Monday, 28 January 2008

Things I no longer understand

Things I not longer understand #1:

Kinky people judging one another for their kinks. I used to do this myself, so I look at it now and I'm puzzled at my own puzzlement. I remember being utterly opposed to D/s dynamics, terrified they were harmful in general. Now I identify as a Master.

Now I'm just, well... not. At all. Even my visceral OH MY GODS disgust at cuckoldry is pretty much gone. Still not my bag, to the point I'd send anyone who suggested it packing. But I'm no longer... bothered.

(Warning: I mention kinks in here that really bug some people. Specifically, Nazi play. Skip to the next set of bolded parens if such things trigger or upset you, please.)

I was discussing Nazi role-playing with my dissertation committee today, because I talked about it in one section as the quintessential Baaaaaaaaaad BDSM If Anything Is. (I'm probably taking that part out of the diss.) I was basically saying that people who have the intuition that role-playing that consensually and privately is bad might have different intuitions if they changed it, putting at more and more of a remove from mimicking Nazis (say, wearing outfits like this -- clearly neither of those is a Nazi uniform, but Red Armband With White Circle comes from somewhere, kiddies...)

And so I'm sitting there and my chair is going "Well, tell us: is this play morally permissible? Or is it, which I would say and makes more sense, always morally impermissible?"

And I just gawked at him, because...

I can parse the intuition that such play is sometimes morally impermissible. Those symbols are symbols of something very horrible and very, very real. Exposing people to it who are upset by it is wrong, as is pressuring people into it or mentioning it to them specifically after they've said not to do so.

I can even parse the intuition that such play is usually morally impermissible. I don't share that intuition, but I'm also not Jewish, so I'm speaking and thinking and living from a place of privilege, a place disconnected from that history.

But I just can't even get my brain around the idea that there are some fantasies that consenting people, in private, who are never going to mention it to anyone ever, just morally ought never act out. Fantasy just doesn't work that way in my head. It parses to me like asking someone not to think about something, which...

...well, ever had any bratty friends pull the "Don't laugh!" trick on you? Like as not, you wind up laughing, whether you were actually going to laugh or not.

And yeah: actually role-playing as Nazi and captive is different than confessing that you thought about it last night, which in turn is different from masturbating and no one ever knowing what images played in your head as you stroked your dick/clit.

(Okay, you can all come back now. WB!)

And actually living in a relationship that has a steady power relation in it is different than fantasizing about surrendering or even of serving.

I get all that. I get that we can come up with thoughtful defenses or criticisms of various BDSM practices, and that once we do that we can, say, come up with

"Whipping is perfectly acceptable, and race play is not"

or

"Submission in a scene is great and dandy, consensual slavery is not"

But I no longer have any of those gut reactions that inform so many of us about sex and what we get to do and not do, sexually. I consider this a good thing, honestly, but there are a lot of people that would call what happened to me an elaborate form of desensitization.

Is it? I don't know. My sense is that that word gets highly overused, and used for forms of "getting used to" that aren't actually morally problematic (which "desensitization" implies; "desensitization to violence," in particular, usually means the person is beginning to fail to experience degrees of empathy she ought to experience.) I do think I've gotten used to kinks and fetishes and needs that were strange to me. But I think that just comes with experience and thinking.

87 comments:

alterisego said...

It's completely fantastic that you're doing academic work in this field. I dream of finding academic relevance to my musings.

To address Nazi (and similar) roleplay in particular: I have never been able to understand why we Americans tread so carefully around the Holocaust and the Nazis and Hitler and all. (As a word of explanation, I am Jewish, culturally.) I don't see why Nazi Germany should be so much more off-limits than any other given springboard for fantasy, and why giving the characters names, as it were, makes them morally inappropriate in a way that something like "soldier/prisoner" doesn't.

When I was a fairly little kid, the first concepts that interested me in a BDSM-y way were historical ones. I kept returning to the history books about slavery and the American Civil War, about English boarding schools, or, indeed, about the Holocaust. I knew at the time and still know that all these historical concepts involve terrible, reprehensible actions in real life. But fantasy is fantasy, and as long as you can recognize the difference between fantasy and reality, and the difference between consent and lack thereof, you're just who you are. That's all.

Renegade Evolution said...

Jew here. Would you believe Nazi fetish RP doesn't squick me out? I mean, er...the uniforms? Hello, ominous. I can see WHY it would squick a WHOLE lot of people out (in fact, me not being squicked out by it squicks people out), and I wouldn't, oh, recommend waltzing into the local fetish club dressed as an SS officer...but...

consenting adults? Have at it.

Trinity said...

RE: actually that doesn't surprise me remotely. :) I just get the impression from some people that I'm expected or supposed to realize "most" people find it utterly shocking and horrifying.

I never did -- I saw the uniforms like the ones I link way back in the beginning of my explorations, complete with clearly Nazi-styled caps. Since all I'd seen were these obviously sexed-up dommes who look nothing, really, like REAL Nazis, it didn't bother me.

I think I was startled at first, maybe a bit squicked, but... well, at the time I was confused about my preferences in general. I didn't really attach huge significance to the idea that they were drawing on it. I mean, it's a bunch of shiny latex-clad chicks with big boobs. What does that exactly have to do with genocide? Nothing... it's a way for the domme to easily signify authority, cruelty, dominance, power. That's it.

And my later encounters with one guy who was into collecting the full unforms: well, didn't know him. But I really didn't see any reason to suppose, not knowing him at all, that he was actually any more of a neo-Nazi than Gen. *shrug* I could be wrong. But he didn't wear it around us, and just treated it like something he collected.

Hell, my leather boots are German. I didn't purchase them there on purpose, just saw them for cheap at a kiosk and fell in love. But when I say "I got them in Germany" everyone smiles and chuckles, aside from... one guy in an adult store who may have been squicked. It was awkward; I was there with a Jewish boyfriend and it had never been an issue before and suddenly it was This Thing, rather than... a garment I'd purchased while visiting family overseas.

Eh. I don't know. *I* don't mind people joking, and it seems they'll assume I bought them there on purpose no matter what the hell I say.

Trinity said...

"I kept returning to the history books about slavery and the American Civil War, about English boarding schools, or, indeed, about the Holocaust. I knew at the time and still know that all these historical concepts involve terrible, reprehensible actions in real life."

Yeah. There was a drawing on a blog I read, vividly depicting a tied up man with welts... it's intended to be a horrifying image of racist violence. I found it arousing. I feel a little awkward; I know what the blog author intended. and it's not to get white sadomasochists off.

But at the same time, I don't really feel that my reaction to the image means I don't understand what it's there for, or that I endorse that violence. I certainly am not telling anyone "go look at this hot porn," I just had a reaction to something I saw.

Trinity said...

"and why giving the characters names, as it were, makes them morally inappropriate in a way that something like "soldier/prisoner" doesn't."

Yeah, THAT.

Trinity said...

"I wouldn't, oh, recommend waltzing into the local fetish club dressed as an SS officer...but..."

and yes, I agree. But I see that as a matter of courtesy, akin to "keep the needles in the bloodplay room, so people who don't want to see it won't have to." Where it seems to me that others see it as "Don't do that."

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Honestly, I suspect some of it is gatekeeping behaviour. "I demonstrate that my thing is okay by pointing out that it's not that other thing, which is Clearly Wrong. We're agreed that that's Clearly Wrong, right? So we should agree that my thing is okay."

Some of the rest of it is, "I don't understand that, so there must be something wrong with it", which ranges from misplaced empathy ("I'd hate that") to the whole other-people-mustn't-like-things-I-don't-understand creepy thing.

And some of it is "I don't see a way to implement that non-damagingly". Which can also be addressed with better knowledge, I think.

Probably some stuff I'm not thinking of, too, but I think those will cover a lot of it. I see the gatekeeping a lot in a variety of areas, like pagans ("NOT SATANISTS!") to poly people ("NOT SWINGERS!") and some other more mainstream minority groups that schism over inclusivity issues.

And actually living in a relationship that has a steady power relation in it is different than fantasizing about surrendering or even of serving.

One of these days I may get the cojones together to write a post at my place on this subject. It's on my mind at the moment.

Trinity said...

"Honestly, I suspect some of it is gatekeeping behaviour. "I demonstrate that my thing is okay by pointing out that it's not that other thing, which is Clearly Wrong. We're agreed that that's Clearly Wrong, right? So we should agree that my thing is okay."

Yes, yes, yes. That's how it strikes me, too, which is why I find the whole thing so *odd*. People will say things like "wow, how can you expect me to think that's okay? Why do you need everyone's approval? I don't!"

when to me a lot of the "well, we'll take MY kink as clearly unproblematic, now get THAT SHIT out of my FACE!" reads like "Oh, I get to feel good about my kinks, because we get to totally take off the table what *my* dominance means since I don't use it the way you use YOURS, shudder shudder."

Which, well... yeah, clearly if one accepts SM as morally permissible there are still going to be questions. Certain practices (light bondage, mild whipping, mild D/s dynamics of finite duration, etc.) are going to show up as clearly okay if you buy that any BDSM can be, and certain practices are going to approach the edge of what you find okay.

I get that. I just find it very odd that for some people that means they get to talk about their kinks totally freely, but you don't get to bring up some of yours or some of Those Other People's (TM) even IF you acknowledge that people find them less easy to accept -- or even admit that you feel ambivalent about them yourself.

I just wonder why having these conversations is so ridiculously fraught. I wonder why it can't just be "oh, hey, this is squicking me out, I can't think about that"... which is, like I said, basic dungeon etiquette: *I'm* having a problem, *I* go somewhere else.

Instead it's taken to be cluelessness, putting sex over good politics, etc. ANd I don't get that, and that more than anything has me thinking that although I hold many views I'd call feminist, maybe I'm not one after all.

I don't think that not having conversations is politically productive (though I agree that sometimes having them with certain people is not productive, *because those people are emotionally invested and it bothers them*.)

Markus said...

Hi, this a voice from the other side speaking. I'm German and my grandfather was a Nazi. Not the boot thumping kind, but the equally (or more) dangerous one, as he was a member of the party and executed the ideology in the paperwork going over his desk.

Today's Germans, including me, are not guilty of anything with regard to the Third Reich, but many feel a kind of responsibility rising from the history. A responsibility to study the mechanisms and the reasons how the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei could rise to power, teach new generations about it, remember the victims, and try to learn something from it, so a genocide like it (or any other kind) won't happen again.

Part of that is, that the symbols of the NSDAP are banned by the law and morally taboo. Personally I could not stand to be in the same room with someone role playing with Nazi-symbols.

It even bothers me, just reading about Nazi role play here in this blog. So much, that I needed to reply.

Sorry, this is not a very rational thought, so I can't explain it better.

Daisy Bond said...

I'm Jewish, and incredibly, enormously squicked by even the idea of Nazi role-playing, or even fantasies, actually, such that I've been trying to pretend the phenomenon simply doesn't exist. I find my reaction to it really interesting, because I can't seem to remove my emotional response from my thinking about it. There are other thinks that give me the chills that I'm completely able to give a pass too -- I remember once reading a very graphic description of MTF surgery and getting dizzy (like I would reading such a description of any surgery, probably), but feeling very strongly that that reaction was 100% my problem and 100% irrelevant to anything about rights or inclusion for transpeople. But I just can't seem to get there about this.

So, I'll probably just continue on not dealing with it. Oh well.

Trinity said...

Markus:

"A responsibility to study the mechanisms and the reasons how the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei could rise to power, teach new generations about it, remember the victims, and try to learn something from it, so a genocide like it (or any other kind) won't happen again.

Part of that is, that the symbols of the NSDAP are banned by the law and morally taboo. Personally I could not stand to be in the same room with someone role playing with Nazi-symbols."

I can certainly understand that all of us have the responsibility to understand as best we can how the NSDAP rose to power. I don't think it's only Germans that have such a duty.

But I don't understand how not using the symbols for a purpose other than glorifying or showing allegiance to or kinship with the NSDAP is part of coming to that understanding.

Not putting a swastika on something doesn't strike me as an aid to coming to this understanding, though. I'm not sure why Nazi chic of any sort precludes coming to that understanding (though I can understand objecting to Nazi chic on other grounds, such as that it's generally offensive or disrespectful to survivors). Can you explain your thinking on this in a bit more depth?

I know your reaction is in part emotional, and I don't want to sound like I think an emotional reaction is wrong or inferior to an intellectual one. I'm just not sure I understand.

Daisy Bond said...

Thinking more about it. The way I've explained my very, very early violent sexual fantasies to myself is as some sort of processing of unresolved familiar Holocaust trauma, which definitely exists in my family, and specifically because that fantasizing happened in conjunction with a friend, also Jewish. (Not that that means anything about anyone else's predilections of any kind, it's just my sometime origin myth for some of mine.) So using that sort of framing for it -- processing of familiar and/or collective trauma through sexual fantasies and/or role-playing -- actually helps me a lot. Plus I like the Jungian overtones.

Daisy Bond said...

familiar = familial

Habits are hard to break.

verte said...

I like this post a lot. I used to have a bit of a squick about domestic discipline dynamics when they're strictly M/f, 1950s styleee, but it's become less of a squick now than an 'okay, I don't want to do this, but whatever suits you -- go for it' thing. I tend to think this is a good thing.

I've been questioning fantasy vs. reality recently; how the two are intertwined, whether fantasy IS 'not real'. But that's a whole other post...

I do know, tho, that I used to have a Jewish dom with a fetish for Nazi uniforms. He had a huge collection of them and would often wear them to clubs. And I'm part Jewish too.

Trinity said...

Daisy Bond: Thank you for sharing all of that.

Trinity said...

"I used to have a bit of a squick about domestic discipline dynamics when they're strictly M/f, 1950s styleee, but it's become less of a squick now than an 'okay, I don't want to do this, but whatever suits you -- go for it' thing."

Verte,

I used to have a visceral and utterly violent squick about schoolgirl and cheerleader role-playing. In my mind it was linked to the idea of hurting young women who were too naive to stop their attackers, and that really scared and upset me.

I wasn't bothered by rape fantasies, when such fantasies were honest about what they are. I wasn't bothered by "I want to throw you down and attack you." I was bothered by what I saw as "your cluelessness is hot to me because you won't realize what I'm really up to, stupid airhead! hahaha!"

It bothered me so deeply I threw tantrums about it fairly frequently. I could handle seeing it in dungeons, simply because I'd been "brought up" that proper dungeon etiquette dictates that if you find something others do distasteful, you put up with it or walk away. But at home? I railed against it. It upset me terribly.

I got into arguments so often about it that I decided I was going to *make* myself watch some hentai with those types of themes. I don't know quite why I decided this, whether I wanted to get over my squick or whether I wanted confirmation that anyone with this fetish was evil.

Anyway, I watched some hentai. And I found myself looking at these drawn images of quite young-looking women in these outfits, and... I found myself aroused by it. And although I did have dominant feelings in the fantasy that arose for me, I didn't find myself thinking "ooh, it's my worthless bimbo!" or "girls in school are sluts, not studiers" or anything like that.

And the squick just... went away. I realized after thinking more about what I'd actually seen of the schoolgirl fantasy that most of the "this means they think girls are worthless and easy prey in a bad way" was actually my own interpretation.

I'm still bothered when I see people actually using the fantasy in the way I thought they were, but not as much as I was.

Anton Channing said...

At the risk of having created a moral dogma for myself, I judge all moral dilema's these days by the root premise that any law that violates the sovereignty of the individual and consenting adults over their own minds and bodies, is by necessity an unjust law. As is a law that permits any person to violate said sovereignty.

As such, what I find personally distasteful is completely irrelevant when it comes to determining the morality of others and I have what I think is a rational moral yardstick by which to judge things by.

Is the activity something all those involved consent to without coercion or deliberate misinformation? Then its okay. Otherwise there is an ethical problem...

antiprincess said...

re Nazi fantasies, not-particularly-sexual:

anyone read the Judy Blume book "Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself", back when you were a kid?

our heroine spent lots of time deep in daydreams featuring all manner of brave and dashing heroics against Nazi villains, described (as I remember it) in luridly excruciating detail.

I mean, you can't identify as HERO unless you have VILLAIN. right? and the worse VILLAIN is, the better HERO can be.

I loved that book.

re: my kink is ok, your kink is weird - I remember the first official date I went on with the man who would become my husband. I was relieved that he identified as kinky, but then he said, "I'm into X, Y and bleen." ("bleen" being one of those unusual kinks, that get rather maligned in both mainstream media and the World of Kink. made-up euphemism used so as not to out my husband.)

and I had just been thinking, "wow, this guy's great. and at least he's not one of those creepy bleen fetishists..."

but you know what? I've adjusted. and I don't feel like being into bleenis so weird and creepy anymore. I think I just assumed it was weird and creepy because I didn't personally know anyone who happened to be into it.

Trinity said...

"I mean, you can't identify as HERO unless you have VILLAIN. right? and the worse VILLAIN is, the better HERO can be."

Yeah, that.

The arguments against such things seem to center around using particular symbols, though, so I guess the question is: is it preferable, morally, somehow, to create a villain who is generic so as not to use those symbols?

I'm not sure I'd answer yes. It strikes me as perverse (not in the sex sense) that people would want to keep the Nazis' symbols pristine. It strikes me as exactly backwards. If something is good, we can play with it, alter it, use it to mean things other than the original intent. If it's bad, we must preserve it.

And I'm just not sure what really grounds that, or whether it's really groundable. I mean, clearly, no one wants the Holocaust to be so cheapened it becomes a joke. But it seems to me that such cheapening would require a kind of cultural shift, a blanket forgetting the horror and thinking of it as a joke.

And I don't think consenting adults sexually role-playing in semi-private will change the meaning of the swastika in the larger culture. I don't think people will no longer come out of the Holocaust museum shaking like I did. I don't see why they wouldn't. I don't see why using a bad symbol for a different purpose means forgetting its original meaning, or even becoming callous about that meaning.

Of course I think this *can* happen in *some* cases, but that doesn't add up, I don't think, to such role-play being blanket impermissible.

Trinity said...

I mean, people already *do* this play, and some of them even talk about it fairly publicly, too. I don't see the horror fading, socially, in any way that strikes me as clearly different than it would if people were not fascinated.

To broaden the context: it doesn't seem to me, and I could be very wrong but I think I'd need a boatload of empirical evidence, that Nazi chic in general has resulted in people not caring about the genocide. I don't see that.

In fact... there's something about the Nazis' genocide in particular that seems more culturally memorable than many others. And I'm not sure if this is just a fact of history, a result of so much of the world being impacted by WWII, or whether it's also got to do with

well, as you say, AP, the Nazis being compelling villains, being fascinating at the same time as horribly creepy and evil to the point of incomprehensible enormity.

Trinity said...

I mean, I don't see the same kind of general fascination with say Rwanda. But I also don't see the same horror, either -- it seems to me that we just plain care less, culturally.

And I'm sure part of that is that we aren't ourselves survivors or kin to survivors or friends to them, while many of us are much closer to the Nazi history. But is that the whole story?

Maybe it is. But maybe it's not. There was/is something fascinating about Nazis and Nazism. What is that? Where's it come from? Why don't we remember them merely as disgusting butchers, and nothing more?

antiprincess said...

It strikes me as perverse (not in the sex sense) that people would want to keep the Nazis' symbols pristine. It strikes me as exactly backwards. If something is good, we can play with it, alter it, use it to mean things other than the original intent. If it's bad, we must preserve it.

yeah...tell that to Mel Brooks...

did you see that bit in the recent musical version of The Producers?

Will Ferrel's Character, in Humorous German Accent:
"They made Hitler look like an idiot!" (or words to that effect)

Two Queer Guys, in unison:
"He didn't need our help!"

Sage said...

Have you been "desensitized" or enlightened? I lean towards the latter.

Maybe most people find it shocking because they haven't taken that step to elucidate on the harm caused by fantasy, harm necessary to deem it morally problematic - they've just determine morality from their own personal "yuck" factor. If it harms none (since it's being kept private), under what grounds can it be deemed morally impermissible?

And what Anton said.

Daisy said...

Really interesting thread--thanks for hosting this discussion, Trin.

The more you try to repress "socially unacceptable" thoughts, the more they will just ravage you. That's where the real "damage" starts.

Lots of non-kinky people just don't get how that works, do they?

Trinity said...

"Maybe most people find it shocking because they haven't taken that step to elucidate on the harm caused by fantasy, harm necessary to deem it morally problematic - they've just determine morality from their own personal "yuck" factor."

I think you're right on in general, but I don't know that that's quite fair as a criticism leveled at a committee made up of ethics professors. :)

I very strongly disagree with them, it seems, and I'm not sure I understand the justification for their views. But I'm not so sure it's all emotion clouding rationality here.

Trinity said...

"The more you try to repress "socially unacceptable" thoughts, the more they will just ravage you. That's where the real "damage" starts."

YES

kinkinexile said...

I'm Jewish, and what's more my mother did most of her academic work in Holocaust studies so I grew up with a lot of that cultural baggage. Still, I'm fine with people doing Nazi role play in their own spaces. I prefer not to see it when I go to a play party because, well, 16 members of my family dying in concentration camps isn't sexy to me. At the same time I know that this particular, and very personal, piece of the history is probably not what people are eroticizing, and I can get on the uniforms-are-hot bandwagon. I also feel very strongly that we are doing things that are in their nature transgressive, and if a scene bothers you it is your responsibility to walk away and not watch. Accepting other people's kinks is the price you pay for your own freedom.

Also, may I ask where you are doing your academic work? I'm interested in the SFSU Human Sexuality program but am still looking at other schools.

Trinity said...

"Still, I'm fine with people doing Nazi role play in their own spaces. I prefer not to see it when I go to a play party because, well, 16 members of my family dying in concentration camps isn't sexy to me."

*nods*

hence my feeling that it should be done *very* out of the way, if done in such spaces... and perhaps not done in those spaces at all.

shiva said...

"I don't share that intuition, but I'm also not Jewish, so I'm speaking and thinking and living from a place of privilege, a place disconnected from that history."

You're not Jewish, but you are disabled, and it's us who were the very first ones the Nazis killed. So, IMO, you're not in any way lacking in entitlement here...

I think it's kind of ridiculous to call anything happening between fully and freely consenting people "immoral"; to me that's sort of Libertarianism (in the social, not the economic sense) 101. But i do think there are sort of grey areas where stuff that happens between consenting people can affect how those people treat other, non-consenting people - racism, sexism or disablism used as elements of play leading to those same "fetishised" attitudes being "normalised" through familiarity and then used uncritically in real life, for example. But of course, while that's possible, it's in no way inevitable; it's something that needs to be guarded against, but to say it always results from play with those themes is the same sort of non-argument as "OMG teh videogamez cause school shootingz!!!111!"

"When I was a fairly little kid, the first concepts that interested me in a BDSM-y way were historical ones."

Same here. I have a (never yet realised, due to involuntary celibacy) kink for being tied up and whipped which i'm pretty sure originates from Toni Morrison's Beloved. And a fetish for scars which is probably from the same source. Should i feel guilt about that? I don't know. It certainly doesn't diminish for me the historical and emotional impact of the book (which i count as one of the books that "shaped" me, in all kinds of ways). I've always fantasised about being the bound/whipped, not the binder/whipper, tho; i don't know if it would be different the other way round...

I am very, very squicked out on a personal level by just about everything M/f; i just can't help seeing it as replicating the real-world oppression of patriarchy. But, unlike some radfems, i would never condemn people into that on moral or ideological terms - i'd just rather not witness it. (Although i do find it problematic when mainstream-media depictions of BDSM depict it as entirely M/f, and in ways which replicate particularly closely real-life dynamics of oppression - i'm looking at you, Secretary...)

I think these things might be easier to deal with ethically for (those desiring to be) "bottom" than "top"... but that could just be my own orientation...

Trinity said...

"You're not Jewish, but you are disabled, and it's us who were the very first ones the Nazis killed. So, IMO, you're not in any way lacking in entitlement here..."

Trufax.

BUT also trufax: for whatever reason, the Holocaust is not generally taken culturally to be about violence against PWD in the way it is taken as the ultimate in anti-Semitic violence.

Trinity said...

"in ways which replicate particularly closely real-life dynamics of oppression - i'm looking at you, Secretary..."

possibly totally non-sequitur: I see your point, but I had a hard time seeing Secretary as anything but cartoonish on purpose.

ellefromtheeast said...

The New York Times Sunday Magazine had an interesting article on 1/13 on The Moral Instinct." I don't know if I buy this, but Steven Pinker argued that humans have five moral dimensions: harm, fairness, community, authority, and purity.

Those of us on the contemporary American left put nearly all the weight on harm and fairness, maybe a smidge on community, and basically nothing on authority or purity. But I'm wondering if maybe the idea of Nazi play or race play is one of the very, very few things that will set off your advisor's purity moral sense - that to put on a swastika for *any* purpose is somehow tainting, and that whether or not you can show any harm resulting from it is beside the point.

This might be a fancier way of describing the "yuck factor", as sage put it, but if it's in an academic context, then you need the fancy, right? (I know you said you're cutting it from the diss, but an article? Least Publishable Units rule!)

Trinity said...

"But I'm wondering if maybe the idea of Nazi play or race play is one of the very, very few things that will set off your advisor's purity moral sense - that to put on a swastika for *any* purpose is somehow tainting"

I'm not sure it's just "the purity moral sense," and I really think we should leave my advisors out of it at this point. We're speculating at this point about why they feel as they do, and they're not here to respond.

So I'm going to ignore the references to them, here, and just talk about swastikas and the purity moral sense in Some Interlocutor Someplace.

I think that for some people whose purity moral sense this trips, actual personal/familial history is part of why. You can see that just in here.

And I'm trying to tease out what this means exactly. I don't think it's fair to say "Oh, you're just grossed out because some of your family died. Be reasonable."

But I also don't know how to, in a moral theory that is both sensIBLE and sensITIVE, cash out what reasonableness does require, or when we are morally required (if ever) to shelve reasonableness for a kind of respectful compassion.

ellefromtheeast said...

Oh, I'm not trying to say that the purity dimension of morality is unreasonable. Quite the contrary - I was bringing in the Pinker article because he makes the point that the purity dimension is nearly universal, and that not having any consideration for it is what's kind of unreasonable. I don't have any real empathetic understanding of the pull to purity myself, so I was pointing to someone else who I thought could represent it more fairly, as a deeply *human* impulse.

Trinity said...

ahhhhhhhhhh okay :)

Trinity said...

yeah, I don't think I have much of it myself, though I'm sure I have some.

I used to have it to a great degree. Discovering I was a sadomasochist was like discovering I had mind cancer, or something. It really was difficult for me to deal with -- and it *radically* changed my perspective.

distractedhousewife said...

Hi, I wanted to comment on your article here. It is interesting to me because my own lifestyle is one that is often scorned even by other power-exchange practitioners--I am a Taken-in-Hand wife. And even though our lifestyle is not very extreme at all (we look just like normal people--well, mostly), it is often derided, as you say, as a form of "at least we're not *that.*"

Yet your point is resonant to me because I am, viscerally, quite bothered by captivity-type roleplaying in a sexual context. This is simply a gut reaction. I am a captivity survivor and it disturbs and frightens me that someone would think of what I experienced as being "sexy." Although I know, intellectually, that it is no threat to me. And it doesn't bother me (well, it does, but not in the same way) for people to roleplay such things in, say, a play, or a performance art piece. So what makes sexual roleplay different? Well, it's different because it's sex. And sex is frivolous. It's cheap. It's *just sex.* So, to take a serious abuse or tragedy, and turn it into *sex*--surely this is trivializing.

But, of course, sex isn't "just sex." Even the most mainstream straightforward vanilla sex is playing with fire. And to overlay serious events over sex only demonstrates this. Sex manifests the deepest parts of our warped minds. It is like art in this sense. Perhaps if we as a society saw sex more in this way, instead of as "just sex," there would be less of a visceral revulsion to sexual roleplay of serious subject matter.

Trinity said...

Hi there, dh!

I'm quite intrigued that you are here -- like you say, Taken in Hand is often held up as the paradigm of Bad BDSM by feminists.

The one thing I don't like (and by that I mean "don't approve of" rather than "experience distaste for") are the heterosexual domination and submission communities where people assert that all women (or all men) should submit. I've known I was dominant from a quite early age, and although my relationship to my gender is ridiculously complicated, I'm very certain that my dominance is just a part of who I am and what I need and not anything with any tie to gender at all.

I'm certainly clear I'm not mistaken about who I am and what I want (and I have in fact had some domestic discipline groups tell me I was; that I was young and confused and would someday find the perfect man to dominate me. No, no, no! I knew this about myself when I was seven!)

So... I've forgotten whether TiH asserts anything universal on that score. If it does I disapprove; if it doesn't, I still doubt I like it, but probably wouldn't have any moral issue with it. (Others' opinions here might differ; I know there has been some negative mention of TiH specifically here before.)

At any rate, I consider you welcome in *my* thread as long as you're not here to assert that only one kind of relationship structure is acceptable. :)

"So what makes sexual roleplay different? Well, it's different because it's sex. And sex is frivolous. It's cheap. It's *just sex.* So, to take a serious abuse or tragedy, and turn it into *sex*--surely this is trivializing."

But is sex frivolous? I know you're getting to "no," but:

I've never had that view. I do think that any one instance of sex or sexual play may well be frivolous -- my life is not exalted, for example, for a bit of fun I had in a parked car last month. Nor would my life be missing much if that event hadn't happened at all (though I do like the memory!)

But I don't think it follows from that that sexuality, sexual interaction, sexual being with others is frivolous. In fact, I think it's a fairly important good to most (though not all) adult human lives. This is why, for example, I would think it would be wrong to impose celibacy on gay people even if I were hetero myself and thought heterosexual relating was superior. It would *still* just simply be morally *wrong* to deny such people sexual interaction and fulfillment.

"Perhaps if we as a society saw sex more in this way, instead of as "just sex," there would be less of a visceral revulsion to sexual roleplay of serious subject matter."

I agree. :)

distractedhousewife said...

Trinity, I think there are different points of view among different people, but for myself, I don't really care how others choose to live their lives. I am certainly not going to say that you or anyone else is misunderstanding your nature!

Yes, our type of relationship is often reviled, but one reason for this I think is that we practice power exchange in a non sexual way. In fact practicing it in a sexual context seems... weird to me. I don't judge it, not at all. I just don't quite understand it. It is our lifestyle. It is no more sexual to me than grocery shopping or taking out the recycling is.

I actually don't understand much of sex at all and this perhaps may be why I have been more inclined to see it as frivolous. Although I do see that it isn't... the preservation of the species is dependent on it, after all! But, still, viscerally, that is my hang up with using captivity scenarios as sexual roleplay. It feels like making light of what I and other captivity survivors have gone through by using it for something frivolous.

I don't pretend it makes logical sense, though...

Trinity said...

"Trinity, I think there are different points of view among different people, but for myself, I don't really care how others choose to live their lives."

:)

I feel similarly, dh.

"Yes, our type of relationship is often reviled, but one reason for this I think is that we practice power exchange in a non sexual way."

That's probably true. People do have a lot of misunderstandings and misgivings about nonsexual power dynamics (especially male dominant/female submissive ones), because they have had a fraught cultural history.

I think some of the rest of the issue is a worry that people embrace dynamics like those cultural ones unreflectively.

Poking around the TiH website yesterday, I noticed a wide diversity of articles there. Several of which suggested that "feminism" is "wrong" about what "women" want -- which strikes me as a misunderstanding of what feminists who chafed under socially imposed dynamics of male dominance and female submission were doing. (Though I will grant that many feminists did and still do take "I'd never want to submit" to imply "No woman does want to" or "It ought not ever be done" or something, and I do think that's wrong.)

And I think it's that sort of thing that gets people mad, whether all TiHers believe that or not (as I gather some, perhaps many, don't.)

"I actually don't understand much of sex at all and this perhaps may be why I have been more inclined to see it as frivolous."

What do you mean by not understand it? I'm not sure what you mean. Something like not understanding what others choose to do sexually, or something else?

distractedhousewife said...

Trinity, I just mean that, as I have recently realized, I am not a very sexual person. Sensual, yes; sexual, not so much. And I'm not very social, either, so, much of sexuality and sex-related things are quite foreign to me.

I do agree with the TiH writers about the (in my opinion) wrongheadedness of mainstream feminism. And even though I do agree with many feminist goals, I don't often agree with their process of coming to those conclusions. Although "feminist" is a very broad term, and could of course apply to anyone who supports equal rights regardless of gender. However, many mainstream feminists do not agree with individual women's rights to make their own choices, and presume to speak to what all women want and don't want. That is, I believe, to what the TiH writers are objecting.

But I have long since been disillusioned with the feminist movement regarding the rights of anyone who is not "normal"--whether it is in relationships or in sexuality or in beliefs or in neurology, you must be "normal" or you aren't real. I and my family are more-or-less the perfect storm of "what not to be," in most mainstream feminists eyes, so I am quite cynical about them. Although I do realize that there are many other feminists who are out doing good work for all people, not just people exactly like them.

Trinity said...

"Trinity, I just mean that, as I have recently realized, I am not a very sexual person. Sensual, yes; sexual, not so much."

What do you see as the difference between sensual and sexual? *For me*, I see them as very often connected and engaging similar feelings.

"However, many mainstream feminists do not agree with individual women's rights to make their own choices, and presume to speak to what all women want and don't want."

I actually agree with that, though am somewhat sympathetic to feminists looking for cultural patterns and saying "We see some cultural pressure here, and are not sure this is always completely freely chosen." It's a difficult line to toe.

"But I have long since been disillusioned with the feminist movement regarding the rights of anyone who is not "normal"--whether it is in relationships or in sexuality or in beliefs or in neurology, you must be "normal" or you aren't real."

That I do agree with. Many feminisms are not very good at handling outliers at all.

distractedhousewife said...

What do you see as the difference between sensual and sexual? *For me*, I see them as very often connected and engaging similar feelings.

Perhaps it doesn't make much sense. I am very much a sensory seeker and enjoy many kinds of tactile stimulation, but sexual acts... broadly defined as anything focusing on anyone's genitals... doesn't appeal to me that much. I don't hate it, but I don't feel the passionate compulsion for it that most people do, either.

I am... very very autistic. It probably doesn't make sense to anyone else... and I wouldn't have mentioned it except that it relates to the fact that so much of sexuality fundamentally baffles me.

I actually agree with that, though am somewhat sympathetic to feminists looking for cultural patterns and saying "We see some cultural pressure here, and are not sure this is always completely freely chosen." It's a difficult line to toe.

Yes... but I think it is arrogant, when someone says "this is my choice," to dispute that. Social pressure does exist, and there are thing that I do and have done simply because it was "what people do"... but I was and am aware of it. I can tell the difference between something I do because I want to, or because I am drawn to, and something that I do because it's socially expected. I think that people who claim to support my rights should respect my ability to recognize that distinction for myself (and everyone's ability to make that distinction for him or her self).

Trinity said...

"Perhaps it doesn't make much sense. I am very much a sensory seeker and enjoy many kinds of tactile stimulation, but sexual acts... broadly defined as anything focusing on anyone's genitals... doesn't appeal to me that much."

That makes sense to me. It's not my experience, but I don't find it incomprehensible.

In fact, I think some of the appeal of BDSM for many people is that it is a way to experience sensual pleasure without necessarily being genitally focused. I think you'll find that that's a common thing people like about it, even if they also really enjoy, or even prefer, genital sex.

Personally, I categorize a lot of the bodily pleasure I experience with another person as sexual. I don't restrict "sexual" to "genital," but I don't know if this means I experience things similar to you and use different words, or not. (For whatever it's worth, I'm neurotypical.)

"Yes... but I think it is arrogant, when someone says "this is my choice," to dispute that."

I think that is true a lot of the time, but not in every case. For example, someone who is a drug addict might say, and might even believe, that he chooses a life of addiction -- yet find when he tries to choose otherwise that the physical compulsion to have more of the drug overrides his ability to act on his choice to refrain from taking it.

So I do think there can be cases in which someone thinks she chooses freely, but does not. I just think that many of the paradigm cases certain subsets of feminist use for vitiated choice are actually not vitiated choices.

Or, in some cases, even if they are it doesn't matter. (Like, say, leg shaving -- even if someone is so culturally conditioned that she absolutely MUST remove her leg hair, it's not any sort of tragedy that this has happened. Bad, maybe, but not a serious issue.)

distractedhousewife said...

That makes sense to me. It's not my experience, but I don't find it incomprehensible.

In fact, I think some of the appeal of BDSM for many people is that it is a way to experience sensual pleasure without necessarily being genitally focused. I think you'll find that that's a common thing people like about it, even if they also really enjoy, or even prefer, genital sex.


That is certainly part of the appeal for me. In addition to the fact that I prefer to have someone else be in charge and I would rather be the "helper" than the "leader" which in the larger society is seen as somewhat suspicious...

Personally, I categorize a lot of the bodily pleasure I experience with another person as sexual. I don't restrict "sexual" to "genital," but I don't know if this means I experience things similar to you and use different words, or not. (For whatever it's worth, I'm neurotypical.)

Well, I like any neurotypical person who knows the word "neurotypical"! Most don't.

I don't think of sharing non-genital sensation as being sexual partly because that would mean that I have sex with my children, I have sex with my brother, I have sex with my friend... no, I don't like that. I think of sharing pure sensation as being a category of its own, but one that mainstream society doesn't really know what to do with. It *can* be sexual, of course, but I think it's as sexual as the people involved make it.


I think that is true a lot of the time, but not in every case. For example, someone who is a drug addict might say, and might even believe, that he chooses a life of addiction -- yet find when he tries to choose otherwise that the physical compulsion to have more of the drug overrides his ability to act on his choice to refrain from taking it.


True. We all face physical limitations. But in the case of a drug addict, although he may not choose to be an addict, and although his chemical dependency may be out of his control, he nevertheless chose to start using an addictive substance in the first place. And, although it is certainly not *always* true, in most cases, given the amount of information and warnings and propaganda that exist on the subject, it is reasonable to assume that when he chose to begin using an addictive substance, he did so knowing the risks involved. So, even though the consequences may not be his choice, I still think his choice should be respected. And therefore I oppose drug laws. Who are we to say what someone does with his own body?

But this is a personal bias--I have anarchist leanings, and paternalism tends to annoy me.

So I do think there can be cases in which someone thinks she chooses freely, but does not. I just think that many of the paradigm cases certain subsets of feminist use for vitiated choice are actually not vitiated choices.

Yes, but often their perception of what vitiates a choice is based on prejudice. Such as the oft-repeated assertion that sexworkers are disproportionately survivors of sexual abuse. Now, I don't know whether this is true or not, and without clear information about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the general population (which we don't have), it's impossible to know. But, more disturbing to me is the underlying assumption that a woman who has experienced sexual abuse is incapable of making her own choices. This idea is threatening to the rights not only of sexworkers, but of all women who have survived sexual abuse--because what are they going to try to protect us from next?

There are certainly circumstances that can cause coercion in which case it is perfectly legitimate to question the impartiality of a person's choice. But among many feminists, there is the assumption that *certain kinds of people* are unfit decision-makers, and this is what is arrogant.

Or, in some cases, even if they are it doesn't matter. (Like, say, leg shaving -- even if someone is so culturally conditioned that she absolutely MUST remove her leg hair, it's not any sort of tragedy that this has happened. Bad, maybe, but not a serious issue.)

Well, I suppose it could be a serious issue with all of the plastic waste caused by razors and shaving gear and contamination from shaving cream cans... but even if this is a concern, it can be addressed in a way that is respectful of people and their competence, such as by persuading people to forgo shaving by presenting information, instead of simply assuming that those silly women just don't know what they're doing and can't think for themselves.

Trinity said...

"That is certainly part of the appeal for me. In addition to the fact that I prefer to have someone else be in charge and I would rather be the "helper" than the "leader" which in the larger society is seen as somewhat suspicious..."

You might want to have a look at World On A Slant; dw3t-hthr talks now and again about what it means to be in the supporting role in her relationship with her liege. (I can't think of any specific posts right now, or I'd link to those directly.) It might resonate with you.

"Well, I like any neurotypical person who knows the word "neurotypical"! Most don't."

:)

"I don't think of sharing non-genital sensation as being sexual partly because that would mean that I have sex with my children, I have sex with my brother, I have sex with my friend... no, I don't like that. I think of sharing pure sensation as being a category of its own, but one that mainstream society doesn't really know what to do with. It *can* be sexual, of course, but I think it's as sexual as the people involved make it."

Makes sense to me.

"And, although it is certainly not *always* true, in most cases, given the amount of information and warnings and propaganda that exist on the subject, it is reasonable to assume that when he chose to begin using an addictive substance, he did so knowing the risks involved."

I'm not sure. I say this because I have a close relative who is a drug addict, and who got into drugs because he was trying to self-medicate for bipolar. I'm wondering if he really understood the possible impact of choosing to medicate his own way rather than the way recommended by the system.

But yet, I don't want to lay it down as some sort of law that his mental health issues meant he couldn't or wouldn't understand, either. It's a tough one for me. But I never really got the impression he quite understood what he was fiddling with, and that part of his drug use was a kind of rebellion against "the system" that really wasn't carefully thought out.

"Yes, but often their perception of what vitiates a choice is based on prejudice. Such as the oft-repeated assertion that sexworkers are disproportionately survivors of sexual abuse. Now, I don't know whether this is true or not, and without clear information about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the general population (which we don't have), it's impossible to know. But, more disturbing to me is the underlying assumption that a woman who has experienced sexual abuse is incapable of making her own choices. This idea is threatening to the rights not only of sexworkers, but of all women who have survived sexual abuse--because what are they going to try to protect us from next?"

I totally agree. I've got abuse in my past, too, and it really bothers me when people suggest that their triggers are somehow more real, valid, sensible, healthy, or feminist than mine, or than my not being triggered by the things they are.

"There are certainly circumstances that can cause coercion in which case it is perfectly legitimate to question the impartiality of a person's choice. But among many feminists, there is the assumption that *certain kinds of people* are unfit decision-makers, and this is what is arrogant."

Brilliantly said! I agree completely.

shiva said...

Oh... wow. distractedhousewife, do you have a blog?

I'm also autistic, also (probably) an orientational sub, and also an anarchist primarily because of being deeply squicked out by all forms of paternalism - but reading your posts kind of freaks me out a bit in itself, because i'm so strongly squicked out by anything M/f, and in particular when it involves non-sexual power dynamics.

I *know* that, if i ever do find a workable relationship, i would want the BDSM elements in it to be purely-sexual and scene-limited, because one of my strongest personal moral principles is that i do not willingly enter into any significant relationship with another human being that is not on a basis of complete equality (which also means i can't, if i am to be true to my own ethics, have children... but that's OK for me because i don't want them anyway - if i did, i guess i might have to try to rework that principle somehow...)

I'd be really, really interested to talk to you about autism and sexuality, particularly around issues of consent and communication - my strong suspicion is that i am a sub sexually because i don't understand non-verbal communication, and don't want to run any risk whatsoever of doing something to a partner that she didn't consent to, so as a result of that, i want to be explicitly told what to do - so i totally relate to your "helper not the leader" thing... weird, yet of course logical, to think the same would apply, but in reverse genders, to a heterosexual autistic female... although it kind of implies perhaps i ought to rethink the idea that a fellow autist would probably be my ideal partner...

(BTW, while we're on the subject of sex and neurodiversity, anyone know what's happened to Sexability?)

Leg shaving is another thing that squicks me, actually - i can't help but see in it a desire to make women's bodies appear "immature" and "childlike". But of course i wouldn't ever say that people (of any gender) didn't have the right to do it if it makes them feel good (tho i do think it's problematic if you're not doing it for yourself, but for other people, or because you're afraid of abuse or ridicule being the consequence of not doing it).

distractedhousewife said...

You might want to have a look at World On A Slant; dw3t-hthr talks now and again about what it means to be in the supporting role in her relationship with her liege. (I can't think of any specific posts right now, or I'd link to those directly.) It might resonate with you.

Thank you; I'll read that now.


I'm not sure. I say this because I have a close relative who is a drug addict, and who got into drugs because he was trying to self-medicate for bipolar. I'm wondering if he really understood the possible impact of choosing to medicate his own way rather than the way recommended by the system.

But yet, I don't want to lay it down as some sort of law that his mental health issues meant he couldn't or wouldn't understand, either. It's a tough one for me. But I never really got the impression he quite understood what he was fiddling with, and that part of his drug use was a kind of rebellion against "the system" that really wasn't carefully thought out.


Maybe not, but maybe some people's choice to use conventional medicine isn't really thought out, either. Personally I do believe that the choice to use illegal or addictive drugs can be a reasonable choice. I have a chronic pain condition. I research *all* treatment options, including marijuana. I believe that the medical industry and the government rely on a lot of propaganda and false assumptions regarding what is *always* safe (physician-prescribed medication) and what is *never* safe (illegal drugs) without necessarily being accountable for their assumptions. So I support individuals making their own informed decisions regarding those things. Of course some people do choose to make poor decisions, but that is a risk that is taken. And while there is much awareness of the danger of poor-decision-making regarding making choices outside the mainstream, there is little emphasis on poor-decision-making in making choices that are in line with the mainstream.

I think this is a subtle bias, that it's easy for me to see which choices people approve of and which they disapprove of, by which things they really strongly emphasize making sure practitioners are making an informed, fully-thought-out neutral choice. Such as, in the issue of feminists and power exchange, many feminists will say that a woman should have the right to choose this lifestyle but go on and on about *making absolutely sure* that it's an informed free choice. Which of course it should be, but there is no emphasis on making absolutely sure that a choice of another lifestyle is an informed free choice. There is no emphasis, for example, on making absolutely sure that people who choose to go into high-demand careers are aware of the toll this will take on their ability to do things outside of work. Because that is considered a positive choice, and people for the most part don't question it.

It should be equal, is all I'm saying. Don't be extra-extra-concerned that someone doing something you think is a bad idea is fully thought out, while ignoring questioning whether someone doing something that you think is a good idea is fully thought out.

I totally agree. I've got abuse in my past, too, and it really bothers me when people suggest that their triggers are somehow more real, valid, sensible, healthy, or feminist than mine, or than my not being triggered by the things they are.

Yes--or that you are obviously unfit to run your own life because of impaired judgement. Is it impaired or is it heightened by experience? I think heightened.

I'm sorry. Am I going much too far off topic?

distractedhousewife said...

Oh... wow. distractedhousewife, do you have a blog?

No. I don't think I'd want one, actually. In perhaps un-autistic fashion, I much prefer exchanges and written conversations to my just writing something and throwing it out there...

I'm also autistic, also (probably) an orientational sub, and also an anarchist primarily because of being deeply squicked out by all forms of paternalism - but reading your posts kind of freaks me out a bit in itself, because i'm so strongly squicked out by anything M/f, and in particular when it involves non-sexual power dynamics.

I *know* that, if i ever do find a workable relationship, i would want the BDSM elements in it to be purely-sexual and scene-limited, because one of my strongest personal moral principles is that i do not willingly enter into any significant relationship with another human being that is not on a basis of complete equality (which also means i can't, if i am to be true to my own ethics, have children... but that's OK for me because i don't want them anyway - if i did, i guess i might have to try to rework that principle somehow...)


Maybe you wouldn't. Are you familiar with consensual living, taking children seriously, radical unschooling? Those are different philosophies of raising children as equals of adults. For our family, we are not that extreme, but we do work to have an egalitarian environment as possible.

I guess that's a moot point if you don't want children... just something I wanted to mention, if you don't mind.

Oddly enough I do share your aversion to inequality of all kinds. Perhaps it is ironic. I am very egalitarian, very liberal, very anti-authoritarian... yet I choose to be a submissive. I confuse *myself*! But, I don't actually think of myself as being unequal. I think of us as being equal in value but with different roles. Because, even if we did not consciously choose this type of relationship, we would still be "unequal" in the sense that we have very different abilities, talents, interests. So it makes sense to me. Sort of. Almost.

In my limited anecdotal experience there is a disproportionate element of autistics and other neurodivergent people practicing power exchange and BDSM. Which makes sense--the very nature of it suggests an atypical sensory processing, and atypical way of relating to others.

I'd be really, really interested to talk to you about autism and sexuality, particularly around issues of consent and communication - my strong suspicion is that i am a sub sexually because i don't understand non-verbal communication, and don't want to run any risk whatsoever of doing something to a partner that she didn't consent to, so as a result of that, i want to be explicitly told what to do - so i totally relate to your "helper not the leader" thing... weird, yet of course logical, to think the same would apply, but in reverse genders, to a heterosexual autistic female... although it kind of implies perhaps i ought to rethink the idea that a fellow autist would probably be my ideal partner...

To me being a sub and being autistic are very closely connected. But, our relationship is fairly emblematic of "opposites attract." My husband is highly organized, socially intuitive, and a natural leader. It works for us. He charms clients. I sort color-coded files.

I don't mind sharing whatever you'd like.

(BTW, while we're on the subject of sex and neurodiversity, anyone know what's happened to Sexability?)

It is still up.

Leg shaving is another thing that squicks me, actually - i can't help but see in it a desire to make women's bodies appear "immature" and "childlike". But of course i wouldn't ever say that people (of any gender) didn't have the right to do it if it makes them feel good (tho i do think it's problematic if you're not doing it for yourself, but for other people, or because you're afraid of abuse or ridicule being the consequence of not doing it).

Isn't the problem with that, though, not the shaving, but the abuse and ridicule? I know that it happens, but I would interpret that as "people shouldn't abuse and ridicule each other for being different," not as "people shouldn't shave."

I have always found it odd that there is objection to women's leg shaving and even more so women's pubic shaving, but no corresponding objection to men's facial shaving, even though facial hair or lack thereof is much more publicly visible than leg hair or pubic hair...

Personally I think that conforming to fashion is stupid and pointless, but I'm not going to judge it. And there are benefits to shaving that have nothing to do with fashion--smooth, sensation-heightened skin, for one thing...





er.... this whole comment, for what it's worth, is meant in a friendly way. reading it, it seems not quite friendly. but I'm not sure how to fix that.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I *know* that, if i ever do find a workable relationship, i would want the BDSM elements in it to be purely-sexual and scene-limited, because one of my strongest personal moral principles is that i do not willingly enter into any significant relationship with another human being that is not on a basis of complete equality

Hah. Whereas I read that and go, "Okay, sure ... what does that have to do with d/s?"

I mean, it's a basic principle of my relationship with my liege that different roles don't mean a bedamned thing about the value of the people, and that people do well situated in the sorts of relationships, jobs, and so on that they're suited to, rather than creating some sort of artificial equality that privileges one person's desires over the other's by defining some of them as legitimate and others as not.

If he treated me as other than his equal as a human being, he not only would not be my master, he would not be my fiancé or for that matter my partner at all. This has utterly no bearing on the sort of relationship that works for us, that we like, and that flows naturally from our interactions, which is (pardon me, Trin) 24/7 d/s.

But I've written about this before. And I have a much deeper, more substantial, and more involved power engagement now than I did back then.

shiva said...

OK... my thing about equality isn't what you're talking about in your post. I agree with your post (although i think i would react the same way your ex did if a woman wanted to submit to me). What i mean is... well, in a 24/7 D/s relationship, person X has the "right" to tell person Y what to do, but person Y doesn't have the right to tell person X what to do. Person X has the right to forbid person Y from doing things that person Y wants to do. It's effectively a situation of consenting to nonconsent.

(Yes, i know the same is true of an employer/employee relationship in capitalism. This is one of the reasons i'm an anti-capitalist. Yes, i have worked for employers in the past, and probably will again, mostly because of the lack of viable alternatives - that may make me a hypocrite, but it doesn't stop me from thinking that relationship is fundamentally unethical and in my libertarian/egalitarian ideal world wouldn't exist.)

I want all my relationships to be ones with a basic principled framework of equality and reciprocity. That doesn't mean i want all my relationships to be completely reciprocal in content - with human differences, of course that is impossible. My ex had a quite severe physical impairment. That meant, of course, that i did lots of stuff for her (sexually and otherwise) that she physically couldn't do in return for me. And, while i don't think i would want more than one partner at one time, i'd be quite happy with my (theoretical) partner having other partners as well as me. But equality doesn't mean sameness - it means, to me, all partners in a relationship having equal weight and influence in decision making. Of course in practice one person might simply have more ideas that other people are willing to "go along with", but that doesn't constitute inequality for me as long as everyone has an equal right to dispute or veto a collective decision (even if they choose not to exercise that right).

(bloody hell, it feels like i'm in a "consensus decision making for activists" workshop ;) )

A 24/7 D/s relationship kind of looks to me less like one person choosing not to exercise that right, but rather the "constitution" of the relationship being that one person doesn't have that right to start with. OK, that might be a subtle distinction, and one that to some people isn't important, but to me it's important...

Not in any of that saying that 24/7 D/s relationships are in any way morally wrong, or that no one should have them. I might disapprove on a personal-ethics level, but it doesn't mean i'd want to forbid people from it. My one central ethic is that no one has the right to forbid that which is wholly consensual and harms no one; most of my other ethics, i only apply to me...

Trinity said...

"What i mean is... well, in a 24/7 D/s relationship, person X has the "right" to tell person Y what to do, but person Y doesn't have the right to tell person X what to do."

I used to think this, but now I really don't. Maybe the D/s I do is very, very mild (possible, but I doubt it), but I don't really find myself in situations where my partner can't tell me "Uh, Sir, don't do *that*, it's totally stupid!" I'm an absent-minded intellectual; this happens all the time.

That's just not my experience at all. And of course I can take that advice or not take that advice, but that's not really different from other interactions with other people.

"Person X has the right to forbid person Y from doing things that person Y wants to do."

Now that might be true... but again, I think a lot of people paint this as the essence of D/s when really it's not. In my own experience (and again, maybe the D/s I do is mild compared to others -- but I no longer bother to even think about them, most of the time, so I couldn't tell you), it's usually much more about a ritual of asking for and receiving permission than it is about me actually forbidding anything.

"Sir, may I X?" doesn't mean I'll say "No, you may not X" (I honestly can't think of any time I forbade anything right now. I'm sure I have, but so rarely as to not even remember anyway!) I might well find the idea of forbidding X totally silly. But the ritual of asking for X, of knowing that *if* it did matter to me the mattering *would* count, is fulfilling.

And the big thing for me is -- when *would* I forbid someone I care about something important? When would I ever deem that appropriate? To me, the only time I would at all would be the same times I'd be deeply concerned as an "egalitarian" (gods, I hate that word in this context with the fury of a hundred burning suns) partner. If I really thought someone were doing something deeply wrong or unhealthy for hirself, I'd use my influence on that person to try and stop it, whether we were vanilla sweeties or I were hir Supreme Overlord.

shiva said...

distractedhousewife:

"I have always found it odd that there is objection to women's leg shaving and even more so women's pubic shaving, but no corresponding objection to men's facial shaving, even though facial hair or lack thereof is much more publicly visible than leg hair or pubic hair..."

Well, i don't shave my face. I trim my beard when it gets long enough to irritate me, but that's it. But i don't hear men with beards being regarded as "disgusting" or talked about in the frankly horrific ways i hear women with hairy legs/armpits or even untrimmed pubic hair being talked about (even if there is a little bit of mild, friendly ridicule). Shaving or not shaving is seen as a fairly inconsequential choice for males, and there are no serious social penalties for not shaving; women, on the other hand, get subjected to such severe ostracism and verbal abuse for not shaving that, well, it seems to matter a lot more, and be much more obviously a part of oppressive social structures.

Of course, if shaving is your kink (ie, it makes you physically feel good), then go do it. As with penetration as the be-all, end-all of sex, it's the normativity of it i oppose, not the activity itself (as well as personally finding it unattractive, but of course that's me and my kinks).

I totally agree with you on drugs. I think the same also applies to many other forms of self-medication (cutting or purging, for example).

I've heard of radical unschooling, and I think it's pretty cool. (Amanda Baggs has talked about it in a few posts, IIRC.) There are a lot of other reasons i don't want kids, tho.

"er.... this whole comment, for what it's worth, is meant in a friendly way. reading it, it seems not quite friendly. but I'm not sure how to fix that."

I saw nothing unfriendly in it. I don't know whether a neurotypical person might have percieved some lack of whatever it is that in the Western mainstream is to be considered "friendliness". That goes right over my head, tho - i don't judge style, only content... :)

I tried to look at Sexability yesterday and got a message saying "this blog is only open to invited readers"...

distractedhousewife said...

Shiva:

I want all my relationships to be ones with a basic principled framework of equality and reciprocity. That doesn't mean i want all my relationships to be completely reciprocal in content - with human differences, of course that is impossible. My ex had a quite severe physical impairment. That meant, of course, that i did lots of stuff for her (sexually and otherwise) that she physically couldn't do in return for me. And, while i don't think i would want more than one partner at one time, i'd be quite happy with my (theoretical) partner having other partners as well as me. But equality doesn't mean sameness - it means, to me, all partners in a relationship having equal weight and influence in decision making. Of course in practice one person might simply have more ideas that other people are willing to "go along with", but that doesn't constitute inequality for me as long as everyone has an equal right to dispute or veto a collective decision (even if they choose not to exercise that right).

(bloody hell, it feels like i'm in a "consensus decision making for activists" workshop ;) )

A 24/7 D/s relationship kind of looks to me less like one person choosing not to exercise that right, but rather the "constitution" of the relationship being that one person doesn't have that right to start with. OK, that might be a subtle distinction, and one that to some people isn't important, but to me it's important...


I understand the distinction you're making, and I think it's a valid one, but I don't think it's true in every case. In my relationship, I see it much more as my choosing not to exercise my right to go against his decisions than as my not having a right to go against his decisions. The latter would not be comfortable for me at all. I *need* to know that everything I do is my choice, every step of the way. Otherwise I don't feel safe.



Well, i don't shave my face. I trim my beard when it gets long enough to irritate me, but that's it. But i don't hear men with beards being regarded as "disgusting" or talked about in the frankly horrific ways i hear women with hairy legs/armpits or even untrimmed pubic hair being talked about (even if there is a little bit of mild, friendly ridicule). Shaving or not shaving is seen as a fairly inconsequential choice for males, and there are no serious social penalties for not shaving; women, on the other hand, get subjected to such severe ostracism and verbal abuse for not shaving that, well, it seems to matter a lot more, and be much more obviously a part of oppressive social structures.

Of course, if shaving is your kink (ie, it makes you physically feel good), then go do it. As with penetration as the be-all, end-all of sex, it's the normativity of it i oppose, not the activity itself (as well as personally finding it unattractive, but of course that's me and my kinks).


I have never witnessed that, but I don't doubt it goes on, and of course it is wrong. People should do what they like with their bodies without fear of ridicule. But for those (and there are many) who assert that women's shaving is *intrinsically* creepy (because of the pre-pubescent thing), I do think it is hypocritical not to equally condemn men who shave their faces, and for that matter men and women who cut and dye and style the hair on their heads, or who use makeup or nail polish or anything at all to alter their bodies' natural appearance.


I totally agree with you on drugs. I think the same also applies to many other forms of self-medication (cutting or purging, for example).

Yes. I'm against involuntary commitment, too. Your body, your choice.


I've heard of radical unschooling, and I think it's pretty cool. (Amanda Baggs has talked about it in a few posts, IIRC.) There are a lot of other reasons i don't want kids, tho.

I didn't know Amanda had weighed in on unschooling. That's interesting.

I saw nothing unfriendly in it. I don't know whether a neurotypical person might have percieved some lack of whatever it is that in the Western mainstream is to be considered "friendliness". That goes right over my head, tho - i don't judge style, only content... :)

That's good. Style most certainly is not my forte...

I tried to look at Sexability yesterday and got a message saying "this blog is only open to invited readers"...

It works fine for me... may be a server problem?

Trinity said...

"In my relationship, I see it much more as my choosing not to exercise my right to go against his decisions than as my not having a right to go against his decisions."

YEAH, THAT.

in all caps, even, just for the sheer YEAH, THAT-ness of it all.

This is exactly why I never did well with submissive people who wanted to be pushed into doing my will because I was so strong and powerful they couldn't disobey. I'm not interested in that framework at all.

I'm interested in someone who is fulfilled by aligning hirself with my will in certain ways.

Trinity said...

For me, if the fulfillingness isn't there on either side, it's time to not be doing the D/s.

Someone I know once said that the relationship is the cake, and the D/s is the icing. A cake with sufficiently crappy icing (or none) *may not* be good enough, but a mountain of good icing with no cake *couldn't* be good enough.

Trinity said...

"Yes. I'm against involuntary commitment, too. Your body, your choice."

I'm not sure I'm against it in cases of threatening others, though. My autonomy ends where yours begins.

But yeah, just for self-harm... doesn't seem right. Trying to *convince* people to get help if the problem is radically bad strikes me as a better solution.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I used to think this, but now I really don't. Maybe the D/s I do is very, very mild (possible, but I doubt it), but I don't really find myself in situations where my partner can't tell me "Uh, Sir, don't do *that*, it's totally stupid!" I'm an absent-minded intellectual; this happens all the time.

One of my formally declared actual jobs in my liege's service is telling him when he's being an idiot, missing the obvious, or neglecting to take something critical into account.

He considers me asking him to be my master in the first place to fall under this rubric.

Meanwhile, last week sometime I bossed him around in the kitchen, because he couldn't remember how to make a cheese sauce even though I'd showed him before, so I figured he should actually do the steps himself if he wanted to retain the knowledge.

If I really thought someone were doing something deeply wrong or unhealthy for hirself, I'd use my influence on that person to try and stop it, whether we were vanilla sweeties or I were hir Supreme Overlord.

The major stuff my liege leans on me about is building routine, health, that sort of thing. It's in significant part due to his influence that I'm taking a tai chi class; probably also that I'm in therapy, too, though that's a lot subtler.

And my influence drives him to face up to past issues, build himself into someone who he feels can handle the responsibility of having the level of care for me that he likewise feels obligated to do.

I should really write the blog post that's in my head, it's about this.

distractedhousewife said...

Trinity:

This is exactly why I never did well with submissive people who wanted to be pushed into doing my will because I was so strong and powerful they couldn't disobey. I'm not interested in that framework at all.

I'm interested in someone who is fulfilled by aligning hirself with my will in certain ways.


Well I have always attributed that to my being a control-freak submissive, which is maybe not something highly-sought-after but it works for us...

I'm not sure I'm against it in cases of threatening others, though. My autonomy ends where yours begins.

But yeah, just for self-harm... doesn't seem right. Trying to *convince* people to get help if the problem is radically bad strikes me as a better solution.


Well, I don't think of the mental health industry as providing "help"... but that is very off topic. I don't think people should be allowed to harm others (except consensually!), but if someone is doing so, I think he should be entitled to a fair trial with a lawyer and a jury of his peers and full due process, not just being hauled off and locked up.

Trinity said...

"One of my formally declared actual jobs in my liege's service is telling him when he's being an idiot, missing the obvious, or neglecting to take something critical into account."

Exactly. Who doesn't want to be told when ze's flagrantly fucking up? :)

"I should really write the blog post that's in my head, it's about this."

Yes you should.

[moronic bad dom mode]

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!!! I ORDER YOU TO BLOG NOWWWWWW!1!!!!!!!1111!!!!!! BCUZ I R AWESOMEZ@222@@@@@@@!!!!!11!!!!!

[/moronic bad dom mode]

:)

distractedhousewife said...

Dw3t-Hthr:

One of my formally declared actual jobs in my liege's service is telling him when he's being an idiot, missing the obvious, or neglecting to take something critical into account.

He considers me asking him to be my master in the first place to fall under this rubric.

Meanwhile, last week sometime I bossed him around in the kitchen, because he couldn't remember how to make a cheese sauce even though I'd showed him before, so I figured he should actually do the steps himself if he wanted to retain the knowledge.


I do this too. It is providing a service. The way we see it, it's that he is the leader and I am his chief assistant and adviser.... there is nothing wrong or un-submissive in that case about withholding valuable advice.

Trinity said...

"The way we see it, it's that he is the leader and I am his chief assistant and adviser."

Precisely!

If you two don't stop making so much sense, my poor head is in danger of falling off from nodding so vigorously.

:)

distractedhousewife said...

Trinity:

For me, if the fulfillingness isn't there on either side, it's time to not be doing the D/s.

Someone I know once said that the relationship is the cake, and the D/s is the icing. A cake with sufficiently crappy icing (or none) *may not* be good enough, but a mountain of good icing with no cake *couldn't* be good enough.


Well, I agree with the sentiment, that the relationship itself is much more essential than the dynamics, but I don't agree with the analogy, because I do like frosting by itself... but then I am weird.

Trinity said...

"It's in significant part due to his influence that I'm taking a tai chi class; probably also that I'm in therapy, too, though that's a lot subtler."

And yeah, exactly. Part of what wielding power is for is to enrich those under your care and help them grow.

Or at least that's how I think people wielding it should look at themselves. "How can I be a positive influence in the life of this person/people I care about?"

distractedhousewife said...

And yeah, exactly. Part of what wielding power is for is to enrich those under your care and help them grow.

Or at least that's how I think people wielding it should look at themselves. "How can I be a positive influence in the life of this person/people I care about?"


That is what my husband tries to do. And, if I may say, his ability to do so is impressive. I am an annoying, combative, anti-autoritarian, high-strung person deeply suspicious of anyone telling me what to do, and *especially* of anyone claiming to know what's best for me or do anything for my own good. Yet my husband is able to influence (not force--I would run far far away if he ever tried to force me) me to follow his guidance, and for some bizzare reason, influence my naturally-ingrained resistance to shut off. That is, I think, what makes him a natural leader, as opposed to just some guy who likes to be the boss so that he can force others to do what he wants.

Trinity said...

I don't think I've ever had the OMG WOWZERZ Magical Dominance aura. But I have the helping thing. I seem to be good at it.

I think there's a reason for that. I think I'm called to *use it*.

The fact that I get to fuck, snuggle, and love some of the people I use it on is just a perk. :)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!!! I ORDER YOU TO BLOG NOWWWWWW!1!!!!!!!1111!!!!!! BCUZ I R AWESOMEZ@222@@@@@@@!!!!!11!!!!!

OMG HOLY DOMZORS!!1!eleven!

I have no idea how comprehensible it will wind up being at this point, because it's deeply steeped in esoterica, but hey. Working on it.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Welp, it's up. I'm not sure it's comprehensible, but damnit, I'm allowed to be a raving mystic.

Trinity said...

It makes sense to me, Kiya. Though I may be putting my own spin on it.

"Of the goad: to demand, to challenge, and to release; to not hold back from the cut when the lesson of the wound is greater than the mark. To hold to what is real, to root deep."

Yeah, THAT.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I may write more about the context for that all sometime, but not, I think, for a while; it's all too fresh to come out properly in words.

It was probably the hardest subbing I've ever done, and it was recognised and respected and loved.

Trinity said...

Actually I read it as about both partners initially, and then went back and realized you meant submission.

Because this sounds like what I'm there for, too:

"The nature of the knife is twofold.

What are those two things?

They are the goad and the defender.

What are these?

Of the goad: to demand, to challenge, and to release; to not hold back from the cut when the lesson of the wound is greater than the mark. To hold to what is real, to root deep.

What else are these?

Of the defender: to stand firm, to shelter, and to protect; to bleed when bleeding will mark the boundary. To hold to what is real, to root deep."

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I think that goes back around to what I was saying a little upthread -- it occurred to me when I saw what you quoted over in LJ that it does well as a description of the other side of things -- that having different jobs/roles/places/whatever doesn't mean that people aren't equal partners.

Because it all partakes of the same stuff, y'know? You can look at the cup and the blade and see what you do as much as I know them for a recognition of what I do, and I agree -- it's right there.

distractedhousewife said...

dw3t-hthr, I like that piece. I think I understand it even though I don't quite comprehend it..

Alon Levy said...

I'm not entirely sure I understand what Taken in Hand means. The website, takeninhand.com, makes it seem like an ordinary M/f relationship that is less sexual than how most people perceive the average D/s relationship.

My take on Nazi roleplay is that as long as you don't participate in pogroms or Klan rallies, I don't care. WASPy country clubs won't become any less anti-Semitic if all kinksters in the world decide to stop doing Nazi play. I don't do that because I'm not into any kind of roleplaying, but suit yourself.

At worst, Nazis will attain some sort of hero status, like pirates. It's problematic because British piracy in the Caribbean can teach us something about history. But most other underrated episodes of history have been forgotten for other reasons - for example, public health and sanitation aren't sexy subjects, so people tend to forget just how many people the smallpox vaccine saved. And pirates naturally lend themselves to anti-hero tales - much like ninjas, Spartans, Vikings, and Che Guevara - in a way that Nazis don't.

Trinity said...

"At worst, Nazis will attain some sort of hero status, like pirates."

Could they ever, though? I can't see anything that Nazis could be taken as fighting for in a positive way, the way pirates can be taken as romantically independent.

Maybe I just underestimate humans' ability to whitewash history, but I have a hard time imagining some kind of brave Nazi hero, making the hard but necessary choice to kill the impure for the good of his country.

(ew, skeeving me out to even type that!)

And it's hard for me to imagine this coming about due to things *SM* people are doing. We *like* playing with sinister stuff. I have never done Nazi role-play (and have no particular yen to start) but if I ever did, I wouldn't be playing *down* the creepiness of Nazis. I'd be using the concept "Nazi" as a springboard for "really intense creepiness" at the very least.

Which could still be disrespectful, warping, or wrong, but wouldn't be about hero-fying Nazis.

It seems to me that the worst that could happen in terms of Nazis and cultural memes would be mockeries. I keep thinking of

"No one expects... The SPANISH INQUISITION!"

Where... that's not even, in my mind, tasteless. We're so far removed from that history that it's *just* funny.

I could see that happening in a couple hundred years or so. "No one expects... the HOLOCAUST!!!"

where that's so far from everyone's lived experience that people see it like that Inquisition line: just funny.

It definitely isn't just funny now, and I feel a bit queasy typing that, even. But in 2308? Who knows.

And I'm not entirely sure that happening would be regrettable. Part of me definitely thinks so, but part of me wonders. I mean, the Inquisition is distant now from who and what we are, but none of us thinks it wasn't an atrocity. The joke's not funny because it's *okay that it happened.*

And even that kind of transforming might not happen wrt the Holocaust, just because historical recordkeeping is much better nowadays. It strikes me as quite possible that such a joke would never be made in the same way, and quite possible it would.

Trinity said...

which raises the question:

if it's impermissible for me to play the role of a Nazi guard/torturer/interrogator/whatever, is it similarly impermissible for me to pretend to be Torquemada?

Alon Levy said...

Could they ever, though? I can't see anything that Nazis could be taken as fighting for in a positive way, the way pirates can be taken as romantically independent.

That's why I think it's unlikely... but really, anything is possible - witness the attachment to Genghis Khan. It's plausible, though unlikely, that in the future people will perceive the Nazis as operating outside social conventions about human equality.

I'd say that having a play where you're an SS officer isn't any different from having a play where you're a Spanish Inquisitor. But I can see why someone might have a problem only with the former. The Holocaust is within recent memory and about a group that's still often oppressed, and even more oppressed in its cultural psyche. The Inquisition more or less isn't. Similarly, American slavery is about a group that's still seriously oppressed, so you'll probably find that reactions to slavery play are a lot more negative than to Holocaust play.

distractedhousewife said...

I think the trivializing of Nazi atrocities is a real risk, and one that's already happening with the trend of any passionate advocate being tagged with the "Nazi" label. (e.g. "health nazi, femi-nazi).

Power exchange couples are hardly the worst offenders here, though.

subversive_sub said...

Wow. I am loving this thread so much. You all rock.

[...with nothing to contribute...]

Trinity said...

"I think the trivializing of Nazi atrocities is a real risk, and one that's already happening with the trend of any passionate advocate being tagged with the "Nazi" label. (e.g. "health nazi, femi-nazi)."

That's a good point. "Nazi" is starting to mean "authoritarian" more than it means "butcher."

Which is actually, yeah, what SMers who play at it may well be doing too: it's not so much about playing with the atrocity as it is about playing with the idea of a strict authority.

In which case SM play *might* actually contribute to cultural forgetting.

Which actually strikes me as the best anti-Nazi-play argument I've seen so far.

Alon Levy said...

Well, yeah... but that's already widespread. To say that my French teacher was a Nazi doesn't mean that she hates Jews, but that she was excessively strict. But I don't think that's making people forget the Holocaust. They use it in Israel, too, occasionally, though the more common metaphor is to drill sergeants.

alterisego said...

The Inquisition is actually quite a relevant comparison, though, because it persecuted Jews as a specific target group. Granted, the Inquisition's carnage wasn't quite as wholesale, but in terms of its torture/burning at stake/etc practices, it was still pretty high up on the "brutal" scale.

Also, I seem to recall this was mentioned earlier in the backlog, but there's already classic comedy about Nazism - "Springtime for Hitler", anyone?

Trinity said...

"The Inquisition is actually quite a relevant comparison, though, because it persecuted Jews as a specific target group"

Yeah. Exactly.

distractedhousewife said...

Isn't there a difference, though, between dramatizing Nazism to make a point and dramatizing Nazism just because it's cool? That's where I get stuck. "The Producers" wasn't just an empty comedy; it was also making a serious point about stripping tyrants of their power by mocking them. To me that's just very different from some kid wanting to dress up as a Nazi for the same reason his grandfather wanted to smoke pot and ride a motorcycle, because it's cool and edgy and taboo... I do think that is kind of trivializing.

alterisego said...

Been a while since this discussion, but I just saw this in the paper today: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/world/europe/07formula.html

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