Tuesday, February 28, 2006

As always...

Twisty says it best

But, like it or lump it, BDSM is patriarchy, the whole patriarchy, and nothin’ but the patriarchy, in a black latex nutshell. It is, I unwaveringly assert according to the Honor Code of the Blaming Spinsters, the eroticization of a vastly horrific social order that has, over the millennia, generated the suffering of untold millions, and against which I am sworn to vituperate. BDSM’s got it all: sex, power, rape, pain, dominance, submission, the false pretext of freedom, delusions of superiority, sublimation of the orgasm at all costs, women who think it liberates them, a conservative orthodoxy, compulsory conformity, absurd, exaggerated gender roles, and a silly dress code. It is profoundly anti-feminist, anti-intellectual, anti-individual, and unattractive.

Now I don't have to say anything more about it (though I probably will at one point)


Biting Beaver said...

LMAO, I LOVED that article! And, much like you, I'm sure I'll say something about it again at some point but it's nice to see that we're not the only ones who see it this way.

jack (aka angrybrownbutch) said...

Huh... as a sometime participant in BDSM, I'd heartily disagree. I know I should probably write more on that but am tired and need to take out the dog now...

also, sorry to make my first comment here a hearty disagreement! I'm sure there'll be a lot that I heartily agree with, too. :)

lost clown said...

As Twisty said, and I agree...."do it til you're satisfied" just don't think that it's subversive or feminist. We were raised in this society and we all do things that are not feminist. I am guilty as anyone else, as an example I swing dance and I can tell you how exactly that is not feminist as it enforces all sorts of male "leads" female "follows," etc. I'm not going to give up dancing and I am a follow, but that doesn't mean I'm not a feminist. It just means I enjoy something that I have critiqued as a feminist and find in many ways incongruent with my beliefs. But that doesn't make me any less of a feminist. I find that if I am to continue practicing and enjoying things that are not feminist I must at least analyse them and understand how they are outcomes of a patriarchal society. SO go on and practice it if you like, just don't think that it's feminist. (We ALL do things like this, I assure you.)

Biting Beaver said...

LC said it perfectly. I put on makeup and still shave my legs sometimes. I watch TV shows that are decidedly unfeminist BUT, you must anaylyze what you're doing so that you know it when you see it.

More than likely I'll eventually turn away from the things I don't find feminist, but not right now, right now I'll just understand that I'm not helping my own cause when I partake in them. But hell, you can't critique anything if you refuse to look at yourself.

jack (aka angrybrownbutch) said...

I think that the last two comments are very true. Hell, I play Grand Theft Auto, that's absolutely not feminist, and I'm absolutely still a feminist.

However, I don't agree with the fact that BDSM is patriarchy or inherently anti-feminist. My experiences with BDSM have only been within queer women and trans communities in NYC, with some of the fiercest feminists I've known. And, while I think that BDSM certainly can be anti-feminist, it doesn't have to be, and often isn't, depending on who is involved and how they're negotiating the situation.

I think that Twisty has an extremely limited view of BDSM - Twisty seems to be looking at a very specific BDSM community or culture. But not all people or communities who enjoy BDSM are the same. What Twisty describes certainly doesn't sound like the queer women, trans folks and genderqueers, many of whom are people of color, with whom I've experienced, discussed, and enjoyed BDSM.

Lorenzo said...

Twisty's post was pretty damn good, eh?

I would have condensed it even further, though; 'BDSM simply makes explicit the implicit eroticization of dominance normative in Patriachy and dresses it in costumes.'

My phrasing is much less punchy though!

lost clown said...

Well said Lorenzo, I agree. Jack, just because it's women or trannies doesn't mean that it's not eroticisation of dominance and control which I (and I believe that Twisty feels the same way) define as patriarchal. I can count numerous cases of patriarchal power dynamics in my own queer experiences. Just because women and queers do it doesn't somehow remove it from the society we live in, i.e. a patriarchal one.

jack (aka angrybrownbutch) said...

I'm certainly not saying that, just because women and trans folks are involved, doesn't mean that patriarchy can't be involved as well. I'm just saying that, from Twisty's description, they're talking about a community that's very different from my own, and that community is one of women and trans folks.

I think there's just a fundamental disagreement here - I don't believe that the eroticization of power is inherently patriarchal or anti-feminist.

lost clown said...

I do because I see feminism as against dominance and hierarchy. Fetishisation of dominance and hierarchy are survival techniques for thosse living in a society based around the subordination of one group to the other. Therby making it anti-feminist.

jack (aka angrybrownbutch) said...

I only fetishize dominance and hierarchy when it's on my terms, when I've completely chosen how, when, and with whom it happens, and when I can decide precisely where it ends and go back to me and my partner(s) in play being absolute equals.

As a feminist/anti-racist/anti-oppression-of-all-sorts-ist, I am against dominance and hierarchy that is non-consensual, systemic, and based on perceptions of entire groups of people being subordinate and less worthy than others. And I think there's a huge difference between that sort of dominance and hierarchy and the sort that I choose to enact in my bedroom or at a play party in a completely consensual, negotiated manner.

I don't understand what you mean about "survival techniques."

I don't think I have tons more to say about all of this, but in this conversation on the sex and race livejournal community, lots of people make eloquent points that I nodded my head to a lot. In it, someone included a really great quote by Amber Hollibaugh:

""The truth is that our current state of feminist affairs has demanded that women live outside power in sex. We seem to have decided that power in sex is male because it leans to dominance and submission, which are in turn defined as exclusively masculine. Much of our theorizing has suggested that any arousal from power felt by women is simply false consciousness. In real life this forces many feminists to give up sex as they enjoy it and forces an even larger group to go underground with their dreams. For the many women who have no idea what they might eventually want, it means silencing and fearing the unknown aspects of their passions as they began surfacing. Silence, hiding, fear, shame - these have always been imposed on women so that we have no knowledge, let alone control, of what we want. Will we not impose these on ourselves?"

Lorenzo said...

The problem, Jack, with that sentiment is that it assumes that dominance and the eroticization of dominance are neutral things that are seen as patriachal because feminists analyze them that way rather than because, you know, that is their actuality in patriachy. If we can get past pretending that power is naturally eroticized then we must necessarily ask how was dominance eroticized and for who's benefit? Clearly the actual historical case is that it was patriachy that eroticized dominance and that it was patriachy that socially constructed dominance as inherently male, not feminists who merely pointed out that this was the case.

belledame222 said...

I think that's a real oversimplification. Power is complicated. So is the etiology of sexuality. And the umbrella term of "BDSM" covers a *lot* of different sexualities, some of which aren't necessarily about domination and submission at all (that would be the D/s part).

If the argument here is that the patriarchal system (the first patriarchs, perhaps? do we know who these were? is that part of the historical case?) *invented* dominance, or at least invented its linkage to sexuality in any form...sorry, I'm just not seeing it. Yes, we live in a patriarchal culture; but it doesn't follow that a non-patriarchal culture would necessarily be some sort of egalitarian , aggression-free utopia. Aggressive and dominating (and submissive) impulses aren't just male or even born of an artificial sociopolitical system; they come with the territory of being a human animal. This doesn't mean that there's no way to live peacefully and in a relatively egalitarian manner; but it does, to me at least, mean that one doesn't get very far by attempting to simply will such darker impulses away. With or without political theory. It just doesn't work like that, in my experience.

The thing about BDSM (for a lot of us, anyway) is that it's a game, in sort of the same way that theatre or childhood dress-up are games. Or ritual, for some. Or sports (does the non-patriarchal society allow for competitive sports? even if it causes bruising or bleeding?) It's not that such role-playing games are divorced from the rest of society; but they aren't necessarily a simple, unthinking reflection of "the real world," either; one would often be mistaken in taking them at face value.

In the case of BDSM especially, it's often, consciously or unconsciously, a way of letting the "shadow" out to play safely and (as much as possible) consciously: be it aggression, old wounds, old shame. Sometimes I've found play to be profoundly transformative. Other times, just another romp.

But the erotic impulse, I believe, is at bottom a healing one. The bodymind's tendency to transmute pain into pleasure isn't some aberration; it's a way of attempting to integrate the unthinkable and become more whole. BDSM is not the only way to do this, of course (therapy is good, too), and it's certainly not for everyone. If it doesn't work for you, totally understandable. Fine.

But it really isn't on to attempt to shame or deride people for whom it *does* work, or to assume (as I think argument's like Twisty's do) that one can or even should simply *will* away one's turn-ons or turn-offs because they don't fit your theoretical procrustean bed. To me, this smacks uncomfortably of the ex-gay movement. At any rate, as a kinky dyke, I will say that the misunderstanding and the sneering feel just as shitty coming from other feminists as it does from the right wing.

I don't know if BDSM is necessarily subversive. I think it depends on how it's practiced. Certainly I've never gone around saying "look at me, I'm more radical than thou 'cause I like the occasional spanking" (and yes, I know some folks who do do that, and yes, it's obnoxious. I figure that it, like most expressions of defiant radicalism, comes from a feeling of defensiveness. but yes, it can irk, too).

I just basically want to live my life. My sexuality is a big part of my life. And honestly, people who practice consensual kink are on the firing line in this patriarchal and very conservative society as much as...well, anyone else, really. I think maybe people look at shit like Abu Gharib and conclude "see, that's what BDSM is trying to emulate, it all comes from the same place." But in reality, the mindset that perpetrates horrors like Abu Gharib is the same one that sends police to raid and break up private BDSM parties, or wants to throw people in the slammer for having too many vibrators (yes, sex toys are still illegal in several states). It's not about bondage games and blindfolds, then. It's about unconsciousness It's about, who do we get to make the bad guy. Tag, guess who's it?

And protecting ourselves from scenarios like that last, in a "black latex nutshell," is a goodly part of what being "sex-positive" is about. It's not about being trendier than thou. Honestly, it's not.

belledame222 said...

("arguments," not "argument's.")

lost clown said...

But it really isn't on to attempt to shame or deride people for whom it *does* work, or to assume (as I think argument's like Twisty's do) that one can or even should simply *will* away one's turn-ons or turn-offs because they don't fit your theoretical procrustean bed.

I'm not assuming anything. I am one of those apparently strange people who got over my "natural" turn ons in BDSM. Socialisation is the key. Once I started to analyse why I enjoyed certain behaviours my erotisication of them went away. Why? Because fetishization of power is antithetical to a truly nonhierarchical society. The things that turned me on were not innate, but things I learned through living in a patriarchal society, and I must say my sex lifew has improved 10 fold.

Laura said...

"I am one of those apparently strange people who got over my "natural" turn ons in BDSM. Socialisation is the key. Once I started to analyse why I enjoyed certain behaviours my erotisication of them went away."

Me too - suddenly things that used to turn me on just left me cold, not because I willed it so, but because I had started viewing things differently. I've written about my experience on my blog, so I won't go into it further, other than to say I think it is easy to underestimate the extent to which our sexual desires / turn-ons are moulded by society - I know that certain things I thought were an innate part of myself have mysteriously disappeared since I put on my feminist specs.