Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Sadomasochism: The Incredible expanding word.

as if it weren't long enough, right?

It's a bit petty of me to quote this, but I want to for a not-petty reason.

From Heart's place, discussions she will not allow on her blog.

See here: http://womens space.wordp ress.com/2007/11/29/discu ssions-we-will-not-h ave-here/
Defenses of sadomasochism as liberating, empowering, or good, whether it occurs in the course of sexual intimacy of any kind, in “scenes”, in “play parties,” between fundamentalist men and their wives, in marriage, out of marriage, in relationships, in friendships, overt, covert, unapologetic, unrecognized, none of it is going to be defended here. Sadomasochistic relationships are at the heart of the systems, institutions, mechanisms, dynamics, social orders which have created the world as we know it, teetering on the brink of annihilation. Whether it is the sadomasochism inherent in war, imperialism, colonialism, conquest, fundamentalisms of all kinds, sexism, racism, classism, lesbophobia, transphobia, abuse of children disguised as “discipline,” abuse of animals, abuse of the planet, seas, mountains, skies, earth, or whether it is sadomasochism in intimate relationships between individuals, all of it, because it is about dominance and subordination, about some groups subjugating others, harms human beings, creatures, and the earth, it participates in the destruction of beneficent life on the earth, and so I oppose it. It will not be defended here. Defend it elsewhere.
What I really want to point out, to people who have not seen this yet, is the way the term "sadomasochism" gets expanded here. Inflated like a balloon until it has no precise meaning. Watch:
whether it occurs in the course of sexual intimacy of any kind, in “scenes”, in “play parties,”
okay, that's about the SM scene, a particular subculture, and also some people outside the subculture who fuck a certain way. "Sadomasochism" here means something like "people who consensually play with power for sexual gratification." Which is what I'd say it usually means, though I'd add "or pain"; I don't think all consensual sexual SM is about power, and some may arguably not even involve it.
between fundamentalist men and their wives, in marriage, out of marriage, in relationships, in friendships, overt, covert, unapologetic, unrecognized
And here, well, wrt "fundamentalist men": yes, there's traditionalist Christian D/s if you want to look for it. And, expanding further, an argument could be made that a particularly consensual, aware, chosen version of religious submission *could* be similar to the D/s sadomasochists do.

But "in friendships" is where she begins to lose me, and she doesn't stop there. Yes, there are power dynamics between friends. They can be harmful. But why are they "sadomasochistic", if so? In most cases, they will not be sexual, though they may have undercurrents of sexual intimacy and attraction. Are they consensual? Do they really involve submission? How are we defining domination and submission when talking about friends?

What leads people to conclusions like this, as near as I can figure, is a notion of "sadomasochism" that divorces it from sex or even from chosen dynamics of nonsexual service, and takes it to stand in for any and all relations of power-over:
Sadomasochistic relationships are at the heart of the systems, institutions, mechanisms, dynamics, social orders which have created the world as we know it, teetering on the brink of annihilation.
Which of course means you find it anywhere and everywhere, and there's no relevant difference between the play party and the invasion of Iraq:
Whether it is the sadomasochism inherent in war, imperialism, colonialism, conquest, fundamentalisms of all kinds, sexism, racism, classism, lesbophobia, transphobia, abuse of children disguised as “discipline,” abuse of animals, abuse of the planet, seas, mountains, skies, earth, or whether it is sadomasochism in intimate relationships between individuals, all of it, because it is about dominance and subordination, about some groups subjugating others, harms human beings, creatures, and the earth, it participates in the destruction of beneficent life on the earth
This is just sloppy. Which is what gets me so much when I look at things like this (and you can see it other places too... just go read some Daly, for example) isn't even the opposition to consensual sexual sadomasochism (though duh, I don't like that) but the sheer papering over of issues.

Even if the play party *is* objectionable, because power-over *is* dangerous and not to be fucked (heh) with:

where is the difference between the play party and global warming? Surely, even if these are related (and I don't think it's completely *unarguable* that they are, *if* we assume all power-over to be pernicious), the harms each does are not the same.

Shouldn't it be part of our analysis, a strength of our analysis, that we can say

"these are the harms of consensual SM"
"these are the harms of religiously-motivated female submission"
"these are the harms of war"
"these are the harms of rampant consumption of resources"
"these are the harms of child abuse"

and have each of those be A DIFFERENT THING?

Presumably, "sadomasochism" is a word, here, for whatever thing they have in common, whatever holds them together.

Which has to do with power.

But we can't really say how. It's like Socrates asking "What's virtue What's common to any and all virtues that makes them what they are?" No one can answer him, and he doesn't know himself.

"What's pernicious power-over? What's common to it in every instance, when the instances look so different?"

No one can answer, and we don't know ourselves.

Which is why we need the ten-dollar word that means fucking to paper over it.

18 comments:

Daisy said...

The problem is Heart has no sense of PLAY... or rather, the POWER-CENTERED PLAY she proudly engages in, has received the imprimatur of the particular group of cultural feminists that she likes.

For instance... playing with children has "power" at the center. Children have no power, we have the power to make all decisions for them. Heart doesn't even vaccinate her kids, and brags over it. She literally decides if they live or die.

Now, why isn't THAT the "model" for BDSM (as I suspect it is?), rather than war in Iraq?

Obviously, because Heart has 11 children, so THAT manifestation of power is one she enjoys, so that makes it okay, and is NOT regarded as the model of power-over in our culture.

See? More of Heart's little just-so stories...

PS: Doesn't a PRESIDENT have POWER OVER other people? If she dislikes this MODEL, why is she running for president?

"Sloppy" barely covers this crap...

Brina said...

Foucault would say children do have power. It may not be the power that you associate with an adult but the child as a sight to be seen as its own image & representational background. Are you a bit more pampering or do you do things you may not do with adult? Children have their own source of power even if it is less identifiable and children may see power in peers. I would never say a human doesn't have any power.

And on the conversation of Sadomasochism I would say language & definitions do change in the course of what particular social circle one considers them self apart of. We can talk about D/S dynamics in almost anything. If we want to talk about consent and fun without the PC talk that's what we're interested in. People get hung up on being politically correct and some people will never get over those who are trying to talk about sadomasochism in a different light.

alterisego said...

There are power dynamics - sometimes overt, sometimes hidden, in every aspect of life. Sometimes, it can be quite interesting to analyse them. Sometimes they're dangerous, sometimes they're harmless, sometimes they're rather cool, really.

Consensual SM is none of these things. It's a totally different kettle of fish. It's often sexually based in a way that other social and political structures generally aren't. And, of course, it's consensual. As always, the privacy of consenting adults is relatively tantamount.

Mighty Fast Pig said...

This is the kind of sloppy thinking that gets on my nerves, using "sadomaochism" as a blanket word for anything I don't like.

I once pitched an article about my local BDSM scene to a progressive, lefty holistic magazine. The editor didn't take it, which was her prerogative, but she also called BDSM a "reflection of Enron culture", which baffled me. What does shady money dealings by a bunch of suits have to do with BDSM?

Trinity said...

"There are power dynamics - sometimes overt, sometimes hidden, in every aspect of life. Sometimes, it can be quite interesting to analyse them. Sometimes they're dangerous, sometimes they're harmless, sometimes they're rather cool, really."

YEs YES YES YES YE SYE YESYES.

thank you. i've been saying this OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND

but people want power to mean some bad thing, and some contained thing, and nothing else.

It makes zero sense.

Trinity said...

"Now, why isn't THAT the "model" for BDSM (as I suspect it is?), rather than war in Iraq?"

Things like that generally are, IMO.

Trinity said...

"The editor didn't take it, which was her prerogative, but she also called BDSM a "reflection of Enron culture", which baffled me. What does shady money dealings by a bunch of suits have to do with BDSM?"

Exactly. People handwave about a connection... and then act like you're dumb when you ask them to explain it.

Trinity said...

"PS: Doesn't a PRESIDENT have POWER OVER other people? If she dislikes this MODEL, why is she running for president?"

Daisy FTW.

Myca said...

I'm not sure when it started happening for me, but more and more, I just have a hard time taking anything Heart says seriously.

It's not that I doubt she means it . . .I know that she's 100% serious, but hey, so is the dude in the Viking helmet wandering Embarcadero screaming about how the government stole his toes.

And more and more,that's how I think of Heart.

I certainly don't think that there shouldn't be critical analysis of her outlandish claims . . . on the contrary, I am envious of you, Trinity, for being able to perform that analysis! Because . . . see . . . I just can't engage with this bullshit.

She's screaming that not only is the sky red, but also that anyone who says it's blue are counter-revolutionary dupes of the meteorological patriarchial hegemony. In the end, it's a fancy way of saying, "I believe things that are very stupid, and I will not tolerate anyone pointing that out."

---Myca

Trinity said...

Myca:

You seem to be contradicting yourself a bit here. Yes, Heart's a deluded idiot. I agree with you there.

But whether I should engage with her views is another question, and I can't tell what your opinion is.

I think I should, not because she's important but because she's a very vocal example of a view that I think is widespread among anti-SM people:

that:

* "sadomasochism" refers to any sort of hierarchical structure,

* any such structure works the same way

* consensual sexual sadomasochism is a copy/version/personalized instance of those structures; we learn to like them because we grow up in a world full of them

And I think that we'll always be bumping up against radfems so long as we don't dismantle that view, so long as we roll our eyes at it rather than realizing that many feminists who are uneasy about SM have it in the back of their minds.

Myca said...

Also, two points I wanted to highlight:

First, I love how she mentions 'transphobia' as a consequence or component of sadomasochism. Like, pardon the fuck out of me, but who the hell are you to start talking about transphobia in concerned terms now? Twit.

Second, her bit about ". . . abuse of animals, abuse of the planet, seas, mountains, skies, earth . . .". Yes, that's right. It's what my childless ass does in bed in private with another consenting adult that's fucking the planet up, not you and your eleven kids. Ah yes, that's different. I understand. Because after all, your choices are immune from criticism for being childish, selfish, short-sighted and stupid.

---Myca

ps. Maybe this is why I try not to engage. Because now I'm ranting. :-) Sigh.

Trinity said...

"Like, pardon the fuck out of me, but who the hell are you to start talking about transphobia in concerned terms now? Twit."

EXACTLY. I didn't mention it but I sure thought it.

"It's what my childless ass does in bed in private with another consenting adult that's fucking the planet up, not you and your eleven kids."

Yeah. That's what happens when you take a word and make it mean "anything bad" rather than something specific.

Myca said...

Good points, Trinity, and I pretty much agree.

My view is that I think her views are widespread, and do NEED to be addressed and engaged, but that more and more, I, personally, have a hard time taking her loony ass seriously enough to do so.

Which is why I envy you that ability, because for me, when Heart says something stupid, I mostly end up rolling my eyes and saying, "ah, right. Heart."

---Myca

maymay said...

Passion can blind reason as love can blind thought, as is clearly evidenced by the post you're referencing.

Defining distinctions between things is what makes our reality something we can share with other people. Without distinction, without that diversity, we dilute so much of the world that we will end up without one. I sincerely hope more people will come to understand this soon.

Habu said...

Trinity said-

Which of course means you find it anywhere and everywhere, and there's no relevant difference between the play party and the invasion of Iraq:...

If I may be so bold, perhaps the term you're looking for is "homogeneous forces of darkness"* wherein to Heart's eyes, yes, they are all equally bad and ALWAYS interelated- thus the play party to her actually becomes, fractal like, a piece of the larger 'evil' that is also inherent in things such as the invasion of Iraq.


(* "Homogenous Forces of Darkness"- everything always mushed together as one, no gradations, no shades of grey, truncation of actual cause and effect into nonsensical pseudo-causations; as but one example- actual video tape title- "How contraception causes drive by shootings". It becomes a linguistic way of prohibiting people from being able to rationally think about things- as instead of dealing with detail and genuine cause and effect, everything just gets filed under 'evil' and thus no longer needs be thought upon. This is usually done in relation to a set of political opponents.)

shiva said...

Hi Trinity - i'm posting this here because i can't comment on your LiveJournal blog as i'm not a member of LiveJournal. I've just tagged you for the "Roar for Powerful Words" blog award, here...

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