«

»

Jan 26 2006

In Which The Author Pronounces On A Popular Hobby

Imagine my surprise when a recent post in which I waxed autobiographical about my former life as a rock star devolved, in the comments, into a discussion on BDSM.

I kid, I kid! I wasn’t really surprised. All posts on feminist blogs eventually devolve into discussions on BDSM. There’s a Usenet term for this phenomenon. It’s called Geekwad’s Law.

Although I remain somewhat unclear as to what always and without fail prompts people to espouse the hotsy-totsyness of their nerdy whippy-leather fucking games whenever I type the word “sex” in a blog post, and although I am admittedly without much in the way of my own cunt-whipping credentials, my inner culture critic is moved to remark—all patriarchy-blaming aside— that sadism strikes me (ha! ha-ha!) as a rather pedestrian hobby. I further suggest that BDSM, like most counterculture “scenes,” is perhaps overly self-congratulatory on its supposed transgressivitude, since its constituents clearly demand the most banal ritual conformity, to a degree that possibly surpasses even that of junior high school. Which school, as you know, wrote the book on banal ritual conformity.

BDSM reminds me, among other things, of Dungeons & Dragons, and the dog show circuit, and those dudes in the park with swords and chain mail, and indie rock musicians, and guys who wear Star Trek uniforms to work, and people who deconstruct “American Idol” episodes in internet forums, and toddler beauty pageants. Except that BDSM probably involves a bit more stylized rape than most of those.

Am I mocking your “lifestyle”? I sure am! Although this should come as no surprise to even the casual reader, since I have made it no secret that the founding principle of I Blame The Patriarchy is opposition to all dominance models in the social order.

Whether or not it is true of your particular sexyclub, there can be no doubt that a lifestyle of ritualized dominance and submission carries with it a high risk of true abuse; few people exist in the world who are capable of finessing such a thing into the art form its proponents believe it to be. I know this because few people exist in the world who are capable of finessing anything into art, and there is little evidence to suggest that a scene based on so inane a pursuit as orgasm should be any different.

110 comments

4 pings

  1. tisha

    Well, the term “sex-positive” was posted, and people read into it what they could . . . obviously it means different things to different people!

    At first, I figured, it is precicely because hetero-sex AND the BDSM world offer such a caricature images of Patriarchy (dom man/sub woman,man on top/woman on bottom) that this thread couldn’t HELP but devolve this way. HOWEVER, at another site, the “sex-positive” topic has devolved to marxism and socialism and the commodification of so-called “women’s work” so there is no TELLING how world-wide internet debates with near-strangers will devolve.

    I suppose folks just write about what they know . . .

  2. Les

    I think BDSM falls into the whatever-people-do-in-private-behind-closed-doors category of things that are their own business. At least, I hope so. Otherwise, I mostly don’t want to hear about people’s sex lives.

    The thing about BDSM is that it gets people off by being transgressive, etc. Therefore, because it is so grounded in culture and shame and whatnot, it’s definitely a reflection of the culture at large. Should people deconstruct their sex lives? I dunno, maybe. Some people want to go blindly in pursuit of orgasms, which is fine as I long as I don’t have to hear about it.

    The potential for abuse exists in every relationship, as does the potential to play out patriarchal sex roles. As long as everybody’s having fun, then I don’t have a problem with other people doing bondage.

    If you want to stamp out kinky sex, just raise your children without any sort of guilt or shame regarding sex. They’ll be boringly vanilla, much to the frustration of their ex-catholic partners.

  3. Dim Undercellar

    Thank you! You have an amazing talent of summing up an issue with a few pointed paragraphs. You are among my few heroes!

  4. Dim Undercellar

    “Should people deconstruct their sex lives?”

    Absolutely! Because, dude, the way one seeks closeness with an intimate partner is pretty telling about onsself! For example: Does “little girl” roleplaying get a specific man off? Why? Wouldn’t that mean hr’d like to actually have sex with little girls? I mean, we don’t get off on ideas we secretly hate, do we? Wouldn’t that make him a threat to little girls, after years of desensitization to the inherent wrongness of the idea through roleplay/practice?

    It seems kind of important to deconstruct our sex lives, ESPECIALLY men, since they’re the ones, primarily, who are inflicting their sex lives on women.

  5. BitingBeaver

    Twisty, you rock, you roll, and the words that spill from your lips are pure gold.

    Excellent post, per usual.

    Oh and here is an excellent, most enlightening use of the term ‘vanilla’ which I’m currently having a discussion of over at my own site.

  6. Piig

    Terrific post, Twisty. If only I had an ounce of your wit and humor when casting blame on patriarchy….

  7. Liz

    I confess, i was seriously disappointed that the discussion didn’t devolve into a massive circlejerk over your Les Pauls. I so wanted to go there.

    Now I have to go change clothes because “Geekwad’s Law” made me wet my pants. Always fun to start the morning over at Chez Twisty!

  8. AndiF

    Thanks for another great post.

    The hurdle I have with BDSM is that if I think that harming or humiliating another person is wrong, how does it become right just because the person being harmed has agreed to it? If a woman accepts being beaten by her husband as right because of her religious beliefs, does that make it okay? If a woman accepts FGM because she want to be marriageable, is FGM okay? BDSM folk talk a lot about “consent” but I’ve not seen much time explanation of how they identify that a person is consenting. Is anything that isn’t clearly overt coercion consent?

  9. Kaka Mak

    Liz–I so would have jumped in on that circle jerk. And I’ve never even touched a Les Paul–just keep getting stuck with Some Guy’s Old Strat. Thanks for the laugh!

    And I agree with the above: Twisty rocks hard. Dungeons and Dragons. Heh heh heh. The few times I dabbled in BDSM I felt ridiculous. I guess I got off easy–but–I felt RIDICULOUS I TELL YOU! Ick.

  10. laughingmuse

    Another day, another excellent post that spoke to me as if I were the person you are writing for, Twisty.

    Merci beaucoup.

  11. LCGillies

    touche

  12. norbizness

    I don’t like that shit in my Sweet and Sour Chicken either.

  13. Jodie

    I had never made the connection between BDSM and Dungeons and Dragons before. This actually explains A LOT about my exhusband.

  14. Jezebella

    D&D, SCA, BDSM, fetishists: Sometimes I wonder if all of these people have to play make-believe to enjoy sex because they’re embarrassed or guilty about enjoying sex at all. Is it like they’re someone *else* when they’re enjoying the sex? Sigh. It seems kind of sad, when all you really need to get off is a human body or, preferably, two.

    It seems like it must be really boring to have to enact the same little role-playing scenario, with the same shoes and the same sheets and the same outfits, over and over and over, to get off. What if the dog chews up your favorite dildo and the company has discontinued it? It seems awfully limiting to me to have to get out the accoutrements every time you want to have sex.

  15. Chris Clarke

    Fellow blamers, help a vanilla hetboy out here, if you will.

    I hear the occasional intelligent woman defending BDSM, and I’m generally a laissez-faire kinda guy, and yet such defenses usually make me think of conversations I had with a Close Woman Relative about the husband that kept beating the crap out of her, and how he was really trying to change and I Just Didn’t Know Him The Way She Did, and if anything the BDSM defenses strike me as more hermetically sealed against criticism than the denial of my Close Woman Relative, due to the veneer of consent.

    My question: am I wrong and condescending, or just wrong?

    - Perplexed in Pinole

  16. Kaka Mak

    Just re-read my comment: I meant I “got off easy” as in I didn’t suffer any humiliation or pain–not that my dabblings brought me easy orgasms. Sheesh!

  17. Lis Riba

    Chris, Perplexed in Pinole’s analogy only makes sense to me if you assume that women are always invariably on the bottom in BDSM.

    But because I know many male bottoms, female tops, switches of both genders, same-sex couples, and totally nongendered BDSM scenes (usually SM without the DS, focused on giving/receiving sensation rather than roles), I don’t quite see the comparison you’re making.

  18. Chris Clarke

    Chris, Perplexed in Pinole’s analogy only makes sense to me if you assume that women are always invariably on the bottom in BDSM.

    I don’t. Neither do I assume that women are always the recipients of male violence in relationships, though that is the way to bet. I know not a few men who’ve been the victims of violence from their women partners, and gay-lesbian couples where battering is an issue.

  19. Lis Riba

    Then why do you make the point of raising this question when a woman defends BDSM, rather than of all advocates of BDSM?

    [I'm not attacking you, just pointing out what caught my eye about the original comment.]

  20. Chris Clarke

    Because that’s the way to bet.

  21. Laura

    Sorry Twisty!

    For the record, I would have been happy to go down the rock music side too. oh hang on, having arguments about feminism and lifestyle choices, and then talking about indy music – all we need is dancing and alcohol, and it’s my favorite evening out. (I am afraid I have not yet left behind the tutu and big boots thing… possibly the patriarchy’s fault…)

    As for the BDSM discussion, I think I have contributed as much as I’m gonna for a bit. Thanks for a respectful and thoughtful discussion though. I was a bit nervous wading in, I have only commented a few times on blogs and I am new to it.

  22. Crys T

    Twisty, yet again, you have managed to put into words the thoughts I’ve long had on a particular subject yet could never manage to form into a coherent explanation.

    Have I told you lately that I love you?

    Cos I do.

  23. Twisty

    From my lengthy career as a whatever it is that I am, one absolute truth has emerged: whenever you find yourself saying to those of your concerned friends and relatives who aren’t wearing rose-colored glasses, “but you just don’t know him/her like I do,” it’s time to run screaming from the relatioship in question. I have yet to observe an exception to this rule.

  24. Dr. Virago

    I further suggest that BDSM, like most counterculture “scenes,” is perhaps overly self-congratulatory on its supposed transgressivitude, since its constituents clearly demand the most banal ritual conformity, to a degree that possibly surpasses even that of junior high school. Which school, as you know, wrote the book on banal ritual conformity.

    Yes! Yes yes yes! Thank you for that insight, Twisty. I’ve always suspected that as well.

  25. Hattie

    My 95 year old mother in law loves American Idol. She loves the idea of seeing those nice young people starting out on their careers. How cool is that?

  26. Mark Early

    Over at the Modernist, you’ll find a similar article by Edgar Barrington discussing the idea of subcultures. An excerpt:

    “Subcultures are great. You gotta get tattoos while you’re still sure you’ll like whatever you’re into right now for the rest of your life. That 40 year old goth guy who still comes to all the parties? He’s cool right? He sure didn’t sell out.

    Subcultures are helplessly tied to youth. It’s fairly obvious, but the need to experiment with and loudly proclaim alliegence to various identites usually dies down by the time you’ve actually found your own.”

    http://www.themodernist.com/terminal4/Barrington02-01.html (Warning! If you poke around further on the website, you’ll find them to be fairly ensconced in the patriarchy.)

    What does this say about BSDM? I guess that I feel the proponents of any lifestyle where the participants feel that they are unique and have to defend it by saying that the outside just doesn’t understand has not taken it upon themselves yet to truly find their own identity.

    You can guess how many conversations I’ve had about not understanding the whole St. Louis retro-garage scene.

  27. Carol

    So very sad. I had to go to Wikipedia to find out what BDSM is.

  28. the bewilderness

    Yes, yes, yes to the anachronism acting troops being all SM and D&D. I have always wondered if it really isn’t all about playing dress up and having fun with your friends in a way that girls have always done and boys have always wanted to.
    By the time we survive childhood in this patriarchy laden society it’s no surprise we dont know who we are, what we want, or how to get it. That might be why they fall back on the junior high default position of carefully structured self contained groups.

  29. Twisty

    Ha! By “fairly ensconced in the patriarchy” Mark means “it’s a porn site featuring naked scenester chicks draped on ‘iconic furniture’.”

    Not all subcultures are tied to youth, though. Like the dog show subculture. Did you see “Best In Show”? That was no exaggeration. Dog people are among the world’s nutjobbiest, and they’re mostly middle-aged women.

  30. Hattie

    Ah, yes, dog people. There’s the pit bull set, the Rottweiler set, the poodle set, the golden retriever set…

  31. Mark Early

    To be fair to them, I think they are trying to be more than a porn site. But that’s just as fine an arguement as telling people that there are some truly good, thought-provoking articles in Playboy.

  32. Hissy Cat

    Thank you, Twistress! May I have another?

  33. Dim Undercellar

    BDSM, as a ‘scene’, didn’t seem to be much about youth either when I was involved. I didn’t mention it because it didn’t seem relevant, but I was invariably the youngest person at any gathering I ever attended, my college group excluded. And when I say “youngest person”, I mean by upwards of fifteen or twenty years.

    Maybe lately it’s become a new outlet for bored goths/vampires in their late teens, but at the time, AFAIK, we were the only college group (or even group with college-age people) with anything resembling a robust and stable membership, within three states in any direction.

    The median age of the local big city group, and the regional REALLYbig city group, was about 40. Next to myself and my small college org, the youngest person I met was over 35.

    …not sure if that contributes any insight to the discussion or not….

  34. frippy

    I further suggest that BDSM, like most counterculture “scenes,” is perhaps overly self-congratulatory on its supposed transgressivitude, since its constituents clearly demand the most banal ritual conformity, to a degree that possibly surpasses even that of junior high school.

    This has been my sentiment for years — although at the same time while priding themselves on being transgressive, I have met the occasional BDSM enthusiast who tries to suggest people like me are a bit repressed just because I don’t like sex to hurt. So I have seen a tendency to both brag about how much they freak out the normals while at the same time attempting to stake an interest in BDSM as extremely healthy and natural, perhaps even more so than “vanilla” sex.

    And if people think every BDSM relationship ends in the bedroom or outfitted basement upon utterance of the safe word, they should get bored in the middle of the night and browse through the Livejournals of some BDSM people, as I have done. You will see that even in text and outside the bedroom, women still defer to their capital-m, male Masters — the extent to which some let their Masters control them in non-sexual situations and the amount of emotional abuse they endure in the name of being true to their dom-sub relationship (or true to the scene) is appalling. Maybe all those women in abusive relationships should put a positive spin on their situation — it’s not a fucked-up relationship with an abusive asshole, it’s a sexy hot Lifestyle! Problem solved! Time for pie!

  35. Dim Undercellar

    My fingers are faster than my brain.

    The median age was about 45, not 40.

  36. Burrow

    Yes, yes, YES! Glad to see that I’m not alone in my character associations. I would have to add SCA, because all the SCA people I’ve met are all into D&D, etc, so it wouldn’t surprise me that they were into BDSM. Although I also think that there are many people out there who for whatever reason believe that their sex life is not “interesting enough” that fall into these scenes as well.

    And I would like to see a whole lot of deconstructing of people’s sex lives. As with what Dim said before, the thing that creeps me out most lately is that guys seem to think that refering to themselves as “daddy” is sexy. When the hell did incest/paedophilia become sexy? Ew.

  37. NancyMc


    Then why do you make the point of raising this question when a woman defends BDSM, rather than of all advocates of BDSM?

    [I’m not attacking you, just pointing out what caught my eye about the original comment.]

    The problem here is that Chris Clark is equating BDSM with abusive relationships. But although there are some surface similarities, they’re actually quite different.

    Twisty makes an interesting point:

    …few people exist in the world who are capable of finessing anything into art, and there is little evidence to suggest that a scene based on so inane a pursuit as orgasm should be any different.

    I think this sums up the essential difference between abusive relationships and BDSM – BDSM is about the pursuit of orgasm – and stylized abuse is a means to that end.

    An abusive relationship is about the pursuit of controlling another person, continuously with no safe word allowed.

    I’m not into the BDSM scene, but I had a friend who earned money as a dominatrix, and all parties were aware that it was make-believe at all times. Of course my friend was being paid, and if you hurt the client in a way he didn’t like, you might have a problem getting paid.

    They were being paid to be humiliated. One thing my friend’s clients liked was to shit and then have my friend give them a grade on the results.

    That’s about as far from sexy as I can possibly imagine. But wealthy men paid good money for it. Human sexuality is really fucking weird. And in this case, a complete waste of time and money IMO. How much more efficient to just fantasize something, masturbate and be done with it. I agree that a hobby in pursuit of orgasm is inane.

    But then I think that time spent on thinking about fashion and fashion designers is a waste of time. I’d rather spend an hour at a BDSM club (watching, not participating) than an hour at a fashion show (also watching, not participating.)

    And NASCAR is pretty useless too IMO.

  38. Kerlyssa

    Hey, Playboy has bought many a short, non-porn story from some of the late greats of scifi. Which always made me wonder if playboy, actually, *gasp* DID have articles… just not enough to pick one up for research. Always short on either cash or courage.

    And BDSM is not comparable to the goth scene- last I checked, sexual kinks don’t come in trial versions. While dominance and role playing games are going to be intimately tied up in the patriarchal culture that spawns the participants, someone who really gets off on them isn’t going to stop getting off on them regardless of the guilt or annoyance or whatever they feel.

    Part of the fuzziness around BDSM, I’ve thought, is that it’s not treated like a kink. There’s a bit of ‘everyone likes it rough sometimes’ attitude(ok, more than a bit) which I think is very telling of just how integral dominance and strict gender roles are in our society, that what is a kink only truly held by some people bleeds out into the general sex culture- you don’t see the same thing happening with shoe fetishists.

  39. Chris Clarke

    The problem here is that Chris Clark[e] is equating BDSM with abusive relationships.

    Not by any definition of the word “equating” I use.

  40. NancyMc

    that what is a kink only truly held by some people bleeds out into the general sex culture- you don’t see the same thing happening with shoe fetishists.

    Did yah catch the high-heel thread here a week or so ago?

    I think that shoe fetishism is actually MORE out of the closet (so to speak) and mainstream than BDSM. Since the only high-heel that’s comfortable to wear is heinously expensive, clearly wearing high heels are about something besides walking around.

    Of course if somebody wants to wear high heels, that’s their choice. Just like BDSM.

  41. Chris Clarke

    My last sounded more combative than I intended. I meant merely to observe a similarity in the tropes by which both practices are defended., not to equatre the practices. I readily plead ignorance as to the innate nature of BDSM.

    And Both Lis and Nancy raise good points.

  42. NancyMc

    OK, Chris, maybe I misread. Here’s what you said:

    hear the occasional intelligent woman defending BDSM, and I’m generally a laissez-faire kinda guy, and yet such defenses usually make me think of conversations I had with a Close Woman Relative about the husband that kept beating the crap out of her, and how he was really trying to change and I Just Didn’t Know Him The Way She Did, and if anything the BDSM defenses strike me as more hermetically sealed against criticism than the denial of my Close Woman Relative, due to the veneer of consent.

    You were making a comparison between two things, BDSM and abusive relationships, and their relative criticism sealage (probably not a real word, but anyway…) and that BDSM had a greater level of sealage, due to the “veneer of consent.” – which BTW, you don’t think it’s actual consent?

    Based on that, you could just be comparing two things and their level of criticism sealage.

    But your response (“because that’s the way to bet”) to Lis Riba’s question (“why do you make the point of raising this question when a woman defends BDSM, rather than of all advocates of BDSM?”) made me think otherwise.

  43. kathy a

    well, this has been educational. twisty’s comparisons to junior high, dog groupies, and those creative anachronism folks hit a chord. i kind of like dress-up and pretend for certain occasions [my own wedding] and plays [used to do costumes] and such….

    chris hit another point, the one more important to me. i despise behavior that demeans humans, and tend not to even take jokes about it well. what’s so fun about pretend abuse?

    a relative is at this moment declining to leave a battering relationship — she knows that her son seeing mom tossed against a wall isn’t good, but hopes mr. terrific will get nicer through counseling, and that he won’t choke her again in the meantime. i was physically and emotionally abused within my family; even in the safer sphere of work life, i’ve been hit on by the boss, grabbed by strangers, been written off intellectually time and again just for being a girl. i’ve been known to stop the car when a kid’s friend in the back seat started in on gay jokes. real life serves up enough bad news, don’t you think?

    live and let live, but debasement is not my cup of tea.

  44. Ain't nobody's "bottom"

    Mock ‘em, Twisty. Give ‘em hell.

    I was active and very prominent in the BDSM scene in a large city in Twisty’s home state for 7 years, and I’ll be damned if everything she said isn’t dead on.

    My only complaint is that she wasn’t hard enough on the “scene.”

    The BDSM scene is composed of two different types of people, whether they believe it of themselves or not: abuse victims (you’re not a suvivor until you stop reenacting the abuse and act like a healthy person), and the people who selfishly exploit them to get their rocks off. Sometimes, perhaps, you find a person who crosses over into the other roles periodically; just like a few child sexual abuse survivors grow up to be perpetrators.

    Oh, and the thing BDSM proponents say about how you never can really leave the lifestyle because you won’t be able to resist coming back? Complete and utter bullshit.

    Almost four years and counting, baby. Watch me not go back.

  45. Casual Reader

    Am I mocking your “lifestyle”? I sure am! Although this should come as no surprise to even the casual reader, since I have made it no secret that the founding principle of I Blame The Patriarchy is opposition to all dominance models in the social order.

    Does mocking someone’s lifestyle not count as dominance?

  46. Dim Undercellar

    I’m confused how tying up and beating a woman, while she screams and says “no”, cannot possibly be equated with abuse.

  47. tisha

    NancyMc . . . shoe fetishism . . . out of the closet . . .

    HAHAHAHAHAH!!!! more material for my standup routine.

  48. octopod

    La Twisty, you are amazing. Equating BDSM with LARP – a stroke of genius. Once again, you manage to put into words what I’ve always vaguely thought. BDSM people are always so *earnest* about it, too, again reminding one forciby of Trekkies.

    I must, however, try and put in a good word for D&D, which is a thoroughly entertaining game and good practice for the stage, at least when not taken too seriously.

  49. wolfa

    I would think — from what friends have told me — that the operative difference between the two is that in (most) BDSM is that there is a word that *means* no, though it can sound like something else (red, Shakespeare), and that when this word is spoken, the person will stop, while in abuse, there is no such word. (I know there is safeword-free BDSM; I have no comment on that.)

  50. Aero

    I have to say, I agree with you, Twisty, when it comes to who tend to be the most visible practitioners of BDSM. The connection between D&Ders, LARPers and BDSMers is not a hard one to make.

    I don’t quite feel like taking up the Intelligent-Woman-Defending-BDSM role, but I do have to say that there are people out there whose main reason for doing BDSM is not the supposed transgressiveness of it. Not everyone is a D&Der, LARPer, and/or an I-was-uncool-in-highschool-so-now-I’ll-subvert-the-dominant-paradigm-with-kink person.

    Many of the commenters need to remember that making assumptions about something you know nothing about is not an intelligent thing to do. Especially the comments about doubting the consensuality of a BDSM scene. Hell, that’s why I like kinky sex; because there is so much more communication going on before, during, and after than usual vanilla sex.

    Don’t assume that all BDSMers do the same things in their sex lives and have the same beliefs about sex and relationships. Twisty, you talk about BDSM proponents calling it an artform. Well, since there are no High Lords of BDSM brainwashing new recruits, there are a lot of different opinions about the “artiness” of it. Myself, I do it for the fun of it. I like the amount of giggling and smiling that can occur in a good scene with a familiar, loving partner.

    And last I checked, sex is supposed to be fun. The playful nature of BDSM (yes! really!) is lots of fun. That includes role playing. I just don’t see what’s so scoffable about that.

    But! Twisty is very up front about the purpose of this blog. I just think that a complete lack of all dominance structures in society is both impossible to achieve and a vision of dullness.

    When it comes down to it, though, I understand why people have these images of BDSM because that *is* the popular image of it- losers in leather. But then, it’s rather ignorant to so fully cling to the false popular image.

    Damnit, I guess I did grab that role and run with it.

  51. wabewawa

    Ha! By “fairly ensconced in the patriarchy” Mark means “it’s a porn site featuring naked scenester chicks draped on ‘iconic furniture’.”

    Which feature interestingly is entitled “Furniture and Naked _People_” (emphasis mine) … though the pics are of women only.

    I dunno. Maybe I should feel heartened that one of the appellations for the generic human (i.e., people, person, etc.) that usually seem to imply only or mainly male signifies just the opposite this time? Naaaah…..

  52. Violet Socks

    I’ve never understood how anyone can take him/herself seriously while wearing a studded dog collar. If I had to prance about in one of those outfits, sex would be impossible because I would never stop laughing.

  53. Twisty

    Does mocking someone’s lifestyle not count as dominance?

    It counts as critique. It’s a minority opinion, not social policy.

    (In mocking dog people, Trekkies, and indie rockers, it counts as endearingly self-depracating humor.)

  54. Rad Geek

    Twisty wins at contemptuous invective!

    Les: The thing about BDSM is that it gets people off by being transgressive, etc.

    I believe that part of the point is that BSDM isn’t. It’s practitioners just really, really want you to believe that it is.

    Aero: Many of the commenters need to remember that making assumptions about something you know nothing about is not an intelligent thing to do. Especially the comments about doubting the consensuality of a BDSM scene. Hell, that’s why I like kinky sex; because there is so much more communication going on before, during, and after than usual vanilla sex.

    More than one commenter (Dim Undercellar, in particular) is speaking from personal experience in the BDSM “scene.”

    Noting this in passing, I move on to ask: if one of the benefits of “kinky” sex is supposed to be the greater level of communication, what’s to stop you from communicating with your partner before, during, and after so-called “vanilla” sex? It seems like the alleged benefit here is not all that closely connected with BDSM and other forms of “kink.” So if that’s what it is that gets you off, why the specific draw to fetishes that have nothing essentially to do with it? (N.B.: it’s not as if anti-BDSM radical feminists haven’t criticized the attitudes that get brought into the bedroom with so-called “vanilla sex”, for involving, among other things, too little in the way of communication and clear boundaries. Andrea Dworkin wrote a whole book on the subject, entitled Intercourse, just to take one example.)

  55. Dollop

    Mark Early: “I guess that I feel the proponents of any lifestyle where the participants feel that they are unique and have to defend it by saying that the outside just doesn’t understand has not taken it upon themselves yet to truly find their own identity.”

    So, participants in *any* lifestyle which is widely disapproved of should just assimilate?
    I hope I’m misreading you, because that attitude seems apppallingly bigoted.

  56. BritGirlSF

    I suppose I may as well throw my hat in the ring as the token “intelligent woman defending BSDM”. My bona fides – I used to be involved in the scene in my late teens and early twenties. I haven’t been involved for almost 10 years now.
    I’m not sure what kind of wierd group some of the people here were involved in, but I’ve never felt safer from rape or abuse or less likely to have my wishes disgregarded than within the BSDM community. Within the community that I was involved with in London the idea that someone might actually try to harm any of the other participants or do anything against their wishes was anathema. New people coming in, especially men, were typically met with a “prove that you’re not an asshole before we agree to let you participate” attitude. Anyone acting out of line was asked to leave. Also, it occurs to me that I don’t actually know a single straight female sub. All the subs I know are either men or lesbians. That could just be a birds of a feather flock together thing, but I’m not convinced that it’s particularly atypical. In my experience most men who describe themselves as doms are actually just creepy assholes who think that getting involved in the scene is an easy way to get laid. They usually get told to take a hike pretty quickly, and most clubs make an effort to screen them out.
    I think a lot of people are failing to distunguish between the actual BSDM scene and the facsimile of it produced by the porn industry. The porn version invariably features female subs in skimpy clothing and the same scenarios played out over and over again – it’s really very boring. The actual scene is a lot more playful and a lot less generic. A lot of BSDM people, probably the majority, are pretty much just into playing dress-up. There is a small hardcore group who want to live in their roles 24/7, and they are generally regarded by everyone else as a bit wierd, kind of like the difference between someone who happens to watch Star Trek occasionally and someone who learns to speak Klingon and dresses up for conventions.
    The whole question of how you determine consent as stated here is so jaw-droppingly ignorant that I’m reluctant to even wade into it. There’s this thing called talking, you see, that people who are having any kind of sex really should be doing. And it’s pretty damn easy to tell the difference between someone saying “oh no Brer Rabbit, please don’t throw me in the briar patch” and someone who is genuinely not happy. Anyone who can’t tell the difference shouldn’t be having any kind of sex, and is a danger to others no matter how vanilla their preferences may be. The fact that some people (usually men) are unwilling and/or unable to tune in to what their partners want and what they don’t want is endemic in our society, as all good patriarchy-blamers should know. It has very little to do with BSDM.
    I’m genuinely puzzled by the frequency with which I hear people claim that BSDM is about women being abused. A woman is far safer from rape in a BSDM club than in a regular bar. It’s not the leather and chains folks who we should be scared of, it’s the drunk frat boys with a sense of entitlement and zero communication skills. Those guys are the actual enemy, and I think we’re forgetting that.
    Honestly, I think that part of the problem is that the porn industry loves to use BSDM themes, and that gives people a distorted picture of what it’s really about. In my experience it was always a playful thing – silly at times, absurd at others, but certainly never scary,dangerous or abusive. I suppose it’s possible that I just really lucked out in terms of the people that I got involved with, but I’ve heard the same thing from too many other people to think that my experience is unique.

  57. BritGirlSF

    Addendum – about the whole issue of pain, I think that some people are just wired to associate pain with pleasure. Those people are always going to seek out and find others with the same preferences. I think the problem comes in when some people (usually men, always assholes) attempt to convince other people (usually women) who are not in fact wired that way to participate in BSDM-type activities anyway. No-one should be doing anything sexually that they don’t actually enjoy. I’m not at all sure why people assume that this has anything to do with consensual BSDM. Anyone who tries to force someone else to do something sexual that they don’t actually want to do isn’t a person who’s into BSDM, they’re just an abusive asshole.

  58. Burrow

    I too have problems with the idea that there is not communication during “vanilla” sex, because if there isn’t a lot of communication, I think that you’re doing it wrong! I’ve been working on a new workshop (due to extreme interest) on “sexy consensual talk” because it’s much sexier to ask if you can get someone off then it is to shove your hand down their pants!

  59. Indri

    Aero made my point, and in far fewer words than I would have. I’m struck by how disparagingly people are talking about something about which they know nothing (Rad Geek, I only counted two commenters who noted their personal experience, and I didn’t take Dim Undercellar’s comments to be all that anti-BDsM, truthfully). What happens when we talk about other things of which we don’t have personal experience (like, oh, lesbian or gay or hetero sex, according to your tastes) that way?

    It’s a much, much, bigger and more subtle picture than I think folks realize. But BDsM does not automatically translate as guilty, sick, ashamed, jaded, bored, unable to take pleasure in the “normal” healthy ways. The players I know are smart, creative, subtle, funny, and fun. They care about having a good (and not always sexual) time with their playmates; they are responsible, respectful, and alert.

    It’s not all what you see on “CSI” or in movies with serial killers who have to torture people to get off, and then wear their skins or something. Jeez louise. And while sure, there’s some overlap with the D&D/SCA/RenFest crowd, there are a lot of kinky people who don’t own a single pair of leather pants or historical garb.

  60. belledame222

    >so inane a pursuit as orgasm

    Orgasms: not inane. Not even slightly.

    BDSM can be about a lot of things. It can act as a kind of erotic psychodrama. It can be a sheer adrenaline high. (there are a lot of different “highs,” or “headspaces,” some of which have nothing to do with power dynamics. And some do, of course). Some people are attracted to the theatrical aspect, D&D if you like, yes. (Of course some people make better theatre than others; but then again, party/club circuit aside, this isn’t really about how it appears to an audience). For some people it’s a way of accessing the spiritual, even as vanilla sex can be. (“Radical Ecstasy” by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy talks about this well). For some of us female tops in particular, it’s a way of harnessing power.

    Ultimately, though, it’s about getting off. And while I think it’s useful to really look at what turns us on, and why, I really do balk at the suggestion that because it’s sexual, it’s frivolous.

  61. Burrow

    Indri:
    Some people may not feel comfortable discussing their past with BDSM. I worked as a dom and have to agree with most of the critiques of BDSM that people have listed. I personally was fed up/disgusted with it 13 years ago and still am.

  62. Lis Riba

    Noting this in passing, I move on to ask: if one of the benefits of “kinky” sex is supposed to be the greater level of communication, what’s to stop you from communicating with your partner before, during, and after so-called “vanilla” sex?

    I think people may be missing the cause-and-effect.

    Part of the reason there’s so much more communication regarding BDSM scenes and so much more emphasis on active consent is because BDSM can so easily be misread or misinterpreted as (or possibly even slide into) abuse. Therefore, it’s in the participants’ self-interest to be extremely explicit about what they’re okay with and what they consent to and that everything be okay, so that there can be no misunderstanding. “This kind of touch is okay, that kind isn’t. Saying foo means stop everything this minute.” I think that kind of negotiation started as a form of self-defense out of (quite legitimate) fear of prosecution.

    Because the actions taken in so-called vanilla sex are not seen as inherently abusive by mainstream society, participants don’t feel the same need for negotiation and explicit consent. It’s quite easy for people in the heat of the moment to slide from first to third, because there aren’t as many risks if somebody goes too far and the other objects.
    Amp has a thread about women who don’t recognize when they’re being raped, and even when women are pushed past the point of consent, date rape is extremely difficult to prosecute. This gives the pushier party less cause for concern and less reason to take precautions than in BDSM situations.

    I *wish* more people would apply the standards of communication and consent that I’ve seen in the BDSM scene to other facets of life. [One of the reasons I liked hanging around with scene-folk was because I felt so safe. Heck, once in a public gathering in a mall food court, somebody made a joke about tickling me. Before I finished my objection, three other people got between me and the possible-tickler, to make sure nothing happened against my consent. Now sure, not every group/experience is perfect, but I saw much more consideration for that kind of thing among people aware of safe,sane,consentual than outside it.]

    Just my two cents…

  63. Mark Early

    Dollop, I really try not to disapprove of anybody’s lifestyle. I’ll pretty much accept anyone unless they do something to me that I deem as a personal affront. What I’m trying to point out is that none of us are really as unique as we think we are, except to our own selves. What is assimilation but confining to the norms of a selected society? Isn’t anyone who practices any lifestyle choice by dressing in the accepted way of that lifestyle, practicing the codes of that particular lifestyle, acting in the same way as most of the proponents of that particular lifestyle, assimilating to be part of that culture? I guess I’m trying to advocate being an individual. I know that people will point out that by participating in any frowned upon scene, they are expressing their individuallity, but my experience seems to point out that most scenes adhere to a stricter sense of uniformallity, assimilation than just being who you are. By not accepting anything as the true way, we are better able to accept everyone no matter what way they are.

  64. Dim Undercellar

    So it seems as if we have a cadre of folks who are unequivicollay stating that a community which encourages men to act on their fantasies of rape and torture of women is not in any way dangerous or unhealthy, and is just good clean fun.

    *shrug* There’s really no point in trying to argue against people with that stance.

    I’d just like to point out something that has been strangely overlooked. My partner, BitingBeaver’s experience with BDSM. I linked it originally too, but it must have fallen through the cracks when I screwed up my links.

    She consented at first, too. She consented even when she realized it wasn’t what she signed up for. I’m sure everyone will recognize that she endured hideous abuse cloaked by “sexuality”. Is it really so great a leap to assume that there are women in the semi-public “scene” finding themselves in a similar situation? The fact is, many of the women I met in the “scene” WERE in a similar situation.

    I’m pretty sure nobody but the most callous of assholes would suggest that what my partner went through was NOT abuse and rape, even though she was confused about the entire affair up until the very end. My fear is that, if she had been involved in the semi-public “scene” rather than her own bedroom, the same situation would be called something different, and she would never have managed to disentangle her real emotions from what she was “supposed” to be feeling due to the community dynamic I’m seeing reflected in this very thread.

    That’s my fear, and it’s a big fear because I’ve seen it happen.

  65. Jay Woolsrake

    Wow, taught little post you wrote there…and dead on. It made me giggle nervously knowing the reactions you’d get to it, but I also was involuntarily nodding my head in agreement.

  66. Crys T

    “I just think that a complete lack of all dominance structures in society is both impossible to achieve and a vision of dullness.”

    Well, that’s an honest opinion, but also a depressing example of why patriarchy is going to be so hard to dismantle.

    I realise the person who wrote it was referring to sexual practice specifically, but the sad fact is that this attitude can and does carry over for lot of people into different parts of their lives. Which is the problem with BDSM. Once you’ve got the idea of eroticised dominance, you can’t expect to neatly contain it within a structure of sex and play. It’s going to come out both in sexual abuse and other forms of social dominance.

  67. Delphyne

    “So it seems as if we have a cadre of folks who are unequivicollay stating that a community which encourages men to act on their fantasies of rape and torture of women is not in any way dangerous or unhealthy, and is just good clean fun.”

    Yup. Just to underline what you are talking about there – MEN’S RAPE FANTASIES.

    It’s all very well talking about women fantasising about rape – the only person they are going to hurt is themselves, but men fantasising about raping women and acting it out with partners is something entirely different. Maybe if rape and sexual assault were unusual crimes, hearing about men fantasising about this wouldn’t be a problem but it’s quite clear that there are plenty of men having these fantasies and then going out and acting on them.

    If anybody is doubting the part that fantasy plays in real rape. you only need to Google rape, fantasy and FBI and there is plenty of information on it. Anbody who thinks that all fantasies are harmless is an idiot.

  68. Rad Geek

    BritGirlSF:

    I think a lot of people are failing to distunguish between the actual BSDM scene and the facsimile of it produced by the porn industry. … Honestly, I think that part of the problem is that the porn industry loves to use BSDM themes, and that gives people a distorted picture of what it’s really about. In my experience it was always a playful thing – silly at times, absurd at others, but certainly never scary,dangerous or abusive.

    I think that this has it backwards. Sadomasochistic pornography is not taking “themes” from the “scene” and making “facsimiles” of them. Sadomasochistic pornography predated anything like the “scene” you’re involved in (going back, as it does, to de Sade and Sacher-Masoch). Of course, if people try to mechanically apply what they know about sadomasochistic pornography to the scene that you’re involved in they may say any number of things that are ignorant or selective. But I think that a responsible discussion of BDSM as a cultural and social phenomenon does have to discuss not only the scene that you’re defending, but also pornography (both the stories that it tells, and also the “scene” involved in the real people used in its production); it also has to discuss people involved in forms of BDSM who haven’t joined any sort of formal (or even informal) “scene”. The kind of community defense mechanisms that Dim talks about are worrisome when they obscure the fact that we’re talking about something broader than just the community that you’ve found.

    As for Twisty, who was explicitly talking about the “official” BDSM scene and not the phenomenon of BDSM as a whole, well, she didn’t say that the scene defended by BDSM defenders was scary, dangerous, or abusive. She said that it was self-important and dorky.

    Lis Riba:

    I think people may be missing the cause-and-effect.

    Part of the reason there’s so much more communication regarding BDSM scenes and so much more emphasis on active consent is because BDSM can so easily be misread or misinterpreted as (or possibly even slide into) abuse. … Because the actions taken in so-called vanilla sex are not seen as inherently abusive by mainstream society, participants don’t feel the same need for negotiation and explicit consent. It’s quite easy for people in the heat of the moment to slide from first to third, because there aren’t as many risks if somebody goes too far and the other objects.

    Right, I understand why the necessities of BDSM (in particular) are supposed to demand much more explicit discussion of boundaries and consent, and I’m sure that it does often work out that way in much of the “official” BDSM scene. (My own concerns about BDSM lie elsewhere.) My point is that this situation isn’t unchangeable; there’s nothing about so-called “vanilla” sex that prevents communication between partners and explicit care about consent. Talking as if it were just a choice between communication-rich kinky sex and wordless, manipulative non-kinky sex — which is what Aero was doing above, even if that’s not what s/he intended — confines the issue unnecessarily. And that this isn’t something that feminist BDSM critics are unaware of, or sanguine about.

  69. Q Grrl

    “I *wish* more people would apply the standards of communication and consent that I’ve seen in the BDSM scene to other facets of life.”

    And I like my communication and consent to be free of the fear and threat of pain. Any communication directly relating to BDSM acts/practices is premised on pain or excessive dominance/humiliation. You aren’t using your communication to communicate — you’re using it to stave off going too far.

  70. belledame222

    Okay, no. Sade and Sacher-Masoch didn’t invent anything either. Sade in particular doesn’t have much to do with today’s leather scene(s) (there is no one “official scene” that I’m aware of), seeing as how he was mainly about nonconsent. “Venus in Furs” is one guy’s fantasy. A common enough fantasy, then and now, but he didn’t make it up either. And if he’d never published that book people would still come up with similar scenarios all on their very own.

    People have been eroticizing power, pain, and various fetishes since time immemorial. Popular fantasies tend to reflect the cultural zeitgeist, sure (in a funhouse sort of way).

    As for today’s scene(s), people take inspiration from our Victorian legacy, the military, Catholic iconography…Cartoon Network. And of course the rich lode of material mined from our own childhoods and teenage years. Among many other sources.

    And I agree that the negotiation and other communication skills used in BDSM should be used far more often in the rest of the world, erotically and otherwise.

  71. belledame222

    Dim: I’m very sorry for your partner’s experience. I feel a little funny saying it to you rather than to her, herself, but I’m assuming she’s okay with you speaking for her here. I validate that BB had a bad experience of BDSM and does not want any truck with it. It would be nice if y’all could recognize that other people have different experiences, and that ours are also valid.

    And for the record, there *is* a recognized difference between abuse and BDSM, and while there are plenty of assholes within the scene(s), there are also plenty of healthy, evolved people who would immediately understand that what BB went through was coercion by any other name.

    Here is a link to various pages talking about this: BDSM vs. abuse, and specifically abuse within the BDSM community.

    http://www.evilmonk.org/A/abuse00.cfm

    This page in particular speaks for me:

    One of the problems that pretty well any person interested in BDSM comes across soner or later is “When is it BDSM and when is it abuse?”

    Most of us have a gut feeling about that, but BDSM being what it is, you may find your gut feeling and mine are not even close.

    There is sometimes a confusion between personal limits “No way would I do that!” and objective limits “No way should anyone do that!”.

    …What is abuse in a BDSM context? I offer these possible guidelines.
    In no particular order. I’m not really talking about one-off meetings, but about relationships.

    1) Is your play Safe, Sane, and Consensual?
    ——————————————-
    Safe: both people know the risks and have minimised them to both people’s satisfaction.
    Sane: Both are capable of knowing what they are getting into, and are capable of informed consent Consensual: Both consent to what is happening and have a reasonable idea of what they are consenting to. The consent is free and not coerced by fear of something nasty happening, whether that nasty is physical harm or the fear of the partner leaving, or of being called a wimp or an unskilled top or whatever.

    2) Is your play informed by Trust, Care, and Respect?
    ——————————————————
    Trust: Your partner behaves predictably, you aren’t walking on eggshells around them not knowing if they will go ballistic at something that was OK yesterday. You know what they will do, and you are happy with what they will do.
    Care: Your partner cares about your welfare, your emotional and physical wellbeing. Even “slaves” should be cared about.
    Respect: Your partner respects you as a human being, they respect your choices, your abilities. They should value you as more than a convenient body.

    3) Does the good outweigh the bad?
    ———————————-
    In any BDSM relationship there will be times when the bad feelings seem overwhelming. But if that seems to be always happening, then there is a problem. You may often have bad moments, bad days. But you shouldn’t be having mostly bad times, and you should be getting enough good times.

    4) Are you getting your needs met?
    ———————————-
    Each partner has the right to get what they need out of the relationship. Are you getting what you need? Not just BDSM needs, (although they are important) but physical and emotional needs as well. If you are getting almost all it may be OK, but if you look at what you need and you aren’t getting it… then that’s a danger sign.
    (Be careful about distinguishing desire from need)

    ***

    Easier said than done, of course, but then abuse always is a sticky area, and difficult to recognize, even without the leather overlay.

    What I have a problem with is laying the blame for abuse at the feet of BDSM, when the fact is that there are plenty of horribly abusive vanilla relationships (of all genders and orientations) as well as functional, healthy relationships that include power play (emphasis on *play*).

  72. belledame222

    Q Grrl: That’s simply not correct. People negotiate within BDSM for *what they want* as well as their limits.

  73. Q Grrl

    Belladame, how can they be negotiating for what they want without simultaneously negotiating for what they don’t want: being pushed beyond their comfort levels. Pain and the fear of excessive pain is so deeply embedded in these negotiations that it has become transparent and becomes “what someone wants” rather than “let’s avoid excess”.

  74. Rad Geek

    belledame222:

    I validate that BB had a bad experience of BDSM and does not want any truck with it.

    Well, that’s mighty big of you.

    It would be nice if y’all could recognize that other people have different experiences, and that ours are also valid.

    Look, experiences aren’t “valid” or “invalid.” Experiences just are. There’s a question here, though, about what some people’s personal experiences with BDSM, in and out of the formalized “scene,” mean. That’s not necessarily just a matter of “Well, you had your experiences and I had mine.”

    And for the record, there *is* a recognized difference between abuse and BDSM, and while there are plenty of assholes within the scene(s), there are also plenty of healthy, evolved people who would immediately understand that what BB went through was coercion by any other name.

    Part of the question here is whether it’s just some big accident that there are plenty of assholes in the scene in addition to the people you’re comfortable with, or whether there’s something about the scene (or about BDSM itself) that encourages that.

    (And before you mention it, I know that there abuse and coercion happen in non-BDSM sexual relationships too. Most feminist critics of BDSM do think that there are plenty of things about normative sexuality in our society that encourage that, and criticize them at length. Part of what we are asking y’all for is not to just stop applying that level of scrutiny and criticism when it’s your own sexual “scene” that’s in question.)

    Q Grrl:

    Belladame, how can they be negotiating for what they want without simultaneously negotiating for what they don’t want: being pushed beyond their comfort levels.

    Brava. This helped clarify what it is that bugs me so much when BDSM advocates are talking about the supreme importance of “negotiation,” in particular, in BDSM sex. Consent is unilateral, based what each partner wants to happen to her own body. “Negotiation” over “boundaries” is something that warring states do to work out territorial claims in order to avoid a conflict. One party suggests that they take X but give Y, the other says they want to take Z instead of Y, they either hash out a tit-for-tat compromise or else they get the guns and fight until their positions in the negotiation changes, and then they try again with a bit more quid on the table and bit less quo.

    Sex shouldn’t be like that.

  75. Cyanea

    Oh dear, I am not even sure if I should post this comment and incite continued BDSM conversation. But I am going to share my very limited experience with the BDSM scene from an outsider’s perspective.

    I have a couple of friends who I think either are or may have been involved in the scene, but I have never discussed it with them explicitly. In my area, it seems that the “fetish” subgroup seem to overlap somewhat with the “goths” and I and some friends of mine occasionally go out dancing to some goth clubs. I’m in my thirties and hanging out with the kids probably makes me some type of loser, but I’m fine with that. I go to dance and nobody bothers anybody for the most part. Anyway, a guy at one of my friend’s workplaces recognized her from a club and apparently felt that she would be an “open-minded person” and proceeded to share with her details about his particpation (as a Dom) in his BSDM club. Stuff that was clearly inappropriate in a workplace setting — to the extent that I told my friend that I thought it was probably sexual harrassment.

    Anyway, I wound up meeting this guy at a club with my friend and he immediately set off my Creep! alarm. He also proceeded to piss off my friend by invading her personal space while dancing. So, my thinking is: this guy is accepted as a Dominant in his scene. So he’s supposed to be trustworthy and sensitive to issues of personal boundaries right? At least in theory? Instead, he makes me feel creeped out and behaves in ways that are not respectful of appropriate boundaries, and fails to realize he is pissing people off. Am I going to his “scene” any time soon? Don’t think so.

    My other experience with the “scene” was with a video that a band projected during their performance at a goth/industrial festival. (Warning! Gross!) It depicted a (obviously fake) scene in which sexily dressed nurses disembowled a woman (naked except for bondage bandages) tied to a stretcher in front of a hooded and tied up man with an erection. Like they were sacrificing her to his penis. For his part, he got a cut down his penis with a scalpel before one of the nurses went down on him. So, they torture and (presumably) kill the woman, but the man gets a tiny cut on his dick? I walked out on that band. I had to push through the crowd to do it, and I didn’t try to do it unobtrusively. But, in a venue that probably had about 80 people packed in, not a single other person left that I saw, including the friends I was with. I think some people were probably distressed, but they were more interested in being “cool” and not looking “uptight.”

    Screw that. No way am I letting anyone who thinks a video like that is “cool and transgressive” near me sexually.

  76. Twisty

    Quoth Belledame222 in #60: I really do balk at the suggestion that because it’s sexual, it’s frivolous.

    As somebody who has had an orgasm, I believe I am qualified to opine that it is scarcely the pinnacle of human achievement.

  77. piny

    I too have problems with the idea that there is not communication during “vanilla” sex, because if there isn’t a lot of communication, I think that you’re doing it wrong! I’ve been working on a new workshop (due to extreme interest) on “sexy consensual talk” because it’s much sexier to ask if you can get someone off then it is to shove your hand down their pants!

    I don’t agree with the idea that there’s no communication during vanilla sex. That’s just stupid. Of course couples who aren’t into BDSM communicate about their desires. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that all the non-BDSM commenters here do. And of course feminists who have critiqued BDSM are very interested in meaningful, evolving consent–they criticize BDSM in part because they believe it either doesn’t involve meaningful, evolving consent or doesn’t include enough protection for same for the people participating.

    That is the insistence that I disagree with. As BGSF said, it’s not difficult to have these kinds of negotiations at all, or difficult to find people who are wholeheartedly invested in them. I don’t hear much, “You don’t know me! YOU DON’T KNOW!” I’ve heard a lot of frustration from BDSM’ers, primarily bottoms, who are trying to get across that they are very insistent on respect and meaningful consent, and that the people they play with are too.

    Of course there’s potential for abuse. Of course people are vulnerable. Of course the patriarchy has its finger in this pie, as much as in all the others, and of course the people who practice BDSM grew up in a patriarchal society. But there’s also potential for careful, respectful, safe play. We’re not all either abusers or abuse survivors stuck in a poisonous cycle. I hope no one will think I’m hypersensitive and self-deluded if I say I’m really offended by that assertion.

    I’m not bothered by the kind of mocking that Trekkies, LARP geeks, goths, or boy-band enthusiasts have to deal with. Lord knows I’ve said some pretty nasty things about scenesters and the associated apparel and in-community etiquette, not to mention the incestuous relationships and the gossipy interactions.*

    But that’s not what’s being said here, is it? The comments in this thread have described practitioners as (lessee) sexually stunted, unimaginative, hopelessly fetishistic, emotionally scarred, abusive, and complacent in abuse. Not just some of us, mind. Defensive? Moi?

    Qgrrl:And I like my communication and consent to be free of the fear and threat of pain. Any communication directly relating to BDSM acts/practices is premised on pain or excessive dominance/humiliation. You aren’t using your communication to communicate — you’re using it to stave off going too far.

    I see. So when I tell my vanilla partner that I’m not comfortable with penetration, the negotiation isn’t meaningful because it takes place under the fear and threat of rape? Am I not using my communication to communicate, but merely to stave off going too far?

    This makes sense if there’s any doubt that the boundary, whatever and wherever it is, will not be respected; that would constitute the “threat” you’re referring to.

    Chris:Part of the question here is whether it’s just some big accident that there are plenty of assholes in the scene in addition to the people you’re comfortable with, or whether there’s something about the scene (or about BDSM itself) that encourages that.

    (And before you mention it, I know that there abuse and coercion happen in non-BDSM sexual relationships too. Most feminist critics of BDSM do think that there are plenty of things about normative sexuality in our society that encourage that, and criticize them at length. Part of what we are asking y’all for is not to just stop applying that level of scrutiny and criticism when it’s your own sexual “scene” that’s in question.)

    Is that what you’re seeing? I’m hearing more, “Don’t assume that we don’t apply that level of scrutiny and criticism,” than, “We don’t have to deal with this questions, because BDSM takes place within a magic circle of equality and care and kittens and rainbows, Amen.”

    Q Grrl:

    Belladame, how can they be negotiating for what they want without simultaneously negotiating for what they don’t want: being pushed beyond their comfort levels.

    …And Chris: Brava. This helped clarify what it is that bugs me so much when BDSM advocates are talking about the supreme importance of “negotiation,” in particular, in BDSM sex. Consent is unilateral, based what each partner wants to happen to her own body. “Negotiation” over “boundaries” is something that warring states do to work out territorial claims in order to avoid a conflict. One party suggests that they take X but give Y, the other says they want to take Z instead of Y, they either hash out a tit-for-tat compromise or else they get the guns and fight until their positions in the negotiation changes, and then they try again with a bit more quid on the table and bit less quo.

    Sex shouldn’t be like that.

    Okay. I get what you’re saying now.

    Oh, dear. I’ve used the word “negotiation” frequently, but I’ve never meant to describe, “You agree not to hurt me in this way, and I’ll quietly submit to being hurt in this way.” I just use it to describe a very elaborate discussion about what’s about to happen. It always has been unilateral. I tell them what I don’t want to happen, and they agree, full stop. I tell them what I’m especially interested in, and they talk about what they aren’t comfortable doing to me. Then we’ll talk about exactly what we’d like to happen, within those parameters, so that we can confirm that these things are okay with both of us and so that no one is surprised. If anything else occurs to me as unwanted, I say so and they agree, full stop. If I change my mind at any point after that, I can stop everything immediately for any reason.

    *I shouldn’t bash this tendency, really; everyone knowing everyone is one of the ways people stay safe.

  78. Aero

    Twisty said: As somebody who has had an orgasm, I believe I am qualified to opine that it is scarcely the pinnacle of human achievement.

    No disagreements there. I’m a big fan of them myself, but they’re hardly the solution to world hunger. But to cast sex and BDSM as merely the pursuit of orgasm is quite the shallow ideal. Sex and BDSM are about creating and furthering intimacy. If pursuing intimacy in whatever way works for any one person is inane to anyone else, well screw everyone else.

    Rad Geek said: Noting this in passing, I move on to ask: if one of the benefits of “kinky” sex is supposed to be the greater level of communication, what’s to stop you from communicating with your partner before, during, and after so-called “vanilla” sex? It seems like the alleged benefit here is not all that closely connected with BDSM and other forms of “kink.” So if that’s what it is that gets you off, why the specific draw to fetishes that have nothing essentially to do with it?

    I was remarking mostly on the difficulties of people understanding the consensuality of BDSM. And as others have said, there *is* an unfortunate lack of communication surrounding stereotypical vanilla sex. I certainly hope that changes.
    And the specific draw to fetishes? Well, that’s a rather personal question. But, why do you like your favorite color? Why are you attracted to who you’re attracted to? *shrug* Is there any definitive way to answer those other than, “It makes me happy”? (Actually the simplified answer is it gives me an adrenaline and endorphin rush. Same reason I like roller coasters and running.)

    Geez, it’s just a sexual preference, I don’t see why nonBDSMers so enjoy getting their panties in a twist over it all. You’re making it into an abnormality and feeding into the phenomena of those who proclaim, “Look at me, I’m so WEIRD!” Kinda pissy to those of us who would like everyone to fuck off and just accept us for normal.

    Crys T said:
    “I just think that a complete lack of all dominance structures in society is both impossible to achieve and a vision of dullness.”
    Well, that’s an honest opinion, but also a depressing example of why patriarchy is going to be so hard to dismantle.
    I realise the person who wrote it was referring to sexual practice specifically…

    Uhhhh, nope, I was referring to all of life, not just sex, since I took Twisty’s meaning to be in reference to life in general. A total lack of dominance structures in EVERY facet of life? Yeah, I’m still going to go with impossible and dull. Or impossible and chaotic since a complete lack implies anarchy, does it not?

    As for the rape fantasies of men issue…It’s similar to how women don’t *actually* have rape fantasies, there’s just (unfortunately) no better term available. Although I heartily agree that a lot needs to be done to educate men about date rape and the like. But most men who have “rape fantasies” don’t actually want to harm and scare a woman, the fantasy is just a way to express strong sexual urges.

    In which Rad Geek apparently invalidates many people’s sex lives:
    One party suggests that they take X but give Y, the other says they want to take Z instead of Y, they either hash out a tit-for-tat compromise or else they get the guns and fight until their positions in the negotiation changes, and then they try again with a bit more quid on the table and bit less quo.
    Sex shouldn’t be like that.

    My experience is that each partner holds veto power. If Partner A wants something and Partner B doesn’t, then it doesn’t happen and vice versa. If there’s a significant disagreement, there’s hardly a drawing of guns and a fight to the death. It’s more of a diplomatic, “Here is my position. If at any time you wish to compromise, please let me know.” It’s hardly insidious. Well, maybe it is if you consider, “Try this new food, you’ll like it!” insidious. The whole point of compromising is to make both parties happy which I’ve heard is usually the point of sex, too.

    Cyanea–
    Experience number 1 sounds like an asshole. And a BDSM club is different from a real community, so its likely quite a few others around considered that guy an asshole too.

    Experience number 2 sounds like the general wankery that is found in the goth/industrial scene. Which is not necessarily the BDSM scene.

  79. kactus

    Hmmm…well, I’m gonna talk a little bit about my experience being a sex worker. For a while I was a phone ho, and a pretty good one, too. One of my personas was an 18-year-old girl named Mandy, and for some reason Mandy attracted a HUGE amount of men who wanted to be dominated by her. Why was this? I don’t know, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t really deconstruct it, either.

    There’s been a lot of talk on this thread about BDSM in which men are the doms, but what about when the script is flipped? Imagine a scenario in which a guy wants to be fucked by an innocent-looking young girl wearing a strap-on. Why? Who the hell knows? Or what if he wants her to put on stilletos, straddle his waist, dig the heels of her shoes in his chest, and mock his dick size? And what if what he really wants is to be pissed on in the middle of all this? And why such a dichotomy between a very innocent-looking young girl and the horrible things these guys wanted her to do to them?

    My co-workers who had more adult personas didn’t have nearly as many sub guys as Mandy did. These guys ate the humiliation up (I should say they licked it up, off the floor, while begging Miss Mandy’s forgiveness for their sorry inch-long penises).

    Now I know that a scene between a phone ho (or any ho) and her client is a world unto itself. Chances of these guys finding real-life Mandy’s were probably close to non-existent. But why? Why the attraction to the humiliation?

    What made it a challenge for me is that my natural tendencies are much more submissive, so I really had to do my research and acquire some serious acting skills.

    So I guess I’m wondering, while there has been a lot of discussion of the patriarchal construct of BDSM, what does it mean when the sub is a man? What does it mean when his dom fantasy is a young, virginal girl? Are they thinking back to humiliating high school experiences? Maybe it would take somebody much deeper than I am to make sense of it. I just thought of it as an acting job and a paycheck. And a learning experience.

    Sex is so fucking weird, to put it mildly. I can’t say too much about fantasies or what gets people off. Because even so-called “vanilla sex” comes loaded with what the people involved are thinking, fantasizing, wishing, feeling. And unless your partner is extremely trusting or honest, chances are you don’t know what she or he is responding to in the act, and what brings the deepest pleasure. You might be surprised.

  80. Sjofn

    D&D, SCA, BDSM, fetishists: Sometimes I wonder if all of these people have to play make-believe to enjoy sex because they’re embarrassed or guilty about enjoying sex at all.

    As someone who plays a fair amount of D&D (and its bastard online cousins, MMORPGs), I can reassure you that I have not once “made believe” anything relating to D&D while having sex with my equally nerdy husband. That would just be. Ugh. Come to think of it, we haven’t played any roleplaying sex games … never felt the need, personally.

    D&D, like so many things, has its share of extremely hardcore, bizzaro nerds. But if you don’t take it too seriously, it really isn’t that weird, goddammit. My main group doesn’t even really roleplay … we just do a lot of fightin’.

  81. leslie

    As an avid, born and bred, patriarchy hater, I find my self in an awful funk about the matter which comprises most of these postings. While I certainly agree that all facets of our personal lives need a good deconstruction, I am appalled at the appearance of assumption that anyone with a comment on their own sexual life has not, in actuality, given it thought or, at least, not thought enough. While my relationships have certainly been informed by the patriarchy, as have those of everyone else in one way or another, I find the defining of one’s sexual life solely in those terms to be demeaning to all. The agency one has with ones own body, to me, is one of the defining terms of whether one is totally subsumed by the patriarchy. Telling me what I may or may not do in the bedroom to remain a proper anything at all is on par with the Catholic Church telling me what I may or may not do. If I, as a reasonably thoughtful, reasonably intelligent person, decide to do any one particular thing, I would prefer the assumption be made that it is in fact the result of actual critical thinking. I find no more valdity in the assumptions made by fellow patriarchy blamers than I do in anyone else’s assumptions. We are all wired differently. I can both understand and empathize with those posters who feel that any one “brand” of sexuality is beyond understanding. I can empathize even more easily with those who have been in abusive situations of any sort and with how frightening even the contemplation of those can be. I can not imagine ever either asking or accepting from someone something they did not want. And while I know it is the nature of the “want” and the reasons for it, that seem to bother people, I also know that exploitation is exactly and only exploitation. It is not sex, it is not intimacy, it most assuredly is not communication. There is an overwhelming variety of sexual expression, engaged in by thoughtful people, that does not confirm to “the norm”. Or your norm. Or my norm. My contention is that if it does not hurt *people emotionally (and physical pain you do not enjoy hurts as much emotionally as it does physically) then, like anything else involving our bodies, as patriarchy hating people, we should be able to say “Stay the hell out of my bedroom!”

    I hate pornography. As a slightly distant cousin to the children of the sixties, I tried to find something redemptive in it. Alas, I found only objectification and distance. Oddly enough, I really love sexual intimacy. I also love other kinds of intimacy, as well as fixing things and cooking and making things and, well, a lot of things. So why is so much discourse given to such a marginal part of our lives? Because the patriarchy has defined our lives as so basically sexual (for men as well as women) that whatever we do as sexual beings falls imperitively under someones’ microscope. From Freud to McKinnon our culture, our worth, our very dreams and subconcious as well as our perceived abilities to be happy or whole or follow whichever one true faith prevails in a certain space depends (as in hangs on, hinges on) our ability to follow the accepted norm. It is transgression to find your own path. It is not transgression to buy any role someone else purveys. Is trangression good in it’s own right? Only insofar as it involves critical thinking.

    *Anything involving children, one would hope, should easily be seen as hurting at least emotionally and, usually, phsycally as well

  82. LMYC

    Well. As a loud-ass bitch who is about as dominant as it’s possible to be, I can also tell you that the “scene” was not the bastion of anti-patriarchal transgression that it paints itself as.

    I’m dominant. For a time, I thought it might be possible for me to find some sort of niche in BDSM.

    Then I realized that it was just another way for ME to have the responsibility dumped on me — again — to become some goddamned spoiled brat male’s fantasy toy. Or perhaps someone ELSE in this oh-so-like-with-it scene can explain to me why PRECISELY it is that both female submissives AND female dominants are expected to wear EXACTLY THE SAME CLOTHING.

    Corset? Let me tell you sumpin, cheeks. Being a dominant woman means that MY COMFORT IS PARAMOUNT. I ain’t pinching my skinny ass in half so some paunchy blobby middle-aged old fart can get off. He wants to be submissive? Then go join a gym and tighten your blobby ass up until YOU look like MY fantasy. How’s that? Oh, and BTW, I’m staying in my sweatpants. Get back to the gym and tighten up those abs baby, you’re starting to sag. And why isn’t my dinner ready?

    And while we’re at it, you can fucking well hand over 95% of the Senate, the presidency for the next 223 years, the boards of directors for every fortune 500 company in existence, and make one third less money than I do for doing the same fucking job. You want submission? You got it.

    If I’m a dominant woman, I want to be dominant in the way that COUNTS, not in a closed room with the shades pulled where it’s recognized as safely disconnected from reality. I want to make a shitload of money, own the governments of almost every nation on the planet, own nearly every square meter of the Earth. I don’t want some pissass “power” connected to wearing shoes that crumple up my feet and some bustier that shoves my tits up under my chin. Embodying YOUR fantasy isn’t MY idea of power.

    That about encapsulates my experience as a REAL dominant woman in the “scene,” not just some airhead who playacts at being in charge when Mr. Sir says it’s okay. It’s just one more arena where women are expected to inhabit male fantasies and run hot and cold like running water for male preferences. FUCK that noise.

    BDSM is truly anti-patriarchal like Madonna and Britney Spears swapping spit at the Grammys was truly lesbian. To wit:

    1) If you’re only allowed to be in charge when the man hands you money to say it’s okay, YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE. If being in charge requires that you wear punitive clothing, YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE.

  83. Dim Undercellar

    Aero:
    Men who have to beat their wives to feel close and intimate with them scare the living shit out of me. Women who have to be beaten to feel close and intimate make me very sad.

    I’ll post it, AGAIN, like Delphyne, AGAIN: Why all the argument from bottoms here? Why isn’t anyone focusing on tops (the vast majority of whom are male) and their fantasies of raping and beating and torturing and tying up and humiliating women? Those are good, safe, healthy, and fun fantasies to have, I take it? No Patriarchy there, no sir! Totally transgressive! Doesn’t say anything at all about what they think of women!

    And needing to be beaten to have an orgasm doesn’t say anything at all about what these women think of themselves!

    I’d really like to know just how stupid you think we are. You MUST think we’re just stupid. “I need to beat women to have orgasm, isn’t that totally not Patriarcal/not anymore Patriarchy than anyone else/transgressive/liberating?” NO! “I need to have my vagina flogged to have orgasm, isn’t that totally empowering of me and indicative of a high sense of self-worth and self-esteem and a total rejection of Patriarchy, right?” NO!

    Belledame22:
    “Easier said that done, of course, but then abuse always is a sticky area, and difficult to recognize, even without the leather overlay.”

    I can’t think of any other practice in the world that owes its entire existence to actively confusing and blurring the lines between sex and abuse. Are you honestly trying to say that women are not hurt by the furthering and encouraging of that confusion?

    As for the “women consent to be beaten!” thing.. well shit, women “consent” to be in porn, they “consent” to be prostitutes, they “consent” to have their labias cut off, they “consent” to phone sex, they “consent” to wearing high heels, they “consent” to starve themselves, they “consent” to pretend to be bisexual and make out with other girls in front of their men for their pleasure in spite of their discomfort and/or revulsion, they “consent” to wet t-shirt contests, they “consent” to stripping, they “consent” to abuse laxitives, they “consent” to boob jobs, and elsewhere in the world they “consent” to wear burkas, they “consent” to have their clitorises removed, and they “consent” to have their vaginas enfibulated. And I’m sure you all already know this, but YES, THEY “CONSENT”.

    But you know what? I’m fighting against ALL those things. I guess that just makes me a big fat anti-woman godbag victorian prude vanilla fucker.

    Women “consenting” to let a man (or another woman!) inflict sadistic pain and degredation on them is just as much of a problem as “consenting” to be in porn or “consenting” to stay with a wife-beater. And men taking advantage of the ready availability of women’s consent as an excuse to beat, rape, and torture them guilt-free is disgusting and indefensible.

    “Consent” is a word most commonly used by men to clear their conscienes when they do things that are clearly abusive, harmful, degrading, and downright unfathomably evil things to women. “Well, she consented”.

    Only women’s “consent” matters, and when women “consent”, the issue is closed. Jesus Christ. If I wanted to hear that shibai, I’d go back to Feministing.com or read Suzie Bright’s blog.

    THIS crowd is the LAST crowd I ever expected to hear the “It’s great for women to consent to be beaten, as long as there’s leather involved!” line of bull from. Particularly since everyone has REPEATEDLY IGNORED the question “Is it ok for men to WANT to beat women for the sake of having an orgasm?” Everyone wants to focus on the women, and what they “consent” to go through, as if the men realy are just indifferent to the idea but do it anyway to please those strange, nympho women.

    What’s the difference between a woman’s “consent” to BDSM and a woman’s “consent” to everything else I and many other feminists are fighting against? YOU do it? Is that the difference? It’s the only one I see.

    As for the “it’s just a few bad apples” line of argument that seems to be going around as well… that’s bullshit too. The same way pedophiles are attracted to Nudist/Naturist gatherings, violent miogynists are attracted to the BDSM “scene”. Why is that so hard to grasp? They have a large pool of easy victims, who may even be WILLING to be victims up to a certain point, and who are vastly unlikely to report their abuse and whose community will encourage them to believe that it WASN’T, actually, abuse because she consented and abuse doesn’t happen in BDSM all that much anyway.

    But we have YET to address any of the hard questions about MEN and MEN’S fantasies with regard to the “scene”. That would be necessary to talk about the inherent and systemic danger of the “scene”, so we honest-to-god can’t have that.

    What I want to know is, how many bad apples does it take to indicate a trend? How much sewage has to be stirred into a barrel of wine before you’ll stop drinking it?

    Or, more to the point, how much wine has to be stirred into a barrel of sewage before you’ll proclaim to women everywhere just how safe it is to drink?

  84. Twisty

    Quoth Aero in #78: ” You’re making it into an abnormality and feeding into the phenomena of those who proclaim, “Look at me, I’m so WEIRD!” Kinda pissy to those of us who would like everyone to fuck off and just accept us for normal.”

    One point that has been niggling at me: this argument that the whole transgressive element in BDSM is a figment of popular imagination seems to be bogusized by its defenders’ constant allusion to non-BDSM sex as “vanilla.” If BDSM is so mainstream and unsubversive, why the condescending epithet “vanilla” to describe sex that doesn’t ritually exaggerate the dominance/submission model? I submit that if BDSM were not thought of as kinky by one and all, it would lose a great deal of its allure.

    And with that I officially withdraw from this thread. I still haven’t finished Moby-Dick.

  85. Dim Undercellar

    LMYC! So good to see you again, and so very refreshing to hear you sharing your voice again! I missed it, and I know BB did too! :)

  86. curiousgyrl

    Twisty;

    thanks for the amusing essay; it went straight to the heart of the matter. Sorry for adding to the long boring thread. Just wanted to say that becuase I have close associates heavily in volved in both D&D and BDSM, I’ve made this comparisom myself, adn wanted to say it was not well recieved by either individual. :) to the extent that either irritates me (as nearly all things do) it is because the more folks do these types of activitites, the less they are able to talk about anything else that i might actually want to listen to, thus wasting a pile of intellegence and talent, at least when it comes to my selfish needs for entertainment-by-friend.

    hah.

  87. Aero

    Okay, the same old thing is being stated over and over at this point with no variation by the anti-BDSM proponents. You’re just seeing what you want to see anyway. I can’t debate with anyone who doesn’t logically argue back.

    Twisty, I know you’re done with this (as am I) but in my circle of friends, at least, vanilla isn’t a derogatory term it’s just a more pleasant descriptor than nonkinky. Somewhere out there there’s a great funny essay written by a kinky guy who uses lots of ice cream metaphors to talk about how there’s nothing wrong with vanilla and how he personally enjoys vanilla a lot. And I may disagree with you, but you debate in a sensible, logical way so thank you.

  88. Delphyne

    ‘Telling me what I may or may not do in the bedroom to remain a proper anything at all is on par with the Catholic Church telling me what I may or may not do.’

    Well the Catholic Church would probably be right behind you on the flogging (as long as you don’t admit to enjoying it but we all know they do) considering their traditional approval of scourging the body. They are probably one of the models for S&M. However to compare feminist analysis of BDSM to the Catholic Church bullying people is simply absurd. According to the Catholics you’re going to hell if you don’t follow their dogma or had you forgotten that? I haven’t seen any feminists consigning their opponents to everlasting torments lately.

    “As for the rape fantasies of men issue…It’s similar to how women don’t *actually* have rape fantasies, there’s just (unfortunately) no better term available. Although I heartily agree that a lot needs to be done to educate men about date rape and the like. But most men who have “rape fantasies” don’t actually want to harm and scare a woman, the fantasy is just a way to express strong sexual urges.”

    Sure it is. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it. Men who have rape fantasies get off on dominating and destroying women. They’re a problem and we need to put a stop to their activities.

  89. piny

    I’ll post it, AGAIN, like Delphyne, AGAIN: Why all the argument from bottoms here? Why isn’t anyone focusing on tops (the vast majority of whom are male) and their fantasies of raping and beating and torturing and tying up and humiliating women? Those are good, safe, healthy, and fun fantasies to have, I take it? No Patriarchy there, no sir! Totally transgressive! Doesn’t say anything at all about what they think of women!

    The first probable reason is that, in any given scene, many more people are bottoms than tops. So if you get into a discussion with BDSM’ers, you’re far more likely to encounter bottoms than tops. I have never topped, and cannot speak to what it’s like to top. I do know, however, that meaningful consent is as important to the tops I’ve played with as it is to me. They don’t get off in spite of it, but because of it; it’s a package dynamic. They would never confuse a scene with the real thing, and do not need to do so in order to have an orgasm. They have never been disrespectful, overbearing, or careless.

    The second is that, gee, maybe someone who can’t distinguish between something I enjoy and something I don’t enjoy, something I want and something I don’t want, isn’t in such a great position to talk about rape. Don’t confuse, “Discussing this with you is futile,” with, “This is not a worthwhile discussion to have.” You’re implying the former, after all, and I wouldn’t infer from that frustration a lack of interest in protecting women.

    As for the “women consent to be beaten!” thing.. well shit, women “consent” to be in porn, they “consent” to be prostitutes, they “consent” to have their labias cut off, they “consent” to phone sex, they “consent” to wearing high heels, they “consent” to starve themselves, they “consent” to pretend to be bisexual and make out with other girls in front of their men for their pleasure in spite of their discomfort and/or revulsion, they “consent” to wet t-shirt contests, they “consent” to stripping, they “consent” to abuse laxitives, they “consent” to boob jobs, and elsewhere in the world they “consent” to wear burkas, they “consent” to have their clitorises removed, and they “consent” to have their vaginas enfibulated. And I’m sure you all already know this, but YES, THEY “CONSENT”.

    Yeah, talk about brick walls. Have you not heard any of the words about meaningful consent, evolving consent, arriving at consent through careful discussion, and unilaterally (thanks, Chris!) rejecting whatever makes you feel disgusted, scared, uncomfortable, unhappy, or just plain turned-off? The analogy fails. I am not doing this because I see my sexuality as the passive counterpart to my partner’s desires, or because I believe my sexuality needs to be tightly controlled. I am not doing this because I hate my body. I am not doing this because I’ve been taught to see myself as a lesser creature. I am not doing this because I believe that I deserve pain and humiliation, or because I do not know how to have sex outside of the context of BDSM. I am not saying yes because I’m afraid to say no. I am not saying yes because I’m ashamed to say no. I feel no obligation to submit to my partner’s desires at the expense of mine, and I have never had any problem exercising that right to consent that we spend so much time talking about. And yet, I’m into BDSM and manage to practice it despite an ethos that by your logic would make it impossible.

    As for the “it’s just a few bad apples” line of argument that seems to be going around as well… that’s bullshit too. The same way pedophiles are attracted to Nudist/Naturist gatherings, violent miogynists are attracted to the BDSM “scene”. Why is that so hard to grasp? They have a large pool of easy victims, who may even be WILLING to be victims up to a certain point, and who are vastly unlikely to report their abuse and whose community will encourage them to believe that it WASN’T, actually, abuse because she consented and abuse doesn’t happen in BDSM all that much anyway.

    What I want to know is, how many bad apples does it take to indicate a trend? How much sewage has to be stirred into a barrel of wine before you’ll stop drinking it?

    When you use quotes, make sure someone’s actually said that, okay? It’s not, “There are a few bad apples.” From the comments on this thread, it’s, “It’s true that it exists, but that’s not what we, the people you’re actually talking to, are doing. We speak out against it in the abstract, protect against it in practice, and would never submit to it or be complicit in it.” That’s different. And let’s look at your analogy. Does that mean there’s something intrinsically wrong or anti-child about being naked, or that visiting a nude beach makes you complicit in child rape? What if you support a gathering whose organizers are committed to ending child rape, who put extra safeguards in place to make sure that the children who attend are safe?

  90. LMYC

    Okay, if it’s so “normal”and “okay” for women to have rape fantasies, I want to hear you defend a woman who fantasizes raping.

    WHY IS IT that every time someone talks abotu female “rape fantasies” you all assume she’s fantasizing BEING raped?

    That question alone and the blank stares it routinely brings from people who routinely break their own arms patting themselves on the back for their radical iconoclastic transgression is enough to make you piss yourself laughing.

    If you can somehow explain to me that BDSM has nothing whatsoever to do with oppression and yet explain why you all assume that a woman’s “rape fantasies” inevitably have her on the receiving end, I’ve got some beachfront property in Nebraska I can let you have real cheap.

  91. Kerlyssa

    I always thought the vanilla thing came from vanilla being the default icecream flavor, ie if there’s only one flavour of icecream available, it’s going to be vanilla. Thus making BDSM, I don’t know, the Spumoni of the sex world.

  92. Rad Geek

    “I always thought the vanilla thing came from vanilla being the default icecream flavor, ie if there’s only one flavour of icecream available, it’s going to be vanilla. Thus making BDSM, I don’t know, the Spumoni of the sex world.”

    Yes. It’s an intentionally condescending term, and frankly I think it’s disingenuous in the extreme for vocal BDSM advocates to pretend like they don’t mean anything derogatory by it.

  93. piny

    Yes. It’s an intentionally condescending term, and frankly I think it’s disingenuous in the extreme for vocal BDSM advocates to pretend like they don’t mean anything derogatory by it.

    I don’t use it myself, mostly because I know that many non-BDSM practitioners have a problem with it. I’m not sure many people who use it think about what it was originally conceived for meaning, any more than you think about the etymology of “transgender.”

    What if they’re using it to describe sex they also have themselves? Many if not most BDSM scenesters also have the-sex-sometimes-described-as-vanilla.

  94. piny

    WHY IS IT that every time someone talks abotu female “rape fantasies” you all assume she’s fantasizing BEING raped?

    Because they’re only ever brought up in the context of feminists complaining about how BDSM eroticizes the sexual violation of women. When someone arguing that position says, “female rape fantasies,” it’s reasonable to assume that they’re referring to women fantasizing about being raped. I have never, ever heard “male rape fantasies” referred to in that context, even though men certainly have them. They don’t seem to be of much concern to you.

    And when y’all–you especially, actually–talk about women topping, you explicitly reject the idea that a woman topping might be doing so because she has any sort of topping-related fantasy or desire, that she’s doing so for any reason other than the gratification of the desires of her flabby-assed male partner. That’s why we assume that you’re talking about women fantasizing about being raped every time you talk about “female ‘rape fantasies.’”

    Okay, if it’s so “normal”and “okay” for women to have rape fantasies, I want to hear you defend a woman who fantasizes raping.

    Uh, okay. Do you think we’ve never encountered that kind of fantasy before, that it’s never occurred to anyone? Do you think women don’t have this fantasy? Do you think that thread is absent from BDSM as practiced? The same reasoning applies to this fantasy as applies to all the others.

  95. Chimp

    Next time I’m tempted to write “NEEEEEEEERRRRRRRDS” in someone’s comment field, I can link to this post instead and seem a thousand times more erudite by association. Excellent.

  96. JJken

    As a male top, it feels a little risky to say anything here. I can own up to enjoying having a woman submit to me its a real rush, but it only works for me if the woman is turned on by it. In my experience the people who are turned on by submitting are WAY turned on by it.

    My first girlfriend was older and more experienced than I was. She asked me to top her, she did not use these words exactly, but she asked me to do some bdsm type things (I won’t go into it exactly in case it would upset persons who may be working through abuse issues)I will say that The experiment was a success for both of us.

    While never a part of a scene or subculture (most of this happening pre-internet)I have had good experiences with many partners since, and have had other partners that did not like it at all. I have enjoyed both kinds of relationships but at this point would say I preffer relationships that involve some bdsm more rewarding, its the way I am wired.

    I have also been submissive and enjoyed this as well.

    I guess the question I have is how is condeming people who are wired for bdsm different than condeming people who are gay? I guess the easy answer is that it can be seen as abuse, however I have to say when I see the comparisons to larp, SCA and D&D that it sounds more like making fun of people who are different, or seem weird to you. People who are easy targets because they are different.

    It sounds more like hate speech.

  97. LMYC

    I guess the question I have is how is condeming people who are
    wired for bdsm different than condeming people who are gay?

    If you can’t tell the difference between getting off on beating someone up and loving a member of the same sex, then nothing I can say will convince you. I’ve heard that line leveled against me as a queer woman by pedophiles online. I’m queer, so I somehow signed some sort of form that says I can no longer disapprove of anything whatsoever, no matter how fucked and poisonous. Ah, okay.

    People are “hard-wired” for doing all sorts of stupid shit, up to and including dropping their pants and taking a shit right where they’re standing. Some of these things are good, some indifference, some bad.

    What this means is that you can’t use the hard-wired nature of a behavior to make your decision as to whether or not it’s beneficial or fucked. You have to look at the thing itself, at the behavior and the effects it has.

    To wit: both pedophilia and lefthandedness appear to be hard-wired into the brain. Are you seriously gonna tell me that a lefty can’t disapprove of pedophilia? That’s like saying that you have to admire both Josef Stalin and Teddy Roosevelt because they both had moustaches.

  98. Trin

    Dim Undercellar says: I’ll post it, AGAIN, like Delphyne, AGAIN: Why all the argument from bottoms here? Why isn’t anyone focusing on tops (the vast majority of whom are male) and their fantasies of raping and beating and torturing and tying up and humiliating women?

    Hi! Hope you’re having a nice evening. What would you like to know? I might be able to help, but I’m bi, so is it only my fantasies about women you’d like to know about, or men too? And I’m a woman, so perhaps I worry you less. But perhaps I can say a few things.

    I suspect that tops aren’t answering for a few reasons. One, there just aren’t as many of us. Most people, men and women alike, prefer to bottom. Two, I for one suspect that if the conversation included more tops than bottoms, it would be taken as a form of domination, itself. I’ve certainly had it said of me, if I expressed annoyance or upset in discussions like these, that I’m attempting to “dominate” people in the discussion. I think I’m right, and I’d like others to agree. That’s so. But that has nothign to do with me wanting to control anyone, unless any discussion is really, at its heart, about jockeying for power. I find that idea… impoverished, to put it mildly.

    But what I’d really prefer is a discussion that isn’t “EEWWWWW!” on one side and “FUCKING VICTORIANS!!!” on the other, and it’s sad when that gets lost in the emotional rhetoric.

    Third, I find that many people who don’t involve themselves in SM make a lot of assumptions about bottoms that are really unfortunate. People assume they must be mice who don’t speak, don’t stand up for themselves, and don’t make their own choices. I think many may jump to speak simply because they’re, rightly, tired of being deemed mice.

    As far as my fantasies, and my fantasy life, go, one thing I think it’s imperative for me to mention is this: While most feminist analyses of BDSM center around gender and power, my experience as a woman with a disability is very different. For me, issues of power center around my relationship to my body and its power, or lack thereof, in a deeply ableist culture that has figured me as powerless and helpless all my life. It’s tiring to be deemed weak your whole life no matter what you do, in a way that able-bodied peers of mine won’t fully get. To create alternate situations in which my body is a source of power is fun and healing for me… and yes, my bedroom is one such place. Why should it not be, when all sorts of issues in a person’s life do affect her sexuality?

    Why do they involve pain? I don’t know. I believe there are many, many reasons, and I fear if I mention a few of the obvious ones, that will eclipse the other factors I see. Still, I’ll be reasonable. I think that some of it comes from painful experiences relating to teh disability. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Some might. I’ve certainly been told it implies fixation, by quite intelligent people. But I myself think there’s a difference between fixation and attempts to make sense of negative experiences. And one of the greatest human questions is “what does suffering mean?” SM has always seemed to me to be a way to see something purposeful and elegant in the morass of agony that life can sometimes be. (I can hear the snickers that I must be a Goth from the way I worded that already. But — how many major surgeries have you had? How many times have you been told your body will never work again? Sometimes life does, in fact, hurt.)

    Unlike a lot of people who have very knee-jerk reactions to the idea of critiquing BDSM, I do think that anti-BDSM people have good points. For example, why is it that there is so much focus on M/f relationships? Why do people seem more likely, in those setups, to pursue “lifestyle” relationships? I do see a connection between these things and patriarchy, and I think it’s important. I just think that laughing at BDSM people, or expressing horror at them, is no way to get anything practical done about these matters, because everything then becomes the same old “how personal is the political?” question. And tomatoes are thrown, and everyone goes home righteously pissed off.

    This is getting long, and quite rambly, so I think I’ll stop now. At any rate, I hope it provides some food for thought.

    (and as a side note, I don’t think the gaming I do and the BDSM I do resemble one another much. ;)

  99. JJken

    No, What I am saying is bringing pedophilia into a discussion about consensual sex acts is the same as bringing pedophilia into a discussion about the morality of being gay.

  100. Burrow

    Please put the crack pipe down now.

  101. belledame222

    >But you know what? I’m fighting against ALL those things. I guess that just makes me a big fat anti-woman godbag victorian prude vanilla fucker.

    I don’t know you, so I really can’t say. I certainly didn’t call you any of those things. I do find your approach to this subject rather patronizing, I have to say. Yeah, women do choose–no grocer’s quotes needed–to wear high heels. It’s one thing to say, “I dislike high heels because it seems obvious to me that they symbolize womens’ oppression, and also they fucking hurt.” It’s another to say you’re “fighting against” them, along with all the other symbols you seem so passionate about here. How exactly does one fight against high heels?

    And by the way, I’m not a bottom.

  102. belledame222

    And yeah, I’ve never understood “vanilla” to be meant as derogatory either. Just a descriptor.

    As far as “I’m so radical and transgressive,” well, yes, there is a certain amount of that among some leatherfolk. But, with all due respect, calling your brand of feminism “advanced” or “radical” could also be construed that way, neh?

  103. belledame222

    >Unlike a lot of people who have very knee-jerk reactions to the idea of critiquing BDSM, I do think that anti-BDSM people have good points. For example, why is it that there is so much focus on M/f relationships? Why do people seem more likely, in those setups, to pursue “lifestyle” relationships? I do see a connection between these things and patriarchy, and I think it’s important. I just think that laughing at BDSM people, or expressing horror at them, is no way to get anything practical done about these matters, because everything then becomes the same old “how personal is the political?” question. And tomatoes are thrown, and everyone goes home righteously pissed off.

    I try not to have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of critiquing BDSM, period. It would be nice if I had a better sense that a lot (not all) of the people doing so had some idea of what they were talking about. Or that the people who keep hectoring pro-BDSM folk to search their souls and find out what REALLY drives us, REALLY REALLY (hi: six years and counting of therapy here, not to mention training to go into psych myself) have done such work themselves.

    I have much more of a knee-jerk reaction to the general notion that “the personal is the political” means that you (general you) know better than I do what’s good for me, yeah. I do have a big problem with that. Particularly when combined with the above point (i.e. when critiquer really doesn’t know what s/he is talking about) and doesn’t seem to be listening, at all, when I try to explain “look, this is how it is in my experience.”

    As far as how much focus on M/f relationships there is: are you talking about in the public BDSM scene, or on this thread? Personally I have very little interest in M/f relationships. I have little interest in men in general, and what interest I do have is in topping them. Rape’s never really done it for me, either, even in fantasy (although, again, in general: difference between fantasy and reality! really important! play-acting is a part of fantasy! BDSM is about erotic play-acting!) It seems to me that it’s a chunk of the anti-factor here (not the original post, either) which keeps bringing up “rape fantasies! rape fantasies!! Bad, bad, bad!”–so, yeah, people respond to the gambit.

    There are many ways to go on power trips. Many many. The fact that one doesn’t dress up one’s drive to chastise and punish in black leather and chains doesn’t mean that the desire isn’t there, or even that one isn’t acting on it.

    anyway, trin, that was an insightful and thoughtful post, and thank you.

  104. Trin

    Or that the people who keep hectoring pro-BDSM folk to search their souls and find out what REALLY drives us, REALLY REALLY (hi: six years and counting of therapy here, not to mention training to go into psych myself) have done such work themselves.

    Belledame, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. I have never refused to analyze anything I do. I personally, actually, DO consider myself a radical feminist… but of course, it’s presumed that I don’t the moment I say that for me, erotic pain is a ball o’ fun. *shrug* It’s presumed that because doing things that involve it is pleasant for me, I’m somehow constitutionally incapable of reasoning about it. And that’s ridiculous. Are anti-BDSM people incapable of reasoning about their sexual pleasure? Clearly not; many examine it quite often. Why should we be unable to do so as well?

    As far as how much focus on M/f relationships there is: are you talking about in the public BDSM scene, or on this thread? Personally I have very little interest in M/f relationships. I have little interest in men in general, and what interest I do have is in topping them.

    I mean in the public scene. I don’t have any abiding interest in them either, though there’s one very dear guy friend of mine I will sometimes bottom to. (I’ve seen some stuff linked from here that suggests “all women are switches” and that our topness isn’t real, because we’re still buying into the idea that women must bottom eventually — oops, guess I just handed them ammo by saying one relationship with a close friend, in fact, with the fellow who introduced me to feminism, is an exception… whoo.) It depends very much on which segments of the community one runs in, but I’ve definitely seen groups that were very unbalanced on that score, and I’ve seen those dynamics become uncomfortable.

    I think it’s better to recognize that that can happen and that some of why it does probably IS about compulsory heterosexuality than it is to worry that saying that gives the other side ammo. In my opinion that still doesn’t prove anything except that many people can’t really break free of suspect norms… and that, to me, hardly incriminates BDSMers more than it does non-BDSM folks (including gay ones, for that matter — I do think cultural norms influence everyone.)

    Perhaps I should have picked something else to critique though — here’s another: “pansexual” spaces. In my experience these spaces are very often full of straight men and straight and bisexual women. There’s a very heterocentrist bias to a lot of them, and leatherdykes and gay leathermen, I find, tend to avoid them. (One woman I dated was very ambivalent about returning to the club where she met me because of this.) I think this too has to do with compulsory heterosexuality and straight privilege. I don’t think that means no one should go to them, that they are evil and contaminated, or that anyone is being purposely bad. However, I think it is something that our subculture as a whole needs to look at (unless things are different elsewhere, though I suspect not.) I think straight organizers need to make a serious effort to involve queerfolk of various kinds in the organizing of these groups and events if they really want them to be welcoming of gay leatherfolk. I think part of why they’re often not does eventually spring out of the heterosexism of the culture at large, even if no individual straight person wants to be unwelcoming.

    although, again, in general: difference between fantasy and reality! really important! play-acting is a part of fantasy! BDSM is about erotic play-acting!

    Yup. Discussions like these remind me of nothing so much as debates about video games, actually. At the core is the question “how much does playing at something influence your outlook in general?” That’s never easy to answer, though I think it’s better to assume people are not mere sponges, personally.

    There are many ways to go on power trips.

    Indeed.

  105. belledame222

    Yeah, I’ve been disappointed with the “pansexual” scene(s) here. It’s not for lack of trying on the part of the party organizers and so on either (single men pay exponential amounts more than women or couples, or simply aren’t allowed; men coming together required to make out with each other before entering). At the end of the day, though: the straight men who come to such events, by and large, tend to be more unsocialized, I think. (Which is not to say all of them; “some of my best friends…”)

    I think porn and “alternative sexualities” and so on are just reflective of, or at least shaped by, the larger misogynistic (corporate, racist, xenophobic, unconscious), culture. It’s impossible not to be, to one degree or another. That doesn’t mean porn and BDSM *shape* the culture in any way proportionally more important than, well, a lot of other things. Not to me, anyway. Probably less so than a lot of less uhh exciting subjects that outraged people could focus on. (Is working as a professional domme or porn author really more “degrading” than working at Burger King?)

  106. Trin

    belledame:

    Right on. To every word you typed.

  107. belledame222

    Just one last note:

    >Twisty said: As somebody who has had an orgasm, I believe I am qualified to opine that it is scarcely the pinnacle of human achievement.

    No, it’s not. Can’t argue there. But it seems to me that there’s so much miserable shit to focus on in this world that something as happy-making as an orgasm can take on a lot more importance. At least it does for me. Dinner is good, too, (“much depends on dinner”) and I’d really hate it if I suddenly couldn’t enjoy that anymore either, God knows. I also wouldn’t much care for it if I don’t know a group of PETA activists suddenly popped up in a group I was otherwise enjoying very much and starting saying all kinds of crazy crap about how meat eaters all hate women and fantasize about killing puppies and milk gives you cancer and…

    There’s so much that I *don’t* want or like, sometimes I just want to focus on the things I unequivocally *do* want and like, you know?

  108. Trin

    Oh no, Belledame. You said pleasure is nice. You must be one of them FEELGOOD feminists who thinks that sometimes pleasure can be important too.

    I’m outta here as well. I hoped I might engage some folks thoughtfully, but no one’s responding, so never mind.

  109. Eva Lynn Drood

    Uh… wow. I realise I’m not exactly addressing the intended main thread of the discussion, here but…

    Hi. I’m a roleplayer, though I don’t do much “D&D” (AD&D is a pretty lame rpg in my opinion, not least because the “good” guys — the player characters — tend to go around finding “monsters”, killing them, and stealing their stuff. This is “good”?).

    I’ve played in plenty of LARPs (though the ones I’ve been in tend to be oneshots). The planned ones are also sometimes called IL games, btw. Interactive Literature.

    I was in SCA all through college. I was the Herald for our group for two years, and Seneschal (that’d be president to y’all) for one. I learned all sorts of things about onomastics, foods of a number of cultures, dances, clothing…

    I am nearly 30. I act. I write. I roleplay. I have — GASP — an imagination. And — DOUBLE GASP! — I’m not ashamed to use it. I never have been, and gods willing I never will be.

    I think it’s telling that most of the people who seem to be equating roleplay (oh, I’m sorry, “D&D”), SCA, and the like with BDSM are apparently not involved with any of the above. If they were, they would know that, first of all, ONLY BDSM is a sexual thing! The others are what are known as creative outlets and social hobbies. :P

    Despite the fact that I find it problematic that something in our culture so sexualizes inequalities of power as to create fetishims around them, I have no problem with other people doing BDSM if they’re all consenting and that’s what does it for them. However, it does NOT do it for me. Further? I do not construct authentic 15th century Italian names to get off. Nor do I attempt to prevent mad scientists from ending the world, nor do I call my husband’s wang his 2 broadsword.

    I mean, really, people:
    “D&D, SCA, BDSM, fetishists: Sometimes I wonder if all of these people have to play make-believe to enjoy sex because they’re embarrassed or guilty about enjoying sex at all.”
    “Yes, yes, yes to the anachronism acting troops being all SM and D&D.”
    “Glad to see that I’m not alone in my character associations. I would have to add SCA, because all the SCA people I’ve met are all into D&D, etc, so it wouldn’t surprise me that they were into BDSM.”

    All the football watchers I’ve met are all into basketball, etc, so it wouldn’t surprise me that they were into fetishistic voyeurism. I mean hey, they all involve “watching physical exertion”, right? I guess their sex lives are so boring they need to watch big guys getting sweaty to get off.

    Does that sound uninformed and ridiculous to you? Because that’s how these comparisons sound to me.

    I “play make-believe” because I enjoy thinking about how people think, what forms their attitudes and influences their reactions, what makes them who they are. I “play make-believe” because I enjoy social, creative, cooperative interaction with my friends. I do not, however “play make-believe” to compensate for a boring sex life any more than a gardener gardens for that reason or a pianist plays piano for that reason. Some roleplayers are also into BDSM. Some gardeners are also into BDSM. Some elementary school teachers are also (very, very quietly) into BDSM. That doesn’t mean you can consider it a common attribute of elementary school teachers, any more than Socrates’ ability to swim makes him a fish.

  110. Ashali

    (If this was double-posted, I’m sorry.)
    Hah, yes! I’m glad this post was made!

    Though I am not a feminist, and I do not believe a patriarchy exists, I also find ritualized dominance and submission to be abhorrent…and I’m a sexual sadist, even. In my opinion, dom/sub as a lifestyle shits in the face of true freedom, and the free human spirit. I think freedom and individualism are things humanity should strive for, not condemn and take for granted. It’s already become enough of a stigma in our society to think for oneself…why should people turn it into a way of life?

    Some might say freedom can only be found in dominance and/or submission. This is, to put it plainly, bollocks. There is no freedom in surrendering yourself to another person, nor is there freedom in controlling another person. These sort of power games are the antithesis of being a liberated human being. Though it may feel liberating to take responsibility for yourself off your shoulders, all you’re doing is digging yourself deeper into a rut of ignorance. It’s the same with dominating another…all it does is get you further from self-awareness.

    “I further suggest that BDSM, like most counterculture “scenes,” is perhaps overly self-congratulatory on its supposed transgressivitude, since its constituents clearly demand the most banal ritual conformity, to a degree that possibly surpasses even that of junior high school. Which school, as you know, wrote the book on banal ritual conformity.”

    Too true. I’m glad you pointed this out. I’ve seen the “mistake” made of breaking the unspoken conformist rules in various online BDSM communities, and I know for a fact that anyone who doesn’t fit between the lines they’ve drawn is in for a torrent of insults and name-calling. This does not bode well.

    Running the risk of sounding like a jaded wacko on a personal revenge mission, I will say that it’s been implied many times in these communities that I am sick-minded for my particular sexual practices. I find this ironic. Which is more sick; intercourse that involves cutting, biting and various other bodily hurts, or a lifestyle that involves comparatively little physical harm, but which revolves around one person dominating the other? When you consider how fast skin heals compared to cognition, you might see my point…but above all else, dom/sub is rarely a good thing.

  1. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » She Blames The Patriarchy

    [...] If you aren’t reading I Blame The Patriarchy you are missing some very zesty commentary, such as this post, which starts out:  “Imagine my surprise when a recent post in which I waxed autobiographical about my former life as a rock star devolved, in the comments, into a discussion on BDSM. I kid, I kid! I wasn’t really surprised. All posts on feminist blogs eventually devolve into discussions on BDSM. There’s a Usenet term for this phenomenon. It’s called Geekwad’s Law.”  [...]

  2. The Safest Sex :: More Patriarchy and BDSM :: January :: 2006

    [...] Twisty Faster finally has a good explanation for the overlap between kinksters and roleplayers – or rather, The Bewilderness does, in comments: I have always wondered if it really isn’t all about playing dress up and having fun with your friends in a way that girls have always done and boys have always wanted to. [...]

  3. In Which The Author Bottoms Out at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] Such as the comments on a couple of recent posts that ended up as discussions on BDSM. [...]

  4. “Hip, hip, hooray for BDSM!” Comment Excerpt of the Week at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] of this ridiculous dude-centric fetish; some of my ancient remarks on the subject can be found here and [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>