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.

12 comments:

garbo in paint said...

For me, what I fail to understand with these radfems, that so much of these discussions with them is 101 stuff.

"It's intrusive".

When someone says that, the appropriate response is NOT:
"But why?"
or
"You're being oversensitive!"
or
"You/I will benefit if you tell me about it!"

It's:
"I'm sorry, I didn't realise I was being intrusive, I will now back off."

ONE-OH-FUCKING-ONE.

Of course, in an ideal world they wouldn't ask the fucking question to begin with.

That they can honestly believe that ANY woman, whether feminist-identified, saturated in feminist-theory, or just, y'know, subjected to this slut-shaming world, has not gone over and over all our "sick" secret sexual desires ad nauseum is so insulting it leaves me breathless.
The only word that can remotely do it justice is, simply:
Infantilising.

No adult woman in a world barely beginning to permit women the right to their sexuality, wants to be perceived as an incompetent child.

And when this is stated to them, that they cannot immediately grasp how intensely hurtful and offensive that is...

I don't understand.

Why do these people always think they're the first to say such things, ask such things? From where do they get the arrogance to assume we haven't already asked ourselves these questions?
Haven't already tortured ourselves with guilt about it?
Haven't already had to fight, tooth and nail, against a world that wants to shame our desires, just to own them?

And you are right: we do not owe these explanations, not to anyone. They are not owed justification.

Also I have a fairy tale kink. Just thought I'd throw that in there. :)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I'm feeling deeply annoyed by all of the, "But we're just asking these questions in good faith?"

Why should I believe them? Without evidence, without reflection, without examination, what reason on earth do I have to believe them?

It's the same damn thing I've been hearing for the last ten years and more, and I can count the times that's been in good faith on one hand. What makes them so fucking special that they should be handed the magic "But I'm different!" flag on the basis of, well, they said so?

What kind of bloody idiot do they take me for?

Suzanne said...

It rather reminds me of why I left the Catholic Church.

Over and over again I was told to reconsider my position on abortion, that there was something willful, wrong about making an informed decision about something.

Especially when two of my fellow Newman Catholic ass'n members in college felt the need to badger me because what I think is so inherently wrong that they must reform me.

Then again what the hell do I know. I nearly got kicked off a feminist student listserv in gradschool for using 'bitch' as a verb.

Trinity said...

"It's the same damn thing I've been hearing for the last ten years and more, and I can count the times that's been in good faith on one hand."

Yeah, that. I mean, I do think there's good faith mixed in there every now and again. Nerdisms over at my spot was thoughtful, respectful, and eager to think about the issue anew once I talked to her.

But a lot of people really are talking to hear themselves talk, and fancy themselves, as laughingrat put it, daring "dissenters" telling some brave truth about who we really are. There's not much one can say to that besides "No."

Anonymous said...

Suzanne (and others in other posts on this matter) touched on the similarities of this type of questioning to behaviors within religious practices.

I remember very distinctly at age 17 becoming so infuriated when a Christian peer tried to witness to me and told me, "Oh, one day you're going to feel it and you'll know Jesus's love." When I said I'd been to several different churches, read the Bible a little, and had tried very hard to believe what the preachers told me, it was suggested that I "didn't try hard enough," or that I "gave up." All of this with the undertone that seemed to say "Oh you poor, poor dear. You just can't get it and can't see that you're being misled." According to her and others like her, I was incredibly dumb and in need of someone to take my hand and show me the proper way to live.

To this day, I'm still baffled as to why they were shocked I became so offended.

This is exactly what I'm seeing when I read the same comments over and over again. "If only you'd look at it from this angle," or "You are in denial and can't see what's really going on!" It's insulting on so many levels to see how many people assume that anyone hasn't ever sat down and questioned where his/her desires come from. It's not as if radfems are the only ones waiting in line to tell me that something must be wrong with me.

I choose not to engage in this dialogue because nine times out of ten, it's the same thing I experienced when I was a teenager, just in a different wrapper. They really don't want to hear my answers, unless it's me affirming their beliefs. I don't have the time and energy for that, especially when I've asked myself those questions and did quite a bit of soul searching (and I still do). I read your exchange with Nerdisms on LJ, and that was refreshing, but it'd have been nice if I'd seen that last month when I read that my boyfriend should kill himself because of what he does with me.

Do I get defensive when it comes to this? Yes, but it's not without reason. Even now I'm responding anonymously because I work hard to keep parts of myself separated so some people who know me won't find out and be weirded out by my kinks. Not to mention that being a parent brings in a whole other line of questioning like "What will you tell your son?/How can you do this when you're a parent?" as though I'd parade my sexuality around in front of my kid. So, yes, I do get defensive. Not because I'm afraid to examine myself and my desires - I've done that and continue to do it - I get defensive because I'm tired of hearing I'm sick, defective, stupid, a bad mother, a bad feminist, or that I should kill myself. Wouldn't you stop answering too?

Trinity said...

"When I said I'd been to several different churches, read the Bible a little, and had tried very hard to believe what the preachers told me, it was suggested that I "didn't try hard enough," or that I "gave up." All of this with the undertone that seemed to say "Oh you poor, poor dear. You just can't get it and can't see that you're being misled.""

That's how the radical feminist position strikes me as well. As a kind of

"Well, have you examined? A lot of people don't really think about how society is oriented around heteronormativity."

"Oh, yeah, thanks for mentioning that. I totally agree that heteronormativity is creepy, but I really think my BDSM defies it because I'm female and domina --"

"But don't you see that any eroticized hierarchy is exactly the same?"

"With all due respect, I think my BDSM leanings are immutable, so no, I really don't think I'm just a slave to heteronormativity. And like I was saying, even if they are more a product of nurture than nature and immutable anyway, I'm more inclined to think that comes from something el --"

"These sexual libertarians, only concerned with their own pleasure!"

Trinity said...

"Do I get defensive when it comes to this? Yes, but it's not without reason."

THIS.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I've done my usual thing which is to take it apart line-by-line to disagree with every major point:

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.

My response to this is, "well, why do you think that things just shut down once examination is involved?" After all, if patriarchy infuses everything, then logically it also infuses the methods, expectations and directions that examination involves, which means that the answer itself might end up more often reflecting patriarchal values in some way.

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.

It is true that ME examining where MY desires may have come from is not intruding. However, the minute anyone else demands to see what I found with my examination, actually, yes - that is demanding to know the details of my private, intimate and sexual life. That is, pretty much by any definition, "intruding". If I WANT to share what I found then that's cool, but if I tell you to butt out, then I have every right to do so.

Furthermore, when I examine, it's cool, but a lot of the time when we see "you should examine", what is actually implied is, "you should allow US to examine YOU, and question, probe and challenge everything that you claim to have discovered in your own examination". And that, again, is by any definition intruding.

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.

Damn right! But of course, that's not really what many feminist BDSMers are saying. It tends to be instead, "Been there, done that, got the hideous emotional scars, and it didn't do me any good kthnxbai."

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.

See above. Once again, the idea that it's definitely not helpful, and is harmful, comes not from a blanket blind rejection, but from having actually tried it and actually having found it not helping but doing harm!

The only thing I take issue with is "sexual desires are NEVER EVER even slightly influenced by the patriarchy."

Aaaaaand hello there, Ms. straw kinkster! 'Nuff said.

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