No, being 'kinky' does not grant you minority status

You’ve likely heard about the ‘cannibal cop‘ by now. He was a New York police officer whose wife discovered a website open on his computer displaying a photograph of a dead girl. The officer, Gilberto Valle, had been visiting a ‘fetish sites’ (because murdering women is a ‘fetish’ donchaknow) which “show[ed] women in various stages of forced duress, including one that offered images of women who did not survive.”  There was a cannibalism element to his ‘fetish’ and “the FBI analysis of Valle’s laptop yielded a video of a naked woman hanging over an open flame and screaming in agony.”

The wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle, said that when she later delved into her husband’s electronic chat history, she found he had been communicating with others about plans to torture and kill women, including herself.

“I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit, and they would have fun watching the blood gush out of me,” she said, sobbing repeatedly through her afternoon on the witness stand.

He has now been charged with “plotting on the Internet to kidnap, rape, kill and cannibalize female victims.”

The Times article asks an interesting question, similar to one I asked back when photos were discovered of an RCMP officer who had been involved in the Pickton investigation that simulated violence against women: “When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?”

Valle didn’t actually go through with his plans. While the prosecutor argued that the officer was plotting real crimes, Valle’s lawyer claimed it was all just a fantasy. The ‘fantasy’ argument didn’t provide much comfort to Mangan-Valle, who also found conversations about elaborate plots to have friends “raped in front of each other” or burned alive or about “putting women on a spit, and cooking them for 30-minute shifts, so they could be tortured longer.”

These were pretty specific plans for something that was just an innocent fantasy. There is documented negotiation of specific details and a payment upon delivery to a co-conspirator: “Valle insisted upon a price no less than $5,000 and assured CC-2 that Victim-2 would be bound, gagged, and alive when he delivered her.”

There is no doubt that violence against women is sexualized in our culture. But when Ginia Bellefonte published a piece called “Remember Misogyny” in the Times wondering why there was so little concern from feminists about this fetishization of violence against women, Jessica Wakeman responded, in The Frisky, with derision:

“Focusing on the craziness of a couple of mentally ill folks instead of larger systemic injustices seems like a poor use of time,” she argues. “Maybe….cannibals eating women isn’t really feminism’s most pressing problem?” Why so defensive? Visiting fetish sites that feature women being tortured, sometimes to the point of death, seems fairly misogynist to me.

Bellefonte quotes Jane Manning, a former sex-crimes prosecutor and currently the legislative vice president for the National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter, who notes:

“There’s an odd confusion in the feminist movement,” she added. “We’ve all accepted the idea that speech is protected when it’s speech. But that seems to have extended to the notion that there shouldn’t even be social condemnation attached to incredibly horrifying misogynist speech.”

Violence against women continues to be one of the most urgent and pressing issues for the feminist movement today. And I would say that sites that fetishize mudering, raping, and eating women are, in fact, a little more serious than simply “a couple of mentally ill folks” who like to surf the internet and whatever everybody just relaaaax OK? So, a man who fantasizes about hanging his wife from her feet while him and his friends “take turns sexually assaulting her before slitting her throat and cooking her” isn’t misogyny? OK. Got it.

We’re at a place in feminism where we are so desperate to either not be perceived as ‘prudish’ or to defend any and every activity as simply an individual ‘choice’ or behaviour that calling what is clearly misogyny (is there any more literal manifestation of the sexualization of violence against women than fetish sites dedicated to torturing and murdering women?) has become off-limits because it counts as ‘kink’. The desperation to individualize, legitimize, and depoliticize absolutely everything is frightening. Particularly because it seems we are most intent on doing this with relation to anything that could possibly be connected to sexuality.

I get the feeling that we’re not calling this kind of thing out because we don’t want to admit that, sometimes, misogynist ‘fetishes’ aren’t simply ‘fantasy’. They’re actually misogyny.

Now, before the ‘don’t kink-shame me’ folks start railing on me, I will reiterate that, I really don’t much care about whether or not you want to dress up in latex costumes and play silly games in the bedroom. It isn’t particularly interesting. The only people who really care about ‘kink’ are people who care about ‘kink’. So get over the idea that you’re so bad and the rest of the world is just too ‘vanilla’ to get you. You like role-playing, other people don’t. So what. Move on.

That said, there are a couple of issues surrounding ‘kink’ that do concern me. The first is the unwillingness of feminists to call out misogyny when they see it simply because we have to protect the sensitivities of the fetish folks. The second is the delusion that ‘kink’ is an identity that designates ‘kinky people’ as some kind of oppressed minority group. Kink and BDSM can certainly enter misogynist territory and it isn’t your right to force the world to pretend that it doesn’t in order to defend your sex life.

William Saletan pointed out, in an article for Slate, that :

Every article about BDSM now includes the obligatory professional woman who’s secure enough in her feminism to admit she likes to be flogged. It’s great that we’ve come that far, but the message is awkward. While reformers in India battle a culture of rape, Indian BDSM advocates extol the bliss of female masochism. While human rights activists denounce caning and waterboarding, BDSM lecturers teach the joys of caning and waterboarding. Abduction, slavery, humiliation, torture—everything we condemn outside the world of kink is celebrated within it.

Awkward, indeed. The real life rape and torture of real life people isn’t just a sexy game; but when presented as ‘kink’ it becomes innate part of our sexualities, completely divorced from larger culture.

The tricky part follows: “Political advocates for BDSM see themselves as successors to the gay rights movement. They cite Lawrence v. Texas. They call themselves “sexual minorities” and depict kink as a “sexual orientation,” Saletan writes. Get it? If being ‘kinky’ makes you part of some kind of minority group, anything that counts as fetish is off-limits in terms of critical discussion. It can’t be misogynist, I was born this way! It’s sex, not misogyny!

I mostly agree with Saletan’s assessment: “BDSM isn’t an orientation. It’s a lifestyle.” And, for the most part, whether or not you like to play out fantasies or wear leather or do fancy things with ropes or dress up as a sexy nun in order to rebel against your Catholic parents as part of your sex life isn’t something anyone else has a say over. But that really isn’t the point. There is misogyny and violence and abuse that happens as part of BDSM and we should be able to call it for what it is without being accused of attacking a person’s ‘sexual identity’.

The ludicrous notion that this lifestyle should qualify a person for protection under the law, on account of being a part of some kind of oppressed minority group defined by ‘kinkiness’ is an insult to actual minority groups.

This kind of hyperbolized, perverted use of identity politics as a means to stifle feminist discourse and critical thought is a serious detriment to the movement.

We are always asking ourselves “What happened to the momentum?” and “Where are all the young feminists?” Well, I think we’re finding the answer. In the final segment of the recently aired documentary, MAKERS: How Women Made America, a three-hour look at the history and evolution of the women’s movement in the United States, Letty Pogrebin said, of the “Why don’t young women care about feminism?” question: “If they lose their rights, then they will wake up.” And I don’t think she was talking about the right to be spanked.

I suppose once we’ve completely quelled our ability to discuss anything outside individual choice and identity and are forced to discuss all actions and behaviours as neutral and void of context, we’ll truly be free.

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

  • michelle

    The example you opened with was not an example of BDSM. It’s an example of plotting murder. the fact that you brought ‘BDSM’ into the conversation shows how little you understand about that culture. Also you use the terms fetish and BDSM as if they are interchangeable, which they are not. They’re different.

    • Meghan Murphy

      These are ‘fetish’ sites and depictions of the rape, torture, and murder of women are often defended on account of being ‘just fantasy’. But your response is tiresomely typical and boring: ‘you just don’t ‘get’ BDSM/kink’. I know, I know. Nobody understands you.

      • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

        LOL, maybe your opponents should take a gander over to kink.com and see how NOT far that is from rape and murder. Seriously, take a fucking look at that website, if you can stomach such vile abuse.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Right? BDSM bleeds into the sexualization of abuse and vaw so easily…. And AGAIN, that isn’t to say that practicing BDSM in your home is necessarily ‘bad’, but come on.

          • copleycat

            Ever notice though that it never seems to stay in any practitioner’s home?

    • Lotus

      @ Michelle-

      Bondage. Dominance. Sadism. Masochism.

      What more is there to understand exactly?

      In the world I want to live in these practices wouldn’t exist, let alone be things people get off on.

      It’s very simply really.

      • http://drizzleanddew@blogspot.com Kogen

        Agreed- Just because you like it doesn’t mean that white, male, dominant culture didn’t teach you to like it, or that it’s not a symptom of rampant insanity.

        Playing “Cowboys and Indians” could look pretty tame, too…not on my watch!

    • Grackle

      Without giving too much away about myself personally, I can assure you that many of us DO understand “that culture”, as well as how it affects/is affected by our frighteningly misogynistic society. The unfortunate truth is that most people involved in BDSM have very little sense of the latter, preferring instead to spend most of their time navel gazing rather than doing some even halfway serious analysis. And minority status??? Are these people for REAL?? Last I checked you didn’t need some sort of special clearance to engage in 99.99% of BDSM activities, typical or not, so I have to assume that anybody who thinks that they do is either doing something incredibly, repulsively immoral like the fuck-ups in this article or is a gigantic crybaby with more time and privilege than s/he knows what to do with.

      Sigh. Brilliant article as always, Meghan.

      • Grackle

        Er really quick note in case it wasn’t clear, that should have been “without giving too much away about myself personally in the PAST.”

    • Anonymous

      I am familiar with the BDSM culture. Sexual murder actually is one fantasy of some sadists; numerous BDSM forums actually specifically prohibit discussion of these fantasies; if they did not exist, they would not need to be prohibited at some (not all) places.

      And there really ARE people that argue that if a human being consents to be murdered, even for sexual purposes, that is perfectly fine. There’s a documentary on snuff films available via Netflix; in the Extra’s, a man who owns a video store says he would not have a problem with carrying snuff films if the person participated in them because they wanted to (he gives the example of wanting to because a woman needs the money).

      Is there no line to what a person can consent to??

      • Psyche

        As a psychology major with an interest in it’s forensic applications, I couldn’t agree more. The formal name of this particular form of sadism is called Erotophonophilia, or lust murder as it is more commonly known. People who have this “kink” are more likely to be psychopaths and serial murderers. Valle expressed his desire to not only kill his wife, but others as well. These people are pre-serial killers plain and simple.

        There is nothing “empowering” or progressive about getting off on watching people die in horrible ways. This man is a hazard to women everywhere and he should be locked up for life.

    • Candy

      I just wanted to say even as someone who finds the humiliation fetish an absolutely deplorable display of how a puritanical society has sullied what should be a shameless activity with the internalization of guilt feelings, I think comparing a man with an obvious mental pathology with BDSM is a bit ignorant. Anyone who wants to murder someone for sexual pleasure is obviously suffering from a disorder. To equate BDSM, which I’m not entirely against (except the humiliation) with this isn’t fully considering the psychological differences. What looks torturous in videos often feels like running and winning a marathon in person, a rush of endorphins and a feeling of physical strength and closeness.

      As someone who likes it rough in the bedroom, I would never, ever put up with anyone in my house watching a “video of a naked woman hanging over an open flame and screaming in agony.” Some kink videos may have that (I’ve never seen any that extreme nor do I wish to help the ratings of that degenerate visual murderfest), but many do not. Try not to generalize too much.

      • Candy

        And to add I’m not active in a BDSM community, I just like aspects of it so I can’t comment on what others practice and their level of socialization. I would wish people didn’t think of sex as something “dirty whores” did (that’s to you, people who want hate-speech), but in my personal non-degrading experience, BDSM can just be another way to connect, to roughhouse, to love and test endurance, to cum even harder because pain and pleasure are hard to differentiate sometimes.

        • copleycat

          Well Candy, problem is you will habituate to those stimuli and need increasing doses.

        • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

          Who, on this blog, has ever said that people who have sex are”dirty whores?”

          Also, what does sex have to do with BDSM? Really? This post is about BDSM. Having sex and taking part in BDSM are not analogous. Also, if you’ve read Meghan’s other work here, you’d know that she has been known *gasp* to enjoy sex.

          But really, the bit about pain & pleasure…
          The comment really demonstrates the bigger questions that lie behind the seemingly normalized notion of pain and pleasure being similar or intrinsically connected. Such an idea, a dominant one today, serves the political interests of patriarchy and capitalism.

          • Me

            The important question in my opinion is not so much if pleasure and pain share something in common, but acknowledging that they do (if for nothing more than by being a part of our experience), what do you then do with it? I don’t think BDSM is a good answer. There is intimacy in certain kinds of violence, but there is also loss. There is fulfillment and intimacy in killing to eat, no denying that, but again, also loss and responsibility. There is arousal in many things, not just sex. These are all things humans have lived with and dealt with and enjoyed and respected and experienced through ages through all sorts of rituals, social practices and their daily living. Talking, telling stories, playing together, making love together, eating together, fasting together, hunting together, witnessing birth and death and sharing pain and joy. There are ways to hold this knowledge in your heart that create social cohesion and fulfillment, and there is destroying, the capitalist patriarchal industrial machine that wants you to want your orifices stuffed until you gag.

            Just because pain and pleasure share something in common, it doesn’t follow that pleasure should be felt through pain. Sex creates both a sense of separateness and togetherness, similar to pain and pleasure, more like vulnerability and trust. All without ropes and bondage, let alone domination. Does that mean sex should be a play on the separation? What you get then is rape and vindictive fucking. I do get the sense that kinky people are trying to metabolize something and only perpetuate it. Rape and battery may cause trauma bonding, but that’s a fundamentally perverted and toxic form of togetherness. Making these distinctions is all-important, and the message the pornsters push is we can’t make them anymore, they’re ready-made for us like we want them. What do the answers then matter if the questions are all wrong and not up for discussion?

          • Meghan Murphy

            What a thoughtful, articulate, comment, Me! I think your question: “What do the answers then matter if the questions are all wrong and not up for discussion?” is exactly it. Which is why the kink/BDSM defenders so desperately keep trying to change the goal posts, as it were. There are certain questions and conversations that are allowed and, because the other questions and conversations aren’t the ones they want to respond to/have, the answers will never be useful or even true.

          • Candy

            Yikes, I feel pretty pounced-upon. Try to defend myself a bit here.

            A.) “Who, on this blog, has ever said that people who have sex are”dirty whores?””

            No one, I was referring to the whore/madonna double-standard in porn and how sickening it is that so many women will actually request to be called sluts, whores, etc (from hearing it in porn or otherwise internalizing hate speak) because it lowers their inhibitions. Why must there be inhibitions to begin with, what brought on the desire for “slut” role-play? Clearly promiscuous women being labelled with various derogatory monikers has more than a hand in this.

            B.) “Well Candy, problem is you will habituate to those stimuli and need increasing doses.”

            There could be true to this, yes, but it’s not like the rough elements are the only things I like. I get bored easily so I like a change of locale, funny outfits, anything with a bit of amusing novelty value as well.

            C.) “Children are remarkably sexual creatures…” Yikes. Dragging kids into a defence of bondage is just creepy.”

            It wasn’t intended as a defense; rather, a consideration of where some sexual behavior may originate. I’m a psychology student. I believe sex is something that can be more complicated than is given credit, a force to be reckoned with that can twisted in unsavory ways and isn’t always politically correct- for instance, are rape fantasies truly a result of a patriarchy? In Ann Oakley’s Sex, Gender, & Society she writes,
            “Generally, studies by anthropologists show that the kinds of fears and fantasies people have in the area of sexuality are related to their society’s attitudes. Women in our society certainly have fantasies of rape, but so do men in societies where women are strong and aggressive, and thus (to us) strange male fear is articulated very often in folklore (as is the Trobriander* example mentioned).”
            *Trobriander Islands

            That interested me because it may the fetishization of being overwhelmed by a force greater than you, yet trusting it not to harm, or fantasies created via reaction formation, where your mind takes a fear and makes it palatable and pleasurable as a coping mechanism.

            “Cases of aggravated rape use to be open and shut convictions twenty years ago, but now, thanks to the acceptance of BDSM, a woman can have been literally tortured and the rapist can claim “she likes rough” and the jury and judge may actually believe him and let him go do it again.”

            This is clearly wrong, but someone who enjoys being literally tortured has clinical masochism and a psychologist really should take the stand in the rape victim’s defense. Shame on the juries and judges who are so easily swayed by lackluster arguments.

            “The end point of sadism, which some people progress to faster than others, is the impulse to murder. It is a behavior which some people do, like compulsive over-eating or gambling, for the bio-chemical rush and you yourself give testimony to this.”

            Which is where sanity comes in. If I like spanking my boyfriend, does this mean I might become so desensitized to it that I’ll want to cut him? Will that progress to mind games and cruelty? Will that progress to late night murder plots and online chatrooms with fellow sadistic psychopaths?

            And just to say, I agree that some kinky people may be trying to “metabolize” or otherwise deal with a traumatic event. I’ve read accounts of rape victims trying to relive their event (with someone else). This may be self-harm, or this may the brain’s attempt at giving them some control over a situation that robbed them of their human rights. Something I think that should be mentioned is yes, I’m sure there are people who use BDSM or bondage-esque activities as methods of self-harming. Depression is common in this country. However, I’m not sure where to draw the line as to “correct behavior”- there is rarely a cure for self-harmers, but there are ways to deal with it that may involve painful stimuli.

          • Lela

            How does childhood roughhousing remotely lead into systems of ritualized sexual torture under the acronym “Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism?” How? Has it occurred to you that the discipline of psychology is riddled with patriarchal mores?

            “I believe sex is something that can be more complicated than is given credit, a force to be reckoned with that can twisted in unsavory ways and isn’t always politically correct…”
            Please, if you can, think about this statement. Should sex be seen as a predetermined “force” that exists outside of reason, responsibility or reality? To whom is this concept most useful? Why do you use the phrase “politically correct” when it is common knowledge that this is a tool used by the patriarchy to discredit political action taken by minority groups and feminists?

            I was, for some years, a self-harmer with a brutal binge-drinking problem. The only way out of these behaviours was to stop, and I did. I had to see these things for what they were. A lot of women turn to self-abuse under patriarchy. In my opinion we should not be trying to rationalize such a response. Oppression is to be fought, not accepted, not re-enacted ad nauseum during intimate relations with other human beings.

          • Candy

            “How does childhood roughhousing remotely lead into systems of ritualized sexual torture under the acronym “Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism?” How? Has it occurred to you that the discipline of psychology is riddled with patriarchal mores?”

            Has it occurred to you that the very women on this site probably put on a pair of heels to head to work? Has it occurred to you they even wear makeup, conforming to beauty standards positively RIDDLED with patriarchal mores?

            Way to generalize a field. Yes, psychology does have some patriarchal mores in it, as does, well, fuck, everything. You’re most likely thinking of evolutionary psych and Freudian psychoanalysis (which has by turned upside down by psychologists like Karen Horney who really emphasized how sexism in Freud’s day affected his theories) . Aspects of Evo Psych could be true, but keep in mind that you’re focusing on mainly the “social” and “sociocultural” aspects of the multi path model- don’t discount what may be partially biological and psychological in nature.

            And psychosexual development (no, not talking about the Oedipus complex, or the Electra complex for that matter). For some, childhood roughhousing may be their first “introduction” to sexual arousal. Through Pavlonian conditioning, linking a sexual stimulus to a stimuli repeatedly will bring arousal. This person may be more interested in the rougher aspects of sexuality. Why is this person turned on roughhousing at such a young age? Who’s to know? Is the child a victim of the patriarchy? It’s also worth noting that A.) “ritualized sexual torture” is subjective and genetic tolerance for pain should be factored in, and B.) pain and pleasure activate the same part of the brain.

            “The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating your hunger, thirst, response to pain, levels of pleasure, sexual satisfaction, anger and aggressive behavior, and more. It also regulates the functioning of the autonomic nervous system (see below), which in turn means it regulates things like pulse, blood pressure, breathing, and arousal in response to emotional circumstances.”

            There are reasons people are turned on by things like fear, how some people fantasize about having sex in a public library- it’s often the fear that they’ll be caught but the desire not to be. Fear itself heightens blood pressure, increases arousal out of necessity, etc. I believe some bondage is like that, but involves sensory deprivation. When you can’t touch (cuffs), hear (earbuds), see (blindfolds), or talk (tape over your mouth), your sense of feeling increases; this is biological. Think about a hot day. If you have to go the whole day without a drink, how good does the drink taste and feel when you finally get it? That’s how it feels when you’re teased and prodded relentlessly, and yes, even fighting against your ropes when you crave something so bad but don’t get it. Things like being caged, gagged, deprived, hung from the ceiling, electric shocked and so on may LOOK violent but feel like physical catharsis. Or some people may enjoy pushing their pain limits. Do you believe this must make them mentally ill or affected by social mores? Then what do you have to say about athletes, surely there’s a bit of masochism in someone who trains despite the pain, or perhaps, because of the endorphins? Aggression itself is a turn-on for many, is that wrong? I would argue sex is an inherently aggressive act (unless you prefer slow sex), and that’s half the fun!

            I hope no one interprets this to mean, OOH AGGRESSION AND ANGER, WHAT A RAPE APOLOGIST. No. Not at all. I don’t discount society’s contribution to sexual preferences; as a student I can’t and as a feminist I sure as hell don’t want to, but (biased or not), I do believe some of this is natural.

            And with regards to your self-harm, you should keep in mind your own individual personality, traits, and upbringing. What’s good for you may not be best for others. I don’t believe justifying self-harm is the answer, and admittedly I don’t know enough about its treatment. That’s what I meant by not knowing where to draw the line at “correct behavior-” what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. And by politically correct I meant politically correct to the notion of equality.

          • Me

            With this comment, you’ve really gone off the deep end, as in making a lot of irresponsible claims. You need to change your perspective on this.

          • Lela

            There is a world of difference between wearing makeup/high heels and promoting abusive behaviours as sexually therapeutic. I understand that women are taught to do certain things in patriarchy, I do some of these as well. But a line must be drawn somewhere.

            If it wasn’t clear before, I straight-up don’t agree that childhood roughhousing is in any way related to BDSM. You haven’t been convincing on this point.

            “Things like being caged, gagged, deprived, hung from the ceiling, electric shocked and so on may LOOK violent but feel like physical catharsis.” Okay, perhaps for some, but these things bear such a close resemblance to the torture and violence experienced *involuntarily* by so many people, to a great extent women, around the world. With the evidence we have around the treatment of prostituted women in porn, how can we *ever* be sure that coercion isn’t taking place? Even if the women involved in torture porn were fully consenting and enjoying it – when there is even the slightest risk that such imagery will be interpreted literally and lead to violence, how is it worth it? Why continue to validate these practices when we can come to “physical catharsis” in other more ethical ways like vigorous exercise, as you suggest?
            That self-harming behaviours arise from “individual personality, traits, and upbringing” is exactly the line psychiatry tried to feed me, so spare me. I see my previous behaviours as occurring in the context of a capitalist, consumerist, patriarchal culture. There is no personality, no trait, and no upbringing that is free from the all-pervasive influence of the bullshit propaganda our culture continues to spew out.

            Approaching sexuality with equality in mind isn’t “politically correct.” Equality is a long sought-after dream for women. BDSM does not bring us closer to equality and it does not bring emancipation for women.

          • Candy

            A.) “If it wasn’t clear before, I straight-up don’t agree that childhood roughhousing is in any way related to BDSM. You haven’t been convincing on this point.”

            You’re right, I haven’t. I’m merely trying to make the point, or I suppose, open discussion on the fact that childhood behavior and influences later sexual practices.

            B.) “how is it worth it?”

            I wasn’t talking about porn, I’m wary of porn myself. BDSM porn DOES look iffy and that’s one reason I don’t watch it myself- it’s hard to capture the emotion and physical feeling in it, it has a tendency to become a caricature of what it really is taped.

            Also, I don’t like the idea of young boys and girls getting their hands or going on the internet and porn-browsing with the sheer amount of degradation out there, and I certainly don’t think porn is where kids should be getting their sex education. People could take these images seriously, but couldn’t they take any images seriously? How about horror movies? Especially torture porn films, are they worth it? Imagine how many people may feel more violent after watching Hostel 2.

            Parenting comes in here. It’s impossible to shield your kids from the inevitable. I believe the porn industry is disgusting in how it continually pumps out harder and harder material to satiate the cravings of the depraved consumer, but just because something RESEMBLES something else it shouldn’t be in existence?

            I don’t believe stuff like, well, anything Max Hardcore has been in should exist. Men who watch that are undoubtedly misogynists. But anyone who watches that porn and feels that’s the way sex is supposed to be wasn’t properly educated to begin with.

            Also, physical catharsis can be gained in other ways, but it’s significantly harder to have an orgasm on a treadmill.

            B.) “There is no personality, no trait, and no upbringing that is free from the all-pervasive influence of the bullshit propaganda our culture continues to spew out.”

            But there are personality traits that make you more or less resistant to aforementioned cultural spew. Rebelliousness, for one, as opposed to meekness, and those who grow up in an individualistic household (bohemian, perhaps) as opposed to a Japanese collectivist-view household.

            C.) “Equality is a long sought-after dream for women. BDSM does not bring us closer to equality and it does not bring emancipation for women.”

            I want to make it clear I said I didn’t advocate for these practices as therapy, I merely acknowledged that because of the diverse psychological differences in people, there are some who might find aspects of it therapeutic.

            And I have a question: where IS the line drawn on how submissive a woman can be in bed to you? And also, can a woman enjoy being dominant without being a deluded fucktoy pulled by the puppeteer strings of the patriarchy?

          • Meghan Murphy

            “And I have a question: where IS the line drawn on how submissive a woman can be in bed to you? And also, can a woman enjoy being dominant without being a deluded fucktoy pulled by the puppeteer strings of the patriarchy?”

            I really don’t think it’s as simple as all that and I seriously doubt that anyone here would call any woman “a deluded fucktoy.” Really.

          • Lela

            Whoa there. “Deluded fucktoy?” Is that really what you’ve been getting out of this?

            Sigh. Call me naive, but I do dream of a world in which “dominant” and “submissive,” as modes of behaviour cease to exist, especially in the context of sex.

          • Candy

            I didn’t say any woman here would, I was ridiculing a viewpoint. Though I agree it’s not as simple, it seems that any display of submissiveness is “bad,” so where is the line drawn between equal behavior and unequal behavior in bed? It’s just a response to her
            “approaching sexuality with equality in mind isn’t “politically correct” comment and I think it’s a valid question.

            And yes, I’m young, and no, not trying to get validation. I just like to get an array of different opinions, not really intending to rile anyone up.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “it seems that any display of submissiveness is “bad,” — I don’t agree that this is the argument. I think that these power dynamics are sexualized. Inequity is sexualized. This doesn’t help advance equality or end the oppression of women. That doesn’t mean that women’s indivudal behaviours in the bedroom are to blame, though I certainly would advocate that we evaluate this behaviour and think about either why it’s turning us or our partners on….

          • Lela

            “So where is the line drawn between equal behavior and unequal behavior in bed?”

            We could argue about this forever. I can’t give you a definitive answer, Candy. In my personal opinion, the line is drawn at what in any other context would be seen as abuse. Short answer: abuse. Of course you’ll say that “abuse” is subjective. And so on, and so forth, to infinity.

            “There are personality traits that make you more or less resistant to aforementioned cultural spew.” Unfortunately this culture also has ways of making us believe we are being rebellious, when in fact the opposite is true. One of the bitter lessons of youth.

            “Just because something RESEMBLES something else it shouldn’t be in existence?” That isn’t what I was trying to say. Violence against women, specifically, shouldn’t exist. At all. In any way, shape or form. If you can think of a good reason why it should, I’d like to hear it.

          • Lela

            I should also say, Candy, that any terseness of tone you’ve encountered here is due to the difficulty of figuring out who’s a dude with this or that agenda and who isn’t in the wild and woolly world of internet feminism.:) I hope you don’t take it personally. It seems as though you haven’t had much exposure to radical feminism in general, it’s well worth looking into, if only to fully understand the ideas you may disagree with.

          • Candy

            I can understand the terseness, it’s fine. :)

            I’m not a man in internet drag here. I actually used to read a lot of “sex-positive” (I agree, senseless term) blogs but disagreed at how any sexual behavior seemed to be deemed okay without real contemplation at its etiology. That’s how I found this site, actually. But then I disagree with rad feminism on some of its anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-BDSM views. I’m somewhere in the middle right now, I suppose. I agree with those things, but done in a way that isn’t complying to a rigid, patriarchal way of behavior. There’s definitely porn out there that isn’t all whore this, cumrag that; unfortunately that’s the sex education lots of people are getting.

            Mostly I think a lack of empathy is the real problem; capitalism commodifies and people commodify each other.

          • Lela

            This goes far beyond individuals “complying to a rigid, patriarchal way of behaviour” or not. Porn, prostitution and BDSM are some of the very systems that patriarchy continues to replicate itself through, these are larger than any one of us. It simply isn’t possible to dissolve oppression by pretending we aren’t being oppressed.

            I totally agree with you about the lack of empathy in capitalism/consumer culture.

          • Me

            I’m sorry for my outburst. I clearly can’t handle these arguments.

            As a student I saw the notion that “students question” hammered into our heads a lot. What we were in fact encouraged to do was to rationalize something, only we were to call it questioning. Especially for the students who were into social sciences, but also for us in the life sciences, that was the most important lesson they ever wanted us to internalize. If you didn’t, or went further and dared to name that, there were always heavy penalties and ostracism. I feel that real questioning usually takes more than an argument or “weighing different information”. If it’s to be meaningful, it has to have the power to stop what is being done then and there until the questions are resolved, which you never could do as a student. First a willingness to see things differently needs to be built. Then anything can trigger a question and a change of perspective. I offer this just to say how important it is for every one of us to differentiate between rationalizing and questioning.

            Violent catharsis doesn’t work as therapy or as a part of a stable relationship. It’s one of the signs of a failing ability to actually cope. It simply creates a twisted emotional dependence, at least in a relationship, but I would think also in the individual. At the worst point of our relationship, wife and I tried some forms of catharsis, including grappling, screwing and intentional angry outbursts at me for things I had nothing to do with. About one time in three it “worked” in that several days of calm followed, but at much too high a price. And it only allowed us to keep with the highly dysfunctional relationship a bit longer and tolerate more risk. The key is that neither of us saw separation as an option. Violent catharsis made sense because nothing else did anymore. We had no real adult support, and therefore we had no long-term coping strategy. This is what I get from BDSM as well, that there is no long-term coping strategy there. Especially if one views it socially, as a societal phenomenon, as I think there are good grounds to do. Our problems were born out of wife’s father’s incredible sadism and my inability to say no and get away from emotionally abusive behavior, which was in ways masochistic. It was precisely this blurring of aggression and care and love and infatuation and excitement that allowed us to stay together too long. I will never put myself in that situation again and I will call others out on it and give them good advice if I see them go there (as in, the people I know in real life where I can actually see what happens and I know what I do).

          • Lela

            I hear you, Me. One of the more difficult things about engaging in this type of discussion is the high emotional charge; clearly many of us who comment here have histories of some form of self-harm which we have now put in context. We basically throw ourselves under the bus by speaking openly about our experiences, so that others may be spared the same fate or at least be made to consider the things we were never told. I do know that if I had had access to a radical feminist worldview and the strength it has given, at a young age when I felt there was no way out, my life would be very different.

          • Me

            Yes, Lela. And beyond access to a radical feminist world view that allows women to save themselves, the same needs to become adopted socially in all kinds of support structures and practices.

            Back in wife’s childhood, a lot of people had to make a lot of excuses not to see what was happening and help. The doctors who studied her somatization and concluded she had hormonal imbalances (her body’s fault for being biologically that way), the neighbors and especially the cop next door who ignored the screams, the teachers who thought she was an “awkward child”, the psychologist she tried to tell about it, but who would have none of it. A lot of people made a lot of incredibly naive excuses to let the perpetrator and themselves off the hook. Even when we sought help as a couple, the questions and the assessment of our situation by professionals was usually decidedly stupid and willfully ignorant. If you add on top of the excuse making this notion that porn use and especially BDSM are a part of healthy human sexual behavior, what excuses are there left not to make? It does a huge disservice.

            Good people very often make excuses in real-life situations where they should take responsibility, and therefore act deplorably. It’s the exception who don’t. This is why I love Dworkin’s work. The chapter Immoral in her Heartbreak is so good, decidedly not simple. A sense of empathy alone isn’t sufficient. There needs to be a sense of right and wrong and a sense of healthy and unhealthy. Both need to be developed, or at least they can be. To make excuses happens very easily, and to not do it one needs to steel oneself to act right.

          • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

            These are the reasons my WMST class debunks psychology – as my professor would say – Psychologists are people too…with motivations and beliefs…esp. since 99% of the psychology “movement” began with men and men’s ideas.

          • copleycat

            “This is clearly wrong, but someone who enjoys being literally tortured has clinical masochism and a psychologist really should take the stand in the rape victim’s defense. Shame on the juries and judges who are so easily swayed by lackluster arguments.”

            Yes and it’s important to note here you’re assuming consent to torture when what I meant was that the woman consented to nothing.

          • Candy

            WHAT. I used the term “rape victim,” where did I once assume consent? And if someone had clinically significant masochism (think Sharon Lopatka), then they are clearly not in the right mindset to consent, hence requiring defense for either situation.

          • copleycat

            Also there’s no such thing as “clinical masochism” now because masochism and sadism were taken out of the DSM. It’s not “politically correct” to consider them psychological disorders or dysfunctional adjustments. Now I don’t agree with this but it’s the pro BDSM party line.

            “Which is where sanity comes in. If I like spanking my boyfriend, does this mean I might become so desensitized to it that I’ll want to cut him? Will that progress to mind games and cruelty? Will that progress to late night murder plots and online chatrooms with fellow sadistic psychopaths?”

            The answer is yes to all those questions. If you’re a student of psychology then you ought to know sanity doesn’t indemnify you from desensitization and you yourself said you get bored easy.

            ” there is rarely a cure for self-harmers, but there are ways to deal with it that may involve painful stimuli.”

            Where did you get that idea from? What a convenient notion to further BDSM, or even set the stage for considering it therapeutic. There are millions of people struggling to recover from substance abuse (a self harming behavior) and no one advocates that they should keep using drugs at their own discretion in order to deal with their problem. When ever anyone tries to shift the perspective on drug abuse from self harm to coping strategy to empowerment they get stopped going from harm to coping. If someone’s harming themselves then they aren’t successfully coping. They might be making things easier for the people and institutions that are exploiting them though.

            The self harm of BDSM is adaptation to exploitation and oppression and the adaptation is corrosive; there is a progressive loss of self here that results from adapting to what you should be opposing.

          • Candy

            Masochism/Sadism are now classified as disorders.
            http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/Sex%20and%20GID%20Lit%20Reviews/Paraphilias/KRUEGERSADISMDSM.pdf

            “The answer is yes to all those questions. If you’re a student of psychology then you ought to know sanity doesn’t indemnify you from desensitization and you yourself said you get bored easy.”

            But as a student of psychology I realize that
            A.) the urge to kill AND to act on it stems from pathology that itself stems from something far more dire and triggering than an urge to spank, nipple clamp, and tie up and to say because I do that sometimes (big word, sometimes! Not something I go around doing everyday at the local supermarket!) I’m going to progress into a murderer because I’m so goddamned BORED of just minor sadism is well, ignoring sanity. Sanity may not indemnify me from getting restless about it, but sanity will certainly make me stop and think before I chop my boyfriend into bits and eat him for breakfast with soy milk. Explain to me how liking a bit of pain and endurance is any different from sports, please, because sex is often like a sporting event as far as I’m concerned. Gotta got past a few hurdles before I can get off, y’know. A few lashes on the ass really wakes up your nerves, gives them a little shimmy.

            I may one day become desensitized to this, yes, and explore other routes to pleasure, routes that I will also find non-degrading. Lucky me.

            B.) On the BDSM as therapy, I never said I agreed with that. I believe self-harmers would see it as a “safe” way to self-harm and make it seem like something else, but that’s my PERSONAL opinion. There’s the possibility someone would find it (and its not all hardcore rape scenes, etc.) therapeutic. I’m not sure how I agree with that, but it’s not something I can entirely discount- I wouldn’t advocate it though. I’ve read use of fire cupping (a sensation play BDSM practice) as therapy; originally it was (and still is) a Chinese method of encouraging blood flow for healing. Some sensation play may be good for some with depression or depressive episodes.

          • copleycat

            “On the BDSM as therapy, I never said I agreed with that. I believe self-harmers would see it as a “safe” way to self-harm and make it seem like something else,”

            And make it seem like something else, yes, I think you’ve been demonstrating that quite clearly.

          • Me

            “Explain to me how liking a bit of pain and endurance is any different from sports, please, because sex is often like a sporting event as far as I’m concerned”

            You do realize Pistorius just murdered his girlfriend and remember that recent case of young athletes pissing and raping a passed-out girl? High-rape societies have tended to be ones focused on competing. Maybe they are not different then, but “problematic” in much the same way?

          • Lela

            “Explain to me how liking a bit of pain and endurance is any different from sports, please, because sex is often like a sporting event as far as I’m concerned. Gotta got past a few hurdles before I can get off, y’know. A few lashes on the ass really wakes up your nerves, gives them a little shimmy.”

            Maybe first you can direct us to the segment of the Olympics where athletes are strung upside-down and electric shocks applied to their genitals? I continue to be mystified by this lack of acknowledgement that torture signifies violence and not fun sporty times.

            It seems sports and sex are *both* a pissing contest under patriarchy. That’s hardly news, is it.

          • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

            LOL the DSM 5 also has a lot of other made-up “illnesses” to sell more drugs and more ‘therapy’
            by the way i’m i’m also a psychology student but a *recovering* one…

            You realize that there is also an “illness” for rapists right? in the new DSM “Coercive Paraphelic Disorder” that posits that if a dude rapes more than 3 people *and fantasizes about raping people* They can be “diagnosed” with this “illness” that they just constructed. I actually wrote about it http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca/2011/05/american-psychological-associations-dsm.html

            OH, and don’t forget SHYNESS that’s a disorder now to in the new DSM. Oh and the women who don’t want to have intercourse – “hyposexual desire disorder” Psychology = Status quo preserving, disciplinary discipline rooted in patriarchy. I mean, who writes these books? I KNOW! White, imperialist, reductionist upper class men who have ties to big Pharma!

          • Lela

            Spot-on, BK! I’ve been jerked around by psychiatry in particular, with the assistance of the DSM and a more-than-healthy dose of Big Pharma’s products before I realized what a mound of bullshit the whole thing was. My advice to anyone: Do not send your daughters to anyone wielding a copy of the DSM 5. Send her to a social worker, make sure she has all the nutrition she needs and make a consistent and dedicated effort to set her mind right about the world and her place in it.

          • Lela

            ….and by that I mean, give her access to a feminist perspective.:) Also to clarify, this unprofessional advice of mine is intended for those with the more dubious diagnoses such as “social phobia” and “generalized anxiety disorder,” etc.

          • Me

            “I believe sex is something that can be more complicated than is given credit, a force to be reckoned with that can twisted in unsavory ways and isn’t always politically correct- for instance, are rape fantasies truly a result of a patriarchy?”

            What happens with this is that any political meaning is removed from sexual acts. Putting it that way in itself twists it severely, and it’s not a good starting point :)

            Through that framing, which is the one patriarchal psychology (as well as the porn industry) takes, rape becomes primarily a sexual act, not a political one. Rape becomes a psychological issue to the exclusion of being a political one. It becomes more meaningful to study rape than prevent it, or try to get a kick out of it rather than be repelled by it. The business part of mass production of rape material and profit stays invisible, because rape itself is not political. By refusing the political medicalization for the victims starts to make sense, as does isolating one victim from other victims to deny their political connections. This is all patriarchal structures protecting their own interests. What happens with BDSM then is that yet another set of behaviors that also have political significance get slapped on the label “sex” and down the same hole they go. It is all eminently political while denying it.

            According to Judith Herman, more than a hundred years ago Freud had concluded that “hysteria” originated in incest or “premature sexual experience”, but due to its prevalence and the political ramifications of that (there had to be a perpetrator every time of course), there was a shift in focus to invent and forcibly explain everything through the victims’ sexual fantasies and psychological conditions, i.e. what initially was a cooperative “she was raped and these are the symptoms she shows for it” became an antagonistic “why did she want to be raped and abused?” That’s the Freud we know. This shift happened for political reasons and the focus is largely the same today despite trailblazing by feminists, including psychologists. I mean, sure, sex is complicated and nobody scientifically “fully” understands it. (And I doubt anybody ever really will. How would a domination and objectification-based and supposedly apolitical form of study truly understand sex is a bit beyond me, by dissecting it and breaking it into its supposed constituent parts? Yes, there _are_ good scientists and psychologists, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the culture of science is steeped in destroying and breaking everything apart to “understand” it.) But that’s beside the point. It’s not sex that’s the [political] “force to be reckoned with”. It’s patriarchy, domination, sadism and related masochism which try to make sex into that mysterious “force” to move attention away from themselves in what is a political move.

          • Candy

            A.) “What happens with this is that any political meaning is removed from sexual acts”

            No, as I’ve said before, the social and sociocultural aspects of desire are already being ruminated over here. What I’m saying is this: wearing makeup is considered to be an act of conforming to the patriarchy. Oftentimes it is. But, hypothetically speaking, who’s to say in a world without beauty products a girl wouldn’t look at her eyelids and say, hm, wonder how those would look with blue glitter?

            The problem is not the product itself, but the context in which it is utilized. Being pressured to conform to a standard of beauty is damaging, but is the product itself to blame? Some people like a little color on their face, others try to change their face as much as possible to fit in.

            You’re ignoring that much of this stems from biology, or at least, can stem from biology. Is the problem BDSM itself (and once again, there ARE problems within BDSM- a man wanting to feminized as a form of degradation is either mimicking degrading porn he’s seen, echoing past trauma, or wants to experiment but feels guilty/insecure about his masculinity and has internalized shame), or how it’s used? In that example, is the problem the man wanting to be feminized, or the man wanting to be feminized as a form of degradation? Of course “feminization” is socially driven- men used to wear corsets and heels! But a man wanting to experiment with gender roles has no objection from me.

            I never said rape wasn’t political, but rape is also many other things. You seem to feel that I support apoliticizing rape while I feel you take away from the other aspects. Either view is too narrow to fully encompass why someone might rape, and why someone might desire to fulfill a rape fantasy. Rape is about sex AND power. It’s a sex crime about asserting power.

            I’ve watching humiliation porn for a paper I wrote over paraphilia and cried because I realize more viscerally than ever how damaging society and porn could be. It was all the hate speech, all the Judeo-Christian puritanical shame sexualized and internalized, everything about sex I hate, which is why I roll my eyes at porn stars like Sasha Grey who try to pass themselves off as empowering. However, I also realize that we’re all influenced in varying degrees, and this will intermingle with our personality traits and upbringing.
            I was raised in a Christian household, raised not to have premarital sex, raised to cover my shoulders, raised to go to church, but yet as I got older I realized I didn’t see what all the shame and fuss was about sex, all the hush-hush susurrations. It’s natural, it’s fun, it’s one of those rare times where pain can feel delicious. And yes, I’m one of those people who will tell you I’ve been like this for a long time. You may say I’ve molded into society’s vision of a masochistic woman. I’d say it’s biological my thighs love nail marks, that my body responds so well to predicament and hot wax and cold chains. I didn’t have to convince my brain *learn to like this, learn to get off to this*. I’ve liked and embraced pain since I was a little girl. When I skinned a knee I got up, ripped dress be damned, and ran until I couldn’t. Back then I liked how I could run despite my throbbing calves or bloody knees, now I like how pain makes me feel strong, how intermittent pleasure and pain give me a sensation overload. I believe I’ve loved this for a long time, and before I ever knew what mainstream porn was. In fact it wasn’t until I actually watched porn that I felt any guilt over anything I craved sexually, suddenly so much was twisted into this disgusting degradation circus, which is never how it felt to me. I must have been fairly innocent because it wasn’t until after I got an (er, accidental) facial that I saw it in porn and was like, whoa, hold up! I’m not your cum whore slut! But no matter, if I’m with a guy I respect and who respects me, I won’t find facials degrading. If I was with a guy I didn’t respect even a kiss would feel mocking. Everyone has their own limits- hell, my younger sister has told me she thinks getting on your knees to give a guy a blow job is degrading. To me, it’s just another position in the arsenal.

            I’m not trying to claim everything I do is a strictly feminist act, but merely that you try to understand that I’m not trying to drive women into a “be like this!” corner. I feel like because women have been subjugated into roles for so long anything that threatens the liberation from this is vilified when I’m not even asserting conformity to them. I agree some are in BDSM for douchebag, misogynistic reasons. But try to understand it doesn’t always have to be like this.

            B.) “And make it seem like something else, yes, I think you’ve been demonstrating that quite clearly.”

            Thank you for insinuating I have problems with self-harm.

          • Me

            I do have the experience of “consensual rapes” that I’m still recovering from, so STFU! As if nobody here ever! Your attempt to legitimize BDSM and the language of Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism is perverted even if what you do in your bedroom is not.

          • Lela

            Glitter on eyelids/makeup =/= sexual torture. Sexual torture =/= makeup.

            “You’re ignoring that much of this stems from biology, or at least, can stem from biology.” I’m not convinced by your explanation.

            With all due respect, Candy, this is not a thread about you. By all means, if you are able to justify your own proclivities to yourself, then why do you need my approval or anyone else’s? You must know that many people are justifiably averse to anything that references torture, that can’t be a surprise.

            This has just strayed so far from being a discussion about the real ways in which torture porn affects women. I realize that you are young and not yet fully aware of the extent of the tangled web we, as women, are facing in terms of systemic oppression. I genuinely wish you the best.

            “I agree some are in BDSM for douchebag, misogynistic reasons.”
            Have you ever wondered why that is? I repeat: this acronym means “Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism.” I mean, it just lends itself incredibly well to misogyny, doesn’t it? These are precisely the ways in which women are oppressed. This isn’t a coincidence.

          • copleycat

            ” I’d say it’s biological my thighs love nail marks, that my body responds so well to predicament and hot wax and cold chains.”

            Nothing needs to be insinuated here, it’s literally spelled out. Pain is a signal that you’re harming yourself. Break the skin and you’ve destroyed tissue, bruising signals that blood vessels have been destroyed. It’s a warning to stop what you’re doing. Ignore the warning and you’re persisting in self harm while calling it something else. This damages your relationship with yourself. You don’t acknowledge what your doing in full – which also means you won’t run the risk of getting anywhere near the real reasons why you do it. How are you going to know why you really do something if you refuse to know what you’re really doing?

            Thank you for pointing out that sadism and masochism did make it into the DSM V. I really didn’t think they would what with the work-group on them considering arguments from pro-BDSM groups. More to the point you’re saying things like,

            “Or some people may enjoy pushing their pain limits. Do you believe this must make them mentally ill or affected by social mores? ”
            in one post and then bringing up clinical masochism in another. So do you believe sadism and masochism are psychological disorders or not?

            It’s interesting that you bring up a rebellious nature as a possible reason for engaging in BDSM. There are people who rebel because they’ve made conscious decisions to fight against unjust authority in their lives – their goal is to win, they’re not in it for a cheap thrill they’re in it because they deliberately decided it’s the right thing to do. Then there are people who rebel with no intention of ever winning – that would take all the fun out of rebelling. These are the people who like chains. Who would they rebel against if they won and had to be the authorities of their own lives? Not to mention who would make all the judgement calls that they would live by but also rebel ineffectually against? This sort of rebellious behavior is actually childish acting out and it doesn’t threaten authoritarian systems it fortifies them. This is a real problem for those of us who don’t like chains.

            You mentioned enjoying feeling your senses overloaded. I’ve heard that from other BDSMer’s before and it also strangely enough sounds a lot like the prescribed goal of the “shock and awe” doctrine. That goal being to terrorize people with such sudden, intense violence that they can’t process any incoming information effectively enough to act on it. This is about destroying consciousness.

            I don’t know why you want to love your chains. Something in your past? Maybe but right now you’re only looking for reasons to stay in them, maybe cause it’s easier to love them than a real human? You know somethings missing, something you figure is just beyond the next hurdle or limits of your endurance, but mutilating your nerves isn’t going to get you to any higher ground, it’s going to get you neuropathy. In the mean time all your rationalizations about why you enjoy being hurt add to the bullshit in public discourse that backs up the idea that this isn’t dangerous when in fact it is.

            Lastly, yes many athletes do go too far and hurt themselves thus ending their careers. I know a yoga teacher who claims that getting the “no pain, no gain” idea out of people’s heads is the hardest part of her job.

          • Carmen Speer

            I know this is an old thread, but I just want to say thank you (and to Meghan, too). Watching smart radfems and psychology students hash things out is immensely helpful to the book I’m writing now (about a woman who used to be an unpaid sub and became a more “vanilla” prostitute–although that’s just part of her story–thinking this constituted a positive change, though at the same time never really fooling herself). I have always intrinsically understood the harms of prostitution and BDSM and never understood how the left could so betray women (as if it ever really fought for women) by pretending sex was some sacred territory, untouchable in the political realm, and in no way related to how people treat each other outside of closed doors (or dungeons)–ha! Since we are still so hung up on it, it continues to be what turns the world. Societies less hung up on it are able to enjoy all sorts of other human bonding more as well as a lesser incidence of violence (sexual or otherwise).

            In any case, a lot of my interest comes from my own experience. I was a fiery tomboy who got sick with a terrible disease doctors deemed mental (it was hormonal), mainly because they (supposed experts) saw “out-of-control adolescent girl” and sent me to psychiatrists and psychologists without doing the further tests my mother demanded (no surprise there). At the end, before I was diagnosed, I wasn’t sleeping for over a week, my resting pulse was 112 and rose to over 200 while climbing stairs, I had phantom bee stings and the sensation of light rushing through my head, causing me to lose consciousness (once in a crosswalk), tremors, and finally my legs swelled up to twice their normal size and sheets of skin began peeling off. This went on for years before I got to that stage–the whole time with behavioral issues also (read, enraged and nonconformist)–and it was my dermatologist, NOT the reams of endocrinologists my mother took me to (who told her to take me to psychiatrists) who finally tested me and diagnosed me with an untreated autoimmune disorder. During this time I thought I was going crazy and tried once to kill myself. At age 12.

            I took a lot of this to be based on my gender and my nonperformance of gender roles (I was not only outspoken and aggressive and did whatever the hell I wanted, I dressed in baggy Dickies and giant stripey t-shirts and went a long time without showering on a regular basis). After my illness was discovered and treated–no thanks to the scornful, dismissive male doctors I was taken to by mother, whose symptoms were equally dismissed (she had another, milder version of the same disease, manifesting at the same time–our eyes changed color!)–I lost weight, my skin cleared up, I began to make up for my behavior in earnest (including performing my feminine gender role to its fullest–skirts, dresses, make-up, the whole kit and caboodle)–and I became, quite suddenly, pretty.

            I had fought the most with my father during this time. My personality was only exaggerated by the disease; as a child I had always been rebellious and nonconformist, not to be a brat but because I simply didn’t understand why adults got to exercise control over children. I think in a boy this might have been encouraged; I wasn’t naughty in terms of wrecking things and being a malicious annoyance so much as I didn’t listen and did things my own way. But my father always took this personally and favored my sister, the gentle, sweet one (this caused her no end of pain too and continues to be a problem in our relationship–my father’s continuing favoritism–though despite that, and the abuse I visited on her during those dark days, likely out of jealousy, my sister and I are very close).

            Once I calmed down and began gender compliance I received a lot of positive reinforcement from my father and attention from boys (and men), much of it unwanted, though I couldn’t have articulated that then.

            My independent spirit was effectively quashed. I became a target.

            I was harassed, sexually assaulted, and raped on numerous occasions throughout my teenage years and young(er) womanhood. I was also highly self-destructive (drugs, alcohol, risky sex, dangerous relationships, etc.). I would stand up for other women, but not for myself. I didn’t think I mattered. I actually had that thought: “It doesn’t matter what happens to me.” (What men do to my body). Later–when going through self-examination of those years in my life–recalling that thought made me cry. I had such a negative opinion of myself I had become a non-entity. I had effectively disassociated from myself as a person.
            I also sought out others to inflict abuse upon me.

            I remember also having the thought, “This is what I was born for–to be abused. This is what people see me as so maybe it’s my calling.” I don’t know what stopped me from taking on masochism as a more formalized lifestyle. I don’t know what stopped me from taking up something like prostitution. Except for maybe my rationality and constant, fierce protection of other women; and my intellectualism. I knew instinctively they were wrong, and exploitative (and, in the case of BDSM, rather silly. How could I take some leather idiot with a whip seriously? This was why I sought out the real sadists, who never would have called themselves that but that’s what they were). Maybe because of my own real-life experiences I also realized how damaging such role-play could be, that in BDSM they were not “games” any more than prostitution is a “service.”

            Whatever the reason–self-reflection, real world knowledge, sisterhood, other–I never went down that path. But I so easily could have.

            Normalizing such behavior and erasing its roots in the violence against women–whether physical or the even more insidious everyday violence of the psychological and social–or justifying it in the name of individual orgasms does a disservice to women everywhere, and mocks their real suffering.

            Furthermore, I contend that it DOES come from suffering, whether that suffering is perceived as more theoretical or actual. And we seem to know with every single other thing in life that just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for us (and by extension for society). Many times it’s on the contrary.

            I, for example, sometimes have very dark sexual fantasies (not in which I am raped but in which I am the rapist). I recognize both where they come from and that they are residual issues for me (I still have a lot of problems, not all of them due to my formative experiences as a girl and a woman but many of them). I recognize that these are bad fantasies. I try to curb them. I feel happy when I fantasize about something more loving and mutual. I certainly don’t act these fantasies out. It would not only cause harm to another person (even if consenting) but to myself. (Also, I have no desire to act them out; they repulse me and trouble me, and make me feel ashamed. I just try to be kind to myself and forgive myself). There is no reason to further focus on these residual harms. Healing does not come by reopening wounds.

            That said, I draw a clear and direct link between all of these harms, which occur on a continuum–BDSM, prostitution, enforced femininity, sexual violation–and I think writing the experience of a woman who has indeed taken this darker turn–and her catharsis–will be cathartic for me, without having actually undertaken the harm (and further traumatized and/or conditioned myself).

            I am grateful for all the brilliant discussions in these forums.

            And if I’ve been ranting a bit of late, it’s because this has been emotional for me–both the research of these topics and the writing of this story. I beg you to bear with me. :)

          • lizor

            Thank you Carmen Speer for sharing your story. You’ve come through all of these trials with grace, clarity and wisdom. I am very glad to know that you are writing and sending your knowledge and insight out into the world. We all benefit from truth tellers like yourself.

          • copleycat

            “I do get the sense that kinky people are trying to metabolize something and only perpetuate it.”

            Same here, and if there’s a way to get them to talk it through well I haven’t found it yet. And yes I realize I’m pretty terse with some of my comments here but that’s cause I’m exhausted from trying to deal with people who have this issue and it just seems like there are more and more of them cropping up in activist circles, they are acting more and more indignant and even hostile – which is again I feel, evidence that despite any claims to the contrary this shit never stays confined to the bedroom.

            I would agree it’s an attempt to process prior trauma in most cases but it’s a mal-adaptive one. The short term pay off is an orgasm, the long term effects are fortification of ideas that abuse and assault are OK and an increased lack of self knowledge.

            I had a friend who had been doing this crap for quite a while and gradually it became the issue that ended our friendship – not because I kept bringing it up but because she did. The last two years we were friends, every little thing kept coming back to it.

            She was especially focused on this thing about “switching” and how I didn’t see that this switch phenomenon (whatever the hell it was) made what looked like abuse not abuse. From the instances of it she pointed out it was suppose to go something like the sub (female) acts in a stereotypically hen-pecking manner and then the dom (male) poor hen-pecked soul, responds by sexually assaulting her. It is a staged scene of retaliation and retaliation against aggression is generally considered just – but it’s not always, and it’s certainly not in this sort of situation. Here the logic of the whole scene rests on the false assumption that it’s OK to sexually assault someone. Every time this kind of scene gets acted out this false assumption gets more deeply ingrained in the actors. She was never able to explain how this was empowering. She instead relied on insulting me, raising her voice and getting too physically close while she was shouting to not seem a threat.

            I’ve heard the argument that BDSMer’s learn all sorts of stuff about themselves by doing BDSM but I don’t believe it. Everyone I’ve ever known who was into it got progressively more volatile and unpleasant as they got more into it. They seemed to be losing their sense of self rather than finding it – oh although they did become more skilled at manipulating others, but that’s hardly what I would call healthy development, and they became more likely to have melt-downs and temper tantrums when called out for their manipulations.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I’m not saying all BDSM practice is equivalent to fantasizing about murdering women. Not at all. But I am saying that that kind of power play is attached to the fact that we are socialized in a misogynist culture. I also don’t think it’s true that men who sexualize violence against women are *just* mentally ill… Mentally ill doesn’t equate to either misogyny or fantasizing about murder.The sexualization, rape, fetish, gendered nature of the ‘cannibal cop’s’ ‘fantasies’ signal misogyny to me.

        • Candy

          I guess there’s no way to know for certain if power play wouldn’t exist if not for a misogynistic culture. I believe it would as childhood is when we’re most introduced to our future sexual proclivities. For instance, it’s been theorized that a man with a foot fetish may have had a sexual “snapshot” taken as a wee little kid of his mother’s feet, unbeknownst to him. Children are remarkably sexual creatures, remembering how I’d roughhouse as a kid and be pinned down as play reminds me a bit of bondage.

          I’m not trying to remove the culture from influence for some though, fuck no. People need to evaluate the motives and reasons behind their behavior, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” There could have been something to trigger his misogyny, for instance, a bad childhood or the linking of sexualized images of violence against women with a sexual awakening. I’m most wondering how websites involving genuine torture aren’t closed down.

          • Lela

            Why would one enter a discussion about the role of “kink” in normalizing violence against women and wax on about ritualized sexual torture being somehow akin to playful “roughhousing?” How is that in any way relevant?

            “Children are remarkably sexual creatures…” Yikes. Dragging kids into a defence of bondage is just creepy.

            “There could have been something to trigger his misogyny…” Oh really, ya think?

        • Morgan

          The label of “mental illness” is a convenient way to make it look like there is a difference between “them” “mentally ill” people and “us” “normal” people. As if we all don’t have internalized misogyny to differing degrees.

      • copleycat

        “I think comparing a man with an obvious mental pathology with BDSM is a bit ignorant.”

        The end point of sadism, which some people progress to faster than others, is the impulse to murder. It is a behavior which some people do, like compulsive over-eating or gambling, for the bio-chemical rush and you yourself give testimony to this.

        Oh and if I sound intolerant that is because I am – people die from this, rapists get aquitted because of this. Cases of aggravated rape use to be open and shut convictions twenty years ago, but now, thanks to the acceptance of BDSM, a woman can have been literally tortured and the rapist can claim “she likes rough” and the jury and judge may actually believe him and let him go do it again.

  • Bob Thompson

    Real life
    Consent= OK
    Torture = Not OK

    Fantasy
    portrayed consent = OK?
    portrayed torture = not OK?

    But then if degrading actions are portrayed as consenting, it’s not okay.

    And of course this has to be put into the context of patriarchal soul destroying porn and the real world context where women are really murdered and really tortured and really raped all the time.

  • Tea for Two

    It’s all rape culture, michelle, all the sexualization of misogyny.

    “Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography.” ~ Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right-o, Tea for Two. I anticipated this response. Because it’s always the same. “Don’t address the issues, ever. Accuse everyone of simply not understanding.” What we’re talking about, i.e. misogyny, the sexualization and fetishization of violence against women, fantasy as divorced from reality — those things are all defended on account of it being kink/BDSM/fetish. That doesn’t mean ALL kink/BDSM/fetish is ‘bad’ – it means we have to stop pretending like that which counts as ‘fantasy’ as nothing to do with the reality of our lives.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

    Yes, DIDN’T YOU KNOW? femicide is now a fetish, therefore any denouncement of such titillation is an attack on individual freedom and even, *gasp* OPPRESSIVE. This is because being judgmental is much more harmful & oppressive than fetishizing violence against women and masturbating to rape porn and kink.com videos. This is just ONE guy…he’s one of FEW “mentally ill” people (us mentally ill folks think about rape and torture all the time, by the way) there’s no actual societal issue here. Every individual is an untouched Island…you need to understand that Puritanical Nun-Lesbian! This is POST-patriarchy, mmkay? You see, Meghan, men who look at dead women and girls, and various other sexualized acts of violence – they’re actually just expressing their “alternative” and “deviant” sexualities. You mustn’t judge them for how they get off – getting off is the most important thing in dood-life, remember? Also, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with connecting to images of violence, humiliation, degradation and even, death to sexual arousal and orgasm. IT IS JUST FANTASY and agency! What if women choose to be killed and/or hog tied and/or choked for the purposes of male orgasm, HUH? They LIKE it, that’s why they’re on the websites. The viewers like, it too so everything is fine. If someone likes something, everyone else needs to validate their preferred practices. They obviously WANT their genitalia electrocuted or WANT to be called fucking cunt whores? Stop your kink-shaming madness!! Stop being such an anti-violence advocate, put away your vanilla privilege! GAWWWW.

    • Lela

      Exactly, BK. Being into “kink” doesn’t make one a member of an oppressed minority group any more than my liking obscure punk rock makes me part of one. The porn and sex industries have sufficiently messed-up people’s sense of what oppression is, and what privilege actually is, and who actually has it. It makes a lot of sense, when you consider that the porn and sex industries have everything to gain from creating a sense of righteous entitlement in their customers to any and all products they produce at the expense of women.

  • http://lifeinthepatriarchalmatrix.wordpress.com Bedelia Bloodyknuckle

    As an Autistic woman, these “kinksters” who are fighting tooth and nail to claim “minority status” is an insult. I have to experience misogyny and ableism on a daily basis and I have to face people who believe in stereotypes because of my disability. These “Kinksters” are the most privileged people I have ever seen. I seriously hope that the courts don’t start to take them seriously.

    • http://mygothicfreckles.blogspot.ca Rozy

      I am neurologically ‘disabled’ and mentally ill and I find this offensive too. I already face severe lack of resources. I feel the exact same as you do. Also as someone who suffers from mental illness I just wanted to say that I do not get off on images of women being tortured and raped, in fact the exact opposite these are things I need counseling on to function normally, not that I have that resource either. These kinksters are nothing but a bunch of assholes who deny their internalized misogyny so much they associate it with sex, a waste of time, do not deserve to be taken seriously. Also cannibalism is disgusting and I hope he gets prion disease.

  • Melissa

    I love how people who practice BDSM/fetish nonsense/some hipster kinky crap I’m too bourgeois to understand bend over backwards to say how women are empowered by being degraded. This is an argument I see pop up the most often:

    On women being submissives: It’s really the submissive who has the power because of safe words! Everyone knows that dominants always respect the submissive’s safe word and there is never any coercion involved.

    On women being dominant: It’s really the dominant who has the power because she gets to tell the man what to do! Never mind that a female dominant wears tight restrictive clothing such as latex body suits and high heels, and that usually it’s the male submissive who tells the woman just how he wants to be degraded (ie. feminized) at the beginning of the session.

    Wow, I didn’t realize women have the power in every situation! I guess us feminists can go home now. The cannibal cop was just expressing an internal fantasy completely divorced from cultural conditioning. Gah, why can’t his wife just except that being raped and slowly tortured is empowering, and that her husband’s orgasm upon her death is akin to women getting the vote?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Everything is empowering because postmodernism is magic!

    • MLM

      “It’s really the submissive who has the power because of safe words! Everyone knows that dominants always respect the submissive’s safe word and there is never any coercion involved.”

      That’s right, because clicking your heels together three times and saying the words “safe, sane and consensual” can magically prevent abuse!

      “When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into ‘the BDSM community’, I can’t actually count them,” Stryker wrote in Good Vibrations’ magazine.”

      http://www.salon.com/2012/01/29/real_abuse_in_bdsm/singleton/

      “My first sexual relationship was a BDSM situation, because I had been groomed by a bunch of weirdos (both online by strangers and in IRL by society and my abusive family) to turn my deep emotional hurt and sorrow and self-loathing into literal, physical self-harm and abuse.

      I had always thought I would make a great dom, because I had so much hate and rage that I wanted to get out in a cold and calculating fashion (without getting arrested, because, hey — kink is sacred!). But people told me I would make a great sub, and they broke me until I believed them. I subbed. It was terrible. I won’t go into detail, but you can imagine”.

      http://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/beedy-essem/

  • Morgan

    It blows my mind that people can’t see the connection between what Meghan describes in the first part of the article and the wider BDSM “scene” in general. And that people can’t see the rampant misogyny involved in ALL of it. Yes, even when the “roles” are reversed. (The fact that there are roles in the first place, and that you think it’s subversive to reverse them, demonstrates that.) Even when you think you “like” it. (Hmm, why would a woman believe she enjoys taking abuse in our culture?) Even if you think our woman-hating society has “no effect” on YOU. (Yes, because we’re all so special we can avoid any effects of the culture we live in!! There’s no way the misogynist nature of the world-at-large could ever impact my attitudes or my sexual practices!! No way nuh-uhn!)

    • Meghan Murphy

      It’s not a super big mystery as to why women might find being dominated sexy. None of this is a big mystery. It’s all part of our socialization. I don’t get why so many people refuse to acknowledge that.

      • copleycat

        There are an incredible number of people who don’t even believe in socialization. They want to look to biological predetermined phenomena (while neglecting the complex interactions of genes and environment) and believe in individualism – which is quite an odd juxtaposition now that I see it in print. In some cases they can claim to have no control over what they do and in others they can claim have absolute control. What’s weirder still is that both these claims completely disregard human to human interactions, human connections. Given the implicit denial that human connection matters what the hell are these people having sex for?

  • feisty_jenn

    i don’t disagree with the main point(s) of your post.

    i think it’s important to note, however, that there *are* risks when we start criminalizing fantasy. You wrote:

    “The Times article asks an interesting question, similar to one I asked back when photos were discovered of an RCMP officer who had been involved in the Pickton investigation that simulated violence against women: “When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?”

    in actual fact, the disturbing photos in that case were NOT of the accused RCMP officer. Yes, it appears that there were some photos he had posted online, but the series with the explicit abduction and violence was apparently mis-identified. See (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/06/jim-brown-rcmp-bondage-photos_n_1655544.html )

    • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

      When did Meghan call for “fantasies to be criminalized?” First off, these aren’t “fantasies” these are practices that involve real bodies, second of all – dudes who write up detailed plots to rape and murder women, they should be held legally accountable.

    • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

      So, you see no links between a police force that has been accused of not only raping and harassing female RCMP officers but raping, abusing and harassing First Nations women and the woman-hating photos posted by Jim Brown? Do you actually think they’re utterly unrelated?

      • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

        Repeat after me: the subjection of women is not connected in any way whatsoever to social conditioning. The subjection of women is not connected in any way whatsoever to social conditioning. The subjection of women is not connected in any way whatsoever to social conditioning…

        Maybe people just repeat it so many times that it loses all meaning and becomes gibberish they can say without any meaning or affect whatsoever. Just a piece of gobbledygook, or like the adult-talk in Charlie Brown. Waaah wah waaaaah, waaaah waaaah, not socially conditioned, waaah wah waaaah.

        • Meghan Murphy

          They’re brainwashing us!

  • Me

    Oh god at kink.com. I just came home from horseback riding, which I realize is incredibly privileged as well as ass-hattish of me to do I’m sure, and I have to tell you, at the time I did not realize the stables would make for a perfect high-end bestiality and/or prison bondage setting, nor did I realize just how much fun and good times there could be had! I’ll be sure to mention that to the instructor next time. She’ll surely be glad to hear it and feel dumb for not even thinking of using the stables and the horses for that kind of “recreation” before. I mean, it’s a fetish, an understandable and reasonable thing to do, right. The way to go in this modern world. Could attract good money. The horses would probably love it too, as cumming would evidence. H-U-M-A-N-E. Now pardon me as I go stab myself in the eye and try to forget I ever went to kink.com.

    Sometimes I forget how self-involved humans can be, like their way of getting off was all that mattered. Like how many percent of humans really need to get over themselves and understand that getting off isn’t actually a responsibility?

    • Meghan Murphy

      YES: “Sometimes I forget how self-involved humans can be, like their way of getting off was all that mattered.”

    • MLM

      “The horses would probably love it too, as cumming would evidence.”

      It blows my mind that these people will actually try and argue that animals can “consent” to having sex with humans.

      • marv

        It is beyond incredulousness. Animals don’t choose to be subjected to all the other human uses we impose on them either, including horseback riding or slaughtering. They are socially trained/domesticated/forced to submit. Hierarchies govern the world.

  • Vouchsafer

    ok, seriously, can we start the petition up now please?

    I have no interest in going over to kink.com et.al. to see for myself what goes on. I’ll take your word on that one.
    But the fact that violent misogynistic images and films are so easily accessible to our society is a problem, and it means that somewhere up the food chain, some government body is collecting taxes from whichever industry execs have souls filthy enough to claim the proceeds from this shit as revenue, and because that makes our government complicit in this problem, well then that, I have a fucking problem with.
    I say, to Hell with waiting for Iceland. what we need is a good human rights lawyer to argue that just as propaganda showing whites torturing slaves is no longer acceptable to promote, imagery of the torture and rape and abuse of women is no longer acceptable to promote as a viable option for jerk-off material.
    I hate the fact that this kind of damaging shit is just a couple of clicks away at any given moment. Criminalizing may not eradicate the problem altogether, but even if it makes violent, misogynist porn more difficult to search up (and potentially subject to charges) that would be a step in the right direction for me.

    • Laur

      What kind of petition did you have in mind?

      • vouchsafer

        A petition to the effect that we as women feel that making and profiting from images that sub-humanize women should no longer be legal.

        Sorry, I was referring to a previous conversation on this site.

    • stephen m

      I read this as an ENFORCEMENT issue. Why is the law not being enforced?

      The legal criminalization of this and other kinds of porn has already been debated. Twenty plus years ago!

      OBSCENITY: THE DECISION OF THE
      SUPREME COURT OF CANADA IN R. v. BUTLER

      excerpt:

      “The Butler decision is also extremely important in its recognition of the harm to society generally and to women in particular that is associated with demeaning and dehumanizing depictions of sex. According to a U.S. expert, the Court’s decision has made Canada the first country in the world to recognize in its law a link between hard-core pornography and violence against women. Feminists, women’s groups, and others have applauded the Court’s decision. The fact that the decision was unanimous – although two of the nine Supreme Court Justices would have gone further – is particularly important in this regard. The decision sends a very strong and unequivocal message.”

      http://publications.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/bp289-e.htm

      • Vouchsafer

        Thanks, stephen M. I was not previously aware of this ruling.

        The decision, available here:

        http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/844/index.do

        states that Section 163(8) of the Code provides that
        “any publication a dominant characteristic of which is the undue exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of . . . crime, horror, cruelty and violence, shall be deemed to be obscene”. `

        and further, that

        “The portrayal of sex coupled with violence will almost always constitute the undue exploitation of sex.“

        which according to the ruling, makes it illegal and an indictable offense. So then if that`s the case, what up

        I wonder if its because nobody has filed a legal complaint, and if so, what the process is for that. The person charged in this case ended up with eight counts of possessing obscene materials for the purposes of distribution, selling obscene materials, and exposing obscene material to public view.
        If these laws are on the books, can someone please tell me how it is possible that any twelve year old is currently able to view scenes of women being violently dehumanized.
        very, very frustrated right now. :(

        • MLM

          @ Vouchsafer, this may also be of interest to you.

          http://antipornographyactivist.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/action-say-no-to-the-new-york-times-encouraging-torture-and-violent-bdsm-culture-pornharms/

          “Please let the New York Times know that promoting pornographic and abusive BDSM is NOT OK! You can send a letter at the link below, via Pornography Harms’ helpful form”.

          http://pornharms.com/action-ny-times-encouraging-torture-violent-bdsm-culture/

        • stephen m

          @Vouchsafer, In case you or others did not see it when I posted it in an earlier thread:

          Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), does the _heavy lifting_ for women in Canadian law.

          “LEAF litigates and educates. Our focus is to act whenever the substantive equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms need to be protected or strengthened to bring about real change in women’s lives.

          LEAF applies to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) or provincial Appeal Courts for intervener status in cases we select. Our branch representatives and Law Program Committee watch for cases that are determined to have a significant impact on the equality rights of all women.”

          Canadian feminists should all be aware of LEAF:

          http://leaf.ca

          LEAF has a paper which describes some very interesting aspects of the law and pornography that were examined during LEAF’s instrumental role in the Butler decision.

          LEAF and Pornography: Litigating on Equality and Sexual Representations

          http://leaf.ca/legal/submissions/1993-pornography.pdf

  • Nicole

    Don’t spend so much time arguing against points that no one made except yourself. It’s boring to read.

    • Meghan Murphy

      To whom are you speaking to and in regards to what, Nicole?

    • copleycat

      “Don’t spend so much time arguing against points that no one made except yourself.”

      Did someone say that to you about something else because it doesn’t make much sense in this context? Hope you’ll find reading more enjoyable as the years go by.

  • pisaquari

    Actually, anyone over the age of ten knows sexual fantasy tied to sadism, masochism, bondage or domination is prevalent in the MAJORITY of people.

    Rather, anyone who is actively working to eliminate/has eliminated these aspects from their sex life is in the MINORITY (all you Christian housewife-spanking dicks and Cosplay D&D, chain-wielding blowhards go to the *exact same Sex Church*).

    Just because some self-professed Speshul Snowflake believes his desires descended from the esoteric heavens doesn’t make it true and certainly doesn’t mean he needs an entire movement. He undoubtedly does not need the unpaid labor and herstorical capital of women’s work. Don’t even.

    And by the way: “Safe Word” is the new-left version of “she asked for it.” Full stop. It’s the new and improved street lamp we’re all metaphorically trying to stand under, the perfect skirt length, the street we refuse to go down after sunset. And how minor – a mere word or phrase! – an expression that could be ANYTHING (maybe not even a direct “no”: “I said DONKEY GUTS you fucking rapist!!” “Oh sorry babe, I heard ‘monkey butts’ my bad”). How is this precious word or phrase supposed to be operationalized in a patriarchy? In court? In light of a body bloodied and bruised (“only 20% of the bruising is non-consensual, the rest was pre-safe-word.”). Or, goddess forbid, in the “safe space” of a community chock full of Dom dudes who believe every fucking sexual behavior they exhibit is proof they are leading the next great Human Rights crusade?(Reminiscent of the Manarchist communities silencing sex assault victims because women cannot abandon their opprezzed brotherhood “he is a sexual minority, think of the struggle!”)

    The onus, this immense, impossibly maneuvered onus to prove harm done by men with the physical power to commit it and the social and legal resources to protect their status is gaslighting, victim-blaming, awful awful women-killing horseshit. And feminism should have NONE of it.

  • http://mygothicfreckles.blogspot.ca Rozy

    Fuck BDSM. It is not a feminist act.

  • Sam Berg

    You know that study of college men where 35% said they would rape if they could get away with it but 60% said they would try to get away with rape when the word “rape” wasn’t used?

    sadism, dominance, bondage, masochism…

  • sporenda

    “It’s not a super big mystery as to why women might find being dominated sexy. None of this is a big mystery. It’s all part of our socialization. I don’t get why so many people refuse to acknowledge that.”

    Agreed but in my experience, there are fewer women interested in serious BDSM than the dominant discourse wants us to believe.
    .
    The big customers in BDSM are men.
    The demand is mostly on their side (I am not talking about remunerated domes here), wether it’s as doms or submissives.

    We were discussing that issue with a friend some time ago, and I proposed a test: we placed a few ads on specialized sites offering the (free)services of a dome for male or female submissives (with fake photos and juicy details).
    In like 4/5 hours, we had nearly 100 answers from eager male submissives, and only 3 females.

    Yes there is some female masochism out there but nothing like the porn industry wants us to believe.
    Porn is only recycling the patriarchy’s old mantra: “she likes it, she asked for it”.
    Very few women like to fantasize on sexual violence, and it’s not surprising:
    since at least 1 woman out of 3 in the world has been victim of rape/attempted rape or beating (according to UN stats), for the vast majority of these women (plus those who have been victims of “minor” sexual abuse”, these sexually violent fantazies are a little too close for comfort.
    Selling sexual violence to women is like selling ice to eskimos

    The masochism of women is a lie, it’s overplayed, constantly put forward by patriarchal cultures because it’s the perfect justification for their horrible mistreatment of women.
    The masochism of men is real, but it’s a cultural taboo, never to be spoken of, because it ruins the patriarchal belief of men as naturally dominant.

    • Morgan

      Very interesting experience. Perhaps female masochism is yet again another patriarchal reversal, and not “just” a blatant lie.

  • copleycat

    I remember when I was in the very, very early stages of quitting smoking and I went to a quitting group. We were advised by the quitting counselor to tell people that we were thinking about quitting. She told us that people are more likely to do things if they have talked about doing them, planned with other people to do them, and have the support and encouragement of others to do the things they’ve talked about and planned. She was right.

  • Laur

    I would also add that it’s one thing to participate in BDSM and another thing to declare practice of BDSM feminist.

    • Grackle

      Very true.

  • sporenda

    “Very interesting experience. Perhaps female masochism is yet again another patriarchal reversal, and not “just” a blatant lie.”

    It could very well be Megan.
    Patriarchal reversal being about projecting on women behaviors that are mostly male;
    you can see examples of that daily.
    A classic theme in patriarchal cultures is the one of the evil dangerous woman who destroys men through the power of her conniving and sexual charisma.
    In my experience, I have seen lots more women destroyed by dangerous men than the opposite. Still, what the movies and novels talk about is “femme fatale”, not “homme fatal”.
    Another traditional sexist stereotype is that women talk more than men, talk way too much in fact. Sociologists observing group interaction have noticed that, in a group including men and women, the men always talk more than the women, and of course interrupt them more often.

    Another one, more trivial, but nevertheless significant: when I was a kid, the accepted opinion was that women were bad drivers–there were tons of sexist jokes on this topic.
    But when the insurance companies started to split accidents stats by gender, it became clear that it was the men who were the dangerous drivers, causing about 75% of all accidents.

    Whatever messages the dominant discourse–which is the discourse of the dominants as we well know–sends out about women, it’s likely to be misleading and twisted–smoke and mirrors.
    About the so-called masochism of women, so convenient for abusers, just look at all the media fuss around the stupid “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
    A woman saying what the men want to hear, that’s a surefire recipe for success.

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  • Laur

    One challenge in arguing against the practice of BDSM is that one has to argue against physical sensations that do feel good to the practitioners. So, even if one “gets” the arguments for an egalitarian sexuality, on a physiological level, it may be a different story. In this way, it’s similar to arguing against pornography, in that one has to argue against pleasure (in the latter case, orgasm).

  • Noah

    Thaks you for talking about this.

    “One In Three Kinksters Reports A Consent Violation”
    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/one-in-three-kinksters-reports-a-consent-violations/

  • Lexi

    There are some of us young women that DON’T report guys like that due to the “kink” defense. When some of us happen to find ourselves dating some guy whose a frequent visitor to a terrible website (such as bestgore.com – a website NO ONE should visit, and if you want to look at it, use digression). Of course when I questioned my partner at the time, the defensive statement was, “I’m not actually hurting or killing anyone, it’s just a fetish. Lay off.”

    As for BDSM, I don’t know what percentage of submissives are actually forced into that position, but I know I was. You have no clue how easy it is for someone to get away with leaving marks on your body when his friends are under the impression you “love” getting beaten. Or how they simply pound on the wall for silence when you’re shouting for help because they think you’re playing out a “rape scene”. That nightmare has since ended.

    I get BDSM, I do. I understand the mindset, and I agree if you like getting spanked or flogged that’s all well and good. But I would never condone women being harmed, beaten and killed.

    I still believe that websites focused on gore, murder, and torture should be taken down (though, with the internet, that is something we’ll never see) because sex doesn’t justify it. I also think that if your spouse catches you visiting it, she/he has a right to report you to the authorities for their own safety.

    • Lela

      There’s this attitude that has developed among men thanks to certain forces in pop culture, that basically says “it’s my fetish, if everybody is enjoying the torture then it isn’t hurting anybody.” Okay, but torture porn involves real women and it is impossible to know whether enjoyment is actually happening or not. Also, obviously, you and I (and loads of others) are being hurt by it, Lexi, but that doesn’t seem to count, does it? Porn advocates refuse to acknowledge that their all-holy product could be responsible for the abuse of women, it’s always individual men who are solely to blame; maybe he had mental health problems, etc. So much is said about “consent” and women’s “choice” but it is the porn and sex industries who are *removing* women’s ability to choose a non-violent sexuality.

  • Crystal

    Using such an extreme example such as the cannibal cop as an intro into talking about BDSM and misogyny is problematic. It shows a real lack of knowledge about the average kinkster and BDSM practice. The BDSM community is quite fervent about advocating for safe play. Safe words and consenting partners. Using extreme examples that are outside the norm of typical BDSM practice isn’t a productive way to analyze BDSM. Also, this article completely ignores the existence of female doms and gay BDSM. How does that fit into the mindset of BDSM=misogyny? Is a woman spanking her boyfriend automatically participating in misandry?

    • Meghan Murphy

      The intention behind using the example of the cannibal cop was to say that yes, indeed, his behaviour was very much about misogyny (and the fetishization of violence against women) — i.e. it’s not just some crazy guy. It wasn’t intended as an example of what most people are engaging in in their own homes when it comes to BDSM.

      “this article completely ignores the existence of female doms and gay BDSM.” — That’s because that’s not what this article is about, in any way. You want me to have written an entirely different article than the one I did, which seems to be the most frequent and popular criticism of this piece, as of yet. Unfortunately (for you and others), I have no interest in writing articles exploring people’s kinks, in general; rather my interest is in calling out misogyny when I see it and talking about the sexualization of violence against women, as well as advocating for the/a feminist MOVEMENT to end the oppression of women.

    • Laur

      Femdoms still take place in a cultural context of male supremacy. The femdoms are acting out a male fantasy of men being dominated (women may still experience pleasure out of doing this). Men who do this may want to be “sissified” and treated “like” a girl/woman in this society; this is hardly a reversal of power norms; rather, it’s a reinforcement of unequal power. How do we expect to have equality in society if we can’t even have it in our own relationships with one another?

  • Anna

    Thank you so much for writing this. In college in a discussion section for a course on “ethics in technology”, I remember we were discussing the “morality” of this particular type of porn. Everyone in the section was male except me (it was a humanities course for engineers, so it was doubly annoying in that it was even further pointing out my minority status as a female in the field), and when I was expressing my concerns everyone just implied that I wasn’t “open minded” about this, tantamount to my condemning queerness, brushing off any concerns I had. Thank you for pointing it out and giving voice to this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “when I was expressing my concerns everyone just implied that I wasn’t “open minded” about this, tantamount to my condemning queerness, brushing off any concerns I had.” — You certainly aren’t alone in that experience. We’ve really managed to gag ourselves in these conversations today. This is pretty common in terms of critiques of porn (I went through this when I was younger — trying to ‘like’ porn because otherwise I would be told I was/viewed as a ‘prude’) and now, because of all this discourse around ‘kink’ being a marginalized identity, we further stifle our ability to have critical conversations about misogyny and sexualized violence againt women onscreen because it counts as ‘kink’. That must have, indeed, been a frustrating experience, Anna.

  • Yve

    There is this really awesome term called “False Equivalence.”

    It is a sneaky trick people love to win arguments using. Your entire article here is a prime example of this. You equate a criminal with people who like to have kinky sex. If you did this in a research paper, you would immediately get a failing grade. It’s just a comparison you drew from a sensationalized case and defended with your own opinions. Likewise, you preclude your opponents’ ability to defend themselves by saying you’re tired of the “you just don’t understand” argument. Is it possible, perhaps, there is actually is something here, somewhere, that you don’t understand? It may not be something that changes your mind completely, but arguing on the basis of false equivalence almost certainly means you are speaking from a place of ignorance.

    This is pretty straightforward. Telling women who like kink that they are not empowered women, is immediately assuming they are naive, uninformed, or somehow broken. You are discrediting them as women who are capable of making choices. You are discrediting them as women who may know something you don’t. You are discrediting them as women who have a valid sexuality you simply do not share. This, in itself, is inherently anti-woman. You cannot prescribe what you think is empowerment for other women. You cannot define it for them. In so doing, you remove their rights and voices.

    You also do not mention the instance of men being in the submissive role, which is like 50% of kink. This is perhaps because it offers a balance that you don’t want to confront.

    It’s a lovely article written for people who already agree with you -and displays perfectly your misinformation and ignorance for the rest of us who have a critical eye.

    And I say all this as a person who cringes at women being submissive in porn. You, and this article, make me (and those like me) look bigoted just for not being into this. I just don’t like the idea of women being tied-up, personally. But I fully accept and appreciate that many women love it and I’m so fucking HAPPY that they know what gets them off.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ah. You know what another ‘sneaky trick’ is? Saying that people have said things that they have not, in fact, said! So sneaky!

      “Telling women who like kink that they are not empowered women, is immediately assuming they are naive, uninformed, or somehow broken.”

      Please show where anyone has said this.

      Another fun thing is reading comprehension! I highly recommend it.

      “Your entire article here is a prime example of this. You equate a criminal with people who like to have kinky sex.”

      So weird because that’s actually not what I did. I bet if you’d ever been to university (and therefore had to write a research paper) you would have learned about things like reading comprehension skills. Many, many people, in fact, are able to master such skills even without having had to write hundreds of research papers in their lives, as I have.

      And god forbid I have opinions! OPINIONS ARE THE WORST! Nobody go and use their brains now!

      “You also do not mention the instance of men being in the submissive role, which is like 50% of kink. This is perhaps because it offers a balance that you don’t want to confront.”

      That’s because it’s completely unrelated to ANYTHING I discuss in this post, which I highly recommend you read before commenting on.

      Best of luck.

    • Lela

      Ahhhh, yet another dude who feigns concern for women while completely circumventing the actual topic of discussion here, which is *violence against women.* If Yve is such a saint/paragon of all-knowing tolerance who loves to see women having fun and getting off on things, then why doesn’t he care about that?

    • Laur

      If being tied up gets a woman off, why might that be?

    • copleycat

      “You cannot prescribe what you think is empowerment for other women.You cannot define it for them. In so doing, you remove their rights and voices.”

      Really? So if I voice my opinion it will take away your rights? The opinions expressed here are meant to contribute to public discourse and so help to shape the culture we all live in. As it stands misogynist opinions have (and have had) a much more significant hand in shaping the culture than feminism, hence all the erotisization of inequality which is actualized in BDSM. Feminists have had their rights to contribute to public discourse limited but you would like them to be even more limited.

      When I prescribe what I think is empowerment for women, or define what I believe is right from what is wrong, I am contributing to the culture – the collective mind set that I have to live in. I am exercising my freedom of speech – remember that – how it’s suppose to be for everyone and not just pornographers? Funny how when pornographers use it to pump propaganda into the culture it’s not supposed to have any real power to effect people but here at a feminist blog when feminists use their freedom of speech we’ve got the power to remove the “rights and voices” of other women, not to mention we can also do this,

      “You, and this article, make me (and those like me) look bigoted just for not being into this.”

      and this,

      “Telling women who like kink that they are not empowered women, is immediately assuming they are naive, uninformed, or somehow broken. You are discrediting them as women who are capable of making choices. You are discrediting them as women who may know something you don’t. You are discrediting them as women who have a valid sexuality you simply do not share”

      It sounds like you’re very concerned that feminists speech is going to have a major impact on your life, despite the fact that we don’t have a multi-billion dollar media machine like porn does. I wonder why you’re so afraid of what feminists can do just by speaking? What is the threat we pose to you simply by using our freedom of speech in a feminist forum no less?

      This idea that we can somehow silence you (or women like you) or take away your rights simply by putting forth our ideas and opinions on issues is irrational. You’re vesting us with power we don’t actually have and what’s at the heart of misogyny? Irrational fear and hatred of women stemming from a sense that women have some unquantifiable, unpredictable and undeserved power that must be controlled at all times.

      Why not be concerned about sadists making plans to kidnap, rape, torture, and murder people? Plans are all about effecting things as opposed to opinions. Plans are worth getting concerned about. As far as fantasy goes, we live in a culture were one can convey that they’re happy and fulfilled by stating that they’re “…living the dream.” In the U.S. it’s fair to say the word fantasy is nearly interchangeable with the word goal.
      Is it that the plans and fantasies (goals) voiced by misogynistic men don’t threaten you? You might want to use that capacity for critical analysis you claim to have for examining who really has power here and who really poses a threat to you.

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  • Thomas

    While I agree with you on a lot of what you say here, I am not sure I quite agree with your conclusion that BDSMers does not constitute a group that should have protection from discrimination. What has convinced me that maybe it would be a good thing to include BDSM in discrimination law is the work of the Norwegian part of Revise F-65, an European organization working to remove sadomasochism and fetishism from the International Classification of Diseases, who has compiled a document of cases of discrimination against people due to their involvement with BDSM*. What strikes me with these is that those discriminated against are to a large degree people who are already in a position of weakness. The maybe most horrifying examples was a case of the Norwegian police dismissing a rape case on the ground that the victim was into BDSM, despite the victim being a minor.

    A preference for BDSM, whether you call it a lifestyle, an orientation or whatever, does however not excuse misogynist attitudes or behaviour. Such behaviour needs to be called out. However, there is a long shot from calling out improper behaviour to allowing discrimination of something that seems superficially to be connected to it. The people being discriminated against because of their interest in BDSM generally aren’t the misogynists – it seems to me that it is the women and the submissive men who bear the brunt of it.

    Now I’m going off on a tangent here, but there also isn’t a clear link between BDSM and misogyny. In fact, the research I’ve seen on this seem to indicate that sadomasochists do not differ from the rest of society when it comes to attitudes towards women and feminism (see for example Cross and Matheson: “Understanding Sadomasochism: An Empirical Examination of Four Perspectives”, in Kleinplatz and Mosers book Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures). That is to say, there are both pro-feminist and misogynist BDSMers, and the distribution is about the same as in the rest of society. This seem to indicate, to me, that while there obviously is a causal relationship between societys views on women and what we get turned on by, what we get turned on by does not reflect back in our views on women.

    This leads me to an important question regarding feminism and BDSM: While BDSM might not be pro-feminist (some would argue that it is, but that is another topic), is it actually debilitating to the feminist cause, as many feminists argue?

    *The documentation I am referring to can be found here, but is unfortunately only available in Norwegian, as far as I know:
    http://www.revisef65.org/diskrimvern.html

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