Saturday, 6 June 2009

Dear radical-leaning feminists...

...if your big thing is fighting for the really real actual empowerment of women (rather than the icky fake sparkly "empowerfulizing" of women)... why do you always want to disempower me?
The situation of men who enjoy playing the M in relation to female prostitutes is instructive here. In a society that systematically gives men power over women, men usually have enough ability to retaliate that a female S is, ultimately, very much in their power. On this basis, John Stoltenberg has argued that sadomasochism may be liberating for men in a way that it cannot be for women in a patriarchy.
Is it just an obsession with "prostitutes" that makes you so constantly run at the mouth/keyboard about pros with only a footnote about everybody else (usually that we're so rare and it proves you right about everything)? Because I really don't understand it and, to be honest, it really ticks me off. It bothers me to see you folks so constantly insinuate that no one would be like me unless someone paid them for it.

Stop it, please.

And honestly? As a person with a disability, I am used to constant small disempowerments. It really bugs me to turn to the feminist movement and find the same thing all over again.

What really saddens me is that the actual people who write this stuff will likely never see what I just wrote. These folks are Professors, who Get Stuff Published. I'm just someone with a blog. My story matters less than the theory, and the theory says "no right-minded female would be like you unless cash were involved." Uh... no thanks to that.

(And I'm not even addressing here how disrespectful to actual dominatrices, prostitutes, and other sex workers that kind of gloss is also. Yuck with a capital Y.)


K said...

That's how I feel about some feminism with respect to sexuality, too. People trying to speak for me without actually, listening to me & what I want. Or what I want is disingenuous and therefore not really what I want at all.

The thing is, I'm both terrified & thrilled by the idea that certain doctors (one in particular who keeps getting mentioned in feminist text books) might one day find me and take me seriously. Or perhaps worse, not seriously. If they respond to you, it is dignifying what you are doing. But it is probably going to wind up demanding a response from you, too.

It won't happen. I don't think it will ever happen. I'm Joe Schmoe with a blog.

But if it did happen, would I even be ready...

Now I tried to read this article you have posted but some of it went a little over my head. I was not aware of a Cathartic vs Addiction camp wrt S&M's place. I can see how this view could spring up since I've heard it applied to regular TV shows & the media, too.
But can't it just be a Thing that Exists?
I'm usually a little skeptical when Freud gets mentioned in feminist discussions. I shouldn't be; I took psych classes, I know he has a historic value...

Well, it didn't seem as bad as some blog posts I've seen that come down hard on BDSM, in the sense that, this author used different language & tone (but who cares about tone.)
But of course I'm seeing many arguments that are going to lend themselves well to anti-BDSM groups. Even though the author herself states that she doesn't have all the answers at all.

Nadia West said...

Thank you for having a pro-bdsm feminist blog. I'm a feminist submissive and while some would be surprised to hear it, I'm pretty sure that deep down my Dom (male) is too!

Trinity said...

"I'm usually a little skeptical when Freud gets mentioned in feminist discussions. I shouldn't be; I took psych classes, I know he has a historic value..."

I studied some Freud and Lacan, and I'm very skeptical too. It rather alarms me to see feminists appeal to him. I mean, yeah, I know, Irigaray, but.. why?!

Anonymous said...

The Freud thing seems to go back to Shulamith Firestone, and if we extend the idea of a comparison between Marx's dialectic with SF's "Dialectic of Sex", seems to be casting Freud as the Adam Smith of family relations: someone who explained the functions, but not the mechanisms or contradictions inherent in the system. SF seemed to take Freud and by recasting his findings in the light of feminist theory, believed she had found that Truth about how family relations worked. One thing that came out of SF's approach was the idea that gay/lesbian desires were produced by the dysfunctional family relations produced by Patriarchy.

My suspicion would be that a number of modern radfems and such are aware that SF drew on Freud's work, but not really what SF tried to do with it.

(I'm too tired right now to read through the linked article, I'll have a ore detailed set of thoughts about it tomorrow, I expect)

ggg_girl said...

"I'm usually a little skeptical when Freud gets mentioned in feminist discussions. I shouldn't be; I took psych classes, I know he has a historic value..."

Freud was misogynistic & full of crap! He has historical value because people bought his misogynistic BS that all us womenz are aching for a big wonderful dick. What a load of crap!

K said...

Freud was misogynistic & full of crap! He has historical value because people bought his misogynistic BS that all us womenz are aching for a big wonderful dick. What a load of crap!

Which is why I'm skeptical when I hear feminists invoking His Name.

Like, I know it, you know it, they probably all know it too so... like why are we still talking about him? Like, why are we still taking him seriously?

Of course I say "Skeptical" because if you can come up with a good reason to bring him up for an argument then okay I can roll with that.

But if it's just going with the flow, his flow, then... why are we doing it this way? Is it just because he's the biggest name in town? Isn't there better and/or more progressive psychologists we can cite?

Trinity said...


I think it's because he's the one who -- came up with? popularized? best described? -- the idea that we have an unconscious. That we can be in denial, or have desires that are counter to what we consciously profess. That idea was revolutionary, and it's credited as being his. So yeah, he's significant. The problem is that he noticed it and then decided he could map it, and his map was largely bullshit.

ggg_girl said...


that's true, he did popularize the subconscious. and that was useful. except when taking it to such an extent that every dream has a bizarre sexual meaning and straightforward desires need to be picked apart to reveal their sooper-special unconscious meaning. ugh.

also, freudian-based psychoanalysis has dubious benefit at best whereas cognitive behavioral therapy has much better evidence supporting it.

Trinity said...

I know CBT (heh) is useful for a lot of people, but I never understood how it could work at all. It strikes me as working on the same principles as the whole reprogram your desires stuff to me. It's "Look at your thought. Is that a bad pattern? Rewrite it."

Trying to do that doesn't make any sense to me -- if I could rewrite my thoughts, what would I need therapy for? The whole problem is that I'm having them and can't stop them, despite fully intellectually understanding that they are incorrect.

Trinity said...

So while I've heard that it works for some people, I'm personally very confused about how it would. And the few folks I know who do it... well, I'm no expert, but it really doesn't seem to have done anything for them at all.

ggg_girl said...

CBT (hehe) is about replacing irrational thoughts with rational thoughts. Most people do it without being told to and without professional help. A person who is very worried about giving a presentation for example, might tell themselves "the presentation will be over soon" or "what's the worst thing that could happen? - They won't like it" or "I can practice and take deep breaths so I'm less nervous".

So if you have an anxious person or low self-esteem person who is having irrational thoughts like "everyone in the audience is going to hate me if I can't get this right" or "this is going to ruin my career" or "everyone knows I'm just stupid", the whole point of CBT is to teach the person to think rationally about situations and replace irrational thoughts with rational thoughts.

Studies have shown that depressed individuals actually have a view of themselves that is more in line with what other people that know them think of them - a more accurate view of themselves, so to speak. Isn't that strange? Emotionally healthy people have a less realistic view of themselves than how other people actually perceive them; emotionally people think they're better than they actually are :)

ggg_girl said...

"The whole problem is that I'm having them and can't stop them, despite fully intellectually understanding that they are incorrect."

Everyone has irrational thoughts, most people quickly counter them with something more positive. The idea of CBT is not necessarily to stop those thoughts all together, but to help someone come up with a positive response to tell themselves. Over time hopefully the person gets more used to thinking in a positive way and has less irrational thoughts.

Erin said...

CBT isn't always quite as simple as "rewriting thoughts" -- for example, one of the techniques I've applied for my (mostly) mental OCD. When an exaggerated fear or mental compulsion pops up, rather than fight against it as is habitual for people with pure-O OCD and telling myself, "No, this ridiculous thing you fear isn't going to happen," I stop and say, "You know what? This isn't impossible." In fact, one technique for combating the anxiety associated with OCD is to repeat the anxiety-causing thought again and again or even embellish it, specifically trying to make the anxiety worse in the short term so as to learn to ride it out -- something that, repeated, will eventually lessen the anxiety over time. In part it's about becoming more comfortable with uncertainty.

Anonymous said...

Reading through the linked article, making notes for a full comment.

Just one thought so far I had to share: did anyone else read the term "horizontal hostility", and think "grudge fuck!"?

Anonymous said...

This part leapt out at me: "Thinking of sadomasochism as a sexual preference suggests the liberal view that participants have only the responsibility not to visit unwanted harm on others, that the exercise of their preferences is otherwise a matter of individual liberty, nothing for others to be concerned about, as long as participants are consenting adults acting in private. Thus the liberal view encourages a nonjudgmental attitude or toleration within limits. It also assumes that participants can keep from visiting unwanted harm on others, an assumption that seems unwarranted as long as the sources of such desires are not understood.

Oh, why does that remind me so much of the (often tacit) assumption that all gay folks are secret pederasts? If they were allowed in the military, they'd be bum-raping all their comrades in arms? etc. *groan*

It seems like the basic assumption is "different, therefore pathological". No one asks whether as preference for the missionary position with the lights out (or spoons position for same-sex couples, I imagine) is "addictive", after all.

An interesting answer is suggested in a criticism that Sarah Hoagland once brought against sadomasochism as an irresponsible illusion whereby we get to play at having power over each other instead of seeking the real political power needed to end oppression.(38) If she is right, sadomasochism can sublimate desires for real political power.

Yeah, because, umm, there's NO sign of any S/M folks in political movements, IS there?

On the other hand, if empirical investigation were to reveal that participants in sexual sadomasochism are in general as politically resistant to oppression as their feminist critics, that might suggest that neither the catharsis model nor the addiction model captures well the consequences of sadomasochistic activity for real hostility or real destructiveness.

I just wish she'd considered that point first, instead of waiting to the penultimate paragraph to raise the thought. The conclusion is an assumption about kinky folks being less politically active outside of BDSM rights.

In my experience, BDSM folks are often actually energised politically against forms of oppression, by the nature of their kink.

(And plenty of 'nilla folks of all orientations are very un-political)

Anonymous said...

So, I am reading through the original article, and I am applying my basic test of "Does this so-called scholar cite any empirical sources?" and of course, the answer is no. But that's par for the course.

What really bugs me is this line:

"It is a matter of concern, however, that the only things distinguishing the behavior of an S from battery and other abuse may be the motivations of the parties and the consent of the M."

Just motivations and consent. A bagatelle, apparently; such a fragile distinction that its hardly worth discussing BDSM and abuse as separate topics.

But what the fuck? The distinction between rape and vanilla sex is just motivations and consent. The distinction between a gift and a theft is just motivations and consent. The distinction between surgery and torture is just motivations and consent. The distinction between euthansia, manslaughter and homicide is just motivations and consent. The distinction between an accident and terrorism is just motivations and consent.

Fuckin' A, man.

ggg_girl said...

I heart you Orlando

belledame222 said...

pet Stoltenberg: oh, that's rich. "Radical Feminist Man sez: Silly Wimnz! BDSM is for Menz! u no can has!"


and yes, i am gathering he means subbing and/or m/m play, but even so: fuck off, annoying buoy.

Renegade Evolution said...

well gee, what DOES happen when you actually meet those from the other side?

-They paint you as a violent psychopath.
-Engage in a smear war on ya.
-Cause so much drama you'd think it was a Greek Tragedy.
-Refuse to look you in the eye.
-Scream "You're the EXCEPTION" (you freak!)
-Get very, very afraid- because gee, those people they have been so "good" about speaking for can speak just fine for themselves.

heh, I know from experience.

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