Loved the article and comments here.
Agreed with lots of it, too. So how does that square with my earlier "I wish BDSM didn't exist" posting? Well, I was discussing an impossible dream - a world where our sexuality isn't linked with pain and powerlessness and general creepy stuff. It's never going to exist, because we can't get there from here. But they're using the "feminist utopia" concept to discuss a potential reality: the best possible outcome for this BDSM thing, in this world, with the kind of people we have. So this "utopia" doesn't rely on changing basic human nature, merely political/social structures, which brings the plan into the realm of possible-but-bloody-hard. And that's how I can hold two incompatible views at the same time.
Wondered if I'd found a garden-variety, anti-BDSM feminist, thought perhaps not, and did a bit more perusing:
I know this will probably be interpreted as denial or self-hatred, but I'm resigned to the existence of BDSM: I can't bring myself to celebrate it as others do. Sure, I celebrate the fact that we have a smart, friendly, informed community for this stuff, and that fewer people than ever think themselves sick or evil for the sake of a few fantasies. But it would be so much simpler if we didn't have those desires in the first place. Imagine if the sex instinct had nothing to do with power or sadism, just pleasure and/or love. "Boring, boring", I hear. The nasty stuff is so deeply embedded into our souls (for want of a better world) that we believe if it wasn't there, we'd be left with fluffy bunny Wonderland and no excitement whatsoever.
But imagine - no desire to hurt or be hurt by the one you love. No deep, innate need to play out scenarios which are really rather weird and/or nasty, and confuse beginners and vanillas no end. No thinking you're sick, weird or (worse) unwillingly assimilated into the patriarchal system, their disgusting ideas eating into you like maggots in an apple as you try to pursue pleasure and autonomy. No engineering real conflict and drama to manipulate or provoke your lover for the thrill of it. No confusing your fantasies of submission with lifestyle D/s or even traditional religious ideas - in fact, no painful soul-searching at all. (I know self-exploration is generally a good thing, but budding kinksters are basically *required* to soul-search pretty deeply, from the outset, to not get into one of the previous scenarios. But, since they don't start with a copy of SM 101 in front of them - finding your way to the scene and its literature are a big step in themselves - they don't know how to think constructively about this kind of stuff. Which is why they fail a lot). And all those new concepts you need to know, and argue about, and tell new people. Subspace. Consensual non-consent. TPE. WTF?
I mean, yeah, we've got it pretty nicely figured out by now but it's still a response to a rather inconvenient situation. We're built on an animal template with hormones and so on, so removing the power struggle stuff can never be more than a nice dream. As a humanist, I want our sex lives to be happy, which in a perfect world would mean less complicated (or at least nicely complicated, something to puzzle apart with a smile at your leisure, not a tangle of politically-charged mess). But we don't live in a perfect world, and during our efforts to create one, we've still got to live somewhere. So I am doing the BDSM thing, and I'll be the first person to kick your ass if you criticise it. I just won't throw my hands in the air and say hallelujah like some of the crowd I see, never mind the vanilla-bashing on the more extreme sites.
Hmm. Well, I've got no interest in telling her not to feel that her desires aren't good to have if she really wants to feel that way.
And tackling the lifestyler issue is really beyond the scope of this post. Suffice it to say I strongly recommend anyone who wants to go on about M/s at the very least attend workshops on it before assuming that it's necessarily about what random people with an Internet connection and verbal diarrhea claim it is. If you've done that and still object, great -- I respect knowledge-based criticisms and even agree with several myself.
But to get back on topic.
One thing that really sticks out for me is "weird and nasty." What exactly makes these desires weird and nasty, again? I mean, yeah, I get that there's a whole radfem framework for "examining" them. And there are also the conservative types who hate deviance. But since I don't agree with any of those views, figuring whether BDSM is weird or nasty takes a bit of thought.
Weird: well, weird could mean statistically deviant. Rare. In that case, well, BDSM desires truly aren't all that rare as I understand it. "One In Ten People Is Gay" is a common soundbite, and the numbers of BDSMers in the US aren't all that different from that according to sources I've seen.
"Weird" can also mean something like "objectionably odd." I'm not so sure the odd is objectionable, myself. I often find that when I have a reaction of revulsion to something I've never seen before, it's worth examining. I may later decide it's repugnant, but I do so with knowledge of why people see it as worth pursuing.
Now for "nasty." This one's tougher. Of course, there's the standard bit of pro-BDSM prestidigitation that one can do here. Namely, pointing out that a rather large chunk of what counts for "sadism" in our community actually consists of doing things that get painsluts off, early and often. (Wheee!)
Which is, of course, true. Giving "pain" in a BDSM context is actually very often doing nothing more than giving pleasure.
But there's also something, well, dark about BDSM desires. Wanting to hurt people or be hurt is at least a little sinister, even if it's usually about nothing but orgasms. And domination and submission in-scene can get pretty severe. Role-playing can involve emblems of social domination, insulting words, degrading actions.
So "nastiness" isn't so easily scrubbed away. And I can say I prefer it that way, but without explaining why that just makes me look mean. Or at least meaner than the average bear.
There's a term someone mentioned on an e-mail list I am on: "white light Nazis."
Let's leave aside the much vexed discussion of whether it's OK to use the term Nazi to refer to someone attempting to force others to behave in certain ways. I only bring up the term because, even if inappropriate, it gets across the idea particularly well.
That idea being that we should always be good, always attempt to distance ourselves from the dark or selfish desires that we all have. For some people, cleansing ourselves of negative emotion or negative intent is a full-time job. The idea seems to be that if we don't do regular pruning of our mind's garden, the weeds will utterly overrun it. Without periodic soul-vacuuming, the Dark Side overtakes us. It's Nastiness Entropy!
We must be ever vigilant, then. The reason the world is as bad as it is, in fact, is because we have these kinds of desire.
The best thing for us, then, would be not only to prevent ourselves from acting on these desires, but to be able to get them out of our own heads in the first place. If we could just get ourselves to not have a cruel side, or to minimize it, we would cut off the problem where it starts.
What this poster seems to be saying is that she recognizes that cleaning our minds of dark desire is impossible. So she's not the kind of white lighter who worries me exactly. Still, she's sympathetic to the idea. Wouldn't it be nice if we could clean ourselves?
I've never believed that. Well, I did believe it as a kid, but my thinking as a child doesn't count. What I found when I grew up was that really accepting and trusting other humans meant accepting the dark desires are normal. It didn't mean accepting that people should act on them, or the people who dwell only on them are wonderfully stable. But it meant that acceptance and trust of people means understanding and knowing that we all have both a light side and a dark side.
Other people really trusting and accepting me meant accepting all of me. It meant seeing my beast and not running away.
Which happens, of course, every time I top.
And that's what I think BDSM is for.
No, that's an oversimplification. BDSM is for and about a whole bunch of different things. But a big part of it is about the fact that we all have dark desires. Sometimes we don't want to be kind. Sometimes having power is exhilarating. Sometimes tightening your iron fist feels delightful. Sometimes surrendering is exquisite. Sometimes having pleasure forced out of you, wrung from your cells by someone who, goddamnit, Refuses. To. Let. Up., is an incredible, wonderful ride.
"Setting up scenes" is about setting up places to do that, to be that, without the very real fallout that would have in daily life. And I don't see why that's wrong. I don't see why exploring those feelings is bad. I don't believe in Nastiness Entropy.
No, wait, that's not so. I do. But I believe it catches white light only-ers just as often as (if not more often than) it catches us. Because all the cleaning means mistrust of yourself, and that's when the Nastiness Entropy begins. Sure, some people get overwhelmed by it because they neglect white-light work -- the basics. "Be kind." "Don't always behave selfishly."
But by the time you get to the scrubbers, you get something very different, I think, than recognition that we shouldn't behave cruelly just because we feel like it. Or even than "with mindful behavior, meditation, prayer, or volunteer work I'd be cruel to others less often." We've gone skipping right over all that into hatred of those feelings. Or hatred of ourselves for having them. Both of which do precisely nothing to excise them.
I think knowing ourselves is important, and I think really knowing ourselves means knowing things that make us all uneasy. I have a hard time imagining that even the whitest of white light paths can be effective for anyone if it doesn't involve facing our monsters.
So yes, BDSM engages the "nasty." And yes, that's actually... okay.
(Or not. I'm more into praising Ma Kali than Jehovah.)