Friday, 27 November 2009

Ooh, how did I miss this?

La Phalene muses on kink and gender:

There’s a lot in this kink business to make the feminist in me froth at the mouth. And no, I’m not talking about the images of pretty girls tied up, or the way that rape is dressed up as a perfect fantasy or that rad-fem line about how many sex acts are degrading to women. Rather it’s things like the two opposing camps, the female supremacists and the people who announce women are inherently submissive, and little things about how gender in constructed in the scene and in the archetypes. This is not a different world than vanilla, it’s all the baggage of the rest of my life seen through a somewhat tasteless spooky-goth lense that dresses people up in shiny black and involves a lot of smacking.

....Both sides of the gender superiority thing construct a very narrow definition of womanhood. For a subculture where having breasts is no proof of your genetic gender, people are pretty quick to either thrust me up onto a pedestal for qualities I might not possess or put me down as a sheep in need of a firm hand. This can be pretty awkward in either respect because it’s a narrow box to shove slightly more than half the human population into.

Classically the people who believe in gynarchy say it’s because women are warm, empathetic and emotionally intelligent, bringing wisdom that will end wars. Men who say women are submissive point to their classic social position and need for protection, talking about evolutionary biology or theology, or maybe gorean psychology. They generally phrase things in terms of a yin/yang, with female deference not as an explicit proof of male superiority but part of the natural order of things, like plug into socket.

I’m a young woman, who sort of conforms to the physical proportions desired of women in my era, fresh faced, vivacious and vicious in my interests. If you talk to vanilla people, the image ‘dominatrix’ is the closest to what I am, though not a label I embrace personally, and this symbol is what people perceive about kink. I’m bossy, aggressive and I like violence. According to the gynarchists, either I fail as a woman because I raid from the masculine side of things or my superiority is so unsupported as to be a point of religious faith. According to the man-as-patriarch, this is the flapping around of an unsatisfied woman who needs a Real Man ™ or I’m a unicorn who can be satisfied with a nice fluffy ‘female’ man. Both sides are very quick to write from the perspective of how females fit into this, either above or below. I really would like to see some f-sub writing on the perspective of gender-as-orientation, because while it seems like men write in generalizations (as do the female tops who believe their own hype enough to call their gender the best) the f-subs are all writing about personal service and the closest I’ve seen to them talking about belonging at the feet of men in general is waxing poetic about service making them feel fulfilled.

So where do I, the visual spokesperson for my kink, fit into all of this? I want a master like I want another hole in my head, but I don’t want to top someone because they believe in extreme sexual dimorphism, I want it to be submission gently coaxed (or brutally conquered) because of who I personally am, with mutual respect. And not the yin/yang separate but equal role bullshit, either. Subs aren’t subbing because this is mystical; it’s a fetish where, unlike the people who love inanimate objects, luckily the object of my desire can love me back. They might be the bolt to my nut, but to work we’ll both need to be made of the same material and my perfect opposite would probably find me dreadfully tedious and overbearing. They might get off on that, but being healthy we’d end up compromising.

Love it, but even the "bolt to my nut" phrasing is too stereotypically gendered for me. *wink*

And I also still scratch my head at the dissing of femme men, too. Not sure what that's about.

But in general: Yes. Just yes.

I will be brief.

So there's a new comment over at an old post of Nine Deuce's:

This whole BDSM thingy is crap. Seriously, anyone who likes being hit and cut and harmed is mentally ill. Why is it called self-harm (a horrible, life-sucking addiction to be sure) when you do it to yourself, but when others do it to you it's "liberating" or "empowering"? It's just fucking sick.

Defenders of this crap, please research abuse and coping methods for it. People convince themselves that they like abuse so they can deal with the reality of it. Victims often seek out places in which to re-enact the abuse which is probably why these folks keep coming back to it.
My only comment is "what makes you think we haven't researched it?"

Handy, isn't it, to assume ignorance on the part of your opponents? Still makes you look like a damn fool, though.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Interesting conversation....

There's a guy over at Nine Deuce's comment thread here who's making some pretty damned rather creepy comments about BDSM affecting how he relates to his partners. I was wondering what you all think of him or would say to him. Some samples of his comments:
Most, if not all, of the girls I have had sex with enjoy being dominated in one way or another. Not necessarily like extreme sado masochist, but many wanted to be choked/slapped/spanked/called degrading names and such. I wasn’t into this stuff at first (for a long time I felt weird about receiving oral sex because the act was not reciprocal), but now it seems to me that girls can’t enjoy sex unless they are acting out a power fantasy. What to do about this?

How do I deal with the fact that they often want to be degraded or dominated sexually but at other times treated with respect and regarded as an equal? Sometimes immediately after she will feel ashamed or angry. It can be kind of confusing. Should I separate the two worlds and somehow just not think about it?

Yeah, I realize that, in some ways, a person’s sexual fantasies don’t make them good or bad, worthy or unworthy. On the other hand, sex is a part of the whole human being, and it must say something about the person as a whole. In day to day life, I find it difficult to respect a person who is submissive or sycophantic. On the other hand, that’s just one side of the coin. I am also bothered by the fact that I take pleasure in having power and violence.

Yeah I am making a generalization based on personal experience. I am sure there are many women who have different tastes and desires. It just has been so predominant in my experience that I’ve started to wonder where it comes from and how to deal with it in a real relationship. A female friend of mine told me she wanted to break up with her boyfriend because he didn’t “throw her around enough”. It’s hard for me to understand a girl wanting to be “objectified” (or whatever you want to call it) and then treated as an equal.

I am only speaking from personal experience. I have had only a handful of sexual partners (5). Each woman was very different from the others, but when it comes to sex they all encouraged a very strong power dynamic. I have been wondering about where this power stuff comes from. For me, sex was primarily a sensual experience and not really about power. But after having a few girlfriends I am finding that many women want to act out fantasies of rape and submission, even women who seem very strong and independent.
(please pardon me for not linking every comment.)

I'm not sure what to think. Several of these comments just... strike me as Creepy Nice Guy. Calling those he's had sex with "girls" and talking about how every woman wants something different from what he wanted, and admitting his difficulties with respecting people all raise red flags for me.

Thing is, it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that someone who can't spank someone without seeing her as a "sycophant" would lack problems relating to women if only he were vanilla. Even his description of the "sensual experience" in the last bit I quoted seems like it's all about him and what he wanted sex to be like, rather than about enjoying the sensuality together.

I actually agreed with several people over at ND's in recommending he avoid BDSM if it exascerbates a problem he already has with respecting his partner in daily life.

But I do wonder how you all feel about this. Here, finally, after the years of our saying "prove it" is an individual who appears to be admitting that BDSM makes him less likely to respect his partners. What do we think about it?

As I said, my personal feeling is that he's probably got an issue doing so anyway, even without the spanking. But I do wonder: BDSM is intense, and it definitely can be dark and play with things that aren't so sweet or fair.

I've always said doing BDSM is like using a knife or starting a fire. Most of us do these things fairly often in our lives and it's not even particularly remarkable. And, sometimes, they are the best or even the only tools available to do something we want or need to do, despite their having the potential to cut or burn us. Still, they are, by their very nature, potentially dangerous if misused.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

I actually can't edit the link list here...

...but here's a useful link.

Orlando C is collating results from studies of BDSM and has posted them here:

Personally I'd like to, if at all possible, see links to the studies themselves, but this collation is great. From my admittedly not-thorough perusal, it looks like many of the results he cites are from the book Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures, which collected studies and articles about BDSM (and which if I recall right was originally a special issue of a particular journal, but I may be misremembering that.)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A post!

I've been avoiding these kerfuffles as much as I can lately, and I think it's been good for me.

However, a few people have been clamoring for my return, so... *wink*

I did find this (a bit old, but then I haven't been around):
If a person gets turned on by random objects, animals, excrement, shoes, or whatever the heck, I’m not okay with that. That is pathological, and represents an underdeveloped consciousness. As a child matures, he becomes less vital-egoistic, and lives with a higher level of self-discipline. But in an excessively liberal society where people live in a kind of prolonged childhood, they never grow out of that undisciplined, vital-egoistic state; seeking titillation with a kind of desperate and unfree movement, addicted to excitement and adrenaline. Those who seek excitement through kink represent that stunted state, along with those who are promiscuous, view pornography, are involved in extreme sports and so on. Their consciousness is highly ‘material’, more like that of an animal, and undisciplined. Instead of encouraging these pathological behaviours, we should criticize them and create a cultural norm against them.
It's been a while since I last ran into a critique like this. It sounds a bit Freudian, doesn't it, all laced with references to "development" and filled with interesting scientific-sounding neologisms like "vital-egoistic."

Thing is, when someone resorts to words like this without even defining them, that's a sure sign that the theory behind it all is bankrupt. Nowhere does the person define "vital-egoistic," or link to any use of this term in any accepted theory. (Perhaps, if it's intended to evoke Freud, I should be saying "accepted and then widely discredited" -- for all that psychoanalytic theory was a revolution in thinking that has had profound effects on psychology and psychiatry both, quite a lot of it has been rejected, and rightfully so.) A quick Google yields only this individual's own blog as a search result for the term.

The idea that certain ways of behaving -- particularly indulging or acting on certain desires -- is a sign of arrested development is a favorite debate tactic of the intellectually bankrupt, precisely because it's nearly impossible to argue against "You're underdeveloped." All of us have our weaknesses and our demons, and all of us specifically have our insecurities and fears and secret shames in the sexual arena, too. It's very easy to hear "some part of your maturation is unfinished" and wonder how true that might be, precisely because none of us are perfect.

But it's an underhanded tactic to use that to shame someone, or to use that to set yourself in opposition to something they want, as if your disapproval can rewire desire.

Especially in a culture where sex is often deemed to be dirty in general -- a need we all have, yes, but a shameful one. Especially if one is a "pervert," at which point one is at best silly and quaint and at worst a danger, as others tell it.

Add to that the standard drivel in the general vein of
I am critical of BDSM, and do not consider it an acceptable practice merely because consenting adults participate in it. I think BDSM eroticizes violence and dehumanization, and is a logical outcome of patriarchal conceptions of sexuality as domination, destruction and ownership.
and you have, well, lovely little boilerplate. I'd be far more inclined to listen to these people if they didn't parrot supposedly-"feminist" buzzwords in such close proximity to one another. While this person probably is intelligent, it honestly makes it sound like the person doesn't know what s/he is saying at all. What are "violence and dehumanization" in this context? What counts as each? What is "domination" here, and how does consent to it affect or not affect its moral contours?

"Dehumanization" is a particular pet peeve of mine, as is "degradation," because so often the assertion that particular acts or depictions are inherently dehumanizing or degrading and this is simply obvious and anyone who doesn't see it is damaged. That's a handy thing to say, but it's not actually an argument, unless you can in fact prove either
  1. that the words apply in the cases you say they do, or
  2. that the people asserting that they don't are in fact damaged, and in ways that prevent them from comprehending these concepts properly.
Which I've never seen. And I've been tangling with these people for some time now.