Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Price of Pleasure: Trinity's Take

xposted from my Livejournal

Well, I saw the SM bit of The Price of Pleasure.

I should probably be more pissed off than I am at it, but I'm really quite burnt out on other people's SM hate.

For those of you who don't know, the worst part of its depictions of SM: Images of dunking bound women in water, juxtaposed with images of torture from Pinochet's regime.

Time was, I'd be really angry at that.

Now, I'm just sad. If people want to think, and say, and profit on, the idea that I'm an inhuman monster, I can't stop them. The Goddess knows I've tried.

And I'm getting tired of it, and don't feel like engaging with anyone like that any more. If you presume I'm a bad person -- or hasten to tell me that you think I'm a lovely person but the Patriarchy made me get off on something that wasn't very nice, but you give me your holy permission to continue using whips -- I'm just done with you. Done until we meet and talk and you walk away shocked.

But I'm not throwing in any towels, here. I've got something to say. I've always got something to say.

And that is that I envy, with every fiber of my soul, people whose lives are so damn safe that they can actually, with a straight face, have the same terror of consensual sex that they have of actual torture.

Before I go on, I want to note that I do understand that some people have experienced intense violence and are triggered by SM. My beef isn't with them at all, as long as they understand that my triggers and their triggers may not be the same things. And that, hey, even if they are the same things, some people actually deal with things that are serious for them by working them out in controlled environments.

Risky? You bet.

Wrong and bad? Only if you think that you know better than some other individual person how she should deal with her trauma.

My beef? Is with whiny academics like Jensen and Dines and Whisnant and the makers of this film, for whom conflating these things is lucrative. People for whom pearl-clutching and sympathy are a profit machine: Money, attention, tenure when your arguments are shot full of holes.

My problem is them. Because they're as far removed from the reality of Pinochet's regime as they are from the reality of sadomasochists like me. Jensen doesn't know what torture is. Maybe he knows what guilt is. But all he knows is what it's like to feel bad about himself, and get attention as riveted and intense from his fans as a porn star gets from hers. And he profits from not knowing the difference.

My issue is not that he doesn't like SM. I don't give a fuck about that. My issue is that when he says shit like that, he trivializes torture.

He teaches people who have a visceral squick at SM -- and there are many such people, and I'm fine with them -- that that reaction, that revulsion, is just the same as what it means to recoil from the violent tactics of a State committing war crimes.

And young college girls -- who I again have nothing against, I was one myself ten years ago, and it feels like not so long ago at all -- eat it up. Because, with rare exceptions, they're not people with a passion for ending torture. They're nervous kids who don't want pressure from a boy. And they get to feel totally vindicated, because that's just like torture, OMG.

I envy people who know so little about real pain that they can make that parallel without retching. It's got to be nice to have lived such a safe little life that you have no idea what the difference is.


BeccaTheCyborg said...

It really must be nice for them to be able to make that kind of comparison with a clear conscience and a straight face, that mutually pleasant acts between consenting adults are just like the monstrous regimes that are continuing without any real slowing.

Where the hell are they living that they're so sheltered from both that they can even think to make these statements?

I sliced off the tip of my finger making breakfast this morning. I wonder if any of them would conflate the accidental, self-induced and minor damage to my pinky to the common use of fingernail removal in torture? Or would that only work if I'd had a camera going?

Rich Puchalsky said...

I've been reading this blog for a bit, and I think it's quite good. There was a discussion of a movie going on at a literary blog that I read that I linked this post to in comments -- although it wasn't directly related, I thought this post said something interesting in that connection -- and I thought that I should mention here that I did.

Trinity said...

Becca: OW. I hope you're OK.

As far as their shelteredness, I think academia is some of it. One of the wonderful things about college is it's a self-contained little world, which means professors and students alike don't have to be very practical. But that's both one of the best things about it and one of the worst. I think a lot of people get progressively further removed from realistic engaging with the world as they live longer and longer outside of it.

Trinity said...


I'm glad you like the blog, but I don't think a link to here is going to change any minds over there. Particularly not this post, wherein I talk rather frankly about how done I am with "good people don't like THAT!" logic...

...which, well, leads right to Republicans condemning "deviance" and gallavanting all over the place with courtesans, etc. "I can't like that!" is impossible, and just leads to some really impressive hypocrisies.

Iamcuriousblue said...

I'm similarly amazed by the shelteredness of at least some sections of academia. Certainly when it comes to a lot of feminist writing on porn, I can't believe how, often, it little resembles anything I see in porn or know about the world of making porn. They're so caught up in their insular little theories and have so closed themselves off to debate that I don't consider them as meaningfully engaging the subject at all.

I suppose TPoP was supposed to be some attempt at "dialogue" and to actually trying to show themselves as hearing out sex-positives actual pornographers and porn talent. But it quickly becomes apparent that they really have no interest in what anybody in the worlds of porn or BDSM are actually saying, and are more interested in dragging up, yet again, their most tired critiques of sexuality they don't like. BDSM = Pinochet – fucking please!

Anonymous said...

I have no love for academia and have never attended college, but I guess I still have some illusion about academics having to use at least some amount of intellectual rigor or honesty.

That film and the general line put forward by Dines, Jensen, and Co. are not real arguments. They splice together random out of context footage and anecdotal sound-bites from on-the-fly interviews and lay on top of it broad generalizing moral statements.

How is that acceptable as intellectual discourse?

While I would disagree with it, I think it would be totally possible to make a well-done, intelligently argued anti-porn film. Yet, the ideology of radical feminism seems unable to do this or develop real arguments at all. In the end their ideas religious/moralistic, not analytical or critical.

Trinity said...

"While I would disagree with it, I think it would be totally possible to make a well-done, intelligently argued anti-porn film. Yet, the ideology of radical feminism seems unable to do this or develop real arguments at all."


Iamcuriousblue said...

You should have a look at AW Eaton's "A Sensible Antiporn Feminism", which attempts to do precisely that. It can be found here, along with several responses. Basically, she's trying to come up with an anti-porn feminism that actually has a more rational basis, doesn't rely uncritically on dodgy studies, etc. Ultimately, she's trying to bring back some form of Dworkin/Mackinnon legislation, which she admits has floundered because it only has proponents among the true believers, who aren't making a great case to the larger society.

However, because Eaton is even willing to accept some feminist porn as OK, she's probably lost the hard-liners (eg, most radfems) right there. Nor do I think, in the end, she's presenting a case that is likely to sway many of us on the other side, since its quite clear that she's simply trying to find a more rational basis for censorship.

Actually, the most interesting material is found in Laure Shrage's response (to which I say, "what she said") and Eaton's response to Shrage, because I think it gets down to the core of what the disagreements are between anti-porn vs anti-anti-porn feminism, even once you strip away a lot of the dodgy studies and more radical-than-thou rhetoric from anti-porn feminism.

Trinity said...

I couldn't read the Eaton. I'm actually in too sexual a mood right now. I keep looking at the words "sexualizing inequality" and imagining very explicit versions thereof, which is making my mind wander. :-P

Iamcuriousblue said...

Well, you get to the core of what's wrong and fundamentally illiberal about Eaton's view and anti-porn feminism in general. (Though I suppose if one's politics are illiberal and anti-pluralistic, you wouldn't see anything wrong with it at all.) To Eaton, there's a self-evident rightness about "egalitarian sexuality", as defined by her particular brand of feminism. So right, that, where a rational case can be made that such-and-such representation contributes to wrong-headed attitudes and tastes, the state or some other powerful social agent should be able to step in and sanction representations "inegalitarian sexuality".

Now exactly why her vision of good sexuality is so right that other visions of sexuality should be forced out of the marketplace of ideas isn't really explained. I think Eaton probably think that people who have thought about and examined the idea agree that "egalitarian sexuality" is the sexual good.

Which, of course, is not the case, and a democratic society has no more place sanctioning one idea of sexuality as the correct one, then it does promoting one idea of political belief to the exclusion of all others.

Trinity said...

The thing is, I know what inegalitarian sexuality is. To be poetic, because I'm in a weird mood and I don't think I can describe it academically

clenched teeth and arched backs and cold rooms and kneeling on the floor and shoving someone's head over your cock or into the folds of your cunt so they drown in the smell and the sting of your hand slapping their face and the way you can feel their skin tingling yourself and the way they gasp when you bring your hand or teeth or blade to their throat and the sound of begging, of desperation, of walls breaking and the awe you feel at seeing someone stripped, new, like a child just born, the skin red and raw and bloody and the fierce need coming along with it, to claim and hold and protect, your eye an eagle's eye, fiercely watching and the feeling of more, endless, the spark in your flesh kindling and kindling, your blood a fiery nexus, reaching out and out, and the fear and the hope that, laughing like a drunken demon, you could eat the world tonight

but I don't know what an "egalitarian sexuality" looks like. I know what it is in theory. But I don't know how it feels, how it tastes, how it smells, the sounds its keening hunger makes in the middle of the night.

So I don't even know what's being defended, at least not as anything more than a set of prohibitions.

Dw3t-Hthr said...


I would define "egalitarian sexuality" or perhaps more precisely "egalitarian sexual relationships" as "relationships in which no party is required to bear more of the burden of compromising their sexual desires in order to satisfy their partner's sexual desires".

Which is why my oh-so-feminist vanilla relationship was intolerably not egalitarian -- I had to stifle my sexuality in order to not cause my partner distress, while all of his sexual desires were satisfied.

Trinity said...


That makes sense. In my brain, the word "egalitarian" is inseparably hooked up with redistribution of social resources. So I think of something like Rawls' maximin principle when I read it.

And that to me is just the absolute wrong way to look at relationships. A relationship is not "I have two pieces of pie and you have none, and therefore I owe you one slice of pie."

This is both because different people have different needs, and because the sorts of fulfillment people get from intimate relationships aren't anything I know how to quantify.

If all "egalitarian" means is "everyone should be fulfilled and happy," I'm all for it. But if that's what it means, then "relationships should be egalitarian" is a completely uncontroversial concept that means little more than "Don't be a giant douchebag."

Trinity said...

And I'd hope "I'm not a giant douchebag" isn't the kind of thing that requires the work a lot of anti-SM feminists seem to think it requires.

BeccaTheCyborg said...

Yeah, it was just the very tip of my pinkie, though typing is a bit odd now.

College is definitely, for better or for worse, a very immersively academic environment. While it's excellent for getting a really firm grip on some theory, it's so easy to lose sight of practice (see my intense discomfort at my own kinks which showed up in my first couple years at uni, which only got better once I spent a bit more time in the real world on summer break.)

Also, what Trinity posted at 20.50 made me grin far too much. Beautiful.

Trinity said...

Thanks Becca! :)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Well, I figure that's what "egalitarian" has to mean because I'm not a giant douchebag.

I see some people using it to mean Procrustes' bed, though ....

Calico said...

"My issue is not that he doesn't like SM. I don't give a fuck about that. My issue is that when he says shit like that, he trivializes torture."


This is exactly how I feel and I had not been able to put it into words. Thank you!

Iamcuriousblue said...

I see that Demonista is going to trying to get some people together to write a rebuttal to the arguments we've made against the anti-porn arguments made in TPoP (link). Hey, I'm all for debate.

In the above-linked post, she advances a particularly specious anti-BDSM argument, to the effect that injury to the body is the same whether one consents to it or not, and that BDSM should therefore be seen in the context of self-harm.

Trinity said...


Yes, I saw that. I'm not going to say/do much until the post or posts refuting us actually go up, but, well:

Like you say, specious. How traumatic an experience is doesn't correlate to the bodily damage involved. It correlates to experiencing violation. Which, yeah, I get the idea that the likelihood of that increases with more physically damaging experiences. But that doesn't mean that psychological state, or personal dynamics, aren't going to play a part.

Even if you can conclusively argue that, say, my slapping Monkey in the face consensually (to pick something that *is* viscerally iffy to a lot of people, and that *is* intensely emotionally charged) is a harm no matter what my intent or his desire to feel it, surely whatever that harm is is wildly different in kind from the harm of an abusive partner intent on diminishing his self-worth slapping him.

Trinity said...

Also, it appears Maggie Hays responded to me at Demonista's, and instructed me not to respond.


Dw3t-Hthr said...

In the above-linked post, she advances a particularly specious anti-BDSM argument, to the effect that injury to the body is the same whether one consents to it or not, and that BDSM should therefore be seen in the context of self-harm.

I'm not sure whether I want to respond to that as someone with a SI history or someone who wants some goddamn gin right now.

(Remember, alcohol is self-harm!)

Heather said...

I-- I think I'm in love.

RCDC said...

as a current college senior, screw women's and gender studies. they drove an irreparable wedge between me and my sophomore year roommate. that year i was beginning to start to realize my own proclivities (ongoing process) and she just couldn't get it. she was a recent convert to the WGSS department and could not for the life of her decide whether she was anti or pro. luckily, my current roommate and her girlfriend have no problem with it... art history and a tight-knit lesbian community really seems to up the tolerance for thinking about/hearing ssc violence ;-)