So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

26 March, 2009

My Head She Splode

Okay, I thought I was done with the whole Feministing BDSM blowup thing, having had one of those Painful Revelation posts and some vicious snark and all, but I forgot that one of the critical components to a complete internet blowup arc was something full of wack.

And boy, do I have the wack.

The wack is here, from the previously quoted becstar:

How do hetero submissives deal with the fact that they are submitting to a male though? In my mind it's one thing to be a sub but another to not know where your partner's fantasies are coming from. I just cannot imagine why a man would want to dominate a woman wihout it having misogynistic overtones (afterall men are taught there whole lives that women are their sex objects - how is then being allowed to be dominate different?)

I almost don't know where to begin. Actually, I really don't know where to begin.

I mean, we bring the crazy right out with the unstated but obvious presumption that one would "know where your partner's fantasies are coming from" if that partner is of the same sex. I don't know if this is the wombly overmind (thanks for the phrase, sis) thinking by which someone with boobs can transfer sekrit knowledge to someone else with boobs, or the even creepier all-women-are-one-woman assumption that every single woman's fantasy life is rooted in the same stuff. No matter how different the life experiences, background, or actual desires of those women might be: Teh Experience Of Womynhood trumps all. No need to engage in such risque practices as actually talking with one's partner about what one needs to know, the moon time magic will solve everything.

And Teh Experience Of Womynhood considers partnering with/submitting to a male problematic. I'm glad to have been informed of this, my uterine psychic antenna is currently full of placenta, and that totally buggers up the reception, so I didn't get the memo by the usual routes. Now, I've never been not-heterosexual, but I imagine the process for selecting a compatible partner at least somewhat transcends orientation: meet people, evaluate their attractiveness by whatever set of criteria one prefers, evaluate their compatibility by whatever set of criteria one prefers, ascertain their interest, if relevant factors are go, work it out from there. If one doesn't want to be treated like a sex object, or only wants that under certain conditions or circumstances, or whatever else, then that's part of the whole selection process, and one finds one of the many, many people who meet one's orientational requirements and isn't also an asshole.

And if I were more inclined to gender-bash based on OMG-people-treated-me-horribly, I for damn sure wouldn't be pursuing my intensely psychological set of kinks with someone of the sex with a member that attempted to systematically destroy my sense of reality and my trust in myself in order to wipe my psyche clean and remake it into a handy little dress-up doll for their fantasies. I'd stick with the sex that had one member try to rape me; the risks are a hell of a lot lower.

(I'm sorry, what? I need to turn in my Experience Of Womynhood membership card now? What's that you say? Sorry, I can't hand it over, it was lost in the mail and never turned up, and I couldn't be arsed ordering a replacement. Take it up with the Post Office.)

"Misogynistic overtones." I wonder what this person's image of domination is. What I see is intense eroticism, care and protection, guidance, devotion, honor, dedication; what I experience is support and the opportunity to be supportive, an environment where I am both whole and valued as I am. Most of the "misogynistic overtones" I've encountered have been in people who wanted to question my kink, with words like 'victim' and 'abuse' and 'brutalisation' and 'violence', painting me as the eternal doormat needing rescue or rehabilitation. Poor woman can't make her own choices, brainwashed by a man, et cetera et cetera and so forth. Hell, dominant women get this too: it's all about the mens, and they should give up their power to suit other people's notion of what power looks like.

Mostly I'm left with this huge sense of rupture between me and wherever that came from. And, y'know, the whole gimmick of this blog is "I feel like a space alien"; it's not often that I'm quite sure that someone's operating from a planet I'm even less familiar with than Earth. A planet with intense gender essentialism and divisions, a female hivemind, and a concept of domination that I can't even perceive, let alone theorise how to describe. Even if I fancied getting kicked in the head enough to make a posting login on Feministing or whatever, I wouldn't begin to know how to respond to that.

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously! Purple monkey dishwasher!

... what?


garbo in paint said...

I do agree with you on your many excellent points.

Saying that, one of the things that drove me away from my ex was the awareness I came to over the course of our relationship that his desire to be dominant over women did come from a place of misogyny.

It was quite disillusioning for me, and immediately ruined all the kink play between us.

I don't make any assumptions a male dominant automatically brings misogyny to the play. But the experience did make me aware that I can't "let it go" even for kink play - in a relationship. Casual play may be different. I haven't thoroughly tested that as yet.

Hope said...

Yeah, I was tired and not paying that much attention when I read that comment and I started to respond, then when I re-read it to address some specific points I noticed all the crazy. So I just clicked submit as it was and decided to back away slowly.

impgrrl said...

I found you through Trin, and am reading you on RSS - through LJ. I'm loving your posts. Thank you.

devastatingyet said...

If I felt misogyny in a dominant man's style of dominance, or perceived it in him, it would bug me and probably rule out going deep at all, if not playing entirely. (This has happened.) That being said, if the partner is compatible, and right in their head about the things that matter, I don't care that much where their kink "comes from." I mean, the stuff I find hot is not exactly all rainbows and kitty cats to begin with, so I don't expect it to have sprung whole from someone's most noble self. Whatever.

On the Woman Radar point, I think the feminists don't think that all women magically know what other women want or think, but rather that women aren't really capable of misogyny (hah), or at least, their misogyny is feeble and harmless, so it's not a concern there. I disagree, of course.

garbo in paint said...

Indeed, women can be capable of some of the most stomach-churning misogyny out there. I don't feel comfortable playing with that, either, although I might feel personally less threatened. But I won't claim that definitively.

And yeah, to where the kink comes from - well, I have fantasies that would be considered deeply, deeply misogynistic in many ways simply because they centre on female submission and a great deal of violence against women. I don't like violence against women (or anyone) in real world, so I barely know where to begin thinking where mine come from.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah, I wouldn't be interested in doing kink with an actual misogynist either. But I'm still... at a loss, I guess, about misogyny being defined as part of kink.

Becstar said...

I am hardly the horrible person you make me out to be. If anything of the people who did dare to criticise BDSM I am probably one of the few who is willing to deconstruct my own sexuality for discussion if I could participate in one which would allow me to learn more about it. Apparently though it is easier to attack from the sidelines than actually do anything constructive about it.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

If you think making no damn sense makes you a horrible person, I'm sorry about that, but the fact of the matter is that you make no damn sense.

Becstar said...

I make no sense *to you*. You make no sense to me but I don't go around ridiculing you. If you go around treating everyone who asks you questions as if they're making personal statements about you and then attacking them about it its really no wonder that neither side becomes any more enlightened about the others viewpoint. There may be people out there who ask these questions because they can't reconcile it within themselves but then stay right the hell away from it because they get attacked whenever they ask questions. Its not exactly helping your cause.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

What do you think my purpose is, precisely? I can tell you straight up that my purpose is not served by going to places like Feministing, I've already done my time in the shark tank.

If you want your questions answered, you have to start by a) not loading them and b) not asking the same sorts of things as, say, the people last month who were suggesting that kinky tops should commit suicide.

This is not neutral ground. It has not been neutral ground for my entire life. You are operating from safe ground, the mainstream-normal space where my sexuality is abnormal, defective, and needs to be justified.

This here is my safe ground, where "deconstructing sexuality for discussion" is one of those things that I will never be violent enough to ask of you. Your entrails are your own; I have no need to divine anything in them. Don't cut them open for my sake.

If you're interested in understanding me, you might be more interested in posts that aren't grounded in intense frustration. I've actually been thinking of writing one about my experiences of 'patriarchy' and social indoctrination - since you have come back and seem to be frustrated by lack of communication, I will write that this evening so you have something that you might find closer to your understanding of the world to engage with.

belledame222 said...

dude. yeah. D's "cause" is to do her thing and not have to take on other peoples' crap because they not only don't understand but can't leave her alone. She isn't "attacking" you, becstar; she's saying -this 'questioning' shit you're saying is making her crazy.- She's responding in her own space, to let it out. That's her "cause." And you come in here and keep on doing more of the same thing.

"Please justify/explain your existence until it sits comfortably with my own experience/view of the world. And I won't be satisfied with even a long, thoughtful answer until you give me one I can hear without it causing me cognitive dissonance. Whether such an answer would be true for you or not."

Look, you don't -have- to understand; you don't have to be a submissive yourself. D is D and you are you. It's really fairly straightforward. Let it go then, eh?

belledame222 said...

I mean, it's not her "viewpoint," it's her life. Do you enjoy it when total strangers demand you explain your primary relationship to them, or what you do for a living, or anything else -really central to your being-?

Becstar said...

Is it possible to ask questions which aren't loaded in some way though? How can a question like "How can a feminist woman be submissive to a man?" or "How does it differ from abuse?" are bound to be loaded because of all the times they *have* been linked to people following it on to namecall and insult? The only thing that I can point to is that I haven't called any of you crazy despite being called names myself and hopefully let that stand for something.

Also I am the first one to admit my sexuality at the moment is 100% A-grade fucked up. Hardly any version of "normal" that I have ever seen. The reason I am so interested in talking about/comparing sexualities is because of the vague hope that eventually I might figure out my own.

If you don't want to deconstruct your sexuality - then don't. If you think that you have nothing to learn by talking from me, why bother engaging with me at all whether it is in a discussion like this or with quotes taken from elsewhere.

...And after typing all that I only just read your last paragraph about a less loaded space and I completely agree.

To belledame: I never said that I'm not sure if your point was to quote me or someone else but if you were attempting to paraphrase me I could do without the quotation marks. If Dw3t Hthr doesn't want me here because it is considered a private space then I'll gladly remain in the more "public" spaces of the internet. That said though quoting me with no background information (I have a habit of being horribly blunt without explaining myself properly) I don't really think is helpful because I don't do it to flame to pass judgment despite previous experiences leading you to think otherwise.

And like I said a bit further up in this comment I have very little idea who *I* am and I find engaging in conversations of this type very useful.

garbo in paint said...

Becstar: I'm not unsympathetic to what you're saying, but you're continuing to miss the point that these conversations are not happening in a vacuum, they are not happening for the first time, and that is what causes the frustration and even, on occasion, defensiveness.

I think it's absolutely fantastic you consider these sorts of discussions useful to you. But don't assume that is the default. Don't assume others think or feel the same way. Don't enter into these discussions from that place of presumption. It is a very simple rule of engaging in discourse with marginalised people and is the constantly broken rule that can be behind so much dischord.

What you have to understand is, however you intended your comments, they are not without a surrounding context that goes far beyond you that makes them problematic for people.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
belledame222 said...

and yeah, what GIP said. I mean, it's a favor, honestly, engaging.

the rest of it is I think a different understanding of Netiquette--yeah, sometimes people do bring stuff back to their own spot from elsewhere because they want to discuss it with their blog regulars in a way that's not driving them nuts.

I think, y'know, yeah, speaking for myself, when I'm quoting someone at minimum I won't like -ban- them from my space unless they're being inordinately rude; but my quoting them isn't an invitation to deep processing -with them- either, necessarily; if I wanted to do that I'd keep engaging at the place I'd been engaging, or say, hey, let's chat in email or something.

belledame222 said...

resposting; on second thought I don't love the first link I was offering as particularly useful.

all right, fair enough. I know I've been in enough of these conversations to knee jerk fairly quickly, but, sure, it's up to Dw3t-Hthr.

As far as "how does it (BDSM) differ from abuse," there are some 101's out there that talk about it in some detail: [looking up one I find more useful]

As far as putting it in the specific framework of, it's loaded specifically wrt male dom, female sub--I mean I think for all the frustration Dw3t-Hthr actually addressed it pretty thoughtfully and thoroughly. I can tell you that in general people come to wanting to top from a lot of directions. I have toppish leanings and I'm attracted to women; I don't think my sexuality particularly reflects more misogyny than your average person in this culture. Honestly I think my toppishness is basically the shadow side of the same impulse that leads me in the direction of being a therapist (and previous, writing/directing). I imagine it's similar for a number of male tops, although I can't speak for anyone else.

But I mean, for me the whole point of conscious BDSM is getting to take your shadow out for a walk. There's a reason I relate it to therapy and to theatre. It's...I mean, yeah, well, no, I don't really know where you're coming from, that's true. It's just, I find myself writing this stuff that just seems natural to me, but I read you apparently seeing it as well, it's just a re-enactment of sexism and/or abuse, and it's like...I'm not sure how to convince you otherwise, because I'm just not coming at either sexuality or gender related shit from the same perspective, I think? and D-H is saying she doesn't either, although hers is different from mine. Some of that is experiential and some of it is ideological, and some of it seems to be just plain, it's really hard to explain one's sexuality to someone who doesn't share it even without the stigma bits (to the degree one could even separate those out).


belledame222 said...

here's a 101:

"trust" and respect of boundaries enter into it. I mean, no, you're not gonna get a simple checklist of, like--well, I mean there are ways of being physically responsible within the SM piece, there's a difference between "pain" and "injury/damage"--but the really important part is about the more ineffable shit, and that's--I mean, what's the difference in -any- relationship between "abusive" and "healthy?" It's not just, "well, he isn't hitting me and calling me names, so it must be healthy;" the dynamics of abuse are often subtler than that.

belledame222 said...

--oh, it--well, eh, whatever. The leathernroses thing, yeah, some of the links might be more useful than others. I'm not that wild about all of them, at least a glance.

belledame222 said...

This is a great piece, too, p.s., and it really hits why I at least find these discussions so button-pushing:

One thing that has always really bothered me in feminist discussions about kink is the assumption I often see that a woman could only want to be submissive if she’s been abused, coerced, brainwashed — that nobody could possibly be born with these sort of desires, that they’re inherently unhealthy and abnormal and could not develop on their own in a vacuum. There’s this sometimes unspoken, often articulated, assumption that the only way a woman could want what I want is if she has been emotionally damaged.

I suppose I’m just here to say: well, they can develop in a vacuum, and they’re not abnormal for me. I have never been sexually or physically abused by a parent, family member, friend, partner, or anyone else. As much as I desire a relationship where I am not in control, where there is a distinct power imbalance, where I might get bitten and smacked a little, pushed to my limits and beyond my comfort zone sexually, mentally, and emotionally…I have no desire to be abused. Wanting to be dominated consensually by someone I trust who respects my hard limits but not always the more flexible, softer ones is entirely different from being with someone who forces me to do things I really don’t want to do.

...So now that I’ve laid that out, the real point I’m trying to get at. One thing that’s been nagging at me for awhile is the realization that these criticisms of kink are exactly the same as arguments about homosexuality. The argument, especially, that women are made queer by rape or other trauma. Most of the normally, otherwise very intelligent women I see arguing that BDSM is inherently harmful and degrading to women would never say such a thing about queer women because it’s plainly ridiculous. Most women do not decide to be lesbians because they’ve been damaged by men in their lives. The assertion is clearly and fatally flawed.

So why is it okay to say these things about submissive women? (And it’s always submissive women. The very concept that dominant women could possibly exist seems to fly over these people’s heads — when they do acknowledge the existence of dommes, it’s usually in a sneering, “it’s all just an act they put on for men, they aren’t actually powerful” sort of way. And forget the idea that a submissive woman might want to be topped by another woman.) Why is it not okay to say that I only like women because of some severe psychological trauma, but it’s perfectly fine to assert that I Must Have Nasty Issues if I want to let a partner (especially, heaven forbid, a partner with a dick) to tell me what to do and be in control?

I am not damaged. I am not queer because of abuse. I am not submissive because of abuse. I have been both queer and submissive my entire life. I can recall having both of these desires from an incredibly young age: an unusual attachment to female friends and a near total absence of crushes on male peers, and a persistent desire to be “owned”, an eagerness to please and take care of everybody in my life. These are the things which fulfill me. These are the things that I need to be happy. Attempting to deny me that because it’s “un-feminist” or “unhealthy” denies and undermines my actual health (mental and emotional, by extension, physical) and my very real dedication to women’s rights.

I should not have to justify my submissive identity (and it is that — it is not simply a role I adopt in the bedroom, it is a basic cornerstone of who and what I am) anymore than I should have to justify my attachment and attraction to women. Would the feminists demanding that I “examine” the roots of my kinky desires for their entertainment ever dare to say the same thing about my queer desires? Of course not! Even if (and this is important!) I did feel I were only attracted to women due to an abusive past, it still wouldn’t be relevant, it still wouldn’t mean there’s anything wrong with my same-sex attractions, and it still wouldn’t be any of their damn business. Because there is nothing inherently wrong with my sexuality, in the queer sense or the kinky sense.

I find the allegations I’m not a real feminist actually hurtful. It’s like someone saying that because I like to play video games with fake violence in them I can’t be part of the anti-war movement. One has pretty much almost nothing to do with the other. While it’s definitely worth looking at how violence is normalized in our culture and how that feeds our willingness to do real harm to others, my personal recreational habits don’t disqualify me from standing up for my pacifist principles.

And kink is the same. Real abusive relationships, which are disproportionately a matter of violence committed by men against women, are terrible, evil, horrible, and wrong. My submissive desires, which, if they were unwanted, would in some cases constitute abuse, do not harm women as a whole. My submission has nothing to do with anybody else’s relationship. Just as it’s nobody’s business which variety of genitalia I entertain in the privacy of my own home, it’s nobody’s business whether I want to be spanked, either. It’s not okay for other people to tell me it’s wrong for me to sleep with a woman. It’s not okay for other people to tell me it’s wrong to be submissive.

belledame222 said...

This may or may not be useful, also, but particularly, you know, that last paragraph.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sexism in BDSM
I wrote earlier that I wanted to talk about consent and choice and how they are and aren’t relevant to a feminist reading of BDSM, and I still do, but all of this arguing has led me to something that I think is really important to recognize first:

A lot of people who engage in BDSM are sexist.

Pretty simple, right? This is something we can totally agree upon with the radfems. Here’s the big difference, as I see it. (Some of this taken from comments left elsewhere…)

From the anti-kink perspective, BDSM is a product of the patriarchy and is thus inherently sexist. Because BDSM is inherently sexist, we mainly see maledom-femsub pairings in which men get whatever they want from the women who serve them because they have been socialized to submit.

From my perspective, BDSM is a product of human sexuality and its wide variety of expressions and is not inherently sexist nor inherently feminist. Because we live in a sexist and heterosexist society, we mainly see maledom-femsub parings, while any other combinations, including those involving trans and queer folks, are marginalized; and female dominants are largely still expected to be fetish objects for submissive men. (Or they aren’t really thought to exist.) Also because of the sexist culture in which we are socialized, there are a lot of men (in general) who are accustomed to getting what they want from women, and there are a lot of women (in general) who have a hard time saying “no” and sticking to it. This means that within maledom-femsub, there exist male dominants who expect all women to defer to them (if not to submit entirely) and women who find it difficult to negotiate or leave relationships. Unfortunately, it is often tricky to address or see sexism at work in BDSM relationships, because it’s hard to tell how much is “fetish” and how much is “what I really think.”

…so the big difference, of course, is that I think (and I imagine a lot of folks reading this think) that sexism and abuse found in the BDSM scene isn’t any different than the sexism and abuse found outside of it — it’s just that sometimes, and especially when people are very new to BDSM, kink can be used as a mask to hide sexism for what it really is. (Of course, all sorts of things can be used to mask sexism outside of kink culture, and it’s a cliche that love can be used to mask abuse in any relationship.)

The actual things that we do are not the problem. It is the way that we approach and relate to what we do. The problem is not dominant men who enjoy activity X, but dominant men who say things like “well, if you don’t enjoy X then you’re not a *true submissive*.” The problem is not that submissive women eroticize Y, but that some submissive women do Y even when they’re really, truly not wanting to do it, because they feel like they’re being “bad” if they safeword or refuse. The problem is not dominant men who seek out submissive women to play with or to form relationships with, but dominant men who assume every kinky woman they meet is in need of a strong man to teach her about her deep submissive urges (regardless of whether or not she identifies as a dominant or submissive). It is not a problem if a submissive woman likes being whipped, but it is a problem if she doesn’t have some sort of basic control over when and how she is being whipped.

Of course, as I said earlier, this argument only makes sense if you can get beyond the idea that BDSM is created by the patriarchy, and that any act that inflicts pain on another person or that eroticizes power is “patriarchal” and thus bad. But that’s another argument, I suppose.

Becstar said...

I didn't mean to imply that questioning BDSM in order to learn was the norm. I've browsed through radical feminist blogs and have seen the comments which seem to imply that female submissives need other people to look out for their rights as well as blatant attacks. I do sometimes feel though that I constantly miss the point because I do know so little about BDSM and the point is never quite stated bluntly. If you have any suggestions though on how on earth I am supposed to separate the questions I do have from that kind of judgment I'd love to hear it.

Belledame - thanks for the links. Even if people do no want to engage with me I do appreciate being pointed in the right direction as to where I could possibly find answers to my questions without violating the privacy of those I'm asking.

I found the last bit you posted really enlightening and it seems to address a lot of the problems I have with BDSM - in the little reading I have done of it it always seems that it never seems to address the fact that people (women in particular I think) can sometimes feel like they just can't say no. I also have massive problems saying no for a whole lot of reasons and the fact that it can be so easily passed over scares me.

I'm not sure about the theory that the desire to sub/dom is created in a vacuum. That's not to say its instantly the patriarchy at work but I wonder to what degree personality and to a lesser degree experience does have on it. I have experimented with being both sub and dom (but being sub under circumstances where my consent was definitely not healthy) and I think the reason I lean towards being dominant if I do feel like I have to make a choice (which I sometimes do in my current relationship) it definitely has links to my personality/experience and not wanting to give up control. Obviously though my experiences of this come within the context of my aforemention fucked up sexuality, so take that as you will.

belledame222 said...

Personally, wrt etiology of sexuality in general, my belief is that it's probably a combination of predisposition and environment, like most other things. But, I think it's more complicated than the sort of pop-Freud combined with pop-feminism that seems to dominate mainstream thinking about it, i.e. something like:

woman is traumatized by childhood abuse (default assumption is sexually and/or physically at the hands of men), woman re-enacts abuse via submission to a man who's dominant and/or sadistic because a) he was abused himself (pop-Freud) b) it come naturally to him because it's part of patriarchal culture (pop-radfem) c) or even just because it's in his chroms and gonads, like (pop ev psych and/or cultfem).

and then, if only she got a) the proper counseling (pop Freud) b) the proper enlightenment (pop feminism), she'd get over it and into a "healthier" sexuality.

Generally speaking, i think people who're into kink or for that matter just about any "unorthodox" form of sexuality have been grilled along the lines of that narrative so many times--or if not that, well, at least there must be SOMETHING wrong with you--that they tend to just get allergic to questions of etiology.

I'll just say for myself that the questions do interest me, but I'm also very wary of the answers being hijacked for someone else's agenda, I mean in general. I'm in psychology, and the current DSM still reflects the prevailing pathologizing orthodoxy. On the other hand, yeah, being in psychology, I do buy into -introspection-, sure. I could speculate as to the origin of my own kinks; I don't think I was "born" with them the way I was born with a mole on one arm, no; their charge comes at least partly from my own interaction with/experience of a particular sociocultural context. I don't see it as trauma-based, though, as such.

I also think the erotic impulse is by and large a healthy one, and that the way in which sex negative culture still tends to knee jerk read "sexual" as inherently "dirty and dangerous" colors a lot about the ways in which kinky sexuality gets automatically pathologized where similarly "dangerous" or potentially "acting out" activities get a pass. I think there's a way in which even channeling trauma into eroticism is a life-affirming process, if that makes sense.

belledame222 said...

...and I also think that yeah, there's a lot of ways in which--not everyone who's into BDSM is an evolved or together or even benign person, absolutely, same as the general population; and/or it can be done unconsciously/unsafely between basically well-intended people. I'm sorry it sounds like you had some bad experiences. For me, again, it's like therapy (except there's no license or "official" way of vetting someone): when it's good, it's really good, but when it's bad it can potentially do a lot of damage because yeah, it requires a certain amount of trust and boundary lowering, and if the person violates that trust, well...yeah. Not good.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Hokay, now to go through comments here. (24 comments? I must have been Belle'd.)

One thing you have to understand: you may think that "How can a feminist woman be submissive to a man?" is a perfectly sensible question, but to me it's the same sort of question as "How can a feminist woman drink orange juice?" If you don't present the underlying logic, it will not be apparent. It is not obvious.

Not that I drink orange juice. I'm allergic. ... not that I call myself a feminist, either. But that's neither here nor there.

But in a context where a lot of people say "How can a feminist woman ..." do any of a giant range of things - I don't know how familiar you are with feminist policing of women's behaviour, but dealing with it is part of my emotional damage - it's, yes, not possible to start any question without it being loaded.

For that sort of thing, I suspect you'll be better off presenting the background and logic behind what you want to ask and ask for responses. "I would find submitting to a man problematic for [this set of reasons]; what are other people's experiences with those reasons?", say.

Also remember that most minorities are ... tired of being used as a tool for other people's self-development. There is a lot of stuff here you might find helpful in your processing, I think, but it's not being written for you. I am happy when people find it helpful to their stuff - if I didn't value that, I wouldn't post it in public spaces like this - but it's primarily for my own exploration of thoughts.

(I think better when I'm talking to someone. The anonymous audience of the internet is good enough for a lot of things.)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Goddamn blogger ate my comment. Fuck blogger in the ear.

Not gonna quote the big thing of Belle's summary of the examination thing again, it's only a couple comments up anyway, damnit.

But yeah, replying to that: that's why I wrote On Not Being A Disease in response to the "What trauma or oppression made you kinky?" iteration of April 2007. While the post is about nonmonogamy, the dynamics are identical, and identically wearying.

Including the dynamic of having other people's abuse stories or abuse fantasies projected onto me. Someone wants abuse stories? I can provide those.

But people don't want the real stories, because in the real stories I was emotionally abused by a woman, and got caretaking and nurturing support from a man.

They want stories that fit the narrative. The narrative is more important than me as an individual, it doesn't treat me as a real person.

Nobody comes up to me and asks, "Hey, do you suppose your family situation growing up predisposed you to seek emotional support and protection from a man?" in these 'examine your kinky shit' discussions. I'm too politically inconvenient to be seen as a real, whole person.

And like you said, belle, there's bringing stuff back here or to other safer places to deal with it, respond to it, take it apart, whatever. In my space, I get to be real. On places like Feministing or whatever, I get to be either a caricature or invisible.

I don't fancy abuse. So I don't post there.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Okay. Here we go, some older posts that you might find useful or illuminating, becstar. (I found these by going through the 'BDSM' tag.)

On the whole "examination" thing:
Examination Burnout (which is a chunk of why I consider the 'examine and deconstruct' thing to be an act of psychological violence)
To the Two-Year-Old of the Blogosphere (lost my temper, explained in small words why I'm submissive)
The Shareef Don't Like It (really lost my temper at last month's massive hostile anti-BDSM explosion, went through and pointed out that I had written posts addressing just about every damn thing people were accusing kinky people of never talking about)
Examining Desire (more on 'examination' as harmful, and why I find it politically unuseful)

On the nature of actual submission:
I Want To Be Holy (this is, effectively, religious mysticism; don't worry if you don't get it)
What's in a Name? (about language, being seen, whole, and real)
Chapter for Lifting a Ferryboat (more mysticism; you may find that a lot of my approach to this stuff is intensely spiritual)
A Cat May Look: Fealty and Slavery (an early post on submission, social roles, identity, and so on)

My relationship with my liege:
Actually, there was something I hadn't said (how that relationship became a d/s relationship)
Vacancy (a post about the emotional aftermath of our one big crisis)
The Whys of Teeth (addressing insecurity about the imbalance in me wearing his ring and him not having a mark from me yet)

BDSM and gender and power stuff:
Category airing (me getting cranky about having 'female' and 'submissive' conflated and gender dynamics projected into something that doesn't have them)
Twoness and Peacock Tails (on various binaries and the ways they do and don't go together)
Centres of Power (nature of power, claiming, and holding it)
Yeah, Well, My Power's Got Balls (gendered expressions of power, whether or not they exist or mean anything)
The Marked Case of Equal (androcentrism and vanilla-centrism, who counts as 'normal', who has to justify difference)
Courting Power (the nature of power and individuality, some religious mysticism, and one of my favorite pieces I've written on the blog)

Kink and trauma and abuse intersections (most of these talk about my experience of sexual assault, so if you're sensitive to descriptions of such things be careful following links):
Triggering the Kiss (kisses are major trauma triggers for me; addressing that in a kink context)
A Sufficiency of the Evidence (abuse damage and trust)
Heads and Tails (a straight up comparison between superficially similar assault and d/s)

... it may be evident that I do a lot of writing about this. Also that I've been doing it for several years ...

belledame222 said...

24 comments? I must have been Belle'd.)

! fuck, i'm a verb now...

belledame222 said...

a lot of the problems I have with BDSM - in the little reading I have done of it it always seems that it never seems to address the fact that people (women in particular I think) can sometimes feel like they just can't say no.

Part of the reason you're not finding that may have to do with the fact that so much else of feminist writing -does- focus so heavily on that very issue; sex positive feminism by and large tends to focus on the ways in which people, women in particular, feel like they can't say yes. Or ask for what they want, or want, period.

(And then, too, I don't know what you've been reading; there's a lot of stuff that's not particularly feminist or socially/psychologically conscious at all, dealing primarily with technical shit and basic protocol and not much else).

I'd agree that a solid "no" comes before "yes," boundaries wise, and any good discussion of kink or anything else sexually ought to start with basic boundaries and communication work. Sometimes people might find that they need to be doing other work before or alongside exploring their sexuality. I know I took a very long time in therapy before really stepping out; but then, well, my stuff is different, "yes" was always much much more difficult (partly the queer piece, partly other stuff).

One educator who I think has done a great job of addressing both "yes" and "no" is Staci Haines. There's a video:

and a book

They're specifically geared toward abuse survivors, which I don't identify as (one could count growing up queer in a homophobic society as abusive to my sexuality, I guess, which might be part of why this resonated, but I hadn't experienced trauama as it's usually understood), but I still found it very useful & think anyone would: lots of exercises, somatic and otherwise on getting to know one's own feelings and limits, and then to practice articulating them with partners. Not specifically geared toward BDSM, but certainly applicable (I think she does cover kink in part of the book, but it's more general than that).

Hope said...

Oh, good recommendation!

The Survivor's Guide to Sex is pretty fantastic in general, and does include a chapter on kink. It's a great resource for survivors, but also for anyone else who wants to really focus making sex a truly positive and healthy experience.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I would add that discussion of "saying no" or "saying yes" is ... pre-101. I mean, I wrote about it in Constructing Consent a ways back? But really, that post is about how it's pre-101.

There are 101s out there, of various sorts, and some pre-101s, and whatever else, but they're really, really unlikely to be in the blogs.

I'm thirty-one years old. I've known I was heterosexual since I was seven. I've known I was kinky since I was ten or so. I've been knowingly poly since I was sixteen. I've been kinky in practice since I was nineteen or so, with varying levels of clue-enabledness.

Right now, I'm a cranky pregnant married lady, and I'm writing as a cranky pregnant married lady who's been actively doing most of this sort of stuff for over a decade. I can't back up and make it new. I write now about things that engage me now, some of which will involve reflecting on the past score of years of getting to where now is, but ... I'm not 101 level, and I'm not going to be.

This is postgraduate work, otherwise known as Life.

Becstar said...

Belledame - I definitely don't think any one experience alone is the cause of desiring a particular thing. I guess I see desire as being like personality - taking shape around upbringing and culture.

I am however hesitant to label most sexuality healthy (or any one particular version of sexuality healthy) because of my own experiences and those of the people around me. I'm not saying it does not or cannot exist, I just don't know where it is and deifnitely have not been sexual with anyone who has been sexually "healthy".

I think this is also the reason I'm considering agreeing to current boy's request to be dominated - because I really, really don't want to be made vulnerable again. But then I also couldn't do anything like that to him in my current mindset and that's ignoring the fact that he would want to do it back to me.

Thanks for the book recommendation as well. I was a victim of sexual abuse so it should be helpful. I also have *massive* problems with saying no (context!).

Dw3t-Hthr - background and context I can do! Half the time I don't know whose read what comments of mine where so forget that some people have no read them and so don't know it.

In terms of not being written for people like me, I found that really obvious given that I don't know what's going on half the time and so have heaps of questions. I'm not quite sure how to deal with that given that I have found conversations about different aspects of sexuality in the past useful and there doesn't really seem to be a space to ask that isn't just a shitfight (for lack of a better term!). Obviously it's no one's responsibility to teach anyone else anything but I do hope I find people who are willing to engage with me about it.

My stories do fit the narrative which is why I think it screwed me up so badly because I didn't follow the narrative originally but then had it come and screw with me anyway.

Thanks for all the links. I'm currently at uni so can't read through them all right now but definitely will. That's the kind of stuff that people say is written about but seems so hard to find when you're not involved in BDSM communities.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah, Belle recommended that book to me a while back. One of these days I'll pick it up.

(You know, I might ought get it before I hit the end of my pregnancy, just in case I get things resurging at me. Which does happen sometimes. More preparation work to do, sigh. Ah well, I'll make a note.)

I would really recommend not getting involved in kinky stuff with your current partner until you have clear in your head what it is that you want and where your boundaries on things are. And the reason I say this is fairly straightforward: you and he are much less likely to get hurt if you can express what it is that you're trying to get out of a particular interaction.

It sounds like you're somewhat out of touch with what I'll call, for lack of better terminology, your sexual inspiration -- the stuff that enthuses you, the stuff that helps you feel alive, safe, secure, fulfilled, whatever you might want to get out of sex. It's possible to heal to the point that you can find that again; it's a rough road (I speak from experience), but it can be done.

You'll need to learn to listen to yourself, which will be hard if you've locked stuff away because facing it is too painful. (Been there, done that, see the t-shirt collection?) You'll also need to be gentle with yourself, which is something that ... I think a lot of survivors have a hard time with.

I am, in general, fairly open to responding to questions, but I will admit to being short-tempered with things that I parse as "bad questions", which tend to have inadequate context or assume things that I don't believe are the case. Any of the posts I've written are there for people to respond to; it's why they're commentable and stuff. I get email notifications on comments, so it doesn't matter how old they are.

Hope said...

Hmm, for what it's worth I live in a pretty small town and don't really have a real life BDSM community as such. I am lucky enough to have a community of fairly intelligent friends who are fairly kink friendly, but I'm not explicitly out to most of them.

I pretty much had to figure things out for myself and find my own resources (although I did have access to a woman-owned, kink friendly sex shop, which has a great selection of books and stuff). I can definitely take some serious digging to find much useful material, especially if you don't know where to start.

Hope said...

And I completely second the idea that you should take some time to figure out what you really want and to heal before you jump into anything sexual (kinky or otherwise).

I also second the being gentle with yourself, and that it can be very hard to do. Just take things slow.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Hope --

I've never been active in BDSM communities, myself. In part because I wound up with a whole hell of a lot of self-doubt around anything I could find, because they weren't talking about the stuff I was interested in.

Basically, all the discussions I found were about SM or ... for lack of a better category descriptor, "stuff". Where 'stuff' ranged from toys of various sorts to costuming to other things, with the occasional rope-techniques thing.

And of that, the only thing that had any relevance to my kink was the rope techniques, so I spent a long, long time going, "Am I really kinky if I'm not into this SM thing?" So I wandered off and worked stuff out on my own, mostly, because I so rarely ran into something that dealt with power without promptly going off into how to implement a power dynamic through either SM or discipline and punishment.

And I'm ... a mystical-transcendant submissive with a rope kink.

(A number of my immediate social circles read this blog, heh.)