Friday, 30 November 2007

DK's contented contemplations: Black or Red...?

DK's contented contemplations: Black or Red...?

I'm just going to link this and not comment, because it's amazing, I have little or nothing to add, and my brain is jell-o today.

Rearranging the World

I've been going around and around in my head about something, and it's one of those things that's ... if only I could explain this to people! It's a neat trick! I! ... but the words are so open for misinterpretation. I know if I tried to say it, tried to make the argument somewhere, that people would latch on to one thing and completely miss the point of what I'm driving at. It's a Mystery experience, and those are notoriously difficult to convey.

But I'm thinking about 'objectification', in its various forms; the specific bit that's relevant to my kink is the specifically sex-object kind, but I don't think that what I'm looking at is limited to that subset.

A lot of people look at the notion of objectification -- of, hrrr, for lack of better phrasing, constraining interactions with the person-treated-as-object to those appropriate for the type of object for duration of the scene or other period, let's define my terms -- and see something horrible. The cutting-away of everything not a part of the object, a reduction of person-to-thing-to-be-used, ignoring anything that doesn't fit in that, which can include dreams, aspirations, basic humanity ....

And when I look back on the ways I've been treated as a sex object nonconsensually in my past -- much of which is, y'know, junior high school crap, those horrible early-teens years -- it is something horrible. Minimising, dehumanising, disrespectful to self-as-person. All that shit, I understand the thing.

And that has nothing to do with my experience of objectification in a kink context.

I was talking with my liege about this the other day, trying to grasp at words to go at the mystery, and he talked about rearranging the world, resizing it. Like how in certain sexual situations, everything outside the bed just stops registering as relevant, doesn't matter to the situation at all. Which can be a way of finding a respite from a relentlessly awful world, for a little while: resize the world.

The sex slave thing is resizing the world and also resizing me. All that other stuff exists, outside the edge of the mindspace, folded up and implicit in my self but not relevant -- the whole question of acceptance, of love, of external value, winds up being evaluated on the success at performing the functions of the objectification.

Which, again, could be seen as an awful thing, but ...

... those folded-in bits aren't rejected, they're still there. Which means that the fact that it's possible to have a fairly clearcut success in the objectified role, a fairly black-and-white pass/fail thing, makes the whole horrible tangle of 'am I worthy as a person' fade to the background: it makes it possible to receive, hear, and believe an unqualified "Yes."

And that unqualified 'yes' doesn't stay constrained to the smaller world. It expands out with the boundaries of reality.

I sit here and look at this experience and say, "This! This is cool! This is useful! I mean, aside from 'this is good sex', this is neat!" and ... have no idea how to convey it to people who don't already know what I'm talking about.

It would be nice to be able to do, sometimes. But talking about narrowing the world like that is just offering up a hook for the antis to snag onto and haul, as far as I can tell. Which leaves me feeling awfully sad.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Saturday, 24 November 2007

I shouldn't even be mentioning it, but...

...proof that some people need some time out of the ivory tower:

Once again I am in total agreement with you Demonista. S & M adherents over the last few years have been contriving to legitimise their pathetic, childish (and dangerous) practices in the eyes of people who are striving to bring an end to the capitalist system of production and distribution; they have even gone to the extent of formulating wanky theories about transgressing the boundaries of bourgeios morality. The simple answer to them is that they themselves are indulging in activities which only serve to re-enforce the dominant/submisive relationship between the ruling and working classes. Working-class women suffer enough pain and humiliation doing shitty jobs for even shittier wages without having to come home to whips, clips, chains and nipple clamps.
Unlike gay persons, S & M adherents are not oppressed because of their lifestyle, nor do they pose any threat to bourgoise hegemony. What really gets up their rubber knickers is the fact that the majority of people who are active in trying to bring about a truly free, democratic, peace-promoting, egalitarian society, see them as nothing more than a bunch of neo-fascists. Long may it remain so.
Honey, if you lean THAT hard on Marx, your crutch is gonna split in two. You might want some stronger assistive devices. Or a bit more brain exercise of your own.

I love how "bourgeois hegemony" the phrase really means, y'know, the oppression of the working class, but it gets made into the snootiest, most academic phrase ever. It's an interesting twist.

DEAR THEORY KIDLETS: I have a call for you from Reality on line two. Reality would especially like you to note that there are, in fact, gay sadomasochists.

Reality also notes that you have a flair for insulting language. Have you considered phone domming?

And "have to" come home to nipple clamps? I'd love to know what planet these people are living on, where dumping your top in annoyed exasperation is somehow not an option.

Oh wait, er, *ahem* *straightening up* Disregard that. I'm so top I've never been dumped.

NONE CAN DEFY ME! ALL SHALL TASTE MY WRATH! *cartoon villain cackle*

Friday, 16 November 2007

Framing SM in feminist terms

I've been working my butt off for my postgrad degree of late, and most of my written work looks like it's going be centred around BDSM. Excited though I am, when writing what I suppose constitutes some kind of narrative analysis through a feminist framework, I find the language associated with BDSM really problematic. "Domination", "submission", "objectification", "sadism", "masochism", "bondage", etc. Of course, we know these terms don't necessarily have to represent practices that are repressive/oppressive to women, but it's hard to explain them when they are so commonly used by feminists to mean something so entirely different. I think Pat Califia describes this difficulty with buzzwords briefly, but I wonder why feminist SM practitioners have not sought to make changes in the way we use those terms.

Do we need a whole new language of buzzwords to describe BDSM in feminist terms? Or is it partially using these buzzwords transgressively that, to put it bluntly, gets us off?

In other news, I have been reading some interesting books and articles on BDSM and related topics. I'm going to add a booklist to this blog, and would appreciate any ideas you might have, also...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

And now for fluff

quoted someplace, actually by a feminist I respect:

“I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist.”
-Sally Kempton

So uh, what was that again?

You became a feminist as an alternative to coming all over the place with great glee? :)

(oddly, sometimes reading through the sex wars it seems like this is the case for some folks...)

I am tired of "masochist" as a catch-all for "person with problems who doesn't stand up for himself." Masochism is about sex. It's about fun.

I don't mind jokes. I'm not the "humorless" sort of feminist. But I'm tired of this phrase being presented as this shiningly witty one-sentence explanation of the need for feminism.

That one was older than moldy cheese before I was born.

*stamps dumb quote with [OLD MEME, MUST LET DIE]*

Meredith Kercher

I've been asked several times what I, as a BDSMer, think of this murder. I figure I have to post something sooner or later, so here goes nothing.

Part of the reason I've avoided this is I hadn't even heard about it until I saw mention of it on my friend's blog. I'm still having trouble parsing exactly what happened.

That's a big part of why I've been silent for so long. All I knew until I saw that second post was that someone had been killed, allegedly because she refused violent sex, all taken from this blog post here.

While I could certainly see that any mention of "violent sex" or rape fantasy eventually gets us blamed and dragged through the media, I couldn't see the same direct parallels that something like the Glenn Marcus case would have. I didn't see any direct reference to sadomasochism at all -- what's "violent sex?" What's "sadomasochistic"? Were/are these people connected to the community in any way? I knew the answers to none of that until I saw Daisy's post today.

And, hell, I rarely if ever posted even about the killers and abusers known to be lurking in BDSM. I don't think I posted a lick anywhere about Glenn Marcus, for example, or paid enough attention to know his name, until I saw comments on blogs by his other slaves defending him. So I said "I'm not going to cover the Kercher murder; if any and every psycho who wants 'violent sex' (whatever that even is; like I said, that's so vague I don't know anyway) were my responsibility to talk about and deal with, I'd never get my own voice."

But then I saw this, from Daisy's latest post:
What really sets this case apart is the fact that Amanda had an ongoing narrative, as FOXY KNOXY--a MySpace blogger who openly wrote about BDSM scenarios and had something of a fan-base. One wonders if this case would keep us so enthralled if this pre-conceived character did not already exist, as the Columbine boys also had online personas that dovetailed with their real-life intentions. The Telegraph puts it very plainly, titling their update: AMANDA KNOX WROTE STORIES ABOUT RAPE (all that's required is an exclamation point, or several):
Apparently this person was actually connected with BDSM in some way, did it or wrote about it and knew enough to call it that. And apparently she was popular enough that some people might get their ideas about it from her.

Which matters. People saw this. People read this. Her stories are now evidence in a criminal case. And of course it's shocking and titillating that she wrote them. Perhaps especially so, since she's a woman, and we all expect women not to have these fantasies.

I'm female and have them too. Should I be worried?
What frightens many bloggers, is how Amanda's blog is now being used as evidence.

Moral of the story: Fantasies we write about may one day bite us in the ass, so be careful. For example, if I should write that a certain person makes me sick and I wish they would die, and they end up dead under questionable circumstances, does that automatically make me a suspect? (And if so, is that fair?)

If your roommate ends up raped and murdered and you have written fantasies on your blog about rape and murder, well, talk about some bad luck, huh?
Honestly, I don't know enough about the case to know. I don't know how much evidence links this person to the crime, or if the real story is that there is no evidence and violent fantasy is all they're going on. Is it almost definitely clear what happened, and they're looking for more information about motive, or is this the principal evidence linking this person to the crime?

And even if there is more evidence, what license does that really give the media to portray it all in this way?

I don't know. I've never hidden my fantasies. I've always thought that was the best policy. This raises more questions for me than answers, or concrete fears.

Does anyone know more about what happened?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Sex, Lies, Transmisogyny, and the Heteronormativity of BDSM, pt. 2

Sex, Lies, Transmisogyny, and the Heteronormativity of BDSM, pt. 2

Part 2 of Lisa being amazing. On BDSM:

Her implication is that being a sub, being a slave, being a bottom, whatever you want to call it, is completely passive. That basically, all you do is lay there while your top whips you, drips hot candle wax on you, ties you up in restraints, and so on. The top gives and the bottom receives. That the dynamic goes exactly one way. That the top has power and the bottom does not. That the dynamic is identical to the stereotypical heterosexual missionary sex act where the man plunges in and the woman just lays there and takes it. Healthy BDSM relationships just don’t work that way. They have to be highly interactive, with communication and power going both ways. The top has the power to do whatever she wants within the bottom’s boundaries, and the bottom has the power to stop it at any time. Trust is the primary facet of a strong relationship between a top and a bottom, and Ms. Croson does not even acknowledge this. She can’t afford to, since she wants her readers to view BDSM as abusive heterosexual practices taken to an extreme. The top as an angry, controlling wifebeater, the bottom as a submissive victim who can’t even bring herself to leave her abuser.

This is echoed in the beliefs, when inclusion of BDSM practitioners at MWMF was being debated, and some women believed that allowing them on the land would give the subs a chance to escape these obviously abusive relationships. Some suggested setting up workshops to help them get away - of course, none wanted to get away because they love their kinks and have too strong a sense of themselves to allow others to talk them out of it.

On transgender:

She repeats the same arguments about transgender as she does about BDSM - which is expected, because she wants both equated as the same kinds of “wrong things” in feminist eyes. She again asserts that “where identity springs from is never examined.” What she really means is “Whenever trans people explain their identities, their sense of self, and why they transition, we ignore them and impose our narratives upon their lives. Those invented narratives never examine where identity springs from.” As I mention before, if you differ from the expected norm, you’re almost forced to examine it. I spent years when most kids think about G.I. Joe or Barbies trying to deconstruct what the hell “being a girl” meant vs. “being a boy.” I tried to see myself as a person with both a male and female spirit before I was eight years old. I tried to examine the possibilities that I was just a transvestite, or gay. I questioned constantly how I could know I was a girl when my body said I was a boy. I examined my identity, my sense of self, every way I could think of. I tried to suppress the idea entirely. I never really got to the bottom of it all, but I searched every nook, cranny, and crevice I could find that might give me some hint. I just don’t see how you can grow up with the sense of being one gender, your body being the other sex, and dealing with the messages society sends boys and girls while trying to sort them all out without some serious examinations of what’s going on.

Her argument seems to imply that trans people decide one day that we want to transition, that we’d be more comfortable as the other sex, or life would be easier because we can’t handle being gay - this isn’t much of a stretch, because other articles on Questioning Transgender explicitly lay this out. In her lack of understanding - and her lack of willingness to understand - transgender lives, Ms. Croson imposes patriarchy upon who and what we are.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Sex, Lies, Transmisogyny, and the Heteronormativity of BDSM, pt. 1

Link time! Sex, Lies, Transmisogyny, and the Heteronormativity of BDSM, pt. 1

An amazing post rebutting a "radical feminist" "analysis" of the supposed politics behind SM and transgenderism, and how they supposedly intersect. I excerpt my favorite bits, but the whole thing is excellent.

This is one of the linchpins of bigoted feminism in general - the basic premise that women can never be the oppressor. That because women are oppressed by men, that it is impossible for women to oppress anyone else, that they don’t have the power. Earlier, she complains that pro-trans people and pro-BDSM people criticize Feminist arguments against both groups as “saying that women lack agency.” Of course, the idea that women can’t oppress is saying that - it’s saying that women are too weak to do anything. If you can’t oppress a group with less social capital than your own, what can you do? To be honest, the idea that these cis vanilla women are not oppressing BDSM practitioners or trans women is ludicrous, and smacks of newspeak. They’re trying to redefine the language - the meanings of the words used - to say that what they do is not oppression, while at the same time practicing oppression. They may as well place a sign reading “Freedom is Slavery” and “We have always been at war with Camp Transia” over the entrance gate to MWMF, given how thoroughly they practice this redefinition.

....The problem with not allowing yourself to be defined as an oppressor is pretty simple: It excuses you from owning your shit. It’s like white people who claim to be “colorblind,” thus denying the reality of race relations and pretending they aren’t racist. It’s a luxury the privileged have - to ignore their own status as oppressors. The cis women who want trans-exclusive space have the luxury - with their cissexual privilege - of denying that there’s any oppression going on here, because it costs them absolutely nothing to do so. On the other hand, I can’t deny the oppression I experience, I can’t afford to. I can’t look at the MWMF trans-exclusive policy and how it’s echoed throughout lesbian and feminist culture, and say “Well, that has no effect on me” because it is aimed directly at me. I don’t have the luxury of believing cis women who not only say that they’re not transphobic, but deny transphobia even exists. Women who openly practice BDSM are in a similar position. They can be ostracized for their “patriarchal sex practices” and do not have the luxury of pretending that all of the lesbian community accepts them, or at least treats them fairly. Lesbians who don’t practice BDSM can believe that, because again it doesn’t cost them anything to deny their own agency and complicity in this oppression.

Next, Ms. Croson discusses “transgression.” One of the red herrings that comes up in discussions about trans people is that transphobic radical feminists will start attacking imaginary transgender political stances. One of those is the idea that trans people run around claiming to transgress gender, that we’re gender rebels out to smash the gender binary. They then criticize us for not actually doing this. It’s immaterial that we don’t run around claiming this, we’re judged for not doing so because, well, radical feminism would like to destroy the gender binary, and they see us as reinforcing it.

She talks about how it’s transgressive for women to choose our own sexuality, to choose sexual roles denied by patriarchal norms. And I do think that the willingness to accept yourself as anywhere on the queer spectrum is transgressive. Modern society hates gay men, hates lesbians, hates bisexuals, really truly for sure hates transgender and transsexual people. When someone who appears to be a man goes through all that effort to become a woman, society punishes us harshly - we lose friends, family, jobs. We sometimes get pushed to the point where we have to engage in survival sex work just to pay the bills and keep the hormones flowing. A trans person is more likely to be murdered than anyone else in America. This is because to society, we are transgressive. The fact that a trans man can grow a beard and be accepted as a man if his trans status isn’t known is just plain outside what many people are willing to accept as valid. But because most of us go from man to woman or woman to man, we’re accused of reinforcing the gender binary, of not transgressing the norms, etc. etc.

The other problem with this is that it conflates our desire to live our lives with political goals. Real lesbians do not declare themselves lesbian to transgress heteronormative society. Real lesbians declare themselves lesbians because we want to live our lives and not suppress who we are. This does affect our politics, but our politics do not drive this. People who practice BDSM do not practice BDSM as a political statement. They do this because that is the kind of sex they enjoy. We do not choose these things to transgress, but society punishes us for doing so because they are transgressions.

I am in lust with Lisa's brain.

Especially the points about transgression. I definitely think people have a tendency to look at people who transgress and assume the thrill of defiance is the whole reason why. And for some people I'm sure it is... but for a lot of people, getting a little thrill out of transgression is a meager positive compensation for living the lives we have to live to be ourselves.

Friday, 2 November 2007


Every now and again in discussions of BDSM (especially discussions that some people deem "too" pro-BDSM), I see someone citing their personal experience, saying something like

"I wish I could be as optimistic as you that most people use/do BDSM positively. But I've simply met/run across/seen too many abusers in the community to think that your pro-BDSM position is anything but a 'head in the sand' stance."

(the latest iteration being someone who visited us, here.)

And the thing that always leaves me scratching my head is: I've not met many. I've been in the scene for, oh gods, seven years now? and I can think, off the top of my head, of all of three people I'd expect to abuse others. And a couple more who I'd think wouldn't go so far as abuse, but who might set up dynamics that would prove ultimately unhealthy (moreso than your average run of the mill bad relationship, I mean.)

Now, I couldn't tell you how many BDSMers I've met in all those seven years. And I'm pretty choosy in who I'm close enough to that I'd know how dating works for them. But all that said, I've met a pretty hefty number of people, and made a lot of friends.

Three out of (unspecified) really ain't bad, unless of course (unspecified) were, say, seven or something.

It's not. You meet a fuckload of people when you're interacting with large groups of BDSM folk minimum of once a week for a few years.

And yes, three is three too many. But I really don't think I've not met vanilla abusers, such that three is startling and horrifying and a reason to think BDSM has an inherent problem.

So what's this large proportion of abusers? Am I just odd, or particularly conscientious in choosing friends, partners, or community groups? Or are these "many abusers," as I sometimes suspect, actually a comment not on people one has interacted with but rather a comment on perusing clueless online websites. On which, as I'm sure we all know by now, anyone can assert that anything is "responsible domination?"

How about it, folks? How many abusers have you met? What enclaves have you run into, or not? Go wild. Let's talk. What's out there? How naive am I? I think of myself as a battle-scarred vet by now (and I gather that I'm actually more involved in larger orgs than most people here, even), but maybe not...