BDSM FAQ (Frequently Asserted Quibbles): Part 1

Note: This post as well as the links and resources contained in this post may contain graphic descriptions of violence against women.

Inspired by Meghan’s post on burlesque and the work of feminists and commentators on this site, I’ve outlined responses, in three parts, to the most common objections presented when feminists critique BDSM. My intention is not necessarily to convince BDSM supporters or practitioners to change their beliefs or behaviour (because I don’t believe most will), but rather to help articulate why these objections are problematic/illogical. Another useful post addressing BDSM can be found here, for your reference.

Throughout this post, I refer to the submissive as “she” — both as a reflection of the actual sexual gender dynamics under patriarchy and because I am concerned with how BDSM affects women in particular. It is not because I think that all “submissives” in BDSM are women, and it is not because I think sexual submission or masochism is an inherent or natural feature of female sexuality.

“You shouldn’t judge others for their sexual preferences. You are kink-shaming. This is just like homophobia. You are a prude, pearl-clutching, moralizing, etc.”

This group of objections has the same origin: the presupposition that insofar as an activity or institution involves “sex” it must be immune from critique. Feminists are accused of “shaming” whenever they attempt to analyze or critique any (male-oriented) sexual attitude, preference, or behavior, and thus “shaming” is employed to shut down critical thinking by painting critique as harmful. This perceived harm is considered by sex positivists as more important than the actual harm that occurs to women because of those attitudes, preferences, and behaviors.

If we were to take seriously the presupposition behind these objections, namely, that we can never judge or apply moral standards to sexual behaviors, we could never criticize sexual behaviors at all. In fact, using “consent” as a justification for any and all sexual practices and behaviours is a form of “moralizing” because consent is used to determine what is rightful versus wrongful behavior (even though consent is insufficient). Thus, objections to critiques of BDSM cannot be said to be against “moralizing” per se — this presupposes that whatever norms or “morals” the sex-positivists endorse are the “right” ones whereas all other norms or “morals” are paternalistic or oppressive.

The analogy to homophobia is a false equivalence. Since some conservative, homophobic segments of society are known to criticize sexual behaviors, the claim is that anyone who critiques any form of sexuality or sexual practice is necessarily a conservative (this is also often attached to other kinds of sexist and ageist name-calling, for example, “pearl-clutching prudes”). With homophobia, the perceived harm is that one is not having sexual relations with the “right” type of person (and that the patriarchal, heterosexist family/social order will be disrupted). With BDSM, the harm is the presence of violence, coercion, and reinforcing sexual subordination.

“BDSM is subversive”

The sex-positivist idea is that in doing something (seemingly) taboo, one “subverts” patriarchy by challenging our social norms. However, the effectiveness of subversion depends on what norm one subverts. What “norm” is really being challenged by BDSM?

By definition, BDSM eroticizes inequality, domination, pain, and abuse; thus it doesn’t challenge any patriarchal norms. Patriarchy exists because men enjoy hurting and dominating women. Men have carefully constructed our social and legal institutions in order to promote and ensure men’s ability to violate, abuse, and subjugate women. The norm is men hurting women during sex, coercing women into sex, dominating women during sex, and having non-mutual sex. BDSM says the same thing about sexuality as patriarchy: hurting women is sexy. It merely dresses it up in fancy leather outfits and increases the level of acceptable sexualized violence from the “norm” (e.g., painful or unwanted intercourse, compulsory intercourse) to more extreme (sexualized torture, mutilation).

The only norm that is being “subverted” by BDSM is the “norm” against abuse and torture — but that should be a “norm” feminists want to promote.

“What about lesbians/female dominants?”

Some might argue that BDSM is “subversive” because it (sometimes) places women in the “dominant” position. However, feminism’s goal has never been to reverse roles of domination and subordination, but rather to eliminate power inequalities and violence in sexual relations altogether.

Lesbians, gays, and female dominants can also internalize heterosexist and misogynist norms, just like anyone else. An incident of a woman abusing a man doesn’t change the gender dynamics of violence or sexual assault any more than an incident wherein a minor abuses their parent indicates child abuse does not exist.

In reality, BDSM is rather traditional in its gender dynamics — submissiveness is still associated with females and denigrated in males, and “submissives” often continue to be treated as subordinates outside of the “scene.”

“You need to educate yourself about it first. You aren’t in the ‘scene’ therefore you cannot judge what we do.”

I’m calling this the “mystical experience” class of objections: they presume the ignorance of the objector and also assert that there is something about BDSM that cannot be understood without actually engaging in the practice. In some cases, “you can’t know” is a legitimate objection. For example, a woman or a non-white person can claim special knowledge of what it is like to be oppressed. But this is not the case in with regard to BDSM; the argument is comparable to saying that childfree people cannot make claims about what constitutes child abuse.

Another flaw is that there’s no way to differentiate the “mystical experience” from Stockholm Syndrome and trauma bonding. Human beings adapt to make their experiences tolerable, and enthusiastically supporting the conditions of their abuse (or not seeing it as abuse) is a common survival strategy. In fact, many of the self-described psychological elements of BDSM mirror that of survivors of severe abuse: forming a positive self-concept around enduring torture and “craving” abuse; the perpetrator gaining the victim’s trust and normalizing the abuse; victims going into a trance-like state (or disassociating) during the abuse; feeling bonded to the abuser (trauma-bonding); and the abuser “rewarding” the victim by demonstrations of kindness or comforting the victim after engaging in cruelty in order to further bond the victim to the abuser. The latter is actually formally integrated into BDSM practice as “aftercare.”

In fact, pro-BDSM writers even acknowledge that the cycle of violence and trauma-bonding doesn’t look much different from what they choose to consider “abusive” relationships — the distinguishing element, though, is always the ethereal and magical “consent.” This should not surprise us, as the practice of BDSM consists in the same acts of violence.

“That’s not real BDSM”

This is known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy — in order to differentiate oneself from an undesirable behavior of group members, one claims that they are not “really” members of the group (in the same way that men proclaim that “real” men don’t rape in an attempt to preclude recognition that sexual violence is a gendered crime).

But what did they do wrong? Let’s take the case of the University of Illinois student who assaulted a young woman, afterwards claiming he was merely enacting Fifty Shades of Gray. Did BDSM supporters believe it was wrong it that he enjoyed hurting her? No, that’s exactly what BDSM promotes. Was it that they felt it was wrong that the victim was harmed and traumatized? No again.

The only thing that went “wrong” in this encounter, according to the BDSM community, was that they didn’t follow the proper protocols — she should have “agreed” to her abuse and had a “safe word.” The sex-positivists spend their time either condoning or promoting men’s desire to hurt women and then act surprised…when men hurt women.

This part one of a three-part series. Read part two and three here.

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

Guest Writer
Guest Writer

One of Feminist Current’s amazing guest writers.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • D’andra

    Great post! Will read in more detail once I get time but thanks for this. I anticipate the two other parts. tc

  • Carmen Speer

    I’ve been reading voraciously through “Feminist Current” the last few weeks and I can’t say how happy I am you’re tackling these issues right as I’m thinking about them. That might sound selfish (well, it IS selfish), but thank you!

    An excerpt from the novel I’m writing. This is Connie Black, a journalist/escort whose Mexican mother–an illegal immigrant exotic dancer–disappeared when she was nine months old. After believing her whole life the accepted story that she’d run off with another man she finds evidence that foul play was involved and decides to go down to Mexico to her mother’s hometown and find out both how she came and who she came with on her journey to the United States.

    Connie’s grown up with a whole lot of problems, both due to her mother’s story and her father’s attitude, which ranged from needy to coldly rejecting. As she grows up, a yearning, lonely little girl, she is victimized by men and comes to believe in a kind of violent victimhood as her identity, while simultaneously rejecting such a notion for other women and championing their causes (how she ends up both a submissive and a journalist). An excerpt from her internal monologue that’s relevant to this discussion:

    Let’s talk a little bit about why I became first a submissive and then a prostitute.

    Or, you could say, how I went from being a scratching-post to a sounding-board; either way a cipher—something empty to project and unload on.

    The truth is even way back when—in my dungeon days—I always looked down my nose on the crowd I had aligned myself with. Even back then I found “pro-prostitution” accounts vaguely embarrassing, though I’d be damned if I could tell you why. I think it’s because I wasn’t even as authentic as they were, the earnest, almost never quite-right girls in these pro-pro movements, who had found at last a way to get attention; these absolutely convinced defenders of men’s use of women’s bodies. I was always at least dual in my approach, if not paralyzingly multiple; I grew up used to the way men viewed me—or didn’t view me, as it were; viewed my body without viewing me at all—I grew up used. Whatever the reason, a layered consciousness arose of every sexual act I ever witnessed or experienced; perhaps because via various misfortunes I learned to disassociate early, or maybe because I was accustomed to being my own father’s objectif, the lens through which he could see other people, or perhaps simply because I always played both sides—growing up with all that a Western education and a liberal indoctrination could afford me—the anti-woman reframed as empowering, the old-fashioned wife role co-opted for the whore’s center stage, the stripper pole just out of sight behind any successful portrait of a lady in shoulder pads, the intellectual justifications piled so thick and high there was no seeing reason, not in a world where it was all or nothing—the terrifying specter of Republicanism a kind of liberal devil, keeping at bay conscientious objectors—and yet there was my mother: poor, brown, and exploited. And her truth was always there whatever the empowered and enlightened wanted to say to me, wanted me to say.

    Nevertheless, if you had asked me back then, sure I would have said I was all for it. It was part of the ruse, necessary to continue with what I was doing. The truth wasn’t just what the world had told me I was worth. The truth wasn’t just that I was convinced I would turn out lonely and cats would eat my body (although I had never liked them to begin with cats seemed compulsory for women rejecting men). Even if I was absolutely convinced I would never find a man who wouldn’t say the one thing that would betray him as the woman-hater I was sure he would be, letting me down forever, and I might as well be what they wanted me to be and rob them blind in the process, might as well let them think their disgusting thoughts about and in and all over me while I cashed their cold hard currency, that wasn’t it either. It wasn’t just all that—wasn’t just such secret, bitter convictions as I struggled with tearfully late at night all alone–I could have lived with all that and still never done what I did, still never gone down to a literal dungeon and proffered my body to strange men dressed in costumes I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at.

    No, I think at some point I began an experiment. At some unknown yet nevertheless precise moment in time on a bleary restless night my dreaming mind decided it, a logical response to a question I never knew I’d asked. And the experiment was simply this: find what it means to be really feminine. Reveal the logical destination behind the expectations and curtailments, society’s role playing brought out in the open, made more theatrical and less hidden, find and then photograph that face of the uber-feminine—mysterious, glimpsed once before disappearing, an anguished face in the moon—an uber-feminine that goes beyond even the sacrifice of the wife. Because while the logical conclusion of the ultra-masculine might be the last man standing with the rest dead around him the uber-feminine—passive, accepting of male violence, eager to please—is first a slave and second a dead girl. So I think that is what I was doing.

    I think I wanted to die and I wanted the people who hated me most to kill me.

  • Carmen Speer

    P.s. To C.K. Egbert, the author of this essay (and of many of the most thoughtful comments on this site), I loved this piece–concise, well-written, and carefully balanced argumentative writing–and thank you, again, for writing it. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Thank you, Carmen! Also, thank you for giving your perspective. This is a great site.

  • FreeRadicalFem

    Well done. Thank you for this article.

    The “that’s not the real X” argument is seen over and over again whenever sexist actions are critiqued. If a woman is sent to the hospital after a “scene” then “that is not real BDSM. Real BDSM eschews actual abuse!” When married men cheat on their wives with Dommes, well “that is not real BDSM, real BDSM is about love and trust.” Yadda yadda. We hear the same excuses with porn: Abuse of porn actors? Underage girls? “Hey that is not mainstream porn!” And with prostitution: Sex trafficking? “That is not typical for higher end escorts!” Over and over we hear that the horrors associated with these lifestyles and behaviors are all merely extreme examples, or just misleading and mislabeled imitations of the *harmless* real McCoy. It’s an insidious and effective tactic to point criticism away from misogynistic behaviors and systems.

    Frustrates the hell out of me.

    • Derrington

      Used by people who know their argument doesnt stand up to daylight. The trick is not to see these people as your audience, they are immune to humanity in the shape of women, but to continue the debate as far as needed to prove the point to others how inhumane these people actually are.

      This article is a case in point, fabulous well crafted points coming from crafting debate with these people. I wonder where this love and blindness to cruelty is leadiing …

      • C.K. Egbert

        I noticed while writing this, and patterning it after Meghan’s post, that all the sex-positive arguments (for prostitution, BDSM, pornography, burlesque, pornography) follow the same pattern–in fact the objections are almost exactly the same in every case (almost word for word, even). I think that says something about their general worldview.

        • derrington

          And the fact that they see women and child sexual assault victims as collateral damage for their own sexual freedoms. We pay for their privelege.

  • Thanks for the link! My blog has been gaining popularity and I am glad that it has achieved another milestone, getting mentioned on (what I believe is) Canada’s most read feminist blog, right?

    Ironically, a liberal academic at my university today attacked self-proclaimed socialist leaders in Latin America for living luxurious lifestyles. If we are not allowed to critique the lifestyles of liberal “feminists”, how come they can critique other people’s lifestyles? Why is “luxury-shaming” (for lack of a better word) okay, but sex-shaming isn’t? Frankly this academic’s criticisms felt more like bullying. He treated a Western comedy show as if it were a valid source of information about Latin American issues (so much for cultural relativism) and encouraged everyone in the room to laugh at this one guy, who he thinks can’t take criticism, because the former did what liberal feminists have tried to do to me and others who say the “wrong” thing (i.e. expose them to the world as “bad guys” so that their supporters can attack us in person.)

    Any how, what exactly is their accuse for allowing one kind of shaming and not the other? It can’t be because “subversive” sex doesn’t cost money (and therefore does not require one to take money away from those who need it), it costs hundreds of dollars for one BDSMer to buy one costume. Imagine how much money they could donate to the poor and oppressed of the world (not that I am a big believer in charity) if they all gave up their sexual practices and sold their costumes and equipment to a museum (which is exactly where whips, chains, corsets and so forth belong), or better yet never produced such useless junk in the first place and devoted their labour to something that benefited humanity?

    To be clear, I understand that it is hypocritical for a socialist leader to live a wealthy lifestyle (and equally hypocritical for liberal feminists who claim to stand up for the oppressed masses of the world to spends hundreds to thousands of dollars on sexy/feminine/pretty crap that they do not actually need), but a politicians policies and the effects of these policies on the masses are far more important than any personal lifestyle choice they make. I can’t help but feel that liberal academics critique such lifestyle choices simply so that they can make socialists (and socialism) look bad. Living up to one’s political ideas when those ideals contradict the founding principles of the society one grew up in is tough. The only reason liberals do not get accused of betraying their political ideals is because they don’t have any (at least none that truly contradict the values of mainstream society.)

    As for the complaints about socialist leaders censoring criticism, I don’t give a damn what the capitalists who own the corporate media (both in the West and Latin America) think about politicians who are attempting to improve the conditions of the poor masses in their countries, while going against the interests of the rich in their country and the imperialist West. It is important, of course, that any political leader listen to criticisms coming from their own people and there needs to be space for that in the media and culture of country (not capitalist-owned, profit-driven space though), but I don’t want to hear liberals accusing others of being unable to handle criticism. They are the ones who have the ideological position that criticism is “shaming” when applied to personal choices and “totalising” when applied to beliefs about the real world. Their own ideology labels complete lack of concern for the opinions of others as a virtue. Plus revolutionary leftists already spend enough time criticising each other. We don’t need liberals butting in, any more than feminists need to hear what MRAs think.

    With regard to the “homophobia” argument. I think homophobia is motivated less by opposition to the sex acts themselves and more by a desire to maintain gender roles. You listen to conservatives enough, you will realise that that is what they are mostly concerned about when they talk about homosexuality. It is all about how gays can’t provide children with “male and female role models”, which as far as I am concerned is code for “gays can’t indoctrinate children into gender roles properly. Sometimes they even say that “gays aren’t real men”.

    Some sex-crazed male on a previous post made a comment to me that went somethings along the lines of “no one cares if someone loves another personal, conservatives are only upset about gays having sex”. It is quite the opposite actually. Conservatives are scared of gays living together, rejecting gender norms and raising kids who reject gender norms. They care about love way more than they care about sex because love determines who a person will want to live with and raise children with (if they decide to have children.) If you fall in love with someone of the same sex and move in with them, everyone around you will know, especially your parents. Nobody has to know whether a couple practices “vanilla” or sadomasochist sex. We know about it because people who are into BDSM reveal (through one means or another) that they are into it, whereas if an adolescent has not dated anybody of the opposite sex, people immediately start speculating that he/she might be gay. Being gay is a lot harder to conceal than being into BDSM, so the comparison is weak, even if one accepts that being gay and practicing BDSM are morally equivalent (which I don’t.)

  • Maarten

    Maybe it’s asking for something that should be obvious, but my question is: “do you believe it is really never, ever, ever, acceptable to you when two persons participate in – and experience some kind of pleasure from – BDSM?”. I’m asking because although I understand that you don’t agree with BDSM, it seems like a very absolute statement to say that it is never acceptable. I can imagine for example that BDSM helps people to deal with their anxiety, and maybe there are better ways to deal with it, but I would not discard BDSM for this purpose (if both persons find that it helps them).

    ps I thought I would google a little to find out about the relation to anxiety, and it seems there is one (http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/01/can-bondage-reduce-anxiety.html)

    • C.K. Egbert

      The fact that someone experiences pleasure from BDSM does not mean that it is not abusive or violent. Men enjoy hurting women, but that does not mean it is justifiable.

      The aspects of BDSM mentioned in the article, “altered states,” feeling of being bonded or connected, and bodily disassociation can be psychical and physical responses to trauma (including, as mentioned above, something that is seen in victims of ritualized torture). The fact that it does have these effects–of creating bodily disassociation and creates trauma-bonding (once again, women who are severely abused are often the most bonded to their abuser)–should instead clue us into the potential dangers rather than making us think this is “healthy.” The fact that there are some parallels between BDSM and some other activities that can be healthy (meditation and exercise) doesn’t mean that BDSM is as healthy as exercise. We can also simulate these responses by the use of very dangerous (an very harmful) drugs. It doesn’t mean drugs are as healthy as exercise.

      Self-mutilation is also often used as a means for alleviating extreme emotional distress. However, while it “works” (it temporarily alleviates the mental distress), we generally recognize this as a problematic coping mechanism that doesn’t address the root cause of the self-harming behavior.

      I noticed that they admitted this created increased stress hormones (cortisol) in the “sub.” This, actually, reminds me of “flooding”: basically, someone is exposed to something that causes them terror until their reaction system is completely exhausted. (Imagine locking someone who is afraid of spiders in a coffin full of spiders, until their bodies are unable to maintain the stress response.)

      In any case, I think the arguments for the fact that it causes “pleasure” misses the point; the point is that it involves and is used to justify interpersonal violence.

      • As an interesting side note, I would add that the stress hormone cortisol increases any time a person takes on a subordinate position, including in non-sexual contexts (e.g. at work.) This suggests, firstly, that submission is not good for human beings in general and, secondly, that BDSM is not that different from “real” submission and as for the common pro-BDSM that being “submissive’ is different from being “weak” or “passive”, this is how Google defines the term;

        Submissive: ready to conform to the authority or will of others; meekly obedient or passive.

        And yes, that’s the only definition. The word “bondage” has a BDSM definition listed in the dictionary, though, under the first (more conventional) definition for that word which is (you guessed it) slavery (seriously look it up.) This is what the BDSM community labels as sexy.

  • Ellesar

    I know about BDSM from a lesbian perspective. I was in a relationship wth a woman who saw herself as a dominant. I had no desire to do BDSM and this was part of the problem, but the main problem was that she was abusive and violent. Many of the lesbian who like to dom were also dominant in every day life, and this often not OK. I have not wanted the connection with BDSM in my every day life, but because the lesbian community is small I found that I met loads of women who were into BDSM, and frankly most of them were were fuck ups – mostly survivors of childhood abuse.

    I have been left believing that the vast majority of women who do BDSM have unresolved issues and express that in their sexuality.

  • Ellesar

    “In reality, BDSM is rather traditional in its gender dynamics — submissiveness is still associated with females and denigrated in males, and “submissives” often continue to be treated as subordinates outside of the “scene.””

    Absolutely – I read somewhere that the vast majority of hetero men and women fit into the dom/ sub dynamic – knowing this it is hard to see BDSM as at all subversive. And I have read articles written by sub women who say that if you sub for any amount of time with multiple partners you WILL be raped at some point by a man who has no respect for boundaries or safe words. A bad dom? Or just a dom?!

  • ArgleBargle

    Thanks for writing this. In particular, your take on the ‘mystical experience’ class of objections is very good. If it walks and talks like violence and abuse, that’s what it is, no matter how pretty the wrapping it comes in. I don’t think one needs to experience physical violence or abuse to know it when they see it. What is less fully knowable from the outside, as you point out, are the mental and other strategies utilized by victims of violence in order to survive it.

  • LuckyDuck

    This reminds me of this section of George Orwell’s 1984:

    “But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.’

    He paused as though he expected Winston to speak. Winston had tried to shrink back into the surface of the bed again. He could not say anything. His heart seemed to be frozen. O’Brien went on:

    ‘And remember that it is for ever. The face will always be there to be stamped upon. The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. Everything that you have undergone since you have been in our hands — all that will continue, and worse. The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease. It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon and yet they will always survive. This drama that I have played out with you during seven years will be played out over and over again generation after generation, always in subtler forms. Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible — and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling to our feet of his own accord.”

    • Sure. As long as society grooms women and men, from childhood, to be the face and the boot, respectively.

  • BDSM

    “This group of objections has the same origin: the presupposition that insofar as an activity or institution involves “sex” it must be immune from critique. ”

    This is a misrepresentation. It’s not that any act involving sex is immune from criticism (see: rape or pedophilia). It’s that you bear an extremely high burden of proof if you want to show that consensual sex acts between rational adults are wrong. You have yet to meet this burden. Consequently, many people view the anti BDSM camp as people obsessed with policing the sexuality of others.

    “The sex-positivist idea is that in doing something (seemingly) taboo, one “subverts” patriarchy by challenging our social norms. However, the effectiveness of subversion depends on what norm one subverts. What “norm” is really being challenged by BDSM?”

    Consent in sex is often disregarded in our culture. Explicit and enthusiastic consent is an integral part of BDSM. So it subverts rape culture. It also offends the sexual morality of many people in our culture (for example, conservatives and sex negative feminists).

    “This is known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy — in order to differentiate oneself from an undesirable behavior of group members, one claims that they are not “really” members of the group.”

    This is really no more problematic than saying rape isn’t real sex. There are certain codes that should be followed when practising BDSM. For example, mutual consent and the use of safe words. If these are not followed, as is the case in the linked example, then it’s bad and we want to discourage it.

    • C.K. Egbert

      “This is a misrepresentation. It’s not that any act involving sex is immune from criticism (see: rape or pedophilia). It’s that you bear an extremely high burden of proof if you want to show that consensual sex acts between rational adults are wrong. You have yet to meet this burden. Consequently, many people view the anti BDSM camp as people obsessed with policing the sexuality of others.”

      Actually I think the burden of justification here is on you. The burden of justification would be what makes engaging in acts of interpersonal violence (including torture, abuse, and slavery). You have yet to meet this burden.

      In fact, I think it does stem from the idea of sex being immune to criticism: the idea that anything that gets labeled “consensual” or “choice” must be perfectly acceptable (even if it involves systematic social or economic coercion, which is why I’m skeptical of the “choice” rhetoric). Feminism contextualizes our sexual practices and behaviors within the context of sexual subordination. Sex positivity resists this analysis by the sort of objections I listed.

      Also, I find it odd that you think that rape and pedophilia is really considered wrongful among sex-positivists, given that BDSM itself includes scenarios of rape and aspects of pedophilia (e.g., “daddy” relationships).

      “Consent in sex is often disregarded in our culture. Explicit and enthusiastic consent is an integral part of BDSM. So it subverts rape culture. It also offends the sexual morality of many people in our culture (for example, conservatives and sex negative feminists).”

      I will quote MacKinnon here: “When I hear a woman being beaten in the next room, I don’t feel offended.” BDSM does not eroticize consent; it eroticizes rape, torture, abuse, and certain forms of coercion (and promotes or condones certain types of coercion, such as the grooming of women into sexualized violence via pornography). So I don’t buy this argument, because the consent is not sexy (otherwise they would be really into just doing whatever someone really wanted them to do). Consent, instead, is the attempt to give sexualized violence legitimacy. I address the issue of consent in another blog post that is forthcoming.

      “This is really no more problematic than saying rape isn’t real sex. There are certain codes that should be followed when practising BDSM. For example, mutual consent and the use of safe words. If these are not followed, as is the case in the linked example, then it’s bad and we want to discourage it. ”

      Rape is sex; it is sexual violence, but men still experience raping women as sex. Once again, the use of these “codes” does not mean that the behavior is acceptable, non-subordinating, or non-violent. It just means that it is regulated; certain people have power to hurt others in certain contexts (e.g., police brutality). That does not mean that there isn’t a problem.

      I think you are missing the point of feminists; they are saying that the rules (“consent”) and what they are being used to justify (abuse and torture) is itself problematic. So claiming that someone “didn’t follow the rules” is not itself enough of a response to the critique.

      • Thank you fir this post, and the articulate, thoughtful replies. That McKinnon quote is excellent and makes a lot of things fall into place about the word ‘offence’.

    • Missfit

      ‘It’s that you bear an extremely high burden of proof if you want to show that consensual sex acts between rational adults are wrong. You have yet to meet this burden.’

      Why is the burden extremely high? If someone chooses to be racist and consent to take part in extremely racist discussions, does that make it right? Consent and choice are not the only measures of whether something should be considered good/bad, right/wrong, healty/unhealthy. I feel this focus on consent is a tactic to avoid addressing the crux of the matter. Which is men enjoying hurting and humiliating women. And that is wrong. And dangerous.

  • Madison

    Coming from someone who is in a healthy BDSM relationship and everything, this post is extremely revolting to me. You are literally telling people who are trying to ensure that the definition of BDSM and everything isn’t misconstrued (i.e. drawing the line between an abusive relationship and a BDSM relationship) is really rude to be frank. Like a lot of people (male and female) derive sexual pleasure from pain (myself included), it is a very common kink. May people (male and female) derive sexual pleasure from being ‘in control’ of a sexual situation (myself included). Many people often feel they are submissive as well as dominant and like to bring that into their sex lives. They consent to it (which means you are coersed into it, because they isn’t real consent, you aren’t treated to, you go in wanting and eager to participate), that there are safe guard in place to ensure the entire tie everyone is enjoying themselves (safe words, limitations), and everyone follows these rules at all times. Once a line is cross, once someone says no, or is in non-pleasurable pain, or feels unsafe, it moves from a BDSM experience and into sexual assault, and even possibly rape.
    Consent is ONLY a continual, enthusiastic, and un-coersed YES.
    If that exists within anyones sexual relationship, I am failing to see why you feel the need to tell them they are wrong.
    (Also, this NEVER applies to those underage or with lager age gapes (i.e 16 and 20 year old or 20 and 40 year old) because of the mental maturity difference between the two, the older can easily and often does manipulated and abuse the younger)

    • C.K. Egbert

      I’m not sure why disagreement is “revolting” to you (if you noticed, I am not writing these posts because I plan on convincing you). I’m claiming that your attempts at distinguishing abuse from BDSM–which I’m aware is what the BDSM community is attempting to do–does not work. The only way that they can distinguish it is by the ever-magical notion of consent, which I don’t think is sufficient (and in fact, it isn’t sufficient in other instances of consent, such as medical consent, because medical practice is governed by licensing boards, best medical practices, empirical evidence, etc. before you even get to the point of consenting).

      I have no doubt many people (particularly men) enjoy controlling and hurting other people (particularly women). However, I don’t think the bare fact that they enjoy doing it and it is a “common kink” means that it is not problematic.

      Also, while certainly consent cannot be coerced, I don’t think we have the same understanding of coercion. Coercion isn’t just physical threats. It is emotional manipulation, it is grooming women into thinking they deserve abuse or the abuse is “normal” by pornography and our social norms, it is women believing that being dominated and hurt is how “sex” is supposed to be. So when you are saying it is “not coerced,” you are ignoring the ways that women are socialized (that is, systematically coerced) into thinking sexualized violence is desirable or normal.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I don’t understand how anything in this post could be construed as ‘revolting’ either. Unless critical thinking is ‘revolting’ to you?

        • C.K. Egbert

          I think it has more to do with attacking something that functions as a core of someone’s identity…I believe that another poster had a similar reaction on the consent article, and in fact did feel criticism of her sexual “kinks” was comparable to homophobia.

          • Derrington

            To be quite honest, alot of people these days seem to use hyperbole in their language. In another post a trans person was talking in terms of radical feminists ‘killing’ trans women by refusing to acknowledge them as female born and likewise with kink. They equate non acknowledgement of a chosen identity with fatal violence for a birthed one. Myself, i think ithis whole thing is down to male hierarcachal violence towards women and we need to maintain the focus on the perps political agenda which is to maintain gender supremacy.

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’ve heard that too (“you are literally killing [“sex workers,” transwomen,etc.]”. It’s a very clever deflection tactic; to claim that anything other than absolute and uncritical endorsement of their view constitutes violence–even while they deny/minimize/invalidate the actual harm and violence done to women.

          • Meghan Murphy

            We are not permitted to critique lest we are ‘shaming,’ ‘judging,’ or ‘literally committing violence.’ Very clever indeed!

      • Madison

        It’s revolting because this posts literally called all BDSM practitioners sexual assaulters. That’s horrid. The two are not the same! Draw a clear line is differentiating them. It’s very clear, and I don’t understand how you can’t see it. If all parties involved are enjoying themselves the entire time, it’s wasn’t assault. (this means they didn’t disassociated, they were active participants, they were sexually aroused and involved and would willing do it again. Like ridding a roller coaster, but sex)
        Also, there is a big difference between controlling someone (who they can talk to, what they can do, diet, act, say, ect.) which is usually in a very toxic relationship, and being in control in the bedroom (Deciding whether is sweet or rough, how it starts, how it ends, toys used, ect) which should always be within your partners wishes and something they consent to. Once someone doesn’t consent to what you are doing to their body, you are assaulting/raping them (depending on what you are doing at the time)
        I guess I have to make this SUPER clear as to the ACTUALY definition and what ALL HEALTHY BDSM practitioners say over and over and over again.
        In order for anyone’s consent to be real consent they
        1. Must give a clear and obvious sign they are OK with the events going on
        2. Must not be in a high-stake situation (I.e. in the middle of sex or in front of family/friends)
        3. Must me sober.
        4. Must not be being coerced (Whether this be at knife point, which for some reason you assume was my only version, or emotional manipulation, or by ‘sweet’ talking them into it)
        5. This consent must be given at all times.
        6. Must feel safe and able to voice feelings at all time.
        The SECOND any of those becomes untrue, consent is no longer valid and it is assault/rape.

        Grooming, though, falls on a completely different spectrum. That is literally molding someone over a corse of time to think and act and look how you want them to, usually by emotional manipulation. This means someone was coerced into the act. They no longer feel safe telling the other person what they really want.

        The social side is also on a completely different spectrum, and that is all very partial to Western society and Western Sex-ED. But that is something that should be attacked as a whole, but is separate from BDSM itself because that falls directly and only onto hetro sexual relations (mainly at least). And, again, if a ANYONE feels afraid to speak their mind about what is happening to their body, what is happening is assault/rape. Whether or not they report it or feel like ‘they liked it’ or ‘that’s how it’s supposed to be’.

        If you really want to tackled THAT problem, maybe tell feminist current that they should be posting more exploiting that system and trying to help dismantle that instead of sex between consenting (the real definition of consent, especially when relating to sex/sexual situations) adults!

        • Meghan Murphy

          “It’s revolting because this posts literally called all BDSM practitioners sexual assaulters.”

          I missed that. Where?

          • Madison

            “Another flaw is that there’s no way to differentiate the “mystical experience” from Stockholm Syndrome and trauma bonding. Human beings adapt to make their experiences tolerable, and enthusiastically supporting the conditions of their abuse (or not seeing it as abuse) is a common survival strategy. In fact, many of the self-described psychological elements of BDSM mirror that of survivors of severe abuse: forming a positive self-concept around enduring torture and “craving” abuse; the perpetrator gaining the victim’s trust and normalizing the abuse; victims going into a trance-like state (or disassociating) during the abuse; feeling bonded to the abuser (trauma-bonding); and the abuser “rewarding” the victim by demonstrations of kindness or comforting the victim after engaging in cruelty in order to further bond the victim to the abuser. The latter is actually formally integrated into BDSM practice as “aftercare.”

            In fact, pro-BDSM writers even acknowledge that the cycle of violence and trauma-bonding doesn’t look much different from what they choose to consider “abusive” relationships — the distinguishing element, though, is always the ethereal and magical “consent.” This should not surprise us, as the practice of BDSM consists in the same acts of violence.”

            “But what did they do wrong? Let’s take the case of the University of Illinois student who assaulted a young woman, afterwards claiming he was merely enacting Fifty Shades of Gray. Did BDSM supporters believe it was wrong it that he enjoyed hurting her? No, that’s exactly what BDSM promotes. Was it that they felt it was wrong that the victim was harmed and traumatized? No again.

            The only thing that went “wrong” in this encounter, according to the BDSM community, was that they didn’t follow the proper protocols — she should have “agreed” to her abuse and had a “safe word.” The sex-positivists spend their time either condoning or promoting men’s desire to hurt women and then act surprised…when men hurt women.”

            Literally a-kinning BDSM practitioners to assaulters, with not evidence on pro-BDSM side.
            Also, all BDSM people hate 50 shades of grey because it IS about an abusive relationship. They encourage people not to read it and tell everyone to never re-enact it because it would be assault. Like literally every single BDSM and honestly person I have talked to that has read the book and has a basic understanding of what an abusive relationship is say the same thing. What they say would be wrong with the encounter is that he didn’t ask for consent or give her the opportunity to even consent. Doing in the claim of “BDSM” doesn’t make it BDSM. Same of doing it and calling it “sex” doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape.

          • C.K. Egbert

            I think she/he is referring to the part where I said that you cannot distinguish BDSM from abuse.

            In any case: “The social side is also on a completely different spectrum, and that is all very partial to Western society and Western Sex-ED. But that is something that should be attacked as a whole, but is separate from BDSM itself because that falls directly and only onto hetro sexual relations (mainly at least).”

            My point, above, was that it wasn’t separate from BDSM because BDSM espouses the same (problematic) norms about sexuality that patriarchy does. For example, it is considered acceptable for the (male) partner to control/dominate the (female) partner, it is considered acceptable and normal for a woman to experience pain or injury during sex (e.g., compulsory intercourse), and women are taught to believe (and to react accordingly) that sex centers around the male orgasm. The idea of sex involving domination and sex involving the infliction of physical pain are patriarchal ideals that women into which women are socialized. Women and girls are being coerced into painful and dangerous sex acts, because the norms are that hurting a woman during sex is “normal” and “expected,” and the fact that it causes a woman pain or discomfort is not considered a reason to refrain from it.

            The fact that women may “learn to like it” does not mean that they were not coerced. I have yet to see a pro-BDSM person explain to me how they are going to combat these patriarchal norms. Men are not going to wake up tomorrow and decide they don’t want to subject women to “rough”, painful, and non-mutual sex, and women aren’t going to realize that they are entitled to anything else.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Right. Well I agree with you, of course.

          • Madison

            Well I feel like I have pointed of the difference between BDSM and abuse quit clearly. IF I haven’t please tell me where there is confusion.
            Ok, I am going to correct you here because it’s hurting my sole. A Patriarchy (a society or community organized on patriarchal lines.) isn’t inherently misongynistic. Just like a Matriarchy ( form of social organization in which descent and relationship are reckoned through the female line.) isn’t misandrist. The society we live in IS misongynistic, Society, which is a patriarchy (taking the mans last name type thing), is misongynistic.
            Honestly, again, the point you are making can apply to all sex, not just BDSM. BDSM doesn’t want anyone to be involved unless they are enjoying themselves. If the woman in ins hurtful pain, she isn’t enjoying herself. If the man is trying to cause her hurtful pain, he is assaulting her. That’s why isn’t important for people to know the difference between assault and BDSM, what consult really means, and proper sex ed.
            BDSM tries to expose that by trying to draw the line between BDSM and assault and trying to educate people on what assault is. That’s how. But honestly, it isn’t their job to tell everyone that tries BDSM to not “encourage the patriarchy”….especially since every single Pro-BDSM speaker I have ever seen has been the female. Who is also the dominant. Which….dismantalts your entire argument.
            Your entire argument is, again, based on hetro-normativity. You assume that the man is the dominant. That the woman is the submissive. You assume there are 2 genders at all! You assume that they are not consenting fully, you assume that it’s all just ‘enforcing the patriarchy’.
            But what, real reason, do you have for two sexually educated and consenting adult to not participate in BDSM in their own bedroom?
            Also, ‘learn to like it’ isn’t a thing. It’s assaulting someone until they submit to your will. I never said ‘learn to like it’ anywhere in my argument. I never would.

          • C.K. Egbert

            “Honestly, again, the point you are making can apply to all sex, not just BDSM.”

            That was my point; our sexual behaviors under patriarchy sexualize power differentials and various forms of abuse. That is the problem. I think that “vanilla” sexuality is also highly patriarchal. My point is that BDSM isn’t challenging any of this; it is merely putting the bar higher in terms of pain/injury to which women are being subjected to in sex and what is considered “sex” (from vaginal intercourse to being definitive of sex and mandatory for women, to things like anal sex–all based upon the same idea that women’s pain is normalized/glorified).

            I am disputing the common objection that BDSM is some sort of “liberating” sexual practice that is any different, or less patriarchal, than “normal” sexuality. I don’t think it is.

            “Also, ‘learn to like it’ isn’t a thing. It’s assaulting someone until they submit to your will. I never said ‘learn to like it’ anywhere in my argument. I never would.”

            You might not, but that doesn’t mean that the coercion isn’t there. Our preferences don’t come from nowhere; they are shaped by our social environment. Our social environment socializes women to believe that they want/deserve to be dominated and to be hurt by men. It socializes men into wanting and enjoying hurting women.

    • Why should we accept that only non-consensual sexual acts or relationships are bad? Violent sex and inegalitarianism are bad, consensual or not.

      • Madison

        BDSM isn’t violent-“using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” The purpose of any pain involved in BDSM is to invoke sexual pleasure. Once the “pain” reaches a point that it is no long pleasurable, it is not longer a safe experience, and in a health BDSM relationship, that is when a safe word would be used to either stop or lessen the pain. Safe words, limitations, and general respect between everyone is the difference between assault and BDSM. Really, assault and sex in general.
        Also, I don’t see how in egalitarianism even plays into this argument???

        • C.K. Egbert

          “using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.”

          But that is what BDSM does–the intent is to hurt (cause pain). Last time I checked, pain hurts. There is also intent to harm, because usually when BDSM inflict pain they are also inflicting injury (sometimes potentially fatal, as in the case of suffocation). Unless you want to say that causing someone pain doesn’t matter at all (which I would disagree–causing someone pain does matter, a lot).

          • Madison

            Good job reading my post honey. The intent is not to hurt. Again. Let me repeat that. In black in white isn’t enough-THE INTENT IS INDEED NOT NO HURT! For people, like me, it is for pleasure. For me, there is a line between pleasurable pain and hurtful pain. If you don’t experience that type of sexual arousal, you wouldn’t understand it. But yeah. It doesn’t hurt. It is pleasurable. If someone is literally being killed….it was probably assault. Honestly. It’s really hard to “accidentally” suffocate someone.
            So please re-read what I said. Remember some people experience pain differently than you and pain for them doesn’t always hurt. Then come back and give me a real argument.
            Thanks.

          • Anonymous

            Why do you continue to refer to the sensation as “pain”, when you say that it is not actually pain? Because it IS really pain?

            You sound confused about the definition of the words “pain” and “hurt”. The “S” in BDSM is defined as:

            “Sadism: the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.
            (in general use) deliberate cruelty.”

            BDSM is, by definition, about inflicting pain on others and getting pleasure from it, or about receiving pain from others and getting pleasure from it. The intent IS to hurt, and pain IS the result. Just because the pain is also accompanied by pleasure does not mean that the pain does not exist. You cannot pretend that away.

          • Bernard Linden

            “It’s really hard to “accidentally” suffocate someone.”

            This is dangerous information to put about.

            Human bodies are fragile and vulnerable things!!

            It is highly irresponsible to suggest that serious care does not need to be taken, unintended consequences of “play” can be much more severe than many people realise.

            I’m not writing this to suggest that choking, strangling or suffocating actions are sexy or fun – I think they are violent and cruel. But not all readers will agree with me, and they need to know the risks.

          • derrington

            Your particular kink just looks like routine sexist violence in the home with a few bells and whistles added to ease your conscience as to what you’re promoting. Quite frankly, I hear more than enough from monsters and their familiars and not enough from women and children who have gone through the same experience that you kinksters promote without the fairy dust of consent, whatever way it is extracted. The reasons we hear little from them is that the media is run by men who make huge sums of money from promoting violence against women and children in media/porn so those articles are never commissioned, the police force is run by men who use porn and have some of the highest rates of sexist violence by trade in the UK (hence their betrayal of victims and protection of child rapists in Saville, Rotherham et al) and the third is that the women and children are either dead or terrified and have no where to go through people like you saying women chose violence most of the time. I think your promotion of a stance/lifestyle/whatever you chose to call it is hugely dangerous in a number of women and children’s lives who dont chose violent trauma like you do. No amount of explanation will make your irresponsibility to others acceptable in my eyes.

        • “… using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage…”

          BDSM does involve this.

  • BDSM can be criticized on moral grounds without even bringing patriarchy or sexism into the equation. That it reinforces patriarchal norms makes it all the worse, but even if it never did, I’d still have a problem with it.

    • C.K. Egbert

      I would also criticize it on independent moral and political grounds (I have no problem with saying non-defensive assault should be illegal), but I also want to demonstrate the inconsistencies within the arguments themselves.

      • Madison

        What inconsistencies have there been?

  • BDSM

    “Actually I think the burden of justification here is on you. The burden of justification would be what makes engaging in acts of interpersonal violence (including torture, abuse, and slavery). You have yet to meet this burden.”

    It’s consensual. This is why we are ok with boxing matches at the Olympics but not ok when someone runs out of nowhere and punches you face as you walk down the street. It’s why we’re ok with people voluntarily donating their kidneys but not ok with people being kidnapped and having their organs removed. The mere fact that something is painful does not make it immoral and we recognise this in everyday social interactions. Context matters.

    “In fact, I think it does stem from the idea of sex being immune to criticism: the idea that anything that gets labeled “consensual” or “choice” must be perfectly acceptable (even if it involves systematic social or economic coercion, which is why I’m skeptical of the “choice” rhetoric).”

    Where is your evidence that most women who practice BDSM are systematically coerced into doing so?

    “Also, I find it odd that you think that rape and pedophilia is really considered wrongful among sex-positivists, given that BDSM itself includes scenarios of rape and aspects of pedophilia (e.g., “daddy” relationships).”

    ….

    You actually think sex positive feminists believe rape and pedophilia are ok? Seriously? Adults acting out a BDSM ‘daddy’ role play are not engaging in pedophilia. Consenting adults simulating rape is not the same as actual rape. Do you think actors who get killed in movies are actually dead too?

    “So I don’t buy this argument, because the consent is not sexy (otherwise they would be really into just doing whatever someone really wanted them to do).”

    I’m not sure I understand this sentence. How do you know they don’t really want to engage in BDSM?

    “Consent, instead, is the attempt to give sexualized violence legitimacy.”

    You keep saying these things but you give no arguments for them. Instead you try to reverse the burden of proof to avoid being on the defensive. What precisely is your argument against BDSM?

    “Rape is sex; it is sexual violence, but men still experience raping women as sex.”

    That’s why I prefer to speak of actions being good or bad if you’d rather not to speak of token actions being a ‘genuine’ instance of an action type.

    “Once again, the use of these “codes” does not mean that the behavior is acceptable, non-subordinating, or non-violent. It just means that it is regulated; certain people have power to hurt others in certain contexts (e.g., police brutality). That does not mean that there isn’t a problem.”

    I think this is a disanalogy. Police hurting people through violence is not in itself bad. There are many situations where it is actually the right thing to do (e.g., stopping a rape). There are other situations where they are not morally justified in hurting people (often cases where they violate their own codes of conduct) and these are cases of police brutality. But BDSM is morally acceptable so its regulation cannot be compared to morally abhorrent behaviour. If you think that it is not morally acceptable, give your arguments.

    • C.K. Egbert

      What I mean by the burden of justification is on you is that there should be a presumption against causing someone pain or harm. I’ve already stated why I think the coercion is systematic (it is our social norms, and yes, sex positivists do promote economic coercion via prostitution).

      “But BDSM is morally acceptable so its regulation cannot be compared to morally abhorrent behaviour.”

      This is begging the question.

      “You actually think sex positive feminists believe rape and pedophilia are ok? Seriously? Adults acting out a BDSM ‘daddy’ role play are not engaging in pedophilia. Consenting adults simulating rape is not the same as actual rape. Do you think actors who get killed in movies are actually dead too?”

      They eroticize it and claim that it is acceptable for men to enjoy the idea of raping women and girls (I don’t see how one can consent to rape, that just doesn’t seem to make sense). They are also sexualizing and eroticizing children and young girls (that sounds like pedophilia to me). In the same way, the consent isn’t what is sexy for BDSM people. They don’t think that someone saying “yes” is sexy; they think hurting, dominating, and coercing is sexy. If the consent was so sexy, they wouldn’t be getting their sexual pleasure from hurting and dominating people.

      The problem with this analogy is that the acts in BDSM aren’t fake. They actually happen; there is actual abuse and torture.

      You keep missing the point that what I am questioning is precisely that your “rules” that regulate the violence (it’s okay as long as someone agrees to torture) are not sufficient to justify what you are trying to justify (abuse and torture). If you look at other instances of consent, there are lots of rules and regulations and norms before you get to the point at which someone would ask for consent. If you go to the dentist, the dentist has to follow lots of rules regarding sterilization of instruments, they have to be licensed, the procedure has to be medically necessary, etc. In the case of a dentist giving you treatment, we worry about consent because lack of consent could be the only thing that could be objectionable about the interaction.

      You are using consent in an entirely different way; consent instead is used to justify would would otherwise and independently be extremely problematic (abuse and torture). So that would be like saying it’s totally okay for the dentist to use a non-sterile instrument to pull teeth out of your jaw without anesthetic, because “consent” and in fact we shouldn’t have any rules around behavior (with the sole exception that it has to be “consensual,” however narrowly you define it–and you define it more narrowly than I do, since you don’t acknowledge that social norms and socializing women into believing that they are objects to be hurt and used by men counts as coercive). Hopefully you can see better where the disagreement lies.

    • derrington

      BDSM – your whole philosophy is promoting the breaking of laws designed to protect women and children. There are huge issues with women and children being assaulted by men sexually where their witholding of consent is proved and yet you continue to act as if your particular actions have no effect in promoting general violence against two thirds of the world’s population. Boxing is a false analogy since there is not a world wide problem with men and male children being forced into the ring to fight, sometimes to the death. There is exactly this problem with women and children being made to submit to male sexual assault. Male sexual violence should not be promoted as it is harmful to others, with or without the fairy dust of consent.

  • Jessica Jones

    This is brilliant. I’ve just done a film review of 50 shades & I was looking more at how is abusive in a non-sexual manner but I did want to mention the BDSM aspect because I find it hard to believe people defend violence against women for sexual pleasure in the name of not ‘kink shaming’ even though we do everything in a patriarchal context.

    I was wondering can I link to this post in my review?

    Thank you.

    • C.K. Egbert

      You certainly have my permission and I don’t think Meghan would mind either. There’s also several great articles on this site that discuss BDSM (just search BDSM in the search bar). Thank you!

  • Jonah Mix

    “In fact, using “consent” as a justification for any and all sexual practices and behaviours is a form of “moralizing” because consent is used to determine what is rightful versus wrongful behavior (even though consent is insufficient). Thus, objections to critiques of BDSM cannot be said to be against “moralizing” per se — this presupposes that whatever norms or “morals” the sex-positivists endorse are the “right” ones whereas all other norms or “morals” are paternalistic or oppressive.”

    This is such an important point – literally all statements “X is permissible” or “Y is a determiner of value” are equally moralizing. “BDSM is okay because everyone consents” and “Homosexuality is a sin because God hates it” are equally examples of moralizing. Both are stupid, but one is not more “moralized” than the other.

    Thanks for this incredible piece! It will be very helpful in the future.

  • marv

    Agree with Jonah.

    I couldn’t help but notice that BDMS has a few coexisting elements with Christianity, in particular the tenet of pain as redemptive (shared by some other creeds as well). From antiquity onward Christian slaves for instance usually accepted their subservient status not simply because it was engrained in society. Submission was a way of participating in the suffering and death of Christ which would ultimately bring resurrection and exaltation to them: sort of an “aftercare” afterlife. Affliction became a source of joy – “mystical experience”. It brought consolation and survival to the oppressed but left the institution of slavery further legitimized because consent and agony were celebrated as the means to liberation.

    While Christian masters were exhorted by bible teachings to treat their slaves with love and compassion these standards were open to interpretation. Even when abuse was recognized slaves were pacified by the teaching, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”: role reversal not abolition of inequality.

    Since BDSM exists today in the context of patriarchy as ancient slavery did (and does in various places) how can secular or religious adherents of the movement be so optimistic about their doctrines of assent?

    The crux of the matter remains the acknowledgement of the sex class divide. Some kinksters might claim that male structures are pervasive but in theory and practice they aren’t revealing such consciousness. And arguing that patriarchy isn’t necessarily misogynist is akin to declaring not all slavery was slave hating.

    (I don’t want to give the impression BDSM has its origins in Christianity, just to assert it may have been partly influenced by this male conservative spiritual tradition or both inspired by earlier beliefs.)

    • C.K. Egbert

      I actually think it is likely that it is an ideological element that underlies oppressive systems: glorifying suffering (equating it with strength, empowerment, etc., and deriding people who don’t endure pain) prevents people from thinking of themselves as human beings that should not tolerate being subjugated and harmed by others.

      If you look at a lot of stories aimed at young girls (Cinderella, Little Princess, etc.), they involve the theme of women long-suffering and then are magically redeemed (the basic idea being that women should tolerate whatever abusive situation they are in without complaint. Any woman that does do something against her abuse is made into a villain).

  • Pingback: BDSM FAQ (Frequently Asserted Quibbles), Part 2 » Feminist Current()

  • Thomas Eisenecker

    “Magicalsexyconsent is what separates bdsm practises from war crimes”

    SOURCE: https://davinasquirrel.wordpress.com/quotables/

    • Thomas Eisenecker

      Oh, and I really don’t care how much “fun” you’re having or how “consensual” it all is. If a male hits a woman in any context, he deserves to be judged at the very least. (That should go without saying, but kinksters are a piece of work, aren’t they?)

  • BDSM

    “This is begging the question.”

    It isn’t question begging as I explained why it’s morally acceptable and asked you explain why it was not.

    “They eroticize it and claim that it is acceptable for men to enjoy the idea of raping women and girls (I don’t see how one can consent to rape, that just doesn’t seem to make sense). They are also sexualizing and eroticizing children and young girls (that sounds like pedophilia to me).”

    Viewing underage girls sexually is wrong. This does not mean BDSM in general wrong because this is not entailed by BDSM. Two adults enjoying a simulated rape (simulated because the sex is consensual) is no more problematic than actors enjoying acting out a simulated murder.

    I think I have better sense of your position. Putting it in points:

    1) There is a set of morally wrong actions (BDSM) 2) Consent does not make them any less wrong. 3) But women are socialised into viewing these acts as acceptable. 4) This socialisation explains why many women support BDSM. Claim 2 can be supported by considering the case of someone being tortured by having their teeth removed without anaesthetic. This would not be made right even if someone consented to if.

    I dispute 1 & 2 and argue 4 is unimportant.

    With regard to 1, my reply that the torture analogy is poor. You say that the act independently of consent would be considered problematic. That fact alone does not show that it is so bad that consent would not make it acceptable. Sex is without consent is rape. That does not mean that sex with consent is wrong. We would consider someone randomly having their tooth removed with no anaesthetic and without their consent to be bad. But this is because they would experience it as torture and it an would be extremely painful event that would confer no benefit upon them. This last fact and the associated phenomenology (experiencing the event as genuine torture) explain our intuitions regarding this case. Neither of these things are present in the case of consensual BDSM. People do find a benefit (they derive immediate sexual pleasure from the acts) and they do not experience it as torture. Again the mere fact they experience some pain does not make the thing bad. Attacking someone in the street is bad but the sport of boxing is not. Consent is the key difference.

    With regard to 4, I think it is false. You seem to be arguing that the influence of this socialisation is so pervasive that it invalidates their consent. The first thing to note is that the mere fact that the choice is influenced by socialisation does not make it wrong-almost all our choices are influenced by the society around us in one way or another. Second, this view rests on an absurdly deterministic view of socialisation. Yes people are influenced by what society tells them is sexy but they are also able to evaluate for themselves whether those things should be considered sexy. Your own evaluation of BDSM is an example of this. The view that people who disagree with you are just robots who have been brainwashed by the patriarchy is naively deterministic. It’s not just incredibly arrogant-it’s just wrong.

    “BDSM – your whole philosophy is promoting the breaking of laws designed to protect women and children. There are huge issues with women and children being assaulted by men sexually where their witholding of consent is proved and yet you continue to act as if your particular actions have no effect in promoting general violence against two thirds of the world’s population. Boxing is a false analogy since there is not a world wide problem with men and male children being forced into the ring to fight, sometimes to the death. There is exactly this problem with women and children being made to submit to male sexual assault. Male sexual violence should not be promoted as it is harmful to others, with or without the fairy dust of consent.”

    This is false. Men are more likely to be victims of violence and murder than women. There is a worldwide problem of men being forced to fight; they are forced to fight, often for their lives, when they are attacked and killed. Most people recognise that boxing is not responsible for this and that they are not the same thing. Because consent.

    Everyone agrees that forcing people to have sex with you is bad. Forcing people into BDSM would be bad but the majority of rapes are not cases where people have been forced into BDSM. What is being defended is consensual BDSM. Consensual BDSM is no more responsible for these crimes then consensual sex is responsible for rape.

    • C.K. Egbert

      It’s begging the question because you presume that consent makes everything acceptable, regardless of what it is, because consent makes everything acceptable.

      Acknowledging how women are socialized, and noting that this is pernicious (I note that you do not appear to believe that socializing women into believing that they are objects to be abused and that abuse is “normal” is a problem) is not deterministic; I’m just being realistic about how humans are strongly impacted by their social environment. Of course we are all socialized in one way or another, but the content of our socialization matters. Socialization to normalize violence against women is not innocuous.

      And the idea that BDSM is not experienced “as torture” does not in itself mean that it isn’t torture. In fact I’ve already noted that the patterns of behavior of BDSM practitioners are, by their own admission, the same as in domestic violence (e.g., brainwashing, physical and verbal abuse, control, etc.), and that “submissives” experience the same sort of psychological effects associated with torture victims (e.g., trauma bonding, need for “processing”, and in fact at least one BDSM blogger I read doesn’t experience it as “pleasure”). Women often don’t experience coerced sex as rape because they think that coerced, painful, and degrading sex is “normal.” Does that mean it isn’t rape?

      “This is false. Men are more likely to be victims of violence and murder than women. There is a worldwide problem of men being forced to fight; they are forced to fight, often for their lives, when they are attacked and killed. Most people recognise that boxing is not responsible for this and that they are not the same thing. Because consent.”

      Men are almost always murdered by other men (and when women do commit violence against men, it is almost always in self-defense). This is a red herring, unless you are just flat out denying that men commit sexualized violence against women and you are denying that violence against women is a problem.

      “Because consent.”

      Yes, that sums up your argument. And I am arguing that “because consent” is not good enough, particularly if “because consent” means “because they have no other options,” “because they don’t think they deserve anything other than abuse,” and “because they don’t see being harmed and abused as wrong.”

  • BDSM

    “It’s begging the question because you presume that consent makes everything acceptable, regardless of what it is, because consent makes everything acceptable.”

    And you have yet to explain why it doesn’t. This is the debate so far:
    You: x is bad.
    Me: x is not bad because y.
    You: You’re wrong.
    Me: Why?
    You: You’re begging the question

    I’m not begging the question you’re just shifting the burden of proof.

    “In fact I’ve already noted that the patterns of behavior of BDSM practitioners are, by their own admission, the same as in domestic violence…”

    Shorter: Some people who practice BDSM are abusive. So BDSM in general is bad. Next: Some people are in abusive relationships. So relationships in general are bad.

    “Of course we are all socialized in one way or another, but the content of our socialization matters.”

    I agree. But you have yet explain why BDSM is abuse. You simply assert it.

    “Women often don’t experience coerced sex as rape because they think that coerced, painful, and degrading sex is “normal.” Does that mean it isn’t rape?”

    No because if they’re coerced then they haven’t consented. Then it’s rape. But nobody is defending coercion into BDSM.

    “This is a red herring, unless you are just flat out denying that men commit sexualized violence against women and you are denying that violence against women is a problem.”

    No I’m not denying that. I’m observing that this doesn’t entail that there isn’t a worldwide epidemic of violence against men (which is what the person I was replying to denied).

    “…particularly if “because consent” means “because they have no other options,” “because they don’t think they deserve anything other than abuse,”…”

    You actually think this characterises the reasoning of most women who do BDSM?

    “…and “because they don’t see being harmed and abused as wrong.””

    I don’t think the reasoning in most cases is ‘x is abusive but it’s ok’. It’s more ‘this feels good and I want it so it doesn’t count as abuse’. I’ve already pointed out that the fact that x causes pain is not sufficient for x to be bad. So to make progress you now need to explain why BDSM counts as abuse.

    • derrington

      Because it promotes an idea to men that abuse is fun and something that women inherantly enjoy and wish for – with or without consent. Its about the safety of the mass versus the freedom of the few, in the same way that we proscribe heroin use.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Yes, I am shifting the burden of proof. I am presuming that there is a presumption against hurting someone and you need to establish why hurting someone is acceptable. Your presumption is that the only thing that matters is consent.

      You say that nobody is defending coercion into BDSM, but you are only thinking of coercion in a certain way. Coercion can exist because women are told that that is how sex is supposed to be. Men inflicting painful and degrading sex on women is now considered “normal” and women agree because they think that is how sex is supposed to be. That is a deep and pervasive form of coercion, which you do not acknowledge. Here’s an example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/11554595/Pornography-has-changed-the-landscape-of-adolescence-beyond-all-recognition.html

      I explain more why BDSM is abuse here: http://feministcurrent.com/11718/bdsm-faq-frequently-asserted-quibbles-part-2/

      When you are saying, “it’s not abuse because the submissive wants it,” you are really saying, “it’s perfectly acceptable/good for a man to enjoy torturing women.” As a feminist I have a problem with that.

      Some of your objections might be answered in an upcoming post, which is forthcoming.

  • BDSM

    “Yes, I am shifting the burden of proof. I am presuming that there is a presumption against hurting someone and you need to establish why hurting someone is acceptable. Your presumption is that the only thing that matters is consent.”

    My presumption is that your values are at odds with the majority of people in society. (And I’d wager, with most feminists. I’m a student and I don’t know a single feminist who holds the sex negative and transphobic views one find on this blog).

    Most people recognise that the infliction of pain is morally acceptable in a wide range of circumstances and I have given examples of such circumstances. This is because the mere fact that x causes pain is not a sufficient condition for x to be morally unacceptable. The fact that participants a) derive sexual gratification from it and b) desire and consent to it is enough to add BDSM to the list of case where painful acts are morally acceptable.

    You give no arguments for your rejection of this conclusion. You simply take it as axiomatic that if x causes pain then it must be bad. This is a principle which leads to absurd conclusions that place you at odds with most people in society (and probably with yourself in other contexts).

    “Coercion can exist because women are told that that is how sex is supposed to be. Men inflicting painful and degrading sex on women is now considered “normal” and women agree because they think that is how sex is supposed to be.”

    My response is that 1) these are not cases where there is affirmative and enthusiastic consent (probably because these are underage children), 2) such consent is the kind defended by sane BDSM advocates and there is no evidence that the linked article characterises most BDSM relationships 3) while there probably are BDSM relationships similar to those in the link it is clear that there is no logical connection between BDSM and this sort thing: people can and do practice BDSM with informed consent.

    “Because it promotes an idea to men that abuse is fun and something that women inherantly enjoy and wish for – with or without consent. Its about the safety of the mass versus the freedom of the few, in the same way that we proscribe heroin use.”

    It does not promote the idea that women inherently enjoy abuse with or without consent. It promotes the (factual) idea that there are certain kinds of sex acts that some women enjoy. And it promotes the idea that as long as both parties consent and and obey proper safety protocols, these acts are morally acceptable. There is no more reason to think that people who practice consensual BDSM are responsible for coercive BDSM then there is for thinking that people who have consensual sex are responsible for rape.

    • marv

      Having riches in a world rife with poverty is unethical. The concentration of wealth among the minority causes the impoverishment of the poor. Redistribution would end their economic misery. Not resisting the wealthy, even admiring them and wanting to be them doesn’t vindicate the gulf.

      Sexual dominance by benevolent people is unjust because it buttresses male sex class privilege at the political structural level, as affluence does with economic class, despite the good will of individuals involved. If men as a group surrendered their advantages, BDSM would wither and die.

  • Carmen Speer

    Do I need to give a trigger warning on this blog before discussing difficult topics? I realized I haven’t been doing that.

    I think everyone here has already said what I think (that is, why I am against the glorifying of BDSM), and I don’t have anything to add on that. I say “glorifying” because I am not against BDSM per se, I am just against the move in the public sphere to make it acceptable (which comes along with the whole “sex-positive” push to make prostitution and pornography acceptable also). I actually think consensual BDSM is less harmful than pornography/prostitution within our patriarchal system (although I think it’s tricky to know when someone is doing it out of real pleasure or ‘reenactment’ of former abuses, which can be harmful to the soul, and exploitative).

    In terms of violence, though, the trauma bonding people experience in BDSM is also experienced in real-world violence. (I’ve experienced it myself, it’s confusing, and I would never turn to BDSM as a way to sort out my resulting dark fantasies about abusing or being abused for sexual pleasure, which in my own head I always identify as a male sexual pleasure I am vicariously receiving pleasure from, through a male perspective). What is it about violence–against women–that makes it so attractive to men?

    I think that first of all we are all programmed to act certain ways. I act very differently around men I am in a sexual relationship with, and wish I didn’t. This subservient little girl comes out (and that is not me). I would presume that for some men, particularly those who grew up exposed to abuse of women in real life or via pornography, a dominating man might come out. These roles prevent us from actually seeing each other, IMO. Maybe BDSM helps to push through those mental blockades and in the post-scene aftercare exhaustion you get a taste of what the other truly is like? I don’t know.

    I do think, though, that men have a lot of anger towards women because they are socialized all their lives not to be vulnerable and not to show emotion–not to let slip for one moment the mask of the masculine–and then those barriers break down with the women they love and are sexually vulnerable with, and then those women turn out not to be perfect human beings and they hurt them in some way, and those men are left very angry. To their minds, the one time they open up and let out a little bit of what’s inside they are rebuffed. She doesn’t even care. His emoting might seem so normal to her (as a woman) that she didn’t even notice. Or maybe she did, and it was a turn-off, as she’s been socialized too, in terms of what’s desirable, “masculine” behavior…or who knows, maybe she is a bad person and wanted to hurt him (although I don’t think that’s it, the majority of the time). This rejection of his emotional self mirrors the early separation from his mother. This doesn’t happen for women because women have not only heartbreak to deal with but rape, battery, and the daily violence of gendered harassment, so a little break-up is not necessarily the biggest deal in the world (yeah, we’re sad, maybe really really sad, but we don’t hate ALL MEN because of it…we have real grievances on that score, although somehow most of us still don’t). Most women also have access to all kinds of other emotional outlets that not all men have. I would venture that men who have very close emotional bonds with male or female friends are likely to be less hurt by the rejection of a woman they love than those who don’t.

    So dominant male sexuality allows men to have a relationship with women without giving up their power, and maybe even to exorcise some of that rage. And women I think internalize and then some fetishize their own abuse or their own inferiority.

    I think it’s also something about pain living on in memory (a biological necessity, so we can avoid danger in the future). Pleasures are more fleeting, except love, which I think takes an enormous amount of time and investment and requires enormous risk (so dominant men might not want to undertake such involvement as it might place them in a position of powerlessness). It’s also not easy to get a woman to sleep with you, much less to fall in love with you; rape is maybe easier for some men then sex (especially if they know they can get away with it), and violence is easier than love. There is also a connection forged in violence. And maybe, as with so many men who have a love-hate relationship with regards to their view of women and who have been socialized in this direction, violence is the only way they know how to express love. There is a chemical bond when sex occurs; rape is an ugly facsimile of that, a “stealing” of intimacy, great violence where deep peace should be. There is an endorphin and adrenaline rush involved both when giving and receiving pain–we are wired for violence, in many ways I think (whether we should give into this is another matter)–and combined with the chemical, spiritual and emotional bond of sex I can imagine this would be a very powerful thing.

    Another snippet from what I’m writing (with a bit of scene so you know it’s not all exposition):

    There is a forced intimacy to violence to which, like poisoned shards of mirror glass, some people are more susceptible. It is an intimacy of opposites; symbolic self-murder and yet in there somewhere is a wrongheaded attempt not only to be understood but to understand. And so something is forged, and people who might never have had anything to do with each other develop together a begrudging intimacy. Call it family, call it shipwreck, call it what you may it’s the same, it is there, it did happen, no matter how much you might resist it, no matter how much you can claim you resisted.

    And there you have it. The ordinary secret of humanity’s fascination with violence. It’s not just the break from the numbness of living, it’s also how confusingly it feels like closeness. How mixed it becomes with desire, how it seems its deliverer has understood your hidden message. Violence, like pain, is loyal, not as fickle, as fleeting as its better half; unlike most pleasures it stays with you forever. Violence is the poor man’s claim to fame in your life.

    I learned a long time ago that susceptibility is not the same as gullibility. That walking right into something with eyes wide open doesn’t not make you a sucker.

    He sat facing me in the dark. Straddling his backward chair like a horse he’d claimed, legs spread wide, skinny knees cocked at odd angles, inky forearms folded over the top of the chair back. Our silence was not companionable, but not because of me. I sensed we were waiting for someone, and whoever told him to wait, he didn’t want me to know about it.

    I was happy not to break the silence. In the last half an hour of thinking it over I’d decided after all I didn’t need to be a journalist, not if I could make a career out of keeping quiet. I could be quiet forever. It scared me more than anything that sometime while I was out he’d removed the gag from my mouth.

    He smoked while we waited. The silent kind of smoking, not blowing the smoke out but opening his mouth and letting it creep in clouds out of his lungs. A mass of drifting smoke obscured his face. Light poured in from the hallway. He’d positioned himself in the sharp shadow from the open door, one smoky half lit, like the sun behind a cloud bank. I could just see his face through the haze, the angle of a cheekbone, the tip of a nose, flickering and vanishing. After a while he ground out his last cigarette.

    • Carmen Speer

      Eek, that needs work.

      I wanted to add one more thing. I think the idea that men “need” sex more than women is not just about biology at all. I think that in our emotionally incapacitating society a lot of men’s only access to intimacy might come in the form of sex, and that for them it’s an emotional as well as physical outlet, while (simultaneously and paradoxically) not really allowing themselves–except when they fall in love and hence become so vulnerable–to always feel the full emotional connection of sex (which I think can happen just as much in a great one night stand as in a long term relationship; emotional connection doesn’t always have to be built on a long history together, and I think especially for most women, who automatically see men as people, this is true; it might be harder for a man who is more socialized to see women as objects to achieve that emotional connection until he gets to know an individual woman). So then they need it “more and more,” as that real desire–full emotional consummation–is not achieved for them in casual sex, due to what people describe as their greater ability to “compartmentalize” (which I would call more an ability to disassociate, or cut off their feelings, and not an innate or indeed desirable ability but one which is socially ingrained). For many men, especially young men, sex might be the only way they have of relating to women in a personal sense (and I’m not saying the same doesn’t hold true for some women, though I recognize it’s damaging; men and women should be able to be friends).

      And in our highly stratified society with its rigid gender roles the onus is on men to find mates. Women do get annoyed that they are always sexualized by men and not seen as people, and yet men do have to approach them that way to know whether they have a chance (though it doesn’t have to be for sex, could just be to hang out). Men get constantly shot down, and so their chance for sexual gratification and emotional validation is constantly shot down (and when it isn’t, in casual sex the emotional validation is often not found), all of which it is easy to blame the woman for.

      Part of the “men are visual creatures” dealio I think also comes from being socialized to view women as sexual objects rather than people (or that is to say, being socialized to divorce the sexual act from any greater emotional meaning, to view it as “just sex”–just something that feels really good and constantly distracts you–rather than having any other end beyond physical gratification). Women are not socialized that way and so what turns them on tends to be more of a story. I think in this sense BDSM might also be seeking more emotional connection in that it’s seeking to heighten drama and create story-telling. And sure, just having out of nowhere humdrum everyday relationship sex with no story can be boring. But violence isn’t necessary to create a story. A great, exciting date, a good conversation, a “moment”–anything can create enough story to turn a woman on. This “connection” is kind of what women seek, making them less visual creatures (although certainly they can be too).

      However, there are many things that feel good and are distracting that men don’t spend nearly so much time/effort thinking about (like chocolate, for example). Sex isn’t “just sex” then. There IS an emotional component to it, which is why I think the world is so fucked up today (people are having sex with people they don’t like or even see as people; that’s “hook-up culture” for you). There’s nothing wrong with casual sex if it’s for the right reasons (a strong attraction, a great time together, a connection). When we have sex to torture ourselves or torture others–or even simply to use others–that’s bad.

      Anyway, I think men have a lot of anger because not only is the onus on them to do all the wooing, and they’re constantly being rejected for not being attractive enough/charismatic storytellers, and this feels like a rejection of THEM, as people, as what they are constantly seeking is emotional validation, but when they DO get accepted by women in casual sex situations they may often find them unfulfilling because they can’t open up enough to receive/give emotionally and receive that emotional validation they’re seeking, and then when they DO finally get a girlfriend who they can completely open up to and crack that hard facade with she disappoints them, rejects them, leaves them. Breaks their heart. In the end.

      So then you have men who are seeking women TO ABUSE THEM out of anger, and a desire to dominate (to never lose power again), or to make her hurt, like she (could) hurt them. Or maybe because violence is the only way he knows to show love, if he’s been socialized that way.

      None of this is to excuse men, but just to try to understand. I think why men might react in anger, besides its being one of the only acceptable male emotions, is because they have been socialized to believe in their dominance (and women’s submission) and so when it doesn’t happen that way–they get rejected–they get angry about it (a privilege denied). Women are socialized to believe in their inferiority and are used to ill treatment (all of them, to some extent, some more than others), so they don’t react with anger in quite the same way.

      Does BDSM further reinforce emotional distance with its gendered power plays? Or does the story-telling (bonding) aspect negate that? Is it just men playing out their hurts on women who think they ought to apologize for something, or is there something more to it?

      • C.K. Egbert

        I believe BDSM is merely an extension of the core of sexual subordination: that women’s pain is considered sexy and good. This applies to just more than sexual contexts: for example, you see within medicine (particularly reproductive care) either indifference or failure to respond to women’s pain (e.g., by giving them proper pain management), or coercing them into medical procedures. There was an article recently about this posted on “What’s Current.”

        In fact the glorification/indifference to pain operates similarly for other forms of oppression; for example, African American children are not given pain medication at the same rates as white children.

        I don’t think men want or need love from women (they already have that). Instead, I think men get validation and enjoyment from the act of domination itself.

        • derrington

          And get violent and angry when women assert their human right to say no.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Very true–I notice that BDSM comes when women are getting more rights within the “public sphere.” Whenever women start to step outside their submissive role, there is a huge backlash of social violence against women to keep them in line (of which BDSM and the promotion of sexualized violence is one of them). Women have to know and live with the knowledge that no matter how educated they are, no matter how much money they make or whether they can fly into space or become a politician, at the end of the day they will always be merely objects for men to hurt and to use–that their pain is something that gives men pleasure and something which society condones. They want women to live with that terror.

  • Ebert

    “Sexual dominance by benevolent people is unjust because it buttresses male sex class privilege at the political structural level,…”

    How?

    “If men as a group surrendered their advantages, BDSM would wither and die.”

    Many men enjoy being dominated by women during BDSM. How do you know they would not continue to enjoy this after they surrendered their privileges?

    • marv

      “How?”

      The more dominance is normalized and eroticized the more it grows in the world. We become programmed to reproduce the systems of inequality by their sheer magnitude and force.

      Gender is the material basis for BDSM and all other social institutions like pornstitution, culture, economics, government, military, religion…

      BDSM and sex work prolong the existence of capitalism as well as the reverse, because sexual dominance and economic stratification are mutually reinforcing and have common roots in patriarchy. BDSM conceives itself as a lifestyle choice in the liberal cornucopia of individualistic identities, wrongly depoliticizing them from being class issues. Identity becomes an abstracted category from (his)torical conditions.

      Treating BDSM as a means to advance sexual equality is like encouraging employees to become capitalists. https://briarpatchmagazine.com/blog/view/the-canadian-cult-of-the-entrepreneur Either one not only does nothing to liberate women and workers as a whole but exacerbates their plight. The systems dupe us into believing that when dominance hurts it can be a positive thing because we realize our destiny is to be submissive. Or dominance is perceived as something to make us stronger to eventually succeed in the hierarchies.

      By collectively recognizing that BDSM and liberal dominance in general are political creations not rooted in nature we can move beyond them. What was assembled can be disassembled.

      “Many men enjoy being dominated by women during BDSM. How do you know they would not continue to enjoy this after they surrendered their privileges?”

      Inequality wouldn’t be sexy anymore. Similarly workers controlling production wouldn’t miss their bosses. Granted it would take time to decolonize our minds.

    • Thomas Eisenecker

      “after they [men] surrendered their privileges”

      If there is one truth then it is that the privileged never give up privileges over an oppressed group voluntarily.

      “Many men enjoy being dominated by women during BDSM.”

      The male is still in control and male supremacy does not disappear just because these few males like to have their asses whipped now and then.