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.

50 comments:

Gennie said...

Word.

Trinity said...

Thanks. :)

arachnekallisti said...

Thing is, I'm not sure that any kind of sex act is ever going to get the "Nine Deuce Seal of Approval". Any sex act involving another person includes a risk that the other person is going to hurt you, if not physically then emotionally, and I'm fairly sure that some man somewhere has probably masturbated whilst hating women.

I've always quite liked the idea of BDSM as a kind of extreme sport, rather like rock climbing - the sort the requires common sense, education, safety precautions and a sensible and considerate partner. Just because people can and do get hurt climbing doesn't mean that nobody should try climbing anything higher than a phone box, and it certainly doesn't mean that all climbers secretly want to plummet to their deaths. But no, BDSM involves sex and so, in our society, is clearly evil anyway.

thene said...

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.

Okay, now that's just kinda pointless. This is the only world we've got, so if something doesn't turn me on here, where is it going to turn me on? It's not a bad avenue for abstraction (I've had the same thought about slash fandom) but the idea of slamming doors because they wouldn't necessarily be open if we lived somewhere other than the real world is just a recipe for closeting.

Trinity said...

"Thing is, I'm not sure that any kind of sex act is ever going to get the "Nine Deuce Seal of Approval"."

She has the ovaries to admit that one, though.

What I don't think she's so willing to do is think, herself, about why she can admit that everything is fucked up (by her standards) but yet she finds herself wanting to choose particular things like a subset of BDSM and focus her energy on them.

If she really was unbiased in her examination stuff, why not post after post about her own turn-ons and how she has succeeded or failed in changing them, or how SHE goes about negotiating with the men or women in her life?

Because Other People are always an easy mark and a fun one, and BDSM, being an "extreme sport" as you say, quickly becomes an easier one.

She's showing off her marksmanship hoping you don't notice how large she's made the bullseye.

Trinity said...

"This is the only world we've got, so if something doesn't turn me on here, where is it going to turn me on?"

Just hop on this space shuttle, dear, and stop talking nonsense. :)

roykay said...

I naturally distrust "examiners" who aren't much open to examination themselves. Is ALL power M vs F power, or even M vs F and White vs Colored? I doubt it. So, while the power dynamic is interesting, I want to see a multivariate regression analysis first. Probably not forthcoming.

I will posit that power relates pretty much to who is used to it and who isn't; and how the power dynamic plays out in the INDIVIDUAL'S life. I mean the wielder and recipient of kindly power may respond differently from the wielder and recipient of abusive power. I suspect the desire by those with power in the rest of life to yeild it for play is someone who holds power to too often be a burden - because of the standards they set for themselves in wielding it.

So, if one is going to examine, it is probably best to examine more from a psychological than from a sociological perspective. That pretty much sucks the "universal" out of things. It also makes it more a quiet introspective thing than a vociferous preachy thing.

subversive_sub said...

This post nails it. Yes, BDSM involves risk. So does sex of all sorts. So does life. We do our best to manage that risk, but it isn't always failsafe, and there are always Bad People out there who can hurt you. The point is not to strive to eliminate the risk of anything going bad ever but to know how (a) to reduce risk and (b) to recover should something bad happen.

It sort of reminds me of learning to fall, which is the first thing you do in the martial arts system I study (jujutsu). In real life, of course I do my best not to fall down or get hit by a car -- but now if I do, I'll have a much better chance of getting back up again quickly. Thus I see the point not so much as protecting women from harm but encouraging self-defense and self-esteem, and providing support for when things do go badly. I think it's better to take a fall and get back up than to never venture outside your house for fear of getting hurt.

hexy said...

Brilliantly said!

Aviva said...

"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."

This is what strikes me most about this one. The premise is that, because it made her uncomfortable and didn't intrigue her, it's clearly wrong. But she's not (nominally) assessing whether she should engage in it, she's assessing whether anyone should engage in it. And the fact that it doesn't turn her on -- which is all she tested for, reading so much about it and gaging how she felt afterward -- hardly means no one else should do it.

I've recently been pondering the idea that BDSM might not in fact be in any way feminist -- it's just that it's also not unfeminist, and people assume that it has to be one or the other. I haven't drawn any conclusions as of yet.

Trinity said...

Aviva:

I don't tend to think THINGS are feminist, any more.

"Is this feminist, is that feminist?" It's not really a meaningful question to me any more, unless what's being asked is something like "Does this advance the well-being of women? Many women? A few women?"

And I find that is usually a more useful question to ask about things that aren't "social practices." Things like... legislation. Or things like the way a community or social group treats its members.

And I don't think BDSM "is" feminist. I think BDSM *is* a set of sexual interests and sexual practices, and that's all it is. It might be worthwhile asking if they're inherently bad ones (though I think that too is kind of silly), but inherently feminist ones? If they were indeed "feminist", what would that mean we expected them to do?

Clarisse Thorn said...

And I don't think BDSM "is" feminist. I think BDSM *is* a set of sexual interests and sexual practices, and that's all it is. It might be worthwhile asking if they're inherently bad ones (though I think that too is kind of silly), but inherently feminist ones? If they were indeed "feminist", what would that mean we expected them to do?

It might mean that we expected them to make it easier for women to figure out our needs ... and I think that the way the BDSM subculture teaches about sex (e.g. workshops, mentors) does that. Which is not to say that sex-related workshops or mentors are inherently BDSM, simply that they are promoted and clarified within the subculture in a way that they aren't in the outside world.

Or it might mean that we expected them to make it easier for us to negotiate our sexual scenarios ad determine the boundaries of our consent ... and I think that the methods of sexual negotiation promoted by the BDSM subculture (e.g. safewords, contracts, checklists, journals, more ...) do that, too.

I don't think that BDSM itself is inherently feminist. I would (and do, frequently) argue that the subculture promotes ideas of consent and communication that are feminist. I mean, safewords alone ... I think that the idea of safewords is, in itself, an incredibly feminist one.


A couple of other thoughts:

Did you ever see Bloody Laughter's post on BDSM screwups? I posted some thoughts on that one: [ http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/bdsm-related-relationship-screwups/ ]

Also: I bet you know a lot about the history of SSC vs. RACK. I think there are a few different directions we can go in evaluating those acronyms against each other (and in the question of whether we have to evaluate them against each other at all). I am curious about your thoughts.

isthisironic said...

I've been a longtime lurker, and this post really struck a chord for me. I'm a feminist and in related academic field, and while it's ok for me to be out as [bisexual/rape survivor/bipolar], I am unlikely to ever disclose that I am submissive. That is in part because of assessments like these, and in part because I am afraid that my peers would consider the work I do to be invalidated by what I do when I'm at home with my (male) partner. :/

Trinity said...

"I don't think that BDSM itself is inherently feminist. I would (and do, frequently) argue that the subculture promotes ideas of consent and communication that are feminist. I mean, safewords alone ... I think that the idea of safewords is, in itself, an incredibly feminist one."

That I do agree with, though personally I find myself getting further and further away, as time goes on, from the idea that good communication practices are feminist.

To me, that suggests they're particularly good for the advancement of the specific class "woman", and I'm not sure that's so. I think they're wise behaviors that help everyone have healthier sexual lives and better personal lives, including (especially?) those from oppressed classes.

I'm tired of this "feminism" thing some people come up with where it's an All Women, All The Time thing. If we're really committed to social justice, then sure, perhaps some of us are more personally invested in the specific oppressed class "women."

But honestly, I no longer am, and haven't been for a long time. I'm much more personally focused on disability rights these days.

So it kind of annoys me when something that's just plain good for everybody is brought to always and only the WomanTable, "examined" for how it relates to Women and no one else. (Especially because that makes it seem that one is, say, a woman OR a PWD, a woman OR a POC, a woman OR poor, etc.)

Zula said...

If ND's imagination is so impressive that she "invented unicorns," how come she seems to have so much trouble conceiving of F/m relationships?

Trinity said...

"If ND's imagination is so impressive that she "invented unicorns," how come she seems to have so much trouble conceiving of F/m relationships?"

Would you like your shiny new Internet in silver, gold, or gunmetal gray? BECAUSE YOU WIN.

Zula said...

Woohoo! :D

Anonymous said...

Maybe somebody already caught this, but in response to roykay:

"Colored" is an archaic, racist term. As I imagine this connotation was not your intention, you might want to use a term like "people of color" instead to avoid confusion.

BeccaTheCyborg said...

Excellent post, that really does cut to the heart of the issue.

tor said...

I didn't bother to respond to this post ND wrote, as she specifically asked to keep the discussion limited to M/f setups. As a female top I feel pretty much invisible anyway. Nice to see that even radical feminists are happy to marginalise me too. /rollseyes

I did note however that a few weeks ago she announced her impending marriage. Complete with a disclaimer that she is not, in fact, capitulating to the patriarchy by making this choice, and that her marriage will be a feminist one.

Marriage must be like, THE defining institution of the patriarchy. Yet she is certain she can make her marriage compatible with her feminism. So why is she so sure that other women can't make their participation in SM compatible with feminism too?

Trinity said...

tor:

There is an interesting irony to that, yes.

Still, I'm personally not one for these funny arms races: Yes, I do BDSM, but YOU get married!

That keeps us on a playing field where some kind of guilt is presumed, and the idea is "who's sinning worse?" I don't think marriage or BDSM is some kind of feminist sin.

And, in fact, I think there's something vaguely heterosexist about "oh no, look at the uber-feminist getting married!" in a world where gay people are fighting for marriage rights, to rolling our especially feminist eyes at marriage anyway.

Personally, the whole "How feminist is your personal life?" question is an absolute turkey to me. "How feminist is your activism?" and "What have you done for women?" are not.

If I don't want to be asked "how feminist" my BDSM is -- if I think, as I do, that the question is incoherent at best and a spat-out gobbet of spite at worst, I'm not going to ask similar questions about a social convention I've no interest in for myself.

Clarisse Thorn said...

So it kind of annoys me when something that's just plain good for everybody is brought to always and only the WomanTable, "examined" for how it relates to Women and no one else. (Especially because that makes it seem that one is, say, a woman OR a PWD, a woman OR a POC, a woman OR poor, etc.)

I totally agree. I also find it hugely annoying when things that are good for women, good for women's sexuality, etc. are cast in opposition to other groups -- for example, men as a whole.

For instance, I saw a feminist play recently that had a whole huge thing about how awesome vibrators are (and they certainly are), but it went from there to talking about how women don't need men -- ha ha, vibrators are better than men -- etc etc. Argh. Sex toys should not be cast in opposition to good heterosexual sex. (Plus, it's not good for heterosexual women's sexuality for men to feel threatened by vibrators, so don't contribute to that cultural message, people!)

I find myself getting further and further away, as time goes on, from the idea that good communication practices are feminist.

To me, that suggests they're particularly good for the advancement of the specific class "woman", and I'm not sure that's so. I think they're wise behaviors that help everyone have healthier sexual lives and better personal lives, including (especially?) those from oppressed classes.


This is a fair point. Still,

1) Good sexual communication being inherently feminist doesn't mean it's only feminist. Advancing class "woman" doesn't mean that's the only thing it advances. And, related to that ....

1a) Going back to your earlier point about how things are "brought to always and only the WomanTable, 'examined' for how it relates to Women and no one else", do you think that you're contributing to that insider-outsider dynamic by dissociating yourself -- or these other movements -- from the word "feminist"? If you tell people that you don't like calling things feminist because feminists are not inclusive enough, then you're arguably contributing to the problem, right?

I mean, it's not that I don't understand where you're coming from. My approach is to do one of those label-reclaiming things, though.

2) I think it's generally good to try and get good social movements (e.g. better sexual communication) associated with as many powerful, largely positive social movements as possible.

2a) If this means applying labels, let's do it. I'm totally cool with calling "good communication" feminist if that means that more feminists will listen when I try to talk about it.

tor said...

My last comment was just me playing devils advocate. I only mentioned the marriage thing because she herself added the disclaimer to her announcement. So I'm assuming marriage is one of the things she sees as being at least slightly at odds with feminism, along with bdsm.

So if she is confident that she can make something feminist, it seems unfair that she won't give others the benefit of the doubt to be able to do likewise.

Personally my own sm activities do not really affect the rest of my life much at all, and so whether or not they are "feminist" is a moot point.

Trinity said...

"For instance, I saw a feminist play recently that had a whole huge thing about how awesome vibrators are (and they certainly are), but it went from there to talking about how women don't need men -- ha ha, vibrators are better than men -- etc etc. Argh. Sex toys should not be cast in opposition to good heterosexual sex. (Plus, it's not good for heterosexual women's sexuality for men to feel threatened by vibrators, so don't contribute to that cultural message, people!)"

Oh, I hate that too. It's like this idea that because partnered sex involves vulnerability, solo sex is the wave of the future. WTF. I'm all for people exploring their bodies, especially women who've been taught not to, but getting women to devalue being with others isn't enriching at all.

Nine Deuce said...

Four things:

1 - I don't discuss my private sexual activities on my blog because they're no one's business. I don't get into people's personal experiences but prefer to think about the abstract issues involved in generalized dynamics. It's not really appropriate of anyone to be asking me to discuss my private affairs, and I don't ask anyone else to either. The thing is, it is possible to make reasoned arguments about social phenomena without descending into the kind of individual relativism that people seem to love to resort to when they can't figure out how to respond to a point.

2 - I can "imagine" F/m situations, and I stated in the post why I didn't focus on them this time around (and may not, since my life doesn't revolve around discussing BDSM). There is a different dynamic going on. We live in a patriarchy, thus women's "willing" submission is a much trickier topic than men's choosing to submit is. And, mind you, I'm still dubious about how much control men are really giving up in F/m scenarios. Women have agency, yes, but we don't have the same kind of free will that men have, as much as we'd all like to pretend we do. We operate under constraints that men do not, and thus are not allowed the same freedom of choice that they are (and I mean that in a broad sense - - we may sort of have some of the legal rights men do, but we don't have the same freedom to act on our desires without the fear of social opprobrium, which can be a much more coercive force than the law, that men do.

3 - As to my getting married, I never claimed it'd be a feminist act. I was being sarcastic in my claim that it was going to "be, like, a totally revolutionary" marriage. But anyway, people tend to misunderstand the radical feminist position on marriage. Marriage, as it is constructed and construed by society at large, is financially, legally, and socially restrictive/detrimental for women. But that takes no account of how it might be approached by those of us who are capable of thinking about things and doing things our own way. How, might I ask you, is my choice to get married and yet live in a different city than my husband and have different bank accounts anti-feminist? I won't be dependent, I won't be a baby-machine, and I won't be sacrificing any of my goals for his (it's really more likely to go the other way, if you must ask). Anyway, I don't claim that it's a feminist act, just as I'm not going to claim that the fact that I ate a burrito this afternoon is a feminist act. About the only directly feminist act I engage in is writing my blog. The rest (including sex) is just daily life, and I wish people would get that: only feminist activism is a feminist act. But again, here's someone complaining about my questioning the general nature of a practice (and misrepresenting my meaning -- I never called anything anti-feminist, but rather brought up some serious cognitive dissonance that the issue was causing for me) and pretending I'm criticizing individuals' choices, but then taking the liberty to do so with regard to mine. Kind of funny. But do you see what I did? I acknowledged the problematic nature of marriage as it is practiced by most people, and explained why I thought my situation might be different. I'm more than willing to hear about people's situations that differ from my hypotheses, but I'm not going to patronize and infantilize other women by refusing to challenge their arguments when I disagree with them.

4 - And that leads me to the accusation that I'm marginalizing women. That's fucking hilarious. How can a radical feminist marginalize women? I'm already marginalized, so take that shit to the people who actually have the power to do it. I'm all about hearing from everyone who's got something to say that's on topic, and I think anyone who's been to my blog knows I don't dismiss what women have to say about their own experiences. However, being open to listening doesn't mean I relinquish my right to an opinion.

Trinity said...

Hi, ND! Welcome to SM-F. :)

I've got nothing to say about 3 or 4, as I'm not the one who brought those things up.

As far as 1, though, I'm sure you know by now that we just disagree. I don't think people's personal lives and experiences are irrelevant to how we understand what they do. I don't think we CAN understand what they do UNLESS we understand how they experience it.

So while you think "relativism" is lazy, I think theorizing is the epitome of laziness. It's assuming that people's lives fit maps, and worshipping the map as the explanation.

So we fundamentally disagree there. I'm not sure more can be said there, simply because the disagreement IS so fundamental.

2, I think, is another fundamental disagreement. I don't think it's possible for someone to have less free will than someone else does.

I do, though, agree with you that there are differences between F/m dynamics and M/f ones, and that they do have to do with culture.

What I don't agree with is discarding any and all evidence that large swaths of BDSM don't and can't work like the problematic stuff you describe so your theory will stay neat.

I also think that erasing women's power is patriarchal, so what you're doing when you call me irrelevant is... not as feminist as you think it is.

Nine Deuce said...

I don't call anyone irrelevant.

Iamcuriousblue said...

"As to my getting married, I never claimed it'd be a feminist act...."

The funny thing is, you somehow find a loophole for heterosexual marriage, something you want to take part it. Other women who are kinky, who participate in raunch culture, who make sexual choices you wouldn't make are suffering from false consciousness, in denial, and generally not listening to your impeccably logical "examination" of their choices – apparently they don't get any feminist dispensation for what they want to do. Funny thing, that.

So here we have a situation where heterosexual marriage – that most traditional of institutions – can be, if not "revolutionary", at least not anti-revolutionary. But sleeping around, having "pornified" sex, enjoying kink, etc – this is apparently always reactionary in your book.

Its precisely standards like this that has a lot of us on the sex-poz side of the fence calling radical feminism essentially a form of radicalized sexual conservatism.

And Trin, sorry to be unwelcoming to a guest on your blog, but the above had to be said.

Trinity said...

IACB et al: Say what you like. I don't mind.

I'm just not gonna stoop to "radical feminists'" level here, with the "well, but you ... is it feminist?" nonsense.

Nine Deuce said...

IACB - You're kidding yourself if you're calling me a sexual conservative. That I'd like to see people be a little more imaginative in their adventurousness and find ways to explore sexuality that break out of a limiting male-as-subject-woman-as-object mold doesn't make me a reactionary. I never said sleeping around isn't OK, I never said people shouldn't be doing what they want to do. You're basically accusing me of slut-shaming, which is dishonest. I'm frankly tired of repeating this, but it is possible for me to analyze something or claim that something might need a closer look without telling any individual what they should and shouldn't do. I often make the caveat that I know other people will have considered the issues I've raised and come to different conclusions, but no one ever seems to read that part. But anyway, my blog doesn't exist to convert sex-pozzers into radical feminists, it exists as a place for people to come and get one viewpoint (hopefully out of many). I have a lot of readers who have struggled with this or that issue with regard to sex (or porn, or whatever) and gender issues who have told me they've benefited from hearing what I had to say because it resonated in some way with how they were feeling. That's who I write for, not you.

Iamcuriousblue said...

Oh, believe me, I'm not attacking marriage per se. Some of my favorite people are in heterosexual marriages, including a couple of my co-bloggers. I'm could care less if they're participating in a "traditional" institution, as long as it makes both parties happy.

But the point remains, how marriage gets a loophole that kink doesn't is pretty damn contradictory.

Nine Deuce said...

One more thing: I don't claim getting married is a feminist act any more than I claim taking a piss is. That's the difference between my choice and the typical sex-poz nonsense about participating in stripping or porn as some form of empowerment. I know there's something wrong with marriage as it is commonly done, which is why I'm not going to do it as it's commonly done. I also know there's something wrong with commodified and degrading sex, which is why I don't engage in that shit. If someone wants to claim they're subverting the patriarchal conception of sex by participating in porn, it needs to be done in a way that is qualitatively different from whatever's hegemonic. When that happens, I'll throw my own sex-poz party.

Trinity said...

"I don't claim getting married is a feminist act any more than I claim taking a piss is."

Here's a dime, go purchase a clue: I for one don't claim doing BDSM is a feminist act any more than I claim taking a piss is.

No one else here that I read, looking over the comments again, says it is either.

I'd appreciate it if people on your side of the aisle would stop with the endless reading "they said it's feminist to do BDSM" into what we're saying.

Not making shit up: it's what's for dinner.

Iamcuriousblue said...

"I'm frankly tired of repeating this, but it is possible for me to analyze something or claim that something might need a closer look without telling any individual what they should and shouldn't do."

Right, and then you and Polly Styrene have a charming little conversation about how right-on it is that BDSMers can be prosecuted for assault. That ever-present subtext about jailing or imposing civil liability on those who make sexual choices you wouldn't is precisely the root of a lot of the resentment (and, hell, outright hatred) of radical feminists.

(And don't even start with me with the "radical feminists don't have any power" malarky. I'd make a list of radical feminists in positions of influence and radical feminist-inspired legislation in several countries over the past few years, but if you're at all as well-read as you say you are, you know what I'm talking about.)

"You're kidding yourself if you're calling me a sexual conservative. That I'd like to see people be a little more imaginative in their adventurousness and find ways to explore sexuality that break out of a limiting male-as-subject-woman-as-object mold doesn't make me a reactionary."

I'm all for greater sexual openness. You don't get there by restricting sexual expression or creating an ideological vanguard of sexuality.

pharaoh-katt said...

ND: I don't discuss my private sexual activities on my blog because they're no one's business. I don't get into people's personal experiences but prefer to think about the abstract issues involved in generalized dynamics.

Oh really?

antiprincess said...

I'd appreciate it if people on your side of the aisle would stop with the endless reading "they said it's feminist to do BDSM" into what we're saying.

or at least get it right.

me personally? I absolutely think that it's plenty feminist to do BDSM.

but I am not Trinity. don't blame her for something someone else said.

Nine Deuce said...

pharaoh-katt - Do you really think that's a good point? Christ. I said in my original comment that it's not appropriate for people to be demanding that I discuss my private sexual activities. You all may be cool with discussing yours in public forums, but I have the right not to. We all have the right to sexual privacy. I'm allowed to discuss a feeling (especially when it's for rhetorical impact) about an issue without being required to answer whatever prying, invasive question some stranger may have about my sex life.

Trinity said...

eek, sorry for my own overgeneralizing there, antip!

but yeah, there's this whole *thing* I really dislike where people are like "They said X is feminist", when a lot of us don't say that.

And even those of us who do say that are not saying something like "Submitting will make you a freer woman, inherently," which a lot of the discussion from the other side implies.

Where when I read this thread, or hear people saying that, it all relates back to something I do agree with -- that women's ability to make sexual choices and have those choices respected is curtailed under patriarchy, and so giving them space to explore matters.

That's not saying something like "Letting someone whip you makes you awesome," which is how that crowd always seems to take it.

directionlessbones said...

"But sleeping around, having "pornified" sex, enjoying kink, etc – this is apparently always reactionary in your book."

To be fair, 9-2 posts don't say that engaging in BDSM is a bad thing to do, or people shouldn't do it. However, I think quite a few of the comments did say things that amounted to that.

pharaoh-katt said...

ND,

Please note the parts of the comment I had in bold: I don't get into people's personal experiences.

You have every right to keep your sexual experiences private, as I have every right to share mine.
As those two women have every right to share theirs.

And, this being the internet (and assuming those are unlocked posts), you have every right to read them, comment on them, link to them.

But if you quote someone's private journal on your blog, if you link to it and comment on it, you can't then say you "don't get into people's personal experiences" because that's what you've done. You've gotten into someone's personal experience.

subversive_sub said...

N-D, here's what really confuses me about this entire series of posts on your site and your subsequent defense of them:

1. You say, again and again, that you're not trying to shame submissive women or tell anyone involved in BDSM that they need to stop doing it, or that they're bad feminists because of what they desire. You say that you're presenting "reasoned arguments about social phenomena." Sounds good.

2. You then title your posts "BDSM (the sexual equivalent of Renaissance Faires)" and proceed to mock and ridicule kinky sexuality throughout your entire series, particularly in your second post.

3. You also constantly resort to statements like "What in Billy Zabka’s name would make a woman want to submit to such treatment, and how in the fuck could anyone get to the point that they derive sexual enjoyment from severe pain?" How, exactly, is saying "I just don't GET this BDSM stuff, how could anyone actually LIKE it?" *not* going to make those of us who do get off on submission and pain feel shamed or excluded? How is calling what we do "weird shit" a reasoned argument, and how is it not judgmental?

It seems pretty dishonest to pretend that this is a fair, even-handed approach to BDSM, that you're really trying to understand what it is that we do and why we do it. Or maybe you are trying, and you just really don't know how to go about it.

So here's an idea: If you *really* want to better understand BDSM, and especially BDSM as experienced and practiced by feminist women, why not read this blog (and others), and follow discussions here? Why not read up on BDSM history, see what feminists involved in BDSM have been saying *for decades* in response to radfem arguments against their sexuality? I'll bet it would provide a much more realistic and informative portrait of BDSM than your 400 Craigslist responses did.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

What Subversive Sub said.

And I'm sitting here going, "Craigslist? Craigslist is supposed to be indicative of anything?" I mean, hell, here I thought that I didn't even date, let alone place personals ads, but suddenly Craigslist is supposed to be revelatory of my sexuality? What the hell?

Oh right, this is the person who came up with the renaissance faire blithering nonsense. I responded to that one at the time, even. Heh.

I guess I'll just continue existing even if it's ideologically inconvenient.

Nik said...

"but I'm not going to patronize and infantilize other women by refusing to challenge their arguments when I disagree with them."

You can challenge arguments in a respectful way. You have not done this. Instead, as Subversive has detailed, you've spoken dismissively and used a variety of insults. What in the world would make you think that anyone should or would consider the vile shit you've spewed coherent arguments?

"That's fucking hilarious. How can a radical feminist marginalize women? I'm already marginalized, so take that shit to the people who actually have the power to do it."

You really don't think that a bunch of people telling some women that what they do is wrong, ostracizing them, calling them names, and saying their partners should kill themselves is marginalizing them?

Any group of people can marginalize other groups of people. You don't need to be the most powerful group in society to marginalize others. Look at the role of gays in the black community. Gays are terribly marginalized, by a marginalized group of people. Sadly, many times its those who are marginalized who really try to oppress others. They are oppressed and so they attempt to get their self worth from oppressing others.

"I'm all about hearing from everyone who's got something to say that's on topic, and I think anyone who's been to my blog knows I don't dismiss what women have to say about their own experiences."

Everyone, except men apparently. Unfortunately for you, you can't censor me here. Oh, and you dismissed Meta quite quick on your blog.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Great post, Trin.

Just letting you know that as always, I am behind you. :)

SnowdropExplodes said...

I'm one of those who thinks that BDSM - or at least, the culture/theory that has developed in the BDSM community, is feminist-positive. Because it (D/s in particular) hinges on power exchange, it promotes understanding of power, and the ability to recognise one's own power in other situations (this is certainly what I've found). I have observed that the education in informed consent actually strengthens people's ability to stand up to oppressive situations in other parts of their lives. BDSM theory promotes the ability to say "no" when we need to, and to me that is something that is invaluable in women's liberation.

I suspect that ND struggles because she doesn't understand that when women in BDSM say "yes", they mean it. After all, she doesn't understand how anyone can enjoy severe pain - I really can't understand why people compete in the triathlon, it seems insanely self-punishing to me. But I accept that nobody is forcing them to do it.

Anonymous said...

So far as physical danger goes, I've never understood the hand wringing about BDSM. The dangers seem to be played up because its countercultural and icky and sexual. There's a minor risk of physical injury, but the high schooler who plays in a football game and then has sex with his girlfriend with protection probably has no less dangerous a Friday night than I do.

Emotional risk comes with the territory of interpersonal relationships. Though different, I'm not convinced that the dangers facing power exchange relationships are any more dire.

On the whole, I can see why the "dealing with the dark side" narrative can appeal to those who are looking in on us from the outside, but it's never made much sense from my own experience.

Iamcuriousblue said...

"So far as physical danger goes, I've never understood the hand wringing about BDSM. The dangers seem to be played up because its countercultural and icky and sexual. There's a minor risk of physical injury, but the high schooler who plays in a football game and then has sex with his girlfriend with protection probably has no less dangerous a Friday night than I do."

Yeah, there seems to be this big play up of BDSM as actual torture, which is so wrong on many levels, not the least of which is that its a fucking insult to actual torture survivors.

It also seems wrong just on the very face of it. Now I don't know a whole lot about "hard" BDSM, so maybe I'm wrong to generalize, but it seems to me that BDSM is about inflicting sensations that are beyond the pain threshold, but definitely well within the the limits of pain tolerance. Hard BDSM probably goes right up to the limits of pain tolerance, but not beyond it, though I could be wrong about this.

Physical torture, on the other hand, is all about inflicting pain well beyond someone's pain tolerance level with the intention of psychologically breaking them. Not to mention the whole social and psychological dimension of torture (of which we've heard so much about over the last few years with the US government's adoption of "no touch torture" tactics) that's completely different from a BDSM scene.

I don't know if the fools who are calling BDSM literal torture know so little about BDSM that they don't know the difference, or just like to say things for shock value or rhetoric inflation.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Ahem.

For those people who are actually interested in painplay and involve it in their BDSM, perhaps.

This is not all people who do BDSM.

belledame222 said...

I did note however that a few weeks ago she announced her impending marriage. Complete with a disclaimer that she is not, in fact, capitulating to the patriarchy by making this choice, and that her marriage will be a feminist one.

FAIL.

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