Some people that I respect mentioned that my last post struck them as universalizing in a problematic way. They mentioned that for some people BDSM can be unhealthy or maladaptive. they wanted to be sure that I wasn't getting ahead of myself comparing into anti-SM theory to the theory behind conservatives recommending reparative therapy for gay people.
So I want to make this perfectly clear. I don't think that SM is wonderful for everyone at every point in their lives. I do believe that some people use SM to self harm. I do believe that some people bottom or submit because they believe that they are inferior or unworthy. I also believe that some people use sex and sexual pleasure, whether from SM or from non SM sex, in ways that are unhealthy for them.
However, I believe that this is all beside the point. Look, once again, at many of the reparative therapists' reasons for objecting to what they call "The gay lifestyle." They often cite such behaviors as promiscuity, drug use, partying, and shallowness as reasons why such a lifestyle does not ultimately satisfy the people who participate in it. People are actually looking for a lifetime monogamous relationship that is deep and intimate.
The problems with this are twofold. The first problem is obvious: not everyone wants monogamy, intimacy, or relationships. The second problem is different. For many people, the party circuit is indeed unsatisfying. However, this is not what being gay is about. A gay man may enjoy those things, but he may not. Being gay only means that he is attracted to other men, not that he will embrace particular social behaviors or not.
And I think a similar confusion is going on when people say "Wait, Trinity! You have to acknowledge that for some people, SM is an unhealthy fixation." no, I don't, because my point is not whether SM is always wonderful for everyone, but whether a particular sort of social constructionist theory captures what the SM experience is about for everyone.
It does not. Yes, for some people SM is a maladaptive coping strategy. But this does not mean that SM sex is fundamentally about self-harm, any more than sex, as a whole, for all humans is about self-harm. I'm sure we've all met someone who we at some point thought was using his sexuality in a way that was ultimately damaging to him. But very few people would say that he needs to give up sexuality. That therapy designed to make him asexual is wise.
I do think that some people who do, and enjoy, SM are not orientationally sadomasochistic. (For example, some try it only because a lover suggested it, but find they like it. Some value being sexually "adventurous" and see trying SM as one part of this. And some, yes, may try it because of pressure, or low self-esteem, or trauma.) I also think that some subset of these people who are sadomasochistically active may be so because they are dealing with an unresolved issue or problem rather than because it is actually good for them. SM may be a horribly bad idea for these people, and giving up SM may, therefore, be a positive step for them, in a way that I don't think "praying away the gay" can ever be for anyone.
However, this does not reveal anything about SM being bad. It reveals something humans have always known about sex and sexuality: that sex can be quite emotionally powerful, and that sometimes we can harness or use that emotional potency in ways that are actually bad for us.
Saying that I believe that the underpinnings of anti-SM "radical" "feminist" theory are disturbingly similar to the underpinnings of the theory fueling an obviously life-denying organization like NARTH is not saying that any given person who gives up BDSM is unhealthy for it. For some people, that is a positive step.
But that's due to personal factors, and it's certainly not due to my orientation being a "patriarchal lifestyle." (I couldn’t resist snark there…:)