BDSM: Examine your desires

For approximately a jillion weeks now, I’ve been working on a post about why I believe BDSM can be (and is for me) feminist. For some reason, work has been slow on it . . . I’ve got so many ideas, and I’m having trouble reconciling them and laying them out in a coherent form.

Bleh.

Anyhow, one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is the origin and nature of BDSM desire, spurred in part by a number of really excellent posts over at the Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces blog.

Of course, I’m interested in where my desires come from . . . and I want to understand BDSM desire more completely, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it’s sort of irrelevant. We get turned on by what we get turned on by, and whatever the reasons are, I don’t think that we’re necessarily able to change it.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t examine our desires? No, not at all, but . . . well . . . well, let’s just say that Trinity puts it far, far better (and snarkier!) than I ever could:

WHAT CAUSES VANILLA?

How long have you been vanilla?

Are you sure that you’re not simply too nervous to submit or dominate because past traumas make you too nervous to relate to others on a truly intimate level?

Have you ever really examined your vanilla desires?

The vast majority of sexuality depicted in the media is vanilla. Are you sure your desires now don’t stem from not seeing alternate models much in the media?

How can you experience true intimacy with someone if you’re afraid to share erotic pain with them? Aren’t you missing something?

It’s really a shame that our screwed up vanilla-normative society ruined you like that.

Oh, I’m not telling you what to DO. I’d never do that. But it’s such a shame that you HAVE to.

Oh, I’ve been involved in some vanilla things myself, but I’m better than the rest because I realize that when the SMers say we should question, they’re right! I try not to get too involved.

I’m not trying to diss those who want to create egalitarian relationships for themselves, but it’s so played out and socially normative. I’m going to go create my own communities wherein we strive to create truly hierarchical relationships. It really saddens me to see people stuck invested in the same old eroticization of sameness.

When people tell me that I’m just saying all of this because my own proclivities are sadomasochistic it makes me so SAD. Don’t they see that this is BIGGER THAN THE PERSONAL?

Even I have vanilla fantasies now and then. It’s impossible not to in a society like this one. I’m not the enemy!

;)

This is the point.

I don’t mind examining the dynamic behind polyamory or BDSM or whatever, but when it’s asked from the outside, and when the subtext is, “oh, you poor dear, have you tried to figure out how you got broken?”

Well, then . . . screw you. I’m not broken. How about you open up your life to public critique, hmm?

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94 Responses to BDSM: Examine your desires

  1. 1
    Silenced is foo. says:

    I don’t mind examining the dynamic behind polyamory or BDSM or whatever, but when it’s asked from the outside, and when the subtext is, “oh, you poor dear, have you tried to figure out how you got broken?”

    I tend to think people who respond like this are the same as violently homophobic men who are really in the closet – they’re in denial about having a nasty kink – rape-fantasy, buttsex, whatever. They hate that part of themselves and fight an uphill battle to suppress it, and so are horrified by anyone who embraces it.

  2. 2
    Mandolin says:

    “It’s really a shame that our screwed up vanilla-normative society ruined you like that.”

    Our vanilla normative society screws us up in a lot of ways.

    I think you’re incorrect to suggest that we don’t criticize it. We talk about, for instance, the normalization of the “scoring a goal” model of sex. We talk about sexual shame. We talk about how it inhibits same-sex desire. We talk about how it creates a lack of knowledge about selves and bodies… We talk about it all the time.

    Also, gee thanks, SiF. Calling rape fantasies and butt sex “nasty kinks” is sure helping the discourse move to a sex-positive place.

  3. 3
    Myca says:

    I think you’re incorrect to suggest that we don’t criticize it. We talk about, for instance, the normalization of the “scoring a goal” model of sex. We talk about sexual shame. We talk about how it inhibits same-sex desire. We talk about how it creates a lack of knowledge about selves and bodies… We talk about it all the time.

    I think that that’s very different from discussing a desire for non-BDSM sex in the same terms that are generally used by outsiders to discuss BDSM sex, which generally involves a lot of loaded, ‘have you stopped beating your wife yet’ style questions.

    —Myca

  4. 4
    Trin says:

    I think you’re incorrect to suggest that we don’t criticize it. We talk about, for instance, the normalization of the “scoring a goal” model of sex. We talk about sexual shame. We talk about how it inhibits same-sex desire. We talk about how it creates a lack of knowledge about selves and bodies… We talk about it all the time.

    I’m not sure those are criticisms of vanillaness, though. They don’t seem to me to be asking what I’d expect people who are challenging non-BDSM sexuality to be asking, which I’d say would be something like:

    1) What does it mean to suppose that sexuality or sexual relationships are or should be devoid of power relations? Is it ever possible for human relationships to be devoid of such relations? Is this actually a desirable goal? Is there ever a price to pay for

    a) attempting to set up a power-dynamic-less relationship, or
    b) not making power dynamics clear, explicit, and consensual? (So far as we can; I don’t think we can totally render any and all power dimensions present between us and another person transparent)

    2) What does it mean to deem erotic pain different than other kinds of pain? Many people accept a lot of positive painful experiences as enriching or helpful or pleasant. People don’t tell one another not to get tattoos because it’s bad to embrace pain (okay, there are some who do say this, but not many.) Many people talk about the pain of a good workout. Why do so many people feel this intense imperative to keep pain out of their sex — or at least to be sure that if it gets there, it’s because people are getting carried away, and never gets there deliberately?

    Those are more what I had in mind by “questioning vanillaness”. And I hear other sadomasochists and people who do consensual D/s asking them and talking about them, but I rarely see discussions of them from people who *don’t*, unless they’re discussions that end up right back at “I don’t do that because that’s sick/icky/creepy/patriarchal/broken/bad.”

    It’s just interesting to me that the power dynamics or the presence of pain should be questioned, but the lack of them isn’t usually… despite my own reservations about whether there really are any relationships that lack them, and my own questions about whether all people who are deeply bothered by the word “masochist” are never ever doing things I think could fall under that header.

    *shrug*

  5. 5
    Mandolin says:

    I don’t feel that striving for equality is part of mainstream vanilla relations. Feminist relations, probably, but alas I don’t think we make up much of the population.

    Also, Myca, I’m not sure who you’re attempting to criticize with your post, then. We’ve definitely had discussions where I understand the kinds of critiques that bother you… but it seems to me that feminist critiques like mine would fit under the umbrella of what’s criticized here (perhaps I’m wrong), and they also feel parallel to me to an examination of the goal post model of sexuality.

    By the by, I’m totally exhausted now, and I just want to make sure that I’m as clear as I can be: I respect you both very much, and I respect your discussion of the issue, both when I agree and when I quibble.

    Further update: I should say a popular feminist conception of sexual relations, and not imply that all feminist relations would look the same, or that BDSMers can’t have feminist relations.

  6. 6
    Trin says:

    Mandolin: That’s fair. :) But I do think I’ve heard “isn’t that unfair?” as a theme of criticism even from people who don’t care about feminism. To which, if I’m going to answer in kind (which I hope is clear from the snark I don’t think anyone should), I’m going to say something like, “well, trying to keep the power dynamics opaque on the theory that that’s ‘fair’ has gone bad for me more than once. Can you adequately defend that that works?”

  7. 7
    Dianne says:

    Would everyone write me off as a pervert and not in a good way if I said that I think questions like “what causes vanilla” along with “what causes heterosexuality” are good ones? I think everyone could benefit by thinking about their desires a bit, exploring their edges, and considering how these desires affect their interactions with other people, particularly those they desire.

  8. 8
    Trin says:

    Dianne: I’m not going to write you off. :) I just don’t like how these questions are so often used to accuse people of being unreflective, when to my mind a lot of them really don’t have answers. I think these are situations in which it can actually be rational to choose not to reflect (or to reflect any longer), and that was my point.

    I think there’s a difference between people choosing for themselves to reflect on something about their sexuality even if they don’t expect it to change, and the attitude that orientational models represent refusals on the part of people to think their way out of or into sexualities.

    My point is less “No one should ever examine” and more “Okay, examining is fine, but we should be careful to recognize that the most examination can give us are some interesting facts about who has these desires.” Basically, I’m concerned that many people use “examination” to actually mean “if you think hard enough, you’ll decide that this sexuality was imposed on your from without, and we’ll help you to rid yourself of it.”

    I think that, for example, “examination” of homosexual desires can be worthwhile, if by that we mean things including stuff like:

    1) thinking about what the social category “homosexual” means and how it was constructed in the 19th century, compared to how people with similar desires were viewed previously, and what “gay,” “lesbian,” “queer,” etc. mean now and how that is different and similar
    2) personal reflections on changes (or lack thereof) in your own sexual desire over time
    3) doing the studies looking for biological links or cultural links.

    I find all of that fascinating. But I also hold that it’s tangential to whether exclusive gayness is “real”, and that one “reason” to have a queer orientation is not “better” or more “natural” than another. The questions are interesting, but they don’t yield anything essential to our understanding, so it’s not sensible to exhort or require someone or society or a social justice movement to research and pronounce on them.

  9. 9
    Les says:

    I’m not trying to diss those who want to create egalitarian relationships for themselves, but it’s so played out and socially normative. I’m going to go create my own communities wherein we strive to create truly hierarchical relationships. It really saddens me to see people stuck invested in the same old eroticization of sameness.

    Because male dom / female sub is TOTALLY counter to social normativity. Riiiiiiight.

    BDSM is fine and fun, but that argument is so obviously incorrect that you’ve lost me and I’m on your side.

    People’s desires are not PC. Some folks find things hot because they ARE problematic. This isn’t really a problem, but I think it’s important for folks to realize that erotic knowledge is self-knowledge ONLY. There’s a tendency now to view self knowledge as a sort of an ultimate truth, but this is an example of how it falls short. You know that you find a particular act to be hot, but that act might be something that needs to stay in a very strict context and would be regressive if it “leaked” out of that context. For an example some folks deal with racism by eroticizing it. If that leads to hot SM play for them, that’s great. But it doesn’t say anything about racism, other than it’s pervasiveness. People who have explicit heirarchies in sexual play which are based on gender or race probably want to avoid having those heirarchies outside of sexual play.

    Part of the fun of BDSM is it being transgressive. Obviously, people shouldn’t face discrimination based on it, but if it’s transgressiveness disappears, that would reduce the eroticism for many, which would be a tragedy. For that reason, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to make discussion of BDSM impolite. And by extension, it would mean making your relationship heirachy non-apparent to others.

  10. 10
    Trin says:

    This isn’t really a problem, but I think it’s important for folks to realize that erotic knowledge is self-knowledge ONLY. There’s a tendency now to view self knowledge as a sort of an ultimate truth, but this is an example of how it falls short.

    Ultimate truth about what? I’m not sure why you’re suggesting I said anything like this; in fact the point to my snark was that there is no profound, overarching Meaning to any set of desires and it ought to sound silly to us to look for it (unless we are thinking very personally about our own motivations.)

    Part of the fun of BDSM is it being transgressive.

    To some people, yes. If you want to say that always is key to the thrill for everyone I think you have some more arguing to do.

  11. 11
    Deborah says:

    My argument is simple: I refuse to wait for the revolution before I get off.

  12. 12
    Mandolin says:

    “I refuse to wait for the revolution before I get off.”

    Right.

    Orgasms now, slow cultural shift now also. High heels and makeup now for whatever reasons people need to use them, slow cultural shift now also.

    Will makeup and high heels exist after the revolution? Probably. Primping is fun in some contexts, just not when it’s mandatory. Hopefully these things will, in an imagined future, belong to whoever wants to wear them, and not be tacit requirements for some people based on sex.

    Will BDSM exist after the revolution? Probably. Hopefully there will be fewer people who get off on non-consensual pain exacted from anyone, but particularly from people over whom they have systemic power. Hopefully there will be fewer people who feel an attachment to self-mortification or to sadism because of oppression via the gender system. Does that mean there will be no one who likes masochism or giving consensual pain? Not at all.

    But I do know people who feel their attachment to giving or receiving consensual derives from sexual abuse, self hatred, and artifacts of our obnoxious gender system. And I’d rather fewer people have their sexuality shaped by those things in the future, whether their sexuality is vanilla or BDSM.

    I’d also rather there were fewer women whose sexuality was informed by vanilla sexuality so that they have trouble viewing themselves as sexual subjects, or allowing themselves to feel any sexual pleasure at all. I wish there were fewer men whose sexuality has been damaged by a consistent vanilla narrative telling them that sex is about their pursuit more than their pleasure, and that it’s something they need to trick out of women.

  13. 13
    Myca says:

    Because male dom / female sub is TOTALLY counter to social normativity. Riiiiiiight.

    Sure, I take your point, if you’re talking about the cartoon image of BDSM. When it comes to actual BDSM, though, focused on consent and negotiation, in which the submissive has a safeword and veto power . . . well, yeah. Sadly, that actually is counter to social normativity.

    —Myca

  14. 14
    Myca says:

    My argument is simple: I refuse to wait for the revolution before I get off.

    Well, and also:

    “After the revolution every one will have strawberries and cream!”
    One worker shouted back, “But I don’t like strawberries and cream.”
    Then the party leader, “After the revolution you will like strawberries and cream!”

    I love the assumption that post-revolution, everyone who, like me, inconveniently enjoys other kinds of desserts will just magically disappear.

    —Myca

  15. 15
    Trin says:

    Sure, I take your point, if you’re talking about the cartoon image of BDSM. When it comes to actual BDSM, though, focused on consent and negotiation, in which the submissive has a safeword and veto power . . . well, yeah. Sadly, that actually is counter to social normativity.

    YES.

    (and Les, who said I’d be interested in submitting to a man, anyway? Why assume I said that, if we’re questioning assumptions? That would be like putting my shoes on the wrong feet on purpose. ;)

  16. 16
    fishbane says:

    I hate these discussions. They always end up being meta, between people who viscerally dislike S&M, and those who like it.

    My view is that feminism must remain neutral on the topic – there’s nothing inherently wrong with getting off on being tied up, or spanking someone, or whatever. There’s also nothing inherently right about it. It just is. Even if it is the case that such desires were manufactured by a sick social order (or pick your own construction of that point), so what? People have a right to get off in any consensual way they want. Telling people that pretty basic desires are wrong because it doesn’t lead to a more liberated society is not so different than, say, Catholic teachings.

  17. ohhh, I loved the examine your vanillaness post. Truly brilliant in my opinion.

    and yes, the cartoon image of BDSM (male dom/female sub) is entirely overused.

    and I don’t like strawberries and cream now, I suspect I won’t like them after the revolution, either.

  18. 18
    Trin says:

    My view is that feminism must remain neutral on the topic – there’s nothing inherently wrong with getting off on being tied up, or spanking someone, or whatever. There’s also nothing inherently right about it. It just is. Even if it is the case that such desires were manufactured by a sick social order (or pick your own construction of that point), so what? People have a right to get off in any consensual way they want. Telling people that pretty basic desires are wrong because it doesn’t lead to a more liberated society is not so different than, say, Catholic teachings.

    Yeah, which is exactly what I’m saying. I’m not asking anyone to like SM, either in the sense of feeling that it squares with their intuitions or in the sense that they find it fun. But the anti-SM view is by default not neutral. It’s this is wrong, you’d better not. Or it’s I can’t tell you what to do, but you’d still be better off if you didn’t.

    I personally believe these discussions are as polarizing as they are precisely because “BDSM arises from a sick society” is as tenable as “Homosexuality arises from a distant father.” It’s polarizing because one “side” is based on what usually get called wives’ tales (now that’s an interesting expression from a feminist standpoint…)

  19. 19
    curiousgyrl says:

    1) What does it mean to suppose that sexuality or sexual relationships are or should be devoid of power relations? Is it ever possible for human relationships to be devoid of such relations? Is this actually a desirable goal? Is there ever a price to pay for

    a) attempting to set up a power-dynamic-less relationship, or
    b) not making power dynamics clear, explicit, and consensual? (So far as we can; I don’t think we can totally render any and all power dimensions present between us and another person transparent)

    I’ve heard this argument a lot, but I don’t understand it. I agree with the first step; all sexual relationships are power relationships. I agree with the second part that explicit negotiation is more desirable than opaque power relations. What I don’t get is this: it seems to me that if the first premise is true, its hard to justify vanilla or bdsm power exchanges as consensual, in that the whole contractual model of consent is based on a liberal individualism which ignores the pervasive power relationships described in the first premise.

  20. 20
    Magniloquence says:

    Will BDSM exist after the revolution? Probably. Hopefully there will be fewer people who get off on non-consensual pain exacted from anyone, but particularly from people over whom they have systemic power. Hopefully there will be fewer people who feel an attachment to self-mortification or to sadism because of oppression via the gender system. Does that mean there will be no one who likes masochism or giving consensual pain? Not at all.

    I’ll admit, the first thing that popped into my head after reading this was the ‘strawberries and cream’ argument. Or, rather, the thought that it seems an awful lot like after the revolution, everyone will be vanilla.

    I know that’s not what you’re actually saying, and you go to great lengths to clarify that, but… that’s how it comes out. Largely, I think, because that’s how that argument is often used.

    Beyond my immediate reaction, though, I did have two actual points. The first being that this kind of phrasing … starting with BDSM and then immediately going to the “non-consensual pain”(emphasis added) and “self-mortification or to sadism because of oppression via the gender system” (emphasis added) place … that kind of phrasing seems to me to explicitly do what the initial post was criticizing. The kinds of examination (or in this case, enlightenment) being sought are … if not entirely outside of the framework, certainly not inherent to it either. Rather like criticizing vanilla relationships for being hierarchical as a result of their vanillaness (instead of, say, their placement in a hierarchical society, or the instantiation of patriarchical norms, or whatever)

    The second thing that leapt to mind was one that comes up for me a lot. Why, after the revolution, would there be fewer of us? While hopefully people who were fucked up would get less fucked up and do things that were healthier for their particular situation, that hardly need mean anything about the numbers of people who participate in BDSM activities. If the revolution comes and people are free to pursue whatever sexual activities/lifestyles please them, without apology, without worry about abuse, and with assurances that they will be heard if somethiing goes wrong … doesn’t it seem just as likely that there would be more people involved, even if only to experiment?

    (I think this is kind of where you were going with the subsequent paragraphs of that comment, but it’s hard for me to be sure.)

  21. 21
    Les says:

    (and Les, who said I’d be interested in submitting to a man, anyway? Why assume I said that, if we’re questioning assumptions? That would be like putting my shoes on the wrong feet on purpose. ;)

    Sorry, didn’t mean to accuse you, specifically, of falling into those roles or even of heterosexuality. There do seem to be a lot of couples that are into the femme sub / male top dynamic, though. I’ve never been in such a relationship, but, as an outsider, it seems as if there is a constant risk of that dynamic seeping into the rest of the relationship, especially if the folks involved don’t communicate their ideas and expectations clearly. The ideal of BDSM is perfect communication, but that doesn’t always happen, unfortunately. The idea of dominant male is so completely normative that it seems like there’s a real risk of boundaries degrading over time.

    I think this is the issue that a lot of feminists have with BDSM, is that they can’t imagine such boundaries ever being successfully constructed at all. Along with, you know, a denial of the idea that women could ever get off by anything non-vanilla or seek it out.

  22. 22
    Mandolin says:

    I didn’t say there would be fewer BDSMers in total (or at least I didn’t mean to). I said there would be fewer BDSMers who were attached to BDSM because of the oppressive gender system. That’s not a claim about the population as a whole; it’s a claim about a subset of BDSMers — and those people might still be BDSMers, but they might be BDSMers for different reasons.

    If I understand you (and I’m sorry if I’m getting you wrong), you think I’m saying that BDSM causes gender oppression. I don’t mean to say that.

    I meant to say that the system of gender oppression, which influences all of society, also influences the formation and expression of all forms of sexuality, including the formation and expression of BDSM.

    (Relatedly, as a response to my last post on the subject, Trinity indicated that she felt I was looking at BDSM as a magnified microcosm of society. I’m not sure I follow her exactly, but I guess I do think that — most of society is influenced by the same underlying hegemonic ideas, which include patriarchy and hierarchy, and so we can expect those to show up in vanilla and BDSM sexuality, which I think they do. To put it slightly differently: of course BDSM is saturated with patriarchy. All sexualities are saturated with patriarchy. The reason that BDSM is remarkable in these discussions is because it is a minority practice, which allows it to be othered. Sometimes I feel that last sentence is commuted into something like “therefore it’s not okay to talk about how BDSM is saturated with patriarchy”, although I do understand why people would say “vanillas first” in the same way we say “white people clean your own damn house.”)

    There are women of my acquaintance who are attracted to masochism because they believe they deserve pain and don’t deserve sexual pleasure. This is what they say; I’m not interpreting for them, I’m quoting; I’m sorry I’m not sharing more specific stories — they aren’t mine to share.

    There are men of my acquaintance who get off on giving non-consensual pain. Myca and Trinity tell me these people are not really part of the BDSM community, which is probably true. However, they are definitely *sadists*, so they’re relevant while I’m talking about the cultural influences on the formation of desire. (Again, I’m sorry I can’t talk about specifics.)

    Within a culture that shames women — some subgroups more than others — for their sexuality, and within a culture that constructs sex as something men are entitled to take from women, and reinforces the exercise of physical violence as something that makes men more manly — within this culture, the behaviors of the men and women I mention above are shaped by problematic gender roles, and are also given meaning by problematic gender roles.

    Since the same problematic gender roles do not exist in the same way for homosexual BDSM couples, or fem-dom heterosexual couples, those actions have different social meaning from the lens of a systemic gender analysis. (Through other lenses of analysis, these distinctions are less meaningful or are not meaningful at all.)

    Eliminate the system of gender oppression, and the same actions take on different meanings. Would some of my female friends who feel their masochism is influenced by socialized self-hatred and shame still be masochists outside this cultural context? Maybe? Who knows? I don’t know what the new behavior would look like, but it would have a different cultural meaning.

    It’s the factors of self-hatred and shame that are the problems, not necessarily the manifestation. There are people who are promiscuous because it’s joyous, and people who are promiscuous because of childhood trauma. There are people who are dogmatic about chastity because it’s the choice that makes sense for them, and people who are dogmatic about chastity because of an internalized virgin/whore dichotomy and an intense sense of shame about their own sexual pleasure. I’m sure there are women who are masochistic because it vitalizes them, but there are also women who are masochistic because of cultural signals that teach them they deserve pain. Sometimes these people are the same people, cuz ambiguity’s a bitch.

    I think most sexuality would look different if we inhabited a culture without systemitized patriarchy. Mine would.

    I’m not sure I’m going to, but if I bow out of the thread, it’s because the convo’s intense for me, and difficult for me to discuss while I’m mostly bound to abstractions.

  23. 23
    Magniloquence says:

    Ah. That was pretty much what I thought you were trying to say. From having read you for like, forever, and just the general sentiment, I rather figured it was along those lines.

    I think it’s just one of those things that’s been said too much by too many different people seeking to do harm (or at least to one-up) for me to not at least squint at it funny.

    I like the idea of examining the problems that come from the intersection of institutionalized oppressions with specific group issues. The examples you gave of women who sub because they feel like it’s your lot, and men who get off on non-consensual pain and sort of get away with it by identifying it as BDSM are really good examples. And definitely examples that need to be looked at.

    Where I grow cautious is its prevalence in the conversation. In the context of conversations about BDSM, examining that subset has a distinct ring of ‘what about the men’ to it. Just as there are valuable conversations to be had about men, masculinity, and their relationship to feminism proper, there are valuable conversations to be had about reproducing patriarchical norms, the boundaries of acceptable practice, and people who act out their baser instincts under the guise of BDSM. However, just as conversations which start out feminist but turn to the problem of men feel derailed, so do conversations about BDSM feel derailed when they inevitably come back to that subgroup… the broken ones, the ones that make us look bad, the ones that, well, really don’t speak for the rest of us.

    And, for me, there’s the additional problem that for many people (I’m specifically excepting you, Mandolin, as I know you take great pains to keep this in the forefront), we lose the view of these problems as intersections. You get the specific things that bother people not from BDSM alone, but from the intersections BDSM practices have with other aspects of life.

    As you pointed out, a lot of practices are at their most objectionable when they mirror or amplify the problems of larger society; male tops and female bottoms engaged in activities seen often in mainstream pornography. Even if the scene is safe, sane, and consensual, hurts no one else, and doesn’t bleed over into other areas of the participants’ lives, it still makes a lot of people (particularly, though by no means only, feminist people) really uncomfortable. That’s not just the BDSM. That’s the BDSM and the problem of patriarchy, coupled, perhaps, with the specific issues of pornography and boundary maintenance.

    Which… seems hard for people to keep in mind. People want to make it “well, a subset of these people are fucked up.” This is true, but incomplete. A subset of humanity in general is fucked up. Some of them happen to practice BDSM. That practice shapes the way their fucked-up-ness manifests in the world. It didn’t create it. (Though it might have facilitated its manifestation in a way that might not otherwise have happened.)

    At about that point, my eyes glaze over and I just exit the conversation. Not because it’s not worthwhile (which, of course, depends on the conversation), but… that’s a tiring distinction to have to keep bringing up.

  24. 24
    Trin says:

    Magniloquence:

    One of the things that bugs me, and I’m not sure I’m gonna manage to articulate this well is: in feminist circles, it seems the only “fucked up” we’re looking for is patriarchy. I never see feminists doing this endless looking at BDSMers thing saying “that person is immature,” or “that person is the bad kind of control freak,” or the like — it’s always back to patriarchy, particularly if we are talking M/f

    which we always, always, always are, and I think that’s partially understandable and partially worrisome, myself — what does it mean that OTHER FEMINISTS assume I am a bottom because I am a woman, until I say I am not? Isn’t this the kind of generalization we’re about smashing? What does it mean that I’m assumed IN FEMINIST SPACE to be submissive to men?

    And at what point do I get to stand up and say “Enough with the M/f discussions, they’re not relevant to my life, and I might join them if I see some new, engaging point of discussion, but I don’t care to theorize about people who aren’t me. Call me when someone like me gets mentioned. I won’t be waiting by the phone…”?

    How often is bad BDSM a result of patriarchy, and how often is it general fuckedupedness of a not-relevant-to-social-justice-issues stripe? Why haven’t we even asked that, much less made effort at answering it?

  25. 25
    Mandolin says:

    At about that point, my eyes glaze over and I just exit the conversation. Not because it’s not worthwhile (which, of course, depends on the conversation), but… that’s a tiring distinction to have to keep bringing up.

    Totally.

    I wrestle with BDSM in particular because of some really nasty experiences I’ve had, beginning but far from ending with the anecdote that I related in my last post about female friend of mine who was nastily abused under the guise of BDSM. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about most of my experiences here, which is extremely frustrating to me. I feel like I can’t really enter the conversation with my full self.

    It’s these things that mean that the subset of BDSM problems sort of shift continually to my consciousness. Personally, it’s something I struggle with.

    Politically, there’s no reason for me to bring it up on the blog in my own posts, especially while I’m having to hold my end of the conversation at a bit of a distance. Your frustration is perfectly understandable, and I’m sorry to be triggering it again.

    Trinity — I can’t speak for other feminists, but I look at BDSM through a lens of cultural and social justice issues because that’s my interest and that’s how I’m trained. I suspect that this is going to be a recurring theme within much feminist critique simply because it is feminist critique; the set of tools that comprises most of feminism only examines certain axes.

    I’d be happy to try to break out of that box sometime. I know a little bit about lesbian and gay male BDSM dom/sub relationships as they occur in other cultures… I’m stranded away from my anth texts right now, but I could put up some excerpts from books sometime when I’m back in CA, if it would feel refreshing to have the topic come up without the same ol’ same ol’ rehashing.

  26. 26
    Charles says:

    Myca,

    This post has been bugging me all evening. It seems to me that you are arguing with ghosts in a very counter-productive manner.

    The thought process I see in this post is:

    1) You’re trying to figure out how to write about how you see your BDSM practice as positive and feminist.
    2) This leads you to think about the source of BDSM desire and how BDSM desire and practice is constructed.
    3) This leads you to post approvingly Trinity’s parallel of the “When did you decide to become a heterosexual” trope.
    4) You finish this off by ranting at some imaginary you:

    but when it’s asked from the outside, and when the subtext is, “oh, you poor dear, have you tried to figure out how you got broken?”

    Well, then . . . screw you. I’m not broken. How about you open up your life to public critique, hmm?

    So the impression this gives is that because some imaginary person might ask you stupid and insulting questions about your sexuality, that therefore it isn’t worth attempting to engage in intelligent analysis of your sexuality. This is a complete killer for intelligent discussion (which is then replicated in the comments, where Mandolin describes her thoughts on BDSM and sexuality and the virtue of analyzing all sexuality and is met with continual digression and derailment into objection to the arguments that she explicitly isn’t making on the grounds that her arguments vaguely resemble those arguments, which is a complete discussion killer).

    Now, I think that you skipped one step in this that would make this an interesting post and an interesting jumping off point for discussion. How did you get from step 2 to step 3?

    What I imagine is that
    2) This leads you to think about the source of BDSM desire and how BDSM desire and practice is constructed.

    leads to
    2a) Thinking about how your own desire came about
    2b) Thinking “How did I get broken”
    2c) Thinking “What they Hell? I’m not broken!”
    2d) Reframing that internalized voice of shame into an external “you” who asks you those sorts of questions, who doesn’t deserve an answer, and therefore you don’t have to think about the contexts and origins of desire.

    Trinity’s post makes sense as an attack on people who actually ask those sorts of questions, but the person you are dealing with asking you questions is not some other, but yourself.

    I’m not going to even get into the BDSM supremacy, BDSM totalization (all sex is really about power relations), and special pleading (the sadistic desire of S/S/C BDSM practicing sadists is fundamentally different as a desire from that of non-S/S/C practicing sadists) that has flowed freely in the comments.

  27. 27
    Myca says:

    Charles, I think you’re mistaking my purpose.

    A few things:

    1) This post wasn’t instead of examining the formation of my BDSM desires, it was an aside, because I found Trinity’s post amusing and insightful.

    2) The ‘you’ I was arguing with in my last paragraph wasn’t someone specific, but nor was I arguing with a ghost or an ‘imaginary me.’ The position was addressing is, I have found, an extremely common and widespread attitude when discussing BDSM in feminist circles, and especially when discussing the origins of BDSM desires.

    3) I’m actually doing okay with my internalized shame. Thanks anyhow.

    It’s absolutely worth engaging in intelligent analysis of my sexuality . . . which I am doing . . . and which I posted in my very first sentence was the subject of a post I’m currently writing.

    This post was not about that.

    This post was about the questions that I think it’s out of line and presumptuous for someone who is not me and does not share my sexual desires to be asking.

    When I say that “the more I think about it, the more I think that it’s sort of irrelevant,” in my first paragraph, what I mean is sort of related to what Trinity said in her third paragraph in comment #8. That is, the HOW of my being kinky is much less important than the IS of my being kinky . . . and whatever answers I come to on the HOW, I doubt it’s going to change the IS.

    —Myca

    PS And also, of course, whatever answers I come to on the HOW, it doesn’t mean that the IS is less deserving of respect or consideration.

  28. 28
    Charles says:

    Fair enough.

    I’d call the thing that isn’t particularly worth puzzling over the Why rather than the How, but I don’t disagree.

    The How I would think of as being more related to practice, and analysis of that is obviously important (and the whole point of S/S/C).

    I guess you mean How in the sense of “How did you get to be that way?”

    Oh, and glad to hear you don’t have much internalized shame. Internalized shame sucks.

  29. 29
    Trin says:

    Charles,

    That comment of yours is rather creepy. I didn’t think of Myca’s post as being about internalized shame at all, any more than the snarky post of mine was that began this conversation. Both posts, so far as I can tell, come from other people making very weird assumptions about BDSM, what it is, why people do it, whether the people who do it are broken or psychologically damaged, etc. I don’t read Myca’s “fuck you, I’m not broken” as any sort of response to “ghosts.” Is a gay man’s “fuck you, I’m not broken” a response to “ghosts,” or is it a response to living in a heteronormative and homophobic society? Would we advise him to stop letting “ghosts” get to him, or would we understand why the pervasive atmosphere that privileges a sexuality other than his impacts him?

    The stupid and insulting questions don’t come from ghosts. They come from people. (Well, the stupid and insulting questions may come from ghosts — usually what comes from people is stupid and insulting rhetoric. Questions really meant as questions and not as rhetorical devices would require some basic level of respect.)

  30. 30
    Myca says:

    Oh, and glad to hear you don’t have much internalized shame. Internalized shame sucks.

    Yeah, it really does.

    My next post is in part about how I learned to overcome some of my internalized shame around being dominant, and feeling like being dominant (a heterosexual male dom, no less!) made me a bad person.

    Oh, and I take your point about the why/how language. I did mean “How did I get to be this way?”

    —Myca

  31. 31
    Trin says:

    My next post is in part about how I learned to overcome some of my internalized shame around being dominant, and feeling like being dominant (a heterosexual male dom, no less!) made me a bad person.

    Yay! I hope you post that soon. I’ve got my own post for sm-f brewing in my head about how I learned to overcome my family’s whole “everything bad in the universe comes from people’s lust for power, including mental illness” stuff… yiiie. But I’m busy so I don’t know how long it will take me.

  32. 32
    Mandolin says:

    When I say that “the more I think about it, the more I think that it’s sort of irrelevant,” in my first paragraph, what I mean is sort of related to what Trinity said in her third paragraph in comment #8. That is, the HOW of my being kinky is much less important than the IS of my being kinky . . . and whatever answers I come to on the HOW, I doubt it’s going to change the IS.

    I don’t agree with you, Myca.

    It may not be important to the way that we deal with you as a human being, or the way that you incorporate kink into your life. In fact, it isn’t.

    But it can be an important dimension of analysis when looking at a cultural whole.

  33. 33
    Myca says:

    But it can be an important dimension of analysis when looking at a cultural whole.

    Well, sure, just as asking “how do gay people end up gay” can be an important dimension of analysis. The problem is that in my experience, most of the people who ask that question, either about kinky folk or gay folk are asking it as a prelude to the second question, “and what can we do to stop it?”

    I’m not saying that it’s not a worthwhile question, just that no matter what answer anyone comes up with, it’s not going to mean that kinky folk stop existing.

    —Myca

  34. 34
    Trin says:

    Myca: WHAT YOU SAID. Totally. That. Exactly. Precisely. Yes.

  35. 35
    Charles says:

    I want to live in a society that produces fewer sadists and fewer masochists: fewer people who take pleasure in inflicting pain, suffering, humiliation, subordination, and powerlessness; fewer people who thrill at experiencing pain, suffering, humiliation, subordination, and powerlessness. Most sadists aren’t sexual sadists, and most sexual sadists aren’t S/S/C BDSM practitioners, but S/S/C BDSM practicing sadists are still sadists (just the best possible sort of sadist).

    I also want to live in a society that produces people with more empathy and devotion to consent.

    Would the falling arc of the one and the rising arc of the other produce more S/S/C BDSM practitioners in the mean time or in the end? That isn’t really critical to me. I’d certainly rather that everyone who is a sexual sadist or a sexual masochist satisfy their desire through S/S/C BDSM than through any other means, but I don’t take offense at the idea of a society in which no one has my sort of sexual desires.

    Trin, you wrote about the relationship between sadism and empathy, and I pretty much agree that the difference between the Them of lust murderers and the Us of S/S/C sadists is a matter of empathy and concern for/ interest in consent, but I think it is a mistake to see this as a binary of good sadists and evil sadists. Empathy and concern for consent are continua, not binaries. Most sadists are neither serial killers nor S/S/C BDSM practitioners, but somewhere in between. The evil fuck who Mandolin’s friend Christina ended up with seems like he is down towards the serial killer end of the spectrum, but still somewhere in the middle (and they are still clearly doing BDSM, just not S/S/C BDSM at all). The man Mandolin knows who gets off on causing women fear is somewhere in the middle. Unlike homosexuality and heterosexuality, sexual sadism plus the mid-range of empathy or concern for consent equals a person who does harm.

    On the other hand, I think that S/S/C sadism is the best possible form of sadism, and that S/S/C advocates are a significant positive force. I think that S/S/C BDSM advocacy should and does recognize that sexual sadism is dangerous, but that through a fetishization of consent can be made into a positive thing. S/S/C BDSM is exactly the wrong thing to attack as part of trying to make our culture less sadistic. But a desire for less sadists period should not be seen as an attack on S/S/C BDSM or S/S/C sadism, and S/S/C BDSM should not be used to defend sadism as a whole, or the cultural forces that normalize sexual sadism.

  36. 36
    Trin says:

    I want to live in a society that produces fewer sadists and fewer masochists: fewer people who take pleasure in inflicting pain, suffering, humiliation, subordination, and powerlessness; fewer people who thrill at experiencing pain, suffering, humiliation, subordination, and powerlessnes

    How are you defining “sadist” and “masochist” here? Sometimes it seems you mean the nonconsensual sorts, and sometimes it seems you mean even the “SSC people” are people you’d rather see vanish too, though we leave last. If that’s what you mean then you’re saying in an ideal world I wouldn’t exist, and there’s not much I think I owe to such a person.

    Which is really why this issue is “easy” for me in some ways. It’s like dw3t-hthr has said a few times at her place:

    I am not capable of considering someone who says that someone like me should not exist to be an ally. No matter that they say they’re doing it for my own good; dressing Apep up in ruffles and putting makeup on him doesn’t make him my friend.

    And I don’t believe them when they say it’s not me they want to obliterate, just that-thing-I-do, whether that-thing is working at home and doing the housekeeping, or not going back to school, or being kinky, or being nonmonogamous, or following my religion, or any of those things.

    So… thank you, I suppose, for deeming me the best of the worst, but there’s only so much of that I can take. And I really think it’s somewhat supererogatory of me to allow myself to be pushed to that point. So I think I’m gonna sit responding to this one out, thanks.

  37. 37
    Charles says:

    I am a sadist. I practice S/S/C BDSM (less frequently lately, but not for any sort of ethical qualms). I don’t think I need to change that in order to be a decent person.

    I don’t think that the good of future generations of people practicing S/S/C BDSM is a sufficient good in-and-of itself to be an argument against decreasing the supply of future sadists. I think we should work to decrease the supply of future sadists AND work to ensure that both the future and current sadists satisfy their sadism through S/S/C BDSM rather than through non-con or unsafe/non-sane consensual sadism.

    If saying that S/S/C BDSM is not a legitimate target for complaint or attack and that pro-S/S/C BDSM advocacy is a good thing is not sufficient to calm your concerns that I desire people like us to not exist, then yes, discussion of this topic between us is probably pointless.

    Understand that I would like to see a world in which gender expectations and power relations are radically different from what they are now. I would not be who I am if I had been born into the world I would prefer. None of the people I love and respect would be the people they are if they had been born into the world I would prefer. Yes, you would also probably not be like you are if you had been born into such a world, but since I don’t desire to create such a world by killing you or forcing you to change, and I don’t believe in sudden or violent change, I don’t see that as at all equivalent to believing that you (or I, or my father, or my friends) shouldn’t exist. If my desires for the world were realized, people who come after us would be different from us. Is that really such a threatening and hostile concept?

    I think whatever made me a sadist is probably pretty much the same sort of thing that made the evil fucks that Mandolin has described into sadists. I don’t think that getting rid of my sadism or your sadism will do anything to stop those people from being sadists. I do think changing society so that it will be less likely to produce those evil fucks might make society less likely to produce people who practice any form of sadism. As I said, I don’t know if the increase in S/S/C practice (of all forms of sex) combined the decrease in the sadism of our culture would mean more S/S/C sadists or less S/S/C sadists. The possibility that it might produce less S/S/C sadists does not make me uncomfortable favoring both more S/S/C sex and a less sadistic culture.

  38. 38
    Trin says:

    Obsolete yourself if you want to.

    I’m out.

  39. 39
    daddysonlygirl says:

    Well…

    I am broken. I know it. Deeply.

    I do realize that BDSM is empowering for some people, even feminist for others.

    It isn’t for me.

    I try not to examine all the reasons i’m into it for very long (or rather, i try to only pull one skeleton out of my closet at a time, i think that’s all i can deal with) — but people who ignore things and say “i like what i like” — oh, how i envy them. I envy their ability to own up to what they enjoy, to never look under the surface of it, to ask “Why does this pain feel good, when the whole point of pain is that it ought not to”, or “Why do i want to be dominated so badly,” when the entire seeming point of feminism is that that anathema.

    I will grant you your ability to make whatever sunshine out of what you see in it. But permit me the knowledge that while I do enjoy my subjugation, within the safe confines of the relationship that i currently have, it is not indicative of a greater wholeness or wholesomeness that so many practitioners would try to foist upon me.

  40. 40
    antiprincess says:

    daddysonlygirl – I am sorry you’re hurting.

    but this one statement took me aback a little -

    to never look under the surface of it,

    what makes you think we don’t look under the surface of it? many of us spend YEARS looking under the surface of it.

    then we spend many years and piles of money in therapy trying to undo the damage it does to us, so many years of constantly reinforcing the fact that we’re all such terrible sick monsters, whom other people wish would blight the earth in far fewer numbers.

    (and yeah – ouch, charles. tell you what, why don’t you obsolete yourself first, then maybe I’ll follow you.)

    all that examining and feminist self-flagellation, for me at least, only made me feel worse, feel less useful to the world. there came a point where, yeah, I just had to stop picking that scab of why-why-why-am-I-such-a-monster and just let it heal.

    consider also that the “I’m sick and bad and embody everything that’s wrong with the world because of how I like to fuck” mindset left me even more vulnerable to abusive people who thought it was okay to nearly kill me, abusive people who, when I told them to stop beating and choking me in anger and rage, simply reminded me that we were in a BDSM relationship, and this is what I signed on for, and no “normal” person would ever love me because I was so sick and bad, and I’d better just shut up and take it because no one would believe that I was ever abused anyway because I was kinky.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not quite what feminism had in mind.

  41. 41
    Charles says:

    antiprincess:

    The obsolete yourself concept is just so bizarre.

    Do you think you’d be the same person if you had grown up in a radically different culture? Do you think it would be a good thing if our culture produced fewer people like your abusers? Do you think our culture would be better if it did less damage like the damage that daddysonlygirl describes? When we look at ways of changing the culture so it does less of that sort of damage, is it really your opinion that we need to vet those changes against the question: “But will a society that has been changed like this still produce enough S/S/C BDSM practitioners?”

    I don’t think it does need to be vetted to make sure it will still produce enough sadists and masochists. I also don’t think that S/S/C BDSM practicing sadists and masochists are themselves a problem that needs to be fixed or attacked. In fact, I think that S/S/C BDSM is a) a good thing for sadists and masochists to learn to enjoy, so they don’t engage in unsafe/insane/or non-consensual BDSM b) S/S/C as a concept is extremely valuable to any sexual relationship, and something that is arguably better developed in the BDSM community than outside the BDSM community. I agree with you that practicing self-doubt and self-loathing usually just makes us weaker and more vulnerable. I agree with you that the way to change the culture so it is less sadomasochistic is NOT to harass or mock or ‘obsolete’ S/S/C BDSM practitioners.

    If it turns out that a sufficiency of S/S/C BDSM practitioners are generated by means that have nothing to do with the general sadomasochism of the culture, and that therefore a less sadomasochistic culture in general actually produces the same number of S/S/C BDSM practitioners (or more S/S/C BDSM practitioners), I would be perfectly happy with that outcome as well. What I am not comfortable with is saying that we shouldn’t engage in analysis of what produces sadistic abusers and how to change the culture so we produce less of them because doing that analysis resembles advocating harassing and ‘obsoleting’ S/S/C BDSM practitioners.

  42. 42
    Charles says:

    To be clearer, I object to the idea that we shouldn’t do analysis of the origins of sadomasochistic desire on the basis that doing such analysis is offensive to S/S/C BDSM practitioners.

    However, I also think that if you are doing analysis of sadomasochism and looking at S/S/C BDSM practitioners, you should be looking at the question of “How did you manage to take your sadomasochism and turn it into something positive?” not “How did you get to be so fucked up?”

    If you want to look at how people turn into abusers (and I think sadomasochism is a part of that), then you are better off looking at abusers. S/S/C BDSM practitioners probably won’t be able to tell you how people turn into abusers. However, if you want to look at how people get away from being turned into abusers, then S/S/C BDSM practitioners may be able to tell you something.

    And if you want to look at a sexual culture that is rife with abuse and seriously lacking in a S/S/C anti-abuse ideology, the culture of mainstream vanilla romance is really where you should be looking, not BDSM culture.

  43. 43
    ellefromtheeast says:

    Charles, what you seem to be saying is that people turn to BDSM because they’ve been somehow traumatized (either because of a specific history of abuse or due to a generally sick culture). So if we had a more just world where no one was ever traumatized, no one would ever be kinky. Is that what you mean?

    Because I’ve never been traumatized. I’ve never been assaulted or abused; I’ve lived a blessed, privileged, lucky, sheltered life. And I am super-kinky.

    So where do I come from?

    I do understand what you mean, that the justice demands of ending abuse are more important than preserving BDSM into the future. I just don’t think the empirics of desire work that way.

  44. 44
    mythago says:

    Well, sure, just as asking “how do gay people end up gay” can be an important dimension of analysis. ”

    Except that question usually assumes that everybody is naturally 100% heterosexual, unless something happens (genetically, socially, whatever) to change them into gay. Otherwise the question is “how do people arrive at the sexual orientation they do?”

  45. 45
    Mandolin says:

    “Charles, what you seem to be saying is that people turn to BDSM because they’ve been somehow traumatized (either because of a specific history of abuse or due to a generally sick culture). So if we had a more just world where no one was ever traumatized, no one would ever be kinky. Is that what you mean?”

    That’s a really direct misreading of Charles. You’ve forced the argument that you expect onto his text. Go back and read his comments again.

  46. 46
    careful flights says:

    i wanted to say that i think ppl r ignoring ppl who disagree. y is it ok to say that daddysonlygirl is only screwed up b/c of XYZ or that charles is selfhating, but not 2 criticize other ppl? if were going to beleive that ppl should be trusted to say if theyre ok than we shoudl also b able to bleive ppl when they say their not ok

    i m also someone who is both broken & a sub. let me determine my own life if u want me 2 respect ur rt to determine urs.

  47. 47
    antiprincess says:

    careful flight – that is a good point.

    most of the time, in my experience, I (and others like me) get piles of grief when we say “no, we’re okay” – we get told we’re delusional, in denial, so broken we don’t even know how broken we are, tools of the patriarchy, etc.

    but if you say you’re not being listened to when you say you really are broken, well, that is your truth and I can’t tell you any different.

    however, for me, the minute I stopped focusing on how broken I was, how defective I was, how bad-for-women I was, how disappointing-to-the-human-race I was — I started to heal.

    I still liked to fuck the same way. that didn’t go away. I just stopped feeling sick and sad, and was able to find a partner who didn’t abuse me. All that “it’s okay to abuse you because nobody will ever believe you, and nobody sane will ever love you because you’re damaged” stuff, it went away.

  48. 48
    lalouve says:

    In fact, I think that S/S/C BDSM is a) a good thing for sadists and masochists to learn to enjoy, so they don’t engage in unsafe/insane/or non-consensual BDSM

    I don’t agree with this dichotomy. I am a sexual sadist, certainly, but my desire for any inflicting of pain that is non-consensual is absolutely nil. As a matter of fact, I am downright squeamish when it comes to non-consensual pain, and can only be brought to hurt others in self-defense once I am firmly convinced I absolutley have to (I used to work security; this issue was not a theoretical one). I don’t manipulate or play mindgames with non-consenting people, either.

    I do see the value of discussing the points that bdsm sadists and non-consensuality sadists may have in common (and Trinity’s post on that was illuminating), but I think it is a mistake to assume that the commonality of those points is not complex and varied.

  49. 49
    Thomas, TSID says:

    Charles, I echo Lalouve’s point: what makes you assume that there is significant continuity between the desires of people who do S/S/C BDSM and people who engage in abuse? I would not posit a complete discontinuity, but neither would I say that it makes sense to assume that someone like Lalouve is part of the same continuum with someone like Rader.

    I read you as saying outright that sadists are all essentially of a piece. Now, I don’t have much insight into that; I identify as a bottom, when I top I do so just to make a partner happy and what I want to do is strictly what will get the bottom off. But I know for sure that I am a “masochist” in BDSM parlance, and that you used the term this way: “people who thrill at experiencing pain, suffering, humiliation, subordination, and powerlessness.”

    Here’s what I can’t figure out: why do you want there to be less of us? Take, for example (and we all know one) the pure endorphin junkie; someone who likes the chemical high produced when the body responds to pain. Some of these people are athletes, others like the high in an erotic context. The harm is … what, exactly? Not every bottom likes “humiliation, subordination and powerlessnes.”

    Now, you may argue, sadists create the bigger issue. But if you’re lumping in lots of kinds of bottoms that don’t fit together, it seems to me you might be lumping lots of tops together, too.

    It seems you me that you’re making an empirical claim that sadists who would be abusers but for their conscience constitute all sadists, even as the term is used in S/S/C BDSM parlance. I don’t know why you think that.

  50. 50
    Charles says:

    Thomas,

    I read you as saying outright that sadists are all essentially of a piece.

    Don’t.

    Read me as saying that to the extent that getting rid of the cultural factors that produce sadistic abuse decreases the number of S/S/C BDSM sadists, I am fine with that. I am also fine with it increasing the number of S/S/C/ BDSM sadists. I don’t know what makes all sadists. I don’t think they are all made by the same things.

    The main use I see in analyzing S/S/C BDSM sadists who are anti-violent, anti-abusive, and revolted by the actuality of causing harm or violating consent is that if the underlying sadistic impulse is the same as mine (much the same, but not as clean) or as someone who doesn’t care about consent or who enjoys non-consent, then I think it is useful to figure out how to change society so it makes more people like that rather than like the evil sadists (note the part where I said previously I wanted a society that was much more devotion to consent). Maybe the underlying impulse is not related for all S/S/C BDSM sadists. Maybe some sorts of S/S/C BDSM sadists can teach us much about how people manage to rein in and control the influences of a sadomasochistc culture. That is fine. But (as a S/S/C sadist) I think the impulse is related and that we can teach something useful about how to rein in the influence of our sadomasochistic culture, both to produce S/S/C sadists instead of evil sadists and to produce less sadists over all (because most sadists are evil sadists not S/S/C sadists).

  51. 51
    Trin says:

    Thomas TSID:

    You might like this post of mine from a while back in which I try to wrestle with “why are some sadists good people and others not”: http://sm-feminist.blogspot.com/2007/10/sadism.html

    I think for me the big place I differ with Charles is I don’t think “a sadomasochistic culture” produces any of us.

    I think that the key difference between those of us who would be appalled (not just who would refuse to, but who would be appalled) by the thought of doing nonconsensual harm is the presence of normal (or high) human empathy, which the nonconsensual sadists lack.

    I don’t think that’s about culture. I think it’s a problem with feminism that we look for cultural explanations of everything.

  52. 52
    Thomas, TSID says:

    getting rid of the cultural factors that produce sadistic abuse decreases the number of S/S/C BDSM sadists, I am fine with that.

    Sure. Me, too. In fact, I suspect we’re better off as a community without those people who have the urge to abuse and have to reign it in. We might lose all the Goreans. I’m good with that.

  53. 53
    Sailorman says:

    The “obsolete” part reminds me of the discussion regarding disability that has happened with occasion on Alas. You know: someone says “well in a perfect world, we might able to cure disability” and someone else thinks that is equivalent to saying “you! You, there, you disabled person! I wish YOU SPECIFICALLY would go away, and not exist any more.”

    This is equally confusing to me. I am who I am because of the world in which I exist and the world in which I was raised. In a different world, I’d not be ME. I might not even be HERE. Neither would Charles, or Trinity.

    But I’m not so vain as to try to ensure that people are jest like me in the future, and to base my ideals of what society should be on a selfish desire to have more “me clones.” If people had fewer children I’d be gone (I’m neither a first or second child) but i still favor ZPG. Heck, if people had better birth control I’d be gone too (long story) but I still favor that.

    In a communist society I’d probably be poorer; in a variety of other societies I’d be in a different profession. I’d have different (or fewer) interests/skills/loves/kids/days of life left. Why does this matter?

    It seems that Charles is saying that he and people like him are NOT bad people. Including Trinity, I assume. But that although they are not bad people, that they’re part of a larger aspect of sadism which is bad, and which should be reduced. And that we should talk about a way to reduce those BAD people in the future–while specifically avoiding telling “good” people that they’re bad NOW.

    And if that means that some of the people whose lives have them be sadists NOW wouldn’t be sadists in that undefined future? SO what? How is that different from anything else? Sure: you wouldn’t be there; neither would I, nor anyone else.

    Because after all, in the distant future we’ll be dead.

    Not incidentally (another parallel to the disability stuff): In one thread, someone was fairly candid that they didn’t want all disabilities to be “cured” in the future because it would make them more of a minority. Is that what’s going on here?

  54. 54
    Trin says:

    Sailorman,

    I don’t think you fully understand the disability rights critique of cures. That perspective is based on the idea that disability stems not simply from impairment, but also crucially from social attitudes and social setups.

    Think of it this way: if we lived in a world in which the vast majority of people were wheelchair users, many of the difficulties chair users deal with in their daily lives simply wouldn’t exist. No one would have to worry about inaccessible buildings, because it would only occur to the ambulatory few to come up with something so silly and impractical as a staircase. No one would build the sort of narrow door common in our everyday world because it simply would not be practical. Etc.

    The anti-”cure” perspective is one like this. The idea is that it’s not the physical (or mental) attributes that are a problem, it’s the intersection of those attributes WITH A SOCIETY built for people with different sets of attributes, which often means those with those attributes experience things like, say, not being able to get into buildings because they have stairs and no ramps or elevators.

    (Of course, the issue is more complicated than this; most people I know of recognize that these attributes are not always neutral, that impairments do exist and do matter. But the general idea is that people who push cures are often trying to understand disability without comprehending that the structure of the social world is a big component in disabling people.)

  55. 55
    Trin says:

    And Sailorman, it’s not the idea that someone “wants me dead” or something that bothers me. It’s the idea that people like me ought not exist that bothers me. That there is something inherently wrong with our existing somehow even when it’s understood by all that we are doing nothing wrong. I can’t parse that.

    Charles’ clarified perspective (I’m not entirely convinced it’s not backtracking, but even if it is, it’s a far better position) makes a lot more sense to me, because it says “I want to reduce the number of people who are nonconsensually sadistic” without holding that that will have any effect on the rest of us. Which I think is the case, as I said in my previous comment.

  56. 56
    Myca says:

    Three things that I think are certainly worth talking about here:

    1) How do people become sadistic and masochistic? If Charles wants to create a society that produces fewer nonconsensual sadists, that begs the question of whether or not societal conditions produce sadists and masochists in the first place. Link to a related LTEP-SFSS post.

    2) Are BDSM sadists and nonconsensual sadists essentially the same sort of animal? That is . . . would changing the production of one change the production of the other? Link to another related LTEP-SFSS post. (since Trinity rocks)

    3) Is wishing for a future world that does not have ‘group x’ in it out of line? Isn’t that more or less what Ann Coulter did here? I do take Sailorman’s point, but then, hey, is it okay for one group but not another? And if so, which group are kinky-folk more like? And IS it okay for handicapped folk, anyhow?

    —Myca

  57. 57
    Myca says:

    Ooh, I should say that for my #3 above, I don’t think that that’s necessarily what Charles was doing . . . it was more in response to Sailorman’s point.

    My interpretation of Charles’ point was that he wants there to be fewer (preferably zero) non-cons sadists, and that having fewer consensual sadists is a price he’s willing to pay. I’m really really not comparing him to Ann (shudder) Coulter.

    —Myca

  58. 58
    Ampersand says:

    [Edited to add: Myca and I cross-posted, so I wrote this before I read Myca's comment #57. I'm still uncomfortable with Myca's suggestion that a desire to have a world with no Jews is comparable with a desire for a world with no sadists, even if that world has fewer benevolent sadists, but I wouldn't have written this post the same way had I read comment #57 first. --Amp]

    Charles wrote:

    Read me as saying that to the extent that getting rid of the cultural factors that produce sadistic abuse decreases the number of S/S/C BDSM sadists, I am fine with that. I am also fine with it increasing the number of S/S/C/ BDSM sadists. I don’t know what makes all sadists. I don’t think they are all made by the same things.

    Okay, so the group that Charles is talking about getting rid of is those who practice “sadistic abuse,” a group that Charles explicitly distinguishes from S/S/C. BDSM sadists. Frankly, I don’t know how Charles could have made it clearer that he’s talking about sadisic abusers, a group that isn’t the same as BDSM sadists, and which includes some vanilla practitioners.

    Myca writes:

    3) Is wishing for a future world that does not have ‘group x’ in it out of line? Isn’t that more or less what Ann Coulter did here? I do take Sailorman’s point, but then, hey, is it okay for one group but not another?

    Because sadistic abusers — which, I hasten to explain even though I’m confident my explanation will be ignored, are not the same as BDSM practitioners — are by definition bad and society would be better off without them. Jews, in contrast, are not bad.

    What are you going to do next — complain that folks who want to produce a society with no murderers are the equivalent of those who want a society with no Jews?

  59. 59
    Myca says:

    Right, right . . . and I take your point, Amp. As soon as I posted it, I knew that that’s how it would be read.

    Let me put it this way:

    I have often encountered folks who say that ‘after the revolution’ there will be no more BDSM folks.

    Sailorman talked about there not necessarily being anything wrong with longing for a world without handicapped folks.

    That’s the kind of thing I was talking about.

    —Myca

  60. 60
    Sailorman says:

    I thought I could participate here but on reflection i don’t think I’m educated enough about BSDM, much less s/s/c BDSM, to have an intelligent opinion. So one last comment directed at a few people and I’m out.

    Myca, I’d be happy to discuss your #3 in a different thread but I’m loath to side track the BSDM discussion, which I find very interesting. I thought it was relevant to Charle’s post but perhaps it wasn’t. I brought up the disability thing as an example, because Trin’s response seemed almost identical to some responses in the disability thread; I wasn’t actually intending to make a stance about the ‘no disabled future’ policy at all.

    It’s entirely your call and I’m out unless you say otherwise. (I vote for a new thread, though, as it’s an interesting question.)

    Trin,you said:

    And Sailorman, it’s not the idea that someone “wants me dead” or something that bothers me. It’s the idea that people like me ought not exist that bothers me. That there is something inherently wrong with our existing somehow even when it’s understood by all that we are doing nothing wrong. I can’t parse that.

    You can’t parse it and I’m not sure I can explain it :-) but i’ll try. (I haven’t written on this before so I may want to modify it later if there’s some reading of it that I don’t intend)

    There are good things, bad things, and neutral things.
    I want more good things to exist.
    I want fewer bad things to exist.
    I don’t care one way or another about neutral things. Generally speaking I would happily trade them off for good things. There are also some neutral things which “should” or “must” exist in some small quantity (the world would be a boring place without ANY of X, but I don’t really think it’s a good idea to focus specifically on increasing X)

    I don’t classify BSDM as a “bad thing.” But I don’t think of it as something that needs protection, or gives a great societal benefit (though as I said, I’m not educated enough to know this for sure. If you disagree with my perception I understand. But hopefully you see my explanation anyway.)

    As a result, I don’t especially care if it goes away.

    Not incidentally, that doesn’t say ANYTHING about you. You are much more of a person, I assume, than your membership in a particular class of sexual and/or dominance preferences.

    So while this unknown future might (as it happens) be “against” one of your own personal characteristics, it might also be very supportive of some of your other characteristics–whether they be equality, power, or the right to have whatever sexual habits you possess in a non-judged fashion (yes that is ironic.

    So, say… if you like s/s/c BSDM and also like to be healthy, rich, and free to travel without fear of being attacked; if you would like to live in a world where there are fewer “evil sadists:” then it isn’t entirely fair to define the future only in terms of whether or not it allows S/S/C/ BDSM. At least not in my opinion.

  61. 61
    Trin says:

    Sailorman,

    Thanks for the explanation. But I don’t really agree with you. I think that the idea that we’ll have to exchange things we want to bring about utopia is a really dangerous idea. I think that’s the idea lurking behind the thinking that rationalizes things like the Patriot Act: we need Security, Security is a good thing, and we can just take a pinch of Liberty from over here and then we’ll get the Security, and once we’ve got the Security we can rebuild the Liberty, and everything will be great.

    That’s what I think is going on when I see

    we need Equality, Equality is clearly a good thing, we can just take a pinch of Sexual Freedom over here and pay for the Equality on credit and then we’ll give it back later… except that we actually won’t, because now we’ve got the amazing added bonus that this sort of people is gone anyway so we don’t owe them anything.

    While it’s true that my sadism is one facet of me among many, I don’t think it makes this logic better to acknowledge that.

  62. 62
    Trin says:

    Mandolin:

    As I understood Sailorman (and I may have misread) he’s talking about how to bring about a better world and doing it in terms of “trading” “things.” I think I can question whether that’s the right way to talk about improving the world without that having anything to do with BDSM (despite it being one of the “things” he would “trade”), so I don’t think that I’ve said anything worth snipping at.

  63. 63
    Mandolin says:

    Trin:

    I do think you’ve misread Sailorman, which I think is a function of the way that he posed his logical reasoning. I’ll admit I spoke too sharply, which is why I removed the comment before you got here. (I don’t subscribe to the threads by email, and I forget other people do.)

    Having read this, I am having a hard time seeing you as arguing in good faith. I’ll admit: mostly my feelings are hurt, since I’ve done my best to come to this with honesty, admiration and good will, and I thought you were doing the same.

    I also find it difficult to see BDSM practitioners of my acquaintance having their ability to evaluate their own sexuality dismissed.

  64. 64
    Trin says:

    Mandolin,

    I was. I’ll leave again if you like. It doesn’t much matter to me. I will say, however, in defense of my post there, that when people say “in a better world, people like you wouldn’t exist” that is not good faith to me either.

    When it then becomes “people like us shouldn’t exist,” well, that just completely throws me. What are we even doing here, if we’re such poor humans that we need to be evolved past? That’s what made me angry and hurt.

    I do think Charles has changed his position (or perhaps just clarified it, but I definitely wasn’t alone in reading him that way), and that’s why I came back. If he had not, I would not be back.

    If I had said, in a disability rights thread, “I do think in a better world we wouldn’t exist” I’d get jumped on. People would feel hurt. People would — yes — leave.

    Because that’s not neutral. That’s not conversation.

    Most of us in here are quite intellectually smart. Most of us are skilled at making things sound intelligent or reasonable. I’m willing to bet I could give an intellectual-sounding argument for why, say, women shouldn’t exist in utopia. Would indignance be an inappropriate response to it?

  65. 65
    Trin says:

    Also: if you are talking about the two women who say they are submissive and broken, where have I ever said they were not? I don’t see where I dismissed them, anywhere.

  66. 66
    Mandolin says:

    I’m not upset you left. People need to leave sometimes.

    I read more into your entry than what you’re saying it was, so that was probably my mistake. I don’t think that anyone is asserting that BDSM itself is something that shouldn’t exist. So if that’s where the problem was, then I guess it’s resolved, and I apologize for reading more into what you were saying than I should have.

  67. 67
    Trin says:

    Mandolin: I don’t want to revisit this because it’ll become a who said what when thing, but I really did, rightly or wrongly, read Charles as saying utopia means less of us. And that is something that, even if it’s not quite what he said, more than a few people do say: when the world gets “better,” BDSM will go away, because it’s necessarily patriarchy (or other *isms) that cause it. That we are here only because the world is messed up, and that we are walking psychic scars. (See my comments on Bartky in the comment thread at my LJ.)

  68. 68
    Mandolin says:

    Didn’t see your last note — It seemed to me as if you were dismissing daddysonlygirl’s sense of brokenness as being because of how she practiced her relationship.

  69. 69
    Mandolin says:

    “That we are here only because the world is messed up, and that we are walking psychic scars.”

    Sure. I understand what you’re saying about that.

    Sorry for drama, and I’ll take a deeper look at your LJ.

  70. 70
    Trin says:

    Mandolin: I don’t want to discuss someone else’s life in here and sidetrack things, but I will say that I read one of her posts and it sounded to me like her partner was doing things that, well, I’d question. But I’d really rather not get into why I think that, or what I think it’s appropriate for one person dominating another to do or not do, unless she herself is actually okay with me talking about that here.

  71. 71
    Ampersand says:

    Re: Myca’s post #59. Thanks for clarifying that, Myca. :-)

  72. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » All the Happy, Kinky People

  73. 72
    lalouve says:

    I don’t classify BSDM as a “bad thing.” But I don’t think of it as something that needs protection, or gives a great societal benefit
    As a result, I don’t especially care if it goes away.
    Not incidentally, that doesn’t say ANYTHING about you. You are much more of a person, I assume, than your membership in a particular class of sexual and/or dominance preferences.

    Actually, that does say something about me. You don’t care if my sexual orientation goes away? I do. Of course, were I not bdsm oriented I would, presumably, be of another sexual orientation. I think the point is that I don’t want to be of any other orientation.

    This reads to me like telling a gay person that it would be OK if all gayness disappeared, because gay isn’t all they are, and they’d be straight and happy with it.

    Also, the disappearance of a sexual orientation that is not by definition harmful to others if practiced reduces the diversity of the world; that is a bad thing, in my opinion. This is even true in purely selfish terms: I benefit from there being gay women in the world, for example because they make me question how much of my interaction with men springs from a sexualised need for their approval.

    And yes, I am much more of a person than can be defined by my sexuality; we all are. But you don’t get to judge how important to me, or how much of my personality is constructed by, my bdsm desires.

  74. 73
    Sailorman says:

    # lalouve Writes:
    October 23rd, 2007 at 3:23 am
    You don’t care if my sexual orientation goes away? I do.

    Why? I don’t mean why would you care NOW, but why would you care when you’re not here?

    Of course, were I not bdsm oriented I would, presumably, be of another sexual orientation. I think the point is that I don’t want to be of any other orientation.

    You may not want to be of a different orientation–neither do I, for that matter–but the people in the future who will be of different orientation are not you..

    This reads to me like telling a gay person that it would be OK if all gayness disappeared, because gay isn’t all they are, and they’d be straight and happy with it.

    NOW you get it. Similarly, it’d be just fine with me if the world in the future was some sort of otherwise-idyllic homosexual society. Why on earth would I give a shit? It’s one thing to have a personal preference for PIV sex, and another thing to care whether other not-yet-born people share that same preference.

    So why would you care when you’re not here?

  75. 74
    A.J. Luxton says:

    The only comment I can make was made for me by Ursula K. LeGuin in The Lathe of Heaven, which is (IMO) that you really can’t usefully phrase these things as tinkering. What would a world without race be? Way different. And that’s about all you can effectively say about it, unless you can claim omniscience of all people and all viewpoints on the topic and all related topics.

  76. 75
    antiprincess says:

    So why would you care when you’re not here?

    maybe I’m misreading (I promise I’m not deliberately trying to be obtuse, but I may be a savant in that capacity) – but when I read that question, I can’t help but be inspired to ask another couple questions -

    why don’t I have a right to “be here”? why don’t others like me have a right to “be here” in the future? what am I doing that is so damaging here in the PRESENT that others want to cleanse the FUTURE of people like me?

    of course, if I was not here (or future-here?), I would not care. there would be no “I” to perform “caring”. but what is so abhorrent about me (or people like me) that the world would prefer that there were far fewer people like me?

  77. 76
    LC says:

    Sadly, this conversation seems to have wound down some.

    The “when did you become vanilla” is actually I’ve seen lots of evangelical kinksters actually say unironically. IT always pissed me off. (The “you’re just afraid to open yourself up to being ‘truly’ kinky – usually said when you say something isn’t your kink.)

  78. 77
    Myca says:

    The “when did you become vanilla” is actually I’ve seen lots of evangelical kinksters actually say unironically. IT always pissed me off.

    How do you feel about the question reversed? “When did you become Kinky?”

    Do you feel differently?

    —Myca

  79. 78
    Sailorman says:

    # antiprincess Writes:
    October 23rd, 2007 at 6:17 am
    maybe I’m misreading…what am I doing that is so damaging here in the PRESENT that others want to cleanse the FUTURE of people like me?

    You’re misreading.

    There’s a big difference between active dislike (“you want to cleanse the future of people like me”) and non-protective neutrality (“you don’t really care if people like you are around or not.”)

    Can you see the difference?

    Alternatively, think of it like this: If I wanted to cleanse the future of people like you, I’d want to cleanse the present of people like you, too.

    But I don’t. I don’t really care one way or the other.

    of course, if I was not here (or future-here?), I would not care. there would be no “I” to perform “caring”. but what is so abhorrent about me (or people like me) that the world would prefer that there were far fewer people like me?

    Again, you are mixing up two statements.

    “I don’t care whether or not you are here” IS NOT THE SAME AS “I wish you were not here.”

    If you think it is the same, then you should explain why “i don’t care” isn’t also equivalent to “I wish you WERE here.”

  80. 79
    LC says:

    Myca,

    My apologies. I’m writing from work and was unclear. “When did you become kinky/when did you become vanilla” doesn’t bother me as a question. Mind you, that’s because I’ve usually viewed it as a question about personal sexual self-awareness.

    It’s the subtext of “you are broken for not liking kink/liking *my* kink” that I was talking about. This isn’t to deny people give kinksters shit with the “you are broken for liking kink”. It’s just that I thought it amusing seeing it presented here as an ironic reversal when I’ve seen it said flat out.

  81. 80
    lalouve says:

    Sailorman: if you truly and completely do not care about kink, what are you doing in this discussion?

  82. 81
    lalouve says:

    Yes, people who are not here in the future will not care about whether they are. But it is meaningless to discuss this issue as if those people did not exist now. Any discussion about the future unavoidably involves those present, as those are the only ones you can have this dicussion with; future people, ecen those who will exist one day, make for bad discussion partners. Thus, attempting to deprive existing people of a right to care because if they didn’t exist, they wouldn’t care, is meaningless at best and underhanded at worst.
    Furthermore, I repeat my point about diversity being a good thing in and of itself – something which is clear to anyone who’s been in a functioning workplace which has said diversity.

  83. 82
    Myca says:

    I have been thinking about those folks, like daddysonlygirl and careful flights, who say that they’re into BDSM, and that they do feel broken because of it, like their sexual feelings are flaws within themselves.

    I really don’t know what to say. It’s heartbreaking.

    Guys, I don’t want to invalidate your experiences, and I understand that you feel broken, but for me, it’s like hearing someone say how much they hate being gay and how they feel like there’s something wrong with them because of it.

    I don’t believe that it’s true that you are broken, but I believe it’s true that that’s how you feel, and I wish you didn’t.

    —Myca

  84. 83
    Trin says:

    Myca: Yes, that’s how it sounds to me too. I’m really struggling with the idea that I’m supposed to respect that, because I don’t know what “respect” means in this instance. Does it simply mean not contradicting them? Does it mean accepting that BDSM broke these people? That before they were broken they would have done something else? Does it mean helping them to find some other sexual expression that would be more positive for them?

    Because if it’s the latter, well, I really DO subscribe to the idea that BDSM is orientational for some people. And if you’re someone who wants desperately to change and can’t, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re one of those people, to me. (I was one of them for years myself and that’s part of why I feel this way.)

    Which means that I think anything even roughly equivalent to “reparative therapy” is doomed to fail, if not to do deep emotional harm. It’s a consequence of the view I hold that I believe the right thing to do would be — if I did in fact feel I have any right to intrude on their lives — to try to convince them that being interested in BDSM does not mean they’re broken.

    So if respect means not believing that and not believing that is really what’s best, somehow, I’m rather caught.

  85. 84
    Thomas, TSID says:

    Myca, what Daddysonlygirl said was that she felt broken and did BDSM because of it; not that she felt broken because she did BDSM. That is, I don’t read her post as saying that BDSM has damaged her, but that for her it is an expression of damage.

    I take the woman at her word. And it does not follow, Trin, that if someone cannot change then their desires are orientational. Taking as true (because I agree) that BDSM is orientational and not a response to trauma for some of us, I don’t see any reason to question other people’s conclusions that they are living out the results of trauma. If they don’t like it but can’t change it, I don’t see how that’s any different from people who get up every day and deal with disability from physical trauma.

  86. 85
    Trin says:

    Okay, so there’s quite a lot in your comment to respond to, Thomas TSID, and I don’t want to ignore that there’s a lot there. But I do want to request that people stop with the disability analogies unless they’re really necessary and people can explain and defend them. It’s really weird to read “this is just like disability” when I don’t interpret mine that way at all, thanks, and have no idea whether people are making their points about it based on personal experience or simply grasping for analogies.

  87. 86
    Myca says:

    Myca, what Daddysonlygirl said was that she felt broken and did BDSM because of it; not that she felt broken because she did BDSM.

    Rereading her comment, I think that either interpretation fits with what she wrote, but I hadn’t considered the one you point out, and I should.

    I think that it’s probably true that BDSM as a sexual identity has both a genetic and an environmental component, but, as with homosexuality, I also think it’s going to be incredibly hard to say where one begins and another ends.

    When daddysonlygirl says:

    I envy their ability to own up to what they enjoy, to never look under the surface of it, to ask “Why does this pain feel good, when the whole point of pain is that it ought not to”, or “Why do i want to be dominated so badly,” when the entire seeming point of feminism is that that anathema.

    I read two ways in which she feels bad about her BDSM desires, and both of them have to do with the expectations of the world around her (‘pain should hurt, not feel good’ and ‘my desires are anathema to the teachings of feminism’) and not her own desires.

    As specific claims, those seem to be to have more to do with feeling broken because of her orientation rather than having her orientation because she feels broken.

    —Myca

  88. 87
    Trin says:

    Myca: That’s how I read it too. That she’s not saying “I feel like I deserve pain and so seek it out” but that she’s saying “Pain feels good, which means my wires are crossed, which in turn means I’m bad.”

    And similarly with the ideological point: “I’ve accepted feminism*, and therefore I believe certain things about what it means to be dominated, yet I yearn to be. Therefore there must be something wrong with me.”

    Which, well… I’ve heard “I’ve accepted Christ, and therefore believe certain things about what it means to be homosexual (or at least to act on those desires.) Yet I yearn to. Which must mean I’m resisting God.” so many times that I have a hard time not seeing the two as similar. That seems to me to be what the quote says, so I have a hard time seeing “I seek it out because I’m broken” in there.

    *Personally, I don’t believe that “feminism” full stop says this; I believe certain feminisms do, and that those feminisms have an incomplete analysis of power-over and what it is.

  89. 88
    Trin says:

    And my feeling is: IF it’s your ideology that makes you feel broken (and maybe it’s not; I’m going on one tiny quote here), then you ought to examine alternate ideologies and see if there’s a similar but different one under which it doesn’t follow from ideology that you are.

    If, rather, you know there’s something wrong, bad, or unhealthy about a pattern of your own behavior and your ideology happens to agree, that’s different. And that may well be what daddysonlygirl meant. But the words read as “How can I want to be submissive, given that I accept feminism?” not as “I know my submissiveness comes from this broken facet of my personality, and I think my feminism helps me to articulate that.”

  90. 89
    Thomas says:

    Trin, I apologize. I was not grasping randomly; I had in mind the experiences of a friend of mine. But I respect that it is uncomfortable for me, in my position, to be talking that way to you, in yours.

  91. 90
    Mandolin says:

    Can we at least agree that there are some people who feel that their experience of trauma has constructed a sexuality in which they feel they deserve pain? I know people who feel this way. I know you do too, Myca.

  92. 91
    Trin says:

    Yes, I’ll agree with that. I’m just not sure it’s what she said (It may be what she MEANT.)

  93. 92
    Maryse says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This is the most intelligent discussion I have ever read about something that has gripped my life in its hold virtually since I was a child. To see it now, nearly 30 years later, discussed in such a way…

  94. Pingback: Island of Pain » BDSM and Feminism - a few good reads