Friday, 10 April 2009

Race Play

You all need to go read this, here, right now. A frank discussion of race play between two Black people. Start at Part 1 and read the whole thing in order.

I do not have snazzy, witty commentary right now. I have some things floating in my head, especially as a white kinky person who dated a Black kinky one (in big letters I announce loudly that we NEVER DID RACE PLAY and did not have any kind of D/s relationship in either direction), but every time I try to write them down I rethink them.

So I'll just say that I do think it should be read and thought about. And that it especially should be read by the folks who seem to think that race play is always white tops' idea.


Clarisse Thorn said...

Thanks so much for posting this. Mollena Williams just came to Chicago and gave a Race Play workshop, and I MISSED IT because I had a fight with my ex that ended up screwing my entire schedule for that day. So I'm pleased to see that I can get her perspective here.

Clarisse Thorn said...

Followup comment, now that I've read the interview:

Ever since I started thinking about race play, I tried to imagine what might conceivably approach that level of transgression -- for me -- in my head (I am not trying to make an argument about what's "equivalently transgressive" for the entirety of American society).

For me, I think that one type of play that would feel as scandalous and scary as race play would be ... feminism play. Like, "You think you're such a feminist, but you're still doing this you bitch."

... I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in doing that, but I wonder if part of that is because I think it's TOO fucked up ....

Any thoughts welcome.

Trinity said...

"Ever since I started thinking about race play, I tried to imagine what might conceivably approach that level of transgression -- for me -- in my head (I am not trying to make an argument about what's "equivalently transgressive" for the entirety of American society)."

I'm not sure I think anything could be for me -- simply because I don't think I have anything approaching that kind of experience.

I do have a fantasy of forced feminization, of people dressing me up in frilly things and a long wig and makeup and "forcing" me to parade around the club. I sort of want to do this, just because I know that femininity is a personal minefield for me and I think it would probably be good for me to force myself to deal with my feelings about it.

But I don't know that I'd actually do it, because I wouldn't want people to not understand that that was a humiliation scene and tell me I was "pretty" and should do that more often -- a reaction I sometimes get from heteronormative folks when I look more feminine (and often feel deeply uncomfortable.)

I'd want to be sure people understand I'm presenting that way the bottom in a scene that might well prove really wrenching for me... and I worry that people wouldn't get that.

Clarisse said...

Ah, the "pretty" thing. I could write pages about that, but I spent my stolen work time commenting on this post that a friend directed me to: [ ]

I'd be interested to see your thoughts. It's a different kind of community from the one that's usually telling us to "examine".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the link - the whole article was fascinating reading.

I find the question of "what would be a similarly transgressive play?" to be fascinating. My first thought is feminised submission, which I just won't touch in r/l because too often it's presented a "forced feminisation" and humiliation: I really cannot see my feminine/female side as a source of humiliation, it's something that I am very proud to express. My fear is that too many people would see it and just think "humiliation", and then it would be broken for me.

The other thing would be something to do with my political or religious views: building a scene around the persecution of Christians by Soviet Russia (or indeed, Ancient Rome) could be simultaneously very hot and very troubling for me, for example - or indeed a scene based around persecution of communists by some ruling party.

BTW Just a thought, Trin: do you think it might work if you were prettified, but had a sign saying "Tomboy" around your neck? I'm thinking that this could be a form of roleplay "punishment" by (maybe) a strictly gender-role reinforcing girls' school. The idea behind this being that the sign would signal the roleplay element, and people would understand by it that "pretty" is not a desirable state for you?

Trinity said...


Thanks for that suggestion, but no, I don't think that would work for me.

Ernest Greene said...

First time here as a poster, though a frequent and fascinated reader. This conversation is just too interesting to resist.

It would be convenient if BDSM existed in a political and social vacuum in which issues like race and gender didn't intrude, but the hard-to-deny question is, would it exist as it does if that were actually the case? When this is thrown in our faces by hostile outsiders, it's perfectly natural to bristle at it, but fabsent the finger-wagging, it's still a nagging conundrum.

What those who criticize BDSM construct as its reification of stereotypes as something other than prejudicial when, in fact, that's what they are, I tend to see as the reclaiming of archetypes that may have been created by social injustices in their historical origins but that can be assigned new meanings within the confines of our shared imaginations.

For me, nothing is as problematic as the appropriation of Nazi symbolism in kink situations. As a Jew, seeing anyone in a Nazi uniform anywhere provokes instantaneous and visceral responses. However, as a uniform fetishist, I have no choice but to concede the Nazis their due when it comes to military couture. Dr. Hugo Boss definitely knew how to cut a tunic. But the idea of partying with people dressed as Nazis, even though I know they're absolutely not Nazis in any way whatsoever, squicks me out nonetheless.

I struggled with this contradiction for some time until I finally got to talk to a pair of lesbian players I'd seen at parties for years, generally in Nazi regalia. Turns out both were Jewish and found it amusing to picture how indignant actual Nazis would be at the notion of Jewish lesbians engaging in every perversion the Nazis sought to eradicate while wearing the sacred raiments of their aryan superiors. Could be just a rationalization, but it makes some sense to me.

Personally, I don't think I could ever do a role-playing scene involving Nazis, or one in which racist language was a required element of the script, but I can't see judging those who choose to do so for troubliing the minds of uninvolved parties. If we allow that the thrill of the forbidden is part of the allure of BDSM, what is more forbidden than bending the archetypal sources of our worst historical associations into the energizing of our sexual fantasies?

I think the key to getting comfortable with these kinds of preferences lies in giving the participants credit for having thought the implications through and concluded that, free of any real-world spill-over, they can deal with them. If the players themselves can, I don't see why the rest of us shouldn't.

Trinity said...


That's about the way I react to this myself. I don't know that I have much to add to what you say -- especially since I'm neither Jewish nor Black, so if I say "that never bothered me and always struck me as similar to any other 'creepy' kind of play" the response is always (and maybe rightly?) "but you're not a member of the oppressed group!"

I mean, I suppose there could be meaning to my utter lack of desire to what Clarisse, above, calls "feminism play." But even there, it doesn't offend me. There really are people who are Good Feminists but really want heavy humiliation and domination, so... *shrug*

I guess the closest thing in my life would be fetishizing of disability, and... perhaps weirdly, that doesn't bug me.

It could be the way I've seen it done most of the time, which is fetish models like Kumimonster posing in wheelchairs or with crutches and looking kind of like a creepy plastic doll.

Whether this reaction is sensible or not, it doesn't really feel to me like that reflects on me, as someone who has used plenty of those devices. If anything it reads more to me as a comment on the soullessness of technology, kind of like robot fetishism in a way.

Which is kind of odd, as I'm part of a movement where, well, assistive technology of whatever sort is normal, just there, like glasses or something. So there's a part of me that wonders if I "should" be offended -- like, shouldn't I be going "no, that's not really fascinating, it's just an alternate leg?"

But... well, first of all it's so unreal it doesn't feel personal to me. And second, well... someone did, once, look at my scars and call me a cyborg once, and it did hurt. I'm not sure that never exploring those stereotypes is good.

I mean, I don't think everyone should rush into doing so because I said so, and I understand totally why people wouldn't. But... I guess for me I don't see it as different in kind from playing with something else that's dark and difficult. If I don't have problems with rape fantasy, or with the idea of humiliation play, I don't see why these other things are so wildly different in kind.

And I've always, personally, found the "Hitler would shit a brick, seeing this!" convincing. But again, I'm not sure I'm the person who has to be convinced.

Alexandra Erin said...

I don't think I would be able to do race play, but I'm at a place where that doesn't trigger feelings of squick or "OMGHOWCANYOUDOTHAT?"

I mean, my kink is gynophagic cannibalism scenarios... the scenarios frequently include elements of what might be termed "feminism play" or "patriarchy play". I'm not going to throw stones.

Cereus said...

For me, I think that one type of play that would feel as scandalous and scary as race play would be ... feminism play. Like, "You think you're such a feminist, but you're still doing this you bitch."

Actually... I've pretty much done exactly that. At the time it was pretty scary (although not necessarily in a bad way). But that's one of the main reasons why I can respond intellectually to these debates, or with anger or laughter - instead of wanting to crawl under a rock.

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