Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Oh wow, how'd I miss this?

From late August, a post on Amananta's blog, apparently a response to this post I made here in mid-August or so. Excerpts and then comments (not fisking. I'm sometimes nice). I've added paragraph breaks to make it a bit easier on the eyes:
Most interesting is the corners they try to paint any feminist who dares question BDSM. Usually they will say, upon reading any criticism of BDSM from a feminist standpoint, that we just must not know anything about it, we must be ignorant about how truly wonderful and sexy and enlightened their “underground” society is. But when someone as myself or Biting Beaver reveals we have lived that lifestyle for years and hated it due to the abusive nature of said “lifestyle”, we are told “it’s just you”. It must just be me, just because “I didn’t enjoy it” doesn’t mean other women can’t! What’s wrong with you that you didn’t enjoy it?

Then there were the ones who feigned some sort of coyness: “She says she was involved with the BDSM lifestyle for 15 years, what does she mean?” I mean I lived it, from any number of angles, no, not just one, and not just with one man, it wasn’t a problem of just it being “the wrong man”. Then there’s the clincher which would be floor-rolling-laughter funny if it weren’t just so fucking sad from someone who thinks they are a feminist: “If she didn’t like the lifestyle WHY DIDN’T SHE JUST LEAVE? WHY DID SHE STAY SO LONG?” All of this: “it’s just you” “its an individual problem” “why didn’t you just leave” are the farthest things I can think of from a feminist standpoint.
Okay, first thing: Yes, I did in fact say "Why didn't you leave?"

However, I wasn't referring to a person there, I was referring to the Scene itself. The paradigmatic reason people stay in abusive relationships is usually that they are wrapped up in a particular dynamic of violence and terror with a particular person who they alternately idealize and live in terror of. It's very dyadic, and it often comes with particular attempts on the part of the abuser to isolate his victim, so that she remains unaware that his behavior is unacceptable. The more time she gets away from him, the more chance there is that she will realize either that behavior she has been taught to excuse ("he's just angry" "he's jealous because he loves me so much" "he had a bad day") is actually out of line. So there's this very isolating bent to it all.

But the Scene itself is not an abuser. It is not a person that can force you to stay for fifteen years if you are ideologically opposed to it. Particular partners can force or coerce or terrorize you; The Eulenspiegel Society can't. That's what I meant by "why didn't you leave?" I don't believe that a social community can batter a woman.

Well... maybe not. There are such things as cults, and she might mean by mocking my comment that I should have understood that she was indoctrinated so severely that she couldn't break free, and had taken on "BDSM's Value System" or something because BDSM communities are cultic. That would at least make more sense, and fits with some of her other comments about how BDSM supposedly makes people see behaviors that are obviously ethically unacceptable as right dandy.

The thing is that I just haven't seen cultic dynamics in SM groups, and I'm very familiar with them. Those kinds of group dynamics are the sorts of dynamic that silence people if they disagree, pressure people if they don't want to do something, etc. And I have never seen this. I've never seen anyone at a demo say "and if you don't want to do this you're not good enough." Or, you know, "you're not really ONE OF US if..." (I have seen a little bit of this in some online circles, though. But it certainly doesn't sound like she means "I lived it" as "I hung out on Gorean message boards.") What I do see is people bending over backwards to remind people that they need not do anything they don't like, that what works for one person or couple or group may well be disastrous for another, etc.

So I'm left utterly flabbergasted, really. It's possible that smaller kinky enclaves are less well-policed and more pressure can happen there. So it may be, "I passed up the groups in the big city because I just didn't think they were TPE enough and joined TrueSlaveHearts out in bumfuck, where you had to write contracts in your heartsblood to prove you were SEEEERIOUS." But in that case, how is that a reflection on "the Scene," whose face is actually, you know... TES or Black Rose or APEX or places like that?

She calls me young, and I probably am younger than her. But really, how can you even talk to someone who won't give specifics at all? Who says, "the Scene is like this" and doesn't say, "this is what the presentations were like, this is how people acted at parties, this is what my partners said?" How is that any representation, when it's just "I'm older than you so I don't have to tell you what I'm actually talking about, now shut up little girl?"

And really now -- "little girl"? I'm a "little girl" now because I disagree with her? And obviously I haven't read anything from the Second Wave!

Who exactly has given up power dynamics here?


Anonymous said...

Yes, this. It's like, "Okay, so you say you were involved in the BDSM lifestyle for years - so how come your claims about it don't match with our direct first-hand experience of it?"

And, checking some of the stuff further down that post - it's just all lies and misrepresentation - or, being generous, it's just misinterpretation:

But within the BDSM culture - AS IT IS EVERYWHERE ELSE - feminism is a dirty word. So it is more provocative to the BDSM community for a uppity slave to declare herself a feminist than anything else. It is to the BDSM community she must endlessly defend herself. “Yes I can still obey my male master and simultaneously believe I am a free individual! I am CHOOSING to obey! It’s my choice to give up my free will!”

When actually, those are the terms on which ALL BDSM relationships are predicated, so it's not a "defence" made to BDSMers, but a realisation of what it's all about!

(Oh, and can she say "Yes, I can obey my female Mistress..." etc instead? Is that perfectly okay?)

I really must resist the urge to respond more fully to that post, because I know it will only cause me stress if I give in.

Trinity said...

Yeah. And the thing is... TPE/M/s is such a small minority. It really is. I see more people giving presentations on it these days, but the impression I get is much more "hey, so and so is really knowledgable, how about we have him present?" and people being curious, rather than anyone feeling like they need to run out and do M/s because it's the new chic.

I don't mean it wasn't chic -- or all that was considered "real" -- in Amananta's social circle. But I do stand by my assertion that until I hear that it was a big org, that's not a representative social circle.

Trinity said...

Also Amananta, I don't think I am a feminist, not any more. But I've already covered that.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myca said...

The part that gets me:

we are told “it’s just you”. It must just be me, just because “I didn’t enjoy it” doesn’t mean other women can’t! What’s wrong with you that you didn’t enjoy it?

Well, sure, I'm totally willing to recognize her experiences as valid and real ... but despite that, her experiences don't get to 'trump' MY experiences!

I don't necessarily think 'it's just her' or that she's being irrational in saying that her experiences were abusive or negative, but dude, she doesn't get to say that I'm making shit up when I say that my experiences are positive and healthy.

Respect and validation for personal experience goes both ways, and it's uncool to write someone else's experiences off as 'the exception' or 'fabricated' and then get shirty when it's done back to you.


Myca said...

Also, yeah, what Belledame said.

belledame222 said...

(edited for a bit of restraint, although Maud help me I -really- want to leave it up there)

Hi, Amananta, thirty-five years old here. I still think you're full of it.

Look, I know this is really hard to understand, but it is both possible for a) your own experiences to be legitimate b) other peoples' experiences to be legitimate. -Even if yours are completely different from the others peoples'.-

Apparently it's harder to find feminists on the Internets who agree with your position about BDSM globally (dangerous, bad, inherently anti-woman, etc.) than those who do not, is that the gist of your complaint? And they feel this way in many cases because -they, too, has experience in the "Scene."-

You know what the basis of abuse is? Bad boundaries. Not knowing where you stop and the other person starts. It isn't about knowing or not knowing the correct ideology or what your gonads are.

And yeah, "safe sane and consensual" BDSM depends on having a -better- grasp boundaries than even are needed for everyday life, and just as there are a number of people who are -not- into BDSM who don't have a good grasp on the difference between their feelings and the separate existence of the other person, yep, there are some of those in BDSM, too. And yep, they can use BDSM as an excuse/cover for the abusive behavior, sure, it happens. The same can also be said for a bunch of other things, however. Certain ideologies, for instance. It's just not as obvious because in those instances there aren't the whips and chains. Just a shitload of emotional abuse, gaslighting, and general headfuckery. And whatever happens behind closed doors.

Trinity said...

Yeah, that tripped me up too Myca. It's like we're angry with her for "not enjoying it" -- no, I don't give a fuck what you enjoy or don't. I gave a fuck about what she said because she said female tops are always catering to other people's whims, and I'm not, and I said "I'm not."

I don't care what she likes or doesn't like. I do care when she says whole communities are dangerous, and doesn't say which ones, or why.

Trinity said...

Belle: Good edit, though yeah, I liked the original wording too. ;)

belledame222 said...

well, that right there would be the boundaries thing, wouldn't it. It's backasswards. Other people say, "This is my experience," and she interprets it as "Your experience isn't valid," because apparently both realities co-existing at once is just...what, not possible?

I mean, I don't doubt someone's said shit like "there's something wrong with you if you -don't- enjoy x," (which, yes, would be abusive), but trin is not one of the people I've ever read saying any such thing/

belledame222 said...

well, it'd be a bit hypocritical I suppose, speaking of boundaries: I don't really know what's going on there. But yeah, I've been worried and angry just from what I've read.

You know, it's funny, she and others keep going back to Biting Beaver and her own screed (similar in tone and...stuff) and why were people just ignoring that, and, point missed, really, but--o, look, a pigeon. -wanders off-

Just, in general: the idea that a) people who've been abused cannot turn around and become abusers in their own right, or specifically b) especially if those people are women and especially especially if the abused are male (or even deemed "not real women") is also a very large part of What's Wrong With This Picture.

because it ain't true. at all.

Trinity said...

Yeah. It's just... yeah, I have seen people want to leave, and been like "Hey, I thought this submission thing was really important to you. Are you SURE you are re-thinking this, or are you just depressed?"

And maybe to some people's minds my saying that translates to "I'm telling you you're A FEMSUB!" or something, when what I mean is "Hey, you okay? That doesn't sound like something you would say, so... are you OK with telling me what's wrong?"

So yes, I've *worrried* about friends who left -- and I'd really actually like to see if I can find one again just to *ask* her what prompted it, because it really shocked me. But that's not because I know what's best for them.

That's because some kinky people "binge and purge," toss out everything, when they're depressed. When I see a friend all of a sudden go "I'm not a 'sub!'" my reaction is "Are you OK, or are you purging because of depression? I'm here for you either way, but if you're purging I will tell you I think you're fine the way you were and that if that's what makes you happy you don't need to give it up."

Trinity said...

yes, and on BB's post -- really, what reaction is the acceptable one? I mean, every "sex-pos"/BDSMer/whatever I know who's seen that has ALL said "Jesus, that's horrific!" So this free floating idea that we don't care or we mock it... yeah, I don't get it.

It's like... not only are you supposed to be horrified by it but if your horror is not immediately accompanied by "and yes, every Dom everywhere is just like this guy!" you're not compassionate.

Which is you know silly considering some of the people who are reading it ARE dominant.

"oho, look, I'm just like this guy!"

except I don't think I am, and more importantly, if my partner thinks I am I've missed something HUGE & he sure can fake moaning "more!"

hexy: hexpletive said...

I distinctly remember one of those Biting Beaver threads containing Dubhe saying that in his "vast" BDSM experience, he'd never come across a F/f couple where a femme was dominant to a butch.

There were quite a few other indicators that he, at least, was talking about one very distinct clique that had little in common with "the Scene" at large... but he insisted on universalising his experience, and was cheered on for it.

I had few conversations with BB about BDSM, as she was quite obviously severely traumatised from her experiences with an abusive ex who couched his abuse in BDSM terms. Frankly, I could understand why those terms were poison to her. Amananta I don't think I ever discussed this with at all.

Trinity said...

Oh yeah, Dubhe on BDSM... yeah, I remember that too. I remember one conversation about corsets that just really confused me. I'm a female top and I don't wear the things. And the people I know who DO wear the things really like them. I'm sure someone somewhere is wearing them to please some greedy man, but... not the people I know. I'm always stunned that people are willing to pay that kind of money for a piece of clothing. I have clothes I feel sexy in too, but whoa.

And... yeah, I agree with you about BB, but I always thought it was slightly odd that she was with that guy and then she was with Dubhe, another ex-BDSMer. It made me wonder if she was still hanging around the Scene when they met, or if they met because they were both politically active against BDSM at the time, or if that was just a very odd coincidence.

I did kind of wonder when the Brandon/porn thing happened if BB had converted Dubhe, though, or if she'd set a boundary for the relationship that he'd later come to agree with. But maybe they were both radfems then who bonded over finding BDSM appalling, I don't know.

hexy: hexpletive said...

Corsets are one of those things, like heels, that I just won't talk about. I get sick of being told I'm lying about why I like them, or too stupid to actually know my own desires.

There's a post up at Hoyden About Town right now on shoes, and as usual the outrageous comparison pieces are ballet/pony shoes that are obviously fetish wear. I mean, I know I'm a little unique in being a pro-Domme and performer with a background in circus, clowning and theatre, but do people REALLY not understand what a friggin' costume is?

Myca said...

Other people say, "This is my experience," and she interprets it as "Your experience isn't valid," because apparently both realities co-existing at once is just...what, not possible?

Right, exactly.

A: "I dislike Chocolate!"
B: "I actually like Chocolate quite a lot."

Just ... no.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know who they think is oppressing me into wearing my corset! because, the one time I wore it during the regular day, under my regular clothes, I felt really powerful and confident in a way I didn't usually in those situations.

Or maybe this is one of those things where a man can feel powerful wearing a corset, but a woman can't? *shakes head*

Anonymous said...

Oh, one other thing I really want to pick up on:

...we must be ignorant about how truly wonderful and sexy and enlightened their “underground” society is.

In my experience of the BDSM community - we don't want to be "underground". We want to be able to live without fear of persecution by the rest of mainstream society, and we are underground only as much as is necessary to prevent us from being victims of that persecution! Yes, there are some BDSMers for whom there is the "thrill of the forbidden", but there are plenty of other things that have that thrill that also do not carry the stigma (and, at least in the UK, the legal risks) of being into BDSM.

Now, I really must resist the urge to respond further...!

Trinity said...

"I mean, I know I'm a little unique in being a pro-Domme and performer with a background in circus, clowning and theatre, but do people REALLY not understand what a friggin' costume is?"

Exactly, Hexy. And the other thing is that, well, I so often see people bringing up 24/7 D/s, and the thing is that... yeah, there are people who consider it some sort of quest to live the roles out as closely to some really unrealistic ideal as they can, and I do think that's often, if not always, a bad idea.

But the thing is, most of the people I know (rather than, say, see on the Internet) who are into relationship D/s are a LOT more realistic about it. Daily life isn't usually all that strongly affected by the power exchange.

Especially in cases where the people don't actually live together -- and I've been noticing recently that a LOT of the very D/s type people I've met actually don't live together, sometimes by choice. It's a lot easier to be the "total slave" for two blissful hours.

And in a lot of the cases where I know people who DO live together, they live in big leatherfamilies. So... there, too... you're not going to be always and ever interacting with Master Lord Sir, because sometimes he's going to be with someone else anyway.

And that's not even getting into how much of the "Master/slave" type scene is *gay male*, rather than heterosexual.

So yeah, I still do wonder: which subcommunity was this? What were its mores? Because the vague details she gives sound more like the Internet than like anyone I've known well. (Just for the record in case someone takes this up, I do not mean by this that I think she was an onliner. I mean the dynamics she describes sound a lot like people I see online, but not like people I see in the flesh. That doesn't mean I'm asserting there was no offline group like that, just that I don't know what it would have been, if so.)

Renegade Evolution said...

her whole tone is patronizing.

Trinity said...

Oh Ren, you're just not *old* enough to understand!

Renegade Evolution said...

Oh, I'm old enough to understand...anyone who doesn't see it their way is wrong. Now, who sounds childish there?

"WonderWoman is Better! No, Wolverine is Better! Well, you're just WRONG!"

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I want a corset.

They're so comfy and help out my scoliosis.

This is only empowerfulifizing if one considers 'not being in persistent low-grade pain' empowerfulifizing. Mostly, I consider it 'not being in persistent low-grade pain' and that's good enough for me.

hexy: hexpletive said...

My corsets are brilliant when my scoliosis is fucking up. Lace in, sit straight, everything's held in place. Bliss.

Cheshire said...

Dw3t-Hthr: if you ever end up getting a corset give me a call, I know heaps of the makers and way to much about corset (I make them myself, and should be able to help)

Trinity: For bottoming corsets are great, the feeling of being constrained, and held is

Trinity said...

"This is only empowerfulifizing if one considers 'not being in persistent low-grade pain' empowerfulifizing. Mostly, I consider it 'not being in persistent low-grade pain' and that's good enough for me."

Well, and... if you're the sort who does find relief with some kind of back brace type thing, it seems to me that said brace being sexy and fetishy is a plus. I mean, if you can wander around in something that looks and feels bulky and medical, or in something that looks and feels sexy and fun, why not choose the latter?

For me personally, I tried a corset on for a matter of minutes. It was horrifically uncomfortable and I found myself wishing I hadn't walked away from the booth, because I couldn't get the thing off fast enough.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

For me, being attractive to wear is a plus more than fetishy per se, but your basic point is accurate.

And fancy, people with different bodies find different things comfortable. Oh noes!

belledame222 said...

hexy: I remember that Formerly Known As Dim post as well, quite vividly: it was the first breaking point with the Twistosphere for me, because she'd highlighted his post with admiration on her blog. Especially after I found out he was a guy and was bleating all over the place about radical feminism because of his brain broke.

belledame222 said...

Myca: well yes, because it really goes more like:

A: I had an allergic reaction to chocolate, and yet people keep telling me how WONDERFUL it is. Once someone literally forced it down my throat! CHOCOLATE IS BAD MKAY. IT'S BAD AND BAD FOR YOU. THE TRUTH ABOUT CHOCOLATE MUST BE TRUMPETED FROM THE HILLTOPS.

B: Wow, that person sounds like a real asshole, sympathies. No one should have to eat anything that makes them sick. That said, I don't think chocolate is categorically bad; I mean the problem is the guy's -behavior-, not the chocolate itself, right? Also, I see the arguments you're making about exploitation by Hershey and cacao production and so forth, but isn't that endemic to capitalism in general? Isn't more responsible production and consuming the way to go rather than single out one product? Why chocolate? Yeah, the personal is the political, but that doesn't mean your personal is everyone's political, yanno?


B: ....rrrriiiiight, actually you're kind of an asshole yourself, aren't you.

...and so on.

Trinity said...

"And fancy, people with different bodies find different things comfortable."

Startling, innit? Next thing you know you'll be telling me I'm not you.

Trinity said...

"Especially after I found out he was a guy and was bleating all over the place about radical feminism because of his brain broke."


Hard for me to believe I used to like Dworkin that much! Don't now, though I do think she was a driving force, and right about some things...

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