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

09 April, 2007

Third Dimension: Beyond the Little Boxes on the Hillside

(Here's hoping I can pull this thought properly out of my brain-stew. It's been an incoherent while, and I'm still sick, so.)

So I'm a semi-adherent of a religion that has a particular set of principles to it. Value of sex, pride, self, power, passion, to start with. The notion that one should not submit one's life-force to the will of another. Some interesting stuff about boundaries and edge cases. Learning how to be true to yourself. That sort of thing.

And sometime last summer, someone posted to a mailing list for folks who are associated with that faith a question of whether or not they thought there was an incompatibility between the religion and wanting to be a submissive in a BDSM context.

And the thing is, when I saw that conversation start, I expected that a good half of the responses would be the predictable stereotypes: the 'well, so long as when you're done working through your issues you go back to vanilla sex' sorts, or the 'people with that sort of interest are defective somehow' or any of the usual stuff. What surprised me, though, was how much the conversation pissed me off. (And that's with only about half the people on the anti-kink side; I'm more familiar with greater skews.)

There were people who equated being a submissive to "being somebody's victim". The word "doormat" appeared. It was suggested that being a sub was incompatible with being assertive. Someone asked how humiliation like that was compatible with the virtue of pride. This notion that the only way a self-realised and -- dare I say it, empowered -- person could be a submissive is if they were feigning weakness and "topping from the bottom" seemed to be the basic notion; the idea that someone might chose of their own will and Will to do such a thing was alien. It was all this huge mass of bad internet porn version of kink, full of stereotype, uninterested in seeing anything else.

And I pointed out that at this point in my life I'm not willing to bend my life-force to the point of having a kinkless relationship, and there was, if I recall, silence. That my pride and self-awareness were not compatible with giving that up. I pointed out that there was stereotyping going on, to equivalent response. I pointed out that the explorations of power and passion were really illuminating to me and a strong part of my religious experience, too, because I'm that kinda freak. And ... a few people made comments about how that sort of conversation was inappropriate for the list, that it should be kept "in the dungeon", and after a little bit of final, flailing commentary about how flagellation has been used in various forms of religious experience, the conversation died.

Fascinating, the power of the stereotype.

A discussion this past weekend or so that I participated in centered around the question of whether people with a particular spiritual (or something like) belief were, solely on the evidence of that subjective belief, "fluffy" -- wilfully ignorant, lacking in critical thinking, whatever. And many of the people arguing that it was the case were doing so on the basis of, "Well, I've never seen one that isn't an idiot" or "Any fule kno that that's irrational". Back to the stereotype, more powerful than actual people.

And how many folks have dealt with those people who are out to figure out What Women Want, and who get vicious at women who don't fit the woman template they've built up in their heads? It's all about building a better template to these people, and finding the right buttons to get what they want from them. Some of these folks are Nice Guys Tee-Em; a few are just out and out assholes (and at some point I may write the Letter To Asshole that I've been thinking of for a bit). Find the stereotype, judge people by how they fit it, and cut out the bits that don't match reality. People get held to the standard of the stereotype.

I've had, more than once, the conversation that goes, "Wait, you're a...?" when I point out that I exist and am not the stereotype. I've had it a couple of times for being a submissive; I've had it quite often for being devoutly religious; a number of people have been brought up short when I point out that I'm a dropout. I'm too functional and rational-sounding for the stereotypical mentally ill person. My having multiple relationships doesn't mean I'll fuck just anyone, and I once managed to shut down an entire discussion on how promiscuous those horrible polyamorous people are by telling someone how many lovers I'd had in my lifetime. I even somehow carry off playing computer games online without sprouting a penis, failing to bathe, and living in my mother's basement.

Now, it's a natural thing to make patterns to try to make the universe easier to deal with, because it's a big fucking chaotic mess of a world and without some way of systematising the thing the madness would be overwhelming. But the patterns aren't the same thing as the world, and there are actual people in there behind the 2-d billboard snapped images of what it means to be whatever-adjective that are loaded up in the brain. People are more real than whatever the painted-on image of Woman or Dropout or Pervert or whatever else may be. People are so much more real than that.

I'm fond of a story from my high school days; it was senior year, and most of my early afternoon class was out for the French exam, so us Spanish students were left kicking around reading comic books and entertaining ourselves. And I had just gotten a Tarot deck, and was shuffling it.

A fellow student peered over at me, and said, "What's that?"

"Tarot deck."

There was a pause. "You don't believe in that, do you? I mean, you're Science Girl."

I said, "I believe in what works."


belledame222 said...

I said, "I believe in what works."

Right on.

Trinity said...


Great post.