Tuesday, 7 April 2009

"Lifestyle"

I'm not sure at the moment if I ever linked this post of Kiya's, on the word "lifestyle" and what it means to call a subculture a "lifestyle." Perhaps I have and my memory is murky.

Still, I wanted to do so "again?" because of something she says that I think is quite relevant to the endless bickering about whether or how BDSM is inherently sexist/creepy/badevil:
And there's a dangerous, nervewracking thing -- the fact that sometimes people hit the lifestyle stuff, with all of its attendant nonsense, and wind up believing that they have to have all the crap additional stuff to be whatever they are -- all the trappings and dancing around and all the other stuff that they'd only be interested in because it legimates their identity. I saw a discussion recently about Goreans, and a number of people who got into that whole subculture with all of its sexist baggage and mediocre prose because it gives them a structure under which it's okay to be kinky. If the only way one thinks it's okay to, say, be a female submissive is to go do Gor, then by all that is good and holy they will do Gor, and even the weird shit will be critical to defending it, because it's the only way that's acceptable to embrace that identity.
This, I think, gets lost in a lot of discussions. Feminists of a certain stripe see Gor, and see the people of all genders who go "We discovered Rebecca truly thrived as slaveslut #46, and so it must be true that Norman was onto something with that 'women are really slaves inside and feminists are ruining women's happiness!' thing," and think that must be what we all think somehow.

When, really, we have to consider what may be going on with Rebecca more complexly than simply "she's a sexist colluder" or even "she's acting out her programming." It's also possible she wanted to submit all her life, and was told by people around her that good women (perhaps even "good feminists") no longer prostrate themselves before men.

If the first group of people she finds who allow her to act like herself and to have sex she enjoys (because, yes, orgasm can be a powerful motivator), tell her "you ran into such trouble because those other people just don't understand what it is to really be a woman," she may agree gratefully with them rather than use her brain.

We, whether "we" means "kinky feminists" or "radical feminists suspicious of BDSM in the first place" might not like this, but the phenomenon is not unique to sexist people. (I think here of discussions I've had with anti-porn feminists wherein it became obvious to me that they hadn't seen any porn, ever, and were content to let Dworkin or their professors tell them what it contained and what that meant.)

If what an anti-SM feminist wants is for Suzy Slavebelly to understand that women are not inherently subservient... would it not likely be more productive to say, rather than "your lifestyle is antifeminist," something like "You're very happy satisfying your 'slave belly,' okay, but what about women for whom such an idea is not only foreign but offensive, upsetting, even triggering? Why see 'slave bellies' as something all women have, rather than something of yours?"

I've never been able to figure out why the aim of such feminists is, apparently, not just telling off the people who universalize creepily but also getting those of us who are perfectly aware we're uncommon to admit that we're making some kind of mistake.

10 comments:

devastatingyet said...

I think those feminists think that all women are under a kind of "wash" of patriarchy, and that some are more susceptible to it than others and thus become submissive (or, somehow, dominant, I guess because that's pleasing to men or whatever). I don't think they see any other path there. I'm also guessing that when they picture 'female submission' they have one very consistent picture in their head and not the great blooming variety we actually see.

It's like trying to deny that your cancer comes from industrial chemicals in the environment to someone who thinks that's what causes all the cancers. Just because you didn't work in a factory and weren't aware of your exposure doesn't mean that's not what causes it.

SunflowerP said...

Kink, for me, is/should be a matter of doing the stuff that works for you, and not doing the stuff that doesn't - it's not a package deal where, if you like X, Y, and Z, to get those things sexually, you have to engage in A, B, and C whether they appeal to you or not. Never mind Goreans, I've had to struggle with this one in "mainstream" BDSM communities, because I'm not D/s.

I've been torn, in the recent discussions, between wanting to say something about that, and not wanting to give the anti-BDSM contingent the ammunition of, "See, it can be done without submission!" So it can, if you don't kink on, or otherwise want/need to explore, the D/s power exchange, or if (like me, I think) you do kink on an egalitarian exchange of power. But if the latter doesn't work for someone, it shouldn't be pressured on them, any more than, "But are you a dom or a sub? Well, I guess you could be a switch." should be pressured on me.

Sunflower

Trinity said...

"I think those feminists think that all women are under a kind of "wash" of patriarchy, and that some are more susceptible to it than others and thus become submissive (or, somehow, dominant, I guess because that's pleasing to men or whatever)."

Yeah, that is what they think.

Ranai said...

Yep. The Gor effect works in the female supremacy department too.

Men get told ad nauseam a real man can't be submissive. And woooo! they discover this entire ideology saying that really all men are sub and all women reign supreme, if only the deluded sods realised it. Dive into the imaginary world where you can tell yourself that actually, everyone is into exactly the same things you are into.

Enticing. Alluring. If you're fine with exchanging your brain for comfortable conformity.

No more doubts, no more need to hunt for justifications, no more swimming against the stream.

No more being true to yourself and letting other people be themselves.

I think fewer men woud find female supremacist ideology alluring if they didn't experience so much shaming of their sexuality in their regular environment.

Trinity said...

"Men get told ad nauseam a real man can't be submissive. And woooo! they discover this entire ideology saying that really all men are sub and all women reign supreme, if only the deluded sods realised it."

Exactly. I remember when I was brand new, pretty young, and not entirely comfortable with my genderqueerness. All that led me to wonder if "femdom" made everything better. I have some very embarrassing old journal entries from eight years ago or so in which I ask whether patriarchy and the like arose because of het men resisting their submissiveness.

But when I actually found "female supremacist" websites and the like I was really grossed out. People were actually telling me, with apparently straight faces, that their partners were not as smart as they were... and that if I didn't believe this too I wasn't kinky enough.

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