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.

24 comments:

devastatingyet said...

Obviously on a political level I agree with you, and it's easy for me to get angry and just argue against how stupid that whole idea is.

But on a personal level, one thing that, to me, makes it OK for me to beat my boyfriend is its actual effects on him. If I saw that my boyfriend's self-esteem was going down, and he seemed to becoming more powerless in general life, or feeling bad a lot, or fearful, or basically if I saw any of the bad effects we'd generally associate with abuse or rape, then the fact that he "consented" wouldn't really be enough for me. It would be enough for me not to think it was a crime, but not enough for me to think it was actually OK.

I mean, in theory a woman (or man) can consent to be at the mercy of an abusive man (or woman), but IMO that is something different from a mutually satisfying (if not always mutually pleasurable in the moment) power exchange.

This is kind of, to me, like how we know that pedophilia is wrong and homosexuality isn't. It's not just consent (because pedophilia isn't OK even if the kid agrees to go along) - it's the actual effects.

And I don't mean theoretical effects like 'reinforcing patriarchal norms that harm all women' - I mean actual effects on actual people. They are not hard to discern for rape, physical abuse, child molestation, etc. Where is the evidence for consensual bdsm?

Trinity said...

Oh, I definitely think you're right. Remember that old punishment conversation you and I had on LJ, I think it was? I stopped because the deleterious effects of such a dynamic on me were, well, bloody obvious, despite what my partner wanted, and maybe even needed.

But the thing is that that wasn't "similar to something nonconsensual" because it was bad. It wasn't rape-like, it was just not good for me. Something can be bad for a person without that being assault on anyone, or even assault-like.

So... yeah, while I totally agree with you that deleterious effects "of BDSM" in people who want and like it are rare (and in those rare cases, people, stop doing it!) I also think that we need notions of "bad effects" that don't mean that any bad effect implies that what's happening is rape.

devastatingyet said...

Agreed. You can have vanilla sex that's just awful for you and that doesn't make it rape. My partner could regret a scene afterwards and that doesn't make it assault either. But something could be wrong without being rape or assault - without being nonconsensual - and I don't think bdsm is that either.

On that punishment thing, and your other point, yeah. If it hurts you (and not in the fun, satisfying way), stop doing it. If you're doing something completely consensual and it's hurting you, it's up to you to figure that out and stop.

Daisy Bond said...

Yeah. And also, how is using one's own sense of violation to decide whether other people have been raped (instead of using whether the other person consented) any different from men defining rape as a breach of their property rights? As you say, rape is about a person being violated -- not that person's father or husband being violated, and not the sisterhood being violated.

Trinity said...

"If you're doing something completely consensual and it's hurting you, it's up to you to figure that out and stop."

Exactly. A lot of the stuff these people push strikes me as horrifically paternalistic. And yeah, protecting people is good, sure. But at a certain point: hey, someone's life is hers to fuck up, and not yours.

Suppose you know that a friend of yours is not ready for heavy D/s and likely to get emotionally hurt. Well, you can't stop her. You can tell her why you're worried, you can feel sad and sick when it happens, but you can't live her life for her. Some people need to get hurt to learn.

In cases where you know for sure the person she's into is actually an abuser... yeah maybe you can do more. But even there, from what I gather, what really helps people is not others yanking them out, but others letting them know "When you're ready to leave, I'll be here to support you" and giving them help staying as safe as they can.

Trinity said...

"And also, how is using one's own sense of violation to decide whether other people have been raped (instead of using whether the other person consented) any different from men defining rape as a breach of their property rights?"

Exactly.

Seraph said...

There is aware consent, and and unaware consent, and what defines a top/dom/sadist from an abusive jerk is that they strive to always recognise between the two, and will refuse to participate without awareness.

As a sadist, I like to hurt, but the key is to do no *harm*.

Suzanne said...

I posted this response to that comment, although it's unlikely it will ever come to daylight. I'm tired of people making decisions about what is and isn't right for me. Like I'm a child who needs looking after by someone who obviously knows what's best. Condescending paternalism much?

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.

So now you're going to make decisions for me as to what I can or cannot do in the privacy of my own home with a trusted lover? Yes, I'm a bottom, yes I like being spanked, caned, tied up, etc. And I trust my top with making sure that he's not pushing my boundaries. It's amazing. And I'm hardly a tool of the patriarchy (I'm a lifelong feminist) or any of that nonsense. I am an adult who willingly engages in BDSM safely, sanely and consensually.
Also having been a top (with another woman and I'm a woman), it was a tremendous responsibility, an amazing show of trust on both our parts, and a chance for me to fulfill her fantasies.
So come, lock me away if it will make you feel at ease at night. I have seen real, actual domestic violence and to conflate BDSM with battering indicates that obviously you've experienced neither.

Spend your time going after real batterers, advocate for better restraining order laws and police training and battered shelters. Leave me to the jouissance of SM that I choose, the amazing sweetness of surrender that you are unwilling to even attempt to understand.

Mighty Fast Pig said...

What interests me is that, further on in the thread, Laurelinrain says she practices kung fu, which I assume involves at least some sparring and getting knocked about. You'd think she could understand the idea of violence that is not only consensual in a simplistic sense, but in a mutually-understood social context.

emarkienna said...

Indeed, if she ignores consent, then by that logic, all sex is rape (of course, there do seem to exist some people who do think that all sex is rape ... I suppose I at least give them points for consistency).

I also love the way she starts off with:

Calling antiporn individuals 'conservative', I think, plays on the fear of the left of being considered 'conservative'. It's especially harsh for female leftists to be called 'conservative' by their leftist male colleagues, as it implies one is frigid or prudish, or intolerant

Well, no - we don't need to call her conservative to suggest she's frigid, prudish and intolerant, we just have to read the rest of what she writes...

I am also amused that the owner of that LiveJournal supports her journal with ads, that at the time of writing is using images of women to advertise (link leads to here). (I know that people don't choose their ads, but it is a choice whether to have ads on LJ, and it seems she would rather allow ads that use images of women to sell their products, in exchange for extra features.)

Trinity said...

"Of course, there do seem to exist some people who do think that all sex is rape"

Yes, there do.

Trinity said...

Mighty Fast Pig: Yeah, I agree with you there. I actually found some of self-defense training and Tae Kwon Do difficult to get used to, precisely because I was learning techniques designed to do actual harm in the event of a real fight. It took a lot of compartmentalizing for me to think of a kidney, a collarbone, etc. as a target.

Renegade Evolution said...

Frankly, I am starting to find all of the universal thought that one MUST be fucked up to DO THAT, the blurring the lines between consented to kink and abuse, and the projection of ones own past situations and experiences onto anyone who doesn't agree with them downright...

abusive. And degrading.

A crop to the ass or being called a name? Pfft. The constant "You're just fucked up and DON'T see it and your words and reality mean NOTHING!" What is that other than abusive?

Renegade Evolution said...

oh yeah, and the "your mere presence on the internet is triggering to me" guilt trip shit? That's abusive too.

Trinity said...

Ren,

Yeah, that's pretty much what I think too. It sucks to be called a rapist (okay, let me be 100% fair, a batterer), and then have the person take it back, but only because I have a cunt. What does this person know about me? And how the hell is anyone who does anything *with consent* a batterer anyway?

Trinity said...

Yeah, and the whole taking the posts down... I get that she didn't expect to take heat, but really, how can you post things like "those people should voluntarily lock themselves in their houses" and then pull rank when someone says "fuck you?" I mean, I've spent long stretches of time unable to leave my house post-surgeries, and it SUCKS. Wishing that on me because I did something my partner LIKES? Fuck you.

Renegade Evolution said...

Trinity-

well, we know I'm the rapist around here, right? (Rolls Eyes)

It's cowardly to remove/lock whatever. Plain and simple. You and the rest of the Tops should be locked up, me and the rest of the pornographers should be murdered...you know, all such non violent non-abusive stuff, really.

And they wonder why we're so MEAN?

Trinity said...

Exactly, Ren. If you're going to say it, be prepared to either stand by it or apologize for it, as the case may be.

Renegade Evolution said...

Oh, but they CAN'T be wrong or appoligize, that much has been PROVEN

Gaina said...

**Sigh** Why can't people just leave each other alone? As long as no-one is getting hurt (against their will) it's really nobody else's business.

In a way I do feel sorry for people like the woman you quoted because they've obviously has such a vicious traumatic experience that they feel a desperate need to 'save' other people, not understanding that what was done in a malicious way to them might be perfectly agreeable and satisfying to someone else who has a partner with kinder intentions - I personally thing it's the INTENT that is key to weather something is 'right' or 'wrong', not the act itself.

They'd do far better to put their energy into helping people who DON'T want to be in the situations they face.

Trinity said...

"They'd do far better to put their energy into helping people who DON'T want to be in the situations they face."

Yeah, that. Yet I rarely see any resource centers or anything like that for people who want to leave the Scene, and most of the resources specifically aimed to help people who ARE in abusive SM relationships are, like, the NLA or various organizations dedicated to helping survivors of same-gender DV. (And those places are at the very least SM-neutral in general.) Why if it's so widespread that women end up in abusive SM relationships and these radfems are the ONLY!!! ones who really!!!!!! see it are they not designing and staffing shelters, or at least brochures and web sites?

Instead they're preaching to their friends -- usually people who are viscerally grossed out by SM anyway -- abotu how awful their experiences were over and over.

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