A few posters have requested that I transfer this discussion of BDSM and patriarchy into its own thread (right now it’s taking place in the “root of all oppression” thread). So here are a couple of posts, to get this thread started; and then I’ll copy over a bunch of the comments, where appropriate.
What I mean by #2 is that . . . well . . . hmm . . . look, I don’t think that gay male relationships are sexist because they exclude women. In fact, I lose respect for people who make that argument. I don’t think that a relationship between two white people is racist because it excludes black people. Once again, I would lose respect for anyone who make that argument. For me, BDSM is the same thing.
“Excluding women” in the bedroom or in a romantic relationship isn’t the same thing as excluding women outside of it. “Excluding black people” in the bedroom or in a romantic relationship isn’t the same thing as excluding black people out of it. A deliberate choice to play out a power imbalance in the bedroom isn’t the same thing is perpetuating a power imbalance outside of it. Maybe it’s just that I think of sexual/romantic relationships as something “different.” It’s just how we are. We’re attracted to who we’re attracted to. We get off how we get off. Our kinks are our kinks.
Then, cicely wrote:
In any case, it is not impossible for an individual to work in a battered womens shelter, campaign for better childcare facilities, a more even distribution between the seccses of wealth in society, whatever – i.e make a significant practical contribution to the betterment of womens lives, then go home (or somewhere) and engage in consensual d/s sexual activity! These things are not mutually exclusive.
After that, Charles responded:
As a fellow pervert :), I have to strongly disagree with your rejection of the idea that BDSM practice should be subject to radical feminist analysis (cicely, your position seems more nuanced than Myca’s blanket rejection, but I still find it problematic).
The fact that sexual preference is largely not subject to conscious control does not mean it shouldn’t be examined critically. The fact that one can both be a feminist and have BDSM desires (and practices) does not mean that one’s BDSM practice and desire is positively compatible with one’s feminism (one can also be an asshole and a feminist, or a professional torturer and a feminist, so coexistence doesn’t equal validation).
Likewise, that BDSM does not consist of a trivial replication of men oppressing women does not mean that it is unconnected to patriarchy.
While it is possible to have specific meaningful discussions of the basis of the eroticization of power without referencing patriarchal domination, I think that refusing to talk about the relationship between eroticization of power and patriarchal domination (or rejecting such arguments as naive) is crippling to a full understanding of either.
I think treating sexuality as something that just is is a mistake, and I think that trying to understand sexuality under patriarchy while ignoring that the sexuality under discussion exists under patriarchy is a mistake. I also think that recognizing that BDSM sexuality is constructed under patriarchy is not a simply blanket condemnation of BDSM sexuality, particularly not in comparison to unconsidered vanilla sexuality, which is (obviously) also constructed under patriarchy. While it is possible to work to reconstruct one’s sexuality in a direction that is oppositional towards patriarchy (and I think that Safe/Sane/Consensual BDSM is to some extent such an effort), I think that to do so requires recognizing the relationships between one’s sexuality and patriarchal oppression.
Incidentally, my own views on my own sexuality are (strangely enough) strongly influenced by Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse (originally by osmosis in the late 80’s, but when I actually read it a few years back I was impressed with how strong the osmosis had been), so I feel strongly that radical feminism can provide useful tools for understanding BDSM sexuality in terms that are more complex than “BDSM is bad”.
cicely, I realize that you commented that you were not trying to start this conversation here, but I think it might be an interesting one. Perhaps it needs a top level post of its own? Amp expressed to me a willingness to have such a top level post, if you and Myca would be interested in going into these questions further.