Why consent is not enough

Consent is the magical fairy dust which turns rape into sex; trafficking into free speech; and sexualized abuse, torture, and subjugation into sexual liberation — or so many people claim. Many “sex-positive feminists” acknowledge the legal standard of consent (defined as a lack of active resistance) is problematic: it is victim-blaming, it normalizes male sexual aggression, it arbitrarily draws a line between how much coercion is “too much” (it generally does not allow direct physical coercion, but permits social, emotional, and economic coercion), and it is irrelevant whether a woman wants to engage in sexual activity or merely submits to it.

For many, valuing individuality through permitting us to pursue our personal preferences and determine for ourselves how we live is central to human dignity, which is why consent is used as the dividing line between sex and sexual violence. But are my preferences expressions of my individuality? If you were raised in a Western industrialized culture and were given cockroaches for dinner, you would likely be disgusted — possibly physically sick. There is nothing natural about this reaction; cockroaches are edible and nutritious. Even a very visceral reaction can be, and usually is, socially conditioned or created.

Feminists argue that gender and sexuality is a social construction, specifically, that masculinity is constructed in terms of social-sexual dominance and femininity in terms of social-sexual subordination. We can see how this manifests out in our social-sexual norms: coercing women is sexy, women are commodities to be used by men, hurting women is sexy. This social construction of our identity is possible because our self-conception as well as our desires and preferences are conditioned and constructed by interpersonal interactions and our social environment. We become how others treat us, and there are numerous well-documented ways in which social norms shape who we are and what we do: stereotype threat, self-fulfilling prophecies, implicit bias, and adaptive preferences.

Adaptive preferences pose a particular problem for the idea that pursuing whatever preference we have expresses our status as free and equal human beings. Adaptive preferences result when we unconsciously change our preferences to adapt to our circumstances. Women often do not feel entitled to equality with men, bodily integrity, sexual pleasure, or even basic necessities such as sufficient food, because they have been placed in a situation where these are not available to them or these are systematically denied them. But there is another, and even more pernicious psychological fact: women are often not aware of the abuse they suffer at the hands of men as abuse (this is why so much second-wave feminism concentrated on consciousness-raising).

Jennifer Freyd is a psychologist who has studied the repression of childhood memories of abuse. She argues that humans are “hardwired” to react with withdrawal or confrontation when they are betrayed. However, in relationships where there is dependency or power imbalances, the subordinate stops being aware of the abuse because he/she does not have the option of withdrawal or confrontation. If we add to this that women are invalidated or subject to various degrees of social violence when they do not comply with gender norms, we have a serious problem for “individual choice.”

Problems with Consent

Rosalind Hursthouse once said that if one read all the literature on the ethics of abortion, one would have no idea what pregnancy was actually like or that it involved men having sex with women. Similarly, pro-BDSM or pro-pornography discussions tends to focus on women’s choices, not men’s actions or the experiences of women who have been harmed through these practices. They tell women it is sexually liberating to experience physical or sexual abuse provided that is what women “choose,” but they never ask why it is acceptable for men to inflict pain or harm upon women. In doing so they often ignore, invalidate, and silence women who have been harmed by these norms and practices while endorsing the eroticization of violence under the aegis of the “consensual.”

Consent relies upon the presumption that people will choose in their own self-interest, or at least in ways that does not fundamentally violate their humanity. As demonstrated in the case of adaptive preference, that is simply false. But there is an even deeper problem: consent precludes evaluation of the act ethically or politically (e.g., tying someone up and abusing her/him), and instead puts the “blame” for the rightness or wrongness of the act on the person suffering it (the person being abused). Defending ourselves is extremely difficult in the best of circumstances, as it is emotionally exhausting and the desire for social belonging often overrides basic self-protection: even, and perhaps especially, white males are subjected to sadistic hazing rituals in fraternities, sports teams, and the military. When women are taught that they are objects to be hurt and to be used, it becomes even more difficult. We should never put someone in a position of needing to demand respect from others; this puts the emotional, social, and moral burden on the person at the “receiving” end of potentially abusive or exploitative behavior, rather than on the perpetrator.

Another problem occurs when we consider how much violence consent can legitimate. If consent is supposed to have such transformative power, when does the fairy dust stop working? How much pain, harm, and injury is it acceptable to inflict upon someone before it is no longer justifiable? At permanent injury or mutilation? Is consensual murder acceptable? Sex-positive feminists and BDSM supporters have the problem of arbitrarily determining how much violence is acceptable before it is “too much” (sounds rather like the way patriarchalism arbitrarily determines how much coercion is acceptable before it is “too much.” Hmm…) We cannot presuppose that people will simply not consent to something “harmful;” women have “consented” to death when an abortion could easily save their lives.

But BDSM advocates have a particular problem. Even while they take themselves to be the “gold standard” of consent, it is not the consent that is eroticized: it is precisely the coercion (bondage, domination) and the violence (physical abuse, “rough sex”) that is sexy. A man who has raped, tortured, and enslaved women has a genuine complaint against BDSM advocates who try to condemn his activities: how can they say what he did was wrong when he has merely done what they said was sexy?

Perhaps, they will say, he should have obtained his victim’s consent beforehand (it is an open question as to whether emotional coercion, power imbalances, or, for example, convincing a woman with low self-esteem she deserves abuse would count as “consent”). Everyone, so the pro-sex feminists argue, should be able to have the kind of sex they want — even if this involves hurting someone else, provided that it is “consensual.” Let’s see if that would be actually the case.

Suppose we have a world in which we define consent as active, explicit, and ongoing. In addition, we will assume that we have a legal system that reliably and adequately deals with cases of sexual assault. However, we will keep the other social-sexual norms intact (normalization of pain, eroticization of violence, and instrumentalization of women). In this world, Alice is a heterosexual female who wants the physical and emotional intimacy of a romantic relationship. She does not want to engage in any sexual activity that is painful or degrading for her; instead, she wants sex to be mutually pleasurable. What are her options?

1) Find a man who does not have a preference for eroticizing violence. This is going to be extremely difficult because men are strongly socialized into norms that train men’s sexual responses to situations in which women are harmed and objectified. Since not hurting women is merely a “preference,” there is no motivation for men to not have those responses or to be concerned about sex being reciprocal.

2) Never have a sexual or romantic relationship with a man.

3) Habituate herself to the social-sexual norms.

I am not saying that Alice is owed a relationship. But is Alice coerced? The answer is yes, because she is denied an equal opportunity to pursue a relationship to satisfy her need for emotional and physical intimacy. If we required, for example, that all black people must first be physically abused before they are able to earn their college degree, this would clearly be unjust. Similarly, a romantic or sexual relationship for Alice — something which people often think is a genuine human need, or at least an important personal good — comes at a cost that men do not have to pay, and the cost is her own suffering and bodily integrity. Would Alice no longer be coerced if she habituates herself to engaging in painful or degrading sexual behaviors in order to attain the intimacy she desires? It seems this is an even greater form of coercion; a coercion that becomes so ingrained that she can no longer see herself as deserving anything other than pain or abuse.

And this is precisely what happens. Consent is vulnerable to the “Wal-Mart Defense”: a robust understanding of consent might be able to deal with certain small-scale types of coercion, but once the coercion becomes so deep and pervasive that it constitutes a social norm it suddenly becomes “too big to fail.” Consent obscures, rather than attacks, the root cause of gender inequality: that hurting women is sexy.

Answering Objections

“You can’t shame people for their sexual preferences or sexual orientation.”

First, I have already noted that preferences are (often) socially conditioned. Second, the mere fact of having a preference, orientation, or identity carries no weight. We can, and should, make judgments about the content of that preference or identity. Some people strongly identify as white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Some people may consider their sexual orientation to involve pedophilia or rape or murder; the fact that it is their sexual orientation does not make pedophilia or rape or serial murder acceptable.

“You don’t speak for all women. These women don’t see it as a harm.”

I do not deny that a woman may genuinely feel that pain and subjugation is sexy. This is precisely why consciousness-raising is a necessary component to the feminist political project. As a feminist, I can validate a woman’s experience without endorsing the content, which has been shaped by conditions of inequality. For example, I do not deny that women are ashamed of their bodies and feel the need to be impossibly thin, but I do not endorse that they should be ashamed of their bodies or that they should starve themselves.

Harm is not subjective and cannot merely be a product of someone’s feelings. First, because we know that people, due to socialization, invalidation, and inequality, are not always aware of the harm as harm. Second, because we would not say, for example, that men are “harmed” if they cannot have sex with any woman they want or that Christians are “harmed” by homosexuality — even though many clearly feel that way.

“You are denying women their agency and not valuing their individual choice.”

There is never a question of a woman’s agency. At a trivial and metaphysical level, we are always free to choose what we do unless we are unconscious, under the influence of hallucinogens, or physically disabled. I am not judging or arguing against what women are choosing when they “consent” but what men (and some women) choose to do to them. What is important is the social norms, practices, and conditions that make that choice possible. Prostitution could not be a choice if there were no demand and if we did not think that people were things to be bought and sold.

“What if we make pornography with men in the submissive role?”

Equalizing violence does not create equal conditions. We do not solve the problem of racial inequality by having the police arrest and violate the civil liberties of an equal number of white males; we eradicate inequality by eradicating the conditions of subordination and creating positive, material change that truly values all people as free and equal.

C.K. Egbert is a current graduate student in the Philosophy Department at Northwestern University. Her research focuses on feminism and equality.

 

 

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan 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.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • Derrington

    I agree that consent when its a hobsons choice being presented is no consent at all. Pornography and lads mags have popularised a psychopathic approach towards women and children by men – that of ‘if you don’t like what I’m doing/watching/acting out’ get yourself out of here/turn it off. Trouble is, you can’t turn off a self groomed rapist or violent gendered psychopath. This is the basic abdication of responsibility at the heart of male supremacy, that of leaving physically weaker people at the mercy of physically stronger ones, with a large number of people looking the other way rather than stand up on the side of the victim for fear of reprisal. These are the conditions that gave birth to Nazi Germany.

    • I usually don’t like references to Nazi Germany. They’re usually too extreme and seem thoroughly uncreative. Why does nobody ever bring up the Franco dictatorship? Or Mussolini? Or Pinochet? Don’t they teach history any more? That said, I think that in this situation the comparison has merit. There definitely is a hatred of the weak (or “unempowered”) among both conservatives and liberals feminists. Liberal women are desperate the prove that they’re not weak women and that they can “handle” anything, unlike those “weak” women who fight back against their oppression (or who at least recognise that they’re oppressed and have a desire to fight back.) Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you put it that way, does it? In any case, it’s clear that liberals see “weak” as an insult, which they somehow regard as much worse than the various insults used in pornography.

      On the subject of consent, I think the Milgram experiments can shed some light on the issue. The Milgram experiments found that most people will deliver dangerous, electric shocks to an innocent person if commanded to do so by authority figure (feel free to look up the details yourself.) One probable explanation is that the participants transferred responsibility onto the authority figure. In other words they felt that the authority figure was to blame for whatever happened as a result of their orders.

      I think the reason why liberals (particularly porn-loving men) are so obsessed with consent is because it allows them to avoid being held accountable for the harm they cause. Let’s use BDSM scenarios as example. In the mind of a dominant, the submissive takes on the role of the shock victim and the authority figure at the same time. The submissive orders the dominant to perform violent acts upon her body. The dominant carries them out and then blames the submissive for anything bad that happens as a result. Their excuses can be summed up as “don’t blame me, the submissive asked me to do it. To me that sounds a lot like “I was just following orders.” Of course, submissives have no real power or authority over their dominants (by definition, they don’t) but dominants sure like being able to convince themselves that they do. Hence the whole “the submissive was really in control” nonsense.

      People think libertarianism (or liberalism or whatever you want to call it) is an anti-authoritarian ideology, but I think it’s just another form of authoritarianism in which each individual is seen as an unquestionable authority whose actions have to be blindly praised and who’s orders have to obeyed. Even if that order is “beat me up”. Sorry liberals, but I’d rather have my own views about whether a particular behaviour is right or wrong within a given situation. I’m not going to beat someone up just because you asked me to, even if the someone I’m supposed to beat up happens to be you.

      • Derrington

        I use nazism as my grandmother was german and left nazi germany in the late 30s as she could see where the country was going. Its the example that is closest to me experientially but the same media induced mass psychopathic reaction against a group of people took place in bosnia, rwanda, sri lanka and any other place of genocide. All the points you make i totally agree with, particularly the i was following orders defence, which you see in porn twisted into the im beating her up because she likes it, even when she pretends she doesnt. Totally psychopathic.

      • Arilando

        “I’m not going to beat someone up just because you asked me to, even if the someone I’m supposed to beat up happens to be you”

        Fine, no one’s forcing you to. What you want to do is to prevent people by force from engaging in completely concensual sexual behavior.

        • bella_cose

          So, then you define force as criticizing a culture that sexualizes violence and degradation?

        • Forgive me for phrasing my viewpoint in terms of my own behaviours (or lack thereof) when my personal behaviours are entirely beside the point. Most people in the Milgram experiment, 66 percent I believe, did end up giving the person a deadly shock because the authority figure ordered them too and I could have easily been among that 66 percent, so allow me to rephrase what I said.

          Beating up (or torturing or electrocuting) somebody just because you were asked to by an authority figure IS MORALLY WRONG, even if the person you are suppposed to be beating up happens to also be the authority figure. Got it?

          And let’s not act as though being coerced into beating someone up is somehow just as horrible as being coerced into letting someone beat you up. The former may cause psychological harm, but it cannot be compared to getting beat up yourself.

  • Missfit

    A very thought-provoking and insighful piece! Thank you!

    I’m an Alice and after trying option 3 and 1, I’m finally going for option 2.

    • Sadly, I’m an Option Two Alice here for a total of about 17 years; gave it another try for a few years in between the celibacy periods until he “accidentally” tried to shove his penis into my…well, you get the idea.

      Since I consider masculinity a mental illness, why would I let one of these crazies anywhere near me again?

      • Leo

        Gosh, Mar Iguana, sorry for your experience. Yeah, that’s it, I’m just not sure we can trust them. Attempted rape isn’t something that they can pass off as an ‘accident’.

        As a young woman (mid 20s), if I won’t date a man who harms other women (which I wouldn’t), what would my options hypothetically be? Pretty bloody slim considering how prevalent viewing pornography has become. I guess there are Christian men who object morally…followers of patriarchal religions.

        It’s just getting worse and worse, it seems. Heard way too many horror stories from even young teenage girls. I’m sure we’ve seen the stuff men say, their requirements for dating. Blow jobs obligatory or they’ll dump her, oh, and she has to swallow, must perform this or that sex act. Must have sex within a certain, usually terrifyingly narrow, timeframe.

        I’m asexual, which makes option 2 for life easier (though not entirely, as I don’t really much like what being single means), but I’ve seen a few radical feminists, when they acknowledge us at all, suggest asexuality may be a reaction to these social conditions. I don’t really think that’s it, their attempts to describe how an equal sexuality could be don’t really make sense to me either, and, well, I don’t think someone’s sexuality is something that would shut down in such a way that they just don’t experience sexual attraction (I mean, we get told ‘you’re just repressed’ all the time, this isn’t that different). But, I can’t give a definitive ‘no’, either, purely because I have no way of knowing what I’d be like in an equal society. Which is, well, scary and kind of saddening. What I do know is that living in society absolutely obsessed with (male) sexuality (as it currently is) is pretty torturous. There’s no way that seeing things through a forced perspective of male dominance isn’t harmful to women, in and of itself, even for women who don’t ‘decide’ to consent to being harmed physically.

        (Pain can release endorphins? I’d rather have some chocolate)

        • C.K. Egbert

          I completely agree it is hard to find sex appealing when it is structured around one’s violation/degradation. But as a radical feminist, I think in a post-gender world we would have greater acceptance of asexuality and acceptance or promotion of intimate partner relationships that don’t involve sex. We are so obsessed with sex–and see it as a necessary component of intimate partnerships–precisely because it enforces gender subordination.

        • Oh, Leo, I am truly sorry, but I don’t know what to tell you. I’m 67, so I’ve been on the whole roller coaster of the sexual “revolution,” and I’m totally dismayed how quickly it went from women liberated to explore their own sexuality because of The Pill and Roe v. Wade for the first time in recorded history to the backlash to that liberation using the weapons of porn, religion, aids and STDs, violence, war, prostitution, etc.

          We thought we were on our way to sexual equality without a bunch of hang ups; about finding true partnership instead of having to couple because of tradition and marriage and all that old-fangled crap. Unfortunately, it turned out that for men it was just about getting the milk without having to buy the cow.

          That window of freedom to experience sexuality much like men have always been able to do only lasted for a few short years and I consider myself fortunate to have been the right age at the right time. It was great while it lasted, until the shallowness of it all began to set in; something men don’t seem to outgrow.

          I guess I’m still lucky: I’m past the rip roaring libido age (and I was definitely a horn dog back in the day) and don’t feel the need to look for a unicorn or have to decide how much weird new social-sexual norms I’d be willing and able to accept. Especially considering how disappointingly coarse and just plain ol’ mean men have become.

          It became apparent that men did not want women to be sexually experienced. It gives them performance anxiety and requires they care about learning what pleases women. That’s what sexual equality would look like: focusing on the pleasure of both people instead of just what pleases men. They prefer naive and inexperienced women unable to judge them and that they don’t have to compete with.

          My heart goes out to young women in these porn-soaked days. I stopped trying to tell the truth about men to young women years ago (except on feminist blogs) when I noticed it always led to Option Two and how does a woman from my generation tell young women the only way they will probably avoid abuse is by staying away from men altogether? Sorry, I guess we used up all the fun? It’s beyond sad.

          Oh, and christian men? They are some of the worst hypocrites when it comes to using porn.

          • lizor

            “It became apparent that men did not want women to be sexually experienced. It gives them performance anxiety and requires they care about learning what pleases women. That’s what sexual equality would look like: focusing on the pleasure of both people instead of just what pleases men. They prefer naive and inexperienced women unable to judge them and that they don’t have to compete with.”

            This is the lynchpin of our current sexual culture.

          • ptittle

            What she said. All of it.

        • “What I do know is that living in society absolutely obsessed with (male) sexuality (as it currently is) is pretty torturous.”

          Yes. The constant bombardment of this narrow version of male sexuality is deleterious and exhausting. Just this morning on the way to my job I passed a series of posters for a social event called come thing like “prettiest pussy”. That and the ubiquitous images of a singular representation of females – all acting that boring, porny, pretence of desire. If you actually start counting the number of confrontations in your day to day activities, it demonstrates how ridiculous it is to tell women to not be affected, to turn off, to not watch. You have to blind and deafen yourself if you seriously want to avoid the onslaught of pornographic grooming. Simply not watching porn doesn’t begin to put a dent in it.

      • Missfit

        ‘gave it another try for a few years in between the celibacy periods until he “accidentally” tried to shove his penis into my…well, you get the idea’

        This happened to me too, the guy introduced is *** in my *** without any previous advice. The guy did not pretend it was an accident, he thought I was ‘open’. It happened to you and it happened to me, I think this is not too uncommon. I just read in the French magazine ‘Psychologies’ a survey indicating that 10% of women said they like anal sex. So you have a practice that around 90% of women don’t like and you have men feeling entitled to just do it on them. Then you’ll hear them afterwards ‘well, can I touch your hand now? can I kiss your shoulder?’ in an attempt to show that seeking consent for everything is ridiculous. It is rather this attempt to present every act as equal that is ridiculous.

        When it comes time for them to take sexual initiatives, they will have absorbed that what has been normalized in porn, what they have viewed sexuality to be about, is what is to be expected. On one hand, who can blame them? And porn is filled with practices that many women (I’d say a majority) find painful or distasteful, presented as enjoyable for the woman even though they all centered on the man’s penis orgasmic sensation. You don’t see men giving head on a menstruating woman (and goddess knows we can feel horny during those times) and then open their mouths for the camera to have a long zooming on the blood in there and all over their face, right?

        I don’t want to be in a position where I have to approach sex by being on the defensive. It is the women who are put in the position to justify themselves because they don’t conform with what is being presented. They’re the ones who feel they fail to be a good girlfriend because they don’t measure up with their man’s constructed expectations. Men are never expected to do things that hurt or degrade them. Heterosexuality sucks.

        • “You don’t see men giving head on a menstruating woman (and goddess knows we can feel horny during those times) and then open their mouths for the camera to have a long zooming on the blood in there and all over their face, right?”

          Yeah, exactly. I had the experience you and and Mar Iguana describe two times with two different men many years ago. And that was when guys had to rent porn from the store or wait until some cable stations would broadcast late at night. It was horrifying – and I had not even counted them as rapes – I had what Whoopie would call “rape rape” too. So many of us carry these experiences as secrets and those secrets can be cripplingly burdensome. I appreciate hearing from others here about this as those memories still make me feel nauseated and fucked up on so many levels, including feeling like a repressed unattractive killjoy because I found what was done to me repugnant.

  • stacy

    “white males are subjected to sadistic hazing rituals in fraternities”

    Many of the national black fraternities actually brand their members with hot irons. Sadism and violence towards women isn’t exclusive to one particular culture or race, it should be called out universally.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Stacy–I agree with you completely. My position is that bodily integrity and freedom from physical or emotional violence is a fundamental human right, and I oppose non-defensive violence (hazing, experiments, reality shows…).

      I see now the way I’ve worded it is inaccurate. I was not trying to say that racial minorities are not subject to violence in the same way. Instead, my point was that even those who are privileged and are socialized into a sense of entitlement, people we might generally expect to act in their own self-interest, are subject to social coercion. Thus, coercion becomes even more pernicious and devastating when applied to people socialized into their own inferiority, and who are taught that they are not entitled to basic human rights (e.g., women, racially subordinated groups).

      So yes, you are most definitely correct that violence needs to be called out universally.

  • stacy

    I had to think this over. I’m a plain Jane so S&M was always alien to me. But I know an “Alice” and she entered the scene willingly with her girlfriend. I’m told that pain creates an endorphin release that heightens sexual pleasure, so the end game for her is sexual gratification. Choice is indeed complicated but I if a person goes through a willing, informed choice to use pain as a sexual tool – under what ethical principal would anyone deny of the activity?

    • Missfit

      Are men’s endorphin releases different from women? Because it is usually on women that pain is inflicted in heterosexual imagery. Most people are instinctively averse to pain and it’s particularly problematic when masochism in women is pushed as a norm, regardless of whether there are individual women who enjoy it. Now what special hormone are men secreting when they inflict pain? Because you’ll find more men willing to inflict pain on women than women willing to be on the receiving end of it.

      • stacy

        I’m confused, are we trying to eradicate oppression by men or are we trying to dictate what is socially acceptable to eroticize to women? I want some tangible ethos to hang my hat on. I started this whole thing off by talking about consensual behavior between women….

        • Lo

          What is erotic to women/men comes from a social construct, and in our context: from patriarchy.
          BDSM didn’t appear from nowhere or something like that… also it is not wrote in our blood if some ppl are m or S or “vanilla” …
          Fighting against oppression by men= fighting patriarchy= fighting this culture and thus objectification of women, gender (which is also a social construct), etc, and BDSM.

          What you said was just an apolitical statement. You’re just erasing the context, nothing less, nothing more.
          You can’t talk about the oppression of men, and then act as if some things are not deeply linked to our culture (and the link with BDSM is quite obvious imo).

          You can do whatever you want ofc, but it just doesn’t mean it is feminist or that it can’t be criticized.

          This article was great and clear (but you don’t seem to have read/understand it) Here a another ITW about BDSM, maybe you’ll understand more feminist POV:
          http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/lordesm.htm

          • stacy

            Likewise, you can’t exercise criticism and label it feminist “just because” and turn a blind eye to examining ethics your reasoning. That’s the equivalent of putting your fingers in your years and screaming “because I said so”. My contention is this: some people enjoy and eroticize pain.

            Me to my Alice: ” Your sexual enjoyment of pain is ethically wrong because you were socialized by the system of patriarchy”

            And the laughter commences. She isn’t going to buy into that shit and neither would I, because it lacks any sort of examination of her reality. Its an absurdity given credence by political construction without ANY examination of her social reality.

          • bella_cose

            The reality is that she was socialized within a patriarchal system. Her experience and reality was shaped by this fact, and her desire for pain and degradation cannot be separated from that. Seems pretty clear cut to me.

          • stacy

            You were socialized in a patriarchal system. Perhaps all your sexual ethos are wrong? What type of logical fallacies are you willing ignore? Do you consider what you just typed to be intelligent?

          • Meghan Murphy

            stacey — watch your tone please and thanks.

          • bella_cose

            I know I was socialized in a patriarchal system. That knowledge is one reason why I read this blog, and others. Also books, articles, research papers, etc. I want to learn all I can about why things are the way they are, and how to change them.

            I don’t know what part of the criticism the commenters on this blog have been giving you that you don’t understand. You’ve been ask questions, and you’re answers haven’t had any substance to them. If you have a point to make, just try saying it a different way.

          • Lo

            Nope, as I said it is about culture not about me (I didn’t even talk about me).
            Patriarchy doesn’t exist because I say so, it is just a fact. The link between patriarchy and our sexuality is obvious.

            Nice try tho.

            It’s not because you “like” it and thus think you’re, by some magic, not linked to patriarchy, that it is true. Not at all.

            “examination of her reality”
            What don’t you just say “her culture”? When there is an individual examination, there should a cultural one to explain one’s social behavior. If not it doesn’t make sense (from a critical point of view).

            “her reality” means that she is not linked to any culture, which is not possible for anyone (and I already said that it is an apolitical/essentialist statement, feminism on the other hand is about being critical about causes/consequences/context).

          • stacy

            I’ll repeat: My contention is that some people enjoy and eroticize pain.

            Your response is to completely IGNORE that. See what I typed right above? Are you going to engage that or are you just going to keep assuming that culture and patriarchy are the root of all evil without any sort of thought process?

            Lets put this another way: Is there ANY sexualized activity that can’t be chalked up to patriachy or culture? What is so hard to accept about the notion that sexualized pain can exist outside of patriachy?

          • Lo

            I repeat myself since you don’t want to understand what I wrote: what I am interested in the cultural reasons and determinisms of BDSM. I think it is quite clear.

            “What is so hard to accept about the notion that sexualized pain can exist outside of patriachy?”

            It’s your vision, because you don’t understand how much culture impact our sexuality, you can’t even think about a sexuality without pain.

            I talk about culture and determinisms, and you? You just say “Some enjoy it so it will exists forever”, sorry but this is not an argument at all, you don’t even question the origins of BDSM or something.

            Sigh.

          • “I’ll repeat: My contention is that some people enjoy and eroticize pain.”

            No one disputed that. It was suggested that such eroticization within a culture where one biological sex is valued over another and the more valued inflict pain, humiliation, torture and death on the other on a regular basis requires acknowledgement and examination.

            “are you just going to keep assuming that culture and patriarchy are the root of all evil ”

            Well, “culture” is a term that refers to all forms of human social organization, while “patriarchy” is a referent to a particular human social organization and yes, I do think that patriarchy is inherently problematic. If you think patriarchy hunky dory, (presumably because some people have orgasms from performing scenarios of gender-based abuse and degradation a la patriarchy), I have to wonder why you don’t just come out say that you are all for the socio-economic exploitation of women by men and be done with it.

        • Missfit

          We’re trying to eradicate oppression by men which also manifests itlself through eroticization of female submission. You said your friend was an ‘Alice’, who is depicted as a heterosexual in the piece. Now I don’t know much about the dynamics of lesbian sex, but I know there are lesbian radical feminists who have offered a critique of the mainstreaming of sadomasochism in lesbianism.

          • stacy

            Well Missfit, what you just described is the difference I’m trying to highlight ” ….eradicate oppression by men which also manifests itlself through eroticization of female submission”

            I completley agree with that. There is a huge difference between normalization of heterosexual submission (I’d even argue you could take the hetero out of that) and the idea that pain can be as a sexual enhancement technique – which is where I was saying : what exactly is wrong with that? I still haven’t been given an ethos yet – by anyone – which makes me think that the ethical mechanics of this hasn’t been very well thought out. Why is sexualizing pain bad it the subject enjoys it?

          • Missfit

            ‘Why is sexualizing pain bad it the subject enjoys it?’

            What is bad is that the sexualizing is done on women (hello patriarchy), that many women don’t enjoy pain and that when pain on women is normalized, propagated, it affects the process of consent.

    • Derrington

      I would say that people have a right to beat each other up, but not to promote it to others via broadcasting media. One is private, one is false advertising unless you spell out health and ethical warnings. We ban lots of drugs and behaviours that are harmful to self or others, why not violence towards women full stop. That way its irrelevant what i as a woman say yes to, violence towards me is illegal.

  • juglone

    To pick up on the last bit – men as submissives – HOW does that make it OK? Besides the fact that it is a VERY small part of the porn ‘bag of tricks’, men submitting to women are STILL in a position of power.

    When I did prostitution in my 20s I was told that there was a client coming in who wanted a dominant woman. The Madam said that I should see him (I guess I corresponded to a physical type) and I said ‘but I don’t have a clue how to do BDSM’. She told me that he would tell me exactly what to do. It never happened btw, but it does illustrate my point.

    Now I know that it was a commercial transaction, but then so is porn, and I would put a shitload of money on the chances that men doing submissive in porn choose beforehand how the scene is going to go, have safe words respected, basically things are done with their needs in mind – as most consumers of porn are men they want to keep the menz happy! Besides, there is definitely a market for women GENUINELY hating what is happening to them, because so many men find womens suffering sexy, and again I would put a shitload of money on there just not being ANY kind of market for that – except maybe an element in gay mens porn.

    • morag

      These are such good points! It always baffles me the amount of doublespeak BDSmers love to throw out in favor of their patriarchy apporved kinks. When the submissive is female: “The submissive is the one with the real power because of safewords!” When the dominant is female: “The dominant is really in control because she’s the boss and uses restraints!” Oh really, women are always the ones with the power? Us silly feminists, wasting our time when the answer was right in front of us!

  • This is fantastic, thank you!

  • Thanks for posting this! This needed to be said. Catherine MacKinnon recently pointed out this issue with consent as well. There needs to be mutuality. Women shouldn’t need to “consent” to sex, sex should only happen when there is over the top enthusiasm from both parties.

  • BrylcreamQueen

    I’m not sure how to feel about your analysis of BDSM because you leave out the central feature of the practice: immense pleasure experienced by all parties involved. It’s true as you say that this type of pleasure is culturally conditioned (to some extent) and that this affects “consent” but I’m not sure how that changes anything.

    • C.K. Egbert

      If the consent is not free and un-coerced, then why bother having consent at all? And if you don’t think social coercion exists, or is problematic, then there’s no basis for any critique of any oppressive social practice whatsoever. I suppose it’s okay that women think that they deserve abuse as well–and thus okay for men to abuse them–because cultural conditioning doesn’t affect consent?

      These practices are not pleasurable for the women coerced into the production of pornography, who are coerced by partners into these practices, and for women who want sex to be pleasurable. I have never heard any defender of BDSM address any of these problems. The only women who are “liberated” enough to have sex are those who accept the social norms that they are merely things to be used, abused, and violated by men.

      I’m not denying that people find it pleasurable to make other people suffer. Men derive immense pleasure from raping, abusing, torturing, and enslaving women. But I will never defend it.

      • “Men derive immense pleasure from raping, abusing, torturing, and enslaving women. But I will never defend it.”

        Huzzah!

      • BrylcreamQueen

        I thought I understood where you were coming from but now I am a little perplexed. Either I am not following what you mean by “coercion” or you’re being slippery. I’m at work today because I woke up at 7 and chose to go to work. But certainly I’m socially coerced to some extent- I’d rather *not* be here but I live in a society structured such that I have to earn a basic living and pay for my mortgage, public transportation fare, etc. There are a group of activists (who argue in support of free basic income for everyone) who believe our willingness to suck it up and have careers is a harmful effect of a type of social coercion. I agree with their claim for the most part but I’m not really opposed to the way things are set up now. I get a type of fulfillment from keeping a regular job (perhaps this fulfillment is conditioned since my culture constantly tells me supporting myself is a virtue and having a career is a virtue- I’m ok with that) and trying to support myself and I don’t feel- despite the coercive measures- that my dignity or agency is being compromised. So, this is a type of system that some people find “oppressive” but with which many of us are okay since we don’t find our capitulation to this practice to rob us of agency or dignity and plenty of us find it fulfilling. But maybe we’re operating under different understandings of “coercion.”

        Second, I thought we were discussing BDSM as in the practice ITSELF, not “the women coerced into the production of pornography, who are coerced by partners into these practices, and for women who want sex to be pleasurable.” These are important issues but they are not specific to BDSM *itself.*

        Third, there is major question begging happening here. Why do you assume that BDSM can’t be pleasurable for women?! How is BDSM being qualified as “abuse” or “oppressive”? These are the very things you are supposed to be arguing for! Just because BDSM can be used as a way to legitimately torture women does not make BDSM in and of itself harmful to women! Plain ol’ man-on-top sex is routinely a legitimate way to torture a woman (for instance,in rape) but that doesn’t imply that plain ol’ man-on-top sex is harmful to women!

        Finally, it seems like a natural implication to draw from your position (if I am understanding it correctly, which, as I’ve admitted, I might not) is that something like BDSM just wouldn’t exist in a society free of patriarchy. This seems off.

        • C.K. Egbert

          I’ll put my cards on the table and say that I think that freedom from violence (and yes, that counts as violence) wouldn’t exist in my ideal society. Notice that part of my argument against consent is that it precludes ethical/political evaluation of the act from the perpetrator side and that “harm” is not subjective (certainly any non-consensual sexual contact is harmful).

          The problem with women being coerced into these practices is relevant to BDSM itself, because the problem with our current social-sexual norms is that hurting women (causing women pain or humiliation) and coercing women (aggressing on women) is sexy–and this is precisely what is eroticized in BDSM. BDSM is just a slightly more violent version of the problematic social norms into which both men and women are socialized. As I tried to show through the Alice example, these norms are coercive because they create conditions in which women cannot pursue sexual relationships without “consenting” to painful, degrading, or non-mutual sex. These norms are coercive even and especially when one internalizes them, because women will not believe they are entitled to respect unless they are treated with respect (women often don’t label sexual assault as assault, because they have internalized the norms that men forcing sex upon women is “normal” sex). As Simone de Beauvoir said, you can’t oppress half the population if you don’t convince them of their own inferiority.

  • C.K. Egbert

    Stacy–Sorry for another long reply. Pain can sometimes, for some release endorphins (this might be the reason behind some self-harm behaviors). However, unlike self-harm, or exercise, BDSM involves (a) the activity of another person inflicting the pain/injury, and (b) a specifically sexual context. Just because pain/injury may result in the release of endorphins doesn’t thereby justify someone inflicting pain/injury on another person.

    The eroticization of abuse/pain is problematic because it is constitutive of oppressive social-sexual norms which eroticize domination and subjugation, and this conflicts with viewing sexuality as mutual, respectful, and equal. The problem is that we cannot attack the social-sexual norms which perpetuate a rape culture, violence against women, and the non-mutuality of sex (e.g., sexual behaviors centered around the male orgasm, etc.) unless we attack those norms which eroticize non-mutuality, violence, and subjugation.

    In my mind, the guarantee of bodily and psychological integrity is a precondition for thinking of oneself and being treated by others as equal and free, and thus I think those types of practices actually undermine free choice.

    • stacy

      I remember some time ago reading about people trying to start a “green” sexual movement based around a similar of rational. As I read your analysis, one thing that sticks in my mind is that oppression has a very specific context. When someone is oppressed, they are being subject to an abusive state that they cannot willfully control. If we break down that example, there are two subjects. Both are active and willing participants. In other areas where I see oppression, one of the subjects isn’t willing even if they may be consenting. A person in an abusive marriage cannot control the power dynamics and the resulting state is oppressive. A person who actively seeks pain and does so for personal gratification, the dynamic in that situation isn’t oppression because both parties are willing.

      And that encapsulates my problem with the ethics of this whole thing. This isn’t a binary. I totally get why 50 shades is bad as it plays into the power dynamics of misogyny. Using women as sexual whipping toys is not cool. Creating a situation where people unwillingly “consent” to getting hurt isn’t cool. Convincing unwilling people that pain is awesome isn’t cool. However, two people who want to slap the crap out of each other for a better orgasm….. having a hard time seeing where the ethical dilemma is. I want to see oppression squashed. If I can’t identify the individual or social harm, then I have a hard time establishing that a problem actually exists. Perhaps that’s my problem with this whole BDSM thing, its not exactly a binary that’s easy to attack.

      • C.K. Egbert

        If you believe that emotional coercion and social coercion (via socialization into social norms) is oppressive, then it seems you have some problems you would need to address.
        1. How would you teach women that they are owed bodily integrity, freedom from violence, and mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s okay for sex to be degrading, painful, and non-mutual?
        2. How would you teach men to respect women and want to engage in mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s okay to find hurting women sexy?
        3. How would you prevent emotional and social coercion into these practices?
        4. How would you make it possible for women who don’t want sex to be painful and degrading to find sexual relationships? (Once again, we can’t assume men are just going to be nice and have a preference for wanting to pleasure women, especially if they are told it’s okay if they don’t.)

        • stacy

          1. How would you teach women that they are owed bodily integrity, freedom from violence, and mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s okay for sex to be degrading, painful, and non-mutual?

          You don’t stop teaching that. Sadism exists outside of the norm. There are caveats to all metaethics, no?

          2. How would you teach men to respect women and want to engage in mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s okay to find hurting women sexy?

          I think the start of any conversation about human sexuality is that people aren’t carbon copies of each other. There is an entire spectrum of sexual preferences and they all deserve examination and critical evaluation. No two people will see “mutually pleasurable” the same ( which is where I’m going with this). Which is why that communication aspect of sex is so important.

          3. How would you prevent emotional and social coercion into these practices?

          In programming there is the concept of verbosity. It works in sexual communication. People need feedback and its important that partners share and respect the wishes of each other.

          4. How would you make it possible for women who don’t want sex to be painful and degrading to find sexual relationships? (Once again, we can’t assume men are just going to be nice and have a preference for wanting to pleasure women, especially if they are told it’s okay if they don’t.)

          I think most men are fucking clueless, and that’s because people aren’t born with instruction manuals. Given a lack of uniform sexual preference, men HAVE TO BE empathetic and responsive to the needs of their partners. But I see that as universal rule. MM, MF FF and all people in between.

          • Leo

            ‘You don’t stop teaching that. Sadism exists outside of the norm. There are caveats to all metaethics, no?’

            Thing is, it doesn’t, really. Male dominance, and female submission IS the norm. It’s absolutely embedded in even how we think and talk about sex (read Intercourse, if you haven’t). Sadism might be an extreme of that, but even men simply not caring if they’re hurting their partners isn’t that unusual. It’s not so very different.

            BDSM practitioners love to act like what they’re doing is so very edgy, but focusing on purely female sensuality would actually be a hell of a lot more edgy and non-mainstream. Men are clueless because nothing in the society they’ve created encourages them to be otherwise – because they never wanted to. Oh, they might care about being seen as a great lover, but yet again it’s about them, really.

            Our sex ed classes at school completely failed to even tell us of the existence of the clitoris, or about vaginal lubrication – pretty much guaranteeing that the experiences of girls would be initially painful and not pleasurable. Makes our position as fuckholes pretty clear.

          • lizor

            Stacy, these vague platitudes you offer up as answers to C.K.’s very pointed questions speak volumes.

            “There are caveats to all metaethics” – this is a meaningless. Sadism IS the norm of the sex-pos canon.

            “No two people will see “mutually pleasurable” the same” – you have no foundation for this assertion. And it’s kind of nonsensical.

            “there is the concept of verbosity.” – ummm, yeah…communication…and stuff…

            “men HAVE TO BE empathetic and responsive to the needs of their partners” – well see, no they don’t, not in our current context. Critiques like C.K.’s and Meghan’s writing attempt to disseminate the idea of empathy, respect and so on as something men ought to practice as normal adult behaviour. Normalizing and eroticizing female degradation does the opposite.

            There is no substantive argument in your responses to C.K.’s four questions other then a demonstration that defenders of SM can’t articulate a compelling argument that simultaneously acknowledges the current cultural context of inequality.

          • stacy

            I said: “No two people will see “mutually pleasurable”

            You said:” the same”
            “you have no foundation for this assertion. And it’s kind of nonsensical.”

            I’m sorry,what? I’m making an ontological statement that has its very basis in metaphysics. I’m not going to sit here and type a discourse on the “philosophy of perception”, if you want that education – pick up a fucking book.

            By the way: I’M NOT DEFENDING S&M and fuck you for asserting that. I’m trying to engage the idea using reason. Intellectual cowardice doesn’t become you.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No telling other commenters to ‘fuck off’ please stacey. This is a warning.

          • FireWalkWithMe

            That’s interesting Meghan, because I saw Me tell that to some (guy I think) over on ‘The James Franco Test of Internalized Patriarchy’ and she wasn’t reprimanded or warned, and I think he got banned from the website. Why is that?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Because I make the rules and choose to ban or reprimand people at my own discretion…

      • Laur

        stacy, are you a BDSM practitioner? Or just defending the practice in theory?
        ” However, two people who want to slap the crap out of each other for a better orgasm….”

        BDSM is generally not two people wanting to slap one another. It’s one person dominating another.I’m not sure how we can work towards an egalitarian society while still practicing domination and subordination in our personal relationships.

        Do you really think it’s possible to be told you’re a piece of shit in the bedroom and be treated like one, and then go on living the rest of your life like you’re worthwhile?

        And thank you CK, for such a thoughtful article and well-written comments. I look forward to hearing more from you!

        • C.K. Egbert

          Great response, and thank you!

        • Derrington

          If you are insulted in the bedroom it normally means youre insulted round the rest of the house which is called domestic violence. If it truly is just the bedroom it requires splitting of the conscious by both parties which is a psychotic state. Either way not good.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            I’d be interested in seeing some studies backing this up? My experience has actually shown the opposite. My guess was always that because the women is treated like a goddess in daily life, she is really comfortable and can give into preferences that otherwise she might find degrading and would otherwise not feel comfortable with.

            A quick pubmed search seems to agree with my observations, but I’d be happy to entertain articles that my cursory glance didn’t turn up.

          • Derrington

            As others have commented, there are plenty of articles on sadism, psychopathy and split personalities. The key part of sadism is that practitioners do not respect other people’s humanity or physical/mental boundaries. This is a behavioural condition that they can turn on and off in order to present well to outside people, but not normally one that they turn off to people they are actively abusing if they are in private.

          • Strongly Submissive..

            We aren’t talking about people with split personalities and we aren’t talking about people who do not have respect for people’s boundaries, bdsm practitioners are not sociopaths. So again, I ask for some evidence that BDSM practitioners have higher rates of all these things you talk about, because I’m actually finding the opposite. So please so me the error I’m making here rather than just stating that all bdsm practitioners don’t respect boundries that simply is untrue.

          • Leo
          • C.K. Egbert

            SS–This is in reply to several of your posts. Because we have a common ground in thinking consent is important, I’d like to at least show you ways in which certain attitudes can undermine your commitment to to consent and respecting peoples’ preferences.

            As noted below, what you’ve described sounds like psychological manipulation (most abusers are “con artists” and able to be extremely charming). You are undermining your argument that this is about mutual pleasure if you think it is acceptable for a woman to be manipulated into (what she would find to be) degrading and uncomfortable acts. So one of the things to be aware of is what counts as coercion (as I’ve noted–based upon empirical psychological evidence–people can be easily coerced).

            Some other examples: saying that it is (1) woman’s responsibility to say “no,” and (2) saying the men are naturally aggressive and it is acceptable for them to coerce women into sex (repeated requests is coercion).

            Saying (1) is no different than saying women need to physically defend themselves from men. Consent is not lack of resistance, including verbal resistance. I’ve known of rapes where a woman didn’t say “no” when a man forced himself on her. Often women do not say “no” because they are afraid of what he will do to them if they do say “no.”

            (2) This is the problem many others (including some in the “sex positive” movement”); to assume men are just “naturally” aggressive is to absolve them of responsibility for sexually coercing (which includes repeated requests or pressuring) and harming women, and this is precisely the problem that we need to address. While it is good to train women to value and be confident in themselves, it is solely men’s responsibility to treat women with respect and we should hold them accountable when they do not. In sexuality, it is men’s responsibility to ensure that women have said (enthusiastically and without coercion) “yes” before they engage in any form of sexual contact. (This is the standard for consent in other situations–consent needs to be informed, un-coerced, and explicit–so it is more than reasonable that this should be the standard in sexuality).

          • Strongly Submissive.

            “As noted below, what you’ve described sounds like psychological manipulation (most abusers are “con artists” and able to be extremely charming). You are undermining your argument that this is about mutual pleasure if you think it is acceptable for a woman to be manipulated into (what she would find to be) degrading and uncomfortable acts. So one of the things to be aware of is what counts as coercion (as I’ve noted–based upon empirical psychological evidence–people can be easily coerced).”

            This is absolutely true, but it doesn’t change the issue that this is not coercion for many people. In many cases it is in fact the women pressing the man to do it. Those women do not tend to end up in feminist circles, and tend to keep their private lives hidden though and so their voices aren’t heard. You see this in the swinger scene especially.

            “Some other examples: saying that it is (1) woman’s responsibility to say “no,” and (2) saying the men are naturally aggressive and it is acceptable for them to coerce women into sex (repeated requests is coercion).”

            If a man doesn’t want to do something its also his responsibility to say no though. If a women wants to strap on a dildo and fuck a guy and she pulls out a strap on and start hooking it up, I think he should say “no, put that thing away”. Should she have asked, yes, but if I thought he was open to it and turned out to be wrong, he should respect my misjudgement enough to tell me no. This I hold humans too, not just women. But here we are specifically talking about women.

            its funny actually, with the sense of homophobia final starting to recede in society more men are opening to the idea of fingers and other such things going…well you get the idea from my above commment. It seems from my discussion with guys, women are starting to just “do it” because their other partners liked it. Yet alot of men don’t. None of the ones I’ve talked to (and its been a bizarrely common conversation lately) had a problem telling the girl no. Which I think speaks to their mentality in a very important way. They psychologically don’t understand that saying no would be difficult. They don’t have a problem with it, they say no to anything that comes up, so why on earth would we have a problem? Men are kinda emotional idiots sometimes. This psychological divide is something thats extremely important to recognize though, because women need to know its OK to say no. And telling them they never should have to is a bit too idealistic. In a perfect world, sure but thats never going to happen. They are going to have to, men aren’t emotionally aware enough to understand that to a women saying no is more than just a simple word. So the idealism that comes with “change this preference so men don’t do it” is dangerous because there will be other things women don’t like, and she should learn to tell people no rather than telling the female community that we shouldn’t do something just so she doesn’t have to.

            For example, what happens when a guys sucks on your toe and you don’t like it…..you have to say no. Theres no way you would have thought to tell him that you didn’t like your toes sucked before hand. Seriously who does that? Getting comfortable with saying no is an important life skill. Women are people pleasers in all aspect of life, not just in coercive bedroom situations.

            “Often women do not say “no” because they are afraid of what he will do to them if they do say “no.””

            Yes, and I get that and she should never have to actively resist. But a simple “please stop I’m not ok with this” will stop alot of guys who are afraid of legal repercussions. So long as she doesn’t say that he knows he’s in the clear. Which I recognize is the problem you are pointing out in the OP and certainly agree. But when we start defining what other women are allowed to do while still being acceptable empathetic members of the community by people like this man above we get into the situation of defining all acceptable situations. Defining what a proper women is….and this is a rabbit hole even when not dealing with legal issues. Every choice someone makes could be seen to counter a choice another women is against. A stay at home mom could be seen to set back those moms who want to work, a working mom could be seen to set back those moms who want to stay at home. A mom who chooses breast feeding in public sees a women who chooses to do so in private as undermining her rights. and the list goes on…..this is more than just a legal issue, the societal pressures are everywhere too. A few of the less thoughtful posters here already started taking us down that rabbit hole actually.

            “While it is good to train women to value and be confident in themselves, it is solely men’s responsibility to treat women with respect and we should hold them accountable when they do not. In sexuality, it is men’s responsibility to ensure that women have said (enthusiastically and without coercion) “yes” before they engage in any form of sexual contact.”

            Absolutely, however I don’t see how this is addressing my core issue of defining acceptable sexual practices in women. I assure you, many women in the BDSM scene are enthusiastically and without coercion participating.

          • Missfit

            ‘If a women wants to strap on a dildo and fuck a guy and she pulls out a strap on and start hooking it up, I think he should say “no, put that thing away”.’

            If this was to become common behavior, men would freak out! That would be fun to see though I think.

            ‘They [men] don’t have a problem with it, they say no to anything that comes up, so why on earth would we have a problem?’

            You really don’t seem to grab how power dynamics work, how men holding institutional power over women, how they manipulate media and culture to push a certain type of sexuality and hierarchy among genders, affects women. Goodbye dude!

        • stacy

          NO – I’m not. I’m not trying to defend BDSM. That is a wide range of activites that involves things I find weird and unappealing. Men don’t get to tell me what to do, especially with my own body. As stated, a friend of mine does like her sex on the rough side with her partner (F/F). She does this of her own accord willfully.

    • lizor

      I submit that there’s another manifestation going on with this as well: trauma enactment. (I realize that this dovetails with and to some extent reiterates, your argument, C.K.). I know from experience that when one is carrying embodied trauma – emotional and psychological pain – the sensation of physical pain can be experienced as a relief. It actually relieves the unbearable dissonance that abuse survivors live with. An example would be the phenomenon of young women cutting themselves. It’s no accident that this behaviour tends to present after puberty, i.e. after society responds to the girls as a sexual commodity.

      I cannot for the life of me see how normalizing trauma-based compulsions without naming the behaviour is going to help make women more safe from male power enactment. We are incredibly adaptive animals and I think we’re capable of eroticizing just about anything. Acceptance of gender exploitation is so prevalent that, in my experience, many people see sex without some power/abuse play as repressed (as in Lorde’s point about so-called “vanilla” sex being passionless).

      The deck is stacked against those who want truly safe, sane and integrated exchange of bodily pleasure for all. That’s why articles like this are so extremely important.

      • Leo

        Yeah, it definitely involves trauma, and trauma bonding. BDSM practitioners even talk about ‘aftercare’. I don’t think a pleasurable, equal, encounter should require one party to be calmed down and reassured after.

        It’s abuse, simple as that. Otherwise we might as well turn around and say a woman in an abusive relationship is Ok because she doesn’t leave. But we understand how little consent really means in that situation.

        • C.K. Egbert

          That is intensely disturbing, as that is clearly a form of extreme emotional abuse. This really belies the idea that pro-BDSM people are advocating for people “having the sex they want” if this includes when someone has clearly experienced the encounter as violence and is traumatized, and that the response is to brainwash and further abuse the trauma victim. In my attempt to interpret their position charitably I was presupposing they would exclude such obvious forms of manipulation and abuse.

  • mauritia

    My problem with the overemphasis on consent is this: sex-positive feminism tends to assume that everything that is consensual is good. But if we stick to the definition that sex without consent = rape, all consensual sex means is…not rape. Which is setting the bar pretty fucking low, right? Just because something *isn’t rape* doesn’t mean it’s awesome or fun or makes everyone involved feel good or should be immune to criticism. We need to ask for more for ourselves.

  • Kate

    This might be a little off topic, but as an American I’ve always had an anti-imperialist argument against BDSM culture. I first began to be coerced into rough sex with an abusive partner right around the time that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were escalating. He recited all the BDSM playbook lines – that it was liberating to play the victim in a rape fantasy, that the line between pain and pleasure was thin, that I could stop it at any time. When the photos from the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison came out I remember thinking that some of them looked like things my partner had talked about wanting to do to me. In retrospect it was those revelations that started me on the path to leaving that relationship. In the subsequent years, as I learned more about my country’s history (and present) of inflicting brutal torture and abject horror on poor and marginalized people in the name of freedom and liberty I knew that I could never partake in BDSM again. There’s something profoundly sickening to me about the systematic torture at the hands of the American military that has devastated entire communities, while wealthy, mostly white BDSM American consumerists get off on a playacting facsimile of that torture.

    • Maybe I was a charred “witch” in another life, but Cheney, with his cruel and twisted mouth, reminds me of a witch-hunting inquisitor straight out of The Burning Times.

    • Laur

      I don’t think this is off topic at all. A lot of BDSM porn sites have explicitly made porn re-enacting the Abu Grahib atrocities. I’m glad you got out of the abusive situation you were in.

  • Leo

    Yeah, I think that’s true, C.K. Egbert (and thanks for the thoughtful article), it would benefit asexual people very much. Radical Feminists’ talk of a more community-focused society, with strong bonds between women, sounds wonderful. I think it would benefit sexual people to have more options for different types of intimate relationship, too – so often people seem to feel pressured to be in a sexual/romantic relationship because they feel they ought to be, and end up dating people they’re really not compatible with.

    Aww, it’s Ok, really, Mar Iguana. I’m fascinated to learn more of the history, what it was like, from older women. So much hope, it seems like we were making so much progress, and then it all went wrong somewhere. Even as a teenager, I didn’t understand the idea of sexual revolution having overwhelmingly benefited women, because it didn’t really look like that to me.

    I saw so much coerciveness in the teenage relationships around me, how questionable consent seemed. Everyone else seemed to just accept it. Me the only crazy or the only sane one, couldn’t tell which. It always seemed so…fake, somehow, how the girls acted. I didn’t doubt they were attracted to boys (unlike me), that much was genuine, but something seemed so off about it all. A performance. Not even just about getting boy’s attention, but also as a way of acting ‘grown up’. Because that’s what grown up means for girls – available to men. Radical Feminists are the first ones to say, no, you’re not crazy, there really is something wrong here, and for that I am grateful.

    Heh, you say you don’t know how to tell them that they might be better off with option 2, as someone from your generation, but I end up thinking it, too. When I’d always tell my friends at school not to date guys who didn’t really respect them – but the issue was, I ended up having to say it so very often, ‘he’s a jerk, you deserve better’. So if they’d taken my advice, they wouldn’t have had many options. They didn’t listen to me anyway.

    It’s the young teenage girls I really worry for, it looks like it’s even worse now. This is becoming so normal for them. I saw in the #YesAllWomen tag how many were hearing this isn’t Ok for the very first time. They hadn’t even really known they could object. If we can’t find a way to reach more of them, I think they’ll be so used to it, all objections will have been squashed out of them.

    It’s just so difficult – we need them to learn they have a right to their ‘no’, get them to be confident to say it and stick to it, yet we know how negatively many men will respond to it if they do. Girls are trained and bullied into compliance, layers upon layers of mindfuck, and yet that very compliance completely screws the rest of us over, as well as themselves. And men have the nerve to tell us it’s Ok, because, look, she complied/consented!

    I’m grateful that my younger sister seems to be Ok with her boyfriend – I decided he was probably decent enough when he attracted the furious ire of the sex pozzis by concernedly questioning why their pole dancing class was empowering (was pretty funny). So better ones probably do exist. I’d really like to say we don’t need men for our revolution, but actually I think it does help, because we’re not going to easily get straight girls to choose option 2, it will be hard on them even if they do, and we can’t even easily get them to reject sexual norms they’re not comfortable with. The idea men will ignore them is a real threat to them, and men know that and use it (such as by stating that men aren’t interested in feminist women…). If they see more men who won’t just ignore them, treat them as non-entities, if they say ‘no’, they’ll be more confident to say it.

    Christians and hypocrisy…yeah, doesn’t surprise me, really.

  • Strongly Submissive.

    I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this piece. Reading this has made me a much better person. For me to properly thank you however, requires a bit of background about myself.

    I grew up in a wonderful family who taught me to be strong. That I was not to be used, that I would never “let” a man have control of me. I would never be beaten, I was too strong for that. I would never be abused, that was for women who didn’t have good family and parents and strong identities. I was too good for that. My parents were not “feminist” parents, just normal people who believed everyone should be treated equal and who wanted daughters who would have the best life possible, and thought that would be achieved through raising them to be strong. They were correct and I love them dearly for the strength they’ve given me. I was raised to know that women and men were equals on all footing. I was kept relatively protected from sexual exposure. I knew the science at a young age because I was smart and inquisitive, and you can’t make it through a Christmas season without hearing the word virgin repeatedly. I wasn’t allowed to watch violent or sexual shows though, and most of my TV watching and reading were wonderfully family, science and nature oriented. My wonderful, balanced, educated, honestly idyllic, upbringing made me into a woman I’m extremely proud to be. Smart, educated, well-adjusted and in control of my own life. I pride myself on not allowing social norms to dictate my actions or my preferences about much of anything, both sexually and non-sexually. I have my public life as an high educated upstanding professional in a male dominated field who any parent, spanning science through religious oriented families, would be happy to have their child look to as a role model. Then I have my private life. On that involves much more controversial sexual and social constructs. I’ve always been very content with this divide. All of this has made me quite un-empathetic to the plight of my homosexual friends. While I do consider myself bisexual and enjoy women sexually, personality preferences mean that I typically end up with men, and all but my closest friends would tell you that I was straight. I don’t typically feel the need to talk about my sexual escapades. Those are for my own pleasure, I don’t need acceptance from my friends or family. I could never understand why my homosexual friends needed acceptance from those who didn’t even try to understand them. Why would they care if Ann Coulter rambles to what amounts to her own choir? Why would they care if the religious right doesn’t want them to use the word marriage? Why would they care if people who have so little understanding of human nature don’t accept their sexual preferences? Why can’t they just be happy that they have found what makes them happy and do it, forget what everyone else says? And shamefully I’ve even defended the Christian right by explaining that they at least THINK they are doing something good. They are too brainwashed to understand that by criticizing others sexual preferences (needs?) and trying to get people into an eternal paradise, that they are actually destroying people. No its not right, but why should my friends hate them for trying to do good? I thought my friends were weak.

    You have shown me the intense errors of my thought process. See that same background that raised me to be the awesomely strong person I am today, also made me extremely ashamed of the fantasies I’d had from a young age. I had the opposite socialization. Women should be strong, not weak. I was raised to be in control over myself and my life. Not let a man control it. Yet, I realize now I’d had, what amounted to a form of sex slave fantasy since well before puberty, and well before I even knew what I was thinking because I was never allowed to watch or see anything that depicted anything remotely close to such things. By the time I was old enough to understand it, I was ashamed of it. So I hid it. I didn’t have a real orgasm until well into my twenties, because I couldn’t admit, even for masturbation purposes what I really enjoyed. Eventually I overcame that shame, I could get myself off to fantasies of being beaten, I could ask my partners to be violent toward me. Even if it took a bit of convincing that I really did want this. I was never forced or even asked to do anything that I didn’t ask for first. My heart goes out for those who did not have my same experience, but there are many of us out there. I found that now, like never ever before, I actually did enjoy sex. It wasn’t something I did because I was supposed to, but because it was fun, ALOT of fun. Its actually the opposite of what I’m supposed to do, the opposite of how I was raised, and yet, a core part of who I am. Not because of social constructs but in spite of them. Much as a gay person raised in a rural society with no “out” gay men knows he likes men regardless of how he was raised. This is where I am happily at today, as I spoke of above. Strong and confident in my sexual submissiveness. Without need for approval, or so I thought…..until I read this article. Sometimes times there is pain, often there is name calling, and always there is a sense of dominance and control. Sex without that for me, would be like a gay man trying to have sex with woman. He might be able to do it, but it isn’t any fun. And here you compare a core part of my sexual identity, one that took me awhile to comes to terms with, because of my strong social upbringing, because of my strong emotional strength, because of my strong confident need for control in my own non-sexual life…you compared this with pedophilia, white supremacy, and murder. Something that, while may be a a natural thought, shouldn’t be acted on. A perspective that the religious right has taken toward gay people on many occasions. As a way of “accepting them”, at least they are telling them its a disease to be cured right? Except that here you did that as well, comparing my identity with “starving myself”, i.e. eating disorders. Something that can be read to make me feel that I need a cure for my sexual needs which harm no one. You stated that women only feel this way because they are conditioned to have that preference. I imagine parents of gay people are often shamed this way as well. My parents raised me to be strong, I am strong. I am strong enough to admit that I can submit in one portion of my life to a man and still be myself in every other. That took more strength than you can imagine. By implying that men who enjoy this are bad people, you insulted my best friend. A man whose only turn ons are giving a women exactly what she wants, and the only person capable of being dominant enough to help me achieve multiple orgasms. I’m just too strong of a person to even believe most men when they try to be dominant toward me. They have been emasculated by people like you into not feeling comfortable giving me what I need, even though we’d both enjoy it. It leaves the event feeling fake and empty because they are simply being too kind, and giving me too much control in a place I specifically asked not to have it. An amusing catch-22 of being a strong female who enjoys being dominated, both physically and mentally is it takes someone of equal strength to do it and there aren’t many out there thanks to it becoming social unacceptable to enjoy being dominant. Be strong enough and most men won’t even be able to fake it for the required hour or two :-). Its tough being a strong person who is sexually submissive.

    So, you shamed me, my family and my friends, and I thank you for it. Because people who write on blogs like this are the Ann Coulters of the cult of feminism, a graduate student who spouts such extremist views to people who are certain to agree with her is no different than a minister-in-training preaching to his Sunday school class. And yet you angered me. I was legitimately furious (don’t worry, I’m not now, this is a legit thank you letter). You made me upset, and you made it so that night, when my friend did everything in his power to help me orgasm, I couldn’t. All this, because of a silly blogger on the internet that very few people would agree with, who will never write a law, never speak to millions on TV, and never get elected into a position of extreme power. Something I only read because a friend needed to put me in an angry frame of mind to make a point about something completely and utterly unrelated and thought this would do the trick.

    It had a very good and unintended consequence though. After raging against nearly every line in the article for awhile, I finally understood what my gay friends have endured their entire life. And you present an extremely low threat to me, effectively none, as compared to republicans and religious people present to homosexuals. I understand now that being truly misunderstood is hurtful, that being shamed, even by someone who is trying to do good, even someone only preaching to others who already believe everything she does, is hurtful. I’d just never had something that was such a core part of my sexual identity attacked like that. It just doesn’t come up much since my issue occurs behind closed doors, in a way that homosexuality never could truly be. So thank you for making me understand. You’ve made me a more empathetic person toward people I deeply care about, and you did it in a way that I don’t think very many people could have.

    • Derrington

      And yet you find us safe enough to come out to … but not your friends and family who have made you this strong, non submissive woman … you are already living the life of a homosexual person without this blog … maybe you should think about why you have have to live two lives to be accepted in your idyllic scenario …

      • Strongly Submissive.

        Its not that I don’t feel safe. I just have no interest. I don’t want to hear about my friend’s sex lives for the most part. If they ask I tell them, if they don’t I don’t. My point here was only to show you that you are doing to BDSM practitioners the identical things that are done to gay males. You are doing a straw mans argument here by only speaking to others who agree with you. Since I sadly got sent this, it seemed only appropriate to point out that you are doing something that has been done to homosexuals for ages and doing it for “good” reasons. Because you’ve seen people be hurt by it, and perhaps were even hurt yourselves, yet sadly not understanding that you are insulting a large group of women who just want to do what they do. BDSM is not a small group, and not a small group of happy willing participants. Yes there are people who have been coerced, so make women stronger, don’t limit their options by comparing it to pedophilia. We just don’t talk about it because why would we? I don’t expect my friends to tell me about the romantic candle lit rose petaled sex they have, why would I tell them anything about mine? We aren’t a small group and to imply that we should change because other women have been taken advantage of is not rational. I’ve had a very hard time finding men who are willing to participate in such things with me, I wish I knew more “Alice”s to send them too. Teach women to be strong, don’t teach them to not participate in things that may indicate to others they are weak. Women should do what they please and if that is being thrown down and tied up, then great. Which, btw, I’m not actually a masochist, very few of my things are pain related and cause no real harm, its more about dominance, I just respect those who chose to have pain inflicted. They like it, why is it my business or anyone elses?

        • C.K. Egbert

          I’ve already replied below, and I am trying not to dominate this comment forum. I encourage you to read the other comments on this blog, as they’ve made excellent points and said what I want to say in an even better way.

          But I want to alert you to some problematic things you’ve just said: “Yes there are people who have been coerced, so make women stronger, don’t limit their options by comparing it to pedophilia.” I’m assuming you are against victim-blaming, and this is a form of it: you’ve just put the responsibility for women not getting hurt or coerced on the women themselves. We are trying to teach women to be “strong” by thinking of themselves as worthy of respect. But it is NEVER their responsibility or their fault if they are coerced or hurt by someone else.

          Also, if something is known to have harmed people, aren’t we obligated to understand how and why it has harmed people–and how to prevent such harm in the future?

          Finally, I also want to note that there is a disanalogy between BDSM and homosexuality. Discrimination against homosexuality is based upon gender discrimination. BDSM is about what specific sexual practices one engages in. I’ve heard this analogy before, but notice that LGBT orientations aren’t based upon a specific sexual practice (heterosexuals engage in the same practices) but upon the gender that one is attracted to.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            I’m certainly against victim blaming. The problem is when people become so concerned about being accused of that that they start making people think that they aren’t capable. For a completely unrelated to sex example (in order to make a point without possibly eliciting an emotional response) would be math scores in women. If you make a female say shes female before taking a math exam (i.e. checking a box) she is more likely to do badly than someone who does not have to check a box. There are a lot of strange emotional things that occur when you imply someone can’t be something. Implying women need laws to protect her from her own choices (rather than of course the choices of others doing bad things to her) to me sends a scary scary message to the girls of today. That they are too weak to make those choices for themselves. Victim blaming should never happen, but we need to be careful about sending a message to girls that they aren’t smart enough to make their own choices. Educating women in ways to say no and empower them keeps the risk of them feeling this way to a minimum while keeping options open for those that do. I do think there are some issues with consent. For example in situations of authority, situations of the possibility of not being able to escape (i.e., a boat, car, middle of nowhere, ect….) but that is very different than two people in a relationship agreeing to do something together for mutual enjoyment. That gets scary when you consider the ramifications of legislating.

            “Also, if something is known to have harmed people, aren’t we obligated to understand how and why it has harmed people–and how to prevent such harm in the future?”

            Of course, but I don’t think we should prevent people from making about their own lives to do so. Lets take this down to its natural conclusion. Any choice that one person makes that another person uses to harm someone else should be made illegal? Alcohol has to go. Every single friend I’ve had who has been in any sexual situation that was less than ideal has had alcohol be a factor either because they’d been drinking or the guy, or both. I don’t think that this is rare. I’d guess actually its the MOST common? But correct me if I’m wrong, you know the stats better than I do I’m sure. Continuing along our path….. People have used martial art training to harm people. So all martial art training should be immediately made illegal (which sadly would count things that are mainly self defense oriented like Krav Maga, something that could actually be used by women to defend themselves against the guys who will never ever learn to respect women). What else would this open up legislation for? Could we now legislate that race car driving encourages speeding which kills millions every year? I think the argument could certainly be made. Kids watching Nascar have to think that sound like fun. The internet has caused a ridiculous surge in internet bullying that is driving kids to kill themselves, should we legislate away social media? Forums on the internet exist to help people get more effective at their eating disorders (hmm I’m not sure of the wording here, but I mean like encourage women to starve themselves) so should we legislate away community blogs? …..What rabbit hole does this bring us down? The world is a horrible place filled with horrible people, this is true, but we can we really legislate away everything that has ever been used to harm someone? Is that a world we want to live in?

            “Finally, I also want to note that there is a disanalogy between BDSM and homosexuality. Discrimination against homosexuality is based upon gender discrimination. BDSM is about what specific sexual practices one engages in. I’ve heard this analogy before, but notice that LGBT orientations aren’t based upon a specific sexual practice (heterosexuals engage in the same practices) but upon the gender that one is attracted to.”

            I don’t understand the difference? I do understand for the “T” part of the LGBT here, and am willing to completely drop that argument, but not so much the “LGB” part. If you are saying its because they don’t have a choice in the gender they are are attracted to, my question here is why do you assume people have a choice in what sort of sex they enjoy? 30 years ago we thought homosexuals should be able to choose to be attracted to the opposite gender, now we know (or at least us intelligent people know) that that isn’t really true. We used to say alcoholics could simply choose to not drink in the same fashion that non-alcoholics could, but we now know that is also somewhat dictated from birth. Every day we learn more about how our genes dictate our world, who is to say 10 years ago we don’t find out that genes dictate our preferences in food, hobbies, sexual preferences? I know as a social scientist your mind automatically jumps to social conditioning, as a biologically oriented scientist mine does the opposite. It jumps to evolutionary biology, genes and all sorts of interesting things that we are just now learning about and the gay civil rights movement has shown us just how much biology does dictate preferences. Actually along this lines, I’m curious why do you think there are so many submissive men out there? That can’t come from patriarchal conditioning by your argument that that is why women are like that. Yet men enjoying humiliation isn’t a rarity. Doesn’t that point to more complex issues behind social preference than simply, “we’ve been oppressed”? Perhaps there really are genes that make us like the things we do?

            Also you wrote the blog article you should be the one to get to take as many responses as possible :-).

          • Candy

            “Yet men enjoying humiliation isn’t a rarity. Doesn’t that point to more complex issues behind social preference than simply, “we’ve been oppressed”? Perhaps there really are genes that make us like the things we do?”

            I’m not saying the issue is as simple as oppression, but I am saying it’s not strictly genetic (few things are; epigenetics is so very complex). If it was, that would fail to explain why so much male humiliation has to do with failing to live up to the masculinity paradigm. Getting called a faggot, a pussy, a sissy: feminized terms, terms that compare him to a woman or a supposedly feminized male as a downgrade. Which insinuate to be feminine is to be submissive and inferior. A large part of femdom porn has to do with this, and why do you think that is? The same reason porn labels the actresses as sluts and whores: culture. This is learned, and this is sexism.

          • Strongly Submissive..

            I’m not saying its completely genetic there is obviously always an interplay.

            I definitely get what you are saying and yet, why if a patriarchal society tells a man he has to be in control does he enjoy not being in control? Sure the language is pure and simple sexism caused by a patriarchal society. I completely agree, but I don’t think the words are the turn on. I think its the control and humiliation and the words are just an annoying holdover because we don’t have a male equivalent of “slut” that is derogatory. And yes that is a hold over from our society, I never claimed there isn’t patrimony, just that telling women to change their sexual fetishes and not enjoy things that they enjoy because other women have had bad things happen to them is kinda bull shit from an equality standpoint.

            I just think this points to a far more complex system of turn ons than simple societal conditioning. Otherwise a man wouldn’t like being called things that are feminized terms. Society tells him to rebel against it. Since we don’t have studies on genes linked to sexual preferences yet, I was using this simply to point to a complex interplay of issues rather than all social conditioning.

        • bella_cose

          I have to say, I find it perplexing that you can compare homosexuality with a penchant for violent, degrading, sex. One is based in a person’s biology, the other is a sexual, behavioral, choice.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            “One is based in a person’s biology, the other is a sexual, behavioral, choice.”

            How do you know this? They said EXACTLY the same things about homosexuals 30 years ago, some (non-educated people) are still saying it today. Why do you assume all preferences are choices? Do you have proof that there are no genes linked to sexual preferences?

          • bella_cose

            You seem to be very invested in the idea that biology is the driving factor for whatever you don’t want to take responsibility for, such as your sexual preferences. I suppose it’s much more convenient to latch on to that, than to explore further. I was a microbiology major in college, before switching to mathematics. In none of my classes, did I ever learn that genes account for any great percentage of manifested behaviors. It was always stressed that behavior was the result of a complex interplay between genes and the environment, and was probably more dependent on environment than not. I don’t understand why, as a scientist, you keep dismissing such a large part of the equation. I can understand some things are uncomfortable to think about, and your identity appears to rest on a limited definition of what being strong is, so maybe you don’t want to think about anything that might disturb your carefully constructed world.

        • Derrington

          Speaking as a trained psychoanalyst, there are a number of issues around what you say that don’t ring true. Your dismissal of women being coerced, your references to teaching women to be strong, your placing of your own self interests in front of others’ interests not to be hurt/coerced etc shows a person that has very little empathy for anyone that isn’t ‘strong’. You seem deeply dismissive of anyone else’s experience, and your tying together of sadism/masochism with homosexuality is fraught with difficulty due to the genetic nature of one (as far as current learning understands it) and the learnt state of the other. Plus, with BDSM there is a huge problem with the number of women who are subjected to torture and even death through coercion … which you dismiss with a flick of your keyboard. Your anti woman, victim blaming stance makes me wonder if you really are who you say you are, your arrogance towards those that have suffered in your club makes me wonder at whether you really are a ‘submissive’ woman at all?

          • Strongly Submissive.

            Everything I’d say here was said above so I’ll just ask you to refer to that and reply to it above. Also you are a trained psychoanalyst, not a geneticist who has analyzed every gene in existence, so be careful about what you say about what is biological and what isn’t. The same mistakes were made about so very many things throughout the decades and I’m sure you’ve read all the many studies about how similar many identical twins raised apart from each other grow up to be. There is more to psychology than psychology, there is so very much biology in there as well. Sadly biology only progresses at the speed of funding because it is so incredibly expensive, and we are too busy killing people in foreign countries to bother funding research.

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’m not sure why biology here is considered a relevant factor. I’m not denying there might be a biological component to being homosexual, but that’s not why I support it. Whether it is a biological preference is irrelevant; what is relevant is that they are being denied basic human rights (falling in love with someone of a different race is not biologically hardwired, but that doesn’t mean that miscegenation laws are acceptable).

            Even if you are “biologically” motivated to act in a certain way does not mean that you are ethically justified in acting that way. I might be biologically or genetically inclined to aggression or violence, but that does not justify me being violent or aggressive (it merely means that I might need to work harder to be a decent person). What is cannot determine what should be (we philosophers call that the “is-ought problem.”)

        • bella_cose

          I also think it’s ridiculous to say that men who didn’t want to have violent, degrading sex with you have been “emasculated”. Most likely, they just weren’t total psychopaths, and didn’t get off hurting women. If you don’t want to be judged personally for your sexual behavior, why are you judging them?

          Honestly, at this point I don’t really care. Your inability to analyze further than “I like what I like” is getting boring.

    • bella_cose

      Unless you were raised in some magical land the rest of us don’t know about, then you have been affected by the culture around you. If you can’t understand that, then you are missing the point entirely.

      As for being shamed for your sexual preferences, I would say, grow the fuck up. No one is saying not to do what you choose to do, but maybe think about why you are doing it, besides all your multiple orgasms. Quit acting like a two year old. It isn’t all about you and your hurt feelings.

      That being said, I’m so glad you are no longer a total bigot towards homosexuals. Now you have one more accomplishment to put in your arsenal of arrogance. Good for you.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        I’m using “shamed” in the sort of meaning of “slut shaming”. Not so much that I feel shamed, its pretty tough to make me feel bad for anything that I know isn’t hurting anyone. But you can shame someone with your words without the other person actually feeling shamed.

        Bigot implies I have a problem with homosexuality that I don’t. It was a lack of empathy toward them that was the problem.

      • Missfit

        These ‘ but I like it’ and ‘choice!’ non-arguments are very tiresome. Third-wave choice feminism think nothing should be subjected to analysis because a woman somewhere who happens to take part in what is being critically discussed might feel judged. Imagine if previous feminists never questioned the housewife model propagandized then because a devoted housewife somewhere who really like serving her husband might feel ‘shamed’. We would never have progressed and changed expectations.

        • Strongly Submissive.

          If a women wants to stay home and be a housewife thats her business, are you now stating that women who stay home with their kids are bad women too?

          Sure you can question it, but you shouldn’t tell a person that their choice is hurting other women. Other women staying home from work does not stop me from working.

          • Missfit

            What you just said perfectly illustrates what I find problematic with this rethoric. Nobody is saying that women who make specific choices are bad women and no feminists is there to dictate to women what to do. It is not about an individual housewife, it is about a model being pushed on ALL women, it is about patriarchal social norms and expectations. Because yes, these models are born out of patriarchy and work to maintain it. I am talking about a process called ‘consciousness-raising’ where women were discussing their socialization, how it limited them and how they wanted to extand their possibilities. To do that, to go to the end of their thought, they couldn’t stop the discussion, at ‘whatever, some women like it, so too bad for us and our daugthers will simply become housewifes, whether they like or not’.

          • C.K. Egbert

            You’re missing the point that many people have been trying to make. (I think BDSM is different, personally, because physical/psychological violence is abuse and should not be permitted). But the point is not that we are saying women shouldn’t have the “choice” to be a housewife. We are interrogating the conditions of that choice; why men choose to treat women the way they do; and how they are socialized into thinking of themselves as undeserving of equality (hence, adaptive preferences).

            If feminists had never questioned the idea that women are supposed to be mothers and wives, women would never have had the option of going to work (or it would have been extremely difficult). We wouldn’t have laws against discrimination, we wouldn’t have sexual harassment laws, we wouldn’t have gotten equal pay for equal work (still working on those, of course). And, as we are currently fighting for now, we wouldn’t have acknowledgment of the ways in which women are not given the opportunity to develop their talents and their selfhood and humanity is systematically destroyed through socialization (they are supposed to be pretty, not intelligent; they aren’t as good at math and science; they are given pink toys and dolls instead of toys that develop spatial skills; they are told they are only good insofar as they are good at pleasing men, etc…).

            Feminists are also working to ensure that parenting does not disadvantage women socially and economically by fighting for maternity leave, for men to take an equal burden of housework and childcare, and to ensure that women who do “choose” to stay home aren’t socially or economically disadvantaged by doing so (e.g., domestic violence laws, changing the economics of marriage so that women can easily exit relationships, etc.). No feminist says a woman is bad, weak, etc. for having children and doing housework (many feminists are mothers as well).

            So this is not about restricting women’s choices. This is about changing society so that women are treated as human beings.

          • Strongly Submissive

            Thank you for your response(s), I think I’ve pulled all the understanding out of this that I’m going to get. Enough to fully understand where I did and didn’t misinterpret meaning from the original post.

            I think everything that’s left isn’t going to change on either side and I don’t really have any other questions, so not much reason to continue.

            But thank you for being patient at explaining your side of things, I at least understand it better even if I still disagree with much of it. I’ve never been able to understand how people can type things like the original post, and I don’t like not being able to understand people I disagree with. Usually I can see both sides regardless of my actual opinion. This particular brand of feminism is one thats often been pretty tough for me to do that with, and the more I read the more I just get annoyed, its probably part of the reason I decided to dive into a full blown discussion on the internet with a bunch of strangers about it knowing that in reality neither of us would change each other’s minds and people were going hate me. I don’t have to be afraid of that or afraid of revealing anything about myself to strangers like I do professional relationships, which is where most of my female friend pool comes from. I now can at least understand your side, and that’s nearly exclusively because of your comments.

            Also fwiw, I really am a female and for the most part, who I made myself out to be. So please don’t feel like you wasted your time arguing with some stupid frat guy regardless of what is going on other places in the comments. There is alot of women out there who would think the same thing reading this though. You did actually help me see your side of it in a way that none of my discussions with friends with nearly identical believes and education as yours have. They fall more into the sorts of attacks people have done elsewhere here, minus the dude thing since they see me in person :-). All that is said to encourage you to do the same the next time someone comes through like me, because I’m not actually as abnormal as everyone here seems to think I am. And the sort of responses that are coming in from much of the people are the polarizing kind which are more likely to make someone dig in their heals than change their mind. For fun I did actually go back to the main blog and poke around a bit and my ideals aren’t that different from the ones ya’ll spend alot of time discussing.

            I’m dropping all the other discussions completely because they’ve degraded into nonsense or on topics that are unrelated/unimportant, aren’t provable either direction, or aren’t going to ever change in either side, or I already understand the other side and see no use in trying to make people see mine. Or they are convinced I’m misrepresenting myself and I have better things to do than prove I’m a girl, after all I’ve revealed here I’m certainly no linking to a facebook page :-). I don’t see much benefit for either side in continuing them, but I wanted to give you a real genuine thank you before taking off!

            I shall leave you guys in peace to agree with each other now 🙂 and let poor Meghan have her life back from moderating all this!

          • C.K. Egbert

            SS–Thank you, I’m glad to hear that this discussion has helped you to understand our position better, even if you don’t agree with it. Best of luck.

        • bella_cose

          I think we can all safely say now that we gave it our best shot, and Strongly Submissive just doesn’t possess even an informal background in feminist theory, or any desire to understand anything deeper than the ability to make a choice. As if that is going to change anything on a structural level, and for the millions of women who don’t have her level of privilege. Please.

    • Leo

      You’re showing no empathy towards the women who don’t want sex to involve dominance, and don’t get a lot of say in the matter, or to the many women who have been harmed by BDSM, however. I do not think it is right to compare it to homosexuality (and many Radical Feminists are lesbian, so it’s hardly as though we’re not understanding towards people with various sexualities). But regardless, this is NOT about blaming individual women for what they’ve been taught by society to eroticise. As feminists, we care about all women. We’re concerned for them if they accept being harmed, and with why men act in ways that harm women.

      ‘They have been emasculated by people like you into not feeling comfortable giving me what I need, even though we’d both enjoy it.’

      ’emasculated’, you say. Really that sounds revealing about how you’re thinking. You might have been raised to be strong, but you still have this idea a man needs to be dominant sexually. You are not immune to societal attitudes. None of us are, our individual upbringing doesn’t change this. You don’t need to have been exposed to graphic sexual content to have been affected, even the concept of virginity is part of it. There’s plenty of media, with a low age rating, where ‘passion’ is indicated, for instance, by the man grabbing a woman pretty roughly. Gone With the Wind is rated G, and includes a scene that some have interpreted as rape – Rhett is inarguably very rough with Scarlett, and ignores her resistance, and she is presented as afterwards having enjoyed the encounter. In this kind of cultural atmosphere, it’s hardly surprising women learn to see male dominance as erotic.

      Actually, I think most would agree with the article, at least where I live. Despite dynamics of dominance/submission being a social norm, most people do NOT think it is acceptable to go so far as to beat a woman, even if she says she wants it. The article seemed to bother you an awful lot, if you’re so secure in your identity. I’m not asking you this to upset you in any way, but are you sure this is really what you want? It absolutely is possible to unlearn this type of erotic response, and to learn new ones based in equality – you might actually find that benefited you, if you find it difficult to find men who can be sufficiently dominant for you. I’d be genuinely concerned you might otherwise end up feeling you need to get involved in more hardcore BDSM, which can be dangerous – I’m not just saying this, I’m thinking of others who’ve related their experiences.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        “You’re showing no empathy towards the women who don’t want sex to involve dominance, and don’t get a lot of say in the matter, or to the many women who have been harmed by BDSM, however.”

        I most certainly do feel bad for them. I just don’t think that their issues should effect what men should feel comfortable doing to me when I ask it of them. Again, I’ve actually had much more of the opposite problem. I can’t get guys to fully open up to the dominant aspects of themselves. We can fix this not by telling men not do be dominant toward a female when she asks (which btw how is that acceptable to ask men not to give women what they want?) But instead teach females to be stronger. Women are badass, we hold so much power and feminist tend to forget that. Teach women to be stronger and we will overcome all the shit guys give us. And as i said in my original post, my heart does go out to those who don’t have enough self confidence to tell guys to go f*ck themselves, but there are more guys out there for you Alice types than you give the male species credit for. Also all sorts of cool social constructs that could fix this if we do away with the idea of monogamy. An outdated and silly ritual if there ever was one. But lets think outside the box. hmm no pun intended. Lets not just tell women like me that we are broken and that I can be fixed.

        “Radical Feminists are lesbian, so it’s hardly as though we’re not understanding towards people with various sexualities”

        And yet here you guys don’t recognize you are using identical arguments to BDSM as the christian right uses toward gays. That was my point. “You are broken and can be fixed” “you are hurting me with what you do behind closed doors” “you are only this way because society made you that way” These are in fact christian arguments against homosexuality. Nearly verbatim.

        “As feminists, we care about all women.”

        Just as Christians care about ALL people and just want them to believe what they do.

        “We’re concerned for them if they accept being harmed, and with why men act in ways that harm women.”

        Just as christians are concerned that they are willingly walking themselves into hell and could possibly harm other christians by dragging them down to their level.

        “”emasculated’, you say. Really that sounds revealing about how you’re thinking. You might have been raised to be strong, but you still have this idea a man needs to be dominant sexually””

        Not at all “need”. You are confusing right and wrong with preference. I don’t give a damn what other men who I am not sleeping with are like with other women so long as they aren’t doing things the women don’t want. Just as I don’t think you should care what men (or I suppose women) who I am sleeping with are doing to me so long as I ask for it.

        “There’s plenty of media, with a low age rating, where ‘passion’ is indicated, for instance, by the man grabbing a woman pretty roughly”

        Wait what? Now grabbing someone passionately is a problem? Women grab men passionately all the time? How do you people have sex without any passionate grabbing? I’m going to assume you didn’t think this one through and leave it at that….

        Actually, I think most would agree with the article, at least where I live.

        Perhaps you need to get out of either Washington or Oregon then, because even in SoCal, a damn liberal place, if a women asks you to tie her up to a bed, its probably only polite to oblige.

        ” most people do NOT think it is acceptable to go so far as to beat a woman, even if she says she wants it.”
        If this is true why are all you Alices finding it so hard to find men? According to everyone here nearly all men believe this is not only acceptable but expected, its why you can’t find anyone to be in relationships with? I’m confused again. Also most BDSM is more about grabbing and forcefully moving around then “beating”. Punches don’t actually provide very good sensations ? (something I know from my hobbies, not my sex life :-D).

        “The article seemed to bother you an awful lot, if you’re so secure in your identity.”

        Yup it was twenty minutes of being insanely annoyed followed by laughing at myself and recognizing I was doing the same shit I tell my friends to shrugg off. So I shrugged it off and decided to have some fun with thanking the writer for showing me how silly I was before. I may have overdone the sarcasm a bit, but I was feeling dramatic. I really wasn’t going to respond to these, but dammit, I’m at home working and got alittle bored.

        “I’m not asking you this to upset you in any way, but are you sure this is really what you want? It absolutely is possible to unlearn this type of erotic response, and to learn new ones based in equality – you might actually find that benefited you”

        Nah I tried, I like this better. When I go looking around for literotica I can’t do anything but giggle at the softer stuff.

        if you find it difficult to find men who can be sufficiently dominant for you. I’d be genuinely concerned you might otherwise end up feeling you need to get involved in more hardcore BDSM, which can be dangerous –

        I appreciate your concern but I’m a great judge of character and pretty big into safety. I’m poly but poly only with trusted people in long term “relationships” which I put in quotes because its not romantic relationships. I’m just not a romantic person (probably why I don’t enjoy romantic sex) but again, i don’t judge those who do. It’d be cool to get into candles and rose petals and romantic music. Just not my thing.

        I’m not just saying this, I’m thinking of others who’ve related their experiences.

        Yes I’ve known those too. Typically those who feel the need to walk into sex clubs without trusted people with them, or find people on the internet without telling friends around them where they are going. This is precisely why I don’t like articles like the one above. Things like this should be talked about positively for THOSE WHO WANT IT. Why? Because they will do it anyway, that is human nature, and many are not smart enough to do it safely. Instead of telling women like me not do it. Build the ones who don’t want it up to not needing it and educate the ones who do want it into doing it safely. ESPECIALLY those who want it for alot of the reasons the OP talks about above. I’ve known women in BDSM circles who were badly beaten either as children or adults and now this is what they need to get off. Lets not tell them that they should change what they want (something that can be impossible for some) and instead teach them to respect themselves and their preferences enough to do it safely. Something that I’ve watched these women figure out slowly. Thankfully I have an amazing ex-husband who keeps track of me whenever I’m meeting someone new, and an amazing roommate who will take over that role for me when he is no longer a part of my life. Other girls don’t have this safety net, but they should feel comfortable telling their friend what they are going to do so that their friends can play that role. Preaching not do do something ever will just put girls in the analogous situation that preaching abstinence to teenagers does.

        • Leo

          And yet here you guys don’t recognize you are using identical arguments to BDSM as the christian right uses toward gays.’

          But BDSM isn’t at all the same thing as homosexuality. Though plenty of Radical Lesbian Feminists would say they DID choose their sexuality, actually.

          ‘Also all sorts of cool social constructs that could fix this if we do away with the idea of monogamy. An outdated and silly ritual if there ever was one.’

          Just great. So, those for whom monogamy is really important, too bad, get used to doing without that, too, if you want a relationship. I don’t care if people want to be in polygamous relationships, but some people prefer monogamous ones – and I’d tend to guess it’s possibly more women who would, at least if the stories I’ve heard of men bullying their partners into an open or polygamous relationship are representative.

          ‘Not at all “need”. You are confusing right and wrong with preference. I don’t give a damn what other men who I am not sleeping with are like with other women so long as they aren’t doing things the women don’t want.’

          That’s what I meant – that you yourself feel you need it.

          ‘Wait what? Now grabbing someone passionately is a problem? Women grab men passionately all the time? How do you people have sex without any passionate grabbing? I’m going to assume you didn’t think this one through and leave it at that….’

          How is that what I said? I put ‘passion’ in quotation marks. No, I do not think grabbing someone roughly is Ok, or particularly passionate. I don’t see how hurting someone is a loving act. I did give an example, to illustrate how women learn to eroticise this.

          ‘If this is true why are all you Alices finding it so hard to find men? According to everyone here nearly all men believe this is not only acceptable but expected, its why you can’t find anyone to be in relationships with?’

          We’re not saying BDSM is totally mainstream, though practices from it may certainly become (and quite possibly are becoming) more so. We’re saying male dominance is mainstream. If an Alice wants to date a man who really fully sees women as equals, not something to use to get off (and this involves caring about how he sees other women, too), not someone there to meet whatever sexual desires he has, perform this and that sex act, that could, well, certainly do with being easier.

          And the sex pozzis are really unhelpful here, because their attitude is so much about being open to exploration – it makes it harder to say ‘no, I don’t want to’ and have that accepted.

          ‘Because they will do it anyway, that is human nature, and many are not smart enough to do it safely.’

          That’s really victim blaming. I see this so much from BDSM practitioners, they’ll blame the ones who get hurt. Some community. Though I’ll accept you did at least acknowledge there can be issues, which is much better than those who deny it altogether.

          I’m troubled that below you say ‘there are very safe ways of choking a person, there are also horrifically dangerous ways’. My understanding was that even within the BDSM community, ‘breathplay’ was considered controversial and risky.

          ‘I’ve known women in BDSM circles who were badly beaten either as children or adults and now this is what they need to get off.’

          Yes, this is the kind of thing that worries us. I think there are more important things than getting off, and healing from trauma in a healthy way, instead of endlessly re-enacting it, is one of them.

          I live in the UK. Stuff like this makes me really glad I don’t live in the US, it does seem worse over there, in terms of gender equality.

          But evidently, you’re not going to see it our way. I’ll at least say, it’s not your behaviour we’re mostly concerned with, it’s men’s. Any comparison with paedophilia isn’t falling on you, just in case that wasn’t clear, but on them.

          To change this, we really need to make bigger changes – it’s not just ‘tell people not to do this’ but to create a situation of social equality, so dominance doesn’t become eroticised to start with. Oh, and romance doesn’t have to involve conventional gestures, rose petals and all that, those don’t really appeal or make sense to me, either.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            “But BDSM isn’t at all the same thing as homosexuality. Though plenty of Radical Lesbian Feminists would say they DID choose their sexuality, actually.”

            Well actually the science does seem to favor that women’s are dictated much more by choice and social conditions than men’s are, but I was trying to avoid getting yelled at for being homophobic by claiming women have a choice since obviously we get to be pretty complicated in our sexual preferences.

            “Just great. So, those for whom monogamy is really important, too bad, get used to doing without that, too, if you want a relationship. I don’t care if people want to be in polygamous relationships, but some people prefer monogamous ones – and I’d tend to guess it’s possibly more women who would, at least if the stories I’ve heard of men bullying their partners into an open or polygamous relationship are representative.”

            The ones I’ve seen it work in its been mutual. If everyone involved is open an honest it works, usually its actually done by people who are trying to fix an unfixble problem which is what you have obviously seen. I’ve seen it go badly too, again, just different strokes for different folks. I was just throwing it out there as another possibility is all. No one should be bullied into it and I’ve seen it go both ways. Its just as bad when the women bullies the man into it. But thats an argument for a different place. The main point just being there are many ways to solve problems and for some this could do it. But if thats not for you then thats fine, but why should Alice’s get to dictate what forms of relationships are acceptable as compared to people who don’t share Alice’s preferences? Do you really want a society that involves everyone only doing what the middle 50% want for fear of offending anyone? I will simply point to my response C.K. Egbert as an extension to my response on that topic.

            “How is that what I said? I put ‘passion’ in quotation marks. No, I do not think grabbing someone roughly is Ok, or particularly passionate. I don’t see how hurting someone is a loving act. I did give an example, to illustrate how women learn to eroticise this.”

            So where is this line then. Grabbing someone roughly isn’t hurting a person. Even people with very low pain tolerances can agree that a grab around the waist and pulling a person toward them causes no pain. Now the question then becomes in this perfect world where no one enjoys anything rough how do you imagine sex working. “may I please touch you” “why, yes good sir please do, here is a list I’ve worked out of what is acceptable”. That may work for you, and I’m willing to bet that in alot of cases where women have been badly hurt by sex that becomes a medical (mentally) necessity, but legislating that is very different than asking a partner for it. Legislating that a contract (vocal or written) needs to be drawn up before every sex act is going to ruin the fun for people. Drawing that all they way to passionate grabbing is even more extreme. Who gives you the right to tell others that they can’t be grabbed passionately? You have every right to tell your partners not to do it and certainly every write to flip out on any man that does it to you without your permission, but what right do you have to dictate what my partners do to me?

            “We’re not saying BDSM is totally mainstream, though practices from it may certainly become (and quite possibly are becoming) more so. We’re saying male dominance is mainstream. If an Alice wants to date a man who really fully sees women as equals, not something to use to get off (and this involves caring about how he sees other women, too), not someone there to meet whatever sexual desires he has, perform this and that sex act, that could, well, certainly do with being easier.”

            Dating isn’t easy for anyone and this spans the line of Alices all the way up through hard core BDSM practitioners. Also remember that what happens in the bedroom and what happens in a relationship are often quite different. Our society links them together. I blame this on religious people and millennia of evolution where women did in fact need a man to help raise children. But now we are to a point where we can get past this. Some of the most caring husbands I’ve ever seen did enjoy pretty rough sex but they adore their spouses in a way I can only hope to be adored some day. If a man listens to everything you say, makes you happy in every way, does hobbies with you, make you think, loves you and spends every day making you happy thats what matters! Find a man that loves you for who you are and treats you like the awesome person you are and I’m guessing suddenly what happens in bedroom becomes naturally agreed upon regardless of preferences. The problem you bring up here isn’t that men are assholes in the bedroom, its that men are assholes. This is very different argument, one we would be far more likely to be on the same side of but its also not something you can legislate away or fix by getting rid of porn, strip clubs, alcohol, or sexualizing women. See the middle east for a rather extreme example.

            “That’s really victim blaming. I see this so much from BDSM practitioners, they’ll blame the ones who get hurt. Some community.

            No its not. I’m not a victim and I’m going to do it anyway. Nor are some friends of mine who have no history of abuse, healthy monogamous relationships. They aren’t going to stop because you tell them to. But they will admit that they did some very dangerous things by not knowing better when they first started. Mainly I’ve seen this come up with ropes.

            “Though I’ll accept you did at least acknowledge there can be issues, which is much better than those who deny it altogether””

            Yup, I disagree with everyone :-). But really I just disagree with extremist views because its usually tough to see the flaws in your own arguments, and I’m certainly not immune to this. But seriously, just keep in mind you can’t judge everyone by the people who do it badly. I’d never heard of BDSM used as therapy and this horrifies me to an extent I can’t even explain, so many bad therapists in this world.

            “I’m troubled that below you say ‘there are very safe ways of choking a person, there are also horrifically dangerous ways’. My understanding was that even within the BDSM community, ‘breathplay’ was considered controversial and risky.”

            Oh sorry, breathplay wasn’t what I meant at all! Hmm better way to word it…..I wasn’t talking about breath constriction or anything like that. That was what I was lumping into the unsafe things. I meant like just holding the neck a bit but not constricting at all. We do this in martial arts all the time. You can pull people around very easily without ever hurting them but it gives you alot of control. Watch a jiujitsu tournament someday and you’ll see what I mean. A guy ever tries to tie a rope around my neck, and I think he’ll be on the ground crying with his balls in his hand before he even knows what happened.

            “Yes, this is the kind of thing that worries us. I think there are more important things than getting off, and healing from trauma in a healthy way, instead of endlessly re-enacting it, is one of them.”

            For some I definitely agree. Again, the idea of using it as therapy is really really really f*cking scary. That therapist should have their licence revoked. But using it as therapy and doing something that you find enjoyable despite your past are different. I know the women you are talking about, the ones that go from abusive relationship to abusive relationship and are only doing things because their partner wants them too. Its unhealthy and sadly you do see it and you see men who take advantage of it. I know that your social circles are likely to attract that type and so you see in constantly. But there are women who have overcome the trauma of the abuse, and now they are super secure and strong people who are just enjoying life and this happens to be one facet, no different than mine. So again, trying to legislate against preferences becomes scary when you start talking about where that rabbit hole leads. You legislate to protect the women who can’t protect themselves, and perhaps push those borderline people into dangerous situations because it becomes underground. Instead of being able to find “normal” men who happen to be willing to engage them in their preferences they are attracted to people who are willing to break the law to have sex. Can we see where that gets really scary really fast? People keep accusing me of victim blaming when I say things like that, but what I’m saying is we are taking something that isn’t hurting a women (letting her engage in legal consensual practices) and making it illegal. The choice of people she will have is going to plummet, and the people who are left are going to be shadier by the very nature of them being willing to do illegal things. It scares me for the both groups of people we are discussing here. If a women is driven to do something, shouldn’t we let her do it in the safest way possible?

            “I live in the UK. Stuff like this makes me really glad I don’t live in the US, it does seem worse over there, in terms of gender equality.”

            We are so big the more fair comparison is to all of Europe. You still probably beat us out, if for no reason than you get all the Norwegian countries. Some places are really bad which gives us all a bad rep. I love SoCal though. Safe choices are endless. I just wish some of the things weren’t quite so underground. Its precisely why this article bothered me. Personally I don’t do the BDSM scene. I don’t like sex with strangers, but I do have friends and acquaintances who do, and there are alot of people who don’t know what they are doing. Its like teenager who have never been taught how to have sex not knowing about condoms. They are like the teenagers of BDSM doing things that aren’t safe because they don’t know any better. Sex positive feminists are teaching women how to do things safely so they can explain it to the men who are arguably of a bit more likely to involve in risky behavior by the very nature of their biology. Articles like this scare me that we could undo that good and put people who don’t know any better in risky situations. It reminds me of our “South” talking about how they don’t want teenagers to get pregnant and condoms aren’t 100% effective so they instead preach abstinence. Horrendous idea, guess where our highest rate of teen pregnancy is? The idea that thoughts like this article could become mainstream scares me for those with preferences like myself, but who may not have as good of a grasp on personal safety. Legislating against consensual behavior has been shown over and over again not to stop it, but to send it underground making it expensive and dangerous. Which isn’t even touching on the idea of “should we legislate free will and where does that take us” which I’ve already harped on above.

            “at least say, it’s not your behaviour we’re mostly concerned with, it’s men’s. Any comparison with paedophilia isn’t falling on you, just in case that wasn’t clear, but on them.”

            But by legislating what men are allowed to do to me if I ask them to, how is that not limiting my choice? What about a man who isn’t at all interested in rough sex/BDSM but does it for their significant other? Because that happens. A friend briefly dated a guy who played switch because he preferred submissive so they’d go back and forth since in reality they were both submissive. By arguing that no violence should ever be allowed in the bedroom, you were arguing that that relationship should have been illegal? What good does that do? Why should we be allowed to tell them that they can’t spank each other? Why should we compare their actions to paedophilia? What does the idea of limiting peoples free will to engage in mutually consensual behavior say about us as human beings? Do we really want to live in a world where all choices are dictated by that of law?

            “To change this, we really need to make bigger changes – it’s not just ‘tell people not to do this’ but to create a situation of social equality, so dominance doesn’t become eroticised to start with. Oh, and romance doesn’t have to involve conventional gestures, rose petals and all that, those don’t really appeal or make sense to me, either.”

            I’d agree with the bigger changes part, but perhaps put more emphasis on mutual respect than choosing what to or not to eroticised. People will make anything erotic. See Japanese tentacle porn for proof, but if people just respected the word no then women wouldn’t be afraid to use it. I get the situations that have driven people to see things like this original article. Having to stand up to a guy and say “no I’m not going to do that sucks”, having to say it twice even more so. I don’t think there are very many women out there, myself included that haven’t had to do that. But men want us, and that puts us in a position of unspeakable power and telling women that they need to have a law dictating what they are allowed to choose to do in the bedroom takes so much of that power away. Its like making us check the box that says we are female on a math exam. It sets people up to feel powerless. I don’t want my theoretically possible future daughters to be told that they need the government to protect them from themselves, which is exactly the subliminal message that comes through anything taking away a women’s choice of what is to be done to her own body.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            oops just realized I forgot to mention the rose petals thing, yeah I know, I was trying to avoid the word “normal’ because I don’t like using such terminology since normal has weird connotations of correctness. Also given my experience and probably yours maybe that isn’t really “normal”? I didn’t like “mutual pleasurable” like in the OP because what I have is mutually pleasurable, I gave up and just started using “normal” though. Maybe “conventional” would be better? Or “Alice’s type” I don’t know, bleh to the English language and all its limitations.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        So I did write a point by point response to this, but your mods appear to have erased it, as I have no idea why, and have better things to do than rewrite it just to possibly have it deleted again since I don’t know what was so wrong with it in the first place, I guess I won’t be responding :-(. Same thing to C.K.Egbert’s below.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Hey there,
          Haven’t erased anything. Will check the spam folder — otherwise please feel free to repost.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            totally my fault: not used to moderated forums and combined with a weird thing from using a different browser it made it look like half of them disappeared after 5 hours or so rather than “awaiting moderation”

          • Meghan Murphy

            No worries. Sorry, I try to moderate as quickly as possible.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Thank you for your thought-provoking and honest response. My intention was not to shame women who engage in these practices; instead, it was to help people to critically reflect upon the ethical and political implications of these practices.

      Like other feminists, I don’t think whatever happens behind closed doors and in peoples’ bedrooms is immune from critique or that it doesn’t impact other areas of our lives; in fact, it is central to whether we are seen and treated as human beings. The closeting of sexuality into the “private sphere” is a major reason why sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence and the more insidious forms of social norms (such as the fact that women do not think they are entitled to sexual pleasure) have been so difficult to address. This is why women remain unequal even though we can become educated and climb the social ladder–the protected sphere of the private is where women can still be dominated, and hurt, in the most intimate ways possible. If we could not critique peoples’ sexuality, we could never critique anything about rape culture or men’s sense of entitlement to women, because men often consider the ability to dominate, control, hurt, and use women central to their sexual identity and their identity as men (consider how and why men feel emasculated by an assertive woman).

      I know that a lot of BDSM practitioners believe that they are a minority sexuality; however, it is merely an extension of the social-sexual norms (the normalization and sexualization of abuse, coercion, and submission). We don’t internalize these norms only via pornography because these constitute the social-sexual norms into which we are socialized from the beginning (consider, for example, socialization into male sexual aggression via the trope of a man, often in spite of her lack of interest, doggedly pursuing a woman).

      This is not about women’s agency, but the conditions under which women exhibit their agency. There is no denying that women have been coerced into these practices, have been seriously harmed by them, and that women sometimes engage in these practices because they’ve never been told they are entitled to anything else. Women who reject these norms–who actually want sex to be mutual, respectful, and pleasurable–are consistently shamed, called insane and sexually repressed and unreasonable, and denied the opportunity to engage in romantic relationships or else coerced into sexual behaviors they do not enjoy and do not want. I hope that you can learn to be empathetic towards those women as well.

      As a last note, yes, I’m a silly blogger who will never write a law and never be in a position of power. But Catharine MacKinnon was instrumental in creating sexual harassment law, and thus I think that her critiques of consent (upon which mine are based) warrant serious consideration.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        ” My intention was not to shame women who engage in these practices;”

        And I absolutely believe you. The danger of writing things like this on sites like this though is that there is never anyone to disagree with you and that is a scary situation. I actually don’t think I would have even bothered posting something on this until I read through the comments and saw not a single person calling you out on the fact that you were making the exact same arguments about people like me that the republicans…er I mean christian right makes toward gay people. Writing in a place where people will all just agree is dangerous. You didn’t see that you were shaming people (and just for clarification, again I’m using shame here in the same way people use “slut shaming” not personally shamed since apparently that didn’t come through in my original reply to some people, I thought it was a common enough phrase to not need clarification).

        “Like other feminists, I don’t think whatever happens behind closed doors and in peoples’ bedrooms is immune from critique or that it doesn’t impact other areas of our lives; in fact, it is central to whether we are seen and treated as human beings.”

        Yet critiquing is very different from declaring it harmful to others. Also declaring that people shouldn’t act on their sexual preferences because someone else has different ones is….I don’t know how to put this in a non combative way but frankly insulting. Should men expect women to want to be tied up and slapped around a bit? Absolutely not. Do they have the right to tell me “no they don’t want to” if I request it? Absolutely. But if I ask for it, are you really telling me men should say “no I respect you too much to honor your wishes even though I’d enjoy it and you claim you would too”? Should they really make that decision for me? That patronizing and insulting. This issue you bring up is valid, men shouldn’t expect it, but fixing it by telling no one to do something many many people enjoy? That will run into the exact same fundamental problems that abstinence education does by writing articles like this and god forbid making such beliefs mainstream, you closet BDSM practitioners. This is dangerous. People don’t know how to tie knots properly (there are very safe ways of choking a person, there are also horrifically dangerous ways), they don’t know how much is too much pain, don’t know how to safely practice cutting type things (something I feel is a horrifically bad idea, but again, why judge when you can educate and make people safe).

        I know that a lot of BDSM practitioners believe that they are a minority sexuality; however, it is merely an extension of the social-sexual norms (the normalization and sexualization of abuse, coercion, and submission). We don’t internalize these norms only via pornography because these constitute the social-sexual norms into which we are socialized from the beginning (consider, for example, socialization into male sexual aggression via the trope of a man, often in spite of her lack of interest, doggedly pursuing a woman).

        Remember not everyone is you and your circle. Not everyone has had bad experience with men, I do have empathy for those who do (sadly many of my friends would fall into the “daddy issue” sort), but I also don’t think that those people have a right to tell men what they can and can’t do to me. You have no more right to say its unacceptable for men to refuse to tie me to a bed, than I have to tell you that you have to be willing to be tied to a bed. I think giving up that control is freeing, you don’t. I could call you a control freak (which I don’t believe btw, also it would be pot/kettle because in real life I am one), you could call me weak. But neither would be true. Its simply preferences regardless of where they developed from. And while you can help the people who have entered into this world under bad premises no one who claims to be a feminist should say that women shouldn’t be allowed to have what they want in bed simply because others don’t want it. Thats not being a feminist.

        “Women who reject these norms–who actually want sex to be mutual, respectful, and pleasurable–are consistently shamed, called insane and sexually repressed and unreasonable”

        So empower women not to feel that way, hate the men who say things like that. But also accept that sometimes mutually pleasurable means having very rough sex. Porn is obviously a bad way to judge bdsm here. Thats not what its really like. A good Dom does what he knows the women want and is smart enough to know what that is. She doesn’t have to tell him he figures it out and does it. Whips and chains and tying are a part of that, but its not because the man enjoys it, a good dom does it because the women enjoys it. Just like anything its the jerkfaces out there who ruin this. There are alot of bad doms, and a lot of weak women willing to give into that. But don’t judge everyone by the bad ones and don’t tell women who DO enjoy it that they can’t just because other women haven’t been able to stand up and say no, or haven’t been willing to take the consequences of not wanting it. Most men don’t like me because I have a strong personality (I’m argumentative, smart, and not exactly “girly”, I can actually beat up alot of guys :-D, again hobbies), but would it be right of me to suggest that other women be more like me so men get used to that and I can have a better chance at a successful relationship? My friends have a tough time finding guys who aren’t afraid of their high education level, should all women be required to get Ph.D.s so that they can find guys who aren’t intimidated by them?

        “As a last note, yes, I’m a silly blogger who will never write a law and never be in a position of power”

        hmm in hindsight that was kinda a mean comment. I apologize. All grad students think they’ll be powerful someday. Its not till after getting the damn piece of paper that you realize it was kinda worthless. I’m just a silly scientist who will probably never cure a disease……

        • C.K. Egbert

          Strongly Submissive: If you empathize with women who have been harmed and coerced, you need to be aware of the ways in which what you say sounds very victim-blaming.

          “There are alot of bad doms, and a lot of weak women willing to give into that. But don’t judge everyone by the bad ones and don’t tell women who DO enjoy it that they can’t just because other women haven’t been able to stand up and say no, or haven’t been willing to take the consequences of not wanting it.”

          It sounds from what you’ve said that “good doms” basically do not engage in any consensual activity; they just do what they “think” the woman wants–but there is either consent or there isn’t, and if there isn’t consent (actively and explicitly expressed, because consent has to be communicated) then it is rape. You undermine your own position that this is about respecting women’s autonomy if you don’t think it even necessary to ensure that the woman has explicitly, voluntarily, and without coercion requested everything that occurs in the sexual encounter.

          You are telling women that they are “weak” if they don’t tell men no; but once again, you are making it the woman’s responsibility to force the man to stop (which, based upon BDSM practices, she may be physically unable to do, or she may be frightened given that she is being physically abused or tortured, etc…), rather than blaming the man for aggressing upon and coercing women (and by calling them “weak” you are degrading victims of violence).

          “Haven’t been willing to take the consequences of not wanting it” I’m not sure what you mean by this, except to say that if it a woman doesn’t want it and it happens anyway, she should suffer the consequences because she didn’t say no? Once again, if a woman didn’t say “yes,” it was rape. It is wrong to blame a woman for being coerced or harmed by someone else, and to blame women for the (understandable and legitimate) trauma that they experience as a result.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            “If you empathize with women who have been harmed and coerced, you need to be aware of the ways in which what you say sounds very victim-blaming”

            We also need to be careful of not taking a fear of victim blaming so far as to create more victims be forgetting to tell impressionable girls that they are awesome. You and I can have a conversation about this and see that this is the hypothetical guy we are totally strawmanning here’s fault. And as people strong in our identity we can do this without any risk of feeling like we are making ourselves out to be weak. But, what about a 14 year old girl reading this? Have you seen that amazing video about what does “like a girl” mean where the young girls don’t realize that “throwing like a girl” “running like a girl” is bad? Its awesome :-). But by telling girls that they need the government to limit their choices because they cant be trusted to make them because men are so powerful that they can convince us to like things we don’t…..we could be creating a dangerous self fufilling prophecy. People are afraid of saying that women should stand up for themselves because it sounds like victim blaming. But by legislating women’s choice we are doing the same things to ourselves that men have been doing to us forever, why punish women for the sins of man, again, isn’t that what men do?

            “It sounds from what you’ve said that “good doms” basically do not engage in any consensual activity; they just do what they “think” the woman wants–but there is either consent or there isn’t, and if there isn’t consent (actively and explicitly expressed, because consent has to be communicated) then it is rape. You undermine your own position that this is about respecting women’s autonomy if you don’t think it even necessary to ensure that the woman has explicitly, voluntarily, and without coercion requested everything that occurs in the sexual encounter.”

            So when you have sex do you only ever do what the guy explicitly asks you to? Or do you judge what they enjoy from body language, noises? I assume in your “mutually enjoyable sex” you are also doing some things to make him happy right? And have you always clearly laid out exactly what those rules are? Exactly how and what he likes to have touched and how? Which fantasies are ok to talk about? In “normal” sex, I’ve never felt the need to do that. For either one of us. I’ve never listed out which a parts of my body they are allowed to touch for “normal” sex. We figure it out and if we don’t like something we say so or move body parts to imply that we want something different. He hits a part thats ticklish I tell him and he stops. Introducing aspects of control and BDSM doesn’t change that too much. You talk about the biggies and the little things you figure out. Turns out that toy gives an unpleasant sensation, “oh I really liked that other toy better”, don’t like how handcuff feels “how about you let me out so I can ……” He’s not getting the hint “safeword, yo knock it off that isn’t fun”. I know alot of people in the life style and they are always able to talk throughout so if something comes up they don’t enjoy they are able to express that in one way or another and it stops. There are simple ways of wording questions that judge enjoyment levels without ruining D/s dynamics. Anybody capable of normal human interaction knows that though. Its no different just because sex is involved and only mildly different when low level bdsm things are involved. Obviously as the level of preventing communication increases, the level of pre-communication increases. But you know all this, this is standard pro-bdsm discussions, so I’m not sure why you bothered attacking this argument knowing what I’d say in response :-).

            “You are telling women that they are “weak” if they don’t tell men no; but once again, you are making it the woman’s responsibility to force the man to stop (which, based upon BDSM practices, she may be physically unable to do, or she may be frightened given that she is being physically abused or tortured, etc…), rather than blaming the man for aggressing upon and coercing women (and by calling them “weak” you are degrading victims of violence).”

            It is never her responsibility to force a man to stop, it is definitely her responsibility to ask him to stop. I’m most certainly not saying women should have to physically defend herself. Lets face it, men are actually physically stronger then us in most cases. Stupid testosterone.

            Most BDSM doesn’t actually include things that stop people from talking. The few that do usually have huge amounts of safety nets….blah blah blah standard BDSM defense lines.You know all that. That is not the point, this is not a discussion of BDSM safety practices, of which there are many if done right by people properly educated about its practices. Its a comment on whether we are willing to let women choose what happens to their own bodies. Whether we are admitting defeat to men and admitting that we’ve let them beat us down so dramatically that we can’t be trusted to make our own decisions. Whether we want to live in a world that tells women they can’t decide their own sex lives, that they can’t decide what is best for themselves, that tells women they are too weak to be trusted to make their own decisions because men made them that way. I don’t want to live in a world that takes away my rights because of what men have done to other women. I can’t believe that anyone who speak for women rights would let men’s activities dictate our own.

          • huha

            Ugh, no. Telling women that they shouldn’t put up with abusive men is calling them “weak”? What you seem to be arguing for is to tell women and girls that if they take and put up with (and like?) abuse and pain inflicted on them they are “strong”?
            You sound like a seriously disturbed individual.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            You obviously did not read what I wrote correctly at all.

            I’m telling women that they shouldn’t tell me what to put up with. If a women doesn’t want to have violent sex than she absolutely should not do it, but she also shouldn’t tell me what I can do.

            I’m telling women to do what they want to do, and encourage others to do what the other people want to do and stop judging each other. Life is hard enough being judged by guys why do we need to do it to each other.

    • Lizor

      Wow. You must really be strong. I mean, you use the words “strong” and “strength” in reference to yourself, well… I lost count. So good for you with all your strength and, I can only assume, your position of power and influence. Too bad all of that privilege, and again, I assume, advanced education has not instilled in you the notion that others don’t share your advantage and are in fact subject to degrading exploitive manipulation by non-emasculated (to use your telling terminology) men. Too bad you don’t seem to get that the world does not end at the tip of your satiated clit and that not all social critiques are about you and your special strength. Some of use were raised to believe that we are disposable prices of crap that are only valuable as far as we may be used as a receptacle for someone else’s contempt. Yup, you’re lucky to have dodged that experience and it IS luck, not your mythical “strength” ( which apparently crumbles at the first articulation of social analysis, but do carry on with your mantra). In fact, from where I sit, the real strength is found in those individuals who where not buoyed up by all of that “strength”-making, but who manage to make a life and articulate truthful observations based on their own lived experience, plus that of other women, in conjunction with extensive consideration of social hierarchies and their multifarious enactments and iterations.

      You’re right, C.K. may not be making laws or setting the latest wanking fetishes, but I am far more inspired by the strength of her ideas than yours – particularly this sickeningly narcissistic turn : “I finally understood what mt gay friends endured…”. No. No you do not understand that. I wonder if through all of your “strength” you have any inkling whatsoever of how offensive is that statement.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        So here is my question for you then. Since you were not propped up by the privilege that I was, you get to make a comment on the appropriateness of my sexual choices? I think you missed the point of me explaining my background. It was to explain that not everyone have had shitty experiences not to rub it in your face. And no, no power and influence, I’m a cog in a machine just like everyone else. I wouldn’t be here if I got any real say about such things. I’m happy with that though. Its simple :-). That isn’t the point of explaining my background though, people with rough backgrounds forget that there are actually non-damaged women out there, and I needed to point out that I was one of those so you wouldn’t try telling me that really it was because I had a bad father or first boyfriend or watched too much violence on TV. I was trying very hard to preempt “you poor thing you don’t even know how damaged you are”. Guess I went to far. Lots of people have bad experiences and thats terrible and many of my great friends are among those, yet I don’t tell them what to like in the bedroom. Why should they get to tell me? I think you guys all missed why I had to explain my background, it was to point out that there are healthy people out there that enjoy the things you are berating. Why is that a difficult thing to believe? Especially given how much of ourselves are genetically encoded. I am about 90% sure that much of my preferences were there from birth and expect a decade down the line that genes for “being turned on by…..:{sweeping generalizable things}” will be discovered. And why should someone who had a bad experience have the right to dictate what men can and can’t do to me? This isn’t about my empathy for other women who don’t enjoy such things. This is about saying bad things about those that do.

        Lets define what acceptable sex is.

        Lets say for the sake of argument you’ve changed my mind. I now see the errors of my ways and I see that my allowing a man to toss me around a bit was degrading to my friend who have had a rougher life than me. You’ve convinced me with your bitterness toward my happy life that I was wrong and in fact should change all of my sexual practices to make up for those whom had a less happy life. So now draw me a list of what I am and am not allowed to do. Obviously I am too privileged to be trusted to make my own decisions on this matter. If you are drawing the line at “violence”, what is violence? I’m going to guess that everyone on this little blog would agree that whips, hair pulling and spanking would fit into this? Yes? ok… so now what about someone grabbing a girl’s wrist? Do we draw the line at marks? Do we draw the line in that she can’t pull away easily, so maybe the wrist is simply too controlling, maybe wrists should only be touchable not holdable? What about grabbing a hand? Arguably that could be just as violent as grabbing a wrist, yet in most circles I think they call that intimate, maybe even sweet? I know I’ve used it to help out guys that were of the sweeter romantic variety get off, but also had it used on me to mean the opposite. The difference here between passion in control is tough. So where does this line drawn. Touching is ok, but squeezing isn’t perhaps? I know I’ve squeezed romantic partners hands though, and maybe even held them for a moment before they pulled away was that me controlling my boyfriend, since thats wrong too? Where is what I do in my bedroom setting a bad example for men when they move on to the next woman?

        Besides physical contact which as a women with a healthy background in life, I obviously can’t be trusted to decide on, I would also like help figuring out lights. See I’ve never cared about lighting. I have alot of flaws physically (don’t we all have things we hate) but I trust that if a guy wants the lights on, he is ok with those flaws. I know that my less secure friends disagree with this, they want lights off. Explain to me what to do in this situation? Because men looking at women in a sexual manner is obviously on some level looking at her as an object is it not? I have to think that is actually a point we can all agree on (and I mean really agree on, not just in this hypothetical, the debate of course would be on if that is a bad thing or not). So, should I tell men to turn the light off? Since by allowing them to leave it on they are more likely to expect it from future partners who may not be ok with someone seeing their physical flaws? It took me along time to get over mine, and I know some of my friends haven’t quite made it there yet, so I want to be sensitive to that? As the experts I want to defer to your judgement here. Also I think we should lay some guidelines for locations. I have alot of exhibitionists acquaintances. But that makes me very uncomfortable and I’ve definitely had guys who repeatedly asked for it because of past encounters. I don’t like the idea of getting caught so I’ve always said no. I never realized I should have been offended, but again, for the sake of argument, now I realized I should be because all those women before me caused me to have to tell the man no, and we can’t be expecting women to have to say no. So in this case should I start talking to them about how they shouldn’t do that, because all of us silly people who don’t like having sex in public? I mean really, to me thats super degrading that they wouldn’t want the comfort of a bed and would prefer a backseat of a car where we can’t even really get comfortable? Should I tell those people that they should have more empathy for me because I can’t stand this and having to tell a guy no I don’t want to makes me seem like a prude (of course I don’t really care about having to tell him no, but the point stands that others like me might).

        So write me a set of rules for all women kind that outlines “acceptable” sex that is empathetic to everyone who believe sex should be nothing but gentle. Because while none of you have shown me any empathy in my preferences, I’m going to attempt to see it from your perspective. However just saying, “your preferences aren’t acceptable” leaves alot of things very open ended and as a newly converted “consent is not enough feminist” I would not know which of my preferences I should change. Using your logic I have no idea when I need to base my decisions on the insecurities of others. So help me and those people who are on the fence about whether to continue living sexual lives they are happy with, or instead change everything about theirs so that you never have to tell a man “no”.

        Also is doggy style allowed? I’ve heard thats a pretty common porn thing (I’m not big into porn so I don’t really know) and it always seems like thats more degrading than most positions, so again, in deference to all of you who have had to tell a guy that you wanted things gentle and feel you shouldn’t have to tell men these preferences I just need to be sure to get it right because I just am not sure what is and isn’t setting a bad example for men?

        Also as a side note: I was obviously only using that “thank you” set up to point out how ridiculous it is to make the exact same arguments as the very people most of you hate. It seemed more fun to make a letter out of it than just argue so I started with that. So now can someone please explain why it is ok for you guys to use the same arguments that your political enemies (well mine too since we are on the same page here) do to persecute homosexuals? In hindsight instead of the silly thank you letter I should have messed around with the “search and replace” button on word to turn it into a christian railing against gays message instead with as few replacements as possible. It would have been a fun experiment to see how many replacements it took. I think I could have done it in under 10 for sure, maybe even five if I was careful. At this rate, I may still have to if I’m going to get a good answer to my original point instead of just telling me that I need to have more empathy. Switching topics is not going to change the fact that you are using christian right arguing tactics and just not seeing the level of offense because it isnt aimed at you.

        Attacking me for being arrogant (which btw, when did feminists start putting women down for believing that women are capable? Even ones without a perfect life? Believing that women are naturally as strong as men and that we should encourage that, that we are strong enough to tell men no? I thought that was men’s job to tell us we are weak and broken and need others to watch out for us?) is not going to change the fact that this article is telling women that she should change what she does in bed because some women don’t want to/can’t tell a guy “no” isn’t any different than telling women stuck in a mans body that she shouldn’t bother having a sex change because that will make people around her uncomfortable. That if enough people undergo sex changes, guys who are uncomfortable with sleeping with a XY chromosomed individual may actually have to ask people up front about their sex? Should we expect men to have to ask that question? Why should they be put in an uncomfortable position of stating their preferences? Are you telling me she and those like her would be selfish because she would be very likely to make the people around her uncomfortable? Of course not, you’d rightfully call those people around her bigot because thats what they are. Who are they to judge what she does with her own body, why should she not get what she wants so men can trust that anyone with a vagina has always been a biological female? Why is it that telling me to change my sexual preferences when I’ve clearly explained I’m happy with them, isn’t any different than telling a gay man to start liking women when he doesn’t want to. Why is that less offensive? That telling me I can’t do something I want while simultaneously making someone whom I’m in a relationship with happy, because someday we might break up and I want to make sure he has “proper” sex with future girlfriends. Seriously? How is any of that different than what the world regularly tells the LGBT community? “Change your preferences for the common good, we can help cure you” Is the “christian” attitude (one that would have any real christ rolling over in his grave, but you know what I mean) and its very much exactly what this article is telling women. So don’t attack me, thats not the point here, if you aren’t ok with me liking myself and my preferences I’m really confused about what you are doing on a feminist blog, but we’ll ignore that for a moment. Just put aside your annoyance with me having a good life and instead explain to me what we should be telling women is acceptable in bed, and the explain to me why you get to make that decision? Because telling someone “you don’t get to have the sex you want to because proper sex is done the way I say it should be done” makes you sound just as arrogant and egotistical as you accuse me of being and personally attacking people on the internet is silly.

        So give me a practical list, I look forward to my list of allowed respectful sex. Be sure to answer the light thing though!!! Even if you get off track by yelling at me in the mean time, because I’m certain you will, thats what I’m most curious about since its certainly the most connected to the issues above. All about us weak insecure women who are only sex objects to men and all.

        And please explain why gay people are allowed to be offended by these style of arguments but I am not. These are my two simple question for you.

        • You just don’t get it, do you Strongly Submissive? I am not going to participate in “defining what is acceptable sex is”. I don’t give a rat’s puckered arsehole about your boring conformist sexy time. You can recite a liturgy of Freidman’s Trickle-down theories, inserting quotations from Paul Bernardo while sporting the worlds largest butt plug: I don’t give a shit. That is not what this conversation is about.

          You refer to yourself approximately two dozen times in your original post as “strong”. Your subsequent comments are preoccupied with some simplistic idea of ‘making women stronger”. You blame women for their traumatic experiences within your community/hobby/practice, attributing that to their weakness. You pull a low cheap power play on C.K. Egbert, inferring that she is inconsequential, a “silly blogger” all the while dodging apt observations of your self –contradiction and incoherence.

          With your shallow ideas of “strength”, your phenomenally long-winded posts mostly focused on talking about yourself, your disregard for the actual topic at hand, not to mention your entire misapprehension of what feminism is about (Strong Women™!!!!!),you sound for all the world like most of the male explainer/trolls I’ve bothered to read and I am seriously wondering if you are being honest in your self-representation here. Are you really concerned that we are going to “emasculate” the men folk so badly that they won’t hurt and humiliate you satisfactorily any more? That’s your concern?

          The blog post is a discussion of social behaviours and you refuse to address that. It is about not “good” and “bad” sexual practices. Those are your terms. “Good” doms are “smart” according to you, but you are conspicuously silent on the bad, dumb ones that are suggested by your own definitions. Of course, that would be a digression from the discussion even if you were present enough to consider it.

          For the most part, I find your response tiresome and predictable. Your sexual practice is a distillation of the fundamental toxic hierarchy of male domination and female submission. This exists inside a context (tellingly reflected in your language) of edification of masculinity and contempt for femininity and it iterates itself in most aspects of our culture. It’s bog common. And it’s not a sexual orientation. You are not an oppressed minority because of your how you like to get off.

          Most importantly: no argument here in any way resembles the condemnation of homosexuality by the religious right. What the fuck are “Christian right arguing tactics”, anyway? I know the Christian Right’s anti-woman/anti-homosexuality arguments and they bear no relation to any position being taken by writers of Feminist Current. What their specific “tactics” are, or their “style” as you put it, I have no idea. Such a charge is incoherent nonsense that might work with a group of people invested in maintaining the status quo or who have very poor language comprehension and communication skills or who have little or no social awareness or critical abilities. If you are going to make such an idiotic and outrageous charge, you’d better back it up with some evidence. Maybe try starting with an acknowledgement of the actual positions of the groups you insist are “the same”.

          What really turned my boredom with your bloviating* into anger was your outrageous assertion that someone writing about the problem of consent (emasculating the smart good doms!!!! Potentially getting between me and my orgasms!!!) is in any way akin to the kind of horrific oppression that gays and lesbians face. Are you really so far up your own ass that you need someone to spell it out for you? Do you need a list of gay teens who have killed themselves in the past five years in North America? Surely to Christ you’ve heard of Matthew Shepard? The Upstairs Lounge Arson? Harvey Milk? Corrective rape? Uganda?. No one gives a shit about your orgasms. We give a shit about being part of a culture that includes erotic practices based on pain, humiliation, violence and contempt of the male for the female, consensual or not. No one is saying what you do is sinful or ungodly. We are talking about a severely traumatized and repressed sexual culture that exists on a spectrum and includes the injury and murder of gay people by men and the genocide of women [primarily] by the men they have sex with. On this blog highly intelligent and extremely well-informed thinkers discuss the multitude of cultural practices that reproduce, enable, and excuse economic and bodily exploitation and brutality by naturalizing them.

          To categorize your cognitive dissonance at being confronted by an insightful consideration of consent and your apparent horror at thinking about the implications of your own reiteration of the toxic hierarchy where men have power and women are objects of disgust (whatever floats your boat but, FFS, don’t get pouty because someone talks about it in context) as anything comparable to the oppression of gay people is an appalling display of narcissism.

          *You write: “Attacking me for being arrogant (which btw, when did feminists start putting women down for believing that women are capable?…”

          Arrogance has nothing to do with being capable. It is a lack of self-reflection, an excess of self-importance and an oblivion to one’s own ignorance.

          • Derrington

            Totally agree, and i have the same questions re self representation. I think this is a man pretending to be a woman. The continual disengagent with the victims of bdsm et al leads me to believe this person lacks any recognition of women or gays as possessing full human rights.

          • This is a man pretending to be a woman. My bet: Probably a smartest-guy-in-the-room, taking bets with his frat pals on how long he can keep feminist women wasting time and energy.

            Let’s have some fun here, Feminist Currents. What’s your bet on what stripe o’ guy he is?

          • Strongly Submissive

            If I were a man pretending to be a women there are far better and more entertaining ways of trolling this forum. Rather than talking about arguments that give power over women to the government I’d be talking about men’s rights, men’s preferences ect…..

            Not that my gender is a damn bit of your business since it doesn’t change the arguments I’ve made about your willingness to give away your power to an entity that has shown to be nothing but discriminatory in the past. An entity that has oppressed homosexuals and inter-racial couples. An entity largely populated by our political foes. But I am a chromosomally female with all associated cis gendered body parts who generally presents herself as female because it makes life simpler and I just don’t care that much. In actuality I don’t self-identify as male or female. I get my identity from my interests, job, my past, my future and my belief system not my chromosomes or sex organs so self-identifying as any gender wouldn’t work for me. Its like telling me to build an identity off my hair color, I can’t wrap my head around it even if I understand its an important thing to other people its just not to me and it shouldn’t be to you either. In a forum such as this, where we are talking about women’s rights, of which society considers me a part of, it makes the most sense to present myself as a cis-gendered female. i didn’t think I needed to give a full disclosure about my gender stance to not be considered a troll. So lets not judge my arguments based on the idea that I could have a penis or a Y chromosome, which I happen not to. Even if I had one, it wouldn’t change the idea that taking away women’s rights to choose what is done to her and hand it over to a government that is largely run by old men and religious fanatics is a bad idea that can and will be exploited.

            “The continual disengagent with the victims of bdsm et al leads me to believe this person lacks any recognition of women or gays as possessing full human rights.”

            Not everyone who is invovled in BDSM is a victim. You cannot claim that someone is a victim when they are involving in mutually consensual activities. Show me proof that all women in the BDSM scene are victims. You also cannot claim that because a few people who do things are victims that we have to outlaw it. Men use marriage as an excuse to convince women into have sex them even in non-violent fashion. Those women are most certainly victims but do you call all married women “victims”. Should we tell women that they are no longer allowed to get married because some men use it as a construct for abusing women?

          • amongster

            “But I am a chromosomally female with all associated cis gendered body parts who generally presents herself as female because it makes life simpler and I just don’t care that much. In actuality I don’t self-identify as male or female. I get my identity from my interests, job, my past, my future and my belief system not my chromosomes or sex organs so self-identifying as any gender wouldn’t work for me. Its like telling me to build an identity off my hair color, I can’t wrap my head around it even if I understand its an important thing to other people its just not to me and it shouldn’t be to you either.”

            this is something only a very privileged person could write. and i have to agree with others here who say it sounds more like you really are a man.
            men can talk like one’s sex was just some detail and not something that determines how the world treats one thanks to gendered socialization. it doesn’t matter if you identify yourself as male or female if the whole world perceives you as the female you are and forces femininity on you.
            you still make the mistake to believe that we don’t deal with structural oppression but claim that our problems could be solved on an individual level by just not choosing to be a victim. unfortunatley you can’t identify yourself out of oppression.

            also, it is strange that you would state here that you don’t get your identity from your chromosomes or sex organs while defending your “innate preference” for bdsm practices and calling yourself “strongly submissive”. sounds like cherry-picking to me.

          • “unfortunatley you can’t identify yourself out of oppression.”

            Truth.

          • Strongly Submissive..

            And see now we get into where attitudes like this lead even when not forced by law.

            First you start by telling women that she shouldn’t enjoy BDSM.

            Later somewhere in here housewives are attacked

            And here you imply it isn’t aright for a women to “cherry-pick” attributes for her identity.

            Are women only allowed to be a mold of what your beliefs about women are?

          • Strongly Submissive.

            Ok so I wasn’t going to touch this because its so completely off topic but, I have to at least point it out.

            “it doesn’t matter if you identify yourself as male or female if the whole world perceives you as the female you are”

            Now if you took me at my word that I don’t care that much, then great, thanks for believing me and ignore the rest of the comment, but I don’t actually think you made that decision before posting the comment….

            Its incredibly insensitive. Be kinder to those who would see it as such. What you’d be telling that person is that because she chooses to present herself as fully female and deal with the female oppression rather than deal with the harsh realities that come with presenting yourself as you really see yourself that you aren’t whom you believe yourself to be. Talk all you want about female oppression but this is nothing compared to their other option, so saying that to someone who identifies more strongly with this sort of thing could actually be a ridiculously insulting comment.

            In reality its just that you identify so strongly with being female that you have no empathy for anyone who doesn’t share this aspect of your identity. I don’t and its probably why you guys keep saying things like “she sounds like man”.

          • bella_cose

            At the risk of basically repeating whatever I wrote earlier, it’s apparent you either don’t have a clue what anyone hear is saying, or you are purposely being obtuse in order to egg us on.

            Personally, I think you sound like a man not because you don’t seem to like stereotypically “feminine” things, or because you’re so “strong”, but because it doesn’t seem like you’ve had any experience with what it’s like to be female. Your complete lack of understanding of the systematic ways women are oppressed, along with your attitude that men can’t help it, so all the responsibility falls to women to be “strong”, is unfathomable to me, if you really are female.

          • Derrington

            How people view people of my gender is important to me as its what got me raped by 5 different men before I’d even reached 16. They all bought into your submission is sexy shit and set up the conditions so that I’d have to submit, by plying me with alcohol or just outnumbering me 4 to 1. I don’t give a shit what you do in your sex life, but when various BDSM sites promote hurting women is fun shit, then I get irate as its dangerous to other people’s human rights. I’m getting bored and tired of talk typing to someone who cannot see past their own rights to where they impact dangerously on women and children’s rights to safety and non degradation. I’m not asking for legislation on what you willingly do in private, I’m asking for that not to be promoted to men who already abuse enough women and children without you egging them on by saying its sexy.

          • Leo

            Starting to think so, too – men always jump to the idea of legislation, and refuse to focus on the social conditions that created the issues. If she’s a woman, she has a fair bit of internalised misogyny, and there’s not much empathy coming across for other women there.

            ‘So lets take someone else “Phuong” a young girl raised with an abusive father who couldn’t handle his alcohol. She watched her mother beaten, lived in an extremely patriarchal family, and learned to do what she was told by men,. She also has severe body issues. She isn’t as thin as her friends, and has a few scars from her childhood. She doesn’t like violent sex and is afraid of anyone who drinks. As her dad typically only became violent after “boys night” she’s always quite afraid of men in groups. She also is frightened to have sex with the lights on because what man would want a women with scars who has belly roles. “Phuong” 115 pounds and emaciated because she starves herself.’

            Ok. I’ll go through this:

            Alcohol does not make people abusive (there’s a discussion of this in Lundy Bancroft’s book ‘Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men’). Alcoholics are not automatically abusive. Phuong’s father’s patriarchal attitudes about the roles of men and women provided the justification, to himself, for his abusive behaviour. His society created and gave him support for these attitudes. Alcohol may heighten that but it is not the cause.

            Why does Phuong have so many body image issues? Where did she learn that she had to be thin, so thin that she became anorexic trying to achieve it, and that her scars made her undesirable? Why are you (as you mentioned earlier) still somewhat concerned about your ‘flaws’?

            I know why my scar (a huge one, from an operation) bothered me – because society taught me, that as a woman, my looks are very important, a part of not just my attractiveness, but my value as a person. That it affects whether I’m worth listening to or not (think of attacks on female politician’s appearance). That ‘ugly’ is a way of totally dismissing a woman, as someone not worth bothering with as a person, not just a potential partner. Because women who don’t conform to patriarchal beauty mandates are treated as failures, in some fundamental way, and are invisibilised (higher standards of attractiveness for women in media, compared to men, even in jobs like newsreading). I can, and am, learning with some success not to give a fuck (a choice that goes along with the system, on the other hand, like wanting the lights out, or ‘wanting’ to be hurt, doesn’t do a thing to change it. It’s an apolitical choice at best, one that reinforces patriarchy at worst. But women are not to be blamed for this, especially as they suffer even for conforming, there is no ‘out’). But this, by itself, doesn’t change that I’m stuck in a society that will still judge me and other women on it.

            Legislating choice? What choice? Phuong never chose to live in this society, that has harmed her so badly. We’re feminists. We want to dismantle patriarchy, give women real choices. You’re showing a major lack of imagination here in only focusing on current conditions, and not the attitudes towards women that are behind them. We’re not simply talking about harm reduction strategies for a fundamentally broken and unequal system, we don’t want women, or men, to ever be taught any of this patriarchal crap by their society to start with. In that society, Phuong’s entire life would have been different. She’s simply the flipside of a society that offers justifications for and eroticises male dominance of women, part of that, not something totally different because she doesn’t want to be hurt and some women feel they do.

            We’re not just sitting here going ‘gosh, it sure would be nice if patriarchy ends sometime’. We have to actually be part of that, with our actions. Which is hard work, even just to unlearn patriarchal attitudes we’ve internalised ourselves.

          • Strongly Submissive..

            “Starting to think so, too – men always jump to the idea of legislation, and refuse to focus on the social conditions that created the issues. If she’s a woman, she has a fair bit of internalised misogyny, and there’s not much empathy coming across for other women there.”

            Yes, staunch libertarians also tend to jump on that. Also I did address the social implications somewhere in here. Probably the easiest way to find that is to ctrl+F “math” since that isn’t a word that gets referenced too much other than there.

            If I lack empathy, its I lack empathy toward human kind, not women in particular. And I’ll take that hit with a caveat that where that stems from is holding humanity to high standards. I think we are better than what we make ourselves out to be. I think if we all start expecting and rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad we will make more progress as a society. I wouldn’t classify that as misogyny at all.

            Thank you for addressing my questions rather than just screaming at me :-).

            “…alcohol stuff”

            It doesn’t really matter for this particular point whether thats true or not, what matters, is that Phuong believes it and according to the discussion about Alice, we need to be sensitive to her pain at not finding a relationship?

            As a side note, I’ve yet to see any proof that pornography or BDSM actually leads to increased levels of violence against women either. I’d look it up, but thats your side of the argument so I kinda expect you to do it.

            “body image”

            I think in most cases because girls are mean to each other and themselves. You are going to say thats because of men, I’ve never ever heard men be as mean to women about their as what women are to each other. Girls are horrifically callous.

            Because no one is perfect we all have flaws :-). Concerned may be overstating it. I am aware of them, obviously if I was concerned I wouldn’t be comfortable letting guys make the decisions about the lights.

            “women image stuff”

            For sure women are under alot more pressure here, but we also do alot of that to ourselves. Maybe all of you have just had better experiences with women than I have, but I’ve never been made to feel worse about my body than when around women. They are cruel in their analysis of each other in a way I don’t see as much with men. An asshole man will talk about a woman in a sexually demeaning fashion, a women will walk through and list out every flaw by muscle group for you so you can spend the next three days thinking about how to get your triceps less jiggly.

            “I can, and am, learning with some success not to give a fuck”
            Why would you consider this a bad thing? Learning to not care what others think of you and trying to teach others the same I think is a great way to combat societal pressure. Look at Kate Winslet coming out against all the photoshopping they did to her. She doesn’t care if people see her for what she is.

            “wanting the lights out, or ‘wanting’ to be hurt, doesn’t do a thing to change it”

            Its also a personal preference that someone else has no right to interfere in. If you don’t blame a women for wanting to look pretty why would you blame one for wanting to be thrown on a bed and tied up? Why is caving to one better than the other?

            “choice”

            You are also showing a lack of imagination though. You aren’t seeing the precedent that sets. A government that legislates consensual activities is allowed to legislate consensual activities. After this weekend especially do trust that power in the hands of the government? Precedent is a scary thing, because if you open the floodgates your enemies can use that against you. Never give a power to someone who you support that you wouldn’t give to someone you don’t, because you never know when they will come into power and use that against you.

            Of course not, but is telling women that what they choose to do in the bedroom wrong the best way to do this? I already discussed the legal issues, but since you say I’m dwelling on that like a man would do, lets go back to the social stuff…..Is telling a woman that every decision she makes in her sex life that could effect anyone whose ever been hurt really the best method here? Why can’t we treat women like adults rather than children? Are you telling me that hearing women talk about other women as needing to interfere in the lives of other women’s sex life to make their own better really a good signal to send to women? Doesn’t it signal that we think we are weak? Because thats the message I take home from that. That you think women can’t make their own decisions. And young girls internalize things like that in weird ways. I know that that is the sort of thing that happens in math and science education so I don’t think its a leap to say the same sort of psychological factors are at play here.

          • Margaret McCarroll

            @ss i wish that i could erase from my mind the bits of dreck i was able to shovel through – @ss my award in the olympics of narcissism – some commenters you feel poorer through reading – are there not other forums for this yuck ,,,

          • Margaret McCarroll

            Terrific response Lizor ; thank you

          • Strongly Submissive.

            “That is not what this conversation is about.”

            You are correct, what this discussion is about is freedom of choice. Can we legislate what people do in the privacy of their own space based on what other people think of it. The argument is made that consensual actions should be my point here in asking you to right me a manual of acceptable sex, is that that is exactly what will start to happen if you start to define sexual actions among consenting adult as acceptable or non acceptable.

            So lets take someone else “Phuong” a young girl raised with an abusive father who couldn’t handle his alcohol. She watched her mother beaten, lived in an extremely patriarchal family, and learned to do what she was told by men,. She also has severe body issues. She isn’t as thin as her friends, and has a few scars from her childhood. She doesn’t like violent sex and is afraid of anyone who drinks. As her dad typically only became violent after “boys night” she’s always quite afraid of men in groups. She also is frightened to have sex with the lights on because what man would want a women with scars who has belly roles. “Phuong” 115 pounds and emaciated because she starves herself.

            Lets list the laws that would have to be made to make it so that all men would only expect what Phuong is willing to give. She’s is not a rare person. Sadly she’s extremely common. There are just as many of these are their are Alices, yet now to legislate a society where Phuong is likely to find men who only want sex/relationships her way, we need to legislate lighting choices, we need to legislate all alcohol consumption so that she never feels uptight for asking a man not to drink, we need to legislate that men can not have sex with anorexics so that she is forced to see that she needs to eat, we need to legislate how many men are allowed to be together without a women present so that they don’t encourage each other. We need to legislate EVERYTHING. Thats my point. This isn’t about legislating violence its about legislating choice. This is a scary rabbit hole.

            “phenomenally long-winded posts”

            Sorry I’m a bit wordy. I don’t think complicated topics are best talked about in a sentence.

            “entire misapprehension of what feminism is about (Strong Women™!!!!!),”

            My understanding is that its about women’s rights. You are arguing here that my right to decide what happens should be taken away.How does that fit?

            “you sound for all the world like most of the male explainer/trolls”
            Internet psa, if you think someone’s a troll do not ever get angry with them, you are giving them what they want. Did you join the internet yesterday?

            “honest in your self-representation here”
            Sorry, this is me. At most I’ve exaggerated here or there for dramatic effect and really that was just in my very first post because I was a little annoyed with the idea of feminists trying to take away women’s rights.

            “What their specific “tactics” are, or their “style” as you put it, I have no idea”

            Declaring that we get to regulate freedoms for morality and that acting on sexual impulses is completely choice driven and therefore you should be willing to not give yourself certain things in order to not cause harm to others who aren’t even involved in the action. This is an argument they make against everything, its the argument made here against women’s choices in the bedroom.

            Along this note remember: If you decide that the bedroom should be regulatable you open up the ability for people you don’t agree with to regulate things as well.

            “Such a charge is incoherent nonsense ”

            If you don’t understand an argument made you should ask about it, not declare it nonsense. See my response to C.K. Egbert when I didn’t understand her argument. But I think what you really meant to say here, is that you don’t like being compared to someone you hate and it makes you angry, so you are lashing out at me.

            ” If you are going to make such an idiotic and outrageous charge, you’d better back it up with some evidence. ”

            What part are you claiming isn’t true. The part where christians try to shame homosexuals into changing preferences? I mean sure I can show you that, but I don’t think its needed, I’d rather not add hit counts to visiting their website and risk them moving up on search engines if its all the same to you. Or perhaps its that those arguments are being made here? Thats pretty well done by the original poster. You can question the validity of the comparison, a discussion I’m having with others below, but you can’t question that the same arguments are being made. Just whether its a legit comparison and other more reasonable people have done this better than you so I’m going to continue that discussion with them rather than you.

            “Maybe try starting with an acknowledgement of the actual positions of the groups you insist are “the same”.”

            But this isn’t how the law works. The law doesn’t decide, “this group has nicer intentions so we will only allow them to decide on the laws made” Instead it is “government is now allowed to regulate consensual bedroom activities” Imagine how this could be used against people in areas where women have little say in the government?

            ” is in any way akin to the kind of horrific oppression that gays and lesbians face”

            In both cases a group has decided a consensual choice is not morally acceptable and would like to regulate it. The laws sees these sorts of things as the same. Do you really think there are are places in this world that wouldn’t like to declare homosexuality illegal because it is a “choice”? Is it as bad, no, because people can keep BDSM practices private, but because its easier to lie about doesn’t mean that it isn’t discrimination.

            “We give a shit about being part of a culture that includes erotic practices based on pain, humiliation, violence and contempt of the male for the female, consensual or not”

            This is true but does legislating female sexuality do away with that or simply allow the government into your bedroom. In the U.S. we are still dominated by christian beliefs, many who are in positions of law making powers, do you want to let those people back into your bedroom. A place we are just now finally being able to kick them out of?

            Also lets not go to far in saying just legislating the eroticism of women fixes things. Sharia law doesn’t allow strip clubs, alcohol or porn so this is obviously not the end all and be all of stopping violence against women.

            “No one is saying what you do is sinful or ungodly”

            Just that I’m hurting all women kind by doing it. I could care less if what I do is a “sin”. As would the multitude of non-religious homosexuals. Its not about being a sin, its about being regulated into having less choices.

            “We are talking about a severely traumatized and repressed sexual culture that exists on a spectrum and includes the injury and murder of gay people by men and the genocide of women [primarily] by the men they have sex with. ”

            And me not allowing men I’m with to throw me on a bed is going to stop the Ugandan genocide?

            “anything comparable to the oppression of gay people is an appalling display of narcissism”

            The core comparison here, as I’ve said above, is about freedom of choice and about keeping the government away from consensual activity because it absolutely cannot be trusted not to discriminate. Whenever the government has been allowed to regulate personal choice its been used against women and the LGBT community, this would be no different once that door is reopened. If consensual activity is allowed to be deemed illegal, the government can use this as precedent to allow people who disagree with you to make laws that will set women and the LGBT community back decades.

          • bella_cose

            First, I cannot wrap my head around why you would possibly think we want to legislate what people do in their bedrooms, as long as it’s consensual. Analyzing why female submission is eroticized, and how it can be linked to other areas where women are oppressed by a general contempt from men, and some women, of all things female, is entirely different. As many have already stated, you are missing the point, and I really think it must be on purpose, because I really can’t believe you can be this dense.

            Also, all laws and rules limit some choices for some people. By your argument, it would seem we should have none. Or perhaps only the ones you think are necessary?

          • Strongly Submissive..

            “Some people may consider their sexual orientation to involve pedophilia or rape or murder; the fact that it is their sexual orientation does not make pedophilia or rape or serial murder acceptable.”

            It was that sentence. Comparing something to three ridiculously illegal things in an article using a word that is mostly tossed around in legal situations. “Consent” comes with highly legal connotations when talking about sexual issues. Also this is something that BDSM practitioners have to be extremely careful about because they absolutely can be prosecuted if they aren’t careful.

            “all laws and rules”
            As far as ones only involving hurting yourself yes. I think we need to give human beings enough rope to hang themselves with and then require them to take responsibility when they do. Also as a general rule prohibiting things that are consensual tend to have bad effects. History showed us that with alcohol and the rise of the mob, cracking down on cocaine showed us that with the rise in drug cartels and Colorado is showing us that with marijuana.

            Anything else I’d say on the topic not surrounding legal issue I think I’ve said elsewhere.

          • Hi “Strongly”,

            I started to read your response and got as far as ““That is not what this conversation is about.”

            You are correct, what this discussion is about is freedom of choice.”

            No. Wrong. The post is about the complexity of what we call “consent” within a gendered hierarchy that eroticized domination and brutality. Your wall of words cannot change the factual basis of the discussion introduced by C.K. Egbert nor will it make this about you.

            I’m done trying to break through your infantile self-absorption and your refusal/inability to engage with what is actually being said here.

            Over and out.

          • morag

            This was an awesome post, Lizor. For someone who is such a strong empowered woman, Submissive’s identity seems really fragile. Apparently radical feminist women writing on the internet have the power to stop her from having the sex she wants. Is it really so difficult and painful to realize that if it weren’t for patriarchy, what passes for female sexuality would be very different? I find it funny that she acts as if if feminists were in charge that there will be some kind of Orwellian dictatorship where there is only one way to have sex (it goes without saying that that’s ridiculous), as if right now under patriarchy there’s no “right” way for women to enjoy sex. Sorry BDSMers, for all your talk about being subversive you’re just playing in to the same patrairchal trap.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            If only women were in charge we’d do the same things to men that men do to us. Its just how power works. It corrupts people. We need balance and equality.

          • “If only women were in charge we’d do the same things to men that men do to us.”

            Straight out of the MRA playbook.

          • Missfit

            ‘If only women were in charge we’d do the same things to men that men do to us.’

            No we won’t.

          • Bullshit! Try to wrap your brain around the concept of no one being “in charge;” no dominance, no submissiveness. Affective power corrupts because it is an act, validated externally; it is power over. Effective power is genuine, requires no external validation because it comes from within and accomplishes; it is power to do.

            Affective power is what lazy and arrogant men prefer. Effective power is practiced by women interested in just getting the job done.

            And, fuck equality, dude. To be equal with men would require being less than I am. I don’t want to be equal with patriarchal men. I want liberation from patriarchal men and their crap systems. Balance that.

          • Nice one Mar Iguana!

          • I agree morag. SS’s “strength” is extremely fragile and is very typical of masculist bellicosity. If SS is in fact a biological woman (and I highly doubt it), it is fascinating the degree to which she re-enacts pretty much every aspect of typical male commenters on feminist sites – the oblivion to social context, the arrogant assumptions, the lack of empathy, the compartmentalizing, the presumption of authority, the readiness to take up space. If this is, in reality, NOT a dude, then what is revealed about the psychology of a sub is [disturbingly] notable.

          • Missfit

            This is typical dude behavior. I’m pretty sure ss is a male.

          • morag

            Absolutely lizor, plus the whole “I’m in a male dominated field and I’m so successful” line always seems to show up. It’s very indicative of an MRA mindest: the need to go on and on about individuals rather than systems and the repeated assertion that they are “above it all” (compared to us frigid feminists who have no life).

    • ozzie

      Instead of typing out some unbalanced screed defending ritualized female subordination and yelling at feminists for being critical thinkers, your time would have been better spent educating the violent men/rapists/pedophiles in your own BDSM community about women’s consent and autonomy: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/29/real_abuse_in_bdsm/. The trend I’m seeing is that female subs are less invested in targeting and abolishing rape in the community than they are at trying to convince the outside world there is no problem by repeating brainwashed Orwellian propaganda about how rape fetishism is actually a culture of consent and how the sub has all the power and how submission is actually liberation.
      Also, stop with the disgusting homophobia, pronto.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        Stop playing attack the person bingo. We all know I’m not homophobic and calling me that is pointless. Why is it ok for for you to use arguments that the christian right can’t. The christian right is most certainly not correct for their arguments, they are hideously wrong, anti-science bigots. We are on the same side there, thats my point. Its why I picked that topic to point out the flaws in the arguments above. I could have found other places its used, many against my own belief system, but I didn’t want to risk side arguements. I was nearly certain no one here would be on the side of the Christian right. This was a correct assumption was it not? Because I knew that you all hate them, none of us like Ann Coulter, its why I picked her. Its someone we can all hate together. Yet you are using similar rational to her and her cult, so why do you get to use her arguments against someone else? Lets stay on topic here.

        I agree bdsm community kinda sucks in alot of ways. I’m not actually much of a part of it because there are too many untrustworthy people. Don’t confuse liking certain things with diving in head first to sex clubs. There is alot of good and bad in any community, just like here. You want to protect women from rape, thats good, you want to do it at the expense of women choice? Now I have a problem.

        If we want to beat up on alot of what occurs in BDSM circles I can join in that too but that isn’t the problem with this article, the problem is not acknowledging that for many it isn’t bad and for many it can be done incredibly safely and healthily. Actually, honestly I take the critical side of BDSM alot more often just because I’m more likely to get into conversations with people who are over the top supportive of it and not willing to see the negative issues that can arise than end up in conversations like this. This isn’t a binary issue. Its not I want men to rape people and you don’t. Obviously rape is bad. Its that we need to make sure all women are happy, not just a few that happen to have the same preferences as you.

    • amongster

      “You made me upset, and you made it so that night, when my friend did everything in his power to help me orgasm, I couldn’t.”

      you bdsm-supporters are all the same, aren’t you. you do everything for an orgasm and don’t care about the people getting hurt by the mindset necessary for something like bdsm to exist in the first place.
      i’m a survivor of rape and of bdsm-disguised “therapy” and couldn’t care less if you will never ever have another orgasm in your life cause, believe it or not, there are things out there that are more important. the lives of all those women and girls for example that get tortured and killed by oh so manly men who think they have the right to dominate them.
      and you even look down on those rare men who, despite everything, haven’t lost touch to their own humanity yet and who consider the integrity of women as important.
      your endless and mindless blathering about how liberating it is to be beaten, tied up and verbally degraded physically sickens me and you actually should be ashamed for doing what you do. it is an dangerous fetish of violence that destroys lives. maybe not yours, but that of countless others. that alone should make you stop what you are doing instead of telling us about how you couldn’t orgasm.

      • Strongly Submissive.

        Fair enough, you shouldn’t care about my sex life, not really your business to feel bad for me, but then why should I care about yours (and obviously not the rape part, thats terrible and I’m sorry you experienced that), but the wanting gentle romantic sex part? Why should I forgo my preferences so that Alice’s can have theirs? Why am I a cold hearted selfish bitch for saying I’m not changing my life to accommodate Alice’s, and you are a caring compassionate feminist for saying you won’t accommodate mine? Aren’t we all being selfish?

        • amongster

          it becomes my business when you defend it in public, denying any problems with it, and encourage men to eroticise violence towards women or speak of them as emasculated if they refuse to do so.
          i never called you any misogynist slurs and simply think of you as someone who is pretty confused about the indoctrination women struggle with. i wish you’d stop doing what you doing and if you can’t for whatever reason i’d ask you to at least stop promoting female submission. i, and other survivors, fell for this shit and got hurt once again.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            I encourage men and women to have sex that the other people enjoy. I do not go looking for men who are submissive and corrupt them into my evil ways. I find men who have an interest in similar things as me and we do fun things together. Just as you can find men who like having sex your way and do things you consider fun together. Why is what I do in my bedroom so damaging to your sex life? I encourage people to find other people who like things they like. This goes for sex and life. You should be compatible with your partner in all ways. What I do in my bedroom does not effect what you do in yours. The type of person I attract and the type of person you attract will not be the same.

      • Although I find it interesting that she says she couldn’t orgasm as a result of sexual activity she has been biologically programmed to have because of a single blog post on the internet. Somehow millions of years of evolution (which gave her a trait that would have killed any other type of animal) were temporary defeated by a written article. And yet this same person insists that society has no influence on our sexuality. How does she not see the problem with that argument?

        On the bright side, I guess we have found the cure for BDSM, well written blog posts that reveal the harmful nature of the fetish. May no woman have a dominance/submission-inspired orgasm every again.

        • Strongly Submissive.

          Yeah because you’ve never not been able to get off because your mind was distracted by something that annoyed you? If that’s true please figure out a way to bottle that ability and send me some. Sadly your cure didn’t last though and its back to struggle snuggles. Your search for a cure for women who enjoy sex in a different manner than you continues. Perhaps forcing me in a room watching RomComs for 24 hours a day?

          • huha

            The last sentence of your post shows your complete and utter ignorance of what the incredibly patient and intelligent posters here have tried to explain to you.

          • Strongly Submissive..

            You may have noticed I tend to respond in kind. A few people here respond thoughtfully and without flippant statements so I do so as well.

            “On the bright side, I guess we have found the cure for BDSM, well written blog posts that reveal the harmful nature of the fetish. May no woman have a dominance/submission-inspired orgasm every again.”

            This was flippant and meant to illicit annoyance, so I responded in kind.

          • Actually that was not directed at you, hence the use of the word “she” in the proceeding paragraph. My intent was to assume other BDSM opponents. I had thought that the conversation was over. Guess I was wrong. My comment was meant to be light-hearted but I would not go so far as to call it a joke. I am serious in my view that BDSM does not have to exist. Even if it is not possible for people who already have BDSM fetishes to get rid of them, I think it is possible to create a culture that does not represent dominance and submission as sexy and if children were to grow up in that culture they would not have BDSM fetishes.

            The fact that the “RomCom” comment was flippant is not the issue. The comment shows that you missed the point that Leo made earlier about how even mainstream depictions of romance reinforce dominance/submission dynamics (she brought up “Gone with the Wind” which I have heard is also a very racist film.) Anti-BDSM feminists do not worship romantic comedies or the conventional romance narrative in general (which typically involves a woman with no life being swept of her feet by a big, strong man who becomes her “everything”.) What the mainstream culture media promotes is not the opposite of BDSM but a softer form of it (although nowadays the culture also promotes BDSM in a more blatant manner.) I think it would be possible to create films featuring romance narratives that are the opposite of BDSM (narratives that stress the need for equality within sexual relationships) but that has not happened yet.

            I just realised that Strongly Submissive claims to have left the comment section. Oh well, I guess this comment also is not directed at her. Opponents of BDSM, unite! We rule (although not literally because that would make us dominants, get it?)

          • marv

            “Opponents of BDSM, unite! We rule (although not literally because that would make us dominants, get it?)”

            LOL! Personally I would love for anti-patriarchal equality to subdue/rule inequality.

          • morag

            Oh for pete’s sake, it’s not all about you. You’re the one making the discussion all about you and your sexual practices-no one here cares. Feminism is not a movement designed with the goal for all women to have orgasms, it’s about examining the structural systems that contribute to women’s oppressions.

          • Strongly Submissive..

            You’re right, its designed around equality for all women. You have the right to your choices, I have the right to mine. For you to call what I do in my bedroom unempathetic to the plight of women kind is a form of slut shaming whether it was meant to be or not. You are saying my choice is invalid. Equality is more than just getting equal pay, its equal right to happiness and choices. The OP said that I should forgo relationships I like so that Alices can have relationships they want. She said that Alice’s relationship was more important than mine, how is that different than what you are accusing me of?

            What contributes to womens oppression is attitudes that blame women for women’s oppression. One woman’s choice should be shamed or limited because other people choose something different. Feminism is about raising women up to the same freedom and respect level that men have. Men do not sit around bashing men for how they have sex and claiming that because one guy likes to have sex one way he is preventing him from having sex that way. They just do whatever they please and let the other men do what they please. Because why the fuck would he care? Its none of his business. We have enough shit to put up with without giving each other it. Women should ask for what they want in bed and encourage their friends to do the same, whatever it is that their friends enjoy. If we respect each other and ourselves, men will respect us too, if we sit around bashing each other for our preferences, bashing each others bodies, bashing each others life, then men will do the same. But if we teach men that we bash each other, and starting in about middle school that is EXACTLY what we all do, well they will see that as acceptable. Shame each other, and they’ll see that as acceptable. After all if we do it to each other why shouldn’t they be able to do it to us?

            This isn’t about me, and its not about you, its about freedom of choice and accepting each other for who you are. I don’t care if you are vanilla, I don’t care if you are a dominatrix, what I care about is that you get what you want, why is this so hard to want for women who have different preferences than you?

          • morag

            Every comment I read from you, I just see “the point” flying far far away because you missed it. If you think that examining certain practices in its cultural context amounts to feminists “shaming” women and being just like men, that I don’t know what to tell you. No one here is demanding that you do anything, you barged into this discussion and made it all about you because you find feminists speaking so threatening. And if you really think that the key to female liberation is being “strong” and not letting men keep us down, then wouldn’t we be living in an equal society right now?

            No one here cares what you do in your bedroom, despite what you and your solipsism may believe. You can’t deny though that what people do in their bedroom is part of a wider social context, and yes when you do unfeminist things that contributes to the status quo, which is unfeminist. Do what makes you happy, but don’t act like sex is somehow off limits in feminism, and that the bedroom is some kind of bubble cut off from the rest of the world.

          • Why force yourself to try to “get off” when you’re obviously not in the mood? Sounds more like a compulsive habit than genuine sexual desire.

            You sound like a very unhealthy person, and I hope one day you can be honestly introspective with yourself about what you desire sexually and why you desire it.

          • Strongly Submissive.

            hmm I apologize if this gets posted twice, I think I accidentally deleted my comment but I may have posted it…..

            Anyways….

            So you’ve never started having sex and then realized you couldn’t keep your mind on track? Must be nice. I’m a bit of an overanalyzer and it happens. Not everyone can get off because of a stiff breeze and some friction.

            Yes, I am unhealthy because I’m not willing to change my entire sexual preference set because of what some people on the internet said. If anything all this discussion has helped me solidify it it a bit better since I do actually give the things thought people respond to me with alot of thought. I do actually have a life and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t useful to me on some level.

  • Leo

    Replying, but really I think I’ve said most of what I could anyway, and our perspectives are just going to remain different anyway. I’m coming at it as a Radical Feminist, not as a more individualistically focused Liberal Feminist. This is interesting, though:

    ‘Well actually the science does seem to favor that women’s are dictated much more by choice and social conditions than men’s are, but I was trying to avoid getting yelled at for being homophobic by claiming women have a choice since obviously we get to be pretty complicated in our sexual preferences.’

    Oh, any more info? That’s new to me, and I am (though you may not have gotten this impression, I guess) actually very interested in trying to understand sexuality.

    By grabbing roughly, I did mean in a dominating way, with hurting, yeah. I figured that was clear enough. I don’t think I can really explain any better, if you’re not getting what I mean.

    And even Japanese tentacle pornography tends to present the encounter as forced, and eroticise the dominance of the beast/monster over the helpless woman, with tentacles an obvious phallic substitute. There might be the odd truly unusual kink, but what people eroticise usually isn’t all that random.

    BDSM is, in our analysis, a symptom of a much bigger social problem. You see it as inevitable, a natural preference, we don’t. In my view in an equal society it would just plain cease to be an issue (no legislation required – I wouldn’t really see legislation as a good option, either, I don’t think it’d help).

    ‘But if thats not for you then thats fine, but why should Alice’s get to dictate what forms of relationships are acceptable as compared to people who don’t share Alice’s preferences?’

    What concerns me is that it’s not usually the Alices who get to dictate terms – it’s the men who get a disproportionate amount of control here. Even just our socialisation gives men more ability/tendency to bully women than the reverse (though it can certainly happen) – male entitlement, including sexual entitlement, women being expected to people please. Male control over media, affecting social norms.

    Women will have genuine choice when patriarchy falls. When we talk about women’s choices, we’re not assuming they already have that, because their ‘choice’ isn’t made in a vacuum – otherwise I’d say job done, we don’t need feminism. And if I thought there were just genes that made men desire and eroticise dominance and women desire and eroticise submission (and it is usually that way round, in BDSM and elsewhere), I’d also give up being feminist and just accept things will never ever change. I don’t, so I won’t. Presenting it as just natural and inevitable is pretty much usually how it goes when people don’t want to examine the effects of patriarchy, anyway – whether you agree with it or not, at least a social analysis offers a different perspective to that.

    I wouldn’t encourage women to feel powerless (being sexually desired is definitely not real power, don’t fall for that one). I’d encourage them to get mad, and demand respectful and equal treatment in all areas of society. In your position? I’d be mad as hell I’d been taught to see male dominance as sexy and desirable, and determined to unlearn it (and women have done this, it’s possible), precisely in the same way I seek to unlearn other harmful patriarchal social norms – that’s not encouraging a sense of powerlessness. But that’s me, and where my feminism is coming from. If you prefer a more Liberal Feminist approach, then simply stick with that. It’s not as though there’s any shortage of discussions of BDSM (including safety, consent, and so on) within sex positivity.

    We can at least agree ‘men are assholes’ I guess? Hee. Too true, too often.

  • Laur

    Strongly Submissive,
    There are many, many women, both at this blog and elsewhere that have extremely strong fantasies of submission. Yet, we don’t all give in to them, and those who do don’t all go around defending our sexual practices, because some of us, anyway, want a world where abuse, consensual or otherwise, is unthinkable.

    There is really nothing separating you from other women in terms of sexual desires. But I wonder who is the stronger person: those who choose to act on these desires, or women who choose to work for an egalitarian, including sexually egalitarian, world?

    • ss

      How is equality you telling women what men are allowed to do to her? What give you the right to define sexual mores over that woman?

  • Laur

    On another note, your descriptions of men sound like per hyperbole. Most men are “effeminate”? (A negative term however used). Hardly. Most of them get off to pornography, which has become increasingly brutal towards women, and this shows in their sexual use of us outside of pornography (i.e. even when our faces show pain men are convinced this is proof “we like it.”)

    Also, if you’re into BDSM there shouldn’t be any problem finding male doms, thanks to the Internet.

    And really large safety nets for BDSM where women can’t verbally speak? Give me a break.

    One thing I have never understood: why would men who state they are sexual sadists be inclined to respect a woman’s limits? The sadism part of them would NOT respect women’s limits; that’s the only way they could be truly sadistic.

    • Strongly Submissive

      I think I actually said emasculated not effeminate. But I’ll take back that word.

      “even when our faces show pain men are convinced this is proof “we like it.””

      This is far more hyperbole than what I have been doing. The only men I know who think that are those that are with women with stated masochist preferences and they don’t treat their partners who are not masochists like that. Not all men are as evil as you make them out to be. Just a select few that ruin for the whole bunch, and a whole bunch that are not as great as we’d like them to be that helps reinforce that really bad group a bit.

      “Also, if you’re into BDSM there shouldn’t be any problem finding male doms, thanks to the Internet.”

      Women with these preferences have the exact same issues as Alice. If all Alice wants is nice sweet sex from time to time, she can find that. But that isn’t what she wants. She wants a respectful relationships that includes nice sweet sex. Women who like rougher sex including up to BDSM are no different. Its not just about the sex, its about sex with someone you enjoy and have fun with. Sex is easy. A guy will pretend to do exactly what you want, regardless of what that is to have sex with you. But that isn’t the same thing as a mutually respectful relationship. And it turns out guys who are super respectful in relationships, while really wanting the same sort of sex I want, are so afraid of offending me they can’t really give that to me.

      “One thing I have never understood: why would men who state they are sexual sadists be inclined to respect a woman’s limits? The sadism part of them would NOT respect women’s limits; that’s the only way they could be truly sadistic.”

      Because they only pair with masochists…..Sadist does not equal sociopath. Its called finding people with compatible fetishes. If someone loves having their feet touched, it makes good sense to find someone with a foot fetish to link up with.

      • Missfit

        ‘it turns out guys who are super respectful in relationships, while really wanting the same sort of sex I want, are so afraid of offending me they can’t really give that to me’

        Of course you have difficulty finding men who truly respect you enjoying inflicting pain or calling you negative terms. Even though you say you want it, it’s understandable that they will not enjoy doing so because usually, we use derogatory terms on people we do NOT respect, we inflict pain to punish, to express rage, not to show our love. This is common sense in all areas, what’s with all the reversals when we come to sex? The root is misogyny. You said it shouldn’t matter where these desires come from, we say it does and we want to know. We say the reasons might be linked to systems that hurt not so willing women, sexually and otherwise.

      • “Sadist does not equal sociopath.” I guess the Marquis de Sade was just misunderstood nice guy, much like yourself. Enjoyment of cruelty IS pathological. Duh.

        And, good luck with the “…finding people with compatible fetishes” thing. Men are the ones that have fetishes. It is extremely rare in women.

        Cut the crap, dude. It requires chest-high waders to slosh through the poorly paragraphed river of bullshit you’re spewing.

        Just out of curiosity, is your wager with your fratbros based on how many women you can dupe here or on how long you can keep your game going?

  • “I didn’t have a real orgasm until well into my twenties, because I couldn’t admit, even for masturbation purposes what I really enjoyed.”
    Right here, the obvious answer is, if you aren’t sure what you like, keep masturbating. It will actually tell you how you need to be touched. Finding men to abuse you is not the answer to being unsure how to orgasm.

    • Strongly Submissive.

      Its not that simple and that sort of mentality is exactly what it took me so long to figure it out. Oh I’ll just keep fiddling with things….Yeah thats not how it works for certain girls. I know exactly how I like to be touched. You don’t need to sell me on the joys of masturbation. I’m of the “give every young girl a box of truly awesome high quality toys so she figures herself out first” mentality. But don’t oversimplify by implying for all women its about sensations. I’ve been with girls like that, and am kinda jealous, others of us need alot more mental stimulation than anything else. The physical is almost secondary.

      And for the record, I did not get off by finding men to abuse me, I got off by finally letting my imagination go when on my own and not focusing on the physical. Its the mental equivalent of what you discuss above. Its too bad we don’t teach women to fantasize more, I think it would go along ways in alot of the things you guys are all trying to get at here without demonizing anyone’s preferences.

      • Missfit

        You couldn’t get a real orgasm until your twenties because of your fantasies? What do you mean a ‘real’ orgasm? Many girls orgasm when they’re little by stimulating their clitoris, no fantasies involved, no toys needed. Fantasies develop based on life experiences. Elsewhere, you tried to imply that your fantasies were genetics. Your strong attempt to try to make a genetic connection with specific fantasies seems to me like wanting too much to exonerate the effects of patriarchy on people’s fantasies. Genetics and ‘nature’ have often been used in order to justify women’s subordinate position.

        You seem very afraid that radical feminists will ruin your orgasms. You’re so afraid of not being able to find a dominant man to make you orgasm that you would prefer male domination to not be challenged it seemed. Sorry but no, we won’t fall for that. Otherwise, you can do what you want in your private sexual life if you’re so free, we don’t care.

  • I don’t disagree with much of what is written here (in the article), but I note that the article shies away from judging certain acts as immoral regardless of whether the people involved in them had agency or not. This is a limitation I find in political and purely feminist criticisms of such things as BDSM, as opposed to more broad moral criticisms.

    I oppose such things as BDSM because they are wrong, and my position does not in any way depend on the assumption that people are coerced or pressured into it. While many people are so coerced, deceived, pressured, etc., many are not, and I am not prepared to say that violence is A-OK when the consent is genuine. If one’s entire case against consensual violence depends upon the claim that people don’t really know what they want or their consent isn’t proper, then the case hinges on a precarious factual claim, which makes me uncomfortable for some reason.

    Another way of putting it is that there are two challenges one can make to the argument that BDSM is okay because the parties involved consent to it. The first is a challenge to the factual claim that the parties do consent to it, but this leaves unchallenged the inference from that to conclusion that it is morally acceptable. The second is a challenge to the inference from the claim that there is consent to the conclusion that BDSM is acceptable. I think both challenges should be made, but for some reason in feminist circles I tend to see only the first and not the second.

    • I should mention, however, that the response to the first objection is spot-on and is the sort of thing I’m talking about. Just as it is okay to judge the content of someone’s sexual preferences and orientation, it is okay to judge the content of people’s consensual practices.

      Also, FWIW I wasn’t intending to sound anti-feminist up there. I am a feminist as well.

      • C.K. Egbert

        You don’t sound at all anti-feminist and I appreciate you bringing this up. I think we probably agree and it seems to me that many radical feminists share the same moral reasoning.

        The purpose was really to show how–even if one were to take consent in its strongest form possible–it would still have serious ethical and political problems. I find it helpful to clarify my own position, and engage with others who disagree productively, by talking to them on their own terms and showing them ways in which their arguments are inconsistent or problematic.

        • marv

          Yes, like BDSM, huswifery is oppression too no matter what anyone claims otherwise. My mother was a totally committed and identified housewife. She never received any financial remuneration for her toil which means it was not considered productive work my male standards. .A key reason why male and capitalist domination has persisted so long is because of women’s complimentary (on the house) work. Their work in the home prepares themselves, men and children (future generations) to sell their labour to capital. When women produce and reproduce labour power for free it then becomes a commodity to be sold to capital to make a profit. Since women are expected to work for nothing in the home, they are also paid less in the labour market. Women’s male intimates benefit greatly from women’s unwaged labour as well. Women’s work and sexual service in the home function as a form of compensation for men’s struggle in the workforce for employers. It can make men more docile in the workplace because they might feel obligated to support their families and they receive rewards at home from women to do so (or take them by force). Therefore women are kept in a subordinate role at home by capitalists and male partners which serves to keep labourers subordinate in the market place. So women’s unpaid status in the private sphere operates to sustain the power of male capital and labour in the public sphere. Without the gratuitous service of women as spouses and mothers to men, children and capital, the economy would be thrown into disarray. Of course the service could be reimbursed by capital which would benefit women, but would further normalize capitalism and probably the sexual division of labour. They deserve a just wage nonetheless.

          The movement to abolish male hegemony by changing the unequal relations between women and men must involve a fundamental transformation of the relations between capital and labour. To hold up the role of housewife as a free choice under current conditions is a form of mother fucking.

          • “Without the gratuitous service of women as spouses and mothers to men, children and capital, the economy would be thrown into disarray.”

            Actually, it is only capitalism that would be thrown into disarray and not a moment too soon, hopefully replaced by democratic socialism. The unpaid and underpaid work of women in reproduction, domesticity and labor is the foundational keystone of parasite opportunist (oops, the robber barons prefer “ambitious”) capitalism, without which it fails. When women gained the freedom of choice over their reproductive lives in the ’70s, capitalists understood they were in deep doodie, so they made sure they got all born again (because being born by women is so gross really) accepted Jesus as their personal savior.

            To end the longest war, The War On Women, it is crucial to know who our enemy is, capitalism, then learn everything you can about that enemy, else how will it ever be defeated? Women need to make the destruction of capitalism, our number one enemy, our primary focus. Until women understand this, they will continue to be divided and distracted by every other damn man-caused ill on the planet, which women are supposed to clean up before they can focus on ending sexism, the root cause of all human ills.

            What makes these times so dangerous for all living things on Earth is the rise of capitalist-owned governments, aka fascism, on a global level via fundamentalist religions, the useful tools/fools used by Machiavellian capitalists who depend on primitive accumulation, the euphemism for the periodic massive pillage, plunder and rape, necessary for capitalism’s very existence/survival.

            For a real eye-opener on the history of capitalism read “Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation,” by Silvia Federici. It’s about what was really behind the Inquisition’s witch-burning, instituted when budding capitalists (The Church, royals and “professionals” generated by the new concept of university education) were having trouble launching this twisted system. It was resisted by the peasant revolts in the late, Middle Ages often led by women who were the keepers of the commons, the wise women, the healers whose power was in direct competition with the new-fangled professions of medical doctors, attorneys, accountants, etc.

            For a great review of the book see: http://endofcapitalism.com/2009/11/05/who-were-the-witches-patriarchal-terror-and-the-creation-of-capitalism/

            From this review: “Capitalism – Born in Flames: What separates Caliban from other works exploring the “witch” phenomenon is that this book puts the persecution of witches into the context of the development of capitalism. For Silvia Federici, it’s no accident that “the witch-hunt occurred simultaneously with the colonization and extermination of the populations of the New World, the English enclosures, [or] the beginning of the slave trade” (164). She instructs that all of these seemingly unrelated tragedies were initiated by the same European ruling elite at the very moment that capitalism was in formation, the late 15th through 17th centuries. Contrary to “laissez-faire” orthodoxy which holds that capitalism functions best without state intervention, Federici posits that it was precisely the state violence of these campaigns that laid the foundation for capitalist economics.”

            This is why I’m not buying this new kinder, gentler pope Francis the church has installed before the last one died (a first in catholic history). (Among many other very bad things) Benedict XVI may have been a reminder of The Burning Times since he was prefect (head inquisitor) of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, changed in 1965, to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Sounds so much better, no?

            I mean, who couldn’t love a pope named after St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the ecology, who is criticizing greedy capitalists? Riiight. Never mind that he is a Jesuit, the Machiavellian order who are masters in knowing how to feign one thing while doing another. Never mind that nasty little history of engineering the kidnapping and trafficking of children of political prisoners (among other things) during the Dirty War of the 1970′s in Argentina when he was helping out the fascist Pinochet.

            Sorry this is turning into such a long comment, but I love me a good game of connect-the-dots: The Vatican, fascists, the UN and women’s unpaid labor. Mussolini hated the church but knew he’d get nowhere with establishing fascism without its support. So, he made The Vatican a sovereign state in 1929, which eventually entitled it to become a member nation in the UN, literally world class misogynists despite their (ineffective) committees, investigations, and assorted dog and pony shows on women’s rights.

            Membership in the UN requires adhering to its accounting principles which declares the unpaid work of women impossible to ascribe value to, although somehow the UN has always been able to ascribe (estimated) value to the criminal economy of prostitution so that it can be included in a country’s GDP. Neat, huh?

            Marilyn Waring shows how it is indeed possible to ascribe value to women’s unpaid labor by devising a simple way to do just that in her book If Women Counted and her film Sex, Lies & Global Economics. She did cause the UN to make some changes in how countries calculate their GDP, but they did a half-assed job of it and many countries are still not including women’s unpaid work in their GDP. She wrote the book in 1988 and the UN is still dragging its feet on enforcing this. Gee, I wonder why.

          • Marilyn Waring’s incredibly important work is also featured in a documentary, available to view online here:

            https://www.nfb.ca/film/whos_counting

          • Thank you for this link to the documentary, lizor. I want to let you know I think you are one of the most brilliant commentors among all the brilliant women here and I always enjoy reading your contributions.

          • lizor

            Right back at you mmmariguana! You just made my day!

          • andeväsen

            Marilyn Waring is an amazing political force whose work has led to the uncovering of women’s invisible labour. Thanks for reminding us about her all round greatness.

  • Pingback: Eve’s punishment rebooted: The ideology of natural birth | Feminist Current()

  • Tadgh

    I think it’s a mistake to characterise BDSM in terms of a dominant male-submissive female dichotomy. I don’t have anything quantitative to defer to in support of this, only my own limited experiences in the BDSM community. Firstly, for clarification, I’m a male who primarily identifies as submissive, or at least my natural inclination is towards being subordinate. I also enjoy playing a more dominant role, but it doesn’t come as easily or as naturally as being submissive. To a certain extent I derive pleasure from pain, but don’t enjoy receiving/inflicting it beyond a mild-mildly moderate level. I’ve been to two BDSM events, the first being a party hosted by a dominatrix. It was not a themed dom-sub event, but rather a fetish party, and I’d tentatively state that the majority of the men there played subordinate roles. There were certainly plenty of dominant women, and if I recall correctly they outnumbered males identifying as dominant. My second experience involved attending a BDSM club. Here again I encountered plenty of evidence that runs contrary to the narrative of dominant males and submissive females. There were a number of female dominants and also male submissives; there was also the inverse dynamic of sub women and dom males . At both events I played the submissive roles to dominant women. In addition, I have a profile on a well known BDSM website, and although my general impression would be that women there lean more towards submission, there is a sizeable portion who are either dominant or switch ( both submissive and dominant ).

    Although you haven’t said it directly here, I think what you’re implying, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that at the root of BDSM is an inculcated patriarchal hierarchy, in which women are denigrated and violence/power over them is eroticised. As mentioned above, my own experiences would contradict this stance, or at least that denigration and violence infliction are exclusively directed towards women. I wouldn’t deny that BDSM erotisizes violence/power, but I see this as gender neutral. I suppose I haven’t developed a sense that the fetish community rests strictly upon the premise that males are dominant and females are submissive; I’ve come across too many submissive men and too many dominant women for that to be a valid argument. Other people may well have had different experiences in the fetish community, but those are mine. I don’t see anything inherently unethical about safe consensual BDSM activities among partners who share a mutual respect and understanding; I think those of us involved in Fet should absolutely continue to deconstruct any paradigm in which males and females are assigned rigid roles and asymmetrical values.

    Respectfully, I think the Alice scenario you’ve posited is a bit too convenient; the first choice rests on the premise that for the overwhelming majority of men, their primary predilection relates to arousal through violence, to the extent that a woman like Alice has a minuscule probability of finding a sexual partner who respects her and cares about reciprocating sexual pleasure. I’ve no compunction in admitting that objectification is a significant problem, and the same with regard to physical abuse, but to suggest that it would be “extremely difficult” to find a man without a preference for eroticising violence ( and I’m aware we’re speaking about a hypothetical context ) is too drastic in my opinion. I’d question whether those who deviate from social-sexual norms are as negligible in number as you imply.

    • Laur

      “I wouldn’t deny that BDSM erotisizes violence/power, but I see this as gender neutral.”

      This.

      Some of us, at least, are working towards an egalitarian world, one without violence and abusive of any sort. How can we work towards this type of world, if we aren’t even willing to maintain violence-free relationships in our own lives?

      One note about sub men: a lot of what sub men find arousing is actually associated with femininity, i.e. high heels, women’s underwear, being called “sissy,” being penetrated, etc.

      • Tadgh

        The problem here is that I don’t think you’re qualifying violence, and are conflating non-consensual unsolicited abuse with consensual play. Also BDSM doesn’t necessarily entail physicality, for me the psychological stimulation is probably the most attractive draw. Personally speaking, working towards an egalitarian world without violence and abuse is straightforward and not at all incongruent with my participation in BDSM, and I think many that I’ve come across in the kink community would feel the same.

        Some sub men do dress up in female attire, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re submissive ( although quite a few are ), or that they’re primary interest in doing so relates to fantasies of being dominated.

        • C.K. Egbert

          I’m not conflating non-consensual unsolicited abuse with “play.” You are defining abuse/violence as “lack of consent”, and I’m critiquing the idea of consent itself. The wrong of abuse and torture is not that the victim did not consent; it is that the victim is being hurt (many women “choose” to stay in abusive relationships; they may even desire or think they deserve the abuse. It doesn’t mean they aren’t being abused). Consensual violence is still violence.

          As for speculating, I’m talking about the world as it exists now–not a world that has never existed (one without gender identities/power relationships). As for creating an egalitarian society, you cannot eroticize power relations and still treat someone as an equal. Desiring power over another means that you want them to NOT be your equal, and you want to treat them as an inferior. Equality and domination are incompatible. For example, if I–as a white person–were to “play” with my African-American friends by treating them as slaves, enjoying and fantasizing about treating them as slaves, you could not say that I think of African-Americans as equal human beings.

          • bella_cose

            I think part of the problem is that many men, ones who think they truly support the equality of women, don’t see their own sexism. Because of this, they don’t see how their bedroom play can leak into other areas of their relationship, and reinforce the sexist beliefs they aren’t even aware they hold. The women are so inured to the constant barrage of overt sexism they encounter daily, that the subtly sexist behavior of their partner goes unnoticed.

        • Laur

          Please don’t treat us like we no nothing about BDSM.

          I’m not sure how re-enacting scenes from Abu-Grahib helps bring about a better world.

          Whether one has engaged with the BDSM community or not, it’s hard to get away from the S/m that has overtaken society more generally. Especially in porn, which is everywhere. I’m not sure what your hope is for coming onto this site; I’m pretty sure the women here know the very basic things you are saying about BDSM (women are sometimes doms, it can be psychological, people think they can work towards changing the world and still kick each other in their spare time).

          Instead, we should give up working towards egalitarianism in the bedroom and just aim for it everywhere else. Women may earn less money, own less property, be listened to less, feel inferior, but in the bedroom, all that misogyny is irrelevant. I think not.

          • Tadgh

            “Please don’t treat us like we no nothing about BDSM.”

            I don’t think I’ve done so, I was just offering my own experiences/thoughts/observations on BDSM, some of which run contrary to the central premise of the original article and certain subsequent comments.

            My purpose in posting on this particular piece was to give an alternate opinion; I haven’t really seen points in opposition to the narrative of submissive women and dominant men, so I thought I’d make them.

            I don’t think we should stop working towards egalitarianism in the bedroom, I absolutely believe it’s a worthy to establish a paradigm of reciprocal pleasure in which the desires of each partner are fulfilled (assuming compatibility).

    • Lo

      “I wouldn’t deny that BDSM erotisizes violence/power, but I see this as gender neutral.”

      Even in a society where genders would have been equals BDSM wouldn’t exist, because whoever thinks of others as their equal, don’t need to erotisizes violence for pleasure.

      BDSM doesn’t turn on men as dominant and women as submissive by miracle, (and femdom and gay just replicate this, one man is always considered as a woman/slut/[insert misogynist word], etc. Because if they didn’t replicate this, BDSM wouldn’t even make sense.) it is not wrote in our DNA either. Conclusion? Social construction, and thus social inequalities (see eroticized slavery for example) are the origins.

      Sigh, those apolitical people are really tiring.

      • Tadgh

        As I said in my original post, I don’t believe BDSM runs on an exclusive dynamic of dominant males and submissive females. Many men and women in the community contradict social-sexual norms defining the former as controlling aggressors and the latter as subordinate receivers. Some identify exclusively as dominant or submissive, others like to play both roles. I think it’s speculative to suggest that BDSM wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t make sense in a society without rigid gender roles / identities. Relative power positions ( and desire for them ) can’t simply be viewed through the prism of gender imbalance and sexuality, and I think it’s an oversimplification/generalisation to posit that sadism/masochism derive simply from social constructions and social inequalities relating to gender ( if that’s what you’re suggesting ).

        • Lo

          “I don’t believe ”

          Whether you believe it or not, it won’t change facts.
          It is not because you believe it is wrote in our blood, or whatever you think to justify this, that it makes it true.

          “Relative power positions ( and desire for them ) can’t simply be viewed through the prism of gender”

          You’re right, it is not only congruent with the hierarchization of genders, but as Lorde said : “Sadomasochism is congruent with other developments going on in this country that have to do with dominance and submission, with disparate power—politically, culturally, and economically.”

          “it’s speculative to suggest that BDSM wouldn’t exist”

          You just proved another Lorde argument: “Sadomasochism feeds the belief that domination is inevitable and legitimately enjoyable”

          BTW, I know BDSM, so cut it out with the “it is muuuuuuuuuuch more than power”. BDSM wouldn’t exist without power.

        • Laur

          “Relative power positions ( and desire for them ) can’t simply be viewed through the prism of gender imbalance and sexuality,”

          What’s interesting about BDSM is it IS a sexual activity. How abuse, both physical and psychological, gets to be something both men and women get off to, is central to feminism. Central to what feminism wants to end.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Eroticizing violence and power summarizes our social-sexual norms, and this is precisely the problem. BDSM is not different from these norms: it is merely an extension of them. These norms are also going to be largely unconscious and unquestioned by most people. There might be a few men who do not abide by these norms, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The fact is that women are socially conditioned and coerced into these norms, and the acceptance of these norms does not mean women are no longer coerced.

      As for the “Alice” example, it would be like telling an African-American prior to Civil Rights Legislation just to find employers who weren’t discriminatory. Those might have existed, but the mere fact of some “nice” people doesn’t mean that African-Americans were not systematically oppressed, disadvantaged, and discriminated against.

      The fact that there are a few “female doms” doesn’t invalidate the overwhelming empirical evidence that women are sexually and physically abused in relationships, and that this abuse is constitutive of our social norms and practices. BDSM is just one extreme: we see this in rape culture, the non-mutuality of sex, how law and society condones rape (e.g., “Blurred Lines”) and permits men to abuse women with impunity. The fact that people think abuse is sexy contributes to the physical and sexual abuse of women by glorifying it.

    • MLM

      “I wouldn’t deny that BDSM erotisizes violence/power, but I see this as gender neutral.”

      There is no such thing as “gender neutral”, that’s an oxymoron. Gender is a socially constructed hierarchical division based on sex, males being socialised into the dominant “conqueror” gender of masculine, females being socialised into the submissive “conquered” gender role of feminine. So “masculinity” is basically culturally encoded domination, and “femininity” is culturally encoded submission or subordination.

      As Lierre Keith has pointed out:
      “Gender is not some cosmic yin/yang; it’s a fist, and the flesh that bruises. Gender is who gets to be human, and who gets hurt.”

      Even if you “swap” or reverse the sexes, so you have a female dominant acting out a culturally encoded masculine role, and male submissive acting out a culturally encoded feminine role, the gender hierarchy remains unchanged and unchallenged, “Masculine” dominating “feminine” – it is never “neutral”.

      This is why BDSM strikes me as a form of ritual gender worship, irrespective of the sexes involved.

      • Meh

        This is a great comment. It really clarified things for me. BDSM seems to (sexually) mirror the gender worship that occurs throughout cultures generally. Love the Lierre quote, too.

        I was always surprised hearing people talk about BDSM as if it was some sort of “progressive” expression of sexuality. I’d be like, “… so one person is controlling the other/sitting on the other persons face/spanking the other person, etc? How original”. A spank here and there, as much as it excites people, is not progressive. It’s also boring.

        • MLM

          “I was always surprised hearing people talk about BDSM as if it was some sort of “progressive” expression of sexuality. I’d be like, “… so one person is controlling the other/sitting on the other persons face/spanking the other person, etc? How original”

          I completely agree. “So, making a performative sexual fetish of the very dynamics at the core of oppression is a celebration of … sexual liberation. Really???”

          I think Max Dashu made an important observation regarding dominance-based sexuality (in a comment on another post on this site – link below).

          “Those forms have a culturally specific history, growing out of the demonologist pornographies and sexualized torture of the witch hunts (dungeons, chains, torture, gags / witch’s bridles, branding) and through the slave trade. That history of trauma imprinted itself on European culture, and percolated out through multiple channels ever since. If anyone can think of other (pre-modern, because this sexualization of confinement and torture has long since gone global) cultural histories that sexualize torture in this way, I would be interested to know about it. I haven’t found any.”

          http://feministcurrent.com/8879/the-divide-isnt-between-sex-negative-and-sex-positive-feminists-its-between-liberals-and-radicals/#comment-166982

    • derrington

      Having spent the last 3 years internet dating, I can say that a very large proportion of the guys I interacted with on line were deceitful and spiteful with a penchant for emotional cruelty towards women. I lost track of the amount of men I reported for asking me if I did anal before they even said hello, or pretended to want to date when actually all they wanted was free sex, or pretended they didnt have a partner when actually they did … I could go on but suffice to say that I was truly shocked at what so called normal guys thought an appropriate way to treat another human being. My three year old daughter was also witness to this behaviour as well and has changed her attitude towards males. The fact that in the UK we have just had 660 men arrested for possessing or conducting internet child abuse out of a total of 10,000 names means that male hypocrisy about attitudes towards women and children is begining to be exposed wholesale and I think there is more than physical violence to contend with in dealing with men.

      • Tadgh

        I’ve also been internet dating over roughly the same period and am unfortunately not at all surprised by your experiences ( though I am very sorry to hear them ). I’ve discussed this behavior before, and it does seem very much to be male exclusive. Nearly invariably the messages I’ve received from women online have been either/or polite, friendly or neutral.

  • Eve

    This entire culture of sexualizing women and girls, of sexualizing violence against women and girls leaves no room for consent. There is no choice. It permeates everything. I can’t choose to not be judged for my sexual attractiveness based on the limiting views of what sexual attractiveness allows women. I can’t choose to not be objectified, or be constantly bombarded by images of other women and girls being degraded and dehumanized. I can’t choose a partner that hasn’t been conditioned into this pornified world of women as sex objects. There is no choice, and that is what’s so ironic about how often the subjugation of females is defended by the reference to free choice.

    • bella_cose

      I so agree with you. I’ve always been modest as far as how I dress. I’ve never cared much for attention based on how I look. Part of me wonders though, if it weren’t for the always looming spector of unwanted male attention, if I would feel more comfortable showing my body. Not in an overtly sexual way, but just casual, comfortable, without thought. I’ll never know.

      I’ve never understood women who are flattered by being hit on, or harassed on the street, by men. To me it’s like being told that I’m interchangeable with every other female they hit on, because it has nothing to do with who I am, just the quality of femaleness they associate with me. It disgusts me.

      This is one of the reasons I have such a problem with the idea that no one can judge actions as long as consent is involved. The implications reach further than the individuals involved in the behavior. I truly resent the women who call themselves feminists, but say being hurt, degraded, and objectified, is empowering. They’re throwing the rest of us under the bus.

      Also, I truly believe, that people have a responsibility to practice ethical behavior. If someone loves being punched, burned, cut, etc, whether or nit the give their consent, their partner has an obligation as a human being, not to perpetrate violence upon that person. Why is the attitude “anything goes” when orgasms are involved?

      • AJ

        Consensual violence is absolutely not only related to sex. Look at sports. Football and UFC jump out as obvious examples of (mostly) men consenting to violence against other men as well. But just like in correctly done bdsm there are rules and regulations and those involved have agreed to follow the rules.

        • bella_cose

          I would say most sports are somewhat different in that the violence is not the goal of the game. In BDSM the violence and degradation is the reason for doing it.

          • Tadgh

            Violence is a pretty integral aspect of full contact martial arts like boxing, Muay Thai and MMA. I was actually going to broach this topic myself as an example of violence in a consensual context.

          • bella_cose

            True, but I would still say the goal is not the pain one person inflicts on another, at least for most people involved in such sports. It’s not like one person stands there while the other kicks the crap out of them.

            I don’t really see how sports and BDSM are comparable to each other.

          • AJ

            Violence is absolutely the a major point of Ufc. Just like BDSM is violence and sex, ufc is violence and sport and the average violence level is much higher in UFC fights. This is absolutely a perfect example of consensual violence outside the realm of orgasms that is far more extreme than BDSM and until recently women were not only not a big part of it but were excluded to a point of near discrimination. Be against or for it, but don’t imply consensual violence is only something related to orgasms. That isn’t true at all .

          • bella_cose

            I’m not sure what your point is. While someone participating in sports may know there is a risk of being hurt or injured, I don’t think that is why they participate. In fact, I think most participants try to minimize their chances of being injured, so I don’t know that I would refer to it as consensual violence at all. I still don’t see how this relates to the discussion of BDSM. If you truly can’t see the difference between violence and degradation in sex, and violence in sports, then I don’t know what to tell you. I just don’t think violence in sports is analogous to BDSM.

          • Tadgh

            For full contact martial arts though it’s a matter of certainty. If you enter a fight, barring some unlikely immediate KO, you’re going to be hurt, quite possibly to a significant degree; in addition, the whole premise revolves around inflicting violence on your opponent, which is distinct from sports like tennis, soccer and basketball.

          • bella_cose

            Again, not sure what your point is. I think we’ve been over this, but perhaps if I say it again, you’ll understand.

            I’ve known many people involved in all kinds of martial arts. Instructors and students. I’ve never heard anyone say they do it because they enjoy hurting people or being hurt. Do you see how that is different than BDSM?

          • andeväsen

            Your comparison between sadomasochm and martial arts does not work. Both opponents aim to fight the other, injure the other, both aim to defend themselves from being injured, neither aims to use the harm inflicted on them to give their opponent an orgasm. Sadomasochists’ practice involves one participant submiting to other participants’ harming them in order to achieve orgasm. The injuries are inflicted by the sadist onto the masochist, who does not view the sadist as an opponent and is not aiming to match and overcome their strength. Your comparison is invalid.

          • Tadgh

            What I was trying to convey is that there are other contexts in which violence is consensual. The nature of BDSM is different to contact sport, but regarding the latter, the objective is to either score points by inflicting violence on another person, or to to knock them out, thereby achieving the pleasure that comes with defeating an adversary . I’d also venture to suggest that landing a hit on an opponent is satisfying to a fighter; in both scenarios ( that of striking an opponent and of victory through force ) pleasure/satisfaction is achieved through violence.

            Not the same paradigm as BDSM but there are similarities. Anyway, ultimately for me there’s no problem with responsible consensual play in a safe environment.
            For some it’s a lifestyle, for others it’s just some occasional fun. And as I’ve mentioned before, some people are both dominant/submissive and/or sadists/masochists. For me, my participation doesn’t affect my regular life, nor does it prevent me from having sexual relationships that don’t involve some degree of violence ( I use that term very lightly because I don’t derive much pleasure from inflicting pain ). I’ve no problem enjoying sex outside of BDSM, if my partner is into the latter great, if not then no problem.

          • andeväsen

            Surely your argument is not simply that violence exists in other walks of life, and therefore sadomasochism ought not be questioned?

            You left out joining the army, the police services, or an outfit of bouncers outside a nightclub as other activities where people sign up and expect to encounter violence, and take pleasure in a job well done through inflicting violence.

            It is not relevant. Sexual violence is the matter at hand, not violence per se.

          • lizor

            The only “martial sport” (and I use the term somewhat facetiously in this case) that is in any way comparable to BDSM is “professional wrestling” where the person held in contempt is pre-determined and abusive language is part of the violence.

          • Laur

            I’m not sure what your point is. Sports have never been something women have championed, and the sports where people, men, are getting enjoyed overwhelmingly are watched and thus enjoyed by men.

            Feminists focus on things such as “consensual” sexual violence, because, sexuality, and how it is forced upon us, is central to our experience as women. It influences how we feel about our bodies, how we carry ourselves, and how we relate to men. In the experience of myself and many other women, increasingly, men find that when women give visual clues they are in pain or unhappy, this is really taken as “you like it.”

            None of what you said takes away from the fact that many men (and women, though for different reasons) get sexual pleasure from hurting someone else and/or being hurt and this is considered sex.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Actually, I would extend my critique to any form of consensual violence (this is why I brought up the idea of hazing). However, there are specific reasons why sexuality is unique given the context of women’s subordination, which people have discussed below. Violence in sexuality has to do with our social-sexual norms and practices; we are socialized into them. They define our intimate relationships.

            I would also say that the violence we see in sports is part of the patriarchal game, but in a different way: sports, and particularly violent sports, glorifies violence and dominance. It’s not a coincidence that most gang-rapes on college campuses involve fraternity members or athletes.

    • lizor

      Excellent point. Thank you for articulating what I have not been able to, but have felt so acutely for so long.

  • SC

    Sorry to kick the hornet’s nest so long after the fact here, but I am genuinely curious to play this out a little more. I think the poster you were all arguing with asked this but I never saw an answer.

    What kind of sex would you consider to NOT contribute to the patriarchy, social domination of women, or violence towards women in our culture? What kind of sex would you consider to be consistent with the type of feminism you are promoting?

    • Lo

      First this “type” of feminism, is real feminism. Others are just libertarianism.

      I’m not the poster, but let me give you my POV. Here’s the thing and it’s simple: sexual relationships shouldn’t involve any form of violence, violence should not be sexualized. If someone sexualizes violence to have an orgasm (which can also be seen as a psychological problem maybe?), then there will always an oppressor, and it is clearly not feminist.

      what is so complicated to understand?

      • SC

        Thanks for your reply, Lo. Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding, but it sounds like you are saying that any joining of sexuality and violence is by definition NOT feminist and in your view possibly a psychological pathology. So I guess I would ask where you draw the line of violence? Is it just BDSM? Light bondage? Any sort of slapping, spanking, hair-pulling? Holding someone down? Talking dirty? (I guess that would depend on exactly what is said?) Is doggy style violent? Fellatio? Giving orders that the other follows? Stripping, dancing, dressing or posing a certain way for a partner because they ask you to?

        Please believe that I am not trolling or saying these things to be lascivious. (And of course I don’t expect you to share your personal preferences.) I can see it seems a simple distinction to you, but my experience with sexuality has not been so simple.

        Let me be honest. I am a woman who is dominant in most spheres of life but deeply submissive sexually. I do also enjoy what I suppose BDSM folk would call “vanilla” sex, but I clearly tend to be drawn more deeply to a more submissive/dominant dynamic, that can include elements that would be considered violent.

        This article struck me because it felt to me like one of the most oppressive and judgmental things I’ve read about my sexuality as a woman in a long time. And it comes from a position you have labeled as real feminism. It was this perspective that, even as I explored, discovered and enjoyed, kept part of me feeling ashamed or guilty about my own sexuality for years and years. Now I recognize that this shame was externally imposed, that these preferences started very early in my development, do not interfere with my healthy functioning in life and are not associated with any trauma. Honestly, I found the premise of this article offensive, the idea that other women can give true consent but the consent I give (or indeed, what I request) is somehow false or coerced merely by virtue of what I am consenting to.

        But I am trying to be open-minded, recognize my privilege and be supportive of other women and of other views, and since it is a philosopher’s blog article, I am trying to take a philosophical approach and really hear this argument out.

        Say I were to decide as a woman to dedicate myself in earnest to have sex that is truly feminist by this definition. I just don’t know what that would look like. I’m glad it’s simple for you, but for me it isn’t. How do I deny my own sexuality and what behaviors should I take on to be sure my actions are ethical and feminist? Or should I continue to explore my own libido and feel sexually fulfilled as a woman but just feel guilty that I am perpetuating the patriarchy? Should I seek psychological counseling so I stop having the desires I have, even if they are not troubling to me personally? Is that even possible? I’m just not sure what the end game would be for me or women like me under this philosophy.

        To me, conforming to a set of rules or guidelines around sex to satisfy a social cause feels much more oppressive than freely recognizing and being in control of the exploration of my own sexuality, including its light and its shadows. From what I’ve read so far, I guess that makes me new to this debate.

        • C.K. Egbert

          The point is not to shame women; we don’t, for example, shame women who prettify themselves in order to adhere to cultural standards of beauty (Meghan has actually written about this). Instead we ask why we feel this way and how this is related to women’s subordination as a whole.

          I think it would be a misinterpretation to think that one woman can “consent” to something that you cannot–because the whole purpose is to interrogate the notion of consent in the first place. So it’s not that I can more fully consent to sex and you cannot, but whether consent is sufficient to make a sexual encounter unproblematic. Consent is important of course: it distinguishes a caress from assault. The problem I see is that people use consent to justify what would be considered–without that magical element–violent, abusive, exploitative behavior. I think that given the way that consent works–putting the emotional/social/ethical burden on the person at the “receiving” end, add on a lifetime of socialization into submission, terrorization, and the facts of our human psychology–makes this untenable at best and oppressive at worst. Even libertarian philosophers think that one cannot consent to things that undermine one’s humanity.

          For me, violence involves causing non-accidental pain or harm (physical or psychological). One way to think about this: if you did those things to a child or someone outside of a sexual context, would it be respectful behavior? Would it be non-abusive or respectful to pull someone’s hair or tie them up? If it’s something that we allow because it’s sexual, but would consider assault in other contexts, that should be a huge red flag (the same for “talking dirty”: if it was done outside of the bedroom, would it be emotional abuse?).

          I think that submission actually poses problems for the fuller, more complete notion of consent that is discussed. If we envision consent as explicit, active, and on-going, then it seems someone commanding you to do things–by its very nature–could not involve explicit, active, and on-going consent on your part, unless you were telling them to tell you what to do. In which case they aren’t ordering you around at all.

        • Lo

          [trigger warning: explicit content]
          Well whether you enjoy/like it or not, is not the question. Only you can change your sexuality, don’t ask me “how”, you’re an adult, and you can think about that yourself. If you really can’t, then I can’t either. The point isn’t to change our sexuality in just one day, this is not possible. But we can change it with time. Sexuality is cultural, not natural, it’s not write in our DNA or something.

          Also why do you ask me “what” is violent or not? I think it is quite obvious. Whenever your partner in his mind needs to be an oppressor to have pleasure, then you have your answer(even though I know partners are not always honest about that). Same goes for the physical violence, if it hurts your partner, then you know it is violent, because the oppressor needs to hurt physically/psychologically, and the oppressed needs to be hurt physically/psychologically.

          But it’s an interesting question, even though the inequal powers in BDSM are obvious, there are also different form of violence outside BDSM: most men consider penetration (anal/vaginal/oral) as a form of power/dominance. They also think of any women who as sex as inferior and humiliated (who “likes” to be humiliated/hurt), this is why gang bang, rape and gagging are so common nowadays. Men get aroused by the dehumanization of women, so it is not only about BDSM, but all sexualities: we’re against all those patriarchal ideologies. If people have pleasure or not doesn’t change the origins of this sexuality.

          Anyway, what is important is to think about the determinisms, since we live in a patriarchal society, and since women’s have always been seen as sex objects, it is not surprising that people think of BDSM as the most natural sexuality, when it is not. BDSM is an institutionalized celebration of dominant/subordinate relationships (economical, political, societal, patriarchal).

          “conforming to a set of rules or guidelines around sex to satisfy a social cause feels much more oppressive than freely recognizing and being in control of the exploration of my own sexuality, including its light and its shadows”

          Oh here we go again: “feminists are oppressing my sexuality !!!!!1!!”.
          You can do whatever you want, don’t change the subject and accuse us of controlling you. The domina thing and “BDSM is not as boring as vanilla it’s exploration and it has infinite ideas and it is not about power etc” have already been discussed.
          If the comments and different articles on this site are not enough, you can also read feminist books about the roots of unequal powers on feminist site (radfem.org, radfemreader, etc).

          I think it is very interesting that you have difficulties to get our point and also difficulties to think of another way to “explore” without using violence.

      • C.K. Egbert

        I would answer similarly: no physical or psychological violence or coercion. In addition, good sexual relationships the activities should be reciprocal (equal concern for the pleasure of both partners) and based upon mutual desire. If you think about it, what we sexualize and consider sexy often has little to do with what actually is physically pleasurable (certainly not for women). Instead it has everything to do with sexualizing violence and domination.

        I didn’t discuss it in the article, but the emphasis on consent also hinders our ability to adequately define and prosecute sexual violence. Enforcement of sanctions against sexual violence and abuse is crucial. Unfortunately, the acceptance of BDSM and founding our understanding on “consent” means that it is possible for a man to get away with rape and torture by claiming it was “consensual.”

        • SC

          Thanks for a quick and honest reply. My sexual relationship is all those things you mention – reciprocal, based on mutual desire, and when I think about it, very physically pleasurable for me as a woman. My husband has not gotten away with rape or torture – I actually asked him if we could explore certain things so I could explore the “shadows” of my sexuality in a safe and loving context, rather than fearing or loathing those aspects of myself, and repressing them only to see them show up in more insidious ways. We explore only what is mutually desired by him, and we have grown closer, most trusting, and more intimate as a result.

          I’m glad you’re asking why we end up liking what we like. I’ll keep reading on these topics – any recommendations?

          • C.K. Egbert

            If you’re interested, Catharine MacKinnon discusses BDSM in the context of the legal context of rape law, pornography, and the construction of our sexuality in “Toward a Feminist Theory of the State” (she’s a lawyer, so it focuses on equality law but this explains why feminists don’t focus on “consent”).

            I think Andrea Dworkin is a little more direct in her critique of BDSM, but to give you fair warning she’s very graphic and it’s very upsetting to read. I’d recommend her books “Pornography: Men Possessing Women” and “Intercourse.”

            For internet sites, Liberation Collective has some short blogs on BDSM.
            http://liberationcollective.wordpress.com/

    • marv

      “Sorry to kick the hornet’s nest so long after the fact here, but I am genuinely curious to play this out a little more. I think the poster you were all arguing with asked this but I never saw an answer.

      What kind of sex would you consider to NOT contribute to the patriarchy, social domination of women, or violence towards women in our culture? What kind of sex would you consider to be consistent with the type of feminism you are promoting?”

      Here you are addressing women survivors of male violence and you use the metaphor of kicking a hornet’s nest. Many of these women have been literally kicked or violated in other ways, yet you inadvertently trivialize their ordeal. Plus you are more fixated on the right kind of sex than on solidarity with the political campaign to end violence against women.

      As well, it is unethical to condone violence against hornets’ homes when they are not harming you, which the figure of speech permits.

      • SC

        Okay, I think at this point I am ready to leave this discussion.

        I have done my utmost to be respectful in this conversation, have expressed my desire to try and be supportive of other women, and have asked where I can find more information on the topic so I can put my reflexive responses on hold and educate myself.

        But just my mere request that the author, who is a philosophy student, further expound on the details of her philosophy, and my honest attempt to express why my personal experience has been different has led you to accuse me of trivializing the suffering of survivors and somehow be complicit in violence against women. You have no idea what I or the women in my life have lived, or what I have done to support or express solidarity with them. Instead you grasp at the straws of a metaphor to try and discredit me. And the saddest part is, you will probably get several likes for doing it.

        I appreciate reading the point of view of people who are no doubt very passionate on these topics, but I should’ve known there was no point in trying to voice dissent in an echo chamber.

  • SC

    Addendum – reading this discussion has led me to start exploring more the concepts of feminism I learned about only peripherally in college – 2nd vs 3rd wave, sex positive or negative, liberal vs radical feminism. So maybe I just jumped the gun with my comment – I’ll keep reading. I may not agree with all the positions here, but I respect the bigger questions you are all asking. Feel free to reply/rebut what I wrote above or not – or recommend further reading! Thanks.

    • C.K. Egbert

      I’m glad that you’re keeping an open mind and are willing to listen. I hope you keep following this blog.

      • SC

        Let me pull a classic internet move and de-flounce for a moment to thank you, CK Egbert. I really do appreciate the non-judgmental tone of your responses and my above expressed frustration does not apply to them. I still disagree on multiple points and I’m tempted to keep voicing objections, but will probably limit myself mostly to lurking at this stage (and I apologize if that language is objectionable – it’s just internet speak). First of all, I’m just not very well-versed in these subjects. And it turns out I am not comfortable having the private aspects of my sexuality dissected and judged by strangers (dipped my toe in and it does not feel good at all). And I’m not in a space to harness the energy to debate a virtual room full of people who disagree with me, especially given how apparently sensitive this topic is for many.

        Thanks for the reading recommendations. I’ve been checking out some things over the weekend, too. I’ve never been one apt to apply ideological labels to myself, as it seems to necessarily relegate me to a platform of ideas I may not be in agreement with across the board. But I guess if I had to, I would say I would lean more towards sex-positive feminism, which puts me at odds with most in this forum. I know from personal experience that the times when I have felt personally coerced or even violated sexually have not been those times when I’ve been openly exploring the depths and range of my libido, actually just the opposite. And I feel this exploration process has helped me know myself more deeply, and in retrospect, that these tendencies have emerged in me in more insidious and self-destructive ways when I have left them unexplored or repressed. Being in control of my submission, as ironic or maybe absurd as that sounds, has made me more empowered in virtually all aspects of my life, and as such, a better support for others. I’m sure you’ve heard this point of view from others before.

        But I can also see the problematic limits and consequences of a sex-positive philosophy, just as I do with the radical feminist or “sex-negative” stance. That, I suppose, is what makes philosophy interesting, and the conversation worth having. Mostly I am grateful that we have the time, space and privilege to be having these kinds of conversations in the first place.

        Thank you for posting and responding to my comments. Take care.

        • C.K. Egbert

          You’re welcome. Also, just as a final note of encouragement: Feminism does, in many ways, critique our deepest felt emotions, identities, and desires. In spite of the fact that I consider myself a radical feminist, it is extremely difficult and emotional for me to both discuss and read feminist literature.

          So that is all to say that I understand the conflicts and difficulty in opening up these parts of yourself to critical examination. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t comfortable, and sometimes it can be downright painful. But I think it’s important.

  • Amelia

    If you honestly believe that BDSM is the equivalent to sexual abuse
    you clearly have no idea what BDSM is.
    It’s not inflicting pain or harm. It’s inflicting pleasure through pain.
    BDSM actually highly supports anti rape. If you understood BDSM, you understood that the submissive is the one with all of the real control and power, and if the submissive says no or a safeword, the dominant is required to stop (under a mutual BDSM standard agreement)
    You clearly don’t understand the power play between subs and doms.
    Rape takes away control. BDSM provides the sub with The Ultimate Control.
    We don’t have a problem saying how much “violence” is too much.
    It’s too much when the sub gives the safeword, says no, or it is a hard limit, where subs and doms discuss what is and is not okay. All true BDSM relationship no the soft and hard limits of their partners, what is and isn’t acceptable.
    So for you to say BDSM supporters are hypocrites if they condemn a rapist for the “Same things” that we find sexy, is probably the most ignorant thing I’ve heard all weak.
    You clearly don’t understand a thing about BDSM. It has nothing to do with the rough sex or being tied up, it has to do with being seen as nothing but a sexual object by a partner who you love and trust and who you know loves and treasures all of you, not just loving your sexuality. It’s the feeling of being seen as something so sexual to someone whom you know also sees you as so much more than that. It has to do with giving up complete control while retaining it all. The powerless feeling while having all the power. A sub looks like he or she has no control, no power, but the dom could not touch the sub if the sub didn’t give the dom permission.
    Sexual objectification by strangers is not the same thing as being sexually objectified by a loved sexual partner. Having control and power taken away from you is not the same as the illusion of having no control or power.

    For the record, I do not believe consent should be the golden standard.
    I think both parties WANTING to have sex should be the standard. And yes, if couples want to have rough BDSM sex, that should be encouraged too if that’s what they both want. It’s not about merely consenting to sex it’s about wanting to engage in it.

    • bella_cose

      Look everybody! Another commenter who wants to explain BDSM to us dumbasses who don’t get it, but who really just proves all the points we’ve already made!

    • C.K. Egbert

      Saying “no” is not empowerment nor is it having control. If I am “in control” and “have the power” then the person must get my consent (and not through some “contract” beforehand, but in the moment) BEFORE they touch me. If I have to say “no” it means someone is doing something to me I don’t want, and you also ignore that it is very difficult to tell someone “no.” This is why the idea that consent exists in the absence of a “no” has been thoroughly critiqued, and why more progressive standards of consent are moving toward affirmative consent. BDSM as “you can always say ‘no’!” is the idea that consent is a lack of active resistance, and forces the burden of saying “no” onto the person who is receiving the physical abuse/sexual abuse or being in a position of being actively physically or emotionally coerced.

      Saying “no” is not power (for one thing, it’s always the dominant’s decision/man’s decision whether to respect that). It is also contrary to the idea that consent needs to be affirmative, voluntary, and active; you absolutely cannot in practice be dominating and controlling another person and maintain consent as anything other than “lack of active resistance.” Also, if you are giving up control, you are giving up control. You cannot surrender something and retain it all at once; that makes no sense.

      Retaining power while powerless…I don’t even know how to respond to this anymore, because it’s hard to respond to something that is contradictory. If what is occurring is occurring because a woman wants it, then how could her partner possibly know this unless she is clearly communicating that is in fact the case (WHILE it is occurring) or else being an active participant?

      Also, deliberately inflicting pain or harm upon someone is abuse.

      I’d recommend reading the responses to this thread for further information.

      • corvid

        This is a fantastic comment C.K. I thank you for your clarity and patience in making these arguments.

        • C.K. Egbert

          Thanks, corvid!

    • Meh

      I do understand it and I still think it’s fucked up. Sozzers 🙁

      • Derrington

        Yes, to me its like hearing paedophiles justify their prediction for children. This is once again about abusing and inequality. People either respect and practise equality or they dont.

    • lo

      “Sexual objectification by strangers is not the same thing as being sexually objectified by a loved sexual partner”

      Objectification is dehumanization. The one who can dehumanize another one is the one who has “power”. And the dominant isn’t objectified/controlled by “consent”/a “contract”. Period.

      “It has to do with giving up complete control while retaining it all.”

      The only one who controls is the one who inflicts pain. I don’t get why you people act as if the dominant has no power at all, it is as if the dominant doesn’t exist or that he doesn’t enjoy inflicting pain. If he didn’t had any power, if he couldn’t inflict pain/abuse, there wouldn’t be any BDSM.

    • marv

      Why is hierarchy sexy anyway, inside or outside BDSM? Could it be because we haven’t experienced a classless society so we assume top and bottom are natural expressions of sexuality and economics? Our imaginations are profoundly stifled by the social order we currently inhabit. Personally I am dumbfounded by the existence of those who question the validity of vertical social relations. How do these marvelous people learn to think independently of the overpowering System in which they dwell while most remain stuck in conformity?

    • AJ

      Give it up Amelia, just go have awesome sex and listen to some good sex positive feminist podcasts and try to forget there are people who think women need this level of “protection” from their own wants and desires.

      See what happened to everyone else who’s tried. Luckily the real world is on our side. Let them have their happy place to blame others for their misery while the rest of us enjoy this wonderful world for what it is, flaws and all.

      • Meghan Murphy

        The ‘real world,’ huh. You mean, like, patriarchy? Well… true.

    • “It has nothing to do with the rough sex or being tied up [read: nothing to do with the actual physical activity…], it has to do with being seen as nothing but a sexual object by a partner who you love and trust”

      “It has to do with giving up complete control while retaining it all. The powerless feeling while having all the power.”

      “Sexual objectification by strangers is not the same thing as being sexually objectified by a loved sexual partner.”

      “Having control and power taken away from you is not the same as the illusion of having no control or power.”

      Erm, yeah, this is all completely coherent and clear.

      How about this: “It’s all about acclimatizing to the cognitive dissonance of being down the food chain in a sadistic and exploitive culture”? or “It’s about acting out dehumanizing and dissociative rape/porn culture and justifying that reiteration through the holy church of ‘Orgasm at All or Any Social/Personal Cost'”?

    • Cari

      I will likely be denigrated like Amelia, but I am still going to share my point of view. I am a submissive in a BDSM-based partnership (the first of that type I have been in). This was not forced on me. In fact, I am the one who not only broached the subject with the man who is the Dominant in our dynamic (I have known him for several years), I conducted several months of research into the lifestyle and shared it with him. We discussed this extensively for over half a year. For me, it is not just consent….it is informed and ENTHUSIASTIC consent where I know the risks, the benefits (safely practiced BDSM is actually every bit as effective at lowering anxiety as many psychotropic drugs…one of the reasons I am so interested in the lifestyle), and both our mindsets. In fact, I will often ask for a BDSM session, especially if I have been under a lot of stress. Does that sound like the actions of a man bent on violating me and abusing me? No….it is him who guides me safely in my exploration of the pain-pleasure threshold and in the relief of my anxiety. I trust him as I have trusted no other person, and we have grown as a couple so much because of it. We communicate better, we have a far better understanding of our likes and dislikes, and I actually feel stronger than I ever have because I finally found the strength to let go of control and just experience the sensation.

    • Lilith

      And of course this never goes wrong…lol…someone who gets pleasure out of hurting someone isn’t going to be satisfied forever with the make-believe drama…good luck to you and I hope you are still alive and unraped 10 years from now.

  • Pingback: Jian Ghomeshi’s ‘consent’ defense shows why ‘consent’ isn’t good enough | Feminist Current()

  • Mike

    I agree completely that BDSM is eroticized abuse and that it’s a problem but I hate how you only make it about the abuse of women. When it’s in fact about legitimizing abuse in general of both women and men.

  • Pingback: BDSM FAQ (Frequently Asserted Quibbles): Part 1 » Feminist Current()