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12 April, 2007

On Not Being A Disease

Because some folks are kicking around the question of whether BDSM is intrinsically pathological or a response to damage or other things, I reflect ...

So a while back I got involved, on a message board, in a discussion about multiple relationships. I do this on occasion; there are times that I consider it evidence of insanity, because it's always the same arguments, often the same people making the same arguments as if they'd never seen any response in the past, and it seems no progress is ever made. It's one of those things that is a sort of performance art -- maybe someone will read it and come away slightly enlightened, because the people who actually post are too entrenched for anything to make a difference.

A few folks were throwing the ball around that goes something like, "Women never want multiple relationships, therefore polygamous/open systems are intrinsically exploitative of women." I pointed out that this was not the case.

And then it got personal.

The first tack was, "What horrible thing could have happened to you that you don't think you deserve monogamy?" Because clearly, as a member of the Intrinsically Monogamous Class, the only reason I could be nonmonogamous was if my self-esteem were so crippled that I felt unworthy of asking even this basic thing of someone. Pointing out that I think I deserve to be treated respectfully, including having my preference for relationships respected, did not go over well. This had a side order of vicious attack on my partners, referring to me as a brainwashed member of "some pig's harem"; when I pointed out that where I come from, saying that sort of thing about someone's spouse is fighting words, the person who emitted that phrase was utterly shocked that I thought he might have been calling my husband a "pig".

When those attacks failed to find traction, the next one was, "So broken that she has to be sleeping with all these people all the time." I pointed out that I have been sexually active for ... almost thirteen years, I think it is at this point, that I have never had a monogamous relationship since becoming sexually active, and that in that time I have fucked a grand total of six people.

Somehow that line of argument got dropped without acknowledging my points. Mysteriously.

Then it was back to the "What horrible thing could have happened to you?" This time with the line of attack being 'something in childhood', and the slanders directed at the amorphous mass of parents, siblings, close relatives, possibly schoolteachers, who could have done something horrible to me. When I declined to respond to these veiled accusations, I was taken as tacitly agreeing that I had been horribly and probably sexually abused; when I pointed out that I was simply declining to respond to armchair Freuds who wanted to ask me about my mother, I got a response of, "Surely, her father is more relevant. Does she even have a father?" Note the talking about the object as if she's not present. (I had the wit to respond to this with, "My conception was not, in fact, miraculous.") And, again, people were shocked and stunned that I considered this stuff to be an insult to my family, that I took "You were horribly abused by someone close to you in childhood" as accusing my parents, my teachers, or my neighbors of being abusers. (Who the fuck else would be these anonymous victimizers? Little green sodomizers from Alpha Centauri? The invisible pink unicorn, there's a phallocratic ride for you.)

I continued to patiently and resolutely refuse to be a victim. And they continued to spin pathologies for me and, when I did not choose to open up a vein and bleed out my childhood to refute those pathologies for them, when I did not choose to become responsible for their fevered masturbation fantasies of abuse, they declared me a victim anyway, and went off to enjoy their afterglow. Leaving me as nothing but a fetish object -- The Woman So Broken She Doesn't Know How Wounded She Is.

I've seen this too many times. What horrible thing happened to you that you don't want to accept the lurve of Jesus Christ? What horrible thing happened to you that you enjoy being tied up for sex? What horrible thing happened to you that you're a submissive? What horrible thing went wrong in your life that you're not interested in casual sex? What horrible thing happened to you that you enjoy and appreciate the devotion of two wonderful men? What horrible thing happened to you that .... What is wrong with you? Where are you broken, and how can I save you from my white horse (neither phallic nor pink)?

Mostly, the horrible thing that happened to me is that some people treat me as a disease for being true to myself. The horrible thing is the people who are so desperate to find victims to save that they will try to break people so they can be healed.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that happened to you. Over spring break I had this exact argument with my dad (about some friends of mine and not myself), who insisted that because when you get to be forty, the accumulated life experience magically allows you to make pronouncements about the rightness/wrongness of any situation. I think someone needs to call for a moratorium on diagnosing people based on whatever you can pull from your ass. (travelled from Trin's)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

The major personality on the other side of the discussion is one of those feminists who is so wound up about making sure that women aren't oppressed that it becomes imperative to abuse or berate women who aren't properly liberated in conformity with the party line. "Because this might superficially resemble some forms of bad stuff, it must be forbidden and those who engage in it must be publically corrected."

Which is one of the reasons it came to mind in response to the current BDSM foofaraw -- the whole infantilisation/mommy-knows-best attitude towards women who don't conform to the new -archy's madonna-whore complex is exactly the same.

And if I were to say, "I was abused", that crowd would prostitute my life to their political causes. And if I were to say "I was not abused", they would either ignore me or call me a liar or point at my life as proof of my delusionality on that account, and then prostitute me to their political causes.

Honestly, I'd rather submit to my dom than these political pimps. He at least gives a damn about me.

Geerte said...

I'm very much monogamous, and I immediately come up with "What's wrong with you to make you think you don't deserve as many men as you want?" or "Have you so little self-esteem that you cannot be confident in your man's love because he loves another as well?" The whole thing is bull.

The stupid thing is that people would likely defend my rather pathological relation with one of my exes over the multiple healthy ones you have. After all, as long as you stick with what they're used to, you're doing fine. Gods forbid you're healthy outside of their framework though.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Not just likely, it happens.

I've encountered quite a few people who are all wink-wink-nudge-nudge about someone who has multiple relationships -- up until the point at which they realise that everyone is aware of them and consenting.

I told a story once in which someone had asked my permission to start a relationship with my husband, and got a response from someone of "DH, that's fucked up."

I stared at him and said, "Would it be less fucked up if she'd just screwed him behind my back?"

"Well, yeah."

The dysfunction is a socially normal dysfunction, so of course it's better than treating people with respect. Or some fucked up nonsense like that.

Geerte said...

Clearly their not being confused is far more important than the mental health of the people involved.

I don't get it, honest. As long as you're not trying to make me get involved, how's it even my business, really?

Reminds me of the people who want one of our members of parliament to step down because she's a member of some church or other, and commented about it when asked. Like the mere fact that her religious beliefs became known suddenly makes her less capable than she was before we knew.

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