BDSM (the sexual equivalent of being into Renaissance faires) Part 4: Bullshit Posturing

1 Feb

Sorry for the delay. I just forgot to finish this series and got carried away with telling everyone what gutterballs Dov Charney and Ralphie May are. Polly Styrene, who is a badass, has got a post up that inspired me to get back on task, so here we go. 

Some qualifications (radfems can skip this paragraph): This post will revolve around my interpretation of M/f BDSM and nothing else, and I’m not going to suffer any relativistic bullshit about whether my interpretation is more or less “valid” than anyone else’s. I obviously think I’m right or I’d be out asking other people what they think rather than telling them what I think, and I admit up front that I think people ought to agree with me.  I know there are readers whose experiences may not have been as fucked up as some of the things I’m about to describe (though many of them may very well have been more so), but I’m here to discuss the general nature of a vast phenomenon, not get lost in the minutiae of every single individual’s private experiences. I’m going to say this again: I’m not discussing anything in this post but men dominating women. I’m going to do that because a large proportion of BDSM involves a man dominating a woman, and because that dynamic warrants separate discussion because it involves the eroticization of an oppressed group’s submission.  I’m not approving any comments on this post about anything else. You’ll have to wait for a later installment if you want to talk about women dominating men or lesbian and gay BDSM. Seriously. That said, I welcome argument and would like to have a discussion here, though it must be a civil one.

When considering sexual matters and their relationship to the general misogyny that pervades our culture, I generally pretend I’m a justice in the Supreme Court of Gender Issues and apply the ol’ strict scrutiny standard (albeit my own modified version of it). Sex, as it has been used throughout history as a tool of domination and as it is the locus of the negotiation of gender roles and a large majority of our social behaviors, requires close analysis. If I’m going to give a sexual practice a free pass and the Nine Deuce seal of approval, it’s got to meet three criteria:

  1. First, I ask myself whether women are ever hurt as a result of the practice under consideration. If the answer is yes, the practice has not earned immunity from examination and analysis.
  2. Second, I ask myself whether those who engage in the practice ever do so out of a hatred of women. If so, it’s up for discussion and judgment (a nasty word for those with po-mo leanings, I know, but a necessary one nonetheless). 
  3. Finally, I have to ask myself whether the practice would occur in a society that wasn’t characterized by male supremacy and the hatred of women, both of which tend to manifest as the mixture of sex and power. I’ve got a really impressive imagination (I invented unicorns), so if I can’t imagine a sex act having the power to excite in a post-patriarchal world, I get a little dubious. 

If a sex act fails to meet any of these three criteria, you can expect that I’ll be questioning the fuck out of it, and BDSM really blows it on all three. I know what you’re going to say: mainstream “vanilla” (a term I’ll not be using again because it’s insulting, hackneyed, and really not clever) sex doesn’t pass Deuce’s strict scrutiny standard. Fuckin’ A right it doesn’t, but I’ve never made the claim that it does. Many of those who responded to my previous posts in the series created that false dichotomy and pretended that I was out campaigning for the kind of sex we see in the average Michael Douglas movie, but I think we all know that’s bullshit. BDSM, just like mainstream sex that seems to mirror porn more and more every day, won’t be escaping my jaundiced eye just because a few people tell me they do it “right.” There’s too much ambiguity involved in BDSM with regard to my criteria for that (as is the case with pretty much all sex acts — in a misogynistic society, there may not even be such a thing as a sex act that’s free of the influence of patriarchy, though that thought makes me want to start an emo band). But the fact that I urge scrutiny doesn’t mean I’m here yelling, “Real feminists don’t engage in BDSM!” It does mean we all need to think about what our desires and choices mean to us as individuals and in relation to other women. If one does so and still decides BDSM is where it’s at, whatever, but it needs to be discussed in an open forum where those who are working things out for themselves can get access to the experiences and opinions of others and where issues can be raised that will help us all figure out how to try to move toward a future in which sex isn’t used as a tool of oppression.  

A few things stood out in the responses I received to my little personal ad, the first being that a lot of the men who responded told me they were feminists themselves, and that they didn’t think there was anything incompatible about D/s relationships and feminism (they’re obviously not advanced feminist theorists). They wanted to make sure I knew that their idea of an ideal BDSM relationship was one in which the power differential in the bedroom stayed there. Mmm hmm. Many of them, because the fake woman in the ad was new to BDSM, explained the concept of the safe word and warned the poster to be wary of the men who responded because “there are a lot of sickos out there who just want to hurt women.”  No shit. 

I’ve heard plenty from commenters and from the many, many articles I’ve read on this or that BDSM-related website about the proper way to do BDSM, about the importance of ensuring that one’s BDSM activities are always “safe, sane, and consensual.” I appreciate the fact that the thoughtful people of the BDSM scene are concerned with protecting the physical and mental health of the people who engage in practices that have the potential to get out of hand if not approached in such a manner, I really do. But I’ve got to ask whether the fact that such discussions are necessary ought not to be a red flag. What of those who don’t follow the rules, who get fucked up before engaging in emotionally volatile and physically hazardous activities, who don’t ensure consent before they get into whatever they’re going to get into? What of the women who engage in BDSM because they’ve got emotional problems, and what of the men who seek out BDSM relationships as a venue to exercise their hatred on women’s bodies? How many people don’t follow the guidelines more responsible BDSM practitioners have devised? And how do other members of the BDSM community deal with those who don’t adhere to the safe, sane, and consensual line? 

How does a woman who has given her consent to one act withdraw it, especially while restrained, in the event that a safe word is ignored? And what, exactly, does consent mean in such a context? There is a pretty large measure of psychological ambiguity involved in BDSM, and I’m not sure that the idea of consent is as clear as people make it out to be. As is the case with any “scene,” there is unvocalized pressure on the members of that scene to be more authentic, more down, more hard core than others. BDSM is often practiced in semi-public contexts in which the sub might feel pressure to go farther than she’s ready to, and in private there’s always the pressure to perform in a way that will excite one’s partner that infuses every sexual encounter. And almost every dude who responded to my fake personal ad made mention of pushing the sub’s limits, a problematic idea if one really wants to emphasize consent. If the BDSM community is such a shining beacon of respect for the concept of consent, then why did so many of the men who responded to my ad make sure to let me know they weren’t interested in people who try to “top from the bottom” and wanted “true submissives” ? That doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that a dude who has any respect for his partners’ emotional safety (much less free will and human agency, the key elements without which a discussion of consent cannot even occur) would say. 

And what about the legality of consent as it is conceived of in BDSM? What does a woman who has been raped in the course of a BDSM encounter do to prove she did not consent to an act (remember, as our current legal system operates on the “innocent until proven guilty” model, that women are required to prove that they broke a state of — as the law conceives of it — constant consent in order for a rapist to be punished)? 

How safe and sane is BDSM? Those are some pretty slippery concepts, safety and sanity. There are plenty of people who would question the idea that there’s anything safe or sane about BDSM, myself included. I conceive of a safe and sane sex act as one that does not pose the risk of bodily or emotional harm for the participants. The mixture of sex and violence and the eroticization of women’s submission to male domination do not fall into the “sane” or “safe” columns for me because I don’t believe either would occur if we didn’t live in an insanely misogynistic society that is detrimental to our emotional health. But let’s say my opinion doesn’t matter (ha!). Who decides what’s safe and sane in the world of BDSM? No one, apparently, because every time I’ve read or heard a discussion among people involved in BDSM about some of the more extreme practices, I get the distinct impression that “to each his own” has gotten wildly out of hand and that there is a marked unwillingness to condemn anything but the most egregious of abusive behaviors (and I really mean egregious, as in permanent bodily harm or worse). 

But what does all this talk of separating D/s in the bedroom from real life, of taking “safe, sane, and consensual” as one’s creed, of female subs being empowered by the emphasis on consent really mean? Methinks the Sisters of Mercy fans doth protest too much, that someone is pissing on my leg and telling me it’s raining. I read 400+ e-mails from men interested in a young woman curious about submission, I looked at a shit-ton of BDSM porn, I went to a BDSM club, I read tens of thousands of words on BDSM-related websites, and I didn’t feel very safe or sane when I got done, nor did I feel like participating in the shit I’d seen or read about would make me feel particularly empowered.

I used to live in San Francisco. There is a fucking awesome building in the Mission called the Armory that I loved nosing around at whenever I found myself in the neighborhood. It sat basically unoccupied for many years until Kink.com bought it in 2006, an event that seriously bummed my party out. I’d always thought of the place as an ideal art space, or maybe a music venue (possibly both), and when I heard that they’d be filming BDSM porn there I about fell off of my chair. I had no fucking idea, dude. Like I said, before I posted that ad, went to the BDSM club, looked at these sites, and read up on BDSM in more than a half-assed way, I had kind of a silly conception of BDSM, so when I went to the site I nearly had a heart attack. I know that porn is not the same thing as real life, but porn is fantasy fuel, and I’m pretty sure that I don’t EVER want to run across a Kink.com fan in a dark alley.

Don’t read the next paragraph if you’re squeamish about descriptions of women being abused. 

Almost all of the videos on the Hogtied site (a branch of Kink.com billed as the “sensual” bondage site) feature shibari, that Japanese rope bondage shit that’s absolutely terrifying to see. Almost every photo I’ve seen that involved shibari featured a woman whose breasts were so constricted by ropes that they looked as if they’d pop, and every single video I saw on Hogtied featured a woman suspended by ropes, gagged, and clearly in heinous pain, followed by a short clip of the woman in the video talking about how cool the experience was. Their other sites feature bound women with electrodes hooked up to their genitalia, a site where women are fucked by terrifying machines, a site called Device Bondage in which women are bound with every manner of nightmarish machinery, and The Training of O, a site that features women undergoing “slave training” that includes such weird shit that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just say that there were suction devices, dildos, blood, and hooks everywhere. The looks on the women’s faces in the photos that the sites use to promote the videos that they sell can best be described as anguished. The logos for all of the sites looked like the main titles for horror movies, especially the Device Bondage site, which included a terrified-looking woman’s face with a gag in her mouth along with that shitty grainy font overlay that every horror movie producer seems to love. What a disturbing combination, sex and horror. Visually confronting the fact that men are looking for images of women who are clearly in pain to wank to really scared the piss out of me. 

Out of fourteen sites Kink.com puts out, three feature men as submissives. Eleven focus solely on women submitting to various forms of abuse (their term, not mine). I’ll leave the interpretation of that ratio up to you (as long as you don’t give me some evolutionary psychology bullshit about men being more visually stimulated than women). Really, ask yourself, what do you think it means that M/f relationships seem to dominate the BDSM world and that straight BDSM porn is almost entirely comprised of images of female submissives? It’s OK, make the comparison to mainstream porn. It only proves my point. 

I know that all of the sites that Kink.com operates make a big show out of how much the actresses supposedly enjoy what’s being done to them, but that’s almost more worrisome than had they not done so, because it supports the idea that women can’t get enough of being sexually dominated and abused. The message in these videos, basically, is, “It’s OK if you get off on hurting women, because they’re sluts for pain!” 

What in Billy Zabka’s name would make a woman want to submit to such treatment, and how in the fuck could anyone get to the point that they derive sexual enjoyment from severe pain? No one ever seems to want to get anywhere near that question, because it’s nearly impossible to provide an answer for it that doesn’t sound silly if compared to the completely reasonable suggestion that women who are into submission are into it because our culture eroticizes male domination and female submission. Honestly, I can’t really think of many forms of the expression of human sexuality in our fucked up culture that don’t include an element of that, but BDSM is probably the clearest distillation of such a dynamic, and protestations to the contrary just seem absurd to me. And the same goes for male doms — the idea that any convoluted explanation for why a man enjoys hurting a woman has even a third as much explanatory power as the simple fact that men are raised in this culture to conceive of sex and power as one and the same is hilarious. The paternalism, arrogance, and unalloyed sadism evidenced in the ads I read both by men looking for subs and in response to my ad confirm what I saw in that heinous fucking porn and what I’ve read and seen elsewhere. 

So, should women who are into submission be ashamed of themselves? I don’t think so. It’s shocking to me that there are any women in this warped society who aren’t. But I would like to ask submissive women who read this if they think that what I’ve postulated is far off from the truth. I don’t think it’s healthy to mix sex and violence, and I think submitting to the will of other people is detrimental to our mental health and human development. I’m certainly not going to blame submissive women for sexual inequality or for the continuation of patriarchy because that’s completely ridiculous. Men are to blame for that because they’re the ones who benefit from it. So should men who are into domination be ashamed of themselves? That’s a harder question. Men, being that they’re the ones with the privilege and power in this society, bear more responsibility for the dominance and submission dynamic that pollutes human sexuality and romantic relationships. Human sexuality is a complicated matter, as are the hierarchical structure of human interactions and the way that structure interacts with our individual emotions and desires. 

But BDSM, as it intermingles sex with power and violence, is highly suspect for a feminist like me. All of the claims about women’s sexual agency and the focus on consent within BDSM sound awfully weak in the face of the reality of the misogyny that pervades our culture and the very real sexual and emotional abuses that women face every day. I’ve heard the claims that by playing with gendered power dynamics, people who practice BDSM are subverting the gender hierarchy, but I find that a little difficult to believe when so much of what I’ve seen just looks like garden variety sexual abuse at a Halloween party. I find it hard to believe that a sexual practice that fetishizes women’s pain and submission is so different from mainstream misogyny, that I ought to think M/f BDSM is a step forward for feminism because the women who participate in it like it. Orgasms don’t necessarily equal progress.

Enough of this shit. I’m going to bed. 

To be continued…

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316 Responses to “BDSM (the sexual equivalent of being into Renaissance faires) Part 4: Bullshit Posturing”

  1. isme February 1, 2009 at 9:34 AM #

    BDSM porn is very disturbing, yes (don’t, just don’t look at anything called “BDSM art” though, it’s much worse), but is it really a reflection of the reality? I’m asking because I don’t know. But, “mainstream” porn is getting more extreme (phrases like “brutally *verbed* until she cries/vomits” pop up), and though reality, as you say, follows it, it leads the way, so to speak. Wouldn’t that also apply to BDSM porn, making it more extreme than the reality?

    • Nine Deuce February 1, 2009 at 7:08 PM #

      isme – Unfortunately, I’ve seen some of what you’re referring to. I don’t think I can say whether BDSM porn is a reflection of reality. I’m sure that some of what I saw was more extreme than what the average person does at home, but I think there are probably much worse BDSM porn outlets and that there are people who do things at home that go far beyond what I saw on these sites.

    • Timhole June 9, 2014 at 6:58 AM #

      What you describe (“brutally *verbed* until she…) etc, is why I find porn sites so off putting these days. I’m thinking about sex and then immediately this brutality against women is creeps in through ads and video titles, when all I wanted to do is search for some porn. It’s a constant reminder of the ways which many men think of sex. I fear for the younger generation who simply pass this off as normal, never questioning whether that this kind of thing can infiltrate the subconcious mind and alter a man’s opinion on what he should want and expect from sex/women. Agression seems to be a right of passage.

  2. Laurel February 1, 2009 at 12:37 PM #

    Nicely summed up, and thanks for looking at that stuff so I don’t have to. M/f BDSM always struck me as bizarre because it pretends to be soooo trangressive. As you’ve pointed out, there’s nothing transgressive about it against the patriarchal backdrop of our society.

    And when I consider how many men expect to marry fuckable mommies who’ll take responsibility for everything in hubby’s life, there’s nothing transgressive about F/m BDSM either–especially when it shows us that the way to degrade a man is to “make” him dress up like a woman.

    I recently went into a sex toys/porn shop for the first time in many years, and I couldn’t spend five seconds in the video section. The box covers were terrifying, and they weren’t shelved under hardcore or BDSM–they were in the mainstream, everyday, “normal-guy’s-masturbation-fodder” section.

  3. Christina R. February 1, 2009 at 7:26 PM #

    I recently stumbled onto your blog and just wanted to give you some support and encouragement, as your writings have done for me. You kick so much ass! It seems that the sex industry has been turning feminism upside down since the advent of Playboy. Thank you for being appropriately MAD as HELL at the patronizing, misogynist “Manchine.” Your writing encourages me and challenges me to step up in some areas. You’re also witty and funny! Thanks for taking the time.

  4. Hayley February 1, 2009 at 8:44 PM #

    It sounds like BDSM was invented so men could practice rape in relatively socially acceptable fashion. I can’t imagine what kind of Stockholm Syndrome mindset these women have to be in to report the more extreme acts as consensual and desirable.

  5. Hayley February 1, 2009 at 8:55 PM #

    Sorry, I had another thought.
    Why are these acts considered legal and consensual, anyways? If I walked up to random stranger on the street and begged them to beat the shit out of me and they promptly did so, I have trouble believing that wouldn’t be considered assault. Wouldn’t it be entirely irrelevant that I asked them to do it? That I “wanted” it? I can’t imagine anyone condoning the attacker’s response. But it’s all different if someone’s getting an erection over it, I guess.

  6. B February 1, 2009 at 9:19 PM #

    I think your description of BDSM is overwhelmingly correct. Even the acronym itself (Bondage, Dominance, Submission/Sadism, Masochism) points to the kind of behavior we’re really talking about. I don’t think there’s likely to be a route for healthy sexuality to be found in BDSM, for precisely all of the reasons you outline.

    You ask why a woman might subject herself to submission. I think one explanation might be that it’s easier to obey than to perform the hard work of turning yourself from object to agent. A system that offers freedom from the difficult soul-searching required to construct a positive, healthy sexuality in our culture in exchange for a form of submission which claims to respect you and satisfy you is tempting to many women. After all, the culture as a whole and the sex culture in particular already expects women to submit; perhaps there is comfort in making your compliance with this cultural mandate an explicit one.

    Another explanation is that it gets her out of having to make decisions. For those of us raised steeped in old Christian morals demanding that we be asexual, sometimes it’s hard to escape the guilt over enjoying sex (particularly when we actually initiate it). By voluntarily giving up her agency, a woman may think that she can get what she wants without having to go through the shameful experience of actually asking for it. She can enjoy all the sexual behavior she likes while firmly placing the blame on the man, whose masculinity shields him from being judged for being sexual.

    BDSM is in many ways a way to opt out of the sexual double standard by choosing one side of it. On the one hand, you have the submissive woman, fulfilling a reconceptualization of the “Madonna” side of the double standard: obedient, quiet, passively receiving, sexless until compelled to be sexual by men, etc. On the other, you have the dominant woman, fulfilling the “whore” side of the double standard: aggressive, sexually available, “bitchy,” conniving, etc.

    That’s probably why some women see BDSM as liberating – because they are liberated from one half of the oppressive double standard. Unfortunately, the liberation of buying into a pre-determined patriarchal identity is NOT that rewarding in the end. It’s a raw bargain whether you accept one pidgeonholed sexual identity or choose to fight for your own identity, but at least the latter lets you define yourself by something more meaningful than a checklist of acts you will allow to be done to you.

    Outside of BDSM, however, I can see space for a healthy sexuality which involves roughness and perhaps even pain. If both parties are engaging in aggressive, raw sex, it might just be the animalistic nature of it that’s a turn on for both parties. Sometimes getting in touch with our primitive side can be fun. Also, pain is not always bad; the line gets especially blurry when endorphins and/or adrenaline are involved. Deep tissue massages may hurt, but they leave you languid; runners use the lactic acid burn in their muscles to spur them on during a race, and they’re rewarded with a runner’s high at the end. Maybe this kind of “good pain” could be incorporated into sex.

    Regardless, I think it’s pretty clear that BDSM – both the mainstream version and the outrageous fringe – is erotic largely because of the way it’s situated within patriarchy. In other words, it’s hot because it makes women fulfill their prescribed gender roles and lets men fulfill theirs while avoiding feminist criticism.

  7. Jenn February 1, 2009 at 9:50 PM #

    As someone who was addicted to mainstream pornography for a couple of years, I fail to comprehend how porn can be more “extreme” than the run-of-the-mill crap I was into. Pornography, like isme and Laurel said, usually features a big submission kink with a side of female pain and abuse. When I think back to that stuff, it horrifies me. Where is the line between BDSM and that stuff? I mean, I cannot understand how women, without a heavy dose of social indoctrination and economic exploitation, would want to do mainstream “Xtreme Throat-Fuck” let alone things that push “vanilla” female abuse into the realm of BDSM.

    I absolutely think you are right to question the entire BDSM scene. I mean, the idealized heterosexual fantasy, as I know it from my earlier pornography addiction, is saturated with enough woman-hating to churn my stomach. When you move past “normal” sexualization of violence and submission into what society thinks is too extreme… well, I assume that there’s some other force at play besides good old sexual fun.

    All that I need to convince myself that BDSM is seriously messed up is that the “normal” people’s pornography features the same submission dynamics, and they still think BDSM is too kinky for them. For metaphor’s sake, if the public definition of normal sex smells as bad as week-old dog poop to me, than BDSM is like an acre of molding skunk carcasses thrown on a pile of dirty diapers.

  8. Nine Deuce February 2, 2009 at 12:10 AM #

    Another explanation is that it gets her out of having to make decisions. For those of us raised steeped in old Christian morals demanding that we be asexual, sometimes it’s hard to escape the guilt over enjoying sex (particularly when we actually initiate it). By voluntarily giving up her agency, a woman may think that she can get what she wants without having to go through the shameful experience of actually asking for it. She can enjoy all the sexual behavior she likes while firmly placing the blame on the man, whose masculinity shields him from being judged for being sexual.

    I wasn’t shocked at all when a lot of the people who responded to my ad made just this point, that they knew women found comfort in not having to take responsibility for desiring something.

  9. panoptical February 2, 2009 at 3:27 AM #

    I want to start by saying that if you view BDSM as being on the same spectrum as mainstream hetsex, BDSM certainly looks like it is sitting way on the far, extreme, women-hating end. So if you look at all of the things that are nasty and disgusting about mainstream sex, you could argue that BDSM is all of those things, except moreso. That is one way to look at it – a valid way – but I don’t think that the claims of people who defend and/or practice BDSM are intelligible when BDSM is viewed in that context.

    Another way to look at BDSM is to take note of the things that its practitioners have done to try to place their acts on a wholly different axis than the mainstream.

    So, when we evaluate the “safe, sane, and consensual” mantra we can certainly look at how, in heterosexual acts, women’s ability to give consent is always already in question due to the fact of the patriarchy. Women often consent to hetsex because of social or public pressures, arranged marriages, financial disadvantage – all of the tools that the patriarchy uses to make women into their sex class come into play. We can say that BDSM’s extra layer of protection for women – the safeword – may prevent certain misunderstandings from occurring, but does nothing to address the larger questions of consent faced by every heterosexual act.

    On the other hand, I think it’s important to look at the real function of the safeword. The safeword doesn’t actually exist to prevent rape, abuse, or any of the atrocities committed against women by men in society. Rather, the safeword exists specifically to facilitate a certain kind of sex act between two people who have already established a certain sexual relationship in which it is already assumed that neither partner is raping another – the same assumption made in mainstream sex. BDSM’ers who use violence, role-playing, etc.. in their sexual practices have acknowledged that these acts are riskier than regular sex and so have devised ways to offset that risk, one of which is the safeword.

    So on the one hand, BDSM’s consent (safeword or no safeword) is no different than regular old consent – that is to say, it is extremely problematical in a patriarchy. But there is an important distinction to make, which is that women who are beaten, abused, or dehumanized outside of a BDSM relationship have not given any kind of consent to these acts, whereas women who are treated this way within a BDSM relationship have, as far as they are able, consented to (and often, as we can infer from the concept of “topping from the bottom,” solicited) these acts. I am certain that your run-of-the-mill, non-consensual violence towards women is far more common, widespread, and dangerous than consensual, BDSM-type violence towards women.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be worried about violence towards women – I’m just saying that there is a certain perspective from which we can see that BDSM has acted to mitigate and contain this violence and ask ourselves if there isn’t something about the framework of interaction devised for use in BDSM that might be valuable in allowing people to safely express their sexuality. When viewed against the backdrop of brutality, spousal abuse, sexual slavery, marriage, etc. that characterizes mainstream sex, BDSM actually appears safer from this perspective because in BDSM the woman is given the option of turning down violence whereas in mainstream sex violence occurs completely at the whim of the man.

    Here’s another example: even if there is a patriarchal element to the domination and submission of M/f BDSM, I think there’s something to be said for the self-awareness expressed by these people in pursuing their sexuality. In typical mainstream sex the male is expected to be dominant and aggressive and the woman is expected to be submissive and passive, and this unspoken social compact leaves a lot of people unsatisfied, confused, and unhealthy. On the other hand if a woman goes into a sexual encounter having previously agreed that this time, she’s going to be submissive, he’s going to be dominant, and then at the end if she’s not satisfied she has a range of other options to try, then that woman has first of all, articulated a fundamental truth about patriarchal society, and second of all, begun a process of self-discovery that may eventually lead to her being satisfied despite the sexual double-binds she may find herself in.

    So on the one hand, you can look at a D/s relationship as a simple reenactment of patriarchal norms. On the other, people who practice sexuality within a context of BDSM have a whole vocabulary with which to articulate and critique their experiences that people who practice mainstream sexuality lack. Even if one can’t necessarily subvert or escape the patriarchy through a sex act, people can discuss their sexuality in ways that are threatening or subversive to the patriarchy, and that’s important if you believe that subjectivity is arrived at discursively.

    I have to confess that I don’t think I truly understand the mindset of people who identify as Dominant or Submissive, and I don’t personally find causing or feeling pain to be sexually gratifying, so there’s a certain part of me that does always suspect that the whole thing is a bunch of craziness. It’s just that there are so many women who I trust and respect who are very much into BDSM in one way or another that I can’t just write the whole thing off just because a lot of misogynistic jerks are also into it.

    • XiaoGui17 July 6, 2009 at 12:54 AM #

      Thank you.

  10. Peter Tupper February 2, 2009 at 4:28 AM #

    Consensual BDSM players have been charged with assaulting each other, and under current US law, you can’t consent to being assaulted. However, there are plenty of cases in which people consent to acts which could be construed as assault, such as boxing and other contact sports, or body modification involving cutting or branding, or certain religious practices.

  11. Polly Styrene February 2, 2009 at 12:26 PM #

    I’m interested to hear what you say Peter, as that is the position under current UK Law. Generally speaking – (apart from a few exceptions) consent is not a defence to a charge of assault which causes more than a ‘trifling injury’.

    Unlicensed boxing (prize fighting) is illegal in the UK. The justification is that there is medical supervision for licensed boxing. However very serious injuries have occurred – the most notable being the boxer Michael Watson who almost died and was left with severe brain damage after a boxing match. Personally I’d like to see all boxing outlawed.

    However generally in the UK exceptions to the law on assault are those where injury is obviously necessary for a therapeutic purpose ie surgery. Branding (as in burning) is not legal AFAIK. Piercing is and tattooing is.

    It was proposed to change the law in the UK, and it nearly was changed in the early 90’s. However this proposal was dropped when domestic violence lobby groups (whom the government had failed to consult) pointed out that such a change would make it extremely difficult to achieve convictions in the case of domestic violence.

    In reality of course, people are rarely charged with consensual assualt because no one complains and there is no evidence. In the last big case (operation Spanner AKA R v Brown) the defendants gave full statements willingly to the police and filmed what they did because they were confident they would be acquitted. Which wasn’t how it turned out. However there was recently a case in which a man broke his partner’s legs (with her consent) to attempt to commit a fraud. He filmed this on his mobile phone, the police saw it and he is now in prison serving 3 years for assualt. Doh!

    Needless to say, on grounds of public policy, I think the present law is the correct one.

  12. Polly Styrene February 2, 2009 at 12:39 PM #

    I also think the ‘But proper BDSM keeps people safe/safer’ argument is a red herring.

    Firstly it assumes that people involved in ‘vanilla sex’ have no friends of family who they discuss things with. Most people if their friends/family members appeared to be involved in an abusive or slightly dodgy relationship would raise their concerns with that person and try to discuss it with them. They wouldn’t just stand by. And very few people have absolutely no one they’re close to.

    And secondly, I wouldn’t rely on those people I’ve met in the ‘Real BDSM’ community to challenge abusive behavious any further than I could throw them. You know why. Because a lot of those I’ve met in the ‘Real BDSM’ community aren’t very nice people. Yeah they can appear surface charming, but underneath a lot of them seem to have a thing about power (what a surprise) and are very manipulative. And yes a lot of these people are female.

    And FWIW when a man (Graham Coutts) was up for trial the second time (his first trial was overturned on a legal technicality) for murdering a woman, Jane Longhurst, in the UK after watching some snuff porn they were all proclaiming his innocence – saying she died accidentally during consensual BDSM.

    He was found guilty. Again. And is now serving a minimum term of 37 years.

    But thirdly – most people who end up doing ‘BDSM’ don’t live in the big cities where these supposedly safe communities exist. And they haven’t read the rule books. But because so many “feminists” endorse BDSM and say there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s presented as just a sexuality, and something we shouldn’t criticise, there’s no back up from either the ‘BDSM community’ or a lot of ‘feminists’ for these people if they have doubts. Other than their boring old ‘vanilla’ friends of course.

    • XiaoGui17 July 6, 2009 at 12:58 AM #

      “And secondly, I wouldn’t rely on those people I’ve met in the ‘Real BDSM’ community to challenge abusive behavious any further than I could throw them.”

      At any given BDSM club, Dungeon Moderators will immediately intervene should anyone call out a safe word, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

  13. Alderson Warm-Fork February 2, 2009 at 2:22 PM #

    “This post will revolve around my interpretation of M/f BDSM and nothing else”

    There is going to be a discussion specifically of F/m, F/f, M/m, switching, etc. right? The four-post focus on one section can make it seem like you’re choosing to only discuss the sections of BDSM that are most amenable to your position. I’m sorry if that sounds rude but it’s how it comes across to me.

    “the fact that I urge scrutiny doesn’t mean I’m here yelling, “Real feminists don’t engage in BDSM!” It does mean we all need to think about what our desires and choices mean to us”

    So, having thought, what conclusion do you draw, beyond that BDSM still seems to be conditioned by patriarchy and you still think we need yet more scrutiny?

    For example – why do some men get involved in M/f BDSM and others not? Is it because those who do are /more/ confident in and /more/ reinforced in their desire for sexual domination, or because they are /less/ so? Is it that men who are confidently dudely feel dominant when just having vanilla sex, and men who are insecure about it need to make the acts more extreme to reassure themselves that they’re dominant?

    That’s an interesting question to me. As are related questions like “do all people enter BDSM for the same reason?” and “what does it tell us when BDSM becomes more popular and more mainstream?” As far as I can tell, your answer to that last question amounts to “it tells us that society is fucked up and misogynistic”. Which it doesn’t, because we already knew that.

    “I didn’t feel very safe or sane when I got done, nor did I feel like participating in the shit I’d seen or read about would make me feel particularly empowered.”
    You’re not submissive though. What real point is made by reporting that your emotional reactions differ from the emotional reactions of others.

    “I have to ask myself whether the practice would occur in a society that wasn’t characterized by male supremacy and the hatred of women”

    And what about a society recovering from the after-effects of those things? A society characterised by female supremacy? A society which had mastered endocrinology to allow gender to be changed easily and acceptably?

    I understand you’re focusing on arguing for “BDSM is conditioned by patriarchy” against the position you really seem to hate, that “BDSM is not conditioned by patriarchy”. But I think it would help if you could actually explain rather more about your view of BDSM, why it exists, how it differs from other things conditioned by patriarchy.

    • XiaoGui17 July 6, 2009 at 1:02 AM #

      I appreciate this.

  14. Alderson Warm-Fork February 2, 2009 at 2:30 PM #

    “I think the present law is the correct one.”

    Just to clarify, are you saying you think it’s correct for the men in the Spanner case to have been sent to prison? Given that prisons are one of the places where people are most likely to be raped? Given that the culture of violence and domination and submission in prisons is far more powerful than that in BDSM relationships?

  15. polly styrene February 2, 2009 at 4:53 PM #

    I think the present law is the correct one for the reasons I have outlined. That “consent” is not a sufficient justification for one person to commit actual bodily harm upon another (and this applies OUTSIDE bdsm situations as I also outlined). That if the law was changed, to protect people doing consensual BDSM, then you would also make it virtually impossible to prosecute cases of domestic violence.

    “Consent” is a slippery concept. I gave an example in my post of a woman who was burned by her husband with an iron in an incident of domestic violence. She then secretly continued to see him after going to the police (he was forbidden by his bail conditions from contacting her). She is a medical doctor BTW, so we can presume she had financial resources to leave him, and knowledge of services available to battered women, but he still had power over her.

    If ‘consent’ was a defence, what’s the betting this man would have tried to use it? What if the woman DID consent. One of the BDSM sites I quote in my post talks about ‘internal enslavement’ thus.

    “Internal Enslavement is both a process and a set of practical techniques which use detailed examination of a slave’s thoughts, emotions and past experiences to establish and maintain a solid and inescapable state of ownership. This is achieved through control of the slave’s psychological states”

    In other words an open admission that the ‘master’ is trying to emotionally manipulate and control the ‘slave’. What value does ‘consent’ have in this context?

    ‘Consent’ is never black and white, despite what the BDSM advocates make out. Which is why I think the current law is correct. It assumes NO ONE is fit to consent to actual bodily harm on themselves. Thus protecting the vulnerable.

    And also as I stated nobody has AFAIK been prosecuted for consensual BDSM since ‘spanner’ in the UK. And the “Spanner” defendants more or less deliberataly sought prosecution. So I’ve got no sympathy for them, no. They did nail penises to boards after all.

    The law is clear. If people decide to break it, its up to them to take the consequences. I’m not talking about sentences, or penalties, I’m talking about what the law says. The state of prisons is entirely separate from the criminal law.

    • XiaoGui17 July 6, 2009 at 1:05 AM #

      “It assumes NO ONE is fit to consent to actual bodily harm on themselves. Thus protecting the vulnerable.”

      Oh crap, I know a lot of people who consented to tattoos and piercings who were in no position to do so! Heck, I got a pretty intense massage yesterday, that was too much for me to “consent” to!

  16. polly styrene February 2, 2009 at 5:13 PM #

    You should bear in mind the law has to apply to everybody. Not just some people who do the ‘proper’ BDSM. Because the law has no way of telling if you’re doing ‘proper’ BDSM or not. Not that I think ‘proper BDSM’ stops abuse anyway. Just saying.

    My position. The law should not condone one person injuring another person without a very good reason. An orgasm is not a very good reason in my book. Because often victims of abuse – whether they consent or not – do have orgasms. It’s still abuse.

  17. Alderson Warm-Fork February 2, 2009 at 5:41 PM #

    “The state of prisons is entirely separate from the criminal law.”

    Well, maybe. This isn’t obvious to me though. As long as imprisonment is the principal form of punishment being promoted, and as long as imprisonment centres around separating offenders from the rest of society and putting them with violent people in a dehumanising setting, I think that should be a relevant factor when suggesting that something should be illegal.

    “the “Spanner” defendants more or less deliberataly sought prosecution. So I’ve got no sympathy for them”

    I’m unclear what you mean by ‘sought prosecution’. They didn’t lie about their activities, but AFAIK the people who suffered the injuries didn’t want to see those who inflicted them being punished.

  18. Laurelin February 2, 2009 at 7:50 PM #

    If the law under which the defendents in Operation Spanner was changed, women who are abused by men in domestic violence would find it even harder than it already is to get convict their abusers. I’m sorry, but the rights of a few men to stick nails in each others’ consenting dicks pale before the rights of women to be free from male violence, and to have a chance in hell of actually getting justice. Those men took their chance when they inflicted bodily harm on each other; they pay the price of that stupid decision. If they each wanted needles in their dicks so badly they could have done it to themselves- entirely legal. But there is no way in hell that their pathetic little kink should be allowed to threaten the safety of the most vulnerable women.

    Don’t harm another person, and you won’t be convicted. A fairly simple rule. Personally, I am afraid of anyone who is willing to inflict serious pain on another, even when that other person ‘consents’. I have reason to be. Besides, the whole point of the S in BDSM is that one is getting off on the pain of others- how can a sadist get off on another’s enjoyment? Does not compute.

    Great post, Nine Deuce :-)

  19. bonobobabe February 2, 2009 at 10:01 PM #

    Personally, I am afraid of anyone who is willing to inflict serious pain on another, even when that other person ‘consents’.

    Excellent point, Laurelin. Instead of focusing on the victim’s nebulous consent, let’s focus on what kind of person is capable of causing another pain. If I were hanging out with a friend and we were knitting, for example, and she said, “Hey, check out this cool trick I can do. Here, you have to stab me in the thigh with a knitting needle first,” I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry, but even if she said it was OK and begged me to do it, I could not under any circumstances stab my friend in the leg with a knitting needle. It’s not in me. I’m not a monster. And anyone who can inflict harm, regardless of whether the other person consented, wanted it, begged for it, or paid for it, is a monster, plain and simple.

    The human mind is very malleable. And as ND has said before, orgasm is a strong conditioning mechanism. Pair an orgasm with anything, and you’ll engender a fetish or paraphilia. It used to be in the old days people asked for tolerance for their kinks and perversions by saying, “I’m not hurting anybody. We’re just two (or three or four) consenting adults.” But with BDSM, you ARE hurting someone. And that, and that alone, is what makes it wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you are straight, gay, bi, or whatever. It’s abusive, and it’s wrong. If you get off on abusing someone, you have a serious mental problem and need help. I don’t care if it offends your delicate sensibilities to be characterized as mentally unfit, but it’s true.

  20. Jason February 3, 2009 at 5:34 AM #

    Being neither a radical feminist nor a BDSM enthusiast (cows are for steaks, not clothing, thank you very much), I really don’t have any stake in this discussion. Nevertheless, I think your thoughts on the subject are interesting and look forward to what you have to say about females being dominant in the whole setup.

  21. Nanella February 3, 2009 at 8:28 AM #

    “But the fact that I urge scrutiny doesn’t mean I’m here yelling, “Real feminists don’t engage in BDSM!””

    Fine, then I’ll do it. But I’ll take it one step farther. *gets out the bullhorn* Real feminists don’t engage in BDSM! Nor do sane human beings!

    I’m not ashamed of my zealous humanitarianism.

    Anyone remember the guy who paid someone (presumably another man, but memory fails) to flay him alive and eat his flesh while he watched? Yeah, something like that. I don’t understand why anyone still believes in the concept of “free will”. We’re all controlled and influenced daily by forces outside the scope of our comprehension. I refuse to believe that authentic “consent” figures into BDSM interactions anywhere.

    “For example – why do some men get involved in M/f BDSM and others not?…Is it that men who are confidently dudely feel dominant when just having vanilla sex, and men who are insecure about it need to make the acts more extreme to reassure themselves that they’re dominant?”

    And Alderson has missed the boat. And is foundering in the bay. *shakes head ruefully*

  22. Alderson Warm-Fork February 3, 2009 at 10:04 AM #

    “If the law under which the defendents in Operation Spanner was changed, women who are abused by men in domestic violence would find it even harder than it already is to get convict their abusers.”

    That’s an argument I can accept, fair enough. I still think a less brutalising justice system would be an improvement, but obviously we work with what we have.

    “how can a sadist get off on another’s enjoyment? Does not compute”
    Um, without wanting to be rude, [edited - you were rude; keep it up and I'll delete your comments]. Firstly, many people are sadists without that being all they are – they’re also human and enjoy pleasing people and being loved. Secondly, the desire to cause pain and the desire to cause pleasure are for many people very closely linked, not opposites. They both involve producing intense sensations, with a suggestion of loss of control. If a man talks about making a woman come over and over again until she can barely stand, that sounds very much like a sadistic desire to me.

    Thirdly, and this also goes for “anyone who can inflict harm, is a monster, plain and simple” and “If you get off on abusing someone, you have a serious mental problem” – please give some indication of having some serious psychological understanding, theoretical or experiential evidence for this, beyond moral outrage.

    Congratulations, though, for being hardcore and radical enough to say “I don’t care if it offends your delicate sensibilities” and make yourself sound like an anti-PC ‘speak my mind’ conservative. That really transforms ignorant demonisation into constructive analysis.

  23. bonobobabe February 3, 2009 at 1:56 PM #

    Congratulations, though, for being hardcore and radical enough to say “I don’t care if it offends your delicate sensibilities” and make yourself sound like an anti-PC ’speak my mind’ conservative. That really transforms ignorant demonisation into constructive analysis.

    First of all, I don’t have time to to sit in a circle jerk and analyze this crap to death. People are being abused every single day in the name of sex and kink, and I think it’s horrid. And secondly, I don’t think it’s demonized enough. It’s practically mainstream now!

    What this boils down to is an abuse of the term “tolerance.” Read this article:
    http://www.offourbacks.org/Feature.htm#Live

  24. Alderson Warm-Fork February 3, 2009 at 6:02 PM #

    “I don’t think it’s demonized enough.”

    There’s a difference between demonising an activity and demonising people, not for any activity but for how they feel. What a lot of people on this thread are saying is that if some kid, male or female, gay or straight, grows up and finds themselves drawn to sexual sadism, finds that it excites them, they are monsters, or that they are incapable of enjoying giving pleasure. ‘Monster’ isn’t a term that fits into ‘society is fucked up and everyone is involved to some extent’, which is what 9-2 at least claims to be all about. ‘Monster’ is a term that identifies some people as different from everyone else and intrinsically evil.

  25. Alderson Warm-Fork February 3, 2009 at 6:09 PM #

    “I don’t have time to to sit in a circle jerk and analyze this crap to death. People are being abused every single day in the name of sex and kink”

    Please. This thread is specifically about analysing BDSM. That’s why it was set up. That’s what interests me. You turned up and said “let’s focus on what kind of person is capable of causing another pain” and your insightful account was “they are monsters, plain and simple”.

    Moreover, I don’t buy “there’s no time for theory, we need to act!” because you don’t have time and “people are being abused right now!” What, is all your time taken up busting into kinky folks’ bedrooms to liberate the subs? Theory and practice go hand in hand.

  26. Nine Deuce February 3, 2009 at 7:00 PM #

    What I think she’s referring to is the comparison of radical feminists and conservatives. It’s a superficial, lame comparison that doesn’t hold up to a second of scrutiny and is thus not worth analyzing.

  27. Alderson Warm-Fork February 3, 2009 at 7:23 PM #

    I just said they sounded similar. Whatever merit the comparison has, I stand by my claim that this discussion is meant to be about analysing and understanding, and it annoys me that so little of that seems to actually be happening.

  28. Nine Deuce February 3, 2009 at 8:55 PM #

    Remember what I said in the post about civility? Don’t tell commenters to shut up or make obviously bunk and insulting comparisons.

  29. Alderson Warm-Fork February 3, 2009 at 9:44 PM #

    Funnily enough, my comments were largely motivated by what seemed to me the spectacular incivility of some of the comments.

    For example, “how can a sadist get off on another’s enjoyment? Does not compute.” That’s suggesting that people who are BDSM doms are somehow incapable of taking pleasure in being nice to people. That would a very major emotional problem, making them barely recognisable as human. That’s actually literally dehumanising. Similarly with ‘monster’.

    This has got nothing to do with what the article linked to is about, taking ‘tolerance’ as an absolute. I have no desire to tolerate anything. I just want people to treat BDSM as something worth understanding, rather than as an excuse to share dry heaves with each other.

  30. Nine Deuce February 3, 2009 at 10:17 PM #

    I am trying to understand it. I try to understand everything, no matter how bizarre I think it is. But understanding why people engage in BDSM does not mean the same thing as believing that it’s healthy.

  31. Alderson Warm-Fork February 3, 2009 at 11:19 PM #

    Believing something isn’t healthy and suggesting that people who are into it are deficient in their humanity are different things. Depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all clearly unhealthy. But if someone described people with such conditions as ‘monstrous’ we’d recognise that as dehumanising.

  32. bonobobabe February 4, 2009 at 12:35 AM #

    ‘Monster’ isn’t a term that fits into ’society is fucked up and everyone is involved to some extent’,

    Well, I can somewhat sympathize with your idea to analyze the situation and not just call people monsters. Some people believe it’s not productive to label people negatively, that we must focus on behavior.

    However, at some point we have to draw the line between good and bad, nice and mean, moral and immoral. And I think we coddle people too much. “You’re not a bad person, you’re just doing a bad thing.” There is plenty of that going on everywhere, ever since the late 60’s. We’re all tuned into everyone’s feelings and self-esteem. I just think that sometimes we need to be jarred and shocked into seeing that what we are doing is wrong.

    I think both doms and subs need therapy. I’m not a conservative or a religious nut. I just know that deriving pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain and/or humiliation is wrong/bad/immoral/needs to stop.

    We all have our jobs to do/roles to fill. There are plenty of therapists who will happily discuss feelings and work through past abuse and trauma with people. I am not a therapist. I am simply a radfem who is fed up to the top of her head with women being abused. And I am saying it’s bad/wrong/immoral. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. But I think it needs said. There are plenty of people defending it. I’m villifying it. That’s my job

  33. Nine Deuce February 4, 2009 at 1:14 AM #

    Your comparison, not mine. But still, how can you make the analogy between chemical imbalances and BDSM?

  34. Nanella February 4, 2009 at 3:20 AM #

    “Depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all clearly unhealthy. But if someone described people with such conditions as ‘monstrous’ we’d recognise that as dehumanising.”

    People who suffer from bipolar disorder, e.g., may, at times, experience episodic rage and consequently say or do hurtful things. They are not, however, consciously *choosing* to engage in harmful behaviors. A BDSM dom has expended signficant mental energy devising ways, and enlisting a victim(s), to enact their sadistic fantasies. There is a vast difference between an outburst of neurochemically provoked anger and the methodically planned abuse that springs from a cold, calculating mind.

    Unless you want to argue that all doms are clinically sociopaths and, therefore, have no control over their sadism, I see nothing wrong with labeling a person who knows better and proceeds to commit violence anyway a “monster”. A “willing” victim does not make premeditated violence any less horrific or immoral.

  35. isme February 4, 2009 at 8:41 AM #

    Consent is an awkward issue. It’s based around the idea of free will, which obviously isn’t as absolute as people would like to think, otherwise advertising and propaganda would be useless.

    But the assumption of its existence is at the heart of our society. If saying “yes” isn’t enough, doesn’t it follow that saying “no” isn’t either? If you are unable to make decisions for yourself, than somebody else will have to do it for you.

    Whereabouts does “normal” behaviour become BDSM? Alot has been said about the extremes, and that the reality is more than fluffy handcuffs and silly costumes, but if fluffy handcuffs and silly costumes aren’t BDSM, what are they? And are they, for lack of a better word “ok”?

  36. panoptical February 4, 2009 at 9:11 AM #

    “And anyone who can inflict harm, regardless of whether the other person consented, wanted it, begged for it, or paid for it, is a monster, plain and simple.”

    “A “willing” victim does not make premeditated violence any less horrific or immoral.”

    I used to wear jewelry in my ears. I have four piercings. Certainly, poking holes in people’s bodies is harmful. I guess that woman at the stand in the mall where I got my piercings was a monster. And I probably need therapy because even though the first one hurt I got three more.

    Tattoos are nasty things. They can get infected. I hear they hurt. Sounds harmful. All those people with tattoos are warped – probably they have some sort of mental disease.

    How about good old American cosmetic surgery? These doctors – savages, really – cut people open, staple things together or tear things out or rearrange or stick things in… and then recovery takes weeks or months, and the risks of nerve damage are high, and the list of likely side effects is long and gruesome.

    And what about sports? Football is pretty violent. Rugby. Hockey. Boxing. MMA. At what point do these people go from “entertainer” to “monster,” I wonder.

    The funny thing is, there’s been a lot of talk about the “consensual” part of “safe, sane, and consensual” but no one has bothered to ask about the “safe” part. Your garden variety BDSM – spanking, flogging, light bondage – is far safer than body piercings, surgery, tattoos, sports, and many other staples of our culture. Even the more extreme stuff is less likely to cause injury or permanent damage than body modification, contact sports, or breast implants.

    “But with BDSM, you ARE hurting someone. And that, and that alone, is what makes it wrong.”

    Nope. The context matters. If BDSM is “wrong” there’s got to be something that differentiates it from all of the examples of people causing one another pain and damage that aren’t “wrong.” By the same logic we absolutely cannot unproblematically call anyone who is capable of inflicting pain or of damaging someone a “monster.”

    It’s also pretty damned nasty and insulting to claim that all subs and all doms (or all sadists and all masochists) need therapy. We can all sit around claiming that people who have different sexual desires than us are out of their minds, but once we go down that path where exactly do you expect it to lead?

  37. Still posting anonymously February 4, 2009 at 12:14 PM #

    “I didn’t feel very safe or sane when I got done, nor did I feel like participating in the shit I’d seen or read about would make me feel particularly empowered.”

    “You’re not submissive though.”

    Gah. No. Argh. No, please, no. Not only is this insulting, it’s also entirely missing the point. Having an orgasm does not magically undo any oppression that might surround that orgasm. For heaven’s sake.

    I am sexually submissive, and I can certainly tell you that I do not feel “empowered” because every time I get horny, I crave a man to humiliate, control, and degrade me. It is one of the most disempowering feelings I can imagine, especially right after I’ve had the orgasm(s) and that turned-on feeling that clouds the judgement is fading.

    It drives me absolutely nuts when somebody happens to want something that patriarchy tells us to do, and so that person insists that feminism has it all wrong. Good grief. If all I ever wanted out of life was to be a good little submissve size 0 housewife who always says yes to sex and dutifully churns out babies I nearly single-handledly raise, I! Would! Still! Be! A! Feminist!

    I can’t understand people who seem to reason that they don’t really have any good use for freedom themselves, and so others of their class shouldn’t have it. I would still feel miserable about being oppressed even if it had no concrete effect on my life, because I NEED freedom. Whether or not I use that freedom is not the point.

    There are apparently women out there who don’t have the burning need for freedom that I have, and that is fine. But why do those women think that is a reason to fight against other women gaining freedom? Housewives who say they are happy being housewives, and so all women should learn to be happy the same way. Subs who get orgasms doing BDSM, and so radfems need to quit attempting to dismantle the overwhelming force of eroticized female submission that is hurting us so much. And so many more examples.

    If you don’t need freedom, then fine. Sit on your butt and be content. But goodness, don’t try and hinder our fight for freedom just because you don’t need it!

    I’m sorry if my reaction is severe, but for me this is a personal issue for obvious reasons. Your implication that I get orgasms and so I should just be happy with that and ignore all the awful factors harming me and womenkind just offended me so much.

    On the other hand, it’s also annoying when radfems say that women like me should just go get therapy. Like it’s that easy and then it’s all fixed. Point out a single therapist in the world capable of re-routing their patients’ sexual fetishes, and I will be on the next plane to wherever that therapist is.

    • Nine Deuce February 5, 2009 at 12:27 AM #

      Sill posting anonymously – very good points.

  38. Alderson Warm-Fork February 4, 2009 at 3:22 PM #

    “Your comparison, not mine.”

    My point was that calling something unhealthy is very different from dehumanising people who do it.

    Perhaps a useful parallel would be veganism. I know some of the commenters here are vegans, I don’t know if all are. Non-vegans, especially non-vegetarians, are actively supporting and participating in torturing and killing a shitload of animals. That sounds like a monstrous thing to do to me. But I don’t think 99% of the world’s people are monsters, and I certainly don’t think they’re monsters “plain and simple”. Most of the people here must at least have friends or family members who pay to have animals imprisoned and killed, but still love them.

    It’s not even that doing so is a complementary activity to analysing or understanding. It works directly against it.Vilification means separating one group from everyone else and saying their different – vilifying 90% of the population makes no sense. And it sends a message that you don’t care about understanding these people or where they’re coming from – especially phrases like “plain and simple” which imply that there’s no complex analysis to do, they just “ARE” monsters.

    The best way I can think of to summarise my position is that if you want to tell someone, say a female sub, that although they really want something and it makes them happy and reduces their stress, nevertheless they don’t ‘really’ want it, it’s not good for them, you need to show that you thoroughly and completely understand why they feel that way. You’re claiming to understand them better than they understand themselves and that needs backing up. Just repeating your views in emotive language isn’t enough.

    So what I object to is 1) things like “sadists can’t enjoy giving pleasure” which clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding, 2) things like “they’re monsters, plain and simple”, which suggest a lack of interest in understanding, and 3) analysis that doesn’t go beyond “women who are into submission are into it because our culture eroticizes male domination and female submission”, an explanation that applies equally to people women who are subs, who are dommes, who switch, and who are not into BDSM.

  39. Trinity February 4, 2009 at 4:54 PM #

    “I am sexually submissive, and I can certainly tell you that I do not feel “empowered” because every time I get horny, I crave a man to humiliate, control, and degrade me. It is one of the most disempowering feelings I can imagine, especially right after I’ve had the orgasm(s) and that turned-on feeling that clouds the judgement is fading.”

    You know… I don’t really understand this.

    I don’t mean to say that I don’t get the conflict you’re experiencing, because I do.

    What I don’t get is… what purpose does guilt serve? Why should you feel bad about it? Even if you’re right about the anti-feminist nature of BDSM, why does it matter? Plenty of people think about, dream about, enjoy the idea of things they’d never do.

    So… what profit is there in guilt? Isn’t that a waste of energy and emotionally harmful?

    Again, I’m NOT saying this to set up “Go find yourself a dom” — it’s pretty clear that would be a bad idea.

    What I’m saying is why bother worrying about how you are, if you know it’s not going to change anyway? You always have, and always will have, the option to actually do this or not, regardless of whether the last orgasm you had made you feel happy or wretched.

    How does feeling bad serve your feminism?

    It’s probably kind of OT for me to say this because I’m not submissive, but… guilt never made me a better feminist. It never helped me to do anything. It never made me care more about women. It made me obsessed with myself and my perceived flaws.

    So why bother with it?

  40. stormy February 4, 2009 at 5:36 PM #

    Another great post 9-2.

    Nanella: There is a vast difference between an outburst of neurochemically provoked anger and the methodically planned abuse that springs from a cold, calculating mind.

    Unless you want to argue that all doms are clinically sociopaths and, therefore, have no control over their sadism, I see nothing wrong with labeling a person who knows better and proceeds to commit violence anyway a “monster”. A “willing” victim does not make premeditated violence any less horrific or immoral.

    Excellent point.

    Alderson Warm-Fork: As long as imprisonment is the principal form of punishment being promoted, and as long as imprisonment centres around separating offenders from the rest of society and putting them with violent people in a dehumanising setting, I think that should be a relevant factor when suggesting that something should be illegal.

    A W-F seems far more concerned about men being imprisoned than say, the many women who may end up as “a slave” and can never get out of it. The former chose it, and the latter, there have been cases where “the slave” wants out and her wishes are not heard. Very dangerous stuff. Not terribly SSorC.

    Upthread it was mentioned how similiar regular porn was to BDSM, with BDSM being on the extreme end. What gets me is all this talk of BDSM being “a kink” when all it is, is mainstream to the max, SSC mantra aside.

    Sorry kiddies, but the emperor is buck naked.

  41. devastatingyet February 4, 2009 at 7:53 PM #

    I am a feminist who practices bdsm, mostly as a top these days, but per Nine’s rules I’ll stick to experiences as a bottom for this comment. I think you made some interesting points (that I’ve considered before), and some of what you say are the things that make me uncomfortable bottoming. But rather than discuss the post, I’d like to talk a bit about my own experiences, in light of the questions about why women would view bdsm experiences as desirable or something to consent to.

    I remember sneaking into my mom’s bedroom at night, as a toddler, to get her hairbrush and spank myself with it. (I was probably spanked a little bit as a child, but never with a hairbrush, I’m pretty sure.)

    I remember an erotic dream when I was in kindergarten about a man who was going to come into my room and spank me if I wasn’t napping properly. (I call it an erotic dream because when I woke up I felt very excited and sorry to have woken up; I wouldn’t have had such a concept at the time, of course.)

    I started masturbating at the age of 7 or so, with no idea of its being connected to sex. I remember noticing that I had three basic things that I thought about – (1) that I was pretending I couldn’t feel it, (2) that I didn’t like what was happening but had no choice, and (3) that I wanted more but couldn’t get more. I always fantasized that I was being forced to do it, that it was some kind of treatment or punishment or training imposed from outside.

    As an adult, it is rare that I orgasm without fantasizing that I somehow have no control over what is happening. It can happen, but it’s difficult and rare. And being spanked or beaten [in an erotic way] makes me physically aroused even on the rare occasions that I’ve been emotionally unhappy about it (the result of mistakes, not forced encounters or anything like that).

    I don’t know if my own deeply ingrained sexuality comes from patriarchy or somewhere else. There might be enough patriarchal fodder out there to make a little kid erotically fantasize about spankings, or maybe some wires got crossed during fetal development, or…who knows. I don’t think the answer to this question is known.

    But I find it unsurprising that many people like me, whose sexuality has always revolved around control and force, are willing to engage in consensual acts they find deeply satisfying and usually erotic.

  42. Trinity February 4, 2009 at 8:58 PM #

    “I don’t know if my own deeply ingrained sexuality comes from patriarchy or somewhere else. There might be enough patriarchal fodder out there to make a little kid erotically fantasize about spankings, or maybe some wires got crossed during fetal development, or…who knows. I don’t think the answer to this question is known.

    But I find it unsurprising that many people like me, whose sexuality has always revolved around control and force, are willing to engage in consensual acts they find deeply satisfying and usually erotic.”

    This. I understand that patriarchy is in the air we breathe from our first breath, but it’s always seemed a bit far-fetched to me that so many people who have fantasies like those you describe are closely picking up patriarchal scripts. How does a kid who’s never been spanked who hits herself with a hairbrush “know/understand” that men want to keep women subservient and “agree” with it?

    Kids do pick things up, and pick them up early. But I’ve never quite felt convinced by this pervasive idea that kids who know at eight that they have certain fantasies are buying into the system. How do they even know what the system IS to embrace it as so many radical feminists claim they are doing?

  43. violacious February 4, 2009 at 9:45 PM #

    “I just want people to treat BDSM as something worth understanding, rather than as an excuse to share dry heaves with each other.”
    Alderson Warm-Fork

    awesome.

    Dev: “I remember noticing that I had three basic things that I thought about – (1) that I was pretending I couldn’t feel it, (2) that I didn’t like what was happening but had no choice, and (3) that I wanted more but couldn’t get more. I always fantasized that I was being forced to do it, that it was some kind of treatment or punishment or training imposed from outside.”

    yes, yes, and yes. I relate strongly to all three of those observations in terms of where my bottoming tendencies reside, desire-wise. And Trinity, I agree with you: I don’t see a politically gendered component in those pleasures either. It’s more simply about control.

    • Nine Deuce February 4, 2009 at 9:52 PM #

      Don’t you guys see the connection between the desire to turn over control and the message that women are not supposed to enjoy sex? Sounds like patriarchy to me (see B’s comment above).

  44. devastatingyet February 4, 2009 at 9:58 PM #

    I see the connection, Nine. Now, where my (submissive, masochist) boyfriend got the exact same thing, I don’t know. But my point wasn’t to argue about where it might come from, but to answer the question as to “why in the world” anyone would choose to do it. I choose to do it because it feels awesome.

  45. violacious February 4, 2009 at 9:59 PM #

    Except that submitting isn’t easier, and certainly doesn’t get me out of having to make decisions, actively negotiate particular situations, and clear them with my primary partner first. But working to achieve my own sexual freedom is certainly a focus of my feminist practice.

  46. subversive_sub February 4, 2009 at 11:40 PM #

    9-2, I don’t think there’s *any* sexual practice that would actually pass your criteria!

    1. Are women hurt by this sexual practice? Is there any type of sexual practice that has NOT, at some point in history, caused a woman to be physically or emotionally hurt? I’d be hard-pressed to think of one that has not. Some of my most painful sexual experiences (both physically and emotionally) have involved such non-kinky and non-hetero-specific activities as oral sex and masturbation.

    2. Are people who engage in the practice ever misogynists? Again, I don’t think there are any heterosexual practices that would pass this test with flying colors. Is having sex with men not okay because some men are misogynists?

    3. Would the practice still continue in a post-patriarchal society? If there are women who enjoy the practice, then yes, in a post-patriarchal society, the practice would continue. This is pretty much as far as you can take this argument; asserting that BDSM wouldn’t exist in a post-patriarchal world begs the question of why BDSM exists — you’re arguing that because BDSM only exists because of patriarchy, it wouldn’t exist if patriarchy were to disappear, which proves that BDSM is patriarchal and requires scrutiny….

    I know this is going to seem facetious, but I’m earnestly curious: which sexual practices do you think *aren’t* fucked up? Are there any types of sex that you think are actually exempt from criticism?

    You ask about why “safe, sane, consensual” is so important in the BDSM scene — if these discussions are necessary, you ask, isn’t that a “red flag” showing us that there’s a problem? I’d argue that these discussions are, in fact, just as necessary in non-BDSM relationships and sex. There are plenty of people who get emotionally and physically fucked up by sex — straight, queer, and kinky alike — because they don’t ensure consent, engage in sex because they’re trying to fill an emotional void, or use sex and sexual relationships to act out their hatred of women. BDSM by no means has a monopoly on this, and I think that acting as if this is the case really only serves to mask the abuse that occurs on a much greater scale in the non-kinky world. (Not because non-kinky folks are *more* fucked up than kinky folks, but because there are just a whole lot more of them.)

    Really, what all of these arguments seem to come back to is the fact that BDSM is disturbing to you, and your research on the internet has done nothing to dissuade you from that. Based on your research and its results, I completely understand why this is the case. But you’re focusing on the fantasy, and not the reality; you went to *a* BDSM club, which is a good start, but the rest of your research was all online, where people are always firmly placed in the realm of fantasy. And again, this is not BDSM specific — if you did the exact same test using hetero non-kinky porn, sex websites, and Craigslist “personal encounters” ads, you’d encounter fantasy versions of real sex and real relationships. If that’s all I was basing my perception of heterosexuality on, I’d think that heterosexuality was pretty fucked up, too.

    • Nine Deuce February 5, 2009 at 12:16 AM #

      Subversive Sub – I said I use those criteria to decide whether a practice needs analysis. You’re right, there isn’t a whole lot of sex going on in the world that meets any of the three. That doesn’t mean that those acts aren’t OK, though. It means they need to be approached with full awareness of what is going on and with full attention to how healthily the act can be pursued. Of course I think it’s possible for sex acts to be carried out in a healthy way, because I think it’s possible for people to consider all of the implications of an act and make decisions accordingly. It may be that people who are into BDSM consider the implications of their activities and see nothing wrong with them, but I have to demur. I’m very worried about the concept of eroticizing and fetishizing violence, as sexual violence is a major tool of oppression. I’m actually more concerned with it as it relates to male dominants, though. I understand what has been said by female submissives in this comment section, and I don’t think it’s worth me trying to convince someone who is OK with her sexual desires not to be. But I do think there’s a problem in general with men who get off on women’s pain and/or submission, even if they claim that their enjoyment comes from the pleasure it provides. It’s highly suspect in a misogynistic society, and I most definitely would not be able to trust that a man who wants to dominate women is not a misogynist.

      And I never said that BDSM is the prime culprit in sexual inequality or anything like that. I’ve written far more posts about the problem with the way the general public approaches sex than I have about BDSM.

      As to BDSM disturbing me, fuckin’ A right. I was HORRIFIED by the stuff I read and saw, because it was basically a collection of images of/text about women being tortured. I definitely understand that these were fantasies and thus tended to be more extreme, which I alluded to, but I wasn’t a whole lot more comfortable with what I saw in person (and fantasies do reflect desires, which is also worrisome). Sure, because we were people dealing with each other one-on-on the interactions were less likely to be quite as extreme as the stuff I’d seen, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t skeezed out by meeting men who were clearly turned on by abusing women.

  47. bonobobabe February 4, 2009 at 11:56 PM #

    We can all sit around claiming that people who have different sexual desires than us are out of their minds, but once we go down that path where exactly do you expect it to lead?

    Well, just because you (or anyone else) doesn’t know exactly where to draw the line, it doesn’t follow that one shouldn’t draw a line at all.

    If someone wanted to be pissed on for kicks, I think it’s weird, and I would probably dump the guy for asking, but I wouldn’t necessarily say he needed therapy. If someone wanted shat on for kicks, I’d be willing to say he crossed a line into deviance or perversion or what have you.

    The basic problem here, which no one has mentioned is that no one wants to think there’s something wrong with them. People think that they are basically good, honest, law-abiding, nice people. When they do bad things (like steal office supplies from work) they will rationalize it. So, when someone realizes that they get sexually aroused from something really strange or violent or what have you, they will go to lengths to call everyone else narrow-minded, conservative, hateful, bigoted, what have you in order to assuage their feelings that there is something wrong with them.

  48. bonobobabe February 5, 2009 at 12:04 AM #

    Point out a single therapist in the world capable of re-routing their patients’ sexual fetishes, and I will be on the next plane to wherever that therapist is.

    I don’t want to be flippant here, b/c you shared something important and painful, so I want to be respectful of that.

    But I read a book several years ago by Martin Seligman (can’t remember the title). He was a past president of the American Psychological Assocation. Anyway, he said that things like sexual orientation and how you perceive of yourself as a male or female are very deep and very hard to change. Sexual behavior is very shallow and easy to change. He said that fetishes can be induced very easily (and so I would imagine that undoing them would be pretty easy as well).

    He also said that most fetishists are male. I totally believe that.

    And by “easy”, I don’t mean quick and simple and overnight. I mean it can probably be done by you alone over a period of weeks or months if you knew what to do and how to do it.

  49. Alderson Warm-Fork February 5, 2009 at 12:53 AM #

    “The basic problem here, which no one has mentioned is that no one wants to think there’s something wrong with them.”

    I feel like a broken record, but once more: I am not opposed in principle to an argument that some behaviour or feeling I’m involved in is unhealthy, or indicates a problem. What I have a problem with is that four posts into this series, I feel none the wiser about BDSM, why some people and not others like it, what it tells us about them, what it tells us about society, etc. Just that it squicks out 9-2, even when she’s looked at a lot of it. I already knew that.

    • Nine Deuce February 5, 2009 at 12:55 AM #

      It isn’t just that it “squicks” me out, it’s that it’s indicative of the fact that our social conception of sex is too intermingled with power and oppression, and that people need to be aware of that as it relates to their personal lives.

  50. Trinity February 5, 2009 at 2:25 AM #

    “Don’t you guys see the connection between the desire to turn over control and the message that women are not supposed to enjoy sex? Sounds like patriarchy to me (see B’s comment above).”

    Yes, but I also see a connection between the idea that women are not supposed to enjoy sex and the idea that women are making the wrong choice if they turn over control. To me those things are not divorced from one another; they are part and parcel of a legacy of not trusting women’s sexuality and desiring to alter it.

    THAT is patriarchy. And if we accept, as radical feminists often do, that women can and do collude with it, I keep going back to the question: why examine the fantasies, yet keep so mum about examining our own tendency to vivisect the desire of women?

  51. Trinity February 5, 2009 at 2:27 AM #

    “Don’t you guys see the connection between the desire to turn over control and the message that women are not supposed to enjoy sex? Sounds like patriarchy to me (see B’s comment above).”

    Also, while I don’t disagree with you that social messages can shape us, I still don’t see why that leads to curious kids spanking themselves with hairbrushes, given that *that may not even be about control at all.*

  52. panoptical February 5, 2009 at 3:40 AM #

    “Well, just because you (or anyone else) doesn’t know exactly where to draw the line, it doesn’t follow that one shouldn’t draw a line at all.”

    “So, when someone realizes that they get sexually aroused from something really strange or violent or what have you, they will go to lengths to call everyone else narrow-minded, conservative, hateful, bigoted, what have you in order to assuage their feelings that there is something wrong with them.”

    These statements contain a contradiction. If we don’t know a priori how to classify a specific act or desire – in other words, if the line we draw is, of necessity, subjective – than how can a person know that what they are aroused by is “strange?” Why would a person feel like there was something “wrong” with them if they don’t have a clear picture of what is just weird and what requires therapy?

    The answer is that social norms are widely understood even by people who do not agree with them, and the point that I am making is not that you are conservative and hateful, but rather that if we decide that it’s permissible for one group to impose social norms on those who do not agree with them, we run into a problem because the people who are conservative and hateful outnumber us.

    Now I know the argument is that it’s not all social norms that are bad – it’s just the heteronormative, patriarchal ones that are bad. But the liberation of women from a society that imposes social norms on them won’t be complete if we decide that some norms are perfectly fine to impose on women because they’re the norms that make us comfortable. This goes back to the critique of second-wave feminism that it excluded women of color, lesbians, etc. from its politics and analyses. As Barbara Smith says, “Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women…Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism.”

    Maybe in a post-patriarchal world, no woman will want to be dominated, humiliated, spanked, etc. – but we don’t live in *that* world, we live in this one, and in this one, telling women who like BDSM that they are deviants in need of therapy is victim-blaming, plain and simple.

  53. demonista February 5, 2009 at 9:49 AM #

    panoptical, bonobobabe was speaking of men, not women, there. i don’t think she meant for it to be applied to women.

    i wouldn’t use the word “deviant” tho, myself.

  54. Alderson Warm-Fork February 5, 2009 at 10:50 AM #

    “it’s that it’s indicative of the fact that our social conception of sex is too intermingled with power”

    But we already know this from looking at non-BDSM stuff, and as I said, this doesn’t even begin to address why some individuals are kinky and some not. It’s like a Marxist limiting their analysis of every social injustice to “it just shows how bad capitalism is” without explaining how the general fact of capitalism concretely produces the specific, historical phenomena in question.

  55. isme February 5, 2009 at 11:12 AM #

    “It isn’t just that it “squicks” me out, it’s that it’s indicative of the fact that our social conception of sex is too intermingled with power and oppression, and that people need to be aware of that as it relates to their personal lives.”

    Well…that point might have got a bit lost somewhere. What you seem to have done is to dive headlong into the extreme end of BDSM to find proof for a belief you already held, that is, that BDSM is bad, so that we can all sit round self-righteously condemning it.

    I’m not saying that the really disturbing elements of BDSM aren’t (surprisingly enough) really disturbing, but everyone knows that. We can rant about it if we like, but we aren’t going to discover anything new about our society.

    BDSM is an issue which, I believe, should be examined and understood further, but that is (so far, at least) something that seems to be lacking in your articles so far.

  56. devastatingyet February 5, 2009 at 4:30 PM #

    bonobobabe:

    So, when someone realizes that they get sexually aroused from something really strange or violent or what have you, they will go to lengths to call everyone else narrow-minded, conservative, hateful, bigoted, what have you in order to assuage their feelings that there is something wrong with them.

    The way that I personally assuage my feeling that there is something wrong with me is to take a look at how my actions actually affect my partner. He’s as healthy, happy, and autonomous as ever – just with more sexual pleasure and joy. I’m not harming him, and I have no intention of harming anyone with my sex practices. And I don’t think that feelings that lead to no harm constitute “something wrong with me” even though they seem unsavory.

    The first night that I went to a bdsm club, I saw a couple (a male top and female bottom) have a scene that looked harsh and unpleasant to me. I worried about the woman, and found the man very creepy.

    And now, months later, I have seen this same couple dozens and dozens of times. I see her come in beaming and excited; I see her leave looking content and joyful. I see what they do in between (the socializing, the rough play, etc.). On what basis should I conclude that it’s wrong?

  57. panoptical February 6, 2009 at 3:53 AM #

    demonista, bonobobabe said this upthread:

    “I think both doms and subs need therapy. I’m not a conservative or a religious nut. I just know that deriving pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain and/or humiliation is wrong/bad/immoral/needs to stop.”

    Perhaps this statement was intended primarily as a rebuke against men, but it certainly includes women. Since there are women who practice BDSM sharing their experiences, desires, and practices with us in this thread, I think it’s important to avoid using shaming or judgmental language about those practices and desires.

  58. Still posting anonymously February 6, 2009 at 12:18 PM #

    I have so much to say about this. I wish I had my own blog. Please forgive me for being so gabby.

    Trinity said:

    What I don’t get is… what purpose does guilt serve? Why should you feel bad about it? Even if you’re right about the anti-feminist nature of BDSM, why does it matter?

    Are you serious? Is this what you say to everyone who feels awful about something? “What purpose does it serve to feel awful? It’s not serving feminism for you to feel awful, so…stop.” Or is it just in feminist situations? “Yeah, I see that you get paid less than your less qualified male coworkers/got sexually harassed/got called a sexual slur for showing sexual independence. Doesn’t serve feminism for you to feel bad about it though, so just forget about it and be happy!” Do you apply this same standard to yourself?

    Then I have to wonder why you chose the word “guilt.” I read that over and over trying to figure out what you were insinuating by using that word. Are you trying to say this is all my fault or something? What am I supposed to take away from that?

    it’s always seemed a bit far-fetched to me that so many people who have fantasies like those you describe are closely picking up patriarchal scripts. How does a kid who’s never been spanked who hits herself with a hairbrush “know/understand” that men want to keep women subservient and “agree” with it?

    I have seen this argument so many times and I am disappointed to see it coming from a feminist. I’m reminded of Larry Summers saying that his little daughters like to play with dolls and that proves that sex differences are innate. By that time, a kid has absorbed a whole language (two or three of them in many parts of the world). They absorbed how to eat, how to walk, that things fall to the ground when you drop them, that things still exist when you don’t see them, how to control their body and vocal organs. They have learned a whole complex system of morality, and rule systems such as how certain objects belong to certain people and what that means about what you can do with them.

    Yet, I constantly hear this argument that gendered behavior in kids must be innate or else it wouldn’t appear during childhood. What are people thinking when they say this? “Let’s see, a 4-year-old has only absorbed enough information to fill The Library of Congress about 47 times over, so it’s clearly impossible that they have absorbed anything from the constant, steady stream of messages they get about gender every day of their lives.”

    devastatingyet said:

    The first night that I went to a bdsm club, I saw a couple (a male top and female bottom) have a scene that looked harsh and unpleasant to me. I worried about the woman, and found the man very creepy.

    And now, months later, I have seen this same couple dozens and dozens of times. I see her come in beaming and excited; I see her leave looking content and joyful. I see what they do in between (the socializing, the rough play, etc.). On what basis should I conclude that it’s wrong?

    I wasn’t even trying to poke holes in your argument, but as soon as I read that, I thought about myself when I was anorexic in my teens. I was imagining someone watching me as I starve myself and get up at 4am every morning to do 3 hours of exercise before school, then come home and work out for another 4 hours. They might think to themselves that what I am doing is “harsh and unpleasant” and that they are worried about me. But then they see when I finally get the scale to tip below 40 kilos/90 lbs and I can fit into size 0 jeans. They’ll see me getting out my tiny jeans beaming and excited, then walking around in them looking content and joyful. So on what basis could they conclude that anorexia is wrong?

    Obviously harmful behavior has some reward that gives pleasure. Otherwise no one would ever engage in harmful behavior. So, saying that someone gets pleasure out of something is no kind of argument for it not being harmful, because it could be applied to anything. It is definitely no kind of argument when we’re talking about members of an oppressed class doing something that gains them approval from members of a dominant class.

    I have so much to say about BDSM and feminism, but I can’t monopolize this discussion anymore than I already have. I really should get my own blog, but I don’t have time to make the commitment.

    By the way, bonobobabe, thanks for the heads up. I’ll do some research on that. I’m pretty skeptical, though, since I have never in my life been turned on any other way.

  59. emjustme February 6, 2009 at 3:14 PM #

    NineD, I’ve been really heartened to see your series on BDSM and am just grateful to have your blog in general. It’s an oasis of well considered radical feminist thought and analysis in a pretendy pseudo feminist web desert, where anyone can lay claim to the term and language.

    My thoughts on BDSM are very similar to your own, but what has also been brought to mind when reading here and elsewhere on the interwebs is the issue of self harm. Looking at contributions in popular bdsm and pro pornography blogs, it is evident that a high percentage of people have experienced trauma and that participation in bdsm – or what they would term gonzo sexual acts – serves a functional purpose in a range of ways in dealing with that trauma.

    Self harm as it is commonly understood involves a broad spectrum of acts and behaviours, from cutting and burning to eating distress and what are often termed risky behaviours where the intent is to hurt the self in some way. People who self harm speak of it as helping them to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings; of being a way for them to feel something when they generally feel numb; of being a release of a build up of feelings they are otherwise unable to express and of being in control of their own hurt and pain. It can also reinforce negative feelings i.e i don’t deserve any better, i deserve to be hurt/abused etc

    These themes are very apparant in much of what I have read here and elsewhere.

    There is, understandably, tension on all sides when discussing these issues. I too would feel threatened and frustrated if I felt my lifestyle and decisions were under critical scrutiny. However, it is problematic – to say the least – to continually see bdsm presented as some kind of feminist choice when it clearly is not and can never be; for feminism and the language of feminism to be continually mis-appropriated (as is the language of therapy) and for conservative essentialism to be paraded as an edgy, cool, liberal alt lifestyle.
    It takes incredible feats of mental gymnastics to present bdsm and pornagraphy as anything other than byproducts of a hideously misogynist culture of inequality on a grand scale. And yet we have people buying into it. We also have people making a name for themselves promoting it.

    I can’t be critical of people who try to find ways of coping with difficult thoughts and feelings but I can certainly object to having a movement for social justice set back by those who wish to falsely adopt it for individual ends or to twist it’s aims and language into unrecogisable forms to validate and legitimise misogyny and the eroticising and fetishising of violence against women.

    It’s incomprehinsible to me how there can be a failure to understand just how damaging these positions of pornogaphy, prostitution and bdsm as feminist and sexually liberatory for women are, not just to feminism but to women in general.
    Adaptive preferences? False consciousness? Surviving? Individual agency? The last one just doesnt make any sense in the context of humiliation, degredation, hurt, pain, torture and abuse being truly free and empowered choices.

  60. Alderson Warm-Fork February 6, 2009 at 5:46 PM #

    “I was imagining someone watching me as I starve myself and get up at 4am every morning to do 3 hours of exercise before school, then come home and work out for another 4 hours…They’ll see me getting out my tiny jeans beaming and excited, then walking around in them looking content and joyful. So on what basis could they conclude that anorexia is wrong?”

    I think there are two big problems with the anorexia parallel.

    Firstly, anorexia, and dieting more generally, do long term serious physical damage. They depress the immune system and make people more vulnerable to disease, they can also make people more mentally unstable, unable to concentrate, or even do brain damage. Sometimes they die. There’s science and studies backing that up. It might be argued that BDSM does something similar but such an argument *needs evidence*, not just conjecture or anecdotes.

    Secondly, the pain and humiliation of BDSM are themselves the source of pleasure and satisfaction. The greater the pain, the greater the pleasure (when the play is mutually controlled and consensual). In dieting and anorexia, the satisfaction of successful weight loss is an alternative to the self-hatred and frustration of weight gain or ravening hunger – you get one or the other. For many people, whose bodies either refuse to lose weight, or who feel the need to push their bodies further when they’ve lost as much weight as they can, it just produces a big big lot of unhappiness and no or little reward. BDSM often provides a great deal of happiness, and the ‘cost’ may be no greater pain than the cramp that a runner gets in their legs.

    If someone tells an anorexic person that they’re making a mistake, then 1) they can predict definite and serious harms, 2) they can safely say that giving up anorexia is quite likely to make them happier, and 3) they can offer a fairly good explanation of what sort of factors have contributed to making this individual (and not other individuals) anorexic, by talking about some research on neurology, the need for control, the cultural narrative of ‘letting oneself go’, the media studies on links between representations and behaviour, etc.

    In telling a submissive that they’re making a mistake, it seems to me that neither 1) nor 2) is applicable – I certainly haven’t seen convincing data for why they are. And in place of 3) there’s only a possible explanation of why one half of the people involved (the female subs) have the desires they have, which doesn’t explain why everybody else doesn’t have them.

    • Nine Deuce February 6, 2009 at 7:26 PM #

      Anorexia, like female submission, is a way that women cope with the pressures placed upon them by a society that expects the impossible from them. Women are supposed to be chaste but not prudish, hot but not arrogant, perennially nice but never insincere. If you don’t see the parallel, you’re willfully ignoring it to serve your own purposes.

  61. devastatingyet February 6, 2009 at 10:45 PM #

    I can call anorexia “harmful” on the basis of its ill health effects. I haven’t seen any comparably bad health effects from bdsm so I don’t have that basis. I see only superficial injuries that heal quickly, like bruises or small cuts, or sometimes permanent marks that don’t interfere with life, like piercings.

    I’m not claiming that someone seeming to enjoy something means you can’t say it’s harmful; it’s true that people enjoy harmful things all the time, or they wouldn’t do them. But again, on what basis should I think bdsm is harmful? I don’t see its harmfulness as being “obvious” as many here do.

    Something can harm you by making you physically sick or disabled, by killing you, by diminishing your confidence or general autonomy, by making you unhappy, and so on. What type of harm is bdsm alleged to cause, and where is the evidence?

  62. Trinity February 7, 2009 at 1:51 AM #

    “Are you serious? Is this what you say to everyone who feels awful about something? “What purpose does it serve to feel awful? It’s not serving feminism for you to feel awful, so…stop.” Or is it just in feminist situations? “Yeah, I see that you get paid less than your less qualified male coworkers/got sexually harassed/got called a sexual slur for showing sexual independence. Doesn’t serve feminism for you to feel bad about it though, so just forget about it and be happy!” Do you apply this same standard to yourself?”

    Yeah, I do. The whole reason I posted it was that, as I said in my comment to you, I found my own guilt unproductive and hurtful, the same way I found cutting myself unproductive.

    Guilt of that kind — seeing yourself as having a particular identity, and feeling horrible and cursing yourself for it — is, to my mind, self-harm in just the same way cutting is. Guilt is supposed to be a now and then thing, something we feel when we behave as we shouldn’t. Not something we have because of things we feel!

    I did the emotional work to stop self-harming through cutting and to stop punishing myself through guilt precisely because I ultimately found that they didn’t serve any purpose in my life.

    Since your feelings seem important to you, I was asking what purpose they serve in yours.

    It’s possible that you want to be rid of feeling bad about this and can’t, in which case that sucks, but that’s not how your original comment came across.

  63. lissy February 7, 2009 at 1:54 AM #

    I’ve taken a while to get together a response on my own blog because I’m quite long-winded and because I can only talk from a personal perspective.

  64. bonobobabe February 7, 2009 at 3:05 AM #

    The first night that I went to a bdsm club, I saw a couple (a male top and female bottom) have a scene that looked harsh and unpleasant to me. I worried about the woman, and found the man very creepy.

    And now, months later, I have seen this same couple dozens and dozens of times. I see her come in beaming and excited; I see her leave looking content and joyful. I see what they do in between (the socializing, the rough play, etc.). On what basis should I conclude that it’s wrong?

    Well, you can’t base it on their appearance of happiness. If I’m cranky and bitchy and seem out of sorts, but then I shoot up some drug and then I’m happy, based on your logic, the drug is harmless.

  65. bonobobabe February 7, 2009 at 3:17 AM #

    Maybe in a post-patriarchal world, no woman will want to be dominated, humiliated, spanked, etc. – but we don’t live in *that* world, we live in this one, and in this one, telling women who like BDSM that they are deviants in need of therapy is victim-blaming, plain and simple.

    I don’t think I’m blaming the victim. It’s not the woman/subs fault that the man/dom is beating her up. It’s his fault. He is the actor/agressor. She is the receiver.

    If I suggest that an abused woman get therapy to figure out why she’s attracted to abusive men, it doesn’t follow that I’m blaming her for the abuse. He hits her. He kicks her. It’s his fault. Therapy certainly won’t fix the patriarchy, and she will probably never get in a relationship with a feminist man (since they are as rare as hen’s teeth), but she can work out some past abuses and traumas and maybe not get involved with a physically abusive person again.

    I like to parse the word “responsible” into “able to respond.” It’s not the victim’s fault that she is being beaten. She didn’t cause it. She’s not to blame for it. But can she respond to the situation? Sometimes yes. I realize that in lots of situations, the woman has no real choice or practical course of action to make her situation better. But in some situations they do and to suggest ways to get help and get out of that situation I don’t think is blaming the victim.

  66. Still posting anonymously February 7, 2009 at 9:15 AM #

    Alderson Warm-Fork and devastatingyet, not once in all that writing did you say something along the lines of “Actually, I was correct with my original assertion that if there is pleasure and satisfaction involved, then it cancels out any possibility of it being harmful because…”

    If you need to pick apart someone’s analogy with all that text without ever actually approaching the point of the analogy, then I will have to assume that you don’t have an argument.

    Even your picking-apart doesn’t hold. Anorexics would be happy if they just quit being anorexic? That would solve the root issue? Anorexics don’t get any satisfaction and pleasure out of depriving themselves? Do you really believe that?

    Where is the evidence?

    Gosh, this is really something. That you demand evidence for the assertion that degradation and torture is harmful is scary enough. Implying that risks are immune to criticism without enough evidence is even more scary. “Hey, look at this green goo I found in the chem lab. I’m going to eat a quart of it for fun! It could be harmful, you say? Nonsense! Unless you provide a peer-reviewed, controlled, double blind study to prove it is harmful this instant, I am damn well going to eat it.”

    If your implication is honest and not just a silly excuse, then you really should get off the internet and go out to live life to the fullest because you are not going to be living much longer with that approach.

    Trinity, you are still pushing this “guilt” on me and apparently won’t tell me why. It is starting to creep me out.

    I did the emotional work to stop self-harming through cutting

    I hardly know what to say to this. You spend all this energy to convince 9-2 and others that there is nothing wrong with these women who seek out harm for themselves. When I express my despair about the harm I seek out for myself, you lecture me that I need to wave a magic wand and make the despair go away. Then you support this argument by telling me that you did the emotional work to get over your own self-harm? That is actually a part of your lecture to me that I need to be complacent about my self-harm? What the hell? Is self-harm only bad when it happens to you or something?

    This thread is such a perfect demonstration of why I don’t dare seek help. I actually live in a world where someone makes a post about women getting degraded and dominated and tortured, on a feminist blog, and the response is a chorus of voices saying they don’t see anything wrong with that. Burden of proof is on YOU to show why torturing and degrading women is bad. How can I possibly seek help and trust a therapist to get me through this when I live in this kind of world?

  67. Alderson Warm-Fork February 7, 2009 at 8:53 PM #

    “Alderson Warm-Fork and devastatingyet, not once in all that writing did you say something along the lines of “Actually, I was correct with my original assertion that if there is pleasure and satisfaction involved, then it cancels out any possibility of it being harmful because…”

    No, we didn’t, because that assertion was never made. The assertion, I think, was more like

    “If someone seems to take pleasure in something, and voluntarily engages in it, then the burden of proof is on the person saying they shouldn’t be doing that.”

    You talked about anorexia. I talked about how anorexia fulfil this condition, which you chose to misconstrue as (clearly false) claim that happiness implies everything’s fine. If anorexia didn’t do physical harm, and if it was a /direct and reliable source/ of pleasure and happiness to someone, I would not tell anorexics to stop.

    “Anorexics would be happy if they just quit being anorexic?”
    No, but they’d be in a better position because anorexia is a bad way to respond to their problems. Right?

    “Anorexics don’t get any satisfaction and pleasure out of depriving themselves?”
    I explicitly mentioned the satisfaction of anorexia. The difference is…whatever. It’s there in my comment.

    “That you demand evidence for the assertion that degradation and torture is harmful is scary enough.”
    My general principle is that evidence is needed to overrule someone’s choices about what’s best for them. I’m not ashamed to hold that position. I’m sorry you find it scary.

    “Implying that risks are immune to criticism without enough evidence is even more scary.”
    As I said above, I think that some evidence is needed to overrule people’s personal choices about their own lives. That seems like a reasonable position to me. I’m not demanding irrefutable evidence, I’m saying I want evidence of some kind. I don’t feel that such has been presented. Perhaps you think it has. We could talk about that.

    “Anorexia, like female submission, is a way that women cope”
    Firstly, this invites the question of what male submission and female domination are. Secondly, the parallel with anorexia seemed to me to suggest that, like anorexia, it was a destructive way of coping that people should be discouraged from engaging in. The parallel didn’t seem convincing to me in that respect.

  68. isme February 8, 2009 at 12:50 AM #

    “Firstly, this invites the question of what male submission and female domination are.”

    Yes, I’ve been waiting for ND to post about that as well.

  69. panoptical February 8, 2009 at 6:14 AM #

    “If I suggest that an abused woman get therapy to figure out why she’s attracted to abusive men, it doesn’t follow that I’m blaming her for the abuse…she can work out some past abuses and traumas and maybe not get involved with a physically abusive person again.”

    Victim-blaming encompasses not just direct statements of fault but also the set of expectations that there is an onus upon women to behave in a certain way in order to avoid becoming victimized and the way that these expectations are enforced and the way that this enforcement adds to the oppressive double-bind that women face when trying to make choices in society.

    Sure, “avoid abusive relationships” is pretty sound advice absent context. So is “avoid unsafe areas of town” – yet when we start talking about rape, “avoid unsafe areas of town” takes on new meanings and connotations. Suddenly women don’t have the same rights as men do because men have no problem walking through those areas – and worse, this advice is actually useless to the majority of rape victims, who were assaulted by someone they knew and felt safe with.

    We absolutely don’t say to a woman who was raped, “well maybe we can get you some help so you can learn where you’re allowed to go and how you’re allowed to behave.” But the solution that you are proposing to the issue of BDSM – a practice that in many cases victimizes women – is that the victims be taught to avoid BDSM and told not only how they are allowed to behave but also what they are allowed to want. And even if women who derive sexual satisfaction from pain or humiliation do get therapy it’s not very likely that the therapy will “cure” their masochism or submissiveness, especially if they don’t see those things as problems.

    The advice of “go get therapy” doesn’t help women who have BDSM-related sexual desires – but it does tell them that they aren’t supposed to actualize those desires, let alone have them, and that they need medical attention to fix what is wrong with them. And it’s also shaming and condescending to women who don’t want to stop wanting to do BDSM.

    I get where you’re coming from, and I have very personal reasons for being suspicious of things called BDSM, because often the label “BDSM” is just a cover for men abusing women in exactly the way that society teaches them to. And I agree with you that people who are in those situations sometimes don’t have the tools to recognize abuse for what it is, and that these people could benefit from seeking professional advice. But where I have to draw the line is at the idea that a woman’s sexual urges are the appropriate subject of comment, censure, and treatment by society at large, or more specifically by society’s deviant-fixing arm – the mental health establishment – that so often shows itself to be regressive and hostile towards alternative lifestyles.

  70. devastatingyet February 8, 2009 at 8:21 AM #

    For the record, I agree with Alderson’s statement of the position we were both attacked on. If you say something is harmful I want to know how. Anorexia is harmful because you can die from it. If I’d never heard of it before, and I saw someone doing it, and they seemed healthy and happy, and I had no knowledge of biology, I might conclude it was all right too. I would be wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about bdsm.

    I feel like, with respect to “torture and degradation,” your reasoning is analogous to that of someone who has never heard of women liking sex, and has only ever seen rape. Yes, torture, beating, assault, spanking, tying up, etc., are bad things when they are done non-consensually. Very bad. No question there.

    But I assert that, just like sex, they are not bad things when they are done for fun, with full consent, and based on the interests of both parties. You can’t believe that a healthy person could want to be beaten, but that view just doesn’t agree with my experiences at all.

    There are probably people out there who engage in abuse and call it S&M. Well, there are people out there who engage in rape and call it sex, too. The existence of consensual sex isn’t what causes rape, and the existence of bdsm isn’t what causes abuse.

    Also, as a side note, the idea that the bottom is a passive receiver of the actions of the top is also not true to most of the experiences I’ve ever seen or heard about. It’s a partnership and the experience is a mutual creation.

  71. Trinity February 8, 2009 at 7:34 PM #

    Anony:

    If you believe that you’re self-harming, you should work to stop doing so.

    Most SM people are not doing that, though.

    And if you really don’t get why someone would read you saying you feel horrible about your desires and can’t stop would think “maybe feeling horrible isn’t productive,” I don’t think I can help you understand any better.

    You said yourself you’re not going to change. If that’s really true, I honestly do think the best thing is to find a way to 1) only do things you’re OK with doing and 2) not feel “despair” for thinking about things you’re not.

    “Despair” is a fucking waste of time.

  72. Trinity February 8, 2009 at 7:54 PM #

    Also, anony: If your emotion isn’t guilt, please tell me what it is.

    You say you want to know why I thought it was guilt, so I’ll tell you:

    You said:

    “I am sexually submissive, and I can certainly tell you that I do not feel “empowered” because every time I get horny, I crave a man to humiliate, control, and degrade me. It is one of the most disempowering feelings I can imagine, especially right after I’ve had the orgasm(s) and that turned-on feeling that clouds the judgement is fading.”

    I could be reading this wrong — and it sounds like I am, from what you’re saying. But what I see here is, basically:

    “I get horny. This inevitably leads me to think about submission to a man. That bothers me and I feel really weird about it, especially post-orgasm. I really don’t like that I have these thoughts, and I’m really uncomfortable with them.”

    To me, that sounds like guilt. To me it sounds like “I have this set of principles, and I feel really awful that what I want, as I understand it, runs counter to those principles. I feel dirty and gross, and want to be someone who doesn’t have these responses that conflict with what I believe.”

    For me, the thing is this: Desire, especially sexual desire, isn’t something fully under our conscious control. I do think it’s partially under our conscious control, but it often seizes us and draws us to things whether we’re OK with that or not.

    I’m not saying these two things are the same, here, but think about the gay person raised in a fundamentalist household. Such a person may believe, really and truly believe, that men who desire men (or at least, who act on this desire) are wicked, that “god gave them up” for their wickedness, etc.

    But believing this, no matter what it leads the guy in question to DO, will NOT change his desires. This is precisely why reparative therapy doesn’t work. (Well, that and the fact that reparative therapy is abuse plain and simple, too.)

    So now, we’ve got you. You identify yourself in your original post as “sexually submissive,” and you’re bothered by your fantasies. This suggests to me that you believe them to be unchangeable, or at least have had so little success reconfiguring them that you’re “despairing” about them.

    I don’t want to get into whether BDSM can be an orientation here (I think it can, ftr), but from the example you give, it seems you’re someone whose interest is fixed enough that you can’t change though you sound as if you’d like to.

    Now, we’re faced with a question: What should you do?

    Someone flippant and mean might recommend you “get over yourself” and go find a Dom and have fun. I’m not recommending this.

    Someone who doesn’t take seriously the claim you are making (or at least that I read you making; please let me know if I’ve misread) might suggest you find a feminist therapist amenable to helping you change. (Though given how the DSM-IV actually reads, I don’t think any mental health professional would attempt to change you anyway, but rather to make you comfortable with your desires. Which you don’t want. Which is therefore a Bad Idea.)

    What I’m suggesting is something else. I’m not saying you have to like that you’re submissive if you don’t want. What I am saying is I hear a lot of “despair,” uncomfortableness, etc. in your posts, and I don’t think it’s necessary. I think you can refuse to support or participate in BDSM or the community and not feel “despair” about what you think about when you masturbate.

    I think women under patriarchy are already conditioned to feel all kinds of negative emotions about their sexual desires, so I don’t think it’s feministily productive for you to feel bad. If you’re right about whether SM is good or not, it may be productive for you to refuse to engage in it. But how is your “despair” about THINKING ABOUT SOMETHING good for you?

    Everyone thinks about things.

  73. Trinity February 8, 2009 at 8:00 PM #

    “If anorexia didn’t do physical harm, and if it was a /direct and reliable source/ of pleasure and happiness to someone, I would not tell anorexics to stop.”

    Exactly. I think interpreting anorexia as “a source of pleasure” isn’t right, or is at least incomplete. Anorexia is a source of OBSESSION. It’s not just a person setting a goal, meeting it, and feeling good about it. It’s a whole system of thoughts whereby the person is constantly DISpleased by her body.

    Yeah, I’m sure there’s pleasure in achieving goal weights and such. But if it weren’t obsessive, people wouldn’t be driven to lose more, and more, and more.

    BDSM as an obsession with more and more sensation or more and more power dynamics wouldn’t be healthy either.

    The thing is that I don’t think this is usually what’s going on in BDSM. It is in SOME cases, and I think those cases often are where we begin to see creepiness like “I wasn’t happy with anything but absolute slavery.”

    The difference is that I don’t think that’s usual at all.

  74. Rachael February 9, 2009 at 11:46 AM #

    So, should women who are into submission be ashamed of themselves? I don’t think so. It’s shocking to me that there are any women in this warped society who aren’t. But I would like to ask submissive women who read this if they think that what I’ve postulated is far off from the truth. I don’t think it’s healthy to mix sex and violence, and I think submitting to the will of other people is detrimental to our mental health and human development. I’m certainly not going to blame submissive women for sexual inequality or for the continuation of patriarchy because that’s completely ridiculous.

    Thank you for this. Even though they’re only fantasies, I often feel guilty for the things I think about. I think I’ve definitely been influenced by how society views sex between a man and a woman, especially since I was raised Catholic. I remember visiting a website that, while it encouraged both men and women to “stay pure,” it pretty much painted men as being simple, sexual creatures who needed to “lead this girl to holiness and guard her innocence” (as if all that matters to God is whether or not a woman is “damaged goods”). Then there was another site that seemed oh so progressive in suggesting that masturbation was just something boys did, and that it wasn’t too great a cause for concern, but didn’t even acknowledge that girls also masturbate.

    Anyway, I kind of went off on a tangent…but yes, thank you for this. I already knew that you were trying to make a point, and were not interested in “slut shaming,” but it was still good to read.

    Yes, BDSM is very frightening. It really scares me just how mainstream these things are getting.

  75. reversed gaze February 10, 2009 at 2:14 PM #

    What of those who don’t follow the rules,…?
    Then you will not play in this town again. And depending on the level of community, Anywhere on the continent. A community protects its own, because they are aware of the risk, learned how to navigate that risk to the best of their ability, and made a choice to engage in that risk.

    What of the women who engage in BDSM because they’ve got emotional problems, and what of the men who seek out BDSM relationships as a venue to exercise their hatred on women’s bodies?

    I think you are assuming that all who engage in a practice that you personally find distasteful, are somehow, seriously disturbed. Some may do it for the “wrong reasons” — Everyone has issues, but if you cannot control your issues, or (your assumption of) BDSM’s misogynist hatred — it is unlikely that you will play in this town again.

    How many people don’t follow the guidelines more responsible BDSM practitioners have devised?

    Not many anymore. Seeking BDSM was a very unsafe proposition in the early days, because you didn’t attend workshops on “Saying yes, and saying no” or learn tidbits like “don’t hit the kidneys” or “police handcuffs can damage your nerves if not used carefully”. Infact I’d wager that if there is a huge problem with BDSM, its with the casual practitioner, or the frat girl who wants to be a bit kinky without understanding her limits, the implications, or who hasn’t fully developed her negotiation skills. And as the Scene’s influence increases, the biggest lesson we can impart on the “vanilla” people is that sexual negotiation, openness and understanding about sexual desires and lack of judgment even if express desires ‘aren’t our cup of tea’, all paired with the power to say “no” in the heat of the moment.

    And how do other members of the BDSM community deal with those who don’t adhere to the safe, sane, and consensual line?

    Provided you are an actual *dangerous* player, and not the unwitting mark of a bad breakup, you will not play in this town again. Seriously. Its a small world. You do not break your toys, human or otherwise, and if you fuck up, you will not get invited to parties anymore. The hot young things will not seek you out. Period. End of Game.

  76. subversive_sub February 10, 2009 at 7:54 PM #

    Hi 9-2, posting this here in case you had stopped following the thread over on SM-Feminist. I just wanted to respond to your comments over there (I revised my comment slightly here):

    1. You say, again and again, that you’re not trying to shame submissive women or tell anyone involved in BDSM that they need to stop doing it, or that they’re bad feminists because of what they desire. You say that you’re presenting “reasoned arguments about social phenomena.” Sounds good.

    2. You then title your posts “BDSM (the sexual equivalent of Renaissance Faires)” and proceed to mock and ridicule kinky sexuality throughout your entire series, particularly in your second post.

    3. You also constantly resort to statements like “What in Billy Zabka’s name would make a woman want to submit to such treatment, and how in the fuck could anyone get to the point that they derive sexual enjoyment from severe pain?” How, exactly, is saying “I just don’t GET this BDSM stuff, how could anyone actually LIKE it?” *not* going to make those of us who do get off on submission and pain feel shamed or excluded? How is calling what we do “weird shit” a reasoned argument, and how is it not judgmental?

    It seems pretty dishonest to pretend that this is a fair, even-handed approach to BDSM, that you’re really trying to understand what it is that we do and why we do it. It’s clear to me and to every other kinky person who’s tried to engage in this conversation that you have no interest in understanding BDSM from our perspective, and simply think that it’s disgusting and perverted and horriblebadwrong, and nothing we can say is going to dissuade you from that notion.

    Which, as Trinity mentioned in another comment elsewhere, is a real shame, because there’s a lot of what you say on here that is interesting and smart — and a lot of things that we agree on. There’s a lot of room for solid feminist critique of BDSM, because there *is* a lot of sexism within that scene masquerading as “real” BDSM. But that fact doesn’t mean that BDSM itself is the problem, or that it’s okay to ridicule and condemn all of us (and yes, condemning our loved ones is just as bad as condemning us) because *some* people involved in kink are sexist jerks.

    • Nine Deuce February 10, 2009 at 8:02 PM #

      Subversive Sub – I’m not saying I don’t get it. Those were rhetorical questions, and my post titles and whatnot are stylistic (and a bit representative of my opinion – it does seem a little corny to me). I’ve hardly participated in comments, so how do you know whether I’m listening to people? I know you’re sure that I’ll change my mind if I listen, but that probably isn’t going to happen. I don’t think BDSM is perverted (I don’t use that word and I think it’s a useless concept), but I think it’s problematic.

  77. mehitabela February 10, 2009 at 10:05 PM #

    Wow, That was a lot of posts to read…I agree that the BDSM”scene” is retarded and I have trouble understanding how people pose and posture 24-7 in playing out their roles. That being said, I am one of those women that loves pleasure-pain, loves being bound, loves being directed. I am also a strong-willed, broad-shouldered, opinionated woman who would absolutely never allow my partner to do something with me that I didn’t want to do. In daily life we ARE equal. He asks me for help with somethings (like organization and budgets) and I always need help with my schoolwork when it involves weird calculations my brain doesn’t like to deal with(mental math block). Even when we engage in sex different from other people, I always have an out. I can get out of the ties, I can say my word that means “ok, bucko, thats about enough of that”. Fortunately, because we were very clear in the beginning about what exactly our (both of our) limits were, issues dont often come up. If they do, I reserve the right to take a month to think it over before I commit to yes or no and am free to change my mind anytime I need to-in either direction!
    BDSM is not for everyone, certainly “the scene” is not for most, but neither is every submissively inclined in the bedroom female a blithering idiot! One of my blogs says something of that nature as well if anyone needs any clarity.

  78. subversive_sub February 11, 2009 at 9:17 PM #

    @ 9-2: “I’ve hardly participated in comments, so how do you know whether I’m listening to people?”

    I guess that’s part of what I’m getting at. You write a post, we comment in response, and get little or no feedback from you. Then you write another post, in which you ask questions that we’ve already addressed in our comments to your previous post. That, to me, indicates that you’re not really listening.

    “I know you’re sure that I’ll change my mind if I listen, but that probably isn’t going to happen. I don’t think BDSM is perverted (I don’t use that word and I think it’s a useless concept), but I think it’s problematic.”

    I actually don’t think you’ll change your mind if you were to just listen — it’s not really my aim to convince you that BDSM is not “problematic,” because I don’t necessarily think that you’re wrong. Of course BDSM has problems. Of course it should be examined. So does, and so should, pretty much everything else in our lives under patriarchy and capitalism. All I was hoping for was that we might engage in a conversation about those problems in a noncombative manner, without the put-downs, judgment, and ridicule, and that you might give us some indication that you were at least taking our comments and stories into consideration before writing your next snarky post on BDSM and its evils.

  79. Saret February 14, 2009 at 10:40 PM #

    Your 3 criteria are so vague and generalized that they can be used to demonize everything from BDSM to “mainstream vanilla sex” to rockclimbing.

    Power imbalances seem to be an unfortunate human tendency, sprung from the fact that not all humans are created exactly equal. Some are born with different genetic makeup, intelligence, class differences, and this leads to different personalities, tastes, and levels of ability and ambition. This has nothing to do with basic human rights, I simply mean differences between individuals. Much of those personal preferences and ambitions are shaped by culture, which in turn reinforce that culture.

    Anyway, what I was trying to get at was that cultural standards and taboos shape sexual practices. To blame those having the sex – **including the men** – is a bit ridiculous, rather like blaming a sneeze for the cold. For the sexual practices to change, the entire culture has to change.

    Most of these standards don’t come from a mythical patriarchy, but from the Victorian era and puritians who originally settled in America. These both were cultures that demonized sex and violence, but sex especially, thus fusing the two together in the cultural subconscious.

    Do you really think that in a less patriarchal society, there *won’t* be use and abuse of power? There won’t be cultural taboos that excite the subconscious?

    Because when it comes down to it, the things one is ashamed of or fears is often what ones winds up masturbating to.

  80. Nine Deuce February 20, 2009 at 2:56 PM #

    As if Victorian values weren’t characterized by patriarchy. And I don’t think that people would masturbate to things they feared or were ashamed of in a world that didn’t warp our sexuality and mix it up with hostility (which comes from shame, which comes from religion, which is patriarchal).

  81. Saret February 25, 2009 at 3:10 AM #

    “I don’t think that people would masturbate to things they feared or were ashamed of in a world that didn’t warp our sexuality and mix it up with hostility (which comes from shame, which comes from religion, which is patriarchal).”

    Part of natural human development, and forming identity, is to rebel against set rules and standards. It allows a person to separate themselves from their environment, test their own theories. It provides a thrill of “getting away with something”.

    I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’m think that a lot of human sexuality is formed in early prepubescent – say 10-14 years old. At that point in development, linoleum can make a kid horny.

    Things that a person experiences, that a person expects, that they are taught, trauma and accomplishments, are mixed with things that they are exploring, things they are rebelling against. All this gets dumped into the stew of human subconsiousness and can affect a person’s sexuality. Any kind of excitement can be mixed with sexual excitement, creating fantasies that last a lifetime.

    Common human emotions and experiences – fear, aggression, shame, sex, empathy, accomplishment, satisfaction, social dynamics, control (having control, losing control) that a person experiences and begins to understand in that time of their life would exist in a patriarchy, a matriarchy, or a giraffe-archy.

    It comes together in the human mind in similar ways regardless of what the culture and society is. The only serious differences are the exact details of common fantasies and common sexual dysfunctions.

    Say we live in a world where boys and girls were raised to be open about their sexuality, that there is no shame or hostility inherent, that both gender’s feelings and desires are absolutely equal. That women have exactly as much power over their sexuality and choices as men, and were never shamed or ridiculed for it.

    If we lived in that world, I’m pretty sure that some people would still try to get outside the “normal” in sexuality. There would always be a fringe, that the rest of the population wrinkled their nose in disgust at. The exact what simply depends on that societies “normal”.

  82. nora February 25, 2009 at 5:14 PM #

    I’ll freely admit that I engage in practices that plenty of people categorize as “not normal” and that’s fine. That being said, my husband and I absolutely enjoy the BDSM aspects of our relationship. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t do it. Put in another light: I’m not a vegetarian because I feel sorry for the animals, I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like meat and I see no point in eating foods (or doing things voluntarily) that I don’t enjoy.

    I’m not a fool and I went into this part of our relationship with my eyes wide open, in fact, I initiated it. Not all submissively inclined females are doormats or morons and not all Dominant men are women-hating a**h****.

    There’s nothing particularly anti-feminist about our relationship except other people telling my that it is. My understanding of feminism was that women fought for equality and part of that equality was the ability to choose how we lived our lives. I freely and actively chose my life and my relationship, one that defies conventional (and oftentimes patriarchal) standards. I was able to choose that relationship because women, like my mother, spent their lives fighting for the “right” to make that choice. That’s what feminism really is.

    As for pushing or not pushing limits, if you never push yourself you’ll never grow, period. If a Dominant takes his role seriously then part of that role is to care for ALL the facets of his submissive partner, not just the ones that get him off. Part of that care should involve pushing/leading the submissive to grow. For example, I love cooking and my Dominant partner knows this so he buys me cookbooks or passes to a cooking class as presents. It’s not because he thinks I should fill a traditional role as part of my submission OR because I’m a woman. Mostly, it’s because it’s something I enjoy and that I’d like to get better at and he’s helping that along.

    I’d agree that plenty of porn is degrading to the participants but that’s because it’s porn, not because it’s BDSM porn. I’m not saying that M/f BDSM is particularly empowering to women because it’s not, and it’s not supposed to be. In my experience it’s freeing not to be in control and in charge and I enjoy that feeling. Generally speaking, though, my life doesn’t resemble porn of any kind. I run errands, pay bills, work within a budget, have a fulfilling and enjoyable sex life and clean just like everyone else the only difference is that I also call my husband Sir while doing all those things.

  83. Jon February 27, 2009 at 7:57 AM #

    I took a day off from reading through this and putting in my two cents. I have already harped on the data collection of this blog in previous posts. And truth be told, I am still a little irked by it. You decided from the get go to be against BDSM and went out to seek a narrow band view to back up your opinions. (It’s like saying, “I believe the world is 80% blond blue eyed people. To prove this I went to Scandinavia and guess what? Not only was I right, it was more like 90%!”)
    But you want me to talk about the effect of a patriarchal society and whether or not it causes BDSM. If tomorrow a truly equal society sprang up around us would it still exist? The answer is quite simply put, yes.
    When I was a child, long, long ago, I had an embarrassing situation when I became sexually excited when the princess was tied up in a movie. (I was so young I had no idea what an erection was and was wildly confused) A lot of people in the scene that I know, have similar occurrences in their pasts.
    You are saying that perhaps the patriarchal society molded us from the get go and warped us into what we are, and I cannot agree. It’s the way our brains are wired. We can’t exactly help it, and god knows there were times I would have if I could have.
    It’s not trickery, it’s not brainwashing, or Stockholme Syndrome as some posters have implied. It’s an urge down in who we are. Tomorrow the world could be a fluffy loving place filled with bunnies and a lot of us would still enjoy S&M just as much as we do today.
    Some of your posters are ashamed of enjoying it, and that is the Patriarchal Society at work more then anything. We are told constantly that we are allowed to look and not touch. Touch and not Taste. Taste but not enjoy.
    Sex is something robotic and for the enjoyment of pleasing a man solely in a patriarchal society, but truth told, my girlfriend enjoys the spankings I give her just as much as I enjoy giving them. (A fun fact is if she stopped enjoying them, the mood would be killed for me and I wouldn’t be able to continue.) So if I were really an artifact of the Patriarchal Mindset would I care if she enjoyed it? No, I would care only about My enjoyment and to hell with hers.
    They show that extra scene at the end, the one where the women show they enjoyed it to mollify My guilt for enjoying her suffering. Because, a part of me does indeed feel guilty and if at the end, I know she enjoyed every moment and that makes me feel better, and less like I am crazy.
    In today’s society we need that little clip of rationalization at the end, because we have been slowly evolving towards a society that cares about women and their views and their needs and enjoyments. We don’t want it to totally be us centered. Just take a look at the modern fascination with ensuring a woman achieves orgasm during sex. I doubt there is a society where men have actively boasted about pleasing a woman properly as much as this one has.
    Now as for the concept of pushing a person’s limits. It’s a lot like ritualistic testing that people have engaged in for as long as their have been people. We always struggle to grow and overcome, even sexually. We push limits to find out how much we can take. We wonder where the glass ceiling is and we try to find it and see if we can break it.
    Now, you are right when you question the confines of Safe, Sane and Consensual play. And you are right in wondering who polices it. And truth told that is between the people engaged in it. There are people out there who’s idea of safe and sane is my idea of Out of their minds! (Look up Scarification if you are curious.)
    However, the consent can always be withdrawn, that is the purpose of a safe word. If it’s ignored, then there is a serious problem. Then it becomes rape, and cases HAVE been won where people withdrawn consent mid sex even.
    Moving on, you were talking about there being and 11/3 Maledom/Femdom site ratio. That is supply and demand. Men are more likely to subscribe to porn websites (for Whatever reason biology aside) then women are. You go where the money is.
    But I have to say, the things you see in Kink.com websites is Not an average run of the mill night in the household of many kinksters. Truth told you are more like to find lace corsets with a little playful tickling and paddling mixed with bondage then you are to find full on metal restraint systems and honest to god whippings.
    It’s an extreme, it’s the upper limit nothing is sacred nature of all porn at work. All porn is that way, because porn is the Extremes of fantasy. It doesn’t hold up in the real world. My friend worked at a pizza delivery man for three years and not once did a pair of hot twins try to double up on him.
    And likewise, I have never invited a bunch of my friends over to play a game of round robin on my tied up girlfriend. Nor would I for that matter. These sites appeal to fetishes. Uncontrollable sexual predilections within people.
    I am once again left wondering if you actually went to a munch at all (you mentioned clubs, but last time I tried to have a nice lifestyle conversation in a club the words were drowned out by the music that left a hum in my ears for a week afterward) and if you spoke to any actual people in the lifestyle. Have you had interviews with any submissives? Any with real doms? If you did, I want to hear your thoughts on these people and your opinions of them. Because so far you have walked up to a pitch black hole in the ground, looked down and said, “Filled with monsters just like I thought. No need to turn on my flashlight to double check.”
    Ok, I am moving on now. To the next post!

  84. Saret February 27, 2009 at 9:48 AM #

    Aha – I finally figured what bothered me so much about all this, because the blogger is otherwise a smart, funny person with some very good points.

    My main criticism is – objectification here has become synonymous with exploitation. By confusing the 2, real exploitation gets ignored.

    I also see a really disturbing lack of empathy for what is determined to be the victims here. I’d think a feminist would want to help those she says are victims of objectification, rather than condemning at the whole system.

    • Nine Deuce February 27, 2009 at 4:23 PM #

      Saret – Exploitation is a more severe form of objectification. And I have empathy for victims, but I am not going to call the Kink.com models victims, because they’d freak out if I did. How should I offer to help someone who would think me presumptuous for offering? And I have to condemn the whole system because it’s bad for women.

  85. jenpet March 29, 2009 at 4:30 PM #

    i’d like to point out, just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you are right. If someone who is color blind thinks that they’re right about the sky being green…well, that doesn’t make the sky green.

    • Nine Deuce March 29, 2009 at 4:37 PM #

      Gee, I never thought of that before.

      I think I’m right because I’ve got the mental capacity to weigh all of the factors involved, not because I’m blind. Like it or not, not everything is relative.

      • rara avis May 8, 2009 at 3:47 AM #

        Can you weigh them without bias, though?

        I’m not asking this to provoke, it’s serious question, and and important one. At the risk of sounding accusatory, I think too many people don’t ask themselves this question when they set out to judge something, or if they do they’re not honest about the answer.

    • rara avis May 8, 2009 at 11:12 AM #

      Actually, a colour-blind person seeing the sky as green kinda does make it true. ‘Colour’ is our perception of a particular wavelength of light, so if someone perceives that wavelength as green instead of blue, then it’s green. To them. It’s the same idea as that Zen koan, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

  86. rara avis May 8, 2009 at 3:41 AM #

    I’m going to ask a question, and I’m asking it here because reading this post and the comments have brought it to mind, but it’s certainly not the first time this question has occurred to me, while reading this blog or elsewhere. And I guess it’s directed at Nine-Deuce, though it relates to a lot of the comments too. It’s not specifically related to the subject of BDSM, so if this is the wrong place for this, my apologies.

    The question is, how do you tell the difference between someone who really does think ‘it’ is a good thing, and someone who’s been brainwashed into believing ‘it’ is a good thing?

    In the context of the topic of this post, there are people who would say (and have said) that patriarchy has nothing to do with it, they’re subs because it makes them feel good, it feels right to them. You might respond that they’ve spent their whole lives being indoctrinated into a patriarchal society, and that if they dug deep down they’re realize it didn’t feel so good. And then the argument will go back and forth and back and forth and no one will convince the other to change their mind, and then all time will end and the sun will explode and then it won’t matter anyway (I’m not trying to say that debate is pointless, because it’s not, and I’ll debate anything with anyone until the cows come home because it’s fun and it’s how I learn and understand things/people/ideas that are different then me/mine, but some people are stubborn).

    But back to the question: how do you tell? This question, for me, anyway, relates to any number of issues, from the superficial (just because I’m typing on a MacBook and many of my favourite bands fall under the category of ‘indie’ doesn’t make me a hipster, or maybe I’m just deluding myself and I’m just as shallow as everyone perceives me to be) to the vitally important (such as the topic of this post and half the articles in Adbusters). And I’m asking this with the full awareness that it’s probably not possible to get an answer, or rather, that there are and infinite number of answers, none of which can be pegged as being the One True Answer.

  87. james May 14, 2009 at 4:29 PM #

    i am a practitioner of bdsm…i was a submissive.
    i am now a dom and i have to tell you it is not all
    about pain,aggression,as portrayed.

    Majority of kinksters like Endorphins,
    that is why they practice BDSM.
    some are mean…but that goes with anything.
    some drunks get mean…but we still sell them booze.

    i personally wouldn’t but some people would.

    many of the kinksters that “get it” see that
    society has put many of us in a bubble,
    many cannot escape this bubble without
    extreme peaks on an emotional or physical level.
    when you escape that bubble it feels like you
    can see yourself and others in truth,
    the endorphins can kind of clear your mind.
    it really allows you to “BOND”

    some skateboard,snowboard,run,play sports…
    all of which hurts you consistently,

    we just choose a different sport to hurt ourselves
    with.

    as to…what do we do with the sadists that are not
    just “playful” but downright “fucked up”
    we blacklist them…word is spread like wildfire,
    and noone plays with that individual again.
    and if they choose to…they are warned about them
    and further told they will be doing so at their own risk.

    this is usually coming from the dungeoun master
    of the place that you usually play at and most likely networked into the scene through.
    it could be a club host…or a home.

  88. james May 14, 2009 at 4:46 PM #

    you will never understand it unless you live it.

    as far as the jerks that just mean,
    they usually get blacklisted,
    people are told amongst playparties and such
    who is “not allowed” in.

  89. harmony May 19, 2009 at 1:15 AM #

    thought people would enjoy this.

    in terms of how oppressive and cruel bdsm can get, this is pretty tame. but this is a great example for showing the bizzare lengths that doms will go to re-enforce that they are the one in charge. and it’s also pretty damn amusing.

    ===================================

    http://www.informedconsent.co.uk/posts/147015/

    post title: New ideas for long distance humiliation and tasks

    original poster: Gojira

    I am looking for new suggestions and ideas about long distance humiliation and tasks for a couple of my male subs. Anyone has some fresh inputs? Loose your imagination and thx in advance!

    ===================================

    this was one of the most hillarious responses, esp. the typing with the nose thing!:

    ===================================

    6 Jun 07, 5:54 PM
    Red_Spark

    Make them spend a whole day with a large piece of sandpaper affixed in the inside of their shirt, then photograph their nipples for you afterwards.

    Make them type at least two sides of A4 of text (whatever you choose) with their nose and video themselves doing it; you can warn them that when you next see them they will get one cane-stroke for each spelling mistake.

    Get them to make you a sculpture out of gorse. Without the benefit of gloves, of course.

    Make them wear their boots on the wrong feet for a day.

    ===================================

  90. Az August 19, 2009 at 8:15 AM #

    11/3 femdom/maledom ratio? thats a bs point and you know it 9-2. Yes the ratio itself might be correct, but as another poster pointed out, thats simply supply and demand. Why don’t you figure out the ratio of maledoms and malesubs instead? Im sure you’ll be surprised by your own lack of vision. In my experience there are many more malesubs than maledoms. Analyze that ratio for me. I find your opinion biased, insulting and frankly, counterproductive to the feminist cause since it demonstrate a serious lack of open mindedness (I don’t need to explain to you why that’s important do I?)

    • Nine Deuce August 19, 2009 at 11:54 AM #

      Do you think the supply/demand thing disproves my point? The fact that there are more men who want to see women abused and degraded only serves to bolster my claim that M/f BDSM porn is just another expression of male supremacy. And if you think “open mindedness” is the central requirement for feminism, I’m pretty sure you’re a dude who thinks feminism is all about women’s “liberation” in the sense that we all need to be open to the idea that sucking dick for money is cool. “Open mindedness,” in my experience, really amounts to a willful suspension of analysis.

  91. Laurelin August 19, 2009 at 3:17 PM #

    ‘I find your opinion biased”

    Opinions are ‘biased’, for heaven’s sake. You can’t have a non-biased opinion. *headdesk*

    In this context, “open-mindedness” usually means ‘”let me have exactly what I want, or I’ll insult you”

  92. Justin August 19, 2009 at 4:41 PM #

    Non other “open minded” in your definition of it Laurelin than the writer of this blog. This chicks gene pool is a little shallow I do believe.

    • Nine Deuce August 19, 2009 at 5:38 PM #

      You are a complete idiot. What in the fuck are you even trying to say?

      • Justin August 19, 2009 at 5:40 PM #

        I mean I think that you hate so much, the only thing preventing Hitler from being your idol is the fact that he is a male.

        • Nine Deuce August 19, 2009 at 5:41 PM #

          Good job, you’ve discredited yourself by bringing Hitler up. And anyway, if you could read, you’d know I hate misogyny, not people.

          • Justin August 19, 2009 at 6:32 PM #

            Would you have preferred some other hateful dictator?

            • Nine Deuce August 19, 2009 at 6:36 PM #

              No, stupid. The point is that comparing a feminist blogger to someone who murdered millions of people makes you look like a dumbass. It’s a faulty comparison, and it amounts to poisoning the well. Go away. You are too dumb to be arguing with me.

            • Laurelin August 20, 2009 at 9:05 AM #

              No, my preference is for you to go and educate yourself, and get a spine, a conscience, and a clue.

              You can keep your dictators, sweet. We women do not want them.

        • Laurelin August 19, 2009 at 5:50 PM #

          A little history lesson for you, my sweet. Hitler’s success in promoting anti-Semitism was at least partially to do with the pornographic magazine ‘Der Stuermer’ which used such imagery to produce hatred of Jews and women (and especially Jewish women). The Nazis also produced brothels in which ‘true Aryan’ Nazi soldiers could rape ‘true Aryan’ maidens to produce new ‘true Aryan’ children.

          So if you’re going to pick a dictator to suggest as being the ‘idol’ of anti-pornography and anti-prostitution feminists, Hitler is not a good choice my friend. Since I’m such a good mood, and am helpful in the best feminine tradition, I’m going to let you in on a secret: Bringing up Hitler here makes you look stupid or at the very least wilfully ignorant.

          I suggest you do some reading.

        • isme August 20, 2009 at 7:37 AM #

          Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen ND and Hitler in the same room.

          Honestly, if you find what ND is saying to be so offensive, then you could point out where you think she is wrong and back up your side of the argument with something or go somewhere else.

  93. Laurelin August 19, 2009 at 5:41 PM #

    Justin, do me a favour and sort out your grammar. I’m pretty sure you’re trying to insult me, but I can’t make head nor tail of your comment.

  94. chris November 8, 2009 at 3:16 AM #

    first off i want to say that i respect you, your blog, and the constant fight for equal rights. I do however want to comment on your attack on bdsm. I currently have a girlfriend who introduced me into bdsm and i think it is rather wrong of everyone to claim that we need therapy or that there is no way we have a healthy relationship. From my own personal experience i find bdsm to be very intimate. I love my girlfriend with all my heart and i know she loves me. I was raised in a house of women and i respect women and i am appauled by the fact that women are still struggling to attain the same wages etc…

    however, i dont see what is wrong with two consenting adults enjoying something they both find erotic. Just because my girlfriend grew up in a male dominated world doesnt mean that she wouldnt have the same sexual fantasies that she has. And just because i grew up in a male dominated world doesnt mean that i wouldnt be curious about the same things i am now. She grew up in a religious home with two parents who, to me, are the most caring people i know. I dont see how people can say the act itself is totally wrong and i think everything needs to be assessed on an individual basis. Different circumstances, people, actions need to be assessed seperatly.

    I enjoy having my girlfriend dominate me sometimes and make me totally submissive while in the bedroom because of the fact that we do live in a male dominated world. I love that she can get off on taking control of me and handcuff me and tie me up. She also enjoys being the submissive one because for her she gets off on the notion of a strong man that she loves taking control. Now none of the things we do cause any harm to eachother and we would NEVER want to hurt eachother. But we do enjoy some pain. Many people have a tough time understanding why that is but i can only do my best to try and equate it to being in a fight. I have been hit in the face and i have felt pain but i have also never felt so alive. It was crazy how the pain heightened every other sense in my body. I know some people are gonna say “seek help” but the truth is that i have seen a few professionals about that moment where i was hit and felt so alive and ALL of them agree that it was natural to feel that way. That same heightened sense of touch, emotion, pleasure can be applied in the bedroom with bdsm and when it is with someone you love and cherish then it makes it an unbeleivable, safe, fun experience.

    I agree that the websites with “face fucking whores” or whatever is wrong, but thats because it gives a negative connotation to the act. If i was to engage in vanilla missionary sex with my girlfriend and then dub it “horny slut gets plowed by overpowering male” then it changes the meaning.

    Sex itself is a dominant and submissive activity. There is a giver and a receiver and you experience pleasure from that action. Evolution has created males to be sexually dominant through sheer anatomy. Most animals need to mount their mate from the rear which creates a dominant and submissive factor. BDSM explores that dominant and submissive nature and it is fun to both dominate and also be submissive.

    The only point i am trying to get across in this post is that bdsm is not naturally evil. The people participating in the act control its meaning. If it is a poor girl who consents to doing it on camera to make money because she has no other alternative then it is different than if it is between a couple who truly love eachother and just enjoy a different sense of sexual intamacy. Some people like jumping out of planes because thats the only thing that gets their adrenaline going the same way that my adrenaline gets going from a good workout. I dont judge them and i dont think that what they are doing is unnatural. It is just something they enjoy and while i might not i completely respect it.

    Some of these posts disturb me because although we live in a society that is male dominated, it is wrong to participate in the same actions that you are condemning. When i read some of these posts i cant help but think that these same women who are saying men hate women are also the ones who hate men. Again, i am all for feminism and i am all for taking a stand but i also think that there are some assumptions that go to far. I have read a few of these articles and they make good points but they also make it seem wrong to be a man or to enjoy some of the things i enjoy. I cant help that i live in a male dominated society and i can not help that i am a man. There is so much grey area when it comes to sexual enjoyment between two people that it is WRONG to judge the things that some men and some women enjoy. I like to drink beers with my friends. Just because some people condemn that action doesnt mean that it is naturally wrong or something that automatically means there is something wrong with me. I enjoy bdsm, but i know that someday i will be a loving husband who would do anything for my family. Does the fact that i like to both sexually control and be sexually controlled by the love of my life mean there is something wrong with me?

    • Nine Deuce November 8, 2009 at 3:44 PM #

      The answer to your questions, if they were not rhetorical, is in the posts and my comments.

  95. Justin November 8, 2009 at 4:02 AM #

    The funny thing about it Chris, is the fact that she has absolutely no problem with F/m relationships. This woman is completely hateful toward men and I would be surprised if she isn’t a lesbian. Bottom line here is…

    http://www.zagura.ro/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/god-kills-kitten-troll.jpg

    Don’t feed the trolls, please, think of the kittens.

    • Nine Deuce November 8, 2009 at 4:28 AM #

      Good one, dude. You got me.

      I have to ask, how do you know what I think about F/m BDSM? Oh, wait. I don’t give a shit.

    • TrinityVA November 8, 2009 at 4:06 PM #

      Get off my side, you homophobic creep.

  96. polly styrene November 8, 2009 at 9:13 AM #

    The funny thing about it Chris, is the fact that she has absolutely no problem with F/m relationships. This woman is completely hateful toward men and I would be surprised if she isn’t a lesbian. Bottom line here is…

    This man Justin is clearly completely bigoted towards lesbians and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a raging homophobe.

    • Nine Deuce November 8, 2009 at 3:10 PM #

      Yep. I considered deleting the comment, but I kind of wanted to give him a public opportunity to display his stupidity/assholery. He sent me another comment telling me to forgive my uncle for molesting me, after which I’d be able to understand how great BDSM is. It’d be so comforting to think it’s satire, but I guess I know that can’t be the case.

      • TrinityVA November 8, 2009 at 7:08 PM #

        He sent me another comment telling me to forgive my uncle for molesting me, after which I’d be able to understand how great BDSM is.

        WHAT.

        Ugh.

        Obvious troll is obvious. Still… ugh.

  97. polly styrene November 8, 2009 at 9:14 AM #

    PS Justin to save you time, I AM a lesbian. But I hate men like you just as a hobby.

  98. chris November 8, 2009 at 4:36 PM #

    wow…nobody discusses the issues…its all about who hates who for what. Sexuality and sexual preference are something no one can judge. Saying BDSM is wrong is like saying being gay is wrong. I think all forms of sexual expression are valid as long as two people love eachother.

    To much bitterness and hate…it’s very sad

    • Nine Deuce November 8, 2009 at 7:11 PM #

      There is a difference between orientation and fetish. You’re presenting the whole argument as much more simplistic than it is. Read the comments before you post anything else.

    • TrinityVA November 8, 2009 at 7:17 PM #

      I think all forms of sexual expression are valid as long as two people love eachother.

      Chris,

      While I’m on your side in this, and have big problems with anti-BDSM thinking, including much of it as presented in these threads, I think that’s overly simplistic.

      I do get your point — that if people are motivated by love (or at least by respect), they’re not going to intend to degrade one another or do harm, and that’s a big factor in how what people do affects them. If someone does some sex act with me that I normally love, but intends it in a selfish and disrespectful way, that can absolutely be devastating — even if I consented before realizing the person’s disdain for me.

      But the thing is, while I agree with that to a great extent, I’m not sure that that means that love means people are suddenly completely protected against doing something that is ultimately maladaptive for them. Drama and negative dynamics can exist even in loving relationships.

      Where I disagree with ND and most people here is in whether or not I see BDSM dynamics as inherently negative. I don’t. They do.

      • chris November 8, 2009 at 8:46 PM #

        Very valid points Trinity which is why i feel that each sexual experience can not be generalized or demonized. The fact that someone could intend for something to be selfish, even if you consented, changes any sexual act into a form of degradation. Individual experiences change the dynamics of the sex act. I feel BDSM can be a loving experience once and then motivations behind wanting to do certain acts can change thus changing the intent from a mutual loving experience to a selfish form of pleasure. This is why i feel that the longer you are with a partner, the more you can explore and trust that they are doing sexual acts for mutual pleasure. Sex is always very emotionally complicated and the people involved determine whether the act is negative or positive.

        thank you for your thoughts!

        • TrinityVA November 8, 2009 at 9:45 PM #

          Chris,

          You’re quite welcome. :-) And I agree completely with your complexity comments. I think the meaning and effect of any type of sexual experience is highly contextual and particular.

  99. Nine Deuce November 8, 2009 at 11:16 PM #

    Justin, you stupid, stupid asshole, your comments aren’t going to be published here, so go fuck yourself. What in god’s name would make you think I’d publish you calling me an idiot and making insanely offensive “jokes” about child molestation and rape? You aren’t smarter than I am, dude. In fact, you are so dumb that you can’t tell the difference between me “hating men” and voicing my opinion. You can’t tell the difference between someone holding a different opinion than you do and being an idiot. I seriously doubt that you can tell the difference between left and right, to be honest. You’re banned. Take your unoriginal, boring, stupid act elsewhere.

  100. polly styrene November 9, 2009 at 12:13 AM #

    Saying BDSM is wrong is like saying being gay is wrong.

    Well no it isn’t actually Chris. You see people say being gay is wrong just because of the sex/gender of the people involved. People object to BDSM because of the fetishisation of power relations. FACT: you can be into BDSM whether you’re gay, straight or bisexual. It’s not a sexual orientation as such.

    So the two are not in any way comparable.

    • isme November 9, 2009 at 11:18 AM #

      Well…that’s if people are objecting to BDSM because of any legitimate concerns, or whether or not they object to something because they don’t happen to do it themselves.

  101. polly styrene November 9, 2009 at 12:14 AM #

    PS Justin made me laugh in the middle of some dull household tasks ND, but I’ll take your word for it he outstayed his amusingness……

  102. aray November 9, 2009 at 1:16 AM #

    Most, if not all, of the girls I have had sex with enjoy being dominated in one way or another. Not necessarily like extreme sado masochist, but many wanted to be choked/slapped/spanked/called degrading names and such. I wasn’t into this stuff at first (for a long time I felt weird about receiving oral sex because the act was not reciprocal), but now it seems to me that girls can’t enjoy sex unless they are acting out a power fantasy. What to do about this?

    • Nine Deuce November 9, 2009 at 1:23 AM #

      Understand where it comes from, realize that not all women are the same, etc.

      • aray November 9, 2009 at 1:28 AM #

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

        • Nine Deuce November 9, 2009 at 1:30 AM #

          I think you should be talking to your partner about these things. If she wants to do something and then feels ashamed or angry, there’s something that needs to be addressed. Separating is probably not healthy. But in any case, no matter what sexual desires she may have, of course you need to treat her as an equal.

          • TrinityVA November 9, 2009 at 1:40 AM #

            I actually (gasp!) agree with ND here. Sometimes people feel weird about things they like, in a “Wow, did I really just do that?” kind of way, but if someone’s really upset, that’s not good.

            And if you have trouble separating how your partner wants to be treated in general from things that turn her on in bed, I think perhaps you shouldn’t do them until you feel you can do them without it changing how you feel about her as a person. Or at least that you should really think about that.

            • aray November 10, 2009 at 4:34 PM #

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

              • TrinityVA November 10, 2009 at 9:53 PM #

                Are your partners actually “sycophantic?” Or are you just projecting that they must be because of something they like?

                I don’t disagree that fantasies have *something* to do with the self of the person who has them. I just have real trouble with the very simplified “Well, if you fantasize about that, you’re a sycophant” thing. Eh? Sometimes people fantasize about acting in ways that are totally different from how they usually are. Sometimes people fantasize about exaggerating some characteristic they like about themselves. IMO it depends on the person what’s going on — and even an intentional exaggeration for fun is not the same thing as Revealing One’s True Self.

                • aray November 11, 2009 at 3:03 AM #

                  This is true…I haven’t had this problem with every woman I’ve dated (the problem of this power dynamic carrying over into day to day life). I guess it is just a personal thing.

                  • Ren November 11, 2009 at 7:52 AM #

                    “Sometimes people fantasize about acting in ways that are totally different from how they usually are. Sometimes people fantasize about exaggerating some characteristic they like about themselves. IMO it depends on the person what’s going on ”

                    Yes, this.

              • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 2:03 PM #

                LOL at this thread being turned into “Dear Abby” for male sexual torturers of women.

                It’s kind of sad that female conditioning even goes as far as to make women feel they have to offer advice and reassurance to a male sadist who gets off on degrading and inflicting pain on his female sexual partners.

                • Ren November 12, 2009 at 9:14 PM #

                  Eh, some of us find this interesting.

    • TrinityVA November 9, 2009 at 1:29 AM #

      Aray,

      While I agree that a lot of people have interesting kinks, I’m a little surprised that everyone you know seems to. Are you sure you’re not universalizing there?

      • aray November 9, 2009 at 1:58 AM #

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

    • delphyne November 9, 2009 at 9:10 PM #

      Just say no.

      It’s not difficult is it? Why do you have to even ask?

      You’re saying you weren’t into it. Are you into it now? Do you get off on degrading and hurting your female sexual partners.

      • aray November 10, 2009 at 4:25 PM #

        Yeah I am into it now, to an extent. Not to the extremes that people have been discussing here. But yes, I admit that power and sex go together. I don’t understand why I should say no when women desire it so strongly…?

        • Nine Deuce November 10, 2009 at 6:44 PM #

          “Women” don’t “desire it so strongly.” And you should say no if it is damaging to people, which it sounds like it is if you are unable to engage in it and respect your partner.

          • TrinityVA November 10, 2009 at 9:55 PM #

            “And you should say no if it is damaging to people, which it sounds like it is if you are unable to engage in it and respect your partner.”

            This.

            I’m okay with things that many people here are not okay with (or at least have very deep reservations about.)

            Disrespect is right out. If you know that something makes you more likely to disrespect someone (and I don’t care whether that something is wildly kinky sex or sweet gentle makeouts)… don’t do it.

            • aray November 11, 2009 at 2:49 AM #

              I agree. Which is why I feel conflicted. It doesn’t feel good to be in a relationship when I feel it is a challenge to be mutually respectful.

          • aray November 11, 2009 at 3:00 AM #

            You’re right…I don’t really know what is in my girlfriend’s mind. But she appears to enjoy rough sex very much. Are you saying this is just something she acts out because she thinks I will find it more enjoyable than normal sex?

        • delphyne November 10, 2009 at 11:13 PM #

          Because it makes you a creepy torturer who gets erections and orgasms from harming women. Unless you dropped your moral compass, you can’t seriously think it’s an OK thing to do.

          Anyway you desire it. We know that now. You just like to project your sadism on to the women you hurt. Hiding behind women seems to be the number one tactic of men who get off on hurting women. Pathetic.

          If you’re a sexual sadist be honest about who you are instead of going “Women want it”. No, YOU want it.

          • aray November 11, 2009 at 2:53 AM #

            I don’t think your comment is fair. I admit openly that I find power erotic. I have never said otherwise. However, I don’t believe I am projecting this desire. It’s a two way street. I was introduced to rough sex by a girlfriend…I don’t believe this is something that simply originates in the male and is projected on the female. That evaluation contradicts my experience.

            Furthermore, I am not a creepy torturer…and rough sex often results in orgasms for BOTH parties. I don’t feel guilty about enjoying rough sex in itself…I feel guilty because the dynamic is creeping into the other parts of our relationship and I need to find a way to deal with that. I’m not here to justify my sexuality. I’m here to figure out how to improve my relationship.

            • Ren November 11, 2009 at 7:55 AM #

              Why yes, there are women out there who are into rough sex without a man making them be into rough sex. They can enjoy it all on their own for their own (varied) reasons. However, what one might do if they are worried about their relationship is, oh, talk to their partner???

              • aray November 11, 2009 at 6:46 PM #

                Yes, of course, and I am. But I also feel like I need to understand this stuff on my own, in a more objective manner.

            • delphyne November 11, 2009 at 12:01 PM #

              You enjoy inflicting pain and harm on women’s bodies with your body. You also seem to enjoy euphemisms. Do feel free to explain what “rough sex” actually stands for.

              You keep trying to hide behind women (“she enjoys it too”). Look at yourself and why you get off on abusing women instead of wittering on about how women like it. Women are trained from our earliest days to please men and to accept abuse from scumbags like you as love. It’s twisted.

              The way for her to improve your relationship would be to dump you. Women are better off without male sadists in your lives. You’d probably be bereft without a woman in your life to hurt though.

              • aray November 11, 2009 at 6:45 PM #

                I explained what I meant in the original post….Spanking, using degrading language, choking, things of that nature. Obviously that could be taken to an extreme, but in my case it’s rough sex that is more about symbolic violence and psychological violence than actual physical pain. Not trying to “hide” behind that…it is obviously still sadistic and power related.

                Your comment doesn’t make sense. You’re saying that what a woman finds pleasurable and painful is due to training, whereas a man should take responsibility and be self-aware. All humans are trained in pleasure and pain, and all humans are responsible for their actions.

                Second, I am not trying to “hide” behind women…I openly acknowledge my role in the relationship. But it makes no sense to say that only the male is active and responsible in a sexual relationship.

                • delphyne November 11, 2009 at 8:11 PM #

                  Do you understand the moral difference between inflicting pain on a person and having pain inflicted on you. If you’re too stupid to see the difference and are insistent instead on creating a false equivalence (although given the fact that you fantasise about raping women I’m not surprised) then there isn’t much point in this discussion.

                  Have you ever acted on your rape fantasies? Have you ever been accused of rape?

                  • aray November 11, 2009 at 8:24 PM #

                    Delphyne: I see a moral difference. But pleasure and pain are not absolute categories. The human psyche can take pleasure in pain, and pain in pleasure. I don’t think morality is as cut and dry as you seem to believe.

                    I have never acted on a rape fantasy, and I have never been accused of rape or anything like it. I don’t actively cultivate rape fantasies, unless you consider engaging in rough sex cultivating a rape mentality. I am open to the opinion that it is. However, actual non consent or even non-enjoyment is a complete turn off to me. For me, the most pleasurable thing is seeing my partner’s pleasure.

                    I feel like you are selectively reading half of what I write and then declaring me a sociopathic rapist…admitting that I have demons in my closet doesn’t make me an amoral human being.

                    • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 1:46 PM #

                      I think you’re a scumbag and you’ve just reminded me why I don’t post here normally, because men who openly admit to fantasising about raping women and actually torturing them in real life (how about fantasising about gay bashing or jew bashing – would that go down so well with the liberals?) are welcome to post here.

                      I haven’t read you selectively, I’ve read what you are saying. You have criminal violent sexual urges towards women and you are full of disgusting self-justification for them. Your bland “I don’t do that” doesn’t cut it. Of course you can lie about it here, who can contradict you? That’s probably part of the cheap thrill for you.

              • winter_lights November 11, 2009 at 6:56 PM #

                aray’s earlier comments say that he didn’t develop interest in this kind of sex until after having relationships with women who already were. Are you assuming this to be a lie?

                • delphyne November 11, 2009 at 8:08 PM #

                  Yes.

                  • winter_lights November 11, 2009 at 9:06 PM #

                    Fair enough. But I do have to wonder why you think it’s even worth your time to talk to him in that case.

                    • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 1:48 PM #

                      Well you can wonder all you want I suppose. I’d call it a bit of a waste of time on your part.

                      Maybe you don’t like me pointing out the rapists and women-torturers in our midst. Is that it?

                      Are you a BDSMer?

                • aray November 11, 2009 at 8:11 PM #

                  To be fair, I wouldn’t say that a past girlfriend “created” these desires in me or anything like that…more that they were activated? But even so, it took me about two years to become comfortable about having rough sex. And at present, I do not simply “get off on violence”. It has to be within an emotionally intimate context otherwise I find it anti-arousing. Sounds self-contradictory, I know.

        • Beatrice November 16, 2009 at 9:34 PM #

          Because so far, you don’t have the capacity to both give these women what they want in bed and still treat them like human beings outside of bed. Which is unhealthy, and wrong.

          Get your head on straight, or stop engaging in BDSM. Not all women want kinky sex, and those who do still deserve your respect. If you can’t treat someone with the basic respect their humanity should afford them, you should not fuck them.

          • aray November 17, 2009 at 4:54 PM #

            First of all, I’m not sure I would say I engage in BDSM. I’ve certainly never done anything like what a google image search of BDSM turns up. But that’s beside the point. The real question is, do you believe it is possible to engage in BDSM and share mutual respect? The author of this blog suggests that it is not.

  103. aray November 9, 2009 at 1:37 AM #

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

    • polly styrene November 9, 2009 at 8:03 PM #

      I have been wondering about where this power stuff comes from

      Wonder no more dude, it’s patriarchy.

      • aray November 10, 2009 at 4:27 PM #

        But it goes both ways…causing me to wonder if it’s not merely a result of conventional attitudes but tied to some deeper psychological thing? Sex violates convention as much as it affirms it. This seems to be evident from the way people are able to take pleasure in shame or physical pain.

  104. polly styrene November 10, 2009 at 7:35 PM #

    Patriarchy isn’t a conventional attitude though Aray, it is a ‘deeper psychological thing’. It forms the basis of language for one, which is the way we form ideas at all.

    And the existence of male subs and female dommes doesn’t alter the fact that patriarchy is all about power. Any more than say the existence of Asians being racist towards Africans, or Jews hating Muslims alters the fundamental issues of racism. (which as a big fat clue is also all about power).

    • aray November 10, 2009 at 8:02 PM #

      I think I see your point (not clear on how patriarchy forms the basis of language). Still, I wonder if erotic relationships and power relationships are not inextricably bound together? By conventional I just meant not “natural” or not “inherent”.

  105. polly styrene November 10, 2009 at 9:44 PM #

    All languages have a concept of gender AFAIK. I certainly can’t think of one that hasn’t. Gender (or any abstract symbolic idea) is actually impossible without language. So maybe it would have been more accurate to say language is the basis of gender and therefore patriarchy. But gender and gendered relationships are a form of distinction which is common to all human language systems (though not identical in the way they are utilised) And because they’re embedded we don’t realise they’re there.

    There’s loads of theorising from a feminist perspective (eg Dale Spender) about language and how power/patriarchal relationships are embedded. But to use a really obvious example ‘man’ is the universal human being in English. Which means woman is automatically ‘other’.

    • delphyne November 10, 2009 at 11:19 PM #

      Language isn’t the basis of gender – at least the part of it that makes distinctions between male and female. All animals that use sex in reproduction have the concept of male and female.

      For example you’ll get some human beings arguing until they are blue in the face that sex is just a social construct, on the other hand you won’t be able to tell a dog or a cat that. They can smell the difference.

      Gender is a system of hierarchy based on oppression of women by men. It’s the hierarchy that’s the problem, not the sex differences. He and she will still exist after the patriarchy is smashed, he just won’t be able to rape and oppress she.

      • aray November 11, 2009 at 3:07 AM #

        Some female friends of mine told me that almost all straight women fantasize about rape. Is this a product of the narrative myth fed to women through language?

        • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 3:18 AM #

          That idea is absurd and flat out untrue.

        • delphyne November 11, 2009 at 12:03 PM #

          I hear a lot of straight men fanatasise about raping women. Is this a product of the narrative myth spread to men through language?

          Have you ever fantasised about raping a woman? You seem to be overly interested that women might fantasise about being raped, a common rapist’s justification – she wanted.

          • aray November 11, 2009 at 5:53 PM #

            Yes of course. Most men have. I think rape, and violence in general, is on most of our minds. It is easy to forget another’s humanity. I’m not sure this even needs justification…it’s simply the nature of the beast. But I am fascinated by people who feel the reverse and fantasize about having violence done to them because this seems so anti-natural. Everything animal in us tells us to hate pain. The person who loves pain is in a way the most conventional, the most human. This, of course, is not just women but also many men. I am also fascinated by how the irrational parts of our natures contradicts everything we say is right and legal. Perhaps I am overly interested…but human beings are interesting creatures.

            • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 6:43 PM #

              It most definitely does need justification. It is not “natural.”

              • aray November 11, 2009 at 6:52 PM #

                It seems to me that many animals take pleasure in violence because violence is an active expenditure of energy on what is outside of you. I think that is inherently pleasurable (perhaps you believe all pleasure is passive?). Combine this with the human capacity for empathy, and you get cruelty. Cruelty and empathy can’t be “justified” — they are beyond the law. How can you justify a pleasure or a pain, or any emotion? Actually raping or doing violence to someone would be within the realm of what is just and unjust.

                • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 6:54 PM #

                  Animals are not violent for violence’s sake.

                  • Ren November 11, 2009 at 9:05 PM #

                    Humans are animals, and they most certainly can be.

                  • aray November 12, 2009 at 7:04 AM #

                    http://www.ktvu.com/news/21543657/detail.html

                    • Nine Deuce November 12, 2009 at 4:57 PM #

                      Logic problem: this is a bizarre, newsworthy fluke. Humans are cruel to each other every day.

                    • isme November 12, 2009 at 6:45 PM #

                      Actually, there are various animals that are known to be cruel for cruelty’s sake.

                      But that’s hardly a justification for humans choosing to act that way.

                    • Faith November 12, 2009 at 9:37 PM #

                      “Actually, there are various animals that are known to be cruel for cruelty’s sake.”

                      Which animals? And how is it known that the animals are only being cruel for cruelty’s sake? Do people ask the animals? Is it not possible that there could be a motive for the violence that humans in our narrow mindedness and arrogance just can’t conceive of?

            • delphyne November 11, 2009 at 8:08 PM #

              You fantasise about raping women?

              I think you should let all the women around you know that you think about committing criminal acts on them. They need to know about it in order to keep themselves safe from you.

              I’d also get in touch with a therapist and ask for help with your criminal fantasies.

              • Ren November 11, 2009 at 9:03 PM #

                This is really selective. Most humans have violent fantasies of some sort- be that punching somone who torments them, rear ending someone who cuts them off in traffic, or countless other things. There is a huge difference between fantasizing about something and actually doing it. Anyone who says to me they have never ever had some sort of violent fantasy wherein they inflict harm upon another person…well, I tend to think those people are liars.

                • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 8:23 AM #

                  I’ve never had a fantasy about raping someone though. I think there’s a distinction between someone annoying you/being unfair to you and thinking you’d like to punch them to get your own back, and getting off on fantasising about sexually assaulting someone. The second is more like fantasising about randomly punching people because you enjoy beating people up. Which I’d submit most human beings DON’T do actually. I certainly don’t.

                • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 5:18 PM #

                  I’ve never had fantasies about sexually violating someone or hurting them either.

                  Why are you pretending we’re talking about all violence when we are talking about sexual violence, which is overwhelmingly committed by men against women and children i.e. people with less power than them.

                  Getting sexual pleasure out of the thought of hurting someone or violating them is disturbing and the person with the fantasy is a dangerous person.

                  • Ren November 12, 2009 at 9:12 PM #

                    Then there are a lot of dangerous people out there, and they are not all men. We can go round and round and round about it, but the mythical female dominant is not a myth. Nor is the mythical female into mutally aggressive sex.

                    I would agree that sexual violence is on various levels different than “regular” violence; but frankly when people admit that is “their thing”- well at least you know where they are coming from- its out there, in the open and all. I actually think the ones who hide it and smash all down inside and do not find other SSC outlets for that side of themselves are the dangerous ones.

                    • delphyne November 13, 2009 at 7:11 PM #

                      I think the men who rape and sexually assault women are the dangerous ones.

                      I think men in BDSM who get off sexually from torturing women are the dangerous ones.

                      But whatever helps you get through the day I suppose RE.

                    • Ren November 13, 2009 at 8:53 PM #

                      “I think the men who rape and sexually assault women are the dangerous ones.”

                      I agree with that.

                      And what makes you assume I need any more or less “help” getting through the day than anyone else?

                  • aray November 12, 2009 at 9:45 PM #

                    The desire to hurt is always related to pleasure. Punching someone for revenge is about pleasure. Revenge is “sweet”. Rape and a punch to the face aren’t on the same level of moral seriousness, but the same principle is at work: Do violence, feel pleasure.

                    • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 9:16 PM #

                      That’s bullshit and you know it.

                      get help.

                • truthvscompliance November 13, 2009 at 7:00 PM #

                  I think there is a difference between wanting to punch someone in the face because they pissed you off in a flash moment and quite another to fantasize about it, esp whilst jerking off… Get my point?
                  And fantasies are something many people go back to. While I might want to rearend the idiot driving 15 under the speed limit in front of me, I’m not going to think about it over and over again and attempt to combine it with something I find pleasureable (like orgasm).
                  I think whether people cross that line or not has a lot to do with who they are but I think people make a huge mistake in assuming that their fantasies or thoughts can’t, for sure, lead them in the direction of them. It would be like a soldier going to fight in the war assuming they won’t end up with PTSD… when they really don’t know what their minds will do when they have processed certain things (namely violent things) – especially over and over again.

              • winter_lights November 11, 2009 at 9:12 PM #

                You really think that just because someone fantasizes about something they are at high risk of actually doing it?

                I’m not really convinced. Why, I myself haven’t killed or even maimed a single person my entire life. Nor have I seduced my twin sibling, and I don’t think that’s just because I’m an only child.

                • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 1:52 PM #

                  Absolutely. Have you got any idea how many men rape and sexually assault women? Where exactly do you think they come from? The myth of the monster rapist hiding down the alley is just that, a myth. It’s the normal looking guy standing beside you, or the one blandly posting that he fantasises about rape on the internet.

                  We live in a rape culture. Masculinity is about dominating and hurting women. Do you have your eyes shut and your ears closed or something?

                  • aray November 12, 2009 at 9:42 PM #

                    I agree with you in a way. We do live in a culture of suppressed violence. And it goes way beyond rape. But there’s a problem with what you say. If we live in a culture where normal looking people fantasize about violence, then there should be way more violence. Clearly the desire for violence doesn’t automatically translate to violence. The law is perhaps more powerful than it appears. However, I agree that given the opportunity, most people will behave badly. In the absence of law, most people would rape, kill, steal, etc.

                  • winter_lights November 12, 2009 at 11:43 PM #

                    It’s not exactly a surprise to me that men who commit rape fantasize about doing it first. But I don’t agree with you on the direction of the causal relationship between these two things. I think it’s the inclination to commit rape that causes those men to have rape fantasies, not the fantasies that cause the rape.

                    • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 9:29 PM #

                      The cause of rape is the rapist choosing to rape.

                      However, a man who is fantasising about rape is potentially dangerous and has a duty towards humanity to get himself sorted out so that he will NEVER choose to rape.

                      Again. Common sense. Basic humanity.

                • truthvscompliance November 13, 2009 at 6:41 PM #

                  Actually – Most people who do really heinous shit, actually DID fantasize about it. I can’t see any other way for it to be possible. I think that the more people fantasize about something, the less offensive it seems when they are actually doing it (not to mention – they often connect with people with similar attitudes, which only reinforce their dimented ideas). I read a report like five years ago where men were questioned in jail about what led up to rapes they committed. Every single one of them viewed pornography (and pinned pornography as the “gateway drug” so to speak – some even claimed that they probably would have never had ideas of raping if they hadn’t viewed pornography – a lot of them were basically porn addicts) and guess what fantasies every single one of them had before committing the rapes? I think you can imagine.
                  I don’t think that everyone who fantasizes about rape will become a rapist (it’s gotta increase the chances – especially for males due to patriarchy)
                  I guess the biggest question is how does anyone know if they will become reprogrammed by such thoughts? No one can really know for sure what repeated fantasies and thoughts might lead them to do (especially if they are violent in nature) – sometimes people’s fantacies can turn into obsessions. . And if you mix violence with pleasure – I think things can get fairly blurry for some people.

                  • aray November 13, 2009 at 9:48 PM #

                    There are different levels with which you can become preoccupied with a fantasy. Someone says something rude, and you fantasize about hitting them. This is an incredibly brief fantasy that is unlikely to result in action.

                    I agree someone who constantly fantasizes about rape/violence/taboo is probably at risk to do something bad.

                    You would be hard pressed to find a man on the planet who hasn’t fantasized about rape or violent sex in some brief or even subconscious way.

                    On the other hand, I think the number of men who have sustained rape fantasies and are actually getting off on the idea of rape itself is very small, with the exception of certain cultures where that is a common thing.

                • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 9:27 PM #

                  Well, I’d say men who fantasize about rape are. Think about it: however aggressive and angry women are in their thoughts, whether it involves arousal or not, they are NOT the ones going around raping. That’s men. Thus if a man says he fantazises about rape, I’m going to think he is a risk to women.

                  It’s called common fucking sense; or the ‘duh’ factor.

                  Men who rape rape because they want to. Because it gets them off.

              • aray November 11, 2009 at 9:16 PM #

                Yes I’ve discussed this with my female friends. They replied that many women fantasize about the same thing in a similar way: that is, fantasy of simulated rape. They were angered by some things I said, understanding of others. It hasn’t damaged my friendships in any way.

            • Laurelin November 12, 2009 at 2:49 PM #

              Stop trying to fucking justify yourself.

              Get psychological help.

              If you’ve fantasised about rape, then I cannot take your ‘oh but my girlfriend really wants rough sex’ at face value. It sounds like just more masculine bullshit justification.

              And do I really need to remind you that there are survivors of sexual violence on this thread who are likely to find your comments on the joy of violence and torture extremely triggering? Did you even think of them? Or is upsetting them part of your little game?

              Please- sort yourself out. Obey your conscience and take the dignity and integrity of women seriously.

              • aray November 12, 2009 at 9:35 PM #

                I am not justifying anything…I never tried to say that rape is good. And admitting that I enjoy rough sex=lying about my girlfriend enjoying rough sex? Obviously I find it morally questionable…if I didn’t, I would just continue doing it without giving pause. That’s the opposite of justifying.

                Violence is joyful. Cruelty is joyful. Isn’t the point of an intellectual blog is to come to terms with the truth, not to hide from it? I apologize if my comments have triggered negative memories or emotions. But in my opinion, this isn’t stuff that should be swept under the rug.

                Therapy is weak medicine. Sorry to confirm your suspicions about the male gender, but wanting to kill and rape is damn near universal. Ever heard of the ring of Gyges? Macbeth? This stuff has been around for a while. There are million dollar industries centered around providing fuel for these very fantasies. Hollywood, video games, pornography, etc… Do you think I and a couple of other “pervs” buy up all the porn, violence, and gore media in the world? Psychiatry can’t heal that kind of sickness.

                • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 2:33 PM #

                  THIS precisely what I mean by self-justification:

                  “Sorry to confirm your suspicions about the male gender, but wanting to kill and rape is damn near universal. ”

                  Translation: everyone else thinks its okay, so I can do it too.

                  Moral cowardice has disastrous consequences.

                  • aray November 13, 2009 at 9:06 PM #

                    You’re interpreting my meaning to be: “everyone does it, it’s ok”

                    In fact I meant: “cruelty IS wrong, but it is also pervasive, therefore it doesn’t make sense to dismiss these problems as one pervert commenting on a blog”

                • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 2:34 PM #

                  “Ever heard of the ring of Gyges? Macbeth?”

                  Never, EVER, try to patronise me.

                • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 2:35 PM #

                  Oh and did you catch the bit I said about there being survivors reading who find your statements triggering? Or is that what you enjoy?

                  If not, change your behavior.

                • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 2:37 PM #

                  Ignore last comment on triggering, please. I see that this fellow has tried an non-apologetic apology.

                • truthvscompliance November 13, 2009 at 6:21 PM #

                  “Violence is joyful. Cruelty is joyful”
                  WTF? I guess that is YOUR opinion. but many people in the world realize that finding those things enjoyable does NOT bring tranquility into their lives, but rather a bunch of anxiety.

                  “Psychiatry can’t heal that kind of sickness.” says the moron who hasn’t even given it a chance. Many people in here have had therapy and actually found it a big help. But of course – a lot of “men” think that somehow their “manliness” is lost if they seek help out for their twisted thoughts and desires. But really – the TRUE coward is the one who can’t face them without a lense of delusion.

                  • Ren November 13, 2009 at 8:45 PM #

                    TvC:

                    Actually I think there are a whole lot of people who do find violence and cruelty enjoyable. Especially violence. Not all, but many people, like it. They may not like physical violence, or they may not enjoy it first person and merely enjoy it vicariously, but humans? A whole heck of a lot of them do like and enjoy violence.

                    There is reason sports like boxing are popular, there is a reason violent action movies are popular, there is a reason risky reality shows are popular- its because a whole lot of people enjoy violence.

                    Delphyne:

                    See above on violence. And I think it is at least nice to see someone who shoots straight about his thoughts on the matter rather than trying to butter people up, as it were.

                • delphyne November 13, 2009 at 7:01 PM #

                  “Violence is joyful. Cruelty is joyful.”

                  You are one screwed up dangerous man. If that’s you’re route to happiness I suggest you stay indoors on your own for the rest of your life.

                  “Therapy is weak medicine.”

                  You’re right – it sounds like prison or a secure psychiatric unit would probably suit you better.

                  “Sorry to confirm your suspicions about the male gender, but wanting to kill and rape is damn near universal.”

                  Hah, hah, talk about making radical feminist arguments for us. I’ll just point to you when people argue that we shouldn’t be shooting rapists.

                  Gee I wonder how all the BDSMers feel having yet another rapist scumbag lining up to extoll the virtues of his vile BDSM sexuality.

                • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 7:20 PM #

                  “Violence is joyful. Cruelty is joyful.”

                  No it is not. I have been on the receiving end of both.

                  You are one sick fuck.

                • polly styrene November 13, 2009 at 7:57 PM #

                  a)no it isn’t

                  b)ACTUAL killing and raping is very much a male thing I think you’ll find.

                  • aray November 13, 2009 at 9:20 PM #

                    To everyone commenting on the joy of violence and cruelty…

                    I didn’t say it was joyful to receive violence, but that people derive immense pleasure from doing violence.

                    In my opinion, women are just as capable of cruelty as men, even though they don’t necessarily express it or act it out in the same ways.

                    The ring of gyges/macbeth comment was unnecessarily patronizing. Sorry. But the point is, the question of violence, cruelty, taboo, etc goes way beyond me. It’s inadequate to write these things off as belonging to one “sick fuck”.

                    • Laurelin November 13, 2009 at 9:34 PM #

                      “people derive immense pleasure from doing violence”

                      Speak for yourself.

                    • delphyne November 13, 2009 at 9:48 PM #

                      It’s absolutely adequate. Just because your stupid ego tells you you are more important than a “sick fuck” (who probably needs locking up) doesn’t make it correct. It’s all you are. Look again in the mirror.

                      Have you ever even seen Macbeth? If you have you don’t seem to have understood it, if you think Shakespeare justifies your “we’re all violent and it’s fun” schtick.

                    • Jess November 13, 2009 at 10:25 PM #

                      Wow. You know how some women express cruelty (and consequently get pleasure from doing so)? From fantasising about committing violence against/actually hurting/etc., dangerous, disgusting and DESERVING pieces-of-shit human beings. I know I do. I would LOVE to be cruel to some people. And the pleasure? Fantastic.

                      But then there’s the SICK people do things to innocent people. Are these the people you’re referring to? Because I’m not sure too many women fit in that category. When compared to men.

                    • aray November 14, 2009 at 12:15 AM #

                      “Rape are awesome, Shakespeare sez so!” Good job selectively reinterpreting my posts.

                      Jess: Cruelty is more justifiable if cruelty is directed toward a guilty party? By this line of reasoning, a man is more justified in beating his wife if she did something wrong first. The old eye for an eye. Give the unclean one what she deserves!
                      I don’t buy it.

                    • Nine Deuce November 14, 2009 at 12:19 AM #

                      Be serious. I’m pretty sure a rape victim killing her attacker is more justifiable than the original rape.

                    • aray November 14, 2009 at 12:27 AM #

                      Of course. But if cruelty towards the perpetrator is justifiable, then instead of sending a rapist to prison we would let the victim torture the perpetrator until satiated.

                      My example was meant to demonstrate how the roots of a sado-masochistic mentality are contained within a primitive sense of justice.

                    • Jessica November 14, 2009 at 2:09 AM #

                      “But if cruelty towards the perpetrator is justifiable, then instead of sending a rapist to prison we would let the victim torture the perpetrator until satiated.”

                      ….I’m sorry. What exactly is wrong with that?

                    • aray November 14, 2009 at 8:52 PM #

                      The law as it stands now does not equate revenge with justice. The state carries out all punishments of crimes, and the state is barred from the use of cruel and unusual punishment. The victim is not allowed revenge, the power of justice resides totally with the state, and the state carries out justice in such a manner to least resemble revenge. Even in the most heinous crimes, the death penalty is served in a manner least painful and most humane.

                      Suppose the law equated revenge with justice. What purpose then does the law serve? Revenge is not objective, and it makes no attempt to be objective. Revenge deals in pleasure and pain, which are subjective experiences. Every perceived crime or harm demands revenge. Equating justice and revenge entails dissolution of the law, and therefore of political society, because the law attempts objectivity in general, not revenge in particular. Justice by definition must be differentiated from revenge.

                    • Nine Deuce November 14, 2009 at 9:16 PM #

                      You should read Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault.

                    • delphyne November 17, 2009 at 11:49 PM #

                      That well known BDSMer and fan of the Ayatollahs in Iran.

                    • isme November 15, 2009 at 12:29 AM #

                      While that’s true, in the case of rape, the justice system has failed appallingly.

                      Revenge is therefore not a more dangerous alternative to justice, because justice isn’t there.

                    • Jess November 15, 2009 at 5:50 AM #

                      Society is soo brainwashed by our justice/law system that we don’t even know what’s right and wrong anymore. Obviously a victim of sexual abuse toruring her perpetrator is not a standard nor excepted means of justice. But since when are these laws THE laws? Like our justice system knows what should be done. Seriously. I know we’re know getting into the subjectivity/objectivity of morality, but I believe there are circumstances in which violence is justified. Like when an INNOCENT female is raped and thus serves a lifetime of suffering because of a crime committed by some motherfucker piece-of-shit male.

                    • aray November 15, 2009 at 6:47 AM #

                      I’m not sure whether violence is ever just. I think violence could be justified in the sense that sometimes violence is necessary to prevent further violence. In this sense, imprisonment is a kind of violence, but our justice system is set up such that the punishment doesn’t take the form of revenge, unless you could say that in some sense the state takes revenge on those who violate the laws of the state. Perhaps this is “revenge by proxy”, and I think it is a real phenomenon. Victims of crimes probably derive some satisfaction from the pain and imprisonment of the criminal, even though the victim doesn’t directly carry out the punishment. I think there is wisdom in our admittedly flawed justice system: perhaps the satisfaction of justice having been done is more healthy for the victim (in a psychological sense) than the satisfaction of revenge.

                    • Jessica November 14, 2009 at 2:13 AM #

                      “My example was meant to demonstrate how the roots of a sado-masochistic mentality are contained within a primitive sense of justice.”

                      ….and what exactly is so wrong about being in touch with our primitive sense of justice?

                    • aray November 14, 2009 at 9:00 PM #

                      Jessica,
                      The point is: old testament revenge style justice is deeply connected with the development of sadism and masochism. Check out some of the responses to my posts: “lock him up” “punish the deserving one” “restrain him from acting”. Sounds like BDSM foreplay.

                    • Jess November 15, 2009 at 5:53 AM #

                      …“lock him up” “punish the deserving one” “restrain him from acting”. Sounds like BDSM foreplay.

                      Wow. Except in BDSM, the victims have done NOTHING WRONG. I hope all rapists fucking rot in hell. No fucking mercy.

                    • aray November 15, 2009 at 7:02 AM #

                      I’m not saying BDSM = justice… I’m suggesting that the psychology of revenge and the psychology of sado masochism are related. If this is true, then it would be incoherent to say that sado-masochism is, in principle, morally wrong and then at the same time exact revenge against people who have violated this principle. I don’t think morality is entirely subjective. But it’s also a mistake to paint everything into black and white, guilt and innocence.

                      If the victim takes the attitude of “no mercy”, then the victim demonstrates that morality IS entirely subjective: that is, the only real difference between the victim and the criminal is power. If given the power, the victim becomes the criminal, and morality is shown to be merely a subjective convention. If this is admitted, then it is senseless to say the victim of a sado-masochistic relationship is “innocent”, since innocence would be merely a redundant term for powerlessness.

                    • isme November 15, 2009 at 10:36 AM #

                      “If the victim takes the attitude of “no mercy”, then the victim demonstrates that morality IS entirely subjective: that is, the only real difference between the victim and the criminal is power. If given the power, the victim becomes the criminal, and morality is shown to be merely a subjective convention.”

                      Um, with the very important distinction that the victim is totally innocent of anything, and the criminal, by definition, is not.

                    • aray November 15, 2009 at 9:59 PM #

                      isme;

                      I took “no mercy” to mean no equity, and no acknowledgment of the transgressor as human. The problem with this position is the victim is, as you put it “totally innocent”, and the transgressor is “totally guilty”. Both victim and transgressor lose their humanity, and become victim and transgressor as such. What follows from this?

                      The victim dehumanizes the original transgressor and demands inequitable punishment (or as Jess put it, infinite punishment – rotting in hell). The original transgressor then becomes an object used by the original victim for the sake of revenge-pleasure. Thus the victim becomes the transgressor, and the cycle continues.

                      Further, if we acknowledge human existence only as “victim” and/or “transgressor” rather than as human, then morality and thought lose all objectivity. In the case of morality, both “victim” and “transgressor”, by virtue of their status as such, necessarily take a subjective view of the just. (This is why an “objective” judge determines punishment, rather than the victim or transgressor.) Subjective justice is tantamount to admitting the non existence of justice, and therefore the meaninglessness of the categories “innocent” and “guilty”. All moral categories (and all thought) would then be understood as “self-justifying” or “self empowering”. In other words, from this line of reasoning it follows: everything (and nothing) is permitted; there is only power and lack of power.

                    • Faith November 15, 2009 at 2:19 PM #

                      “I’m not saying BDSM = justice… I’m suggesting that the psychology of revenge and the psychology of sado masochism are related.”

                      While I don’t agree with Jess that rape victims should be allowed to engage in violence against their rapists (I do not support violence under any circumstance save direct defense. Meaning: If someone is trying to harm you or someone else, you are fully justified to defend yourself, or those in harm, with any means necessary. That defense does not extend to after the fact), I find it rather repulsive that a man who admits to enjoying sexually torturing his own girlfriend/s is lecturing a woman about why it’s wrong for rape victims to torture their rapists.

                      You don’t get to engage in violent behavior against innocent people and call others out for wishing violence on people who very well may deserve it, regardless of whether it is “just”.

                      Given your sexual propensities, your arguments really are quite foul.

                    • aray November 15, 2009 at 7:34 PM #

                      Faith,

                      First of all I don’t believe you are correct to say that rough or violent sex, if it is consensual as well as mutually pleasurable and desirable, is the same as rape or torture.

                      Second of all, I’m not trying to call anyone out. All of us, as humans, have experienced the desire to do harm to those who have hurt us. I don’t think this feeling is wrong, if anything I think it is admirable because it shows spiritedness. But at the same time I don’t think that this impulse can be immediately gratified by a just legal system. The argument stands as it is, regardless of whether or not I am free of moral guilt.

                      Many of the responses to my posts have betrayed a sentiment that thinking is always tied to self interest, that no line of reasoning can be separated from the desire to self-justify or self-empower. While I agree that thinking always relates to the self, and is on some level self interested, I think you should reconsider the possibility that a person may be able to have legitimate thoughts about morality without being blameless. If you push the notion that all thinking is a form of self justification, you end up with the same problem I pointed out above. Thinking becomes entirely in the service of power, rather than reason or the good.

                    • Faith November 15, 2009 at 10:14 PM #

                      “First of all I don’t believe you are correct to say that rough or violent sex, if it is consensual as well as mutually pleasurable and desirable, is the same as rape or torture.”

                      I actually didn’t say that it was exactly the same. However, I’m not of the opinion that the desire to engage in violent consensual sex that involves what even the participators describe as torture (which many BDSM practitioners) is really all that different from the desire to engage in non-consensual torture. I believe that those folks who do see a major difference are only trying to candy-coat their behavior, so to speak. I say this, btw, as someone with several years experience as a sub.

                      Regardless, I still stand quite firmly by my statement that there is a huge difference between wishing harm on a guilty party, and inflicting harm on an innocent party. Whether or not the latter party has consented to it is irrelevant in the context of this conversation. There really is very little comparison there.

                      “While I agree that thinking always relates to the self, and is on some level self interested”

                      Really? So when I, for instance, donate money to an impoverished family in a third world country, I’m doing it because of some selfish desire? If I was acting in a self-interested manner, wouldn’t it make far more sense to keep the money for myself?

                      And when I spend most of my money on my children for christmas in order to make them happy, that’s all about me too?

                      “I think you should reconsider the possibility that a person may be able to have legitimate thoughts about morality without being blameless.”

                      I actually never said otherwise. I still think it’s repulsive for a man who admits to sexually torturing his girlfriend – and disrespects her for it to boot – to then turn around and try to justify himself by trying to equate a woman’s desire to punish a rapist with his own purely selfish desire to sexually subjugate his sexual partners.

                      One of those things is not at all like the other.

                      “Thinking becomes entirely in the service of power, rather than reason or the good.”

                      Says the man who gets off on disrespecting his girlfriend by engaging in sexual power plays.

                    • isme November 16, 2009 at 12:08 AM #

                      “Really? So when I, for instance, donate money to an impoverished family in a third world country, I’m doing it because of some selfish desire? If I was acting in a self-interested manner, wouldn’t it make far more sense to keep the money for myself?

                      And when I spend most of my money on my children for christmas in order to make them happy, that’s all about me too?”

                      The argument would be that you enjoy doing those things, that you do it for the enjoyment of doing good, rather than doing good in of itself, but the distinction, IMHO, is immaterial.

                    • Faith November 16, 2009 at 12:28 AM #

                      “The argument would be that you enjoy doing those things, that you do it for the enjoyment of doing good, rather than doing good in of itself, but the distinction, IMHO, is immaterial.”

                      That would be a good argument, I suppose. It would also be an incorrect one.

                    • aray November 16, 2009 at 2:31 AM #

                      Faith;
                      So consensual rough sex isn’t the same as rape/torture, but it’s not really different either? I guess I agree with this in some sense, but it seems problematic. Frankly, right now I am in doubt about the nature of sexualized power so I can’t reply in full at this time. However, I do think the issue of consent must somehow be relevant, because consent implies a kind of autonomy and self reflection which distinguishes us from animals, who are wholly governed by pleasure and pain. To claim consent is irrelevant is to concede that we are radically subjective, and therefore that morality is mere illusion, and that the only reality is that of power. If the only reality is power, then it is contradictory to criticize BDSM, patriarchy, or any other power structure on moral grounds.

                      Consenting to that which is in some way painful is distinctly human. It allows us to obey the law, to provide for the good of others, to be more than animal.

                      I did not say that all actions or thoughts are selfish, but rather that we are selfish in a peculiar way that allows us to be selfless. I meant something more like: every time we think of another, or empathize with another, we do this by imagining our”selves” as them. Therefore our considerations and thoughts regarding others always operate through our own subjective experiences. Therefore all thinking is, in part, self interested (though not in the sense that all thinking desires ONLY self-gratification, as “isme” suggested). My point is, yes my thoughts are relative to my personal experiences and desires. But if it is claimed that thinking cannot extend beyond that, then there is no basis for moral or intellectual judgment. I think my argument was in some ways the -exact opposite- of the way you interpreted it?

                      I’m suggesting the possibility that what I think about the world is not merely self justification. I’m suggesting that denouncing my opinions as merely “self justifying” without addressing the content or reasoning behind those opinions entails a denial of the possibility of objective thought altogether. If the transgressor, as such, is incapable of thinking beyond the terms of self justifying or self empowering, this accusation would then extend to the victim, as victim. This is the danger of claiming that the human is defined as that which does not transgress. No appeal to objective morality can be made, since all morality would then be radically conventional/historical.

                      I have not claimed that revenge is the equivalent of sado-masochism, only that they share a common psychological structure. I have not claimed that killing an attacker/rapist is unjust, or even that it is morally good for me to engage in sexual power plays. These and many other opinions which I do not agree with and have not expressed have been attributed to me for the sake of claiming that, because I am pleasured by transgressive behavior, I have no capacity for self reflection. This is an enactment of what I meant by dehumanizing the transgressor, and perpetuating a social convention founded the human relationship to pleasure and pain rather than our ability to think reasonably.

                      Careful reading of this blog reveals that the author is aware of this (postmodern) problem.

                      Last observation: The ability to empathize, the meeting point of selfishness and selflessness, the ability t0 feel the pleasure and pain of another, is the driving force behind sadomasochism. The psychological function which allows for moral goodness (pity) also allows for badness (cruelty). Furthermore, the possibility of self knowledge presupposes transgression (the fall from eden — the tree of knowledge is gained simultaneously with shame).

                    • Faith November 16, 2009 at 12:17 PM #

                      “So consensual rough sex isn’t the same as rape/torture, but it’s not really different either?”

                      Please reread my comment. I said the -desire- to engage in both of those activities aren’t all that different.

                    • aray November 16, 2009 at 6:20 PM #

                      My bad, I was sloppy. But I understood your meaning and I pretty much agree with you.

                    • isme November 16, 2009 at 3:04 AM #

                      I wouldn’t say incorrect, but it’d be wandering too far into contemplating the nature of free will to be terribly relevant to the topic at hand.

                    • Ren November 16, 2009 at 10:25 AM #

                      You people make my head hurt.

                    • Jess November 15, 2009 at 2:50 PM #

                      “If the victim takes the attitude of “no mercy”, then the victim demonstrates that morality IS entirely subjective: that is, the only real difference between the victim and the criminal is power. If given the power, the victim becomes the criminal…”

                      I think the only difference between the victim and the criminal is that the victim might go to any end to see that justice is served. This degree of justice is subjective to each individual. Justice (to my standards), in the case of a rapist, would be nothing less than eternal torture. I’m sure I share this measure of justice with many other women.

                      To your last comment – So, if given power, one becomes the criminal? That can’t be true. If so, then again, I don’t think we’re dealing with just power.

                    • aray November 15, 2009 at 7:21 PM #

                      I don’t understand your post. If just punishment is subjective, and is in the hands of the victim of the original crime, then are you suggesting justice and revenge are equated? If justice and revenge are equated then how can you maintain that morality is anything more than power and lack of power? I may just be misunderstanding what you have said, so I’m really just asking for clarification here.

                    • delphyne November 15, 2009 at 6:00 PM #

                      You would think it was a mistake to point out guilt because the first person being pointed at would be you. Your rationalisations are transparent.

                      Your victims are innocent. Your sadism and your violence are your responsibility.

                      Self defence is a moral act. Violent sexual predation on women isn’t. Stop trying to justify yourself.

                      I hope you find yourself in prison sooner rather than later. Women need protecting from you.

                    • aray November 15, 2009 at 7:36 PM #

                      Delphyne:

                      I never said that it is a mistake to point out guilt.

                    • truthvscompliance November 16, 2009 at 4:54 PM #

                      The only people that get immense pleasure out of committing acts of violence against other people are people who are extremely insecure and they need some kind of power trip to falsely build up their self-esteem. It doesn’t help that men are taught that violence is some sort of signature act for masculinity.
                      Yes, some women are cruel and commit violent acts as well but I fail to see how that justifies anything..

                    • aray November 16, 2009 at 6:17 PM #

                      Truthvscompliance:

                      A cursory glance at the history of the human race reveals that cruelty and violence is the rule, rather than the exception.

                      Yes, violence/war is the sign of manliness. Thus the original meaning of the word “virtue”.

                      And as for justifying…what exactly is being justified?

                  • polly styrene November 14, 2009 at 12:10 AM #

                    The above was meant to reply to

                    wanting to kill and rape is damn near universal

                    BTW.

              • aray November 12, 2009 at 10:34 PM #

                I scrolled up and found this:

                “I’m not a fool and I went into this part of our relationship with my eyes wide open, in fact, I initiated it. Not all submissively inclined females are doormats or morons and not all Dominant men are women-hating a**h****. ”
                From an apparently female poster. You can’t take my account at face value. Ok, that’s fine. What about the accounts of other women? Is everyone who claims a woman can enjoy being submissive an imposter or a puppet?

                • Faith November 13, 2009 at 12:43 PM #

                  “What about the accounts of other women? Is everyone who claims a woman can enjoy being submissive an imposter or a puppet?”

                  Aray,

                  All of the questions you have asked, or statements you have made (virtually none of which I agree with, btw), have all been answered repeatedly by feminists. The answers that feminists have for these issues are on this blog, on countless other blogs, and in many, many books.

                  If you are honestly interested in learning more about the feminist perspective – radical or otherwise – it would be far more productive and helpful for you to take the time to educate yourself instead of expecting feminist women to keep feeding you the answers that you seek when they have already done the work and already put it out there for public consumption.

                  Those two questions that I quoted, for instance, have caused countless debates, many of which have led to the feminist movement being quite literally torn down the middle. 9-2 herself has several posts up about BDSM with very long comment threads. Maybe you might want to start by reading her posts, and the comment threads, and go from there.

                  • aray November 13, 2009 at 9:01 PM #

                    If the feminist movement is torn down the middle, I take it there isn’t a single feminist perspective? Can you recommend some books/authors who represent different sides of these debates? The only feminist author I am familiar with is Camille Paglia.

                    Thanks.

                    • Nine Deuce November 13, 2009 at 9:14 PM #

                      See my blogroll. There aren’t any pro-porn people there, but there are plenty of different feminist viewpoints.

                    • Faith November 13, 2009 at 9:47 PM #

                      “If the feminist movement is torn down the middle, I take it there isn’t a single feminist perspective?”

                      No, there isn’t any single feminist perspective. Feminists largely have the same goals (although even the goals of feminists are often varied), but there are a multitude of different ideas on how to achieve those goals. There are more liberal feminists who support sex work, even if they believe it’s misogynistic. There are feminists who are entirely against sex work believing it to be inherently exploitative and oppressive. There are also feminists who support BDSM, even if they believe that certain aspects are misogynistic and patriarchal in nature. There are feminists who are adamantly against all BDSM believing it to be oppressive and a result of patriarchal programming. There are feminists who actually believe that both sides are right…as crazy as that might sound. There are radical feminists, liberal feminists, woman of color feminists, eco-feminists, marxist feminists, anarchi-feminists, separatist feminists, socialist feminists, pagan feminists, etc. etc. etc.

                      The two main branches as far as sexuality is concerned, however, tends to be anti-porn/radical feminists and “sex positive” feminists (although the term “sex positive” is really not at all favored by many people because it implies that those of us who are anti-sex work are anti-sex, which is just flat-out inaccurate).

                      Some of the more radical feminist authors: Catherine MacKinnon, Robin Morgan, and Andrea Dworkin are probably some of the most read radical feminists who have actually been published.

                      For the “sex-positive” feminists, there’s Betty Dodson and Susie Bright. There are also plenty of sex-positive blogs to read. Even more so than radical feminist blogs. The more radical/anti-porn feminists tend to get almost literally run off the internet due to the high level of abusive attitudes thrown at them by misogynist men and “sex-positive” women alike.

                      But here’s a pretty varied list of feminist books/authors you can check out if you are interested:

                      feministezine.com/feminist/books/Feminist-Book-List.html

      • polly styrene November 11, 2009 at 8:37 PM #

        Gender isn’t the distinction between male and female – and given many animals propensity to shag anything (anyone ever had a dog?) and the amount of gay/bisexual animals around, I’d certainly question that animals recognise male and female that much either.

        Gender is a system of discrimination based on a person’s perceived biological sex. Pure and simple. We cannot make this distinction without abstract thought.

        • delphyne November 11, 2009 at 10:58 PM #

          I think you need to spend a bit of time checking out animals. Just because animals in captivity like dogs shag people’s legs doesn’t mean that they can’t tell the difference between male and female. If they couldn’t, reproduction wouldn’t happen.

          Biological sex isn’t perceived, it’s real. It’s not abstract it’s a concrete reality.

          • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 7:50 AM #

            Animals that aren’t in captivity display a startling variety of sexual behaviour as well. They’re not just heteronormative (unlike some feminists it seems) and only into it for reproduction…

            Homosexual behaviour is well documented in many different animals, but it is not understood in detail, says Professor Stuart West, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford.

            Professor West says it has been suggested that homosexual activity could serve various purposes – for instance, it may relate to social bonding and establishment of dominance among bonobo chimps, while in some bird species, females may come together to rear young.

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8081829.stm

            And I say, stop being so heterosexist Professor West….. the animals like being gay.

          • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 7:53 AM #

            More gay animals……

            Curators say a Norwegian exhibition on homosexuality among animals has been well received, despite initial indications of strong opposition.
            The Oslo Natural History Museum opened the show last week and says it has been well attended, not least by families.

            Organisers reported early criticism of the project, and being told by one opponent they would “burn in hell”.

            But there has been strong interest in an aspect of animal behaviour the museum says is quite common.

            It says homosexuality has been observed among 1,500 species, and that in 500 of those it is well documented.

            The exhibition – entitled Against Nature? – includes photographs of one male giraffe mounting another, of apes stimulating others of the same sex, and two aroused male right whales rubbing against each other.

            “Homosexuality is a common and widespread phenomenon in the animal world,” says an exhibition statement.

            “Not only short-lived sexual relationships, but even long-lasting partnerships; partnerships that may last a lifetime.”

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6066606.stm

          • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 7:55 AM #

            I think you need to a bit of time checking out your own barely concealed homophobia Delphyne.

            • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 5:24 PM #

              Why on earth is saying that sex is real it’s not just a social construct or a “perception” as you are claiming, and that animals recognise it too, homophobic?

              As far as I can see you appear to be arguing that once we destroy the hierarchy of sexes (gender) there will be no distinction between males and females. Which I guess will mean that homosexuality and lesbianism won’t exist any more, because people won’t notice the sex of their partners.

              Please correct me if I’m wrong.

              • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 7:37 PM #

                No Delphyne, you said that boy animals would only do it with girl animals because they recognise male and female for the purposes of reproduction i.e. sex (Seeing as sexual reproduction can only take place between males and females AFAIK except for those animals that are hermaphroditic). And that’s nonsense because animals are gay and bisexual all over the place.

                I didn’t say sex wasn’t real in a physical sense. Clearly it is as my presence in the world indicates. I said the significance attached to sex (gender) is an abstract construct and that you need language to create abstract constructs.

                Now it may well be that if we didn’t live in a gendered society I wouldn’t be a lesbian, who knows? But heteronormativity is a function of gender, that’s why animals DON’T recognise sex in the way you claim.

                Every time the subject of being gay is brought up, you always get some bigot saying ‘well it’s not normal, animals don’t do it’.

                You’re saying the same thing.

                • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 10:39 PM #

                  I didn’t say anything about gay sex amongst animals or anything else, I said that animals use sex for reproduction which is why they need to be able to tell the difference between male and female. And it was you who brought up sex, not me with your example about dogs shagging legs, I just said that animals that are sexed differentiate between male and female. Are you seriously arguing that male dogs can’t smell when a female dog is in heat and don’t differentiate between male and female for example? And just because animals are having homosexual sex doesn’t mean that they don’t know that’s what they are doing.

                  That’s very interesting that you think it’s possible you might not be a lesbian when the patriarchy is smashed though, yet you’re calling me a homophobe. Me, I’ll still be avoiding men.

                  • truthvscompliance November 13, 2009 at 6:07 PM #

                    that actually isn’t true – animals use sex to establish power dynamics all the time. I have an alpha male golden retriever and he humps males, females etc. And it’s not JUST a power thing because he clearly is arroused when he’s doing it. I also use to have two female bunnies that would constantly hump each other… And clearly – they had no way to reproduce. Animals really don’t look at sex in just a reproduction way. Another example – some of our closest relatives – the bonobos – have sex ALL THE TIME and everywhere and usually it’s how they greet each other. So clearly for them – sex is more about a social experience than actual reproduction – not to mention all of those chimps etc that masterbate a lot.

                  • polly styrene November 13, 2009 at 8:09 PM #

                    I’m not a lesbian because I hate men, Delphyne. I’m a lesbian because I’m sexually attracted to women. Only a homophobe would think the only reason someone would be a lesbian is because they hate men.

                    I don’t expect patriarchy to be smashed in my lifetime. And I didn’t say I wouldn’t be a lesbian if patriarchy was smashed. I said this:

                    Now it may well be that if we didn’t live in a gendered society I wouldn’t be a lesbian, who knows?

                    Because I don’t know what would happen in a non gendered society, and neither do you, because none of us have ever lived in one. And I’m not ever going to either. But I didn’t say I wouldn’t be a lesbian if patriarchy was smashed and I didn’t say I would be heterosexual. Stop putting words in my mouth. You on the other hand, said this.

                    Language isn’t the basis of gender – at least the part of it that makes distinctions between male and female. All animals that use sex in reproduction have the concept of male and female.

                    How do you think sexual reproduction happens without sex? And do you think boy animals only have sex with girl animals to make babies? Clearly you do.

                  • polly styrene November 13, 2009 at 8:15 PM #

                    And no animals don’t ‘differentiate between male and female’. You need the concept of gender to do that. Dogs do not think *I am a boy dog, I must shag that girl dog because the bible says so*. They may react instinctively to the smell of oestrus, they don’t think *ooh girl dog, must make puppies*.

                    What you are arguing Delphyne is exactly the same thing as the right wingers who think women are programmed to stay at home and have babies.

                • isme November 13, 2009 at 12:05 AM #

                  Erm…isn’t what animals happen to have evolved to do fairly irrelevant on whether or not human beings should choose to do?

                  Yes, people do make the “animals don’t do it, so it’s wrong” argument, but that has always seemed too ludicrous an argument to worry about disproving.

          • Valerie M November 12, 2009 at 2:08 PM #

            @ delphyne

            I think you and I have had this discussion before, haven’t we? Polly is talking about the distinction between sex and gender. She is not saying biological sex isn’t real.

            • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 5:27 PM #

              @Valerie

              Have we?

              I think you need to read Polly again. She is arguing that the distinction of differences between the sexes is simply an abstract perception i.e. not real. She says gender (the hierarchy of sexes) is based in language which is a postmodernist point of view, as if we could wish gender away by changing the language. It isn’t, it’s based in concrete male violence against women. Violence that women experience in our bodies.

              • Valerie M November 12, 2009 at 6:10 PM #

                Well I can’t speak for Polly; only I thought she and I were pretty much on the same page regarding sex vs gender. Biological differences due to having XX or XY chromosomes and the handful of associated behaviours is what I would call sex; the segregated socialisation of humans based on sex and stereotypes about what females and males enjoy, how they think, who is smarter, liking pink, etc and the associated hierarchy is gender, and like you say, is violently enforced.

                • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 6:40 PM #

                  It’s not an associated hierarchy, it’s the main event. Stereotypes and behaviour associated with gender change over time, what doesn’t change is that men hold power over women.

                  I won’t be spending any time with men even after the patriarchy is smashed. A great deal of illegitimate male power is about forcing women to be in the society of men e.g. marriage, attacks on separatist spaces. The socialisation isn’t segregated in the slightest, men learn to exert their power over us with women right in their midst. I think once men lose that power over women, many many women will separate ourselves from them.

                  What I get from some rad fems is that they hope that the end of patriarchy will mean they can still be around men. It’s certainly not my political aim and that’s why it doesn’t help for some rad fems to be claiming that seeing people through the lens of sex is an arbitrary judgement.

                  • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 7:40 PM #

                    And Delphyne, believe me, no one gives a shit about being around men less than me.

              • polly styrene November 12, 2009 at 7:44 PM #

                Nor am I saying that gender is based in language Valerie. I am saying that we need language to voice abstract concepts. Yes the violence that accompanies gender is very real. But the IDEA of gender is only possible with language.

                This is like those people that argue gender is real because it has real effects. Well God isn’t real as far as I’m concerned, but belief in God has real effects.

                You can’t have an abstract construct without abstract symbolic communication. You just can’t.

                • delphyne November 12, 2009 at 10:41 PM #

                  You can’t have illegitimate male power over women without concrete physical violence. Language just doesn’t cut it.

                  Most sexist attitudes or hateful actions towards women aren’t even put into words. People are totally unaware of why they are acting like they do.

                  • polly styrene November 13, 2009 at 8:12 PM #

                    So you believe then Delphyne that violence against women and wanting power is a natural male behaviour. In other words you believe that certain behaviours are inextricably associated with certain biological sexes.

                    Which means you believe gender is real. And it also means you believe the same thing as most right wing misogynists.

                • Valerie M November 12, 2009 at 11:24 PM #

                  Yes I agree with what both you and delphyne are saying here.

                  • Valerie M November 13, 2009 at 11:48 PM #

                    My above post doesn’t make sense anymore because of the way the comments work here – so never mind.

  106. polly styrene November 10, 2009 at 9:49 PM #

    But as to your mystery as to why so many women eroticize powerlessness, I think it’s slightly less than mysterious -it’s basically the narrative myth all women are fed from birth about their sexuality – females are passive, active sexuality is masculine/unattractive and women who take the sexual initiative in any way are bad women.

    • aray November 11, 2009 at 2:57 AM #

      I can see how this would be true. However, I like women who take the sexual initiative. So, it doesn’t seem entirely right. If a woman “eroticizes” powerlessness in the bedroom, how do I make sure that stay in the bedroom?

      • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 3:19 AM #

        By treating her like an equal outside the bedroom. It’s not a difficult concept. (And I’d say that you need to do the same in the bedroom – as much a problem as I have with what you want to call “rough sex,” I’d still like for people who are into it to think of each other as equally human even if they are acting as if they aren’t.) You need to understand why it might be that some women have these kinds of desires. It’s because of porn, it’s because of misogyny (internalized and societal), it’s because women are taught to feel ashamed of sexual desires and that shame translates into feeling deserving of mistreatment or punishment. But how does that make her less human than you? It doesn’t. You need to seriously think about these things before you engage in these activities in order to avoid hurting people, because it sounds like you are hurting people by being insensitive and ignoring the fact that you are engaging in behavior that is harmful to them, even if they want to do so beforehand (you mentioned these women evincing anger and shame in a previous comment). You also need to give some serious thought to what it means to be aroused by power. That’s a bad thing. Just because it happens to be common does not make it unproblematic.

        • Ren November 11, 2009 at 7:51 AM #

          Yeah, while not agreeing with ND’s list of “whys” a woman might be into rough sex (in some cases true, in others, probably not) the problem comes when you start treating someone, esp. someone into the same things YOU are into as a lesser being.

          • aray November 11, 2009 at 6:00 PM #

            Yeah I agree…which is why I am trying to give this stuff some thought. I realize it is hypocritical to feel contempt for someone who is really just the positive to your negative so to speak. I used to look at porn as a teenager. My girlfriend has started watching internet porn. I’m guessing you think this is something she shouldn’t do? I am not really comfortable telling her not to watch porn. In my experience, trying to control a woman’s sexuality is a recipe for relationship disaster.

            • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 6:36 PM #

              No, you shouldn’t tell her not to watch porn, you should talk to her about why she is doing it. Maybe you can both talk about why you are/were using porn and what effect it has had on your sexuality and whether it’s been for the better or the worse. I’d say using porn is probably a detriment to women’s self-esteem, since the message is so misogynistic.

            • Ren November 11, 2009 at 9:00 PM #

              Heh, I am never going to tell anyone they shouldn’t/can’t/whatever watch porn. I watch it myself.

              • aray November 12, 2009 at 10:39 PM #

                I know for a fact that porn was bad for me. I noticed that my imagination was supplanted by received pornographic images. My sexual imagination became less active and less interesting. So I stopped viewing it.

        • aray November 11, 2009 at 6:18 PM #

          It seems from your article that you have doubts that a power relationship that develops “in the bedroom” can stay there? But if that power relationship provides mutual satisfaction in a sexual way…then isn’t this problematic??? If a power relationship is a source of pleasure for both men and women, then on some level both men and women will be working to preserve that relationship, in so far as they cannot receive that same pleasure without it.

          • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 6:22 PM #

            It sounds like you’re the one who doesn’t think it can stay in the bedroom.

            • aray November 11, 2009 at 6:31 PM #

              Yeah, I don’t think it can…I was asking if you agree with me on this.

              Your article says:

              “…they didn’t think there was anything incompatible about D/s relationships and feminism (they’re obviously not advanced feminist theorists). They wanted to make sure I knew that their idea of an ideal BDSM relationship was one in which the power differential in the bedroom stayed there. Mmm hmm.”

              • Nine Deuce November 11, 2009 at 6:43 PM #

                I never did think it could stay in the bedroom.

            • TrinityVA November 11, 2009 at 8:11 PM #

              This.

  107. winter_lights November 12, 2009 at 11:37 PM #

    delphyne said:
    “Well you can wonder all you want I suppose. I’d call it a bit of a waste of time on your part.”

    Hey, there’s no need for that. I really am curious.

    If I think someone’s going to lie to me about one thing, then I won’t see the point in asking them any other questions, because they’ll probably lie to me there too. Nor will I think anything else I say is likely to get through to them. So why talk to them?

    I don’t think you’re going to lie to me, so I don’t feel like this query is wasting my time.

    “Are you a BDSMer?”

    Loathe every aspect of it. I’d really be much happier if the entire idea would just go away.

  108. ether November 12, 2009 at 11:53 PM #

    i am a woman. i am a feminist. and i don’t have a freaking problem with bdsm. there is nothing unhealthy about it, as long as both parties are consenting out of their own free will.

  109. polly styrene November 15, 2009 at 12:17 PM #

    I think you’re probably right Aray, in saying that the eroticising of power relations stem from “religious” ideas of morality, but you’ve got the wrong bit.

    Most religions (I can’t think of an exception, including Buddhism) depict female sexuality as shameful, dirty etc and women as sexually subservient/passive to an active male sexuality. The reason for this isn’t just that deities are misogynist, but that these religions tend to be agents of social control, and in a property owning society, with patrilineal inheritance, men want to ensure ‘their’ children are theirs genetically.

    • isme November 15, 2009 at 6:53 PM #

      Well… I’d say religions portray women as sexually subservient to men, simply because women are subservient to men in more or less everything in more or less every culture.

      If a religion advocated equality between the sexes or someone obviously crazy like that, who’d want to be part of it?

  110. isme November 15, 2009 at 10:10 PM #

    The transgressor doesn’t “lose” their humanity. If they no longer have it, it is because they cast it aside themselves as a function of committing the crime.

    I agree that subjective jsutice is an admission of the non-existence of justice, but in regards to rape, the non-existence of justice is something that has been established for quite some time.

  111. favourite_mirror November 17, 2009 at 5:39 PM #

    Wow, I actually did read through that whole thing. I identify as a heterosexual man and my girlfriend and me have been exploring our sexual desires within the field commonly labeled as BDSM for several years now. We have gotten to know many like-minded people, some of which we call our friends. I have participated in much exchange about BDSM-related topics over the internet for a long time and recently I have become interested in feminism, but I’m still only exploring it and haven’t been an active feminist yet.
    I have found many comments to this post to be false and many of them offensive to me. However I think that being offended is a necessary part of life and one that should make you think and react intelligently rather than just lashing back.
    Thus I tried to compile a list of the points made against BDSM and show why they are flawed in my opinion. Of course I’ll have to simplify matters to accomplish this as I can’t respond to any single post in this enormous thread. Feel free to point to any major argument I have left out or tell me if you think I was buildig up straw men.

    Also: I can’t speak for anyone into BDSM and I do not condone anything that people in the BDSM community do. But that can’t come as a surprise, does it?

    ——-

    1. “BDSM is a (by)product of patriarchy”
    Why some people include power dynamics in their sexuality is unknown. There are many explanations out there, but while some of them make more sense than others, to my knowledge none can claim to be more than an educated speculation. This includes the claim that patriarchy produces BDSM.
    However – as for other possible explanations – there are valid reasons to think that patriarchy has a hand in it: For instance “feminization” is commonly used as a way to humiliate men in BDSM play, but the opposite is extremely rare. Also submissive men are often very specific and demanding about their sexual wishes which seems to contradict their role in the power dynamic.
    But that’s just half the story: People of all genders and sexual orientations engage in BDSM play. Of course this can be interpreted as a reaction to patrarchicl structures, too. But anything can. If we leave scientifical reasoning aside an only search for possible connections between the facts and abstract concepts we will encounter the same problems that conspiracy theorists and religious fundamentalists do.
    Also Many people engage in practices that mimic the traditional power of women over men. Yes such power structures exist, even though most power relations work in the opposite direction, of course. In this case the dominant woman will have her partner worship and adore her and only grant him the favor of being close to her in the “propper”, submissive way if at all. This reflects the traditional, socially enforced power of women to say “no” and to chose among admirers. Also chastity devices are common in femdom play – they playfully exploit the urgend sexual drive of men for the sake of controlling him and framing male-attributed sexuality as “weak”.
    BDSM is obviously entwined with gender relations. But that doesn’t have to mean that patriarchy is the cause of BDSM. It seems more conclusive to me that people who engage in BDSM play mimic power relations in the “real world” and incorporate them into their play. This goes for gender relations as much as for victorian “educational” practices or for fantasies about prison, slavery and so on. Everyone who is into BDSM will go to a period of finding out what is different about them. Desires are vague and need palpable realities to materialize. Nobody is born with a hunger for cheeseburgers, the cheeseburger is just a materialization of your desire to eat something with fat, some proteins, salt and carbonhydrates. In a world full of violence and oppression people who desire erotic power on one or the other side will materialize their desires in the examples the find in this world. They will go through a lot of guilt stress for it. I did. At some point most of them will realize they don’t need to, beacause it can be a beautiful thing when it is experienced with a loved and like-minded human beeing.
    Again: I cannot disprove that patriarchy causes BDSM, but this claim is just as speculative as many others. As for me, I don’t believe in it.
    One last thought on this: Imagine a huge pile of shit that stinks up the whole place. That pile is patriarchy. Now imagine a beautiful flower growing on top of it. Some will say they like the flower, some will say they hate it because it smells like shit. The flower is BDSM and it’s up to anyone to like ore dislike it, but no one has the right do look down on others for doing so. I’d love to see the pile of shit disappear. We’ll just plant the flower elsewhere.

    But is the flower bad in itself? I’ll explore that in the following paragraphs.

    2. “BDSM is degrading to women”
    Actually some BDSM people refer to things they do as degrading, humiliating etc. But to them this is something good. They do not mean the same thing as people who are not receptive of the intimate and erotic implications in power dynamics mean, when they feel that BDSM is degrading to women. Of course if one assumes that BDSM sets an example of how people should act on one another in all kinds of situations that would make it degrading (to people of any gender for that matter). But that would obviously mean taking it out of context.
    People exist, however few they are, who claim that women’s sexual submission is natural. This is degrading of course, but in my personal experience BDSM people tend to be less prone to express this kind of view than those outside the community. And even if the opposite were true that would make those people in particular being wrong and not BDSM in general.
    I realize that BDSM play that mimics gender opression and other real world suffering is offensive to many, especially the victims of real violence. I strongly suggest that BDSM people should respect this by not confronting people with details of their fantasies who do not wish to hear/see it. However it suggest that they shouldn’t repress or deny their desires either or hide pretending they weren’t there. If you want to be offended you’ll always finde a reason – my take is to stop looking and use one’s energy to make the world better instead of wasting it on the actions of others that do not affect anyone who does not seek offense.

    3. “BDSM perpetuates patriarchy”
    I think that BDSM as any medium has both the potential to perpetuate and undermine gender relations. BDSM is clearly about power and control, but it is also about beeing free to choose your identity independently of your sex and gender and about limiting your choices to a individually defined context. BDSM isn’t wrong, there are rights and wrongs within BDSM as there are outside of it.

    4. “Hurting people is wrong”
    Well yes and no. I would say “deliberately harming people is wrong”, because hurting is to ambiguous a word in the context of BDSM. I define harming someone as making that person worse off, that includes harming someone who wants to be harmed. Clearly even this is oversimplified as failing to make someone better off and making somebody worse off is merely defined by convention, but that’s not my point here.
    Harming in this sense would include selling crack to an addict. The addict wants the drugs, but both seller and buyer know the crack harms the person. However this is an extreme case and most of the time we are left to suppose wether something is going to do a person good or not. It is usually the best guess, that if a person is feeling positive about something and clearly states the she or he wants it that this person will be better off with than without it. My own experience is that in the overwhelming majority of cases people experience BDSM as gratifying – regardless of their gender, BDSM-role or sexual orientation and the last thing they want is getting rid of it. There are exeptions indeed and those people do need help. They need help to distinguish their healthy desires from desires that have proven to be unhealthy to them. This can be achieved through therapy. However, contrary to what some people here have guessed, it is NOT possible to this day to make BDSM fantasies go away nor is it necessary. People have problems with their sexual orientation, too, but the problem is not the orientation in itself.
    Labeling BDSM activities as abuse, torture and the like means to understand it from an outside perspective only, which isn’t really understanding at all, but instead imposing moral absolutes on people who just happen to be different.
    But isn’t it sad to be into BDSM, to need all this pain and distress to get intimate and aroused? No it’s not. BDSM clearly is ambivalent, but ridding it from this ambivalence would be like skipping movie straight to the happy ending und cutting out all the “unnecessary” drama, and pain. The ambivalence makes it all the more enjoyable and intense; it’s part of the thrill and not just a necessary evil.

    5. “Someone who enjoys inflicting or suffering pain should seek out a psychotherapist”
    I think this falls apart when you’re with me on the other points. Why would someone who is happy about her or his desires try to have them removed which is impossible anyway?
    However therapy may help those who are distressed by outside judgment, guilt, shame and unrealistic fear and I would encourage anyone to seek therapy who thinks that he or she might benefit from it.

    6. “Consent doesn’t work in the BDSM context”
    There is some truth to it. Usually it does work very well. There is quite some discussion about this in the BDSM communities. There is a danger of slipping into an abusive relationship in analogy to slipping in dependency of a cult. The person takes little steps one at a time that makes him or her incresingly dependent of the cult or in this case of his or her partner. Any one step seems relatively harmless, but anyone who fails to see the big picture is in danger. It’s a trap.
    This is a rare, but real problem. However this problem is already beeing addressed withing BDSM communities in order to make people more sensitive to it. People who see the big pictures grow aware of the small steps.
    Similar problems include people finding themselves emotionally unable to utter a safeword or to resist a top pushing them too far. These things are considered problems in the communities and they are beeing cautioned about. It doesn’t mean that these things can’t happen, but don’t people get pushed too far or driven into dependency in the non-BDSM-world? Do people outside the BDSM-communities adress those problems as much as people inside of it do? This is not BDSM-specific, but at least BDSM folks try to do something about it.

    7. “BDSM is dangerous”
    I have just adressed some psychological and social dangers. In addition to that there are physical dangers, too. In general I would consider BDSM play more dangerous than crossing the street and far less dangerous than riding a car. Also the vast majority of people seem to be much more aware of the dangers of BDSM play than the dangers of driving. One of the most risky activities within BDSM might well be protected anal intercourse, which is probably not even more common inside than outside the BDSM communities.
    Also the decision one faces is not wether to engage in BDSM or not, but also in what kind of practices one wishes to engage and with whom and under what conditions. Depending on your choices you might do BDSM that makes crossing the street look like an expedition to the north pole naked.
    There are accidents in BDSM sometimes. Sadly there have also been lethal accidents. While most people don’t like to talk about it, when they were involved, others actually researchs them in order to better educate and inform others. All lethal and near-lethal accidents I have ever heard about were clearly due to violation of the most basic safety rules.
    It’s anyones choice. Rock climbing is fun, but doing it without even basic knoledge about safety is stupid. So is engaging in sexual activities without any clue on STD’s. People who don’t bother to get basic information are idiots. People have the information and don’t act on it – well it’s their choice. But anyone pointing to the dangers of BDSM from the outside is simply preaching to the choir and implicitly comparing it to a fictious safe outside world.

    8. “BDSM leads to real crime”
    Then why don’t we here about BDSM people acting out real torture and rape all the time? I know that some (very few) cases exist – but I think most people here know how disgustingly common real rape and abuse are. BDSM, too, is very common – shouldn’t there be a lot of overlap?
    Shure, rapists probably fantacise about rape before commiting it, but why did only a negligeable, tiny fraction of them ever join the BDSM community? I don`t have any statistics about that, but I repeat: Why aren’t we hearing about it? Is there a big BDSM-conspiracy undercutting the media?
    I think the obvious explanation is that people who desire true rape know this from early on. They don’t join BDSM communities, because they don’t get off on living their fantasies consensually. Some of them might enjoy BDSM porn, but they’ll see it with different eyes. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: You have to understand from within (,too) or you won’t understand at all. And when the perspective from within is the same than from outside, that’s when alarm bells should ring.

    The bottom line: Everything is dangerous, if you do it in a certain manner. Everything is disgusting if you frame it in the fitting context. Everything is wrong if the costs outweigh the benefits. Everything corrupts society if we reduce it to its presumed essence and assume that it will spread like a disease.
    We don’t live in a world in which some high priest decides what makes you go to heaven and what makes you go to hell and I am grateful for that. The downside is that we have to make our own judgements and unfortunately not all people are good at that. But should we protect them from those judgments? Can we? If one can do anything it is to help educate people, but if you want anyone to take you seriously, you should consider what they already know and not tell it to them all over again. Also you’d have to do it in an respectful non-judgmental fashion, that acknowledges that what they do is not intrinsically worse than others.
    I for one will go on to address the possible dangers and downsides (including sexism) or opportunities within the BDSM community as many others do and will not start to lecture people in other communities about things they probably already know better just out of my first impression and one-sided information.

    Thanks for reading – I’m eager to read any intelligent comments!

  112. polly styrene November 17, 2009 at 7:32 PM #

    This reflects the traditional, socially enforced power of women to say “no” and to chose among admirers.

    Hmmm I seem to have missed that one. Must have been asleep.

    • favourite_mirror November 17, 2009 at 8:25 PM #

      Yes of course this power/freedom is limited. It came up as a topic in literature in 17th century europe for instance in the context of outside relationships of european nobility as opposed to marriage as a tool to controll dynasty.
      I think it is still common today as the belief that men should be the ones to approach women and to convince them of their own qualities, whith the woman making the definitive choice.

      However I don’t want to make claims about how well this freedom was. Also I realize that it is limited in time (read: historical time) and space (read: social space) and if you want to see it as a law then it’s a law that gets broken all the time. For my point to be valid I need only assume that it is one of several common perceptions of how things are, were or should be and that this perceptions gets frequently molded into BDSM roleplay.

  113. delphyne November 17, 2009 at 11:54 PM #

    Jesus why is this scumbag rapist/wannabe rapist being allowed to drop his shit all over the place here?

    You’re a feminist Nine Deuce. Feminism doesn’t mean having to give woman-haters house room.

    You don’t need to publish this, but this guy is making my skin crawl. He gets off on torturing and hurting women. He’s a danger to all of us and his self-justifications are what is commonly known as adding insult to injury.

    Patriarchy is based on sadism and destruction of women. Aray is one of its stormtroopers.

    Does nobody hear the screams of pain of the women he hurts or are they still being muffled in the name of liberal tolerance?

  114. Beatrice November 23, 2009 at 6:54 PM #

    Aray, I certainly believe it’s possible to have rough sex, engage in BDSM, whatever you want to call about it, and maintain mutual respect for each other. My boyfriend and I do it on a regular basis. He does not view me as less because I like to be submissive. He doesn’t look down on me as weak or “sycophantic.” He tells me how -strong- I am for being comfortable with that kind of vulnerability, how lucky he feels that I place that kind of trust in him.

    Nine Deuce and I may disagree in that I think rough, dominating sex and respect can go together just fine, and she feels my kind of kink is problematic. But I’m guessing she’d agree with me that you don’t get a pass on your inability to treat your sexual partners with respect because kink “made” you that way. You are still responsible for yourself. If you can’t have that kind of sex and still respect women, don’t have it.

  115. Immir April 17, 2010 at 8:13 PM #

    There is a whole lot of complex reasons people get into BDSM, so I can see why some people touchy about some of the comments being made.

    I’m like Devistatingyet- really young, 6 or so, when I became sexual and driven by fantasies where I had no control, where I was exposed and vulnerable and involved with a bit of pain and degradation. There is really nothing much I can do about it, it’s just in me and I can no more change it than another person could what they fantasise about. BUT I am not here to defend BDSM. I know I have absorbed the sinister messages of society and that it has been a major influence.

    Ok, people should be allowed to exercise their sexuality without fear of judgment… whatever. But you know what you SHOULD do? I keep that stuff to yourself. I don’t feel the need to go join a group and make a bid deal about it, as though people with dark fantasies are like gay people who need to fight for their rights, or something.

    And why make vidoes of the stuff and plaster it all over the net (keeping in mind that I think all porn is inherently wrong)? Do you really *need* to? And if you don’t want to be ‘judged’ then don’t put yourself out there to be judged. Sheesh.

    Now, being a person who has masochistic fantasies I will say that I think it is unhealthy. I don’t believe it comes from a good place and I think people who just blantantly defend BDSM are just uncomfortable with exploring their motivations. Especially guys- because they know that they would get into strife if they came out and said “You know what? I DO get off on the the idea of rape”.

  116. Kristen July 9, 2012 at 10:43 PM #

    Thanks for putting so much thought into this piece. This was exactly the sort of serious discussion on the topic I was looking for. Most of the writing on this alternates between the not-so-useful extremes of “ick, only sick people do that” to “if you don’t like BDSM, you are repressed and in denial.” I wish there were more people on the planet who thought things through like this.

  117. Hecate July 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM #

    An interesting piece on the topic:

    http://www.alternet.org/economy/156291/fifty_shades_of_capitalism%3A_pain_and_bondage_in_the_american_workplace/?page=entire

    I think many of the parallels drawn are accurate…

  118. Swanhilde July 17, 2012 at 2:55 PM #

    Jesus, this was an excellent thread. I spent two hours reading it.

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