Friday, 25 May 2007

Gendered supremacies and consent

There was a documentary on recently in the UK called Obedient Wives, a glimpse into the lives of women who have chosen to submit to their husbands and experienced greater happiness from this change in their behaviour. I was pretty cynical when I read the brief, and the review that warned against watching it if one happened to suffer from blood pressure problems. Days before the program even aired, we were arguing about the concept of gendered supremacies on a UK BDSM forum, and it became clear that a belief that one gender is inherently more dominant than the other, or should be, made a few of us quite uncomfortable - unsurprisingly, all the 'discomforted' women identify as feminist. Interestingly, I've seen far more male sub profiles seeking a 'female supremacy' model for relationships, an unshatterable belief that women are inherently superior to men, than I’ve seen it the other way around.

Outside the BDSM community, but often closely connected are the Goreans, whose relationships tend towards Master/slave. The Gor subculture is alive and well and is a popular fantasy even for liberal women in the BDSM community, even though we may still ridicule the texts themselves and to a smaller degree, the idea that people would choose to live their lives by the dodgy philosophies of a series of obviously misogynist fantasy novels. I have rarely come across real misogyny on the fetish scene. Sexism, yes. Bigtime. From both sides. But misogyny? No. But I
do wonder whether a belief in gender supremacy, whether it is a genuine belief or a fantasy scenario, encourages thisbehaviour in Goreans, and therefore affects the way male Goreans address and treat women outside Gor who haven't chosen to live a Gorean lifestyle. T (my boyfriend and, yes, dominant) has been flogging his BDSM wares on Second Life, and stumbled across a flourishing Gorean community. As his alterego is female on the site, he experienced some amazing woman-hating comments and was quite shocked by the way he was treated because of his SL gender.

How do we, as feminists, respond to these lifestyles? If a woman's made an informed choice about the way she wants to live her life, how can we disagree with that choice? Indeed, Laura Doyle, author of The Surrendered Wife, is apparently a self-confessed feminist, and speaks of wanting to offer women as many choices as possible. And it was this revelation that perhaps helped me understand why feminist anti-BDSMers tend to misunderstand hetero D/s, or forbid feminist subs, particularly, usage of their hallowed word. To them, there is no differentiation between the Surrendered Wife and the BDSM sub. As long as there is a hierarchical relationship structure, it’s all much the same thing. Yet at the same time, I feel the problem with a lot of these belief systems is that they are so strong and rigid to live by that it is easy to impose them upon people who do not choose to abide by, for example, Gorean rules. I keep a profile on a crap BDSM personals site purely for the comedy messages sent out. I'm quite fascinated by the way men trawl women online, and find it has a tendency to make some ‘dominant’ men act with all this big bravado, approaching women in ways I’m pretty damn certain they wouldn’t down their local pub. Oh, and there’s usually a big veiny cock shot attached. Seductive. Sometimes a daily dose of sexism is reassuring. I just like to check that it's alive and well from time to time, you see, and that feminism is still worth my time. Yesterday I got a message from some uber-dom who wanted someone he could "humiliate, degrade and objectify to fulfill herself as a woman". Because that's what women, to his mind, are for. To be humiliated, degraded and objectified. The thing is, no matter how angry this makes me, no matter how violated I feel by this idea, I can imagine people defending this in the BDSM community; that many women DO want this, many women DO fantasise about this. And of course they're right. And perhaps for that man, even for Goreans, the whole idea of women as a gender as subordinate, and involving punishment and force to subordinate them is more of a fantasy than I imagine. Though many Goreans claim to live their entire lives by the 'philosophies' of John Norman, is the whole thing just a merry bit of escapism? For both genders? As long as a female slave has at some point consented to the relationship, there are no more questions to be asked as to her treatment and the way she must modify her behaviour so as to be consistent with Gor.

On Gorean Whispers, I found the following passage written by what is known as a free woman. I
understand that a slave conducts herself differently to a free woman, but don't see many fundamental differences:

One of the greatest things I have struggled with, is showing certain men respect. It has taken me a long time to even begin to master that. I see some men as weak, and struggle to show them the respect entitled to them by virtue of their sex. Yet, I try hard to give them the general courtesies expected from a Gorean Free Woman.

This includes my daughters school principal. He is an arrogant man, who is often cruel in his dealings with the children. As a mother, and a woman, it is hard for me to show this man respect. I have learnt however that respect is different for each given individual. I can respect that he has accomplished a lot in his career, achieving his placing in the school as Principal.


Okay, so here is my problem with gendered supremacy. To put men, in general, above women here seems to come at the expense of the daughter who I assume is not yet a fully fledged Gorean, although the writer takes pleasure in her daughter’s budding femininity and desire to serve. I do not understand why she would bother to seek out good points in men who are cruel to children in order to 'respect' the fact that they happen to have the same genitalia as her partner/father/John Norman. In the Obedient Wives documentary, I think the moment that really did creep me out was the scene where the mother was teaching her toddler daughter to be a surrendered wife.

The other things that scares me about a number of these concepts – the Surrendered Wife, Gor, even the bizarre Christian Domesic Discipline - regarding sex, there is one quite simple message: no means yes. Or rather, even if a woman does not want sex, she will say yes. Is this the final compromise? Is this a backlash against the 1991 law in the UK (rejected by the Lords more than once) to make rape within marriage illegal and prosecutable? Is it rape? I've still heard similar things from within the BDSM community on the issue of 'consensual non-consent': consenting to a scene in which there is no safe word. You trust your partner to the extent that you don't need one. But can a female dominant carry out a similar scenario with a male sub if she's planning to penetrate him? Can no mean yes in the same way? Do women actually get away with not seeking consent more? T’s best friend, who’s quite submissive around women and is certainly slightly terrified of me was pretty much coerced and harassed into sex when very drunk and stoned. And it happened in our living room. I was absolutely horrified.

There is also the issue of beating one’s wife as part of a marriage. Obviously, many subs are masochists. I’m a masochist. I really love the sensation of pain. I get bored in vanilla relationships if I’m not going to get pain alongside sexual pleasure. It’s just a more intensely erotic sexual experience for me that way, being pushed and pulled one way, then the other, veering towards pleasure, into pain, through pain to a strange alchemic pleasure, and then back down to earth. Yet, in marriages where male supremacy counts, religious marriages, particularly, do women gain pleasure from this experience? More importantly, do their husbands? Where does religious law come into this? In the Qu’ran there is much discussion over what is meant by the permission given to hit one’s wife after admonishment, and banishment to a separate bedroom, if she still does not obey or entirely comply with her husband. Christian Domestic Discipline, on the other hand, offers a safe and consensual model of DD on the front page, but I can’t find the word ‘consent’ anywhere else on the site. But what happens if these wives enjoy being spanked as punishment? Does the relationship then slide into the dirty, immoral world of BDSM? It’s confusing.

The truth is, there are so many different models of D/s, it is impossible to stereotype and say ‘well, D/s ISN’T like that philosophy' and remove ourselves from it. Because female subs sometimes have certain things in common with Surrendered Wives and Gorean slaves and free women. The difference is, at least for me, I enjoy every aspect of a BDSM sexual relationship, and we have taken tiny bits of D/s lifestyle philosophy and made it our own. We are queering D/s our way, in a way that feels right and is productive for both of us. But nowhere in this, nowhere in our dominance and submission, does gender really matter. Apart from the fact that pairings, triads, whatever, will often have different genitalia, I’m quite confused by the idea of polarising gender in BDSM. I’m not sure quite what it might add to a relationship. What does it bring to either party? What does it achieve?

So many questions.

47 comments:

R. Mildred said...

No to Gor.

No. Bad prose, No to Gor.

Gor is evil, the gun is good.

NO TO GOR!

verte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
verte said...

Heh, I feel pretty much the same about Gor, but I'm attempting to be democratic. Also, I've been informed that getting Gor in any way wrong leads to some kind of 'fair game' policy similar to tactics used by Scientology. But accompanied by pitchforks and lanterns rather than expensive lawyers.

Post above removed due to verte's bad prose...

Anonymous said...

Verte, thank you so much for posting this. This is what I've been trying to get at in the first thread, now forty-some comments long. There are BDSM dynamics that we all like; that's why we're here. But there are people who do BDSM- (or if you must, quasi-BDSM) things that we can't stomach, that are a priori a bad idea or even abusive.

Thomas

Trinity said...

"I've seen far more male sub profiles seeking a 'female supremacy' model for relationships, an unshatterable belief that women are inherently superior to men, than I’ve seen it the other way around."

I've seen that too, but I've never seen it off the Internet. :)

I think that's something that we need to discuss too -- yes, as Thomas says, there's BDSM or quasi-BDSM that isn't a good idea. But how much of it is the Internet? And if the answer is "a lot," how much can we ignore and how much must we address simply because for a lot of people, that's the public face of BDSM?

Or worse, that's sex ed for some of us. That was my education as far as D/s -- and a big reason I swore off of it for years. Because there was no way for me to get from those enclaves the understanding of service I needed to be OK with dominating someone.

This is why I struggle a lot with the idea of sex ed for the young and kinked. On the one hand, I know that if the SM community starts giving oodles of information to minors we'll be seen as looking for children as predators.

BUT on the other, I think there is a real need for it. People are realizing younger and younger what it really is they want or need, and that 15 year old guy with dominant fantasies who's young, dumb, and full o' cum isn't going to know shit. If he's resourceful, he'll look it up on the internet, and what are the odds he'll find Gor, and a bunch of women saying "I feel so much more like a woman when I serve in a womanly way?"

What's he going to learn about what it means to be a woman? And what's he going to think and do when he finally meets, say, me, and the house of cards is threatened?

"Yesterday I got a message from some uber-dom who wanted someone he could "humiliate, degrade and objectify to fulfill herself as a woman". Because that's what women, to his mind, are for. To be humiliated, degraded and objectified."

Given the above, I'm not so sure that there's as much malice in there as you ascribe to it. I think there are a lot of M/f folks hiding on the 'Net, whether from lack of social skills or fear or closetedness... and that's often what's presented to them as the "meaning" of M/f. A secret locked in the heart of most repressed women, longing to be free.

And yeah, often the F/m stuff is described as the reverse. Men's secret, hidden need to be used by women. Patriarchy as a hollow inflated construction of "the male ego" lying to itself about its "place," etc.

But the thing about the F/m stuff is: I think a lot of it is pros, presenting that as their life's philosophy because it sells. Because it's either especially mind-fucky or especially reassuring to someone who pays them to hear that all men belong where he is.

Personally, I still don't like it. I'd much rather it be worded as, say, "Enter my fantasy world of complete female supremacy" than as pseudo-"articles" about "testosterone poisoning."

Trinity said...

Oh, and to verte, on Gor:

I knew one woman who was into role-playing a Gorean slave at times because she liked the costumes, the world, and some of the rituals. But she wasn't at all deluded that this was "reality" -- it was a persona she enjoyed.

Hell, her Master is a switch, and had bottomed to all kinds of people in the group, including me. ;)

I never had problems with her Gor fetish, other than "There are such better worlds to get your sci-fi on than that."

But she's definitely the minority.

Anonymous said...

Trinity, I think you and I are on the same page about a lot of this.

Jack McGeorge (whom I've met but don't know well) said to me years ago, "our community used to have real mentoring, where people learned because we said, 'cmere kid. We lost that."

To the outside world, we are what people see. If we're going to lessen the marginalization and discrimination we face, then we need to engage with that. We have to embrace the notion that, even if our only enforcement powers are reputation and repetition, we can and will as a community discuss and determine our own norms; and then we'll say that we have them, and defend them.

Having internal norms doesn't always mean that we can or should try to stop people who want to do something else. Sometimes, just being on record that it's a bad idea is enough. Among rock climbers, I've heard people discuss free soloing in the Gunks in NY State, where some show-offs climb relatively hard routes unroped in public. And there are a lot of voices for this proposition: "it's bad behavior and unsafe; you want to do it we can't stop you, but do it alone so that you don't set a bad example for the kids, and so that if you fall, nobody has to carry you out. If you crater, crater alone."

Thomas

Trinity said...

"Jack McGeorge (whom I've met but don't know well)"

It's interesting you mention him, when you had so much to say about D/s before.

He's just about the most hardcore M/s person I've ever met. You should see his "manual" for his leatherfamily/Order.

Trinity said...

though i do have to admit that at certain times when i'm in a silly enough mood, the idea that patriarchy is just large-scale topping from the bottom does make me chuckle. :)

verte said...

Thomas: Although there are plenty of BDSM practices I have some 'issue' with and I do question, at the end of all that as long as whatever goes on between BDSM people is done with informed consent, I don't think it's my place to judge what they choose to do. Wanting to understand it better, however, is entirely different.

Trinity: Exactly. Which is why setting up this blog felt like a good idea. Communities like Informed Consent are pretty ace, really. No genital shots, general tolerance, a pretty strict AUP, etc. There have been abusive people functioning within the community, but they tend to be banned very quickly - from events, sites, etc. Unfortunately, shit like alt.com will probably come up in google first. It was certainly the first BDSM site I joined, aged 18, and I was pretty depressed by what I found there.

As for pros ... hmm, well, I have a pro friend whose pet hate is gender supremacy. I very much doubt she would top someone with that fetish. Most pros can afford to be pretty picky. On the other hand, I went to the collaring of a male sub friend whose mistress is absolutely a female supremacist and there's a massive philosophy behind her practices. Another female sub and I ended up arguing with her at the collaring! She also calls herself a feminist, though, and I was thinking of asking her to write something for this blog, actually... I very much doubt there'd be much I'd agree with, but I'd be really interested to see what she'd write.

Trinity said...

"I was thinking of asking her to write something for this blog, actually..."

[silliness]

Don't. I'd have to kill her. :)

[/silliness]

Anonymous said...

Trinity, I can get along with and even like people that I have major disagreements with; and I can accept that people are right about an issue when I think they are significantly wrong on others.

Thomas

Anonymous said...

"as long as whatever goes on between BDSM people is done with informed consent"

There's the rub. What are the boundaries of "informed consent"? If two people are in a D/s relationship of an indefinite duration, and they have hard limits, we can say that what they agreed on is consensual. But what if the top begins pushing the limits? Under what circumstances is the relationship so powerful that a dom's desire to alter the terms affects the sub's willingness to do so, and if so, is that still consensual? Can every sub stand outside the dynamics of a relationship to make that decision? Most perhaps, but all? And if not, how do we tell?

This thread started about the Goreans and the Obedient Wives. "In the Obedient Wives documentary, I think the moment that really did creep me out was the scene where the mother was teaching her toddler daughter to be a surrendered wife. " When we talk about these subcultures, which extrapolate a bunch of D/s roles and protocols into absolute gender roles that map and in some ways distil the patriarchy. This woman who is teaching her daughter to be a "surrendering wife," do we really think that she makes decisions to have sex, or is she penetrated whenever her husband wants? If so, do we really accept that a one-time declaration of meta-consent--i.e. I agree that I forever conclusively consent -- is valid informed consent? If so, how is that different from a woman who simply says at age 25, "I accept the patriarchy; if I dress in a sexually provocative way some stranger can rape me and it will be my fault"? No feminist I know would call the latter consensual, so why accept the former?

Thomas

Dw3t-Hthr said...

One of the things I've found fascinating to annoying (depending on the instance) is the presumption on some people's parts that something is 'about' gender or biosex when it happens to fit whatever pattern they have a bug about.

Like M/f (I don't like the capitalisation shit normally, but in this context it's efficient) -- I keep running into people who want to characterise what I do as M/f because I happen to be biologically female and my liege is male. Which can be annoying on a whole bunch of levels, ranging from 'well, that's missing the point' through to 'you know, it's tedious the way you don't respect my gender identity' through to 'get your presumptions the hell out of my bedroom'. And yeah, like Trinity says in the other post, there's the whole 'fitting the stereotypes in some way', but that still doesn't make the stereotype what actually matters. And there's a thing that's probably worth chasing around -- breaking the link between superficially resembling someone's stereotype image and enacting the stereotype.

To be honest, I have very little experience with the world of internet kink or the porn-visions of BDSM, which means that my primary context for most of the tropes that turn up are the things that show up on dot_bdsm_snark on livejournal. Which means, mind, I've run into the occasonal gender-supremacist (one of those showed up yesterday or the day before, in fact), "How can you call yourself a sub if you aren't willing to put up with being degrated" nutcase, or generalised raving lunatic, but I find it hard to translate that to my real world at all -- it all just comes across as People Posturing On Teh Intarwebs to me.

My first exposure to BDSM concepts outside my head? Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. Switchy bondage and a four poster bed. My outside-my-head kink development was all stuff like that, bits of story that weren't about the kink, just had things in it, people mentioning things they did in an offhand fashion, whatserface tying whatsisface to the handrail in an elevator in Cheers and walking out because he was a jerk. Not so much sex education, but at least giving me an integrated notion of kink as something that integrated with people's lives rather than defining them.

(That 'integrated with lives rather than defining them' thing is why I cringe at the word 'lifestyle'.)

I'm babbling. I will stop babbling now.

Anonymous said...

Dw3t-Hthr, there's so much common terminology that makes me cringe. Capitalization protocols that are merely convenient shorthand are assumed to import whole subcultural tropes. I've already ranted on another thread about "lifestyle." The third one that comes readily to mind is the use of D/s in contradistinction to S/M. I don't accept that dominant/submissive dynamics shouldn't be called that when they are within a time-limited scene, of that that makes them "role play" and I don't accept that the proper way to talk about scene-only power exchange is to call it S/M.

Thomas

thene said...

Interestingly, I've seen far more male sub profiles seeking a 'female supremacy' model for relationships, an unshatterable belief that women are inherently superior to men, than I’ve seen it the other way around.

Could you clarify whether by 'the other way around' you're referring to female doms preaching female supremacy, or male doms/female subs preaching male supremacy?


trinity; "But the thing about the F/m stuff is: I think a lot of it is pros, presenting that as their life's philosophy because it sells. Because it's either especially mind-fucky or especially reassuring to someone who pays them to hear that all men belong where he is."

Perhaps it sells because it's a convenient generalisation? Telling a sub that your dominance is part of an inescapable natural order sounds like it would cut a few corners - there's no need for intimacy or individuality in the power exchange if it's all supposedly happening because women are 'better'. It's an accessible, path-of-least-resistance fantasy, so long as you can suspend disbelief long enough to get your kicks from it (and some people can suspend their disbelief forever...).

Dw3t-Hthr said...

thene --

"Perhaps it sells because it's a convenient generalisation? Telling a sub that your dominance is part of an inescapable natural order sounds like it would cut a few corners ..."

Over on soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm someone recently noted that their experience of Goreans was that a fair fraction of them took the Gor framework as something that gave them permission to explore BDSM. For some of them, it was an alternate structure in which it was okay for there to be some sort of M/f dynamic, for others it was that they had a way of exploring s/m through the opportunities for punishment/discipline that the Gor mythos granted them.

A few other folks were very, "What the hell sort of dominant personality needs permission to top from a paradigm?" but I think that that's a damn common thing to deal with -- I know a lot of kinky folks I have seen talk about it (not excluding myself here) have had to wrestle with "But is it okay for me to want this?" In that context, I can see falling into something that makes it okay to approach the stuff that has felt forbidden can be extremely attractive.

I also think that if that sort of structuring is the only way someone knows to be able to approach their deep-seated stuff, they can be very protective of it. Gods know I've been protective of some stuff that was bad for me and didn't suit my actual beliefs in the past because it was the only way I could get at stuff that actually was important at the time.

Cassandra Says said...

Thomas hit on exactly what concerns me about a lot of M/f communities that I've encountered.
"This thread started about the Goreans and the Obedient Wives. "In the Obedient Wives documentary, I think the moment that really did creep me out was the scene where the mother was teaching her toddler daughter to be a surrendered wife. " When we talk about these subcultures, which extrapolate a bunch of D/s roles and protocols into absolute gender roles that map and in some ways distil the patriarchy. This woman who is teaching her daughter to be a "surrendering wife," do we really think that she makes decisions to have sex, or is she penetrated whenever her husband wants? If so, do we really accept that a one-time declaration of meta-consent--i.e. I agree that I forever conclusively consent -- is valid informed consent? If so, how is that different from a woman who simply says at age 25, "I accept the patriarchy; if I dress in a sexually provocative way some stranger can rape me and it will be my fault"? No feminist I know would call the latter consensual, so why accept the former?"

First of all, this is a really big concern. What if a woman who is part of the Gor thing changed her mind at some point? Will she feel comfortable telling her male partner that? What if she tells him that she wants out and he refuses to accept it? What kind of social support will she get from her community? Will some women end up trapped in a situation that no longer works for them?
The issue of children raised within those communities REALLY bothers me. There's a part of me (and I know this will probably make everyone else here very angry) that wants to call that child abuse. The little girl in the TV show Verte saw? That child is not being given a choice. That's not consent.
On the other hand, we let people raise kids within religious groups that also espouse values that are not entirely dissimilar, so...
And there's the rub. I don't have any answers, here, I'm just saying that I seriously question how kids raised in that environment can ever be said to be "consenting" if they end up as Gor women/surrendered wives/whatever.

Random side note - Verte, I really like your way of presenting arguments. I will be back!

Trinity said...

"There's a part of me (and I know this will probably make everyone else here very angry) that wants to call that child abuse. The little girl in the TV show Verte saw? That child is not being given a choice. That's not consent."

Doesn't make me angry. I actually know some people who are like "My kids know that Mommy answers to Daddy, just like they do!" and it makes me cringe like hell. Because what does that teach them? That when they have a wife, they punish her. Or get punished, if they are wives with husbands.

Some of them struggle with it, which is... a little better, but... I dunno. I remember one of them saying "I want to make absolutely sure my daughter understands that:

1) Mommy does things very differently from most people

and

2) If she doesn't want to be a traditional wife (this particular woman related it to her traditional Latina upbringing; I'm not claiming anything about traditions in Latino communities, just reporting what she said) she doesn't have to be. I want her to find a dynamic that makes her happy."

I liked that, but I wonder: is it enough?

Sometimes I think so. Sometimes I really don't.

Trinity said...

but the complex thing: is of course that there are families that *do* consider that, or something pretty durned close, "traditional", and raise kids that way. it's not as easy/cut and dried as that "the pervs" are acting culty.

Cassandra Says said...

Trin - That's the thing. The whole idea of raising kids in either the Gor or the surrendered wife framework gives me hives, but is it really that different from the way fundamentalists of whatever faith raise their kids?
I guess the difference is that the pervs are "our people" and so I feel more comfortable speaking out, whereas with the religious folks the fact that I'm an atheist pretty much disqualifies me from speaking in most people's minds.
On the other hand in the Gor/surrendered wife framework the fact that I'm a woman disqualifies me from speaking to a large extent, too. Which is what I dislike about both of those groups, the idea that submission is a gendered thing rather than an individual choice.
(There's also the sheer geekiness of the whole Gor idea - like R Mildred said "the bad prose, make it stop!" I just can't see getting involved with any movement that encourages people not to speak in complete sentences.)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I just can't see getting involved with any movement that encourages people not to speak in complete sentences.

Don't forget the Surrendered Capitalisation crowd.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Cassandra:

I think the difference between the "meta-consent" forms and the "I accept the patriarchy (and it's my fault if I get raped)" form, comes from the fact that "meta-consent" is generally given to someone whom the giver already knows, and hopefully knows well enough to be able to give informed consent to that person having that amount of power.

By contrast, the "patriarchy" form does not involve this level of informed consent, as acknowledged by the statement "if some stranger rapes me".

And I think that this is why I have a problem with the generalised gender supremacy philosophies that there are. I have met many men and women who are ultimately weak and pathetic, and whom I would certainly not trust with any kind of power; likewise I have encountered many men and women whom I view as having great skills and fortitude. But, not having met a person how can anyone give their advance consent to that person's wishes and actions?

SnowdropExplodes said...

A couple more thoughts on this thread:


On the subject of Gor, most women I've spoken to online who have experience of Gorean social interaction, told me that they found it fun for a while, but essentially, they "grew out of it".

***

Another thought on the subject of "meta-consent" is that even if it is a blanket consent between the partners, the law generally does not recognise it (at least, in Western cultures - although until fairly recently the marriage vow was taken as a legal form of "meta-consent" in UK law). A "meta-consent" is valid only while it is recognised by the partners. How the withdrawal of a meta-consent would be communicated (short of going to the law) is another question.

Trinity said...

I'm of two minds on meta-consent:

1) What if it goes bad? Yikes!

and

2) Isn't a lot of what many people in committed relationships/with long-term fuckbuddy arrangements/etc. do with one another based on loose meta-consent, though?

Once you know someone, you know that "(Pretty much) Anytime I want to do X, Michelle will be up for it, barring some extenuating circumstance -- she loves it. And I know Michelle well enough to know what "Not right now" or "Hell no" looks like, or to know she'll tell me if she doesn't want that now."

I've never had a long-term thing with someone where I didn't start to know things like that about people, and they didn't start to know things like that about me.

So I think we may be oversimplifying matters when we act like ANY meta-consent (or ANY "consent for the future," which a lot of people like to claim is just bunk entirely and... I'm not so sure) is an absolutely inane contractual promise.

verte said...

Isn't a lot of what many people in committed relationships/with long-term fuckbuddy arrangements/etc. do with one another based on loose meta-consent, though?

Exactly. Vanilla relationships are mostly entirely based on meta-consent. We just had to be louder about it because so many perceive what we do as abuse.

Cassandra: *blush* Thanks. I do feel like a right blogging novice next to BD and Trinity, so that's nice.

R. Mildred said...

What are the boundaries of "informed consent"?

the funny thing is people largely only ask this question when BDSM is involved, when htey should, rightly, think about this in a more general sense and raise it more often.

BDSM should therefore exist for the sole reason that it gets people thinking about such things.

Meta-Consent is a bit dodgy becuase it's pretty much a fiction, even people who go in for meta-consent don't really give unlimited consent to anything - it's that whole safe word thing.

Iamcuriousblue said...

Speaking of Goreans and the like, what's your take on Aristasians? (A F/f subculture that's in many ways analogous to the Goreans.) I'm not sure if they have a substantial realworld presence, but they have quite an elaborate virtual world worked out on the net, including a highly worked out spiritual and philosophical system that they seem to take quite seriously.

Trinity said...

"Meta-Consent is a bit dodgy becuase it's pretty much a fiction, even people who go in for meta-consent don't really give unlimited consent to anything - it's that whole safe word thing."

Well, what do we mean? Do we mean "I consent now for whatever happens to me then" or do we mean implied consent?

Because the latter surely exists. Gets people in trouble, yeah, but exists.

Trinity said...

"Speaking of Goreans and the like, what's your take on Aristasians?"

Um, mine? Other than "sounds like Gor" and "I bet there aren't many of those offline"... nothing, really.

thene said...

From a quick glance at that Aristastian site, I'm reminded of the (verrry tiresome) seme/uke thing in trad yaoi manga and anime-based fanfic. I get bored of these dynamics - I'd rather have my slash celebrate a wide range of possible masculine (or feminine) ideals and dynamics (forgive me if that sounds wildly pretentious - it's 2.30am here, what can I say?)

belledame222 said...

omg, I remember seeing the Aristasia stuff ages ago! wow, they've um really branched out.

I haven't said anything about Gor because I just...don't get it.

in general, i guess, besides the gender politics (and bad prose), I just...shrug. I like to -try- to keep one foot planted on this mortal coil, y'know; the degree to which some people retreat into fantasy role-playing (erotic or otherwise), I...yeah. I dunno.

I keep wondering: what did, or what would have everyone involved in y'know fanlife, most kinds of intensive/fulltime role-playing, do before This Era? I mean, I could ask the same of myself I suppose. How much energy do I put into the Internets? What is it fulfilling, and what might have fulfilled it if it didn't exist?

belledame222 said...

...yeah, Aristasia. well, you know me, I like me some femme-on-femme as well as some cheesecake. but again, the whole thing, it...

"go play outside."

also, I wonder if they've ever really inspected the racial implications wrt "blonde" and "brunette."

belledame222 said...

...still reading in there.

Myra Breckinridge, izzat you??

Trinity said...

"From a quick glance at that Aristastian site, I'm reminded of the (verrry tiresome) seme/uke thing in trad yaoi manga and anime-based fanfic."

I haven't looked at enough (hardly any, honestly) to be tired. But the idea of the seme/uke thing always thrilled me:

people like me! who admit there's polarity in their sex! and call it normal rather than going off about how it's

unfair/mean/limiting/patriarchal/silly/goofy/stupid!

Not having seen enough of the execution to know jack, I may be being totally stupid here and not knowing it. (I've certainly heard that the roles are fantastically rigid, and that's not good.)

But I've always been absolutely thrilled at gay male communities for treating the top-and-bottom issue as if such things are perfectly normal and natural and something not to bat an eyelash at

rather than "ooooh, omg, you want/do WHAT?"

Cassandra Says said...

"in general, i guess, besides the gender politics (and bad prose), I just...shrug. I like to -try- to keep one foot planted on this mortal coil, y'know; the degree to which some people retreat into fantasy role-playing (erotic or otherwise), I...yeah. I dunno."

This is part of my response too, if I'm honest. I'm very much involved in the JRock fandom - largely by accident, but still - and I keep running into things, like cosplaying, that make me scratch my head and say "why would anyone want to do that? Is real life so boring that we need to dress up as scenes from a music video or cartoon characters?".
I just don't get it. I lack the geek gene, apparently - I LIKE the world. I enjoy being engaged. The idea of retreating to fantasy roles most of the time...I just don't see the appeal.


About the seme/uke thing, which which I am VERY familiar...
The way it tends to play out is that the character deemed more "feminine" is the submissive and the one deemed more "masculine" is the dom. Masculine usually means older, or taller, etc. Feminine usually means younger, thinner, physically smaller etc. Honestly, it's just really boring most of the time. They basically depict one of the male characters as stereotypically feminine, which leads to absurdities such as men who are supposed to be superspies/martial arts experts/rock stars/samurai shopping at Victoria's Secret and giggling a lot, and sitting around eating ice cream with their friends when they're upset, which is every ten minutes or so. Think uke as translating to Olsen Twin. It's very much supportive of classic male/female stereotypes, which is why most female readers over, say, 16 find it tiresome. The idea that the uke characters aren't very bright is pretty common, too.
Also, all uke's are either blushing virgins or stereotypically slutty schoolgirl types, and semes are pretty much horny 24/7 and emotionally repressed. It's like watching your grandparents ideas about appropriate gender roles re-imagined as gay porn. Most actual gay men hate the stuff.

belledame222 said...

why would anyone want to do that? Is real life so boring that we need to dress up as scenes from a music video or cartoon characters?".
I just don't get it. I lack the geek gene, apparently - I LIKE the world. I enjoy being engaged. The idea of retreating to fantasy roles most of the time...I just don't see the appeal.


Thank you.

Although, if I'm -totally- honest with myself, I have to say that perhaps part of my resistance to the idea is that I always -have- spent a considerable amount of my life in a fantasy world--books, daydreaming, later the Internets. Much truer mentally when i was a kid, I did have a rich and active fantasy life, and while I hadn't completely moved into the castle in the sky, there were stretches where I'd take very long vacations there, and would only emerge reluctantly. There were reasons for that, though.

The real problem with that, I think, is the solipsism it leads to--I needed, and eventually got, connection with real live people.

and I suppose, you know, for a lot of these...well, they're -not- all kids, that's part of I think what disturbs some people, but the people who are very heavily invested in roleplay...I think what's different nowadays is that the Internet (multiplayer games, what have you...I guess SF conventions and Ren Faires and so forth predate all that, to) at least makes it a -shared- thing to some extent.

and, you know, the people I know of who still spend a lot of time in these "alternate" universes, they have pretty good reasons for not being terribly happy in the "mundane" one.

The other thing is, I think that there's a real lack of meaningful -myth-, and that this is far more important than most people in this our modern woild realize. I think fandoms, yeah, even stuff that I and I suspect you would consider insipid and puerile, fill that function for a lot of people.

I mean, you take TV shows or movies or popular book series: there's a reason they call the original stuff (as opposed to the fanfic) "canon."

belledame222 said...

iow: people need story.

Trinity said...

"absurdities such as men who are supposed to be superspies/martial arts experts/rock stars/samurai shopping at Victoria's Secret and giggling a lot, and sitting around eating ice cream with their friends when they're upset, which is every ten minutes or so."

*nods*

Okay, that makes more sense.

Though I have to say my initial response to "martial artist shopping for frilly things at Victoria's Secret" was "fuck, that's awesome."

Cassandra Says said...

Trin - If is was one particular martial artist shopping for frilly undies I would have no issues with it. It's the automatic equation of "feminine" with "submissive", and frequently with "shallow and stupid", that I find problematic. I actually love some yaoi, it's just that the genre overall is a very clear example of the "90% of everything is crap" rule.


Belle - I get what you're saying about people needing myths. The thing is, there are actual myths out there, if people would just be a bit less lazy and go look for them...
I was a pretty imaginative kid myself - hell, I've written full-on alternate reality SF. I just don't get the desire to play in someone else's alternate world 24/7. Partly because I think people really do need actual interpersonal contact, and partly because I think people would be better off creating their own fantasy worlds rather than borrowing someone else's.

There's also the fact that if someone is going to pick a fantasy world to play in surely they can find one that doesn't recreate all the crappiest aspects of the mundane one we all live in like Gor, for example, does.

Cassandra Says said...

I thought of a better way to explain what I dislike about most yaoi.
The uke characters are frequently infantalised as well as feminised. It's the idea that submissive = female and female = infantile that bugs the crap out of me. If it was a few stories, fine, but the fact that it's commonplace? The political implications of that bother me.

I guess I see the medium as potentially subversive, so seeing it used as a way to reinforce gender norms is dissapointing.

And this is coming from someone who WRITES yaoi.

belledame222 said...

I think people would be better off creating their own fantasy worlds rather than borrowing someone else's.

mmm...I agree with that, and yet I don't. I mean, I don't think anyone makes up their fantasy world out of whole cloth, you know.

belledame222 said...

The thing is, there are actual myths out there, if people would just be a bit less lazy and go look for them...

Oo. What makes something an "actual" myth?

Thing is, if a myth isn't remembered, it's usually because not enough people find it relevant. So.

Yeah, you can go hunt up some Edith Hamilton, and that'll make you more edujmacated, but why is that necessarily better in terms of peoples' need for -story?-

I mean, you've read "American Gods," right?

Cassandra Says said...

Belle - In terms of myths, part of the reason there aren't many is because some of them were actively suppressed by various and sundry religious groups. I think that people digging up those myths is a valuable thing.
I'm also Scottish and that may influence my take on this since my culture was very much actively supressed, first by the church, then by the English.

Part of it is my inner art snob talking, too, though. It's just that the idea of people basing their imaginary life on, say, Harry Potter irks me because it's so banal.

thene said...

I thought of a better way to explain what I dislike about most yaoi.
The uke characters are frequently infantalised as well as feminised. It's the idea that submissive = female and female = infantile that bugs the crap out of me. If it was a few stories, fine, but the fact that it's commonplace? The political implications of that bother me.

I guess I see the medium as potentially subversive, so seeing it used as a way to reinforce gender norms is dissapointing.

And this is coming from someone who WRITES yaoi.


-IAWTC, many times over. I simply get bored of the idea that there's only two ways to do teh gay and that you can predict them from someone's appearance, age and personality. I prefer my queer a bit more radical.

Sam said...

“a belief that one gender is inherently more dominant than the other, or should be, made a few of us quite uncomfortable - unsurprisingly, all the 'discomforted' women identify as feminist.”

Personally, I’m a male and I genuinely hold the belief that a patriarchal model for society (run correctly) is far better than egalitarian or matriarchal models. This would probably get me classified as a gender supremacist and perhaps a misogynist (though I don’t personally support or identify with misogyny). Something for me that I’ve often found interesting is having discussion with female subs that outwardly are far more “Male supremacy” bent that I probably am, but when you dig deeper are actually deeply devoted to feminism. Sometimes I even get a reaction of disgust from these subs when I explain my beliefs. This never ceases to amaze me. I’ve always presented these ladies with the three options they have available for reconciling their feminism with their submission:

a) Reject how you feel (biologically, sexually, psychologically, etc) and accept the philosophical ideology of feminism
b) Reject the philosophical ideology of feminism and accept how you feel (biologically, sexually, psychologically, etc)
c) Do some mental gymnastics in an attempt to reconcile two contradictory positions.

People who choose a) tend to live rather unhappy lives. Their philosophy grates against their daily experience. People who choose b) are those like myself. But for the majority of these subs, both a) and b) are unattractive so c) become the only option. Now on many occasions I’ve pointed out that no matter how you slice it, what ultimately arises from trying to reconcile submission with feminism is it makes one or the other (or both) a sham. Usually it ends up being the submission. The sub ends up just playing a game (for adults). In the bedroom, and maybe other domestic spheres, she enjoys being dominated and having a little kinky sex, but in the “real world,” she maintains, for example, her life as a CEO in corporate America. Right…we should call this for what it is – she’s a sham feminist, a sham submissive, and a walking contradiction. Strong words I know, but they contain an essence of truth.

“Interestingly, I've seen far more male sub profiles seeking a 'female supremacy' model for relationships, an unshatterable belief that women are inherently superior to men, than I’ve seen it the other way around.”

Male supremacy in Western culture is taboo, but male bashing/submission is not. Why the double standard? Why the difference? As a matter of fact, if we went to a different culture we might find things completely reversed. What’s happened is that feminism has been arbitrarily selected as the chic, sophisticated, intellectual, ideal for our society, and this of course this is independent of whether or not it best reflects realities for human happiness.

“In the Obedient Wives documentary, I think the moment that really did creep me out was the scene where the mother was teaching her toddler daughter to be a surrendered wife.”

I haven’t watched the documentary so I can’t comment and I think there are cultic elements to some people’s beliefs that should be looked upon with suspicion. Nevertheless, on the flip side, there are a lot of traditional folks in society that are equally “creeped out” when they hear of mothers trying to force their toddler daughters to play with trucks and their toddler boys to play with dolls. It’s all a matter of perspective. For example, when I heard of Norwegien feminists trying to pass a law that would force elementary school boys to sit down on the toilet to pee, that freak’n creep me out…

“There is also the issue of beating one’s wife as part of a marriage…Yet, in marriages where male supremacy counts, religious marriages, particularly, do women gain pleasure from this experience?”

Apart from the most extreme male supremacists, most, whether religious or otherwise, believe that male supremacy must but contained within well-defined boundaries. Where those boundaries lie on a cultural/societal level can be tricky to define, but this problem doesn’t implicitly de-legitimatize the entire system. I would certainly never look at the problems in Islamic countries as a reason for rejecting a patriarchal model (as most feminists would).

“I’m quite confused by the idea of polarising gender in BDSM. I’m not sure quite what it might add to a relationship. What does it bring to either party? What does it achieve?”

Firstly, at the very least, what I can say for those that believe in a patriarchal model (can’t speak for the opposite) is that they generally can live true to their beliefs. That’s why I don’t look down on traditional religious folks, because many of them don’t have to struggle when a man feels dominant or a woman feels submissive. As a matter of fact, it ends up being completely normal, legitimate and expected within their world-view and gets classified as healthy rather than abnormal, which is uncommon for many BDSM participants given our equality-obsessed feministic culture. Secondly, a male supremacy model allows a couple to not only define how their relationship will be organized, but why it should be organized that way. It allows for acknowledging real differences between the genders by escaping the constraints of political correctness. When such differences are embraced rather than shunned, the genders will hopefully be able to live together more harmoniously and with a deeper sense of purpose.

afrogshop said...

It will not succeed in reality, that's exactly what I think.