Saturday, 27 October 2007


In discussions of SM and feminism, I frequently see the following coming from anti SM people:

"People who do BDSM are not oppressed. When you complain about how people treat you, whether that be other feminists or mainstream society, you're insulting people who really are oppressed. It's as if oppression were a fad that you want to be a part of, rather than a brutal reality in the lives of members of subordinated groups. "

I was always sympathetic to this view. I always figured that most of us have life pretty easy, at least as far as SM goes.

Then I realized something. Not about how bad we have it, but about the words and concepts we're using. I realized that I don't actually know what the word oppression means. I know how it's used. I know roughly what we mean when we say it. But I don't know an official definition, such that it's possible for me to clearly delineate its boundaries. I know the paradigm cases of oppression, but I don't have a decent enough definition to be sure which cases aren't close enough to the paradigm to qualify.

And I started to realize that without that definition, my assertions that SMers are not oppressed were merely based on intuitions about how bad we have it compared to the paradigm oppressed groups, such as women, people of color, transgendered people, people with disabilities, etc. Since my intuitions were (and still are) that we don't have it as bad, I decided that we must not be oppressed.

But then I started to think about what the word might mean. Here's what I came up with. If any of you have definition of your own, or official citations about exactly what different theorists take to be the meaning of the word, please do add them here. I would love to see them; I'm flying blind.

Oppression is a social system in which one group has arbitrary power over another and exercises this power in an unjustly cruel, limiting, or stunting way.

Then I started thinking about SMers and other unusual sexual minorities, like fetishists of various sorts. I started wondering what I would say about our position in society, and whether a definition like the one I've given above could apply to us.

I'm going to save "Social system" for last, even though it comes first in the definition. This is because I think the sticking point in these discussions is whether members of these sexual minorities are mistreated in a truly systemic way.

First there's the question of social power. I definitely do think that there is a sexual mainstream, and that the members of that mainstream can and do wield power over those of us who are not members of it. We can be intimidated into hiding our identities. We can be fired from jobs. We can lose custody of children. We can face ridicule, distrust, and suspicion for not being members of this mainstream. We can be shamed into believing ourselves inferior. We can be told by mental health professionals that there's something wrong with us for not being part of this mainstream. (Yes, this can and does happen even though there are current movements to recognize us as mentally healthy. It's happened to me. ) All that indicates to me that there are two social groups here, and that one has power of various sorts that the other does not.

And I do think we're limited or stunted by these things. Obviously, if we happen to be the ones who lose custody of our children, lose our jobs, lose the trust of our communities, we've been limited and stunted. If we have to hide who we are, as most of us do, that's another form of stunting.

In my own personal life, I'm very excited about a possible job in the offing. My writing about disability rights will be relevant if I get this job. But I will have to pull all that out of its original context on my blog unless I'm willing to be out at work as someone who also not only supports the rights of kinky people, but freely and proudly admits to being one herself.

(Yes, even if I did feel I could do this I realize I would still have to "clean up" or lock some of the non-political adult content on TSA, but I think that is a different issue. )

I believe that my activism around sexuality only truly makes sense in its full context, but I fear offering that full context. Since I mentioned disability rights blogging to these people, I'd love to be able to say that I blog at TSA about all sorts of things, including disability rights.

I'm not going to do that. I don't believe that's fair or right, but I believe it's the wisest course of action in a world in which my sexuality is deemed fantastically inappropriate in a way vanilla sexuality is not.

Even more emotionally vivid, however, are the descriptions many of us have shared when of our struggles with internalized shame around our sexual interests and activities. These are toxic messages that we've received from people around us that say that we're violent, perverse (and not in the reclaiming way, either), or fundamentally broken because we don't function sexually in the way everyone is expected to. This kind of stigmatization is poisonous.

And it is pretty clearly arbitrary which sexualities are valued and which are not. There is no particular reason that I can see to disparage fetishes, or sexual interest in pain or power.

The sticky question, I believe, is the question of whether these problems are systemic. If we think about the ways that the paradigm cases of oppressed groups are treated, there has always been obvious social support for discrimination against them. If you look at the historical situation of women, for example, you can clearly see discrimination enshrined in law. Women not having the vote is one example. Doctrines of coverture are another. Looking at other groups, we see other socially enshrined discrimination. No marriage for gays, for example. The obvious example of legal slavery in American history.

I may sound like I'm too what's called "liberal feminist" here, focusing on the letter of the law. I don't mean to only do that. It's of course true that many forms of violence go on outside the law as well. It's not legal to bash, for example, even in places that don't deem it a hate crime. And various forms of group-based terror that are illegal are in fact ignored, tolerated, or actively encouraged, even, by those who supposedly enforce laws against them.

However, I wanted to mention and emphasize the historical legality of some groups' power over others. I think a lot of us, in our efforts to not be legalistic about oppression, are losing sight of the fact that most forms of oppression have actually had legal backing of one sort or another throughout history. I think that's an important fact, and one we shouldn't forget about even now that people are more genteel/covert about their oppressing.

And I think this legal history is a part of what makes BDSM look like it couldn't be an axis of oppression, as well. As far as SM goes, however, it's much more difficult to find laws on the books that are specifically aimed at preventing us from doing what we do, or from setting up the kinds of relationships that many of us want. Flogging, for example, is in fact illegal in my state so far as I know. However, as I understand it, the law arose not to prevent consensual sexual interactions but as a way of criminalizing punishments for sailors that people had come to consider overly cruel. Similarly, there are laws designed to regulate sexual conduct in public or semi public that impact what can happen at play parties or conventions, but as I understand these laws, they were originally designed as limitations on sex work in clubs, and on patrons of those clubs. (Which may well also suck, but is not about targeting SMers for being SMers.)

And I think this is where people get "But you're not oppressed. " I don't think it's really a statement about how little we are affected. I think many people admit that we are or can be profoundly affected by all this stuff. I think what holds people back from calling that oppression is that there's no blatantly obvious culturally enshrined history of beating up, locking away, or hatefully speaking to sadomasochists specifically. I think that's why people think that we're whining, or wanting a piece of "Oppression pie. "

But lately I've begun to think that there's no particular reason for considering what happens to us not to be oppression. While we're not specifically targeted as SM people, there is plenty that does affect us. The laws that I've mentioned. The shame that I've mentioned. The fact that laws about obscenity do specifically mention us and what we do in terms that flat out define what we do as abuse.

Looking up obscenity law in my state some years ago in an effort to determine what was legal for me to put on a personal web site, I found that the law mentioned depictions of "sadomasochistic abuse" without mentioning any possibility for sadomasochistic non-abuse. While obscenity laws at least in the US allow the out of proving your work has artistic or other value, I think it's telling and it matters that what we do is defined by a group of people, who are not us, as abuse full stop.

Because of all this, I'm beginning to think that in order to claim that people who practice BDSM and other stigmatized forms of sexuality are not oppressed, those who want to say it's obvious and clear that they are not need to

1) clearly put forth their definition of oppression, and
2) demonstrate that members of this these particular alternative sexualities are not covered under it.

It's quite possible that there is a cogent definition of oppression that does not include us; if there is, and it's a better definition, that's fine with me. I just find myself unable to think of one that captures what oppression is that clearly excludes us.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Having the Conversation

So a bunch of threads I've read in various places lately that have had some anti-BDSM overtones, there's one thing that I keep seeing people saying, which goes something like, "Clearly I don't know about this subject to actually argue about it [with actual kinky people]." Which sort of has me thinking, as one of the things that I've been having a lot of conversations about lately has been, more or less, "If I could just impart this knowledge, I wouldn't have to fight about this ..."

So it struck me that it might be useful to try to assemble a few things that kinky folks think would be useful to have compiled as 'before we fight, you should know' or something like that. Not getting the words quite right there, but I hope I'm making some sense.

The ones I've thought of while reading some of the discussions that are sort of general are:

* being a top/dominant/sadist does not intrinsically mean being interested in abuse, rape, violence, or non-consensual pain.
* being a bottom/submissive/masochist does not intrinsically mean being abused, a doormat, or having embraced a sense of personal worthlessness.
* top-dominant-sadist and bottom-submissive-masochist aren't tidy little categories into which kinky people can be divided; there exist people like dominant masochists or people who bottom without submitting, to pick two of a wide variety of potential combinations.
* people who can happily adopt both sides of a typically paired (as in top/bottom) role exist.
* some people get off on being deviant/transgressive/"kink on sin", yes, but many people -- certainly the overwhelming majority of the ones I know, though I would not presume to speculate about whether that's true in general -- get off on what they get off on without reference to whether or not it is something that offends the mainstream.
* an understanding of what it is to be kinky derived from public reports of play parties, photography of the Folsom Street Fair or a Fetish Flea, or news reports about acrimonious divorces with unsigned "slave contracts" involved is at best woefully incomplete, and at worst an offensively cartoonish caricature of the lives of kinky people.
* while some people tie their kink to gender in some fashion, a large number of people don't, and trying to force their behaviour to fit a gendered lens will produce gibberish.
* gay kinksters exist; kinky-people-of-color exist; disabled BDSMers exist; also Christians, feminists, members of various political parties; in short, kink coexists with a wide-ranging variety of other adjectives and affiliations.

A few more personal ones:

* if your response to my identifying myself as a submissive is to ask me how I can reconcile that sort of humiliation with a certain set of values, you either need to learn that your assumptions about what submission entails are flagrantly incorrect or get over your belief that providing good and competent service (and being well rewarded for it, at that) is intrinsically degrading.
* I feel treated more like an equal in my relationship with my liege than I did in the relationship with my ex whose egalitarianism precluded comfort with kink involving power.
* a little light bondage combined with a spooning snuggle is one of the most comforting things in the world to me (when I mentioned this to a friend the other day she commented that they sell weighted blankets for kids with sensory integration problems and nobody calls that indoctrination into bondage).
* my kinky sexuality is thoroughly integrated into my spiritual life, and no, it does not cause me problems with god.
* if your political agenda demands that my sexuality serve it, I am likely to back away slowly and consider you extremely creepy.
* I don't find the idea that when utopia happens people like me won't exist to be terribly utopian.

So. Anyone want to add to these lists?

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Confession time...

...and please realize THIS IS JUST ME, and I'm not asserting anything.

I often find myself wondering just how it is that vanilla sexuality is as passionate as BDSM. It's not that vanilla sex isn't *nice*, I like it a lot, but it really doesn't give me that all-consuming feeling of drowning in desire as BDSM does.

And I always wonder: is that because BDSM is actually more intense, or is it just because I'm orientationally BDSMish, such that stuff that's not BDSMy in at least some vague way isn't going to fan my flames in the same way?

I wonder about this because I sometimes hear people who criticize BDSM talk in ways that makes it sound like they actually do think of BDSM as particularly intense, and that intensity as frightening or negative.

I sometimes suspect it's that that frightens people about BDSM, much more than patriarchy or pain or whatever the criticism du jour happens to be. It's the fear that if you submit you get lost in it, lose yourself, lose your autonomy, lose your soul -- and that's not something feminists want happening to women.

And it's that getting lost experience that I think a lot of people really want out of BDSM scenes and sex. Going under. Diving deep.

I think a lot of us have a fear of... our inner oceans. Especially the sort of thinkillectual people who find it worthwhile to write long essays about why they think the world is better off without them (not linking, but you can find it in the current Alas threads if you want.)

There's a part of me that doesn't know the meaning of "enough." That's what SM is about to me. Excess. Intensity. Indulgence. Glutting my soul on intense power and passion. Letting it wash over me like blood. (That sounds like something from an opera because it should...)

And I think there's a lot of fear of that in some people. Including me sometimes.

Monday, 15 October 2007


(xposted from my blog. and please don't spam the linked comm with rageyrage. it's not worth it. I link just to show you that it does happen)

There are two "models" I've used to understand SM and SM desire throughout my life.

The first I remember most vividly when I called the urgent care line at my university. I'd been having serious trouble coming to terms with my desires, and had seriously self-harmed for the first time. I remember calling the helpline and talking to a young woman, probably a student. I confessed my desires and my shame and the fact that I'd cut myself out of shame. I can't remember if I begged her to help me change. Maybe I did. I remember staring at my half-drunk smoothie on my desk as it melted, feeling like I was in some weird dream.

She had no idea how to deal with me. I can't recall if I asked for an actual psychiatrist or if I just called back the next night. But the same thing happened, the crying confession, and suddenly the voice on the other end of the line said words that changed my whole life.

"Don't you realize that among people who have gone through serious trauma like you have, sadomasochistic sexual fantasies are common?"

Common? It rocked my universe. I wasn't weird at all. (It almost made me sad. Took away this feeling I had that I was one of the few, the marked, the profoundly perverted.) I was just damaged, just responding to things that had happened to me. In a way that was not only understandable, but sensible and perhaps even sane.

Those words changed my life. I don't know if I'd be here if they hadn't given me an anchor, a way to believe that I wasn't cursed or doomed or rotten, crazy, fundamentally wrong inside.

And that is one model. The trauma model. This model says something like: Sadomasochism is a response to trauma.

On this model, it's a coping device, essentially. People develop fixations with pain and with traumatic experiences involving power (say, abuse), perhaps because the experience of it is intense, perhaps because it leaves psychic scars. But people feel compulsions to act out or to re-live their trauma. Sadomasochistic fantasy is an attempt to do this, in order to regain control that we had torn from us.

This model is okay, so far as it goes. It offers us a chance to be something other than twisted, insane, incomprehensible. But it still leaves us with something odd and unacceptable, to my mind.

That is that if we still have these interests or fantasies many years after the initial event, this indicates that we have not adequately processed the trauma. I was told many times that my fantasies "might" go away, or lessen in intensity, once I had dealt with the underlying issue. It led to many bouts of guilt when my fantasies were particularly strong or particularly violent, and to paralyzing fear that I had backslid on some scale of Survivor's Progress.

And it led to people like my parents believing that someday I'd be cured of SM, and asking me why oh why oh why I remained obsessed with the things that had happened to me and telling me of their great hope that someday I would no longer be fascinated with pain.

I don't believe the trauma had no effect on me. I actually suspect that the fact that my strongest fantasies involve knives and blood have more than a little to do with being cut open. However, as I'll make clearer in a moment, I don't subscribe to this model, and I don't feel at all sure I wouldn't have developed other sadomasochistic interests if I hadn't been.

The second model is an orientational model. This is the theory that, at least for some people, SM desires simply are what they are, a facet of the person, like being straight or being gay. Like those, we don't know quite what causes them. Unlike those, we don't have (at least that I know of) any interesting research suggesting a biological basis or link or influence.

This is what we get -- or what I get, really, as I don't want to speak for others, least of all for researchers -- when I look around and see the people who tied themselves up at age 8, and don't really remember any abuse, thanks. The people who would try to finagle their friends into bossing them around, and fuss and fume when the toppy-tots they recruited were too kind. The people who were never spanked, but who would see the family across the street punishing the kids and feel all tingly and wonder when it was their turn. The folks who tied up their teddy bears.

I don't think any other model makes sense, really. Even the most committed Freudian who felt sure the trauma model applied to me squirmed when I asked him "Can I change?" and said something about how it depended how firmly rooted my response to those formative experiences were.

His answer was the answer I knew perfectly well myself, but he couldn't say out loud, because to him it was a sentence of perpetual brokenness or abnormality: If you have to ask, the answer's "no."

It's possible for the two models to be complementary: This is your orientation, and you have it precisely because of past trauma.

But the thing is: if orientation is orientation, why care where it comes from? Think of the conservatives scrambling to get people into reparative therapy for homosexuality. It matters where this comes from because if it is a mental health problem, one common mode of talk therapy is to work through past issues. It matters because what they've got is a model like the trauma model: work your issues with Mo or Dad out and the gay will go poof.

But if gayness is an orientation, where it comes from is an interesting question, but not a vital one. Humanity is diverse, and that's that. If it's biology, well, so are a lot of things, from eye color to handedness. We stop caring why, because why is not the important question.

And that's the thing that many haven't gotten to yet with SM. Even when people do respect us, there's this idea that asking why is appropriate. It's the sort of thing for which a reason is needed, whether it be trauma or being spanked as a child or the influence of patriarchy or any number of other odd theories people come up with.

When people ask me why and I say "I neither know nor care," particularly in certain feminist circles, this is taken to be "compartmentalizing" a part of my life and not exposing it to useful or necessary scrutiny. But if I asked these women (as the case may be) "why are you straight?" or "why are you queer?" the answer, I'd bet, would not be a thoughtful discussion of social factors. A truly committed "radical" might admit some of it is socially constructed, but for most people, in the end, the answer is "I am."

And that's my answer, too. I am because I am. I don't have to know why, because it's the wrong question in the first place.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Rape fantasy

I don't have time to write up a post, but I did want to point y'all toward this feminist discussion of rape fantasy.

Briefly, though, I will say that I've had rape fantasies most of my adult life. However, I gather they're not the same as most other women's. Mine are fantasies of doing the forcing, almost always to men. Sometimes they're simply violent (many of these are fantasies of getting revenge on male rapists by eye for an eye justice), and sometimes they are about forcing someone who is shy or someone who really wants to be fucked but couldn't ask for it because he's homophobic and thinks it would be emasculating.

I find that males are often a lot less troubled by these sorts of fantasy. I've never played one out, but many kinky men I've mentioned them to have responded with "oh, that's hot!" or "let's act that out!" rather than with intense fear of tripping emotional land mines. I think there's something to this: real rape is usually male-on-female violence, so my fantasy sounds a lot less real and a lot more like something to pretend for fun.

But personally I'm really troubled by the idea that someone who has fantasized about forcing someone else is someone who you should be leery of only for that reason. Shouldn't you be asking yourself why the person thought of it? Thinking about why you might fear that the person can't separate fantasy from reality?

In some cases I'm sure people can't. But... it just doesn't compute in my head how this might mean I'd actually enjoy doing real psychic damage to someone I like and am interested in. It's like saying that because I'd enjoy playing a video game deathmatch against my friends, I have a secret desire to harm them.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

YouTube clip about censorship in the Criminal Justice Bill

This two-minute video has been produced to spread the news about the censorship measures in the UK Criminal Justice Bill, and Backlash's opposition to them. The bill passed its second reading this week and is now at committee stage.

[Edit: YouTube have removed the clip]

The film takes a "film censorship debate" approach rather than a "BDSM rights" approach, as the former is likely to be more widely understood.

WARNING: The footage is violent and potentially distressing, as it shows the kind of material that will soon be illegal to own as stills, including controversial art films such as A Clockwork Orange.

Saturday, 6 October 2007


Because of the recent discussion of "SM sadist" vs "abuser who seems to get off on abusing" over at another blog, I've been thinking a lot about sadism. About whether those of us who get sexual thrills from doing consensual things that involve pain (or power, though I'm never sure quite how interconnected those two are or aren't in any given case, and rambling about that is for another post) are similar to those famous monsters prowling the edges of human society, who get off on doing terrible things to people nonconsensually. I've been reading a lot about lust murderers in particular.

And the question for me is: How much is the same and how much is different? I'm working off the assumption that people like me wouldn't do what they do -- I'm not worried about that. I wish I had the source quote now, but I remember someone who had studied both populations mentioning "If you asked members of each group 'Imagine doing these things to someone consensually. How would you feel about that?' the SM sadists would find that exciting, and the others would find that a turn-off." So clearly there is a difference.

But I wonder if it's the same impulse in the human mind, or if even the drive is different (though similar enough to look related.) I think there's a very big desire to say "we're nothing like them" and "it's something else", but I'm not totally convinced. It makes me wonder: am I experiencing similar, or related, feelings to them, but I have ethics that serve as "brakes" -- that stop me from doing or even from wanting to do these things nonconsensually? Is it just that in my case morals trump lust, and they have none?

Or does the fact that, while I may fantasize about nonconsensual situations I have zero desire to actually rape (much less kill -- actually, killing makes no sense. [Count Rugen] Dead people can't feel pain. Why bother with that? [/Count Rugen]) mean that my desires are actually qualitatively different, such that using the same word (sadism) is actually a misnomer?

I don't know. I used to think that these two groups represented two very different types of mind, such that very little related was going on in each. But now I'm feeling like that's probably just an attempt on my part to further distance myself from them: "oh, these couldn't possibly be similar!"

When, really, there's actually a lot in human monsters' stories that sounds familiar: Trauma. Fear of other people. Desire for revenge. Shame, particularly sexual shame. Feeling that real people will never want you. Irrational fear, anger, hate. Overwhelming, seemingly uncontrollable feelings of lust (especially if, as many of these men are, we're raised to believe sex and desire are dirty and shameful.) I think we've all experienced those things (well, maybe not the lust, if we're asexual.)

And why shouldn't a dark impulse (to hurt people for fun) look at least vaguely similar in both, when you get right down to its nature, isolated from everything else? Why wouldn't it be that SM sadists are feeling/noticing/toying with a particularly spooky strain of the gamut of human desires? Every time I've tried to tell myself "this has to be totally different," I then find myself with a profoundly violent fantasy that really makes me wonder if I'm truly in the shallow end of the pool. No, I'd never intentionally do harm. But yes, there BE dragons in these waters. To pretend they're friendly eels is... not on. :)

So I've been thinking: what is it that makes the lust murderers and other such sadists so different, so unreachable? And the conclusion I keep coming to is that it's got at least something to do with empathy. It seems to me that maybe the underlying impulse/connection between inflicting pain and sexual desire is the same, but it manifests very differently in someone who has normal to high amounts of empathy and someone who has little or none.

I remember a while back someone contacting me via LJ who told me that he was fascinated by me because I openly admitted to being a sadomasochist. He mentioned that he'd always found pain "beautiful", both his own and others'. He mentioned having difficulty with empathy, and said things like "I don't understand why other people would be afraid of pain. It's beautiful."

And that, well, predictably, set off some alarm bells in the head of yours truly. Because, well, I can empathize with others, thanks, and if they don't want me to hurt them I have a pretty good idea why not. I might feel sad about this and prefer that we have SM-y fun, but I'm not going to wonder what's wrong with someone for saying "No, that doesn't feel good or 'beautiful' or whatever to me, please don't do it."

So the best I can parse: yes, these desires are probably at least vaguely similar. But they manifest very differently depending on whether you have normal or high empathy levels, or an empathy black hole.

But then the question becomes: why do some people who have normal-to-high empathy levels like to hurt people? And why would that be sexual?

And that's where I personally veer off into spirituality-land again, because reason just doesn't explain it for me, and the idea that there's some either genetic or culturally induced desire for dominance doesn't explain enough, either. I don't have any particular reason I can imagine for being like this. The dominance part I might make sense of in any number of ways: high testosterone, genetics, past traumas inducing a stronger than usual yen for control, societal training. (Some of these make sense to me, some don't. I'm not arguing for any, just saying they can be rationally argued for in ways that are at least somewhat convincing.) But the sadism? The fact that if sex is feeling stale to me all I have to do is imagine someone getting impaled by large metal implements of torture?

That I can't put in a neat box. I'm a mild-mannered nerdy female. Why my sexual desire would be so tied to violent fantasy... I can't parse with sense.

So, like most things that rationality doesn't answer for me, I turn to a spiritual explanation. I think we're here to, in some way, balance out the bad ones. I don't know how exactly we do this. After all, since this presupposes that we're the ones with morals, we can't hunt them down and exterminate or violently reprogram them. Even if we wanted to it's an open question whether it would be safe at all for us to try.

But I still have this feeling that the gods must have noticed the human monsters roaming around, and decided to do something about it. Even if it's just something like -- they were the prototype, and the gods saw them wandering around and went "oh shit" and made sure Version 2 came with empathy centers.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Spirituality and BDSM

So this is coming up in some comments in other threads, and it's one of the things that I'm interested in, so what the hey, I'll open up the thought for some more general discussion.

For how many folks around here is their BDSM entwined with spirituality? I know I've been writing a fair bit on and off over at my place on things that touch on ecstatic practices around the world, which include things like orgasm/sex denial, flagellation and other forms of pain endurance, ordeal training, descent into the underworld and other things that are readily metaphorisable in terms of d/s, sensory deprivation, and so on; all things that translate rather well into kink and have been written about in kink/spiritual terms by various authors. I know that my current explorations of sadomasochism in specific are explicitly religiously driven at this point.

The biggest thing for me in kink and spirituality is actually in terms of my work with Feri witchcraft. For those who aren't familiar with the Anderson Feri tradition, it's an American tradition of religious witchcraft with ties in a whole bunch of places, and one of the parents of the far better known Reclaiming tradition, associated with Starhawk, which is a mover and shaker in the goddess spirituality / feminist spirituality circles in the States.

One of the major tools of the Feri tradition, which it shares with Reclaiming, is something called the Iron Pentacle. The relevant part of this is that each point of the Iron Pent is, for lack of a better word, a virtue, something which the tradition founders considered unreasonably denigrated in surrounding culture, which needed to be claimed by the individual in order to become a whole human being. Those points are Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion. These are all things I write about and explore in terms of kink, and my d/s relationship both in its development and practice has been intensely intertwined with my work with the IP; I've been working with them both for about the same time, in fact, as my relationship with my liege began in the part of my training where I was formally taught the IP. I've gotten into arguments with other Feris about whether it's possible for a submissive to present the virtues of Iron, and this is one of the reasons I get vehement about things like expanding an understanding of what it means to have, hold, and manifest power.

One of the fascinating conversations I had a while back about the intersection of BDSM, specifically d/s, and spirituality was with someone who had a hard time understanding how a submissive could be a worthy follower of a god -- because all of their experience with subs was with the surrendered doormat style, "I can't do anything, do it all for me, what master says is what goes" thing, rather than someone who was capable in their own right and choosing a path of service. I about broke their head a little when I pointed out that I am a sub, and further that I frame some of my relationships within my faiths in d/s terms.

So, there's a little of how the kink and spiritual interact for me; anyone else want to share?