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.

28 comments:

Suzanne said...

Wow, that just made my night.

I never was sure how "Go kill yourself" was really helpful.

Habu said...

Well, what started as a comment grew into a blog post.

Of Kink and Blog-o-sphere Kerfuffles

I'm taking my own advice and putting my overgrown comment not merely in one of "our" spaces, but in the space ultimately I have control over.

Partly due to length, but also partly due to not wanting to detract from the the importance of the fact that yes, some people are willing to think instead of flail, and that was what your post was about.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, in the post you linked to with CJ, she's been repeatedly saying stuff like, "well, I may never be comfortable practicing BDSM myself..." And that reminded me of Delphyne's comments that she felt she felt that we were trying to wear her down to accept an abusive relationship.

Where is it that we're projecting that we want other people to practice BDSM? How can we refine our rhetoric to make sure such misunderstandings don't happen? It seems to be fairly common, and if so, it explains some of the vitriol thrown our way.

Trinity said...

"Where is it that we're projecting that we want other people to practice BDSM? How can we refine our rhetoric to make sure such misunderstandings don't happen? It seems to be fairly common, and if so, it explains some of the vitriol thrown our way."

I don't know where they get this.

My suspicion -- and I hope people correct me if I'm just clouded by skepticism here -- is not that we've ever implied it, but that that is actually an assumption that follows from thinking our "theories" are relevantly like theirs.

Their theories, after all, imply that there is a major systemic problem, of which BDSM is a clear symptom. If they're right, ideally people wouldn't do BDSM and perpetuate the system, though they wouldn't force us not to do it.

I think they are assuming that we have a similar "theory" under which BDSM is a corrective of the systemic problem. If BDSM is such a corrective, then it would follow that we're asserting something like what they're asserting: the world would be a better place if everyone did BDSM, but of course we're not going to force anyone.

They do, after all, often claim that we all say "BDSM is feminist," rarely distinguishing between people on our side who say this and people who don't (and often lacking any understanding of the reasoning of those of us who do say it.)

I think it follows from assuming our understandings come from a similar theoretical framework, and that we're ALL trying to uncover/discover/reveal/explain/theorize about which choices are the best for feminists.

Think of the odd consternation when we explain that we're not doing this. They often jump, hearing that, to you're for women making any choice at all no matter how unhealthy!

There's just not room in the theoretical framework we're using for us to be doing anything but 1) discovering what women ought to do

or

2) believing so fanatically in "choice feminism" that we assert that women shouldn't be encouraged not to make obviously bad choices.

Trinity said...

er, no room in the theoretical framework THEY are using, that was

Trinity said...

Habu:

Thank you for that post. It's beautiful.

And this?

"All of it has been decontextualized down to the flat screen though. They know little to nothing of (and in certain cases absolutely refuse to discuss) the fact that much of what we call modern Leather comes not from the heterosexual end of things 9D is so obsessed over, instead many of the traditions have roots in the disempowered Gay Male sub-community of those who came back from WWII and didn't fit."

Yes. I made that point at 92's over and over. No one said much. I guess they don't want to get the gay-man-cooties on themselves discussing the actual origins of Leather.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I think they are assuming that we have a similar "theory" under which BDSM is a corrective of the systemic problem. If BDSM is such a corrective, then it would follow that we're asserting something like what they're asserting: the world would be a better place if everyone did BDSM, but of course we're not going to force anyone.

In a way, I guess I do say that, except that I don't.

It's because what I say is "everyone should do the negotiated, informed, clearly (and eagerly) expressed consent that is a huge part of how actual, real-life BDSM works, and then there would be a lot less bad shit in the world (like a lot less rape, for starters)".

But yeah, they do seem to get incredibly hung up on "if it's okay with feminism, then every feminist MUST do/want/have it", which is what they bring to the party, not us.

The idea that there might be more than One True Way to be feminist seems to be lost on some of the "radfem" crowd.

antiprincess said...

Habu = SM Feminist Yoda, except better looking.

not much taller, though... ;)

Clarisse Thorn said...

Hmm, in the post you linked to with CJ, she's been repeatedly saying stuff like, "well, I may never be comfortable practicing BDSM myself..." And that reminded me of Delphyne's comments that she felt she felt that we were trying to wear her down to accept an abusive relationship.

This isn't just BDSM. It's all sex-positive talk that they react this way to. I see this over and over and I can even relate to it, a little ...

Why? Because in many alt sex or sex-positive communities, there is pressure to participate. There's polyvangelism, which I know a lot of us are familiar with. There are kinksters who smirk behind their hands, referring to others as "vanilla" in pitying tones. There are people who put down folks who don't like porn, because they're "so repressed". Etc.

I'm not saying all members of these communities do it. But some of us do. And although some of us do try to discourage that behavior, I'm not sure we try hard enough.

The other part of this problem is something I have far less of a firm grip on, and I'm not sure how to articulate or deal with it. Maybe it has something to do with how sex has been glorified in the mainstream ... how the Madonna/whore complex is manifesting for women? I think many women who like having sex, who are willing to talk about sex, end up feeling constant pressure to be "more adventurous". (Maybe this is also true for men. I don't know.)

I think that there are a lot of women (and maybe men) who have been guilt-tripped into going further than they were ready for -- by partners who implied that they weren't liberated enough, or simply by their own fears that they weren't liberated enough. And maybe these people feel threatened by alt sex because they look at it and think, "Oh no, another standard I have to measure up to."

Trinity said...

"Why? Because in many alt sex or sex-positive communities, there is pressure to participate. There's polyvangelism, which I know a lot of us are familiar with. There are kinksters who smirk behind their hands, referring to others as "vanilla" in pitying tones. There are people who put down folks who don't like porn, because they're "so repressed". Etc."

That's a very good point. I think a lot of us can be very elitist when we first find others like us, simply because it's exhilarating to be in an environment where you don't have to defend yourself.

And I know I'm guilty of sometimes wondering whether vanilla people are as bored as I would be if I were them. Kinky people aren't perfect! :)

Some of this, I think, comes from projection. For example, when I actually saw porn, I realized that the reason I'd been afraid to watch it was not because I actually found it degrading, but because I'd been TOLD that proper/good girls/liberated women found it sleazy and upsetting. I don't recall that I ever went around saying "You must be a prude or ignorant for not liking this", but I can imagine someone who had the same experience I did thinking "well, I realized my objections were not real, you must be ignorant too!"

So yeah, there is that.

Then again, there's also the few (and yes, it's ONLY A FEW, but they do exist) people out there who really do seem to say this stuff because of actual creepy anti-sex attitudes.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I think there's a strong sense for me that the use of the label "vanilla", and some of the "pitying tones" are more about a defence against being othered and a reaction to society's antipathy for kink.

In the same way as "straight" works for gay folks, I think "vanilla" works for kinky folks.

I suspect some of "polyvangelism" is the same thing: basically a pushing back against the demands of modern patriarchal society to conform.

On porn, however, I don't think I've seen those who "don't like porn" being seen as "repressed". it is those who say NOBODY should like porn who are seen as repressed (and as repressive).

Dw3t-Hthr said...

SPeaking as someone who has been reasonably active in poly communities, 90% of the polyvangelism I've come across has been pretty much identical to junior high outcast self-justification.

"I'm different. That makes me SPECIAL. They can't HANDLE my SPECIAL."

Some people grow out of being fourteen. Some, not so much.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Clarisse Thorn:

The other part of this problem is something I have far less of a firm grip on, and I'm not sure how to articulate or deal with it. Maybe it has something to do with how sex has been glorified in the mainstream ... how the Madonna/whore complex is manifesting for women? I think many women who like having sex, who are willing to talk about sex, end up feeling constant pressure to be "more adventurous". (Maybe this is also true for men. I don't know.)

The thing I've seen/experienced is some form of, "Oh, you're [bi|poly|kinky|etc.]? That means you'll do me, right?"

Followed by abusiveness if the woman in question doesn't fulfil the "contract" by being compliant and providing sex.

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