Archive for April, 2013

A long time ago, on a blog post far, far away, an anonymous reader left a comment that started like this:

A girlfriend of mine linked me to this post. I don’t really know who you are, because I don’t usually read kink scene blogs except when she links me to them. But I know a) that I agree with you, b) that I tend to agree with most of the things Maymay says, and that c) people like you and Maymay make me very happy. Sometimes I think I would like to be part of the kink blogosphere, but I don’t think I could handle getting the hate. But you guys say some great things that I feel like everyone needs to be talking more about.

And I thought, “Kink scene blog, huh?”

I don’t think of thirdxlucky as a “kink blog” nearly so much as a space for me to talk about mental health and my process of recovering from abuse. Granted, I sure have written a lot of stuff about BDSM over there. (Now reblogged here for your aggregated reading pleasure.) Probably because BDSM has been pretty intertwined with my mental health and my process of recovery from abuse.

But I’m at a point in that process, now, where I’ve been able to largely disentangle those two things. I thought it might be time to disentangle my writing on them, too. It will surprise probably nobody except me that, as it turns out, I still have a lot to say about BDSM as both a culture and a practice. You might catch me saying some of it here.

From: Why the “Choking Question” is a Litmus Test for Domism

The recently released Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid is an add-on for OkCupid that highlights Match Questions related to sexual consent and/or violence and flags users whose public answers to those questions might be cause for concern. Although the tool could be modified to use any number of “red flag” criteria, the current iteration uses a default set of questions from David Lisak and Paul M. Miller’s 2002 study “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists.”

One of those questions is: “Have you ever choked someone who you were in some kind of intimate relationship with (e.g., you wrapped your hands or some object around their throat)?

Although PAT-OKC has gotten a HUGE positive response from OkCupid users, a small but vocal subset has expressed concern about the choking question and another similar Lisak and Miller question: “Have you ever punched or kicked or repeatedly slapped with an open hand (e.g., two or more times in a single incident) someone who you were in some kind of intimate relationship with?” Their critique is that these activities — choking, punching, and kicking a partner — can be done consensually and that it is therefore unfair of the PAT-OKC code to tar consensual chokers, punchers and kickers with the same brush as people who commit domestic violence.

The conclusion some of these concerned users seem to draw is that PAT-OKC’s author, Maymay, “appears not to be very friendly towards the BDSM community.” Those making this critique seem to be missing some important context. (At least, some of them do. Others are very familiar with Maymay’s position within BDSM culture and appear to be simply concern-trolling.) Of course, there is a long history of consensual BDSM being conflated with abuse by antagonistic outsidersMaymay, however, is themself a long-time practitioner of BDSM and, most importantly, a radical supporter of the rights of submissive-identified people. Within BDSM, submissives and many others are harmed by a cultural hierarchy that privileges dominant identities and dominant behaviors above all others. In other words, Maymay is not a BDSM outsider who’s attacking “kink“; they are an insider who’s fighting domism.

PAT-OKC is, first and foremost, a tool for fighting rape culture. Forced to choose, then, it makes sense for PAT-OKC to prioritize getting as much information as possible to potential rape victims over potentially mislabeling some dominants as “predators.” Especially given that the answers to any red-flag questions are displayed prominently at the top of a user’s profile where that user can address them.

This tool is an early contribution to the ongoing project of building feminist and anti-rape culture initiatives into the architecture of the Internet, rather than simply using the Internet as an additional platform for awareness-raising. Maymay has asked very widely for help and feedback with improving the tool. Having experimented with it quite a bit (and having been “red flagged” myself on the basis of the choking question), I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Which is to say that there are a ton of cool and exciting new ways technologies like this might be built-out to better fight oppression culture online. Better protecting the reputations of dominants on OkCupid is not one of them.

I could get into a contentious conversation here about the politics inherent to power play and the responsibilities that I believe come along with topping re: owning one’s shit, but that’s not actually germane to the point: Even if YKINMKBYKIOK, so what? PAT-OKC’s purpose isn’t to educate the OkCupid using populace about the difference between BDSM and abuse, nor is that Maymay’s or any other BDSMer’s job. (Unless that BDSM’er happens to be, say, a dominant-identified OkCupider who wants to choke a partner and isn’t sure how they’d feel about that. Then they can have a conversation about it with that person, perhaps instigated by the red flag that popped up on that dominant user’s profile!)

What’s important about PAT-OKC is that it’s trying to fight rape culture. Not just the sub-culturally specific microcosm of rape culture that takes advantage how it’s tricky to negotiate consensual non-con, but the BIG UMBRELLA of rape culture that says if you buy a girl dinner she owes you sex. To do that well, it needs your assistance, suggestions, testing, and feedback to improve. It needs you to talk about it to your friends, share it with your networks, and simply use it. When the thing that blocks you from doing that when you otherwise would is, essentially, a concern about potential “false accusations” of dominants, you’re putting the needs of dominants above the needs of potential rape victims.

Whoa. Seriously?

Many, many people have expressed concern to Maymay about the choking question and Maymay has taken the time to respond in several places. I’m not surprised by the fact that their responses are getting more and more terse with repeated asking. I know that I, personally, as an avowed and red-flagged consensual choker, am sick of hearing about it. Prioritizing that issue is inherently domist. And taking a person who’s working hard to fight rape culture to task — especially if you know them to be a submissive-identified person — because they’re working in a way that isn’t attentive enough to the needs of dominants is, well, insulting.

So, if your first response to PAT-OKC has been a critique of the choking question, even a very politely phrased critique, you may have received a rather terse reply. Rather than wondering why Maymay is being so mean to you, your time might be better spent asking yourself: Why did the choking question feel like such a big deal to you in the first place?

If you’re involved with the BDSM scene, regardless of your role orientation, chances are that you’ve internalized some domist beliefs about the ego-needs of dominants being more important than the safety of submissives. You might not even be aware of them. You might believe that this hierarchy the only way to think about BDSM.

It’s not.

01.06.13 – Theory Notes

CONTEXT: So, I don’t know whether this is specifically Bandanna Guide material or something else. It’s rough notes for something theoretical specifically around the notion of what “dominance” looks like in a rolequeer context. I started writing it in response to this comment thread: https://thirdxlucky.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/how-not-to-get-fooled-by-a-sad-story-about-yourself/#comment-374 but it quickly grew beyond the scope of responding to that comment — and, much like all of the theory I write, parts of it already feel obsolete or spurious to me. There’s more I wanted to say (plus a few rough notes from my conversation about Matthew in which we tried to hash out a “taxonomy of control”) … but I don’t forsee myself prioritizing returning to this piece anytime in the immediate future. Meanwhile, I wanted to put my existing rough scribbles somewhere that other brains have access to it, rather than leaving it to rot in a notepad file on my computer (and to close the tab in my own brain for the time being.) I may come back to this at some point.

CONTENT:

Hi Lava,

Okay, I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days and, having had good conversations about it with some friends of mine as well, I think I know what I want to say. I’m kind of going to braindump a lot of stuff here, so forgive me if this veers off-topic from your original comment. I have a lot of thoughts re: the political implications of BDSM that are heavy on my mind these days, and I’d kind of like to get them *off* my mind so that I can think about some other things. 😉

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: BDSM AS A FETISHIZATION OF OPPRESSION CULTURE

To start, let me just contextualize that in all conversations of this type, I’m working from the basic philosophical position that BDSM, not just as a subculture but as a practice, is a fetishization of oppression culture.[0] This is a “hard radical” position akin to “all heterosexual sex is rape.”[1] I realize that can make it a hard bullet to bite.[2] I’ve sometimes described BDSM as “Power-and-Control Play” with implicit reference to the fact that the “power and control” is the language used by many therapeutic professionals to describe abuse dynamics within domestic violence situations.[3] I think of BDSM a bit like “Playing House with Abuse and Violence.”

Certainly, there are activities that might fall under the BDSM/”kinky” umbrella that it seems like a stretch to describe this way e.g. sensation play that isn’t about pain, bondage that’s mostly about trying out cool knots, or role-play that doesn’t depend on power differentials (“Let’s both be kitties together and roll around and fall asleep in a heap!”)[4] But let’s not kid ourselves that much of What It Is That We Do references existing cultural models of oppression, violence, abuse, and self-destruction — and that, often, that is precisely what makes it hot.

Hence all of the desperate scrambling by BDSMers to differentiate BDSM from abuse.[5] Because, as we know well, it’s not that the uninitiated find BDSM confusing or illegible — it’s that, unless we provide clear and comprehensible evidence that what we’re doing isn’t abuse despite looking <em>just like it</em>, it will simply seem obvious to an outsider that <em>it is</em>. Nobody who lacks BDSM as a possible framework sees a naked woman tied to a chair being punched by a growling man and just thinks, “Golly. How curious! I wonder what’s going on between those two humans.”

(For what it’s worth, I don’t think “vanilla” sex is innocent of this cultural referencing, either. Standard heteronormative models of intimacy, in particular, strike me as different only in degree rather than kind from relationships we would easily describe as “abusive.” But, since people are exposed to more models of heteronormative intimacy and we’re more used to understanding them as “romantic,” the ways in which they derive much of their erotic power from referencing abuse tropes is just a little harder to see. Unless you’re, like, a feminist or something.)

And, much like children who grow up in abusive households will sometimes incorporate violent tropes into their make-believe games without any conscious understanding of what they’re doing (“It’s just more fun that way!”), humans who grow up in an abusive culture will often incorporate subtly (or not so subtly) violent tropes into our erotic play without consciously noticing that we’re doing it. It’s not <em>wrong</em> of children when they do this. It is, however, often a red flag that if their understanding of “fun” involves hurting other children, something troubling may be going on for them at home. And, if nothing else, it provides a jumping off point for conversations with those kids around their experiences of violence and an entry point into healing work for those children who have had them.

I’m not suggesting here that everyone who does BDSM was abused. (Although some of us were.) I’m pretty sure that study after study has shown there’s no direct link between enjoying a good spanking and having been beaten as a child, etc.[6] What I’m saying is: It’s likely that many of the power-and-control aspects of BDSM wouldn’t seem as “fun” or “hot” to us if we hadn’t been socialized in a culture that eroticizes mass oppression and teaches us that abuse is what love feels like. And, again, it’s not <em>wrong</em> for us to Play House with these tropes. They are ubiquitous in our culture and most of us will Play House with them in some way or other — whether we call that “vanilla,” “BDSM,” “kinky,” “queer,” “new-age spiritual,” whatever. Our erotic selves are so raw, vulnerable, creative and spongelike, and steeped all our lives in a world of complicated images and experiences; it’s almost impossible to avoid problematic sex unless you just flat-out avoid sex. (And that is, in its own ways, problematic.) I’m saying that the specific ways in which <em>my</em> sex is problematic are worth me paying attention to as, if nothing else, a fertile site for investigating my own experiences of violence and for entering into healing work — both individually and culturally.

So, that’s one framework for understanding BDSM. It’s a framework that says, far from being simply a fun game we play in bed, BDSM is a trapdoor into our subconscious minds. Specifically, it’s one that allows us to look at the ways oppression culture has programmed the deep structures[7] of our erotic grammar — and, potentially, how we might re-program ourselves to eroticize liberation instead. (I’ll say more about this later.)

At the moment, I’m not particularly interested in arguing about whether this theoretical framework is “true.” It will resonate for some people and not for others. The kind of resources required to do rigorous socio-psychological hypothesis testing aren’t available to me, nor are they often made available to people who would be interested in doing this kind of work. Also, it’s probably not “true.” I don’t use this framework to understand everything about BDSM all of the time. If I did, I would never have sex. And I hardly ever have sex as it is, so that would suck. I do use it when I talk about BDSM on the Internet for two reasons 1) Deconstructing BDSM in this way is personally useful to me re: making my own intimate, erotic life feel more comprehensible, complete, ethical, healthy, and sexy. 2) It’s a perspective I’m not seeing talked about in very many places.

(Politico-theoretical discussion I’ve seen of BDSM online tends to break down into roughly two camps. Massive oversimplification ahead: The sex-positive “consent is magic” camp that says “BDSM isn’t abusive because it’s consensual, so it’s fine,” and the radical feminist “false consciousness” camp that says “Nobody can consent to that shit; BDSM is abusive, so don’t do it.” I’m saying neither of those things. In fact, basically what I’m saying is, “BDSM IS abusive — in fact, it’s abusive in a particularly self-referential way that makes it both extra abusive and also gives it extra potential as a site for liberatory work — and you get to decide how you want to negotiate that in your erotic life because you’re a free agent. Try not to be an entitled asshole about it, please.”)

THE PART WHERE I ACTUALLY ADDRESS YOUR COMMENT RE: “BENEVOLENT DOMINANCE”

THE PART WHERE I TALK GENERALLY ABOUT THE POLITICAL NATURE OF ROLEQUEER PLAY

[0] Invisible Girl

[1] Hard Radicalism

[2] Biting the bullet

[3] Power and control wheel

[4] thing about either it’s kinky or we’re little kids

[5] consent counts or something?

[6] studies about bdsm and abuse?

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_structure

RAW NOTES FROM CONVERSATION WITH MATTHEW/OTHER THOUGHTS:

being turned on by being dominated is kinking on internalized oppression

rolequeerness, access to bodily sense, shower exercise (reconnect conscious awareness “this is my hand” with felt sense of water pressure against my hand = reconnect conscious awareness “this is oppressive/this is liberatory” with felt sense of those experiences day-to-day) [Relevant:http://radtransfem.tumblr.com/post/39934518163/on-gestures-of-dominance-nancy-henley]

taxonomy:

– people who have influence over others because they offer more options (paul wall)

– people who have influence over others because they have authority

** externally enforced authority

** voluntary authority

people who have authority either have it because they earned it or because they stole it. (people who stole it will try to convince you they earned it.)

people can have authority because it’s valuable to them to be able to tell others what to do as a means to some end, vs because they just get off on telling other people what to do.

“elderhood” more experience/competence in a particular sphere vs. they don’t have anything to teach you, they’re just in charge by some fluke (stole it)

the benefit of his kid holding his hand isn’t that he gets to tell the kid what to do. it’s that he gets to help the kid cross the street so that he can survive until he no longer needs to be told how to cross the street.

the purpose of accepting someone’s submission should be to guide them into a state of no longer need/desire to be dominated by you, not to keep them in a state of suspended animation

conversely, if “being turned on by being dominated is kinking on internalized oppression” and the purpose of rolequeer play is to somatically familiarize ourselves with what liberation (from, in this case, internalized oppression) feels like, then:

it seems that the only people to whom I, qua submissive*, ought ever want to hand over power (ala Lava’s “but sometimes people just hand you power cuz you’re just standing around being that awesome and they wanna!”) are people who have more experience being oppressed than I am/more experience with or with overcoming internalized oppression than I do.

[*This should read “qua person who desires to be dominated” not “qua submissive.” Conflating being submissive (identity or role) with the desire to be dominated is philosophical sloppiness on my part: a) submissiveness is not dependent upon dominance or a desire for it, b) there are reasons one might desire to be dominated that are not inherently linked to a submissive identity.]

THEM: it felt like while we were fucking when i was talking to you there were some places where you were hesitant…

ME: i was actually thinking about you saying that i was trusting and about the fact that i really do trust you; i trust you not to take advantage of my desire to be submissive to you. i was also thinking about the fact that the desire to be dominated is the fetishization of internalized oppression

THEM: yep.

ME: the fact that, when i say that, you get it, makes this feel safer to me

 

i’ll be explicit: i don’t think bdsm is a fun game. i think it’s a psychonautical tool for rooting out oppression culture. that can be a fun game.

rolequeerness is about breaking D/s dynamics together

my goal, in any act of dominance, should be always to make myself* obsolete. no other way of holding authority is ethical. #rolequeer

*[“my dominance” not “myself”. I don’t want to make myself as a person-in-relationship-with obsolete, I want to make my domination an obsolete part of that relationship. In fact, that’s the whole point of dominance in a rolequeer context: Somatic habituation to the experience of liberation doesn’t just mean learning what it feels like as oppressed folks to liberate ourselves from our oppressors; it also means learning, as oppressors, what it feels like to (in solidarity with people who are oppressed by us) liberate ourselves from oppression culture by becoming humans rather than instantiations of oppressor-roles.]

. . .

01.09.13

So, any remaining doubt I might’ve had that I’ve just been imagining all this stuff, or making a philosophical mountain out of an experiential molehill, or spinnning some clever story about the political and psychological implications of BDSM-qua-practice for Maymay’s and my benefit that doesn’t usefully describe the experiences of any other people? (SA: https://thirdxlucky.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/1713/)

Yeah. I just had a conversation that made whatever remained of that self-doubt melt away. And I’m not going to tell about it here because it’s not my story to tell, but it made me sad about the world — because it made me feel like I’m not crazy. And while it’s nice to feel not-crazy, it’s sad to have the proof of that be someone else’s pain. And I just needed to, like, tell somebody.

Thanks.

Corrolary: Sensitivity

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

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A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Sensitivity” in which I argued that “There is no such thing as being oversensitive. When a person or population is described as “oversensitive,” what is actually being described is an imbalance of sensitivity” i.e. that the burden of perspicacity required to solve a particular problem is being distributed unevenly.

I closed this post in my typically emphatic motivational-speakery style:

Sensitivity is not itself a problem. It points problems out. You’ll find, if you think someone is being too sensitive, that the way to get them to be less sensitive is probably not to harden your heart further and close your eyes tighter, but for you to be more sensitive about what’s going on.

You probably still won’t be able to come close to being as sensitive as they are – not for a long time, anyway. But you…

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sadbunny

I have this old friend from college who’s a real animal lover. She also likes to eat meat. The way she resolves this contradiction within herself — as many people do, I’m sure — is by pretending that meat doesn’t come from animals. She’s happy to chow down on some delicious ribs or a turkey sandwich as long as you don’t remind her that what she’s eating used to be an adorable living thing.

I love my friend. I think she’s very sweet and a better person than me in many regards. But, I’ll be honest, I find this “chicken strips grow on trees” mentality patently ridiculous. If you can’t stomach the idea of killing a conscious being for food, or that you’re paying someone else to kill one for you, don’t eat meat.

This doesn’t mean that nobody should eat meatI eat…

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Short.

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Here’s an important thing about me. This is something that a very small number of people in my life understand, but I know it has confused many other readers, friends, and even lovers. This is the most succinct way I can explain:

I hate most of what BDSMers do.

But I hate it because I think they’re doing it wrong, not because I think it’s wrong that they’re doing it.

Most people who hate BDSMers would hate me, too.

Oppressions can be like Russian nested dolls. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

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And apropos to several more recent conversations about owning power and hurting people…

HER: I have this rich fantasy life [in which I’m a dominant woman] but I wonder, when it really comes down to it, could I actually do it? Could I actually hit somebody?

ME: Oh, funny, I think I have the opposite problem: I’m absolutely certain I could do it and that I’d find doing it extremely hot — and that’s a real problem for me.

(Apparently, this is what “girl talk” looks like in my universe.)

SA: On Saying Yes to Complication — Or, At Least, On Saying Maybe.

SA: Sadomasochism in the Lesbian Community – Audre Lorde

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