Tag Archives: bdsm

Nine Deuce’s pants on fire, also hanging from a telephone wire.

28 Jun

This afternoon, I had just gotten done telling Davetavius that I don’t want to engage in personal Internet scuffles of any kind (since it’s narcissistic, juvenile, and counterproductive) when I checked my stats and found something that nearly knocked me off my 12-pack: a Divine impersonator who can’t read has made a video about me!

Unfortunately, it’s so funny that I’m going to have to respond, even if it does make me feel like a geek (a word which still means “uncool” in my book).

In her expose, entitled Nine Deuce: Feminist or Bigot? (someone call Sundance) Little Devil (Xiao Gui, 小鬼), whose interests include Dungeons and Dragons, Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Insane Clown Posse, Rocky Horror Picture Show, eastern religions, and Nietzsche (no, I’m not kidding — it’s as if she copied and pasted a “How to Be the Biggest Goth/BDSM Cliche You Can Be” pamphlet onto her page) claims that there are five LIES (!) contained within the first three posts in my BDSM series, and that I’m just like a Christian fundamentalist who hates the gays because I wonder whether it might not be possible that M/f BDSM relationships are problematic (guess she hasn’t seen part 5).

Her page urges us to “Carpe diem, bitches,” so let us wander through the five dastardly LIES one-by-one, yes?

  1. Nine Deuce, apparently, thinks BDSM is “all about male dominance and female submission.” Nope. The posts stated that I know that BDSM can take many other forms, but that the vast majority of BDSM relationships and encounters (and porn, natch) are M/f or recreate a M/f dynamic with things like “sissification.” I acknowledge that other forms exist, as I did in the posts, but I still wonder why we think sex and power and abuse ought to be comingled, especially living as we do in a hierarchical and oppressive society. LD thinks she’s got me because the original ads I placed were as a submissive woman and a submissive man. She’d be right if my intent in the “research” had been to prove that BDSM was all about men dominating women. The thing is, I know a thing or two about research and was well aware of the fact that my method wouldn’t have been sound had I tried to use it to prove anything quantitative scientifically. What I was trying to do was to show that the types of responses I got from men writing to what they thought was a submissive woman illustrate the kinds of attitudes that dominant men share with plain old sex abusers.
  2. Nine Deuce thinks that “male dominance is an outgrowth of our patriarchal or misogynistic culture,” which is clearly a fucking lie! Say what? How is male dominance NOT an outgrowth of a patriarchal society? For fuck’s sake, it’s the DEFINITION of patriarchy! Apparently, my assumption that male dominants might have absorbed something of a message that’s more ubiquitous than Coke ads is “pseudo-psychological drivel” akin to people claiming that male homosexuality is caused by domineering mothers. Way to try to poison the well there, LD, but I don’t think anyone’s buying that comparison. Blaming mothers for homosexuality is double-dutch-deluxe misogyny: blame a woman for a man being like a woman (which is the worst thing one can be). It’s also quite a stretch to think that a mother bossing her son around would lead directly to a hankering for dong. What you’d have to believe in order to think that a mother could make her son gay is that assertive women raise timid men, and a timid man is basically a woman, and women get fucked by men. Hence we have a hula-hoop of haterism in which the unifying feature is misogyny and woman-blaming. That’s not psychology, it’s a weak and nonsensical justification for homophobia and misogyny. Compare that to my supposition, that a misogynistic and sexually-repressed society breeds a situation in which women are rewarded for being sexually submissive and in which men come to view women with a mix of desire and sexual guilt, which leads to the desire to abuse, dominate, and degrade. LD thinks that her own experiences and those of a few people she knows disprove the idea that culture might influence sexuality, and goes so far as to suggest that BDSM might be hereditary because she’s heard it runs in families. Are you fucking kidding me? As if we aren’t absorbing messages from birth about male and female behavior from the examples set by our parents and others in the household. Why does everyone seem to think that we are immune to social messages until we reach some magical age at which we know we’re gay/straight/submissive/dominant/into jam bands? I keep hearing this nonsense from BDSMers about how they knew they had submissive desires when they were five, or ten, or whatever, as if that’s proof that these sorts of things can’t be socially inculcated. Where were they until that age, on Mars? Absolute tomfoolery.
  3. Nine Deuce thinks kink is about “cheap thrills” rather than intimacy and love. I don’t give a fuck whether it’s about intimacy or adrenaline, really. I’m sure there are BDSM couples out there who love each other and are intimate as all get down, but I do wonder why, when your average couple is having problems, counselors think it appropriate for them to suggest that the couple introduce volatile power dynamics into their sex lives, and why that so often turns into a M/f situation. (That was what part 2 was all about.) LD also claims I’m basing my understanding of BDSM relationships on porn rather than real people’s experiences, which she’d know is not the case had she read part 4, part 5, or my post about Kink dot com. I’m aware that there’s a difference between porn and real life, but I’m also aware that they have an effect on each other, and I assume everyone else is too (barring “separaters,” of course).
  4. Nine Deuce thinks she knows better than everyone else what they want out of their sex lives! She’s like a homophobe telling a lesbian she just needs some dick! I don’t remember telling anyone that I know what they secretly want, but if you can find a quote, let’s see it.
  5. Nine Deuce thinks BDSMers are unfit to have children! That argument was put to rest in the comments on part 4 and part 5. LD says that “vanilla” (retch) couples don’t fuck in front of their kids, so why should we think BDSMers do? LD informs me, in a very knowing tone, that I’ve gotten the insane idea that BDSM relationships are 24/7 from porn. I have? I didn’t get the idea  that full-time BDSM relationships exist from porn (which, if I had, would make me an idiot, since I know the difference between people fucking for money on tape and real life), I got it from the blogs and comments of real people here and elsewhere. I don’t know whether there are any people out there breaking out the gag ball in front of their kids, but I do know there are people with kids in full-time BDSM relationships in which the D/s dynamic is apparent to the children. No, that’s not qualitatively different from a traditional, patriarchal family, but I’m not wearing a t-shirt in support of that shit either.

I’m a little concerned about LD’s ability to read. First of all, are any of these things actually “lies” on my part? Four them are mischaracterizations of what I’ve said, and one (the fourth one) is a flat-out lie itself, taken as it is from thin air rather than even the most warped of possible interpretations of what I’ve written. But even if I had written all of these things, would they be “lies”? Or would they be opinions and ideas that LD doesn’t agree with?

Then, of course, she breaks out the old, “You talk about it so much, you must secretly be into it!” and compares me to the anti-gay preacher who gets caught hosing a male prostitute. You got me, 小鬼! I’ve been blogging about my opposition to porn, misogynistic advertising, fascistic beauty standards, plastic surgery, eating disorders, rape, the fashion industry, male privilege in our legal and political system, Flomax, gender roles, kids toys that limit girls’ visions for their futures, Suicide Girls, and what’s wrong with sporting culture for about 18 months, to the tune of 181 posts. I’d better come out and tell everyone the truth now: I really spend my Saturdays making amateur bukkake videos in between butthole bleaching and pube waxing sessions.  On Sundays I get Botox injections in my elbow creases and get collagen injected into my calves, then head to the mall and try on stilettos and girdles all day. Monday I get back to work, where I create ads to sell Durex condoms (you can see my work here) and help author legislation that will make it easier for rapists to evade prosecution. I head home every night and do all the housework while my daughter plays with Bratz and watches the Disney channel and my son plays with GI Joes and plastic guns, then blow my husband while he watches the NFL and drinks Coors Light. Once everyone’s gone to bed, I gorge myself on Betty Crocker Warm Delights cakes and then make myself puke them back up. I mean, I wouldn’t want to get fat and find myself in a situation in which rapists didn’t think me hot enough to rape! And believe you me, I’m into rape. If I wasn’t, why would I write about it so much?

Prett weak sauce, 小鬼. Next time maybe you ought to put a little more time and effort into font selection and mesh-glove-to-lipstick coordination. And making sense.

BDSM (the sexual equivalent of being into Renaissance faires) Part 5: Nine Deuce, you’re a homophobe!

27 Feb

I’ve been catching a lot of grief lately from pro-BDSM bloggers and commenters for my posts on BDSM, and one of the most commonly recurring refrains happens to be that I sound just like one of those God Hates Fags assholes. Reader Gorgias was originally the most vociferous in his claims that questioning BDSM is akin to homophobia, and he posted several comments claiming that a large number of people in the scene report having lost their jobs and/or kids when their proclivities were discovered. I responded that I think people who are running around at work talking about their sex lives, whether their sex lives include weapons or not, are behaving inappropriately, as are people who expose children to their sexual activities. I don’t think it’s cool for people to be fired from their jobs or blackmailed because of what they do in their private lives, but I figured anyone who is being honest with themselves and who is engaging in this argument in good faith would know better than to pretend I think otherwise. Emotions are running high, everyone feels victimized, insults abound, so I suppose I can understand why things have gotten a little out of hand. But let me clarify a few things:

  1. I don’t think anyone ought to be fired from a job for what they do outside of work, as long as they’re not hurting anyone or wearing Crocs. 
  2. I don’t think anyone’s kids ought to be taken away from them unless abuse is occurring. However, I think that it is inappropriate for parents to engage in a full-time M/f relationship that is obvious to their children. Raising kids in that environment, regardless of whatever consent does or doesn’t exist between the parents (I’m going to leave that argument to others), removes consent and discussions of feminism from the equation. There’s no way a kid can grow up in that environment and not assume that a gender hierarchy is natural and normal. Adults might be able to thoughtfully make the decision to engage in such behavior and balance that with their ideas about equality and/or liberation  (again, I’ll leave that argument aside), but a kid can’t.  A parent has every right to seek custody of their child and to deny it to the other parent if they do not want the child to be raised in such an environment. 
  3. I don’t think BDSM ought to be criminalized. I’m a liberal when it comes to laws; I think the only way to combat a behavior is through changing people’s attitudes, not by banning things. I do think that serious physical damage ought to be prosecutable, whether the person suffering the damage wishes to press charges or not, because life and limb ought not to be in danger. 

There’s my position. 

As to this comparison between myself and religious fundamentalists who hate gay people, need I really explain the differences? Fine, here goes.

Let’s think first about what motivates homophobes. Men and women who are threatened by homosexuality are threatened by it because it carries the potential to disrupt their entire system of beliefs, to defy what they’ve come to see as the Natural Order of  Things (NOT).

“Nature” is a very slippery and very powerful mental construct that has been used to justify and to condemn any number of human activities. When we decide something is “natural,” it becomes fundamentally unassailable, which is why the term is thrown around so much. The problem is, there is no such thing as “nature.” Nature itself is a human psychological construct. I mean, yeah, the world is still there and the things in it exist no matter what we call them, but exactly which items and processes will be included under the term “nature” depends on who the one defining the term is. 

For western individuals who bumble around under the weight of the legacy of hundreds of years of Judeo-Christian ideas about sex and gender, the Enlightenment-era medicalization and biological essentialization of gender difference and female inferiority, and the general patriarchal tradition, the gender hierarchy is “natural.”  That is especially true of religious fruitcakes who believe what people like James Dobson have to say about what Christianity is about (sex is dirty, women ought to submit to men, everyone who disagrees will burn in hell, etc.). For these people, “natural” means “designed and sanctioned by the Big Guy,” and everything the Big Guy says goes. The problem is, the Big Guy probably doesn’t exist, and so the people in charge get to repackage their methods of protecting their place at the top of the hierarchy as what the Big Guy wants. When men get to put words into the mouth of gods, gods tend to reflect the desires of men. And thus, god wants patriarchy.

Patriarchy cannot exist without two agreed-upon sex roles arranged in a rigid hierarchy: men over women. Patriarchy, being approved by god as it is, is thus seen as the NOT. When anyone resists performing their role as assigned, they are therefore Going Against Nature. When someone defies Nature and the world doesn’t spontaneously combust, the people who are heavily invested in the maintenance of the dominant conception of the NOT freak out like Japanese girls over a Paris Hilton sighting. 

There are several ways to defy the NOT, but the most common one is to fuck the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Women who get down with other women lie on one end of the continuum; as long as they are doing it to titillate men, and as long as they remember that the party isn’t complete without a wiener, they’re tolerable. Women who get busy with other women and have no need for men aren’t. They threaten the NOT to an extent that makes men really uncomfortable, so men use what tools they have at their disposal to try to shove these women back into line, including violence, rape, and murder. But most men are content to just give lesbians the old sour-grapes routine and deny their worth as female human beings by accusing them of being unfuckable. If that doesn’t work, they may escalate. But men’s biggest fear is the male apostate. A man who fucks another man gives up the benefits of membership in the oppressor class and chooses to become, in the eyes of the average patriarchy beneficiary, just like a woman. There is no greater threat to the NOT than men who, in full cognizance of the benefits that come with being born male (that is, the privilege of using and abusing women), are content to shun those benefits in order to assume a “feminine” role. When men feel that the entire rationale behind their supremacy is in danger, they are forced to bring up Nature. “What you’re doing is against nature,” they say, and when one defies nature, the people who get to define the NOT, following another facet of “nature,” often react with violence (whether of the physical or emotional sort). 

So how do I differ from a patriarchy beneficiary or an appeaser when I question M/f BDSM? I don’t see M/f BDSM as throwing a wrench into the NOT, but rather as a pronounced and exaggerated display of the sexual hierarchy that the NOT rests upon. F/m or F/f or M/m BDSM might (MIGHT) do so, but I’m not sure that switching between the two roles does much to dismantle the roles themselves, and it’s the roles that I think cause the damage. I think male supremacy is a Bad Thing, and maybe even the Worst Thing, as so many other Bad Things seem to flow either directly or indirectly from it. Eroticizing male supremacy won’t get us any closer to destroying patriarchy or the phony, restrictive, oppressive sex roles that allow it to exist. And make no mistake, my goal numero uno in life is to do as much damage as I can to both before having my ashes scattered on Pulau Perhentian Besar. 

I think it would do us some good to look at BDSM encounters separately from D/s and/or M/s relationships. I’ve said a kajillion times that I don’t think people would be into BDSM in a post-patriarchal world, but we aren’t there yet. People might, in that world, still get excited by extreme sensations, but I don’t think that the accompanying power differential rituals would exist. So, I suppose we can leave BDSM in the context of the sexual encounter there (and open for argument).  As for relationship BDSM, I’m much more dubious. I doubt very seriously that there’d be a psychological need for power exchange in a world in which human relationships weren’t based on patriarchal hierarchies. What I’m struggling with, and have been all along, is figuring out how we can get to that place from the one we’re currently in. It’s easy for one group to say, “Hey, if you will all just stop doing what you’re doing, we’ll all get where we want to go.” But where we want to go has been defined, at least in part, by where we’re coming from, and the place we’re coming from is one in which sex and power (as it manifests in the two sex roles) are nearly inextricable.

For some people, the trouble involved in untangling the two is more than one should be asked to deal with. It might be that it’s easier to find happiness in being where the individual is than in pushing toward the place where the group wants to go. Sometimes meshing individual desires and the good of womankind (and humankind, though most men don’t know it yet) as a whole just can’t be done. Sometimes I eat chicken, sometimes I shave my legs, sometimes it’s easier to do what the NOT tells me to than to be constantly giving everyone the metaphorical finger.

The appeal to nature is a powerful one, and our ideas of what is and is not natural are deeply ingrained. When someone does something that strikes us as unnatural, we recoil with horror and want to protect ourselves, our worldviews, and (if they exist) our children from what we perceive as a foundational threat. That may not be noble or laudable, but it is nonetheless a common human trait. It takes a lot of work and critical thinking to question the received wisdom on the NOT, so it’s no surprise that not many people do. I avoid discussions of nature for just the reasons I’ve outlined above. It’s dangerous and it’s generally bullshit (ask me what I think  of patriarchiology — I mean evolutionary biology/psychology — some time), and I try to avoid it. But maybe I’m guilty of having my own NOT, one in which our current gender hierarchy is warped and out of touch with reality, one in which humanity is a given and in which sex roles don’t exist. But is that so threatening? My NOT might not be orderly or stable, but it carries a lot less potential for misery and violence than the one we’re currently rolling with. 

It may seem on the surface, when I say that I don’t think that children ought to be exposed to BDSM, or that I’m concerned about the ambiguities and potential for abuse that exist within BDSM, that I’m just like some asshole who perceives a threat to the NOT and who is lashing out at something they see as “unnatural,” but that’s a fairly shallow way of looking at what I’m saying, and I think it’s a way of avoiding the central point of contention by claiming victimhood. I’ll admit right here that I’m guilty of using inflammatory language in some of these posts (OK, in all of my posts), but my previous BDSM posts were aimed at people outside of the radfem and BDSM communities. This one isn’t, so I’ve done my best to avoid it. Now, am I still a God Hates Fags asshole? 

Here’s to civility.

I’m going to go act like a capitalist pig and conform to social expectations by drinking a bunch of beer to celebrate my impending capitulation to the patriarchy (getting married).

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They’re making it too easy.

7 Feb

An excerpt from a BDSM website describing the “nine levels of submission” (emphasis mine): 

FULL-TIME LIVE IN CONSENSUAL SLAVE. Within no more than a few broad limits/requirements, the slave regards herself/himself as existing solely for the Dom(me)’s pleasure/well being. Slave in turn expects to be regarded as a prized possession. Not much different from the situation of the traditional housewife, except that within the S/M world the slave’s position is more likely to be fully consensual, especially of the slave is male. Within the S/M world, a full time “slave” arrangement is entered into with an explicit awareness of the magnitude carefully, with more awareness of the magnitude of power that is being given up, and hence is usually entered into much more carefully, with more awareness of the possible dangers, and with much clearer and more specific agreements than usually precede the traditional marriage.

CONSENSUAL TOTAL SLAVE WITH NO LIMITS. A common fantasy ideal which probably doesn’t exist in real life (except in authoritarian religious cults and other situations where the “consent” is induced by brainwashing and/or social or economic pressures, and hence isn’t fully consensual). A few S/M purists will insist that you aren’t really a slave unless you’re willing to do absolutely anything for your Dom(me), with no limits at all. 

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Please, somebody, come and defend Kink.com. I triple-dog dare you.

7 Feb

This post contains some fucked up shit. Please be warned and think carefully about whether you want to read it. 

Everyone knows I went to peep some of the shit on Kink.com as a part of the research I did for my BDSM posts. I don’t make the claim that what goes on on their sites is representative of what goes on in the typical real-life BDSM relationship (I mean, fuck, how many people can afford to buy all that shit?), and I’m not really planning to discuss that website in relation to the wide world of BDSM, but I feel it necessary to discuss what I saw on that site. 

I’m not easily thrown into a state of despair about the world unless I’ve been watching A Double Shot at Love or Bad Girls Club for over three hours (posts to come), but send me a story about human trafficking, about the abuse that women in war zones suffer, about the rampant torture of children by rape tourists in Southeast Asia, or about a submissive woman’s “journey” (brainwashing) and I’m likely to have to go lie down and think about moving to Mars for a few hours. And, of course, looking at images of women being tortured had the same effect, differing only in that it has yet to abate and it’s been over a month. 

For those of you lucky enough to have never seen anything those piles of shit at Kink.com have put out, I’ll just characterize it as torture mixed with the most degrading sex acts possible. The variety of cruel and bizarre devices, contraptions, machines, and objects that the producers have accumulated for use on the women featured on the site is terrifyingly mind-boggling, and the  entire vibe more closely approximates the contents of a nightmare than anything I’ve ever seen while awake: the logos for the site are designed to look like titles for a horror movie; the page backgrounds are dominated by black, gray, and brown to the extent that they remind one of that stupid Tool video; and the videos are nearly all taped in the site’s building at the Armory, a pretty dungeonesque joint by the looks of it. The text describing each of the sites is fucking petrifying. An example from the Device Bondage site:

Device Bondage is a BDSM sex Website with the best porn around. Our naked women in BDSM play are whipped, tied up, chained, fucked, and humiliated. Amazing things that happen on our site include kinky sex with tit torture, steel bondage, hard nipples, nipple clamps, rope bondage, girls being caned, torture sex [What in the FUCK is "torture sex"? ], girls being spanked, leather bondage, and other BDSM play.

Girls are also pulled in and out of cages, their tongues clamped, their bodies pinned, and their arms and legs strapped. We also have contraptions used in countries such as China for torture. Our girls like to be tied up with leather belts and harnesses, spanked hard, punished, and humiliated. When the girls are done spreading wide for their bondage sex shoot, they have red asses, intense pleasure, and big smiles.

There’s footage and photos of naked women locked in cages too small for rabbits, of broken skin and blood, of women being waterboarded and subjected to other near-drowning tortures, of naked women being humiliated and tortured in public. Machines, metal, wood, electrodes, hooks, needles, hoods, and every other possible thing some sick motherfucker could come up with to use to torture a woman are in evidence on one or more of Kink.com’s sites. 

Each of the galleries that the sites use to sell their videos features a shot or two of the woman’s face looking absolutely terror-stricken. And it’s those photos that bother me the most. I know why they’re there; the people who pay money to watch the shit on these sites need to see that the woman who they’re watching get tortured is hurting and is scared because she doesn’t know what is going to happen to her next. 

The fact that the site owners always include a shot of the woman after the shoot looking happy doesn’t matter. The men who go to these sites aren’t there to revel in women’s pleasure, they’re there to see women tortured. They’re not watching public humiliation videos to fantasize about iconoclasm and bucking societal norms, they’re there to get boners thinking about degrading and humiliating human beings. These sites aren’t about “exploring our dark sides,” they’re about giving free reign to the sickest of human desires, desires that are inculcated by a sexually repressed and guilt-ridden society that has yet to figure out how to deal with the detritus of religious dogma and has thus intertwined fear and hatred with sex to create the misogynistic shit heap we now live in. This shit ain’t revolutionary, it’s so fucking obvious and stupid that I’d  laugh if it didn’t look so much like RAPE. If exploring your “dark side” entails wanking to women being tortured, it might be best to leave it unexplored. Or kill yourself. 

You know what I don’t want to do? Live in a world where people jerk off to women being subjected to “contraptions used in countries such as China for torture.” Know what else I don’t want to do? Listen to women (or men) tell me that the women who participate in the creation of these videos for these disgusting motherfuckers to jerk off to do so because the shit feels “amazing.” Nor do I want to hear how subversive the people who are into this shit are because they “explore the dark side.” First off, what person over the age of sixteen talks about “exploring the dark side”? Seriously. And why does “exploring the dark side” have to be such an unimaginative, tired, boring, intellectually insulting, misogynistic cliche?  

But besides the ridiculous aspect of someone fancying themselves a revolutionary because they get boners from seeing women hurt or get orgasms from being hurt when we live in a society that encourages that shit like UFC encourages tribal tattoos, it’s pretty goddamned obscene. The way I see it, if you think you’re punk for getting off on reenacting the kinds of abuses that real women and children in this world suffer on a daily basis (and thus mocking their suffering), you can go fuck yourself. 

Did I mention that Howard Stern is a fan of Kink.com? The end.

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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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BDSM (the sexual equivalent of being into Renaissance faires) Part 3: Some of the Data

29 Nov

The respondents to the personal ad I mentioned in the first post fell into three rough categories, which overlap and share some common features (don’t read these bullet points if you’re upset by the kinds of shit these cretins fantasize about, which would be completely understandable):

  • The dudes in the first group were the least overtly terrifying of the bunch, but they were creepy and offensive in their own way. Most of them wrote what could best be described as novellas and used the word “art” in their comical and terribly written blatherings about their BDSM “philosophies.” Their descriptions of their sexual fantasies were like letters to Penthouse Forum written by dudes who wear eyeliner, with a lot of “trembling,” “aching,” and “quivering” in between the generous helpings of “pussy” and “cock.” They all described the mental and physical sensations they would cause our poster to experience down to the last detail with the kind of confidence that only men who are terrible in bed possess. Nearly all of them explained that their ultimate purpose was to help their submissives grow as human beings and that they understood that feminism had caused emotional conflicts for women who felt the “natural” “feminine” urge to submit to a (much older and wiser, naturally) man/dad/teacher (for a bunch of purportedly countercultural motherfuckers, these guys sounded an awful lot like Promise Keepers). Many of them addressed our poster as “little one.” Honestly, I thought I was reading the lyrics to a George Michael song half the time. Retch is right. These guys may have even fooled themselves into believing that their particular sexual fetishes are the kinds of things that women “crave deep within their souls,” but they’re kidding themselves with all their talk of transgression. 
  • Then there were the dudes who didn’t bother to pretend there was any kind of philosophical basis for their desire to dominate and humiliate (their words, not mine) women. Their responses were all detailed descriptions of the kinds of sex acts they’d be carrying out on her, with nary a question about what she might fancy. They got very specific about the kinds of tools they were bringing to the table (literally and figuratively) and exactly how they would restrain our poster so they could “rape” her “asshole” and whip her “tits” and “cunt” with whatever instrument their shockingly uncreative minds could come up with (usually a belt). They too described the sensations this would cause for the poster, because they were just positive that they could make her “cum over and over” by hitting her and calling her a “filthy little slut,” a “cum slut,” or a “little whore.” These dudes made no attempt to disguise the fact that they get off on humiliating and hurting women, though they did dress that up a little with candle wax, leather, and various bizarre implements. (A lot of them were really into shibari, a — surprise! — Japanese bondage technique involving rope. Seriously, fuck Japan.)
  • The third group was by far the most frightening. They read the word “submissive” and creamed their shorts at the idea that there was a woman out there who’d let them act out Max Hardcore vignettes on her. None of them had anything to say about the “art” of BDSM or the sensations our poster would experience, but rather just told her which hole they’d like to rape her in (guess which one came in at number one) before they ejaculated on her face. Her wishes did come up a few times, always in the form of the insatiable desire to lick semen up after being raped. That’s about all I can say about that lest I break something or kill myself. 

I told you that shit was gnarly. Sorry. 

I suppose a lot of people will claim these last guys aren’t a part of the BDSM scene, and that’s true, but what’s the difference between them and the guys in group two? That they’re less fruity about their rape fantasies? That they don’t pretend to be a part of some revolutionary sexual counterculture movement? Please. All of these dudes share one thing in common: they derive sexual pleasure from dominating and humiliating (and in many cases hurting) women, and they’re all foaming at the mouth at the idea that there are women who will eagerly submit to the worst humiliations they can come up with. That they want the woman to be into it too doesn’t make them cool guys, it just means they don’t want to have to feel guilty. These motherfuckers at worst hate women and consider them to be subhumans, and at best think of women as mental children that they want to fuck in between teaching them life lessons. 

The serious analysis is still to come (and I’ve got some more results of my research to report), but I’m tired if this shit for tonight.

To be continued…

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BDSM (the sexual equivalent of being into Renaissance faires) Part 2: The Problem with Kink

29 Nov

BDSM is two parts hilarious, three parts terrifying.

It’s hilarious for a lot of reasons, chief among which is the theatrical aspect of it. It might be a result of my being unlikely to respond positively to orders, but I really can’t imagine doing aught but snickering at someone handing out orders to me with the expectation that I’d get all excited by it. I realize that role-playing gets some people all hot and bothered, but that shit is lost on me. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings here, but until someone really cool tells me they’re into role-playing, I’m going to assume it’s the domain of dorks with no sense of the absurd and people who go to Medieval Times and call each other “sire” all night without the excuse of being wasted. I mean really, who besides people who can’t let go of their high school theater days can prance around in those stupid costumes and deploy all of that ridiculous Renaissance faire lingo without laughing too hard to maintain a boner? 

Sex therapists can often be heard advising couples to try role play to “spice up” their sex lives. What a fucking bizarre idea, right? Apparently, in our warped culture, sex is not sexy enough anymore. You’ve got to throw in some power exchange, some foreign objects, some corny outfits, or some absurdly trite verbal exchange in order to make sex sexy. Seriously? How fucking silly. Kink, in general, is about as embarrassing as this.  

But there’s more to it than that. That kink is seen as the remedy for a lack of sexual contentment says a lot about where we’re at culturally with regard to sex; kink, at its core, represents an attempt to derive as much excitement and titillation out of sex as possible while avoiding real intimacy. It’s a lame substitute for what sex can be, an attempt to substitute adrenaline for intimacy, because real intimacy can be quite a frightening concept for people who’ve absorbed the idea that sex is about power and satisfying base urges. Sex may not be sacred, but it’s got the potential to be a bigger deal than using the toilet. It’s a unique way for people to bond and it’s kind of sad that so many people are missing out on that in the quest for ever more absurd couplings of adrenaline and orgasm. 

A lot of people will make the claim that kink will create a bond between the two people engaging in it, but that’s a bit of a red herring. Sure, experiencing fear with someone will tend to create a sense of shared experience (and thus an attachment) between two people, but is that the kind of bond a relationship should be based on? People who have been held hostage together tend to form bonds, too, but no one’s throwing a party about that shit. Sexual adventurousness can be a healthy thing, provided that it’s not being used as a substitute for the bond that ought to exist before it begins. Unfortunately, we’ve all bought into the idea that sex with the same person over a long period of time will necessarily grow boring and that a long-term couple will need to do it outside, pretend they’re doing it with other people, bring new people/objects into the mix, or otherwise alloy the experience with extraneous mental or physical sensations. We’re told that without these additions to the sex mix (that sounds like a Chex mix with pretzels that are shaped like boobs and wieners, which you can consider patented as of now), we can assume that one or both partners will cheat.  

Well, maybe they will. Not because it’s true that sex with the same person must necessarily become boring, but because physical and emotional brinkmanship have become an integral part of modern sexuality to the ouster of intimacy. We’ve gotten the idea that sex is boring if it isn’t coupled with adrenaline, and that only happens when you’re with someone new or when you’re doing something emotionally or physically frightening. Ideally, that adrenaline that comes with getting busy with someone new will be replaced by the kinds of excitement and exploration that real intimacy can make possible, but when it isn’t people often turn to kink rather than considering the idea that they might be with the wrong person. Kink is the solution to the problem that compulsory marriage creates: couples who don’t belong together feeling like failures because their relationships suck. And kink nearly always involves a power differential. Think about a few examples of kink, from the most pedestrian role-playing to the most extreme forms of BDSM and see for yourself whether that’s true.  

It’s true. And because we live in an oppressively misogynistic culture, that power differential usually expresses itself in male dominance and female submission. Mainstream sex and pornography (the line between which I fear is rapidly disappearing) reflect that dynamic in very clear ways: in general, men are aroused by female pliancy, and women are aroused by their ability to arouse men. Women are objects, men are subjects. 

And here’s where BDSM comes in. As funny as my hazy Hot Topic-esque tableaux of the average BDSM interchange might be (at least to me), it ain’t no joke. BDSM, all of the corny posturing aside, is nothing but a highly-concentrated and more obvious remix of the mainstream conception of sex as something men do to women. If misogynistic mainstream sex is meth, BDSM is ice. 

Now I promise I’ll get to the data…

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