Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Parte Tres

Part 1 - Part 2

Latest bit in this blogthrash is someone over at Demonista's telling me that I must not understand what anti-SM feminists' position is.

I suppose if I properly understood it, I'd have no choice than to agree with its utter brilliance?

I truly love how people can't answer my actual point -- that the pressure is the same from both sides -- and instead have to ask me how exposed I've been to the theory.

Let's see now: Against Sadomasochism is on the shelf to my left (though I'll likely need to acquire a new copy, as this one was used when I got it and after what is it now, seven years? it's completely falling apart), as is the Bartky book containing her masochism essay (though some people might not think her essay is anti-SM enough). I don't own Dworkin's Intercourse, and haven't read it in long enough that I can't recall how much specifically is on BDSM, but I do have at least one snippet of it saved in some old research papers. Parts of it are also easily found online here, though, so I could look at least some of it up again. Her essay on Story of O is also there, and I re-read it just two days ago actually. As is the snippet of Ice and Fire where she specifically mentions training a man to abuse her by, in part, teaching him BDSM. (Which is not theory, but the message is clear.) I've also read the essay that Lisa of QTp fisks here, though the site it comes from is no longer up.

I'm sure there's something big I've not read, but one would think I'd understand the general gist of the theory by now. :)

Thursday, 25 September 2008

This is the song that never ends...

yes it goes on and on my friends...

I'm not sure if this comment is a response to this post from me, but given that it talks about female tops and there's no other piece of that conversation that does, I think it might.

Obviously, my remarks re: the morality of harming others do not apply to such situations in which women are pressured into being 'tops'. It is abusive to pressure others into performing acts which they consider repugnant or contrary to their dignity; the pressures on women to behave in certain ways are so strong that I would not presume to judge women 'tops' on this basis. Men have physical, economic, social and sexual power over women in this crappy patriarchal world, and their power to coerce women through emotional blackmail or violence should never be underestimated. Even when the man is not intentionally pressuring a woman into certain actions (he may perceive himself to be making a simple request which can be declined), the internal and external pressures that work on women may make them feel that they can't refuse.

http://archiveofthebitingbeaver.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/sm-story/ is worth reading. Hell, everything by the wonderful BB should be read.

Okay, will stop talking to myself and go and do some work. Really! :)

I'm not at all sure where this "pressure" thing is coming in. A charitable reading would assume that she has experience with this pressure, either because someone pressured her into being a top or knows people who have been pressured into it. A less charitable reading would be that she's claiming that Suzanne or I was pressured into being tops, and that she sympathizes with us and "doesn't judge us" (right) for going along with the patriarchy.

Except that, well, I can't speak for Suzanne, but that never happened to me. What I do in sex was, believe it or not, my own idea.

Which is where this whole brand of "feminism" falls apart for me. There's this strong assumption that women can't have their own desires and their own needs and pursue them. If your desires don't fit the theory they like, you must never have had them. You must be hiding the truth about some man that made you do it. Or you must have been pressured somewhere in your childhood, some time you can't remember, that shaped, warped, and destroyed you. Your own words about your own life simply cannot be trusted.

Which is very odd to me coming from "radical feminism", considering that radical feminism's roots, as I understand them, were very centered around listening to women's lives and experiences. Consciousness-raising was all about letting women sit and talk and name their experiences for what they were. That space to be heard and trusted and to be taken as telling the truth about yourself and what you wanted and needed did great things for women. Battery became something that society took seriously, rather than just something the king of the house did in his private castle that wasn't anyone else's business. Marital rape was named for what it was: not a husbandly right, but a violation like any other.

Yet here we are, mumblemumble years later, and suddenly feminism is about assuming that someone is lying when she says she knows what she wants, or when she says she wasn't pressured or harmed. Funny, that.

I am not lying. I do not care whether enclaves of feminists find me distasteful, feel that I am confused, or think that I should stop. That's all fine with me.

I do care about the implication that I could not possibly know my own mind, or that I am lying about it.

For all the good it will do: Laurelin, stop. You have every right to express your opinion, but no right to talk over other people describing their own experiences.

(Also, if "everything BB has written should be read," let me add something of hers that I believe everyone should read, too.)

ETA: The post this comment comes from has been locked. I think the part I quoted is the entirety of her comment, but I don't remember.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

And some people do still apparently think tops are rapists...

A snippet from a LiveJournal comment by Laurelin (of the blog "Laurelin in the Rain"), initially on pornography, but branching out by implication to plenty of other things.
And I'm sick of the 'consent' argument used by abusive men- if someone asks you to push them off a cliff, because they like it, and you do it, how does that make you any less a murderer? If you beat a woman because she 'likes' it, how are you any less a batterer? If you are willing to harm people this way, you need to lock yourself away from women... so they don't have to lock themselves away from you. The moral bankrupcy (can't spell) is astounding, the lack of empathy and responsibility for one's own actions unforgiveable.
I really need something more coherent to say to this nonsense than "Fucking hell," but at the moment it's not coming.

I'm not a straight male top, but... I spent quite a lot of time as a teen going to shrinks specifically because I thought being a sadomasochist meant I *should* be locked away so as not to harm people, consenting or not.

Laurelin will probably take this as evidence of how thoroughly morally bankrupt the patriarchy is that no one ever did commit me and most tried to help me learn to like myself, but as far as I can tell they were right... and I think my partners would say the same, though if we're presuming me a rapist, perhaps it's better to ask them.

Aside from my personal feelings of complete rage that someone knows based on politics and nothing else whether I deserve my liberty (or do I get a free pass because I happen to be female? Sounds quite essentialist to me, which that side is always claiming not to be), I think there's political reason to be bothered by this as well.

And that is that if you define a batterer as someone who does what they do regardless of consent, then you erode the distinction between sex and rape. Rape is no longer about what someone wants and doesn't want, but about which actions line up on some Official Political Scoreboard with degradation and which don't.

And going down that road is dangerous, to me, because however well-intentioned we begin, it's destined not to capture some people's realities. What happens when battery has a specific definition, for example, and touching someone gently while gazing into her eyes and cooing doesn't fit it, and she didn't want your hand on her? What is she supposed to do?

Or is the new definition of rape something like "anything someone doesn't want and this appended list of things they do?" Well, that's marginally better, but then aren't you losing the heart and soul of what's wrong with rape in the first place?

Rape isn't wrong because specific actions, such as putting a penis into a vagina, are wrong. Those things are not wrong at all in the proper context. Rape is wrong because it violates a person. It disrespects her bodily autonomy. It treats her body as something she doesn't control. None of which applies at all to anything anyone consented to.

Now, could someone, in the recesses of his mind, be thinking "God, I hate this fucking slut, and I want to destroy her with my Corrupting Evil Polluting Wang of Poisonous Evil" as he does whatever, while blissfully unaware she thoroughly enjoys everything he does? Sure, and in that case, yes, he is a horribly nasty git... but how is he a rapist? Rape is not a mindset or an attitude, it's a violation.

Egh. I'm not even sure I'm adequately coherent here. But this whole redefining rape as "whatever our theory says is bad for women" rather than as "nonconsent" (or even as anything about women feeling violated!) not only bothers, but honestly scares me.

I honestly pray that these women never find themselves in that world, trying to explain "But... I didn't consent!" to people who understand rape as only what the theory of the day considers degrading.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The DSM revision petition (US-centric)

The NCSF's latest Big Project is activism to remove "paraphilias" from the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (The DSM-V). In the last edition, diagnoses like "Sexual Sadism" and "Sexual Masochism" hung in a strange limbo. If you enjoyed SM, also liked other forms of sex, were satisfied with your sexual life, and didn't do anything nonconsensual, you weren't mentally ill. But if you needed SM exclusively to get off and were distressed about it, that was considered to be a mental illness.

Various groups have been trying for a while now to get that taken out again, and now NCSF (and others, probably, too) have stepped up the fight.

So why haven't I said anything so far, or found myself unreservedly thrilled about this? My reason for hesitation is that the paraphilia section includes pedophilia as well, and I am not sure how I feel about removing it.

Some years ago, I was totally convinced that all the paraphilia diagnoses needed to go. All the things in the section -- including pedophilia -- struck me as fetishes, as fixed sexual things about a person. I was convinced that pedophiles are just people who happen to have fetishes for kids' bodies, and that the sad thing isn't so much their desires but the fact that they can never act on them without doing harm. I was convinced that depathologizing their feelings would help some of them to find creative ways to deal with their desires for children without actually having sex with children -- age play, fantasy, etc.

I'm still half-sympathetic to this. I do think humans have fetishes, and often cannot control what they'll find arousing. I think some of us end up with rather outlandish fetishes, and while plenty of people snicker at those, few people really bat an eye. That's just how desire is for some people, and so what? If people can find themselves in transports from balloon-popping, surely someone out there's going to draw the short straw and lust after prepubescent humans for no discernible reason, right? Compounding the inevitable ethical dilemmas by already branding whoever drew said straw a danger and an enemy might just prove dangerous.

But I'm no longer sure. I spent some time on the website Perverted Justice, where adults pose as children to humiliate and hopefully to catch pedophiles looking to have actual sex with kids. (Yeah, their techniques do worry me some; if it's not entrapment, it's close.) I read a few of the chat logs they posted to the site, and the more I read the more I saw patterns. These men (I never saw any women) clearly weren't people struggling with an inability to sexually respond to human adults. Many had wives and girlfriends. The men would befriend the "child" chatting with them, and as soon as the "child" was nervously half-convinced to trust them, they would begin threatening, talking in abusive language, etc. They would insist that the "child" belonged to them, that the "child" was supposed to obey them. (Some appropriated BDSM-type language, calling the "child" their submissive, pet, or slave, and going into towering rages at any "disobedience.")

While I did see a few chats that fit the "fetishist who's convinced he's being harmless, poor sod" model, I saw this domination thing happen over and over too, and it worried me considerably. It seemed to me that these people, far from having a different conception of sexy bodies than the rest of us, had a desire to dominate and to harm weaker, more insecure people.

So I worry. I wholeheartedly support the removal of SM and other kinks from the DSM. But I want to see more evidence about pedophilia. I want to know if those men I read about were simply the criminals, and most people have a fetish, or if that's the real face of pedophilia.


This article examines the issue of MRSA (antibiotic-resistant staph infection), and how the media reported it -- as a new menace to the gay community. I can still remember first hearing about it from a veteran of the leather scene, her silver-haired, wrinkled face knotting in worry. "It's a skin infection," she said. "You can get it anywhere. We scrape and abrade skin, it's how we play. If it comes here, we're all doomed. That could kill us all."

I don't know when she got into leather, how many years she's been around. But I could see ghosts in her eyes, and I knew exactly whose they were.

I remember going home, terror gnawing at me. All my life I've had the suspicion, deep in the kernel of my soul, that maybe the fundies are right. Maybe VD is "recompense for our iniquity," growing in our skin.

When someone I knew developed a rash I lost it. I was convinced doomsday was upon us all. I called my doctor, half-panicked. MRSA. Is it coming?

I looked it up online. I found more references to gyms and sports teams than to swingers, sadomasochists, or evilly promiscuous queers. Huh, I thought.

I got the call back from my doctor. No, no way. That's people in hospitals, mainly, he said. Some people in the community get it, but not many. If he had a doctor look already, I wouldn't worry much.

And I just sat there shaking and wondering. Why are these plagues always supposed to be about us and for us? The queers, the swingers, the leatherfolk, the people who are too easy and "deserve" it? Why do we make the news? Why do we take cover before anyone even knows what's going on?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Silly Nonsense of the Week(end)

A recent post of Ren's brought Heart's latest to my attention:
Well, you know, women say they enjoy a lot of things. I said I enjoyed being a fundamentalist Christian, wearing a head veiling and long dresses, and being a loving and submissive wife. Sometimes women say they ejoy being hurt during sex. Women say, at times — and believe it; for reasons related to our subjugation, we often filter out memories of pain and trauma – that they enjoy addictions of various kinds, like to alcohol, substances and all manner of intentional self-harm. My saying I enjoyed my old world doesn’t change the fact of all the ways it harmed me, my children, and all the ways it continues to harm ALL women. Women in my old world claiming they choose it and find it liberating or empowering doesn’t change the fact of all the ways it harms them and all women and, especially, doesn’t address what is most important: that if my old world and the way it subjugates and harms women ended today, that would be the absolutely best case scenario for all women, including those in my old world. And absolutely, it’s the same thing when it comes to the selling of sex for money.
The "sometimes women say they like this AND BELIEVE IT" bit is just... wow.

Uh, there's no way for you to be mistaken about what you like. You can be mistaken about whether it's good for you, or be stuck in a rut and continuing to do something you no longer like, yes. But you can't be mistaken when you claim to like something.

I think I really like dark chocolate. With whom should I double-check this to be sure it's true?

Should I not take my partner seriously when he asks for more erotic pain? If his own reports are untrustworthy, who knows better than he does what he actually likes? If his own reports are untrustworthy, why does he react to more intense stimulation more positively? With whom should I converse to determine what he actually likes, if it's not him?

Or are men magically capable of knowing what they like, and only women are not? I'd assume this would have to be the case, as the whole reason she gives for women being wrong about their masochism is the way women are socialized under patriarchy.

I think that's the thing I find most offensive in all this. The idea that because my partner is a man, he actually does things he wants to do and likes what he does. Where any woman (does that include me? I'm female and a top...) does things she thinks she likes, and she's wrong.

What that says is that men get to live happy lives, good lives, positive lives, and women never can. Because women can't even be trusted to tell what's good for them. And more than that, can't even be trusted to know what they enjoy or don't enjoy.

I keep thinking of the disability rights movement when I look at this. I think of someone saying, of a family member with a developmental disability, "Oh, she's fascinated with [topic], but she doesn't really like it. Let's not do that with her now!"

If anyone said that on her blog, she'd rightfully be called out on it. But because feminism is the topic at hand, and because there's a long tradition of investing what women do with political meaning regardless of their own opinions, people let this kind of thing pass. It's just second-wave thinking! We know it's not quite right, but we owe "radical feminism" because it's our history!

Which chaps my hide so much. We can acknowledge that our foremothers had worthwhile things to say, and even more importantly that they had important things to DO, like set up DV shelters, without accepting a framework of "theories" that implies calling bigoted nonsense some kind of feminist revelation. Theories that lead to conclusions like this like these aren't good for women. You can't help women by not taking seriously what they actually say about their lives.