woman or a feminized man, I'm like that) that way and having sex with hir, caning hir, etc. all the standard stuff.

and really... there's much more complexity I think to my initial feminist squick (which I do not think is bad, BTW) than to my very sudden "oh, this really doesn't bug me now. it can be play."

I don't think I was infiltrated by some evil ideology so much as... well, when i saw it presented in cartoon form in the hentai, it didn't look real so I didn't think of real life, and that freed me up to find it erotic rather than worry. and once that happened... well I can't say it's a fetish now for me but I can easily see myself enjoying it.

which I like because I've known some utterly adorable bottoms who like to role-play that way. and having sexy fun with them > "eeee!"ing at them distastefully, all things considered.

I don't think there's much more to examine about why that changed for me. It's pretty simple.

thene said...

It sounds like a classic argument from ignorance - "what, you don't have a prepackaged explanation for why you find this hot? Then you must've been indoctrinated by The Patriachy!" There's not just no proof of harm, but no requirement for proof at all, just an ideology that papers over the cracks. I've never seen one piece of actual research about where kink might originate, or how it affects people's lives, and I think until someone's tackled that any 'examination' of other people is just flailing around in the dark. Self-examination is another matter, but forcing someone to do it until they come up with the right answer is kinda on the wrong side of falsifiable, if you get my drift.

Trinity said...

"I've never seen one piece of actual research about where kink might originate, or how it affects people's lives, and I think until someone's tackled that any 'examination' of other people is just flailing around in the dark"

Research, no, but I have seen some anti-SM articles (I'm thinking specifically of Sandra Bartky's, here) that at least look up some psychoanalysts' opinions* on the topic, and wrestle with them even if they lead to conclusions that are not very tasteful from the "radical feminist" point of view.

*granted, I think psychoanalysis is often grasping at straws, particularly wrt sadomasochism. But I was impressed with Bartky's willingness to think about mechanisms by which sexual desire becomes fixed, rather than simply leaving her analysis at the "poisoned by patriarchy!" level where she began.

belledame222 said...

I’m not afraid of self-examination, but what these people – a lot of whom themselves seem singularly lacking in self-awareness – have in mind is usually some version of reorientation therapy, which is a feeble travesty of authentic self-examination. Frantic suppression of fantasy, whether in the name of fundamental Christianity or under the aegis of some dumbed-down secular ideology, certainly isn’t the path to self-knowledge. Whatever else flight from oneself might be, it isn’t an honest examination of who you are.

Well said.

for me the "don't desire" resonated wrt early internalized homophobia--i.e. i was feeling at least as bad for not being able to trump up feelings for boys as for the ones about girls that i wanted to squash.

belledame222 said...

well not yes to the lacking self-awareness. I actually think many of them are very self-aware

eh, i dunno about that. i think they're very self-*fixated*, but i dunno as that's the same thing, you know.

Lia said...

BDSM is so varied that people need as precise an appreciation of their own desires as possible. Take me, for example (yeah, please take me! ;) ) . As a 15-year-old radfem, I was very worried indeed about those pesky male-dom fantasies that wouldn't go away, even when asked nicely. I tried a Sheila-esque reorientation thing, complete with naive self-inflicted aversion therapy. Guess what, it didn't work. So I thought "fuck it" and dropped the rad part of my femness. Problem solved? Not quite.

As a young female newly resigned to her bondage and violation fantasies, there were 2 options open to me. If I hadn't been raised a feminist, there would have been 3:

1. Go out and actually get raped / have sex with misogynist idiots / join conservative and possibly religious groups because you're attracted to their "mini maledom" atmosphere/rhetoric and don't realise you can have the kink without the crap.

2. Become a submissive in a D/s relationship.

3. Enact your fantasies in an equal relationship.

Luckily, I was bright enough to choose option 3 without wasting time on the rest. How did I manage that? Self-examination. So yeah, I'd like to see a standard pattern of self-examination for people with submissive fantasies:

1. Do I want to actually enact this stuff, or just dream and fantasise?

2. Am I interested in a D/s relationship, or just scenes? (This seems a real danger. Newbies coming to D/s websites might get the impression that submissive fantasies = wanting a D/s lifestyle, which isn't always true, as they're very different things. My relationship is totally equal, and I would hate it any other way. Not good hate. Believe me.)

3. (For women especially). Not really a question, but a knowledge that your own submissive fantasies do not apply to all, or most women. I'm rather concerned about the Surrendered Wives etc siphoning off young women who'd be much happier in BDSM, where they can choose their own level and style of submission...

Trinity said...

"So yeah, I'd like to see a standard pattern of self-examination for people with submissive fantasies"

Lia,

That sort of self-examination I'm all for, as well. :)

And I think you're totally right about the websites siphoning off people. As a young top exploring I got some very weird ideas from websites about what submissive people "need" from domination: orders, clearly structured life because they have trouble doing it themselves.

Where what I found looking at D/sers int he real world (only recently, comparatively; I'd fled into the land of Let's Just Play for a while, because that stuff scared me) was a focus on *service* and *giving and accepting it*, which implies nothing about someone's ability to order her own (or someone else's!) life.

THAT I personally am comfortable with. The other weird "orders-obedience-punishment" model? Not at all.

Trinity said...

"eh, i dunno about that. i think they're very self-*fixated*, but i dunno as that's the same thing, you know."

well yes. but you do find, like Lia mentioned, that with some of them you can scratch the surface and find, say, BDSM fantasies they've always known were there, etc.

(disclaimer: yes I know NOT EVERYONE. But there are quite a few ex-BDSMers or people who always liked the idea but believe they got it from the Pat and thus resist it, etc.)

It's not the case that all of them are unaware or prudish, is all I really meant. Some are kinky as all get-out but Jeffreysian in how they handle it, and it's not naivete about their own fantasy life that makes them that way.

Personally I think thinking that *solution* works is naive and on par with "reparative therapy", but that doesn't mean we're dealing with people who don't know what they want, for example.

belledame222 said...

well--I am thinking of my own experience of internalized homophobia, here, during adolescence. I mean, there's a continuum of repression, right? at one end you know perfectly well who and what you are/want, but keep it tamped down to anyone -else-; at the other, you've pushed it all down into the Well of Denial...

Lia said...

Concerning "weird ideas from websites":

"Submissive" is a tricky word, I think. I've only ever seen it used negatively, outside of BDSM. In a non-BDSM context it usually means someone a bit pathetic without much confidence, who needs support, guidance... etc etc. (Especially in the "independent women" style of popular feminism where "submissive" is mainly used as an insult, to encompass everything a woman should strive not to be.) So I'm not surprised that the negative connotations of the word are being stuck onto BDSM submissives, even though most of them are anything but pathetic. Perhaps BDSM was wrong to adopt the word, but then, I'm not sure what would be better...

Renegade Evolution said...

If I get asked one more time to examine my desires, someone is going to loose an eye...THAT is a reoccuring violent fantasy...

and yeah, I prefer someone who hates me, what I do, what goes on in my head OUTRIGHT to the hate masked as concern and "won't someone think of the women and children?!?!?!?"

Trinity said...

""Submissive" is a tricky word, I think. I've only ever seen it used negatively, outside of BDSM."

I can't remember where I read this exactly, but I remember reading a Muslim woman's blog who mentioned this very problem. "Islam" is apparently often translated as "submission", and according to this woman that really skeeves Westerners because the English word for it has negative connotations that the actual word does not.

Trinity said...

I can't remember what words/phrases she preferred.

Personally, for BDSM, I prefer using "submission" when talking about altered states like subspace, but using "service" when talking about non-sexual power relation stuff.

"Service" sounds noble, where nonsexual "submission" doesn't sound noble to a lot of people who use it in that "subordinated" sense.

verte said...

Huh? I could have sworn I posted a comment on this thread yesterday....

(btw, sorry for being absent - just moved from one end of the country to the other....)

Lia said...

That's weird, it swallowed up a comment of mine too! A few days ago. It was something about Islam perhaps being more receptive to submission/self-sacrifice than our individualistic, "greed is good" culture is at present. I wonder if Muslims ever have shame/guilt issues with domination? Their faith is called "submission", after all. Someone enlighten me as I'm clueless about this.