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Sep 28 2009

“Hip, hip, hooray for BDSM!” Comment Excerpt of the Week

From the moderation queue:

“I find your broad categoraization [sic] of BDSM to be rather narrow minded.”

Pure poetry.*

Another textbook-style internet ode to painfully silly rape-based patriarchy-reenactment boinking is probably not on your list of Great Works I Must Read Before I Die. However, the commenter I have quoted — who inconveniently signs herself “a,” thereby obliging me, for the sake of clarity, to call her Gladys — touches on another subject in dire need of address. We’ll get to that in a second, but first, the conclusion of Gladys’s word-for-word recital of Paragraph 1 of the Submissive Ladies’ Guide to Defending Submissive Ladydom on Radical Feminist Blogs:

“It takes great strength to be a submissive. Submission is a choice, a gift to that submissive’s Dominant. In life I am my Dominants equal. In the bedroom I CHOOSE to hand over control because that is what makes me happy. I make descisions that impact us both on a daily basis. It is twisted and quite rude to act as though submissives are less than those who are not. In my experience, Dominants find no joy in dominating the weak. There’s no point. If BDSM makes the men and women involved in it happy,and it is all consensual, then who are you to judge? And yes, I did begin my post with “I” because I am expressing my opinions. If you have a problem with that, there is always the delete button. I also realize this is an old thread, but obviously you need something to do so I’m sure you will read this.”

Ha ha, that last zinger — ouch, by the way, Gladys! Woe betide me for trying to pit my feeble wits against yours! — is goddam apt. Because it’s true! This morning — I cannot lie — the tectonic forces of boredom finally squishened me under their quelching, relentless gargantuation. Hours of empty time stretched out before me like so many doormats at a surrendered wives convention. What to do with myself, what to do? I might have taken the “Is it spam from my inbox or is it a Robert Pollard lyric?” quiz I found in the back of one of Stingray’s indie-rock magazines. I might have tucked a tisket-tasket-basket into the quaint crook of my bucolic arm and gone skipply-dippling over hill and dale a-hunting psilocybin mushrooms. I might have paid my propane bill by check. But ultimately these schemes were dwarfed in elegant simplicity by the idea I finally came up with. I would fight torpor with pure indolence! I would read my own blog!

But holy shit, Gladys? For a controlled-but-equal submissive you are quite the defiant little firebrand, at least when it comes to asserting a non-existent basic human right, which non-existent basic human right is second only to the right to buy cheap crap from China, or possibly the right to order sea bass in upscale bistros. I allude, of course, to your right to uncork on my blog an uncongealed discharge of clichés beginning with the personal pronoun I, invoking self-expression as your motive.

A word or two about self-expression.

It is a myth that self-expression (on radical feminist blogs or elsewhere) is a health-giving antidote to mental and physical diseases precipitated by dangerous levels of pent-up creativity or opinions. Self-expression is merely a pop-psychology franchise that grants captive audiences to the self-absorbed.

Of the 20th century’s gifts to modern culture, none is more enduring than the notion of self-expression as a sort of catharsis or exorcism, the relentless practice of which is crucial to our sanity and perhaps to the very fabric of society. We are encouraged from the cradle to condense our inner passions into 8 waxy colors and puke’em outward at brittle sheets of manilla paper, the mundane and inarticulate results of which are praised by those who wield power over us and Scotch-taped to the fridge, which appliance, I don’t need to tell you, is the stainless steel incarnation of the tribal hearth, i.e., the center of the universe.

Later, adults are urged to express, to vent, to confess, to explicitly reveal, to synthesize feelings into artistic statements, and to expel their “demons,” often by writing memoirs that, horribly, sometimes get published and marketed on “Oprah.” Alternatively, it is considered just as healthful to use self-expression to provoke reactions in an audience, which audience is conditioned to be grateful for the experience of having had its worldview all shook up.

In fact, except in rare cases of extreme eccentricity or mad genius, self-expression can’t exist without an audience, real or imagined. Ideally this audience will exhibit a tolerance for manipulation, if not a compulsion to indulge the expressioner in what amounts to her plea to be taped to the fridge at the center of the universe. Because of early attention-seeking training, should one’s inner provocateur languish in obscurity for too long, so increases the likelihood that the audience requirement will devolve into a craving to inflict one’s inner self on an ever-widening universe. Results as diverse as publishing vacation photos on Flickr, assassinating John Lennon, or blogging about punctuation may obtain.

But I digress.

On to the actual topic of today’s essay. It’s a simple prose-writing tip. Here is the tip:

When stating an opinion in the comments section of a radical feminist blog, it’s stupid to begin with the personal pronoun I.

For example: say it is your opinion that a certain spinster aunt’s broad definition is narrow. Now, from the examples below, choose the statement that is more muscular and persuasive (this will be difficult, I realize, given the incomprehensible absurdity of the premise):

A) “Her broad definition is narrow.”

B) “I personally find her broad definition to be rather narrow.”

If you chose B, you flunk!

If you chose A, congratulations! You have realized that the audience for your self-expression is less interested in you personally than you might have imagined. A lot less interested. The truth is, you are boring. You exude ennui from every pore. Any sane reader would rather have root canal than subject herself to your moldy old first-person secretions. But, by expunging boring old you from the subject of your statement, you might stand half a chance of actually engaging in discourse that people give half a crap about.

Unless, of course, you are trying to argue that BDSM should be exempt from contempt because it “takes great strength to be submissive.”

Only through obedience can you know the freedom that is slavery! Only through discipline can you revel in the love that is hate! Only through appeasement of the oppressor can you experience the unfathomable mysteries of the great submissive gift of unconditional masochism! For it takes great strength, Grasshopper, to order patent leather spandex French maid outfits off the internet so you can get off sucking up to some asshole who gets off on rape fantasies.

Cocktail weenies on a stick! This hackneyed crap makes my boob scars twitch.

Here’s another tip:

Dump him!

_________________________
* If you’re new to I Blame the Patriarchy, you may not be aware of the spinster aunt’s long and colorful tradition of mocking the corny BDSM lifestyle. I am unapologetic in my impatience with arguments in praise of this ridiculous dude-centric fetish; some of my ancient remarks on the subject can be found here and here.

104 comments

1 ping

  1. humanbein

    I think that when some people are writing blogs they should try to be a little less judgemental about how some people choose to write their personal opinions because certain people ought to know that a lot of people don’t have fancy spell checking computers because they might have spent all their fucking money on super CUTE!!! leather thingies and just because I have black bangs and look a little like Bettie Page doesn’t mean that others really ought to judge me just because I’m into the life style because I am imprinted that way OK? I mean it’s just rude, OK?

    Did I choose ‘A’ again? Darn it to heck!

  2. humanbein

    I meant I chose ‘B’ again but I told you some people don’t have fancy spell checking stuff to write with so OK?

  3. Satchel

    Of the 20th century’s gifts to modern culture, none is more enduring than the notion of self-expression as a sort of catharsis or exorcism, the relentless practice of which is crucial to our sanity and perhaps to the very fabric of society. We are encouraged from the cradle to condense our inner passions into 8 waxy colors and puke’em outward at brittle sheets of manilla paper, the mundane and inarticulate results of which are praised by those who wield power over us and Scotch-taped to the fridge, which appliance, I don’t need to tell you, is the stainless steel incarnation of the tribal hearth, i.e., the center of the universe.

    Now THAT’s poetry, goddammit. My nerves are very nearly soothed again after being agitated by “Save Roman!” horseshit all morning, and local douchebags hotly defending the “Save the Boobs!” video yesterday. Thanks, Jill.

  4. B. Dagger Lee

    Add another category tag: the Dyspeptic Sublime!

  5. Butters

    Amazing. I write boring prosaic condemnations of BDSM, but this is so much better! :P.

  6. Notorious Ph.D.

    Dominants find no joy in dominating the weak.

    Yes, and rapists find no joy in raping the willing. Sheesh.

  7. Kenz

    I swear, you and Nine Deuce (www.rageagainstthemanchine.com) keep me sane. I appreciate feminists critical of mainstream pornography and BDSM (two toxic aspects of rape culture, in my opinion) and it saddens me that there aren’t more of you. This post pretty much made my day:

    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2009/09/17/crotchwatch-09/

    Anyhow, I’m more of a lurker and tend not to participate in discussions or post comments (lest I become a bit too heated, as I tend to do in conversations regarding feminism), but I wanted to out myself as a fan and tell you to keep up the good work. Apologies for the lack of relevance to the post in this comment.

    -Kenz

  8. Felicity

    She chooses to hand over dominance because that makes her happy? I’d say it was poetry but my dog says as much.

  9. Alderson Warm-Fork

    I had been under the impression that encouraging people to express themselves, when they might previously have felt that nobody would consider them worth listening to, was (among other things, obviously) actually quite a beneficial strand of what radical feminists tried to do in the 20th century. You know, voices to the voiceless and so forth. Get people to speak up so that ‘his-story’ can be supplemented with ‘her-story’, to replace “the deafening sound of women’s silence”.

    You might feel that it’s gone too far, and obviously like anything you can find stupid examples. And maybe a blogger doesn’t need to qualify everything she says. But I would have thought that disparaging the whole idea that people, just for being people, have a voice worth listening to, was a bit of a slap in the face to the people for whom promoting that was a vital piece of activism.

    And yes, I have written this with lots of first-person pronouns. That’s because I may well be wrong about these things and want to explicitly leave that possibility open, since that seems like a style that’s less amenable to let one person’s experiences over-write others. Which, in my understanding, was also something valued by those radical feminists of the 20th century.

  10. Felicity

    Alderson, but women like this exist to shit on things. ‘I actively try to be everything you hate!’ A nasty brand of narcissist – they get off on it. People like her are best ignored and were probably an only- child. They’re no different to anyone else and yet think they’re Gods.

  11. Tigs

    There are some who would say that the emergence of the Super-Special-I-Me-I!! is both a product of and a justification for systems of oppression. The individual is ever-more alienated from her humanity (writ large), and instead, in desperation, begins to identify in increasingly narrow ways. Our commonality is presented as an illusion. Rather only through high heels and a kinky sex life or residence in an exclusive suburb can we truly locate our authentic self—we make these choices because they externalize what is inside and incommunicable. Further, our uniqueness requires that we eschew any political identification that marks us out as primarily part of a group.
    It is supposed that by identifying as women (or workers), we are in fact denying that which makes us human. We are reduced to a set of choices at the same moment those choices become mere consumer preferences. We cannot choose to be treated like fully willing beings, we can only choose to submit.

  12. Tigs

    Sorry, but to clarify the thought:

    By undermining solidarity, one also undermines any political project aimed at liberation.

  13. Julia

    “Self-expression is merely a pop-psychology franchise that grants captive audiences to the self-absorbed.”

    Laughing out loud– LOVE it!!!

  14. Erin

    I haven’t been reading this blog that long, so I read the other two BDSM posts and skimmed through their many comments. I’m surprised there haven’t been more pro-kink responses from feminists.

    I’m a feminist and what I suppose what one could call a non-practicing kinkster; it’s been a part of previous relationships, but not in a while (due to lack of interest on the part of subsequent partners). When I read all these anti-BDSM comments I really get a sense that people don’t get it, and not in an “OMG we’re so misunderstood and marginalized, you wouldn’t understand!” sort of way, but in a “You’re really mischaracterizing what goes on in these sorts of relationships” kind of way. I’m sure there are some fucked-up BDSM relationships out there, as there are many other kinds of fucked-up relationships. But the presence of BDSM isn’t the problem.

    I think we can all agree that, for better or worse (generally worse), power and violence and sex get all screwed up together in our culture. A lot of people (my present partner included) can’t understand why anyone would willingly want to conflate these in the bedroom. Other people think it’s fun to play around with them. From my experience, the idea of it being a “dude-centric fetish” involving “some asshole who gets off on rape fantasies” is so inaccurate it’s laughable. My kinky former partner was my equal in every way, but he liked me to torment him in the bedroom. Occasionally we switched and he tormented me. When we weren’t having kinky sex we were like any normal couple. In fact, this person stands out as one of the most feminist men I’ve dated (in contrast to several men I’ve dated who were both vanilla and abusive). We had a lot of discussions about kink and feminism, but it was always from more of a philosophical standpoint, because it didn’t offend either of our feminist sensibilities.

    Do I think that my personal positive experience is grounds for us to stop interrogating BDSM from a feminist perspective? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s a bit of evidence that it’s possible to be feminist, kinky, healthy, and happy? Yes, I do.

    (Huge caveat: When we start talking about 24/7 master/slave sorts of situations, I’m a little more equivocal. Consent is a nice idea but it’s not always black and white, and it can definitely be coerced. I think anyone, dominant or submissive, who feels the need for that kind of relationship has a lot of unpacking to do.)

  15. Jill

    “My kinky former partner was my equal in every way”

    Equal in every way except, I am obliged to suggest, insofar as you were a member of the sex class and he wasn’t, the only way that really matters.

  16. slythwolf

    The proper purpose of encouraging children to color with crayons is not self-expression but the development of visual and motor skills. That this purpose has been subverted in service of a concept whose promulgation ensures said children’s maturation into the sort of adults who believe it is everyone’s duty to give a flying shit about their personal feelings at every possible juncture is one of life’s great tragedies.

  17. Jill

    Alderson W-F, one differentiates between “self-expression” and philosophic inquiry.

  18. maidden

    While I understand Jill’s position on the badness of a member of the sex class performing a submissive role in the bedroom (or dungeon, as the case may be), I haven’t been able to find her opinion on the opposite situation: dominant women. Could somebody point me to the appropriate posts and/or comments? Or perhaps she herself could clarify.

    Then maybe somebody could explain to me how it’s possible for a woman to participate in any (heterosexual) sexual activity without subjecting herself to fulfilling a dude-centric fantasy of some kind. Is it down to a choice between lesbianism and asexuality?

  19. Anna Belle

    “Exempt from contempt.” Awesome. That oughtta be a title of something.

  20. thebewilderness

    Not So Dear Alderson W-F,

    Please get out from under your erroneous impressions. They are weighting you down and causing your broad categorizations to be narrow minded.

  21. Danielle

    Alderson Warm-Fork, the salient point here has more to do with persuasive communication than with the suppression of individual voice. By asserting a premise for debate and prefacing it with something like, “I believe” or “I’m just speaking for myself” or worst of all, “It is my personal opinion,” the impact of what follows is weakened because it’s offered in the context of the self. Nothing dilutes an argument more than qualifications like the ones in your comment: “I had been under the impression that,” “I would’ve thought that,” “I may well be wrong, but,” and “Which, in my understanding, was.”

    Make strong statements; support them boldly. No woman is doing herself or anyone else any favors by softening what she has to say so as not to stomp on what others have to say. That’s what we’ve been trained to do since the day we were born.

  22. yttik

    Human beings are very adaptable. Put them in a dominant culture where submission is constantly required and they will find a way to exercise some control over it, to convince themselves that they actually choose this in some way, even to transform it into something pleasurable that they actively seek.

    BDSM is simply an extension, the progress down a continuum, that many of us already engage in everyday. If those Swiffer ads continue, we may all come to understand exactly how people are sexualized to certain abusive concepts, like the “erotic” experience of mopping the floor. Or the orgasmic joy of doing laundry. Ahh, the pleasures of unpaid mandated labor, why, it’s almost like foreplay already..

  23. KH

    The properly empowerful response to external interrogations of one’s stated causes of personal empowerfulment is not justification through extended dialectic, personal anecdote, or terse “but I like it!” statements. Such responses indicate a distinct lack of empowerfulment, in fact. A truly empowered response would be a no-brainer in addition to being a time-saver for all involved.

    Note: this truism applies equally to challenges to purportedly empowerfulizing lifestyle choices such as shoes, lipstick, sex of any sort, warm fuzzies, cheeze whiz, McMansions, McDonalds, MacGyver, puppies, iPhones, bunnies, thongs, granny panties, golf, and so on.

  24. Jill

    I’m for any response that does not include a description of the respondent’s personal sex habits.

  25. goblinbee

    Jill: “I’m for any response that does not include a description of the respondent’s personal sex habits.”

    Hear, hear!

  26. Jezebella

    KH, I’ll thank you to leave my granny panties out of it! Hmph.

  27. Mortisha

    Thanks for this. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks BDSM and its permutations are as boring & cliché as batshit.

  28. Kelly

    Thanks for reminding me why it’s no big loss that art is dead.

  29. Jonathan

    I make decisions that impact us both on a daily basis.

    You know, my SO makes make decisions that impact us both on a continual basis throughout the day.

    Is this too often? Should I be worried?

  30. Jonathan

    In my experience, Dominants find no joy in dominating the weak. There’s no point.

    So Bernard Madoff was smiling for some other reason?

    Perhaps if rape fetishizing wasn’t so horrible, BSDMers wouldn’t be so bothered by a lack of 100% support of their worldview by everyone all the time.

    Or perhaps it’s just the dudes ordering their submissives to go tell the feminists to shut up again.

  31. Pinko Punko

    Caffeine in the cool whip this morning, eh?

    Bert gets the business for getting skunked and you go traipsing through the fire ants like la-di-da.

    Almost just tossed off: “Results as diverse as publishing vacation photos on Flickr, assassinating John Lennon, or blogging about punctuation may obtain.” Assertive with the turns of phrase today, I’ll say that!

  32. Lizard

    @Jonathan: Or the BDSMers who don’t particularly care whether there’s 100% support for their worldview – or who don’t share a worldview with Gladys – aren’t spamming Twisty to say that.

  33. M the Pedagogue

    Holy shit, this is great, and a brilliant reminder that I am not required by my feminism to be the audience for long-winded sexual confessions.

    That genre is, in itself, a lousy throwback to 16th-century-style renunciations of self and the body in order to attain spiritual cleanliness. The Jesuits were into that shit, and then Luther and the Protestants got in on that shit too. In other words, that empowerful feeling of spilling your precious guts to the world wouldn’t happen if it weren’t a confession of sin. Contradictory as it might seem, the “confessional” first-person-pronoun storytelling actually comes out of a tradition that begins with the assumption that the speaker of the first person pronoun is BAD.

    The 20th-century half-hearted attempt at reclaiming first person confessionals as something that’s somehow important was pretty much limited to white middle class college girls. Look what it did for Sylvia Plath. It finally makes sense to me why I hate The Vagina Monologues so fucking badly. The me-me-me stories are just another way of solidifying a shared sense of women’s identities as plottable on a short line that extends from “whore” to “dead.” No wonder submission to the “whore” end of things feels powerful. I guess it beats “dead.”

    Fuck the I-me-I language. Blame the fucking shitheads, the rapists, the willfully ignorant. Blame the motherfucking patriarchy and burn down the houses of those who sell it to us as “empowerment.”

  34. Jodie

    I hate it when those people corner me at parties. I much prefer puppies, at least after they’ve grown into dogs, that is.

  35. Mackenzie

    Jill said:
    “Equal in every way except, I am obliged to suggest, insofar as you were a member of the sex class and he wasn’t, the only way that really matters.”

    However, Erin said rather clearly that she and that partner *took turns* playing the dominant and submissive roles.

  36. io

    @Lizard: Some BDSMers — those carefully avoiding personal pronouns — appreciate an IBTP analysis of kink in relation to the pervasive patriarchy. Some kinksters are very much aware of hating-of-female-self, feeling hated by others, childhood and not so childhood traumas and general desire for control over sexuality, all of which inform a type of sexual expression that is quite likely just as fucked up as so-called vanilla sex.

    In contrast to Gladys merely trying to fool herself that she is seen as an equal by her male partner, another woman may dominate men in the bedroom as a way to ease the psychic pain and control what she can as a member of the sex class. She’s nonetheless catering to kinky men.

    In a lesbian BDSM relationship, the partners are “equally” members of the sex class. An anecdotal first-person perspective: the dominant woman may even be more molded to the male-gaze-pleasing role than her baby butch partner. Of course, said strictly-hypothetical couple is still recreating patriarchal dominance-submission roles. (To the point where potential spillover caused the dominant woman to take a step back and say, whoa, where am I drawing the line?)

    People who enjoy being dominant and sadistic do, unfortunately, find “joy” (or something) in hurting the weak — they just consider stronger people more of a challenge, or as a way of trying to mitigate destructive intentions. I say this sadly with some authority, no pun intended.

    Apologies if this has been covered in previous IBTP comment threads and/or for length of comment.

  37. Jenn

    The bit about audiences for “self expression” was quite titillating (no, not like that). I’m enamored of calling it patriarchy squared, i.e. I’m going to dominate everyone else at being the most into domination.

    Also, I’m fairly certain that your rhetoric beatdown went entirely over my head. I did have to edit my comment so it did not begin with the word “I”.

  38. panoptical

    At the risk of sounding corny, has anyone on here thought about how women with alternative sexual practices might feel upon reading threads like this? Talking about personal feelings seems to be a subject of mockery on this thread, and that makes me wonder. I wonder what sort of people are typically the subject of mockery for showing their feelings, and I wonder what sort of people are the ones who commit such mockery. That wouldn’t be connected to any sort of patriarchal systems of domination and submission, now would it?

    More than anything these posts remind me of high school. We get mockery of geeks, nerds, trekkies, gamers, and only children – so what does that make blamers? The jocks of the feminist community? Are we Mean Girls all of a sudden? I wonder what sort of hierarchy it creates when we ridicule people because of their sexual preferences or their perceived artsiness.

    Because, instead, we could talk about BDSM without directly insulting kinky people and collaterally insulting other groups of people who also happen to be relegated to the lower end of the social totem pole.

  39. io

    @panoptical: see my above comment. If you’re attempting a thread hijacking, please leave. Feminists on here are not mocking BDSM practitioners for being non-vanilla, they’re mocking those BDSMers who have demonstrated a lack of higher thought processes. Jill does not appear to mock someone for having an “alternative” sexual practice unless that person is defending said practice on spurious grounds.

    Lesbian sex is much farther outside the patriarchy-approved mainstream than BDSM. Yet Jill/Twisty has managed to disclose her sexuality in a way that makes it relevant to a larger discussion, rather than making it All About Jill’s Personal Experiences Only.

    The comment from “Gladys” not only fails to examine the function of BDSM in a patriarchal society, it also does it in a way that says, “I [Gladys] have had ‘x’ experience and since this experience is part of my personal-important sexual self-expression, it is all the evidence needed in this discussion.”

    So, mocking someone for being both dense and self-absorbed? Totally fair game.

  40. slythwolf

    @panoptical–That some kinky people might regard being told their sexual practices are a direct result of patriarchal oppression as an insult could be seen as a step in the right direction on their parts. However, this does not actually make it anything of the kind; it is neither ridicule, as you suggest, nor any form of personal attack.

  41. slythwolf

    Adding: There is a difference between merely expressing one’s feelings and/or opinions and touting the act of doing so as in some way noble, impressive, or indeed universally interesting. Only the latter is reprehensible.

    That you parse this as “ridiculing” someone for “talking about personal feelings” shows a lack of reading comprehension.

  42. Carolyn

    her plea to be taped to the fridge at the center of the universe

    Genius.

  43. SargassoSea

    Yes, well, some of us are fortunate enough to live in a stanless steel unviverse. My somewhat pathetic universe, however, is of the white plastic variety. It’s okay though because the freezer is a sub that’s totally hawt in black vinyl.

  44. Kristyn

    ”Human beings are very adaptable. Put them in a dominant culture where submission is constantly required and they will find a way to exercise some control over it, to convince themselves that they actually choose this in some way, even to transform it into something pleasurable that they actively seek.

    BDSM is simply an extension, the progress down a continuum, that many of us already engage in everyday. …”

    Forgive the block quote, but that was too good. Also what io wrote, but block quoting that would make this too long.

    Practicing BDSM without examining your choices is like having Stockholm Syndrome for the patriarchy. But as other blamers have also pointed out, basically any choice we make in this society is the same — each one of our options just places us somewhere else on the continuum between disgruntled waitstaff, mindwashed servant, and outright slave.

    It’s nice to imagine that any one of us could break free of the continuum altogether, whether by embracing the norms (BDSM lifestylers, ‘empowerfulated’ women taking pole-dancing classes, middle- to upper-middle-class white girls making porn or prostituting themselves ”for fun”) or nominally rejecting them (anywhere from neocon female pundits like Schafly and Coulter ad nauseum who sell out their own kind, to the butches, punk grrls, and patriarchy-blamers who defy in all manners the Beauty Standard)
    — but as we know, or at least sometimes have to admit to ourselves, the patriarchy ain’t going to hand out cookies to any of us, no matter what we do, and ultimately we each have to choose to do what makes us most comfortable.

    It’s just unwise to think that our particular individual crayon drawing — which may well be pleasing to ourselves and to others — is THE lone crayon drawing worthy of being at the center of this whole universe. Besides, I think men still own the fridge. Or at least, they patrol what gets taped to it.

  45. Amananta

    @panoptical – as a woman who has been deeply involved in “alternative sexual practices” in the past I can say there needs to be MORE public questioning and criticism of BDSM, not less. Reading one such extensive criticism of BDSM on Biting Beaver’s old blog may well have saved my life. There is so little criticism “allowed” of this “alternative” practice.
    The BDSM crowd runs around yelling and screaming about how oppressed they are but there is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, BDSM in one form or another is celebrated in American culture, rather than oppressed or suppressed. What is truly mocked and suppressed is any feminist criticism of BDSM, or indeed any woman-centered sexuality at all, from lesbianism to asexuality.
    BDSMers don’t seem to care how “vanilla” people might feel when they mock sexuality that isn’t based on the “fantasy” of rape and pain as boring and repressed. Why should feminists be so concerned for their feelings?

  46. Jill

    Others have already sort of said this on my behalf, but here it is from the horse’s mouth. Although I say nothing here that cannot be understood by merely reading what I have already written.

    I don’t mock individual women’s experiences or “feelings.” I don’t even mock Gladys’ feelings. I mock arguments that are “supported” entirely by feelings instead of by analysis, reasoning, or study (e.g.”it makes me happy, therefore you are wrong”). I also mock systems, behaviors, cults, and institutions that support women’s oppression (marriage, femininity, Swiffers, church, school, Hollywood, etc). When women themselves support women’s oppression through these institutions (e.g. “I choose femininity, therefore it is empowering”), that’s mock-worthy, too. I mock any practice, sexual or non, gay, straight, or trans, dudely or girly, that has as its central motif the celebration, fetishization, or sanctification of the culture of domination.

    Also, the fact that Erin and her boyfriend take turns “tormenting” each other sexually does not alter the fact that “in life” (“in life” is Gladys’ own term for what she does when she is not being ritually tormented), her boyfriend continues to enjoy male privilege that she does not, despite her perception that she is his “equal.”

  47. agasaya

    Personal outrage fuels much of what passes for change (usually temporary and localized). Women, lacking formal education for much of history, had nothing beyond the personal for explaining and making sense of the universe.

    It wasn’t ineffective. We can just aspire to more formalized renunciations of injustice and analysis at this point in time. Subjective feelings of outrage can be moved to our own blogs. Sounds like a time and place issue, not censorship. Personal experience confirming an idea isn’t ridiculed here – only the idea that it is all that is required to create or confirm a theory.

    As for the bedroom confessions, BDSM as a life choice, (not a ‘style’ like your choice of indigo accents for the bathroom), goes beyond the bedroom. Bedroom games may recapitulate oppression/capitulation scenarios of society but that isn’t the same as adopting that for a paradigm for leading your life.

    On the other hand, if you are only into the occasional bedroom game, beware how your partner perceives it. He/She may not terminate the concepts involved at the bedroom door and the slide might be too incremental to notice easily. Habits of behavior become entrenched as beliefs (which is why behavioral/cognitive therapy is so termed). If your partner becomes increasingly attached to those games, it’s a short hop to the rest of the relationship.

  48. humanbein

    Mocking the idea of sex that includes ritual or even subtle domination is something that can’t be done too often, since it is pathetic and funny and dumb that we, simple animals wishing to trigger this animal sensation, take our sex lives so incredibly seriously that we assume that the stupid things we do to get off are essential to our personalities and individual being.

    When we mock, we create distance. When far away enough to see something in its entirety, we see more completely. The hurt feelings from someone mocking sex practices that have reliably and efficiently provided orgasmic responses for us are descended from the serious, hushed and secret nature of sex that we have been taught since birth. Mixed, let’s posit, with a lingering sense of being somehow used by ourselves or our partner.

    After the slight shock of recognition passes, powerful insights develop. I know I respond a certain way to the very thought of these practices, now what does that mean about me? My advice is to not condemn yourself, either. Nobody is alone in this.

  49. Kelly

    Come on MtheP, what would the internet be without privileged white women endlessly recounting their superior ways of screwing, birthing, rearing, living and dying?

  50. nails

    God, all the BDSM outrage reminds me of my honky awakening. As if any critique of BDSM has something to do with them personally. I used to take critiques of white privilege that way. It makes it damn near impossible to actually listen to the point being made when you are in that mode of defensiveness.

  51. bluey512

    Seems to me your objection to BDSM stems from an almost mathematical understanding of gendered power dynamics. Men are sexual oppressors, women are the sexually oppressed, therefore sex between men and women is coercive, therefore all sex is rape, and BDSM is a particularly glaring example of this principle. It sounds logical.

    Reality, however, tends to be more nuanced than that. Nuances are hard to understand unless you have some examples of real situations. But you apparently reject that knowledge. How come?

    I don’t know what your personal sexual/relationship history is like, but I’m curious – do you have any personal experience of heterosexual relationships at all, or are you speaking out of pure ignorance?

  52. Felicity

    It’s not maths, you can still oppose BDSM as a feminist and consider nuances, heterosexual relationships. What Jill brings is a neutral perspective about dominance in BDSM people are always forgetting. The opinion BDSM is harmless is thrown around every day – Jill and commenters simply offer a different, refreshing take; a theory where the underlying truth is the problem, not how simplified it is.

  53. Jezebella

    Bluey, your first paragraph does not even remotely resemble the argument re: BDSM that our hostess is advancing. Try again.

  54. bluey512

    A neutral perspective! That was my argument back when I advocated libertarianism as a teenager.

    You could oppose BDSM and consider nuances, but not when you reject all knowledge of nuances.

    How is BDSM harmful, anyway? Does it do lasting physical harm? Mental? Emotional? Does it change either person’s social or economic power? Does it change the dynamics between those two people?

  55. Jonathan

    @bluey512:

    How is BDSM harmful, anyway? Does it do lasting physical harm? Mental? Emotional? Does it change either person’s social or economic power? Does it change the dynamics between those two people?

    And if someone responded with “yes”, would you not shout them down? Would you not question their sexual experiences? Would you not trivialize their life experiences and the pain they went through?

    The pro-BSDM pile-on makes this post an unsafe/unfriendly place for such opposing comments, which I think is the goal. As Amananta pointed out upsream:

    There is so little criticism “allowed” of this “alternative” practice.

  56. bluey512

    Oh, for goodness’ sake. I’m just asking for an argument instead of just “BDSM is gross. And your writing sucks.” Even Amananta didn’t offer much of an argument against BDSM. If she did, I’d analyze it and either agree or disagree, depending on which made sense to me at the time. Or her argument might just raise more questions. If she offered personal experiences, I would ask how representative that experience was of the BDSM scene in general (after all, a couple messing around with handcuffs every now and then is probably not comparable to a more hardcore couple), and how she thought that experience rose out of the inherent nature of BDSM. If I were curious enough (which is honestly quite unlikely), I would read a few books and compare and contrast perspectives so as to get a better overview of the subject. And if neither she nor Jill want to discuss it with me, that’s fine too.

    I am also asking for an argument against all het sex that amounts to more than “How can the oppressed give consent?” and perhaps takes account of reality. (Here’s where I would use my personal experiences to discuss how het relationships can be non-oppressive, if that were welcome. But it’s not, which means any attempt to make a properly supported and illustrated argument will, presumably, be met with hostility.)

    If questions and discussion in a public forum are unsafe and unfriendly, then discourse is impossible. If you’re not looking for discourse, fine. But I’m just sayin’.

    I don’t know, Jezebella. She didn’t honestly make much of an argument, but she did describe BDSM as “painfully silly rape-based patriarchy-reenactment boinking.” That sounds very similar to what I described, only with more scorn and some delightfully snappy prose.

  57. Hedgepig

    bluey512,you ask for “an argument against all het sex that amounts to more than ‘How can the oppressed give consent?’”

    I suppose this means you think this is a weak argument. Why? Do you think women as a caste are not oppressed in our society and/or do you think members of an oppressed caste can freely give consent?

    Or perhaps some of these “nuances” that “take account of reality” involve some women being truly oppressed but some women not really being so oppressed vis-a-vis their male counterparts? Which is a common view among liberals, even liberal feminists. Radical feminists, as I understand, instead believe that if you belong to an oppressed class you are oppressed. You may be a wealthy business woman getting a window cleaner to whip you, but the bottom line, so to speak, is that nomatter how wealthy you are, if you are considered an orifice first and formost by your society, your society is privileging the dick-possessing poor tradesman and you are just a rich cunt. Am I wrong?

  58. Nolabelfits

    Here’s what I want to know. Why is it that certain behaviors exhibited by some random dude or other are recognized as harassment, but when “your Nigel” does the same thing, you’re supposed to like it and react with enthusiasm? Or at least tolerate it.

  59. Nolabelfits

    Sorry the last comment was not specifically about BDSM. I don’t mean to derail the discussion.

  60. Alderson Warm-Fork

    “Why is it that certain behaviors exhibited by some random dude or other are recognized as harassment, but when “your Nigel” does the same thing, you’re supposed to like it and react with enthusiasm? Or at least tolerate it.”

    Having asked him to first is one apparent difference.

  61. panoptical

    @bluey512:

    The argument is not just that BDSM is gross, it’s that BDSM outwardly resembles all of the most violent and degrading aspects of heterosexual intercourse as it has historically been performed – and not only resembles, but also seems to glorify and fetishize these aspects. These facts mean that, as has been pointed out, BDSM should be the subject of feminist questioning and critique. There is no question that BDSM needs to be scrutinized very carefully, and anyone who practices it should (and usually does) understand that necessity.

    People should also understand that because BDSM often involves violence, pain, degradation, and/or use of force – in a sexual context – it is very likely to trigger extreme emotional responses from people who acutely feel the constant threat of sexual violence. That’s why a pro-BDSM stance – or even a “neutral” stance – can make a space feel unsafe for discussion, as Jonathan pointed out.

    Personally, I’m one of those people who sees in BDSM the potential for subverting patriarchal gender roles. I also think that by dealing explicitly with issues that are present but unacknowledged in “vanilla” sex, BDSM has the potential to increase people’s awareness of issues of power, consent, and oppression, and thus also increase society’s ability to deal with these issues in a more equitable way. However, I would be foolish to believe that there is not also enormous abuse of BDSM in actual practice. Therefore, rather than take a pro-BDSM stance, I try to limit my role in these kinds of discussion to promoting understanding and civility between the two sides. Pursuant to that end, my hope is that I have been able to place the responses that you have been getting in their proper context.

  62. bluey512

    Nolabelfits, I’ll answer you first, because your question gets at the root of the matter. You asked “Why is it that certain behaviors exhibited by some random dude or other are recognized as harassment, but when “your Nigel” does the same thing, you’re supposed to like it and react with enthusiasm?”

    Well, and here I’m assuming that by “certain behaviors” you mean certain sexual behaviors, I wouldn’t say you’re “supposed to” like it, though if you don’t, then the relationship may be short-lived. But my fundamental reason for not opposing BDSM is based on the fact that what is understood as permissible and what isn’t – not just in sexual matters, either – can differ depending on the relationship. As long as permission can be retracted, I don’t see a problem.

    Standing permission for sexual acts is generally understood not to be granted to strangers, but it may be, in the context of a romantic relationship.

    Hedgepig, I think the effectiveness of that argument depends on power dynamics, and power dynamics depend on context.

    Your example of a rich woman fucking a window cleaner is apt. What are the power dynamics in this case? He’s a man, but does that automatically mean he has power over her? Particularly if, say, he’s an undocumented POC worker? Well, no. Do whips and chains somehow negate the influence she can wield with her money and legal status? Probably not, unless, I suppose, he takes pictures and blackmails her or something.

    See here’s the thing – in this country, most rights and most kinds of power are not denied to people solely due to gender. Women can vote and own property, and many do. They make up a major part of the workforce, and hold all kinds of distinguished and influential positions. Overall we don’t quite equal men in power, but in typical everyday life (depending on race, class, etc.), a woman can be as or more powerful than a man and a pretty good number of us are.

    In other words, to say that women are oppressed “as a caste” is overly simplistic, if you mean that 100% of women are less powerful than 100% of men. And that is the implied argument when you say that women can never give consent because they are all oppressed. I do think you can make a good argument that women as a category tend to have certain social vulnerabilities (e.g. being regarded as bad leadership material), but you could say that about most categories of people, including men.

    The other answer to “How can the oppressed give consent?” is this: when the oppressor lets them. If your boyfriend stops when you say no, without fail and without exception, then you do in actual fact have the option to say no. Even if he, by virtue of a prejudiced legal system or whatever, has the option not to respect your wishes. In fact, if he does not misuse his power, he can hardly be called an oppressor in the first place (although a feminist critique of the legal system is obviously in order).

    panoptical, I do think that BDSM fetishizes patriarchal power dynamics (often, anyway). However, I also think that it’s possible to confine it to the bedroom, which was also the argument of the commenter Jill quoted. She said “In life I am my Dominants equal. In the bedroom I CHOOSE to hand over control because that is what makes me happy.” That squares with my own experience. Again, I’m not seeing any problems inherent in BDSM.

    “People should also understand that because BDSM often involves violence, pain, degradation, and/or use of force – in a sexual context – it is very likely to trigger extreme emotional responses from people who acutely feel the constant threat of sexual violence. That’s why a pro-BDSM stance – or even a “neutral” stance – can make a space feel unsafe for discussion, as Jonathan pointed out.”

    BDSM is indeed a fraught subject for some people and I can see why they may wish to avoid discussion with those who disagree with them. However, to the extent that this is a public forum, I have a right to express my opinions in a civil and sensitive manner. And I am not the one who brought up this fraught subject in the first place, so as long as I stay civil, I really don’t think it’s my fault if some people consider this space unsafe.

  63. Felicity

    Bluey has turned annoyingly like Gladys. ‘I-Me-I’, the world revolves around my narcissism etc. Now that’s kinda interesting. It’s as if taking the opposing stance on this board has that immediate effect. These women can’t just piss us off with the blatant ignorance *we’re* accused of, they have to be annoying and whiny with it.

    p.s. Bluey, our argument isn’t an ultimate fail or non- existant just because you yourself don’t get it. There’s that nasty ignorant narcissism again.

  64. mearl

    Can we stop and think about the fact that a whole culture of BDSM wouldn’t even exist at all if it weren’t for the existence of an ingrained and fetishized directive of dominance over women that is fuelled by patriarchy everywhere else in life? I’d be interested to know how anyone can argue that BDSM is moving beyond the dictates of the patriarchy when it doesn’t even leave its confines. Philosophize about it all you want, but the script of BDSM sex is just taking aspects of the patriarchy and acting ‘em out, over and over and over ad nauseum. Hence its popularity with men.

    As for saying it’s easily kept separate in the bedroom, that’s like saying chemical dumping is easily kept separate from the wildlife sanctuaries upstate.

    Can we also consider that, on this blog, we rarely get the perspective of the population of male partners in these edgy, progressive, enlightened BDSM relationships? As far as I can tell, we’re mainly getting the (defensive) female point of view. As valid as those POV’s are, I’d say we’re sorely lacking in knowledge about whether dudez who love to get their rocks off on female doms and subs spend a lot of time thinking about the ideological underpinnings of their enjoyment of rape fantasy. Maybe (and this is going out on a limb) they don’t. Maybe the guys who watch rape porn are simply exercising their already-existing privilege and loving the fact that plenty of females are now willing – due to a really skewed version of logic that said females use to convince themselves they’re pushing boundaries – to play out the acts for them so the men don’t have to view themselves as actual rapists/women-haters.

    Okay, let’s here some more explanations about how “choosing” to be submissive or dominant is a liberating experience. Ready, set, go!

  65. bluey512

    Felicity – In other words, “We’re right because… because… because you don’t get it, that’s why!” How wonderfully convincing. Do you have anything of substance to add, or are you just here for the sarcasm?

    mearl – You don’t have to go out on a limb, you know. You can just google this stuff. According to this article (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,921829,00.html), one of the most common fantasies of both men and women is to be bound and dominated. According to this other article (http://www.heretical.com/wilson/sfantasy.html), women fantasize about “rape/force” much more than men and both fantasize equally about sadism/masochism, but neither fantasy is overwhelmingly common in either group.

    So if you think a large percentage of men want to force women to sleep with them, think again.

    Are you capable of articulating how the dynamics of domination and submission within the bedroom affect outside dynamics? Or do you just suppose that it does, without any supporting evidence or any argument at all?

    Oh, and I love this idea you’ve expressed that all (straight) men naturally want sex and all (straight) women don’t, so therefore whenever men and women have sex it’s all about the man getting what he wants. Again, a very simplistic and ill-informed point of view.

  66. Kelsey B.

    “The other answer to “How can the oppressed give consent?” is this: when the oppressor lets them. If your boyfriend stops when you say no, without fail and without exception, then you do in actual fact have the option to say no. Even if he, by virtue of a prejudiced legal system or whatever, has the option not to respect your wishes. In fact, if he does not misuse his power, he can hardly be called an oppressor in the first place (although a feminist critique of the legal system is obviously in order).”

    I’m not actively going around beating up people of color in front of chain restaurants, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t benefit from white privilege each and every day. No matter to what extent I choose to exploit or deny this privilege, it’s still there. I’m still complicit in this system, no matter how tempting it is to deny it. The same principle applies to romantic/sexual relationships. Even if my S.O. gives me the “option” to say no, in the public sphere, he still benefits from his maleness in ways that he can’t even fathom. Also: male oppression of women in romantic relationships is about a thousand times more complicated than whether or not the woman is given the “option” to refuse sex.

  67. bluey512

    Kelsey B, it’s true that privilege doesn’t go away just because the man respects the woman’s wishes, and it’s true that consent is complicated. However, if you believe that it is possible for at least some women to give meaningful consent to sex, then we’re on the same page.

  68. Kelly

    Here’s where I would use my personal experiences to discuss how het relationships can be non-oppressive, if that were welcome. But it’s not, which means any attempt to make a properly supported and illustrated argument will, presumably, be met with hostility.

    Bless your heart, you actually believe that your “personal experiences” “properly” support an argument. Back to 101.

  69. Sepia

    “Self-expression is merely a pop-psychology franchise that grants captive audiences to the self-absorbed.”

    yeah, then again, getting shot, is self-absorbing, cinematographic, as an object, sometimes, there is dignity in accepting very bad shit.

    when, going to jail, you just go, do it on your jack, if the cops ask you to share it out, tell them to go fuck themselves, you can still be your own world.

    ‘The me-me-me stories are just another way of solidifying a shared sense of women’s identities as plottable on a short line that extends from “whore” to “dead.” ‘

    Those windows in Amsterdam, sometimes, there is no dignity in accepting very bad shit.

  70. Felicity

    Sorry but if you’re on the same page why the need to flame the whole topic?

  71. Felicity

    I hate when someone’s lost an argument so badly, they resort to saying well you must agree with ‘this’ so therefore I win!

    Bluey your argument sucked. All you can do is whine and use the pesonal pronoun.

  72. Hedgepig

    Bluey believes that “most rights and most kinds of power are not denied to people solely due to gender” and that to say that women are oppressed as a caste is overly simplistic.
    This is the overwhelmingly dominant view in 21st century western societies. I used to believe this. As long as the majority believes this, women and girls are fucked.

  73. Nolabelfits

    The problem with consent is that the boundaries get blurred. Even in plain old vanilla relationships with Nigels, a state of perpetual consent can become implied by the relationship. For example, a woman walking shirtless through the kitchen can mean nothing more than “my shirt is in the dryer and I’m going to get it,” but the Nigel may see it as an opportunity to ogle, make comments, stop and fondle her, etc, possibly against her wishes. Her trip to the dryer gets interrupted by a heterosexual power dynamic. So if these power dynamics and blurred boundaries that are the result of this implied consent take place in “real life” in regular old vanilla heterosexual relationships, I can’t imagine that the same shit doesn’t happen in BDSM relationships, and the stuff one consents to in BDSM sex seems a whole lot worse to be subjected to when one is not in the mood. (although I am not an authority) I don’t see how anyone can claim its possible to just leave power dynamics in the bedroom.

  74. madeleine

    @bleuey: please continue thinking about any personal experience that blatantly contradicts radfem theory. Saying you are ‘whiny and narcissistic’ is a patriarchal strategy. Do not ignore what you know is true.

  75. Jezebella

    Is calling someone “whiny” always a “patriarchal strategy” even if it’s true? Because, man, there are some truly whiny people in the world, and I don’t see how that’s always my fault.

  76. Jonathan

    @bluey512:

    I really don’t think it’s my fault if some people consider this space unsafe.

    And you call yourself a safe-sane-consensual BDSMer.

    @Kelsey B:

    If your boyfriend stops when you say no, without fail and without exception, then you do in actual fact have the option to say no. Even if he, by virtue of a prejudiced legal system or whatever, has the option not to respect your wishes. In fact, if he does not misuse his power, he can hardly be called an oppressor in the first place (although a feminist critique of the legal system is obviously in order).”

    And if one day he decides not to, society and the law will do nothing against him.

    It’s like juggling fire, only with one juggling partner made out of rock and the other out of wood. It strains credibility to call that a safe lifestyle choice (or even a willing choice) for both parties in the majority of cases cases.

    Not to mention that BDSM is used by society at large to whitewash violence against women.

  77. speedbudget

    The other answer to “How can the oppressed give consent?” is this: when the oppressor lets them.

    Interesting that in an argument about how women are not the sex caste and therefore can give meaningful consent, you use the word “let.”

    Honey, if your boyfriend “lets” you say no, you’re not withholding consent. If your boyfriend “lets” you say anything, he is the one with the true consent, and you only get to enjoy what you THINK is consent unless and until he decides he’s had to wait too long and it’s time for you to jump in the saddle.

  78. ivyleaves

    “As long as permission can be retracted, I don’t see a problem.” As long as permission CAN’T be retracted, it doesn’t exist. And this is the problem with being tied up and saying no. It’s not really YOUR option at that point.

  79. Jill

    “Not to mention that BDSM is used by society at large to whitewash violence against women.”

    An excellent point.

    If, unlike me, you aren’t given to episodic fits of obsessive TV-watching, you can’t imagine how many cop shows have a stiffie for the oft-recycled dead-chick-who-”liked it rough” plot device.

    TV isn’t real life, I realize, but it’s creepy that audiences are apparently entertained when death is presented as a reasonable and gratifying punishment for women who like it rough. It’s a rehash of “she asked for it.” Just as a prostituted woman can’t be raped, you can’t really assault a submissive. In both cases you’re just using them according to their natural essence.

  80. iamlegs

    Jonathan, the comment you attributed to Kelsey B was actually made by bluey512, and quoted by Kelsey B in her rebuttal.

  81. bluey512

    Nolabelfits – Yeah, consent can be exceedingly blurry. Although, I’m not sure I’d characterize unwanted fondling based on an assumption of standing permission an interruption “by a heterosexual power dynamic.” After all, a lesbian could misread her partner’s willingness just as easily as a straight man. The trip to the dryer wasn’t interrupted by a “heterosexual” “power dynamic,” it was interrupted by a misunderstanding.

    Unless he refuses to stop harassing her and then can’t be stopped by her or by law enforcement. Then it becomes an issue of the man using his privilege to hurt/coerce the woman, which of course is quite a common power dynamic.

    On the other hand, what if the woman in question likes it when her Nigel fondles her out of the blue? And what if, despite this, he insisted on asking first all the time? It would be ridiculously disruptive and annoying, and it wouldn’t take long for her to lose all attraction for him.

    So you have to distinguish between opting in and opting out, and between one-time permission and standing permission. And yes, it’s gonna be tricky. There’s a different set of permissions of various sorts between every pair. In any halfway functional relationship the two will talk about what’s okay and what’s not fairly early on. You literally sit around and discuss things like, “How do you feel about PDA?” or whatever. You set your boundaries as you go. Only when they are not respected is there an issue.

    “the stuff one consents to in BDSM sex seems a whole lot worse to be subjected to when one is not in the mood.”

    People have ways of dealing with this, you know. If you’re not in the mood, you can withdraw consent, via a safeword if nothing else. BDSM without a safeword, I think, would in fact be quite irresponsible.

    Speedbudget – In any relationship, one partner is going to have more power to coerce the other into having sex than the other. Sometimes it’s the woman, much more often it’s the man. But to say that the less powerful partner is being coerced just because there is a power imbalance… well, it doesn’t follow. Coercion happens when someone uses their power to get someone to do something they don’t want to do. For example, there are a lot of people out there who could mug me and get away with it. But let’s say I’m friends with one of these people, and they’re $1 short on their dinner bill, and I volunteer to fill in the gap because I happen to have lots of dollar bills that day. Have I been mugged? Did I have the option to not give them a dollar?

    Jonathan – First, if every space were to be safe for every person, then no one could ever express disagreement for fear of making someone upset. So every space is going to have a different level of safety. As I understand it, this thread is not intended to be so safe a space that civil disagreement is not allowed. The fact that my posts have not been deleted would seem to confirm this.

    Second, my guess is that it’s harder to whitewash violence with a claim that “she wanted it” than it is to whitewash rape using that tactic, just because violence is easier to see and very few people actually like being physically beaten, whereas the majority enjoys sex. But to the extent that this tactic is effective, it’s pretty unfortunate.

  82. sonia

    for someone who claims to be incredibly blissed out by her decision to do it bottom-style, the writer Jill just smacked down seems incredibly threatened by the existence of a website offering a contrary opinion to her choices.

    just sayin.

  83. Denise

    Bluey, your arguments that what look like patriarchy just so happen to be coincidences or misunderstandings or completely innocent is a very tired tactic used to erase systematic oppression. If you reduce everything down to an individual interaction, well, of course there’s a good reason! Most men don’t walk around thinking, “Hmm, how can I oppress my girlfriend today? I know, I’ll leave my dirty clothes on the floor all the time and let her do the laundry! HA! It’s so funny to watch her pretend she likes cleaning my undies! Women are stupid!” Yes, it’s true, if you look at almost any typical het couple’s arguments over laundry, you could say that, well, the woman just likes a cleaner space! The man just, you know, is more easy-going! It’s not fair to expect him to clean up when he doesn’t mind it messy!

    But that completely ignores the fact that, as a whole, women do more housework than men, by a great deal. How do you explain that? That women are more prone to having the “likes a clean house” gene than men? Or do you think it might be something cultural? Yeah, sure, Nigel probably isn’t secretly chuckling with glee that he duped this stupid lady into being his own personal screwtoy/housekeeper/nanny, but that doesn’t mean that his relationship with his girlfriend or wife isn’t wrought with patriarchy. Even if she likes it. Even if she’s happy. Even if she loves him.

    Which brings us to BDSM. Women are raised to be submissive to men. Sex is constructed as something that one party does to the other party. A woman’s pleasure is frequently regarded as something that she needs to perform to enhance her partner’s pleasure, rather than something she experiences for herself. (Don’t believe me? Obviously you haven’t read Cosmo.) How can anyone possibly say that eroticizing this power dynamic has nothing to do with patriarchy? Women are hounded with messages that the most important thing they can do with their life is please a man and raise his children and then all of a sudden a class of women call themselves “submissives” and say they “choose” it, and there’s nothing at all problematic about that?

  84. Jonathan

    Perhaps Derailing for Dummies should be added to the Comment Guidelines?

  85. Laughingrat

    Sex is constructed as something that one party does to the other party. A woman’s pleasure is frequently regarded as something that she needs to perform to enhance her partner’s pleasure, rather than something she experiences for herself.

    Ya know, Denise, it’s not like I don’t already know this stuff–but sometimes, someone will rephrase it in a way that is so clear that it smacks me upside the head for the millionth time. It’s like a brilliant lights goes off and lo, the world becomes illuminated.

    What I’m trying to say is, “Damn, that was well said.” Also, it just goes to show how insidious and all-pervasive oppression is when stuff like this can still startle me into realization. I first read Dworkin 20 years ago, but patriarchal bullshit still manages to seep into my brain. That’s why this blog and the comments thereon are so important–they act as a refresher course, as well as a kind of community.

  86. speedbudget

    Bluey: Your example of the mugging is specious. You used the word “let,” as in your boyfriend (or whomever) “lets” you withdraw consent. In other words, you are only allowed to withdraw consent as long as s/he “lets” you.

    Don’t you see how you have no consent in that situation? Your consent or not lies upon the largess of this other person “letting” you withdraw consent and say no. What if s/he doesn’t want to “let” you this time?

    Volunteering to lend a dollar is specious unless you are saying you are “volunteering” to lend your dom a dollar in hopes that later on he will “let” you withdraw your consent.

    Stay on topic.

  87. beet

    A difference needs to be teased out here, one between vanilla-flavored “BSDM” – which I’m more inclined to call “rough sex” – and BDSM that is heavily marinated in radical consent.

    “Playing with power and the abuse of power are worlds apart.” With explicit consent, with frank discussions, BDSM can teach about power, elucidate the ways in which power manifests itself ‘outside the bedroom’ and within inter-personal relationships. BDSM can teach one about pain, how to deal with it, and mitigate the most feminine of fears. BDSM teaches about how we – even queer brown ladies – all have the ability to use power in fucked up and hurtful ways. It’s make-believe – if it’s done right.

  88. Jill

    I would advocate “dealing with pain” by endeavoring to have as little of it in my life as possible.

  89. madeleine

    Jill, I hope we all wish you to have as little pain in your life as possible, but your anecdotal contribution starting with ‘I’ does not really help the discussion. For some of us, experiencing strictly self-controlled levels of pain in a safe and loving setting can be very helpful in dealing with past unwanted pain and avoiding future unwanted pain. Playing and abuse are indeed worlds apart.

  90. Valerie M

    I’m just waiting for someone to suggest rape as a ‘radical therapy’ for rape victims, following madeleine’s claim that more pain is a good therapy for trauma due to pain (pretty sure ‘pain’ is a euphemism for ‘violence’ here).

  91. Jill

    “Jill, I hope we all wish you to have as little pain in your life as possible, but your anecdotal contribution starting with ‘I’ does not really help the discussion.”

    Oh, Madeleine. Your zinger lacks zing, because the comment to which you allude is not an anecdote. It is a remark.

    I wait in vain for someone to zap me with the most ironical zinger of all. Get with it, people! The title of this blog begins with “I,” for crying out loud!

  92. Kelly

    “For some of us, experiencing strictly self-controlled levels of pain in a safe and loving setting can be very helpful in dealing with past unwanted pain and avoiding future unwanted pain. Playing and abuse are indeed worlds apart.”

    The P has really sold you a bill of goods. Violence is not a way to express love despite what countless abusers and broken victims might claim. Your defense sounds a great deal like that offered by parents who claim that violence against their children is an expression of love, “I’m doing this because I love you!”. They claim that discipline and abuse are worlds apart. They are not. Like many victims you want to rationalize and recast past pain and foster the illusion that you can avoid future pain. For that, IBTP.

  93. beet

    Yeah, none of us want to have to deal with pain, or fear, or any of that shit. Nevertheless, we do.

    But when getting your face smashed into the concrete by a riot cop, there’s something to be said about how – because of BDSM – you can understand the temporariness of the pain, and understand the relationship between pain and domination, and you can recall your own strength. But most importantly: you know what isn’t a game.

    And that’s the thing, right? We always know it isn’t a game or some science experiment, but this form of conscious dissociating is an immediate way of mitigating these situations.

    What I am advocating is not necessarily being hurt just after experiencing a singular act of pain; I am instead fully conscious of the conscious of the consistent violence we are exposed to and advocating something of a mish-mash between building immunity and building affinity.

    The latter is the other part: perhaps all survivors of rape or sexual assault ought to find themselves a partner with whom they can explicitly speak about their desires, their boundaries, their past trauma, and so on. BDSM just makes these conversations more urgent and necessary. I’m into putting all my cards on the table.

  94. agasaya

    Building affinity for pain? Like training for a marathon or maybe even childbirth? Sorry, but abuse can be acted out therapeutically without firing up pain receptors. This is not to negate what individuals feel they have to do to live with their pasts but it isn’t logical to offer it up as a model for promoting the advancement of women. This is certainly far removed from mere bedroom games which really are a private matter only of importance between the consenting adults.

    Life offers endless opportunities for physical pain. It’s the emotional scars from having it inflicted upon you by members of your own species that is harmful. And sheer terror results when you are forced to witness people taking pleasure in inflicting pain on others. That’s the P for you.

    Working through pain in life should lead to larger achievements than orgasm.

  95. beet

    “Building affinity for pain?” Whoa, hell no, I think the two things I was getting at were conflated somewhere: one, strong relationships with explicit discussions about consent and boundaries (“affinity”), and two, understanding the physical nature of pain (“immunity”).

    And perhaps I am too much “radical” (not enough “feminist”?) to think of oppression solely within the confines of the patriarchy, but I’ve had my head smashed more times by the cops than by intimate partners. I don’t deny the scars of rape or abuse or assault (whether from boyfriends or pigs), but I am interested in moving away from the scars as binds, and learning to move away.

    “Working through pain in life should lead to larger achievements than orgasm.” Yes, yes, of course! But who said BDSM was ever solely about orgasm? I want to cum, but moreso, I want to learn, I want to fight.

  96. madeleine

    Jill, I stand zinged and corrected.
    Kelly, I’m not talking about violence, which doesn’t happen in a safe and loving setting. Children experiencing ‘loving’ parental abuse do not experience it as such. Are you really unable to see the difference between discipline/abuse and experimental, consensual play?

  97. mearl

    Bluey512, I’ve gotta say, heretic.com looks like a great academic source for reliable statistics to me! And Time magazine, owned by TimeWarner Inc….yes, the truth is there and only there, just like it is on Fox News. Or in the bible.

    Here is an actual stat to chew upon: author Nancy Friday wrote a book in 1973 called, “My Secret Garden,” which chronicled (mostly straight, mainstream, white North American) women’s sexual fantasies. At the time, people were shocked to find out that despite the gearing up of the Women’s Lib movement, plenty of women fantasized about being raped. When Friday did later research and wrote another book in 1991 called, “Women On Top,” she noted in her introduction that a change had taken place in the fantasy lives of mainstream women: there were now far more women who were turned on by the idea of rap-ING, or being dominant, rather than being helpless. Personally, I can’t provide proof that the external influence of society at large had anything to do with that, but I’m going to get all crazy and point out that despite all the yapping that goes on about individualism, individuals don’t form their ideas in a vacuum.

    The pendulum of public opinion and knowledge has swung yet another way in recent years, and it’s a widespread belief that – now that feminism has succeeded and full equality is the norm! – having the “choice” to explore and play with sexual power allows both women and men, in hetero, homo, bi or any other form of relationship, to push boundaries and find their inner sexual selves. So if that’s the case, someone (maybe Bluey!) can explain to me why men DON’T make up 90 + % of sex workers, AREN’T the majority of rape victims (survivors, if you like), and why it is that women AREN’T the ones en masse consuming violent porn and paying for the privilege of doing things with or to sex workers that they can’t, for the most part, do in a society where there are rights and laws and courts and jails. The playing field is level, right? BDSM is not a microcosm. It’s just a bit of naughty fun, nothing more.

    I think it’s hilarious that you assumed that I think men always want sex and women don’t. I never said that. I suppose, perhaps, that you define sex differently than I do, because you’re far more enlightened and progressive. I’m such a silly, undereducated, wingnut who has never read a book on feminist theory or crunched statistics going back 300 years, that I’m just blowing hot air about subtexts in current sex practises. Wait, I know: if I just quit being so sour and got someone to whip me, I’m CERTAIN I would forget everything I know and become a dominatrix. Not just ANY dominatrix, either: I’d work for free, because sex workers do it because they love it, not for money. Money – pah! That has nothing at all to do with why anyone does anything.

    Maybe my own stance on BDSM comes down to this: I’d consider it a lot less ridiculous, or even negative – especially when it’s defended in the language of academic windbaggery that gets tossed around by pretty much everyone these days – if the reality of the world outside the Chamber of Sexay Punishment didn’t look so damn much the same, i.e., a big circus pandering to male desires. The only difference is that when BDSM happens OUTSIDE a “loving, consensual” relationship, or if there is money involved, it’s just plain patriarchy. Also known as rape. Also known as the male sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, or the male sense of entitlement to harm, belittle, harass, hurt and humiliate women or anyone weaker than them.

    Several Blamers already made other points that I agree with, one of which is that you can’t wrap your head around the idea of “consensual” until you understand that a man (or someone playing the dominant role) is choosing NOT to exercise his power and control over the situation. And before anyone starts extolling the virtues of the LGBTT BDSM-ers, I probably don’t have to remind anyone that same-sex relationships are not free from the influence of the male-centric power dynamic.

    If it were a fact that, when some guy came along to rape a woman and she said “No!” he said, “Oh, okay, well, maybe I’ll go watch some Seinfeld instead,” then BDSM wouldn’t even be “exploring” anything. There would be nothing to explore: consent would actually MEAN something in male-female, and in human, dynamics. Or, to take it further, if men never, ever humilated or raped at ALL, if the thought never ONCE crossed their minds (try to imagine THAT world – ha!) then maybe we could say that BDSM is just a lovely exploration of pain and sexual freedom. But that ain’t the case.

    “So if you think a large percentage of men want to force women to sleep with them, think again.”

    The question is not whether a large percentage of men want to force women to sleep with them; it’s more along the lines of, plenty of men think about getting what they want sexually from women, children, other men, and animals, but because society has taught them that they CAN’T just go ahead and do whatever they like or they’ll get arrested, jailed, or have the shit beaten out of them by a larger person, they circumvent this by adhering to social norms such as dating or being monogamous or getting married or cohabiting and waiting for consent to be given. If you look at what goes on in cultures where women’s rights are NOT upheld (at least in writing), you see different statistics, different circumstances.

    Men also use money, status and power as a way around the idea of consent: by purchasing the services of prostitutes or strippers or doms or subs or whatnot, by making and consuming pornography, or by travelling to countries where they are richer and more powerful and taking sexual advantage of the women and children there, or waiting until they’re in a situation – such as often happens in war – and doing what they want when they know they likely won’t be accountable. Despite all this, as you may have noticed, men are still out there raping and harassing and molesting, while pornographers have long known about a huge market that will pay cold cash to watch sweet, harmless little films about men force-fucking crying, protesting underage women in the ass while giving them swirlies in the toilet, or some other version of this. This goes on all day every day, so the idea that women have consent is pretty flimsy to begin with.

    That being said, maybe someone can clarify for me once again just how progressive it is to get tied up and hurt by a guy whose privilege is underscored in every way by the dominant culture. Everyone can do whatever they like in private, but to tell me that sexual fantasy exists outside of real-world politics, or that it does NOT affect how people interact with each other outside the bedroom, is rather delusional.

  98. Jill

    Damn, Mearl, you’re on FIRE. Go, girl, go!

  99. Distingué Traces

    Has anyone said this yet?

    My doll is as dainty as a sparrow
    Her figure is something to applaud
    Where she’s narrow,
    She’s as narrow as an arrow
    And she’s broad
    Where a broad
    Should be buh-roooooad….

    You’re so very welcome.

  100. M

    Way to know nothing about BDSM and still be able to bash it. That sure took some effort.

  101. Citizen Jane

    I am dying to find out how it is possible to be a female in the patriarchy and not know anything about power, domination, and submission in sex. Please enlighten me, M.

  102. Saphire

    M you are sophisticated.

    Seems you don’t understand what BDSM is an obvious medium for. Enlighten us how men get a kick as well, from playing degraded women for a bit.

  103. Laughingrat

    You said it, Saphire. It’s so amusing when people defend BDSM’s “edginess” or “transformative nature” by saying, “But men can be subs, too!” Really? Cos as far as I can tell, that’s just another iteration of an age-old practice engaged in by scions of the dominant class everywhere, known colloquially as “slumming.” And when Mr. Sub is all done getting his slum on for the week, he and his domme take off their costumes, shed their roles, and go back out into a world just as oppression-laden as before, except both get fooled, for a little while anyway, into thinking they’ve somehow changed something somewhere.

    It’s not the whips and chains that piss me off. It’s the lies these people tell about ‘em.

  104. Melinda

    The BDSMers love to brag about all of the tediously ritualistic things they do almost as much as they like doing them. The thrill that they get from bragging is intensified when they insist on oversharing to people who are clearly not interested in what they are saying.

    It’s for the same reason the flasher exposes himself and the frotteur rubs up against people on the subway.

    It’s all about the thrill they get from forcing themselves on others.

    IBTP.

  1. Breaking: patriarchy is actually real at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] maidden writes: While I understand Jill’s position on the badness of a member of the sex class performing [...]

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