Tuesday, 1 December 2009

New Blog: Topologies

Topologies is a new group blog written by three top/dominant women. Check it out.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Ooh, how did I miss this?

La Phalene muses on kink and gender:

There’s a lot in this kink business to make the feminist in me froth at the mouth. And no, I’m not talking about the images of pretty girls tied up, or the way that rape is dressed up as a perfect fantasy or that rad-fem line about how many sex acts are degrading to women. Rather it’s things like the two opposing camps, the female supremacists and the people who announce women are inherently submissive, and little things about how gender in constructed in the scene and in the archetypes. This is not a different world than vanilla, it’s all the baggage of the rest of my life seen through a somewhat tasteless spooky-goth lense that dresses people up in shiny black and involves a lot of smacking.

....Both sides of the gender superiority thing construct a very narrow definition of womanhood. For a subculture where having breasts is no proof of your genetic gender, people are pretty quick to either thrust me up onto a pedestal for qualities I might not possess or put me down as a sheep in need of a firm hand. This can be pretty awkward in either respect because it’s a narrow box to shove slightly more than half the human population into.

Classically the people who believe in gynarchy say it’s because women are warm, empathetic and emotionally intelligent, bringing wisdom that will end wars. Men who say women are submissive point to their classic social position and need for protection, talking about evolutionary biology or theology, or maybe gorean psychology. They generally phrase things in terms of a yin/yang, with female deference not as an explicit proof of male superiority but part of the natural order of things, like plug into socket.

I’m a young woman, who sort of conforms to the physical proportions desired of women in my era, fresh faced, vivacious and vicious in my interests. If you talk to vanilla people, the image ‘dominatrix’ is the closest to what I am, though not a label I embrace personally, and this symbol is what people perceive about kink. I’m bossy, aggressive and I like violence. According to the gynarchists, either I fail as a woman because I raid from the masculine side of things or my superiority is so unsupported as to be a point of religious faith. According to the man-as-patriarch, this is the flapping around of an unsatisfied woman who needs a Real Man ™ or I’m a unicorn who can be satisfied with a nice fluffy ‘female’ man. Both sides are very quick to write from the perspective of how females fit into this, either above or below. I really would like to see some f-sub writing on the perspective of gender-as-orientation, because while it seems like men write in generalizations (as do the female tops who believe their own hype enough to call their gender the best) the f-subs are all writing about personal service and the closest I’ve seen to them talking about belonging at the feet of men in general is waxing poetic about service making them feel fulfilled.

So where do I, the visual spokesperson for my kink, fit into all of this? I want a master like I want another hole in my head, but I don’t want to top someone because they believe in extreme sexual dimorphism, I want it to be submission gently coaxed (or brutally conquered) because of who I personally am, with mutual respect. And not the yin/yang separate but equal role bullshit, either. Subs aren’t subbing because this is mystical; it’s a fetish where, unlike the people who love inanimate objects, luckily the object of my desire can love me back. They might be the bolt to my nut, but to work we’ll both need to be made of the same material and my perfect opposite would probably find me dreadfully tedious and overbearing. They might get off on that, but being healthy we’d end up compromising.

Love it, but even the "bolt to my nut" phrasing is too stereotypically gendered for me. *wink*

And I also still scratch my head at the dissing of femme men, too. Not sure what that's about.

But in general: Yes. Just yes.

I will be brief.

So there's a new comment over at an old post of Nine Deuce's:

This whole BDSM thingy is crap. Seriously, anyone who likes being hit and cut and harmed is mentally ill. Why is it called self-harm (a horrible, life-sucking addiction to be sure) when you do it to yourself, but when others do it to you it's "liberating" or "empowering"? It's just fucking sick.

Defenders of this crap, please research abuse and coping methods for it. People convince themselves that they like abuse so they can deal with the reality of it. Victims often seek out places in which to re-enact the abuse which is probably why these folks keep coming back to it.
My only comment is "what makes you think we haven't researched it?"

Handy, isn't it, to assume ignorance on the part of your opponents? Still makes you look like a damn fool, though.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Interesting conversation....

There's a guy over at Nine Deuce's comment thread here who's making some pretty damned rather creepy comments about BDSM affecting how he relates to his partners. I was wondering what you all think of him or would say to him. Some samples of his comments:
Most, if not all, of the girls I have had sex with enjoy being dominated in one way or another. Not necessarily like extreme sado masochist, but many wanted to be choked/slapped/spanked/called degrading names and such. I wasn’t into this stuff at first (for a long time I felt weird about receiving oral sex because the act was not reciprocal), but now it seems to me that girls can’t enjoy sex unless they are acting out a power fantasy. What to do about this?

How do I deal with the fact that they often want to be degraded or dominated sexually but at other times treated with respect and regarded as an equal? Sometimes immediately after she will feel ashamed or angry. It can be kind of confusing. Should I separate the two worlds and somehow just not think about it?

Yeah, I realize that, in some ways, a person’s sexual fantasies don’t make them good or bad, worthy or unworthy. On the other hand, sex is a part of the whole human being, and it must say something about the person as a whole. In day to day life, I find it difficult to respect a person who is submissive or sycophantic. On the other hand, that’s just one side of the coin. I am also bothered by the fact that I take pleasure in having power and violence.

Yeah I am making a generalization based on personal experience. I am sure there are many women who have different tastes and desires. It just has been so predominant in my experience that I’ve started to wonder where it comes from and how to deal with it in a real relationship. A female friend of mine told me she wanted to break up with her boyfriend because he didn’t “throw her around enough”. It’s hard for me to understand a girl wanting to be “objectified” (or whatever you want to call it) and then treated as an equal.

I am only speaking from personal experience. I have had only a handful of sexual partners (5). Each woman was very different from the others, but when it comes to sex they all encouraged a very strong power dynamic. I have been wondering about where this power stuff comes from. For me, sex was primarily a sensual experience and not really about power. But after having a few girlfriends I am finding that many women want to act out fantasies of rape and submission, even women who seem very strong and independent.
(please pardon me for not linking every comment.)

I'm not sure what to think. Several of these comments just... strike me as Creepy Nice Guy. Calling those he's had sex with "girls" and talking about how every woman wants something different from what he wanted, and admitting his difficulties with respecting people all raise red flags for me.

Thing is, it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that someone who can't spank someone without seeing her as a "sycophant" would lack problems relating to women if only he were vanilla. Even his description of the "sensual experience" in the last bit I quoted seems like it's all about him and what he wanted sex to be like, rather than about enjoying the sensuality together.

I actually agreed with several people over at ND's in recommending he avoid BDSM if it exascerbates a problem he already has with respecting his partner in daily life.

But I do wonder how you all feel about this. Here, finally, after the years of our saying "prove it" is an individual who appears to be admitting that BDSM makes him less likely to respect his partners. What do we think about it?

As I said, my personal feeling is that he's probably got an issue doing so anyway, even without the spanking. But I do wonder: BDSM is intense, and it definitely can be dark and play with things that aren't so sweet or fair.

I've always said doing BDSM is like using a knife or starting a fire. Most of us do these things fairly often in our lives and it's not even particularly remarkable. And, sometimes, they are the best or even the only tools available to do something we want or need to do, despite their having the potential to cut or burn us. Still, they are, by their very nature, potentially dangerous if misused.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

I actually can't edit the link list here...

...but here's a useful link.

Orlando C is collating results from studies of BDSM and has posted them here:

www.kinkresearch.blogspot.com


Personally I'd like to, if at all possible, see links to the studies themselves, but this collation is great. From my admittedly not-thorough perusal, it looks like many of the results he cites are from the book Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures, which collected studies and articles about BDSM (and which if I recall right was originally a special issue of a particular journal, but I may be misremembering that.)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A post!

I've been avoiding these kerfuffles as much as I can lately, and I think it's been good for me.

However, a few people have been clamoring for my return, so... *wink*

I did find this (a bit old, but then I haven't been around):
If a person gets turned on by random objects, animals, excrement, shoes, or whatever the heck, I’m not okay with that. That is pathological, and represents an underdeveloped consciousness. As a child matures, he becomes less vital-egoistic, and lives with a higher level of self-discipline. But in an excessively liberal society where people live in a kind of prolonged childhood, they never grow out of that undisciplined, vital-egoistic state; seeking titillation with a kind of desperate and unfree movement, addicted to excitement and adrenaline. Those who seek excitement through kink represent that stunted state, along with those who are promiscuous, view pornography, are involved in extreme sports and so on. Their consciousness is highly ‘material’, more like that of an animal, and undisciplined. Instead of encouraging these pathological behaviours, we should criticize them and create a cultural norm against them.
It's been a while since I last ran into a critique like this. It sounds a bit Freudian, doesn't it, all laced with references to "development" and filled with interesting scientific-sounding neologisms like "vital-egoistic."

Thing is, when someone resorts to words like this without even defining them, that's a sure sign that the theory behind it all is bankrupt. Nowhere does the person define "vital-egoistic," or link to any use of this term in any accepted theory. (Perhaps, if it's intended to evoke Freud, I should be saying "accepted and then widely discredited" -- for all that psychoanalytic theory was a revolution in thinking that has had profound effects on psychology and psychiatry both, quite a lot of it has been rejected, and rightfully so.) A quick Google yields only this individual's own blog as a search result for the term.

The idea that certain ways of behaving -- particularly indulging or acting on certain desires -- is a sign of arrested development is a favorite debate tactic of the intellectually bankrupt, precisely because it's nearly impossible to argue against "You're underdeveloped." All of us have our weaknesses and our demons, and all of us specifically have our insecurities and fears and secret shames in the sexual arena, too. It's very easy to hear "some part of your maturation is unfinished" and wonder how true that might be, precisely because none of us are perfect.

But it's an underhanded tactic to use that to shame someone, or to use that to set yourself in opposition to something they want, as if your disapproval can rewire desire.

Especially in a culture where sex is often deemed to be dirty in general -- a need we all have, yes, but a shameful one. Especially if one is a "pervert," at which point one is at best silly and quaint and at worst a danger, as others tell it.

Add to that the standard drivel in the general vein of
I am critical of BDSM, and do not consider it an acceptable practice merely because consenting adults participate in it. I think BDSM eroticizes violence and dehumanization, and is a logical outcome of patriarchal conceptions of sexuality as domination, destruction and ownership.
and you have, well, lovely little boilerplate. I'd be far more inclined to listen to these people if they didn't parrot supposedly-"feminist" buzzwords in such close proximity to one another. While this person probably is intelligent, it honestly makes it sound like the person doesn't know what s/he is saying at all. What are "violence and dehumanization" in this context? What counts as each? What is "domination" here, and how does consent to it affect or not affect its moral contours?

"Dehumanization" is a particular pet peeve of mine, as is "degradation," because so often the assertion that particular acts or depictions are inherently dehumanizing or degrading and this is simply obvious and anyone who doesn't see it is damaged. That's a handy thing to say, but it's not actually an argument, unless you can in fact prove either
  1. that the words apply in the cases you say they do, or
  2. that the people asserting that they don't are in fact damaged, and in ways that prevent them from comprehending these concepts properly.
Which I've never seen. And I've been tangling with these people for some time now.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Things That Are Just Bizarre

And Obviously False, Vol. Whatevertheheck:

I don’t, for the record, think “external contact” with ejaculate for sexual purposes (or fellatio) is inherently degrading or disgusting. But my experience is that many men DO think their semen is an inherently icky, disgusting substance magically capable of rendering a woman a “freak who’ll do anything” if she swallows it or lets it touch her exterior.

I can’t remove bukkake from that narrative. (I don’t think it _exists_ outside that narrative, whereas intercourse most certainly does.) If I did find a man who had never seen any porn at all, then what in Hell would make him wake up one morning and think “Gee, I’d like to come all over your FACE, Honey,” if not a desire to degrade me?

It’s the fact that it’s the face that bothers me. In what other context is squirting something on someone’s face, or even discussing same, not insulting and degrading? “In your face!” is, after all, slang for “I just dominated you.”

I wouldn’t argue, without knowing much more about someone, that doing bukkake made that person “not a feminist.” But I’m of the opinion that a “facial” can never be anything but the opposite of a feminist act.

Uh, what? So... stuff comes out of his body... that is inherently tied to his sexual pleasure... and there is absolutely no way that he could possibly, in a world where porn doesn't exist, think it's hot to see a substance intimately connected with his pleasure and orgasm on his partner's skin?

Is this person kidding?

Or is it specifically the face she takes issue with? I don't see why that would be either, honestly, because, well, one way of having sex involves genitals and faces, and people often have that kind of sex unprotected. Ergo: at least potential messiness.

I'm not one to be excited specifically by messy faces myself, mine or others', but... does she have the same attitude toward a man (or a woman, for that matter) who enjoys having a female partner's wetness all over his face while or after giving head to her?

I do understand that there is a connection in the current culture between giving head to men and degradation. But the thing is, if she asserts that no one wants sexual fluids on their faces absent Patriarchy because it's inherently something no one would think of if they weren't Big Meanies, what does she think of cunnilingus, anyway?

It's this "never" stuff and this "things have only one unalterable meaning" stuff that simply baffles me. What?

That's it. It's not even anger any more. It's just complete bafflement.

Also, what is with the constant bringing up bukkake, anyway? I mean, sure, some people do it and more people watch films of it, but what exactly does that have to do with... anything at all? Bukkake has about as much relevance to me, for example, as scubadiving cats would.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Feminist acts and anti-feminist acts

ND is up to her usual tricks.

I'm... not feeling like responding right now, really. These folks are very much a broken record about what they consider to be "antifeminist" and are not at all consistent about why they do. I know that a lot of you look to me to debunk this stuff, and I hate to let you all down. But I am really quite burnt out of the same fights over and over.

So I will reiterate that I do not think that it is possible to call someone's personal sexual life antifeminist without knowing her personally and specifically as an individual. I will also reiterate that I do not think we can call all sexually explicit media antifeminist in a sweeping way either.

And with that I will go eat lunch and pass the torch to you all for the moment.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Phantom of the Opera

xposted from my LJ


Ooooof.

Phantom of the Opera teaches girls bad, bad, orful thingz!
Of course, to call it a two-and-a-half-hour musical about rape vastly understates the bizarreo-world factor of this musical, although it's hardly an inaccurate statement.

At first, I was merely staggered by what this show must do to thirteen-year-old girls. I mean, it's just utterly designed to be seductive to anyone who doesn't want to own their sexuality and is drawn to any sort of narrative of submission, ordeal or apprenticeship. I should have, in fact, been all over this shit. At thirteen, I surely would have been. And the gaggle of girls that age we saw in the bathroom surely were.

....What a completely bizarre and vaguely intellectually offensive show. Man, when this first came out, gender and sexuality scholars must have been like "happy birthday to me" -- what a goldmine of crazy!
Where do I even begin?

Perhaps with "It didn't make me any less dominant..."

I wanted to be Christine for a few months, sure.

Then I asked myself "Why shouldn't he be singing my music?" and it was all over but the shouting. :)

And of course, rather than asking whether stories like that one attract people who have D/s leanings, we have to ask the same old tired "won't people get D/s leanings from this?" question.

And, honestly, what all the stories like this about D/s-y romance taught me was not "Be submissive!" but rather "If you be your dominant self, you will never be happy. Dominance is for the villains, and the villains are always either vanquished or voluntarily give up what's presented as their only chance for companionship because they realize they can never be themselves without doing harm."

These stories do not tell you that D/s is harmless, or is awesome, and I'm always stunned when feminists say they do. These stories are very, very, very clear about erotic power dynamics' destructive potential. They have to be. It's not socially acceptable for them not to be.

It may well be socially acceptable for them to be in romance novels and such geared toward adults, but all the stories I was allowed to see as a youth? None of those said that submission ultimately leads to fulfillment. They said, as I stated above, that dominance was what made the villains hot. The villains, by definition, lose.

Submission is something the heroine experiments with -- Hell, gets hypnotized into experimenting with -- and ultimately rejects. Do you really think Christine has the same dynamic she had with Erik with Raoul?! Yeah, right.

Why, when we examine this stuff, do we ask how it will affect a child we assume to be a vanilla tabula rasa? Why don't we ever, ever, ever ask what this says to people who are already dominant or submissive? Because they usually say "Your relationships are tragedies waiting to happen." If not "You're gonna grow up to be a homicidal maniac who can never be responsible about sex and love, kiddo. Sorry to tell ya, but we thought you should know."

If y'all need me, I'll be cranking Point up to max volume (and, yes, it is about rape, and yes, that is problematic. But FFS, the guy is a homicidal maniac! It's not like the show says "woo, rape!")...

...provided I can freaking find my copy of the OCR, anyway.

Dear radical-leaning feminists...

...if your big thing is fighting for the really real actual empowerment of women (rather than the icky fake sparkly "empowerfulizing" of women)... why do you always want to disempower me?
The situation of men who enjoy playing the M in relation to female prostitutes is instructive here. In a society that systematically gives men power over women, men usually have enough ability to retaliate that a female S is, ultimately, very much in their power. On this basis, John Stoltenberg has argued that sadomasochism may be liberating for men in a way that it cannot be for women in a patriarchy.
Is it just an obsession with "prostitutes" that makes you so constantly run at the mouth/keyboard about pros with only a footnote about everybody else (usually that we're so rare and it proves you right about everything)? Because I really don't understand it and, to be honest, it really ticks me off. It bothers me to see you folks so constantly insinuate that no one would be like me unless someone paid them for it.

Stop it, please.

And honestly? As a person with a disability, I am used to constant small disempowerments. It really bugs me to turn to the feminist movement and find the same thing all over again.

What really saddens me is that the actual people who write this stuff will likely never see what I just wrote. These folks are Professors, who Get Stuff Published. I'm just someone with a blog. My story matters less than the theory, and the theory says "no right-minded female would be like you unless cash were involved." Uh... no thanks to that.

(And I'm not even addressing here how disrespectful to actual dominatrices, prostitutes, and other sex workers that kind of gloss is also. Yuck with a capital Y.)

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

More on feministing

I'm noticing that on this Feministing thread, a lot of people are bringing up how they experience kink as orientational. Basically they're saying "Hey, this isn't some random thing I decided was fun, and I can't sit here and talk myself into doing something else on Saturday because the feminists were meen bulliez."

I agree with that myself, and that is how I experienced my kinky attractions from the beginning.

But right now, honestly, for myself I've stopped caring about that almost entirely. What bugs me now is not so much that people don't get that this is not the sort of thing I can change at will, but that the way my activities should be understood seems, on that analysis, to change wildly depending on what I happen to do.

If I go to a BDSM club and play and find it dull, and then go home and have very, very hot sex that doesn't involve pain and only involves power insofar as I happen to be in a D/s relationship, do I get a pass for examining that day? If the week after that we're more interested in knives and face-slapping than genital canoodling, do I have to take my timeout to think first?

That's the big thing that I really don't get about all this. It all centers around acts but pretends not to. "I want to know why you submit" but that gets parsed, most of the time, as "I want to know why you (would ever want to) let him do that."

Which creates this really odd thing where, well, everything we do sexually gets reduced to BDSM, and gets reduced to the kinds of BDSM or the reasons for BDSM that its opponents are most worried about. Our sexualities and our sexual practices don't get discussed as wholes often at all. Kink is simply something that consumes us.

Yeah, kink is important in my life... but lately I'm really wondering what makes it so Important with a big I. It's something I happen to do. Something a little more controversial than most things I do, but why does that matter so much, exactly?

Basically, I'm at the equivalent of "Yeah, I'm gay... why'd you care again exactly?"

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Pervertables.

Hello! Bet you've forgotten I was even a co-host here, right? Long time no etc etc.

Afraid I don't have anything too profound right now, more practical: lifestyles of the cheap and kinky: Discuss.

That is:

After a long dry spell, am easing back into actually y'know -doing- stuff. Unfortunately my cupboard's been rather bare apart from two floggers. And the specialty stores are, well? Expensive.

So the other day I went to the friendly local hardware/miscellaneous dry goods store, and picked up:

a couple of wooden spatulas, one with slats, one without;

a long wooden brush meant for cleaning out barbecues or something;

bag of wooden clothespins;

ostrich "quill" plume.

Total cost: About as much as one small "novelty" item would've been at Good Vibes or one of the local boys' toys shops. They should work fine, too. Great thing about SF: discreet "testing" of such items against ones thigh in a non-speciality shop doesn't raise an eyebrow. In fact there was a gentleman in the aisle who was getting assistance from one of the employees fitting a chain around his neck.

Am now wondering: what else? Anyone have any ideas? Common or not so common householdy items one can use for nefarious purposes? Seriously, that store's a treasure trove if you know what you're looking for.

Friday, 29 May 2009

And one more comment...

...on one of the bits at Feministing, here:
becstar replied to Lumix :

Actually I have just returned from doing a lot of research about BDSM. I didn't begin being this anti-BDSM. I researched it and talked in depth with the people involved in it. Then the longer I stayed there the more creepy their conversations got.

Women who were clearly in an abusive relationship (even outside of violence during sex) were told to accept that that is their proper position and that to be a true submissive they must learn to accept it. Other who didn't practice violence but rather subjagation were in relationships because they didn't feel like they were enough on their own.

They advocated for violence and refused to ever truly question how it is effecting them or why they desire such things. I have done my research alright, and it is precisely because of the abuse I saw within the community that I became so staunchly opposed. Perhaps you need to dig a little deeper than the happy face they put on for those outside of the BDSM community.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I've asked it before and never gotten an answer, so here I am asking it again: where does one do this "deeper digging?"

Because I repeatedly see "You're just talking about the public face of it!" and "Stop being disingenuous!" when I try to figure out where this sordid truth comes in. I'm an eight-year veteran of the Scene in multiple locations. I've had multiple long-term relationships with other kinky people. And I am at a loss to find this rotten heart under all our... glitter? Black leather? I've no idea.

I have met some kinky people who were more interested in casual play than relationships and weren't entirely open about this, and I've been hurt by that and seen it hurt other people. So I won't say that sexuality-based subcultures don't have potential downsides. They certainly do.

But I absolutely don't see where this... shadowy cabal comes in. Maybe I'm just not 31337 enough to have met the Kinkster Illuminati, but I highly doubt that.

It's interesting to me how people who make this sort of claim always say "Look deeper," or "do your research," or "we all know it's there," but never give any names, any locales, any groups. I wonder why that could be...

Fnord.

Feministing

As Kiya just posted here, there's a discussion of BDSM going on over at Feministing here.

Initially, I didn't want to comment, but the more I read of the comment threads, the more I feel I have to say something to Becstar. She participated in a comment thread here, in which she claimed not to be anti-BDSM "anymore." After a conversation with many of us, she's apparently changed her mind. Apparently she was so bothered by many of us not concurring with her stance on porn that she left, here.

I missed her inflammatory flounce somehow. If I had seen it, I would have said this then. But I didn't, so I'm saying it now that she's spewing anti-BDSM nastiness all over that Feministing blog post, including talking about how awful we are.

So I have this to say:

Becstar,

Your views are your own, of course. But many of us here bent over backwards to be kind and helpful to you. Hell, in the Facebook thread I defended you against a good friend, thinking that while you held some views I found repugnant, you were here in good faith. When you spoke of problems you had, many of us jumped to try and help you, to offer you support and possible solutions.

Is this how you repay us?

I hope you think long and hard about how you are behaving, because I find it profoundly dishonorable.

It's things like this, really, that convince me that the pro-BDSM position is not just one I hold because I want to have my selfish fun. I have seen people get heated on both sides, even mean and nasty. But I have never seen this "well, I'll kind of be here, hang out, stay relatively peaceful, and then completely go off and badmouth people who stood up for me and tried to help me" in pro-BDSM and pro-porn circles.

And the more I think about it the more I suspect that the zealotry on the anti-side is to blame. Because if you are a zealot, any time someone says "Hey, do you have figures to back your claim up?" or "actually, I'm in a TPE relationship, and..." or "Hey, I'm a sex worker, and you've left out this, this and this..." it becomes a horrible, horrible affront. Merely saying "Hey, wait, actually no" is, on the zealot's view, justifying real-world violence.

There is no room for considering any other viewpoint, because the connection to violence is instantly made and is unassailable. And anyone who would assail it is a monster, a lover of horrific cruelties.

I stand where I stand not because I like orgasms too much, but because I believe that way of thinking is downright dangerous. And, as this current fracas clearly shows, that way of thinking justifies totally dishonorable behavior, because anything that can be done in service to the Cause must be done, and damn whether it's dishonorable or obnoxious.

I stand where I do because I'd rather make an honest mistake and accidentally allow for horrors than go against my principles.

The Revenge of Return of Second Cousin Of Rape Culture Strikes Back

In comments to the previous post, ggg_girl linked us this post on Feministing, where I made the mistake of reading the comment threads.

This has had sufficient useful results to produce one sane and reasonable post, which is going here; the ranty thing will be in LfG:WoaS when I have time to write it, but for now I'm writing while the cookies cool enough to be packed up.

I have had a radical revelation about "rape culture".

The primary contributor to "rape culture" is the idea that people -- particularly women -- are not competent definers of their own sexuality. That they 'really want it' even when they don't, or that they only need to be instructed to become fully sexual in the manner their instructor desires, or that their decisions about sexuality in one set of circumstances mandate that they make the same decision in different circumstances.

See the blatant rape apologist in the comments here suggesting that a woman's participation in a threesome means that any random guy can come join in. (h/t Cheshire) Rape culture.

See any number of discussions about whether "date rape" is really rape, about whether "she was wearing that outfit" is really consent, about whether someone is to blame for their assault because they didn't jump out of a car in a strange neighborhood, etc. Rape culture.

"The porn made him do it", "Men are all just naturally rapists", and similar matters -- also rape culture, and rape apologism, removing responsibility for the choice to rape from the perpetrators.

"It only shows how far the patriarchy has gone in making women internalise self-hatred simply for being born in a certain body" -- a quote from becstar in that thread -- ... also rape culture. Definitionally declaring kinky women not competent to defind their sexuality.

Discuss.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Ren, on examining...

...And how could I leave out this recent gem, from our favorite loudmouthed gonzo creep, Ren:
Right then! So, I am taking a break from my mad rush to get old D there to level 50, do some poking around and reading of shit I’d missed here in bloganistan, and I head on over to one of my favorite kink-friendly haunts…

And start reading all this shit from some self righteous holier than thou facebook asshats who think BDSM is the great evil of the universe and wow, they are just so much smarter and enlightened and self aware than those dregs in black leather!

First off, I am the great fucking evil of the universe, and I will not share the honor with BDSM’ers. I don’t even I.D. as a full on BDSMer, despite having been called a creepy sadist a whole lot. Okay, so maybe I am a creepy sadist…but hey! I’ve examined that! In any event, what continues to make me smirk and want to punch people is this whole idea that the BDSMers or people into that horrible nasty degrading language or rough sex or whatever are, well, somehow more flawed that those who aren’t? I mean check it, this is choice!

(responding to Ernest)

When she requested that I be the acting administrator for this group during her absence from the country, I asked her if she would mind me deleting the trolls from the group. She told me something along the lines of “do what you want, I don’t give a shit.” So I am going to go ahead and delete you and the other trolls from this group. I am also going to delete all your posts. And I’m going to enjoy it very much.

Blah blah blah…

Know your place. –some asshat called Blaize…

Okay, now, really, right off…and as a creepy sadist I know it when I see it: “And I am going to enjoy it very much”, “Know your place”…what the fuck does that sound like to you? Holy shit, sounds like a creepy fucking sadist to me! I mean, come on, that is straight out of bad BDSM porn right there…just switch it up a bit… “I am going to fuck you up the ass, and I’m going to enjoy it very much”… “I am going to erase you, and enjoy it very much”, “I am going to mock you, and enjoy it very much”….”Know your place –(bitch, slut, whore, pathetic whelp, boot-licking plebian!) So yeah, anti BDSM Master Blaize practicing some fine creepy sadist shit right there. I mean, (s)he seems so fucking gleeful with hir position of power, malevolent too. That shit is kinda hot!

Hey Blaize, you wanna go on a date? I’m easy…and I promise to use lube on ya first. You kinda turned me on there, squid.

But hot creepy sadism aside…these fucks are a good example of why I don’t like humans. Buckets full of smug superiority, and yep, the whole idea that since there is BDSM porn, all porn is BDSM, and all BDSM is porn, and all people involved in BDSM (and all people involved in porn) must be pathetic little dupe victims with more trauma in their pasts than an entire ward of criminally insane serial killers…or criminally insane serial killers. And gods, that shit is just soooo old and stinky. Like my socks after 3 hours at the gym stinky. Until someone can provide actual vetted proof that there are more fucked up kinky people than non-kinky people, this shit needs to be shoved right back up the asses it came out of. And gads, need I mention the fucking universals?

Oh yeah, and the image they are using for their group? A nice non 2257 compliant shot from Kink.com, of a woman whose consent they never obtained before using it, and gee, have no idea how she might feel about having her image used for an anti BDSM agenda! Holy fuck, where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, out of a shit ton of meatsacks who care about women, their feelings, and do not want them to be used and exploited! Well, fuck me with a tire iron, that’s sure a great way of showing it, no?

And I do have to ask, nay, even beg (come on, give it to me, I need it!) for an answer from the oh so wise and superior and not fucked up people spouting this crap…why the grim and obsessive interest in what kinky people do in their bedrooms? I mean, if I, oh, happened to seriously rough someone up and cane their ass bloody (not that I would ever do such thing –smirk) what business is it of yours really? I mean, if said person not only consented, but did so enthusiastically, and I dealt with such person in an ethical manner (I am capable of such things on occasion), and we weren’t hurting anyone else and had a grand old time…why the fuck do you care? What business is it of yours, exactly? I mean…last time I checked, none of the kinky people I know of were standing on your doorstep demanding you put on the cuffs or flog them. Even the dudes on Craigslist or whatever are not, oh, making any of you do BDSM, right? The letters SSC do exist for a reason you know…

I mean, it just seems…creepy to me…and since I am the creepiest chick on the block and all, I have to wonder, because you know? I could care less what y’all do in your bedrooms. They are your bedrooms for a reason after all. But hell if these folks don’t seem to…well…get off going through kinky peoples metaphorical panty drawers…

Fucking pervs.

Now come on Blaize, I’ll certainly disrespect you in the morning!
I feel pretty much the same as Ren on this (aside from feeling very done with the Facebookians. I reported on them and now my duty's done, and they can come up with as many lengthy talking points as they want, really, because right now my prevailing sentiment is Really Can't Be Arsed.) I think everybody, no matter how politically pure, or sweet, they want to pretend to be, has a mean streak. We all have moments of enjoying being mean to other people, particularly if we've pre-defined those people as less than human. (Which is what this person is doing with Ernest. He's a pornographer, therefore he's Satan, therefore it's not actual cruelty to mock him, deride him, deny him a voice, and enjoy it very much.)

Now, I don't like that, in part because Satan happens to be my friend and I'm tired as hell of "you do this job, ergo you hate these people" because it's bullshit. But in other part, I don't like it because doing it means being hypocritical and giving yourself a free pass to do so because you're feeling self-righteous. What they're saying is "because this person's occupation squicks -- okay let's be generous, maybe even triggers -- me, it's totally OK for me to be cruel."

That's dangerous, folks, in a way that "Yeah, I've peered into the abyss in me, gone dancing with my own demons, and seen a sadist there, sometimes. I've reveled in it and wallowed in it, and I refuse to call it what it is not because I know when I do and don't give it rein. I'm responsible enough to do my best to control it, and when I go off and behave viciously, as any human will, I understand that the responsibility to fix it is my own" is not.

Because guess what? If it's you, if it's a part of you, you own it. You don't get to say that the devil made you do it, whether because you were tempted by evil iniquitous lust or because your politics of the week makes it a perfectly laudable act to shit on somebody who gets shit on all the damn time anyway.

Even if that means doing something as distasteful to me as, you know, apologizing to Satan.

Threats

I posted this to my LJ, but hadn't posted it here, so:

From [info]tgstonebutch on LJ:
Mollena is teaching a class on race play this Tuesday night. And has received threats of violence regarding it. She is refusing to censor herself, and has gone public regarding the threats
I understand people really not liking this, but threatening a Black woman for doing race play, simply because you disagree that it's acceptable? What is wrong with people?

I think people just don't realize, when they get into their Lists Of Reasons Why People Can Engage In Generic Kink, but Not In Scary Kink X, just how inhospitable they make the environment for people who engage in Kink X. Suzy Essaywriter may be saying "And thus I impeccably argue that Whatever cannot be reclaimed as shown by the previous twenty pages of careful argumentation," but what happens down the line is "You're so appalling we will get violent."

And what's always really bothered me about this is the whole "Oh, but I only mean it if you're a member of the oppressor group." Not because I don't think that in some places, the standards are a little different. But because it becomes very stark for some people, "you're OK and you're not." And I don't think that's a wise way to be.

I don't like it when I see, for example, "women can fantasize about being ravished, but if their partners get off on playing the opposite role, they're evil." It just makes no sense.

Similarly, there's been a bit of "Oh, I'm OK with you women discussing whatever, but when a man says the same things it scares me" in discussions at places I often mention here, and I even see it (though fortunately rarely) from commenters here.

That's something I can't get on board with. It's just never made sense to me that an oppressed person can say something and maybe even be right, but the minute it comes out of someone else's mouth, it's suddenly Wrong-O-Wrong and even Scary and Threatening.

I'm probably peeing into the wind even saying it, because it's a favorite trope of all kinds of anti-"liberal", anti-"colorblind," etc. people. I get the concept of privilege and I do think it exists, but I think there's something going wrong somewhere when one person saying X can be brave and true and someone else saying the same thing is threatening and violent.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Guest Post #2: Stoicism by cereus_sphinx

This was a recent post on cereus_sphinx's livejournal. I asked for permission to crosspost it here, so here it is:

###

OK : Warning this is going to be a really rough draft. But I've been thinking about this for years and I'm finally getting to the point where I can sorta-write about it. I know - I come up with big Ideas, but it can take months/years to say them - it makes for sucky conversation. And the latest post on SM-F triggered this. Because I see one attitude in rape and the other in BDSM I guess.

One of the things that bugs me is the way stoicism gets put up on some pedestal and masochism gets dragged through the dirt.

Stoicism - going into a bad situation DESPITE the fact that you hate it for the benefit of others.

Masochism: going into a bad, dangerous, scary, difficult situation BECAUSE it's something you can enjoy or get something out of that might benefit other people.

It seems that the first one makes you a hero, the second one makes you a creep.

I can't afford to be stoic, it's like my mortal enemy. I see myself stuck in a bad situation that I don't want to be in, frozen because I should just be self sacrificing and put up with it. Going Numb. I see myself turning away from enjoyable things (that others might even appreciate me doing) because I might enjoy them and that would be sick.

Or dancing through flames, unharmed. A plant rooted in bare rock, my face turned towards the unmitigated sun, the monsoon deluge.

(Or in Dune, transforming the Water from poison into the stuff of visions ;) )

Numbness and pain, or joy.

My experience with SM and Hypersensitivity/Aspergers actually are mutually beneficial because they both show how to enjoy myself even if it means doing something different than other people find enjoyable. I can put a soft limit on sustained social interaction and noisy places (and cold :( ). I can fully enjoy 100+ temperatures. My body can perform miracles, It Comes First. No matter if what it wants is not what it's supposed to.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Guest Post: "BDSM: A Class Act?"

This guest post is by Mz. Muse (I gather this is the name she uses on Feministing, but I don't know how to find her profile to link it). It was originally posted to a locked post in her livejournal some time ago, and I offered to give it a wider audience here; after some edits and tweaks, here it is.


"BDSM: A Class Act?" by Mz. Muse


I read this article about BDSM and feminism linked off a friend's journal. I ranted about it a little in his journal, but it was still bothering me in the shower this morning (and not in the way I might like kinky feminists to bother me in the shower).

So it gets it's own ranty little post. In the above article, "The Fantasy of Acceptable Non-Consent", Stacey May Fowles puts forward the theory that BDSM culture shares culpability for creating what she calls "rape culture", a culture that normalizes violence against women. Her article is well worth reading, so don't see my recap of it as a short-cut to her own thoughts. I'm responding to just one section, in which she suggests that BDSM tropes leak into mainstream pornography. Without the benefit of careful training in the BDSM community's standards of safe, sane, consensual play, Fowles believes that young men who grow up seeing images of women bound, gagged or apparently forced into sex will enact these scenes on unwilling victims instead of enthusiastic play partners.

Fowles treads dangerously close to the anti-porn feminist position that pornography inspires rape. If that were true, logically such pornography should be banned, which leads us right down the primrose path of censorship to the lovely hell of condemning ourselves and others for thought crimes. There's also the risk of hanging our allies out to dry for being too dark and dirty, as happens so often in minority rights movements, especially sexual ones. For the most part, mainstream porn doesn't turn me on, but I still feel compelled to defend its right to exist and get others off.

Fowles talks about sexual domination of women as if BDSM invented it. For example, she refers to anything approaching rape fantasy as "desires specific to BDSM". I'd venture that the reverse is true - the desire for sexual power play prompted the creation of BDSM. Violent sex is hot. People of all genders have, I'd venture, been fantasizing about it and doing it for as long as there's been sex and power.

The Marquis de Sade, in the 1790s, eroticized rape, torture and even murder. It's from his writings that we draw our word for sexual cruelty. Masochism comes from Sacher-Masoch, who published Venus in Furs, his autobiographical account of making himself his mistress' slave in 1870.

My suspicion is that modern BDSM evolved as a way to play with fire and not get burned; it's a safety code and community that lets us do the dark things our ids beg for without exposing our polite, socialized selves to the pain of becoming either victims or brutal aggressors. Knowing about BDSM doesn't make me want to have kinky sex; being human and wired that way makes me want kinky sex. BDSM just gives me tools to do it safely.

Inside Fowles assertion that "serious BDSM practitioners" can and should be allowed to do the violent, dark things that the "average young male heterosexual" can't be trusted to even jerk off to fantasies about, I think I see a hidden class issue. It's not merely that Fowles’ BDSM culture is defined as much by expensive props and $400 leather boots as it is by the rules of safe-sane-consensual play. It's that she's missing the history of sexual aggression between classes when she asserts that we live in a modern, newly created rape culture.

Fowles is looking at BDSM tropes in the mainstream porn videos distributed on the Internet and seeing the cheap, easy access to these images as a source of "rape culture". She thinks these images suggest desires and acts to young men that otherwise they'd be blissfully ignorant of.

We have a solid literary record stretching back at least three hundred years of a culture where women were expected to maintain their virtue through chastity, young men were expected to engage in casual sex, and there was plenty of kinky porn. Probably those things have been true much longer; it’s my personal knowledge of literary history that goes back only that far, not the existence of kinky porn. If "women", by which we mean middle- and upper-class women, were all going to their marriage beds virgins, who were these guys fucking?

The servants. Prostitutes. Poor girls. These are the people de Sade was routinely accused of abusing and molesting before he was imprisoned. The people who over and over again in literature and historical record are raped, knocked up, “ruined” and cast aside by men of a higher social class who would never dream of laying an improper hand on their social peers.

I would suggest that the cultural shift which has occurred in the past few generations is not the creation of a "rape culture", but a culture in which respectable middle-class women are more likely to be targeted as victims of sexual assault by their peers, and therefore one in which rape has become more visible as a problem. I would bet that women are no more likely to be raped now than they were a century ago; in fact I bet we are on average safer from sexual assault. But the breakdown in rigid class systems and rigid sexual mores creates an atmosphere where "nice girls" are at greater risk from assault by otherwise “nice” boys.

I think the responsibility for this shift could be argued to lie with the Sexual Revolution and the accompanying wave of feminism that followed it. Around the middle of the 20th century, (I am wildly theorizing) two things happened: young middle class American men (the group I think Fowles is really talking about when she refers to "average males") stopped having access to socially sanctioned targets for sexual aggression - domestic servants have become wildly uncommon, visiting prostitutes is not part of the normal adolescent experience in the States, class barriers got a lot mushier after WWII, women's rights in general have come into public awareness to the point where raping anyone is frowned on - and young women began to claim their sexual agency and independence in a way that made them newly sexually available.

We now have a culture where young men are taught to view young women of their own class as sexual commodities, while a few generations ago they would have been brought up to view their female peers as the "angels in the house" whom they might love or marry and the lower class women in their lives as sex objects who they might fuck, with or without consent. A man growing up today learns to look to his girlfriend/wife to play out violent fantasies that he might once have satisfied with a prostitute or not at all.

This cultural shift gives us a lot of great things - sexual agency! safe, sane, consensual kink! birth control! - but with it we have all inherited some of the risk that used to belong more clearly to women on the fringes of respectable society. It's not BDSM, or its watered-down aesthetic leaking into mainstream porn, that contributes to a culture of rape.

The possibly increased risk that "nice" middle-class white women will be raped by "nice" middle-class white men is a shadowy by-product of the otherwise good work of liberal feminism and the sexual revolution in giving women more sexual agency and "leveling the playing field" as it were.

We now have a more fair, just system than in the past, where any woman can be seen to be sexually available to anyone walking down the street, instead of only certain classes, races and roles of women being seen that way. Which means that more women who otherwise might have expected to live in sexual safety are exposed to situations where they might be raped.

Similarly, men who previously could have used their power to demand sexual consent from a servant, slave or lower-class woman now have to negotiate for any sexual encounter, so more of them are exposed to charges of rape where before their behavior would have been written off as "sowing wild oats" or "boys being boys".

Also, I think more people now expect to get from their partners/spouses the kind of sexual services they would once have not dared ask for, and only expected a whore to be available for. Which again means more negotiation of the kind very few of us get good training in.

It's not that feminism is a problem per se. It's just that in solving one set of problems we've created some new ones, which we can in turn solve by doing a next layer of work on sexual consent and gender rights. I think that work is well under way. But pointing fingers outside of mainstream feminism to blame kink or porn for "rape culture" is not helping.

NOTE: I was painfully aware of the specter of race as I wrote this, but didn't feel like I had the background to do it justice without a lot more research than I was going to get done this afternoon between diaper changes.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Clean-Up Crew (Xpost)

Crossposted at Trin's request.

(Semi-set off by a thread of commentary at SM-F.)

A number of years ago I was working the local polyamory group's table on Pride Day. Just talking to people, being visible, that sort of thing. I bought a t-shirt (I think it was the one with 'Sharing is a family value' on the back), changed into it in the freedom of the clothing-semioptionality on the Common that day, and just chatted with people.

At one point I went for a walk through the crowds, possibly looking for a drink, as it was reasonably hot; possibly wanting to browse through the vendors. I wound up snagged for conversation by a woman who spotted the shirt and wanted to demand an explanation.

It's been long enough that I don't remember the details of her story precisely and have quite likely replaced them with archetype, but the truth of the matter is that this happens often enough for me to have an archetype to substitute for lost details.

She was a lesbian who had been, briefly, in a relationship with a married bisexual woman. She had been told that the woman's husband expected to be involved in their relationship as a matter of course, at least as a jacking-off observer, and, further, that if said husband was unhappy with the way their relationship was going, she would be dumped without a second thought. She found the interaction understandably disappointing and frustrating, and because she had been told that that was a perfectly normal way of conducting polyamory, widely accepted within the community, was more than a little pissy about the entire thing and, I rather suspect, wanted to know why the assholes were invading her Pride event.

About half the resulting conversation consisted of me assuring her that no, it didn't have to work that way. That everything they'd said about how that's what polyamory means was a lie, in fact, by the simple fact that plenty of people don't do that sort of thing. Much of the rest was talking about what I do, in matter of fact terms, peppered with more assurances: no, I don't expect everyone else to do it that way. No, I don't think that I'm a better person because of this. No, my way isn't What Polyamory Means either, it's just what I do. No, it doesn't bother me that she wants a monogamous relationship, I think that people should have the sorts of relationships that work for them.

I think, though I'm not sure, that we parted with her somewhat baffled by the weirdness of humanity, but at least familiar with the fact that the poly community consists of more than entitled bisexual women and the creepy voyeurs they're married to.

Another time I got into a throw-down fight that I don't think escaped beyond the bottle of the poly community with someone who wanted to create an organisation claiming to speak for the interests of polyamorous people - that was not actually about polyamory at all, but about a certain left-anarchist set of politics that he assumed was the reason people were poly, because who would have multiple relationships who wasn't interested in Breaking Down The System and proving the superiority of their liberationist worldview? I hammered on consent, that he did not speak for me unless I gave him permission and I explicitly denied him permission, and that no, I was not interested in subscribing to his newsletter until he snarled about evil reactionaries who had destroyed his happy fluffy vision of what Polyamory Was All About and were just there to subvert Teh Movement and probably didn't have more than one partner anyway and finally, blissfully, shut the fuck up. I hope he took his sooper-speshulness somewhere pleasant so he could be superior in a more congenial environment.

I get aggravated by the whole thing. I write about pretty much this thing when I wrote about the word 'lifestyle', pointing out that some people hook into Gor Is The Way What I Want Is Okay and try to universalise it, as well as, from the flip side of that particular kink perspective, the people who have an ideology of universal female superiority and abuse any woman who doesn't agree. Hell, I explicitly drew attention to someone making up just-so stories about an anti-BDSMer once upon a time, because someone claiming to be on my side being a fucking hypocrite does me no favors.

And this is the thing. My polyamory, my kink, my religion, my whatever else, these do not make me sooper-speshul. To the extent that I may be sooper-speshul, it's because sooper-speshulness is my birthright as a human being, and expecting everyone to bow down before it is unrealistic; if we were all bobbing and genuflecting to the sooper-speshul all the time we'd never get anything done 'cos there just isn't the time. Yeah yeah yeah namaste but the onions still need hoeing.

A couple of weekends ago I got into a long conversation about sex and power and individual choice and similar matters, and among the things that came up was using kinkspace to recreate and reprogram a trauma. And there was a story of someone who did this on a second date, which horrified all of the kinksters (and everyone else for that matter) in the room, even (perhaps especially) those of us who had done some sort of work of that sort in a controlled environment with trusted partners. There were discussions with people who had been interested in BDSM until they ran into someone who used it abusively, who wanted assurance that their perspectives on the existence of abuse was justified. There was exploration of what it meant to do power exchange sex in the context of an ethic that does not tolerate the bending of the head to accept shackles from the outside. (And I did not talk about the time, in a similar context, that I said I refused to submit my life-force to an ethic that required me not to do d/s, that I was too settled and secure in my power to put up with being lesser like that.)

There are no cure-alls and panaceas; there are only people working out what works for them. I can scream my story into the void all I want, but I have to take care to not drown out the stories of others, the people who do it differently. Monocultures die in plagues.

I've spent too long cleaning up spaces that have been damaged by people selling their social and sexual snake oil. "Take this, and your problems will be solved!" "This is the way the best people do it!" "This is just the way things are!"

In the memory of that confused and hurt woman at Pride, who went away maybe a bit more confused but also maybe a bit less hurt, I will always strive to be part of the cleanup crew.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Facebook, Vol 2

A while ago I posted about the "Sex-Positive Feminists Critical of BDSM" group on Facebook.

Not having a Facebook (still) and not wanting one (still), I'd left it at that and had no idea what they were, or weren't, up to. I must admit that I'd expected them to get bored fast; many BDSM-related blogthrashes die quick.

But now I notice Ernest Greene commenting that they're apparently still going strong, and exhorting us to keep challenging their views.

ETA: Looking at her page again, I do not think Harmony's "throwing down a gauntlet." I wrote this assuming I'd missed her doing so, but perusing more carefully I find she's saying she wants a "safe space" free from debate. I have strong critiques of the whole concept of "safe space," but that doesn't mean I'd crash people's meeting.

I leave this up as is because I do think it's easy to see the provocative pictures and text on the main page as a challenge, and because I stand by what I'm saying in the post. However, I wanted to note that I wrote it as if Harmony wanted a fight. I now see that she didn't, and people might assume from reading me that she does. It's only right to apologize to her for that, so: I'm sorry for not checking more thoroughly whether that was so.

Here's Ernest's comment:
I'm starting to feel like a troll for challenging every lie and distortion I read on Harmony's little hate log, but Facebook is seen by millions and I think it's important for us to rebut being trashed in such a high-profile venue.

I hope some others here will have a look at the latest affronts and weigh in with some solid counter arguments and positive examples.

Harmony continues to throw down the glove in front of us and I think we need to pick it up. There are readers out there who are conflicted about their BDSM sexuality and they require our support in the face of the ugly misrepresentation of who we are and what we're about that this group promulgates.
So I had a brief look, and decided to say more.

I don't know if Harmony and her little club know about this blog, and if they do, whether they'd be the sort to read it or avoid it, but on the off chance:

I'd just like to ask why it is, Harmony and others, that what we do matters so much to you. We know your arguments so well we've got most of them memorized. It should be pretty clear that your being "critical" of what we do and enjoy is not going to convince us. Similarly, we've learned from the many reiterations of these conversations that we're not all that likely to convince you that your "theories" are old, removed from reality, and not supported by the admittedly small amount of data presented by studies of those who practice BDSM.

So I've got to wonder: what exactly is your goal? It might be to sway those in the middle, if you can. It might be to assert, in what you feel is a deluge of pro-BDSM feminism (I would call it, at best, BDSM-tolerant feminism, myself), that some of you do still loudly and proudly hold the opposing view.

But it really seems odd to a lot of us on the pro-BDSM side of the aisle. There is quite a lot of lurid description. There's even a pornographic image on your website, albeit with a line through it. While there's been frank discussion here of quite a few kinks, and we've not hidden from talking about things in detail, we're not the ones putting a gagged, bound, naked woman on our welcome mat.

So my challenge to you is just this: Do you have more to say than simply lurid recountings of what we like? Can you talk about those of us who are survivors without using the sort of maudlin language that dehumanizes us, but titillates those who want to see us as people with tragically maudlin stories?

(Examples of this:

The desire to dominate, degrade, and hurt others usually comes from a person’s own psychological wounds. People who are into BDSM are more likely to have been abused [corroborating data conspicuously absent], especially during childhood. And abuse teaches victims that relationships can only be hierarchal, can only be between dominator and dominated, abuser and victim. Or even without abuse, the experience of living in a racist patriarchal capitalism is enough to teach these lessons and do psychological damage.

....These people are in serious need of healing. They are in serious need of understanding that power need not be about power imbalance; that there is such thing as healthy power that is shared in relationships of equality; that you don’t need to have power over someone else to have power within yourself.

....As with the desire to act in the role of the dom/sadist, the desire to act in the role of the sub comes from psychological wounds. As mentioned, those into BDSM are more likely to have been abused, especially in childhood. And even if they were not abused, the experience of living in a racist patriarchal capitalism is enough to do psychological damage and to teach us that relationships are by definition hierarchal.

....Given the psychological wounds and previous traumas that people carry into BDSM, the presence of “free choice” should be critiqued, even if the presence of “consent” is not denied. “Free choice” is an idea promoted by ultra-libertarians and post-modernists who don’t recognize the profound impact that society, culture, and our personal life experiences have on shaping everything about who we are. Does the victim of child sexual abuse, who has been taught that she is worthless and that her sexuality is degraded, freely choose a life as a prostitute or porn actress?*** Does the war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder freely choose to drink to oblivion everyday?
Is it at all possible for you to treat people who have been abused as people, Harmony, rather than as damage-objects? Is it possible to treat our desires and wants as legitimate, or do only people who have never been victimized get to be unsullied?

For all that you rant about setting up hierarchies, you are creating one here. The untouched people for whom "free choice" is critiqued less, and those of us who have had our choices destroyed by someone else's exercise of the agency we don't get.

Why do you have this need to talk down to us, Harmony? Why set up the hierarchies you do? If you're one of us, and you truly believe you have less of a self than people who have never been hurt, I feel sorry for you. If you're not, and you savor the idea that those poor people who've been hurt are below you and have less authentic choices than you, I call bullshit on you saying you're "anti-hierarchy."

Saturday, 2 May 2009

You are not a serial killer! Or a rapist!

I lol'd:



Part of me thinks it's a joke, and part of me thinks it's a terribly sincere confused person.

What say you, Internetz?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Transgression

I'm getting into a bit of discussion in the comments to my post "Facebook" on the topic of "transgression."

In that post, I use the dreaded T-word to describe part of the point of my recent post "Roaring."

People don't like that. They don't like that at all.

It's a hot little buzzword in feminist circles, and it's usually said derisively. It's supposedly something ignorant people do. Young people, who fancy themselves rebels and aren't actually resisting anything. This is contrasted with real work for social change, which as described is less flashy, less attention-grabbing... and, perhaps most importantly, less personal. Transgression is something someone does to be shocking; revolution is for the good of the People.

Commenters to "Roaring" are, therefore, quite displeased with me for using the T-word to describe it. On the one hand, I'm pleased they consider my personal story politically important enough that they'd cough and sputter "You? Transgressive? Oh, honey, you're much more intelligent/important/interesting than that!"

On the other, I used the word for a reason. I intended to get people thinking -- and it seems I failed.

I wanted to say "Yeah, this has those personal elements of that disgusting T-word all over it. I'm not just talking about how F/m dynamics don't fit the cozy thirty-year-old 'radical' 'feminist' 'theory.' I'm also talking about having fun. Fucking with people's heads. Laughing and defying their expectations."

I'm saying, in "Roaring," not just that that can be important, but that it's also fun. That it turns me on. That it makes me laugh.

I'm being "the fun kind." I'm letting myself be, despite the gasps and tremors even from my allies.

I'm doing so to make a point. And that is that just as the personal can be political (and I'd encourage everyone to actually look up Hanisch's work and get a firm bead on what that phrase actually means, as it's very often misused), so can fun be. So can very personal and rather selfish kinds of "rebellion."

Not because feeling daring, by itself, changes the world...

...but because it's only people who feel daring enough who would try to change the world in the first place.

If we really want shock troops eager to take down the Patriarchy, it's very odd that certain feminisms have so little interest in those troops' morale. "Activist burnout" is common. "Blogging burnout" is more common still.

And perhaps this is just my strange brain making odd connections, but I think the constant de-emphasizing of pleasure, the constant aping of "...not the fun kind" as though that were in fact a point of pride, has something to do with it.

No, feminists should not be "the fun kind" if that means "backing down when things get ugly."

But if not being "the fun kind" means we don't get to take pride in our defiance, laugh about our defiance, omg she's gonna say it get off on our defiance, we're not gonna last long.

Yep. I'm "transgressive." For those who want to toss tomatoes, the line forms around the corner.

Take your best shot.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Violent Content

This is silly rather than serious, but I figure the regular readers of this blog will find it hilarious.

Video, from The Onion: Should We Be Doing More To Reduce the Graphic Violence in our Dreams?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Facebook...

I am not on facebook.

Nor would I want to be.

But here are some comments about this little group here, "Sex-Positive Feminists Critical of BDSM."

First up: if you link Melissa Farley's horribly outdated little "Ten Lies About Sadomasochism" in all seriousness, I'm not so sure I'd consider you sex-positive, really. Haven't you got anything more recent that doesn't, y'know, include the heavy-handed hint that we kill each other?

(We kill each other, but you're not for outlawing what we do. Logic, yours would be stellartastic!)

Second, I've gotta ask why it is that on so many anti-porn websites or anti-SM websites there's a big honkin' image of some really hardcore stuff with a big NO sign drawn over it.

If that's something you think no one should see... why d'ya do the equivalent of painting it on your front door?

Third:

"Members of this group are critical of BDSM not because they are religious fundamentalists, but because they are fundamentally opposed to the idea that domination and abuse are sexy."

How can you be opposed to "the idea that something is sexy?" "Sexy" is not something absolute; even the most staunch "social construction" type admits that, in my experience. Even if "sexy" is highly culturally determined, "sexy" is in part something that happens to us. Fantasies arise in us unbidden. Even if things are often sexy to us because of the way we're raised or the environment we're in, sometimes things "are sexy" regardless of our opinion of that. Hell, you all admit that yourselves.

I've met many an anti-SM person who admits to having tried or having enjoyed BDSM. I can think of more than a few people who've given it up or "are critical" of it from "a feminist perspective," but who still fantasize about it. I can think of a few who have all that critexaminey and still do it.

Being against the idea that something "is sexy" is like being against the idea that something makes people sneeze. Good luck with getting it to "not be sexy."

(They could of course mean that they don't like cultural norms of heteromance that say women are supposed to swoon over strong men, but if that's what they mean, picking on BDSM is an utterly bizarre way to address that.)

Fourth and Last: I notice a link to something labeled "Transgression For Its Own Sake Not Radical; Depends on the Content."

Now, I've just admitted in my last post (which no one commented on; did I frighten all y'all away?) that I find transgression sexy, and that I do think that losing control is frightening for many men, and that that makes me feel powerful. So I can see how they'd say maybe I shouldn't be talking.

Except that why is it that they always think we're saying we're "radical" for it? I've written reams about how I think the whole concept of "getting to the root" is actually deeply flawed. There is no root, there is no "radix" to hunt out and yank free of the ground. There is us. Our own faces, our own greed, our own shame.

It is not a carrot, single and obvious and orange. It is a tangle of hatreds, some that have names we readily believe, like "misogyny" and "racism." Some that only few of us see or acknowledge: "ableism," "transphobia." Some that we have no names for, because we still consider them as normal as breathing air.

If the process of eliminating them is uprooting, it does not take a search, a getting-to. The getting-to is easy. The getting-to is looking in a mirror, beholding your flaws, and vowing to live better. Theory is not needed for this. Honesty is, and a willingness to listen.

I am not radical. Calling me insufficiently radical is like noting I lack blonde hair, expecting me to come back swinging and spitting, enraged at the slight.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Roaring

Sure, I can do that.

I've talked about this before. A lot, honestly.

But here we go. People who don't like me, or what I do, or my people, I have a challenge for you all, and I'm all hyped up on way the fuck too much aggrotech right now (and oh my Goddess, does it feel good) and have no problems throwing down the fucking gauntlet. So:

Where exactly is my gold star from the patriarchy?

Come on now, where is it? Your eternal refrain since 1987 has been that I'm a colluder. Okay, tell me some shit.

When I laid there awake at night wondering when the second bath of hormones would come, the ones that would make me into what people told me a woman was in mind rather than just in body, eager to spread and be covered and entered and give myself over to the hairy, muscled, smelling thing called a real man, where was it?

Because to hear you all tell it, the hell no, I will not that screamed out of my soul and all the fantasies that came out of that, many of them cruel and violent? That's all collusion, the norm with reversed polarity.

When I was hungrily reading stories about demon bitches with foot-long, razor-sharp nails, tearing rapists to shreds from the inside (yeah, meaning there), where was rape culture's representative telling me I'd gotten it... right?

That's the thing I never got. I never understood why feminists would think of me as the enemy, when part of what made me is revenge.

Do you all really think I don't know the world I'm waking up to? Do you really think I don't know it in my bones, the rhythms of it pulping me half to death?

Do you really, really, think I don't live in the same world as you?

Bend over. Dress up. Wear frills. Perfume yourself. Always let him make the first move.

You really think I heard that and licked my lips and said whatever you say, baby? You really really really honest to Hell think that for reals?

You really think I sat there going maybe I'd get more attention if I pouted like a magazine and added a whip?

You really don't think I want to make that compulsory conformity asshole bullshit bleed?

You really don't get that part of what I'm getting off on is doing that?

You really think sitting around drawing up charts about who should fuck and how is scarier to Dude Nation than I am?

Open your fucking eyes.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Race Play

You all need to go read this, here, right now. A frank discussion of race play between two Black people. Start at Part 1 and read the whole thing in order.

I do not have snazzy, witty commentary right now. I have some things floating in my head, especially as a white kinky person who dated a Black kinky one (in big letters I announce loudly that we NEVER DID RACE PLAY and did not have any kind of D/s relationship in either direction), but every time I try to write them down I rethink them.

So I'll just say that I do think it should be read and thought about. And that it especially should be read by the folks who seem to think that race play is always white tops' idea.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Sex, Intimacy, Connection, and Critique

Roy Kay has an interesting post up at his LJ on the "radical feminists vs. BDSMers" dustups that happen now and again in blogland:
There is an additional obliviousness about one of the chiasmic differences among BDSM communities – whether or not sex in properly even involved in BDSM. Yes, there are a lot of BDSM practitioners who really and truly fuck – and have sex in myriad other ways. However, there is a contingent which absolutely insists that sex is a frivolous distraction from the True Deep Relationship formed in pain, submission and other elements.

I personally don’t concur with this view. I mean, I AM one of those hyper-frivolous sluts that would take a pass on the whole deal if it didn’t get me and my partners’ orgasms, preferably many of them, on the road from interest through excitement to exhaustion. But the truth is that some people are quite the opposite, and that BDSM is wholly NOT about the sex – it’s about the emotional connection. Somehow this is another aspect they prefer to be oblivious too. Maybe it’s because its too close to the emotional connection they feel in keening against those outside the RadFem community.
I commented to him there with this:

I'm not entirely sure this would actually be convincing to them, though. I think they're concerned about the whole idea of valorizing power relations, and so I think they might respond that whether or not power play causes orgasm is not the point.

I don't think "She's my slave, but I don't fuck her" would get anything like a "Oh, well, that's different then" from these folks.

To further expound, I do think that one part of what worries them is "orgasm as a powerful reinforcer," which you see in a lot of anti-pornography feminism as well. On such a view, coming to something means associating that something with a flood of happy brain chemistry, and this is uniquely suited to making you want more of the something, sometimes against your own better judgment. (I think here of some comments in the anti-pornography documentary The Price of Pleasure, wherein a guy who uses porn describes how he has orgasms to porn, but feels dirty and ashamed and sullied after doing so.)

So if you have nonsexual D/s, you remove The Pavlovian Pitfall -- so Roy has a point; what about when that's gone? Doesn't that invite the possibility that it's not merely swoony infusions of serotonin that keep some people desiring to serve and valuing serving?

I think that's a good point, but I think we need to say more. The obvious question that comes next is "what does it mean to value serving?"

And the thing is, as I've said many times, I don't think kinky people should be required to justify our desires. But I do think "radical feminists" of this stripe will want to know what people get out of service. (And will probably dislike some answers to this question. Then again, so do I, and I'm an unrepentant pervert and dominant to boot.)

The thing is, though, that instead of this meaning "All you subbies have your assignment, dears: prove that what you get out of service is worthwhile and the meanie radfems might leave you alone. You just haven't examined enough!" I think this means something else.

I think the burden of proof is on the anti-BDSM folks. To them I say:

You already have our stories written down for you. You've had them since the publishing of Coming to Power, even all neatly wrapped up in feminist contexts. It's you who are not defending yourselves. All you can say when we say "Prove that our stories are meaningless in a feminist context" is some vague, lukewarm old politics you haven't heated enough on your stoves. It's cold and it's old and there might be some mold. Why are "trends, not anecdata" so popular with you, when you don't explain these "trends" with reference to anything like scientific studies?

The few times I have brought up data from studies -- usually the ones in Powerful Pleasures -- they haven't gotten any comments at all, not even very obvious criticisms of methodology! Hell, usually I'm the one saying "Here's the data, though of course this and this don't quite tell us what the researchers wanted, because of that..." What is up with that, exactly?

Really, if you want to be taken seriously as speaking in some Objective, Observing Voice, unlike the partisan people who are swayed by, uh, doing something because they like it, you need far better methods of data collection and collation.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

"Lifestyle"

I'm not sure at the moment if I ever linked this post of Kiya's, on the word "lifestyle" and what it means to call a subculture a "lifestyle." Perhaps I have and my memory is murky.

Still, I wanted to do so "again?" because of something she says that I think is quite relevant to the endless bickering about whether or how BDSM is inherently sexist/creepy/badevil:
And there's a dangerous, nervewracking thing -- the fact that sometimes people hit the lifestyle stuff, with all of its attendant nonsense, and wind up believing that they have to have all the crap additional stuff to be whatever they are -- all the trappings and dancing around and all the other stuff that they'd only be interested in because it legimates their identity. I saw a discussion recently about Goreans, and a number of people who got into that whole subculture with all of its sexist baggage and mediocre prose because it gives them a structure under which it's okay to be kinky. If the only way one thinks it's okay to, say, be a female submissive is to go do Gor, then by all that is good and holy they will do Gor, and even the weird shit will be critical to defending it, because it's the only way that's acceptable to embrace that identity.
This, I think, gets lost in a lot of discussions. Feminists of a certain stripe see Gor, and see the people of all genders who go "We discovered Rebecca truly thrived as slaveslut #46, and so it must be true that Norman was onto something with that 'women are really slaves inside and feminists are ruining women's happiness!' thing," and think that must be what we all think somehow.

When, really, we have to consider what may be going on with Rebecca more complexly than simply "she's a sexist colluder" or even "she's acting out her programming." It's also possible she wanted to submit all her life, and was told by people around her that good women (perhaps even "good feminists") no longer prostrate themselves before men.

If the first group of people she finds who allow her to act like herself and to have sex she enjoys (because, yes, orgasm can be a powerful motivator), tell her "you ran into such trouble because those other people just don't understand what it is to really be a woman," she may agree gratefully with them rather than use her brain.

We, whether "we" means "kinky feminists" or "radical feminists suspicious of BDSM in the first place" might not like this, but the phenomenon is not unique to sexist people. (I think here of discussions I've had with anti-porn feminists wherein it became obvious to me that they hadn't seen any porn, ever, and were content to let Dworkin or their professors tell them what it contained and what that meant.)

If what an anti-SM feminist wants is for Suzy Slavebelly to understand that women are not inherently subservient... would it not likely be more productive to say, rather than "your lifestyle is antifeminist," something like "You're very happy satisfying your 'slave belly,' okay, but what about women for whom such an idea is not only foreign but offensive, upsetting, even triggering? Why see 'slave bellies' as something all women have, rather than something of yours?"

I've never been able to figure out why the aim of such feminists is, apparently, not just telling off the people who universalize creepily but also getting those of us who are perfectly aware we're uncommon to admit that we're making some kind of mistake.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Dworkin

xposted from my LJ

I posted to my LJ the other day about re-reading Dworkin, and I was just thinking that I want to say more about that. As that post mentions, what I chose to re-read was a few snippets available online from Intercourse. (Yes, I realize that re-reading excerpts is not the same as re-reading the book itself. Yes, I did read the whole book, about a year ago. Yes, I freely admit I do not remember it very well, because I found it rambly and off-point often, and yes, I admit that this means I don't know it as well as those who love AD do.)

I wanted to mention that because I think, as someone who is female and a sexual top, I have an interesting perspective on heteronormativity and on the acts often expected in it. I too have noticed the laser-precise cultural focus on penetrative sex involving penises, particularly PIV, as "real," as particularly fulfilling, and as "counting as sex" when other things do not.

(Interestingly, the penis seems to be the important, er, part. I've even had one friend tell me that my penetrating my partners is "anal play," where his penetrating his would count as "anal sex," because he has a flap of flesh I lack. WTFLOLZ.)

So the idea of this book is honestly something I really like. I still remember an old therapist asking me, before I was ever sexually active, "what using dildoes would mean to me." My response, "it seems like it would feel good to be inside somebody," was insufficiently introspective, and I was asked again what it "meant."

I was a marked case, and there was something unsettling or confusing or to be worked through about my desires and feelings. I countered asking if she would ask a male patient why he'd want to penetrate his partners, or if "That would feel good" would count as an answer from him. Sometimes I'm clever. ;)

So the idea that a woman -- a feminist legend -- would examine and question heteronormativity and its focus on PIV is actually awesome to me. Despite not liking Dworkin much most of the time, I remember feeling (once I'd learned that her point was not "all penetrative sex is rape") like I'd probably like the basic idea of Intercourse, because I've had those same questions about the norms and the standards and what they mean all my life. How my mental state and healthiness has been judged has even occasionally hinged on them.

The thing is, I was profoundly disappointed by the book. Take a look at this:

What does it mean to be the person who needs to have this done to her: who needs to be needed as an object; who needs to be entered; who needs to be occupied; who needs to be wanted more than she needs integrity or freedom or equality? If objectification is necessary for intercourse to be possible, what does that mean for the person who needs to be fucked so that she can experience herself as female and who needs to be an object so that she can be fucked?

The brilliance of objectification as a strategy of dominance is that it gets the woman to take the initiative in her own degradation (having less freedom is degrading). The woman herself takes one kind of responsibility absolutely and thus commits herself to her own continuing inferiority: she polices her own body; she internalizes the demands of the dominant class and, in order to be fucked, she constructs her life around meeting those demands. It is the best system of colonialization on earth: she takes on the burden, the responsibility, of her own submission, her own objectification.

Now, I understand and admit (though I suspect some may, even after reading this sentence, say I don't) that my perspective as a female top who usually fucks men is not what she's talking about. I understand that I look at this through odd, nonstandard eyes, and that doing so fundamentally means not responding to the original point in the way intended.

Still, seeing that sentence I bolded, right there at the beginning of a paragraph, introducing its main idea, is familiar and unsettling. "What does it mean to want this?" is the same question I was asked. If asked of men, of lesbian women, of straight women who've rejected heteronormativity radically only to discover that they like to be fucked and miss it when they refuse it for politics -- in short, of anyone but those who blindly follow heteronormativity because they know no better or fear censure for defiance -- this is the therapist's question to me, in reverse.

How is it useful to ask what a bottom's needs "do to her," "mean to her?" What begins as "What does this social expectation mean?" somehow turns into "what have you done to yourself, darling?" In the second paragraph, it's said right out: she takes the initiative in her own degradation.

Oddly enough, I thought feminism was supposed to stress not how women "victimize themselves," but how men have traditionally victimized them and continue to do so.

It's just sad to me, because rather than an exploration of "Where did the social expectation that females are women, that women are hetero bottoms, that being fucked is more satisfying for hetero bottoms than clitoral orgasm, and that this is kind of degrading and weird and makes men 'the boss' come from?" it becomes "How have you been harmed by having a need?"

It's not the desire that's harmful, it's the compulsory scripts.

Why is this so hard for people to get? Why is calling my partner a degraded dupe (male bottoms get this all the time, thanks, and it's not progressive at all, and I'm not sure "I meant to be talking about women, so you're derailing, unicorn" excuses you when you actually worded it as "what does it mean to need this done to you?" and only later add "in order to feel female") okay, suddenly?

Why can't we put the blame on the system, not the people who happen to have orgasms doing the things the system says are cool?