The economics of consent: Why BDSM and consumer capitalism are closer than you think

Hidden in a passage of Douglas Adams’ 1980 sci-fi comedy novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most interesting cultural problems of our time.

While eating at Milliways, the eponymous restaurant at the end of the universe (literally — it’s located billions of years in the future), the book’s characters are introduced to the Dish of the Day: a talking cow who walks to their table and happily requests to be eaten.

The protagonist, Arthur Dent, finds the situation revolting. “I just don’t want to eat an animal that’s standing here inviting me to,” he says. “It’s heartless.” His tablemates are less reluctant, listening hungrily as the animal suggests cuts from its own body. One offers: “Better than eating an animal that didn’t want to be eaten.”

Arthur’s discomfort — and that of many readers — persists, even after this rationalization. But isn’t his dining companion correct? Isn’t it better to eat an animal who chooses to be eaten rather than one that didn’t?

Allow us, by way of an answer, to explore another situation.

Walmart encourages employees to act enthusiastic and helpful toward customers, but anyone who’s ever been inside a Walmart knows that the store’s “associates” are more likely to look miserable and burned out.

Hypothetically, it would be possible for Walmart to create a new private school, Walmart Academy, which would allow parents to send their young toddlers for residential education through the age of 18. Walmart Academy could teach desirable employee traits as personal and civic virtues — or, indeed, as the only behavioral choices that wouldn’t lead to punishment.

After such an education, students would be given Walmart jobs for life. They would be cheerful in their work, trained never to express dissatisfaction, boredom, or anger. Each of them would want his or her job — some would feel their jobs were, in fact, necessary for their life satisfaction.

It is doubtful that many of us would be swayed by the notion that these hypothetical employees chose their jobs. In the same way, most of us would not be comforted if we learned that the North Korean people really did think their leader was a living god, or that they were quite happily starving.

We can see, then, that consent — even enthusiasm — of the exploited is not necessarily a useful paradigm for evaluating whether that exploitation is moral.

This principle is simple, even intuitive, in these situations.

So why does BDSM get a free pass?

Today’s sex-positive rhetoric insists that BDSM submissives are empowered and choosing a form of consensual exploitation. BDSM pornography megasite kink.com features interviews with smiling, chatty performers before showing scenes involving their extreme degradation.

In this new, transgressive world of sexuality, sadists — recast, now, as “dominants” and the heroes of romantic novels — inflict pain and humiliation only to satisfy deep-seated desires of their victims.

But is this really a transgressive idea at all?

We’ve heard this reversal in recent years somewhere else: the workplace, where what used to be called “bosses” are now “job creators.” That two-word term recasts the bosses and owners, once regarded as exploiters, as heroes — the rest of us are just takers who they provide for. The heroes of our sports movies are no longer sports teams, but their managers.

Ah, but, you say, this is a stretch. What does our economic system have to do with BDSM?

Everything.

For starters, BDSM has become a hotbed for consumerism, with toy sites offering accessories costing hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars. With enough toys and props, bed is no longer “the poor man’s opera,” as in the old proverb, but instead becomes another opportunity for keeping up with the Joneses. Advocates of making BDSM more visible are, of course, also advocating for their ability to show off expensive accoutrements.

BDSM practices also adhere more closely to the worker/boss model than to that of the master and slave. America’s workplaces and its dungeons both maintain a fiction of equality between the parties, even though one has extensive power over the other. In both the board room and the bedroom, Americans — raised in a society where freedom is king — find it difficult to accept that not every “yes,” whether a signature on a binding arbitration agreement or a request for more punishment, is an indicator of meaningful consent.

The flaw of BDSM culture, then, is that it confuses the ultimate rehash of capitalism’s most troubling dynamics with transgression. In a culture where domination and cruelty are normalized everywhere, BDSM seems less like a rebellion and more like a surrender.

Consider this: US schools have emphasized workplace readiness — the virtues of servitude, not personhood — at earlier and earlier ages for more than two decades, at the cost of art, music, and other “non-essential” subjects. Can the graduates of these schools, when they become adults who gratefully accept both their low-wage job and their lashing from a “loving dominant,” be said to have chosen their path?

I don’t know the answer. But I also don’t know that it matters. If I ever find myself at Milliways, I’m ordering the salad.

 

Deirdre Skye is a romance novel writer working and living in Chicago, Illinois. Find her online: http://culturallyboundgender.wordpress.com/

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.

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  • C.K. Egbert

    I give my explicit and active consent to the content of this article! But you are so right in that doesn’t matter whether someone “consents” (which in itself is at best a vague concept), or whether someone “wants” it–it doesn’t make it any less violent or wrong. I also HIGHLY doubt that the performers are “happy” in these circumstances; I have no doubt that the extreme abuse and torture to which the women are subject are the way in which they are kept in line (if nothing else, the extreme trauma results in bodily disassociation, flat affect, etc. People who are extremely traumatized or even in extreme distress will often not present as “upset” because they have been so beaten down).

    The cow reminds me so terribly of Annie Sprinkle, a pro-porn prostitute, who now says she has sex with waterfalls (I am not making this up). I can’t read what she writes and yet not think that this woman has endured so much abuse that it has become her whole identity, and that small part of her that protested against the violations against her humanity has been killed…

    • Lee

      I want to believe “sex with waterfalls” means actual waterfalls, as in beautiful nature things, because the actual meaning is probably something horrid.

      • Stan

        Yeah, sex with actual waterfalls would be pleasureable. Like sex with showerheads. Just a bit cold, I guess.

    • Andrew

      Nobody in the BDSM community that I have ever met condones or approves of actual abuse (physical or emotional). I know this is a radical concept for some of you, but some people like to be whipped, spat on, humiliated, etc.

      You assume that because most submissives are female that they must be coereced into it agaisnt their nature, which is wrong, and that even if they give consent they are somehow still being mistreated.

      If you actually knew anything about real BDSM, you would realize that submissives are more often than not the extreme ones, begging the ‘dominant’ partner to do more!

      I’m a submissive male. Nobody is trying to swoop in and protect me from myself, or tell me that I have been acculturated, or that my spirit has been killed or any such nonsense.

      This entire comment section sounds just like the arguments that were used against LGBTQ+ people in the past (and today). Just because somebody else has a different sexuality than yours, and enjoys things you find offensive, doesn’t mean that you get to claim the moral highground or claim, on their behalf (like a condecending ass), that you know better than they do what their experiences are like.

      Give me a break. You people really need to educate yourselfs better and read something other than 50 shades of grey (which wasn’t even written by a person in the community–it’s basically blackface for BDSM).

      • bella_cose

        If you had actually read all the comments here, you would have seen that the arguments you’ve presented have already been responded to.

      • corvid

        “Kink”, “dominance” and “submission” are not equivalent to LGBTQ+. Another commenter pointed out how homophobic that comparison is. You are a white, middle class man with a sexual fetish. You do not know what it is to be oppressed, and you never will. (Evidenced by the fact that you think feminists critiquing BDSM equals oppression. You have no idea.)

      • Kate

        It is hardly a radical concept to us that people like to be whipped, spat upon, and humiliated! Believe me, we know all about it and are not shocked by it! But since you brought it up (and since you seem to think no radical feminist has ever thought about this before) – why do you think they like to be whipped, spat upon, and humiliated? More importantly, why do people like to whip, spit on, and humiliate their partners?

      • Magdalena

        I appreciate this article. There are some things I do agree with as far as exploitation is concerned. I worked in the fetish industry for only about 3 years from 19-22yrs old. I mostly did “ball busting” and foot fetish videos as well as fetish modeling. At the time I was doing this I felt like I was in complete control of every situation and convinced myself that I 100% wanted and enjoyed this. I was making more money in half an hour doing this than I was in a week at my day job. I must mention that I do have a history of early childhood sexual abuse, and a history of alcohol and drug abuse. I would never show up to a job intoxicated nor would I use drugs or alcohol during shoot, however I always did immediately after. Everyone I encountered saw my as so liberated and confident, I thought that I was fierce and untouchable. Doing this ultimately made me feel like I was nothing but masturbation material, an object of desire long enough for people I would never meet to get off. I felt so cheap and violated. I would repeat to myself often “if you can’t beat them, join them”. This is what I thought for most of my life, that women are just masturbation material and they are going to be no matter what, so if I can make some money in the process of being objectified then that will make it easy to accept. It is now 10 years later and I have since gotten sober and faced my past. My husband and I both enjoy BDSM, for us and I think many others that enjoy it with a partner find the excitement and arousal in the fact that this is more about trust and a deeper understanding of each others desires. I believe that when it is done as a “job” those things are almost if not completely nonexistent. In my experience myself and the person(s) I was to do a scene with were given very basic instructions about how the scene would go, a brief discussion about the pain tolerance of the sub, and most importantly what we would wear, props used and position for the camera. When done with a partner, those things are discovered with time and in a trusting, loving manner. We actually switch roles from time to time, though I am mostly the dominant one. This isn’t something we do every time we have sex, but it is enjoyed often. I know my situation is unique, but I did want to share a briefing of my personal experience BDSM from 2 perspectives.

  • Damn it! I’ve been scooped (not on purpose of course.) I was planning to write an article about how BDSM is capitalistic, but you did before me and in a more concise way. So I’ve decided to turn my next article into a more general critique of practices promoted by liberal feminism (including BDSM.)

    Anyway, great article! I think part of what makes the restaurant with the animals that want to be eatten creepy is the fact that we are not used to thinking of animals as having any kind of desires at all, so when an animal desires to be eatten it actually makes them more human-like and that’s disturbing to those of us who eat animals. I am not sure how it applies to women though, but I do know that the eager subservience displayed by BDSM submissives is disturbing. Probably because it undermines women’s belief in the possibility of a resistance movement forming against patriarchial and capitalist exploitation. It makes women who do not enjoy violence wonder if they are crazy or if they are the only ones. Those who are into BDSM can brag about consent all they want, but they have never been in a situation where they wanted to do the opposite of what everyone else was doing (because regardless of what they say, our society definitely does not have a pro-egalitarian sex bias) and they do not understand how coercive that situation can feel.

    That said, I must again question the usefulness of framing the issue in terms of whether or not there is “real consent”. It is true that our society is full of dominance-submission dymanics, some of them sexualised and gender-related, others not. Thus we have a culture that encourages people to develop BDSM fetishes. However, if our society were egalitarian and our culture stressed the notion that romantic love can only exist when two people treat one another as equals, then one could just as easily say that the people of that society were “conditioned” to choose egalitarian sex and that their consent is not “real consent”. If “real consent” means “non-society-influenced consent”, then the concept just does not make sense.

    I think we have to admit that sometimes people consent to abuse and that this does not make the abuse okay. Yes you need to get consent before you have sex with someone, but that is not the only thing you need to do. You need to treat them like an equal human being and not use the fact that you haven’t committed rape (which is all “she consented” means) to excuse acts of domination, degradation and violence.

    • Andrew

      Has it ever occured to any of you that submissive people actually like to be abused and degraded? I do. I’m a male though, so what’s your excuse for that? Maybe some people just like things you dont.

      It’s not enough to have all the real abuse and oppresion that goes on against women, but you people have to invent new kinds that don’t exist!

      If a woman is being abused by her partner, then she is being abused by her partner. It doesn’t matter what the genders are or what their sexual orientation is, or whether they are dominant, submissive, kinky, or vanilla.

      There are lots of perfectly healthy, happy, normal people who like to be treated ways that some of you find offensive. Maybe we should be allowed to decide if we are being abused.

      I don’t buy the whole talking cow argument. Who the hell are you to decide for me whether or not I’m being taken advantage of in a way I didn’t want to be? Who the hell are you to decide what’s best for me?

      • Meghan Murphy

        Who cares what you like? Like whatever you want. That doesn’t mean the practice isn’t rooted in/supported by exploitative, violent systems of power.

      • C.K. Egbert

        It seems that either you have to say that you like being abused (and I’m not denying that you do; I can’t tell you what you like) but that it is still abuse. In which case, why does the abuse become acceptable if abuse is generally a bad thing? I’m anticipating your answer has to be: “choice”. But if it is the case that choice is the only thing determining what is acceptable or not, it seems that it is really not abuse (which you also seem to want to say).

        But, the important thing is that abuse is an objective phenomenon; it is not solely determined by whether people believe they are being abused. Oftentimes people will not think that they are being abused because abuse is “normalized” for them. That doesn’t mean that the harm has not been done, or that they have not been abused (e.g., many women who have been raped don’t label it as such, because they think coercion and violence is just part of “normal” sex–see the book “Flirting with Danger”). The fact that someone doesn’t “like” something is not sufficient to consider it abuse either–men get angry all the time at women for not “giving” them sex and this is not abusive.

        As for offense:
        “When I hear a woman being beaten in the other room, I’m not offended.” –C. MacKinnon

      • “Who the hell are you to decide what’s best for me?”

        I am a person who wants to live in a world free from domination, submission, exploitation, slavery, rape, abuse, unjustified physical aggression, racism, fascism and all the other things you find so “sexy”. That’s who I am. Those are my political values, not just my personal preferences. Stop acting like I have some kind of fetish for egalitarianism. It’s a lot deeper than that. You know what people do with political values? They fight for them. Not necessarily through physical force, but also through boldly expressing their opinions as part of a broader political movement, which is what the commenters are doing here. Of course, if you were really so “submissive” (the language you use in your comments does not sound terribly submissive to me) you would not mind, would you?

        • Um, you appear to be mistaking someone who sometimes chooses to be submissive under certain conditions, role-playing with someone they respect, with someone who is generally meek. Not the same thing at all.

  • Matt

    Yeah, I can appreciate this view a lot. Neither capitalism or BDSM are self-correcting in any sense, it’s just assumed that because people are inclined or disposed to behave that way, it’s functional or beneficial. But if you think about the media you’re exposed to from a young age, in my case it wasn’t so much pop/rap or media, but forensic psychology pervading shows like Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, CSI, etc.: capitalism is obsessed with it’s defects, not fixing them, and even if there is a BDSM instinct that exists heathily somewhere in our genetic code, it’s huge distortion isn’t a holistic practice, it’s a negative feedback loop. If you don’t take a feminist viewpoint, it’s still not advantageous, clearly: rape standards can be legitimately revisionist if the sexual acts/consent resulted in later dissent/abuse or harassment and intimidation, all of which are perverse incentives of exposing yourself to a risk like BDSM; likewise, you’re entraining yourself/attuning yourself to an emotional landscape that isn’t popular or common, just marketed and consumed. Ideology is about psychological investiture. You won’t know if other BDSM folk are really that invested in their practices, you don’t know how to characterize their relationships in comparison to yours (trust, connections, access, social networks, etc.). Sexual identity politics is one thing, it’s important but not effective, it helps young people define their limits and orientation. Even if BDSM is a legitimate choice why should it define it’s self as a youth-oriented idea (identity/ideology and lifestyle) and not a topic of discussion, dissent, potential rejection, etc., which is only realistic. I would even be willing to believe a small amount of BDSM is really desired if it were accompanied by some intelligent cultural understanding of what BDSM is and how it arose, but the point isn’t to make it weirder and sexually accessorized: the original point was that psychiatric power (as Foucault illustrates in his book of lectures by the same name) is/was used to disempower slaves, etc., think of drapetomania or anti-miscegenation laws. A mature understanding of de Sade or Nin or whatever is going to confront the idea that Sadism was neither dignified, nor was it a practice isolated from the disempowerment of poor people through psychiatry, etc., which is really an extension of family authority into the state, which by now feeds the state’s authority back into the efficiencies of family values. Especially given the latent advances in genomics and proteomics over the past decade or two, skeptics may hold off on embracing psychiatry, for now or how long I don’t know, it’s a personal and medical decision, but why not protect yourself during these ambiguous times from acute and chronic traumatism by at least withholding committment, suspending belief, waiting and seeing if BDSM isn’t just a form of gender debate and sexual combat.

    • C.K. Egbert

      I don’t see how BDSM could ever be healthy or a “legitimate choice”. I have no doubt that many men do in fact understand that it is intimately tied to women’s subordination and that is precisely why they choose it: because they want to hurt women (it really isn’t ambiguous at all–“choice” is just a manipulation tactic to make it seem legitimate because they want to abuse women and “keep them in their place”).

      And feminists have pretty well established the link between BDSM and gender (read Pornography: Men Possessing Women)–BDSM is merely an extension of the established norms that eroticize coercion and abuse of women.

      • Matt

        I don’t see choice but distorted, unnatural levels of perversion as my core argument. Why should my thoughts be seen as advocative?

        • C.K. Egbert

          Sorry for misinterpreting you, Matt, I didn’t follow your line of reasoning on my initial reading. Thanks for the clarification.

    • marv

      “A mature understanding of de Sade or Nin or whatever is going to confront the idea that Sadism was neither dignified, nor was it a practice isolated from the disempowerment of poor people through psychiatry, etc., which is really an extension of family authority into the state, which by now feeds the state’s authority back into the efficiencies of family values.”

      Why hedge? Psychiatry, family authority/values, economic classes and the state are patriarchal inventions. We can’t honestly speak about them in gender neutral terms. Men imposed them onto women and other men. BDSM also emerged out of male rule. The time for simply “withholding commitment” or “waiting and seeing” is long past. Abolition is a must.

      • Matt

        I’m not going to hedge realism with irrealism-messianism. You need technical ideas, not vapid abolitionism of neurosocial psychobiology, withdrawal from the academy on real issues, etc., erosion of family values/authority (read Bly or Mate), although I agree that class interests and nationalism aren’t desirable, they are extant systems that counterbalance each other and would need moderates, reform, accounting, not base conflation of realism with being uncommitted or unwilling to go far enough in abstract, nominal terms…

        • marv

          Your economic and male class privilege is showing. Neo-reformism pacifies people rather than foments discontent with the status quo. Yes we need a plurality of strategies, but not the kind that sell-out the oppressed via tinkering. Abolitionist approaches are not “irrealism-messianism”. Would you want to have reformed segregation and apartheid too as many white men did because it was thought to be unrealistic to end the institutions?

          Subversive ideas may alienate the public making revolutionary movements seem counterintuitive. But the public is already estranged by the systems of male hegemony that hypnotize us into mindless consumerism and gender. Moderates and harm reductionists will never move us beyond mediocrity. Discourse on the eradication of male dominance opens up a space for contesting the established order, proposing that exploitive industries should be closed down for freedom and equality to prevail. Reform makes the industries palatably legitimate, resulting in a tamed opposition friendly to existing power regimes. The hierarchical relations remain as well as an audience addicted to commodity culture and corporate profits.

          Aiming at the impossible not the possible is necessary considering the mainstream regulatory fundamentalism/fanaticism of the system against transformation.

  • If ‘consent’ is what is required to enable males to subject women to sexual violence then why shouldn’t ‘consent’ be used to justify males murdering other males? There have been cases of males wanting other males to murder them and yet mens’ male Supremacist Legal System declares this to be murder not ‘consent!’

    Missing is the fact murder;violence and especially male violence against women is a moral issue not one wherein the female victims ‘consent’ to male oppression.

    Many enslaved women and girls decided it was better to ‘consent’ to their captivity by white male slave owners rather than continue resisting. Does this mean slavery is okay if the enslaved consent??

    Murder in itself as we have seen is not eliminated by mens’ legal system but the existing laws concerning males murdering other males states this is a crime against men and these laws send a clear message to all men that males murdering other males is a crime. Of course males murdering females isn’t a crime given males always excuse/justify their agency and choice to murder females.

    So the moral issue is – is it acceptable for males to subject women and girls to sadistic sexual violence if the targeted females ‘consent?’ The moral answer is no because males are the ones continuing to have socio-economic power over women and girls and hence the issue is not one of two equal (males) deciding ‘yes I consent to what the other male will subject me to.’ Mens’ political/socio-economic power over women remains hidden because that useless term ‘consent’ supposedly magically erases male socio-economic power over women and girls.

  • derrington

    I was brought up with the notion that hurting people was wrong – regardless of whether they agreed to it or not – it was still wrong for me to do it. Simples.

  • Submissive Feminist

    Since this is not the first article of this kind I have seen and the comments here just seem to echo its, to me very, very wrong, arguments, I feel the neeed to speak up. As a person actively engaging in BDSM, I find this view extremely offensive. Firstly, if you want to write about BDSM, please do some research first. For example, sadists and Dominants are terms both used in BDSM subculture and they mean different things, to address jsut one factual error. Also please stop confusing the commercial mainstream trend of pinl fluffy handcuffs or whatever which boomed due to the popularity of bullshit such as 50 Shades of Grey – yeah, that book is full of sexism and abuse and if you are against THAT, I will heartily support you. But it is NOT what BDSM is about, because enthusiastic consent IS a real thing, and I am not ok with you doubting my own sanity and judgement. According to you, I am just some kind of poor victim of capitalism and gender dynamics and what not, who doesnt even realize what is good for her and how she is exploited. Who is taking away my agency now? Why do you see yourself as a self-appointed specialist on my sexuality?

    Yes, so it turns me on and makes me happy to be in a submissive, potentially humiliating position towards a man. (But mind you, not just any man. I am damn picky, and if he does not respect my boundaries, he gets kicked out fast. Strangely enough, before I discovered my kinks, I was not able to do this, acting like a doormat for the pleasure of every other idiot. Embracing my true sexuality was very liberating and once you start being respectful to me, I can elaborate on this further.) What does this say about me as a person? About as much as if I was homosexual, or if I was only interested in men with blonde hair. You can not reduce someones sexuality to socio-economic theories, however convenient it may seem. I assure you that my boyfriend loves me dearly and is a very nice, caring individual who makes sure my every need is met. He only happens to enjoy certain things which happen to match those I enjoy. That is all. I dont know where my need to serve and submit comes from, it may be just as well socially conditioned, but it is none of your business. I live the kind of(intimate) life I like and enjoy and it fulfills me. If you want to police my intimate life, you are not a feminist, but a sexist.

    • Loulou

      Oh, thank goddess that someone wrote what I couldn’t have stated this clearly, English not being my mother tongue!!! I’m also a sub, I’m also a feminist, and my question to Deirdre Skye was: what alternative?

      What am I supposed to do with my kinky lust?
      Keep it closed in in my pants (and bra)?
      Forget all about it?
      Play only with female Doms?

      Or maybe, (if I could be a good little feminist by your definition), find myself a nice guy or girl and have good vanilla sex, all the time the poor nice guy or girl wondering why they can’t ever make me come?

      All that, just to make you happy… why don’t you please leave my sexuality alone?

      • corvid

        Get over yourself.

        • Meh

          LOL!!!

        • Ash

          okay so “vanilla sex” is bad and boring because it is sex that doesn’t involve unequal power dynamics, slave-master romanticization and physical harm. okaaay. reminds me of what Audre Lorde said about this: ” The s/m concept of “vanilla” sex is sex devoid of passion. They are saying that there can be no passion without unequal power. That feels very sad and lonely to me, and destructive. The linkage of passion to dominance/subordination is the prototype of the heterosexual image of male-female relationships, one which justifies pornography. Women are supposed to love being brutalized. This is also the prototypical justification of all relationships of oppression—that the subordinate one who is “different” enjoys the inferior position.”

          • Submissive Feminist

            Ash, sorry, but what you are saying is utter bullshit.
            For all the kinky (and belive me, there are loads of them) people I know, vanilla sex is a completely valid thing, which can be totally passionate, beautiful and fulfilling. I never once heard anyone say something along the lines you do. Many kinky people also do engage in it on some occasions and, unlike you, are NOT judgemental towards those who dont like to do what they do.

          • Ash

            do you mean, what Audre Lorde said? Your response doesn’t really provide me with any insight? You just said people like kink therefore it is above criticism…
            Also, there’s a difference in “judging” and being genuinely curious about why sadomasochism is becoming so popular, in a society that already normalizes and sexualizes violence against women. Our preferences don’t just come out of no where – i think it’s valid for feminists to look into a subculture that is based around dominance/submission paradigms that hurt women every day. Can we just divorce ourselves from our sexual lives? I don’t think so, not when women are being raped, murdered, and maimed on a regular basis.

          • corvid

            Wrong. “Vanilla” is a derogatory term used in a derogatory way. It is an uninvited, unwanted term much like “cis” is to women.

          • That’s true vanilla is derogatory. It seems to carry the connotation that we are traditional plain janes who don’t like exotic flavours like mango and cultural diversity.

          • Andrew

            You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Any word can be used in a derogatory fashion sometimes, but in general, “Vanilla” is not used as a derogatory term in BDSM communities. It is a descriptior, and nothing more.

            Do LGBTQ+ pepole use the word “straight” in a derogatory fashion? Or does it just mean not LGBTQ+?

            I don’t know why some people have to scream at the top of their lungs to prove their igorance.

          • corvid

            Let me break this down for you, Andrew. “Vanilla” is a shaming word. It shames women for not being “exciting” and “sex positive” enough to agree to having our boyfriends beat the shit out of us even a little bit. Therefore we are silent when they force behaviour they learned from porn on us.

            The reason I am “screaming at the top of my lungs” is that you are not fucking listening.

          • corvid

            You keep arrogantly throwing the word “ignorance” around like a magic wand that erases women’s words. Stop it.

          • Sally

            Nope, when I was in the BDSM community for about 3 years I constantly heard other people in that community using “vanilla” as derogatory. It’s meant to imply the person is un-enlightened and not truly in touch with their sexuality, otherwise we’d all just be kinky (and I’ve actually heard it argued that “everyone is at least a little kinky”, which is pretty silly, too).

        • Loulou

          Not even to avoid you the inconvenience.

      • Candy

        In a way, I sympathize with this. It’s a fair question. If you are a woman with radical politics who still finds herself with a submissive, regressive sexuality, what now? How does one reconcile the political with the personal when sexuality is often overpowering?

        Now, I won’t sugarcoat this, giving up BDSM was no easy task. Even while practicing, I refused to fill in the cognitive dissonance with “my choice” rhetoric. This led to a lot of frustration because I felt I had two distinctly different sides at war. But I did, because I hated feeling like a hypocrite and prized staying true to my ideology more than my pleasure. I hardly ever have sex now, and when I do, it’s unsatisfying. Should we expect others to do the same?

        • Melchior

          This is the comment that made me respond, because it simply horrifies me. Please don’t take any offense, but it makes me feel like you were the victim and had me feel pity.

          It is as if you told me you are a homosexual, but had to give up your lesbian thoughts, because you were raised in a catholic family.

          First I must confess that I’m a dom man living in a happy relationship with a sub GF.

          I myself have found the local BDSM community one of the most open and liberal communities I have ever had the chance of visiting. People treated each other fairly and were good to each other, which wasn’t something I was used to. Nobody was mistreated on the basis of what he is or what he likes. It was … liberating.

          It’s in my experience not these communities but rad catholics/communists/right wings/conspiratorists/feminists etc. etc. who can be the most hurtful to people. It’s not consentualized non-vanilla sex act that hurts. It’s the absence of listening. The absence of understanding. The absence of being able to see through the differences in preferences – be it sexual, or political or whatever for that matter. If I have to choose between punishing someone for what he is and consentualized “abuse” – I choose the latter.

          I’ll relate a story. To My GF is a sub. She was raised in a family that was very “vanilla”. She was a happy girl, but was unsatisfied in her sex life and so after a year of vanilla relationship, she fled. She was unfaithful and didn’t tell her BF. She left him, unable to deal with herself and come to terms with what she is. Had several brief sex encounters and was afraid of any long-term relationship, thinking they might be ruined.

          I would say we saved each other.

          Now is she evil to leave her husband? Am I evil to “use” her as a sub to fullfil my “masculinal desires”? Was she somehow “conditioned” to be sub? By living an absolutely happy and fullfilling life with giving family? By having many friends and no behavior problems throughout her whole life? What it was then that “conditioned” her?

          Or was it perhaps the case the she was such from birth. Or was it perhaps the case that she was a victim of a system telling her that this sexuality is bad. That it is bad talking about it. That it is bad thinking about it or displaying it. Isn’t it probable that THIS is what “conditioned” her to be unfaithful and to almost ruin her life over the aspect of her sexuality? Isn’t this what made her unhappy and unfullfilled?

          I would say that understanding, empathy and love is what is lacking when there is real rape, real disgrace, real punishment. And I don’t think any sub would like to be abused, to be treated unequally, badly, to feel she is not understood. To give yourself up to man/woman like that, you HAVE to trust him/her.

          The responses of many people here lack just this. Understanding. Tolerance. Empathy.

          I think we should be concerned more with the ways we breach consent on everyday basis and how we don’t listen to people than whether the consent is “real” or “conditioned”.

          • Meghan Murphy

            If all subs are ‘born this way’ (as you imply your GF was ‘like this from birth’) and most subs JUST HAPPEN to be women, what does this say about women? We are naturally inclined towards submissiveness?

          • Ash

            once again, the same thing patriarchs have been saying for centuries ‘women are born inferior and submissive…women are masochists by default’ can’t people see how this is perpetuating patriarchy!?

          • Andrew

            Nobody ever said that submissive was the same thing as being inferior. You people keep assuming way too much because you are blindingly ignorant about BDSM. Thank you for your concern, but we have been finding a way to find each other and create thriving communities away from haters like you for centuries and we will continue on without your ‘help’.

          • Meghan Murphy

            But “submissive” IS seen as inferior. Feminine is seen as inferior and is attached to submissiveness, emotional, weak, etc. That’s how the gender hierarchy works… Women/femininity = inferior to men/masculinity.

          • Andrew

            Seen as inferior by whom? We are talking about the BDSM culture here, not mainstream culture. Sumbissive is not seen as inferior in the BDSM community, and as many people have tried to point out several times, incluidng myself, not all submissives are female. For that matter not all dominants are male.

            They are two sides of a coin. One isn’t better than the other.

            I suppose you, an outsider, knows that better than me, somebody who actually lives in this world and was born this way and has spent his entire adult life in the community.

            I have a secret for you—you don’t know as much about this subject as you think you do.

          • Meghan Murphy

            BY THE ENTIRE WORLD. WHAT THE FUCK WORLD DO YOU LIVE IN?? Does BDSM culture exist outside culture and history??

          • Sally

            Yet another idiot who assumes that if someone is anti-BDSM they must not know anything about it or have been involved in it at any point (I was in the community for about 3 years and I still don’t see your responses as valid criticism to this commentary). Anyone who is truly open-minded should be willing to hear/read criticisms of their own belief systems and form actual responses rather than just jumping to “You don’t know what you’re talking about because you’re not me or similar to me.” You’re just worlds away, aren’t you.

          • bella_cose

            The word submissive tends to be used in relation to the word inferior. It’s not something feminists made up. Submission is often seen in the context of a hierarchy, where the person in a subordinate, or inferior position, shows submission to the authority of their superiors.

          • C.K. Egbert

            It is analytically the case that someone who is “submissive” is inferior–to be submissive means precisely to be treated as an unequal, as lesser. That is like saying someone can be subordinate and be an equal; if one is subordinate, one is not equal.

            Whenever you say “blindingly ignorant,” you are ignoring the voices of multiple people on this threat who have been in BDSM communities and talked about the misogyny involved, the many women who have been subjected to “consent violations,” the millions of women who have been coerced into these acts by their partners based upon porn culture, and the fact that women are burdened with telling a man to stop hurting them–rather than men actually NOT hurting them. In fact, you are blindingly ignorant of all of the work that feminists have been doing and the voices of women who have been subject to violence so that you can continue to engage in violence against women in your “thriving community.”

          • Sally

            That’s what scares me most… It’s “thriving.”

          • corvid

            What the hell, Andrew? You’re supporting this man’s comment even though he clearly just admitted openly that he would rather beat a woman who consents than a woman who doesn’t, but that he thinks beating women is something he HAS to do in life? Your bud Melchior here basically just confirmed everything feminists think/say about BDSM and you still are in denial.

          • elnoumen

            “most subs JUST HAPPEN to be women”

            I dunno.

            The S/M places I happen to go to are teeming with sub/switch men.

            Is there, like, a study or something ?

          • Sally

            Yeah, I would like to see research on such claims. Another commenter on this very site claimed in another similar article that most d/s relationships are supposedly fem-dom, male-sub, so that means BDSM is perfectly okay because “female empowerment.” Seems these posters assert these so-called statistics whichever way whenever it fits their narrative. It’s okay to make these claims and use them when trying to support one’s argument, but I think these claims need to be qualified.

          • Meh

            “The responses of many people here lack just this. Understanding. Tolerance. Empathy.”

            You know what? That’s so true. If only I stop to understand your right to treat women like shit (CONSENT! CONSENT! CONSENT!), I may become a more understanding, tolerant and empathic person. Pity I’m not though 🙂

          • Candy

            Okay, first off, yes. I felt, and still feel, immense shame at my sexuality. I HATE being submissive, and while I have no interest in 24/7, I fall on the more extreme side of the submissive spectrum. I’m also a self-harmer, and as you might imagine, being both a self-harmer and a masochist is one hell of a stressful combo and often leads to treading some uncomfortable psychological terrain.

            But the reason I feel guilt is not mere feminist cognitive dissonance. While you might assert that it is, or that it stems from a religious past, I’m an atheist who never bought into the sexual shame of that culture and I used to be very sex-positive. It was with experience that I became more and more critical. I don’t think open-mindedness alone is a paramount quality if you’re so open-minded your brain falls out, and it’s just in my nature to analyze sexuality and everything else. I can’t view kink and sexuality without taking the sexist, racist, and classist elements of it head-on; I’ve experienced these in the scene. I also find the urge to hurt others to be morally suspect, which harmonizes well with my generally cynical and skeptical view of human nature. I cannot in good conscience ask a man to hit me repeatedly until I’m bruised and tell me that’s all I’m good for because I’m a slut because I feel I’m contributing to this sadism or causing latent sadistic tendencies to bloom. I cannot in good conscience ask a man to gag me with his cock because I remember the men who I asked, curious, “why do you like it when I choke on it so much?” and their admissions that it fed into their masculinity, their toxic definition of masculinity, that it made them feel big, that their bigness giving me pain aroused them. I know, because I’ve done it. I was not brainwashed to think this; it’s come about through copious amounts of soul-searching and contemplation. I have never found this to be something to be cheery about.

          • Candy

            Also, an important point I missed. As a mostly hetero female who grew up watching porn that called women all matter of misogynistic terms from age 11 and hardcore BDSM porn from age 12, I have experienced the pornification of my male partners and even of myself. I find it impossible to separate my sexuality from this media when most of it emerged after watching it. I refuse to fool myself into finding this shitty reality liberating just to fit into the empathetic and loving kink-community. I have found feminism far more elucidating than kink.

          • CBG

            Candy, I don’t know if you’re still reading these threads but I would really love to talk to you more (we have some similar experiences). I’m the original author of this article. Email me at culturallyboundgender@gmail.com ?

          • bella_cose

            I have to tell you, I find your courage in talking so openly about this very inspiring. It’s so rare to find anyone who is willing to analyze something so personal, especially when it can lead to any sort of discomfort.

          • Candy

            It doesn’t take much courage, just intellectual honesty, and I’m a blunt person anyways, but thanks!

          • andeväsen

            I have to agree with bella_cose that this analysis is inspiring. You probably know it already and me saying it makes no odds really but there isn’t a reason to have felt/feel shame.

          • Sally

            Thank you so much for relating your experiences. I was in a very similar ideological quandary a few years ago. After much soul-searching I eventually gave up on the idea of a life lived in the world of BDSM. I guess I was lucky in that eventually those tastes did actually begin to disgust me, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything at all. I remember a male-dom “friend” (around the time of my soul-searching) becoming extremely angry at me to the point of almost yelling at me. He asked me why I was no longer interested in BDSM and I said something along the lines of “Well, all around the world there are women who every day are beaten, abused, cloistered, etc against their will. Why would I want to replicate something like that when I actually have the choice to live freely? Why would I want to fantasize about something many women don’t have the choice of escaping? I think it’s hypocritical to call myself a feminist and yet to engage in these activities.” This statement seemed to make him completely enlivened. I decided to shut the conversation down because it was clear he wasn’t going to be open-minded about my perspective or experiences. You see, being “open-minded” only matters to this community when it means completely accepting, without questioning, what they believe. Yet another reason why I got out of it. I’m too skeptical for such BS. I hope that for you, you can learn to find just as much pleasure and happiness in things that aren’t as exploitative. It may take a few years, but in my opinion it’s worth it to be able to say “I”m not a hypocrite. I’m an intellectually honest individual, and the well-being of others is connected to my well-being and vice versa.” Because my sexual proclivities are not my main defining personality trait, and they aren’t yours. Sexuality is a big part of who we are, true, but it’s not the main/only thing. I’d rather be valued for my brain, than my willingness to be whipped. I would say we shouldn’t “expect others” to give up something they find sexually satisfying, but we should make them questioning why they find it satisfying. They don’t have to answer to us, no, but they should have to answer to themselves.

          • Missfit

            ‘If I have to choose between punishing someone for what he is and consentualized “abuse” – I choose the latter.’

            Is that the only two choices you have? Why do you want to punish/abuse someone (a woman) so much?

            Btw, even if someone has a loving family and good friends, they still grow up and live in patriarchy.

          • corvid

            “It’s in my experience not these communities but rad catholics/communists/right wings/conspiratorists/feminists etc. etc. who can be the most hurtful to people.”

            Whoa. Whoa! My mind has just been (non-consentually) blown by the depths to which mansplainers will sink to make their delusions palatable to women.

          • amongster

            “I myself have found the local BDSM community one of the most open and liberal communities I have ever had the chance of visiting.

            (…)Nobody was mistreated on the basis of what he is or what he likes. It was … liberating.”

            Yeah, for a sadistic man the BDSM community is the place to be, that’s a no-brainer. It does not only tolerate abuse like the rest of the world but encourages it and makes it seem like something liberating and revolutionary, something poor puritan lovers haven’t understood yet.
            And, newsflash: women *are* mistreated on the basis of what they are, female that is.

            “If I have to choose between punishing someone for what he is and consentualized “abuse” – I choose the latter.”

            The surprising thing is you can also choose to be a human being and refrain from violating others altogether. It is always wrong to hurt another person if it’s not for self-defense. Your excuse that she *wants* it too and consents to it doesn’t make a difference. Two wrongs do not make a right.

            “To give yourself up to man/woman like that, you HAVE to trust him/her.”

            No, you just have to be broken or confused enough. And men like you are very good at confusing women and telling them how they should feel in order to exploit them.
            Someone trustworthy doesn’t encourage others to “give themselves up” to anyone but is there to help and build them up again if they do. Someone trustworthy doesn’t expect people to trust them nor does such a person wants the other to prove that she trusts him. Someone trustworthy is critical about himself and his behaviour and does treat the concerns of the other with respect. In other words, someone trustworthy acts differently from they way you do.

          • derrington

            Sexual media tells girls that the more they submit to men’s pain, the more feminine and desireable they are … no wonder they end up confused. Trust pieces of shitty humanity like this? I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.

          • Sally

            *claps*

          • >It is as if you told me you are a homosexual, but had to give up your lesbian thoughts, because you were raised in a catholic family.

            Enough with the homophobia already! Yet again another person must use gays/lesbians to argue that their perversion “too” is valid. “I know I beat my wife but I’m just like the lesbian people. You have to accept me too.”

            It’s insulting and homophobic.

        • Meh

          This is such an interesting comment, Candy. I guess this relates to every other practice that we engage in as women that feeds into the hands of patriarchy. At the end of the day, you can’t just switch off what you’ve been practicing for years/your desires. It’s a tough one. But I think the awareness that you’re shedding on it is great. Have you always been aware of the complexities between BDSM and feminism? Or is it more of a recent think you’re grappling with?

          I think it’s fantastic that you’re questioning things. It’s tough to question things sometimes, but well worth it.

          • Candy

            Not always…when I first thoroughly got into feminism it was in high school and it was of the sex-poz variety. I was very interested in dissecting my sexuality and learning about it and had aspirations to become a sex therapist. I was relatively sexually inexperienced. As I got more experience and devoured more porn, I found I couldn’t reconcile this weird feeling I got watching it. To elaborate and be frank, before I started watching porn a lot after a period of several years of being blissfully free of it, I got a facial from a boyfriend and didn’t feel degraded. After I watched facial porn, I just felt sad and gross. Why were they calling her a slut? Am I a slut too? Is that why my boyfriend likes doing that, to perceive me that way? I honestly just broke down and cried the more I realized that the very porn that aroused me gave me self-esteem issues, made me feel inferior as a woman, made me question why this double standard persisted. Feminism didn’t need to teach me that there was a double standard, life as a woman did that. So why was this sex-poz feminism telling me porn is not to be scorned when they chastise the double standard? This feeling has been a hallmark of my feminism; I knew then sexuality was not something to have simple and optimistic feelings about. My sexuality was not entirely my own.

          • Meh

            Yeah, I completely know what you mean. Your honesty is fantastic.

          • Candy

            Yeah, it sucks. But if a woman can’t be honest about her experiences under patriarchy and the contradictory and complicated feelings of interacting with this system in a woman’s space, where else can she?

          • Meh

            Well, I’ve only very rarely met people willing to question this stuff/not defend it blindly. So, it’s kind of refreshing seeing it happen to be completely honest.

          • andeväsen

            I can completely relate to the ‘being blissfully unaware’ of the way certain sexual practices are represented in pornography, later seeing that pornography situates them in the context of humiliation/dehumanising, and subsequently dealing with the cognitive dissonance.

          • amongster

            “I honestly just broke down and cried the more I realized that the very porn that aroused me gave me self-esteem issues, made me feel inferior as a woman, made me question why this double standard persisted.”

            It’s scary, isn’t it, how long and what it will take to get to the point to be critical about what you are doing – or what’s done to you.
            It took me quite a while as well to find my limit and to decide that I actually didn’t want to be humiliated any further or ever again.

            I guess it’s very tough for people who are already self-harmers and who feel like they deserve being hurt, to stop, but it’s possible and for me posts and comments like those on feminist current definitely helped me to not only find some self-worth but to also realize that it’s not only about me but the women I saw in porn and the men I made feel comfortable in being sadistic misogynists.

          • “I realized that the very porn that aroused me gave me self-esteem issues, made me feel inferior as a woman, made me question why this double standard persisted. ”

            I want to second the comment saying that your honest is fantastic as is your critical thinking and self awareness. Your statement here reminds me of a Catherine MacKinnon paper I was reading where she compares Marxism to feminism and talks about how even if the employee considers enjoys their work and enjoys working, they can still be exploited, and their exploitation still matters even if they enjoyed themselves while it was happening. Then she compared that to feminism and sexuality and said something along the lines of, “What difference does it make if it was a good fuck if you still got fucked.”

          • Sally

            Love this analogy, especially since capitalism and sexism are so intertwined and dependent on one another. Great comparison.

    • C.K. Egbert

      1) You presume that we are coming from a standpoint of ignorance, rather than situating the practices of BDSM within a larger social-structural critique. Most of us are educated on it, and in any case actually the more I learn about it the less it seems they have a good notion of consent to begin with (requiring someone to say “stop” while another person is engaged in abusing them–possibly where they are either unable to speak or are physically bound–is not consent. That’s just violence). Not to mention that the BDSM community has little–or no–concern about violence when women are coerced, via emotional pressure or pornography, into doing thing that they do not want to do and that harm them–particularly given that abuse and coercion is precisely what they consider sexy.
      2) No one is judging your sanity or your judgment (or taking away your agency–although I don’t see how making an argument against something does anything to take away your agency). In fact I don’t think you can tell someone “what is good for them.” What you can do is tell others how it is acceptable to treat someone else. If it was just about what you were doing, there would be no reason to talk about consent.
      3) As for being a victim of gender dynamics–everyone is. Otherwise we wouldn’t be oppressed. The difference is that radical feminists don’t presume that everything that happens to them, how others treat them, the messages presented by society, and their own desires are somehow immune from critique and examination.
      4) You just said your “need” to “serve and submit” might be socially conditioned–if so, is that really a manifestation of your agency? (Also, if you are “serving and submitting,” that prima facie eliminates the possibility of explicit and active consent. If I’m telling someone else what I want to happen, that means that I’m not being told what to do. Just doesn’t work, which is why I don’t think BDSM can have a good standard of consent.) That is precisely why we are critiquing it. If you think it is acceptable to socially condition someone into “wanting” (or at least accepting) something, then there’s no point in being a feminist. You might as well think that it is acceptable to beat a woman who thinks she “deserves” it because she has been abused her whole life.

      • Ash

        you nailed it, especially with your last point. Radical Feminists are interested in how our society has conditioned us to be complacent in our own oppression, so how much is agency and how much is just trying to survive in a fucked up world?

      • “You might as well think that it is acceptable to beat a woman who thinks she “deserves” it because she has been abused her whole life.”

        Well said!

    • Candy

      I’m also a feminist who has dabbled in BDSM for years (which I have a lot of complicated feelings about, so don’t castigate me too much, radfems!) and I don’t entirely disagree with this article. Now, will I concede that BDSM is more complicated than just “crafted by patriarchy and capitalism”? Certainly. But it doesn’t do a world of good to deny the patriarchal elements of submitting to a man, especially when so much of sub sexuality is gendered (there are more female subs than male, and a common element of male subbing is being likened to a woman). I also think in a world where dominance and aggression is tied up in masculinity, BDSM is not a feminist act. I know that when I was submissive to men, it made them feel more masculine to call me a slut, to degrade me, to try to choke my with their cocks. And of course it did, it was a reinforcement of their societal gender role, to “choke a bitch” like you commonly see in porn makes them feel manly, like it’s so big it causes you pain or discomfort to take it. Hell, I’ve had men downright admit this to me.

      But to me, a man liking to call me a slut is not much different than a white man who is aroused by calling a racial minority a slur. It’s the expression of learned and internalized power dynamics; it’s far from egalitarian, and yes, women perpetuate this; I won’t let them, or my past self, off the hook. Even if you argue from an evolutionary psychology viewpoint- that the urge to rape/rape fantasies, which is oft-viewed as an unfortunate evolutionary adaptation in that field, stems from our ancestors not aiming for consent but rather force to propagate the species, these fantasies and dynamics are still rooted in sexual patriarchy and rape. It is no coincidence women eroticize their physical weakness in contrast to men’s. Submission is generally just this typical dynamic taken to an extreme.

      I’m interested in why you find it liberating, if you don’t mind! I’m also interested if anyone else on here has a study on whether or not BDSM practices are just as common in other cultures or parts of the world.

      • Well said! I couldn’t have said it better. These are my feelings exactly.

        I do find it curious/questionable when BDSM elements line up with societally accepted roles, as you pointed out women being subs more often and men being the dominants. When women are socialized to be submissive and passive and men are socialized to be aggressive, this seems like an interesting “coincidence” to me.

        If women were socialized into a particular role, how much choice can be going on in us selecting it ?

        It would be an altogether different situation for me if men were more likely to be submissives and women more likely to be dominants. That would seem a lot more subversive to me and a lot more believable but it seems so coincidental that things should line up so perfectly with gender roles. I’m not saying that that would be a good situation to reverse BDSM and carry on with it but it wouldn’t be this easy to look right through.

        People do need to remember that context matters. Calling a woman a “slut” or a black person a racial slur is not the same as calling a man a “slut” or a white person a racial slur. Women are disempowered as a group, and coloured people are disempowered as a group and there is a whole history and context behind both of these groups disempowerment. It doesn’t hurt or threaten a member of a more powerful group the way that it does to a member of a less powerful group. And likewise as you said, the context in which BDSM is happening matters. Women as a people group have less power and so calling women sluts and having women be BDSM submissives has a wider political meaning when women are already oppressed and already forced and socialized to be “submissive” in so many areas of our lives.

    • amongster

      “I dont know where my need to serve and submit comes from, it may be just as well socially conditioned, but it is none of your business.”

      Those social conditions are everyones business. Good for you that you haven’t had any bad experiences yet and I hope you will never have to have those because it’s damn easy to come across men that want to really humiliate you and take you beyond your boundaries. Many have not been as lucky as you.

      Also, nobody polices anyone. Obviously no words here can stop you from eroticizing violence and getting off on abuse. That’s your mystery to solve and if you don’t want help you don’t need to read this. I, on the other hand, want my life to be as free of violence as possible after facing abuse in- and outside the bdsm scene. I am done with it and its supporters.

      • Ash

        these social conditions are our problem, all of ours – the personal is political! we are shaped by our relation to the world, to other people…we are not just islands floating detached from everything else. Most feminists just want to understand what it is in our society that is causing such a huge rise in sadistic sex and people finding arousal in degrading and harming others. Could it be that we’re in a hyper-violent, hyper-sexual world that views women as disposable bodies used to be fucked and chucked? Could it be from the normalization of violence against women, the growth of pornography that depicts women being harmed, called names, etc? We don’t just come out of our mother’s bodies with a predisposition towards sexual sadism – there’s something else going on here and it has to do with the entire society…not just ourselves and our own individual desires, our desires are often shaped by our culture. It is the process of unlearning that truly liberates.

    • Lee

      I have been open to hearing from submissives about their views, but, and I don’t meant to be antagonistic, it always seems to come from an emotional, “This is what I like, so it’s justified” place. I don’t find this rationale convincing at all as an explanation for why BDSM should be free from ethical, philosophical, scientific, feminist or other questioning.

    • Meh

      “I dont know where my need to serve and submit comes from, it may be just as well socially conditioned, but it is none of your business.”

      You don’t know where it comes from? I do. It’s called patriarchy. You find it kinky.

      “If you want to police my intimate life, you are not a feminist, but a sexist.”

      I’m allowed to judge whatever I want. Stop being so touchy and dramatic. I disagree with you. Get over it. For as long as you joyfully consent to having your arse slapped, I’m going to be allowed to question the politics behind it. You can’t stop me. Sorry (not sorry).

    • Missfit

      Okay, so what you’re saying is ‘I like that’ (like we never heard that before…). Nobody has declared themselves a specialist (of your personal sexuality) or the police of your intimate life (no feminist is going after you, don,t worry). But know that we are not going to stop criticizing BDSM (or plastic surgery or the burka or…), from a feminist point of view, even though there are some women who choose it. That is all.

    • corvid

      Marquis de Sade was a delusional, criminal rapist and abuser. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s estate in Lindheim, Germany included a structure known as the “Witches’ Tower” where witch burnings had been held in the late 1600’s. These are the men your “movement” is named for.

      I don’t see how it could be any more clear that BDSM is as far from “feminist” as can be.

    • “Yes, so it turns me on and makes me happy to be in a submissive, potentially humiliating position towards a man. (But mind you, not just any man. I am damn picky, and if he does not respect my boundaries, he gets kicked out fast. Strangely enough, before I discovered my kinks, I was not able to do this, acting like a doormat for the pleasure of every other idiot. ”

      I’m sure you had very good reasons for struggling with acting like a doormat. Most of us women have been through a lot and have been socialized and traumatized very strongly into acting this way. And it’s not necessarily easy to get out of. Sadly sometimes people replace one self harming behaviour with another. I’m not saying that this is happening with you but I think it’s worthwhile for all of us to consider and keep this fact in mind with respect to our lives and choices.

      It’s worth keeping in mind that there are women who cut themselves or starve themselves and feel like they are making a choice and they do not want to be stopped or “healed” or “fixed.” Many times these women have good reasons for being in so much pain that they harm themselves, they have usually been through very traumatic and abusive situations. However often these women do feel that they are making a choice to do what many outside people view as self harm. Sometimes women do stop self harming themselves when they recognize that it is like them re experiencing their abuse from long ago in the present and they realize they don’t want to be reliving this.

      • Sally

        Thank you for your commentary. I never even thought about it in this light, as self-harm (replacing one harm for another), but mainly thought about it as being abused, rather than abusing one-self. Great comparisons.

    • “I live the kind of(intimate) life I like and enjoy and it fulfills me. If you want to police my intimate life, you are not a feminist, but a sexist.”

      Knock yourself out “Submissive Feminist”. No one gives a shit. Your complaint is akin to an alcoholic complaining to the publisher of a study on the effects of drinking a bottle of whisky per day on one’s liver that they are “telling [the alcoholic] what to do”. Pull your head out. It’s not about you. “You’re not the boss of me!” is an intellectually infantile argument. If you are serious about being a feminist then grow up and be one.

      “I dont know where my need to serve and submit comes from, it may be just as well socially conditioned”

      See, there’s the opportunity right there. Think about it. You might find that you actually DO know where it comes from. You just don’t like having to face it. No one is telling you what to do, but we do ask for some honesty about where this shit comes from.

    • Kate

      I understand that there is a very fine line between pleasure and pain. However, that fine line does not explain why BDSM culture has such a pronounced gender imbalance. Why are the dominant partners mostly men? Why are the submissive partners mostly women? Why don’t you get off on sexually humiliating your boyfriend? I know you want to say that it’s just about your special individual desires and needs, but do you ever wonder why it’s not the other way around?

      • “I understand that there is a very fine line between pleasure and pain. However, that fine line does not explain why BDSM culture has such a pronounced gender imbalance. Why are the dominant partners mostly men? Why are the submissive partners mostly women?”

        Exactly! It’s statistically unlikely that it is this way. Things just don’t coincidentally line up this way against statistics. There is literally an entire branch of Physics, statistical mechanics based on deriving truth from statistics. It is like a woman asking us to believe that they naturally conceived octuplets or won the lottery without any proof. That happens what one in ~4 million times ? Why should we believe that something this unlikely would just happen without any explanation ? Socialization (like in vitro fertilization) provides an explanation.

  • Dionne Beltaine

    This article is as clueless about basic human sexuality as well as nuerology as it is about kink. The meme that kink or porn as sexual exploitation is as as tired, false and inaccurate as the “all sexual activity equals rape” meme. You just don’t like the idea that folks enjoy stuff that makes you feel icky. You are a puritan in feminist clothing. Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics. And Annie is a feminist of first order, a hero, a Goddess worshipper, someone I consider an advocate, ally and friend.

    • jo

      You can drink your own piss and do any kind of disgusting thing – I don’t give a fuck. When people promote, glorify and sexualize abuse of the group of people I belong to however, I do care. It isn’t neutral to sexualize the mistreatment and pain of a worldwide, long-time oppressed group; it’s political. It affects me and all other girls and women. It affects how men treats us sexually. It affects how cases of male violence against women are handled. I have seen cases where the police /judge just goes “how do we know that this woman didn’t consent to being brutalized by this man, what if she was into bdsm” and “this teen has been in bdsm relationships before she obviously can’t be abused.”

      • Exactly.

      • Ash

        lol, is she trying to tie “human nature” with sexual sadism? Oh that’s not a new one, there hasn’t been white men doing that for centuries or anything…

      • This is exactly the reason why I didn’t report my two assaults to the police. I was afraid that I would get the whole “well, weren’t you doing BDSM? Didn’t you ask for it?” response… Maybe I should have reported it anyway, but why drag that whole thing out into the open when it’s already so stigmatizing to admit you were a victim of sexual assault?

    • Candy

      Would you mind elaborating on the neurology point? And a lot of porn is sexual exploitation and problematic as all hell (as is reflective of the capitalistic, patriarchal world we dwell in). I’m not sure why you would hand-wave that reality away.

      • Ash

        assuming it’s a bio-essentialist position trying to tie violent sexuality and inequality to something “natural” and “innate” in our brains.

    • You’re right, what you wrote does contain a meme which is tired, false and inaccurate. It’s this: “You just don’t like the idea that folks enjoy stuff that makes you feel icky.”

    • C.C.

      A Goddess worshipper? Huh?

      • Ash

        YES, if you worship goddesses then your internalized sexism gets washed away!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Criticizing the gendered power dynamics and politics behind BDSM = “that makes you feel icky”? Ok. Cool politics. Sexist responses to feminist critique are not new to us, for the record. Be original at least.

      • Ash

        Yes, depictions of women being called names, slapped, chained up, waterboarded and electrocuted through their genitals does make me feel icky, because i’m a fucking feminist.

    • Missfit

      Plenty of folks indulge in misogyny and questionning it makes someone a feminist (why puritan? sex is not off limit when it comes to this questionning). I don’t see what women being hurt and called derogatory names has anything to do with human/female sexuality. Sorry, I must just be a clueless puritan…

      • What’s really interesting is that I learned in my evolutionary psychology class that evolution actually selected for women’s consent and pleasure during sex (that is why we have orgasms after all), and that rape, though common, is actually statistically insignificant in terms of “propagating the species”, so to speak. Basically, evolutionarily speaking, it was not beneficial for humans to rape… ever. It’s always been more beneficial, at least at the individual level (not for patriarchy) for a female to willingly choose her mates because that means more sex, and therefore more babies. Men would rather put the effort into making themselves appealing to women than into forcing women to have sex with them… too much physical exertion and risk of social ostracism. Essentially, men have more of a stake in maintaining women’s pleasure and capacity/ability to choose sexual relationships (even if it means a particular female won’t choose them specifically). It’s also interesting that it’s a cultural universal to condemn rape on at least some level (even if said culture somehow ends up supporting it, i.e. rape culture). That’s why I don’t buy the whole “neurological/biological” needs argument in terms of why BDSM is a perfectly acceptable expression of human sexuality. It’s not scientifically valid and even if it were, just because something is “natural” doesn’t make it good or right. This is what philosophers call the “natural fallacy” and it is used in many types of arguments, whether convincing someone to start buying non-GMO food or convincing church goers that women should be subservient to their husbands.

    • Meh

      Define “basic human sexuality”.

    • andeväsen

      The article doesn’t flout any known principles of neurology.

      You mentioned Puritans. Sadomasochistic sex represents a subset of the Puritanical doctrine. Puritan spouses willingly agreed to demonstrate obedience in marital relations, where one sexual partner submitted to and showed humility toward the other. What Puritans demonstrated in all aspects of sexual relationships, sadomasochism demonstrates within the sexual aspect. Sadomasochism is directly derived from Puritanism.

      • Missfit

        Exactly. BDSMers are getting off on puritanical/religious ideas of sexuality : women must submit, sex is dirty, a sin, sinners must be punished. They like to call radical feminists puritans (!) while they’re the ones most in line with its ideas.

    • Just because it was a good fuck, doesn’t mean you didn’t still get fucked.

  • Michael Lebednik

    Being an old-timer, raised as a Roman Catholic, I can’t help but think of the biblical explication of love: kindness, patience, having humility, being keenly aware of the beloved’s needs, forgiving, forbearing. Sex being the most intimate expression of these ideas, it would seem to me that this is an activity calling for the utmost contemplation and care. The commercialization of sexual desire does little to encourage the attitude of humility regarding sex. Being aware of my own mortality, I must consider what legacy of love I leave behind. That extends certainly to my intimate relations.

  • Ess Dot

    I find the number of false equivalences in this article and thread hugely depressing. Abuse can be perpetrated under many guises, you can be an abuser in khakis or a nice suit just as easily as in black latex. Abuse and sexual manipulation are serious issues, but sticking to candles and pink nighties in no way protects you from these things. In my experience an honest, emotionally intelligent kinkster is FAR more likely to be a truly egalitarian sex partner, as engaging in kink and D/S play (well) basically necessitates a high level of explicit communication and self-awareness. And in my experience, an emotionally intelligent person who wants to tie you up but can talk to you about all the angles of this kind of play (including the cultural and social implications) is often far more trustworthy than your average dude who doesn’t really talk about sex but really wants to put it in your ass. Y’know?

    Again I would not suggest that there are no abusers in kinkland – quite the opposite. But they aren’t any thicker on the ground on Fetlife than they are on OK Cupid… and IMO, they’re actually fewer.

    I do not “brag” about consent – I give it in very specific and considered instances and am absolutely empowered to revoke it at any time, just like Pink-Nightie girls. Any partner who violates this or indicates that they are using kink as a disguise for actual creepy viewpoints likewise gets kicked to the curb. Which is no different from my vanilla relationships in any way whatsoever.

    Also, I was oriented towards kink at such a young age as to render “society”‘s part in it absolutely moot. I had excellent parents and a house full of great, non-traditional gender roles and essentially no shitty power dynamics – so somebody else can explain why I was SUPER into tie-me-up games starting at age four, because “internalizing the power dynamics of our culture” sure wan’t it.

    Furthermore, there is no part of the D/S play I’ve engaged in with partners that bears any resemblance whatsoever to a boss/employee dynamic. This is a false equivalence to beat all. The power imbalance you see in a dungeon is entirely fictitious – a boss’s leverage over your livelihood is very, very real. And again, don’t suggest that because “a specific incident of which you are aware” crossed the line from fictitious power to real power – because again, that can happen regardless of the outfits the participants are wearing.

    Also, you guys know that most people into D/S play aren’t in 24/7 master-slave relationships, right? AND that not all dominants are male?

    • corvid

      “I do not “brag” about consent – I give it in very specific and considered instances and am absolutely empowered to revoke it at any time, just like Pink-Nightie girls. Any partner who violates this or indicates that they are using kink as a disguise for actual creepy viewpoints likewise gets kicked to the curb.”

      If kink is so egalitarian and rife with sensitive emotionally-intelligent types, why would men be “using kink as a disguise for actual creepy viewpoints”?

      If we were to give it a name, what is it that occurs in that moment before the “safe word” is used? The answer is “abuse.” There is no way around that.

      • C.K. Egbert

        If we were to give it a name, what is it that occurs in that moment before the “safe word” is used? The answer is “abuse.” There is no way around that.

        Amazing comment! Thank you for articulating that–precisely what I’m thinking: the idea that you have to say “no” is still putting consent in the dark ages of “consent is a lack of active resistance.”

        • Ess Dot

          Ok. So. My partner and I engage in “X” sexual activity, with explicit verbal consent given beforehand. Partway through, I begin to feel nauseous and communicate to him that I need to stop and use the restroom. We cease X activity, and I see to my needs.

          Why, I must ask, would your interpretation of this story entirely change depending on what my partner and I are wearing and what word it was I used to signal my discomfort?

          • Opone

            The difference isn’t in the act of stopping, it’s in the intended outcome of the actions that led up to the stopping.

            With sex, pleasuring someone into sexual pleasure is the point and is very unlikely to cause severe pain on the turn of a dime. With BDSM, hurting someone into sexual pleasure (both the inflictor’s pleasure and inflictee’s pleasure) is the main purpose and that trajectory is therefore not just much more likely to cause pain/distress/nausea, the sensation of pain/distress/nausea is being specifically sought and not stopped when the danger of going too far is right on the line.

            More simply, someone is much more likely to get really hurt playing “punch me until it hurts” than they are playing “duck, duck, goose” even if they slipped on the grass one time.

          • corvid

            I guess the question is, are you feeling nauseous as a direct result of what your partner is doing, or because of something you ate earlier? Sounds a bit like the latter. This is kind of an odd example because it doesn’t reflect a situation where the “safe word” is being used as it supposedly is meant to be used. You haven’t actually addressed my point at all.

          • “My partner and I engage in “X” sexual activity, with explicit verbal consent given beforehand.”

            When “X” can signify anything from jamming a penis down somebody’s throat until they vomit or waving a knife near their throat to sharing a passionate, loving kiss with somebody, you shouldn’t use “X”. Don’t treat those acts like they’re interchangable.

            “Why, I must ask, would your interpretation of this story entirely change depending on what my partner and I are wearing and what word it was I used to signal my discomfort?”

            Not really. I’m not as obsessed with clothing and physical appearances as you liberals are. The main problem I have with BDSM are the sex acts themselves.

            That said I don’t think rib-crushing corsets that resemble those from the 1800s (who’s the backwards one now) are a good thing to wear in any context. Breathing is far more necessary for survival than sex, you know? I’m not a fan of shoes that inhibit one’s ability to walk or tight restrictive clothes either, but my objections to such things are not limited to a sexual context. As for Nazi costumes (another common part of the BDSM scene) and other costumes that signify fascism, those belong only in films which make it clear that Nazi are evil. Wearing them in a context that suggests that there is something sexy or fun about Nazis is totally inappropriate.

            So to summarise, pain, vomiting, fascism and restrictions on breating/movement have no place in sex or love. Got it?

          • Finally, someone said something about the Nazi fetishism! Glad I’m not the only person who finds this to be absolutely disturbing and appalling on sooooo many levels. It’s basically the worship/admiration of an entire society that was built on inequality. What in the actual f….

      • Ess Dot

        Obviously “kink” is only as good or shitty (honest or dishonest) as the two-or-more people practicing it at a particular time. And as I said, people with crappy motives are unfortunately hidden within basically all groups. Kink doesn’t get a pass on this because no group on the planet can claim a “100% pure asshole-free environment 100% of the time.” It is absurd to assume that all of kinkdom and every instance of kink practiced by any couple is in any way tainted by the fact that some people – other people – not them – are shitty. As a comparison, I would bring up the two meathead dudes from my high school who hilariously attended some of my women’s studies classes. They were awful d-bags who thought it was a good place to pick up chicks (lol) and they didn’t make it through the semester – but my point is, there can be liars around any table, no matter what the name of the g.d. club is.

        And ok, the safe word thing. There is no more “abuse” in the moment before I use a safe word than there is in the moment before I say “ow, honey, you’re leaning on my hair.” or “shit I have a leg cramp”. There is no rule that says that safe words are reserved exclusively for the moment after extreme pain and displeasure begin – they can and should be deployed long before anything remotely bordering on “abuse” is occurring.

        But how is vanilla sex any exempt from any of this? Any sexual encounter, even with a loving partner, bears the same exact risks – going too far in the moment, pushing someone to do something they aren’t comfortable with, accidentally hurting somebody you don’t intend to hurt. Because my partner and I say Muffin instead of Stop it in no way reduces or muddies my ability to advocate for myself in the moment. I don’t understand how you think it would.

        I had a partner who twice didn’t respect my boundaries, my instructions to stop, my refusal to whatever. And y’know what? It was not a kinky relationship, and we weren’t playing kinky games. He was just a shitheel.

        Shitheels who don’t listen = a problem.

        Spanking somebody who loves it while wearing latex =/= a problem

        • C.C.

          Saying muffin instead stop it is essentially treating stop as if it’s inconsequential. Why not just use stop?

          • andeväsen

            Because one partner demonstrating a disregard for the word “stop” stated by another partner is oftentimes eroticised by all involved. Treating the words of one partner as inconsequential is eroticised.

          • Ess Dot

            I’ll spell it out if you insist, but I’m petty sure you already know why a couple might choose to use a safe word instead of stop. It’s because sometimes the word “stop” (or it’s kin) are part of a scene the two people are playing and not actually legitimate entreaties to cease and desist. Regardless of your personal take on the dynamics and implications of these kinds of scenes, it’s a clear and uncomplicated solution.

            Personally, I find safe words helpful in non-sexual settings as well – for example, being tickled or like, a water-fight. “stop” or “wait” can be pretty reflexive things to say in these instances, and though I don’t throw them around constantly or anything, sometimes it just means “aggh you splashed me good you basterd and that was the shape my mouth automatically made.” But something like “muffin” isn’t going to be reflexive or accidental. So when that blast of water knocks a contact lens out of my eye and I say Muffin, my partner knows INSTANTLY that we are no longer playfighting and something’s serious.

          • andeväsen

            “Regardless of your personal take on the dynamics and implications of these kinds of scenes, it’s a clear and uncomplicated solution.”

            It is a solution to eroticising non-consent, yeah.

          • andeväsen

            Or rather, provided that “your personal take” on eroticising non-consent (“these kinds of scenes”) is “uncomplicated”, then it is a solution.

          • “I’ll spell it out if you insist, but I’m petty sure you already know why a couple might choose to use a safe word instead of stop. It’s because sometimes the word “stop” (or it’s kin) are part of a scene the two people are playing and not actually legitimate entreaties to cease and desist.”

            So you and andevasen are in agreement.

        • corvid

          “There is no more “abuse” in the moment before I use a safe word than there is in the moment before I say “ow, honey, you’re leaning on my hair.” or “shit I have a leg cramp”.”

          Just the very term “safe word” indicates that the situation being made unsafe by your partner. On purpose. BDSM, unlike other sex, involves a direct will to cause pain, to hurt, on purpose. Otherwise why call it BDSM?

          I am utterly resentful of your derogatory label “vanilla” to refer to women wanting to be treated like human beings during sex. The fact is that, under patriarchy, non-violent sex is EXTREMELY hard to come by for women thanks to men being porn-brainwashed. You think BDSM is transgressive? Guess what, it’s just a very literal incarnation of the way the system is.

          People like you have NO idea how harmful your bullshit is to other women, especially young women who are getting their bearings in the world.

          Hope you have fun with your cognitive dissonance and endless false equivalencies.

          • Jon H

            “Just the very term “safe word” indicates that the situation being made unsafe by your partner.”

            No. It’s *safe* because the intent of its use is unmistakable. As noted by others, some kinds of play scenario may include insincere uses of “stop” or “no” or that sort of thing. Without a safeword, *then* the situation could become unsafe due to playful uses of “stop!” giving way to non-playful serious uses of “stop!”, without the partner realizing it, possibly until very late.

            An unmistakable safeword removes the possibility for this kind of confusion, so proceedings can be stopped quickly and safely as soon as there is any issue at all.

            There is a *possibility* that things could become unsafe without the use of a safeword, but that is not guaranteed to happen – the participants simply may not be inclined to go that far.

          • corvid

            I don’t buy it John. Why would someone say “stop” unless something unconsented-to were happening?

          • corvid

            “As noted by others, some kinds of play scenario may include insincere uses of “stop” or “no” or that sort of thing.”

            So then these “play scenarios” are predicated on the idea of eroticizing sexual assault. In daily life, women get our “no’s” and “stop’s” ignored all the time. This isn’t a fucking game to us John, and the fact that it can be a game to some people who engage in spectacular intellectual gymnastics to justify their behaviour is beyond insulting.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Because it is generally a good idea to train men’s sexual responses around refusing to listen when a woman says “no” and enjoying causing her pain? Women get raped because men don’t believe “no means no” and because they enjoy hurting women (which is exactly what BDSM promotes).

            BDSM people have a genuinely difficult time convincing anyone that they aren’t promoting rape if they can’t even use the slogan “no means no.”

    • Meh

      Egalitarian, huh…

      “Also, you guys know that most people into D/S play aren’t in 24/7 master-slave relationships, right? AND that not all dominants are male?”

      What’s your point?

      Hang on, let me work it out myself (I’m usually very good at this):

      “Also, you guys know that most people into D/S play aren’t in 24/7 master-slave relationships, right?”

      Also known as… “Sometimes guys only beat the shit out of their girlfriends in the bedroom, but they’re really enlightened in every other social context. They’re, like, totes feminist even”.

      “AND that not all dominants are male?””

      Also known as… “Sometimes women beat the shit out of men, too. That means that all of women’s problems magically disappear because now they wear rubber and are mean to da horny menz”.

      • Ess Dot

        At no point in any argument will I defend anybody “beating the shit” out of anybody else, and at no point did I suggest that I would. You may not be as good at this as you think you are.

        I mean specifically that the suggestion that a d/s relationship bears necessary relationships to a boss/employee relationship discounts entirely the very likely possibility that a couple who plays with D/s dynamics plays with them only in occasional moments in the exclusive province of Sexytimes, and that this may not in any way bleed into the actual relationship. Say that once in a while my boyfriend likes me to dress up like a big scary top and chastise him for not doing his ‘homework’. Does this necessarily mean that if he fails to take the garbage out one day he’s at risk of losing his “job” as my boyfriend and therefore his livelihood? Not unless I’m a nutcase. It’s just, god, in no way is it like having an actual boss. Just, none whatsoever.

        My job is REAL. My d/s bed games are TOTALLY PRETEND. My boyfriend asks me to do something I don’t want to do? There is no part of “sometimes I like to be submissive in bed” that disallows me from saying no to things.

        Suggesting that I support somebody “beating the shit” out of their partner is – just to say it – incredibly offensive and entirely unwarranted. I am trying to be very careful in this discussion to articulate my points clearly and without dismissive, snarky bullshit, which is useless in discussion.

        I’m frankly disappointed by the barrage of strawman arguments flying my way and the general tone of this thread.

        • andeväsen

          “Also, you guys know that most people into D/S play aren’t in 24/7 master-slave relationships, right? AND that not all dominants are male?”

          “I’m frankly disappointed by the barrage of strawman arguments flying my way and the general tone of this thread. ”

          Heal thyself.

        • Meh

          “Say that once in a while my boyfriend likes me to dress up like a big scary top and chastise him for not doing his ‘homework’. Does this necessarily mean that if he fails to take the garbage out one day he’s at risk of losing his “job” as my boyfriend and therefore his livelihood?”

          … Are you seriously defending your right to wear big scary tops? Is that why you’re upset? I think you should protest about it. It’s clearly a very important feminist issue that CANNOT WAIT.

          Ess Dot – don’t be too offended. I’m doing what every good little smartarse should do – I’m taking the piss. At the end of the day, if you want to wear a big scary blouse or two, you’re more than welcome to do it. Freedumb of speech, and all that shit.

          Having said that – I will never stop critiquing BDSM (and all its other weird bullshit subcultures). That’s what I do – I critique shit. I also get a real kick out of seeing people get so emotional and defensive over their right to be humiliated/pissed on/shat on, etc.

          “Suggesting that I support somebody “beating the shit” out of their partner is – just to say it – incredibly offensive and entirely unwarranted. ”

          Oh it’s not that bad – calm down. Replace “beating the shit out of” with “wearing a big scary top”. There. Much better.

        • C.K. Egbert

          In fact, it’s not a matter of difference between beating someone and doing what most “kink” involves–in fact a lot of “kink” I’ve read about it is very explicit torture (whipping, electric shocks, etc.–no, I don’t think you need to break any bones before it becomes torture). So it isn’t saying you aren’t advocating abuse–if a man slaps a woman, it is violence. It’s a matter of how much abuse you think acceptable (arbitrarily determining how much pain/harm before it becomes “problematic”) and the fact that it occurs in a sexual context. There’s no reason to think that abusing someone in a bedroom is somehow sacrosanct and abusing someone in the kitchen is not.

          The other problem is that this isn’t a game–it involves actual infliction of pain, actually engaging in physical force. So yes, it is actually “real” and not a role play.

          And as pisquari noted below, if it is so egalitarian and consent-based, then why not say “stop” when you want to stop? If the word has the same meaning, then why wouldn’t you use the word? It’s because what is sexy and erotic is the actual inequality and actual coercion. What men like to do is not listen when a woman tells him “no, stop”–and isn’t this the problem with sexuality? Men don’t think “no means no,” and in fact it is sexy to do something a woman does not consent to.

          If we sound snarky it’s because we’ve heard the same arguments before, and the fact that we can’t get people to acknowledge that hurting someone–let alone the more horrific forms of “kink”–is abuse makes it difficult to impossible to actually stop violence against women.

      • Ash

        So many fascists practice/practiced sadomasochism…how the fuck is this egalitarian? Puritanism + Fascism both embraced it because it embraces violence and sexualized inequality. It is literally in opposition to feminist values and egalitarianism.

    • Laur

      “Also, you guys know that most people into D/S play aren’t in 24/7 master-slave relationships, right? AND that not all dominants are male? ”

      No. We’re all too stupid and uninformed to know this.

      • corvid

        Yes, it’s not like being raised in a patriarchal culture and having BDSM philosophy spouted from every available source would teach us anything.

        • jo

          And it’s not like any of us could possibly have experience of being involved with BDSM right?
          An actually dominant het/bi woman (not male fantasy paid “dominatrix” or whatever) will quickly realize how sexist and unwelcomeing kink culture is, by the way. It’s very blatantly centered around misogynist sadist men’s desires.

          • “An actually dominant het/bi woman (not male fantasy paid “dominatrix” or whatever) will quickly realize how sexist and unwelcomeing kink culture is, by the way. It’s very blatantly centered around misogynist sadist men’s desires.”

            That’s really interesting. Would you care to expand on that ? How are female dominants made to feel uncomfortable ? What about the kink culture makes that feel wrong ?

          • jo

            Because male dominance is the standard and the dominant men want to keep it that way.
            Here are some attitudes I have encountered:
            -Male sadists who insist that all women are naturally submissive, and that a domme is simply a challenge.
            -That dommes are prudes because they’re not in touch with their sexuality – if they were, they would be subs.
            -Policing of female dominant’s sexual behaviour. That a woman who has intercourse or is touched by the male sub is not a true domme. A domme should act like a paid dominatrix and never been touched.

          • jo

            Then we have the male subs. It’s a different dynamic than female subs/male doms becuase you know, patriarchy. Male subs can be completely entitled and egocentric and demand things the domme is uncomfortable with. Male subs often enjoy being degraded by being likened to a woman and forced to be feminine, which might leave a bad taste in an actual woman’s mouth. It’s what women are forced to go through simply by being born female, but the men think it’s a fun sexy game they can walk out of anytime.

          • That’s sad.

          • Wow, so do they want to be called things like “cunt” (apologies for the language) or other derogatory terms towards women ?

          • jo

            I want to thank ”Andrew” who with his multiple comments on this blogpost has shown us a good example of a typical demure male sub, heh.

            There is a huge difference from where a straight female sub and a straight male sub is coming from. Little girls are raised to be sweet and passive and nice. We grow up with sexual harassment and violence (just guys showing how much they desire us, right) and Twillight type of romances promoted to us. Our entire culture is based on male dominance. Feminists know this already.

            @Jan Yes, many want to be called slurs normally used against women, and to be forced to wear women’s clothes etc. Since woman and especially little girl = lack of status.

          • That’s sad. It sounds like a wonder that there are any dommes at all given that culture. Thanks for sharing.

    • Candy

      To be fair, children start noticing gender differences before 4… There are studies that show kids pick up on differences in emotional display around pre-school, e.g. Men are more quick to anger, women cry more often. Also, tie-up games don’t necessarily mean kink. I have friends who liked tackling each other, tying each other up to trees, and other such play (kids are just rowdy and rough, generally) but they’re all self-professed vanillas. I wasn’t into tie-up games or such at 4 but I still grew up a kinkster, and I was raised in a male dominant Christian household.

      If it is biological, all that says is it perhaps evolved from patriarchal dynamics (vestiges of rape impulses that our ancestors had, which would elucidate as to why rape fantasies are gendered and most mainstream porn is male dominant; this would also explain a study that found a group of men were more turned on by a depiction of consent violation than enthusiastic consent). For rape fantasies to exist, rape has to exist. For fantasies of racism to exist, black women must be hypersexualized, the black body must be demonized or treated as a tool (as it usually is in cuckold fantasies), Asian women have to be presented as even more submissive than other women, white people have to exoticize other races and minorities, for example. For barely legal fantasies to persist, our society’s obsession with youth at the expense of actual youths must continue. For people to like daddy/little girl play, they often must find a grown woman acting like, dressing like, and talking like a child sexy. And ignore that women are more likely to be depicted in a childish manner in media in general; “Killing Us Softly” shows how women are photographed with teddy bears and other emblems of childhood, and the book “The Sexualization of Childhood” has found that virginity porn, another largely gendered and heteronormative branch of porn that eroticizes dismisses queer sex and eroticizes purity culture, features the same thing. One website used as an example had these “teen virgins” surrounded by teddy bears, hair in pigtails, sticking lollipops in their vaginas for much older men, hymen myth in full force as men pulled out their dicks to wipe the “blood” on the girl. For fantasies of exaggerated power dynamics to exist, we must find them more alluring than complete egalitarianism. For men to keep getting an ego boost off degrading me, we have to keep wanting power, power, and more power, they have to feel choking me is masculine. For male subs to adopt the role of a woman our of a position of privilege, to find dressing like a societally feminine woman or being treated like one emasculating and humiliating, we must find femininity inferior. For degrading terms like cum dumpster and cum toilet to exist, we have to find it more degrading to be the recipient of cum, generally, to be feminine, than to be the giver of it. This is why there’s not an equivalent term. And if that sounded ridiculous, that’s exactly the point.

      It would also show that women are biologically more submissive than men (as even a study by BDSMers showed 80% of subs are women and that subs tend to be treated more poorly than doms and subject to more role-policing), and that people just have sadistic tendencies (which would prompt the question “why are humans sadistic and what does this say about our natures?” which I think is worth philosophical evaluation). You might say this sadism is reserved for the bedroom, but looking at the behavior of children like gossiping, hierarchy forming, exclusion of others and bullying, this is unfortunately not the case, we very much have the potential to enjoy the pain of others or to seek power at a cost, which is why kink is so unsurprising: it’s just an extension of that power-seeking. In fact, I’ve always thought there’s nothing very kinky about kink. To have sex without power dynamics would be far more unusual and subversive and kinky, because the backbone of our entire society and world is upheld by power dynamics and power seeking. Not the best implications from any of that, and I’m not so non-judgy that I’d posit that an enjoyment of seeing someone cry or in pain or enjoying someone hitting you is as revealing about a person as their favorite flavor of ice cream.

      I didn’t hand-pick my sexuality; in that sense, yes, it doesn’t say too much about me. But I wouldn’t be true to myself if I denied it said something about gender roles, the society I grew up in, the darker side of human nature. For me, while I do analyze BDSM from a feminist viewpoint, the problem of pain is always why I’ve been analytical of it. I don’t think human nature is particularly good. Thus, I see little reason to view sex as necessarily good or stemming from benevolent impulses either, and my ideology strives for greater.

      • Ess Dot

        See, this is helpful, discussion-wise. These are all fascinating and important corners of this definitely multi-faceted issue. All of your points bear discussion, y’know? I’d never argue with any of that, or with the larger social context being significant and inescapable.

        However, for me the disconnect comes with the vitriolic and (to my mind) unwarranted leap from “learned power structures coming back to haunt us in the form of problematic fantasies” to the other things I see expressed here – ie, that I am suddenly both a victim of abuse in the split second before I can say “wait up, my leg hurts” (nope) and an advocate of spousal beatings (also nope), as well as the idea that a consensual d/s dynamic in any way dismantles my autonomy in the bedroom.

        • Candy

          I agree that focusing on the abuse element isn’t very helpful. I don’t feel the times I let someone paddle me were abuse. Even though I wonder if many of those men found the thought of abuse titillating, as hetero sex is often likened to “abuse,” “destruction,” and “pussy punishment” in kink porn. And even non-kink porn. If kink is trying to separate itself from abuse, misogyny and terms like that are certainly not helping.

          That said, I have heard of and experienced consent violation in the scene and find it to be disturbingly common. I’ve heard of kinks that blew my mind in offensiveness – my Domme friend told me about someone who fantasizes about having sex with homeless people “because it’s degrading” and sought her to act it out and she was horrified at how classist it was that this privileged woman could think such a thing. Luckily I didn’t hang out with a crowd that was entirely nonanalytical towards their own proclivities.

          • andeväsen

            “hetero sex is often likened to “abuse,” “destruction,” and “pussy punishment” in kink porn”

            When it comes to marketing pornography, “likened to” is rather an understatement. Pornography marketers do not write copy describing their products as being metaphors for abuse or on the lines of abuse or as if to simulate abuse – they simply entitle them “abuse”.

          • Candy

            True, not the best wording on my part!

      • “I wasn’t into tie-up games or such at 4 but I still grew up a kinkster, and I was raised in a male dominant Christian household.”

        There’s your answer.

        To the question of why you developed a BDSM fetish that is.

        Of course there is probably more to it than that. There are many scenes in films (including films aimed at children) that link sex either with domination and submission dynamics or with outright aggression. Scenes where a thin, busty and semi-naked damsel in distress is shown tied up or shakled in the villian’s evil lair are very common. I wouldn’t be surprised if that sort of imagery (and similar images that portray a sexualised person in either a dominant or submissive role) plays a part in people developing a BDSM sexuality.

        But I have little doubt that conservative Christianity contributes to BDSM fetishes. For one thing, conservative men typically believe that it is acceptable to beat a child if they misbehave and insist they do it out of “love”. Then you have the core narrative of Christianity which claims that the ultimate act of love consists of allowing one’s child to be tortured and killed upon a crucifix in the bloodiest most grotesque manner possible.

        Our culture is in serious need of stories about love and sex that do not feature any kind of violence, not even violence commited by people other than the lovers. We need to show that love can exist without any kind of violence being present and such love is not “boring”.

        • Candy

          I’ve definitely considered that, especially because I was spanked and belted pretty hard growing up.

          • Yeah, I think a lot of people will say they have a great childhood and that their parents loved them and never abused them and you dig a little deeper and you find out they were beaten as children and thought that was normal.

            I was very surprised to find out that many students at my university justified the use of physical punishment against children, even though they claimed to so into “freedom” and “doing what you want” and not being “authoritarian”. Physical punishment is probably a lot more common than I thought and people think its okay so long as it doesn’t “traumatise” the person.

            In my view the main problem is not the emotions of the children at the time when they are beaten, but what kind of values are being transmitted to the child. The values are undoubtedly authoritarian. Children may or may not be “traumatised” by beatings, but it definite encourages them to take on roles involving either dominance and submission outside of the bedroom (e.g. there is link between children being physically punished and children becoming either bullies or bully victims.) I don’t think it is a stretch to say that it may cause people to take on dominant or submissive roles within the bedroom.

          • bella_cose

            I wonder about these ideas of consent in our culture, when children usually don’t have the right to give or not give consent to being touched, whether in an affectionate way or an abusive way. It’s like children are property, so parents can do whatever to them, and they have no say. Except, following that reasoning, parents should be able to rape their children, which society says isn’t ok. It’s like there are arbitrary lines drawn. You can abuse your kids, but not too much. Also, the idea that the people who are supposed to love and protect them can also hurt them without regret, is really fucked up. No wonder there are so many bullies and people who lack empathy towards other humans and animals.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Sorry to hear that, Candy, that’s awful. I can’t help but think that is related to what you’ve said earlier about feeling that you “deserve” the abuse. I’m sure that what happens to a lot of women; if you aren’t treated like you are deserving of respect, you won’t think you are.

        • Maya

          I was raised in an liberal atheist home, never watched porn when growing up, was never sexually/physically/mentally abused, and still as early as 11 started to have submissive fantasies.

          I mean… Christianity? really? where did get these ideas?

          • bella_cose

            Were you also raised away from mainstream society where there were no books, tv, movies, magazines, advertisements, and where everyone was completely androgynous and there were no hierarchies (social, economic, etc.)?

          • Maya

            1. I was regarding his Christianity claim.
            2.Your obvious patriarchal based thesis doesn’t explain femdomes and male subs, (which may not seem significant through the porn history, but is common in the real BDSM “community” just as the opposite)

            So to your answer, no – I wasn’t raised away from society, so?

            Do you really think you have the right/knowledge to tell me where my sexual preferences come from?
            I’ve heard people say these same stuff about being homosexual..

          • bella_cose

            I don’t care about you or your sexuality. And female doms don’t challenge patriarchy. Let me help you understand why. Women trying to act like men and assuming the male (dominant) role will never challenge patriarchy because it’s foundation is still based on the rejection and debasement of anything associated with the category of female (femininity).

            You know all your arguments have been answered elsewhere on this blog, right? Your narcissism may lead you to believe you’re special, but we’ve heard it all before.

          • bella_cose

            In case You misunderstood my point about female doms/male subs, I should clarify. Merely switching roles will not change the actual roles themselves. The problem isn’t just that women must adhere to one role based on sex, and men to another, but that the roles exist in the first place. It’s why BDSM isn’t subversive, and why people need to quit pretending it is.

          • Derrington

            Ever heard of disney?

          • Derrington

            My daughter aged 8 acts out submissive fantasies with her friends at school – princes and princesses. Im having to do alot of counter culturing about how its better to be dynamic than passive in the world in child speak to un brainwash her.

          • This is exactly what I fear in terms of having children. It’s already been so difficult to purge myself of patriarchal beliefs, but having to go through that with one’s own children… jeez. It’s like you try to give them the best and the next thing you know it’s all erased after one day at school/daycare/the park etc. It’s also one of the reasons I’ve chosen to stay child-free. I don’t want my potential son growing up in a culture that tells him it’s okay to treat others like crap based on gender, and I don’t want my potential daughter to grow in a world where she is taught it’s okay to be a doormat and gain pleasure from being a doormat. I’ll have children when that changes… which probably won’t be before my lifetime (let alone ability to reproduce) is up.

      • “For me, while I do analyze BDSM from a feminist viewpoint, the problem of pain is always why I’ve been analytical of it. I don’t think human nature is particularly good. Thus, I see little reason to view sex as necessarily good or stemming from benevolent impulses either, and my ideology strives for greater.”

        That’s interesting. I wouldn’t say that human nature is particularly good either (I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s particularly bad) but I think a more neutral approach makes sense.

        Btw You mentioned that you were raised in a Christian household. Did you give up the faith at some point and then become involved in kink before finding your way out of it ? I am an ex Christian woman and I feel that it’s hard for ex Christian women, we get away from the church which is telling us about men being head of the homes and how our bodies tempt men to sin and then we run into the liberal “sex positive” BDSM promotes. Ex Christian women are quite vulnerable after first leaving the faith.

        • Can’t speak for Candy, but that’s the exact scenario I found myself in. I did find kink when I was religious, but even after I became an atheist I found these power structures to be acceptable for some reason because I was still convinced this was “the nature of things”. One round of critical thinking and analysis in college and it was pretty easy to see how such an argument was flawed. It’s called the “natural fallacy.”

    • Ash

      So are you positing that you were just born masochistic? man, sounds like what males have been telling women for thousands of years to legitimize our subjugation.

      • corvid

        When we have armies of women willing to say there are “naturally submissive” and “naturally masochistic”, patriarchy has won. It’s excruciatingly sad.

    • Kate

      I don’t think the fact that you were into this kind of sexual activity at an early age proves that it’s somehow ingrained. A gay male friend of mine has said that he vividly remembers being sexually intrigued by the scene in Sleeping Beauty where the prince is shirtless and bound to a wall with chains when he watched it as a child. There’s nothing surprising about that. All it proves is that children’s media (like all media) irresponsibly conflates sexuality with BDSM, and people who never question it assume that the eroticizing of power dynamics is somehow inherent to human sexuality.

    • Tadgh

      “Also, you guys know that most people into D/S play aren’t in 24/7 master-slave relationships, right? AND that not all dominants are male?”

      I think that the ubiquity and pre-eminence of the “dominant male” can get exaggerated in these discussions sometimes. My own observation from being on Fetlife would be that there are undeniably more men identifying as dominant than women, but that there’s a sizeable portion of the latter who either play dominant roles or alternate between the two. BDSM identities aren’t always straight and convenient dichotomies between dominant and submissive; there’s plenty of overlap between the two and fluidity in adopting either persona. For example, my friend started off as a “switch” ( for those not familiar with BDSM jargon it just means a liking for being both submissive and dominant ) but now she unequivocally prefers playing a domme role. Another is in a polyamorous dynamic; she’s submissive with one of her partners and dominant with another.

      “I do not “brag” about consent – I give it in very specific and considered instances and am absolutely empowered to revoke it at any time, just like Pink-Nightie girls. Any partner who violates this or indicates that they are using kink as a disguise for actual creepy viewpoints likewise gets kicked to the curb. Which is no different from my vanilla relationships in any way whatsoever.”

      Certainly agree with this. I’ve seen similar sentiments/tones expressed many times on Fetlife by those identifying as submissive. It would definitely be a misconception to believe that adopting a subservient role in BDSM equates to being weak or a pushover . It’s certainly not uncommon in my experience to come across subs on Fetlife issuing stern warnings on their profiles to dominant users on the site.

      • bella_cose

        “It’s certainly not uncommon in my experience to come across subs on Fetlife issuing stern warnings on their profiles to dominant users on the site.”

        If there is such an enlightened culture of respect and consent in the BDSM scene, why is it necessary for submissives to issue these stern warnings?

        • Tadgh

          Well unfortunately such a culture is not universal in BDSM; there are doms who inappropriately message subs as if they’re already in a S/D relationship or expecting them to immediately submit.

          • C.K. Egbert

            A culture of respect cannot be present in BDSM at all. Really, you are training men’s sexual responses around enjoying hearing a woman saying “no, stop”, obeying him, and subjecting her to verbal, sexual, and physical abuse/torture. Why would anyone believe that this is compatible with any form of respect at all? The reason women are subordinated is because men enjoy dominating, hurting, and coercing them so much (which is exactly what BDSM promotes).

            There is a huge dissonance between the supposed (though I’m by no means convinced) “respect,” “consent,” “equality” of BDSM when it eroticizes and practices abuse, coercion, and inequality (You don’t see sadistic men agitating for stringent rape protection laws and strong social sanctions against sex offenders or domestic violence, now do you?). And of course, men are quick to claim that their abuse of women is so “respectful”; this doesn’t strike me as any different than men claiming that they “love” the women that they beat and murder.

          • “And of course, men are quick to claim that their abuse of women is so “respectful”; this doesn’t strike me as any different than men claiming that they “love” the women that they beat and murder.”

            I agree. If you go over to India or Saudi Arabia I’m sure you will find that.

        • “If there is such an enlightened culture of respect and consent in the BDSM scene, why is it necessary for submissives to issue these stern warnings?”

          Exactly.

      • Candy

        In my experience, a lot of women identify as switches publicly rather than submissives because submissives are more subject to role policing and stereotypes and they want to avoid that via labels that aren’t entirely indicative of their preferences.

        • Tadgh

          That certainly sounds plausible, and in fact a woman I’ve occasionally talked to on Fetlife wrote a piece discussing that very topic. She’s not a sub, but did originally mention submission in her profile description; subsequently she began getting messages presuming that she was indeed a sub, and enjoyed particular activities normally associated with this label. There were other aspects to her post, but in this instance she was clearly frustrated by some dom men believing that submissive tendencies equates to a predilection for verbal degradation, spanking and other facets of submission; in short, she didn’t like being stereotyped.

          That being said, most of the women identifying as switch that I know ( only a handful admittedly ) are genuinely fluid on BDSM identity, as I’ve either witnessed their dominance personally at events, or seen the evidence in their profiles.

        • “submissives because submissives are more subject to role policing”

          That’s interesting. How surprising, right? People expect “submissives” to act submissive not just inside the bedroom but outside of it too. Meanwhile we are told by BDSMers that it’s all just fantasy and only applies in the bedroom.

  • C.K. Egbert

    Notice that the people who come to defend BDSM as “submissive” are almost always women? (I think there was one guy who said he was submissive, but claimed he also did the dominant/abusing women as well….)

    And yet people think that subjugation and domination is not gendered…

    • Ash

      Internalization of subjugation…not surprising in a society that tells girls they are inferior, weak, passive, and submissive.

    • Andrew

      I’m a submissive man who never does the dominant thing, and would never abuse a woman. I am about as submissive as they get towards my wife, but I will admit I am in the tiny minority.

      However, the idea that just because more submissives are women that invalidates their position somehow is bogus to me. I have great sympathy for them because I am one of them.

      I was raised in the Midwest as a white male. There was certianly no acculturation going there that caused me to be this way! I don’t konw why I am what I am, but there is nobody to blame and I am not unhappy, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      My wife have a son and a happy marriage. We are great friends, share views or religion, politics, humor, etc. When it comes to power she has it all and I have none. That is how we both like it and I would be miserable if I couldn’t wait on her hand and foot. I would rather do the dishes a thousand times than for her to have to do them once. That’s what makes me feel good inside, and nobody implanted it in my head. In fact, the opposite is true. I had to fight against the cultural grain and I still have problems in that area.

      Does that mean that no woman has every been abused or coerced or taken advantage of in the name of BDSM? Of course not, but if a normal, well adjusted woman told me she was submissive and that’s what she likes, then I will believe her and accept that she is just like me.

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar guys.

      • corvid

        “I am in the tiny minority.” Yes, you are. That does not mean you are oppressed, and it does NOT mean you have any insight into women’s reality. It doesn’t work that way.

        “I have great sympathy for them because I am one of them.” You are not a woman. You have no idea what it is like to be a woman on any front.

        “When it comes to power she has it all and I have none.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. You think one man doing the dishes a thousand times is remotely equivalent to dissolving patriarchy?

        No woman is “well adjusted” to patriarchy. Our lives are basically damage control. That you can gloss over the reality of the forced submission of women as a class to men as a class proves that you have more privilege than you know what to do with. A cigar isn’t just a cigar when it’s being used to bludgeon women into losing our will to fight injustice.

        • ““When it comes to power she has it all and I have none.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. You think one man doing the dishes a thousand times is remotely equivalent to dissolving patriarchy?”

          Yes. Also I’m willing to bet that his submissiveness doesn’t extend to doing equal childcare and giving his fair half of the time and energy spent taking care of his son. His “feminine” submissiveness probably only extends to wearing frilly dresses and thongs and emulating porn actresses. But “femininity/womanliness” for these guys never means taking care of children. You never see these male submissives being so submissive that they volunteer to take half the “maternity”/parental leave in the first year of life with their babies. That would be too uncool, unsexy and not upscale enough for these guys’ tastes.

          • Andrew

            You couldn’t be more wrong. I do 90% of the cooking, cleaning, errands and childcare. She does virtually nothing outside work and my fetishes are only indulged a few times a year.

            There are many men who claim to be submissive who “top from the bottom”. I am not one of them.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I so don’t believe you….

          • Andrew

            What is there not to believe? I like to cook. I’m a stay at home dad until he goes to pre-k. Doing the chores and errands is just part of it. I did the cooking and cleaning before our son and I’ll do it again even when I’m working. I enjoy giving her free time.

            I also noticed you never approved my long comment from this morning where I apologized for some of my behavior, and now you are accusing me of being a liar. Why should I even bother to continue having a discussion with you?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I honestly didn’t notice I hadn’t approved one of your comments. It gets busy here and lots of people’s comments get missed from time to time. I’ll get on it, stat!

          • Andrew

            Thank you! I appreciate it. I do want to apologize again. I would rather be your friend than your enemy, and even though we may never see eye to eye on some things, I do want to see sexism go away and the world made a better and safer place for women. I have a lot of privilege, and I will never know what it’s like to be a woman; however, I am not blind to some of the problems, and with your approval (I know this is your site and I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted) I’d like to stick around and be part of the community.

            I promise to be polite and respectful from now on. I am ashamed of my behavior and shouldn’t have let my feelings get the better of me.

          • Andrew

            And for the record I never said anthing about being feminine or disolving patriarchy. You are reading too much into my comment.

          • corvid

            It’s the “power” thing, Andrew. What your wife has isn’t power, it’s one husband out of many who does chores and helps with childcare on a voluntary basis. So what if yours is a household where roles are reversed? Women as a class are still burdened with the vast majority of unpaid, un-recognized labour. The exception proves the norm, and the fact that you think your doing chores confers power upon your wife is evidence that you know women in general are operating at a considerable deficit of power.

      • Donkey Skin

        “When it comes to power she has it all and I have none.”

        This is the exact opposite of what BDSM supporters claim when defending the much more common male dom/female sub dynamic. Then it’s all: ‘The bottom actually has all the power!’

        It’s almost as if they’re just trotting out whatever lines they think will best protect BDSM from feminist analysis…

        • Missfit

          Excellent point! So true.

  • pisaquari

    Inquiring minds: if you love consent and egalitarianism so much, why you gotta pretend it’s not there?
    HMMMM….

    • andeväsen

      Exactly this. The feminist answer to that question – that our responses to social cues including sexual arousal are framed within the wider inequality between the sexes – is dismissed.

  • jo

    It’s good to see someone write about capitalism and BDSM.
    Sexual pleasure and orgasms don’t cost anything. To have sex or masturbate, a person usually either needs nothing, or very little in terms of accessories. But BDSMers look down on actual sex – “vanilla” – and feel that they need expensive luxury equipment to enjoy something as basic and free as sexual pleasure, despite being able-bodied. Awesome! Now lots of money can be made!
    And who makes this equipment? Underpaid, brown-skinned female factory workers, probably.

    • Ash

      BDSM is the opposite of female sexual liberation – literally. For decades we have been trying to convince men that we are not, in fact, “inherently inferior and submissive” that we are not fuck toys. but apparently that makes us “puritans” and “pearl clutchers” instead of women who enjoy and desire equal, respectful, fulfilling sex lives with an absence of sexist name-calling, violence and degradation.

      • Thank you. My thoughts exactly. How loud do women have to scream to be heard ? I feel like Rose in Titanic where she says she’s screaming at the top of her lungs and no one is hearing her.

    • Ess Dot

      I don’t look down on “actual sex”, in fact I have quite a lot of “actual sex” myself.

      Many women need vibrators to climax, do you consider this in the realm of “unnecessary expensive equipment made by 3rd world labor” that women should just do without because some other women don’t need them and can bring themselves to orgasm with just their hands?

      Manufacturing practices are a thing, but telling one group of people that they’re wrong for wanting certain toys because another group of people doesn’t want or need those specific toys is pretty silly.

      • andeväsen

        “Many women need vibrators to climax, do you consider this in the realm of “unnecessary expensive equipment made by 3rd world labor” that women should just do without”

        If you’re framing it in trade terms then the oppression of third world labour is not worth one million first world climaxes.

        “telling one group of people that they’re wrong for wanting certain toys because another group of people doesn’t want or need those specific toys is pretty silly”

        No one is being told they are wrong. This assertion is an echo of our consumer culture which actively discourages us from considering and questioning our wants.

        • Ess Dot

          actually you’re totally right. I definitely didn’t consider that aspect of what I was claiming and that was suuper foolish. 3rd world labor is indeed a bigger deal than my vibe, obvs, god.

          I should have framed that entirely differently. I mean to identify that bdsm is in no way alone in having a range of toys/outfits of dubious provenance available to and/or peddled towards, and that it’s a valid issue unconnected to the bdsm-nes of anything. Which in a lot of people’s lives involves ten feet of rope and playacting far more than expensive dungeon equipment.

          I think several blanket statements were made in Jo’s post – specifically “But BDSMers look down on actual sex – “vanilla” – and feel that they need expensive luxury equipment to enjoy something as basic and free as sexual pleasure, despite being able-bodied.” which were far too broad and generalizing. I don’t look down on so-called vanilla sex, I don’t feel I need luxury equipment for anything, also, statement assumes all bdsm’ers are able-bodied, which is foolish.

          I should have been able to take more specific issues with those things without making the, yes, huge f*king error you have pointed out. Thx.

          • andeväsen

            Fair enough. You’re obviously right that everything from McDonald’s toys to t-shirts are mass manufactured by unfairly compensated workers working in unacceptable conditions.

      • Ash

        What did women do for thousands of years before sex toys and porn?! how did humanity survive without sex devices?!

        • corvid

          Obviously women are too stupid to know anything about our genitalia, and therefore need teh menz to produce an endless supply of pictures showing us where it is and what to do with it! Likewise we need their shiny battery-operated devices or else we will shrivel up and die.

    • jo

      Thanks everyone who upvoted my comment and thus seem to have understood what I clumsily tried to say!

      Which is basically: Screw this bourgeoisie BDSM crap. Acting out slavery for kicks when the world is full of real life slaves.

    • “But BDSMers look down on actual sex – “vanilla” – and feel that they need expensive luxury equipment to enjoy something as basic and free as sexual pleasure, despite being able-bodied.”

      I would say that BDSMers are also being manipulated (without realizing it) in this way. In a capitalist society people will feel “better” about an activity that they paid a lot of money to engage in, they feel that it’s classier. They feel that they are keeping up with the Joneses and engaging in something “upscale” and they feel validated in what they are doing, that it is the right thing. They spent all this money on this BSDM equipment, that’s got to be love or at least they will definitely feel better about themselves than those poor old folks having sex for free.

      And from the prostitution discussion we all know that “class” (and the flow of money) in particular completely blinds people to violence. If rape is happening in a four star hotel and the rapist has class and the victim is being compensated with money, it’s not rape. It’s now choice and agency.

      • Andrew

        I honestly can’t stand the level of ignorance in this comment section. All of you, please stop talking.

        • Meghan Murphy

          HEY LADIES THIS MAN WANTS US TO STFU, K?

          • Andrew

            The poster above me says that we are deulusional and tricked into buying expensive equipment to make ourselves feel better about sex and you are upset that I call her out for her stupidity?

            Are you kidding me? Do you people honestly think BDSM is nothing more than abusive relationships and fashionable sex toys? Get a damn clue.

            First of all, BDSM stands for three different things that don’t always go together. All the whips and furniture and whatnot are a small part of that and most people don’t buy that much.

            BD stands for bondange and dicipline. There are a lot of people who honestly just like to be tied up, or to tie up other people. Some of them have sex, some of them don’t. They make a very elaborate ritual out of it and can spend hours setting it all up. I find it incredibly boring, but it’s not my thing. Others like to wraped up, or engange in breath play. It’s all about constriction and loss of control.

            DS stands for Dominance and Submission. It’s about voluntary power exchange. This is not very common at all outside of some roleplaying in the bedroom. Contrary to what some people on here think about battered wives being abused by their husbands in some kind of male dominated hell, the VAST MAJORITY of people in the scene do not engange in 24/7 power exchange. My wife and I happen to be in the minoirty there, especially considering that I’m submissive and she is dominant.

            SM stands for Sadism and Masochism. Some people like pain. I know it’s hard to believe but I’ve met many of them. My wife once canned a man until he was bleeding and he had a huge grin on his face the whole time. She only stopped because her arm was sore. He probably would have gone longer. There are a very few people who are not responsible sadists, but they exist everywhere in life. They aren’t magically being created because of BDSM. Most people practice safe play. Submissives are almost never hurt more than they want to be, are usually more extreme than their dominants (that has been my experience over many years), and everybody knows that a risk is involved. We wouldn’t do it otherwise.

            Also, this idea that consent doesn’t matter because it can be cocered is nonsense. How can society function if people aren’t free to persue their desires? Who is the rule maker? Must everthing be egalitarian? There are plenty of us who would be miserable with that. Who decided that was best in the first place?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Um. Since when are you not ‘free to pursue [your] desires’? All you seem to be pissed off about is a conversation challenging the idea that your sexual fetishes somehow exist outside the context of gender/race/class inequality…

          • “How can society function if people aren’t free to pursue [sic] their desires?”

            Yeah Ladeez – without libertarianism, society will surely crumble!!!!!

            “Must everthing be egalitarian?”

            Yes, Andrew: it’s pretty awful to come to a feminist blog and find people talking about social justice and critiquing inequality. You poor little thing – how do you withstand such violation of your gawd-given supremacy?

          • Meghan Murphy

            IF PEOPLE CAN’T DO WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT WHENEVER THEY FEEL LIKE IT OUR SOCIETY OF 6 YEAR OLDS WILL FALL APART.

          • Leo

            ‘Breath play’

            You mean choking or suffocating people, usually women. If you think what those involved in BDSM are doing is just fine, then at least use language in a way that doesn’t obscure what’s going on.

            Yes, we do want society to be egalitarian. People can unlearn harmful ideas and desires (and in an egalitarian culture, wouldn’t learn them in the first place). Try to think outside the patriarchal box.

          • “The poster above me says that we are deulusional and tricked into buying expensive equipment to make ourselves feel better about sex and you are upset that I call her out for her stupidity?”

            If the shoe fits wear it. Why did my comment trigger you to insult me, call me stupid and tell me to shut up ? You got enraged over my comment. It must have had a grain of truth to it for you. You are spending your money buying all of this BDSM gear thinking that it makes you cooler, and classier and it’s not making you or your sex life any more upscale. You think that it makes you more hip like those rich people with their million dollar dungeons. BTW I was simply reiterating and expanding slightly on the point of the article. I didn’t add much new.

          • Meh

            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            He doesn’t sound very “submissive” at all. Sounds like an emotional little bossy boots to me.

          • Thanks. It looks like I hit a nerve with my remark on BDSMers wanting to be in with the “cool” classy, “upscale” crowd.

          • They really do… many of their outfits are based on upper class monarchy style in the vein of feudalistic society…. ya know… when serfdom existed and women were burnt at the stake for being witches… totes equality. Totes feminism, right? I mean c’mon… riding crops… leather corsets… leather riding boots… Lace and gloves and whips… It screams romanticism of slavery and serfdom. I see nothing “feminist” about it. The ruling class is who wore and used these props hundreds of years ago, and BDSMers are trying to convince us that these props aren’t representative of inequality, but simply a sexual choice and representative of an enlightened society. Riight… But I mean… dungeons. How stupid do you think we are? The old popes utilized dungeons. Kings utilized dungeons. Emperors utilized dungeons. I would never want to go back in time to any of these eras, when torture for ideology was the norm. F that!

        • pisaquari

          ANDREW, PLEASE USE THE SAFE WORD

          • Meghan Murphy

            HAAAAAAAAA.

          • Margaret McCarroll

            MUFFIN, Andrew, MUFFIN!!!

    • I have never felt BDSM enthusiasts looked down on me for being vanilla. I wouldn’t have chosen it as part of my username had it been something used as an insult against me. (The reasons I chose it are quite complex and layered, but do refer in part to my vanilla-ness as well as my lack of tattoos and piercings, my lack of adventurousness and so on. I now do have one piercing, but that’s still rather tame.)

      • corvid

        According to several online dictionaries, here is what “vanilla” means as applied to human behaviour and circumstances:

        “not having any special features or qualities”

        Synonyms for vanilla: “beige, characterless, faceless, featureless, indistinctive, neutral, noncommital, nondescript”

        “Conventional; usual; bland; white bready”

        “A white person, esp a white woman ”

        “A person of ordinary sexual preferences; a usual heterosexual; straight: They called women who did not proclaim joy at being chained to the bedposts or chaining someone else ”vanilla””
        [Read: women who dislike beating or being beaten during sex are boring]

        “the white color and the perhaps unimaginative choice of vanilla ice cream”

        “Lacking adornments or special features; basic or ordinary”

        This shit sounds pretty derogatory to me, VR. Kinksters, who follow a tradition begun by men and dominated/ruled by men, love to moan about being misunderstood but they’re perfectly happy to apply this label to women who have worked our whole lives to be seen as human beings, and to have men treat us like human beings and not fuck-objects. Equality is still a dream for us. This label is yet another slap in the face, the addition of insult to injury.

        • I was referring to comments from actual people with an interest in BDSM, not dictionary definitions.

          • bella_cose

            No, when a word has an assigned meaning that is widely accepted you don’t get to say that it means something else, or that is isn’t derogatory. The entire reason your community uses the word is because of its meaning. It’s not a random choice.

  • Submissive Feminist

    OK, so after all the backlash I reciened here I sort of regret that I spoke up at all. I must inform you that, no matter what kind of bad feminist or whateve that makes me in your eyes, I will continue to do my thing and to enjoy it. I thought that this was what feminism was trying to achieve – for everyone to be able to do their thing unapologetically, without the need to justify themselves in front of the Moral Committee. Anyway, that is still my take on feminism and if you dont like it, well, I dont care. I just cannot imagine a more un-feminist thing that putting your nose into someones private life and telling them that they are Wrong.

    Anyway, yes, we all are socially conditioned. Even you. But sexuality is just a thing much more complex than that. And again, as someone mentioned before, what would you suggest me to do? Should I stop doing what I like and live a life of sexual repression? How is your Feminist Paradise different from patriarchy then?

    • Meghan Murphy

      No one is calling you a bad feminist, nor is anyone demanding you stop doing what you want in the bedroom. They are asking you to think more critically about the reasons WHY you/others might find BDSM to be a turn on and what social/political context exists to prop up the sexualization of domination and submission.

      And no, feminism is certainly NOT trying to ensure that “everyone to be able to do their thing unapologetically.” That’s ridiculous. You want to live in an ‘anything goes’ society, see how that works out for the marginalized.

      I am fully aware and extremely transparent about the ways in which my personal life can fail to match up perfectly with my political beliefs yet I’m still able, willing, and interested in interrogating those behaviours and being critical of them.

    • Candy

      Yeah, I don’t see how feminism is about feelings of “empowerment.” It’s about analysis and the dismemberment of power structures, and those can’t be achieved through doing what you like alone. Women can do things they like and still contribute to these structures. I’ve always thought of feminism as a philosophy, and a philosophy must be maintained.

      I’m a bit surprised, if you think feminism is just about making choices (despite the fact that “choices” exist in relation to culture; there are women who consent to purity balls and infibulation and porn that makes fun of child sexual abuse survivors and self-harmers, but I see little reason not to analyze the context of those choices other than “oh no, might offend delicate sensibilities”), that you read this blog, and I wonder why you didn’t respond to criticism of certain gendered and even racist acts and elements of BDSM as if it’s some egalitarian wonderland insulated from the emulation of societal dynamics. It’s not. I’ve been in the scene. One thing that stuck out was a “Dom” talking to a ” Domme” about why she found it so difficult to network with other female dominants. He said “almost all subs are women.” People at the table agreed. This supposedly progressive kink club played almost exclusively female submissive porn. It was much more common to see a woman getting whipped or led on a collar than a man.

    • Meh

      What “moral committee”? I wasn’t informed about any of this. I WANT TO JOIN!

      “Anyway, that is still my take on feminism and if you dont like it, well, I dont care.”

      Yes you do. That’s why you’re here.

      At the end of the day, we all engage in behaviors that conform to patriarchy. But here’s the difference: You outwardly defend your allegiance to patriarchy, I go to great lengths to politicize my engagement with patriarchal practices.

      You are more than free/entitled to engage in whatever behaviour your want. But at the same time, we’re also entitled to question that behaviour, and whether or not said behaviour glamorises/eroticises violence against women. Do you have any idea how many violent fucks out there think it’s so fucking convenient that the notion of “consent” exists? I know SOOOO many men who love that word – because it means that they can allocate a part of their day to treating women like fucking shit in a legitimised way. Think outside the box a little.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I want in on this moral committee thing, too! Do we have a donut budget?

        • Meh

          We should have a uniform: pink nighties. And pearls. Don’t forget the pearls.

          I’M PRACTICING THE CLUTCHING AS WE SPEAK.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Everyone wear their chastity belts to the first meeting!

          • jo

            …but not the second? 😉 Scandalous! *clutches pearls*

    • Lee

      “I thought that this was what feminism was trying to achieve – for everyone to be able to do their thing unapologetically, without the need to justify themselves in front of the Moral Committee.”

      Nope. Feminism is trying to achieve the end of oppression of women. What you are talking about is post-modernist do-your-thing-ism. It’s marketing, a Pepsi slogan, meant to make people feel ’empowered’ by getting to choose between different types of products and expressing their ‘individuality’ through shopping. “Do you” doesn’t solve social or political problems, even if it’s an ideal people within movements may hold (within reason — no, Cannibal Cop doesn’t get to do his thing free from the burden of moral questions about whether it’s OK to torture, cook, and eat women because hey, he likes it).

      • Sally

        Finally, someone else pointed out the post-modernist flavor of some of these comments! As a feminist, I see people’s identities as being strongly influenced by the material conditions of a society. To claim we’re all just islands and we can be completely free of it on an individual basis is really quite ignorant and indicative of privilege.

    • Alex

      “I thought that this was what feminism was trying to achieve – for everyone to be able to do their thing unapologetically, without the need to justify themselves.”

      BDSM debate aside–I simply don’t have the patience anymore– I would like to know when this became part of the script. Since its inception, feminism has been motivated to combat the patriarchy/hegemony via critical discourse and examination of problematic behaviors, beliefs, and systems. Despite that, I have seen a rapidly growing tilt toward “choosy choice” feminism, and it baffles me.

      I realize there has always been a divide between liberal and radical feminist ideals, but I’m a little confused about why/when/how liberal feminism began advocating for an outlook that is devoid of personal accountability and self reflection. Personal is political, after all–or so I thought.

    • bella_cose

      People like you get so defensive about criticism of BDSM precisely because you’re afraid to look at the practice and analyze it, most likely because what you find would make you very uncomfortable. It’s much easier to brush aside disagreement, whine about “choice” and “agency”, and throw out some cliches about how we’re being puritanical for using our brains and connecting the dots.

      No one gives a shit about what you do personally. What’s offensive is your refusal to see how your activities are connected to a larger system in which women are oppressed.

    • andeväsen

      “And again, as someone mentioned before, what would you suggest me to do? Should I stop doing what I like and live a life of sexual repression?”

      Since you’re asking, how about thinking about why what you like looks a lot like sexual repression?

    • “I just cannot imagine a more un-feminist thing that putting your nose into someones private life and telling them that they are Wrong.”

      Well it’s probably un-feminist by liberal feminist “individual choice” standards but it isn’t by radical feminist standards. Have you ever heard the phrase, “The personal is political” ? What do you think of that ?

    • Andrew

      I am sad to see the way you have been treated here. Take heart that not everybody feels that way.

      They just don’t get it because they aren’t one of us. As a fellow submissive (though a male), I get it, and I support you. Live you life and be happy.

      • corvid

        Awwww, what a sweetheart you are Andrew, supporting a woman’s “choice” to be tortured sexually in patriarchy. Tell me, what have you to say about the OTHER concerns women have brought up on this thread? How about the numerous women who have commented very eloquently on their experiences of abuse and silencing? Let’s face it, there’s only one kind of woman you care about: those who reaffirm your selfish beliefs.

      • amongster

        God, that makes me sick and confirms what I have come to realize about all men (“sub” or dom): they are manipulative as hell and only concerned about their own well-being.

  • andeväsen

    Thanks, Deirdre Skye, for this piece. It is clear from the responses in the comments that narratives of sadomasochism fit neatly within our consumer culture where personal choice overrides collective representations.

    For anyone who hasn’t already, the 4-part ‘The Century of the Self’ documentary series by Adam Curtis, free on youtube, is worth a watch.

    • Mar Iguana

      To say “The Century of the Self,” is worth a watch is an understatment. If you’ve ever felt like little more than a lab rat trying to negotiate a mindfuck maze, this documentary explains why and how that’s pretty much what people have become through the systematic and conscious efforts of our capitalist masters.

      The aggrandizement of the individual is the ultimate divide and conquer tactic, pitting not just groups against each other, but each human, destroying any sense of community and the commons. It is what enables a woman (or fratboy prankster) like Submissive Feminist (perfect oxymoron) to say mindless things like “…that is still my take on feminism and if you dont like it, well, I dont care.”

      • andeväsen

        This is true. Patriarchal living rebranded as a lifestyle choice.

  • corvid

    This is for Dionne upthread, who said: “Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.” COYOTE is also acronym for an organization dedicated to furthering “sex work.”

    Doesn’t the pro-“sex work” crowd just love to say that “prostitution is the world’s oldest profession?” The sexual/reproductive domination and enslavement of women represents a system of ethics that are profoundly “old” and “tired.” But of course only women who express the idea that we want to be treated like full human beings are guilty of harbouring “old, tired ethics.” Sounds like misogyny to me.

  • Henke

    Thank you for this pieace. A good take on the relation between BDSM and Capitalism. I also think that the more people of a community you have engaged in sexual practices such as BDSM, the more it tells of the mental unbalance that is going on there.

  • Michael Lebednik

    Candy, Just reading your short message about being spanked and whipped as a child makes me cringe. Thank you for sharing. My limited repertoire with ‘vanilla’ sex has never been boring, and has had moments of exquisite tenderness, passion, and bonding with my partner. I am grateful for every such experience. “50 shades of Vanilla”?

  • Andrew

    As a submissive man married to a dominant woman, I have serious problems with this article. Let me ask you something? Does the fact that men can’t relate to the experiences of women make them less capable of understanding the position of women who are oppressed? Yes. Guess what, the same applies to kink, dominance, and submission. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about, take all your ideas about BDSM from popular media, and have no understanding what what real oppression is like in the scene (which isn’t really different from outside) or what it means to be one of us and have the feelings we have.

    Because I am a man, I don’t have all the other problems that women have when it comes to being oppressed sexually, but that also means that my natural submission should be taken at face value. I sure as hell wasn’t acculturated into it, now was I?

    The idea that all BDSM is about men dominating women is wrong. The idea that those women don’t really want what they say they want because they have been conditioned to and don’t have the agency to decide what’s good for them is also bullshit.

    In fact, what you are really doing is treating submissive women the same way mysoginistic men treat women. You don’t value their opinions, beliefs, experiences, give them agency, or treat them like equals. Instead, you choose to treat them like victims and children even when they tell you they aren’t.

    You are a snob, ignorant, and quite frankly pissing me off. Please don’t write about things you don’t understand.

    • Lee

      This post isn’t for you. I suggest finding something else to read.

    • marv

      “As a submissive man married to a dominant woman, I have serious problems with this article.”

      Whether a man is subservient or equal to a woman in marriage does not mean the institution is non-patriarchal. The cult of marriage is inherently a sexist practice. It suppresses the status of women, feminist collectives and platonic friendships no matter what the inner dynamics are of the conjugal connection. BDSM serves a similar function. All gestures and rituals of subordination fortify patriarchy at the system level despite the intentions of practitioners in private settings. Kind masters and exuberant slaves submerge and compound the oppressive conditions of all slaves. Women as a class are ground down while liberals like you are consumed with self-interest. These seemingly harmless individual choices and acts have detrimental social consequences.

      “You are a snob, ignorant, and quite frankly pissing me off. Please don’t write about things you don’t understand.”

      Take your own advice. You could put out that fire in your hair with some of that piss.

    • CD

      Care to clarify a point for me? Why does a “submissive” man feel the need to shout down the opinions of women? Surely being submissive involves shutting up + listening, no?

      There have been plenty of comments on this thread addressing the points that you bring up – try reading them. Your reasons for being sexually submissive are likely very different from those of women in the BDSM scene. You might have the freedom/agency to actually know choose this, going against the grain of cultural influences. However, as a man, you have no experience of the ways in which women’s freedom and agency are curtailed from birth. It really isn’t surprising that the majority of the women in the BDSM scene are submissive, given that they grew up in a culture that explicitly values women’s submission to men.

    • CBG

      You’re probably not reading this any more, but hi! I’m the person who wrote this article originally. I have experience in BDSM that goes far beyond reading about it. I’ve been in 24/7 lifestyle relationships, I’ve been in significantly less demanding BDSM situations, I considered myself a “lifelong submissive” at age sixteen. With all due respect (which is not much), perhaps it’s you who’s writing about things you don’t understand.

  • Andrew

    “see how that works out for the marginalized”

    Hello? She is part of the marginalized group!

    She doesn’t need to be lectured about why she finds it to be a turn on anymore than gay people need to be lectured about their sexual orientation. That is what it is by the way. I should know. I didn’t choose this. I have had these feelings since long before puberty and they are more powerful than my heterosexual attractions.

    To assume that this is all some kind of fad, or choice, or culturally conditioned repression as part of a patriarchal society is to completely marginalize us! Everybody tells me that if I want to be a good feminist ally (and I do) then I should listen to women (and I do). WHy don’t you listen to us! Take your own damn advice for a change.

    I just love how when it is your marginalized group then we all need to listen and let you figure it out for yourselves and just be supportive, but when it is a marginalized group you are not a part of, then we need to reconsider and let you and other police come in and tell us what’s good for us and how we are just confused. Basicaly you are Vanilla’splaining.

    • Meghan Murphy

      What “marginalized group” are you talking about, pray tell?

      • Andrew

        People who were born with a submissive sexuality. That’s which group. The fact that you don’t accept that it is a real thing doesn’t surprise me. Not everybody who practices elements of BDSM has a dominant or submissive sexuality, and visa-versa, just like not all gay men decorate their apartment, drink wine, and talk with an effeminate accent.

        I am in awe at how somebody who received a master’s degree in a humanities field can be so unable to relate to other human beings who don’t believe the same things you do. You disgust me.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I am in awe that people like you are so deeply attached to their fetishes that they can’t even tolerate that others might have an intelligent, critical, conversation about how gender and power might be connected to said fetishes. I am also perpetually in awe (and saddened) at the narcissism and self-centeredness of so many. You are acting like a baby/zombie. Either you have no brain or you are simply unwilling to use it.

          • corvid

            Coincidentally (or not!), the “adult baby” is also a fetish meme! 🙂

        • Sally

          As a former submissive, I don’t think anyone is “born” with some kind of “innate” submissive sexuality. Being submissive is learned because it’s based on power structures you are unaware of before you are born, and then subjected to after you are born. Actually, some might argue these systems are of power are being applied to you before you’re even out of the whom. What you are implying with your arguments, whether you are aware or not, is that some people are just alpha and some people are just beta and that’s that. That’s quite an odd argument to make for “equality” or feminism… I mean, can you really not see the contradiction here? I may have “naturally” felt turned on by aspects of BDSM in the past, but natural does not necessarily=right/ethical, and after analyzing them I came to realize just how disgusted I felt by it. My sexuality literally changed in the blink of an eye after actually really thinking about it. I didn’t have to read any feminist blogs about it either. I just applied pure logic to the situation. At the time I wasn’t even aware that there were feminists who were critical of BDSM. I thought I was alone in that.

    • jo

      “I should listen to women (and I do)”
      This is hilarious coming from a man who basically told everyone here to shut up in an earlier comment.

      • bella_cose

        I think he meant to write “I should listen to women (and I do, when I agree with what they say, and don’t feel my privilege is threatened in any way).”

    • corvid

      Serious question: why does is existence of BDSM-criticism threaten your sense of self so much? How are women’s words like the police? I would never have gotten through life thus far if I were as resistant to criticism as you are. You are not being “marginalized” because of your sexual fetish. Grow up and learn the difference between critique and oppression.

      This might be TMI, but I have OCD and suffer from dermatillomania which I find very difficult to control. Unhealthy? Extremely! Do I go around complaining that I am being marginalized when somebody points to this self-harming behaviour being unhealthy? Hell no, because I have a modicum of self-awareness.

      Women who wish to be treated with respect are not “vanilla.” How many times need it be said? You refuse to acknowledge women’s non-acceptance of your presumptuous and infantilizing terminology. I’m a punk and metal fan and I can tell you I know the vagaries of patriarchy very well and find it incredibly stupid when someone accuses me of being a “pink nightie”-wearing pearl-clutching moralist. Unbelievable.

      • corvid wrote, “I’m a punk and metal fan”.

        I might argue that I find punk offensive because of Siouxie Sioux and her fondness for wearing swastikas. (I’m not accusing her of being racist, but I am accusing her of gross insensitivity.) As for metal – well, do you think pretending the bite the heads off bats is promoting the right image of respect and tolerance?

        I’m not arguing that. I’m saying it makes more sense than the anti-BDSM arguments here.

        • Lee

          This comment…

          You wouldhave a point if metal and punk fans were primarily in it for the swastikas and bat-biting, but they are there for the music. When you are a fan of abuse, you are a fan of abuse; when you need it to get off, you need it (ABUSE) to get off, no matter how you try to sanitize it.

        • corvid

          Of course punk and metal are not exempt from critique, and as I implied, I am keenly aware of their often patriarchal content. I am, as Lee says, in it for the music. The reason I enjoy music from these genres (which is not to say I enjoy ALL music from these genres) is that it tends to be high-energy and to contain social commentary. At no point do I let artists off the hook for misogynistic lyrics or cover art. The point is that BDSM practitioners need to face up to the obvious glorification of misogynist violence in their “scene” and the way it directly affects the lives of women who aren’t even connected with that culture.

  • Andrew

    I am not going to waste anymore of my time on this blog. I have wasted too much already. There have been many replies to my comments, but arguing further would be pointless because I have stumbled into the realm of radical feminists—political ideologues who care more about their dogma than they do about actual women; small-minded and intollerant of transgender people, submissives, men, and anybody who doesn’t share their worldview; conspiracy theorists that would make the 9/11 truth movement proud; who sees an overarching patriachal conspiracy trying to destroy them around every corner, despite wanting their own oligarchy to bring the rest of their world in line with their views.

    You live in a sad, small, ignorant, bitter world. I Goodbye.

    • Margaret McCarroll

      i shed one tiny tear – nah, just kiddin

    • bella_cose

      Good fucking riddance, you privileged, entitled whiner.

      It’s just awful to be confronted by people who have legitimate concerns and criticism of what people like you do. Heaven forbid anyone analyze anything, or rock the boat. It’s so…unpleasant. Maybe your wife can abuse and humiliate you and you’ll feel better. All will be right with your world then.

    • corvid

      Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on your way out. Unless you like that sort of thing, which you clearly do.

      • Generic bit of advice, not just applicable here: being mean to people so that they leave the debate in order to conserve their emotional energy? Not actually a legitimate debating tactic. Ms Murphy in particular should take note.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Why should “Ms Murphy in particular.. take note”?

          • Do you really need me to spell it out for you? Do you honestly believe that you have a history of being polite and respectful to people who criticise your views? Really?

          • Meghan Murphy

            What? I’m sorry, so you’re mad about people’s responses to Andrew’s whining and are using it as an excuse to pick a fight with me?
            a) Nice try on the derail. Not playing.
            b) I don’t give a shit if people think I’m polite or not. Obviously…

            I fail to see the point in trying to turn this thread into a discussion of my tone. Particularly when people’s reactions here were towards a man who is trying to defend BDSM, not a feminist…

            If you want to engage in this thread, please do so. But if you’re coming here just to find a space to complain about me, try Twitter.

          • Meghan’s openness to and engagement with thoughtful critiques, as well as her patience with presumptuous ignorant twits is exemplary.

            Do you know what rude is? It’s coming onto someone else’s blog, particularly a highly regarded and widely read one such as this and demonstrating your arrogance by telling the person who does all of the unpaid work to make this space, who has the guts to share her intelligent insights and her invaluable analysis with breathtaking honesty despite the fact that she gets shit on from great heights on a regular basis for doing so, that her TONE is wrong.

            Where do you get off talking about politeness and respect, Vanilla Rose? Your own manners are appalling,

          • Derrington

            What vr is doing is trying to use language that she then doubles back on its definition, get people to abide by rules that she doesnt adhere to herself and generally take over this debate in trying to get her to adhere to rules and definitions that are commonly accepted as acceptable to the majority. I would suggest ms rose that you take your box of tricks of bait and switch and bluff and double bluff back to a bdsm website where people like to play games rather than be honest in who they actually are.

          • Well, no, Derrington, I’m trying to discuss the issues with honesty and courtesy and being met with rudeness.

        • corvid

          Thanks VR. It’s nice to know that you find my humour off-key. Also nice to know that you care more about the fee-fees of Mr. Andrew the Mansplainer than you care about women who have been abused in the context of BDSM and BDSM porn (present!)

          • Wow. You have a vivid imagination. Nowhere did I say that I didn’t care about women or men abused in relationships, vanilla or otherwise. Nowhere.

            I just don’t see the point of trying to get people to shut up by being so rude to them that they decide to go away. How is that by any stretch of the imagination considered to be winning an argument.

            This whole post is based on the notion that it’s not worth asking submissive women for their opinions but rather to make up stuff about them. Using an analogy based on a science fiction/comic novel (written by a man)

          • corvid

            The author of this post is a formerly submissive woman.

            (I’m flattered by your attention, VR, it means I must be doing something right!:))

          • If you say so … is that a bit like being an ex-gay?

          • Sally

            Not at all. People generally aren’t socialize to be gay. But many are socialized to be submissive.

    • Meh

      “I Goodbye”

      He goodbye ladies, he goodbye…

  • Alice

    Alright, so having mulled over this for the last two days or so, I’m going to add my packet of sticks to the fire. Apologies in advance for the extremely long post.
    This comment thread was pretty unsettling for me to read (that’s not a bad thing; I think it’s bad to get too settled in your thoughts. Things get stagnant. This conversation has stirred stuff up, and I appreciate that). I’m only twenty-five, but I’ve been aware of systematic misogyny for my entire life and I consider myself a feminist. I’ve watched other women misunderstand (in my mind) what it means to be feminist and reject the whole movement because they believe it disempowers them – a concept that made me as sad as it did angry.
    I’m not used to feeling like an outsider in this crowd. I think I could talk to most of you about most things I hold dear and find that we’re on the same page. You’re angry about a lot of the things I’m angry about, and you question a lot of the things I question, and I admire the collective way you think.
    But in this conversation I find myself on the outside; I do not agree with your conclusions about kink.
    A while back in this thread someone said that they weren’t suggesting kinky women give up their kink wholesale, they were just suggesting we stop and think about our motivations and the roots of our desires, and how our sexual actions play out in the larger cultural swamp. There’s been evidence already here of kinky women doing this, but I wanted to specifically address it. Being kinky does not mean that you don’t think about feminism. I’m fairly involved in the kink world, and I think about these issues a great deal. I’ve thought about them since I realized there was dissonance between the way I want women to be treated and the way I want to be treated during sex.
    I’ve thought about it and I continue to think about it, and if I eventually come to the conclusion that BDSM is doing more harm than good, I will give it up.
    However. I keep not coming to that conclusion.
    Before I get into why that is, I think it’s important to distinguish from the mainstream view of kink (Fifty Shades of Grey, etc), which I agree is pretty appalling, and the kink community, which is something else entirely. The one has as little to do with the other as the mainstream view of feminism (man-hating, etc) does with the feminist movement. People do stupid and abusive things in the name of kink, and that is a problem, but I believe strongly (and will hopefully be able to argue somewhat coherently) that these things arise from a misunderstanding of kink.
    Firstly, let’s return to the original analogy.
    We’ve spent a long time as a species eating beef and feeling vaguely guilty about it. So in our wrongheaded way we’ve bred a bunch of cows who want to be eaten, and we point to them and say, “Look! Everything’s fine! They’re happy!”
    The article above makes the claim that this is BDSM in a nutshell. I would argue that this is a closer metaphor for our society in general, and that the kink community is something that’s formed as a reaction to that society. As such, kink is not another incarnation of a familiar problem; it is in fact the (imperfect!) solution to one part of that problem.
    The question posed at the end of this article is, “what, as a morally conscious customer at Milliways, do you do?” This translates to, “What, as a non-kinky but morally conscious person, do I do about kink?” The solution, “eat salad”, translates as, “reject kink”.
    Well, alright. That’s a personal solution to your moral dilemma. I don’t disagree with it, per-se, but you aren’t answering the question I’m more interested in. Maybe that’s because, in this scenario, you are the customer. Maybe you can’t ask this question. But here, I’ll ask it for you.
    What, as a (presumably irreversibly) brainwashed cow at Milliways that requires death and subsequent consumption to have a fulfilling life, do I do? Or, in terms of my reality what, as an intelligent, liberated, intelligent woman who requires rough sex to have a fulfilling life, do I do?
    Given that I live in a problematic society and am actively trying to discourage violence towards women, and given also that this society has historically shamed women about our sexuality and I’m actively trying to change that, what the hell do I do?
    The kink community is an answer to that question. To me it as if the cows in Milliways left the restaurant, created some nice fields to live in, started trying to teach their calves to think differently about the world. But, since they also wanted to have fulfilling lives, as long as they could have them on their own terms, they created a restaurant of their own where carefully selected customers could come for milkshakes and ice cream (I don’t know what the bulls are contributing to this menu. I’d rather not think about it too much). It’s not perfect. Sometimes asshole customers wander in who think cows are all just for their consumption, and a cow or two gets shot, and that is truly unacceptable for the cows, and sometimes a cow gets carried away and shoots herself to be steaks for someone, and that’s unacceptable too. There are pretty caustic disagreements sometimes about limits and oppression, but hell. This is the best solution they have.
    And sometimes people and wild cows come along who say, “hey, you’re being oppressed! You live in a world where cows are expected to be nothing but our food, and you’re making milkshakes like this is some kind of game. You’d be serving the revolution better if you just went and lived in the woods and stopped thinking about being eaten.” and the cows don’t really know what to say, because this is their safe place. This is where they get to make decisions about their bodies and their lives and their desires, and that feels like a good thing.
    This is what the kink community does for me. It’s a place where violence loses its power because I am in control of it. I say when and where it happens, and I say when it stops, and I say how far it goes, and it never, never goes outside those lines. I have a community of people with whom to discuss the placement of those lines, and while we disagree sometimes, it’s better to have more people thinking about this than just me.
    Yes, it’s hugely imperfect. As much as we’d like to pretend that the kink community exists in a bubble outside patriarchy, it does not. We’re right in there with you.
    Sometimes we mess up, and the checks we’ve put in place fail to keep kink in line, but I’d like to echo what some of the other kinky people in this thread have expressed by saying that I think they fail a lot less often than the checks we try to put on mainstream porn and sex. The community is part of kink. It’s monitoring it from the inside, not the outside.
    You know what the internet is like. Fetlife is the only place I’ve found online where a woman can post naked pictures of herself AND engage in intellectual discussions, without being browbeaten for one or the other. I can be a sexual human being and a thinking one, and it’s not unusual there. The one does not diminish the other. The ‘kinky and popular’ page of fetlife is half pictures and videos, and half text. The text varies from erotica to critiques on that erotica, from oral sex techniques to discussions of patriarchy and misogyny and how best to root them out. The kink community is full of people talking about sexuality and feminism; it’s not just a thing that’s risen up mindlessly from the loins of the patriarchy. It is a self-critiquing community, and it is imperfect and only half-formed but that does not make it evil.
    Kink is something that has brought me personally a great deal of joy and freedom and happiness, but I know this isn’t about my feelings; if I truly thought that the kink community was an enemy of feminism, I would cut it out of my life. As it is, I don’t think that. As it is, I feel I can act best by speaking out against the parts of kink I find objectionable, by continuing to stir up the waters and to act deliberately rather than mindlessly, by shaping the community into a consistently better place.
    Kink is my haven.
    Maybe I only need that haven because I’ve been warped and broken by the society we live in. Incidentally, I don’t think that’s all there is to it, but the point I’m making is that that isn’t the point. Whatever the origin of my needs, they are my needs now.
    I can see that BDSM makes you angry, and I can see why. But…I would ask you to approach this differently. I would ask you to engage with submissive women in the kink community, and to engage with our ideas. I would ask you to treat us as potential allies, to approach us as people who have probably considered the things you’re considering, who care about the things you care about. I suppose I would ask you to extend the same benefit-of-the-doubt to me that I am extending to you. Despite how alienated this article and comment thread has made me, I recognize that you would like to see a world where women are liberated and strong and equal. I would like to see that world too. We are not each other’s enemies.

    • Andrew

      A lovely and well thought out comment, but I’m afraid it will fall on mostly deaf ears. I never used to take a stance on the whole “liberal vs radical” feminism debate, but I do after today! They aren’t going to consider your opinions valid because they have already decided that their opinion is the only right one. The fact that you don’t agree just means that you have been poisoned, coreced, or duped by the patriarchal global new world order consiparacy.

      They cannot accept the idea that some people want to be choked, slapped, humiliated, etc. They are generally intollerant of any sexual identies outside male and female, shunning transgender people as well as the BDSM community. They reject things they don’t understand and dismiss it out of hand.

      If you agree with their worldview then you are an intelligent person who thinks criticaly and came to their own conclusions, but if you disagree, then it is because you have been tainted by the system and just don’t know better. They want to treat us all like chidren and tell us what is an appropriate way to live our life, how to identify our gender, what kinds of relationships we can have, etc.

      I really enjoyed your post though. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh Andrew! You’re back! Thank god, we missed you.

        • Andrew

          Somehow I don’t believe you. I didn’t come back for you though. I came back to support Alice. You all have done a nice job of proving my point. The rest of you sure as hell aren’t going to support her. She put too much of herself into that comment for me to leave a fellow traveler to you wolves.

          And no, Margaret, kink is not the enemy of feminism. However, you radfems are an enemy to kink.

          • Margaret McCarroll

            Andrew i’m totally thrilled !! October 6th – what a day for feminism! The government passed the prostitution act , the Guardian reported that the porn industry in Britain is dead and Andrew credits us as the mortal enemy of kink – a feminist trifecta!!!

          • corvid

            No wonder more women don’t speak out against kink and BDSM. We have to deal with guys like you.

        • Margaret McCarroll

          prolly wants a muffin – go do the dishes Andrew , pronto !

          • Andrew

            The jokes on you. I do the dishes every night. 😉

    • Margaret McCarroll

      while stating that it’s not about YOUR feelings, you demonstrate that it is only about your feelings – we’re attempting to show you how this negatively impacts all women – ‘if I truly thought that the kink community was an enemy of feminism, I would cut it out of my life’ – kink IS the enemy of feminism and i think you know this

      • Andrew

        I understand your point. A person can choose to smoke, and it does affect them, but it also encourages an industry that advertises to minors and creates millions of cases of death and serious illness. In effect, individual smoking may be fine for an individual but the instiutions that support it are harmfull to society.

        However, what you fail to understand is that the BDSM community, and porn industry and not the same. BDSM porn =/= BDSM community. If you want to get mad at somebody, get mad at the porn consumers (almost all men), and leave the women who just want some privacy in their bedrooms alone.

        • Margaret McCarroll

          Andrew i’m not mixing up kink and porn – i am against anything that harms women and girls – i’m not advocating for the happy hookers, the empowered pole dancers or women who enjoy being gagged and tied up – these do not need my advocacy as they are exercising freedom of choice and consider their participation consensual -i work for those who are coerced into prostitution, porn and kink – believe me, none of us here care about your bedroom practice

    • Meh

      Alice, I appreciate your desire to bring communities of women together. But I (personally) can’t be allied with people who believe that some women like humiliation/abuse, and that that’s perfectly fine (and to be encouraged).

    • corvid

      “This is what the kink community does for me. It’s a place where violence loses its power because I am in control of it.”

      Violence does not “lose its power”, ever. Just like the words “bitch”, “whore”, “cunt” and “slut”, these words NEVER lose their power no matter how many fun-feminists use them in an attempt to be ironic. I have great respect for you as a woman, as I do for all women, but I will not slide down your slippery slope or dwell in your hypothetical cows’ cafe. You are not my ally.

      Andrew, you are a passive-agressive misogynist and you prove it more with every sentence you write. Keep on talking.

    • Missfit

      First of all, thank you. People who come here only to say they like BDSM without discussing how they think it fits into/reinforces patriarchy or not, and why, add nothing to the discussion.

      You said that for you, the kink community is ‘a place where violence loses its power because I am in control of it’. Would you say it works as a coping mechanism from living under patriarchy/fear of male violence? Because it sounds as if being at the receiving end of violence was an inevitability (which you’d rather feel having control over).

      We know people learn to eroticize power imbalances and violence. It’s at the core of patriarchy. Some women are turned on by hardcore porn and consume it but feel distressed afterwards (and no, it is not because there are radical feminists out there who criticize said porn, it’s because of the misogyny). I feel like it should be hard to reconcile such a sexuality when you are such aware of patriarchy’s mechanisms, misogyny/violence against women, women’s overall second-class status and how it all intertwine. I know I couldn’t go on like I did after I made those realizations (and I was not even in BDSM/kink community). What do you think of the men who like to hurt and humiliate women (the men you would have sex with I guess)? What about their desires?

      We absolutely do need the wild cows. There are cows who thought there were no better options and discovered they are better off living in the woods.

    • Lee

      The truth is, what I’m really bothered by is the close connections between BDSM, rebranded as ‘kink’, and violent porn. I believe Big Porn’s aim is to capture consumers at the youngest age they can get away with (similar to how McDonald’s marketing memos famously showed they were going after kids as young as possible because they wanted to build consumers-for-life, people who would be ‘brand loyal’) and basically get them addicted to needing this specific product to be able to be sexual. I think violent porn is detrimental to developing a healthy sexuality, and the answer that has become popularized by a generation raised on porn, that this is just “the way they were born” (to be addicted to porn), and they’re the same as gay people, is so offensive it makes me furious. Big Porn has admitted that they have to go more and more extreme to keep giving consumers their fix.

      People who are making their living from doing violent porn or who are addicted to watching it then go out and advocate for the BDSM lifestyle. I don’t believe teenagers and young adults have caught on to the fact that they are being ‘fed’ into what I see as a dehumanization machine that was created with the aim to profit off of the ‘needs’ it creates. That’s why this post was so interesting to me, it was articulating something I have been trying to find the words for for years.

      I don’t believe the philosophical or ethical questions raised are meant to be taken as telling anyone what to do. I am a vegan, and I know meat-eaters who have gone through the same process I have in terms of what is ethical for them to eat and what is not. I do not have the answers in terms of what is right for them and have no reason to believe they have come to the wrong conclusions. What I do believe is that it’s fair to shine a light on what meat-eating involves (even in a utopian world where cows gleefully wish to be eaten) and I believe it’s fair to ask questions out in the open, despite the fact that some people don’t like it. I feel the same way about BDSM. I don’t particularly care about what people get up to in their own, individual, personal sex lives, but we’re talking about huge industries here that affect more than just your own plate or bedroom. Do whatever you need to do, but I need to question these things, look at whether it is as dangerous to normalize violent sex as I think it is or not, and well, hey, as long as I’m not hurting anyone, right? I mean, is there some way it might affect BDSM’ers that they don’t like? Do they have a right to tell us to stop? Shame us out of it? 😉

      If people within BDSM actually want to answer the questions raised by this post, I’m all for hearing why the points raised and the questions asked are invalid, but all that’s happening is people pouring out about their sex lives. It’s immaterial and irrelevant. It’s like if someone wrote a post about factory farming or abuse of animals and someone comes along and says, “I like meat.” OK… and I like smoking, but that’s not really an answer to the studies on health implications.

      • Lee

        Shorter: re-label the author of this post and the commenters as having a kind of ‘kink’ — that should make it totally OK with the ‘kink’/BDSM community, right?

      • Andrew

        I think we have all gotten off on the wrong foot. After reading your post this morning, and having a day to cool down: I want to apologize. I was angry, and allowed myself to get caught into a cycle of negative and spiteful posting. I would like to seriously address your comment, but it contains things I agree with, and I would to try and explain why things are not as simple as they appear. I hope you will keep an open mind, and not dismiss my views or experiences out of hand because I happened to be born with a penis.

        I understand the whole idea of manufacturing consent. I am a big fan of Noam Chomsky. I also understand how advertising and cultural influences can corrupt people and make them believe they have to behave, dress, or act a certain way in order to fit in or have value. I have many of the same concerns you do, especially now that we live in the internet age. My wife and I were watching the Hunchback of Notre Dame with our son last week; there is a song about how Quasi can still be a catch with the ladies despite being deformed and ugly. It occurred to me while watching it that no major movie studio would ever make a movie with the genders reversed. We will never see a Disney movie where an ugly woman is told she still has value. Women are taught from an early age (directly and implicitly) that the only way they can have value is to be desirable to men. It’s wrong. I want it to change.

        Sex is a big part of that. Woman are sent mixed messages. They must be pure, but the also have to be sluts. Men love to tell women what they should do with their bodies. Rarely is it suggested that maybe they should decide for themselves. I know that is a place where some of you will disagree with me. After all, they may be manufactured to think they want something they shouldn’t. My wife and I are appalled and disgusted by the (small) Mormon communities that groom their daughters to be wives to their fathers friends and other community members (usually older). I understand that it can, and does, happen and I am just as much against that as anybody else.

        However, I don’t think that such things are more common in the BDSM community. I think they happen everywhere and BDSM just happens to be somewhere. I am willing to look at the possibility that it gives some of these people a place to hide, or a cover for their behavior. Having been a part of the community for over fifteen years though, I can say that most of us (all really, because we would never accept somebody who does such things as one of us), try to prevent it, try to support victims, and try to create safe places for people to talk and get away from their abusers.

        Munches are a big thing in the community. Basically it’s a brunch where kinky people get to together and discuss things that aren’t kink. It sounds like a great place for abusers to groom their victims, but actually the opposite is true. The whole point of a munch is to create a safe place for people to become friends without any of the kink stuff involved. If somebody is having problems in their personal life (kink or otherwise), they now have friends they can turn to. These homegrown support networks do a lot to diffuse and suppress real abuse in the scene.

        I’m sure some of you are thinking “why do you even need a support network in the first place?” Well, don’t women need support in the rest of the world. I would come back to my point that BDSM is not special. The kind of abuse and grooming and violence that goes on is not different than what happens to women all over the world who aren’t kinky. As Alice said, at least her community gives her some place to go that she didn’t have before.

        How do we keep young people from watching violent porn? I don’t know. It’s a new problem and it’s incredibly hard to solve. Even my generation (I am in my early thirties) didn’t have access to porn over the internet. Not really. Even pay sites that do their best to keep out minors can’t stop everybody, and many sites are dedicated to posting stolen material that anybody can view for free. I went to school for computer science and math. I can take complete control of the internet in our house, and any phones and computers my son has, but what about his friends, or at school, etc. The reality is that there is no way to stop it without completely shutting down the interet. Any attempt to block it can, and will eventually, be surmounted.

        Now I’d like to address the part about it being a choice. For many people it is. For many people it is just an amusing game in the bedroom, but in that case it’s just window dressing. Fuzzy handcuffs and whatnot. For the people who live it seriously, as my wife and I do, then things become considerably different. First though, I would like to reiterate that kink doesn’t always invovle violence (of any kind), or sex (we don’t have PIV), or even power exchange. Everybody does it different.

        I’m going to share some personal things about me. I have never had a “normal” sex fantasy (PIV). Never. Even back before I was influenced by anything in culture, and certainly it would have influenced me in the opposite direction. When I was in kindergarten, I got in trouble for “trying to place slave to the girls”. When I started hitting puberty, I have fantasies about the girls in my class dominating me. This is the way I am. This is the way I have always been. I consider it to be part of my sexuality, and an alternative one at that. I have no doubt that there are women out there like me.

        If I can admit that some women really are coerced and shamed into abuse, even under the guise of BDSM (which it does happen and I have never denied that), then I hope you can admit that for some of us it really is the same as LGBTQ+. If you don’t believe men then I’ll understand, but I am trying to open up and help you understand that it isn’t as simple as it appears on the outside. I found a woman who likes to have control over her life and her relationships. I found a women with a slight sadistic side. What is the better alternative, for both of us to be unhappy. Our relationship is mutually beneficial. We are great friends and have a strong marriage after seven years together. All of our “normal” friends have gotten divorced.

        The idea that I should not want this relationship because it somehow hurts all women seems ridiculous to me. It isn’t hurting my wife. It isn’t huring me. Isn’t it at least possible that there are women in my position who it isn’t hurting? Is it really worth oppressing an entire group of people in order to curtail problems that aren’t specific to BDSM in the first place? I think not. That is how I view the issue and why I view it that way.

        • marv

          Andrew you discredit yourself by taking up an inordinate amount of space in the conversation field . Just look at the sheer size of your last comment. You keep repeating your cultist delusions excessively. Rational people are not buying what you are selling so why persist in beating the same drum? It’s an act of male dominance, Mr. Submissive, which I predict you will continue to do. I’d love to be proven wrong.

          • Andrew

            I posted that comment in direct response to an open question posed by Lee. It wasn’t a new comment and it wasn’t in response to one of your comments. Nobody asked you to read it. You can choose to ignore me if you wish. I don’t think it’s fair to complain about how much I have to say when nobody is asking you to read it. A worst it is a split-second of your life to scroll past it.

            Also, the idea that only rational people agree with you is hardly logical. You are attacking me instead of my argument: a classic fallacy.

            If you would like to rebut what I’ve said, then feel free. If you want to silence me, then simple ignore my posts from now on. It’s not like there are a lot of Andrew’s here. It should be fairly easy.

          • Mar Iguana

            “…ignore my posts from now on.”

            So, there’s going to be more? (Groan)

          • Andrew

            Probably not, at least not of any substance. I apologized and asked Meghan for her blessing to continue being a part of the community. Unless she says yes, and Lee replies to my comment, you won’t be seeing much from me.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You’re free to comment here, Andrew. It isn’t reasonable to demand people respond to your comments, though…

        • Missfit

          You really seem to miss the point. This is a feminist website, so a little bit of feminist analysis is in order. You talk about a community where people can discuss their personal issues, a community of belonging. You talk as if BDSM was on par with a knitting or a bowling club. You completely miss the point of how BDSM in and of itself is problematic. There is no international convention against knitting. There is however a convention against torture. But then you don’t seem to think that enthusiastically enacting torture could be questionnable or problematic.

          You said, and I quote: ‘the kind of abuse and grooming and violence that goes on is not different than what happens to women all over the world who aren’t kinky’. Except that abuse and violence is normalized in BDMS. So suddenly, the violence and abuse you seem to denounce on one hand turn okay when you put the label ‘kink’ on it? You can talk about consent all you want, the mere fact that consent is such an issue is because violating consent is also an issue. You don’t see people discussing consent at a bowling game. Consent is an issue in BDSM because of the concept of BDSM itself; because violating consent is the ultimate domination, thus the ultimate turn on. You don’t see how feeding into these turn ons of of domination in a world where women’s boundaries are regularly violated can be problematic?

          You say that kink doesn’t always involve violence or power exchange. BDSM is based on that. Nobody would care about your kink if your kink was eating chocolate. BDSM makes fun of violating women when violence against women is a real worldwide endemic problem and you don’t see any problem with that? I guess not, because hey, you like it after all!

        • Lee

          What you are talking about is 90’s kink. We’re in a different world now. This is one of the main disagreements I have with the third-wave, namely that they are stuck in another decade. They are unwilling to look at what kind of world their rigid ideology has created for women, especially young women.

          The reason pop-stars speak “porn” to their teenaged fans is because that is the world teenaged fans are in. The reason pop-fashion is now so heavily bondage-inspired is because that speaks to the young adult consumers. Again, we’re talking about huge industries. You may be able to protect your son for a while, but you cannot protect his friends, who will influence his views, even if he never (hahahaha) sees violent porn himself. There have been numerous studies which show that men find rape either acceptable or arousing after viewing even general, non-BDSM porn. What we have is a generation steeped, absolutely filled to the gills, with misogyny. We are also seeing a worldwide uptick in misogynist attitudes (golly gee, could one worldwide misogynistic trend be influencing another worldwide misogynistic trend????). The BDSM community in general would rather take any criticism of or critical thought around these influences as personally hurtful (owww, your thinking hurts me!) and shut down discussion because SEX!!!!! than engage in an adult way about what it means that this is where we are culturally. And I believe, very strongly, that it is extremely dangerous and we haven’t even begun to understand the repercussions.

          I don’t believe BDSM, or wanting to be dom or sub is automatically at-fault, all on its own (I do believe what you say about being male/i> and finding domination a turn-on, because it is so taboo and you don’t actually feel like you could be in danger), but it’s a completely different animal when it’s in little groups, away from mainstream culture, and when it’s Beyonce or Gaga talking about needing “pain” to get off so they can relate to their 13-year-old fans. What. The. Fuck. Is. Going. On??????? If you can’t ask yourself that question, I’m sorry, I have no patience to engage.

          • Lee

            Sorry for tag fails.

            Look, in the 90’s, when women’s representation in popular media included the likes of Roseanne Barr, Murphy Brown, the Living Single dykes (as I have seen them named) Designing Women (which did a whole show about the ‘porn wars’), Sinead O’Connor and a Madonna acting like an adult, the third-wave made some sense. If ‘Seinfeld” had been made today, the women would be at least a decade younger and at least 10x more pornified than the women Jerry dated on the sitcom at the time. And if the internet didn’t come along and put everything into a giant timewarp porn-blender, it might make sense to be having these conversations about how we should all just lighten up and stop worrying about all those serious things like violence against women and children. But we’re well past that now. We’re in trouble. Even the most privileged women are chased out of public life. Getting off on women’s pain, degradation, humiliation, and subhuman status is not compatible with feminism. If that’s not what you’re into, I suggest getting a different name for yourself than BDSM, because that’s what it is, 90+% of the time.

          • Andrew

            You may find this hard to believe, but I actually agree with you. I am extremely unhappy about BDSM invading the popular culture. Women read 50 shades of grey (which is just awful and not representative of the real thing) and feel like they have to be submissive to their husbands. We all know men are always encouraged to treat women like sex objects, so these things don’t help. I roll my eyes at every pop song like “S&M”. If that is the kind of thing you are talking about, then hand me a picket because I have been next to you the whole time. I think it’s a bad thing for everybody that BDSM has become somewhat mainstream. If I could snap my fingers and make it go away I would.

            South Park did a brilliant episode about how everyone in town was emulating the gay culture (or what they thought was the gay culture); it was the “metrosexual” fad. Mr. Garrison, one of the original gay men in town was outraged. They said, “it’s ok, you’re just one of us now.” He screamed, “we’ve spent our whole lives trying not to be one of you—you can’t do this to us!” Just change gay to BDSM and that is exactly how I feel. If I could make that my banner I would wave it everyday.

            I never want to “out” myself, but at least in the past people were ignorant in general and it could be explained away; now I have to combat endless misconceptions. I’m more nervous about someone finding out now than before!

            Let me be clear: I am not ok with mainstream culture encouraging women (especially young girls) to be submissive to men, or to act slutty, or to think that their bodies are all they have of value to offer the world. However, that is not really what this article was about. It started out with a hyperbolic comparison about how women are like cow’s that are too ignorant or stupid to figure out that being eaten is a bad idea.

            I can understand the compulsion to make everything egalitarian and end the possibility of violence or any inequality from even being possible, but not all violence is the same and not all inequality is wrong (in my opinion).

            Another comment asked why BDSM gets a free pass when it comes to violence. I’m not suggesting that it should, but I also don’t agree with a lot of the comments on here that won’t even give it a chance to explain itself. They condemn it from 30k feet. We need violence in the vanilla world. How else are police and the military supposed to protect us. You may say, well of course exceptions need to be made because we don’t live in a perfect world, and I would say: yes.

            Not everybody is made the same, and violence for some of us is not a bad thing, and inequality in our relationships is not a bad thing. At the end of the day I still have more power than my wife because we live in a male dominated world, but I choose not to use it and to allow her to have the power. I would have to choose to give her the power in an egalitarian world as well. There is no world in which it would be acceptable for her to be in a position of authority over me that I had no control over, and that is the problem with trying to prescribe the same medicine for everyone. You throw the baby out with the bathwater.

            I don’t begrudge people on here for their opinions, but they go too far for me.

          • Lee

            There is no good violence. There are times when it’s necessary, because it is the only option/last resort, but it’s never a good thing.

            Do I want to force boxers to stop boxing? No. Will I ignore the stats on concussions, early deaths, alzheimer’s etc? Nope. And it doesn’t matter if it happens in public or in my own private thoughts, I will always question whether people who are compulsively drawn to violence in their sex lives (and personal lives in general) were harmed in some way that caused their fixation.

            I know too much about how people reenact all kinds of family dynamics in their relationships, trying to ‘fix’ what they couldn’t as children, to ignore how this tends to work. There’s also the fact that the amygdala is involved in sensing danger and can be badly damaged when someone is traumatized or develops PTSD (it gets set like an alarm going off at all times — it’s called hypervigilance) and is also the part of the brain that is on the constant lookout for sex and food, so it’s easy to speculate that these things get mixed up in people with trauma (sex=danger=sex=food=danger=sex). There are also the myriad of behaviors people with anxiety cook up to deal with it, to bring relief, including doing something to break an anxiety peak (as if bringing on something scary or painful themselves, something they can control, means they don’t have to worry about it for a time). And many people in BDSM communities have talked openly about these issues being part of it for them, and either not knowing how or not wanting to deal with them in a way that would threaten their BDSM addiction (can’t think of another word right now).

            There’s a close association between abuse dynamics and BDSM. Cleaning it up, making it pretty or fun!, pretending like consent magically erases the fact that what people are eroticizing is humanity’s worst impulses, is not something that’s going to fly with me.

          • corvid

            You know, this is exactly what I meant by “keep on talking.”

            “It started out with a hyperbolic comparison about how women are like cow’s that are too ignorant or stupid to figure out that being eaten is a bad idea.” You don’t understand the piece.

            “….not all violence is the same and not all inequality is wrong (in my opinion).”
            ….. seriously?

            “We need violence in the vanilla world. How else are police and the military supposed to protect us. ”
            If there were no violence then we wouldn’t need the police or military.
            Besides, WHERE is this “vanilla world” Andrew? I’m still waiting for “kinksters” to tell us exactly where this “vanilla society” exists, because as someone you’ve painted as “vanilla”, I can tell you it doesn’t. What exists is a whole lot of porn-brainwashed men, and women who are trying to cope with the fallout and with male violence in general.

            “Not everybody is made the same, and violence for some of us is not a bad thing, and inequality in our relationships is not a bad thing.”
            Again……. seriously?

            “I choose not to use it and to allow her to have the power. I would have to choose to give her the power in an egalitarian world as well.”
            If power is something you grant your wife like a tidy little present, it’s not real power.

            To approach a full analysis of the wrongness of your statements would take up far too much space and far too much energy, when you could just take it upon yourself to go and read some feminist writing (which I doubt you will.)

    • amongster

      Nobody said that “being kinky does not mean that you don’t think about feminism.”. What’s been said is that acting on your desires is not feminist.

      And again, only because it hasn’t done any harm to you yet doesn’t mean that others are not harmed by a culture that eroticizes violence. You seem like an intelligent person so I don’t know why you need to make bad experiences yourself before you believe others who have gone through hell because of BDSM.

      There is no “misunderstanding of kink”. Kink *is* abuse. It *is*violence. That doesn’t change one bit only because you consent to be treated that way. It is not good only because it feels good to you.

      Maybe you should get therapy if you “require rough sex to have a fulfilling life”. Honestly, if (rough) sex is so important for you ( a “need” as you said) that you can’t lead a content life without it you have a serious problem. I actually think you are exaggerating and I believe you know full well that others are harmed by BDSM far more than giving up your kink could ever harm you. If you really want to “actively try to discourage violence towards women” you do not seek out men who have a desire to violate you or others and encourage them to hurt you. This is not liberation or empowerment but the very opposite. Freedom doesn’t mean to say “yes” to everything.

      I’m getting so tired of kinksters trying to convince me that they are fighting for women to not feel shame for there sexuality while they do exactly that. What does it say about you and our culture if women need “to surrender” and to be called dirty whores and treated like they have no will of their own etc in order to not feel restricted in being a sexual being because only because they have sunken so low that it doesn’t really matter anymore? This reeks of shame.

      So, yes, as has been said before, any violence against women is an enemy of feminism, so is kink and you should cut it out of your life. There is no other approach. There can be discussions like this but how can we work together as allies if we don’t have the same understanding of the problem and not the same aims?
      I do think you mean well but you make still make it more about *your* desire (which is no “need”) than about the need of other women who want to live a life free of violence.

      • derrington

        I too believe that erotizing violence against women and children is just wrong, regardless of how many times you have gotten away with it, there is more than enough evidence that other women and children have not gotten away from harm being done to them and have killed themselves or gone on to live lives of torment. This is not just about you, in the same way that you may advocate your right to take heroin as a personal choice because you’re in control of it, but disregarding the fact that other people use your support of the drug to justify flogging it to 8 year olds is just selfish in my opinion. Having had a bellyful of violence done to me both sexual and physical by men from the age of 12 onwards I am fed up with women who promote this behaviour by saying its sexy. Maybe it is for you, but to many of us it isnt … its just abuse … and your freedoms are muddying mine …

      • Maya

        So female dominants with male subs is OK?

        You are letting patriarchy dictate what is right and what is wrong by ignoring context and stripping away women’s sexuality.

        High heels were invented and made for men, but claiming that is isn’t feminist to wear them is again bending to a male’s view of what is right and what is wrong for a women to do.

        Same goes for sexual submissiveness.

        The porn industry is bad (including Kink), no argue here, but when you say that it’s not normal for a female to enjoy rough sex or to need it in order to feel fulfilled is just like dismissing any other sexual preference which happens to have a social context.

        Degradation, humiliation and forced sex in all its colors are part of our normative sexual culture derived from patriarchal norms, which makes it wrong when it’s portrayed as normal sexual acts.
        But, in a world where these weren’t the norms, violent sex with a female “receiving end” wouldn’t be viewed as another manifestation of twisted misogynist sexual norms.
        Violent sex is not inherently wrong – like I said, you probably don’t have these same views when the male is submissive, do you?

        I’ve had submissive and masochistic tendencies since I started fantasizing and masturbating. The first time I ever saw porn was a decade later.
        I was never sexually or mentally abused, and I view my BDSM as a sexual tendency, just like being gay.

        You saying that I’m not normal and that I need treatment is offensive and you are being an ignorant BDSMphobic. Maybe not all subs are like me, but you cannot generalize the whole sexual act as wrong and unfeminist.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “High heels were invented and made for men, but claiming that is isn’t feminist to wear them is again bending to a male’s view of what is right and what is wrong for a women to do.”

          That makes no sense. Men WANT women to wear heels. It’s not like women do it for themselves. It ISN’T ‘feminist’ to wear heels. That doesn’t mean you can’t wear them or like them aesthetically and even be feminist at the same time, but the actually act of wearing heels is not a feminist act.

    • Candy

      You say you wish they listened to submissive women more. I was a submissive woman in the community for four years until a couple months ago. I wish, just once, a kinky woman would truly address the ideas and observations I’ve made in my comments and concentrate less on how on the discussion implicates her. I’m open to your comment, though it won’t stall my analysis and won’t stop me from picking apart what I view as illogical, but I feel many kinksters were not, and are not, open to mine.

    • CBG

      I was a submissive woman in the kink community. I find it pretty hilarious that every anti-article comment here assumes I have no experience with this community when in fact I was involved heavily and for years.

      What’s a submissive woman supposed to do? Cultivate new sexual appetites, distance yourself from kinksters, and learn to enjoy sexuality that is intensely and mutually about pleasure and lifting each other up. Sex is not a zero-sum game. I hope you find your way out … for me, finding my way out of “kinkster” attitudes was one of the most liberating moments ever, though it also made me PROFOUNDLY angry at many of the older men and women who groomed me into the kink sexuality.

      • C.K. Egbert

        It’s the typical double-think. If you don’t like being abused and haven’t internalized abuse, then you are obviously a pearl-clutching prude who isn’t “really” one of the true and liberated women. If you have been systematically brainwashed and abused, then obviously it proves their point that women just love it! (And of course they fully support abusing and brainwashing women into these practices).

        They claim that we can’t judge what women think and women feel, unless of course women say that they have been harmed through these practices. Then the sex-positivists and liberals must invalidate, denigrate, and silence them, because only those women who support men’s sexual domination are the ones to whom we should listen.

        I’ve never been into anything remotely like BDSM, and I can tell you that if you resist the pressure to be a man’s submissive sex toy (acquiescing to whatever pain or humiliation he wishes to inflict upon you, never saying “no” to what he wants, agreeing that your pleasure or desire is less than irrelevant, recognizing that sex is supposed to be painful and violating for you), you will suffer no end of denigration, ridicule, and verbal coercion from friends, family, and so-called “feminists.”

        Sorry for the rant, but thank you for the article. I’m glad to hear you’ve been able to move past “kink” into a more healthy sexuality.

        • Yes exactly. It’s perfect mind-bending double-think. If (and only if) you embrace exactly the right kind of oppression with the correct descriptive attached, then you are one of the truly liberated. Sex-positive is sex-mandatory and the mandatory act is a reiteration of the reigning hegemony with the requisite sex-shop uniforms. Step outside of this orthodoxy and you are the infidel/prude.

          This social phenomenon really has the game sewn up do it not? It’s going to take knowledgable and courageous survivors like Candy and Deirdre Skye to lay the groundwork for an alternative position that cannot be easily slotted into this nefarious binary.

  • Mathew

    Race, class, gender, and sex are all entangled in BDSM. What if we followed a relational model where sex was not seen and enacted as separate from the rest of life. Would forms of violence be any less violent when enacted in every day life? Why does violence get a free pass when it’s part of sex? If sex is implicated in life and human life is implicated in the world around us then sex cannot continue to be treated as a separate category. These divisions are artificial. Violence is always violent.

  • The second part of Skye’s argument is rather invalidated by the fact that most hobbies have some rich people prepared to spend a lot on fancy accessories. Is the fact some people spend vast sums on first editions of rare books an argument against reading?

    The first part is just odd. She’s treating actual living people as if they were fictional animals instead of actually engaging with their views and then explaining why she disagrees with them. And, unless she and the other people arguing against BDSM on this post are vegan, they’re being massively hypocritical.

    • jo

      Pretty big difference between torturing humans for fun and eating food like meat, fish and eggs for the sake of one’s health.

      • amongster

        Is it health or palatable pleassure? I’m convinced that in our society it is the latter but don’t want to be off-topic. There is a discussion about this here:

        http://www.feministcurrent.com/4141/should-feminists-be-vegetarian

        • bella_cose

          This is something I’ve thought a lot about, and I don’t have an answer. I think sometimes it’s the latter, but I also think people aren’t all the same, and just like some people need more calories than others, some people need more protein, and some people’s bodies don’t convert nutrients from plant sources as well as from animal sources. I don’t like meat, and was vegetarian for years until it affected my health. Now I eat meat occasionally, and usually from local farms, though I’d rather just buy from a hunter. The thought of raising animals to kill them is disgusting to me. So, I eat meat, but I don’t get much pleasure from it. However, I do seem to be in the minority.

        • jo

          While humans are omnivores and can live on many different types of food, I do not think the majority of humans can thrive on a vegan diet.
          I have been forced to start eating animals again for the sake of my health.
          I need things like omega 3 to make my brain work properly but that doesn’t mean I want to sexually torture salmon.
          It’s not a good comparision.
          A deliberate red herring from that poster.
          Like, the one without sin may throw the first stone. It’s to shut down BDSM criticism.

          • Oh, please! My brain has functioned perfectly well without fish for 28 years. It’s not the sole source of omega 3 (pun not initially intended) and I think we know that.

      • Pretty big difference between role playing between consenting adults and killing mammals, fish and birds because they taste good.

        • bella_cose

          What happens in one part of our lives affects the other parts. There’s no way to completely compartmentalize. Nothing happens in a vacuum, away from other influences, or the ability to influence.

          It’s like how everyone tries to say porn is just fantasy, and pretty much any guy who watches it will say it doesn’t affect their respect for women. However, studies show that men who watch porn have more sexist attitudes, and greater acceptance for rape myths.

          Just because someone consents, does not make it ok to abuse them. If someone hurts another person, whether or not the person receiving pain likes it, then there is something wrong with that person. End of story. Just because sexual pleasure is involved, it doesn’t remove responsibility from the perpetrator not to assault another human being.

          • So … I suppose that, if fantasy bleeds into reality so easily, the questions change. Instead of posts like “Is Game of Thrones feminist?”, we should be asking, “WTF are feminists watching GOT in the first place?” Or any drama that involves violence or unsettling events (like earthquakes). Why would we want to derive any pleasure from any fantasy where anyone suffers loss or pain?

            Then, I suppose, we take the position that pain should always be avoided, even by willing participants. We should encourage women (and men) to give up playing any sport where they might be injured. Or even where they might end up with muscle pain but not an actual injury.

        • marv

          But we have shown the consent to be bogus because it is socially determined by male supremacy. So maybe the difference between the two scenarios is not as huge as we might think at least in terms of the absence of free choice. The death of the animal is of course a substantial contrast.

          • With respect, you have *not* shown the consent to be bogus. You have demonstrated that patriarchy (I would argue that the concept of kyriarchy is more appropriate) exists. But not that people are not choosing BDSM of their own free will.

          • corvid

            We can explain it to you, but we can’t understand it for you.

          • You’re not debating, corvid, when you say stuff like that. You’re just being rude.

            You (well, not actually you, people before you) have demonstrated that society has various mechanisms that try to persuade us to see the things in a particular way. Yes. Got that. But what you and marv have failed to demonstrate is why you believe that people who are fully well aware of the issues must be brainwashed if they disagree with you.

          • amongster

            I think most commenters here are aware that not everyone who is involved in BDSM is confused or brainwashed. Many kinsters are simply only interested in their own pleasure and ignorant towards the problems of less privileged people who lack the ressources to keep themselves safe from violence they haven’t asked for. To see kinksters as victims of patriarchy and not egomaniacs who probably even get off on violence outside the “community” is actually the more sympathetic assumption.

          • Hi, amongster! If most of the commentators here “are aware that not everyone who is involved in BDSM is confused or brainwashed”, I wish their comments would make that clear.

          • marv

            “But what you and marv have failed to demonstrate is why you believe that people who are fully well aware of the issues must be brainwashed if they disagree with you.”

            Many people are convinced that they are very conscious of the inequality around them yet think they make free decisions regardless. Think about women (and men) who defend their religious faith even though religion is extremely hierarchical and oppressive to women. They claim their cteed doesn’t have a sexist impact on their lives. In fact they love the roles, rituals and doctrines men have created.

            Lots of citizens despise consumer capitalism but exalt the hoax of green capitalism especially if they have a somewhat privileged space within it. White people can be against racist conduct while denying their unavoidable complicity as settlers occupying invaded First Nations lands. Thanksgiving Day is an example of how we shroud colonization in obscurity and sentimentality.

            As a vegan you must be aware of those who frequently oppose factory farms and simultaneously hail ethical meat, insisting that they are making informed principled choices.

            There are plenty of individuals who believe they are the exceptions to the rule of socialized conformity that if taken together would disqualify some forms of real group oppression from actually existing. It can be extremely self-deceiving to assert we are “fully well aware of the issues.”

            http://veganfeministnetwork.com/the-neoliberalism-behind-sexy-veganism-individuals-structures-and-choice/

            Thanks btw for placing me in the same company as corvid. That is a huge compliment for me but undeserved and impossible.

          • Yeah, it’s odd how easy it is for people to start ignoring the fact I’m an intersectionalist abolitionist vegan with anarcho-syndicalist leanings. The moment I suggest that maybe women should have a little bit of freedom to explore make-up and pole fitness and burlesque and other enjoyable things, I get accused of being a libertarian with no comprehension of capitalism or the kyriarchy.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Since when are women not ‘free’ to explore makeup and ‘pole fitness’ and burlesque?

          • corvid

            Guess what VR, I’m not interested in “debating” with you, because the only reason you come on here is to deliberately misunderstand what is being said, and then pick out instances where feminists are being “rude” and “mean” and act hurt. You should know better.

          • corvid wrote, “Guess what VR, I’m not interested in ‘debating’ with you”.

            Well, there’s a shocker.

            I have not “deliberately misunderstood” anything (although I note that oxymoron for future reference). If you don’t want to defend your views, that is your right.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Everyone chooses everything “of their own free will.” That’s a precondition for intentional action. Now if you mean it in a political sense, that’s precisely what we are debating. We are saying consent in a political sense is not meaningful in a context of systematic social coercion and violence.

            In addition, I’d argue that “consent” is indeed bogus in any context in which it is used to justify violence, abuse or exploitation. As a concept I think it has very limited usefulness and scope (but that’s a philosophical discussion).

            I have no doubt that men choose to abuse women just because they like it and because they are empowered by society to do so, but that doesn’t mean it is acceptable.

          • Sabine

            It’s a sad world we’re living in when anybody needs to dominate/be dominated by another in ANY situation in order to feel gratification. With regards to BDSM, I feel this way regardless of gender combinations. I don’t regard two lesbians beating the shit out of each other for sexual kicks as being liberated or feminist just because men are not involved. However, I do see the majority of dominants being male as yet another reflection of our patriarchal, rape-cultured society. It’s just the same old shite being played out. Such things being normalized in our fucked up society renders “consent” a joke on all sides. People consent to all kinds of incredibly harmful things but that doesn’t make it “right” or “healthy”. Self-harmers get relief from punishing themselves and it feels good (I speak from experience) but does that mean it’s coming from a healthy desire? Thanks to the saturation of porn in every corner of our lives there are now young guys who cannot deal with a “real” (read: non-pornified) woman (normal boobs, pubic hair, etc.) and who are unable to get an erection when faced with one in a sexual situation. So, this is a very real physical response which has come about by conditioning. Twenty/thirty years ago the presence of a few pubes wasn’t enough to deflate a guy’s boner because women being shaved bald was not “the norm!” So of course there will be some women who DO get turned on by being objectified and degraded because they have been brainwashed into believing it is erotic and enjoyable and in some sense “normal”. The mind is the biggest sexual organ and it’s manipulated in that capacity as much as in any other. I don’t see how being forcefully dominant (whether consented to or not) over another person can be seen as a healthy part of sex whether it’s a male or a female dishing out the pain and whether the submissive “enjoys” it or not. WHAT ARE THESE DESIRES TO INFLICT/RECEIVE PAIN & HUMILIATION STEMMING FROM? This is what we need to be asking. The consent argument is paper-thin, there is a far broader context to be examined here. Violence and sex have become inextricably linked in our minds and the whole thing fetishized and normalized (by the media, etc.) to such an extent that it’s barely questioned. And if you do you’re a boring prude. Consent really is not enough to make any of it “ok”.

        • jo

          I knew you would reply about something with “consent” 🙂
          I think “consenting adults” is my fave thing to hear in feminist discussions about prostitution and porn and sexualized violence, and by fave I mean least favourite.
          “Consenting adults” does not tell us much. Who is consenting and why?
          It’s usually women who consents to having men do things to them. And there are many reasons why you would consent to something. Wanting to please. Fear. An abusive background. Low self-esteem. Force. Manipulation. Lack of money.
          As Mathew wrote earlier, violence is still violent. And torture is still torture even when you call it play. A sadist is still a sadist when their victim is “consenting”.

  • Ghost

    Bravo! Excellent article. Torture + corporal punishment + slavery + submission + money + political struggles = BDSM

  • Liam

    Wow. So much conflation. What I don’t see is a discussion of BDSM between two or more people, just between a Male Dom and Female Sub – with a lot of exclusion of other points of view. I don’t think consent is being used in the correct context either. This isn’t about tieing someone up in your basement for your own amusement – this is about making arrangement with a fully cognitive adult human to perform specific acts on them. What about Female Doms with male and/or female subs, or Male doms with Male subs regardless of sexual orientation. I smell something and it isn’t rubber, latex, leather, or lube.

  • Scott Sanders

    I am a submissive male. Please keep your politics off my sexuality.

    • bella_cose

      Unfortunately, that’s impossible, because sexuality does not emerge or express itself in isolation from the influences of culture and society.

      • Andrew

        So true. That’s why there are no homosexuals in evangelical communities and Muslim countries.

        You know the old saying: patriarchy works in mysterious way.

        /sarcasm

        • amongster

          Stop comparing homosexuals to people who get off on power games. You are not a part of an oppressed group, instead you keep oppression alive and well.

    • corvid

      If only women were so lucky as not to have our sexuality thoroughly saturated with patriarchal politics from birth!! Scott doesn’t understand the privilege that shines through in his comment.

    • marv

      “Please keep your politics off my sexuality.”

      Please see the male politics of your sexuality.

  • Maya

    BDSM porn is NOT real BDSM, just like regular porn isn’t real sex.

    Would you also claim the because regular hetero-normative sex between a male and a female in porn, where the female seems happy but is most likely a victim of the porn industry, it also means that real sex between two consenting adults is wrong? Didn’t think so.

    Your whole article is flawed – how dare you dismiss a sexual preference just because the industry is flawed?
    Your claims are against Kink and their attempts to portray their porn as positive when in fact it’s no different than any other porn, maybe even worse since BDSM does include pain and humiliation, but while consenting BDSMers actually enjoy this, female porn actors probably don’t.

    You CANNOT say what you did about real BDSM, which you obviously know nothing about.

    As an active anti-porn feminist and sub, I’m telling you that you are being offensive and simply wrong.