It's not about you: Beyond 'kink-shaming'

Let’s just start by saying this: I really don’t care about ‘kink’ or about ‘kinky people’. It just doesn’t interest me. I don’t give a shit about your leather fetish. Really.

But because I recently dared to suggest that RCMP officer Jim Brown’s sadomasochistic behaviour might, just might, be related to the fact that we live in a pornified world that sexualizes violence against women and male domination, it was decided by the internet (and the internet never lies, folks) that I hated ‘kinky sex’/’kinky people’, that I simply don’t know enough about BDSM to be qualified to judge images that are very clearly fetishizing male domination, and that I think all people who are into BDSM are terrible, terrible people.

Basically, the response I got was exactly the same response I get every time I critique porn and prostitution and, in fact, was the EXACT same response I got from the burlesque community when I dared to suggest that burlesque wasn’t feminist. What was that response? “BUT I LIKE IT.” “IT’S MY CHOICE”. “IT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD.” “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.” “MEMEME.”

Well hey, here’s a wild idea! Maybe it isn’t all about you. Maybe the things that turn you on, make you feel hot, and give you orgasms aren’t *just* about your own personal, private, individual life. Maybe the things you do are shaped by outside forces like patriarchy. Maybe your actions have a larger impact. Maybe you didn’t spend your formative years deep asleep in a magical fairy cave only to awake from your slumber to suddenly and mysteriously have fantasies about hog-tying and raping women.

But hey, I get it.

People are defensive about their personal lives and private interests. Particularly when those interests are very much attached to their identities. If your entire conception of yourself is based on being a part of the BDSM community and you think that BDSM is just about the awesomest pass time ever then it might be hard to hear critique. It might be hard to digest the fact that, just because you really, really like something doesn’t mean that it is or should be free from deconstruction or critique.

I like makeup. I wear it almost every day. I think eyeliner is the best. I really like being able to cover up my zits and under eye circles. Does that make makeup an inherently ‘good’ thing? Does it mean that makeup is feminist and progressive because I am feminist and progressive? Does it mean that the only possible reason I could ‘enjoy’ wearing makeup is because I like it, point blank? No. Of course not. I wear makeup because I grew up in a culture that scrutinizes women’s looks and values their appearances above all else. I live in a consumer culture that invents flaws and insecurities in order to be able to sell us things that will ‘fix’ our flaws.

So makeup isn’t really the best. There are many aspects of the beauty industry that can and should be critiqued. But does that make me a terrible person because I wear makeup? No. Does it mean I’m not a real feminist because I wear makeup? Of course not. But it also doesn’t mean it’s perfectly fine and awesome and that I shouldn’t explore or acknowledge the fact that I wear makeup because I was taught and bought into the idea that, in one way or another, I was going to be judged based on my appearance and that I’ve been convinced and have convinced myself that I needed to wear makeup in order to avoid looking ugly and sick.

I’m not perfect. No one is. But every time someone criticizes the beauty industry, do I get all offended and up in arms and pretend like I’m being personally attacked? No. Because criticizing oppressive practices and an oppressive culture is not the same thing as saying that I, as an individual, am a terrible person.

And back to kink. Again, I don’t give a shit if you have ‘kinky sex’. So stop tweeting at me about it. I really don’t give a fuck. Second, I don’t think that all people who engage in BDSM are necessarily terrible, evil people. Third, just because you are a feminist or because you consider yourself to be a progressive guy, doesn’t make everything you do a feminist or progressive practice.

Now, for the purposes of clarification, when I stated that, with regard to the discovery of photos of Cpl. Jim Brown engaging in sadomasochism: “We’re only permitted to say ‘he should have kept it hidden from public view’ because to say anything else defies the modern ethos, post-sexual revolution, that says: Sex is always good. Erections are always good. If it turns you on, so be it,” it isn’t because I agree with the idea that erections are always ‘right’ (boners aren’t in charge you guys!), that male desire should decide what, how, and with whom sex happens or is, or that only PIV equals sex, as this blogger decided I did because it was convenient for the purposes of their argument, stating after my quote:

For Murphy, for the purposes of this article, it’s the erection that dictates sex.  Again, this is something feminists have been fighting for a long time, trying to erase the idea that PIV sex is the only sex that counts.

It’s very obvious, both within my original post and based on all of my previous erection-related writing, that I am critical of the idea that male desire rules all, that I am critical of heteronormativity, of compulsory sexuality, and of the idea that PIV is the only way to have sex. In fact I make exactly the opposite argument. Often! But if you can’t come up with a quality argument, the best thing to do is just invent one, yeah?

Basically, because I pointed out that we live in a culture that sexualizes violence against women and that it wasn’t the best thing ever that an RCMP officer who was involved in the Pickton investigation was also into dominating women and eroticizing violence in his private life,  I got a whole bunch of comments and tweets from people explaining to me that either their female partner enjoys being submissive, that they themselves like being tied up, spanked and beaten, that BDSM is consensual, that fantasy and reality are completely separate, blah blah blah.

Allow me to reiterate: I DON’T CARE. Just like I don’t care what specific kinds of porn you are into, just like I don’t care how much super awesome empowering fun stripping on stage for an audience is for you. You liking something doesn’t make it innately ‘good’. There is no protective bubble around things we think are fun. I think watching the Real Housewives of Vancouver is ‘fun’. Does that make it ‘good’. Hell fucking no. But I suppose it’s about time I came out about that secret shame.

Whether or not an individual enjoys being beaten up does not negate the possibility that eroticizing male dominance is tied to the fact that we live in a male dominated culture. Whether or not an individual consented to being dominated doesn’t alter the context of patriarchy. Just because a person is not an evil piece of shit or a murderer in their day to day lives does not mean that their fantasies are not fantasies that were shaped by sexism and a porny culture that objectifies women and thinks that rape scenes should be masturbatory tools.

What I wrote about was an RCMP officer who played a role in the Pickton investigation. So Brown was looking into the disappearance and sadistic murder of dozens of women. He also happens to be turned on by dominating women and playing out sadistic fantasies in his private life. Does that necessarily make him a murderer? No. Is it worth exploring the fact that a man in a position of power who was a part of a force that made it pretty clear that they didn’t give two shits about the women who were going missing from the DTES until they were forced to pay attention AND that he liked to play out misogynist, violent fantasies in his private time? Yes. Is it worth exploring the idea that violence against women is consistently eroticized in pornography as well as in mainstream media and that that is bad for women? Yes. Does it mean that everyone who likes kinky sex is a bad person? No.

This isn’t about you and you alone. BDSM is hot to some people because these power roles exist in real life. You didn’t invent power roles and you didn’t invent your sexuality out of thin air. It exists as it does because of the world we live in, in one way or another. We understand sex as we do because of the world we live in and the culture that surrounds us.

Panic claims that “most of the men who hit a woman consensually would never do it outside a sexual context; the taboo nature would be lost otherwise.  (Just as rape is not about sex, neither is domestic violence.)” So what? So you hit a woman in the bedroom and not ‘outside of a sexual context’ and somehow that’s supposed to convince me that BDSM isn’t a turn on for some people because of a context of inequity and the unequal power roles that already exist between men and women? That a woman who gets off on by being hit by a man in bed isn’t getting off on that because male power and dominance is eroticized by our culture? Is that supposed to convince me that when a man hits you within a ‘sexual context’ that has nothing to do misogyny? I don’t think that woman who is turned on is bad. In fact, I think it’s totally understandable that this is the kind of thing people might think is hot in the sex context. Aaaaaand… end of conversation? No.

While I understand the concept that “rape is about power not sex”, it actually isn’t completely true. Power turns some people on. In the sex way. Rape is played out in porn all the time. People are into rape fantasies, like, in the bedroom. Rape is very much tied up in our conception of sex. Again, that doesn’t mean that a person who plays out rape fantasies in the bedroom is necessarily going to go out and rape a woman in real life, but because we live in a rape culture, rape is tied to our understanding of sex and sexuality. And that is shitty. In fact it’s more than shitty. It actually impacts the real lives of real women. It certainly isn’t an untouchable subject just because your sex life is dependent on those fantasies.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on BDSM. I’m not, nor do I desire to be. Your personal, individual experiences with BDSM are of little interest to me. That said, the phenomenon of sexualizing male violence against women and male dominance is of interest to me. And it is that, and only that, which I was addressing in my previous post. The reason why I would address that particular aspect of BDSM and do not care to address any other aspects of kink/BDSM at this moment is because eroticizing violence against women and male dominance is a big part of our culture and is actually dangerous for real women in real life. Men are a dominant group and women are a subordinate group. Women are subjected to violence at the hands of men on a daily basis. The missing and murdered women were killed by men. That’s why the sexualization of inequity matters and that’s why images of an RCMP officer posing in sadistic scenes with submissive women matters.

There are many more discussions to be had on the topic of BDSM, to be sure, but those conversations are not the conversations I am currently addressing. I know it’s difficult to digest the idea that everyone in the world isn’t particularly interested in the intricate details of your costume parties, but deal with it.

And to those who leaped to defend Brown, comparing the discussion of his sadomasochism to homophobia, as though this dude is somehow part of an oppressed minority group, I suggest you read this important (and very disturbing) post. An excerpt:

Some are even comparing the public smearing of this man’s reputation to the gay rights movement, and the collective oppressions faced by gays and lesbians whose sexuality was once criminalized and punished by beatings, rapes, abductions, murders, involuntary incarceration in mental hospitals, brain-washing camps, and prison sentences spent in solitary confinement. Why not just start comparing him to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while you’re at it? Why stop there, even? Why not start calling this a genocide against perverts? And then there are the people who are writing tirelessly about how he is a man of integrity — well I suppose whether or not he is depends on who you ask, doesn’t it? Or does a man of integrity typically live a double-life? Is unapologetic sexism a form of integrity?

I said it already and I’ll say it again, because it’s key: This isn’t about you. This is not the time to defend your kinks. Get some perspective.

 

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • Reuben

    Have you considered that maybe the reason people have suggested you expand your knowledge of BDSM is that you cannot otherwise be considered qualified to ‘explore’ this issue. It is usually considered good form to know what you are talking about before you climb on your soap box. If I said that chose to see BDSM as an example of sexualizing female violence because you had penis envy, I’m sure you’d be very quick to complain that I obviously knew nothing about feminism; and you’d be right to do so. I personally am very concerned about the level of violence against women. Even without considering the scourge of human trafficking and institutionalized abuses in various developing nations, the levels of domestic violence and rape in the western world are stupefying. The point being brought to your attention however is that non of those issues have anything to do with BDSM. If you don’t agree with that then you should research the lifestyle before coming to a final conclusion. If you are not prepared to do that then you are not qualified to speak on the subject, just like nobody is qualified to debate any issue if they are not prepared to gain an understanding of both sides of the argument.
    As far as comparing the taboo of kink to homophobia, you are indeed correct that it hasn’t led to the same violence of persecution. There is however a lot of prejudice towards people who identify with this lifestyle, thanks in no small part to people like you. I’m sure you became a feminist because you wanted women to have the same rights as men. Kinky people want the same rights as everyone else too. Perhaps a sense of empathy towards a marginalized group might inspire you to gain at least a cursory understanding of the issues. After all, the only thing society loves to ridicule more than a man who likes to be tied up with a ball gag and a vibrating butt-plug, is a feminist.

    • Meghan Murphy

      For the last time (but seriously, probably not the last time) – this is not a post about BDSM. It’s a post about the behaviour of this member of the RCMP. Yeah sure, the images count as BDSM. They also eroticize violence against women. I’m not exploring the issue of BDSM. I’m exploring the sexualization of violence against women by a man who worked on the Pickton investigation. Read this post. Please. http://haifischgeweint.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/with-all-due-respect-cpl-jim-brown-eroticized-violence-against-women/

      In other news, I am ‘expanding my knowledge of BDSM’ and will be producing two podcasts over the next couple of weeks on the topic.

    • Steve Laine

      I just had to create an account JUST to reply to this one glorious sentence.

      “Kinky people want the same rights as everyone else too.”

      SO PLEASE TELL ME: what rights are you talking about? Are furries and BDSM people forbidden from voting? Filing taxes? Getting married?

      Seriously, what rights are you missing that everyone else has except “kinky people”? I would like to know.

      And no, being prejudiced and discriminating against someone for their lifestyle and preferences has nothing to do with “rights”. People will always discriminate against each other for one thing or another, whether someone is a fan of Nickelback or the Oakland Raiders, or a crazy feminist, everyone passes judgement on one another for their interests and lifestyle choices. So if you don’t want to be discriminated against, pretend to be like everyone else, because no one actually cares about what you do in the bedroom until you make it public.

      • reasonbomb

        Old post but I just thought I’d respond…a lot of the time, at least in the states you can lose custody of your children, your job, social status, etc. if your sexual kinks are discovered. https://ncsfreedom.org/home-mainmenu-1.html
        Further your argument that all power dynamics are defined by gender roles demonstrates a narrow understanding of bdsm and the power dynamics within it, which are related to gender roles but not defined by them nor limited by them. OF course social conditioning affects our perceptions, preferences, and interpretations, but that doesn’t warrant the your essentially saying that while they don’t make you a horrible person they make you a bad one. Most BDSM relationships tend toward female dom and male submissive. Beyond that you obviously really don’t care about it and keep trying to say it has nothing to do with the subject when you are directly linking the two thus suggesting everyone who like a particular thing has in some form decreased empathy towards women…can’t have it both ways

        • Morag

          “OF course social conditioning affects our perceptions, preferences, and interpretations, but that doesn’t warrant the your essentially saying that while they don’t make you a horrible person they make you a bad one. Most BDSM relationships tend toward female dom and male submissive. Beyond that you obviously really don’t care about it and keep trying to say it has nothing to do with the subject … ”

          Huh?

          I’ve noticed that most comments from BDSM practitioners are very wordy, or elliptical and twisty, and that they make very little sense.

          Now, I don’t think that there’s a correlation between BDSM and poor writing skills, but I do think there’s something about this topic that turns its defenders into acrobats who are always attempting moves that are too daring and fancy for their skill level.

          reasonbomb, you need a safety net.

        • Marilyn

          If your kink is something like daddy dom/little girl in which you sexualize incestuous child molestation then you probably shouldn’t have children, it’s too much of a risk, sorry.

    • Beatrice

      Kinky people aren’t marginalized/oppressed or withheld rights though (at least, for being kinky–they could be for being LGBT+, POC, etc). The thing is, it’s far too messy to compare discrimination of LGB people to kinky people because kink has the factor of being sexualized violence/rape/pedophilia/etc. There is a difference between being against harmless love between two men or two women and being against people getting off to sexualized violence.

    • Jane

      I stumbled across a submissive’s blog recently. https://openforhim.wordpress.com/

      I’m sure there are many like it, but I had enough difficulty reading this one. It made me feel such immense rage and sadness, I can’t express it really. Of course, if I shared these feelings with the author, she’d spring into an indignant, righteous rage like the one you were hit with.

      It’s hard to challenge the argument that consenting adults are entitled to do whatever they want in private. Here’s the thing though: when you blog about it, it becomes public. Writing in eroticized detail about how much you love being raped by your husband is so irresponsible. It’s unforgivable. And I know feminists aren’t supposed to shame women in these situations, but how can I see this as anything other than an attack, on me, on my mother, my friends, my daughters?

      • Ellie

        Hey, I totally understand why you posted this link; I was seriously upset by what I read there. But the blogger is apparently getting a lot of hate from FeministCurrent visitors, and I wanted to call out a few things. (Btw I swear I am not her or a friend of hers. I have no way to prove it, but, well, seriously I’m not.)

        a) She posted a response, “On the Nature of Consent,” that I thought was very fair. I imagine some of what she’s hearing is fairly hurtful. In spite of that, she’s written a very decent response. She hasn’t reduced our concerns to vanilla ignorance or bigotry as many would have. She engaged them head-on, which is very brave, and also, notably, not at all submissive.

        b) Her blog is one of many. It’s not fair to put her in the stockades alone for representing a culture we take issue with. If anything we should target some entitled-asshole Dom blogs; there are plenty of those too.

        c) I actually wrote to her in a near panic back when I first read this; I’m a rape survivor and was horrified. She wrote me a very candid and gracious response. She shared some relevant details about her own sexual issues in a frank & unsexy way. She was empathetic and kind on the subject of my own assault and apologized for any hurt she’d caused me. She never said “If you don’t like it, then don’t read it, you intolerant prude!” In fact, she expressed an interest in talking more and hearing more from me, and I believe she was sincere.

        TLDR I think we should remember that this is a person who has feelings, and it’s possible to really, really hurt someone by humiliating them about something this intimate. Which is one of the things many of us don’t like about BDSM, right?

  • euroreader

    Okay, this post is not about BDSM, but as you said you’ll expand your knowledge of BDSM, there’s something I was wondering, especially after the comments to the previous post on this issue.

    If BDSM is all about personal, private life and desires, separated from public life, one’s work and so on, then how does it emerge? (I get that some have since childhood known they like to be tied up or something, but I guess for example Brown has acquired this taste somewhat later in life..)
    And if the desire is “innate” and not in any way chosen or consciously acquired, but something that just no matter what turns you on, then how do you command your will and “switch off” your desires when in a public job, working on same substance matter and images that turn you on in bedroom?

    (By the way of an analogy. Lets say I’m turned on by muscular surfer guys. If I worked as a life guard on a beach, I would not say seeing this sort of guys during working hours in no way affects me. Especially if I had a strong fetishism for these sort of guys. In this scenario, I should really be strong-minded to stay professional and focused on my job, never be at work while horny, or you know, maybe consider changing jobs..)

    I hope my questions make some sense. Maybe you could explore these issues in the podcasts?

    • Sally

      This is a really old comment, so sorry about that, but I thought I should respond. I think I understand what you’re getting at, and it does seem very problematic. In my experience, every person I’ve ever met who was into BDSM somehow let that seep into other facets of their lives, such as work, friendship, etc. Basically, how they treated other people was definitely affected by their roles in the BDSM community and lifestyle. I stopped being friends with a domme because her practicing of BDSM ended up effecting our friendship. She couldn’t keep it within it’s separate sphere. She ended up slut-shaming me without my consent because to her power was defined by shaming people (as it is in society overall), and slut-shaming was just one way of shaming people, even if she wasn’t in a D/S relationship with the person and didn’t have consent. Maybe the two things are mutually exclusive. Maybe she would still be a slut-shamer if she weren’t into BDSM, and maybe she’d still be into BDSM if she weren’t a slut-shamer, but I don’t really see the possibility of two being separate, knowing her as I do.

  • MANWHOACTUALLYGETSIT

    It’s amazing that, even after you have the courtesy to very concisely clarify your position, that the first commenter still doesn’t get it. I assume that he will not be the last. Well written, I’m glad this issue is being addressed from this angle. Keep it up.

  • http://smashesthep.wordpress.com smash

    Great work, Meghan.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca/ Boner Killer

    It’s called narcissism…that’s what identity politics breed…Also, seems so many think they are islands and their identities, fantasies and sexual turn-ons are innate and untouched by society including patriarchy and capitalism

    • Sally

      Thank you! Definitely agree.

  • Katie N

    Excellent deconstruction – I really feel like one of the hardest parts of becoming personally aware of social justice issues is the need to accept a certain level of inherent contradiction. That it’s OK to like something that is problematic, but it’s not OK to ignore the fact that that something is problematic (ie makeup, RHOV, BDSM). Or, to pretend like you are somehow not part of the machinery that perpetuates problematic shit.

    Nail meets head right here: “Does that necessarily make him a murderer? No. Is it worth exploring the fact that a man in a position of power who was a part of a force that made it pretty clear that they didn’t give two shits about the women who were going missing from the DTES until they were forced to pay attention AND that he liked to play out misogynist, violent fantasies in his private time? Yes.”

    Thanks, Meghan!

  • cake

    I’m a “closet” kinksters & i completely endorse this message.

    We need to stop pretending we’re astronauts floating around in a cultural vacuum, and start thinking -hard- about the things in which we partake.

    Mm, but apart from that i just gonna link a book suggestion, if only because i think it might be of interest to Murphy (or anyone else who wants to think critically about BDSM): http://colorsofpassion.net/silicon-sadomasochism …It’s called “Techniques of Pleasure” by Margot Weiss. Do recommend.

  • Hilla

    well written. very good articulation of the contraindications we as feminists live with.

  • http://metalmatriarch.com Stephanie

    Good article, Meghan. You made this completely clear.

    If I can add something — and hopefully this melds with your point, as I think it does — In BDSM or any other sort of role like that, yes, there are many situations where the male is submissive. But that has nothing to do with this argument, either. It’s that we live in an already male-dominated world, still, and the exercising of such male power even in private situations by individuals may — MAY — very well bleed over into the public realm of their experiences, careers, and decisions. And in those situations, it is an angle worth scrutinizing and analyzing. It’s not about condemning a certain culture, but determining possible repercussions of actions within public domain when a case like Brown’s arises.

    • Chrysea

      I have domme fantasies and I completely acknowledge that they are a reaction to patriarchy — the same as maledom fantasies. I didn’t eroticize the power relationships that exist, I reacted against them. A lot of stuff the common male scripts in the femdom scene, like forced feminization, are disturbing from that perspective as well.

      • Random Passerby

        Now, now.

        You happen to believe that your “domme fantasies” are “a reaction to patriarchy”.
        However, this is by no means a fact (in the sense that gravity, or Krebs cycle, are “facts”.

        This is an unfalsifiable “claim from subjective experience”.

        I have no problem with you having a personal interpretation of reality as long as you don’t try to force it upon me via laws, violence or harassment, but I would like to politely refrain from positing this personal interpretation of experience as “fact”.

  • pisaquari

    BUUTTTT Meghan! Sometimes I like to tell a rape joke in the privacy of my home with my lover who also finds sexualized power imbalances a fucking riot! We don’t *actually* think *actual* rape is funny! (zomgneverrr) Just non-actual rape! (<so funny) We are really harmless too–we even work in the business sector!!
    Can you pleeeeeease make space in your worldview for darlings like us?
    <3,
    ME

  • marv wheale

    I’d like to tie together but not tie up (a BDSM compulsion) this blog with your previous one on objectifying women and animals, Meghan, only if you don’t mind.

    BDSM adherents are resolute that kinks are only forms of play acting and simulation and do not portray the actors’ attitudes and conduct in the real world. Nonetheless there is cruelty that occurs in BDSM that is undeniable: the use of animal skins (leather) in the performances. Utilizing the skins of animals for clothing and paraphernalia turns animals into objects for pleasure rather than treating them as whole beings with rights. Why is it that players don’t question the objectification and killing of animals for fun and style? To be fair people throughout society use animal skins (and flesh). But BDSM further legitimizes it and the makes particular use of fetishizing them. If we can’t see the disparaging treatment of animals in our games and lifestyles is it also possible we can’t see the harmful treatment of humans in them, as well as the reverse?

    • John mortician

      You do know that bdsm clothing and accessories also come in leatherette and other non animal skin variations. This is no different than the rest of the clothing industry. People that are that concerned about animals also make their own equipment.

  • Mary Tracy

    Go Meghan go!

    Here’s the thing: the reason why pro kink people get angry about supposed “kink shaming” is because… it is essential for them to get their rocks off. See, bdsm, kink, whatever, are only effective so long as people believe them to be “wrong” or “naughty”. There would be no point otherwise! And now that society has gone all “whatever rocks your socks is good and right” they need to chase after the last group of people questioning the kink.
    And then they can go “oh, cool, I can see kink is still considered wrong by some. for a minute there I thought I was doing something completely acceptable and boring”.

    That’s more or less how it works. They need to find people who have oppose the kink for the kink to be an actual kink. That’s why they raise issues with whatever you write. It’s not about you, it’s about what they need: and that is, to be considered “naughty” and transgressive.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I know, right? Feminists are such humourless, no-fun, man haters! Thanks for your insightful and original contribution to this conversation, lee.

  • Anna

    This was a great post and aptly said many things I have tried to explain previously. Thank you!

  • dot dot dot

    Thank you for another wonderful article. I had a different take on the comments that I saw in response to your last post.

    One of the things that I don’t understand about the argument that BDSM is about sexuality and has no basis in how people live out their day to day lives (and thus whatever they do should not face any public scrutiny) is that there exists a ‘BDSM community’.

    “Munches” exist and that “Sin City” exists. These are public places where sex pretty explicitly doesn’t occur, but yet this is a part of that experience for many members of the BDSM community. This is a place to be “free to be one’s self” in a non-sexual environment with supportive individuals.

    If the separation between bed and public are so divided, then such a community wouldn’t really exist – particularly in the gradient scale that exists (from munches with jeans and t-shirts to Sin City with full regalia sans sex). The idea of leaving the bedroom where one has demeaned a sexual partner and then discussing that as part of day-to-day banter would likely be horrible to someone who had such a strong division in their real life and sex life (and truly felt that violence against their partner was horrible).

    The community exists because who we are as ‘sexual beings’ is a part of our whole identity, and therefore is a part of how we choose to relate to people and who we choose to relate with. This is not a bad thing. This is why we have Pride Parades, lesbian separatists and gay cruises (not just the boat kind). Heck, this is why we have weddings. Fundamentally weddings a social sanctioning of the creation of an economic family unit (or more succinctly: sex).

    So Brown had a duty and an obligation to recuse himself from the investigation (and all violence against women investigations). Just as someone who is into rape fantasies should not work at a rape crisis line. Just as someone who is into necrophilia shouldn’t work at a morgue. Just as men who catcall at women need to stop street harassment. We have a positive obligation to our fellow human beings to not do something to harm another person, even if it seems that they will never know or is “victimless” and and they cannot dismiss criticism of that action because “we are sexual beings” because it affects another person.

    Imagine that we all have hula hoops around us and everything inside that hula hoop bubble is ours. We have the right to whatever we do within that space. However, the right of the individual to have a sexual life cannot come into contact of the bubble of other individuals in such a way as to bring them into that world unless there is explicit consent. And the fact that Brown’s bubble clearly could be encroaching on the bubble of these extremely marginalized women, without consent, should be condemned as much by the BDSM community as it is by feminists.

    • elnoumen

      Imagine that we all have hula hoops around us and everything inside that hula hoop bubble is ours. We have the right to whatever we do within that space. However, the right of the individual to have a sexual life cannot come into contact of the bubble of other individuals in such a way as to bring them into that world unless there is explicit consent. And the fact that Brown’s bubble clearly could be encroaching on the bubble of these extremely marginalized women, without consent, should be condemned as much by the BDSM community as it is by feminists.

      I don’t understand how the “clearly could be” thing is supposed to work.

      Either he did “encroach” on a marginalized woman’s consent, in which case it is, you know, a crime, or…
      …OR he did not encroach on a marginalized woman’s consent, and the woman was a part of a mutually enjoyable relationship.

      Saying that someone “clearly could be” doing something unwholesome (Dare I say, criminal!) is grade-A sophistry, since by saying that he merely “could be doing” something (but didn’t necessarily do that) one admits that the situation is not clear and we’re discussing a hypothetical (something that “could have” happened)

      We generally don’t prosecute or harass people for misdeeds they might have done. Only for ones they have, indeed done.

      I’m fine with not liking BDSM and policemen who are into BDSM, but I am definitely not fine with underhanded rhetorical ploys that attempt to blame a person for a transgression that is merely hypothesized.

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    • cake

      “Reality is a social construction, and the only person we have control of in that exercise is ourselves.”

      I think this quote just about sums up that Insatiabear didn’t understand the article, but y’know, the BDSM community often takes on a neoliberal mode of thought, so don’t expect an end to the individualistic arguments.

      (Granted, we’re not all like that. Some of us take your “make-up” approach & occasional indulge in oppressive practices, but never fool ourselves to believe what we’re doing isn’t hierarchical or grounded in social-fuckery… Unfortunately though, i think we’re the minority. Ugh.)

  • Lee

    Meghan “good on ya”. So wonderfully articulate.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Lee!

  • http://remittancegirl.com RG

    When a journalist tackles a subject, regardless of their particular orientation or stance, it is not unfair to expect them to at least attempt to approach it objectively. It’s a shame you couldn’t manage that. There was an interesting underlying narrative to that story – about where the private and public spheres meet and clash in an electronic world. Also compelling in the discourse over the life of fantasy and when and how it edges into reality. But you did not bother to examine either area in depth. You chose to perpetuate badly formulated assumptions. You simply echoed the uninformed vox pop.

    I’m sure you’ll do well.

    • Meghan Murphy

      What subject is it you think that I’m ‘tackling’? This is a blog post, not a piece of journalism. This is my opinion. I am making an argument. If I were to write a journalistic feature on BDSM I certainly would take an objective perspective. This is not what I have done here. Ever heard of an Op-ed? It’s kind of like that.

      I’m sure you’ll “do well” when someone introduces you, at long last, to what is commonly known as “The Internet”. They are full of what we refer to as “blogs”. I’m concerned that you will be very upset to learn that many people on this “Internet” put forth opinions and arguments that you don’t agree with or understand. Tread lightly.

  • Reuben

    Blogging is a form of journalism. Much like paid journalism, it is very likely that your opinion will be scrutinized. That’s “The Internet” for you.
    As far as clarifying my own point, which I am shocked I need to, indulging in fantasy violence doesn’t translate into condoning real violence. I honestly do understand that the existence of these fantasies is symptomatic of the fact that we live a violent society that celebrates domineering behavior but that doesn’t mean it works the other way round. Is it possible that this man condones violence against women outside of his private indulgences; yes, of course it is. Does that mean that we can treat an interest in BDSM as being a signifier of a persons attitude to genuine violence against another person; it certainly can not. The reason being that thoughts cannot be crimes in a democratic society. You say that you are not talking about BDSM yet your very issue is with the fact that the officer had BDSM tastes, ergo you are talking about BDSM. You are right though; this isn’t about me. This is about an entire community that is worried about losing the right to keep our private and professional lives separate because of knee jerk reactions. I actually don’t believe taht your intention is to shame the BDSM community but once you start down this road it’s only a matter of time before the Marv Wheales of the world come out of the wood work to suggest that having a leather fetish makes me more likely to harm another human being. Surely you can see how that scares me a little.

    • Meghan Murphy

      So true! But the pieces I write here are very clearly in the style of the Op-Ed, rather than hard journalism. Meaning there is ALWAYS a bias, always an opinion – I’m making an argument.

      I don’t argue that ‘indulging in fantasy violence’ condones real violence but it is tied in that these fantasies are learned. I understand that people feel concerned about their private lives affecting their public lives but leaping to defend Brown’s is the wrong way to get this point across. imo.

      • Insatiabear

        I have to beg to differ here. The argument you were making in your first post, and what I took exception to, was exactly that you were claiming that ‘indulging in fantasy violence’ condones real violence. Your conclusion says as much.

        Speaking for me, that was and is my objection.

        Had you made that statement at the outset, or acknowledged the concerns hat those of us legitimately have, the response to your post would probably been far less.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Um yep. Images that sexualize violence against women sexualize violence against women. The fact that this dude is sexualizing violence against women represents something larger. He doesn’t ‘just happen’ to be into dominating women. ‘Indulging in fantasy violence’ doesn’t necessarily ‘condone’ real violence (we’re also de-gendering the conversation which makes the conversation a disingenuous one and the question of whether ‘fantasy violence condones real life violence’ an impossible one to answer) in that, on an individual basis it doesn’t necessarily translate into that individual being literally violent, but is socially significant — these fantasies are part of a larger context of violence against women. Particularly when we see imagery that sexualizes violence against women – this becomes part of our fantasies. Just because, inside your head, you have some fantasy about domination it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be violent in your real life (or maybe it does, who knows), but I think that if you are having fantasies about violence against women that is because we live in a rape culture and I think it’s something worth examining.Also, we can’t talk about BDSM as a whole in these terms. You keep trying to force this conversation to be one that is about BDSM as a whole, whereas what I’m addressing is male violence against women. So, I mean, no, of course I don’t feel comfortable with men having fantasies about raping women. That’s fucked. I get that it happens – BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A RAPE CULTURE, but why I man needs to act out these scenarios is something to be questioned.

    • marv

      Reuben, when | say that animal abuse “possibly” obscures our ability to recognize behaviours that harm people or visa versa, I am not implying a causal relationship. It is to mean that both are “at times” correlational. One does not inevitably lead to the other even occasionally. Nevertheless they do exist together in many forms of porn and BDSM and often in real life. Here women are animalized, referred to as bitches, chicks, beavers, squirrels, cows, sows……They are portrayed as wild beasts who must be subdued, bound and domesticated. In magazines, internet sites and BDSM settings, these are simulated activities though there are numerous exceptions. Notwithstanding, they are based on the oppressive notion and actual social practice that animals are inferior to us and must be treated with disrespect and control. Thus, before women could be compared to animals, the animals were devalued. The debasement of the animals did not impel the mistreatment of the women. Nor did the latter cause the former. Both forms of violence take place in reality and in fantasy in the context of patriarchy without being codependent on each other. Carol Adam makes these points in greater depth in her book, The Pornography of Meat. “Surely you can see how” these issues “scare me a little” too especially when people stay in the “wood work” about them.

      (As a footnote, the poor, and people who live a subsistence way of life have constrained choices and cannot be faulted for using and eating whatever is available).

      I think the misapprehension of my former comments is due to my own ambiguity and not to any willful misunderstanding on your part. Perhaps the marv wheales of the world aren’t as menacing as you believe, but I doubt it.

    • Candy

      Frankly, I feel uneasy about a man who fantasizes about raping or brutalizing any women, men, or children. I don’t find acting out scenarios that treat women like trash as anything empowering or good, and would feel fully justified in breaking up with a man if I found out his idea of sexy was watching the mascara run down a woman’s cheek as she cried and begged him to stop. Does it make you feel powerful? Like a “real man”? It’s quite depressing to think about, but with the amount of degrading porn images I’ve seen, I can hardly remove it from my thoughts.

    • lizor

      “I honestly do understand that the existence of these fantasies is symptomatic of the fact that we live a violent society that celebrates domineering behavior but that doesn’t mean it works the other way round.”

      Rape culture goes a long way to creating rape fantasies. To insist that this is one way street and that the fantasies do not reinforce the culture seems like wishful thinking to me (not to mention the fact that it contradicts the entire premise of CBT, to cite one example).

      A personal anecdote: I have a close male relative who is into “playing” at dominance and sadism and he is particularly into women much much younger than him. I do not necessarily think he is going to stalk and rape anyone right now. He is however (coincidence???) a rabid MRA. I do think (fear) that if his access to very high-paid work or the plethora of advantages and privileges that he takes for granted were decreased, he would readily take his “frustration” out on women through sexual violence. His loathing of us all is undeniable as is his desire to see women “in their place”. But there’s no connection between his pathological bigotry and his sexual preference, right?

      • Me

        “But there’s no connection between his pathological bigotry and his sexual preference, right?”

        I’m sure that even to his own mind, were he to be honest, they are fully one and the same.

        But do not fear.

      • Random Passerby

        “To insist that this is one way street and that the fantasies do not reinforce the culture seems like wishful thinking to me (not to mention the fact that it contradicts the entire premise of CBT, to cite one example).”

        Well, to have sexual fantasies act as a de-facto form of modern CBT, you would have to meticulously structure your fantasies in a way that is supposed to alter your attitude (“relationship”, as per wiki) to a given type of thought.

        I somehow doubt that is the case with most BDSM practitioners.

        Also, the claim that the “fantasies” currently existing in media serve to actually reinforce rape culture is very hard to empirically substantiate given that (at the very least, by most conservative estimates) there is no correlation between availability of violently sexual media and violent crime (sexual or otherwise). There is in fact a strong long-term trend towards decrease of rape, sexual assault, and violent crime in general (which oddly coincides with a trend towards increasing availability of various sexually explicit artistic works, including “violent” ones).

        I like your line of thought, it is internally consistent and intuitive, but it does not happen to match empirical observations of criminal trends and corresponding media trends.

        Maybe, in a different universe, your proposals would work better. Let’s hope the smart guys at CERN figure out a way to send your proposals there :)

  • KHall

    The link to the burlesque post doesn’t actually lead to the piece on burlesque. Is there are proper one? I would like to read that too. Thanks.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Sorry about that! Thanks for letting me know. Have fixed link.

  • Andrea

    You have stated so many of the things I have struggled to articulate over the last many years. Thank you for this. Wonderfully written.

  • Jade

    So turns out those photo’s (the “violent” rape scene ones) weren’t him. The one’s of him in his mountie boots in the nude are him though (oh the debauchery). Might be worth mentioning for people who were interested in this story. The whole media coverage was very sensational (the officer had a very small involvement in the Pickton Case, was not a key investigator) but not at all intelligent journalism on behalf of the Vancouver Sun.
    I would also like to point out that just because someone sexualizes something in their personal life doesn’t mean they can’t effectively work with similar content in their professional life. For example, you will most likely trust your straight male gynecologist or doctor to examine you without getting an erection or lying about your pap smear results in order to get you to come back so he can look at your vagina some more.
    I do think it is important for the VPD and RCMP to be held responsible for their lack of accountability with regards to the missing women in the DTES, but unfortunately this whole thread of posts and reply’s is not based in fact. And really the point is being missed.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Where are you getting your information, Jade? The only correction I’ve seen is this one on the article on the CBC’s site: “In previous versions of this story, reference was made to a photo of a man holding a knife to a woman’s throat. New information has raised questions about the identity of that man. Since CBC News is unable to verify those claims, we have chosen to remove the photo and descriptions of it from our coverage at this time.”

      That doesn’t say it isn’t him (and it’s only in reference to one specific photo), it just seems like that one photo isn’t confirmed yet? Is there updated info somewhere? I can’t find anything…

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  • Sofia

    As a feminist and BDSM enthusiast, the only thing I’ll say is that you completely missed the point. And sorry, but you ARE kink-shaming.
    An advice: next time you write an article about something as complex as BDSM (Because you can try to say it’s not about it, but it is), I suggest you do your research first. I mean, maybe you could discover that the “sexualization of violence against women” is tha last thing you could relate to BDSM.
    I’m truly disgusted.

    • Meghan Murphy

      That’s stupid. Critiquing a man who is sexualizing violence against women isn’t ‘kink-shaming’. Is crtiquing pornography also ‘kink-shaming’ in that case? Is anything anyone does that has to do with sex untouchable in terms of critique?

      • Random Passerby

        “Is anything anyone does that has to do with sex untouchable in terms of critique?”

        Consensually?

        Sure thing. Why would a reasonable person critique the way two consenting adults mutually enjoy each other’s company?

        How would that be different from critiquing same-sex couples based on some pet social theory (feminism specifically is so diverse that I’m sure that if I were to set my mind to it, I would find some academic citations to prop up a case against same-sex couples. That would be silly. Well-cited but silly. Same thing with BDSM, really.)

    • Candy

      Really? Because the men who leave horrid comments on BDSM porn sure seem to think it has to do with female sexual violence. Look at the way women are referred to as sluts, whores, or much, much worse.

      I’m a kinkster myself, though I no longer practice it. Yes, it disturbs me to think of human beings as having sadistic qualities, of enjoying the tears, degradation, and humiliation of another human being. I disagree that this is always about feminism, however; sometimes, humans are just sadistic. Sometimes, seeing another depicted as their inferior gives an individual an ego boost to replace their insecurities. I’ve heard BDSMers essentially say that being degraded for another is love, which is just faulty logic. How far could you push that? Why is pain being equated with love? I find there to be a horrid contradiction in feminists being against rape jokes but being perfectly fine with rape fantasy porn. One is having a laugh at a hypothetical rape scenario, the other is eroticizing rape.

      It’s a personal choice, not a feminist one. I wish people would start realizing that.

      • Me

        Thank you for that comment. So many good questions people really should be asking themselves and each other.

        Sadistic people can push degradation as love all the way from rape as sex, through rape as love, to incestuous rape as love and to murder as love. For the degraded person the release looks exactly like that in a traumatic bonding situation, as far as I can tell. Those who would act sadistically towards others need to be confronted with these questions again and again.

        Thank you!

  • Precious

    So, you’re obviously coming at this from a very cis-normative point of view. Do you hold the same views for trans* people who choose to engage in BDSM culture? Do you think that queer people who hold no real meaning to gender norms and roles still perpetuate this male/penis sexualization of violence toward woman/vagina? What if neither involved are women nor men? This is just a very one-sided argument and sounds a lot more like whining than scholarly work.

    • MA

      Actually, your comment sounds more like whining than scholarly analysis, so congrats with that. There’s no such thing as “cis,” and just because gay people or trans people or dalmatians like BDSM doesn’t mean that magically it loses its patriarchal baggage. Being a special snowflake who doesn’t “identify” as a man or woman (as if such a thing is a matter of choice and not biological reality) does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to dismantle the root of patriarchy, which is that men are seen as the default human beings and women are the “other” and “less than.”

      • R

        “no such thing as cis”

        wat

        • Rye

          There is no such thing as “cis” because gender is like a script that an actor/actress performs in a play, so to tell someone that they have “cis privilege” is like telling one of the actors/actresses that he/she has “role privilege”, which makes no sense.

          • Random Passerby

            Ah, the tragically disproved “tabula rasa” theory of gender (I’m not being facetious about “tragedy” here, since Dr John Money’s ‘John/Joan’ experiment was truly tragic)

      • EEEP

        I agree with the cis/trans point you make but I still think there are types of bondage (between two female-bodied people, etc) that exist outside of a patriarchal power structure altogether and denying this or failing to acknowledge it is erasure of non-heteronormative BDSM experiences. Sorry I’m late to this party.

    • Chrysea

      lol. As a queer & genderqueer person: queer people absolutely hold meaning to gender norms. There’s plenty of patriarchal residue in the queer community to analyze and critique.

  • Amy

    Bit late to the party but…

    As someone kinky, who considers herself a feminist and is frequently trying to actively analyse and critique the kink I engage in, I find your articles on BDSM very interesting and thought-provoking. There is a lot I can agree with. I am equally frustrated by those who act like kinky sex is completely separate from the society we live in, who refuse to even discuss the possibility that representations and images of male dominance and violence could be damaging, and fall back on talking simply about personal choice, without any true reflection and without any responsibility for the broader impact, and just generally gloss over the issues. I definitely agree with your main point in “the tyranny of consent” that consent is necessary but not sufficient, that it does not somehow absolve something from critique or address many of the criticisms. I tend to think both sides of the argument are often simplistic and thoughtless but while I disagree with certain aspects of what you say and the conclusions you draw, as I said above, I find your articles unusually thought-provoking and challenging. So thank you for that.

    I’ve thought a lot recently about how I would love to do some blogging on a truly considered, brutally honest critique of the kink I engage in, that doesn’t ignore the things that most pro-kink feminists do (read: every pro-kink feminist I’ve come across does). That doesn’t twist what I enjoy into being feminist, just because I’m a feminist. One that admits that I can see how some of the thought processes which feed my desires are problematic and drawn from damaging attitudes in society, that discusses how to address that – whether I need to cut out those elements from my sex life or whether there is some way of off-setting that on a personal level, and explores what my responsibilities are in how I present those aspects of my desires to other people, how to limit any damaging impact. (I would also argue that certain desires I have, I have repeatedly picked apart in my head and I honestly don’t think they are related to any problematic attitudes on my part – however I would still maintain the responsibility I have in how I present those desires to others).

    And I can see why you are dismissive of people who make it all about them, and don’t recognise the wider implications and consequences, but I don’t necessarily think all personal stories have to be like that. You can take a personal story and extrapolate from it, look at the wider patterns, look at the impact your behaviour had, look at how things that worked for you could work on a bigger scale. Most of the kinky community doesn’t engage with feminist critique in an even vaguely satisfying way so all I feel I can really talk about is what I do in my personal life and how I think others could adopt similar approaches.

    From your article though, I can’t tell if that is something you would ever be open to. (I don’t necessarily mean my potential blog specifically, but that kind of approach – though it isn’t one I have come across yet). At times you talk about a conversation, and questions that are worth exploring. At other times you say you have no interest in people discussing their kink, don’t care about kinky people at all. I can understand that perhaps you do have absolutely no interest in engaging in a different perspective on BDSM, that for you it is inherently flawed. That would be a shame but … okay. I can also understand that 99% of defences of kink completely miss the point and are very narrow, and maybe that’s just put you off anyone who tries to defend kink.

    But I do strongly believe that there is relevance to people who engage in kink giving a perspective when exploring these questions, and maybe (hopefully) I’ve shown you that there are some people on the other side of this who are willing to have these conversations. Our conclusions may still end up being on opposite sides, but perhaps you would see some value in hearing from kinky people when they do truly engage in this analysis. We might be rare in the kinky community, but we find that just as frustrating as you do.

    If you are even a little open to this, and if I ever get round to writing up my various, more specific thoughts on the matter, I would be somewhat apprehensive but definitely interested in your perspective.

    • Amy

      I’ve just seen that “cake” is another commenter who is also kinky but agrees for the need to engage in this discussion. (Saying the same basic thing but with less rambling!) So there’s at least two of us!

  • Random Passerby

    So, excuse me for being late, but

    1)
    Is there any empirical proof that being into male-dom BDSM makes one less competent at catching sadistic murderers/rapists, or less likely to empathize with female victims of actual crimes ?

    Like, did someone compare people who are into this particular kind of BDSM and find that, compared to non-BDSM controls, they are more dismissive of females in their work settings or something like that ?

    2)
    If there is no proof that being a male who is into male-dom BDSM (or a female who is into fem-dom BDSM, or whatever) degrades one’s professional conduct in police-related settings, how is your position different from trying to discriminate against gays/lesbians in an arbitrary work setting (like, campaigning against gay teachers or whatever) ?

    • Beatrice

      Stop comparing being kinky to being gay. Be pro-kink all you want, but stop comparing the two. They have nothing to do with each other. The arguments against gay people and pedophiles sounds similar at times but that doesn’t mean their the same situation. That doesn’t mean saying “there shouldn’t be pedophile teachers” is the same as “there shouldn’t be gay teachers.” I’m not saying kink is harmful like pedophilia, whether I’m pro or anti kink is not the issue here, I’m just saying. Stop. Comparing. Two. Different. Issues. Being gay is being into the same gender, being kinky is being into sexualized violence. There is nothing harmful about being gay, but there are perfectly sound arguments from feminists and sexual abuse survivors who find kink harmful.

  • Sally

    Wow… im soooo pleased to see someone being straight forward about this issue. This is one of the major issues I take with sex positivist feminism. I was a submissive in the BDSM community for a couple years actually, but when I got out of it I was hard pressed to find anyone who was willing to hear me out on my reasons why, the reasons in your post being some of them. Aside from that, I was repeatedly assaulted from well-established members in the Bdsm community, leading me to believe that most of the people in the subculture dont actually care as much about consent as they claim. Its all for show. I just started a blog and you can read my post about it here: http://lafemmemarxist.livejournal.com if youre interested.

    When I was in college majoring in sociology I got a lot of pushback from my professors and other grad students after revealing I had the same perspective on it as you. There is a very heavy sociological sphere invested in debunking what you have said here, which sickens me.