Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Respect again

xposted from my lj

i'm too heartsick to excerpt from it... but guys, read this. please.

scroll down to orlando c's comment about his wife, where he says that he and his wife wanted to have kids, she got cancer, and he has been caretaking. and now they cannot have children, are looking into adopting, and are scared that if anyone discovers their kink, they won't be able to do that.

then read the comments from people who... get this... do not offer sympathy and do the decent thing which is rethink their stance or even just say "i disagree strongly with what you do, but I hope things go better for you"

but instead accuse him of using her illness to win sympathy points and question how much he respects and cares for her.

i... i just... radical feminists claim they're all about "respect for women," right, which the rest of us have sadly forgotten. but this is how they treat people.

how, ladies, how how HOW could i ever trust you to build a more caring, compassionate, and just world in accordance with a purer vision of respect for women or anyone else if THIS is how you treat people?

i know, the theory doesn't tell them to be mean. but "by their fruits shall ye know them." seriously.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

research and knowledge

In the comments to my last post, I've been called by an anonymous commenter on singling out Joan Kelly. I understand the anonymous commenter's feelings. But I also feel very troubled by her most recent comment, so I'm going to quote it here anyway. I hope that each of you think seriously, however, about the critique that the anonymous commenter made. These things do have a tendency to get out of hand and become entirely ad hominem, so I hope that you will think seriously about whether I'm being fair or not. I believe I am, as I believe my earlier comments are about how a certain kind of anger makes us lose sight of logic. And I believe this comment, as well, will be fair, because it's not about Joan as a person, who I actually know nothing about, but rather about the ignorance that her comment demonstrates, and why I think that ignorance is important to deciding which "side" of the "sex wars" is the right one. Here's the comment, a continuation of the discussion Bean began of censorship in Canada that is justified by radical feminist argument:


I did read your comment, and insomuch as I could make sense of it, the wikipedia entry you linked to. Both of which you made a point of posting as if they had anything to do with what I said. They don’t. So on top of your response being, in fact, non-responsive, you also mixed in some snottiness with the “thank you try again” business.

I don’t know understand which thing you’re referring to as “this facile “protection of women’s rights.”” Is the wacky obscenity law in Canada supposed to be some protection of women’s rights? Or are you saying that an argument against the wholesale promotion of female submission and masochism is a facile protection of women’s rights?

Whatever the case, my position is that arbitrarily applied obscenity laws – which, according to you, censor things like “feminist literature” but let actual pornography fly freely about the atmosphere? – are not in fact evidence of male dominance and female submission being unacceptable sexual/romantic frameworks.

Again, I live in the US. There is, to my ongoing horror, a fairly strong conservative Christian contingent in this country. The word “sex” is bleeped out of pop songs; I can’t think of another example that I just noticed earlier today because I’m fuzzy-headed on cold medicine, but there are even more benign words that get absurdly censored in pop culture media.

None of that puts any power whatsoever into the hands of kink-critical radical feminists. Especially not as regards other people’s sex lives. I don’t know what the hell Canada’s up to, but I do have a general enough sense of it to know that it, too, is not a radfem utopia, obscenity laws or not.

Lastly, it is not the fact that that billboard was in full view of children that is so disturbing to me (though I don’t fucking like that part, either); the propaganda towards legitimizing female submission and masochism permeates everything all the time – it is not being hidden from children in the first place. It may not always show up in overt BDSM-themed references (though it does so more and more, as I’ve noted), but it is the ever-present blueprint for heterosexuality.

That billboard is basically just a fucked up sign post on a destructive road. The road itself is the problem. And, I believe, it is a road that runs parallel to obscenity laws, not counter to them. Conservative culture, such as it is, in this country, proves that point over and over: the requirement of female submission/masochism and overall higher levels of social control go hand in hand, if males in power have anything to say about it. And they do. Hence my objections to all of it.

I have a serious problem here, not with Joan Kelly as a person, again, but with such a flimsy response to a discussion of actual legal precedent established through listening to Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin and taking their arguments seriously. if one is going to defend radical feminist points of view, one needs to be familiar with the ways those points of view have affected people's real lives, especially insofar as legislation has been modeled on them. I find it highly troubling that Joan (and again, it's not specifically Joan saying this that bothers me, but the fact that anyone would say it at all) can write off salient facts of history because they did not happen in her country or, even worse, perhaps because she simply doesn't know about them.

I do think that somebody who wants to argue for radical feminist points of view needs to be able to acknowledge this, that it happened, how it happened, and why it happened. A person who is really interested in having an informed, thoughtful opinion, will think about the impact this has and have reasons why it shouldn't matter, beyond "I hadn't heard of that, and can't quite make sense of it."

In fact, I've had radical feminists repeatedly say to me that I simply need to "educate myself"and not even show up to a debate with them in the first place until I fully understand where they're coming from and what the social frameworks they're talking about look like. This often includes having a sophisticated understanding of "privilege" as they understand it, without which opponents are often told they're not even supposed to show up to talk ("This is not a Feminism 101 blog!") I find it rather concerning that many set the bar so high for us, and yet the bar apparently is quite low for themselves.

This reminds me of nothing so much as a conversation I had in college with another student I knew well and respected very much. At the time, I knew very little about feminism as a movement, and it just begun to learn that some feminists have problems with BDSM. I talked to this person in hopes that she could help me understand some of the radical points of view that I was having trouble digesting (a professor recommended I begin my readings of McKinnon withToward a Feminist Theory of the State. I don't recommend beginning there. Honestly, I don't recommend beginning at all without some background information about what she was getting at.)

I remember that at one point we started discussing pornography. Personally, I'd always been vaguely leery of porn, but had found when I actually looked at it that I had almost none of the objections I expected to have. I'd expected something I'd feel affronted by and carefully avoided it, and (for me, personally -- not saying anyone shouldn't be bothered!) when I actually looked, discovered something I found arousing and amusing and... not offensive at all, though I did have critiques and there was/is some I don't like.

So I ask this person about it and the first thing she blurts is "There's no cunnilingus in it!" I look at her, startled, and go "Huh. What exactly have you watched? I've definitely seen it in -- uh --"

She stops dead.

I've caught her.

She hasn't seen any.

She backtracks, protests, starts saying "Well, okay, but isn't... the focus on male pleasure? Um... er..."

I nod. She's not wrong. We discuss this, some, and part amicably if I recall right.

But I walk away stunned. She has swallowed (yes, I am being clever) what her professors and her feminist books have told her pornography is without ever bothering to check the accuracy of her sources. She has taken books and lectures that argue against Something as correct without ever beholding -- or, if beholding would be triggering or upsetting, researching, neutrally -- what Something is in the first place.

And that alarms me far more than being against Something.

That's why I'm bothered by this. Our opponents say that we miss something very huge about how culture is shaped, though they rarely have hard data. We say "what about obscenity law, and the impact that radical feminist rhetoric has had on it in this case?" and they go "Uh, I'm in the US. And I'm talking about porn!"

That's why the anger bothers me. Not because I think this one person is pissy (though the zero-to-sixtyness of it does take me aback, and I don't like it, so I must admit there's some ad hominem here too) but because it seems the anger either happens instead of, or precludes, understanding everything salient about how real people are affected.

Friday, 22 January 2010

More on anger...

This is really just a continuation of the last "My, that was angry, huh..." post, but I did want to include it because I'm blackly amused, and I promised I wouldn't comment more there.

Person A mentions that yes, sometimes "anti-kink stigma" is more than a mild thing:

Bean said on Please, somebody, come and defend I triple-dog dare you.
February 7, 2009 at 1:18 am

The reason I don’t feel defensive when anyone critiques or even flatly condemns kink from a supposed radical feminist perspective is that to me it seems like anti-kink radfems = just about zero sociopolitical clout and pro-kink kinksters = carrying the day.

And I live in a country which has a long, long history of censoring queer and kinky literature/media and justifying it with obscenity law based in part on the writings of radical feminists.

Thank you, try again.

And Joan Kelly, whose anger I commented on in the other post, flips the fuck out, half amusingly and half scarily:

Joan Kelly said on Please, somebody, come and defend I triple-dog dare you.
February 7, 2009 at 1:18 am

And *I* live in a country where billboards in high traffic areas (one of the poshest portions of the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California) depict male models as being in the act of over-the-knee spanking fenale models. This ad was for clothing. It is not unusual. It is mainstreamed in all kinds of ways here.

So take your references to Canadian court decisions on PORNOGRAPHY – not the sex people are having – and also take your misplaced condescenion, and go fuck yourself with both. Thank YOU.

See all comments on this post here.

Uh... so let me see if I understand this (I already know that I don't, but):

"Someone brought up a highly salient point about how anti-pornography legislation has been used to censor queers, and...

...that's off-point because there are pretentious artsy-fartsy billboard ads in California depicting OTK.

Also, I'm really angry and dropped an f-bomb, so I must be right."


I can't tell whether this is ridiculous US-centrism or just Bizarro World.

My money's on Bizarro World, though.

Really, how can these people lament that they lack credence in the larger society when they adamantly refuse to make any fucking sense?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

I wish I had...

a coherent response to this:


I feel like you must not understand what privilege actually is, to frame non-defensiveness as a privilege.

For real does everything have to go bugshit on the internet?

Maybe if my fellow perverts (and well-meaning self-appointed allies) stopped acting like there was such a thing as “non kink sexuality privilege” and stopped insisting that kink IS TOO more egalitarian and less oppression-y than what gets called “vanilla” sexuality, maybe people would be too busy going about their business, not caring what others do in the sack, to be bothered with a “wait, what? are you kidding?”

There IS something about some kinky people and their need for validation. I would add that it’s my observation that there are also non-kinky people (although god help us all it mostly seems to be fucking women) who need validation for their non-kinky sex-having-ness as well. Hence an endless supply of “I love push up bras and deep throating and it’s unfeminist for you to critique either one!” missives on the internet.

Every single BDSM related media that I’ve ever seen promotes female subjugation and male supremacy as the sexiest thing that ever could happen to anybody. The presence of other pairings – female tops and female bottoms, female tops and male bottoms, billy goats and people they like to butt off mountain sides – does not mitigate the fact that the majority of BDSM imagery is about female people submitting to male people and being hurt. The fact that people who are into BDSM may experience pleasure through sensations and experiences that other people would identify as strictly painful also does not mitigate the blueprint of what’s happening.

Someone living in a small midwest town where they can’t go out in full leathers to their heart’s content, leading their “slave” around on a leash, is no more oppressed than someone whose desire to suck cock in the middle of a restaurant is also unwelcome. And if you’re living on either coast, shame the fuck on you if you ever pretend like kink isn’t wholly accepted and even encouraged.

but honestly I don't, other than "Jesus God, someone is angry."

(Cue "you're using The Tone Argument" in five, four, three, two...)

I guess that leads in to what I want to say, though, which is that in my own little-bit-more-rad days, the thing that struck me was how angry we all were. Everything was us pushing back against a horribly, horribly hostile world. Every statement had meaning, and that meaning had to do with crushing us. Every little thing people said got exaggerated -- which I see reflected in the "wearing more leather than I'd like you to = blatantly sucking cock at restaurants" remark. Calmness and thinking things through were really not the order of the day. In fact, I lost a friend for good commenting on an article by a gay man and shrilling that he must be "a misogynist" for... I can't remember. I think wanting space for leathermen to be by themselves. Which, okay, yeah, "boys only" has a history... but there are also het women who want into leathermen's space to stare at the pretty. Letting them in is, maybe, not so Politically Importante as I thought, now.

Though I guess one could say I was still angry here, and maybe that's why I don't post much any more. I still hate it when people spread vile nonsense about kinky sex, kinky people, and even, yes, the erotic media that kinky people like (I've said it before and I'll say it again: my belief is that the fact that erotic media are far from perfect does not condemn them. Intelligent people know that not everything they see is realistic or desirable, and my life should not be forced to revolve around keeping complete morons away from porn they'll use as model or excuse.) But I no longer feel like it much matters. Being away from those enclaves, I see that such pearl-clutchers are shrill and obnoxious... but rare. Why bother?

But I still see a difference. When I was kinda wannabe rad, I jumped at shadows. Women not being invited to a party for leathermen was proof that The Man hates all women and women would never have a home in the world oh God oh God they've got us. Whereas even when I was angry as hell here and really should have just calmed down, I was reacting to something real. People "dog-daring" us to defend what we want. People insisting they knew the etiology of our fantasies. People wanting us to change.

And that to me is the difference: Are you legitimately, but perhaps a little too, mad at something concrete you see happening? Or are you interpreting what you see through the eyes of "raised consciousness," which actually, as most frequently used, means "our ideology, without which you'd see something harmless or merely irritating?"

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Form and Content

(xposted from my LJ)

I was perusing Scarleteen today and I came across this little bit from Hugo Schwyzer (who as many of you know, I do not always agree with, or even like, but hey) that I liked. It's discussing sexual ethics in the context of newfound Christian faith, which is not in any way relevant to me, but I feel it answers very well why people's objections to BDSM and even to D/s don't work for me:

Let me suggest, Christine, that God cares more about the content of our sexuality than he does about its form. Traditional Christian sexual ethics are often discussed in the context of what Christians can and can’t do. Some Christians will often say things like “the only form of genital contact sanctioned by God is that which happens in a marriage between one husband and one wife.” The implication is clear: if you get the “form” (heterosexual marriage) right, then the sex that follows is okay. If you haven’t got the form right, then you’ve “fallen short of the mark.”

But “form-based” sexual ethics clearly have their problems.

For example, it ignores entirely the great likelihood that coercion, disrespect, and force can take place within marriage. The Churches did not start condemning marital rape — or even acknowledging that such a concept was possible — until the second half of the twentieth century. Is a situation in which a husband demands sex from his wife against her will somehow more in keeping with the spirit of Christ than a situation in which two unmarried people make love with mutual enthusiasm? If you’re a stickler for “form-based ethics”, you bet. For the most traditional of theologians, marital rape is less of a serious sin than homosexuality or pre-marital sex, because form matters more than content.

“Content” based sexual ethics are concerned with the way in which people, in the process of being sexual, value themselves and their partners. Content-based ethics are deeply concerned with mutuality, with pleasure, and with the willingness of each partner to take responsibility for the physical, spiritual, and emotional consequences of what is done. Form-based ethics teach the Christian to ask the question “Am I allowed to do this?” Content-based ethics teach the Christian to ask “Am I truly loving — in every sense of the word — the person or persons with whom I am doing this, including myself?”

This is what I can't parse about "BDSM is wrong," even when it's phrased as "Hierarchy is maladaptive for humans and limiting and restrictive."

[EDIT: The person who made the comment linked there has mentioned that she did not use the words I'm using to characterize her position. She says below that she meant that BDSM is wrong for her personally, and that I misrepresented her views on hierarchy as well. About them, she said the following, c&ped verbatim from the comment linked above: "I can't be of help as to whether something is "bad." That's not an idiom I work within or classify things by. I simply know for myself, and for the world I envision as better than what I see we've got now, I think, at a minimum, that less hierarchy would be really helpful." I mention in the comments that I still think there's a value judgment there, but I agree with her that it's best that people interpret her own words and not mine here.]

That's form. That's "The sex (or "the relationship" in the case of outside-the-bedroom D/s) you want needs to not have these features that look like this in order to not be this, which I find maladaptive." It follows that up with an explanation of where that maladaptiveness comes from, yeah -- but so do explanations of why homosexuality is wrong in conservative Christian moralities, sometimes in great detail. There's reasons given for "bad form." They're bad, but they're there.

Saying content matters instead implies that all the answers to "form" questions like "is BDSM compatible with feminism/okay for Christians/good for Buddhists/acceptable for snails?" (okay, that last is me giggling over "love darts") will not be quite right, because they start with the wrong question: "what are you doing?" or "what are you mimicking?" rather than "how are you doing this?"

It's funny how people who usually seem to go with the content-based ("of course it's okay that I'm gay, silly!") slip into the form-based ("he wears a collar [usually not, it's too big for his neck] and called you Master once being cute? OH MY GOD!") when things are outside their comfort zone.