Saturday, 9 May 2009

Facebook, Vol 2

A while ago I posted about the "Sex-Positive Feminists Critical of BDSM" group on Facebook.

Not having a Facebook (still) and not wanting one (still), I'd left it at that and had no idea what they were, or weren't, up to. I must admit that I'd expected them to get bored fast; many BDSM-related blogthrashes die quick.

But now I notice Ernest Greene commenting that they're apparently still going strong, and exhorting us to keep challenging their views.

ETA: Looking at her page again, I do not think Harmony's "throwing down a gauntlet." I wrote this assuming I'd missed her doing so, but perusing more carefully I find she's saying she wants a "safe space" free from debate. I have strong critiques of the whole concept of "safe space," but that doesn't mean I'd crash people's meeting.

I leave this up as is because I do think it's easy to see the provocative pictures and text on the main page as a challenge, and because I stand by what I'm saying in the post. However, I wanted to note that I wrote it as if Harmony wanted a fight. I now see that she didn't, and people might assume from reading me that she does. It's only right to apologize to her for that, so: I'm sorry for not checking more thoroughly whether that was so.

Here's Ernest's comment:
I'm starting to feel like a troll for challenging every lie and distortion I read on Harmony's little hate log, but Facebook is seen by millions and I think it's important for us to rebut being trashed in such a high-profile venue.

I hope some others here will have a look at the latest affronts and weigh in with some solid counter arguments and positive examples.

Harmony continues to throw down the glove in front of us and I think we need to pick it up. There are readers out there who are conflicted about their BDSM sexuality and they require our support in the face of the ugly misrepresentation of who we are and what we're about that this group promulgates.
So I had a brief look, and decided to say more.

I don't know if Harmony and her little club know about this blog, and if they do, whether they'd be the sort to read it or avoid it, but on the off chance:

I'd just like to ask why it is, Harmony and others, that what we do matters so much to you. We know your arguments so well we've got most of them memorized. It should be pretty clear that your being "critical" of what we do and enjoy is not going to convince us. Similarly, we've learned from the many reiterations of these conversations that we're not all that likely to convince you that your "theories" are old, removed from reality, and not supported by the admittedly small amount of data presented by studies of those who practice BDSM.

So I've got to wonder: what exactly is your goal? It might be to sway those in the middle, if you can. It might be to assert, in what you feel is a deluge of pro-BDSM feminism (I would call it, at best, BDSM-tolerant feminism, myself), that some of you do still loudly and proudly hold the opposing view.

But it really seems odd to a lot of us on the pro-BDSM side of the aisle. There is quite a lot of lurid description. There's even a pornographic image on your website, albeit with a line through it. While there's been frank discussion here of quite a few kinks, and we've not hidden from talking about things in detail, we're not the ones putting a gagged, bound, naked woman on our welcome mat.

So my challenge to you is just this: Do you have more to say than simply lurid recountings of what we like? Can you talk about those of us who are survivors without using the sort of maudlin language that dehumanizes us, but titillates those who want to see us as people with tragically maudlin stories?

(Examples of this:

The desire to dominate, degrade, and hurt others usually comes from a person’s own psychological wounds. People who are into BDSM are more likely to have been abused [corroborating data conspicuously absent], especially during childhood. And abuse teaches victims that relationships can only be hierarchal, can only be between dominator and dominated, abuser and victim. Or even without abuse, the experience of living in a racist patriarchal capitalism is enough to teach these lessons and do psychological damage.

....These people are in serious need of healing. They are in serious need of understanding that power need not be about power imbalance; that there is such thing as healthy power that is shared in relationships of equality; that you don’t need to have power over someone else to have power within yourself.

....As with the desire to act in the role of the dom/sadist, the desire to act in the role of the sub comes from psychological wounds. As mentioned, those into BDSM are more likely to have been abused, especially in childhood. And even if they were not abused, the experience of living in a racist patriarchal capitalism is enough to do psychological damage and to teach us that relationships are by definition hierarchal.

....Given the psychological wounds and previous traumas that people carry into BDSM, the presence of “free choice” should be critiqued, even if the presence of “consent” is not denied. “Free choice” is an idea promoted by ultra-libertarians and post-modernists who don’t recognize the profound impact that society, culture, and our personal life experiences have on shaping everything about who we are. Does the victim of child sexual abuse, who has been taught that she is worthless and that her sexuality is degraded, freely choose a life as a prostitute or porn actress?*** Does the war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder freely choose to drink to oblivion everyday?
Is it at all possible for you to treat people who have been abused as people, Harmony, rather than as damage-objects? Is it possible to treat our desires and wants as legitimate, or do only people who have never been victimized get to be unsullied?

For all that you rant about setting up hierarchies, you are creating one here. The untouched people for whom "free choice" is critiqued less, and those of us who have had our choices destroyed by someone else's exercise of the agency we don't get.

Why do you have this need to talk down to us, Harmony? Why set up the hierarchies you do? If you're one of us, and you truly believe you have less of a self than people who have never been hurt, I feel sorry for you. If you're not, and you savor the idea that those poor people who've been hurt are below you and have less authentic choices than you, I call bullshit on you saying you're "anti-hierarchy."

66 comments:

SnowdropExplodes said...

Y'know, it's curious how that narrative that Harmony creates there has the same narrative as the anti-gay/anti-lesbian passages we often hear (not to mention the one in radfem pioneer Shulamith Firestone's seminal work "Dialectic of Sex").

Trinity said...

But SD, don't you remember the Nine Deuce debacle? Thou shalt not compare people who sound like homophobes to homophobes, lest REAL QUEERS who are oh so much more lesbian/gay than you even if you yourself are queer too, rise up to rebuke you.

With fire.

becstar said...

I pondered joining that blog for a little while when I first found out about it. From what I gather neither side is truly willing to listen to the other.

Both sides use the same arguments over and over, both sides consider the other's views to be antiquated and 'removed from reality' Both sides often treat people not as human but as tools of a particular form of politics. I can speak from experience when I say that those who dare question BDSM are not only talked down to but verbally abused in the same way the people who support BDSM are in communities such as that one.The idea of choice is a complicated one. One side says choice is impossible becauase of socialisation, the other dresses up complete compliance as choice.

Honestly, I think there needs to be more questioning on both sides because both sides subscribe to such extremes that neither hold the complete truth when it becomes a battle of denigrating the other side as much as possible (which both sides seem to do).

Ernest Greene said...

Once again, Trinity, I find myself marveling at your ability to take the high road in dealing with such individuals, though I don't share your willingness to engage those who obviously despise me.

Clearly, the feeling is mutual.

Today, I got this email:

Subject: Sex-Positive Leftists Critical of BDSM

Hello there.

I am the new acting administrator of the Facebook group “Sex-Positive Leftists Critical of BDSM”. Harmony will be out of the country for much of the summer. She will be visiting family in Mexico, as well as working with a local NGO to help impoverished rural peasants enhance their livelihoods with innovative sustainable farming practices. Hence, she will not have internet access, and has thus temporarily transferred stewardship of the group to me.

For some time I have been fed up with the trolls (such as yourself) in the group. (If you don’t know what a troll is, look it up.) I, and others, have suggested to Harmony that she purge the trolls, but being the soft-hearted hippie-type that she is, she has been reluctant to do so.

When she requested that I be the acting administrator for this group during her absence from the country, I asked her if she would mind me deleting the trolls from the group. She told me something along the lines of “do what you want, I don’t give a shit.”

So I am going to go ahead and delete you and the other trolls from this group. I am also going to delete all your posts. And I’m going to enjoy it very much.

Of course you are entitled to your freedom of speech, so please feel free to join another Facebook group which I just created called “People Who Want to Debate BDSM”. (Link: http://www.facebook.com/groups/create.php?success=1&customize&gid=196462045106#/group.php?gid=196462045106&ref=mf )

Like the name says, the group is for people who want to debate BDSM. If that’s what you want to do, then join that group.

On the other hand, a group called "Sex-Positive Leftists Critical of BDSM" is, like the name says, for those who want to criticize BDSM from a sex-positive and leftist perspective.

Know your place.

All you trolls can go there and talk your heads off to each other.

Enjoy!

To which I replied:

Blaize,

Knock yourself out. I'm sure you'll take some form of sadistic satisfaction from pushing a few buttons. I assumed this would happen soon enough, which is why I diverted the time I did to challenging your group's odious deceptions as quickly as possible. I don't doubt it gives you great pleasure to rid yourself of the need to defend the lies you tell about people of whom you have no knowledge or understanding and to spew your hatred without fear of contradiction. Wouldn't it be lovely if the whole world could be full of people just like you? Alas for you, it is not and never will be.

I haven't before "trolled" a thread anywhere, though I've certainly had it done to me, and I've often been accused of much worse by far better, but if you started a group dedicated to homophobia, anti-semitism, racism, sexism or any other sort of bigotry I might be so motivated. As I maintained previously, your "group" is clearly intended to advocate for a position rather than to encourage discussion, and the position you advocate is no more admirable than any of the prejudices listed above, and enjoys no greater right to freedom from criticism. You and your friend chose to create a group targeted at a sexual minority and members of that minority rightly took offense. Substitute any of the above categories in the name of your group and imagine what the response might be.

As your group is yours to administer, it is certainly your place and you are welcome to it.

As to telling me to know my place, well, isn't that just so in keeping with the privileged smugness that afflicts your entire class of "progressive" activist?

That, as I'm sure you know, is a rhetorical question.

I will not be joining your little debating circle, as I feel no need to be put on the defensive by your merry crew. My intention was to address your group's unsupportable affirmative argument that BDSM is harmful. During the brief time period before you predictably silenced all dissent in your little corner of cyberspace, I like to think that all of us who voiced our objections to your hate speech may have been of some comfort to conflicted parties misdirected to your group by its false flagging. If so, I accomplished all I set out to.

Regarding that image you have posted on your front page, I do intend to report it Facebook admins as objectionable on several grounds, and possiblly legally actionable under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 2257 (if you don't know what that is, look it up) as a presumptive violation of the federal criminal code. I'm sure you aren't interested in my opinion, but I care far more than you evidently do for the woman who appears in that image, and I would thus advise you to take it down. If you doubt the reasoning that lies behind that suggestion, you might want to take it up with an attorney. Said attorney will inform you that fair use claims do not vacate criminal statutes.

Do have a lovely weekend.

Ernest Greene

Subsequent visits have confirmed that I am the only member purged thus far, though I don't doubt that others will be. I'm sure my having been "made"as a pornographer by one of the other members, who has a long history of hurling invective and vague threats of violence in my general direction at other venues, had something to do with the priority assigned to getting rid of me.

I further note that a couple of comments of mine were left up for others to shoot at, as they are already doing now that they're "safe" from any response I might make, proving once again that bullies are also cowards.

I am no more interested in listening to their views on my sexuality than I am in hearing what David Duke has to say about my being a Jew. I'm not inspired by anything they say to question anything about myself, and I'm pretty clear on where they stand just as I am on the views of David Duke.

Someone who tells me to know my place forfeits the right to any serious consideration of whatever might come after.

The picture posted on their page, BTW, was stolen from one of kink.com's sites, the copyright notice for which is clearly visible in the lower left-hand corner of the image. Though the naughty bits have been crudely censored, the nature of the image itself, and the obvious evidence that it was stolen from a 2257 regulated source may or may not constitute an actionable offense, but the callous indifference of its exploitative use in this context reveals much about the true nature of those responsible and why any attempt at creating some specious moral equivalency between them and ourselves is indefensible.

It's not always true that there are two sides to every story, or that if two exist they must be given equal weight. Some thngs speak for themselves.

There will be no amiable chats with those who burn crosses in front of my door.

Trinity said...

Becstar,

I do think you're right that the loops people go through on this issue are endlessly repetitive, and I appreciate your willingness to talk to us here when you previously thought we were completely wrong. I appreciate it a lot, in fact.

But in this particular instance, I really don't think "both sides are half-right." I really do think some nasty dehumanization is going on on the other side, and some really creepy discussions of survivors and what we need. I don't think I'd be OK with that even if I'd never done or wanted to do BDSM. It really, really bothers me, especially when it's presented as some kind of advanced theory the rest of us are too silly or too obsessed with fun to understand.

Trinity said...

Ernest,

I'm sorry to see that they chose to ban you rather than actually think about what you had to say. But I'd have to say I really don't think the KKK analogy was warranted. They're saying gross things, and stealing pictures and refusing to even give thought to how disrespectful and, yes, creepy that is... but they're not racial-hatred motivated terrorists, and I really don't see any parallels I find specific enough to think that analogy should be made.

I love you dearly, and I don't like that group either, but I think a different simile would be better.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Trinity: oh, Heaven forfend that I should compare the people! Oh, no - I was just comparing the literary forms!

[uncrosses fingers]

Becstar:

I can speak from experience when I say that those who dare question BDSM are not only talked down to but verbally abused in the same way the people who support BDSM are in communities such as that one.
I am inclined to say here that I don't talk down to anti-BDSMers and I haven't seen it happen - but then, as Ernest Greene points out, pro-BDSM types actually do have reason to talk down to and verbally abuse the anti-s, in the same way that I would talk down to fat-shamers, homophobes, anti-trans* folks etc.

I think when people start theorising about my life, I get the right to start by saying STFU and listen! Since you admit that the Other Side is not listening, I think I get to keep saying this until they do listen. And I think the more they tell me to STFU about my own life and experiences - and moreover, do that to the women they're supposedly protecting - the more licence we have to to make our point with whatever verbal force we can.

The idea of choice is a complicated one. One side says choice is impossible because of socialisation, the other dresses up complete compliance as choice.
Describing BDSM as "complete compliance" is just... no. FAIL. That's why anti-BDSM folks get talked down to a lot. With statements like that taken as the foundation for their argument, we really are looking at a geocentric model of the solar system here. BDSM by its nature is transgressive. It is not "compliance". Maybe the "Surrendered Wives" movement, the "Domestic Discipline" movement, these can be seen as complete compliance; but on this blog they have been analysed and shown to be contrary to the principles that govern consensual BDSM - most BDSMers find those movements creepy and disturbing and, well, wrong.

I think most pro-BDSM feminists (at least, most of those who comment here regularly) are already at the halfway point that you imagine both sides need to move towards; it is just that there is a false image presented of where we are actually at compared to what we are actually saying and arguing.

Trinity said...

"Describing BDSM as "complete compliance" is just... no. FAIL. That's why anti-BDSM folks get talked down to a lot. With statements like that taken as the foundation for their argument, we really are looking at a geocentric model of the solar system here. BDSM by its nature is transgressive. It is not "compliance". Maybe the "Surrendered Wives" movement, the "Domestic Discipline" movement, these can be seen as complete compliance; but on this blog they have been analysed and shown to be contrary to the principles that govern consensual BDSM - most BDSMers find those movements creepy and disturbing and, well, wrong."

Thank you so much for this, SD. The "complete compliance" remark really bothered me too. Complete compliance? For doing something we like in bed? That's really bad reasoning.

"I think most pro-BDSM feminists (at least, most of those who comment here regularly) are already at the halfway point that you imagine both sides need to move towards; it is just that there is a false image presented of where we are actually at compared to what we are actually saying and arguing."

Yeah, I agree. Are some BDSM people sexist and foolish? Yes, and there's a fair number of them around. (Ever heard of the LJ community "humbled_females," where members are requested to "leave your women's liberationist views at the door?" Seriously.) But it's very, very tiring to know those people are around, and easy targets, and then to see the flames lobbed at you.

And honestly, I'm not sure I'd even label gross stuff like that "complete compliance," either. I'd call it sexist, creepy, and quite likely unhealthy as described, but I wouldn't call it complete compliance. I think terms like that, and terms like Stockholm Syndrome which is also popular, get very overused.

If you think about, say, Patty Hearst, it wasn't just that some people she was kind of interested in anyway used her -- it was a calculated brainwashing over time that made her into "Tania." So I get twitchy when I see "Women who want a D/s relationship have or will have Stockholm Syndrome."

I do think that, yes, it is possible to use D/s roles abusively, and I do think that there are people out there (especially online) who advocate doing things that really do look harmful over time. So I'm not saying Stockholm Syndrome is not possible as a result of really creepy abusive crap that gets called D/s or shares techniques with it.

But I am really bothered by the very casual use of the term, as if even going on a date with a dominant person puts one at risk for the sort of psychological breakdown that happens after days of being unable to avoid captors who have no concern for your well-being at all.

Ernest Greene said...

Trinity,

"Ernest,

I'm sorry to see that they chose to ban you rather than actually think about what you had to say. But I'd have to say I really don't think the KKK analogy was warranted. They're saying gross things, and stealing pictures and refusing to even give thought to how disrespectful and, yes, creepy that is... but they're not racial-hatred motivated terrorists, and I really don't see any parallels I find specific enough to think that analogy should be made.

I love you dearly, and I don't like that group either, but I think a different simile would be better."

Of course, you could be right, but I've felt the full rage of these people in my face on more than one occasion, and though persecution may take many forms, it always smells pretty much the same. I know you've smelled it. You can get pretty wrapped up when people start talking about "lives worth living." So do I.

And I never underestimate the possibility that a belief system based on the assumption that some lives aren't worth living may translate to action. These same people have repeatedly said in so many words that I should be dead, by my own hands or someone else's.

So what simile is better? Hate speech is always, at the bottom, about an unwillingness to share the world with those different from oneself. That is dangerous talk and, from the experiences you know I've had, you can easily imagine why I never dismiss that kind of talk as idle.

Do I think this group qualifies? One of the most vocal members is the first one to have initiated the conversation about whether or not "people like me," in that case meaning porngoraphers, should be killed. Yeah, it's probably just bullshit. But I work for a guy who was shot and paralyzed by a white power crank who got bent out of shape over some pictures of an interracial couple having sex.

I think I'll stick with my assumption that a death wish is a death wish and all must be taken seriously.

However, I am glad you love me dearly, very grateful for it in fact, and unlike the other side, my ability to return that love does not require agreement on political matters. That's not how I decide who I love.

But it does have something to do with how I decide who not to love and I won't deny that for a minute. I own it fully, The people who started that group wish I didn't exist. They've said so in plain language, there and elsewhere.

That, unfortunately, is the only thing they say that I find credible.

Trinity said...

Ernest,

I don't mean they don't wish we -- and especially you, since they deem pornographers The Great Satan -- didn't exist. I think they do. Just to be sure we're clear on that.

I just am more sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn't often mix specific labels (like "KKK" or "Nazi") unless we're laying out somewhat precise parallels.

Ernest Greene said...

Trinity,

I agree about the need for precise parallels, which is why I subscribe to Godwin's Law.

However, the KKK thing is pretty precisely applicable to the cases of violence involving hate speech with which I'm personally familiar.

Are white supremacists of the kind who killed my friend and crippled my boss all that different from these people? Are the homophobic murderers of Matthew Shephard all that different from these people?

Outwardly, yes. So far I haven't seen much evidence that any of them are prepared to get physical about their bigotry.

But historical experience teaches that hate speech often precedes action. These folks are part of a movement they seek to enlarge. While they may not be the ones who ultimately engage in that action, neither did Randall Terry. Some fringe characters his rhetoric attracted killed doctors and bombed clinics.

How numerous do these true believers have to become before they include genuinely dangerous and unbalanced individuals who will, in the belief that they are somehow "saving" others from a terrible fate, cross the line from heated debate to mortal behavior?

I don't disagree with your intellectual rigor here, but I do think there is real danger at the end of the trail down which this movement is headed.

I won't be offended if this is dismissed as mere paranoia, but I won't be surprised if it turns out not to be.

Trinity said...

"These folks are part of a movement they seek to enlarge. While they may not be the ones who ultimately engage in that action, neither did Randall Terry. Some fringe characters his rhetoric attracted killed doctors and bombed clinics."

This, I do agree with. Hopefully, anti-BDSM feminism, and the kind of anti-porn feminist who is so easy-breezy with calling for your head (!!!! whatever happened to non-violence?!) remains fringe.

My honest guess is that that will hinge on whether Dines and Jensen and the like remain luminaries among the like-minded, or whether they someday attract enough attention that more people get swept up in their message.

If they keep producing absolutely poorly done stuff like TPoP I suspect they'll remain fringe. Yeah, a lot of undergrads who have never heard any other side of the story are entranced, but a lot of other folks are not. Hopefully this will continue.

And... just in case it wasn't clear, I didn't mean not to take it seriously when someone calls for your head. I think it's important to treat that as serious coming from someone in a group dedicated to opposing you. If it's not serious, it makes them look stupid, vicious, and cruel for saying it, and if they are it means not ignoring it as hyperbole.

Becstar said...

Ernest - are you also going to report all the images that are used on BDSM groups? Sex groups in general? The whole of Facebook?

Seriously, if you want people to respect your argument don't reduce it to squabbling.

anarchafemme said...

@Ernest Greene: I definitely agree with you that these people have the definite potential to incite violence, and that they have definitely already crossed a line with their speech - they're making nasty, busted threats that someone could actually carry out.

That said, I guess I fall closer to Trinity in that I will certainly say "hey, these people have the definite potential to feed into a violent hate group", but am not quite comfortable in comparing them directly to a violent hate group at this point. But, that comes out of my own experiences, and also seeing how, when that comparison is overused (and I don't see this as clear here, this is a grey area to me), it cheapens it and people take actual violent hate groups less seriously.

becstar said...

Trinity - I agree that dehumanisation happens, but I also think it happens on both sides.

Obviously I don't think it happens too much here because otherwise I would cut my losses and give up on this whole thing, but I definitely think there is an element of it in what I've seen of the BDSM online community as well as the rad-fem side.

Trinity said...

Becstar,

Can I ask what specifically bothers you? I have my guesses, but I'd like to know.

Becstar said...

SnowdropExplodes - As I say above to Trinity, I don't think this in this particular blog that kind of stuff happens all too much. However it definitely does happen...in fact you just did it yourself. No one *deserves* to be talked down to. By saying that they do claims you hold some almighty truth which is the same as religions which use it as an excuse to vilify people. Using the 'but they started it' argument doesn't excuse verbally abusing someone. It just makes the whole thing go around in circles.

I don't think there is a false image at all and I stand by my analysis of consent in both communities. Is it slightly exaggerated? Probably, given that you are never going to get an entire group believing one thing, but that is definitely often the vibe given off in BDSM communities (when they are not trying to convince someone of their argument).

Ernest - Seriously, hate speech? Unless you are going to also apply that tag to the parts of the BDSM community which believe all women are whores and submit then you have a very dubious argument.

becstar said...

Trinity - I'm assuming you mean on this side of the fence?

The ones who believe that women are inherently submissive have got to be the most obvious choice but I think there are also others. I have come across people who actually advocate BDSM for reclaiming your sexuality by becoming submissive. I think that advocating that for people who haven't yet healed and know they aren't submissives is all kind of fucked up.

There's also just a flat out verbal abuse of people who say they don't like BDSM with a seeming undercurrent that BDSM is the One True Way or something. I also believe that abusing anyone, no matter what there views are, is wrong. People seem to forget the other side are actually people too and ususally have had something happen to them which makes them believe what they say.

Trinity said...

Becstar,

"The ones who believe that women are inherently submissive have got to be the most obvious choice."

I agree, but I don't think you'd find any feminist or pro-feminist people claiming this.

"I have come across people who actually advocate BDSM for reclaiming your sexuality by becoming submissive. I think that advocating that for people who haven't yet healed and know they aren't submissives is all kind of fucked up."

Is that really what people are saying? I've come across people who say that if you're interested in submission, trying it rather than worrying that something's wrong with you for being interested can be a positive thing to do. I can't say that I've ever seen people say that people who are not submissive should try it. I guess I could see someone saying "don't knock it until you've tried it" to anti-SM folks, but I don't think that would be meant as "Invest yourself in this even if you think it's wrong for you."

So can you explain more what you mean when you talk about people who advocate that women who know that they're not submissive and have issues with it because of survivor stuff should "become submissive" in order to "reclaim their sexuality?"

I've only ever heard "reclaim your sexuality" discussed in the context of encouraging people to try things they already want to try but feel guilty about. That is, the only thing I've seen pro-SM feminists saying isn't "everyone should be submissive, because submission is inherently reclamatory" but rather "yes, it's possible to reclaim submissive sexuality if it's what you want."

With which I don't disagree, though of course I think that people who submit because they want to punish or harm themselves are probably making a mistake. "There's no need to feel ashamed of your desires" is not "Don't bother to think about whether it would be healthy for you to fulfill them." There are things I have fantasies about that it would be stupid to act out -- but I agree with sex-positive feminists that feeling ashamed of them is neither productive nor necessary to be a decent person.

"There's also just a flat out verbal abuse of people who say they don't like BDSM with a seeming undercurrent that BDSM is the One True Way or something."

Is it really that BDSM is the One True Way? I've never seen anyone aside from the antifeminists we've already written off as idiots say that all women should submit. I have seen people say that some folks who don't like BDSM seem oddly obsessed with us, and I have seen people decide from that that those people are probably interested in it and getting their kicks vicariously through reading us. In some cases I'd imagine that's true, and in others I'd imagine the endless fascination with us is just seeking out flame wars. But I don't see how "what are you on about? are you sure you're not obsessed because you're envious?" is "BDSM is the one true way."

Mean, yeah, and people probably should cut it out. One true wayism? I'm not so sure.

"People seem to forget the other side are actually people too and ususally have had something happen to them which makes them believe what they say."

This I do agree with though. I think it's partially rudeness, partially just being tired of playing nice with people who call you abusers and victims, and partially a theoretical disagreement. Anti-BDSM feminists, IMX, tend to assume that politics and experience are deeply intertwined, where many of us tend to think that emotions cloud judgment.

So I think there's a thing going on where the antis are saying "This is upsetting! That matters!" and we're going "No, not really, because what we do may upset you but be perfectly healthy for us, so please be sure to respond to us from a perspective that understands that your emotions are not necessarily everyone else's."

I'm honestly not sure how to resolve that one.

Ernest Greene said...

"Ernest - are you also going to report all the images that are used on BDSM groups? Sex groups in general? The whole of Facebook?

Seriously, if you want people to respect your argument don't reduce it to squabbling."

Becstar,

You're missing somthing important here. It's called consent. You may or may not regard that as a significant difference, but in the world where I live, it is the critical moral imperative.

The images used in good faith by BDSM groups are images that were posted, we may safely assume, by those who were fully aware of the voluntary participation of those depicted in the creation of those images.

In other words, those participants gave permission - if the images are legal - to their use in a BDSM-context. If those images were obtained illegally, then yes, they should be reported and they should be not only removed from public view but might very well warrant criminal investigation.

This would be true for any sex group. There are very specific federal laws that govern the dissemination of such images and I believe those laws should be applied equally to all who distribute them.

Those laws would not apply to non-sexual images on Facebook, so it's a preposterous suggestion that anyone would attempt to impose them on pictures that wouldn't be regulated under 18 U.S.C. 2257. But for those images that should be, the law ought rightly to be fairly enforced.

In fact, for what it's worth, I think there are abuses of that law inadvertantly committed by those without hostile intent and that they, too, should be required to bring those images into conformity with the law or quit spreading them around, whatever their motives.

However, when the images are clearly stolen and exploited for the very purpose of presenting those appearing in them and those creating them in a false and hostile light with obvious (and openly stated as it has been to my face by anti-porn activists) contempt for both the law and the consent of those involved in the creation of the images in question, the result is not a matter for petty squabbling. It is a deliberate flouting of laws intended to protect those who appear in the images from abuse.

Smearing them all over the Internet with the objective of making those in them appear victims and those making them appear evil monsters is, in fact, abusive and warrants action. If those doing this can't produce model releases with proof of age and informed consent, they need to stop doing so, voluntarily or under the threat of prosecution. I have to play by those rules. So should they.

As it happens, I recognize the individual in the image under discussion and know very well what her opinions are regarding the use of her likeness for purposes she opposes and without her consent and it's not squabbling to require some accountability for treating a human being in a manner that violates both her individual rights and the laws intended to guarantee those rights.

Personally, I don't care if you respect my arguments in the slightest, but I do care that everyone on whatever side of any argument respect both the letter and the spirit of the laws governing the lawful use of people's likenesses in sexually explicit situations.

Given that failure to do so on my part as a pornographer would make me liable for long prison terms and ruinous fines, I hardly see how those who steal those images to propagandize against me and everything I believe in with a cavalier disregard for the gravity of doing so should be given a free pass.

If there is to be accountability for the use of this material, and I'm sure you'd agree there should be, it must be equal before the law. That is not a minor principle and it's hardly squabbling to insist that it be observed consistently.

Trinity said...

@Ernest:

Thank you. I think it's very strange how it just gets lost that the women in pornography might care when their images are associated with political agendas they don't share.

It's like the assumption is that pornographers are pure evil, so if you're terrified or desperate for money enough to let ONE OF THEM take a picture of you, you must not give a damn... when, of course, really, the person in the images is doing work, quite possibly with and for people she's fond of.

SnowdropExplodes said...

However it definitely does happen...in fact you just did it yourself. No one *deserves* to be talked down to. By saying that they do claims you hold some almighty truth which is the same as religions which use it as an excuse to vilify people.

The only "almighty truth" to which I laid any claim is that I am an expert in my own life. And my loved ones are experts in their own lives. And that generally, BDSM folks are experts in their own lives.

This is not a truth that I see acknowledged on the other side of the debate.

If you see my comments as "verbally abusive" then I am not sure that I can communicate my position without appearing that way. Because all I am saying is that I want the same basic respect for me and people like me (women and men) that you would defend for LGB folks. If that is seen as "verbally abusive" then I'm at a loss of what to say, except that the very fact that it is seen that way really is a reason to think less of a person. In my view.

I don't think there is a false image at all and I stand by my analysis of consent in both communities. Is it slightly exaggerated? Probably, given that you are never going to get an entire group believing one thing, but that is definitely often the vibe given off in BDSM communities (when they are not trying to convince someone of their argument).

I can't really say anything to that except that you're apparently not reading/listening to/encountering the same BDSM communities that I do. In fact, it's far more often to see people revelling in the fact that what we do is transgressive! That, and the fact that you'll see an awful lot of people being scared of persecution by mainstream society if we're all "completely compliant".

I have come across people who actually advocate BDSM for reclaiming your sexuality by becoming submissive.

If you say you have encountered such people, then I am sure that you have, but if it is true then such people are on the very farthest fringes of BDSM and really cannot be used as examples to depict what BDSM culture is like. It's as valid as the "man-hating feminist" strawperson. Seriously.

becstar said...

Trinity - I have seen the type of things you are talking about (the not being ashamed of your desires etc)and I agree with it but there's still a section (I have no idea how rampant it is) going around saying that trying BDSM is the way to go about healing abuse (with or without prior desire for it. The argument seems to be that by acting it out and knowing you have some semblance of control over what's happening to you that it helps. The problem is it doesn't differentiate between those who desired this kind of stuff before hand and those who did not and also doesn't mention that in order to be safe it really should be planned and gradually brought in.

The way I see BDSM being portrayed as the Truth in some places is primarily through disparaging people who don't like it. Admit you're not into BDSM on a 'sex-positive' site and suddenly you're seen as anti-sex and repressed and that 'you'd like it if you only did it'.

Oh, and like I said, I don't think this blog is bad for that kind of stuff, but I think it definitely happens elsewhere.


Ernest - It sounds like you don't actually use facebook that much. There are pictures used all over the place which are used without consent. If you attack only one group for it and not every group then its is nothing but squabbling. If you have a problem with images being used without consent then good luck to you in getting them *all* down but if your only problem is wih groups like that existing then don't frame it in another argument entirely.

Becstar said...

SnowdropExplodes - You want basic respect but so do they. Its not going to be gained by both sides sinking to swearing at them and telling them how horrible they are. I bet you'd find that they also consider themselves experts in their own lives (when I was anti-BDSM it was definitely because I had bad experiences with people claiming what they did to me was BDSM rather than the abuse it actually was and have talked to others who have had similar experiences).

You also say that I am using the fringe people in the BDSM community to create an argument, but exactly the same is done with the rad-fems when they are constantly disparaged as being anti-sex and repressed and god only knows what else.

The whole point of my original comment was to show that both sides often use the same tactics to prove a point and then get angry when the other side does the same thing. If its not okay for them to say that BDSMers are misguided etc why is it okay for the BDSM people to say that the rad-fems are repressed/anti-sex/misguided? My problem with most of the arguments in this particular thread is that what is seen as not okay for them to do is perfectly acceptable to be done here and it makes no sense.

You can't demand respect if you don't give it. I look at my original conversation with Hope which changed my stance on BDSM - we both had completely differenct views but didn't call each other names and managed to both learn a bit more. If the point is more than a flamewar then surely that would be more productive?

Trinity said...

"but there's still a section (I have no idea how rampant it is) going around saying that trying BDSM is the way to go about healing abuse (with or without prior desire for it. The argument seems to be that by acting it out and knowing you have some semblance of control over what's happening to you that it helps. The problem is it doesn't differentiate between those who desired this kind of stuff before hand and those who did not and also doesn't mention that in order to be safe it really should be planned and gradually brought in."

Can you link me to where people say this? I don't doubt that you've run into this, but I never have. I've run into a lot of people who've defended the edgeplay they themselves do by saying "I chose to recreate this and felt I was ready," but I've never seen anyone saying everyone should try it.

In fact, I've met plenty of people who refuse to do certain sorts of psychological edgeplay even when submissive folks ask them for it because there's so much potential for it to go wrong.

I did it once myself, after years of thinking about it. That's one scene in nine years of playing. I'm not sure who these people are that are so for it, but like I said, I'd love a link because that's so far removed from my experience.

It's not that I doubt you've run into someone or some group saying it, but that I wonder how representative it could possibly be.

Trinity said...

Also, I did it once and I think it helped me, but I'd never assume from what I wanted and how I experienced it that I'd know whether someone else would be helped or harmed by the same thing.

Becstar said...

Trinity - I'm actually at uni at the moment so can't go to sites where there might be porn, but I will post the links when I am home.

I think this is a bit personal too post on the internet but I've been having a similar experience with the boything who wants me to submit to him despite he consent issues/recent triggering and the fact that I am not naturally inclined that way at all. We've been discussing this kind of stuff and some of the "research" he has done is scary. I'll discuss it over email if you're interested.

Trinity said...

Becstar,

If you want to email me, please do. It's trinityva at ya,hoo dot com

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Becstar:

I don't, personally, care whether or not the radfem anti-BDSM contingent is "repressed/anti-sex/misguided".

All that matters to me is that they are categorically, abusively, and consistently anti-ME, and I have a strong personal interest in not being obliterated or objectified into a pity-fetish-item. If I tell them to shut up, it's because I am a woman with my own stories and I think someone claiming to be a feminist should let women tell their own stories.

From my perspective, it's their dehumanising theory set up against my continued existence and happiness, and this is not an equal fight. I am not interested in conforming to that narrative -- and frankly, the internet radfem narrative about BDSM is what I've experienced as demanding "complete compliance".

I can come up with equivalently nasty little theories about them if I wanted - but as you point out, that's not exactly the high ground, not a good thing to do, and, frankly, a waste of my time.

My time is better spent living my life than fighting for it, and so long as they don't make it necessary for me to do the latter, I will continue to do the former.

You're aware that I think your current boyfriend's being a jackass; he's being the same kind of jackass as the "women are naturally submissive" jackasses and the "you were abused in childhood, poor dear" jackasses. You get to have your own story.So do I.

Ernest Greene said...

Becstar,

First, amen to to DW3t-Hthr's comment above. Forgive me if I say some of the same things, but these things need to be said more frequently to offset the limitless hostility of those who hate us.

As for this:

""but there's still a section (I have no idea how rampant it is) going around saying that trying BDSM is the way to go about healing abuse (with or without prior desire for it. The argument seems to be that by acting it out and knowing you have some semblance of control over what's happening to you that it helps. The problem is it doesn't differentiate between those who desired this kind of stuff before hand and those who did not and also doesn't mention that in order to be safe it really should be planned and gradually brought in."

I'm sure it's been said, but it seems obviously manipulative and intellectually meritless. I can certainly testify under oath that no one has ever proposed such a notion within earshot of me, and if anyone had, that person would have known how little regard I had for such thinking very quickly. Sex play of any kind is not therapy. That seems hardly to need much clarification.

Re squabbling, I'm not interested in descending to that level with you, especially on a blog maintained by someone for whom I have the greatest respect. Everyone here deserves better.

But I will respond to a couple of specific points you raise, as they concern particular issues on which you've questioned me directly.

Hate speech - Granted that this is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, here are a few examples I put forward for your consideration, taken from radical feminist blogs and comment threads during the last few monhs:

“If exploring your “dark side” entails wanking to women being tortured, it might be best to leave it unexplored. Or kill yourself.”

“The way I see it, if you think you’re punk for getting off on reenacting the kinds of abuses that real women and children in this world suffer on a daily basis (and thus mocking their suffering), you can go fuck yourself.”

“...we as women must be aware that BDSM relationships always involve manipulation from those involved. I don’t understand how a woman can lower herself like that, reducing herself to a thing."

"Men who enjoy torturing women or who enjoy seeing women tortured are the enemies of womankind and the enemies of feminism. You can see it in action here the way they try to neutralise feminism or turn it into something that supports their woman-hating activities. All they are interested in is for the torture and abuse to continue and for them to be free of any criticism or opposition. It’s not going to happen."

"So we’re back to ‘it’s okay to torture people as long as they consent’. Riiiiight. Call me crazy, but I thought that torturing people was always wrong. I thought that deliberately inflicting harm on a person who is not threatening your life was wrong.

Why would someone want to torture others?
How can they justify this?

They can’t."

“I can’t believe the levels that people will go to justify hurting other people. It is really sick and insane. This is not what feminism is fighting for- your right to “choose” which man beats you and gets off on it. Y’all may think your man “loves” you or respects you, but no decent man would hurt his partner. End of story.”

“I really want to drive ice picks into this guy and the douchebag in post 1’s brains."

“Have you ever had a relationship where you didn’t beat up your female partner?”

“BDSM is not kinky. It’s A-B-U-S-E. Physical and psychological abuse. Not hip, not edgy, not fun, not kinky. ABUSE!”

"Approval of BDSM by progressives is counter to our overall goal of an egalitarian, classless, casteless, and truly democratic society. We should see BDSM as a symptom of the lack of such a society, and like any other such symptom, we should mourn it, not defend it or celebrate it."

"Yet both doms/sadists and subs/masochists are perpetuating or even deepening their own wounds and each other’s wounds, just as drug dealers do when they consensually sell drugs to an addict, or when the addict consents to injecting heroin."

"BDSM is erotic desire towards fantasies of domination, degradation, violence, abuse, oppression, or slavery."

"Men physically abusing women is considered erotic. Men raping women is considered erotic."

" If chains and a collar represent rebellion and “being in control,” then Madonna is our “rebel” Barbie and Ted Bundy her Ken."

" I have been informed of many instances where “safe” words were ignored during a sadomasochistic “scene.” I also know that women have died during sadomasochistic activities and that these deaths are only whispered about - they are not openly acknowledged."

"I think it would be beneficial for people to stop their BDSM practices; not necessarily beneficial for them, but beneficial for society as a whole. I think refusing to engage in any kind of abusive interactions-- even if they're consensual or 'role-play'-- can positively affect society."

"BDSM *is* nothing more than a dark and dangerous caricature of patriarchy-approved sex dynamics. It *is* absurd. And aggressive…potently angry. People who get off on hurting and dominating others, or being hurt/dominated, haven’t got their heads screwed on right;"

"BDSM is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of physical and emotional abuse, the scenarios enacted by people who would be far better served by spending a little time on a therapist’s couch.

"I’ll just stick with saying that anyone interested in being a BDSM dom probably fits the same personality type as those who staffed the camps at Belsen and Auschwitz. Torture is torture by any name."

"Unfortunately, normalizing porn-sick violent fantasy by copying it, internalizing it, and justifying it as mere “kink” makes life even more dangerous for women and girls.But who cares, right? Anything goes as long as someone gets off on it."

“These motherfuckers at worst hate women and consider them to be subhumans, and at best think of women as mental children that they want to fuck in between teaching them life lessons. ”

"Y’all may think your man “loves” you or respects you, but no decent man would hurt his partner. End of story."

"I’m not interested in talking about female doms because they are a smokescreen and a distraction to protect male sadists from their abuses towards women. And really, you think I’m dismissing female doms because I suggest that they probably aren’t murderous like many of their male counterparts? "

And here's one just for Trinity from Harmony, the founder of that wonderfully enlightened and compassionate group over on Facebook:

"you’re right, trinity, not all power dynamics are rooted in patriarchy.

so forget sexism for a little bit.

let’s talk about “race play”, a genre of bdsm. it includes fun, playful, sexy, subversive things such as: ruling over black slaves; raping “nigger wenches”; using naturally subservient oriental geishas; beating latina maids for missing a spot when cleaning.

how about power dynamics of age? oh yes, age play. enacting a child molestation, where the adult sub gets to pretend s/he’s in kindergarden getting punished with an ass-fuck by the teacher.

ableism is a nice one too. amputee fetishism is not uncommon amongst doms/sadists. of course it’s healthy and positive to be attracted to an amputee when you see him/her as an equal human being. but doms/sadists turn amputees into a fetish. and it’s their (supposed) helplessness that is fetishized.

and homophobia… wouldn’t it be sexy to role play a couple of straight macho men raping a sissy little ‘fag’ as a punishment for being a queer little panzy-ass?

oh, the fun never ends with bdsm!

but hey, if it gets you off, who is anyone else to judge? i guess we were born that way, born loving oppression. let’s stop fighting to make the world equal… when we watch the autrocities on the news, let’s not get upset and try to change things. let’s just masturbate."

Riiight. No hate speech in any of that...

I could come up with a hundred similar examples effortlessly. Now it's your turn. Show me the instances of similar venom from BDSM sites. I don't doubt you'll find something, but not the relentless barrage of defamatory language radical feminists use to trash anyone who defends BDSM at every opportunity. My choices here were neither difficult to find nor even the most extreme I could have cited.

While you're at it, please find me the BDSM community sites (not commercial porn sites appropriating BDSM terminology for profit) where all women are referred to as whores and told they should submit. Good luck with that project.

There is no parity here.

Now, as regards pictures and consent, I refer specifically to depictions of sexual activities that would be defined as explicit under applicable federal statutes. If Facebook has thousands of such images posted on it, then its operators have a very, very serious legal problem. I'm talking exclusively about the illegal use of non-compliant sexual images, period.

That language does not apply to the "sexy" pictures that routinely appear on social networking sites. It does apply to depictions of what 2257 defines as deviant sexual conduct, such as the image this group posted. The issue of consent for other kinds of images is a rather different concern, as I'm sure you'd agree.

I deal with these things daily as part of how I make my living. A single error in the interpretation of 2257 ends up with me in jail. I think I can tell what constitutes a non-compliant use. The logic here is pretty simple. The image they're using has a clearly legible copyright line in the lower left-hand corner that links its origin to a specific X-rated BDSM porn site, all images taken from which would require 2257 compliance, even if crudely censored to obscure nudity and/or penetration. The language of the law is quite precise about this, if you care to go online and read it.

The posting of that image as it is shown on any site open to minors, with none of the appropriate legal warnings and records-keeping notifications attached, violates that law, for which a single count carries penalities not to excede five years in prison. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect anyone on Facebook or anywhere else to obey the same laws I must.

Even if this were not the case, the woman who appears in that image granted permission in writing for its producers to use it. She did not grant that permission to militant opponents of what she does for a living to use it against her or her employers. That should count for something among women who care about the concerns of other women, but clearly some women's concerns are more important than those of others in the eyes of those who stole that photograph.

I have no problem with any anti-BDSM group existing anywhere. I do have a problem with the methods this group uses, and I do have the right to disagree with the point of view those methods are used to support. Clear on this now?

The whole point of your original post, from what I can gather, is to create a specious moral equivalency between a group of like-minded people who wish to practice their sexuality without being subjected to threats, bullying, defamation and verbal abuse and a group of ideological fanatics out to define them as dangerous, criminal, misognynistic and fundamentally evil, with the ultimate intent of putting them out of existence. These things are hardly comparable. In the same way, accusing others of being prudish or intolerant is hardly comparable to conflating them with rapists, torturers and murderers.

I find it a breath-taking leap of logical induction to draw any significant parallels between these two positions. Until you can find a substantial body of evidence to support this "even-handed" approach, I will prefer to remain highly dubious of its legiimacy. We want them to stop defining us as sick, fucked up and dangerous. They want our extinction. How are these things even remotely similar? You tell me, because I don't see it.

Kinky people are quite content to leave others alone if they will extend us the same courtesy. If others come after us with the lies and distortions to which we've been repeatedly subjected in the past, why would they expect to be welcomed as liberators? The arrogant expectation to the contrary is the essence of this type of neo-con feminism.

For the record, I didn't have any such expectation of Harmony's Facebook group. I went there to challenge them because I did not care to see their falsehoods promulgated in such a large and influential community without reply. I figured they wouldn't tolerate that challenge for long.

In no way did their response disappoint.

As to the implication that BDSM people widely proselytize for the their sexual orientations and attempt to impose them on others, while I don't doubt this happens, my own experience of four decades of leather activism leads me to believe this behavior is quite rare, and widely discouraged in our community. It is the distinguishing feature of those to be avoided, and that's one reason, I suspect, why they seek out places like Craigslist, rather than BDSM-specific sites where their manipulative conduct would be instantly reconized and made unwelcome in short order. It's also worth noting that such accusations are the common stuff of homophobic propaganda.

It saddens me that a consequence of the limited, highly unrealistic depictions of BDSM that many of our detractors delight in calling "mainstream acceptance" for practices identified with us but in no way characteristic of things we really do have actually become self-fulfilling prophecies among inexperienced players who just don't know any better. If you've managed to hook up with someone of that type, I wouldn't presume to advise you what to do, other than not generalize from your limited exposure to indict our whole culture.

There is excellent instructional material on BDSM culture available, but what reaches too many sincere newcomers first is bullshit on the Internet and sensationalized fiction on CSI. I feel bad for those people, and bad for us that the predatory outsiders into whose hands they occasionally fall are used to to tar those of us whose BDSM is both orientational and ethical. Between Fox News and Nine Deuce, what chance does the truth of our lives really stand of ever being understood, much less accepted as normal, the way those ... humans ... I quote above insist with such alarm that it already is.

We believe that consent is more than just the absence of "no." It is an ongoing, continually renewed contract between partners based on mutual respect and desire. We honor this principle and are quick to call out any in our midst who do not. Among us, no means no and once is enough.

Extrapolating to the rest of us from a single example is unjustified and, alas, entirely in keeping with the routine prejudice with which those of us who wish only to be safe among our peers are confronted without respite.

I have never claimed that rad-fems are anti-sex, uptight or anything other than hostile toward what I do for a living and my irksome obduracy in living my life without their permission. If they'll lay off threatening and heckling me and everyone I love, I'll be quite content to have no contact with any of them again ... ever.

But for as long as they make it their business to inflame potentially dangerous public sentiment against us, I will make it my business to obstruct their intentions. This isn't about who starts the conflict, but rather how it comes out in the end. If it concludes with nothing but bitter recriminations on all sides, that will be unfortunate but acceptable. If it ends with persecution of either faction, whether you believe this or not, I will find that unacceptable.

As to whether or not you or anyone else respects my arguments, that's your concern. I'm going to make them regardless. Those who don't respect them are more likely to lack respect for the person making the arguments than their content in any case. As long as their disrespect poses no immediate peril, I can live with it by identifying it and rejecting it.

I do not seek common ground or wish for dialog or engagement with those whose minds are already made up either way concerning a part of my life that is and should be the province exclusively of myself and those with whom I share it by mutual initiative.

It's nobody else's business and if others will let me keep it that way, it will remain so.

Becstar said...

Dw3t-Hathr: I think we're in some sort of agreeance. I think if people focused on figuring out their own stuff rather focusing on the behaviour of others (on both sides) then I think it would be more productive. Attacking them never gets anywhere.

Ernest: I was never debating that bad things aren't said on the rad-fem side. I do however think its a bit rich to claim that all rad-fems think that way and then distinguish yourself from BDSMers who launch equally scathing attacks on those who don't like it. To mention inviduals is one thing, but attacking a group on the basis of a few and then complain when they do exactly the same isn't exactly fair and only brings your argument down to their level.

I think in arguing with me using their points isn't going to work. I don't identify as pro- or anti-BDSM. I go around reading all sorts of different blogs in an attempt to figure myself out, so I'm not going to automatically agree or disagree with the quotes (with the exception of those threatening violence).

I was abused as a child. Anyone who thinks that even pretending to abuse children is hot are sick and should be locked up. Its perverted views like that that made me fucked up about sex in the first place. It is not something to be used as casual sarcasm. I was also raped consistently by my ex who filmed it. I have absolutely no doubt it is on the internet somewhere. Hell, knowing the internet its probably on a legal porn site. Don't quote porn legalities to me. On the internet they get completely thrown out the window, by *all* people. Where the hell is my permission? I have no doubt there are hundreds in my position but no one gives a shit as long as they can have their porn.

a group of like-minded people who wish to practice their sexuality without being subjected to threats, bullying, defamation and verbal abuse and a group of ideological fanatics Because you know, that's not biased at all. You "presume" to tell me that I am extrapolating from a minority but that is exactly what you are doing with some condescending comments to me thrown in. Unless you start talking to me like I'm as equal as you claim women are, I'm done with you.

SnowdropExplodes said...

You want basic respect but so do they.

I, and the other pro-BDSM feminists I know, do treat the other side with respect. But we can't have any kind of debate until we feel recognised as human by the other side. That hasn't happened yet in any of my encounters with radfem thought or bloggers. The Theory is All seems to be the way with (almost) everyone I've encountered.

I bet you'd find that they also consider themselves experts in their own lives (when I was anti-BDSM it was definitely because I had bad experiences with people claiming what they did to me was BDSM rather than the abuse it actually was and have talked to others who have had similar experiences).

But the thing is, every time such stories are brought up by anti-BDSM folks, those stories ARE accepted as True. No one on this side of the debate (at least, no one who identifies as feminist on this side of the debate) that I have seen, has ever taken any other line on such matters. All that we ask of such people is, "don't judge all BDSMers by that arsehole abuser" - and it seems as though you personally have responded to that request positively (for which I am grateful). What we also point out is that abusers exist in all sexualities and cultures, and sadly BDSM is no exception to this. However, we also point out that because of the strong emphasis on consent, the BDSM community tends to be self-policing, making it actually harder to get away with being an abuser.

If its not okay for them to say that BDSMers are misguided etc why is it okay for the BDSM people to say that the rad-fems are repressed/anti-sex/misguided?

Well, it isn't okay, and I don't think I personally have ever done that, and I don't think any of the people commenting here have done it either. What's more, I think that in specifically feminist discussions, there is a strong difference between the ways that these statements are made: when radfems make their statements abou BDSMers, they are speaking from a universal Theory That It Explains All - every BDSMer is described in the same way. However, when pro-BDSM feminists make remarks about radfems, they are usually aimed at one or two radfems in particular and are backed up by specific quotations from the writings of those specific radfems. Those remarks are without a doubt underhanded and snarky and unfair, but forgive us if every so often we relax our self-control and have a little fun at the expense of our enemies! We are only human, and occasionally the need for the release of lashing out against the unrelenting abuse hurled at us is overwhelming.

It is also worth pointing out that every time I have seen this stuff happen, when a pro-BDSM feminist makes nasty remarks about the other side, she (or he) is likely to be rebuked by one or more members of her own side; but when radfem bloggers make nasty remarks about BDSM folks, they are usually cheered on by their friends.

BDSMers have a very strong sense of the individual and tend to be non-conformist, meaning that more than most we have an understanding of the saying "different strokes for different folks", and that what works for one person may not work for another. We have a saying, "YKINMK, but YKIO" - Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is okay. Which is why I think you are misinterpreting when you report that, "Admit you're not into BDSM on a 'sex-positive' site and suddenly you're seen as anti-sex and repressed and that 'you'd like it if you only did it'." I know that some idiots do say such things, but I've never seen a space where that's the majority. I also admit that there are often messages passed between BDSMers in BDSM spaces that dismiss vanillas as repressed and so on - but it's only in the same way that nerds and sf/fantasy fans make fun of "mundanes" - when you're a looked-down-upon minority, making fun of the majority is a survival technique as much as anything else. I think the anti-sex thing is much more likely to be about porn than it is about BDSM. Either that or you are interpreting the term "sex-negative" as meaning "anti-sex", which it doesn't. Sex-negative is a term to describe the attitude "YKINO" (Your Kink Is Not Okay) when applied to something between consenting adults. Again, there is a distinction here between "I am not into BDSM" and "I hate BDSMers". It may be that going into some spaces and saying "I am not into BDSM", people will hear instead "I hate BDSMers!" (the internet is funny like that) but I don't think there is any prejudice against vanilla folks who show a genuine interest in what we get up to. Announcing, "I'm pretty much vanilla" will definitely not be read as "I hate BDSMers".

SnowdropExplodes said...

but there's still a section (I have no idea how rampant it is) going around saying that trying BDSM is the way to go about healing abuse (with or without prior desire for it. The argument seems to be that by acting it out and knowing you have some semblance of control over what's happening to you that it helps. The problem is it doesn't differentiate between those who desired this kind of stuff before hand and those who did not and also doesn't mention that in order to be safe it really should be planned and gradually brought in.

I am familiar with submissives reporting that one way BDSM has been helpful for them is in working through traumas in just this way (for example, rape survivors who are also subs often describe rape fantasy play as being a way in which they regain control of the situation). Some BDSM theorists certainly do talk about this kind of therapeutic effect as a way to explain why BDSM is helpful rather than harmful to survivors of abuse or rape. Because radfems often point to survivors in BDSM as evidence that BDSM is harmful, or perpetuating harm, the "therapeutic" theory is then sometimes used as a response to the "perpetuation of harm" theory.

I can see how, reading some of the writings in spaces that are intended for BDSM audiences, it might be possible to read them as advocating this as an approach for all survivors, but I think to do so is misleading, and the context of those articles should be taken into account - i.e. that they are talking to a BDSM audience about specifically BDSM matters. They are not talking about "the general world". I have never seen anyone advocate this as a general policy. I think one or two writers may have suggested that it might be helpful to non-BDSM types, but those who do are always careful to advocate the types of controls and planning that you describe. In situations where I have seen this I think the vast majority of the community are always quick to point out that, because BDSM can end up involving some pretty powerful emotional stimuli and levels, you always have to be very careful with anything like this, and really need to know what you're doing.

Indeed, in my experience any time that anyone in a BDSM space brings up the idea of fantasy-rape as a healing process for rape survivors, others are very quick to point out that it definitely DOESN'T work that way for everyone. I have also read articles by submissives who are rape survivors that are very critical of the whole idea of rape-fantasy.

electronic doll said...

There are times when I can't *quite* believe that this discussion is still occuring. That there are people in the world who can possibly consider themselves leftist and/or sex positive and/or progressive and/or a reasonable human being and not have the good grace or common sense to say "hey, I don't like what you are doing, but, you know, it's a free country."

There's an absurdity to it, fundamentally. Claiming a freedom of speech whilst repressing someone else's. Then claiming that the act is not repressive, but liberating from an incorrect worldview. I'd quote Orwell, but it's been done to death and I'm sick to the back teeth of working out who is more equal than whom.

I'd love to know *why* they are doing it. Part of me (charitable mode) thinks that they are against oppressive, abusive relationships. I agree with that. I wholeheartedly support it. It's the point where they think that BDSM is abusive that makes my mind boggle. Sure, there might be some BDSM relationships that *are* abusive, just like there are abusive non-BDSM relationship.

*breathes*

I'm preaching to the choir here, of course.

I have no problem with people saying that they don't like BDSM. Fine. Whatever. Your loss. I don't like sprouts. But I don't ban campaign to ban Christmas or claim that eating sprouts leads to the Death of Civilisation.

Anyhow, I've reported the group to Facebook, under the grounds that it "attacks individuals or a group" in this case, practicing BDSMers. I can't imagine that Facebook will be in a hurry to do anything about it, but it's always worth pointing a finger at things. Just in case.

Trinity said...

@Snowdrop:

I certainly think it's possible that some people do advocate, say, "rape fantasy" play for everyone. And I think that's stupid at best and reprehensible at worst. I've just never seen it as a widespread thing.

What I have, sadly, seen now and again, is some accounts of abusive BDSM where the dominant one has forced himself on his partner, saying "I'm getting you used to it/'fixing' your trigger/etc."

That, I think, has happened (and I'm sure you all can guess what I'd like to see happen to a 'dominant' like this.) But from what I have seen, that's not something the community in general advocates.

I do also think, though, that there certainly can be (and are) some small, isolated clubs with creepy and abusive protocols or expectations. I wouldn't be surprised to discover one where subs are pushed to do things that are psychologically edgy.

I just don't think that's at all usual.

Trinity said...

"Well, it isn't okay, and I don't think I personally have ever done that, and I don't think any of the people commenting here have done it either. What's more, I think that in specifically feminist discussions, there is a strong difference between the ways that these statements are made: when radfems make their statements abou BDSMers, they are speaking from a universal Theory That It Explains All - every BDSMer is described in the same way. However, when pro-BDSM feminists make remarks about radfems, they are usually aimed at one or two radfems in particular and are backed up by specific quotations from the writings of those specific radfems. Those remarks are without a doubt underhanded and snarky and unfair, but forgive us if every so often we relax our self-control and have a little fun at the expense of our enemies! We are only human, and occasionally the need for the release of lashing out against the unrelenting abuse hurled at us is overwhelming."

I've made those remarks. I try not to, but I have done it, and should own up.

As SD says, when I have made them it's been because I've felt reading some particular person's language (usually someone who has really graphic and mean things to say about other women who she deems too sexual or sexual in the wrong ways), that some really nasty things must have prompted such a comment.

But that doesn't excuse flinging wild accusations, and yes, the more mature thing to do would be not to say those things at all.

Alexandra Erin said...

I try to ignore this group. I really do. It gets harder when they send me messages, a month after the last time I posted there. :P I have a serious problem with not responding to people.

I haaaaaaaate to go ascribing motives and I don't want to buy into the idea that everybody who's vehemently anti-skub is, in their heart of hearts, secretly pro-skub and deeply ashamed of it.

But I look at the way "some of the members here have been aroused by BDSM play and pornography" is prominently featured in the group info, I look at the way the founder admits that sometimes the issue occupies her so fully that she doesn't eat or sleep or shower and then she apparently goes through phases where she says "fuck it" and ignores it...

It's certainly not beyond the limits of imagination to think that for some people this is their way of thinking about "nasty" things without thinking about them, y'know?

Trinity said...

"It gets harder when they send me messages, a month after the last time I posted there. :P I have a serious problem with not responding to people."

That happens to me too. Some of the old posts at Nine Deuce's still get the odd response, and it's hard not to go back there and get annoyed at "Go kill yourself" and "Craigslist is representative" all over again.

"I look at the way the founder admits that sometimes the issue occupies her so fully that she doesn't eat or sleep or shower and then she apparently goes through phases where she says "fuck it" and ignores it..."

Yeah, I'd say that's at the very least an unhealthy obsession with her opponents, and possibly a fixation that results from denial.

I was in denial myself for a while, and yes, I actually did take that out on people by saying that their desires were violent and creepy and evil and wrong. So yeah, my mind does sometimes wonder if, with some people, that's a possible explanation.

I do think it's unproductive to bait them with "you know you want it" and the like, though. And unproductive to say someone is "anti-sex" who simply has a sex life that doesn't include things we like.

I do wonder about some of the people it matters so much to. If they really think they're right, why do they create little communities where they can gab about it rather than go about trying to help abused women get out?

I mean, as much as I don't like the Rescuer trope, it's always puzzled me that if you really thought widespread abuse was going on, your response to it would be complaining and writing manifestos and blog posts rather than setting up shelters with staff versed in Scene lingo and etiquette and the like...

Not that I'd like that either, but it would seem to me like a more serious response to something you actually saw as a serious problem for women.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

SnowdropExplodes:

I also admit that there are often messages passed between BDSMers in BDSM spaces that dismiss vanillas as repressed and so on - but it's only in the same way that nerds and sf/fantasy fans make fun of "mundanes" - when you're a looked-down-upon minority, making fun of the majority is a survival technique as much as anything else.These days, that doesn't look like "making fun of the majority as a survival technique" to me so much as "demonstrating a junior high school level of social maturity."

What happened to the "IJNMK" part of "YKIOK", there?

It looks insecure to me. "I need to be reassured that people whose sexuality is different from mine are somehow lesser in order to feel good about my sexuality." I feel the same way about the "more highly evolved" polyamorous assholes, who get bonus idiot points for knowing jack shit about how the theory of evolution works.

One of the things that I have to deal with is that every one of my sexual minorities has a minority community of people who think that being different in that particular way makes them a better class of human being. For a long time, 100% of my activism time was spent cleaning up after those assholes, so I don't like seeing their behaviour minimised as, "Oh, it's just poking fun of the majority."

It's not. It's manufacturing work for people who are willing and able to be the goddamn cleanup crew.

Trinity said...

"For a long time, 100% of my activism time was spent cleaning up after those assholes, so I don't like seeing their behaviour minimised as, "Oh, it's just poking fun of the majority."

It's not. It's manufacturing work for people who are willing and able to be the goddamn cleanup crew."

I agree. I do think there are some people who are members of various majorities out of fear or lack of serious thought, but plenty of people just are the way they are. The whole "requiring people to be politically advanced" thing, whether it's polyamorous people wanting to require monogamous ones to "get past acculturation," bad feminists wanting BDSM people to do the same, bad feminists wanting trans people to all be subversive and non-binary-identified because that "smashes patriarchy," BDSM people wanting bad feminists to "admit" to their need for power play, is crap.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

(Posted about the cleanup crew at my place, if anyone cares.)

SnowdropExplodes said...

It looks insecure to me.

Yes, it is insecure. I know, because I've been there and been that insecure person. I've been there because I grew up in a society where all the messages I was getting were that my sexuality was downright wrong and evil. I think that does have a tendency to make one feel insecure about oneself.

"I need to be reassured that people whose sexuality is different from mine are somehow lesser in order to feel good about my sexuality."

That's not at all how I read it. I read it as "All these other people tell me my sexuality is lesser than theirs (or just plain wrong) so I feel the need to push back when I'm in a safe space with my mates."

It isn't big, it isn't clever, it isn't helpful in the long run, but I think it can be a useful step in the process of escaping from negative stereotyping of oneself.

One of the things that I have to deal with is that every one of my sexual minorities has a minority community of people who think that being different in that particular way makes them a better class of human being.

Well, that's something different from what I was talking about. I was talking about what I have seen, and you're thinking I mean something else that I don't see often enough for me to recall it or associate it with the discussion.

The arseholes you write about, I know that some of them do exist, and yes, I have encountered their crap once in a while, but I don't think I've ever seen it go unchallenged in a BDSM space when the faux-losophy of "we're better/more highly evolved/more highly in tune with ourselves, than anyone else" is actually presented as a genuine belief. That stuff pisses me off just as much as it does you.

Incidentally, if those arseholes are the ones that Becstar has encountered, then it seems to me that (in whatever cack-handed way) I have been doing some of that clean-up stuff here?

SnowdropExplodes said...

Okay, I've read Dw3t-Hthr's post about the clean-up crew now and I see that I have in fact been writing with blinkers on.

I retract my statements about poking fun etc. (I mean, that still happens the way I said it does, but the Bad Stuff is much more prevalent than I could see).

Alcibiades said...

"I do also think, though, that there certainly can be (and are) some small, isolated clubs with creepy and abusive protocols or expectations. I wouldn't be surprised to discover one where subs are pushed to do things that are psychologically edgy.

I just don't think that's at all usual."

I'm a little uncomfortable with the "majority" rhetoric.

It strikes me that whether or not it's the majority within the community is irrelevant to this discussion. My relationship and yours could be an island of sanity within a sea of abuse, and it wouldn't matter one whit to this conversation.

It strikes me as similar to the arguments over Islam. "Oh, well, maye you're okay, but look at all those asshats in the middle east!" Even if the majority of Muslims are mysogonistic twats, it doesn't change the fact that the Muslim in front of you is a perfectly good human being.

In short, it strikes me as imputing ontology to a group, and saying that I have to answer for the excesses of that group. I don't necessarily have anything in common with people who take the mantle of BDSM to use it as abuse, or the people who take the mantle of BDSM and use it to enrich their lives and relationships. I'm doing my own thing.

And even though this defense was taken in good faith and not intended to make me responsible for the excesses of the group, it does make me responsible for the moderations of the group, which is just as philosophically erroneous, and nearly as dangerous since it opens us up to the riposte that, "actually, the majority of the relationships within this community ARE abusive"

The point is that we have our own stories, and we don't want those erased. I think relying upon, "well, the majority of us are fine!" does something similar.

Trinity said...

@Alci: I don't think correcting someone's misapprehension that utter ridiculousness is widespread means that my own relationship is only OK if utter ridiculous isn't.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

That's not at all how I read it. I read it as "All these other people tell me my sexuality is lesser than theirs (or just plain wrong) so I feel the need to push back when I'm in a safe space with my mates."(I know you've read my longer post and reconsidered somewhat, but I want to make this point explicit in the thread.)

And that may get argued against in the community by people who recognise it as the bigotry it is, but not everyone in the world is privy to those conversations, because not everyone in the world is in the community.

And, well, if a fair fraction of the people who are out there being visible are horrific, the people who aren't hooked in to the community aren't likely to want to look deeper in the first place. Which means they go around with the impression set by the Goreans, the Taken In Handers, the guys on the news who try to use unsigned slave contracts as defense in divorce proceedings, and the like. People on the outside have no knowledge of how marginalised that behaviour is on the inside unless someone tells them; even people who know that it's only the extremes that make news don't necessarily know how much to correct.

I won't deny that I had my time period going 'freaking the mundanes' (not kink context, but same impulse as you were describing), and while I'm not precisely ashamed of it I'm not inclined to be forgiving of it either. And in my experience it was never about poking fun of the majority at all; it was about manufacturing a way to feel superior to the squares via boundary failure.

Trinity said...

"I won't deny that I had my time period going 'freaking the mundanes' (not kink context, but same impulse as you were describing), and while I'm not precisely ashamed of it I'm not inclined to be forgiving of it either. And in my experience it was never about poking fun of the majority at all; it was about manufacturing a way to feel superior to the squares via boundary failure."

Yeah, this. I mean, I do think that need to feel superior and to foist your superiority on others is ofter a result of having been unfairly marginalized... but that doesn't make it decent behavior, really.

And I actually think some of the particularly "radical" "feminists" are doing their version of "freak the mundanes," actually. "I've found Wimminz Spayce and I must immediately show off to all the world just how above the colluders I am."

I mean, I also think a fair amount of the extreme stuff is not just subcultural quirkiness but also actively hateful nonsense, so don't get me wrong. But I think some of the biting wit coming from a Twisty or a Nine Deuce is actually "freak the 'danes."

"OH YEAH? I'M A LESBIAN SPINSTER WITH A BAAAAAD ATTITUUUUUUUUUUDE!"

SnowdropExplodes said...

I do think that need to feel superior and to foist your superiority on others is often a result of having been unfairly marginalized... but that doesn't make it decent behavior, really.

I completely agree with this. I guess I do have a tendency to write it off as "just human nature" when it happens in closed spaces, but I'm not happy with it even there.

I feel that people do a lot of things that aren't decent behaviour, that are just ways of dealing with other yucky stuff, and it doesn't make those behaviours any better or less problematic but I kind of feel more sympathetic about it. And it seems to me that it tends to be a phase people go through as they adjust to the idea that being kinky isn't wrong after all (I know I did for a while).

It's the ones who don't work through it and become ideologues are most often the noisy and damaging ones, IME.

Becstar said...

Okay, so now I've calmed down from being triggered I feel like I can respond.

Snowdrop Explodes - I'll have to take your word for it that it is not the norm. At the time I did read it I was still fairly anti-BDSM so it definitely may have tainted the way I read it. You may have noticed I am very, very touchy about people advocating stuff like that to rape/abuse victims because I've felt firsthand the harm it can cause.

I am getting the feeling more and more though that while I agree with what the women in BDSM say listening to anything the men say just proves to me how arrogant and unsympathetic they are to abused women.

AlexandraErin - I was once...not quite obsessed, but close, to BDSM from an anti-BDSM standpoint. I know I can't speak for everyone but the reason I was so caught up in it was because of my abuse. I'd already been abused, the ex knew it but still wanted to try BDSM, did despite knowing my consent issues and it wasn't really until recently I realised it wasn't BDSM but rape.

I was caught up in it both because I wanted to make myself believe that it was okay, that I wasn't really abused and to kind of try to confirm it was inherently screwed up and how was I supposed to know that it was before I consented to it the first time.

I still think that I will never be able to participate in it as a sub because of this (although if my partner has his way I will). I definitely don't use it as a way to try to cover my desire for it up. Its more like a way to try and actually like it so I can just do it and get it over with without it destroying me.

Trinity said...

Becstar,

I really think you should leave your boyfriend if you can. He's trying to push you into something that really upsets and triggers you and doesn't seem to care about your boundaries. That's just not acceptable.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

(although if my partner has his way I will)This, right here: get out. Get out yesterday.

That you keep having these moments of "But he keeps pushing for this even though I've said I don't want to, and I may give in"? Is making space for you to be raped again.

Please, protect yourself. Please.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Becstar:

What Trinity and Dw3t-Hthr said is absolutely true.

This guy has ALREADY crossed the line into coercive behaviour and that pressure is in my mind an element of an abusive relationship developing.

Put yourself first. Leave him.

EthylBenzene said...

Fourthing Trin, Dw3t, and SD. Becstar, I hope you realize what your boyfriend seems to be coercing you to do is not what we on this site are advocating. Take care of yourself and let us know if you need anything.

SunflowerP said...

I'm jumping on the bandwagon, too, Becstar. This is the same-old same-old routine, with the idea being that you'll get tired of saying "no" and do what he wants just so you don't have to deal with the whining - that's coerced consent (and thus not really consent at all), whether the guy is someone you just met, or someone you're in a relationship with. DTMFA!!

Sunflower

Becstar said...

I know its hard to understand, but I can't leave him. It sounds weird but he is actually a lot safer than my home life is at the moment. He won't actually do it as long as I refuse to do anything sexual with him (he either does not understand or doesn't want to understand about my inability to truly consent). I know its not perfect, but I'm trying my best to keep myself safe, I really am. Unfortunately there's something more potentially dangerous than him in my life which is a lot harder to stop (if I was actually able to say stop the bf would at least stop).

Trinity said...

@becstar: Can you move out on your own?

Becstar said...

Not yet - I'm working on it though. I've got to last until the end of the year (when I finish my degree and will be able to work enough to support myself). Until then I just have to make what I can of it, even if that means sticking with the boyfriend (not that that is the abolsute only reason why I stay with him - I'm as emotionally attatched as a person normally is after a two-year turbulent relationship).

SnowdropExplodes said...

Becstar: I guess all I can say is that I hope you manage to keep yourself safe enough, until you can move out on your own.

Bean said...

Trinity,

Thank you for calling out the parts of that I hated the most. I read that screed weeks ago, and while I rolled my eyes at most of it, I stopped rolling them when I got to points 13, 14 and onwards.

I can't decide what's more upsetting and hurtful: the idea that being a survivor automatically erases any personal agency and ability to define my own experiences, or the idea that having an interest in topping someone means that I must be, "prone to treating others in a way that is controlling, dominating, rude, authoritarian, narcissistic, selfish, without compassion, even subtly or blatantly abusive."

Victim advocacy, this is not.

I'm just thankful that this WASN'T the first thing about BDSM that I ever saw.

And to hell with the pseudo-sympathy here. If this is the same "Harmony" as the one who posted in Nine Deuce's, "A Question for Doms," thread, then one of the last things she's posted there is this:

i only read a fraction of these comments. but when i did read explanations from doms/sadists about why they enjoy being a dom/sadist, well it sounded exactly like what i’ve read of why rapists, batterers, molesters, and serial killers enjoy doing what they do. both their own 1st-person accounts, and theoretical books by psychologists who try to explain the inner motivations for these forms of violence.That doesn't sound like any kind of empathy to me.

(It also, if you've read anything about violent criminals yourself, makes absolutely no sense. Violent criminals are not a monolith, and their motivations vary widely.)

I have been resisting the urge to email her, because I know it will do absolutely no good.

Bean said...

Becstar,

If you have trouble directly saying, "No," to your boyfriend in the moment (and you really can't leave him), maybe you could write him a letter explaining your position re: consent, and telling him that you absolutely cannot do [X, Y, Z] in a healthy way, and not to ask you to?

Becstar said...

Bean: I have actually done that but he doesn't seem to get what that means and I find it really hard to verbalise. I think I've made it a little bit clearer to him though, which is why I'm not too scared.

Renegade Evolution said...

good gods, I am glad I missed this when it was still raging hot.

I cannot fucking believe people. Nope. Can't. This OHHH fucked up victim/almost murderer crap is just..

it stinks like month old egg salad.

Now sure (raises hand) some kinky folk are creepy...but at least we're not patronizing fuckheads.

And it fucking pisses me off when anti whatever people EXPLOIT women in porn for their own ends WITHOUT their consent. Nice way to show how much they care about women, really.

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