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!

20 comments:

SnowdropExplodes said...

I have to disagree and say that I think there is real oppression of BDSMers.

While it may not be to the same degree as for some other people, I'm inclined to think that any time there's laws that make you a criminal based on your sexuality, that's a problem. Any time you have good reason to fear the police, that's a problem. When your sexuality is officially described as a mental illness (for example, the WHO's diagnostic criteria for research purposes define sadomasochism as a mental illness), that's a problem.

I have had to listen to people making really quite visceral statements about their disgust and hatred of BDSM - how can I not feel this to be oppression in my culture?

I did a quick Google News search for [gay murdered] and [goth murdered] for 2008-2009; 1,450 results for "gay", 1,270 results for "goth" (while goth and BDSM are not remotely the same, the symbolism of goth culture and BDSM is to the general public quite similar, with the leather, collars, studs, corsets etc). Unfortunately, [BDSM murdered] and [kinky murdered] came back with a lot of noise where someone was suspected of being a murderer by virtue of being kinky; also, the whole story about Jane Longhurst and the subsequent legislation being brought in also flooded it out.

I also recall the blatant discrimination against an openly D/s couple who were refused a bus ticket by a driver who called them "freaks and dogs".

It is also worth pointing out that if a BDSMer ended up on the sex offenders register in the UK (which could happen either through the extreme porn legislation, or conceivably through another "Spanner" trial), then they would certainly find their chances of being murdered increased significantly (Google News found a lot of stories from the last year that included [vigilante murdered sex]).

There is a constant stream of negative stories about kink in the tabloid press that informs attitudes amongst a significant portion of the population. Kink is okay as long as it's in porn, but the moment people do it in real life the attitudes change drastically and we become targets for hatred.

What has to happen before it qualifies as oppression, and not just bigotry?

Trinity said...

"What has to happen before it qualifies as oppression, and not just bigotry?"

I don't know, SD -- which is why I'm vacillating.

I don't think, though, that it has nearly as much to do with "what happens" as "whether there's social cohesion to what happens."

Take that couple called "freaks and dogs." That was awful and I remember it too, but the question is does most of society feel as that bus driver did?

I'm not sure, especially not about the UK, but I'm inclined to say "no." I feel that the way goths are treated -- including those who are pretty obviously not just into collars and leashes for the fashion -- varies hugely widely.

It's that that I'm hung up on in deciding whether kink is an axis of oppression.

Trinity said...

(and why do I think it varies? Because I dressed that way, and people gave me looks, but I never feared for my safety. I might well have feared if I'd lived somewhere else, but that's my point.)

Pharaoh Katt said...

As a goth, I have put up with more from being a goth than I had for being kinky, probably because you can't tell to look at me that I'm kinky.
This has been small things, like looks, lewd comments, the guy who said I couldn't be a goth and work with children because I'd scare them.
It works it's way up to big things, like on Sunday when I had people crowd me and start grabbing at my hair. Or the times when I have feared for my life, walking home from a train station late at night.
But it does vary, and there are pleanty of people out there who don't give a fuck how I dress. Including one random who handed me her baby.

Kinky stuff? Hasn't happened to me. (Which is probably why I have no issues putting my pics out there).

I'm not saying it doesn't happen, just that I agree that it's so wildly varying that it's hard to say whether it's opression or not.

Pharaoh Katt said...

And then there's that other kettle of fish: I chose to be goth, I don't chose to be kinky. Does it change things?

Trinity said...

"And then there's that other kettle of fish: I chose to be goth, I don't chose to be kinky. Does it change things?"

Like I said over at ND's, I'm not sure it does.

Most oppressions are not based on chosen facets of identity, but some are.

Religion, for example. In some cases, people do choose their religion. But this doesn't make it the case that where there does exist oppression based on religion, only those who did not choose their religion are the oppressed ones.

The reason I object to the choice rhetoric when applied to all BDSM folk universally is that I see it as similar to the people who see being gay as a choice, and therefore assert that gay people can't really be oppressed.

"They're not like Black people because they CHOOSE to stick their penises in one another's anuses!" etc.

"Choice" is associated in the popular mind with "possibly bad decision."

Alcibiades said...

Looks a whole lot like oppression to me when 24% of us have lost jobs:


I'm not sure why social cohesion particularly matters- and if you're going for social cohesion, then the many progressive bastions that have thankfully sprung up and welcomed homosexuals would tend to indicate for less social cohesion for homosexual oppression than they do for kinky oppression.

It is true that we don't occupy as much mental bandiwith of the mainstream as homosexuals do, so the mainstream isn't likely to target us specifically for hurt (stuff like Operation Spanner makes for a worrying precedent, though, and I've heard of raids on the spaces where I've attended play parties). But the bottom line is people are suffering, losing their jobs and kids, for an unchosen sexual proclivity. I think that's the only thing that should matter in the discussion.

Again, if you ask me, this whole "is it oppression?" question only serves to deligitmize the suffering of marginalized groups. The only reason why we're having this conversation is because Jenn et al wants the homosexual experience to be more legitimate than having bad shit happen to you because you're kinky.

For the record, I feel like I've got far more to worry about by being kinky than I do for being queer. Thank god for the gay rights movement, I live in a progressive city, have progressive parents who completely understand my orientation, and now that I'm away from high school, am in an environment where I can be out to my friends without social censure. Not so with my kink.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Wow. For once the poly people are being held up as maybe being legit, as opposed to being the demon in the wild which, if the lesser weirdos are permitted tolerance, will destroy the world.

Though the language doesn't suggest that she actually believes we exist.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Take that couple called "freaks and dogs." That was awful and I remember it too, but the question is does most of society feel as that bus driver did?

I'm not sure, especially not about the UK, but I'm inclined to say "no." I feel that the way goths are treated -- including those who are pretty obviously not just into collars and leashes for the fashion -- varies hugely widely.


That's a good point, but I come back to the sense that, even if people don't feel (or at least, don't act) the same way as the bus driver did, there also isn't any pressure against it: that is, goths and openly D/s folks are sufficiently different as to be not worthy of protection.

This extends even into law; BDSM as a sexuality is not, it seems, protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (while LGBT folks all are).

While I acknowledge that there are some places where a gothily dressed person can walk and feel safe (if regarded in a strange way), it is fair to say that there are also places where LGBT folks can do the same. And I think oppression starts because you can't always tell whether safety is real or imagined.

I don't think, though, that it has nearly as much to do with "what happens" as "whether there's social cohesion to what happens."

...

It's that that I'm hung up on in deciding whether kink is an axis of oppression.


Again, I think it probably counts as oppression because even if society doesn't back it in a cohesive way, society also allows it to happen and seemingly has no qualms about doing so. There is no comeback if you get fired for being kinky, because there is no legal protection, and there is no social pressure for there to be that protection; quite the opposite it seems. Similarly, since SM sex is at best on questionable ground legally thanks to Spanner, and society seems to be quite happy to let that be the case. Although we can point to certain indications that people tend to think "what happens between consenting adults is their own business", which may indicate attitudes are changing, there is no realistic chance of having Spanner overturned either by the courts or by Parliament any time soon.

Does it amount to an "axis of oppression"? I don't know, but I certainly think it's more than isolated bigotry.

SnowdropExplodes said...

As a goth, I have put up with more from being a goth than I had for being kinky, probably because you can't tell to look at me that I'm kinky.

I think that's definitely true: kink isn't something visible (then again, neither is LGB). It's what happens when people find it out about you that poses the problem.

I think a lot of kinky folks have got very good at staying undercover and thus avoiding the effects of anti-kink sentiments, but then again, if there's enough reason to fear that you feel you have to do that, doesn't it suggest a system-wide injustice?

Pharaoh Katt said...

Trin: wrt choice
That really does make a lot of sense. And now that I think about it, saying to someone who's been attacked "Well, you wore that outfit, what did you expect?" is no less than victim-blaming.

Snowdrop: Yeah, I guess so. And heaven forbid my centre ever find out; it's not the sort of thing people want around children. I suppose it's different for everyone, and I wonder if my perceptions would be different if I'd been directly affected.

Trinity said...

"I'm not sure why social cohesion particularly matters- and if you're going for social cohesion, then the many progressive bastions that have thankfully sprung up and welcomed homosexuals would tend to indicate for less social cohesion for homosexual oppression than they do for kinky oppression."

I think it does to "oppression" just because of how that word's defined.

Which there's some sense behind. People wanted a way to say to those who *aren't* oppressed, say

"Look, I'm sorry that gay man called you a 'breeder', and I'm sorry there are no 'het pride' parades, but you're missing the concept; the world is structured for you. THAT'S THE PROBLEM."

And I think that's valuable and needed.

What I *don't* think is that only oppression matters... which really in the end is why I left formal feminist circles.

I don't want to sit around measuring which stigmas matter. I want to fight them.

Trinity said...

"Does it amount to an "axis of oppression"? I don't know, but I certainly think it's more than isolated bigotry."

That's exactly where I am with this too SD, and why these people frustrate me so. For them, it's Either Oppression or It's Not, and whether or not you deserve to be listened to hinges always and forever on that amen.

Which, y'know, to quote Belle: zzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz. I'm so not interested in "these people have it badly enough to warrant my giving a fuck, and those don't" any more.

I guess that makes me a bad feminist OH WAIT I'M NOT ONE ANY MORE ANYWAY

emarkienna said...

I generally agree with you - it seems that even when we're not saying such things, people are happy to construct straw men to argue with.

I don't think it's a question of whether people are murdered or not - if that was the only concern, then surely people shouldn't care about things like gay marriage, or being sacked from their work for having a same-sex partner? "What are you worried about, as long as you're not getting beaten up anymore!" It would also mean that people should never have worried about the criminalisation of gay sex, or the inequality in the laws, just so long as they weren't getting murdered.

As someone who's both bisexual[*], and submissive and masochist, I fear at least as much for the latter than the former. No, I don't fear being murdered as a result of S&M - but I don't fear being murdered for having a same sex partner, either. I'm far more in fear of being murdered due to the way I dress or look in public (see the Sophie Lancaster case). I also suffer far more harrassment from that, than from homophobia. Does this mean that gay and bi people should shut up, because they're not as oppressed as goths?

I'm not sure a distinction between prejudice and oppression is useful - as you say, we need a clear definition, and it's easy for them to say things like "Oh, you're being fired from work, thrown into prison - but that's not *true* oppression". I'd avoid using the word because of this.

But I'd equally avoid saying that I'm oppressed because I'm bisexual.

I mean that's the point here - I could understand saying that I'm not oppressed, because our situation isn't comparable to say, people oppressed in a war-torn or totalitarian country. But she's happy to say that gay people are oppressed. If BDSMers are whining (even when many of them avoid using the term "oppression"), surely she's whining even more so, by playing the "But I'm so much more oppressed than you are" card?

Comparing oppressions is far more tedious than any claim of being oppressed in the first place. Even if one group of people do have it worse, than doesn't negate the issues face by the other. As you say, it's not a binary thing. It's especially unproductive when they have a common cause - we should be on the same side here (not to mention that many of us fall into both categories).

I think it is true that there is prejudice against much of BDSM - sure, a bit of light bondage with fluffy handcuffs might be mainstream, but there's a tendency for people to draw a line of "But anything beyond that, that's just too extreme". I think this prejudice has helped push the "extreme porn" law through (where much of the arguments involved offensive comparisons to violent murderers, snuff films, and child porn - and that's by MPs and police chiefs, not just random individuals). Prejudice from the state is far more worrying than random prejudiced individuals.

In turn, the "extreme porn" law will help fuel further prejudice - it's not just something "a bit odd", it's "illegal pornography". Just as with Spanner, people will be able to claim they aren't being prejudice, hiding behind the argument of "But it's illegal anyway".

"but the question is does most of society feel as that bus driver did?"

Consider when a gay person is murdered - I don't think most of the UK would feel as the murderer did anymore (I hope not). I'm not saying this is a bad definition, actually I think it's a good one, but note that it conflicts with any definition that is based on people being murdered in this country, I think. And if you did a poll on what people thought on homosexuality versus kink, or some gay porn being illegal versus "extreme" porn, it's not clear to me how they would compare...

(And I'm still amused at her strategy of trying to claim that prejudice against kink doesn't exist, by spewing a load of prejudiced comments about it.)

[*] - Although chances are, she'll write me off by saying that bisexuals aren't oppressed either. My experience with this sort of attitude is that even bisexuals get listed alongside pedophiles - or cat-fancyers (as claimed by Julie Bindel) - as things that should never be compared to the oppression face by true homosexuals.

Nik said...

Trin,

I'm responding to your posts from ND here, because I think I've been banned there.

"Nik,

I’m on your side on this, but this is just unbelievable.

I live in a big city, so the likelihood of me getting more than gawked at for holding hands with a girl is low, yeah… but that doesn’t mean this is true across the board. I really think you’re not making sense here."

I'm not saying its true across the board that gays can be out and everything with A-OK. But that there are parts of the country where they can be out, where they can exhibit their sexuality in public and not have people stare. Thats not the only thing that matters in this context, either. Having a real support group and having people who have some semblance of power that you can turn too is very important if you want to be a BDSM activist and not fight the entire damn system by yourself.

Yes, gays and lesbians have the potential to experience discrimination on a FAR greater measure than kinksters. But you can also run away from that discrimination. You can run in circles where you can say "hey, I'm queer" and have a valid, reasonable expectation that people won't bat an eye. That matters. Tell me what community I can join in the US thats not specifically BDSM-centric where I can say "hey, I'm into BDSM" and expect to be accepted. I can't think of 1. Not 1. Whereas I can think of any number of organizations where that is true of homosexuality. My school has a group of people who are gay, and out. This in a profession where reputation matters a huge amount. But thats ok, because there are large sections of everyday society which is completely accepting of homosexuals.

"This I do think is true. We don’t have a powerful lobby, and I think part of this is because we don’t have quite the history of organized activism. I mean, yeah, there have always been leather contingents in gay pride parades, but there’s not really anything as known and accepted as the HRC for us.

There IS the NCSF, but they’re fairly small.

And small local activist orgs."

And this, to me, is incredibly important.

"More accepted? Yeah.

More pernicious? No way."

Depends on what you mean by pernicious. Again, homosexuality can have worse consequences than BDSM. But as kinksters there is NO safe space for us. No towns, no cities, no groups (except for other purely BDSM-centric groups) that we can turn too. If thats not social cohesion against a particular group, I'm not sure what is.

Honestly, the only people I've ever told that I'm into BDSM (except for my girl) are people who I could easily cut off all contact with and not suffer that many ill effects. This isn't a coincidence. I don't tell anyone from school because it could spread. I tell old friends from undergrad who aren't in my close friend network anymore. I only tell people who are actively in my life now who know almost none of my other friends.

Yeah...that can happen if your gay, and in Alabama. But you can move. Me? Tell me where I can go, Trin. Tell me where I can go and actually feel comfortable with who I am.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I'd note that many people in my local social circle reads my main blog, which includes discussions of kink in great detail. They know which of my partners is my master.

I have the luck of working in a field where 'weird' is kind of normal. My boss is kinky - which, even if he weren't a personal acqaintance whose ruminations on this I'm privy to, I would know because he wrote a book about it that I happen to own. And I'm lucky enough to spend my time with people who are happy to do their own thing and let me do mine - which group I acquired in part because I hard-filter on whether they can deal with me being poly.

It's possible to find a place where one can live.

Trinity said...

Thanks, Kiya.

Nik, I'm not sure what to tell you. I don't want to belittle your pain -- I'm very familiar with it myself. But I really don't think it serves us to deny where parallels come apart, which is why I'm leery of using the word "oppression" here.

For example, while I know from Spanner that consent isn't considered defense in an assault case *in the UK*, I honestly don't know about here. So when people say "Is there something analogous to the laws against gay marriage for kinky folk in the US?" I honestly don't know.

And while I think that kind of legally enshrined discrimination is not the only facet of marginalization, oppression, or both, I think it makes it difficult to make our case to those who think that BDSM is "a private matter."

And I really do, as much as I understand your pain, think there's a relevant difference between *risk of being bashed or murdered* and *risk of being fired*. Both suck, but no... not the same thing.

Nik said...

For better or worse, I'm in the legal profession, and I highly doubt that I could get a job anywhere if this came out about me Dw3t. There are, of course, BDSM groups, but there is no wider acceptance of it in any larger community. In the legal field it is, to a large extent, acceptable to be gay. This is not the case for being kinky.

"Nik, I'm not sure what to tell you. I don't want to belittle your pain -- I'm very familiar with it myself. But I really don't think it serves us to deny where parallels come apart, which is why I'm leery of using the word "oppression" here."

The parallels do come apart at some point, I would just disagree that they come apart at the word oppression. And honestly, to a large extent, the people who seem to want to differentiate them are people who want to claim that their injustice is real and oppression, while other peoples injustice doesn't rise to a serious level. Hence you get idiots saying they are offended by the comparison at all and saying that it de-legitimizes the gay rights movement. Please note that I'm not accusing you of those motives, I don't think that's the case.

"For example, while I know from Spanner that consent isn't considered defense in an assault case *in the UK*, I honestly don't know about here. So when people say "Is there something analogous to the laws against gay marriage for kinky folk in the US?" I honestly don't know."

As I said on 9-2's blog, assault and battery mostly don't have consent provisions in the statutes. However the common law does sometimes allow for consent to be used as an affirmative defense, although its often unclear.

The short answer to whether BDSM is illegal in the US is that it depends on the jurisdiction, the prosecutor, and the judge. By the way, consent is presumed to NOT be there. So if you make BDSM porn at your house with your partner , if they die/leave/whatever, and someone finds that porn, you are probably going to jail.

"And I really do, as much as I understand your pain, think there's a relevant difference between *risk of being bashed or murdered* and *risk of being fired*. Both suck, but no... not the same thing."

Geh...I haven't been saying they are the same thing. But I think the risk of something terrible happening is counterbalanced by the decreased risk of something happening at all. I don't think the only criteria to look at is what is the severity of the possible consequences. It is also helpful to look at whether the consequences are state-sponsored, and how often they happen.

Cereus Sphinx said...

Snowdrop:

I can actually see some parallels between Goths and BDSMers in the sense of embracing darkness as an inherent part of life versus embracing pain etc. as part of sex. And anyone who thinks Goths have it good are not correct.

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