Wednesday, 29 April 2009


I'm getting into a bit of discussion in the comments to my post "Facebook" on the topic of "transgression."

In that post, I use the dreaded T-word to describe part of the point of my recent post "Roaring."

People don't like that. They don't like that at all.

It's a hot little buzzword in feminist circles, and it's usually said derisively. It's supposedly something ignorant people do. Young people, who fancy themselves rebels and aren't actually resisting anything. This is contrasted with real work for social change, which as described is less flashy, less attention-grabbing... and, perhaps most importantly, less personal. Transgression is something someone does to be shocking; revolution is for the good of the People.

Commenters to "Roaring" are, therefore, quite displeased with me for using the T-word to describe it. On the one hand, I'm pleased they consider my personal story politically important enough that they'd cough and sputter "You? Transgressive? Oh, honey, you're much more intelligent/important/interesting than that!"

On the other, I used the word for a reason. I intended to get people thinking -- and it seems I failed.

I wanted to say "Yeah, this has those personal elements of that disgusting T-word all over it. I'm not just talking about how F/m dynamics don't fit the cozy thirty-year-old 'radical' 'feminist' 'theory.' I'm also talking about having fun. Fucking with people's heads. Laughing and defying their expectations."

I'm saying, in "Roaring," not just that that can be important, but that it's also fun. That it turns me on. That it makes me laugh.

I'm being "the fun kind." I'm letting myself be, despite the gasps and tremors even from my allies.

I'm doing so to make a point. And that is that just as the personal can be political (and I'd encourage everyone to actually look up Hanisch's work and get a firm bead on what that phrase actually means, as it's very often misused), so can fun be. So can very personal and rather selfish kinds of "rebellion."

Not because feeling daring, by itself, changes the world...

...but because it's only people who feel daring enough who would try to change the world in the first place.

If we really want shock troops eager to take down the Patriarchy, it's very odd that certain feminisms have so little interest in those troops' morale. "Activist burnout" is common. "Blogging burnout" is more common still.

And perhaps this is just my strange brain making odd connections, but I think the constant de-emphasizing of pleasure, the constant aping of "...not the fun kind" as though that were in fact a point of pride, has something to do with it.

No, feminists should not be "the fun kind" if that means "backing down when things get ugly."

But if not being "the fun kind" means we don't get to take pride in our defiance, laugh about our defiance, omg she's gonna say it get off on our defiance, we're not gonna last long.

Yep. I'm "transgressive." For those who want to toss tomatoes, the line forms around the corner.

Take your best shot.


Anonymous said...

FWIW, I completely got what you were using transgression to mean, and it's the way I understand the word also.

I think if you understand why what you're doing is transgressive, then it can be incredibly powerful.

I can see why the self-conscious "transgression" that gets criticised is viewed with such disdain - but also, it doesn't seem like much fun either. But there is a true thrill in being "naughty" and doing what you're not supposed to, and I think every young person knows how fun that is.

How can this not be powerful and breaking the system? "This is fun, and you say it shouldn't be"; "I am doing this and defying you, and enjoying defying you!"; "I know why you don't want me doing this, and I call your reasons bullshit!" What isn't powerful about that!?

Trinity said...

Thanks, SD.

A lot of words have been hijacked and stolen and made into husks by certain types of feminist theory, and I think "transgression's" one, "personal's" another, "fun" a third.

I used to be all right with using "neutral" language, but really when I sat down to write "Roaring" and gave myself permission to get angry, I realized: No. If we narrow words to mean only what other people say they can mean, that stops us from talking in any meaningful way.

Because that means saying "This kind of experience cannot be described." And if it cannot be described, that's a step away from saying it cannot exist.

So. bell hooks is the person under discussion, here, saying this:

"These to me were so much of the conservative strategies underlying the transgressive surface of the film and it's just another sad moment where people are seduced by
transgression in and of itself, as though transgression makes you radical and not what you are transgressing in the service of."

She's talking specifically about a rape scene in the movie Kids, claiming that the rapist saying sweet things as he harms someone is due to "the domestication of S&M."

I'm not saying she's right or wrong on this as I never saw it, but I really get sick of how people talk on and on about the mainstreaming of BDSM but they never cite us. They never ask us if it's accurate. They never talk about the differences between Hollywood and us, much less what we have to say about it.

Honestly, I think that's fucked up at best and dangerous at worst. If people were doing that about queerness, about disability, about blackness (hell, the difference between representations of blackness and black experience is a huge theme in the interview) people would rightly be saying "whoa there."

But since it's us, we're nothing. Just a creepy strain in pop culture. There's nothing there about leather history, about whether kids being nasty to one another is actually sadomasochism at all, it's just "look, SM chic!"

How disappointing.

Why is transgression something that happens "in the service of" something? Why does everything need the proper ideology behind it?

I mean, yeah, the way she describes the scene in Kids it sounds like Hollywood's stupid "oh look, we're blurring the line between SM and rape to be spooky" and I agree, that's not useful "transgression" (actually, maybe it isn't even "transgressive" -- might've been in 1980something, but now it's a cliche.) But I'm not sure that it's useful to say it follows from that that all transgression needs to be ideologically pure.

And I still have no idea what "Real transgression is doing something unusual for you" is supposed to mean.

I think I'll... go join a fundamentalist church again. It would be totally outside the norm for me. Woo.

Habu said...

From a somewhat different angle, I've been thinking about and beginning to write about transgressive identity. Those of us who for one reason or another clearly live on what many would feel is "that side of the line."

It has to do with the difference between (to create but one of many examples) those for whom "kink" is something they do only in the bedroom and only on Thursday nights, and those who live as Leathermen or Leatherwomyn.

There are those who live day to day on the socially reinforced side of the line, yet "transgress," making short duration traverses across into what many would deem "dangerous territory."

Then there are others who live over the line. We live in a state of "transgression" not out of some sense of it being "hip" or "rebellious," but as simply our day to day reality.

For some (particularly around aspects of gender presentation) it's not a matter of "choosing" to live across the line, (as attempting to put a Stone Butch in a dress often has the effect of only making their Stone Butch-ness all the more obvious.)

For others it is a conscious decision, yes, they COULD pass, but instead they remain true to themselves.

I think a lot of how bystanders tend to understand the term "trangression" or "trangressive" has to do with their preconceived notions of transgression as a mark of immaturity, or as a hit and run form of cultural rebellion.

Whereas for those of us who live on this side of the line, it's anything BUT a skittish little dance across the line for titillation purposes, it's simply our real day to day lives.

What remains by and large invisible to those same bystanders is the amount of shit those who transgress as a matter of breathing often endure, and the often random nature of the violence many trangressively identified individuals endure.

To take a real world example, getting beaten leaving a Pride march, simply for the fact of being identified as a member of class Queer. The nuances and details of the individual being beaten are subsumed to the fact that he or she has been identified as a member of a "trangressive" class of people.

There are those who cringe at being labeled "deviant," but for those of us who live over here, it's actually a fairly useful piece of terminology, as yes, our lives do deviate in many meaningful ways from the lives of those living on the other side of that line.

We also recognize that those of us over here are not a majority. To transgress or deviate means we have taken a different path from most (what many incorrectly term "the norm.")

There is no need for shame in being transgressive, or behaving trangressively. For many in Leather historically speaking, it's been a point of pride.

There are reasons Leather history is littered with names such as the Outcasts, the Renegades, the Rebels... .

Likewise there's a reason we focus on Leather Families, "Chosen Families," Backpatch Clubs, and Tribes. These "other side of the line" social structures have been and are important survival mechanisms for not only finding one's new place on this side of the line, but sometimes as a means of dealing with the rejection of biological family or previous friends.

Transgressive identities, living daily in realms of Gender, Queerness, or Leather, (to name but a few such possibilities) far from being explorations or hot brief duration excursions, are often marked by tending to have a certain maturity and sense of having come home to oneself.

It's somewhat of a different way of looking at transgression, but I think very central to much of what is happening to Leatherculture right now. There are those of us who understand that being Leather means living on this side of the line, and there are others for whom they still fully identify as members of the majority side of the line with this one "small" area of personal exception, their forays into kink.

Trinity said...

Habu: Yeah. I do consider myself Leather, as well. Though I suspect I'm not as Obvious as some people.

The whole idea that my main point is to impress people is bizarre to me, too... but I don't feel that acting like there's nothing fun or exciting or fierce-pride-inducing in defiance is useful or makes any sense.

Alexandra Erin said...

Now I kind of want to make a new LJ icon that says, "When I said I was the "fun" kind of feminist, I didn't mean it would be fun for YOU."

Anonymous said...

Why is transgression something that happens "in the service of" something? Why does everything need the proper ideology behind it?Exactly. In fact, the moment it has a "proper ideology", it is really just another form of conformity, and is NOT transgressive; and that's also why something can be transgressive even though it resembles something that is conformist in nature!

And I still have no idea what "Real transgression is doing something unusual for you" is supposed to mean.I don't know for sure, but I think it might be something like the process of "colorization" in Pleasantville.

But I think if that is really what the commenter meant, then it misses the point about transgression as it is lived; we don't get to not-examine, and so many of us have already spent at least some of our lives trying to be what we are not - "conforming". By understanding and knowing ourselves as transgressors, we are already "colored" in the Pleasantville sense. I think that goes for "day-tripper" transgressive folks too, as long as it is honest and not "just for show".

Alexandra Erin: that sounds really cool, I'd love to see it!

shiva said...

My take on transgression: Transgression is what you and I and all disabled (queer, trans, kinky, gender-variant, etc) people do just by existing, whether either we *or* the wider society like it or not.

Which means that both those who regard "transgression" as something chosen out of privilege and therefore selfish and counter-revolutionary, *and* those who actually *do* choose to be transgressive from a position of privilege, piss me off. But probably the former group more than the latter - i don't so much mind Mr Neurotypical Able-Bodied Straight Middle-Class Radical choosing to be transgressive, as long as he recognises that he is making a reversible choice to be what many others of us irreversibly *are*, right from the core of our being, and that there is privilege in having that choice, but i *do* mind those who would lump me in with him.

K said...

"Activist burnout" is common. "Blogging burnout" is more common still.This is something I absolutely dread & am going to attempt to prevent from happening.
I just don't know if I'm going to be able to do it forever.

I don't know if I consider myself "Transgressive." I guess in some ways, I am. It just kind of worked out that way.
But I don't currently consider myself transgressive... I'm the most boring, mundane, predictable person I know.

I think, it's easier to think of myself as transgressive, when someone actually goes out of their way to say "You are doing it wrong," to my face.
Which is actually kind of uncomfortable.

When faced with the pleasure vs. duty question, in my head I always picture the myth of Hercules... are you familiar with this? You probably are. He was confronted by Duty & Pleasure personified as women & given a choice. Pleasure, he could live his life in peace & glory but not go down in history... duty, he'd live a hard life but no one would ever forget him.
Obviously he chose Duty because I'm standing here before you now.

Of course in real life, it's possible to pick both at the same time. The two are not necessarily in conflict with one another.
But then I think, it's easy to forget that the two can go together. That Herculean myth is so deeply embedded in my own mind that it comes to mind first, before examples of duty & pleasure.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

As you can probably tell by the comment I left there just now, I found that perspective ... disturbing.

What is normal for myself is to be myself, genuine and whole; to not deny bits of me because someone finds them too inconvenient, too uncomfortable, too intense, or, yes, too transgressive to tolerate easily.

I am not here to follow someone else's tidy little rules. I am also not here for adolescent play-transgression, doing the opposite because someone said I shouldn't.

I am here as myself, and if the boundaries and limits and mores are in my way, then I will damn well give them a shove.

This is sort of my perspective on transgression; I may write a new one with updated bits at some point.

Nudiemuse said...

I'm not quite able to articulate well today (allergy meds) but I love this post. Especially this:
"get off on our defiance"


Nudiemuse said...

I'm not quite able to articulate well today (allergy meds) but I love this post. Especially this:
"get off on our defiance"


Anonymous said...

But if not being "the fun kind" means we don't get to take pride in our defiance, laugh about our defiance, omg she's gonna say it get off on our defiance, we're not gonna last long.This! And also what shiva said.

I've definitely been accused by other trans folk in coded ways of being too transgressive, cLGB people it's the equivalent of saying hello, so many people have said I'm too loud about being a pwd, and really, if a big part of what I've got going on is that society really detests a lot of the ways I am, I'm going to stick it in their faces. You've got to flaunt what you've got.

Plus, sometimes the confused and almost frightened stares from people are great, and certainly sorts people out into who's worth dealing with a lot easier.

Maybe a lot of this is rooted in being pro-actively and fiercely anti-assimilationist, but, really, why would I want to assimilate into such a busted system?

Jennifer said...

Glad you posted more about this.

It's a hot little buzzword in feminist circles, and it's usually said derisively. It's supposedly something ignorant people do. Young people, who fancy themselves rebels and aren't actually resisting anything.Now that you spell that out, I recognise the meme. It's not got much to do with how I think of transgression myself, though.

A long time ago I was talking to someone about breaking rules and I remember I said something like: "I'm not a "for the sake of it" rebel, but I don't like to be told "you can't go there"".

What I meant is I don't particularly get off on the "I did something that someone didn't want me to" alone (because some rules/conventions I might think are good for people - e.g. not generally stealing other people's stuff - so breaking those ones would be at best a cheap thrill with a bad aftertaste) - but I like to question the rules that are given to me and decide for myself.

Part of why that questioning is important is: sometimes it turns out that part of your own life is on the other side of someone's line. Sometimes transgression is inextricable from integrity.

(Not necessarily identical, but I think certainly related: Habu's "sense of having come home to oneself", and Dw3t-Hthr's "to be myself, genuine and whole; to not deny bits of me because someone finds them too inconvenient, too uncomfortable, too intense, or, yes, too transgressive to tolerate easily." and "I much prefer living out in the boundary-lands on the edges of the map because that's where my home is, where I can stretch out all my limbs and not feel like I'm about to put my foot through an ill-placed paper wall.")

As a corollary to that, I think there can be a good feeling intrinsic to transgression which isn't rebellion or mischief or disobedience or "fuck you". It's the feeling (which can be partly fear but also exhilaration) of taking the risk of being true to oneself, even when it makes you less safe in social/physical terms. And when I said it was sometimes beautiful, I was thinking of the beauty of someone unfolding into a more true version of themself.

Jennifer said...

I'm also thinking a lot of what Habu said about "those who transgress as a matter of breathing" - which (if I've understood it right) I basically agree with, so this isn't me trying to shoot holes in the idea, more wanting to link it up with some related thoughts.

I agree there are "cards you can be dealt" that give you no chance of ever being "inside" some lines, and that that's a different thing from choosing to cross the line.

On the other hand I think that on top of the "cards you're dealt", there's almost always the potential to be more or less compliant with your local mainstream society's rules, in how you deal with those cards.

I don't necessarily mean in practice everyone does have access to that ability. But where they don't, I think it's more often a function of being disconnected from "their people" than of the unchangeable aspects of their situation. (An exception would be if your circumstances include little or no language.)

What I mean is, there are ways in which one is "supposed to be" about certain kinds of difference - like accepting second-class status, &/or demonstrating that you're trying really hard to become less different or play down your differences and "be more like the normal people", &/or being ashamed, &/or hiding where that's possible. And there are ways in which one isn't supposed to be about one's difference - like claiming equal value and equal "air-time", and being "uppity", and the kind of attitude and actions that people mean when they say "out and proud" (even though proud isn't always the right word, I think).

As an example (which sprang to mind partly just because I was recently reading about it on Charlotte's blog) - someone might naturally be fat, but not everyone forms The Chubsters :-)

I was also thinking of people who've had a mastectomy and don't especially try to conceal the shape of their body afterwards. I'm remembering someone's writing about that - it may have been Audre Lorde - something along the lines of, how appalled some of the medics were when she didn't bother with the special bra, especially the idea that women yet to have their mastectomy would see her one-breasted shape and might be terribly demoralised. So in this context I mean like: cancer is the cards you're dealt, but there are social rules about how you're supposed to handle it, and some people get very uncomfortable if you break them.

I could go on thinking of examples, but maybe more interesting would be if anyone has counter-examples - of a situation where there isn't room to transgress any further by asserting a particular representation of one's body/desires/circumstances etc.

I also think that choosing to transgress "more than what the cards dealt you already" isn't necessarily only a reversible game for the privileged people: it can also be a survival strategy. It's a social risk to do it - but it's also a risk to let mainstream culture define how to relate to your difference. - not least because mainstream culture would often suggest that you shut up and blend in, whereas survival (emotional or even physical) may well mean finding the other people like you, and learning from each other and collaborating together.

So yeah. In a way, I'd like there to be a different words for the two kinds of transgression - one is misfitting with the norm in a way you can't do anything about, and one is crossing the lines which you could choose to stay inside of. I think they're both important to recognise, in different ways.

Hope that makes sense and doesn't come over like trying to invalidate anyone else's perspective.

Trinity said...


Yeah, that does make more sense.

I just think there's a very real sense in which some people want to draw a line between those who are "rebellious" and those who are not, in a way that I really don't find compelling.

There exist a whole lot of reasons for "rebellion" and these range from Habu's "I'd stick out even if I tried not to, and assimilation does not appeal to me" to the "I'm so PUNKASOADFDLSJFDKLASJ DSLFAKJFKLASD" that many decry.

Which is why it's such a shame that people in that Facebook group were using a very specific critique of "transgression in film" as a supposed critique of BDSM or of kinky feminists.

Ernest Greene said...


And that's one of the reasons why I've never been very fond of the T-word. It lends itself too easily to distorted critiques of what is, for us, perfectly natural and ethical behavior as some kind of adolescent rebellion. And misguided as such because, at least by the standards of Harmony and her friends, we're really not rebelling against existing standards but rather reinforcing them.

In fact, I've never sought to do either with my sexuality. It's just what it is and a reflection of who I am and shared only with those who choose to interest themselves in it for whatever reason.

I think sometimes the fancy, po-mo term is also used improperly as a rallying cry when the older, more specific term "subversive" would work better. Ignorant criticisms from outsiders notwithstanding, I do think there is an element of subversion inherent in BDSM because, rather than reinforcing existing ideas about power, domination and submission, it consciously burlesques them, appropriating them for pleasure-oriented use rather than leaving them exclusively to those whose primary objective is the wielding of literal power over others, willing or not.

The personal may be political, but I've also found that the political is personal, and to the extent that we inadvertantly expose this fact by borrowing the symbolism of power and control for personal use, we may be serving some enlightening function beyond our own intentions, though that will never be a primary concern of mine.

What our annoying critics don't get is that, however intense it may be, what we do is a form of play. They totally miss out on the playful part and make it all about the desire to harm and be harmed. This is part of my problem with the whole pointless battle over who can legitimately claim to be transgressive. Who wants that title anyway? I find it tainted with Calvinist notions of sin and angry disobedience to divine will.

I think many of us, myself included, like "naughty" but reject "evil." It doesn't help anyone understand us, or help us understand ourselves, to conflate the two.

I certainly comprehend the rush of doing things that we've always wanted to try but hesitated to because of what others might think, but I can't remember ever wanting to do anything solely or even primarily because someone else might disapprove of it. I'd never want to grant anyone that much influence over my choices. The only person whose approval is important to me is my partner when it comes to such things.

When I read the bizarre descriptions and definitions of who we are and what we're about ginned up by those who have already decided that we're all bad people without ever having met any of us or knowing anything important about our world, it strikes me that they've just invented some alternative reality for us based on the idea that we see transgression as an end itself.

Frankly, I think that would be more their department, but I at least recognize that this is a judgment based entirely on what they write and not at all on their actions, of which I presume to know little or nothing.

Would that their presumptioins about us were equally modest.

Trinity said...

"In fact, I've never sought to do either with my sexuality. It's just what it is and a reflection of who I am and shared only with those who choose to interest themselves in it for whatever reason."

Ehhh... I do think there's an element of enjoying defiance to what I do. Not sure about you. My problem is less with people noticing that as with people reducing everything I do or want to do to that, as well as interpreting that, itself, as some terribly immature thing.

What about questioning why some people have such a problem with defiance? What about the value of exploring what it means to reject standards that don't suit you?

Hell, what about the value of thinking about and exploring safely what it might be like to do things you'd never do? I think there's a sad immaturity to people who can't consider that they might have some scary desires of their own, except insofar as their ideology values the confessional.

I get why even a lot of people who agree with me howl and hiss at being called "rebels," but at the same time, I think losing sight of what's valuable about being a thoughtful rebel is silly.

And I get your point about burlesquing, but personally that always struck me as a little hollow. Yeah, some of what we're doing is campy parody... but it's always seemed a little disingenuous to me reading some of the defenses of SM that suggest it's primarily -- or even only -- drama.

Not because I think we're really enslavers or victims or this or that, but because I think endless use of the "drama" refrain means losing sight of how this stuff really does affect us or reflect our fears, needs, thoughts, etc. Why shouldn't we poke at the parts of ourselves that think inappropriate things? Why do we have to be burlesquing to explore the darkness?

Becstar said...

I think it does very much depend what people associate with the word trangressive and exactly what it is a person is trangressing from.

I don't have a BDSM example but a lot of the time I agree with rad-fem principles. To a lot of people this means I am trangressive because because I act outside of their norm. When talking to a group whose norm is similar to your own you become less trangressive.

I think its a matter of where people place themselves in relation to the "norm" and what they even consider that to be. I think some people are more comfortable with the idea of being challenging/trangressive while others, even within a subculture not necessarily defined as the norm for the majority of society it is more comfortable (easier?) to claim that being different is not necessarily trangressive.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

To me, "transgressive" is, like I posted etymologically at my place, a crossing the line thing. Doing a thing that other people do not expect me to do, that they think I should not do. This is ... largely descriptive.

"Subversive", though, strikes me as implying trying to do something to the rules, twist them to my own purposes, or something similar. Which is ... I don't care. In the cases of places where I transgress, I'm not crossing the line because it's there, I'm crossing it because it's in my way.

The lines themselves are of very little specific interest to me aside from anthropological. I'm not interested in burlesque or naughtiness or anything that refers to the lines; my primary interest in the lines comes when people try to hurt me because of them.

I'mnot trying to subvert anything, I just ... don't subscribe to that religion, as Ringo Starr said in a movie once. So from the perspective of people who do care about the strictures, I transgress. That's fine. They outnumber me, so I acknowledge their perspective.

Trinity said...


Yeah, that's about how I feel about "subversion" these days.

Subversion is for my fiction. :D

Ernest Greene said...

"Ehhh... I do think there's an element of enjoying defiance to what I do. Not sure about you. My problem is less with people noticing that as with people reducing everything I do or want to do to that, as well as interpreting that, itself, as some terribly immature thing."

Certainly agree on the latter point. That's part of the reason I tend to reject, at this late date, all analyses of why I like what I like. After forty years of it, really, who cares why? I've been through many periods of introspection and I've come up with many explanations of my own for how I come to be what I am. They all seem to have had merit at the time, but now I'm just indifferent to the questions. Made or born, this is how I turned out.

I did go through a very defiant period during a time when the leather community was first coming out. I'm not sorry for the pleasure I took in all those various "firsts" I experienced along the way. But I've been much happier since I arrived at the conclusion that I do what I do for its own sake. I do believe it to be orientational rather than constructed, so my opinions about it, at the end of the day, aren't really much more important than anyone else's. I couldn't be otherwise no matter how hard I tried. And I have made a few miserable attempts to be satisfied with some different kind of sexuality.

As to the subversion thing, I really mean this to be entirely incidental (though not necessarily unaware), rather than some sort of premeditated statement. If it's the latter, it isn't subversive at all. It's a motive at that point, not a motivation. What makes BDSM subversive is not the affected trappings with which it's sometimes performed, but the matter of factness with which it's accepted by those whose embrace of it is unconflicted.

That's the opposite of campy burlesquing. It might look like that to some outside observer, but from the inside, it's entirely authentic or it's something other than what I have in mind here.

There is no need to defend the exploration of our darker desires by passing them off as "role-playing" in the narrowest construction of the term. They're real and we're entitled to own them. But it's useful, to my way of thinking, to see how our expression of them challenges existing norms regarding what we're supposed to like and dislike. This is a sort of by-product of the process, not it's purpose. The world does nothing much to help me understand BDSM, but BDSM has been helpful to me in understanding the world on occasion.

I really have no interest in or patience with the idea of any kind of sexual expression as a political statement. I don't like politics much and I certainly don't want them as an influence in my intimate life. To those who insist that that they are whether I admit it or not, I have to say that they're not really in a position to know one way or the other.

And really, I would never suggest that BDSM is either only or primarily about drama. I don't consider that a disingenuous defense. I consider that bullshit. Some of the most powerful and intense experiences to be found through BDSM aren't particularly dramatic as such, though they may represent dramatic breakthroughs to those having them.

But drama as an end in itself? Not much heat in that. I see a lot of BDSM play in public spaces that seems labored and contrived, though of course I'm not in the heads of the people doing it. I can't help wondering what gratification lies in that, and regarding it with some suspicion.

I certainly have no problem with the idea of defiance, or the reality of it, especially when it comes to the imposition of standards by others. Obviously, if I did, I'd do something other than make porn for a living. Most people, even most people who don't dislike porn, would still consider the creation of it as, at the very least, a questionable career choice. i have been known to get pretty far into the faces of those who do that questioning too rudely in my immediate vicinity, but pissing them off isn't why I chose my occupation. I chose it because I enjoy the process.

My sexuality, on the other hand, chose me. I've known that for so long, I suppose I'm just not down for making a statement through it, although I'm sure some of that statement does end up getting made in my work, the casualness of which when it comes to kink makes many of my more militant colleagues shudder.

If there's an issue about my personal sexual identity, I'm content to let it be someone else's issue and not mine. I'm sure my desires are plenty scary to a lot of people. In fact, I've been told as much many a time. I tend to shrug that off with a quick "De gustibus non est disputandum." I practice those desires only with enthusiastic partners and I'm only rarely prodded into defending them (as we might see happen over on Facebook anon).

They'll be no hissing or howling from me about being called a rebel, considering the other things I've been called. It's just an ill-fitting jacket in my case. Can't speak for anyone else and wouldn't try. I agree that it would be silly to lose sight of the need for thoughtful rebellion against suffocating norms. There are some battles of that kind I do choose. But my intimate life, which is pretty serene, isn't a field for them.

I guess I don't really believe there is such a thing as inappropriate thought, only inappropriate action. For the former, no harm no foul. For the latter, no escape from accountability.

I don't think there's much substantive disagreement here. It really is just a matter of how we choose to describe the same thing in different language.

Anonymous said...

"Subversive", though, strikes me as implying trying to do something to the rules, twist them to my own purposes, or something similar. Which is ... I don't care. In the cases of places where I transgress, I'm not crossing the line because it's there, I'm crossing it because it's in my way.Yes, that!

Trinity said...

Also, one of the things about the whole "oh those sex-positives, oh trying to be edgy, pish!" that drives me nuts is... many radical feminists are quite young.

There are a lot who are the old vanguard, trying to preserve an older feminism. But there are quite a few 18-year-olds I've run into as well.

Of course, that's not to diss younger people. Young people often see things older ones miss. But it really makes me scratch my head when I see the whole "our opponents are young rebels!" thing.

Because it means these young radfems may not be (ahem!) examining whether some of the intensely passionate railing against, say, "porn being normal," or "BDSM being normal" (as they see it, anyway, though I still think they're wrong about that -- mild mainstreaming of milder kink yes, normalcy for those of us deeply involved in the community or in relationship D/s, no) is... YOUTHFUL REBELLION against the norms of culture, as they see them.

MP said...

All of you should check out feministing's article on proposed revisions to the DSM section on paraphilia:

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