Friday, 27 February 2009

Tired now...

...and really rather more inclined to write stories, daydream, or sleep than bother with this stuff,

but here's Nine Deuce's latest. A rebuttal to the claim from some on our side that she sure sounds an awful lot like Anita Bryant.

(On that topic, I can't possibly recommend this post from Natalia Antonova more highly.)

I wouldn't go that far, but I do think that there are some similarities between the kind of asking why that she recommends we do and the kind of asking why that that Freud fellow did, years ago.

I think that as long as we're questioning, we get to also question who's bidding us ask why, and what standpoint the question privileges.

And I think ND is an unusual white knight for "homosexuals", given that she's never said she's queer, yet feels right at home telling kinky queers we're being inappropriate. If she's straight and she's telling us which of us count, that's an age old tactic o' The Oppressor right there.

But I've said all this already in the post that I linked, so onward and upward, my friends.

She talks about uneasiness about kinky parents there, too. She started off pretty damn offensive about this, suggesting no kid should "be around BDSM" as if every kinky parent wanders through the house in a corset and five-inch heels muttering "Slave! Attend me!"

but seems to have backpedaled to "I just don't like the idea of M/s people letting kids know too much about their dynamics."

Now, of course, the idea that just because someone likes kink she parades it in front of her children is vile sewage masquerading as a point. It's the same old same old: those deviants who flaunt it, what will they do to the children?

But what happens if we take her backpedal more seriously than it deserves?

Here in my safe-ish space I'll admit it: I've seen some people claim that their dynamic is OK for their children to know about, as long as they're not fucking in front of the ten-year-old. I've met people who've said they call their partner "Sir" in front of the child, acting as if this is a huge sacrifice because they'd prefer to call him "Master" everywhere and they deserve a cookie for stooping to What Society Requires *siiiiiigh*.

Some people defend this kind of thing by pointing out that it may not wind up all that different from raising their child in a traditional household. And there is some point to that, I think. I don't like the idea of such households myself and think they're probably messed up, but I don't know that any and all traditionalist parents fuck up their kids. I don't feel comfortable asserting that.

But I do feel uneasy about the people who seem to think that not having sex in front of the kids but keeping the power dynamic really obvious is enough. I've heard people say "As long as we also tell little Julia that some households are woman-run or egalitarian, it's all good" and... I'm not convinced.

I mean, I do think some people have naturally dominant or submissive temperaments, and I think kids can pick up on that. So I'm not saying "Don't act like yourselves." But I do think "Daddy is Sir, but Mommy's not Ma'am" sends a message, and I think that's not appropriate.

I know plenty of wonderful kinky parents. But I also have seen kinky parents behave in ways I find deplorable.

So... yeah, I think ND says deplorable nasty shit most of the time. And I think saying that you know that because someone is kinky, her common sense about what's appropriate for her child goes out the window is utter bullshit, and vile and downright evil.

But yeah, no calling daddy Sir for little Vicky either, folks.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Holy shit.

Now, yeah, it's a flame war. Flame wars get ugly.

But I have to say that this is absolutely, horrifically vile.

Nine Deuce on exactly why people lose their jobs for being kinky (aren't we glad we've got her to tell us)?

Stop comparing your situation to the plight of homosexuals. And stop comparing my arguments to those of asshole homophobes. There is something to the idea that M/f BDSM fetishizes women’s oppression, and you aren’t going to take attention from that by setting up a false and easily discredited analogy.

Why are people getting fired for being into BDSM? Ever heard of sexual harassment? Talking about sex at work isn’t cool, whether you’re straight, gay, into BDSM, or celibate. It’s just not appropriate. And to be honest, if I were a parent, I’d be concerned if my child’s other parent were into BDSM because I wouldn’t want my child exposed to it. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think you ought to have the right to normalize that kind of behavior in front of children who haven’t got the critical thinking abilities to understand what’s going on.

We all know that the vast majority of child molesters are straight men, which has been shown in study after study. I’m asking the questions about BDSM because what I’ve seen on a lot of websites amounts to serious emotional and physical abuse, and because I have, whatever you guys want to claim to the contrary, read women’s writings about being upset and frightened by the treatment they receive. The fact that I’m not yet convinced that what you’re into is cool and meshes with feminism doesn’t make me dishonest, it just means that I’ve yet to be convinced that black is white and up is down.

Wow. Wow. So... kinky people get fired because they sexually harass their co-workers.


I'll be sure to ask my boss exactly how turning in the reports is sexual harassment.

You know, there's a reason I go by "Trinity" and such online. There's a reason only a small handful of people know my real name.

News flash: It's not because I like the names.


I'm... stunned.

"Go kill yourself" was a rhetorical flourish. What's this one?

And done with this person, I think. That kind of cruelty doesn't come from people who are worth talking to.

Curiosity, again

I'm betting the answer to this question is no, especially since "On Not Asking Why" has garnered so many positive responses, but I'm curious:

Have any of you out there reading this blog ever decided not to engage in certain kinky activities because they go against your principles?

Have any of you examined your desires and decided that any of them clearly result from patriarchy or other oppressive systems? If so, has this affected what you're willing to do, or is it something you don't think matters?

I ask because one thing I've noticed about the current "examination" kerfuffles is that while most of the pro-SM folks say either
  1. "I tried that and it yielded nothing useful," or
  2. "Why? How have you made sure you are not invested in a system that posits that we are deviant and therefore require explanation, while you do not?"
there are always one or two who say that they continue to examine, or that they seek a way to examine that works for them and isn't accompanied by hostility.

However, I rarely see people on our side who value examination commenting here. McStar, Ren's anonymous commenter, anyone else: are you here?

Can you explain why you feel examining is useful? If you're someone who wants to examine and seeks examination discussions from the pro-SM side, what is it you're looking for?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

On Not Asking Why

This began as a comment I posted at Nine Deuce's. I've noticed that several kinky people there are agreeing with the idea that "examination" of the sort proposed over there is wise.

I don't want to tell people not to do something if they find it useful, but I also have to say that I have a problem with that.

McStar said "It’s quite fair, and potentially very interesting, to question why people desire certain acts, and in what way their desire is influenced by patriarchy."

I responded:

I don’t think so, McStar: I think patriarchy also affects what we ask “why” about.

We’ve already been through the social period where homosexual desire needed a “why.” Because the question was asked, and seen as relevant, answers arose. Bad answers, answers that suggested that something had gone twisted and faulty in the development of GLBT people: domineering mothers, absent fathers, women being allowed to do rough and tumble things, or even to read and study.

The assumption that queerness must be socially constructed, could not be innate, led to these “answers” being found.

I don’t ask why people desire BDSM because I see the same pattern of assumptions here. We start from “normal human desire doesn’t look like that, or at least wouldn’t if the world weren’t so fucked up” and then from there the explanations we look for inherently make reference to the desire we’re asserting as “natural” (or at least as “evident when women are Free.”)

The question itself, as it gets asked in these sorts of discussion, has its answer — and its condemnation — inherent in it.

I do not ask, because it would be like asking “What happened to make some people left-handed?”

I do think it's worthwhile to think before you do something you're uneasy about, whether because it makes you uncomfortable or because you feel it goes against your principles. And I don't think it's a good idea for kinky women who really do feel that their kink and their feminism conflict to try it. I agree that people often do, and often should, think about things they're unsure about before doing them.

However, I staunchly maintain that "How did the patriarchy make you kinky?" is a loaded question. If you take it seriously as a question, you can't answer it with anything but "This desire of mine is linked to patriarchy because _____."

And I don't think such leading questions are likely to lead to anything useful. I'm sure they often lead to unproductive guilt, but how they lead to good feminism or thoughtful BDSM I don't see.

The question we should be asking, "Why are people kinky?", doesn't have enough patriarchy in it for those who've already decided "patriarchy" has to be somewhere in the answer.

But of course, if patriarchy really is in the answer somewhere, surely we'd find it anyway.

So why does it have to go in the question? What do people fear so much that they hang with deathgrips on to leading questions?

(Actually, "Why are people kinky?" is bad too, for the same reason "Why are people gay?" is bad. It presumes that because most people are not kinky/not gay, this makes them a strange deviation that needs explaining away. Really being fair would mean asking "Why is it that some people are kinky and others are not? Why do the numbers break down as they do?")

Devastatingyet on Asymmetry

Regarding the current blogosphere kerfuffles, here's Devastatingyet on a very common and odd phenomenon: the insistence that both submissive women partnered with men and dominant women partnered with men do BDSM only to please their partners:

Yes, everyone and their kinky mom is posting on this topic. Earlier I posted this comment:

Earlier in this thread, the question was asked, why would anyone want to be a slave?

My boyfriend wants to be a slave in his personal life. Since he hit puberty it is the basis of every sexual thought and feeling he’s had. Who the hell knows why?

He’s also a clear-thinking, sarcastic, independent-minded, regular person who wants to do fulfilling work, having relationships with friends and family, and so on. And like anyone in a relationship, he has to balance those things.

We talk all the damn time about how things are going, how we both feel, how/whether things are impacting his life. And then I go treat him like an object and he lights up with joy and begs me for more. And we keep talking and fixing what isn’t working.

The male-dominant, female-submissive relationships I’m familiar with seem to work the same way.

to which I got this response from Delphyne:

“My boyfriend wants to be a slave in his personal life.”

Luckily for him he’s got a woman on hand to meet his needs then.

Female subs talk about keeping their masters happy, now you are doing the same from the other direction. The one constant is that it is the men who have to always be pleased and appeased by the women in their life.

Anyhow looking at your blog it appears he also enjoys beating you up, so it isn’t the same dynamic of most of the female subs here who have relationships with male sadists. Although just reading through it apparently you have to wait until he wants to switch back, so it appears the control still lies with him.

This highlights what is, for me, one of the most frustrating aspects of this debate: the lack of belief, on the part of radfems, in any possible symmetry between men and women. Some of them believe I am different from the mandoms in that

  1. I am obviously doing this to please Joscelin, while mandoms are not in the game to please their partners. (Indeed, in the same way I am trying to please Jos, submissive women are also trying to please their male masters.)
  2. Joscelin is in control of who dominates whom.
  3. Joscelin and I sometimes switch.

Point #2 is simply wrong. Both times that we switched, I initiated switching. Both times, we explicitly agreed that either of us could initiate switching back (with the understanding that the other would agree) for any reason. One time, he initiated the switching back, and the second time it was me.

Naturally, Jos could end the d/s part of our relationship. He could withdraw his consent from my domination of him. I could end it as well. I’m comfortable saying that this is true in all healthy relationships (d/s or otherwise).

Point #1 - that I am in this to please Jos - I doubt is more true for me than it is for your average mandom. Because of our fucked-up patriarchal culture, it may be true that there are more femdoms doing it to please men than there are mandoms doing it to please women. Women are trained by the culture to please men, and I think men are often more in touch with their own sexualities. However, that “average” difference doesn’t mean that, in any given relationship, it’s the man dragging the woman along. I certainly know submissive women who want more dominance from their partners, seek it out, feel bad about being pushy, and wonder whether certain things are done merely to please them. (I don’t know many mandoms, so I can’t really comment about their experiences, but I’m sure many are pretty much like me - kinky, sadistic, happy to be in control, and also pretty well motivated to please their partners.)

Point #3 is…strange. I’m not sure which combinations of dominant/submissive male/female are most likely to be switches. I know plenty of both sexes. For a lot of us, kink is kink, and it’s hot (if not to the same exact degree) from both sides. I know other men and women who don’t switch.

You simply can’t make yourself heard in this conversation. If a mandom says he pleases his partner with dominance, or a submissive woman says she’s pleased by her partner, then they’re lying or the woman is confused, or in denial, or experiencing “Stockholm Syndrome.” (I guess those female submissives who intentionally seek out d/s relationships do so because they’re confused, and then they get into these horrible abusive relationships, and then they learn to like them because of Stockholm Syndrome. Kind of complicated compared to the idea that they just seek out what they want and then get it, isn’t it? But whatever.) If I say, “This is all right [not abusive] because my partner likes it and thrives on it,” then it’s just a sign that I’m doing it all for him.

I understand that not all radical feminists believe this sort of thing, but... is it any wonder I'm generally wary of people who use the label? It seems these folks are wedded with all their hearts and souls to the idea that women cannot have their own preferences and identities at all.

I understand -- and agree with to a point -- the idea that oppression can invidiously affect some of our preferences and choices. But I really don't get this idea that therefore we apparently have none (or at least, have none until feminism has dictated them to us.)

What does accepting such a theory get us? How does it help us, materially, in the really real world not made of pixels, to further the interests of women as a class?

Who does it liberate?

I'm still waiting for an answer on that one. Apparently if you're not already in the club you're too stupid to understand the clear and obvious way this seriously furthers feminist aims in the real world.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Most. Awesome. Comment. Ever.

rachelcervantes, who has been watching the current BDSM-and-feminism kerfuffle and thoughtfully examining her own feelings about it, had this to say over at Ren's recently.
Some members of the BDSM community have been generous with their time and willing to disclose personal, private things to me in my pursuit to understand. I still don't get it and likely won't, but I'm a lot closer than I was. I'm beginning to get a glimmer.

Is it harmful to women? Possibly. So is smoking, various drug usage, the patriarchy (yes, I dare use the term), smog, and capitalism.

However, I'm seeing something disturbing in blog-land regarding this issue. First, let me state, up front, that the age-play thing creeps me out. I will also say unequivocally, loudly and repeatedly, that any sexual activity involving children is wrong and age-play gets a too close to that for my comfort. No, I'm not saying that age-players are pedophiles, although likely some are. Hell, some ministers are pedophiles too, for that matter. I'm saying it gets too close for my comfort level.

Now, having that out of the way, the thing I’m seeing in blog-land that is disturbing is that BDSM folks are on trial. They are being drawn into debates where the judges and juries have rendered their verdict before the trial began. I’m judgmental, too, we all are. Everyone has issues that we’ve decided are wrong and that’s as it should be. After all, deciding what’s right and what’s wrong is part of having a moral code, ethical standards.

But the kinky folk are called out to defend their practices. It’s not for the purpose of understanding or “helping.” I’m not sure what it’s for, really. If BDSM women are indeed victims of the patriarchy, one would assume those who recognize and are concerned by such victimization would want to extend help, understanding, support, all of those things that might assist a victim in escaping her abuse. That is NOT what I’m seeing.

Ok, being redundant here, the whole thing is disturbing. So, while none of this is my business in any way, I’m feeling a need to suggest the kinky no longer engage. What you are doing is not illegal, not involving children or animals (which would fall under the rubric of illegal, of course), not damaging (directly, anyway) to anyone other than the participants (who deny that is the case). It’s your business. All I want to say is that you don’t HAVE to allow yourselves to be on trial like this.

Redundant again, I know it’s none of my business. Just saying, you know?
Wow. That made my week.

(There's another Big Apology, this one from radical feminist blogger CJ, over here, which is similarly awesome.)

And her description of what's going on is spot on, in my humble opinion.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

"So humanly, humanly..."

Renegade Evolution, weighing in on the current blogthrash:
As the latest bit of the BDSM wars seem to wind down to the inevitable stand off, as they always do, and I continue to try to pick through the rubble seeing if anything even remotely useful or educational or insightful has come about from this latest skirmish there is one thing I’ve really noted this time.

Sure, I’ve seen it before, I am sure I will see it again, but it is really, really standing out this time. That thing? The outcry- sometimes made with reason, sometimes with an attempt to appeal to empathy, sometimes made with resounding rage- on the part of BDSM participants to be seen as…


Not deluded, not programmed, not victims, or trapped, or insane or stupid, not pathetic, not wicked, not weak, but human.

Like everyone else.

And you know what? Humans? All of us? We’re flawed creatures. Every last one of us. Kinky people are no more or no less flawed than any other human being walking the face of the earth. They are no less imperfect. What they do in the bedroom does not make them any more (or any less) broken or messed up or duped than any other person out there. They are humans, like everyone else, flaws and all, and what they want, what they demand, and what they deserve is to be treated as such.

How hard is that to grasp? That kinky people merely want the same consideration and treatment that is accorded to other people? Flaws and all? Their sex lives make them no more or less so. But it is due to their sex lives they are so often treated subhuman, lesser than, as if they are alien or other…and of course, far more flawed.

....We all have our issues and less than charming quirks and battle scars and bullshit. Each and every one of us. We are all humans- but damn, we are all very, very different. And I do not understand why that is such a hard thing to recognize, to realize, to accept as perhaps the one actual universal truth out there- and thus, we are all going to like or be into different things. And whatever those things might be? Well, there is no guarantee, no promise, that the reasons we are into whatever has anything to do with being flawed, or whatever flaws we have. There is no way to say, without doubt or question, that the reason a person is (or is not) kinky is because…woo, they are messed up!

And even if it is- that is no reason to treat them in some way less human than thou. There is no promise that those kinky people are any less intelligent, self-aware, self-realized, thoughtful, stable, or anything else than thou. And the vibe that gets sent out that somehow, because they are kinky, they are? That crap needs to stop, it is infuriating, it is dehumanizing, and further more, it is entirely possible it is bullshit. Pure and simple. There is no promise of any of those things, and further more, no reason.

There is also no reason that I can see for such a need for all of us to be the same. That, a world where we are all the same, uniform in thought and desire and whatnot? Fuck, if that does not sound like a horrible, dreary, boring place to me. It sounds like a nightmare worse than any one I’ve ever actually had. Short version- I find it incredibly, bone chillingly terrifying. That idea is so alien, so horrible to me that I get queasy just thinking about it- and all that goes with it. It creeps me out, and I am pretty dang creepy. That’s saying something. I would rather have us all being here, our flawed, diverse selves, than be in a world where everyone and everything are the same.

But I would like us all be able to see each other as humans, worthy of basic human respect, and all marked by flaws and differences and strengths and what have you, and see a bit…okay…a lot more tolerance of those sorts of things. I’d never force someone to be kinky against their will, suggest they need some sort of reeducation or whatever to make them how I am, make them like the things I like…I don’t understand why other people think doing the reverse is such a grand idea. Or, that it is even something that is wanted or needed. I by nature am real uncomfortable of doing things for other peoples own good, the whole I am my brothers (or sisters) keeper thing… eww, just, eww. And you know, it is not as if myself, or other kinky people, have not examined, do not examine, are incapable of examining because we’re blinded by our selfish, selfish orgasms or whatever…we have in fact done those things. And we’ve come to our own conclusions. Those conclusions make us no less human.
Thanks, Ren.


I really should just walk away from the bizarro, but I had to preserve this comment for posterity.

Delphyne, on why going to seminars and demos at BDSM groups is a bad thing (would she rather us all just fly blind? Great idea):

As for education, every second BDSMer I seem to come across claims to be a sex educator. You lot are always going on about how important education is in BDSM - for example it was one of the main apologetics for the guy who did the BDSM 101 thing. Trinity even attends seminars on it apparently. That’s a hell of a lot closer to indoctrination than anything I’ve seen in feminism. Let’s also not ignore how reinforcing a message with pain is one of the top tricks in the brainwashers’ arsenal. I think everything you claim to be true of us is actually true of yourselves.

There you have it, folks: Learning how to do things is actually indoctrination.

I don't even know what to say in response to that it's so completely ridiculous.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Does theory come from experience?

Over in the continuing blogthrash at Rage Against the Man-chine, ND calls someone out for giving personal anecdotes and no discussion. Basically, the person described her scenes and said "how can you call this wrong?" ND didn't like this one bit, pointing out that she's debating about feminist interpretations of BDSM as a whole, not talking about particular personal experiences.

My response:


While I understand your frustration with the personal anecdotes and agree that they don't count as argument, I also think there's something particular that this disconnect brings out:

One side is saying that personal anecdotes do count, because the personal experience is all we've got. "What BDSM means," on such a view, is just what commonalities and themes can be found in thousands of personal stories. It's whatever reasons for it, activities, and explanations are most common, most appealed to, most important. On this view the only way to come up with "what BDSM is about" is to read as many stories as possible (or, failing that, to come up with a sound method of selecting samples) and discover what you find.

The other side -- which you're on -- says that a theory that makes no reference to actual experience can and does explain it, and therefore individual experiences are irrelevant and beside the point.

But my question is: what makes the theory itself one that we should accept, then? As I understand it, radical feminist theory itself arose from practices like consciousness raising, which was lots of women in groups sitting around describing their experiences, noticing commonalities, and coming up with theory that explained those commonalities and how to work to fix the problems that showed up over and over in the lives of many women.

Now, I wasn't around in the '70's, so perhaps some second-wavers/radical feminists who were can correct me. But my question is: What exactly happened? Why does theory now trump experience, when commonalities in experience were precisely what led feminists to determine that sexism wasn't just a personal matter, but rather a political one?

It really confuses me.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Principles and Pleasures

Something I said in a comment thread, wrt the endless "Examine your desires" refrains:

I'm not saying "go wildly against your principles if it brings you momentary pleasure." I am saying "hey, if you're kinky and kink is against your principles because you analyze consensual hierarchy and nonconsensual hierarchy similarly... why not think about why there's no room for you to do what you want, rather than stressing your anti-hierarchy principles?"

I mean, for all they say people like us "don't examine" it strikes me that they have a real blind spot with regards to "examining" how they can fight the good fight AND enjoy life. Why is the question always "must I jettison this pleasure (or indulge it guiltily when I can no longer resist its pull)?" and not "how can my pleasure and my principles coexist?"

I really do think one thing that oft goes unexamined is our cultural history of mistrusting pleasure... especially sexual pleasure. US-ians, at least, are the ideological descendants of Puritans as much as we are anything else.

By that I don't mean that "radical feminists" of a certain stripe are prudish and that's that.

By it I mean we all are programmed as much to mistrust desire and pleasure as we are to believe in the patriarchy.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Minute of Perfection: Fight Club and Submission

Another excellent link on the recent SM and feminism debates

Minute of Perfection: Fight Club and Submission

Before I went to college, I considered myself a feminist and I was pretty passionate about it. I thought feminism was about how to fix the wage differential, overcoming the glass ceiling, helping women get out of abusive situations, and raising social consciousness about the way our culture is oppressive to women. In college, I learned that it was really about replacing a patriarchal definition of my body and sexuality with the feminist one. Oh, and that the huge majority of my sexual interests were really just reinforcing the patriarchy. I had to start talking seriously about whether or not all heterosexual sex was rape and whether or not I should be a lesbian as a matter of political/social obligation. Also, I wasn't devoting the majority of my freetime to feminist activism, so I wasn't doing enough and was really complicit with the patriarchy.

It all became too much when I had to start listening to professors and others who obviously had never tried being in a full-time BDSM relationship, or maybe anything beyond looking at a few websites and being horrified, about what my sexual interests really meant in relation to the patriarchy. Well, fuck that.

At the same time, I felt very much like me backing away from feminism and being unable to give up the joy that many aspects of BDSM give me was a symptom of moral and personal weakness. If I just wasn't so selfish, or so sexually oriented, etc. then I wouldn't need this. I still felt like there was something deeply wrong with our society and the way patriarchy limits choices for everyone. It reinforced me feeling like a whore, or a slut, etc. except these terms now became synonymous for "tool of the patriarchy" for me. As much as some might talk about rape, or victimization, or whatever, I wasn't being raped. I enjoyed all these sex acts that were obviously horrible and evil, loved them to the core of my being, so I must be evil, as complicit in the patriarchy as those who would oppress me. I began to feel like learning to accept patriarchy and anti-feminism was the only way to be happy and I felt very confused.

....I thought of all the things I'd done for my Master. How happily I'd done them. Without shame in the moment, so proud I'd overcome all difficulties and obeyed. Still, there's a swelling of pride knowing that he thinks that I've been a very good girl. Those moments of trust, laying open before him, cradled in his arms like a child ... supplicating for his guidance, suffering for him as a sacrifice for my devotion. So happy and full of love and pure, unadultered joy. In those moments, though, it doesn't take long for the self-hatred to follow. What sort of creature am I that nothing would make me more happy than obliterating my will and my desires, my physical comfort and selfishness, completely in another? Is someone who wants to consent to giving up ownership and control of themselves really even human? If so, then I'm totally fine with not being human, don't want to be. But ... My mother's voice, asking "Where did I go wrong? How could you want these things?" A 'friend' saying, "Independent thought is the foundation of what makes you human, the responsibility of being human." A blog going on about the invisibility of "almost rape" ... but I sort of like the feeling of being "almost" raped, of feeling like it's beyond my control completely with someone I love. Not wanting to, and being taken, of feeling my self and my will stretched out and pliant before him. His voice telling me how beautiful I am, the pleasure and steel in his eyes and he pounds into me, over and over. Feeling myself give over to him completely in those moments and loving it. Feeling so affirmed, so happy. But ... what does that mean about me, that my greatest act of happiness and affirmation is submitting completely to another? A male other, no less, as a female. In a patriarchal society.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Letters from Gehenna: The World on a Slant: The Shareef Don't Like It

Kiya from Letters From Gehenna has collected an amazing compendium of links related to the latest dust-up in the feminist blogiverse.

Letters from Gehenna: The World on a Slant: The Shareef Don't Like It

I'd comment myself, but it's time I should be making sleeps, and I'm not sure there's much more to say, really. A lot of the people in these conversations are just absolutely rock-bottom certain that BDSM is inherently abusive and no one truly consents to it.

In the face of such faith, brilliant enough to blind some very intelligent eyes, what is there to say? I'll continue to tell my story; maybe some, eventually, will listen, and not run through the same set of grooves in her head.

Monday, 9 February 2009

My last comment

on this BDSM and feminism dust-up.

Posted here, though I have no idea if it will make it through mod:
"And my answer is this: If people like you would show some compassion and stop using hate speech like “kill yourself” — and would start considering that the way you talk about BDSM is influencing real people who feel real shame and real despair — then

(a) kinksters would be less likely to entertain thoughts of suicide — or commit suicide,"
The thing is, Clarisse, that I honestly think some of these folks think it's good that we think of suicide.

I don't think anyone in here is actually saying "Go kill yourself" and meaning it.

But I do think that people are saying the world would be safer and sparklier and better if we were not in it.

They wouldn't hand us the guns or the pills -- most people aren't that cruel -- but as long as our despair is not directly their doing, they don't care. They don't see us as fully human.

Until they do, this won't get anywhere. We can talk about how alienated it makes us feel, but until they accept that we are no less people than they are, our stories of nearly killing ourselves will be amusing to them. They will laugh at our weakness, and that will be that.

It won't ever occur to them that it's the same despair that drives the gay youth to believe she should be dead. In fact, the comparison will offend.

Until we are people to them, this is nothing but dark fun.

Saturday, 7 February 2009


All right, so the conversation at Nine Deuce's has turned to kinky porn.

Specifically, to, a rather famous/major producer of the stuff.

I'm not sure how deep I want to delve into this, here. Personally, I am not at all anti-porn. I think that even when the industry is full of abuses, it is an entirely unproductive move to attempt to dismantle it. And if, as many anti-porn feminists claim, you're not for directly dismantling it, then you're just talking -- sitting around with your friends, enjoying the titillation of outdoing one another with your professions of disgust.

And personally, I have a couple of videos from MenInPain on this computer. So I might be biased. (Defensive, I guess they'd say. Then again, they DID claim F/m doesn't matter. Immunity: It's FUN.)

But, that said, I do understand many women's wariness of pornography. BDSM pornography, with its depictions of pain and domination, can only compound that wariness. And I don't mean to imply that anti-porn, pro-BDSM people aren't welcome here; they are.

All that said, though? This, here:
This shit ain’t revolutionary, it’s so fucking obvious and stupid that I’d laugh if it didn’t look so much like RAPE. If you have that kind of dark side, it might be best to leave it unexplored. Or kill yourself (if you’re the customer, that is).
Is NOT ON. It's just not.

Not when people with stigmatized sexualities DO kill themselves. I considered it more than once myself, for the record.

Not that this would make me, mind you. Even at my most insecure and unstable, some fool on the Internet thinking she's the snark queen for saying something like this would never have pushed me over the edge.

But it's inappropriate.

Notice that my saying this does not mean I think she should be forbidden from saying it, or that in Utopia she wouldn't say it. I'm not one for that either. I don't think it is productive to say to someone that there's a problem with her venting her dark desires -- in this case, that people she's frightened of (the maledom boogeyman in the dark) die, in droves.

Because people can and do have those feelings. Those feelings are part of what we're discussing, here.

Instead, what I object to is the way this is used: one, as a demonstration of her skill with rhetoric, and two, as a way to rile other people up politically.

That's what disturbs me. Reading the sentiment that I should die used as a rallying cry.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Diving Back In

I've been gone a while. I've really taken a break from SM-and-feminism debates, and I think it's been good for me. But recently, possibly due to a new anti-SM post up at Nine Deuce's blog, people have been showing up and commenting here. So I figured I'd return, and say some things.

First, start up the zamboni in hell please, because I actually think that there's a Point hidden in all the stuff that has me wincing as I read. To wit:
But what does all this talk of separating D/s in the bedroom from real life, of taking “safe, sane, and consensual” as one’s creed, of female subs being empowered by the emphasis on consent really mean? Methinks the Sisters of Mercy fans doth protest too much, that someone is pissing on my leg and telling me it’s raining. I read 400+ e-mails from men interested in a young woman curious about submission, I looked at a shit-ton of BDSM porn, I went to a BDSM club, I read tens of thousands of words on BDSM-related websites, and I didn’t feel very safe or sane when I got done, nor did I feel like participating in the shit I’d seen or read about would make me feel particularly empowered.
While how safe or sane I feel reading websites is probably rather different than how safe or sane she does, I think she's spot on here. We do a lot of protesting and apologizing here in BDSMland for what we want and what we do (and, for some of us, who we are). We do a lot of insisting that, as ND points out, "safe sane and consensual" means we never get hurt. Means we never find asshole partners. Means we never mess up negotiations in ways that are Not Good for us.

Which is all, as she points out, bullshit.

Which brings me to the difference between these sorts of feminist and us, or at least between ND and me.

I believe that risk is a part of life, and I believe that sometimes things are important enough to someone that she can and should choose to take them.

She recommends scrutiny, for reasons she considers particularly feminist and I consider pretty bad:

When considering sexual matters and their relationship to the general misogyny that pervades our culture, I generally pretend I’m a justice in the Supreme Court of Gender Issues and apply the ol’ strict scrutiny standard (albeit my own modified version of it). Sex, as it has been used throughout history as a tool of domination and as it is the locus of the negotiation of gender roles and a large majority of our social behaviors, requires close analysis. If I’m going to give a sexual practice a free pass and the Nine Deuce seal of approval, it’s got to meet three criteria:

  1. First, I ask myself whether women are ever hurt as a result of the practice under consideration. If the answer is yes, the practice has not earned immunity from examination and analysis.
  2. Second, I ask myself whether those who engage in the practice ever do so out of a hatred of women. If so, it’s up for discussion and judgment (a nasty word for those with po-mo leanings, I know, but a necessary one nonetheless).
  3. Finally, I have to ask myself whether the practice would occur in a society that wasn’t characterized by male supremacy and the hatred of women, both of which tend to manifest as the mixture of sex and power. I’ve got a really impressive imagination (I invented unicorns), so if I can’t imagine a sex act having the power to excite in a post-patriarchal world, I get a little dubious.
If a sex act fails to meet any of these three criteria, you can expect that I’ll be questioning the fuck out of it, and BDSM really blows it on all three.
I don't think these criteria are good ones. I don't think feminism is about figuring out what sorts of nefarious anti-woman things men have in their heads and, armed with Knowledge, tripping warily through the minefield. I think that makes feminism about men in a funny way, about men and about fear, when it's supposed to be about women and about becoming more free. (And yes, self-styled "radical" feminists may not like that word "free," thinking it means "at liberty to make dumb choices." As a matter of fact, I am using it that way. Let's see them sour faces.)

But having walked away from this discussion for months, and feeling so much the better for it, I don't want to talk about that now. I want to talk about something else.

I want to talk about this pervasive sense that feminism is about protecting women from making bad choices by Letting Them Know, through blog posts and essays and books, through warnings and theory and the slow spread of fear, What They're Getting Into.

I'm not for that any more. She's spot on: SM is risky and dark and it means looking into who you are and what you want and finding the spaces where that's not so pretty. The times when you want something no one is supposed to: abasement, exaltation, pain, fear, shame. That's not pretty -- well, no, it's quite pretty. But it's not tame.

It can and does engage all sorts of ugly things, because it draws on anything and everything, and doesn't run. Does that mean that sometimes, male dominance shows up, flaws and history and violence and all? Yes, it does. It even means that some women romanticize that, crave it in their head. In most cases, it will be stripped of social meaning ("I want to be his slave, but I want equal wages at work"), and that's what we mean when we do the "It's only in the bedroom" style insisting. In some cases, though, some people really do buy in to the idea that submission is what a woman is for -- including some women. When we say we're not like those people, we're disavowing that, saying that fantasy doesn't, in the end, trump reason.

Rightly so, IMO. There are people out there into ANYTHING who go overboard, and suffer for it.

But that doesn't really answer 92, and those like her. Their point is that women's submission to men, however bounded, just is frightening. Particularly to someone who doesn't have similar interests and whose deepest passion is a witty, cold, "radical feminist" rage that gets her a rapt audience.

Which it should be.

The disagreement isn't over that. It's over the place of the frightening in our lives. It's over whether you think people should dive into the frightening, or whether you're waving signs and trying to forcibly haul them back out.

I know where I stand on that.

Which is why I stick up for female subs the same as I stick up for me, despite that I've heard a fair amount of the same bullshit that she sees as epidemic.

Living means taking risks. It also means being wise about doing so, which is what all the "SSC", all the "limits", all the "I'm not 24/7", all that stuff, whether well-conceived or nonsensical, is about.

Risk management. Not risk elimination.

But someone coming up to me and saying "Isn't BDSM emotionally unsafe [for women bottoms living in patriarchy]?" is like someone coming up to me and saying "Don't condoms break?"

Not my place to decide whether someone else should panic and run because her boyfriend's might.