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
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.
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.
You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense makes a two pronged argument:
- Saying “yes” is necessary but not sufficient for consent.
- 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.”
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: http://rolequeer.tumblr.com/resources/
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.
- How to have hot, kinky sex with other Submissives without inviting a Dom
- Submissive People Don’t Need Dominants, Period.
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. 🙂
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!”
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.
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.
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!