Saturday, 20 March 2010

Thinky comments....

Just got an interesting comment on a rather old post, so I thought I'd pull it out:
I think people who ask questions like that are taking an unwarranted shortcut--something like, "Well, we know patriarchy affects people" (true) "and we know patriarchy is based on a power dynamic" (also true) "and we know BDSM is based on a power dynamic" (true) "so patriarchy must be involved in BDSM somewhere" (wait, stop, back up a bit).

They're leaving out the step of showing that the power dynamic in BDSM bears any significant similarity or common traits to the one in patriarchy. (Possibly they assume that, as an overarching model embedded in our culture, patriarchy must have gotten its meathooks into most power dynamics that exist, but they have to prove that first, and define exactly what the "meathooks" are and how they got attached, etc.).

I have no problem believing that patriarchal assumptions have affected my thoughts about kinky things in some ways...but I seriously doubt it was the sole driving force responsible for their existence.

I also think patriarchy is everywhere, but I'd have to see solid scientific studies before I just assume it's any more "involved" with BDSM than it is in (say) cooking or photography or raising miniature horses.
I agree with that, and I also wonder whether it might be useful to bring up something this comment makes me think of. Not sure how useful it is or isn't but...

I'm reminded of reading books like Coming to Power years ago, and noticing several of the folks who contributed to that (who identified as both kinky and feminist) saying stuff like "I think everything in life is shot through with power dynamics. Life itself is a constant interplay of power: of control, of authority, of obedience, of surrender. When I make that part of my life, whether I'm 'playing' with it or doing something else, I'm acknowledging and studying and perhaps even affecting how those many dynamics of power play out."

It makes me think. At the time, I figured that the kinky folk expressing this view (and I'd say in some ways I too am one; I think power relations underlie a whole lot of human interaction at a pretty basic level) saw power as just a part of life, where anti-kink folk saw power dynamics as something sick and twisted overlaid forcibly on some more innocent state of nature.

Now I wonder if that's true. Maybe they agree that power is a part of everything, a part of cooking and dancing and talking and sex, but it's just that they think it's poison, stuffed into everything so we don't know what's natural any more and what isn't. Kind of the way there are preservatives in food.

And that... well, to go back to the commenter's comment, I'm inclined to think patriarchy is that way, stuffed bits at a time into a lot of things we do. And I don't think that's healthy. (But neither do I think aggressive methods to try and purge it work. I don't think corn in everything I eat is good, but I think it would make me crazy to try and eat nothing with corn syrup in it.)

But I'm not sure power is. I'm pretty sure interplays of power just are what they are. Yes, some of them are pernicious, and yes, all of them probably carry some risk. But I tend to think they come with interacting. I'd say "in the way dying comes with living," except that dying is unknown and often painful and scary and usually seen as negative, and I mean something more neutral than that. I mean if you live, they're there.

I can't imagine they wouldn't be in the post-patriarchy, or even in the post-kyriarchy of any kind.