Monday, 30 July 2007


I'm crossposting this from my LiveJournal, because I think it's worth discussing. There are a lot of us in the Scene who choose not to use particular words, set up particular types of dynamic, or role-play certain scenarios because they mimic or draw on an oppressive history. Personally I tend to be very live and let live about this myself, but there is one place I draw a very firm line for myself personally.

It's probably not the place you'd expect, unless you're also big on disability issues:

I know a few D/s types who like the term "behavior modification." When I try to describe to them why I'll never use that term (or what I perceive to be those methods) people blink at me incredulously.

So before I forget, here's why not.

And here, too:

EVELYN NICHOLSON, ANTWONE'S MOTHER: He would call me up crying and say, "You've got to get me out of here. I can't take this."

KAYE: Because along with the perks at this center for troubled children come the punishments. The Judge Rotenberg Center claims to be the only one in the country using electric shock aversion therapy. They call it the Graduated Electronic Decelerator, the GED. And half their students go to school each day tethered to electrodes housed in a fanny pack.

....Dr. Matthew Israel has been under fire from parents and doctors and psychiatrists since he invented the electric shock device 16 years ago. Dr. Israel calls it behavioral skin shock, a bee sting, a prick, an electric spanking, nothing like the convulsive shock treatments demonized in films.

DR. MATTHEW ISRAEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUDGE ROTENBERG CENTER: Children who otherwise might blind themselves have been able to stop that behavior and become a much more normal life.

....KAYE: It was really painful. The folks at the center told me it would feel like a bee sting, and that's what Dr. Israel had told us as well, but it feels far worse than that. It feels like a constant bombardment of pin pricks. It only lasts about two seconds, but you lose complete control of the muscle.

I couldn't control my arm anymore. So I could see why it would stop these kids, young kids, even, to stop them in their tracks.
While I realize that consenting adults choosing a power dynamic is not this, I can't be at home with the term. I imagine it's similar to how some people feel about others using slurs for groups they're members of in erotic play. For those particular people, the term is not a game, it's a history of pain and terror.

I don't think any of the people who get so gd puzzled and give lengthy explanations of what positive and negative reinforcement are (as if I don't know) when I flinch at this term read my blog, but just in case you do... here you go. And here's the ABA controversy, briefly, so you don't have to wonder if I'm making shit up. :)

Here is why I much prefer to call any changes to habits that happen as a result of D/s (and I personally don't expect many would or should, myself) something else. And flinch on occasion when you don't, though your methods are your own.


Renegade Evolution said...

Behavior modification is just a creepy term. Yes, I know a lot of people use it, probably even like the creepy factor, but along with the VERY valid reasons you've discussed for not liking the term, well, for me it brings up other unpleasantness as well...Soviet dissenters sent to Gulags for "behavior modification", people of various faiths stuck into religious counciling for "behavior modification", "spare the rod, spoil the child" as a form of "behavior modification"...

I don't much care for it myself...

Trinity said...

right on.

Anonymous said...

"Behaviour modification" is one of those euphemistic terms, like "comfort women", that look innocuous until you find out what they actually mean.

I don't even like the implications of "behaviour modification" as a consensual BDSM term - there seems to me to be something unhealthy about it because the term's usage seems to go beyond simple teaching and learning about one another and the way you like things done, that can be made fun by roleplaying and stuff, and go into something deeper and more permanent.

It looks so innocuous because I modify my own behaviour all the time, depending on the company I'm with and what's likely to be acceptable in a particular situation. but the compound term is used to mean so much more than the simple combination of the component words.

Trinity said...

"I don't even like the implications of "behaviour modification" as a consensual BDSM term"

Me neither. It seems to imply "I'm bad as I am, fix me" rather than "I want to learn how to serve in a more precise, elegant, and attentive manner."

Kramnik said...

It seems to imply "I'm bad as I am, fix me" rather than "I want to learn how to serve in a more precise, elegant, and attentive manner."

You mean it focuses too much on the sub, and not enough on you?

belledame222 said...

How d'you figure?

If it's "I'm bad as I am, fix me," that it's about the sub isn't even the point (so can learning to serve, after all, be about the sub); it's more, "Actually, what you want there is a therapist, not a domme."

Trinity said...

Kramnik... *what*?

No, I don't like it because it makes the person in question sound like an issue pile I don't want to take on.

Topping from the bottom isn't something I like either, unless it's part of a dynamic with a particular person, and a dynamic that's usually respectful.

But they're not the same.

Cheshire said...

Hell yes,
Anyway, rambling about behaviour modification

I was having this conversation recently with my mother about autistic ways of relating to the world and she said "it sounds like you could be trained out of that" and I was shocked, because mostly my mother is cool and the traits we where talking about where not damaging, or threatening or anything except different... But her first response that we should force kids to be normal! Freaked the hell out of me, I mean she raised me, she was the one fighting for me to get the help I needed in school, I really didn't expect it of her.

Kramnik said...

No, I don't like it because it makes the person in question sound like an issue pile

I suppose it sounds that way if you take it literally, "I think I am bad". But I doubt most subs who say this about themselves intend it to be taken literally. I have known more than one woman who called herself a "dirty slut" and each and every one of them chose her lovers discriminately and was very clean.