Archive for July, 2015

Rolequeers Write Bad Books

Posted: July 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


I don’t think many people understand how much rolequeer theorizing is intentionally inchoate personal processing in public and just throwing ideas at the wall. Detractors have claimed that rolequeer theory is hypocritical, inconsistent, “an ideological trainwreck,” that we reference outside material that we have only a cursory understanding of, etc. There’s some truth to all of this. What these folks don’t seem to have picked up on — because they don’t understand rolequeerness and because, to a great degree, they don’t really understand the Internet — is that, in and of itself, this is a consciously rolequeer methodology.

All ideas, or at least all good ones, go through a kind of neonatal, bisociative, “see what sticks” stage in which the thinker is just lumping random shit together because it sounds good, or they’re curious what will happen if they try this chord instead of that one, or if they add cumin and bananas to this stir-fry. This is often thought of as a sort of drafting/note-taking/raw processing/experimental stage and it’s fine to do, and to do messily and poorly, as long as you mostly do it in private and don’t go serving your paying customers banana and cumin stir-fry.

What rolequeers do, however, is that we tend to “publish” our work (aka be like, “You have to try this thing I made!”) at a MUCH earlier stage of development than is generally considered “professional.” This is because we are not professionals. We’re not professional academics, not professional activists, not professional writers, nothing – nor do we aspire to any of those positions of authority. We are kids on the Internet trying to make the world better ASA fucking P. And this means getting our ideas out of our heads, and into the hands of more people who might be able to use and improve them, as fast as we can. Even if we don’t look good doing it. Our priority is to be memetic, not to be impressive. This is an explicitly rolequeer ethic.

Since I started writing about rolequeerness, I have attached an immense amount of awkward, fumbling, ill-conceived, incomplete, offensive, and just plain incorrect work to my name. Am I embarrassed about it? Absolutely. Hell, I’m embarrassed practically every time I post something. I’ll probably be embarrassed when I post this. I came up in an academic milieu where my intellect (and self-esteem) were defined by my ability to make a logically-sound philosophical argument, extra bonus points if it was painstakingly articulated and rhetorically elegant, even if that meant moving the conversation forward so fractionally as to be effectively meaningless, or even just reiterating stuff other people already said 300 years ago. It’s been HARD work for me to unlearn the deeply-internalized programming that tells me publishing ideas before they’re perfected makes me “intellectually lazy.” I’m still working on it.

But, as I said above, this is an explicitly rolequeer ethic. Behaving in a maximally transparent and generative way, if doing so has even the tiniest potential to shift our collective theoretical consciousness towards disrupting oppression, has a clear ethical priority over appearing smart, cool, consistent, or even correct. And even though I go back and read old Bandana Blog entries and facepalm the fuck out my rambling inarticulate language, my half-assed integration of other theorists, my mortifying tendency to center white experience constantly and unconsciously, etc., it feels so worth it to me every time I get an ask or comment from someone who says discovering rolequeer theory has made their intimate relationships concretely healthier and safer, or helped them feel more sane and at home in their own skin.

This is not to say that rolequeer thinkers never do any pre-processing. Maymay and I have hours of conversation that never make it to paper. We try out ideas, throw away bad ones, and even (gasp!) disagree. There are a handful of private threads and other little forums scattered about the Internet where various rolequeer folks are working through concepts that are still a bit too unarticulated (or incendiary) for public consumption…yet. But our threshold for releasing idea-seeds into the wild is FAR lower than almost any other strain of political theory I’m aware of. (Except maybe “GamerGate.” #selfdeprecatingjokeisselfdeprecating) And we do this on purpose, because we believe that the Internet as a collective effort is infinitely more intelligent, creative, and visionary than even the brightest individual one of us could possibly be.

Furthermore, there is some strategy around packaging these probably-mostly-wrong proto-ideas in rhetoric that invites people to really argue with us about them i.e. by stating them as if they are simply factual rather than just wrapping them in, “Oh, I’m just thinking aloud here. I’m probably wrong. Don’t mind me.” Because we tend to engage quite politely with ideas sandwiched between caveats but, ultimately, people who tell me I’m fucking wrong and then tell me exactly why are going to move my intellectual process forward much faster than people who give me polite “constructive criticism” or none at all — even though receiving the former genuinely hurts WAY worse than receiving the latter. (Part of what makes me, personally, so rolequeer is that I’m kind of an emotional masochist.)

And finally, the thing about being consistently, embarrassingly wrong in public is that it is fantastic insurance against becoming an authority figure. I never want people to consider me an authority on rolequeerness, because with authority comes the power to coercively impose your ideas on others’ minds. With that power comes the responsibility to slow way down and be much more careful about where, when, how, and with what degree of completeness you share your thoughts. And with that slowness comes the continued rape, violence, and oppression of vulnerable people who might’ve otherwise been protected from or avoided a dangerous situation if they’d only just seen the word “rolequeer” come across their dash a little earlier and had the opportunity to think for themselves about what it might mean.

TL;DR: I believe in the power of my own ideas and in the brilliance of others’ minds. Enough, apparently, that I’m willing to embarrass the crap out of myself and ruin my own reputation as an “intellectual” in order to messily offer up my thoughts qua tenderest seedlings, having faith that together we can grow them into much more beautiful vegetation than whatever might’ve flowered in the isolated hothouse of my individual mind, or even in the protected little walled garden of those with whom I already agree.

Also, this is scary and sometimes doing it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I’ve learned how (and am still learning) from watching other rolequeers who are braver and more confident and more vulnerable than I. So, like, thanks guys.

I just found the loveliest thing!

On Reddit, of all places. In a /r/Anarchism discussion of Liberating Ourselves in the Boudoir: An Anarcha-Feminist Perspective Against BDSM, user ErnieMaclan put together this fabulous overview of some key ideas in rolequeer theory, with excerpts and everything:

I want to (finally) introduce this sub to some work that’s been done – largely by anarchists – around the notion of consent as a felt sense, and rolequeerness.

Despite what you’ve been told, repressive puritanism is not the only alternative to supporting the actually existing BDSM scene. People can have years of experience in the SM scene, can revel in their submissive identity, and have no interest in using authoritarian structures to attack BDSM and still criticize this shit.

On Consent as Felt Sense

Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Would You Like Some Dorito’s?

But think about this: I’ve had my boundaries violated in the past. You probably have, too. If that experience was traumatic, where did the trauma come from? Did it come from the fact that someone broke a rule? (Maybe. A trust violation can be traumatizing even if no other harm occurred.) Or did it come from the fact that someone interacted with me in a way that made me feel unsafe, hurt, and violated? Have you ever said, “Yes” and still come away feeling unsafe, hurt, and violated? I have.

You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense

There’s a better way to think and talk about consent, one that honors peoples’ entire experience of a situation—past, present, and future—not just the tiny time-slices of that experience during which they were asked, “Is this cool with you?” Instead of understanding consent as “giving someone permission to do a thing,” we can and should talk about it as “being okay with a thing happening.”

In this essay, we begin an exploration into how current mainstream and even progressive feminist discourses about (specifically) sexual consent fail to address the lived experience of navigating consent within rape culture. We point out that a legalistic framing of consent as expressed rather than experienced ultimately centers the needs of would-be rapists over the needs of rape survivors. We also consider how our relationship to consent changes when we acknowledge that whether a person actually feels violated is more important than whether they expected to feel violated.

I said yes, but I feel raped

You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense makes a two pronged argument:

  1. Saying “yes” is necessary but not sufficient for consent.
  2. There is no expiration date on realizing that your consent was violated.

Neither one of these assertions seems controversial. Not unless you’re some kind of cartoonish MRA troll. But when we make them together — there’s no expiration date on realizing that your “yes” was not consent — we get a furor of backlash from all sides about how we’ve “gone too far.”

Is waking up my girlfriend with cunnilingus rape? What about her waking me up with fellatio?

If you fall into the “option a” category, and if you genuinely have your partner’s “felt sense” consent, then I don’t think the particulars of how you communicated consent are all that important. If your partner wants sex, and you are both on the same page about that, then I don’t really care whether you had an explicit “do you want sex? yes i want sex” conversation, or if you arrived at that understanding through a secret, intuitive language of eyebrow-wiggles which only the two of you understand. If you go by eyebrows alone, then you take a leap of faith in your nonverbal communication skills, and if that faith was misplaced, then that mistake is on you. But if afterwards, you both get out of bed feeling un-raped, neither of you wants to send the other to jail, so it doesn’t matter what the law has to say about it.

On Rolequeer Sex (aka, Anarchist ethics applied to kinky sex and power relationships generally)

Info dump:

Rolequeer: Defining Our Terms

Ultimately, rolequeerness centers acts of self-liberation and co-liberation by encouraging (and eroticizing) a traitorous relationship to our own power and a compassionate celebration of each others’ vulnerabilities. Rolequeerness provides a methodological framework for “downward mobility” inside the power gradient of oppression culture. As such, rolequeers refuse to accept cultural capital as a consolation prize for victimization. We maintain that, in a culture in which power corrupts, choosing vulnerability is a move toward freedom.

Rolequeers are submissive as fuck and cocky as hell about it. Break the cycle. Quit the game.

Reddit comments:

Finally, contrary to Redditors’ popular beliefs about Tumblr, nobody is arguing that everybody should play this way. 😉

In short, kinky rolequeer play is kind of a through-the-looking-glass analogue to BDSM where, instead of eroticizing experiences of oppression (like enslaving/being enslaved, raping/being raped, or objectifying/being objectified), players intentionally eroticize experiences of liberating themselves and each other from oppression (like resisting or ending slavery, recovering from sexual violence, viewing each other respectfully, etc.) This sounds super corny in theory, but it’s really fun and sexy and intimate in practice. And, for those of us who are into it, it can feel very healing and consciousness-raising in certain ways, too. 🙂

Responses to: ‘My Kinks Are BDSM’

Rolequeers never claimed they can fuck away rape culture or instantly become better people through rolequeer sex. What they have claimed is: the way you are having BDSM sex glorifies rape culture and the way you are organizing as a BDSM community creates a space where rapists can thrive and victims are silenced and gaslighted. And we’d like to not have that kind of sex and prefer sex that heals the scars left by rape culture. How revolutionary of us!”


Stop enabling sociopathic abusers. Your kinks are not “BDSM”.

And this is important: The BDSM subculture is defined and controlled by a tiny minority of sociopathic humans whose kink is acting out rape, torture, and abuse fantasies “for fun” i.e. without any meaningful consideration for what it means to enact those fantasies on human minds in the context of a world where rape, torture, and abuse are already broadly normalized.

In fact, the sheer blitheness with which BDSMers — both “tops” and “bottoms” — treat sexual violence as No Big Deal is part and parcel of their fetish. It’s not just that they find rape arousing. (Lots of people get turned on by thinking about rape. Truth.) It’s that they find it arousing that rape turns them on; instead of being turned on by rape and finding that, say, disturbing, or confusing, or at least worth asking questions about. Their kink is not for rape-play itself. Their kink is for rape apologism.

Should we try to unlearn our problematic kinks and, if so, how?

This shit is complicated. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to get rid of your problematic kinks if you don’t want them. I also don’t think doing so is, like, necessary in order to be an ethical sexual person. Rolequeerness, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t about reprogramming ourselves to have a different set of non-problematic kinks; it’s about investigating and being curious about the kinks we do have, and looking the ways they are problematic in the face, and exploring them and understanding and unwinding and deconstructing them, and then seeing what’s left. That’s what I think, anyway. YMMV.

“BDSM” is Kinky Sex for Rape Apologists

I have a serious mind-control fetish. I like to tie people up and be tied up. Spanking turns me on. So does blood. I’m into super-intellectual experimental rolequeer authority play. Doing these things doesn’t mean I’m “doing BDSM” any more than having multiple simultaneous intimate relationships means I’m “polyamorous.” Because what actually distinguishes “BDSM” as an identity structure is not simply that it means enjoying kinky sex/play when others don’t. It also means being overwhelmingly invested in rape culture when other kinky people aren’t.

“Polyamory” is negotiated non-monogamy for straight people, and “BDSM” is kinky sex for rape apologists.

This One’s for the Invisible Girl (older post)

But what I know about my life [is] that, if BDSM doesn’t feel inherently complicated or violent to you, we won’t play well together. And, more generally speaking, people like me and people like you probably shouldn’t ever play together. Because, for you, sex with me is going to feel like work; and, for me, sex with you is going to feel like war.

I think this is going to become my Go To introduction link from now on. ErnieMaclan, I’ve no idea who you are but I appreciate the hell out of you. Thank you!