Tuesday, 29 April 2008

BBC news article on proposed UK legislation to criminalize possession of "violent porn"

Just wanted to link to this article from the BBC. We've mentioned this in here before as I recall, but this article is particularly good. Especially the audio interview linked there with one of the women from Backlash.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Gender Roles and D/s

(xposted from my journal)

When Monkey and I go to restaurants, I usually order for us both. It generally gets stunned responses. This time, the waitress asked him, and blinked when I told her my order first and then his.

I find this a delightful game, but it's also a little disheartening in some ways, which Monkey himself commented on once she was out of earshot. I laughed and said "See how shocked?"

He looked at me seriously and said, with distaste, "Yeah. I never would have expected that. We're not in Saudi Arabia* or something." I think he was actually uncomfortable. I wasn't; I was amused.

But yeah, it is rather odd when you notice it. It's a pretty startling social reversal to a lot of people. Which I'm sure says something about gender and culture.

ETA: Which leads, in a roundabout way, to things like this:

Let’s not even get into S&M with her as my sub. Spanking her, I can live with, and I don’t know why it doesn’t ping my guilt. Tit-smacking is something we both enjoy, and again, I don’t know why a blow to her breasts is arousing and not guilt-worthy. But when the whole thing turns to punishment, all of a sudden all of the abuse cases from my days doing social work come flooding back. When I smacked her once, after both of us negotiated it, I felt horrible specifically because I live in a world where men can do that, where men do do that, and it’s not negotiated.

That moment when I smacked her — even though it was consensual, even though it happened after negotiation — I was never more acutely aware of her gender. I don’t think I was that aware of her gender when I watched her give birth, because giving birth is raw biology, and I’m conditioned to think it’s natural, and smacking her was…anathema to me. It violated everything I had been raised to believe in, and a lot of self-constructed images I had about myself.

I didn’t like it. Precisely because of who we are, male and female.

It works both ways, mind. I know there’s something my wife gets off on when it comes to penetrating me — when it comes to being inside of me, whether it be with her hands or a strap-on. That I’m a male submissive, that we’re throwing out Christian household values and the normal power structure and we’re embracing a system where — if most of the people we know in our daytime lives found out about it — we’d be viewed as aberrant. That we’re not aiming for equality at all, not even giving lip service to the idea of helpmeets or equal partners, but inequality, and inequality rooted in abuse and power and sexual subservience.

I don’t know if I’m explaining this properly, since my modus operandi with the blog is to rant and not really plan or redraft, but rereading Dev’s post and the other I linked to, what I thought about was that slap, and how I was acutely aware of my maleness and my wife’s femaleness. And how she slaps me all of the time and neither of us minds, but the one time I raised my hand to her, I fell apart. And more than a little. Because of our genders. Because she was a female submissive.

*NB: Yeah, I realize gender relations in the Middle East are more complicated than this and the remark was ignorant.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


I'd really like to talk to an ex-sadomasochist for real.

I mean sit her down and talk to her. About everything. About her bad experiences. About what the community was like for her. About who her friends were, who she had as a support system. Who she looked up to. Who she got advice from. Where she or her top or her bottom or whatever got their safety info, physical and emotional.

I read things like this and I just wonder if we even mean the same thing when we say BDSM. In that comment, miss_andrist says ". I was a BDSM sub for 17 years, passed off from one "owner" to another."

I have never seen such "passing off" myself. I've heard of consensual "loaning," but the only times it's ever been mentioned to me it's been by submissive folks themselves: "Sir, I have this fantasy of you loaning me out/offering me to a room of your friends to use/etc." I've never seen the idea that people actually "transfer property" as she mentions.

So I'd actually really like to sit down with someone like this and talk about the community she was part of. I get the strong feeling that the communities I'm a part of have norms of behavior that the community she talks about actually lacked. I wonder whether any of her opinions might be different if I'm right on this. If those who dominated her saw themselves as involved not just in consensual objectification for fun but in doing what every good partner should: being a positive, loving force in her life.

I wonder what having that conversation would do. Part of me thinks of ex-SMers as I think of ex-gays: just sad and lonely and self-hating. But ex-gays, it strikes me, don't have histories of abuse and of gayness being used as an excuse to abuse, where several ex-BDSMers have those stories.

So my question is, really: How can we stand up for ourselves as worthy people making a worthy and personal choice to do SM, D/s, B&D, whatever -- while still honoring those abuse stories and the fear they speak to?

Monday, 14 April 2008

Category Airing (Reprise)

[ Reposted from here at Trin's request and in a fit of, 'Oh, right, that so goes at SM-F, doesn't it?' ]

I've got a fair amount of stuff rattling around in my head in response to Dev's post about female submission, and a lot of it is horrifyingly fraught and such, so I'm going to try to get what I said in the comments there coherent and see if I can deal with the rest of it later when I'm feeling less like bleeding on the carpet about it.

I am not a female submissive.

I am a woman. I am submissive.

Spotting the difference matters.

I'm on a couple of BDSM communities on livejournal, and every so often someone will pop up with "I read on male_dom" or "femdom" or "humbled_females" or something else linking sex or gender to power exchange. And while I'm pretty easy for communities, none of these have ever even remotely tempted me, not even as a place to lurk. They don't offer me anything I value, that I can value. I just ... not only is this not my kink, it's a kink that makes me uncomfortable.

And some of that discomfort is being genderqueer enough that any sort of sex-based essentialism tends to throw me out of the conversation entirely, because I'm either miscategorised or in that neither-fish-nor-fowl place where somehow, in the discussion being had, I don't exist. And not existing is a nasty, uncomfortable place to keep winding up being, so I prefer to stick to fields where my status as an extant being doesn't throw errors everywhere.

The thing is, these things aren't descriptive to me, stuff like "M/f" or "F/m"; they don't seem to describe systems where those just happen to be the relationships those people have, but rather something where it is important that The Person Of One Sex Is Dominant, and The Person Of The Other Sex Is Submissive. It's a particular gendering fetish, and it's not one that I share; it's not one I want to be involved with, either. ("Your kink may be okay, but I'll go over there now.")

If one isn't treating the sexes of the people involved as something that matters, then there isn't a need to specify. Those facts will come up as relevant, and if they're not relevant, they won't, and there's no sense bringing them up. There's no need to make a marked case of it. Someone reading for detail can probably pick out the facts of various interactions, to some level, and make guesses about others, especially as I do not go to any particular effort to conceal stray data (partially as a political act), but unless it matters, that's just data kicking around.

And every so often I get in my tracking someone doing a websearch for 'femsub' (and that's, I believe, the first time that appears in this blog; I just googled and got this for the search result, which doesn't contain it), and I sort of wince and want to shake the boxes a little, make space in which I can be a submissive without being a "femsub". Because I'm not one, and no amount of treating someone who fits two categories, who is 'female' and 'submissive', as thereby going into a category that links the two will make me stop existing for the convenience of the categorisers.

And all this leaves me awkwardly on the edge of discussions of differences in perspective on seeing a male submissive or a female submissive. For reasons that I think have a lot in common with people who have conceptual issues with the two -- that I'm deeply uncomfortable with stuff that looks like it's framing 'power' and 'sex|gender' as being intrinsically linked in a particular way -- but from my usual Klein perspective. Because I don't approach or perceive power as gendered, I can't meaningfully take part in a conversation in which the gendering of power is present as an axiom. It erases me from the discourse.

It most particularly erases my power. When my submission is gendered, it feels to me like it turns it into something that's about-womanness, rather than about-power. And I can't understand that as anything other than a caricature, because it's so alien to me, so it feels like treating me as a cardboard cutout, making my status as a woman the first and most important thing about me in a context where I feel the most important thing is my status as a submissive.

And yes, there's a fuckton of problematic stuff out there about power, especially in this context sexualised power, and sex|gender. I don't deny that, because I'm not a damned fool. But my submission is not about womanhood, it's not about femininity, it's not about genitalia; it's about loyalty, dedication, oathmaking and oathkeeping, being a pillar of support, service, strength, and trust.

These are not incompatible with being a woman, but they are not female. Focusing on my femaleness uncenters the perception from my power.

And it's all about the power.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


Women tops are really men.

Y'know, Captain? If your worldview presumes "anyone powerful is a man"... well, anyone who looks powerful is going to look like a man to you.

EDIT McEdit: Just to be absolutely clear, my vehement disagreement here is in no way intended to minimize this person's terrible experiences, or anyone else's.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Okay, I guess I really AM back...

How in the FUCK did I miss this nonsense?

A few days ago, a feminist blog I follow made a post regarding a male chastity device. It's pretty obvious that the thing's intended for BDSM fantasy play - or at least it is to me. The poster missed that the first time around, which is fine if she's not familiar with BDSM. Learn something new every day, right?

What really gets me, though, is that after making an edit saying she missed that it was intended for fantasy play the first time around, she ends it with "Men get to fantasize about having their sexuality controlled, while everyone tries to control a woman's. Funny, innit."

GAH. So if a guy's a Dom, he's exercising male privilege by subjugating poor sub women like me, but if a guy's a sub, he's exercising male privilege by indulging in fantasies of subjugation (that for some reason women like me are incapable of)?
I don't have much to add to what Zula says there.

But uh? Wow. Just *wow*.

It's a common theme in anti-BDSM radfemville that a dominant guy is subjugating women for shits and giggles, but a submissive one is slummin'. I can't say I'm not startled to see it on popular feminist blogs, though.

Or that I'm not seething.

I'm honestly not sure what exactly we're supposed to take as evidence that everyone's BDSM is always man-centered. I mean, I get that a lot of what's packaged for consumption, even if it is "femdom," is often directed towards male markets and so geared to male fantasy.

But I really resent feminists -- feminists! -- telling me the power I claim consensually in the bedroom is a lie and a farce, when those same people would tell me that if Monkey and I switched, his power would suddenly become terrifyingly real.

Which is it, dammit?

And when exactly did it become feminist to disempower me because I'm female? I really would love to know... *sigh*

Power and Life

I'm currently bogged down with work, and more interested when I do have free time in doing BDSM rather than in theorizing about how feminism should think about it. (Actually having a partner will do this :) But I do want to bring something up as a possible discussion topic.

I often see feminists claiming that domination and submission is a bad pattern for... well, for anything really. Whether it be intimate relationships or the role of social institutions,
some feminists strongly contrast something "egalitarian" or "peer-to-peer" or "equal" or "respectful" or the like with a twisted dynamic in which someone seizes and wields power to everyone's detriment. I'm thinking of this now because I've just re-read Judith Herman's excellent Trauma and Recovery on post-traumatic stress disorder, and I notice her giving warnings about the therapeutic relationship becoming one of "domination and submission" (as well as warning that many survivors expect healing to involve a "sadomasochistic orgy" of cathartic revelation, rather than slow and steady progress working with traumatic memory.)

Some such feminists allow for the BDSM flavor of D/s as some sort of odd special case, either because it's consensual or because they think of D/s as time-limited sex play. Which makes some sense, except that D/s isn't always time-limited sex play, and that, well, while I think consent means a hell of a lot, sometimes we do consent to things we oughtn't.

So I really wonder if it's the right tack to take that there's this universal bad thing called "domination and submission", and D/s as done by us is simply the exception that, ultimately, proves the rule. We're so resourceful that we can (sometimes) do it wisely, but it's just bad in the first place, really.

I understand her concern, and even share it -- power dynamics have to be gardened, in a sense. Trimmed and kept up so they don't slip into dysfunctional inequality. But at the same time, I wonder if "domination and submission" really is naturally dysfunctional, or if the problem is either:

1) People are lazy. Most of the time they don't care about the responsibilities that come with wielding power, or the responsibilities that come with submitting (those being keeping a hawk-eye on your boundaries, and standing up for yourself if/when they get pushed.)


2) Domination and submission is bad as a social structure. Power can never be wielded wisely over groups; such a thing invariably involves oppression, violence, silencing, stifling, etc. The confusion comes when people don't distinguish between interpersonal power dynamics, which may be benign or positive even outside of BDSM, and social ones.

Any thoughts? I find myself wincing when I see the phrase overused as what's obviously wrong with the world, but I have trouble articulating just why.