Tuesday, March 07, 2006

That which nourishes me also destroys me, also blog against sexism day

Obviously anytime I bring up a topic such as porn or BDSM I am inviting their supporters to come and comment. One of the reasons that I believe so many women talk about supporting BDSM is because women have be disempowered, especially in sexual relationships (true), and that taking power and having power over someone else in sex is a way to gain power. But, as I discovered after grappling with what was at one point in time a sexuality that I thought was empowering, this lifestyle still left me feeling that I needed more.

It came down to two things, either plunge further ahead into BDSM or take a step back and ask all the questions that I didn't want to ask myself. But one thing could not leave my head: why does there need to be power in a relationship, especially one that is intimate?

I'll take a step back and give you a little of my history. Now I don't have "normal" relationships. I am polyamorous, and I am queer. I've dated menfolk, womenfolk, trans folk, and intersex folk. I usually sleep with my close friends because I draw no line between those I love and those I love and am intimate with. Obviously this is a problem in our society and for many people. One of the more accepting communities I found was the BDSM/kink community. I was young, and it was important to me to find people like me. I have very little personal experience with men and BDSM (I have a lot of professional experience, however): all of my experiences with BDSM were with other women or trans folk. The experience that forced me to take a step back was with a woman I had been involved with (open, polyamorous relationship). She really liked knife play. I thought it sounded exciting, but that was also the moment that the alarm bells went off in my head. After years of being turned on by inflicting or recieving pain, and either having power over someone or being powerless something said "there is something not right here." I mean, here was someone I cared about and she wanted to cut me/be cut by me. Why would I do that to someone I loved? Why would someone who loved me want to do that to me? I couldn't reconcile it. I couldn't see it as anything positive, and it sure as hell made me start to rethink what made me get off. I went on an intimate journey to figure out why things like this turned me on. Why I needed to be in control, why I was reinacting patriarchal power dynamics in my relationships with others?

Growing up in a patriarchal society I thought that I needed to take power (which, unfortunately, we have to do in society as a whole, but I am discerning enough that I will choose to be with someone who shares my ideals, at least where feminism and oppression are concerned). While those of us in oppressed groups have to grab power in this society, the problem is that we don't critique the things that turn us on (see title of this post).

I may not practice polyamory anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm not polyamorous. That is not the same as saying I'm not into BDSM anymore. The fundamental problem, as I see it, is that it is an eroticisation of power. What I want, the only way we can live without the shackles of oppression, is that there is no power over others. Anywhere.

There is a powerful idea of having power with someone. Patriarchy doesn't want us to know that power can be shared with others, and that it is just as potent as having power over others, except that in one scenario we are sharing and not oppressing. Power is not a limited resource. Like love it can grow exponentially, it need not be horded. There is more then enough power to go around. We cannot survive, we will not survive in a society where the only power is power over others.

This is something that I fundamentally believe, deep in my core. It is something that I have always believed for as long as I can remember. It intimately hurts me whenever people are oppressed. Yes, I was raised in this society I admit that I am in fact racist and sexist. I have all the same socialisations as you do, I am a product of this culture as much as I fight it. I am a Sicilian: the blood that runs through my veins not only comes from Europe, it also comes from the Middle East and Northern Africa (both of which I would like to point out on a totally unrelated note are classified by the US Government as "caucasian." Riddle me that.) I have never experienced racism as many have in this society though I am deeply angered and hurt by it. It was the first thing that brought me to anti-oppression work. Before (and to a certain point still) I cry over the injustices in this world, I cannot understand why people oppress others for such stupid superficial reasons. I know why people do it, but I'll never understand it.

I attack the power paradigm through feminist work, because it is the oppression that most intimately affects me. I have severe PTSD and am on disability. I have never spent a day in my life above the poverty line, but those fights are ones that I attack through feminism. My definition of feminism is that it is against all types of power dynamics, even those in sexual relations. As I said before, get off on it if it is what makes you feel good, but you need to analyse what you are doing and not attack those of us who fight against it. (This, luckily, has not happened in discussions on BDSM/porn here on this blog to which I am grateful to my dissenting commenters.)

All I ask is that you take what I have to say to heart and not attack me for it. At the core of my being I believe that any sort of power over, even something that seems as small as sexual pleasure, is not a good thing. I will never be satisfied with a society that eroticises and praises power over other people in any way, and I believe wholeheartedly that power over in all circumstances needs to be erased, and that is the only way we will all know true freedom. I do not think I will see equality in my lifetime, but that doesn't mean I'll give up, and similarly I do not believe that most BDSM supporters will listen to me that doesn't mean I'll stop saying this. I need to do this to make the small bubble I live in try and become bigger. Agree with me or not, everything I do is from the heart and I mean the best, for all of us.

No matter what you think, I do what I do out of sheer love for everyone, as much as I claim otherwise.


TP said...

we will not survive in a society where the only power is power over others

So true.

Me said...

I agree on so many levels. Power, gaining power, having power and using power, are the absolute root of all opression in all forms. Society has done a very good job indeed of telling us that power can only be claimed at the expense of someone else.

Hence The Patriarchy. There is power in so many things, for example, I paint. I paint pretty well, I have spent years honing my ability to paint. I can paint a 3-dimensional object and I do it well. There is power in that, there is self-esteem in it.

The easy way to get power is to steal it from others. I think that's why BDSM, pornstitution and the like are so popular. It's very easy to steal power, very easy to take what isn't yours. It's not so easy to spend time honing a skill, but it is precisely those types of power that are lasting.

I'll stop now because I'm still on my first cup of coffee and I just realized that I was rambling. It's likely that later on this won't make a lick of sense even to me *grin*

Anonymous said...

I will never be satisfied with a society that eroticises and praises power over other people in any way, and I believe wholeheartedly that power over in all circumstances needs to be erased, and that is the only way we will all know true freedom.

Right on! And I agree with BB - there are certainly alternative ways to feel empowered without having to force someone else into submission. Painting is a good example...so is running or skydiving or singing or blogging...etc.

Thank you for sharing - excellent post!

Anonymous said...

You say so many wonderful things in this post, I don't know how to respond.

Love you.

lost clown said...


Anonymous said...

"That which nourishes me also destroys me"

Just thought you should know your title is from a line in one of Christopher Marlowe's poems during the 14th century....a time period that can only be described as very much male dominated.

Anonymous said...

Very well written - I tripped over this looking for something else entirely but felt it important to comment.

Anonymous said...

"That which nourishes me also destroys me"

Just a small correction to the previous poster. The quote is actually found on what is believed to be the only known portrait of Christopher Marlowe. It is found painted with the date and age of the subject.

Unknown said...

I agree with everyone regarding this post--I just happened to come across it and your insightful words intrigued me. I have never really given much thought toward the potential growth of human power when it is shared.