This essay will focus on violence in the forms of prostitution, pornography, and sadomasochism because I think that through an exploration of these, one can find the roots of violence against women. In arguing this, I’m not saying that violence against women is a recent phenomenon. I’m saying that prostitution and sadism have existed for millennia. For example, pornography is not a phenomenon of the twentieth century—for example, ancient Greece had “art” depicting gang rape of prostitutes, sexual abuse of boys, and so forth. This also raises a contentious question: what constitutes “violence against women?” As a radical feminist, I include the ejaculation industry , also known as the “sex industry”, as being part of it. This includes prostitution in all its forms, including pornography, stripping, escort services, and, in ways, women who are in relationships with men for economic security, as well as sadopatriarchy, generally known as BDSM (bondage, domination-submission, sadomasochism).And I just wanted to say to this person (still may, actually) that... there's a difference between what we think and what we do, and a difference between what we do and what we mimic.
If one is doing exactly what one’s oppressor does, for example gay male pornography that eroticizes gay bashing, child sexual abuse, battery, and rape, how does that change anything? How is self-hatred and/or hatred of others suddenly revolutionary when sexualized?
[When asked by me why she's a member of a BDSM related community on LJ]
I want to be more assertive, but not aggressive. I'm not interesting in harming or humiliating my partner. I don't fantasize about it [BDSM] anymore (haven't for years--but have still had unequal fantasies a few times, about pedophilia).
I think there's a lot of emphasis in anti-BDSM circles (or other circles that are "sex-critical" (in quotes because it's only one phrase I've heard to describe people, and some don't identify with it)) on what you think about. What fantasies go through your head, and how and why. It's all about whether what's in your head is "what the oppressor does."
And if you do play, or you do like the rough sex or the D/s, or whatever, there's no possibility of it being playful or mocking or subverting the actual violent experiences. (By "subverting" I'm not here arguing that doing scenes by itself is politically meaningful/destabilizing of norms. I'm meaning "change/remap the meaning of this particular experience. Mock it, be a send-up of it, etc.)
And that just strikes me as strange, because I think back to childhood, and... kids play all the time. Kids re-map, think about, toy with their experiences through play all the time. It's a part of what play does and is about for a child: practice for adult life, attempts to experience or at least mentally visualize experiences they've not had (whether that be being a parent, having a job, or being a fairy princess astronaut rockstar. ;)
And... kids' play is not always innocent. Kids who have experienced abuse will often try to work out what happened to them in play, copy behaviors they've seen, etc. Some kids also just like to play naughtily. I remember best friends of mine burning the ends of toothpicks with candles, then putting the charred picks in our mouths, pretending they were cigarettes. I don't think any of us went on to smoke, and I know I for one thought cigarettes were Very Bad News.
But it was fun to pretend to be bad. And we had lots of games in which we did: Bonnie and Clyde-style, criminals on the run, with glamorous lives. Did it mean we wanted to steal, fight, rape? No.
(the following may be triggering/upsetting)
Actually one thing my friend in that particular game often wanted -- which leads me to wonder now if anything did ever happen to her as a kid, but I have no idea -- was play rape. We didn't actually know what the word meant, as you'll see in a moment, but we were playing "bad people" -- and how would a Bad Guy and his moll have sex? It would be Bad People Sex, and Bad People raped.
We didn't really gather that rape meant nonconsensual, just that it meant Bad + Sex. So my friend would climb onto my parents' bed and writhe, crying out "Rape me, Jack! Rape me!" while I looked on dumbly, knowing too little about the mechanics of sex to even know how to ape it and feeling nervous and scared and like I shouldn't play at *rape*, whatever it was, because it was something horrible in the real world, though I didn't know what or why.
I don't know. Some play can definitely hurt too, whether it's kids playing darkly or adults doing edgy BDSM. But playing with difficult things is a part of life. Imagining yourself in unjust situations, wondering what you'd do, wanting to feel the power or the awe of another person. And surely there's no reason to curse people for what they think about rather than what they do. The whole idea of not having or not wanting fantasies any more is so odd to me. Who cares what you thought about today? Why do you?
And yes, I get that some anti-BDSM people think that doing BDSM at all counts as "doing" exactly what you're thinking of doing -- but I don't buy that. I don't see how doing something in a consciously playful context as an adult is any different than playing as a kid. I don't even see why it's assumed that adults shouldn't play -- clearly kids need more play as a developmental thing, but it's never seemed to me that we completely change as we move from one stage of our lives to another.
I mean, the "play" defense doesn't defend long-term D/s by itself because those power roles are real. But even there -- how is a consensual contract/dynamic that's constantly re-examined and re-negotiated (as it is in the case of anyone I know who has a successful relationship) the same as slavery, when the concept of one is a working intimate relationship and the concept of the other is an unpaid laborer (yes, even in the case of a sexual slave) with no rights?
People have a very odd definition of sameness.