Saturday, 28 March 2009

Definition Check

Okay, yeah, it's kind of one of those trainwreck fascination things that I keep coming back to or something -- every so often I reload that Feministing thread and see what sort of weird stuff has come up so far.

And I've come to the conclusion: what I'm talking about when I say "BDSM" is not the same thing that a lot of people over there are talking about when they say BDSM. Witness this comment from becstar, quoted in part:

I think society does teach people that BDSM with sub women is the *only* way to go about sex. [...] Things like spanking and cumming on women's faces have been taken out of BDSM territory and been normalised which I think is where the danger starts.

I'm left with a strange void between what I've understood as BDSM and what other people are pointing at. Especially since, as a female submissive, it has been very clear to me that the sort of sex that I want is not acceptable, not normal, not what I should be doing; especially since I have heard other kinksters of various orientations and preferences express the same feelings.

Spanking and BDSM? I know from a couple of spankos I've seen talk about this that a lot of people with that particular kink prefer to distance themselves from BDSM, being Not Like Those People. I have also seen quite a few of them talk about getting sexual responses to corporal punishment as children from the physical sensation. Far from being a gateway drug - to steal a silly concept - it seems to be one of those things that may or may not fall into the BDSM category depending on who's counting.

Ejaculation on the face? Well, maybe I'm totally isolated from BDSM norms, but I never heard about this practice at all until I encountered the Porn Wars. And because porn is totally outside the scope of my sexual interest and experience, it just never much occurred to me. (I have an ex who had a hard time orgasming from coitus, which tended to mean he got himself in the eye occasionally, though.) I mean, it's not even on any version of the Purity Test I've played with, and since the long Purity Test versions frequently include scat and incest I'd expect if this were so mainstream it might have gotten a mention on one or two versions.

The closest thing to mainstream-culture BDSM I can think of from my childhood is an episode of Cheers. Seriously. For those who aren't familiar with Cheers, its basic plot orbits around a misogynistic horndog trying to pursue a woman who isn't having any of that. In a bar, in which Wacky Sitcom People come to get drunk. In any case, Sam (the horndog) and Rebecca (one instance of the woman) were, at one point, in an elevator, and the subject of risk-taking sex comes up. Sam is, of course, all for, and thrilled that Rebecca is showing some kind of interest; she takes a scarf, ties his hands to the handrail, and he's panting with excitement that not only might he get the woman, but he's getting the woman kinkily; she pulls down his pants, and he's thrilled; the elevator stops, she gets off and leaves him there, because she still can't stand his entitled ass.

I'm not so sure that it's a good display of the ubiquity of female submission, though. Maybe a "he'll settle for sex, but exciting sex will be more thrilling for him" cultural datapoint. But she was dominant, she was in control, and she said no - leaving him nonconsensually exposed and quite vulnerable. Which was, I am pretty sure, not his kink.

And so I turn it around, and look for things that I'd file as clearly BDSM in the mainstream. And I don't see them. At least, not outside the Signs That Someone Is A Dangerously Depraved Serial Killer or something on Cop Show Glurge: Dead Whore Version. Bondage more serious than tee-hee a silk scarf or cheap fuzzy handcuffs? Culturally marked 'creepy'. Impact play? Culturally marked 'abusive'. Slave contracts? Mocked publically when they come up in the news, otherwise unheard of.

"Naughty schoolkid" roleplaying situations and similar stuff get played for laughs on sitcoms - in that 'Who could believe someone would really do that?' overdone kind of way. It's something like the kinky equivalent of flaming queer comic relief. Lacy lingerie is normal stuff (and one's occasionally considered a little pervy if one doesn't fancy it), but black or red lacy lingerie is a sign of dangerous dominatrix tendencies which are, again, played for mockery.

And I have never, not in any mainstream medium, seen any treatment of kinky submission. Bottoming maybe (and mostly as a joke); coercive, abusive situations, including those treated as normal by some people, those show up on the news. But to talk about anything remotely approaching the stuff I do in pop culture requires the sort of language used to talk about drug use -- and gets spun in the same pejorative way.

So I'm left wondering where the hell the BDSM is that some people are finding so prevalent. Because I'm so not wherever they are.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

More Linkage: Ren says "prove it"...

...about the claim that there'd be no BDSM in Utopia:

Grumble. Okay, so, some interesting stuff going on here over at Trinity’s: The Have You Examined Baseball Bat Effect and the bullshit and rage it inspires, the Patriarchal Influence Pie Flinging fest and how annoying that shit gets, blah blah blah, the story that never fucking ends, some people are just so much more enlightened, and IN A POST PATRIARCHAL WORLD THERE would be NO BDSM or other such “unsavory” sexual activities…

To which I say: PROVE IT.

How is there any way, whatsoever, to prove that in any sort of society, or future, whether or not desires to dominate or submit, be aggressive or passive, take power or relinquish power, would simply disappear?

So many fucking people like to write off things like aggression, power seeking, or want to dominate as “male” things, but I do not buy that shit for a second. I think those are human things, human desires, with no real specific gender, and no matter what sort of world we live in, there will always be people who want, like and get off on those things –regardless of what is between their legs.

I do recall, many years ago, in an Ethics class, I proclaimed quite loudly that I never believed there would be peace on earth. I was rewarded with shocked and stunned looks by a roomful of silver spoon hippies who had never worked a day in their lives, and of course, they all wanted to know why! My response…well, because there will always be someone like me, who will want what you have, and be willing to try and take it, and there will always be people like your parents, who have things, and will do what is needed to keep people like me from taking them.

Grim? Yes. True? Also yes.

I think that we can chalk up more to a human desire to thrive and prosper, and good old envy and shit like that, rather than “patriarchy”.

And I have to ask, in this mysterious future where everyone is all happy happy joy joy equal love woohaa…

Is everyone equal in all ways? I mean, I’m non-neurotypical. As in, well, I am just fucking wired differently. Aggressive. Anti-social. High strung. Don’t sleep much. Truth is, I do like hurting people in sex, and being hurt in return. A lot of that probably has to do with that aggressive, anti-social thing I have going on. Yeah, I do it with consenting people, but yeah, there it is. Sooo, do people like me, or any of the other countless non-neurotpical people out there, exist in future perfect land? Are there no bi-polar, or OCD, or schizophrenic, or psychotic, or depressed, or any other type of non-neurotypical people out there? Or how about those folk with physical issues which make alternative forms of sex sort of the only sort of forms of sex that work for them?

Or do we not just exist in that perfect future and all? Somehow, we’ve all been…dealt with.

Do tell, I’m curious. How does one think they can eliminate HUMAN desires like control, aggression, submission, dominance, pain, and things of that nature.

How do you plan to so utterly rewire humanity like that?

What, dare I ask, is the plan?

Examination Burnout

A post by Kiya on this "examination" meme, so wonderful that I reproduce it in its entirety:
I was reminded of something by this post, and it's stuff I've mostly found too raw to post about, but I feel like writing a bit now while it's in my head.

I've written before about "Just Say No" culture and sexuality. What I haven't talked about was the way denial-and-examination culture intersected with my inner kinks.

When I was an elementary school child, I started building an understanding of my sexuality as it was at the time. I had very separated experiences of physical sexual pleasure and romantic attraction - it had not occurred to me that these were related - but I explored both as best I could. I was aware that my experience of romantic attraction was somehow related to "grownup things" like marriage and families, but I recognised (consciously, even) that that was something I would figure out when I was older; for now, there was the boy, and I could beat him at wrestling.

Once my fantasy life had developed into fiction rather than fascination with the boy, and once I had grown enough of it for my sense of physical pleasure to get tied into my sense of attraction, they took on a structure of extreme power differential, often with bondage aspects. I was never ashamed of these fantasies, or, as I thought of them, the stories I told myself when going to sleep; however, I knew, bone-deep, that I could never talk about them.

I never have.

(Think about that for a moment. I have never talked about those fantasies in more than generalised referents, themes and content.)

I knew that if I told anyone about them, they would try to figure out what was wrong with me. I didn't know words like "misogyny", but I knew that I'd have the concept thrown at me. I knew that I'd be treated as sick and wrong, because Good People don't have thoughts like that. I knew that I would never, ever be able to express these things; at least on that last I was wrong.

And as I became aware that these things were things I should not express, I became aware of the idea of examination. I had an obligation, I knew, to figure out where these things had come from, that they could be excised. I was a sleeper agent of the oppressor, my sexuality out to subvert everything that women could achieve, and I had to cure myself. There was no support for this - it was still unspeakable horror - but it was clear that the wrongness was something that I would be expected to purge before I was an adult.

Guilt started to creep in around the edges. The fantasies became even more secret, because there was this edge of belief that I should not be that way, that I should be someone else, someone more loyal, more diligent, more compatible with the universal goals that I had been assigned on the basis of my sex, class, and race. I squelched the impulses in my more conscious mind, leaving them only the release of the nighttime stories, giving me dreams of the taboo-breaking man who might love and own and honor me despite the shackles of surrounding culture.

I was an emotionally isolated young adolescent, full of need and loneliness and hunger and wanting to explore the concepts of sex and not knowing how. Nothing in the world around me had ever given me any understanding for figuring out what I wanted or how to implement that safely; I was still half-consciously aware that what I wanted was Bad anyway, so figuring out how to get it was unthinkable.

It didn't go away, of course. And sometimes these things come out in badly sublimated ways. Hook a loop of fear-paralysation into a mind frantically denying its need to surrender, bait a touch-starved, curious adolescent with affection from a pretty older boy, and watch a psyche fragment into a perfect rape victim and a panicked, impotent observer. Respectful and loving submission was unavailable, unthinkable, unallowable, so all I had was deer-in-the-headlights capitulation, where my sexual drives and my terror and his unceasing pressure conspired to shove me into a closet in my head.

And maybe, with a little more examination, I might guess that this is one of the real reasons that I have never really been able to forgive myself. Because, after all, if I didn't have those wicked, shameful desires, then maybe the combination of mental lockup and pressure wouldn't have been enough to get my psyche fridged. It can't really be his damn fault, right? He just happened to luck into that siren song of unacceptable woman-hating sexuality. And I can't hold it against him, because he stopped short of rape in the end, when he saw that I was broken. (I can't even write 'that he'd broken me' and feel honest, right now.)

This was not ... the only time I fell into that pattern, though it was the only time it was assault. I had an abusive vanilla relationship that hit my submission buttons around music until I hit a wall and threw him out of my life. I had a relationship with someone who was deeply uncomfortable with my submission, and so like a good little subbie and a good little woman I stifled it again to make him happy. I had other issues. And I worked on it until I came to a place where I could return to childhood and refuse to be ashamed.

Where does it come from? I don't give a damn. And not giving a damn is not just a political position about the unworthiness of the question, but me fighting back against the investigation of myself for which fruit of Original Sin was why I deserved to be nearly raped before menarche.

If the message had been that I needed to figure out how to deal with these desires in a sane, reasonable, and balanced manner, if it had included discussion of consent and how to set boundaries, if it had been anything other than "WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?! WHY ARE YOU A FREAK?!", maybe things would have been different.

Why am I like this? If my established answer isn't good enough, fuck off. Why am I a freak? Welcome to the edge of the map. The Antipodes, where men walk upside down.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Examination and Lost Tempers...

One of the commenters over at the recent Feministing dustup came over to my LJ recently and commented on the critiques of examination that we presented in this post. She says:
Hmmm. I'm a radical feminist. Just to get that out there. What me and others were saying, the majority of us, was that to act as if your sexual desires are not susceptible to influence is...well, it's a bit odd to think that things just shut down once sex is involved. Most of us aren't saying (I speak for me, oh hey, I'm 'danielle' btw, SarahMC and RachelWY) "this is a bad desire, you're not a feminist for it" but "looking at where a desire MAY HAVE come from is not harmful, it's not "intruding into your bedroom" etc. If you say "no, I don't feel like that's something I want to examine about myself right now or ever" alright, nothing wrong there. Or even "no, I don't think it is" is cool. But "it is definitely not, and you even trying to have a discussion about it is not good" is where it gets ridiculous. If you don't want to participate in the discussion, don't. If you don't agree, say so, but do it in a reasonable way (I'm thinking of the "you're an idiot!" comment). The only thing I take issue with is "sexual desires are NEVER EVER even slightly influenced by the patriarchy."
I've been trying to be patient; I've seen a lot of good come of it recently, and I do think it's better when we can to engage rather than go off.

But this evening I just wasn't in the mood:

On the Feministing post and in this thread currently, and in countless threads over at SM-F and elsewhere in the past, we have explained why we feel that this line of thinking is inherently intrusive. If you don't feel up to a thorough study, at least please thoroughly read this post and its comment thread.

I'm not asking you to agree with us that it is intrusive; I'm just asking you to give serious thought to why we might feel this way. Far too often, radical feminists see us get angry with the "examination" demands and conclude that we are just thin-skinned, or selfish, or particularly absorbed in pleasure.

This ignores that these discussions have a history, and very often it is a history of directly telling BDSM people we are sick, wrong, confused, and brainwashed, if not a history of directly telling us that we behave inappropriately. Or even that we're so corrupted we ought to end our own lives.

Please do so not with the idea in your head that we just don't understand what you're really saying and that if we could only see how you intended it, we wouldn't be bothered. I've written academic papers on the sex wars; I know "BDSM is patriarchy writ in women's braaaaaainz!" like the backs of my hands.

I still believe that the idea that we have never examined our desires -- or that if we have, we must simply not have done so in a feminist enough manner -- infantilizing and a tactic some women use to shame others.

I still believe that in some circumstances, not asking why is dignity-preserving, and/or an appropriate response to the presumption that you must justify yourself in a way not required of others.

While I know that radical feminists often claim to interrogate non-kinky sex, lesbian sex, and other sex they often hold up as less damaged than BDSM, the fact remains that I very rarely see posts or essays devoted to such.

Which is of course not to say that I never see them. Often when I do, they're quite interesting. But it seems there's a much greater proportion of "Hey BDSMers, have ya thought about this? I know I asked six months ago, but I can't seem to remember your answer!" than there is "I've often wondered where my desire comes from *interesting personal blog post ensues*..."

Think of what these demands mean to us, when we've heard them come with language like that I've linked.

Then ask yourself why we might be unreasonable about acknowledging that we might maybe kinda be sorta influenced by patriarchy maybe.

Which is actually not anything I saw anyone over at that thread deny. It's the way it's phrased not as "are some BDSM fantasies shaped by patriarchy?" but rather as "is BDSM itself the end result of some distorting patriarchy-thing that takes good sexuality and warps it utterly?" that gets my goat.

And "don't tell fairy tales."

Fuck that: my life is mine, and my life is real, and I've never asked anyone to like it.

From previous abuse I am sure as shit accustomed to being told that what I think's going on is make-believe, and I'm not twelve any more and sure as shit not going to stand for being erased like that now.


A totally awesome post by Garbo in Paint.
[W]hat value does identifying as a feminist hold for me?

Most significantly to this issue is my status as a sex worker. But there are others: I am also submissive and enormously enjoy activities defined as "degrading" by many feminists. I am practically disinterested in sex that does not involve these elements. I am also High Femme: my personal presentation is entirely oriented around a construction of feminity I have actively pursued. Yet that makes it sound so cold - I have unpacked it thoroughly, but I love it. It's a desire in me as natural as taking a glorious deep breath of air in the bush on a mild spring day.

I am generally non-monogamous (here, my preference is simply for what best suits me in the particular relationship - I don't rule out monogamy, but I don't want to be bound by the assumption I will always want it).

I am an ally to people of colour, people with disabilities and trans people. I have no mental illness (that I'm aware of - my history with psychs has basically consisted of me running the other way) but I am not an emotionally/psychologically well person and while I function pretty highly, it does impact on my life to varying intensities.

I am obsessed with my looks and my age. I like to be well-presented, I love makeup and it's a rare day I'm not in heels. I buy into body image BS, love to work out and have some fucked up ideals about beauty and perfection.

....And I find that it is the very fact that my politics and my personhood so often are diametrically opposed to theirs, that is the reason that I continue to cling to the "feminist" label, and to feel that it's really important for me, as an individual, to do so.

In fact, one thing I really want to begin to be vocal about, is my identifying as a radical feminist.

For me, there is nothing so infuriating that such a wonderful sounding pair of words: "radical feminist" has been co-opted and tarnished by people consumed with hatred.

It's long been my opinion that sex work is the last true test of radicalism. Someone can name themselves the most out there and passionate activisty activist for whatever their particular cause is, and you hit them with the "I'm a sex worker" bomb and suddenly you find out how far their politics go.

In my opinion, I am a radical feminist. In being a sex worker and a submissive and a Femme in particular, I am consciously inhabiting spaces that have routinely been used to oppress, deny and stifle women and I am unpacking them even as I revel in them. I am taking behaviours and lifestyles subject to all sorts of ridiculous stereotypes, particularly around depicting women as disempowered and passive objects subjected to the patriarchy, and demonstrating how I am not stifled or held back by them; how I am in fact, empowered by them.

I can see where these aspects of identity have been subjected to patriarchal construction and dominance over time and yet my life in inhabiting those identities is not subjected to the same. They are not affectations - they are utterly intrinsic to who I am - and yet they are conscious. They are owning.

To me, this is radicalism.

To defy societal - whether patriarchal or "radfem" - expectations in my identity whilst inhabiting that identity is radical. Because it rejects the either/or approach - that I must deny who I am, suppress and stifle it - or I am a victim. Or a bad feminist. Or anything else.

....And I KNOW. I know sex workers have been marginalised and ostracised and stigmatised and often treated like shit and abused and dismissed and reduced and I know women have long been edged into confining expressions of feminity and I know that heteronormative gender roles have long protected abuse and control and expressions of violence against women. I spend a lot of time reading and thinking and examining these things, and taking a stance against them.

And in KNOWING all these things, and knowing that I have other choices and yet I make these ones - these ones that are not so much choice as they are simply being true to WHO I AM as a person and possessing it in defiance of what expectations others ascribe to it or in spite of being told that I shouldn't, that I am conscious and active in my expression of them and refuse to compromise my very personhood to either conform them to stereotypes/established boundaries or completely eliminate them from my life...

... how is that not radical?

Monday, 23 March 2009


Over at my livejournal, I'm collecting personal stories, and links to posts about, the whole radical feminist view that kinky folks should "examine our desires."

The project began because I wanted some references to cite to a commenter at Feministing, Nerdisms, who was asking me why I and some others think that "examine your desires" can be a badgering tactic. I wanted some stories to cite to explain some people's cynicism about the whole "examination" idea (though I'm also perfectly happy to see stories from people who think it's a good idea, too.)

I think I may have driven Nerdisms off, but I still think it's useful to collect people's stories in one place, where they can easily be linked.

I decided to ask for people to post them to my LJ rather than here, because I'm actually not the owner of this blog, and it's actually easier for me to archive things if they get posted at my own blog.

Anyone care to add to this project? Anything, from "I felt badgered by such and such a conversation," to "I thought examining my desires was useful and came up with this" is welcome.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


There's currently a discussion of BDSM over at Feministing. Someone asks whether her submissiveness can be consistent with her feminism, and gets this reply, which I was glad to see:

A good step towards accepting your sexuality for what it is may be to unpack it a little bit more. I want to quote you back to you: I'm a very assertive and driven person in real life so it's just really hard for me to accept how much I sexually enjoy giving up control and power.

I'm going to come back to the first part, but first let's focus on the second part of the sentence: I sexually enjoy giving up control and power. YOU give up control and power. In the real world, power and control are taken from women in an effort to make them submissive. In your sex life, as convoluted as this may seem, you are in power because you make the choice to give up power. Your boyfriend (yay for him) engaged in this because you (still in power) asked him to engage. As much as the sex play is about you "giving up power," in reality you are still the one in control.

It's not entirely what I'd say, myself. I'm less a fan of back and forth about who's "really" in control as I am of the idea that
  1. choosing something is different from it being chosen for you, and
  2. being able to end an interaction is different from being part of a social structure you probably can't alter all by your lonesome.
That is, however, more an issue of wording than of substantive disagreement.

Most responses are supportive, with a couple people (rightly, IMO) pointing out that many women are submissive to men and that it may be worth considering whether patriarchy has something to do with this. (My opinion: Yes, but it is also true from what I've seen that submissive people outnumber dominant ones in all cases, so we should be sure to take this into account before deciding that this is entirely because of the Pat.)

The usual debates begin a bit further down, with this comment from laughingrat:

I don't particularly mind being the lone voice of dissent here, and the rhetoric about this subject is often so skewed that it might give other dissenters courage to think or speak freely if they see someone else's remarks.

We live in a society that is based on domination and submission--the brutalization of one person or group of persons for the benefit of another. This is called "patriarchy." Nothing we do or think is free of patriarchy; everything we can currently imagine or act is done within the context of patriarchy. D/S in the bedroom, fetishizing torture of the body or spirit in the bedroom, is by definition happening within and saturated by patriarchy.

Do what you like in bed, but please do not tell fairy tales about it, and don't tell me it's "feminist" to hurt or inflict hurt, to dominate or be dominated, because it's not. If we had no patriarchy, if there was no overriding, hideous system designed to subjugate some and elevate others, I might be inclined to believe that BDSM is a positive behavior--but then, if we had no patriarchy, BDSM would not hold nearly the fascination it does now. Without patriarchy, the so-called "submissive side" of our personality, taken for granted as being natural because we can't currently imagine the possibility of life without domination and submission, would simply go away.

We're all familiar with the polarization that, sadly, comes next.

I don't really have much to say that I haven't said already. Funny how this discussion always seems to re-tread the same ground over and over. But, for anyone who hasn't seen my response to arguments like these, needs a refresher, or just would like to read it again:
  1. There's a persistent confusion among anti-SM feminists where they assume that all pro-SM feminists assert that BDSM is feminist, or that doing BDSM means engaging in a feminist act.

    Some of us do say this, believing that one of the ways patriarchy controls women is by pressuring us to put men's sexual desires before our own. On this view, BDSM is feminist because any woman exploring her fantasies and desires is rebelling against a social standard that tells her that her sexuality does not belong to her.

    Others, including me, are asserting not that BDSM is inherently feminist, but rather that it is consistent with feminism. Personally, I don't think my kinks are any more feminist than brushing my teeth is -- but I also do not think that they are any less feminist than brushing my teeth is.

    Oddly, a lot of anti-SM feminists don't seem able to even entertain the possibility that some actions are neither feminist nor antifeminist.

  2. I don't believe any of us can assert what sexualities would look like in Utopia, and I think it's really arrogant to assert that we know what they would look like.

    I also think that the logic that BDSM will someday disappear is based on flawed logic.

    For one thing, a lot of BDSM is about physical sensation. I don't think that masochism has as much to do with social dynamics as it has to do with how people process physical sensation, how much endorphins a particular individual produces in response to stimuli, how much she enjoys endorphin highs, etc.

    For another, I think that the idea that all D/s traces back to unjust social dynamics is flawed, or at least needs to be argued for more robustly than I've usually seen it argued for. While I don't doubt that some D/s fantasies involve them, I don't think all do. Every adult was once a child, and every child was both nurtured and limited/controlled by parents or caretakers, and probably by teachers as well. I don't think it's any kind of stretch that some humans might sexualize this, and I don't think no one would in Utopia either. Even, yes, if Utopia had a lot less hierarchy in it.
The thing that most annoys me about the way this conversation always seems to follow the same well-worn grooves is the endless refrain that we "haven't examined." I just wonder, if that's the case, what exactly people think this blog is for.

As I have, again, said many times before, I get the impression that many anti-SM people are actually saying that only reaching the conclusions they have counts as real "examination."

The difference between them and me is I couldn't care less if someone who really was pressured by society or by trauma into submitting gives it up and is healthier for it. Whereas these people sure do seem to care a lot whether others of us, who assert that our own personal stories are not the same as theirs are, keep doing it or not.

(Or, to be fair to those anti-SM feminists who consistently bray "I'm not telling you what to doooooooo!" as if that were the issue,"sure do seem to care a lot whether others of us keep defending it from their critiques.")

I'll end quoting a comment from hope that I think is completely brilliant and right on, so we don't all have to walk away mad:

While I know that this is a fairly common radical feminist view, it is condescending. To say that if there were no patriarchy then BDSM might be okay, but without patriarchy BDSM wouldn’t exist is essentially saying that BDSM is never okay. Additionally, saying that without patriarchy all social power imbalances would disappear just seems a little silly to me. Not all power dynamics are bad, what about parent/child or teacher/student?

That being said, calling laughingrat an idiot is not a helpful way of furthering discussion. I think that part of the problem is that kinky people are very used to being treated badly for their kink. I’ve been told that being submissive and feminist are fundamentally incompatible more times than I can count. I’ve heard that if we just “examined” or “questioned” our desires we would see why they were wrong. I’ve heard that I am sick and disgusting and that my lover is abusive and a rapist and should kill himself. And this has all come from feminists.

....Again, I’m fairly confident that the majority of submissives are male, not female. I am also really sick of hearing that feminists who are sexually submissive don’t question or examine where their desires come from, we do. I’ve been examining my desires since I started having them when I was a child; I still don’t know why I have them. I wasn’t abused as a child, I didn’t start having submissive tendencies after being sexually assaulted, and I grew up in one of the most progressive feminist towns in Massachusetts. I also don’t know why I’m queer, but most people (especially feminists) don’t seem to need me to question that quite as thoroughly.

....EGhead [who said "I think it would be beneficial for people to stop their BDSM practices; not necessarily beneficial for them, but beneficial for society as a whole."] doesn’t think anyone necessarily needs to change, just that it would be better for society if we did. The (hopefully unintentional) subtext of this is that, since this is a feminist site and most feminists care strongly about bettering society, submissives are selfish for putting their sexual desire before the good of society. Which, interestingly enough, sounds a lot like some very un-feminist sentiments about female sexuality in general. I sincerely hope that this was not intentional on EGhead’s part.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Pain and Life

It seems the conversations at Nine Deuce's on BDSM are trickling to their end. A good thing, on all counts, but I did want to respond to this. That thread basically discusses whether pain can ever be a good thing, including whether "pain play" is an acceptable term or an oxymoron. I'll give an excerpts from one of Laurelin's comments to make it clear, but I don't want to dwell on quotes. Those who want the whole story should read the entire thread.
It is not the pain from exercise that is good for you- that’s just your muscles complaining that they’ve been worked out. Now it may be a good sign for your health, but the pain is *not* what is good for you, the exercise is. BDSM fetishizes pain itself, says pain is good, can be good. Pain is not good for you, even if it is a sign of having exercised well, it in itself does you no good. It is the body’s warning. And it goes without saying (or should!) that exercise pain is itself a different feeling to pain from injury.

I know BDSMers use the term ‘pain play’. That doesn’t mean I accept the phrase as valid. I don’t. Pain is not play.

My only answer is something very personal. I don't pretend this is science, or even that I or my opinions on this are all that usual.

I've been through hell and back. Chronic pain is a daily occurrence in my life. I'm scarred and torn and put back together.

And what happened when all that occurred? Dissociation. Psychic death to spare myself the agony. Numbness. Pulling away from everything, and incapacity to feel.

Nerves are working or they aren't. What do they do when they work? Signal pain or signal pleasure.

Pain and pleasure are a package deal. Pain and pleasure are what you get when you choose to live.

Some people seem to think the choice in life is between pleasure and pain. It's some great battle, demons arrayed on one side, howling and charred, and angels rising sun-kissed on the other, wings glistening.

And when Patriarchy falls or when trauma releases its hold, Pain will die and life will be soft and pure for always.

I don't see it that way. I know how to kill pain, and the same off switch that kills pain kills pleasure.

When I chose the long process of healing rather than staying numb or suicide, I chose it all. I chose pain and pleasure as a package deal.

I chose to live, and choosing to live meant choosing to feel.

There is no magic land where life is free of suffering. Refusing to allow it to ever have positive significance is fine if it helps you, but that doesn't make it go away.

Pain and pleasure together have a name.

It's not a difficult name. It's not a strange name. It's not even a multisyllabic name. It's a nice and short little name that feels good in the mouth and on the lips and tongue.

That name is life.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

On Asking (And Not) Asking Why

This comment from McStar deserved its own post (bolding and some paragraph breaks mine):
Wow, it feels like I had to leave the party just as I was getting involved, and now I've missed out on all the interesting stuff ;) I'll see if I can catch up...

I think the real problem with the whole 'question/examine your desires' trope is that it's suggested for the wrong reasons, done by the wrong people and done in the wrong ways. I completely agree that our society shapes the sorts of questions we ask and the ways in which we ask them. The whole thing is very reminiscent of all those appalling pop-psychology 'scientific studies' on male/female behaviour which SOMEHOW always seem to produce results that support the gender-biases of the scientists and their culture-at-large.

In an ideal world, we would be able to wonder where aspects of our sexualities might have 'come from' without being expected to reach certain conclusions, or having our personal conclusions disregarded (like when some kinky types say that we regard kinkiness as a natural/inborn aspect of our personality), or feeling uncomfortably aligned with bigots. Take for example the question of whether sexual orientation (speaking purely in terms of which gender/s a person is attracted to) can be discovered to be caused by nature or the family or society as a whole or whatever combination of factors. That could theoretically be a fascinating line of enquiry into the workings of human sexuality which could teach us a huge amount about how our minds and personalities are formed. What it usually is in actuality is various groups of people picking the position that fits best with their own personal prejudices, finding or creating supposedly unbiased research to back up that position, and then trying to yell their position louder than everyone else. And sadly the loudest yellers are often the homophobes.

In a mature and unbigoted society, it wouldn't work that way - we would be able to think and talk about sexualities and potential effects of society/nurture/nature on sexualities without our own stupidity and bigotry getting in the way. If everyone worked a bit harder at disregarding their own stupidities and biases, maybe these discussions would be productive and interesting. Maybe we'd come up with some new and fascinating hypotheses about society and sexuality. Sadly, the whole idea of 'questioning your desires' has been hijacked by bigots and fuckwits like the internet radical feminist gang. Leaving other (hopefully) more open-minded people thinking but hang on... why can't we think about why people are kinky without all this ignorance and these preconceived notions of what kinkiness equals? why can't we think about why people are kinky because we personally find it interesting? why is a random internet person demanding to know why we're kinky and then informing us that whatever we may personally think, it's actually because the patriarchy is being evil in our heads? *flail*

Monday, 2 March 2009

Reading comprehension:

Jenn fails at it.

She's angry with me, and others, for supposedly saying that BDSM is an oppressed sexuality in the same way as homosexuality is:

Over in a post on the blog of Nine Deuce—a fellow rad fem—a couple of fucking idiots have decided that the distaste some have for their sexual practices is akin to oppression, in specific, the oppression of homosexuals.

Yeah, no.

If you’re having sex in a manner completely consistent with the dominant idea of gender roles, you honestly can’t call that oppression. Perhaps if you were madly in love with two people, who were in turn madly in love with you, and you couldn’t recognize that relationship legally like most couples, I might be tempted to call that some sort of injustice, given that it defies the usual heterosexual one man one woman shebang.

Unless, of course, those three people really wanted to throw down and insinuate that criticism leveled against them is exactly like the oppression of homosexuals.

Let’s get this straight: the oppression of homosexuals is exactly like nothing else. There are other forms of oppression, obviously, but all of them are experienced differently—sometimes in an intersecting fashion with other oppressions—than the oppression of homosexuality and all of its flavors such as transphobia, homophobia or denial of bisexuality.

....Sexual practices and fetishes are not oppression. This includes things such as BDSM, pedophilia, foot fetishes, water sports, and fur-suiting. The post that inspired this philosophical examination of oppression featured various practitioners of BDSM or a “BDSM lifestyle” insinuating that the questioning of their fetish was analogous—identical or at least relevantly similar—to the hate speech and oppression of homosexuals. What this asinine proposition ignores is that while practicing BDSM may meet some of the conditions of oppression, it obviously does not meet all of them, or even most of them.

I will freely admit that back in 2007 I openly questioned whether anti-kink sentiment and the clear bullshit that results from it (Spanner, the recent anti-porn law in the UK, Paddleboro, loss of jobs, loss of child custody, etc) could be seen as oppression a couple years ago.

I no longer think so, though I still do want the clear definition of what oppression is that I ask for in that post. Particularly, I want a clear idea when something can be considered "systemic" and when it cannot. I don't think prejudice against people considered sexually deviant is encoded in culture the way anti-gay sentiments are encoded in much of religion, but I also don't think it's a random one-off either. It's not like one person randomly hating someone for having buck teeth. But there's no Exodus International centered around us either, so what is it like?

I don't know, but I don't find "zomg this is appropriation, and in saying that I'll totally ignore that you're queer too!" a useful tool for determining the borders of oppression.

I doubt, however, that she found and read that post on oppression and kink (there's no link in her post to it, anyway), and since then I've recanted the view that I'm sure BDSM people are oppressed, giving explanations like this one as why:

“Additionally…you get fired for BDSM, but you are unlikely to get actually murdered over it. I don’t think the church has ever got round to condemning BDSM as a threat to humanity either. Though, that’s simply a matter of scale.”

Oh, yeah, I agree. I don’t think anti-SM sentiment has congealed into oppression. I do think it’s still wrong and bigotry runs rampant, though.

I’m not a big fan of the idea that one is either TRULY OPPRESSED or JUST WHINING. It’s not a binary.

So now we've got someone wasting thousands of words on something nobody's saying. WIN!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Prurient Imaginations!

Part 2 of my response to "Nine Deuce, You're A Homophobe!" Part 1 is here, and should provide context. Let me know if you need more, readers.

I wanted to quote in its entirety a comment by ND's reader Jenn, defending ND against the claim that her rhetoric sounds more than a little like that homophobes use to condemn gays and lesbians.

As this fag can attest, I’ve never once thought of you as a homophobe. Quite to the contrary, comparing my sexuality to all sorts of hipster nihilist shit that people might engage in whilst fucking—like foot fetishes, fursuits, BDSM, or golden showers—just offends the ever living fuck out of me. And I detest people that try to take the legitimacy of the gay rights movement and twist it for their own use.

This entire culture is structured upon the oppression of gender roles and the model of a patriarchal two gender family. Tying someone up and fucking them or licking their feet is odd, but it’s hardly challenging the status quo in a fundamental way. Loving someone of my own sex, displaying approperiate affection in public, and wanting to marry her or raise children together makes even the most liberal of straight folks a little uncomfortable. That’s because these actions directly oppose the heteronormative patriarchal roots of present society. They reverberate throughout my entire life, and affect so much more than what I do between the sheets. The reduction of homosexuality to just another kink is delusional as fuck. Refusal to adhere to the standard gender binary is not just something that you take out of the closet for sexy time, it’s a badge of shame in a world who classifies non-heterosexuals as the “other”.

If your BDSM is to the point that you feel that you should have the ability to walk your sub through the mall naked on a leash, and then call the inability to do so “oppression” on par with the dirty looks I earn while doing something as innocent as holding a partner’s hand, then you are a delusional fuck without a shred of rationality or perspective. Honestly, I don’t give a shit about the ability to have sex with someone of the same gender in public or engage in heavy petting. Straight couples can’t do that either, and I’m certainly not against that.

Sexual and gender identity is just that, an identity. It’s not an expression of sex in a place where sexuality is inappropriate. Walking a naked chick with nipple clamps into Macy’s is a blatant and inappropriate display of sexuality on par with straight couples fondling each other’s genitalia in public. Holding hands with another woman while I pursue the racks at Dillard’s is not obscene.

Seriously, if you cannot separate distaste for the blatant display of another’s sex life from genuine bigotry and hatred of someone’s identity, grow the fuck up. You’re like those PETA assholes who think that wearing KKK robes in public is an approperiate way to protest the abuse of animals. If you can’t defend your own movement without undermining another, just shut the hell up and go back to your dungeon.

The thing I want people to notice here is how she takes us to be asserting that we ought to have a right to do BDSM in public.

Not just that, but she seems to think we want the right to walk around naked in public -- something I've never seen queer folk assert that they should have.

(Yeah, I know, old-school '70s gay lib had a lot more shock elements to it. But I don't think even they ever said "It's discriminatory not to allow us to walk around naked in public. They were intentionally being provocative.)

Which only proves our point further. This sort of lurid fantasizing is exactly what homophobes do. Someone says "I should have the right to marry whoever I wish," and this is translated in the bigot's mind into "Give him that, and he'll be rutting like a pig in the middle of Main Street."

If said homophobe is particularly vile or clueless, he may add "With our kids."

Looked at from a distance, it's actually a strangely irrational phenomenon. Someone says "Hey, stop speaking viciously about people like me" or "People like me shouldn't be at risk of losing our jobs, especially when we're scrupulous about the closet" and someone starts screeching about "nipple clamps in the mall."

I don't know what it is, and I probably shouldn't do too much armchair psych here. But an initial guess is that it's a way of projecting "bad" sexuality outward. It seems to be "I'm not extreme; I'm within some acceptable parameter. Anyone not like me, however, is ridiculous and obnoxious."

It seems to me to be a way of talking about extremes -- a way of saying "nipples and Main Street" -- and disavowing identification with them. "Oh, I would never think about such a horrible thing. Except when condemning those people over there. Who aren't me. Did I say I'd never think about CLAMPED NIPPLES ON MAIN STREET? Well, of course, I never would. It's those people over there who'd CLAMP NIPPLES ON MAIN STREET."

While our BDSMy reader just sits there going "Main Street? You're weird."