Monday, 10 March 2014

Why I'm Against BDSM - Radical Feminist Perspective

This post is an opinion piece and as such it will have a more light hearted, less formal tone than the previous piece. If you are an anti-BDSM feminist I hope that you enjoy the piece. If you are not, I hope you find it frustrating, but intellectually stimulating.
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Introduction

The acronym BDSM stands for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadomasochism. In Liberal Land it’s somehow okay to have a single letter stand for two different words, I suppose they think it makes their acronym more “subversive” or whatever, but other people are more likely to find it confusing. In fact, the acronym itself masks the nature of the practice. “BDSM” sounds a lot less scary than “sadomasochism”, doesn’t it? The word “sadomasochism” calls to mind an image of a man inflicting physical pain upon a woman, who is screaming in terror, and enjoying the fact that she is in pain, while whispering to you (the onlooker) “Trust me, she likes it”. It all sounds pretty freaky, doesn’t it? Of course, the word “BDSM” contains the acronym for sadomasochism within it, suggesting that sadomasochism is a form of BDSM, but this is not immediately obvious to the uninitiated. Thus when you tell people you’re against BDSM, people assume you must be a prude, because you sound like you’re objecting to some mysterious sex act that they see no reason to be afraid of, a sex act which is merely “weird”, rather than violent, dangerous or degrading.

Regardless of which term you use and regardless of how “varied” and “complex” the behaviours may be, all acts which fall under the BDSM umbrella have one thing in common, the domination of one human being over another. The phrase its advocates often use is “the exchange of erotic power”. Like with many liberal terms, it is not comprehensible to those who have not studied the issue. I’m not even sure if it’s entirely comprehensible to the people who use it. I think its intent is to inspire positive-thinking in the reader/listen. After all, we all like erotic things, right? Meanwhile the word “power” implies that what they’re saying is really profound and philosophical and the word “exchange” implies that something fair and egalitarian is going on. When you examine the term “exchange of power” more closely it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that is a topic for another post. Suffice it to say, liberal language is littered with euphemism and deception.

So why would anyone be opposed to “weird”, “kinky”, “steamy” “[insert deceptive adjective which is likely to appear in mainstream articles about BDSM here]” sex? In the remainder of this article, I will be presenting some of the arguments which are made against BDSM from a radical feminist viewpoint.

1. BDSM is contrary to the ideal of equality between humans

This argument really needs no explanation. BDSM is an anti-egalitarian human interaction (it involves some people being dominant and other people being submissive.) Radical feminists oppose anti-egalitarian human interactions (especially when they occur within the realm of intimate relations.) Therefore radical feminists oppose BDSM. It is really that simple.

Philosophy geeks may have noticed that what I provided above was a deductive argument. The structure is undoubtedly valid. Thus the only way to refute it is to show that the premises are wrong. Go ahead. Try it in the comment section. I dare you. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, feel free to ignore this paragraph. Unlike liberal feminists, I’m not here to bamboozle you with fancy words. If I use a fancy word it will be because the word properly expresses the thought that I’m trying to get across to the reader. Anyone who writes things that have been specially designed to only be understood by people who have done majors in gender studies probably isn’t serious about changing the world.

Back to the topic at hand, radical feminists fight for equality, not “choice”, not orgasm, equality. Yes liberal feminists and pornography lovers everywhere, there is something out there which is worth more than an orgasm (or any kind of sexual arousal.) To quote Gail Dines, orgasms are great, but revolutions are better.*

Equality (i.e. the elimination of power hierarchies within sexual relationships and in general) is the aim. Without equality there can be no genuine freedom. It is freedom feminists fight for, not “choice”. Not all choices lead to liberation and the fact that we may be allowed to choose our cell, does not mean we are not in a prison. Many of the choices women are faced with can be summed up as “submit to men this way or submit to men that way.” Some lucky women have the option of being dominant rather than be dominated, but what about the option of having a relationship that involves two people treating one another like equal human beings? That options is only available to those who consciously strive for it and radical feminists believe it’s worth striving for.

* For anyone who feels the need to verify everything someone says on the internet, the quote I’m paraphrasing is near the end of the talk. 

2. BDSM glamorises rape and abuse

Though it may not always seem that way, I like to be charitable when I’m arguing. If I grant that all of my opponents’ assumptions are correct and still show that what they’re advocating is messed up, it becomes pretty hard for them to refute me. So I’ll grant that BDSM is always consensual (even though it sometimes isn’t) and I’ll grant that BDSM is never abuse (even though it sometimes is.) That still doesn’t let BDSM off the hook.

Suppose you were watching a film in which a thin, busty women (or a highly muscular man, take your pick) struts across the screen smoking a cigarette. If you’re one of those media-analysis-is-above-me types you’ll probably shout “It’s just entertainment. Why you got to think so much about stuff?” as if thinking were a bad thing, but anti-tobacco activists know that when we see images of prettified celebrities smoking, it makes smoking seem glamorous. If you create a link in people’s minds between smoking and something pleasurable, like sex, it causes them to have more positive feelings towards smoking. Thus if we care about the welfare of human beings, we should be very careful about linking things with sex. Of course, corporations don’t care, but those claiming to be progressive should.

BDSM links sex with things that are just as horrible, if not worse, than smoking. These things include aggression, domination, violence and the abuse of women. “But wait,” BDSM proponents will scream, “BDSM is not abuse”. I already granted that assumption earlier on and in this situation it doesn’t matter. In the best case scenario, BDSM is a simulation of physical or emotional abuse which is aimed at causing sexual arousal. It thus trains people’s brains to associate abuse with arousal. In the case of the arousal-causing celebrity with the cigarette, it doesn’t really matter whether the actor is actually smoking in real life or not. It is the effect of the image on the audience that is significant. Likewise, when we’re discussing BDSM, we have to look at the bigger picture and ask what effect the practice has on our culture. 

The pro-BDSM response to this will no doubt be something along the lines of “but BDSM has no effect on the culture, it goes on in the bedroom, in private, not on movie screens”. Well as of February next year, it will be happening on movie screens. Even now, sadomasochism is a common theme in pornography. This is not something that the BDSM community objects to. They just want the pornographers to add boring scenes where the people involved talk in detail about what they’re going to before they do it (which is not something pornographers are likely to include if they want to maintain viewer interest.) In fact the activist portion of the BDSM community believes that the only way to alleviate the constant persecution which BDSM practitioners supposedly experience is by educating everyone about BDSM as much as they can. Some advocates argue that a lack of BDSM imagery within mainstream media leads to (or is a form of) persecution against the BDSM community. As long as there are people advocating this belief, BDSM cannot be understood purely as something private that goes on in bedrooms. It must be understood as what it is quickly becoming, a powerful political and cultural movement. 

For a list of gripes that BDSM advocates have concerning mainstream society, see the Vanilla Privilege Checklist.

3. Many BDSM acts are physically dangerous (to women)

“BDSM groups often try to educate people in safe practices (e.g. making sure gags don't cause suffocation). Some people have died; this is tragic; don't end up like them.” From a pro-BDSM blog called “Going Rampant”

Notice the power-neutral language in the above quote. We’re told that “people” have been killed by BDSM. In reality it is almost always the submissive whose life is endangered by violent sex. Dominants do not have objects shoved down their threats. They do not have knives or fires waved near their naked bodies. Only submissive BDSM practitioners are physically endangered by BDSM sex (but of course that fact does not fit well with the Orwellian pro-BDSM claim that the submissive is actually the one with the power) and, let us be honest here, there are good reasons to believe that it is typically women who play the submissive role in BDSM. So a more accurate statement would have been “BDSM kills women” or better yet “BDSM dominants sometimes kill their submissive female partners by inflicting dangerous sex acts upon them” (let’s just hope they’re doing it by accident.)

Even if we assume that BDSM does not involve any gendered power dynamics, surely I don’t have to defend the claim that the death of human beings (be they male or female) is generally a bad thing, do I? The usual response to this argument is that life is full of risks and it is crazy to oppose all risky behaviours. While I do not oppose all risky behaviours, I do believe that risks should be minimised whenever possible. This cannot be done for BDSM, because the risky nature of it is what makes it exciting to those who practice it. If power is what turns you on, then the best way to get that arousal is by placing yourself in a situation where you literally have the power of life and death over your partner. Meanwhile the submissive partner proves that she really does trust her sexy, sexy dominant by allowing him to have that kind of power over her. Thus danger is not an accidental feature of BDSM, something that just happens to exist during BDSM sex acts. It is part of the inherent nature of BDSM.

This is not true for other risky things like transportation. The purpose of the planes, buses and trains, for example, is to get people from point A to point B and making a plane, bus or train ride more dangerous will not improve its ability to do so. In fact public transport which is safe does a better job of getting people from point A to point B. Safe public transport is good public transport. Safe BDSM is bad BDSM (from the viewpoint of those who are into BDSM.) Unsafe BDSM sex acts can never become truly safe without losing much of their BDSM character and that would spoil the BDSM community’s fun.

Conclusion

I hope that this post has provided a useful introduction to the radical feminist critique of BDSM. This article is not intended to provide an extensive list of the arguments which feminists make against BDSM. I have barely touched on the ways in which BDSM is gendered. I am yet to discuss the ways in which BDSM embodies masculine and feminine ideals or the ways in which it glamorises oppressive systems of the past (e.g. slavery), nor have I responded to all pro-BDSM arguments. I do however feel that I have presented the main radical feminist arguments against BDSM, those which get to the heart of the matter and that I have provided sound arguments as to why any decent, equality-loving person should oppose BDSM. Maybe I even managed to generate some laughs along the way.
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Since this post is an opinion piece, rather than a trope page. Opposing viewpoints are allowed, but do try to be original. If your comment is pro-BDSM and made up only of arguments which have already been made in other comments it will probably be deleted. Personal attacks against individuals are still not allowed. As always constructive criticism is welcome.

If you enjoyed this post then stay tuned for posts discussing common pro-BDSM arguments, the causes of BDSM desires, the harmful nature of specific BDSM sex acts and why the left should be opposed to BDSM.

46 comments:

  1. Hi there,
    Just discovered your blog and it fascinates me! I'm wondering if you might have the time to add some perspective to some similar questions I have to the ones you address in this blog. My email is james_taddeo@yahoo.com

    Thanks.

    Sincerely,
    Jim

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  2. So as a whole you're saying never try BDSM because misogyny?

    Yeah you pretty much lost me.

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  3. Author obviously has no true understanding of BDSM. I regard your opinion as invalid. None of what you wrote about is true in the least bit.

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    1. Liberal commentor thinks "you are wrong" is a complete argument. It's not.

      To any BDSM proponent who wishes to comment here in the future, please make an actual argument and I thought all opinions were valid. I guess you were allowed to break the rules of liberalism because you were defending anti-egalitarian sex acts and yes I can switch who I am addressing mid-comment too. Aren't I so subversive?

      Delete
    2. You mix pleasure and pain and think that makes you the honest one all of a sudden? Again, that is not substance for basis

      Delete
  4. I am not spending my days very sad, wishing our relationship would change. My general mood with my partner is happiness. I am not “tolerating” what he does, I am asking him for it! I am not hoping things would change, or that he would stop, I am not being convinced to do things I didn’t first want to do. I am hoping we can do more of what we are already doing. I do not do these things we do because I am afraid he will leave me or because I love him (I’m not there yet). On the contrary, if he stopped doing these things with me, I would leave him!

    So, do you think I am broken or brainwashed? I have never been sexually or physically abused, (nor was my partner). I was raised by very loving parents who cared for me a great deal. I have never had any traumatic rape experiences, or any serious traumatic experiences at all (No PTSD, etc).

    Do you think I need to see a therapist If so, what past abuses would I need to explore? Should a therapist try to shock me every time I see a picture of something bdsm and arousing? (They did that with gay people, and it tends to damage them).

Basically, I’m not sure what you are advocating here. Should I just choose a non-kinky relationship and be unhappy in it just like a gay person feels pressured to marry the opposite sex? Or maybe you advocate I be single for my whole life? Both options would make me very very unhappy, whereas I am quite happy with things as they are now. Or should I try something like “gay conversion therapy” but for kinky people because YOU think what I do *must* make me unhappy and unhealthy? And *must* be wrong?

    I am very interested in what your response to this will be.

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    1. I said I would not respond to any more of your comments (after responding to one on another post), but I did not realise you had left one here as well, so I will respond to this one, but no others.
      "I am not spending my days very sad, wishing our relationship would change."
      Did I say you were? I wrote this post over a year ago, so please point to the specific parts you object to, instead of just bragging about your positive emotional state.
      "On the contrary, if he stopped doing these things with me, I would leave him!"
      Is a relationship based purely on sex really a healthy one? Sounds like your "relationship" is destined to end the moment he breaks his arm and becomes physically incapable of dominating you. Not a very sustainable source of happiness is it? I don't think you are ever going to love him with such a superficial attitude. There is more to love and relationships than sex. Using a man for sex may seem all empowering and feminist, but it just gives men permission to treat women the same way.
      "So, do you think I am broken or brainwashed?"
      I think I would like you better if you were broken. I do not hate weak people and victims like you seem to. We have all been indoctrinated by the general culture (regardless of what our parents were like), but some of us think critically about what we are told. You do not even try to.
      "Do you think I need to see a therapist If so, what past abuses would I need to explore?"
      You do realise that therapists deal with things other than childhood abuse, right?
      "Should a therapist try to shock me every time I see a picture of something bdsm and arousing?"
      Ironically shocking people is a sadomasochist practice, so if they did do it, wouldn't you just be aroused? Either way, electrocuting people is your thing, not ours and it is not entirely a thing of the past.Sometimes the gay person even consents to it. Do you support it in such situations? I do not. I do not support it for sadomasochists either. We would just be copying you if we used it.
      "Should I just choose a non-kinky relationship and be unhappy in it just like a gay person feels pressured to marry the opposite sex? Or maybe you advocate I be single for my whole life?"
      I do not care what you do. My aim is to change the world and the culture so that people do not develop sadomasochist fetishes in the first place.
      "Both options would make me very very unhappy, whereas I am quite happy with things as they are now."
      Your sex-based happiness cannot last for reasons I discussed above. What kind of happy relationship will only last so long as both partners maintain their physical strength and attractiveness? Why pursue such a temporary form of happiness? "
      Or should I try something like “gay conversion therapy” but for kinky people because YOU think what I do *must* make me unhappy and unhealthy? And *must* be wrong?"
      You could try cognitive-behavioural therapy, which is actually the recommended therapy for sadomasochists wishing to give up their fetish. It consists of talking with a therapist who encourages you to think rationally about your feelings and desires. How horrifying, right? *Sarcasm*. Of course, it does not work if you want to hold on to your fetish.
      The issue of whether sadomasochism is healthy (in a physical way, as well as a mental way) and morally acceptable is totally separate question from that of whether sadomasochism makes you happy. Many things which make people happy (e.g. drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, cigarettes) are unhealthy in the long term. And no, you should not do anything because of what I think. You should think for yourself. I am just presenting arguments for you to think about, though you seem to be ignoring them.

      Delete
    2. It is correct that a loving romantic relationship is more than just sex, and that a relationship based solely on sex is unhealthy. However, your implicit claim that sex and sexual preferences shouldn't matter at all in a romantic relationship is equally unhealthy. OF COURSE it matters if romantic partners are also compatible in their sexual preferences and can give each other the desired satisfaction, because if they can't, they could (and arguably should) just as well opt for a close platonic friendship instead.

      I think you fail to understand not only the dynamics of a consensual BDSM relationship, but of romantic relationships in general. You're the typical case of a leftist puritan. Your views on sexuality (and also on morality, by the way) are not adequately materialist-communist, but rather crypto-Christian. You want to be critical of the society you live in, and you demand people to be critical about their upbringing, and these are both good and important things, but unfortunately you fail to apply the same amount of critical scrutiny to your own code of moral judgment. As a result, you judgments often stem from half-knowledge at best and from ignorance at worst. (A good example would be your citation of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book and movie series widely rejected by the BDSM community itself for not portraying this kind of relationships adequately.)

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    3. As for equality in a BDSM relationship, I think your concept of equality is flawed. Believe it or not, Dom and sub in a healthy BDSM relationship ARE equals in the one point that actually matters: they are equal in their ability to give or deny consent.

      The concept of equality you employ essentially amounts to saying that team sports are also against equality because there are different positions within the team. If this is really what you mean by equality, then demanding it is unreasonable and irrational altogether, because it essentially amounts to returning to the stone age. Considering myself a communist as well, I can't accept that. We have to employ a concept of equality that actually makes sense. Sorry to say that, but yours doesn't.

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    4. Oh yeah... that statement by "Unknown" up there was written by me. It somehow didn't carry over my nickname.

      Delete
    5. I also like how you explicitly said "Thus the only way to refute it is to show that the premises are wrong. Go ahead. Try it in the comment section. I dare you" and then not want to respond to comments :3

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    6. I did respond. I generally respond to people only once (per blog post). I have a life and so far you sadomasochists have only repeated the same arguments over and over again. I am not going to use up more time than I need responding to you.

      Consent, consent, consent, you think I have never heard that argument before? I get it. Everyone gets the shit beat, cut, burned or strangled out of them talked at length about the beating, cutting, burning or strangulation and then signed some contracts before it happened. I know! I am not impressed.

      I think there are other basic ethical standards that a sex act should meet, like the requirement that people not be killed or seriously injured by it. Preferably sex acts should also be loving and egalitarian (that means nobody dominates anyone else), but not killing people would be a good start. If I see a dead female body, I am not going to care whether there was consent. The death of an innocent, healthy human is a horrible thing regardless of whether there was consent. You want me to be impressed with the sadomasochist community, do not tell me about consent. Tell me how you avoid killing and injuring people.

      If the body of a women looks like it has been cut, it has almost certainly been cut. If a body looks like it has been strangled to death, it has almost certainly been strangled to death. Those things are what they look like. Consent alone does not justify that which kills people. Nobody can consent to anything when they are dead or dying. If you truly value liberty you should value life.

      The premises I dare people to try and refute are as follows.

      1. Sadomasochism is an anti-egalitarian human interaction
      2. Radical feminists oppose anti-egalitarian human interactions

      So far nobody has even tried to refute them. If you want me to respond to you again, then address those specific premises. If you respond with more references to consent, I will not reply. I seriously have better things to do.

      Delete
  5. 1) I actually do not hate weak people, I was just angry at you so that spilled over. However I don’t need to prove this to you because you do not accept facts or logical arguments, you ignore them, so you will ignore anything I say.

    2) You assume that BDSM is only about sex. But, there is actually an entire emotional component to BDSM that makes it very satisfying. There are a number of asexuals who do BDSM too. I only mentioned sexual things because it’s low hanging fruit. But you will ignore this fact as well, because you like to ignore facts and evidence.

    3) I actually know quite a bit about psychology since I studied it in school. Cognitive behavior therapy wouldn’t work to change someone with a BDSM orientation because what it does is it takes your negative thoughts about something, and challenges them by teaching you to think differently. I have told you numerous times that I have no negative thoughts about BDSM, and I have shown you and taken you through that step by step, but you like to cling to your beliefs and will refuse to believe or accept anything I say if it goes against your opinion, no matter how good the evidence.

    4) You say that it is society that has shaped me to be into BDSM. Which is ironic, because its the opposite. I have spent most of my life listening to what society told me I should do or how I should be. Society says men can’t hit women, and submission is wrong. I spent years suppressing my interest in this because of what society thinks and because of what “everyone else” thinks. But, you will disregard this because you are always right on this issue, and you cannot accept that a person who actually HAS experience with BDSM might know something you don’t.

    5) I have actually given this issue a lot of thought, and when I was forming my opinions on this issue, I was very open minded to all sides.I thought to myself, “Is BDSM abuse? What is abuse and what isn’t? IF BDSM isn’t abuse then whats the difference?” I thought quite a long time about these issues. I also had to think quite a bit about how to understand it, because like you I do believe in equality for the genders in most places. However, you have never considered that for some people, BDSM can be health and wonderful, because yo like to cling to your beliefs without being open minded or tolerant.

    6) Your argument that the people I choose to be with is similar to being a drug addict is not new, anti-gay bigots use that argument all the time. Just like gay people, there are no adverse effects emotionally or physically to being in a BDSM relationship. But you are incapable of seeing the facts, as apparently I’m not the first to argue your point. You are just as close minded and intolerant as gay bigots.

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  6. 7) So in sum, YOU ARE INCAPABLE OF KEEPING AN OPEN MIND. So really, it is YOU who are not thinking for yourself, because you have never considered both sides like I have. You have accepted SOCIETYs beliefs that relationships should only be a certain way and if its not that way its wrong. So therefore YOU IGNORE FACTS THAT ARE INCONVENIENT TO YOUR FALSE BELIEF. Don’t worry, this is normal, you are in the ranks of anti-gay bigots, racial bigots, religious missionaries and the like.

    8) After thinking about it, I have decided that your opinion does not matter at all on this. I don't need to worry that you will damage those with a kinky orientation either, (as anti gay bigots damage gay people) because your blog isn’t easy to find in relation to BDSM. Overall, you are some random person on the internet, and because you are INCAPABLE of keeping an open mind, you are INCAPABLE OF SEEING ANOTHER’S SIDE IF IT DISAGREES WITH YOUR OWN, and you are incapable of accepting facts, thus your views are suspect. (look, I can see how its easy to view BDSM as abuse, but I have shown you how it isn’t and you are INCAPABLE of being open minded). I have presented extremely logical explanations as to why BDSM is not abuse. I am not being damaged. My self-esteem isn’t suffering, I am not being physically or psychologically damaged in any permanent way beyond a bruise here or there that many athletes and martial artists get anyway. I enjoy this relationship more than any other. But YOU HAVE DECIDED TO STAB YOURSELF IN THE EYES and blind yourself to facts and any logical arguments presented to you. Do you do this with other things too? I don’t know why I waste my time with people like you. I guess I always hold out the hope that someone like you is open minded, but I am always sorely disappointed. Go ahead, believe what you want to believe, I don’t care anymore, just stay out of me and the kinky community’s way, and let us live our lives proudly. Because I do think for myself, and I have decided that your opinion does not matter.

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    1. As a BDSM novice practitioner and student, I agree to that extremely long, yet correct strings of comments.

      BDSM is not what it looks like or seems. Things are discussed OPENLY behind the leather and chains and stuff. Things were made sure to be okay, including the importance of consent (hence the usage of safewords in case anything painful and/ or uncomfortable happens).

      I salute thee~

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    2. -I find it fascinating that people in the BDSM community are soooo ready to defend their practice of it but when it comes to the "why they are into it" they largely don't care. And furthermore they see absolutely no reason at all in exploring the "why". Sure it's consensual. Sure there are rules you follow. I'm still curious what makes some of the most ugly human emotions (shame, humiliation, hatred, violation, etc.) sexually arousing. Even if it is okay to practice these elements of human disgust in your private bedroom I wanna know what it is about these things that makes a generally well adapted person want to do these things. Don't just brush it off as nun-yo-buisness. I am genuinely curious about what is enjoyable about letting your partner treat you like an asshole during sex. I dated a girl who let her past partner restrain her to the bed, blindfold her and proceed to write horrible things on her body with a sharpy. Things like "Property" and "Fuck Toy" while he called her a "whore" and "worthless slut" who was only there for his sexual enjoyment. Oh… they were not dating. He maintained he wanted an open relationship. She could never explain why she enjoyed it. She only ever said that it was consensual. That was her only contribution to the discussion. Mind you this was not an argument merely a discussion. And she could come up with nothing. How come BDSM'ers never ever can discuss any of the "why's" about what they are doing. Only that they have the right and that it's nobodies business. I give 'em that but show me you can think a little deeper. Show me that you have an ability to reflect on your actions.

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    3. -Just to give a little more to my statement/comment…. I simply don't believe that most BDSM'ers give much concern to the relevance of the "why". I believe that there is significant relevance to the "why". If you so adamantly involve yourself in a practice but never question your motives then why are you doing it in the first place? Because it just feels good and is fun? I personally think you would either reconsider some of what you originally thought was "fun" and/or you just might see more reason or justification for it. Isn't it worth a look? You like to explore your sexuality ….try it from a mental perspective instead of just the physical.

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    4. To Gabe,

      Most liberals are not all that intellectually curious (even though they dominate academia), they just say whatever they think will cause others to approve of their actions. If saying something is biological helps them win approval, they say it. If saying something is a choice helps them win approval, they say that. It is all about their sex liberation agenda, not the pursuit of scientific knowledge, which they perceive as oppressive and "totalising" (how dare anyone pursue truth and claim to know things about the natural world!)

      I think the discussion about whether BDSM is morally right or not needs to take place before any discussion of its origins. Once society becomes conscious of the need to abolish BDSM the question of how to abolish it can be tackled. This will involve looking into its origins. If the origins issue is addressed first, any origin which is discovered will be used to defend the practices (sex liberals are the masters of spin). Though if I did not oppose sadomasochism, I would be curious about it from a purely academic standpoint as well. It is disappointing that self proclaimed academics lacks such curiosity. A product of education being turned into a commercial product, no doubt.

      "I dated a girl who let her past partner restrain her to the bed, blindfold her and proceed to write horrible things on her body with a sharpy. Things like "Property" and "Fuck Toy" while he called her a "whore" and "worthless slut" who was only there for his sexual enjoyment."

      Funnily enough, liberals consider writing insults on their bodies to be an art form. Some kind of psychological coping mechanism perhaps, I cannot claim to understand it. Modern (i.e. liberal) art is definitely not my thing.

      "Oh… they were not dating. He maintained he wanted an open relationship."

      Typical liberal hypocrite. He wanted it to be open for him, but she was meant to be his property. Sex liberals want to be promiscuous themselves and do not understand why anyone would object to it, but they do not want to be the ones getting cheated on.

      "Only that they have the right and that it's nobodies business. I give 'em that but show me you can think a little deeper."

      If it's nobody's business, they shouldn't be shoving it down everyone's throats. They insist on describing their sex lives to me after I have told them I was not interested (see the above comments). They seem incapable of having a discussion about sadomasochism in the abstract. Everything revolves around them and their sex lives. Internet discussions aside, the culture is filled with sadomasochist imagery, not to mention the outright sadomasochism of the pornography industry. Until such things go away and my nieces can grow up without being exposed to such garbage, I am afraid that sadomasochism is my business.

      "Because it just feels good and is fun?"

      For some sex liberals it is all about physical pleasure, but I think a lot of them get an ego boost out of sadomasochism (and casual sex as well, but that is another topic). Once somehow has accepted the idea that they are a commodity they want to be able to prove to themselves that they are a valuable commodity, worth more than other commodities. Having a big strong man select them to be their property makes them feel good about themselves. Of course, this only lasts as long as they have the approval of said man. Sex liberalism is a quick and easy path to ultimately fleeting self esteem boosts. I think it is better to build self esteem by actually being a good person.

      "You like to explore your sexuality …. Try it from a mental perspective instead of just the physical."

      For liberals, mentally exploring sex means sexual fantasies and masturbation, LOL. It never occurs to them that critical thinking involves actually criticising things. They think all criticism of sex is "sexually repressive" after all.

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    5. To Gabe-
      Thank you for questioning! It's always exciting to find someone who actually wants to learn and not just criticize. I don't know what part of our community you've been talking to, but I really love discussion and challenge of what I'm into. I'm a submissive, in a very happy relationship of a year and a half, and my girlfriend and I have been practicing BDSM for about 6 months of that. The relationship I'm in is what's called "24/7 D/s." D/s is shorthand for Dominant/submission, and the 24/7 means I'm her submissive outside of the bedroom as well as inside. We're both equal in this relationship. I have control over what is and isn't done to me. We know our limits (yes, Dominants have limits too) and we talk through everything before actually doing it. Now, for your question. For me, as a person, I'm a perfectionist. I put huge effort into everything I do. It's stressful, it's a lot of work, and a lot of the time, I hate it. But when I submit, I have someone else to make my decisions for me. All I have to do is say "yes" or "no" and follow commands. For me, it is a lot more about the mental release than the physical. There's a term in the community called subspace. Basically, it's a state of mind in which the pain a submissive feels causes a rush of endorphins that blocks out most of the pain and leads to a high-like feeling that can be extremely pleasurable. It's really amazing, even just the edges of it. In addition, BDSM is a way for me to feel completely connected with my Dominant. It takes a great deal of trust to give someone command over your body. It can be scary at first, but if you slowly work up to bigger things, it can be very rewarding. I can't say I have experience with the motivations of a Dominant, but there are many capable people who I'm sure would be thrilled to talk to someone as insightful and curious as yourself. I hope this was helpful, at least to some extent, and that you question everything in this same respectful and honest manner. It really was a relief to see that people like you still exist my friend. Thank you, and enjoy your day.

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  7. Your argument that BDSM is inherently anti-egalitarian has a flawed premise. You argue that because BDS< "involves people being dominant and other people being submissive," it cannot, by default, be equal. While this would superficially appear true, it effectively ignores the core aspect of BDSM as "safe, sane and consensual." Everyone in the BDSM community knows that it is the submissive who has ultimate control; subs dictate what actions are okay, how much, how hard, and when to stop. The Dominance and submission is not total; it is merely an act. For this very reason BDSM is referred to as "play" and "scenes," much like you would refer to any other type of role-playing or performance. While BDSM scenes seek to replicate a dynamic of Dominance and submission on a superficial level, the inherent equality or agency of the submissive is never compromised because of pre-play negotiations (what is a submissive willing to consent to?) and safe-words (so that nothing happens a submissive doesn't specifically want or desire). A submissive's choice to act in a submissive way is simply that -- it's their choice.

    To assume BDSM oppresses women denies female agency over their own bodies and sexuality. It also ignores the existence of same-sex relationships in the BDSM community, and implies that female dominants or male submissives do not exist -- further reinforcing the sexist stereotype of the perpetually passive female and authoritative male. In reality, gender dynamics vary in the BDSM community far more than conventional heteronormative, gender-conforming standards would imply, and to deny these aspects of BDSM play is to deny human individuality and women's sexual agency over their own bodies and their own choices.

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    1. "...it is the submissive who has ultimate control"

      To submit is to give up your power and allow someone else to have power over you. The declaration that the submissive has the power is logically contradictory. In the best case scenario, the submissive has the power to not get raped or beaten up. What kind of power is that? Would a man ever consider himself to be powerful if the only power he had was the power to not be raped or beaten up non-consensually? The sadomasochist community sets very low standards for female "empowerment". In the worst case scenario any dominant can just choose to ignore whatever the submissive says. If the submissive is tied up, then she is physically incapable of stopping him. It does not matter if the dominant is super benevolent, he still has the power to keep going with the act. The claim that "submissive has the real power" is false.

      "The Dominance and submission is not total; it is merely an act."

      In lifestyle sadomasochism, the submissive is supposed to submit to the dominant twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, in what sense is that an act? Even in regular sadomasochism, real implements are used to inflict real physical damage onto real human flesh. This makes the "acts" way too real. This is not supposed to happen when somebody acts in a film or play. It does not matter if you wear funny (and ridiculously expensive) costumes or take on fake identities. The actual act itself is real.

      "A submissive's choice to act in a submissive way is simply that -- it's their choice."

      If somebody chooses to give up their power, they have still given up their power. Sweatshop workers choose to work in sweatshops, but they are still exploited because some conditions (working long hours, for low pay, doing repetitive jobs) are inherently exploitative. I see no reason to make an exception for exploitative sex which can cause real physical injuries and even kill people. Political equality and power (agency is just a fancy, liberal word for power) are not an inherent part of human beings. Those of us who are not born as part of the ruling class do not have all that much power unless we fight for it, collectively. Lacking power does not somehow equate to lacking humanity.

      "To assume BDSM oppresses women denies female agency..."

      Denying the existence of something does not cause it to go away. If submissive women have power (what you call "agency") they have power and nothing I say will change that. I am causing no harm by denying that they have power. If they do not have power, then I am right, plain and simple.

      "It also ignores the existence of same-sex relationships in the BDSM community, and implies that female dominants or male submissives do not exist -- further reinforcing the sexist stereotype..."

      If I pointed out that the vast majority of politicians, capitalists (as in owners of corporations) and others in a position of power were males would that also be reinforcing sexist stereotypes? Or would that simply be a fact? Pointing out a sexist reality is not sexism and even if there are exceptions that does not negate the general trend of male dominance and female submissive, the same way that the existence of Hillary Clinton does not change the fact that male generally have political power over women.

      "In reality, gender dynamics vary in the BDSM community..."

      Variation does not impress me. The fact that you have found a variety of ways to abuse people does not change the fact that you are abusing people. Once again, if you really had power my denial of it would make no difference. So you would really have nothing to be afraid of. The fact is, we live in a patriarchal society which means women in general do not very much power. Real feminist fight to change the fact that women lack power. They do not pretend that it is not the case.

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  8. Comparing consensual BDSM play to sweatshop work isn't a substantive analogy. Sweatshop workers are compelled to work in sweatshops because of economic hardship. Nothing is pushing submissives to have kinky sex other than their own desire.

    As a feminist and a self-identified sub, I feel your argument is deeply patronizing. To imply that I am not capable of identifying my desires or freely making the choice to explore them reproduces the same old tired sexism we see in society in which women can't "think for themselves."

    Even in "24/7" relationships, subs always retain their right to use safe-words so that play does not exceed what they are willing and consenting to do. And if someone enjoys being playfully bossed around in bed, who are you to police them?

    Remember, abuse exists in vanilla relationships too.

    For a women to come to the conclusion that she enjoys engaging in BDSM activities, and to decide to seek out such experiences, is an expression of her sexual sovereignty and right to self-determination. In a society that actively pressures women to behave passively, a woman’s choice to actively seek out sexual gratification on her own terms, even through the means of sexual submissiveness, is a subversive gesture and therefor a feminist act.

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    1. This is spot on, thank you for this well thought out response!

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  9. I strongly agree with the author, this issue is often talked about in relation to feminism. As a heterosexual male I consider myself a feminist, and abhor any act of oppression, violence, or injustice towards women. I have in the past watched porn, and among many types of porn I have watched porn which includes BDSM activities, both in cases where the female is the submissive and the male is dominant as well as BDSM porn in which the female is the dominant and the male is the submissive. I have quit porn since and had the unique opportunity to evaluate what porn did to me mentally as well as many of my male as well as female peers. Since a young age I was aroused by being a male submissive, and my sexual practices were in accordance with that. My girlfriend and I would often role play, I would often ask her to humiliate me. What I perceived to be sexually arousing turned out to prove to be destructive. Sex is not some magic bubble in which pain, humiliation and degradation is ineffective. Though I never fetishized scenarios in which the woman was a submissive, I have seen much material related to that form of BDSM, and it ranges from what looks like a woman being forced to perform oral sex on multiple men while being called a whore or a slut, to extremely convincing rape scenes where the woman is at knife point, one such video in which a woman is depicted as being murdered by the end of the rape. By far one of the most disturbing images I've ever encountered was within BDSM oriented pornography, it was on "Tumblr" and the particular feed focused on eroticizing female genital mutilation, a couple is depicted where the male is cutting off the clitoris, labia, and clitoral hood, stitching it and back up so that the vagina heels shut, a process called infibulation, of course the person who managed the Tumblr account with such graphic content included in the magic word that the pro BDSM/pro porn lobby uses so frequently... "consent." However I bid anyone to ask themselves, does a woman who is so submissive that she gives her dominant the permission to permanently mutilate her genitals have the ability to give meaningful consent at all? Porn ruins decades of work feminists have done to bring equality to our society. Our society is still very misogynistic and holds men and women to different standards, thus even women who grow up in loving homes and are never abused may have lower self esteem than their male peers and fall into this vicious cycle of degradation and humiliation, a woman is expected to wear make up, and heels as well as make up, which inherently reinforce to young girls that the way they look in nature isn't good enough, men do not undergo such devastating blows to their self esteem in their adolescent years. However porn affects men to, I have observed a good many men emulating behavior found in porn, many men in the company of other men refer to women using degrading words such as fuck pigs, whores, skanks or sluts. Many men are now unable to have real sex due to the environment that pornography and BDSM has created, many of them suffer from ED and prefer masturbation, and few aggression again women as sexual. I urge both men and women to quit porn and explore healthy sex. Sex should be beautiful, not violent and humiliating. Women should be equal everywhere, weather it is the workplace, the gym, the night club or on the bedroom.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! It's nice to know that men can be brought back from the dark side, haha.

      The sexualisation of female genital mutilation is disturbing but not far removed from the aggression and torture typically sexualised through BDSM.

      You're totally right, dominance and submission aren't sexy, no matter who's the dominant or submissive. Having men submit to women only further normalises unhealthy dynamics and makes other men think it's okay to dominate women.

      Pornography (I call it "pornography", not "porn", "porn" sounds less harmful than it actually is) has had a profound effect on the culture and on the lives of young women and girls. It is definitely related to beauty practices (including not only make up and high heels, but also pubic hair removal). Both harm women's self esteem by promoting the belief that their prettiness matters more than their intelligence or moral decency and implying that they aren't pretty enough naturally (though we should be wary of "natural beauty" bullshit that makes women feel bad about themselves if their genetics don't enable them to meet beauty standards without these practices).

      While pornography does in a sense harm men, it is important to recognise that it does not disempower them. It puts them in a position of power over women and power tends to have a corrupting influence.

      "I urge both men and women to quit porn and explore healthy sex. Sex should be beautiful, not violent and humiliating. Women should be equal everywhere, weather it is the workplace, the gym, the night club or on the bedroom."

      Absolutely!

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    2. Could not agree with you more, while porn hurts men as I mentioned, it doesn't promote the idea that they should be disenfranchised. I agree about your argument on beauty, our culture typically encourages our young boys to be strong, brave, and intelligent, while young girls are always taught to look "beautiful" which is code for aesthetically pleasing to men and "polite and respectful" which are often code for submissive. I was delighted to read your initial post and now your reply, I'm against hair removal as well for both men and women, shaving is extremely painful and a waste of time, I'm also against bras. A French study proved women who wear bras are more likely to develop breast cancer, I always thought bras were as sexist as corsets which also cause irreparable damage to a woman's health.

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  10. Indeed that was certainly some great "education" but I just have one question-
    I'm a female, and I'm a sub
    Feminist means equal rights (just going over my understanding here)
    When I CHOOSE to give my own life to a partner and I CHOOSE to participate in SAFE scenarios with him and he with I, because in giving over control you kind of receive it as well-why is that inherently anti-feminist?
    Well I'll just put forward that, surely, it's still feminist. Because I've had the power to choose and to give over rather than being forced into it. Besides, he would only have power in name, if I ever wanted it I can take the reins back whenever I wanted.
    Also I can understand your argument that you mentioned in a comment or a part of your article "they could easily ignore the safe word" or something to that effect-but I would like to point out that isn't anything to do with BDSM. As soon as that happens it's called sexual assault and rape-and-I'm sure you know all about rape culture and whatnot, so isn't it a good idea to make sure the correct terms are used and rather than blaming the relationship (and in a way the victim) blaming the perpetrator in entirety?

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    1. "Indeed that was certainly some great "education" but I just have one question-"

      In case you can't tell my intention was polemical. I don't pretend to be a neutral "educator" like sex liberals (to whom being neutral means being sex liberal).

      "I'm a female, and I'm a sub"

      The less I know about your sex life the better, that's why I'm not telling you about mine. Keep it abstract if you can.

      "Feminist means equal rights (just going over my understanding here)"

      I use "feminism" to refer to efforts to eliminate power inequalities, especially the power biological males have over biological females. Or quote myself..

      "Equality (i.e. the elimination of power hierarchies within sexual relationships and in general) is the aim. Without equality there can be no genuine freedom. It is freedom feminists fight for, not “choice”. "

      But even the "equal rights" definition doesn't justify sadomasochism, because sexual pleasure is not a recognised human right. To me it's just like every other form of pleasure (e.g. the pleasure people get from playing videogames). It may be fun but that doesn't make it a right.

      "When I CHOOSE to give my own life to a partner and I CHOOSE to participate in SAFE scenarios with him and he with I, because in giving over control you kind of receive it as well-why is that inherently anti-feminist?"

      It is inherently anti-feminist because feminism (as I defined it above) aims for a world in which males do not exercise power over females and your scenario is one in which a man exercises power over a female. I don't really care if you chose it (again, read my original post).

      I would go a step further and state that I aim to eliminate power inequalities whenever possible. No one should dominate anyone else unless such dynamics are completely unavoidable.

      "Because I've had the power to choose and to give over rather than being forced into it."

      If he has power over you, what you're doing isn't consistent with feminism.

      "Besides, he would only have power in name, if I ever wanted it I can take the reins back whenever I wanted."

      So if you were physically tied up and he wanted you to stay tied up you could shout some magical word and the ropes and chains would disappear? I don't think so. You would just be begging him to untie you, which would mean relying on his benevolence. If he's not benevolent then you're screwed, because being physically tied up constitutes a loss of power, no matter how you feel about it.

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    2. "As soon as that happens it's called sexual assault and rape-and-I'm sure you know all about rape culture and whatnot, so isn't it a good idea to make sure the correct terms are used..."

      You realise that a man can know all about your precious safe words and just choose to ignore them because he gets pleasure out of beating the shit out of you and wants to keep doing it? Not all men who commit sexual assault are uneducated. Many just feel entitled to sexual pleasure and will do anything to get it. Others get sexual pleasure out of the power dynamic itself (the fact that they are raping a woman and thereby exercising power over her turns them on), which is a phenomenon that sadomasochists themselves support. Teach men to think that dominance is sexy and some will want to impose that dominance onto women against their will (since such a practice is the ultimate expression of sexual dominance). Rape is extreme an extreme form of BDSM (or more specifically sexual sadomasochism), not a deviation from it.

      Rape is however a deviation from the view that sex should be a loving, gentle, egalitarian act. There's no such thing as an egalitarian rape. All rapes involve sexual dominance. Therefore all rapes contain sadomasochist elements and none can truly be called "vanilla" even if they involve conventional sex acts.

      "...blaming the relationship (and in a way the victim) blaming the perpetrator in entirety?"

      I wouldn't blame the victim or the perpetrator, or at least, I wouldn't put 100% of the blame on the perpetrator. I think that would be a very individualistic approach that sees some men as just inherently evil, while seeing other men as inherently good. I would blame the general culture and social setting that turned the man evil, which in this case would be the sadomasochist community (along with pornography, the sex industry in general and the media) which taught the man that dominating women is sexy. Rape is a logical expression of that ideology, which doesn't mean men who rape have no responsibility for what they did or that we shouldn't penalise them. It just means that we have to change the culture to make sure it stops producing men who rape, which in view means combatting the sex industry and the promotion of sadomasochism.

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  11. You don't understand egalitarianism. I society of equal slaves is not egalitarian. Without the freedom of choice people cannot be equal. What you seem to be advocating is pushing people into moral conformity. Making everyone assume roles they are uncomfortable in does not make everyone equal.
    You're argument that BDSM encourages rape and violence is poorly reasoned. It insults the survivors of SA by reasoning that physical pain and not the violation of consent are what makes SA damaging. You also assume everyone's natural physical responses and sexual stimuli as well as their reaction to and threshold for pain should be the same as yours.
    Finally your conclusion that BDSM is inherently sexist is sexist itself. Not only do you assume females should be limited in the way we express sexuality, but also that women must be the submissive in a power exchange dynamic. You also totally erase the existence of LGBT members of the BDSM community.
    In the end your argument boils down to you'd rather have a society where people are forced to behave in unifirm ways despite the fact equal enjoyment would not be derived from such behavior. Your version of feminism shames women for their sexuality and you clearly lack any understanding of the community you wish to judge.
    Typical non intersectional, white savior complex, SWERF nonsense.

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    1. Another excellent response. Funny how the best responses to this article are not engaged by the author...

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  12. Hello Folks,

    I stumbled upon this thread while researching a paper for a Sociology class entitled Sex and Society. My "main" area of academic interest is in Research Psychology. I think the original poster (albeit with an off-putting tone of moral superiority thinly veiled in an attempt to replicate the scientific writing style of empirical inquiry) must care deeply about the ethical impact of BDSM has on society. This is a valid concern. I wish rather than making conjectures, however, more folks would look to evidence-based research studies, rather than relying upon their ability to master Socratic dialectics.

    I would like to respond to Gabe's inquiry regarding whether practitioners of BDSM question "why are they into it?" as well as poster "R" above--who shares 'it is not what one gets out of it but rather what it enables' that is salient.

    Firstly, we have evolved with a neurotransmitter reward system that favors novelty, intensity, and mastering dangerous situations. Dopamine, and endogenous opioids/endorphins, being what they are make us feel great. So does oxytocin and serotonin. In regards to feel-good neurotransmitters(NT), different people are not only hard-wired differently in how much stimulus s/he needs to produce any given NT, but we also differentially value our experiences with them. Dopamine is linked with sexual desire, and some people just literally require high amounts of it to get aroused (hard/wet) enough to make intercourse possible or comfortable. (In the absence of arousal, women with low-desire have been expected to engage in heterosexual intercourse with men since the dawn of fucking time. Often it is done willingly because they love their partner and wish to preserve the relationship, but I digress)
    Now, all kinds of taboo, and/or intense subjects fit into this category of things that will create dopamine and fuel our sexy machinations. We don't usually have control over what turns us on. We just don't. Our bodies may become physically aroused by things that we find repulsive. Are domination and subjugation a cornerstone of the inequality-based atrocities throughout history? Yes they are. (Btw, subjugation is not consciously part of the submissive dynamic in BDSM) Does that mean we shouldn't co-opt those structures because they may be a part of an internalized oppression? Well, as we have learned from other sexual identities that have been considered deviant in the past, diversion therapy not only doesn't work, it is not considered ethical anymore. So, no. No amt of "therapy" or insights gained are going to change our biology substantially. At best, we'd be asking others to engage in sex and or intimacy they didn't find as stimulating--if at all.
    This does not mean that dopamine-fueled hedonism is sustainable, it isn't. Our brains did not evolve with pornography, high fat foods, video games or other things that can hijack our reward system either, but that doesn't mean we can't take advantage of them.
    Whether BDSM is intrinsically good or bad is not the question, but rather how to change our sexual education climate so that pleasure-seeking wasn't vilified, but rather taught how to evaluate if it is being practiced in a balanced, sustainable way in one's life.

    Now, as to how it is viewed from the outside looking in, and wondering if it glamorizes rape or violence, or perpetuates patriarchy, it absolutely could. So can many things. I think the answer is to bring sexuality conversations out of the closet at early ages so that one's caregivers might actually be responsible for the sex ed of developing souls, rather than leaving it to the perfunctory facts about STI's and unwanted pregnancy doled out in schools or by the misogyny based videos on the internet.
    Please feminists/humanists, don't ever shame someone for what turns their crank. It isn't helping.

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    1. "I think the original poster (albeit with an off-putting tone of moral superiority thinly veiled in an attempt to replicate the scientific writing style of empirical inquiry) must care deeply about the ethical impact of BDSM has on society."

      The original poster is still here. I wasn't particularly trying to replicate scientific writing, I was actually trying to be somewhat humorous. Maybe I'm not very good at it, but either way I never claimed to be unbiased.

      "I wish rather than making conjectures, however, more folks would look to evidence-based research studies, rather than relying upon their ability to master Socratic dialectics."

      Evidence means nothing without rational arguments examining the significance of that evidence. Real science doesn't pit reason and evidence against each other. It unites them. I don't regard sociology as real science.

      Where's the evidence based research showing that beating, whipping, choking and burning women will not kill them? All I've seen from the pro-sadomasochism side is "studies" in which they interview people about how much sexy fun their messed up practices are. This isn't science. You might as well interview a bunch of smokers about whether they like smoking. It wouldn't change the fact that smoking can kill you (in the long run).

      "I would like to respond to Gabe's inquiry regarding whether practitioners of BDSM question "why are they into it?" as well as poster "R" above--who shares 'it is not what one gets out of it but rather what it enables' that is salient."

      I get it, your answer to "why are they into it" is "they were born that way, baby", but that doesn't make it right. I'm sure you could find genes and neurotransmitters correlated with any behaviour, it doesn't prove that people cannot change or make their behaviour is okay.

      As for the question of sadomasochism's impact on the culture, well you didn't really address that at all did you? I think that's a more important question than its origins. The causes of a behaviour tell us nothing about whether it is right or wrong. Once we decide that it is wrong, then knowing the causes could tell us how to prevent it, even if that requires altering the genetic codes of fetuses, which is not an option I favour, but not one I would rule out when it comes to saving women's lives.

      "Firstly, we have evolved with a neurotransmitter reward system that favors novelty, intensity, and mastering dangerous situations. Dopamine, and endogenous opioids/endorphins, being what they are make us feel great. So does oxytocin and serotonin. In regards to feel-good neurotransmitters(NT), different people are not only hard-wired differently in how much stimulus s/he needs to produce any given NT, but we also differentially value our experiences with them. Dopamine is linked with sexual desire, and some people just literally require high amounts of it to get aroused (hard/wet) enough to make intercourse possible or comfortable."

      That's an awfully long way to say "born that way, baby!" Throwing a bunch of biological terms at me (do you actually have any qualifications in psychology?) doesn't impress me.

      Our brains and nervous systems can and do change, linking a behaviour to the nervous system proves neither that a behaviour is innate, nor unchangeable. Our nervous systems change through desensitisation, shove a bunch of sex and violence down somebody's throat and their physiological response to it becomes weaker and weaker, until they "need" intense, violent acts to become aroused. The same things happens with other stimuli (such as drugs), the more you use, the more you "need".

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    2. If I seem particularly mad today, it's because I found out Trump won the election. Then again we are dealing with people defending brutal violence as a "sexual orientation". It isn't. Being gay doesn't inherently involve power dynamics or violence so the comparison isn't fair.

      "(In the absence of arousal, women with low-desire have been expected to engage in heterosexual intercourse with men since the dawn of fucking time. Often it is done willingly because they love their partner and wish to preserve the relationship, but I digress)"

      My purpose is not to promote heterosexual intercourse. I don't think it's the only alternative to sadomasochism (or that sadomasochism is the only alternative to it). Women should've have to chose between being beaten, whipped, choked, burned or aggressively penetrated. Love and gentleness should at least be an option.

      "We don't usually have control over what turns us on. We just don't."

      We have control over whether to consume pornography. We have control over whether to engage in sexual practices inspired by pornography.
      We have control over whether to form relationships with people who practice such behaviours and join communities that encourage them.
      We have control over whether we declare to the world that what gets us aroused is who we are.

      Our sexual desires shape our behaviour, but our behaviours in turn shape our desiring. People who choose to view and practice sadomasochism are choosing to strengthen that desire in them until it becomes uncontrollable. We all struggle with harmful desires and we all have a choice about how to handle them.

      "Does that mean we shouldn't co-opt those structures because they may be a part of an internalized oppression?"

      It's not just an expression of internalised oppression. It is oppression (one group exercising power and dominance over another, supposedly for their own good). It also causes further oppression by making people think oppression is normal and that women, blacks, etc. actually want it.

      "Our brains did not evolve with pornography, high fat foods, video games or other things that can hijack our reward system either, but that doesn't mean we can't take advantage of them."

      At the expense of our physical and mental health (in the case of violent video games, not video games generally). I don't think we can "take advantage of them" whatever that means.

      "Whether BDSM is intrinsically good or bad is not the question, but rather how to change our sexual education climate so that pleasure-seeking wasn't vilified, but rather taught how to evaluate if it is being practiced in a balanced, sustainable way in one's life."

      By stating that mindless sexual hedonism (including sadomasochism) shouldn't be vilified, you're already taking the stance that it's a good thing. Please be honest and stop pretending to be neutral.

      I don't think there's a balanced, sustainable way to choke women. Any system gears towards seeking quantity and intensity over quality is inherently unsustainable.

      "I think the answer is to bring sexuality conversations out of the closet at early ages so that one's caregivers might actually be responsible for the sex ed of developing souls, rather than leaving it to the perfunctory facts about STI's and unwanted pregnancy doled out in schools or by the misogyny based videos on the internet."

      Sex education is not the magical solution to all problems. My nieces and nephew certainly will not be receiving any "education" about how to engage in sadomasochistic activities if I have any say in the matter.

      "Please feminists/humanists, don't ever shame someone for what turns their crank."

      Why not? What's going to happen if I do? They'll feel bad. I'm not making anything read what I have to say. Once again, your feelings are your own fault.

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    3. "It also causes further oppression by making people think oppression is normal and that women, blacks, etc. actually want it"

      Don't try to make this into a race thing white girl. I'm sick of people like you trying to appropriate my struggles for your agenda.


      "Women should've have to chose between being beaten, whipped, choked, burned or aggressively penetrated. Love and gentleness should at least be an option."

      They shouldn't have to choose that and no one is advocating that they should only that we should have the option to enjoy such things if we choose. Sometimes I want my DD to be aggressive with me. This doesn't mean there is no love or gentleness. She is actually the most gentle, loving, and kind person in the world to me. She treats me like a princess and is only ever aggressive for my pleasure.

      What exactly is your opinion based on? Did you actually talk to any submissives? Do you have any studies to back up your claim that BDSM leads to non consensual violence? Do you have anything other than your own feelings to back up your anti BDSM BS?

      You aren't a feminist. You're a sad judgemental moralist doing the same crap misogynists and homophobes have done for centuries.

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  13. "This argument really needs no explanation. BDSM is an anti-egalitarian human interaction (it involves some people being dominant and other people being submissive.)"

    If your contention is that imbalances in power distribution themselves are anti-egalitarian, then it stands that the unequal power distribution of moral superiority in the act of a teacher assuming the power to teach students is also anti-egalitarian; as are any number of other things, like parents making rules for their children, the act of speaking, where one person assumes the power of making noise and the other 'submits' to listening in silence; or indeed, even democracy, where empowered majorities rule-- would you like all of these interactions to stop because you are a radical feminist and all radical feminists oppose anti-egalitarian human actions? I'm not familiar with all your work and opinions, so I don't know if your answer is yes-- but even if it is, it remains that a reality in which all this disappears is not viable.

    Let me be clear that I don't disagree with your general commentary regarding the failings of BDSM-- I just don't think a holier than thou, "discussion about whether BDSM is morally right or not" is ever going to work. Given that there is a group of people who care about it out there, ultimately, that's an anti-egalitarian act of establishing moral superiority; and the same people who bash feminists for emasculating men will also bash you for this discussion you need to have.

    Neither will biomedicalizing the issue as an innate sexual orientation, or rationalizing it as a "natural" one help, when we know that we are engaged today in breaking apart the value-laden meaning of natural and looking for (and finding) ways to harness our "innate" wiring to allow us the external changes we want.

    Instead, my best guess is that it ultimately comes down to allowing equality in empowerment-- understanding that in the process we will have to face all female desires (even those of these that are explicitly inheritances of patriarchal oppression). When you face that they are there, you can empower those who disagree to have the tools to opt out of those practices-- give them a law that allows them to protect their bodies from abuse, a culture which encourages them to do what they want, and an intellectual environment that allows them a fair voice to protest cultures of abuse-- then, let them make their choices.

    I think we have all of this in place, and I think this post is an example of the outcome of that success, even if it would benefit from framing itself as an attempt to provide support for people seeking an alternative understanding of BDSM rather than as an attempt to establish its moral inferiority as a sexual practice.

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  14. "If your contention is that imbalances in power distribution themselves are anti-egalitarian, then it stands that the unequal power distribution of moral superiority..."

    Moral superiority isn't power, as much as I wish it was. No gets power from being moral superior or believing that they are morally superior. Many morally decent people get stepped on by those who do not give a damn about right and wrong. If anything lack of ethics is a source of power in this brutal capitalistic and patriarchal era.

    ".. the act of a teacher assuming the power to teach students is also anti-egalitarian; as are any number of other things, like parents making rules for their children..."

    I don't think schools and parenting are at all comparable to sadomasochism. In those situations, the power inequality exists at the point when a child is born and educational structures (in their ideal form at least) exist to reduce this inequality. They don't create it or at least aren't supposed to. To the extent that they do reinforce inequalities they need to be reformed, I don't support authoritarian teaching or parenting.

    Any rules someone sets must have a rational justification, instead of being justified through power. Teacher and parents who shout "because I say so" and demand blind obedience are terrible teachers and parents.

    We must consider not only whether a power inequality exists, but whether it is being increased or decreased. Schools work towards equality. As one is educated, the power parents and teachers have over them is supposed to decrease. In sadomasochism, the power inequality (I am not sure how an imbalance is different to an inequality) increases. The dominant becomes more dominant and the submissive becomes more submissive.

    So there really is no comparison and even there were accepting that power inequalities need to exist under certain circumstances does not require me to believe that power inequalities which, by the admission of sadomasochists themselves, exist just for fun, are justified. This is like arguing that because killing in self defence is justified, it is therefore okay to slaughter innocents just because you feel like it. If you feel your power inequality is justified than justify it.

    "...the act of speaking, where one person assumes the power of making noise and the other 'submits' to listening in silence..."

    I don't expect anyone to submit to listening to me. If someone does not like listening to me they can leave and if someone wants to interrupt me they have the freedom to. People who talk on and on without giving others the right to interrupt are jerks.

    However, the power dynamics involved in talking depends a great deal on what is being said. Speech can be used to surrender power to or to provide someone with information which may then increase their level of power in the world, as is the case in education. Students "submit" to listening to the teacher so they can become more knowledgeable, not because they like being submissive. They don't. If you doubt that I suggest you interact with a young child who hasn't yet had conformity drilled into them.

    "...indeed, even democracy, where empowered majorities rule--"

    You have no idea how democracy works. The systems vary, but they aren't a simple matter of majority rules. Minority views with enough support are represented in parliament (at least in my country they are) and no group is ever supposed to gain permanent power over a country because their candidate won.

    The way I see it, though, democracy should be about giving ordinary people a voice, not solely about elections. Once again, consider the direction of change. Representative democracies are an improvement upon dictatorships and I would welcome an even better system if it were brought about.

    "...a reality in which all this disappears is not viable."

    Ideals are not limited by what is viable and shouldn't be.

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    1. "… I don't disagree with your general commentary regarding the failings of BDSM-- I just don't think a holier than thou, "discussion about whether BDSM is morally right or not" is ever going to work"

      I'm not commenting on the failures of sadomasochism, I'm arguing for its abolition. To my chagrin, the sadomasochist community has succeeded in growing more powerful and spreading its bullshit everywhere.
      I care what is morally right and you don't. I'm against sadomasochism and you're for it. Stop pretending we have something in common.

      "Given that there is a group of people who care about it out there, ultimately, that's an anti-egalitarian act of establishing moral superiority"
      No matter how many times I say that I have moral superiority (though I am really only saying that the act of sadomasochism is morally wrong and that not doing it is morally better, not that I'm morally better overall), that declaration gives my no power whatsoever. The sadomasochist community is in complete control of all academic discussions about the topic and I'm forbidden from saying a word against it at my university.

      If I had anywhere near as much economic and cultural power as sadomasochists do, I wouldn't be wasting time with this blog. I would be making documentaries, producing feature films and running workshops directed towards encouraging egalitarian sexualities. Stop claiming that I'm exercising power over anyone. Your own conscious has more power over you than I'll ever have and maybe that's the problem.

      ; and the same people who bash feminists for emasculating men will also bash you for this discussion you need to have."

      "Instead, my best guess is that it ultimately comes down to allowing equality in empowerment-- understanding that in the process we will have to face all female desires (even those of these that are explicitly inheritances of patriarchal oppression)."

      Empowerment is a meaningless liberal phrase that I don't for at all. Any desires that arise from patriarchy can be ended by abolishing patriarchy.

      "When you face that they are there, you can empower those who disagree to have the tools to opt out of those practices-- give them a law that allows them to protect their bodies from abuse, a culture which encourages them to do what they want, and an intellectual environment that allows them a fair voice to protest cultures of abuse-- then, let them make their choices."

      Supposedly the sadomasochist community already does all that, while at the same time trying to grow their community (by telling vanilla people that they need to "spice up" their sex lives if they want them to be successful) and force their norms onto everyone (e.g. by claiming that all sex is really about power and that vanilla people should use safe words and generally try to learn from the sadomasochist community).

      Even if they left us alone (which I doubt they will) their sexuality is already so damn common that women who don't want to experiment with it will struggle to find romantic partners. No one should have to choose between being forced into sadomasochist and giving up the possibility of romantic love.

      "I think we have all of this in place, and I think this post is an example of the outcome of that success, even if it would benefit from framing itself as an attempt to provide support for people seeking an alternative understanding of BDSM rather than as an attempt to establish its moral inferiority as a sexual practice."

      I'm not reframing it as a way to seek an "alternative understanding" of sadomasochism (which would only further strengthen and promote the practice), because that isn't my goal. I called this post "why I'm against BDSM" because I'm against it, completely. Crazy, right?

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  15. I hear you. How are you going to go about abolishing BDSM though? Pass laws not allowing BDSM pornography? Have friends/neighbors/children spy on people and lock up the offenders? Shame and chastise the women clamping up their nipples while they’re alone because they don’t orgasm any other way but still want to? At what point does a counterculture to BDSM counterculture become meaningless?

    A side note— I totally agree that no one should have to choose between BDSM and the opportunity to romantic love— and I had no idea that the young scene had changed so much that it’s so hard to find men who are not into it. If it’s any consolation I think your experience might have something to do with college and kids in college having too much time and knowing nothing about life. Ask anyone over 35, and while many will agree that it could be fun to think about it, the number of us actually willing to do fancy rope shit and spend the ridiculous amount of time it takes to have a fleshed out BDSM dynamic in the bedroom is closer than you’d think it is to zero. The number of people without kids/work/life goals/health issues/volunteering/sports/hobbies/religion keeping them to busy to engage in anything other than quick, albeit deeply committed and romantic sex is naturally very small.

    I respectfully disagree that establishing moral superiority isn’t a power move. The church, amongst other religions (and political ideologies like that of Marx, for that matter) has used manufactured moral superiority oppressively for ages, for one example. You can pretend all you like that morality is some kind of Gospel truth handed to man, but we all know it is a biased, relative cultural entity that can be used oppressively. You even named it yourself— “cultural power,” and you are clearly, here, in the business of making some for yourself however you may want to paint it with a pity story of your powerlessness. If you haven’t already, consider reading Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil, it might stimulate you and offer much in meaningful support for your argument that BDSM’s proselytizing of its gruesome practices as liberal/sex positive is justificatory of bad things— maybe you will even find that you can indeed write about it at university if you want to put in the work.

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  16. You can call empowerment liberal drivel or whatever the hell you like, but it doesn’t change that you’re missing my point here. Yes, ending patriarchy will end this. But ending patriarchy is not a matter of looking in the mirror and saying “patriarchy has ended”. In the work of ending it, people are going to have to face even very personal issues like their sexuality, and that’s going to mean dealing with the existence of BDSM narratives in their lives if they’ve been conditioned that way… whether they choose to celebrate and embrace it or not is a choice they will make, whether you like it or not, and they need to be given tools to make that choice on their own terms instead of on the terms of whoever came up with the rubbish that 50 shades of grey is.

    Insofar I think it's good to remember that while the BDSM community can say what it wants, so can you and me. We can talk about how our sex does not need spicing or capitalist scrutiny of any kind at all. But in saying they can't say anything/must be abolished, I feel like we're undermining equality and pushing under the rug a moment of cultural development that needs to happen whether it's pretty or not. I don't think brainwashing or attempts at brainwashing with emotional ideas of how immoral/liberal BDSM is and thus what kind of person it makes you on either side of this is useful-- I think we should look more at the issues from an empathetic angle and debunk false claims, promote alternative images of sexuality and generally consolidate instead of divide. Assuming you want to work towards more than just winning the a paper-battle that is, if not, this is clearly the way to go.

    No one is ever going to leave ANY aspect of our lives alone, the same way we're not leaving (and have not left, historically) anyone else's life alone. We're ultimately accountable to each other in some or the other way in a society, and as much as I don't want other people's agenda pushed on to me, I also don't want mine to be meaningless, and I can understand that there is a degree of sacrifice there. It's more of a pretense to act like we don't have anything in common than it is to accept that we do, whether we like it or not. But again, that's only an issue to people who care about actually getting work done. BDSM didn't just spread (much to your chagrin), there are real people with real agendas spreading it, much the same way that whatever you are doing here is spreading your egalitarian sexuality idea; and people side with and adopt it for specific and personal reasons that your high and mighty ignoring doesn't erase. As described above, an empathetic appeal might start to work through these reasons, on the other hand.

    So If you seriously want to do something about it, take the one clue we can from the right and learn to get apparent enemies together on whatever points they will agree on as much as possible. Pretending like you don’t have power is only going to justify your laziness for so long. You do have power. You live somewhere with freedom of speech and are able to afford university/a life that let you get a scholarship to afford it. You can afford enough time to whine online and read my whining. I think you can also find time to make friends with filmmakers in the film dept and make documentaries with them, and you can certainly go to the student senate/parliament and make a workshop on whatever you want. I did it once, and I see kids everywhere doing it today, with better cameras that too— I’m sure you can if you set your mind to it. Of course it will take the hard work of having a conciliatory attitude, and the only thing that can motivate that is a true desire to change things. If you have it, get moving.

    If not, keep talking. Trumps will come and go.

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  17. Lived my whole sexual life, since teenage years, into BDSM.
    Then I read this last year and started questioning myself about "why do i like it?"
    Seriously, this post changed my life.
    I am redescovering my sexuality, my way to have relationships.
    I can see clearly now that I was submissive, all along, because I've learned that, since forever. The tabu over female sexuality, the need of punishment for having a sexual life at all, the fear, the bodyshame.

    And thn, I have suffered a sexual violence. And that killed BDSM once for all in my life, 'cause I saw the similarity. And BDSM is NOT about trust, consense, love, partnership. BDSM is about someone being dominant over another, and the submissive being less than human. BDSM turned me into an object, for several years. And I am so thankful radfeminism took me out of it. I don't even consume pornography anymore because it's so clear to me that the porn industry have a huge role on BDSM, violence against woman and this fake idea of "women sexual freedom" over violence, rough impersonal sex with someone who degradates you.

    Sex should be about trust, confidence, an exchange of pleasure, feelings and, sometimes, love. Not about dominance and pain.
    This shit is sick.

    Great post, seriously.
    Thanks for it.

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  19. Thanks! Your post has given me the idea to write a short story about a BDSM couple that love each other in their own devious way, but suddenly they become outlawed because society has finally abolished all kinds of inequality, abuse, violence, and oppression, which is great for society as a whole, but it’s ironically oppressive for these particular individuals.

    This basically summarizes my views on the subject and your article.

    I must say I do agree with your basic premise. I’m not going to try to challenge the idea that sadomasochism is intrinsically contrary to the ideal of equality, because I can’t. I think most of these people who have come to the comments section to repeat the same “safe, sane, and consensual” mantra, deep inside know you are actually right. BDSM is nasty and violent, it replicates situations that any decent person finds unacceptable in real life. We know that. That’s why almost any kinkster has dealt with these guilt and negative feelings of “but WHY do I like THIS? Why can’t I just enjoy normal and loving sex? Why do I crave for this disgusting stuff when I believe in freedom, in equality, in non-violence principles?”

    And that’s horrible, you know? Overwhelming. It’s difficult to come to terms with a kinky sexuality precisely because something inside you says it is twisted and morally wrong.

    But then you think, well, but if I want to submit and he wants to dominate me, and he hurts me only inside a safe margin and I want to be hurt, then we are not REALLY hurting anyone, right?

    That’s basically the safe, sane, and consensual argument, which I see you dismiss because it is not enough. And I understand what you say. We cannot indulge in such practices, even if they are consensual, because they spread and replicate and normalize inequality.

    But the problem, I think, is ‘Which one is the source of the evil?’

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  20. For example, you talk about BDSM porn as if it was the CAUSE of BDSM practices and not the other way around. And you seem to imply that cultural references generate more BDSM and more overall inequality. But cultural references to sadomasochism exist because sadomasochism priorly exists.

    But why do sadomasochism exists in the first place? It’s obvious that some people try these practices in later stages of their lives to “spice up” their sexual experiences, and for this we can actually blame the culture. But most kinksters are deeply rooted in their perversion. It was there sometimes since their early childhood (maybe not sexually, but still there), long way before one is exposed to porn or other materials.

    Off course, we might not be exposed to porn or particularly abusive personal experiences, but WE ALL (all mankind) are exposed since the early childhood to the experiences of power dynamics, inequality, hierarchies, authority, abuse, violence. It is all over the place: the family is a hierarchy, the school is hierarchical, relationships with “peers” are unequal and violent. Maybe we kinskters just happen to cope badly with these concepts from a very early stage of our development, and we fetishize them and we end up being the sick persons that we are.

    But, in any case, I firmly believe individual BDSM is the byproduct of the byproduct of societal power and abuse structures. It’s NOT the cause. It doesn’t sum up to the authoritarian shit of the world, it rather sometimes serves as a catharsis for the sick and dark side of our civilization. The fact that a couple indulge in a BDSM scene in their bedroom does not provoke the spontaneous rise of a dictator in Nigeria. Nor it provokes the rise of a new abusive multinational someplace else.

    Rather, if the hypothetical Nigerian dictator had indulged in BDSM practices, maybe he wouldn’t have to cope with their power issues by becoming a dictator in the first place.

    That been said, I don’t think we can build an entirely power dynamics-free, hierarchical-free society. But we do need to strive for a less violet, less abusive, and more equal society. And maybe, when we reach that goal, BDSM is going to naturally become obsolete because there won’t be any more individuals damaged by their early experiences with power and authority. Maybe.

    But, until then, why condemn the symptom so lively? The symptom is not the disease. We didn’t ask to be troubled about power dynamics in the first place, nor do we promote violence outside of the bedroom, so I don’t think we don’t deserve to achieve romantic and sexual satisfaction in our own terms and inside a safe margin. Maybe, at most, we could be less expansive about our practices, because yeah, BDSM is not something to be proud of. But neither ashamed.

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  21. I have been in the lifestyle a long time and have met a lot of people in all sorts of variations of the lifestyle. So here are my two cents, since you invited comments.

    It took me a long time to realize this and even longer to accept it: it’s the submissive that has all the control. Now I know what you’ve said, when a person is tied up they’re obviously not in control of the person who is not tied up chooses to do something horrible, like rape or kill the submissive. Which you’re right, it happens occasionally. Just like shootings happen in theaters and drunk drivers kill people on the freeway and people get raped in alleys. Honestly, any of those things would be easier than raping a submissive, because of the amount of time the Dominant and submissive have to get to know each other and form the trust necessary to even get to the “tying up” part. It’s far more likely that a rapist would just take the person in the alley rather than spending months or years getting to know and trust the person, it’s just too much work.

    I mean, dating is dangerous too, right? Just a regular, vanilla date ends up spending time alone with the other person after a date or even a few days, and there’s the opportunity to get raped, right there. Relationships can be dangerous. But so is going to movie theaters, driving in cars, and walking in alleys.

    So in a genuine, true, D/s relationship it’s the submissive that has the control, the control to stop everything at the drop of a hat. And if that happens it’s over, for that session at least. And, of course, the Dom can also stop at any time. It’s completely consensual, or, at least, it should be. I’ve seen abusive BDSM relationships too, but haven’t you seen abusive “vanilla” relationships? They’re both just as bad.

    Regarding equality, my husband and I are equal. The definition of equality is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” My husband and I share an equal partnership where we both bring our whole hearts and souls into the relationship. I am no less equal than him, and just as important, he is no less equal than me. When you go to a doctor, or lawyer, or any professional, they’re advising or telling you what to do, right? They have the right to say it because you went to them seeking their advice, and you have the right to either take their advice or not. Does that make either of you less equal? Don’t you feel “equal” to your doctor? It’s true that you might be on different sides of the table, but you’re still equal. It’s the same in relationships of any sort, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to be the same, as long as they’re both treated with equal rights, privileges, empathy, etc. So a submissive is equal to a dominant in a healthy relationship.

    This may surprise you: my husband and I don’t have sex. Sex isn’t a part of our relationship and yet we are still living a 24/7 D/s lifestyle. There are as many different types of relationships as there are stars in the sky. I’ve found that people who live an unorthodox life are so very tolerant of all people, it’s really a beautiful thing. I can’t understand what it would be like to be in a lesbian relationship because I’m not a lesbian, but I would support gay and lesbian people to the ends of the earth if need be. I don’t agree with most of the things you said, but I would go to the ends of the earth to protect your right to have any relationship that makes you truly happy and fulfilled.

    There are so many more points I could make, but I feel I’ve been on my soapbox too long as it is. I see you as someone who doesn’t understand the lifestyle because you’re on the outside looking in. That’s okay, everyone is on the outside looking in on someone else’s life. And how can I blame you for judgements when there’s trash like Fifty Shades of Grey out there? That stuff is utter nonsense, that’s not how the lifestyle is, but as long as it makes money people don’t care. So I don’t expect you to understand. But I still wanted to comment because you invited it and I had something to say. Thank you for listening.

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