Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Devastatingyet on Asymmetry

Regarding the current blogosphere kerfuffles, here's Devastatingyet on a very common and odd phenomenon: the insistence that both submissive women partnered with men and dominant women partnered with men do BDSM only to please their partners:

Yes, everyone and their kinky mom is posting on this topic. Earlier I posted this comment:

Earlier in this thread, the question was asked, why would anyone want to be a slave?

My boyfriend wants to be a slave in his personal life. Since he hit puberty it is the basis of every sexual thought and feeling he’s had. Who the hell knows why?

He’s also a clear-thinking, sarcastic, independent-minded, regular person who wants to do fulfilling work, having relationships with friends and family, and so on. And like anyone in a relationship, he has to balance those things.

We talk all the damn time about how things are going, how we both feel, how/whether things are impacting his life. And then I go treat him like an object and he lights up with joy and begs me for more. And we keep talking and fixing what isn’t working.

The male-dominant, female-submissive relationships I’m familiar with seem to work the same way.

to which I got this response from Delphyne:

“My boyfriend wants to be a slave in his personal life.”

Luckily for him he’s got a woman on hand to meet his needs then.

Female subs talk about keeping their masters happy, now you are doing the same from the other direction. The one constant is that it is the men who have to always be pleased and appeased by the women in their life.

Anyhow looking at your blog it appears he also enjoys beating you up, so it isn’t the same dynamic of most of the female subs here who have relationships with male sadists. Although just reading through it apparently you have to wait until he wants to switch back, so it appears the control still lies with him.

This highlights what is, for me, one of the most frustrating aspects of this debate: the lack of belief, on the part of radfems, in any possible symmetry between men and women. Some of them believe I am different from the mandoms in that

  1. I am obviously doing this to please Joscelin, while mandoms are not in the game to please their partners. (Indeed, in the same way I am trying to please Jos, submissive women are also trying to please their male masters.)
  2. Joscelin is in control of who dominates whom.
  3. Joscelin and I sometimes switch.

Point #2 is simply wrong. Both times that we switched, I initiated switching. Both times, we explicitly agreed that either of us could initiate switching back (with the understanding that the other would agree) for any reason. One time, he initiated the switching back, and the second time it was me.

Naturally, Jos could end the d/s part of our relationship. He could withdraw his consent from my domination of him. I could end it as well. I’m comfortable saying that this is true in all healthy relationships (d/s or otherwise).

Point #1 - that I am in this to please Jos - I doubt is more true for me than it is for your average mandom. Because of our fucked-up patriarchal culture, it may be true that there are more femdoms doing it to please men than there are mandoms doing it to please women. Women are trained by the culture to please men, and I think men are often more in touch with their own sexualities. However, that “average” difference doesn’t mean that, in any given relationship, it’s the man dragging the woman along. I certainly know submissive women who want more dominance from their partners, seek it out, feel bad about being pushy, and wonder whether certain things are done merely to please them. (I don’t know many mandoms, so I can’t really comment about their experiences, but I’m sure many are pretty much like me - kinky, sadistic, happy to be in control, and also pretty well motivated to please their partners.)

Point #3 is…strange. I’m not sure which combinations of dominant/submissive male/female are most likely to be switches. I know plenty of both sexes. For a lot of us, kink is kink, and it’s hot (if not to the same exact degree) from both sides. I know other men and women who don’t switch.

You simply can’t make yourself heard in this conversation. If a mandom says he pleases his partner with dominance, or a submissive woman says she’s pleased by her partner, then they’re lying or the woman is confused, or in denial, or experiencing “Stockholm Syndrome.” (I guess those female submissives who intentionally seek out d/s relationships do so because they’re confused, and then they get into these horrible abusive relationships, and then they learn to like them because of Stockholm Syndrome. Kind of complicated compared to the idea that they just seek out what they want and then get it, isn’t it? But whatever.) If I say, “This is all right [not abusive] because my partner likes it and thrives on it,” then it’s just a sign that I’m doing it all for him.

I understand that not all radical feminists believe this sort of thing, but... is it any wonder I'm generally wary of people who use the label? It seems these folks are wedded with all their hearts and souls to the idea that women cannot have their own preferences and identities at all.

I understand -- and agree with to a point -- the idea that oppression can invidiously affect some of our preferences and choices. But I really don't get this idea that therefore we apparently have none (or at least, have none until feminism has dictated them to us.)

What does accepting such a theory get us? How does it help us, materially, in the really real world not made of pixels, to further the interests of women as a class?

Who does it liberate?

I'm still waiting for an answer on that one. Apparently if you're not already in the club you're too stupid to understand the clear and obvious way this seriously furthers feminist aims in the real world.

11 comments:

Laura said...

*applauds hugely*

This clever catch-22 whereby the woman is always doing it for the man and the man always in it for himself, no matter who's on top, drives me up the wall. Woman as eternal victim right there. By this logic we might as well give up any desire of liberating women and let patriarchy carry on unabated, because women are completely incapable of making choices and decisions independent of it. Which is clearly bollocks.

Trinity said...

"This clever catch-22 whereby the woman is always doing it for the man and the man always in it for himself, no matter who's on top, drives me up the wall."

You just said it all in one sentence.

I feel... verbose.

SnowdropExplodes said...

The weird bit for me is that it can't really be about "she's just doing it to please him", because then it wouldn't be any different from any other type of sexual expression, and there wouldn't be this whole brouhaha over BDSM specifically.

Which leads to the conclusion that there's something special about a power exchange relationship that is "wrong", and which means that it can't be a free choice by a woman (whether she's top or bottom).

And what's special about power exchange? Power!

So there seems to be an underlying assumption that women neither give up power willingly, nor willingly assume power.

I'm too tired to try to follow that logic and see where it leads (or where it came from) but it does leave me puzzling a bit about radfem assumptions about the "nature" of women (especially as gender is supposedly completely socially constructed and all)

Gaina said...

If wanting to make your partner happy (be they male or female, vanilla or kinky) is wrong, then love itself must be wrong....and THAT is a world I most certainly do not wish to live in.

Zula said...

I certainly know submissive women who want more dominance from their partners, seek it out, feel bad about being pushy, and wonder whether certain things are done merely to please them.

*raises hand*

In fact, I must admit have dragged Master along, relationship-wise, in the past. He pointed it out to me, we discussed how to change the situation so we both were happy, and did it. You know, like any reasonably healthy relationship.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

So there seems to be an underlying assumption that women neither give up power willingly, nor willingly assume power.

I'm too tired to try to follow that logic and see where it leads (or where it came from) but it does leave me puzzling a bit about radfem assumptions about the "nature" of women (especially as gender is supposedly completely socially constructed and all)


Betcha it relates somehow to the "women are naturally egalitarian community builders, men are naturally drawn to conflict and heirarchy" ev-psych bullshit.

Trinity said...

"Betcha it relates somehow to the "women are naturally egalitarian community builders, men are naturally drawn to conflict and heirarchy" ev-psych bullshit."

That's what I always figured too, but then there's all the "we're not gender essentialists! YOU ARE! NYAH!"

:-P

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Don't forget, "Women are peaceful and communitation, so SHUT UP YOU DEVIANT BITCH."

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