Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Ren's defense of BDSM

The inimitable Renegade Evolution, giving voice to something I've been thinking for a while:
Why do I defend and talk about BDSM fairly often? After all, I, personally, am not even into BDSM except for on very, very rare occasions and, why yes, for money. It’s not my thing…it has similarities to my thing, but the differences are vast and noticeable to anyone who actually knows anything about BDSM. I’m a crappy submissive because really, I don’t have the right attitude or wiring for it. I’m a crappy dominant because I am, sexually, a selfish and greedy asshole. The whole service aspect, or aftercare, or the endless and needed negotiation, the often seriousness required, and bonding, so on? Let’s put it this way: I totally fail. F – report to the first row of remedial education fail. I would probably be worse at being in a healthy and respectful and fulfilling BDSM relationship than I ever was at algebra, and that is saying something. And really, aside from some of the cool looking outfits, equipment, and dungeons, BDSM does not appeal to me. It’s too complicated, ordered, ritualized, and rules-laden for me. It is in no way unhinged and chaotic enough for my tastes. As I, and countless BDSM’ers have said before, there is a huge difference between what they do (BDSM) and what I’m into (rough/gonzo/porny sex).

But I still talk about it and defend it for a reason…a few really. One, I do not think what I do and enjoy sexually is better than what anyone else does, but people into BDSM, just like those into gonzo style sex, or swinger style sex, or countless other less than mainstream forms of sex and sexuality, are marginalized and stigmatized- rather heavily and relentlessly. Two, there is a tendency for people without in depth information, or without any consideration towards the words of those actually involved, to look at a brief snippet of what people into BDSM do an label it as abuse. There are too many ill-informed calls for them to examine (as if they have not), and sure enough, way too much speculation and usage of universals.

And yes, sure enough, I have read words out of people, women specifically, who say they were really into BDSM, loved it at the time, left it, and looking back, see how abusive and horrible it was. Okay. I’ll take them at their word…but just as folk question the kinky people endlessly, well, I have questions to ask as well, because sure enough, do some assholes use the cover of BDSM (or gonzo style, or swinging, or whatever) to be abusive fuckheads? Why yes, they sure do…are they the majority? I tend to think not…so, this is what I want to know:

1: Were you, as an ex BDSM’er (or whatever) engaged in full scene, part of a community, or is it something a lover, solo, worked you into? Did you go to clubs, or play parties, or was it something engaged in solely in their/your home?

2: Did you meet your D/s on line?

3: Were there negotiations, safe words, limits set?

4: Was your involvement in whatever kink then used by said partner to shame or isolate you from others?

5: Were you denied access to friends, family, or other people in the fetish community?

6: Were your boundaries and comfort levels ignored?

7: Did you endure the “kink” or “rough stuff” merely to get the attention, praise, or “love” from your partner?

8: Did you get into this life style because, for whatever reasons, you thought abuse and pain were the best you could do or all that you deserved? Did your partner make you feel that way?

9: Did your partner threaten you with telling the world about your involvement in kink, or posting photos of you, or whatever else to keep you where you were and doing what they wanted?

Guess what? In this case, I sort of feel like saying “Oh shit, you’re doing it wrong”. And I hate to say that. I do, I fucking loathe those words. Hate ‘em. But those sorts of experiences do not, to the best of my knowledge, at all capture the spirit and what is really intended in BDSM (or whatever other kinky stuff a lot of folk are into), and do sound like manipulation on the part of an abusive asshole…and sure enough, that sort of shit is never going to be loving or empowering or healthy. It is also in no way typical of what goes on with most kinksters. There are, you see, no universals.

And just for the record, if women are abused in droves in any sort of kinky scene, why is the protest of it by those women a virtual whisper? No, I am not questioning any ones experiences, but since women who are happily in the kink are forever and endlessly questioned, called out, taken to task, dismissed, and told to examine, I feel it is a fair question…after all, I do hate double standards in “feminism”.

And this is no way me trying to say “try it, you’ll like it”. Not in the least. If anything, I am all for women experiencing, doing, enjoying what they like, and not doing what they don’t like, on their own terms and via their own determination. Lord knows I’ve had more than one asshole Top type suggest that I, liking the gonzo sex, had truly not just evolved enough, or did not know what I really wanted, or liked, or needed, and sure enough, he could show me! Well, sorry, I ain’t into calling anyone master (unless the fee is damn fine) and my patience with people of those sorts (of either gender) is very, very thin. Sexual mercenaries make shitty subs, after all. So yes, I do know those types exist. But they are a rare breed, and to assume universals about all people into BDSM based on them, or the experiences of some women?

Ill advised and ill informed. Once again, I say such is shoddy schoolwork. But then again, happy BDSM’ers make not the impressive headline or study now, do they?

And now, herein this long and winding rant, is where the Renegade cringes and makes a confession/statement that she knows, one day, some how, some way, will come back to bite her in the ass. I’d even bet money on it, but I’m going to say it anyway:

Often, I see BDSM discussed in terms of rape, of sexual cruelty, of true psychopathic sadism, of true force, or true emotional abuse and humiliation, so on, so forth. If you’re looking for a true dark side of sex, well, you’re looking at the wrong kink. I see more of that in the swinger scene than I’ve ever seen in SSC BDSM communities. And (big cringe) as for as unhinged casual use of peoples bodies in the pursuit of sexual gratification…well, I think the gonzo style sorts make BDSM'ers look like virtual saints…I mean, they (BDSM'ers) tend to at least catch names of or like the people they are fucking…not always so in my social circles. But be that as it may:

There are no universals, and pretending that there are helps and empowers no one.
This, exactly. I don't doubt people who say they had bad experiences doing BDSM. I'm sure that some people are into it precisely because they see it as an excuse to be selfish, be cruel, be rapists and get away with it: "But you're my slave!"

But I find myself wondering why there are so few names. I know several people who are ex-radical feminists (including myself, though my "radical feminism" was a bit different from what generally passes for it in the blogoverse, and a lot of people would claim I was doing it wrong, I'm sure.) They talk fairly often about the things they used to do, think, and like.

I very rarely see the same thing out of ex-BDSMers. I've never seen any of them volunteer anything like "My scene name was Slaveslut Lily," much less "Here's my old slavejournal, wherein I argued that 24/7 submission to men was totally feminist. Here are the inbetween posts, where I started to change my mind. Here's me now."

And I just wonder why that's so rare. Not because I doubt anyone's particular personal story, or think that it's anyone's duty to provide it. Rather, because I hear a lot of vague stories out of anti-SM feminists who say "I know a lot of people who escaped, and are really emotionally scarred." But if this is common, if this goes on a lot, one would think there'd be message boards, be webpages offering support to former submissives, or at least "post-submissive" blogs, or... something.

One would think that someone, somewhere along the line, would be more public about this, like the ex-radfems I know have tended to be about what it was like to be part of that community.

Which is what leads me to wonder, like Ren, whether most of these ex-SMers were involved in the community as a whole, or whether they just met a man who suggested rope to a nervous girlfriend who wanted to be GGG. It's not that that's not BDSM, and it's not that that's not worrisome. It's just that when they then, as many do, start discussing the Scene, I start to get skeptical.

Particularly of the claims that everything in the world is M/f. Now, I do think that much of the time, heterosexual circles and gay and lesbian circles are cut off from one another. Gay leather and straight leather aren't all that connected.

But as a person who has mainly done F/m and some F/f, I can confidently say I've very rarely felt unwelcome anywhere. There was one party I went to, held by a small group I didn't usually attend, where I felt like F/m dynamics were unwelcome and felt uncomfortable. (I actually had people telling me my way of doing things weirded them out because submission was "womanly," etc.) But that was once!

So... yeah. I want more information from anyone who's *willing* to volunteer it about what their community was, what it was like, how large it was. Were they involved in major orgs, like Janus, TES, APEX, Black Rose, or were they at home with a Daddy they'd met on CollarMe last week? I really want to know, because without *anyone at all* volunteering such information... I remain skeptical. Not skeptical that any one person was abused, pressured, or hurt, but skeptical of the claims that a lot of submissive women get out and realize they were involved in something inherently damaging.

Which I see now and again from the ex-es.

15 comments:

thene said...

You've got a great point there. There's even more ex-gays (and ex-ex-gays, bless them) gathering into groups and promoting their collective narratives than there are ex-BDSMers.

Trinity said...

Yeah. It's not that I doubt they exist, it's that... I want to know. What were you doing? Because in a lot of the stories I don't see reference to the community. A couple references to play parties are just about it.

And I'm going "Munches? Demos? Weekly meetings? Educational classes? Org drama?"

*crickets*

"Okay then."

BeccaTheCyborg said...

Hmm, I was abused in a BDSM context, and...I'm still kinky. We weren't involved with the local scene, mostly because every local scene person I met was an asshole.

Hell, after a lot of time with my shrink, some of my masochism is even growing back, though I doubt I'll be a switch in practice ever again.

Trinity said...

Becca:

How'd you feel about community in general? Because that comment makes it sound like you met a bunch of random people... so eh. What was it like when you went to munches, demos, etc?

BeccaTheCyborg said...

The community in my small, small town seems pretty closed. I didn't get as far as munches, because of the skeezy people trying to get me to go with them. And that was apparently people high up in the organizational structure. I'd be interested if I were elsewhere, or met people here who aren't so Twoo Dom with very clear motives. Though I'd be going alone, as one partner's vanilla, and one wouldn't go for professional reasons.:(

Trinity said...

Ah, okay. In my experience, you didn't really "go with" people to munches or meetings. You just went. Munches were generally a bunch of people talking and joking, and very often not kink-centered at all. A place for people, as a social circle, to hang out and talk about everything ELSE on their minds. (Though of course they talked about kink too.) So yeah, the "going with" thing... well, there were times I didn't own a car and needed to find a *ride*, but a ride isn't a date.

And as far as going to meetings went, for me at least that was a lot more about learning how to do SM safely than seeking a partner.

Was the culture different in the sense that you couldn't just show up yourself? Or are you saying you would've felt unsafe doing that?

BeccaTheCyborg said...

Lacking a vehicle, I'd have likely needed a drive, and when the only people I knew who'd be there were, frankly, kind of creepy, and at least a decade older (this was about five years ago, when I was even more of a noob, and a bit less sure of myself), it just seemed that all the known variables were awkward.

When we do move, I'll be maybe looking to get more involved.

Trinity said...

Ah, okay. Yeah, I know the awkwardness of Car-Lacking myself.

And... eh. I don't mean to tell you "Get involved! Everything's peachy!" because who knows? I know I've always liked the community, and I've found assholes to be rare. But I may have lucked out there. (I don't think I lucked out when I moved to a bigger city, though. I think good organization is a likely consequence of being bigger.)

The one thing that I will say didn't work as well as people often say it does is that when someone *was* trying to take advantage of a newbie submissive, we were able to call attention to the problem but the person was never actually ousted.

He never attacked her; he just tried to bully her into letting him call her "pet," going to parties with him, etc. She refused, but worried that it made her a "bad submissive."

Several of us made a point to talk to her and tell her that she had every right to tell him to leave her alone and no obligation to do anything he said. The weird thing was, she continued to talk to him anyway and to tell us that she wasn't sure *we* were right.

This happened despite that several of us were tops, so it wasn't like she was worrying that "sister subs" were being insubordinate or anything. I found it really puzzling at the time and still do, really. We tried very hard to help her figure out what she wanted and get it -- especially a best friend of mine who really just spent weeks worried sick and striving to help in any way she could.

But the girl really... "I feel like I can't refuse." So yeah, I guess submissiveness can be risky for some. Still it's kind of mind-blowing to me. I would've expected "Oh, that's not the norm? I can ignore this guy's emails? Woohoo!"

That the guy didn't get tossed out disappointed me. But what *was* the case is that he was, and had been for a long time actually, somewhat informally blacklisted. Most people heard it from others right away that he was a sketchy character, and he'd frequently be sitting alone in a corner at parties where everyone else had a partner.

So... yeah, there was a known sketchy guy around, but the grapevine was *usually* sufficient to protect people. He fooled this one young woman because she was totally new, and he got a hold of her before anyone else did. As soon as the friend of mine I mention found out, she gave the girl the warning. For whatever reason, the girl was really conflicted about heeding it, which still puzzles me.

At any rate, I think the story ended with her leaving the Scene entirely, never having done anything with anyone. I have no idea if she remained interested in submission at all, or not.

BeccaTheCyborg said...

That's pretty sad, it sounds like she had some trust/boundary things, which suck a lot. Poor girl, I could have seen one or two of the guys trying to get me into a situation like that (they didn't seem to get "dominant switch" as a concept).

Trinity said...

"That's pretty sad, it sounds like she had some trust/boundary things, which suck a lot."

Yeah. She was really concerned about behaving appropriately, and he took advantage of that to feed her BS about how she was supposed to address him, how he was supposed to address her, etc. :(

Tor said...

I have met a few ex-BDSMers (ones that were at least partly involved in the scene or community). But none of them seemed to see their experience as traumatic (in the way that a lot of radfems refer to).

It was more that they got tired of the ritual aspects of SM, or their tastes changed over time, rather than them suddenly waking up to their "abuse" and fleeing.

and i've never encountered anyone in person and rarely online who has that kind of narrative. but if you listen to the radfems you'd expect to run into these people way more frequently.

I'm not saying they don't exist, but it does seem that this sort of thing gets overstated.

Trinity said...

Tor,

Yeah, I think you're right. And the common thing I notice is people very rarely talking about the community, so I suspect that the people who bad things do happen to are more often not connected to the community. (Connected to the online community, maybe?)

I do now and then see people with blogs who claim that they are happy with really extreme D/s, and that looks like a trainwreck.

For example, I remember reading one woman's blog who was looking at the NLA-I Domestic Violence Project. She was going through all these things, like:

"Isolation: Yeah, I moved out here to be with Him in a huge house in the middle of nowhere. I have few friends. I don't care. This is what I wanted.

Financial Dependence: Duh. I'm his slave.

Non-consensual control: Yep. I'm not playing a game."

And then insisting she was happy and saying that the larger Scene is a bunch of busybodies who don't know what she needs.

And I do think people like that are setting themselves up for something awful. Or being tricked by abusers into thinking they have to agree to something awful.

Kind of "victim-blaming" of me to say, but I think people, especially women, who idealize this kind of absolute control are actually a sizable minority *online*.

The thing is, though, I don't think I've ever met anyone *offline* who ever thought such things were a good idea.

So, again, I suspect that people are either writing purple prose about their ideal rather than their reality, OR I suspect that these sorts of people gravitate to sub-subcultures because they think the usual Scene is too safe, not "serious" enough, etc.

All of which, again, suggests to me that they don't paint an accurate picture of "BDSM" as they claim they do, but rather an accurate picture of what happens when you sequester yourself in the middle of nowhere with "The Lord of Your Heart" or whatever.

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