BDSM FAQ (Frequently Asserted Quibbles): Part 3

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

“What about aftercare?”

The mere fact of aftercare should clue people into the abusiveness of BDSM when a BDSM encounter leaves someone emotionally distressed, unable to communicate, or in need of “processing.” Processing is something one does with a traumatic experience, not a pleasurable sexual encounter.

Aftercare, in this context, is used as a means of reassuring the submissive it wasn’t “really” abuse. It is a form of gaslighting — an attempt to claim that what actually happened (deliberate infliction and enjoyment of the submissive’s suffering) did not “really” happen. It is also a common technique practiced by abusers to engage in “rewards” of affection after abuse, in order to further confuse and maintain a bond with the victim. It is not a surprise, then, that aftercare involves the same sort of brainwashing tactics that abusers typically employ.

“It involves a lot of trust”

It is hard to understand why someone would think this is a justification. Women trust men who hurt them all the time. In fact, one of the main ways that abusers get access to their victims is precisely by exploiting a position of power or a position of trust — this is one of the many reasons why most sexual predators are friends, teachers, coaches, pastors, or family members. Having someone’s trust is not the same as being trustworthy.

It should at least be counterintuitive that a dominant — a person who wants to abuse and enjoys causing the submissive pain and degradation — could ever care for the person that they want to abuse. But it isn’t for most people; precisely because the perversion of patriarchalism teaches women that “love” is about being hurt and abused.

“It’s not like it’s a 24/7 relationship”

Except, of course, when it is… And when one partner is given license to control and possibly psychologically or physically abuse his partner (once again, affirmative consent is stunningly absent). If you are wondering how this is different than a domestic violence relationship, it isn’t. Domestic violence is about control. The mere fact that the submissive “agrees” means nothing; women agree to stay with and even protect their abusers all the time and often feel they deserve the abuse they receive.

Even in a non-24/7 relationship, the only difference is the duration of the abuse. And that isn’t terribly different from domestic violence relationships either. Many abusers are not always abusive or always controlling. Putting arbitrary limits on the duration and place of the abuse does not thereby mean that women are no longer being abused. At best, it demonstrates to women that no matter how successful they may become in the pubic realm, no matter how “equal” the relationship appears in other spheres, there is always a realm where she is nothing more than an object to be used and hurt by a man.

“People do all sorts of risky things because they like it. We consent to painful things all the time (like tetanus shots). People like pain because of endorphins.”

This class of objections is a red herring mixed with some false analogy. The false analogy comes with “other painful things” — with the exception of tetanus shots, this involves things that we do to ourselves and that don’t involve a sexual context. In the case of the tetanus shot, the doctor is presumably poking the needle in your arm as a matter of medical treatment, not because the doctor enjoys making her patients suffer.

The fact that someone “enjoys” it is not, in itself, a justification for making violence permissible. People could easily get their adrenalin and endorphin rushes through other activities; if they really wanted to be in pain, there are plenty of ways to self-harm. What differentiates BDSM is that it does involve, and is used to justify, interpersonal and sexualized violence.

“You assume that women who like it are brainwashed/broken. You are saying submissive women do not exist. I’ve always felt this way since I was a child, therefore it cannot be because of social influences.”

These objections are predicated on the idea that being submissive or masochistic is an “authentic” desire for women. The claim to an existential crisis is an easy way to justify one’s perspective and to side-step critique.

The problem is, of course, that this relies upon the hubris that we exist in a social vacuum and are completely unaffected by social influences (even though socialization and exposure to rape culture occurs from the day we are born) and the fallacy that becomes something exists it must therefore be justified. Neither of those assumptions are true. But in the end, whether it is an “authentic” desire misses the point; the point, instead, is whether violence against women is acceptable.

“Women like it and feminism is about CHOICES. You are taking away women’s agency!”

Feminists called themselves “women liberationists,” not “women libertarians.” And, as Meghan Murphy has said, “just because you like it doesn’t make it feminist.”

The fact is that if men did not want to hurt women, it wouldn’t matter whether women enjoyed subjugation or not; sexualized abuse requires the participation of a minimum of two people. When people say, “But what if women like to be hurt? They have a right to do what they want,” what they are actually saying is, “But men enjoy hurting women! They have the right to hurt women!” (Doesn’t sound so feminist anymore, does it?)

This is a clever reversal that obscures the real issue by “disappearing the male.” The issue never has been about what women choose but about how men choose to treat women. Even if we were to effectively outlaw violence tomorrow, it wouldn’t impact women’s agency at all; they would be free to do the same things that they did before. It would merely affect men’s ability to engage in violence against women. Masochistic women couldn’t even claim a harm, since no one is entitled to demand that anyone else participate in their sexual practices or desires (whatever they may be). However, and importantly, feminists do believe that women are entitled to freedom from violence.

“If you don’t like it, don’t do it”

It might be hard for sexual neoliberals to understand, but I actually care about what happens to people other than myself. But I also have to live with men who enjoy making women suffer in the most horrendous ways possible, and with the knowledge that my pain, suffering, and degradation is something which society condones and glorifies. And in a society that does not acknowledge or validate women’s humanity, it is no wonder that women have a hard time seeing themselves as human beings worthy of respect.

My Challenge to the BDSM and Sex-Positivists

So here’s my challenge to the BDSM advocates (adapted from a comment on a previous blog post):

  1. How would you teach women that they are owed bodily integrity, freedom from violence, and mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s normal for sex to be degrading, painful, and non-mutual?
  2. How do you expect to prosecute and prevent domestic violence when you promote controlling relationships, sexualized abuse, and psychological and physical abuse as part of “healthy” relationships?
  3. How would you teach men to respect women and want to engage in mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it is sexy to hurt, dominate, and coerce women?
  4. How do you expect to teach men about affirmative consent when BDSM practices themselves do not embody affirmative consent — including situations where consent is physically impossible?
  5. How would you prevent emotional and social coercion into these practices?

I haven’t heard a satisfactory answer to these concerns, and I don’t think that there are any, because to really eliminate sexual violence we need to change the way men treat women. In the sex-positivist vision of society, nothing changes from the old patriarchal order. Women (and girls) are still bought and sold like commodities. Women and girls are groomed into non-mutual, uncomfortable, or painful sex by pornography and socialization; girls are still told they are mere objects to be used and hurt by men; men inflict violent, painful, or degrading sex upon women. The difference is that women are told that these institutions are acceptable because of “choice.”

But this is not a satisfactory conclusion for any feminist. Because when we say we are working for sexual liberation, we should mean it.

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

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

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  • Miep

    Grooming, every single bit of this. Thank you for this post.

  • I would ask BDSM defenders the following questions.

    1. If two women, covered in cuts and bruises, are standing in front of me, and one of them is an empowered BDSM practitioner and the other is abuse victim and both of them say they have not been abused, how do I tell the difference? Or do you not think it is possible for an abuse victim to be unaware of the fact that they have been abused?

    2. If causing pain is justified in some cases, how come you freak out when blacks (and other oppressed groups) riot (or otherwise act aggressively) for the sake of political causes which are far more profound than your quest for better orgasms? Not to mention the fact that a protest can be labelled a “riot” if the only things that the protestors inflict damage upon are inanimate objects (e.g. cars), while BDSM always involves inflicting pain (and often bodily damage) upon a sentient human being.

    BDSM defenders who are not wimps when it comes to political activism are of course free to ignore the above question. I just think it is really ironic that people who preach an absolute commitment to peaceful (which evidently means “not the least bit aggressive or intimidating to the ruling class”) activism are totally fine with brutal acts of violence being commited for the sake of an orgasm.

    3. Since you think that our culture is biased in favour of “vanilla sex”, do you that sadomasochistic sexuality should be depicted in all of the contexts in which vanilla sexuality is current depicted? This includes children’s films (which often feature kissing, an act expressing vanilla sexuality), picture story books, sex education classes (including those aimed at primary schoolers), “girl” toys (which are already really sexualised) and in public (where vanilla couples engage in obvious PDA, much to the annoyance of single people.)

    I worry that by asking this question, I might be giving the BDSM community ideas, but I think they would have arrived at them anyway since they are always comparing themselves to the gay rights movement, which is currently seeking more representation in mainstream culture. I wish them luck with that, though I wouldn’t like to have a culture that was even more obsessed with sex, perhaps we could have less depictions of heterosexuality, LOL.

    4. Following on from the last question, how can you claim that BDSM is a private personal activity which is therefore immune to criticism, while also trying to bring about social changes aimed at making BDSM more acceptable. Do you think such changes could possibly have an effect on “vanilla” people, beyond making them more tolerant of you practices. Do you think that there is any possibility that a person may develop a BDSM fetish as a result of exposure to such imagery? Should people who find depictions of violence disturbing (as a result of trauma or lack of desensitisation) have depictions of BDSM shoved down their throats in order to rid them of their phobia?

    5. There are a number of terms associated with BDSM (e.g. slavery, bondage, sadism, masochism, torture, etc.) that are generally used to describe activities which are considered harmful or oppressive. Should leftist activists cease all negative uses of such terms and which terms should we use instead?

    6. To revolutionary socialists who support BDSM, how can you defend a practices which is even more hierarchical (and dangerous) than most workplaces (at least those in the first world?) Bare in mind that workers (or at least the better off ones) consent to working for capitalists and can quit at any time, even if the boss wants them to stay (the same is not true for submissive who are physically tied up and can only be released if their dominant releases them.)

    7. Are there any BDSM practitioners who you think are going too far (e.g. people engage in “race play” or “age play”, people who practice strangulation, etc.) or do you blindly defend all consensual BDSM sex acts?

    Note that most of these questions are not “gotcha” type questions that attempt to debunk, the pro-BDSM worldview (not that I have a problem with those sorts of questions, other commenters are welcome to pose them.) Many of them are asked out of sincere (albeit concerned) curiousity, although if you cannot answer them, that may just give you something to think about.

    • As I mentioned in a different comment below, I don’t have time to respond to all the comments on this thread. I also (obviously) believe many of the critiques on this site and within these comments are misguided, and that they show a regrettable lack of understanding and empathy for consensual BDSM practice as experienced by many happy people. I would invite you all to read my book “The S&M Feminist,” etc.

      However, I thought that this comment was asking some interesting questions. In the spirit of encouraging you to look further for real answers, here are my thoughts. If you are sincerely curious, then I genuinely invite you to read my work, and drop me a line once you’ve gone through my top articles. The tone of your questions leads me to doubt that you are sincerely curious, but hope springs eternal! 🙂

      1. If two women, covered in cuts and bruises, are standing in front of me, and one of them is an empowered BDSM practitioner and the other is abuse victim and both of them say they have not been abused, how do I tell the difference? Or do you not think it is possible for an abuse victim to be unaware of the fact that they have been abused?

      What is the context in which you are judging whether someone else has been abused? I’m not asking this to be obstreperous; rather, to illuminate some potential problems with your framing. How would your opinion about your right to judge someone else’s experience change in the following contexts:

      • If you are their parent
      • If you are their romantic partner
      • If you are their friend
      • If you are their child
      • If they are a stranger
      • If they are disabled
      • If you come from a profoundly different cultural context
      • If you don’t speak their language

      Do you see why your judgments might be profoundly different in these different cases? And do you see why your judgments might be unwelcome, or misguided?

      2. If causing pain is justified in some cases, how come you freak out when blacks (and other oppressed groups) riot (or otherwise act aggressively) for the sake of political causes which are far more profound than your quest for better orgasms?…

      I honestly have no idea what you are talking about or getting at with this question. I don’t recall an occasion when I have freaked out when oppressed groups rioted.

      3. Since you think that our culture is biased in favour of “vanilla sex”, do you that sadomasochistic sexuality should be depicted in all of the contexts in which vanilla sexuality is current depicted?

      No. Why would I think that?

      Do you agree that our culture is biased in favor of heterosexual sex? If you agree, then do you think that gay people are advocating for gay sex to be depicted in all the contexts where het sex is currently depicted?

      You immediately followed up this question by noting that BDSM people are “always” comparing ourselves to the gay rights movement. In this case, it certainly seems relevant. I can’t understand why you think that I would think BDSM sex is appropriate for every situation. It’s not appropriate for every situation, and neither is het sex or gay sex.

      4. Following on from the last question, how can you claim that BDSM is a private personal activity which is therefore immune to criticism,

      Actually, I don’t claim that. Most of my work has been at the intersection of critical feminist theory and BDSM.

      Do you think that there is any possibility that a person may develop a BDSM fetish as a result of exposure to such imagery?

      Since I believe that BDSM can be a consensual and beautiful thing, why should I be concerned if more people develop BDSM fetishes?

      Should people who find depictions of violence disturbing (as a result of trauma or lack of desensitisation) have depictions of BDSM shoved down their throats in order to rid them of their phobia?

      Obviously not. I have never advocated this, and I don’t know how you came up with the question.

      5. There are a number of terms associated with BDSM (e.g. slavery, bondage, sadism, masochism, torture, etc.) that are generally used to describe activities which are considered harmful or oppressive. Should leftist activists cease all negative uses of such terms and which terms should we use instead?

      No, you shouldn’t cease all negative uses of such terms. Why would you?

      6. To revolutionary socialists who support BDSM, how can you defend a practices which is even more hierarchical (and dangerous) than most workplaces (at least those in the first world?) Bare in mind that workers (or at least the better off ones) consent to working for capitalists and can quit at any time, even if the boss wants them to stay (the same is not true for submissive who are physically tied up and can only be released if their dominant releases them.)

      As a BDSMer with significant experience in the capitalist working world, I will say this. In the majority of my BDSM relationships, I have much better tools and much more space to negotiate than I do in the majority of my working relationships.

      There are quite a lot of people who actually don’t really have the power to quit their jobs, due to economic pressure. I believe this is a significantly worse problem than most consensual BDSM activities. Frankly, I wish that feminists and leftists gave as much attention to workplace consent as they due to sexual consent.

      7. Are there any BDSM practitioners who you think are going too far (e.g. people engage in “race play” or “age play”, people who practice strangulation, etc.) or do you blindly defend all consensual BDSM sex acts?

      The angry and patronizing tone of this question helps me understand that you simply don’t want to engage me, or people like me. Most of your questions have been angry rants against made-up positions that most feminist BDSMers do not hold. Yet here is my response:

      No, I do not blindly defend all consensual BDSM sex acts. But I do think you are significantly misinformed and uneducated about how BDSM negotiation operates, as well as the level of pleasure and satisfaction that many BDSMers derive from these activities. I understand that BDSM is not your thing. I also recognize, regret, and grieve for the genuine trauma that has occasionally been inflicted on people under the guise of consensual BDSM. Most of my writing and speaking has been about the nature of consent and about how we can achieve better consent practices within the BDSM community.

      (Side note: Not all BDSM acts are sexual, as I explained in this article: http://clarissethorn.com/2011/10/14/bdsm-versus-sex-part-2-how-does-it-feel/ )

      Here are some links to my writing about consent and BDSM. (It’s also available in a better-organized format in my book, “The S&M Feminist.”) I invite any and all of you to read it and leave comments. I believe that fundamentally we are part of the same struggle and that your concern is coming from a good place, even if it hurts me and people like me.

      http://clarissethorn.com/2011/03/11/storytime-sex-communication-case-studies/

      http://clarissethorn.com/2010/07/03/sex-communication-tactic-derived-from-sm-2-safewords-and-check-ins/

      http://clarissethorn.com/2011/11/12/bdsm-roles-topping-from-the-bottom-and-service-top/

      • C.K. Egbert

        “Do you see why your judgments might be profoundly different in these different cases? And do you see why your judgments might be unwelcome, or misguided?”

        The question was whether you think that it is impossible for someone to realize that they are being abused, particularly when the harm and abuse is normalized within the culture. You did not answer this question, instead giving a relativistic answer that one “should not judge.”

        “Since I believe that BDSM can be a consensual and beautiful thing, why should I be concerned if more people develop BDSM fetishes?”

        At least you admit that these desires come from somewhere, but I don’t agree that it is acceptable to groom women into BDSM by exposing them to violent sexual acts so that they accept it as “normal.” The problem is that we cannot talk about consent or authentic choice if women are being socialized into thinking that sexualized torture is completely acceptable and that physical and emotional abuse is “normal,” and socializing men into believing that it is not only acceptable but good for them to enjoy making women suffer.

        Feminists critiqued how women are systematically groomed into heterosexuality and heterosexual intercourse. BDSM is no different, with the exception that the acts involved have the potential of being even more harmful, dangerous, and traumatizing for the women who are subjected to them (I’ve read your blog, and you yourself clearly state that BDSM even when done properly isn’t necessarily fun and that it also involves what is typically part of abusive relationships).

        “I also recognize, regret, and grieve for the genuine trauma that has occasionally been inflicted on people under the guise of consensual BDSM.”

        Not all harms and trauma are a result of a lack of “consent” (however thinly you define it); this minimizes and trivializes the high rates of “non-consensual” assault within BDSM as well as the harm and trauma that results from ostensibly “consensual” BDSM (I notice that you focus on consent rather than what is wanted or non-abusive, because of course what is consensual is not the same as what is wanted, not coerced, non-harmful, or non-abusive). I hear either complete evasion or silence from BDSM advocates on how women and girls are now “expected” to engage in increasingly violent, painful, and degrading sex acts (see Aftercare-Is-Gaslighting’s comment), even though this is a direct outcome of men being socialized into enjoying hurting women and being told hurting women is acceptable (which is what BDSM also does).

        I find it ironic people who critique the sexualized abuse and torture of women as being “not empathic” or “hurting” you (I don’t see how critique is “hurting” you). Instead maybe you should consider that we should adapt our sexual and relationship practices to what is non-abusive, rather than trying to twist and distort the definition of non-abusive to conform to what men already want to do to women.

      • Cass

        It seems to me that entire argument against BDSM here runs on some kind of implied – but unstated – sort of “naturalist” ethics that is supposed to be self-evident (but really is not)

        So your example regarding “If you come from a profoundly different cultural context” is absolutely spot-on.

        • marv

          No way Cass. Basically all cultural institutions have been founded on male monopoly which is a political construct not a natural one. Feminist critiques of BDSM are an anti-patriarchal ethic. BDSM endorsement is a pro-patriarchal ethic by its very nature within the social systems of men. It’s self-evident if you can overcome denial.

          • Cass

            Okay, wait a second here.

            I said there is an implicit naturalistic ethics current going here (do note that there is nothing “bad” about having an ethic system that claims that its core values are “natural”, it’s not like an insult or something)

            You replied in the negative.

            And then you juxtapose a system that is “not natural” and “political” (male monopoly) to the branch of feminism you subscribe to thus implying your favorite system is… natural and non-political?

            That’s an entirely okay claim to make, by itself, but why was your initial response to me in the negative then?

          • marv

            “I said there is an implicit naturalistic ethics current going here (do note that there is nothing “bad” about having an ethic system that claims that its core values are “natural”, it’s not like an insult or something)”

            Not an insult but wrongheaded. Relying on the authority of nature, instinct or even the transcendent for anchoring ethics is folly. Male conservative and liberal philosophers and rulers have done this for centuries. It’s all interpretations of what they or others see. There is no essential system of morality at the core of our being that can be excavated and followed. Aside from physical sex differences the nature/culture divide is fiction. Both are fused. No theory of natural subsists outside politics.

            For BDSM advocates male power does not exist unless one decides it does. Government and public repression/censorship of freedom of expression are seen as the real threat to self-actualization. That sexuality, race, the state, economy, the legal system, family, armed forces, science, education, etc. have been organized by men is lost on sex liberals.

            We have to have a shared ethical framework in order to have fairness and peace among ourselves. If all views are treated as having equal value then objectification and violence can be wrongly defended as aesthetic pleasure. Equality defined as the absence of gender, race, class and other forms of domination and subordination is the most socially just way to ensure the common wellbeing. If power and wealth are not distributed evenly then oppression occurs.

            We are talking about a fundamental unmaking of the current social order as the only hope for humans, other species and the environment.

          • Cass

            That’s cute, but if no natural core of ethics is to be “excavated and followed” then how does one tell a “false consciousness” from a “proper” one ?

            And as to a-hierarchical zero-oppression society, well, it will exist for only as long as it takes the physically strongest member of such society to realize that a pointy stick can be used to deprive the less muscularly gifted people of their belongings, bodily autonomy, and very life.

            If such a society is ever to come into existence, I give it five minutes before it collapses into a terrible anarchy. Okay, ten, given that one has to look around for the pointiest stick.

          • One tells the difference by investigating the ever-shifting patterns of sexual behaviors in various cultures.

            One study of sexual behaviors in Britain found that 4% of men paid for sex, and ten years later the study found that had increased to 9%. That didn’t happen for no reason, and we can explore those reasons. It’s Anthropology 101 and it’s not a perfect science, but it is informed by scientific method and other human sciences like psychology, linguistics, etc.

            If you want to view yourself as a barely restrained animal unable to resist the urge to take what isn’t locked away from you, please don’t project your selfishness onto the rest of us. It’s not a “dog eat dog” world, dogs are pack animals that tend to the emotional needs of each other and dogs will share food and raise pups that aren’t theirs. How lonely and frightening your life must be with such a toxic, anti-humanity mindset.

          • “And as to a-hierarchical zero-oppression society, well, it will exist for only as long as it takes the physically strongest member of such society to realize that a pointy stick can be used to deprive the less muscularly gifted people of their belongings, bodily autonomy, and very life.

            If such a society is ever to come into existence, I give it five minutes before it collapses into a terrible anarchy. Okay, ten, given that one has to look around for the pointiest stick.”

            Somehow sadomasochists can say things like this and still get sympathy from radical leftists (particularly anarchists.) It’s infuriating. They mock our vision and yet expect us to endorse their sex lives and believe that the acts are apolitical (because you know, her pro-hierarchy sex acts have nothing to do with her pro-hierarchy politics, *sarcasm*.) How can they still get endorsement from much (though not all) of the left? Are anarchists masochists or something? LOL.

            Furthermore, how can she be okay with whips, chains, etc. and yet be so scared of sticks? Probably because whips, chains, shackles, etc. have historically been used by powerful white men (especially slaveowners), so they must be good, right? But sticks (when they have been used in an aggressive context) have been used by people who lack access to more sophisticated weapons, yet are desperate to fight back against oppression, so they are evil (though Cass also thinks that there is no such thing as good or evil, except what society says, go figure.) Long live stick wielders, I say.

          • marv

            Best chuckle I had today IR. 🙂 Since her theory of human nature is that we are naturally brutish, BDSM makes sense as one reflection of our inner destiny. Odd how men are way more violent than women in the world. Innate differences I suppose. With such a biological deterministic premise one wonders why bother creating laws against any kind of violence in the first place. They will be doomed to fail.

          • Cass

            Well, from the looks of it, anarchists are indeed just very sophisticated masochists with a political fetish 🙂

            Anyway, I would very much support your desire to attempt constructing an a-hierarchical zero-oppression society as long as your utopia is opt-in, not opt-out 🙂 , and as long as said support does not mean that I am obligated to live in your attempted utopia.

            P.S.:
            And it seems reasonable to assume that white men started with pointy sticks before inventing more sophisticated devices.

        • Rich

          “It seems to me that entire argument against BDSM here runs on some kind of implied – but unstated – sort of “naturalist” ethics that is supposed to be self-evident (but really is not)”

          Yes, I agree. You see this in discussions about what is “authentic” female sexual response. Under this kind of analysis, a woman can admittedly be actually aroused by an activity(the thread I am thinking of involved wearing sexy lingerie and display for a male partner) and still have her arousal deemed to be inauthentic. Behind this has to be some idea of what would constitute true sexuality for a woman.

          To me, it is one thing to argue that a particular construction of sexuality is not feminist, in that is is not conducive to achieving a particular vision of equality between the sexes. It is another thing to argue that an experience of actual arousal received from inhabiting that construction is somehow inauthentic. To my mind, an actual arousal is necessarily an authentic arousal.

          • hak

            “> it is one thing to argue that a particular construction of sexuality is not feminist, in that is is not conducive to achieving a particular vision of equality between the sexes. It is another thing to argue that an experience of actual arousal received from inhabiting that construction is somehow inauthentic. ”

            But, what you said doesn’t even makes sense. If something is a social construct… then it is a social construct.
            And why are you talking about “authentic arousal”? What’s the point?

          • Rich

            “But, what you said doesn’t even makes sense. If something is a social construct… then it is a social construct.”

            “And why are you talking about “authentic arousal”? What’s the point?”

            As to one, something can be mostly social construct, but there can be a natural foundation underneath. For example, since until the last eye blink of time, all people were born through sex between men and women, it seems to me beyond contention that desire for heterosexual sex is natural. But that does not mean that there are no social pressures that feminists describe as “compulsory heterosexuality.”

            And I make the point about “authentic” arousal because I have seen the argument made before here, and it fits in to the point Cass is making. That is, there is something “inauthentic” about women becoming aroused at inhabiting what are seen as non-egalitarian sexual roles. And I don’t buy it.

          • hak

            >”but there can be a natural foundation underneath.”

            so you’re making an essentialist statement and then accuse feminists of being “naturalistics”??? okay.

            Here’s the thing: Sex is biological/physical, compulsory heterosexuality is a patriarchal institution which created heternormativity, but even in a feminist society, both males and females will still exist so heterosexuality might still exists too, except that it won’t be a norm or an institution anymore.

            Violence -or eroticized violence- is not biological (ie it is cultural), so you can’t compare the two.

            >”That is, there is something “inauthentic” about women becoming aroused at inhabiting what are seen as non-egalitarian sexual roles. And I don’t buy it.”

            The arousal in itself might be guenine, but the ORIGINS/causes of this arousal aren’t natural (ie patriarchal).

          • Cass

            On what grounds do you make the latter statement?

            Do you have the ability to see into the minds of people so as to determine where their arousal is originating from?

            Are you saying that there exists a set of sexual desires that are “natural origin” and you can prove which ones belong to this category?

            Also, on what basis do you make the claim that all violence is inherently non-biological in origin?

          • hak

            “Are you saying that there exists a set of sexual desires that are “natural origin” and you can prove which ones belong to this category?”

            NAH. Do you even know how to read?
            I’m saying that human beings learn X or Y behavior/tradition through culture/society.

            http://www.nccccurricula.info/awareness/C10.html

            Or if you think that it is natural, then where in our DNA, is BDSM or violence or culture or race write?

            “Also, on what basis do you make the claim that all violence is inherently non-biological in origin?”

            Im’ just not essentialist.
            If you don’t understand the difference between nature and culture, you can google those concepts. It’s not hard to understand.

          • Cass

            Nah, I understand you’re not an essentialist.

            I just wondered if your assertions regarding origin of violent behaviors have anything more than just philosophic conviction behind them.

          • marv

            “I just wondered if your assertions regarding origin of violent behaviors have anything more than just philosophic conviction behind them.”

            Well that is all you have. You attribute your love for BDSM as stemming from an unlearned human condition not conditioned humans. It’s an ideological explanation of what you are feeling. People believe in Jesus and his teachings with all their heart too. It doesn’t mean they believe in anything real. They mean well but it’s a delusion.

          • Cass

            I did not make any claims, let alone bold unconditional assertions, about origin of any particular desire or belief (including my own).

            I merely inquired whether there is anything besides conviction behind bold assertions made by hak, C.K, and others.

          • hak

            “I merely inquired whether there is anything besides conviction behind bold assertions made by hak, C.K, and others. ”

            Oh btw, you don’t think that the belief that violence is natural is a philosophical conviction?

            If you really think it’s natural and that culture doesn’t mean anything, then prove it. Take your time.

          • Rich

            “so you’re making an essentialist statement and then accuse feminists of being “naturalistics”??? okay.”

            Yes, I think it pretty self evident that the desire to mate is natural. So if saying so is “essentialist” then yes, to that extent I am an essentialist.

            “The arousal in itself might be guenine, but the ORIGINS/causes of this arousal aren’t natural (ie patriarchal).”

            I agree to the extent that most of what we find sexy is largely culturally determined. I do not believe there is no influence from biology (sex being such a critically necessary thing for survival of the species), but I believe it is buried pretty deep.

          • hak

            @Cass

            Do you think that there is a gene for rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc?

            The belief that violence is natural is the only “philosophic conviction” here.

            @Rich

            ” I do not believe there is no influence from biology”

            Yeah, so you believe women are naturally sub. How original.

          • Cass

            I did not make such claims, and my position does not depend on them.

            However, since behavioral genetics of homo sapiens is a relatively new area of research that is far from exhausted, making any claims as to degree to which those behaviors are affected genetically would be woefully premature.

          • hak

            “I did not make such claims, and my position does not depend on them.”

            Didn’t you imply that violence is natural? That’s why I’m asking you this question. If you think that rape is natural, that’s your problem, not mine.

            Can you answer me now?

            “However, since behavioral genetics of homo sapiens is a relatively new area of research that is far from exhausted, making any claims as to degree to which those behaviors are affected genetically would be woefully premature”

            [essentialism intensifies]

        • lizor

          “It seems to me that entire argument against BDSM here runs on some kind of implied – but unstated – sort of “naturalist” ethics that is supposed to be self-evident (but really is not)”

          Um, yeah… because how could any ethical code amongst humans be self-evident? Rape, slavery, physical and mental abuse and manipulation is super cool in some contexts! You just have to open your mind to it! The only thing we know is actually morally unacceptable is weighing available evidence and drawing conclusions – a.k.a. “judging”. In other words, developing a moral centre is patently unethical.

          FFS. I need a drink.

          • Cass

            Oddly enough, people actually supporting IRL slavery considered their beliefs to be self-evident.

            Funny thing, this “self-evidence”.

          • They also thought slavery was okay because it was part of their culture.

            And indeed it was, for the culture of a class divided society is created to favour the ruling class.

          • lizor

            Right you are, Cass. There is no foundation for ethics. Therefore ethics are dumb and … unethical.

            Have fun in that tiny little [il]logic circle of yours.

          • Cass

            Oh come on, is the “otherwise we’re all doomed” the best defense you can come up with for your assertion of self-evidence ?

          • lizor

            No where did I say “otherwise we’re all doomed”, nor did I imply it in any way. Funny that you are compelled to make things up in order to stay in the conversation. And kind of boring. Thanks Cass. I’m done with this now.

          • Cass

            /
            /There is no foundation for ethics. Therefore ethics are dumb and … unethical. /

            Sounds like an argument from dire consequences (doom) to me.

            A-la “if my assertions of self-evidence aren’t self-evident, then all ethics is void”

            Interestingly, that’s a position many proponents of “self-evident ethics” like to take.

          • hak

            “you can come up with for your assertion of self-evidence”

            Yeah, while you accuse feminists of being “naturalistics” without any evidence either.

          • Cass

            I do not accuse.

            I simply observe that for criticism that goes like “X attitude behavior/desire is unnatural / socially coerced” there has to be a set of behaviors/desires that arise “naturally” and “without social coercion”

          • hak

            ““X attitude behavior/desire is unnatural / socially coerced””

            Nope, you’re wrong again: we’re saying that
            1.humans beings are beings of nurture; not that BDSM ONLY is cultural
            2. BDSM isn’t feminist

            No one -besides you and Rich- is talking about a “natural” sexuality here.

          • Cass

            ******

            1.humans beings are beings of nurture; not that BDSM ONLY is cultural

            ******

            But then using the “X belief/desire arises through social coercion” argument to discredit some desire/belief makes even less sense, because under the “beings of nurture” assumption the speaker’s beliefs and desires arise through very same process (of social coercion) and thus are in no way better!

            ******

            2. BDSM isn’t feminist

            ******

            As a matter of fact, many feminists disagree.

            You may of course assert that those are not “real feminists”

            Unless there is a Feminist Central Command issuing decrees as to who is a “proper” feminists, your assertion will remain rather hollow 🙂

          • hak

            “But then using the “X belief/desire arises through social coercion” argument to discredit some desire/belief makes even less sense”

            we’re saying that it is cultural. The desire might be guenine, but the origins are just cultural. Understand?

            “Unless there is a Feminist Central Command issuing decrees as to who is a “proper” feminists, your assertion will remain rather hollow 🙂 ”

            Did someone say that X or Y wasn’t a real feminist here? No.

            Don’t forget that you and your feminists pro BDSM friends don’t want to listen to our arguments, and instead prefer to use personal attacks and logical fallacies and then imply that WE aren’t real feminists because their feelings are hurt. Because we’re the “bad” feminists. Same goes on twitter and tumblr, radfem are excluded (and doxxed and harassed and defamed) -by both liberal feminists and male allies- everywhere.
            But this is not a “feminist central command” kind of thing at all, right? 🙂

          • Cass

            Oh, and I most definitely make no claims about all the feminists (all them “waves” and branches and currents of the movement), just specifically people who make “false-consciousness-like” arguments

        • hak

          “>So your example regarding “If you come from a profoundly different cultural context” is absolutely spot-on.”

          lol no, that’s just a relativist fallacy. She didn’t demonstrate anything.

      • corvid

        1) So wait, are you arguing in favor of cultural relativism? I’m pretty sure that no radfem would agree to changing her response to a bruised, injured woman because she “comes from a profoundly different cultural context.” It’s exactly this relativism that is at issue here.

        3) Patriarchy is not “vanilla.” BDSM practitioners are not in an identical position to gay people politically. If you were, it would mean that a man who gets off on hurting women could be designated “oppressed.” This has serious ramifications for women.

        7) Where do you draw the line between acceptable and not? Because from a radical feminist pov, men hurting women “consensually” *is the same* as “race play.” Men are still women’s oppressors, in reality, get it? Very much like white people oppress POC? Which also makes the “dominant woman” a male fantasy; women can’t truly be “dominant” because we are by definition subordinate in patriarchy.

        • Cass

          So, you claim that you have the authority to decide whether I really enjoyed getting a given bruise in a given flogging session?

          Like, you know my mind, and my joy, better than I do?

          That’s a curious way of looking at the world

          • Meghan Murphy

            If someone ‘enjoys’ their eating disorder, should we encourage it? Or pretend it is ok? What if someone ‘enjoys’ pornography — does that make pornography ok?

          • Cass

            Technically, eating disorders are defined in such a manner that they are 1) diagnosed only when the damage is beyond the body’s ability to reliably compensate for and 2) intense fear of gaining weight (AN) compulsions with a sense of loss of control (BN/BED)

            So they would be unenjoyable by definition.

            You might want to pick a better self-damaging behavior (being overweight without an eating disorder would fit your concept better, since being clinically overweight does carry inherent risks and is indeed considered enjoyable and attractive by a small – but definitely documented – group of people.)

            As to pornography, I’d say enjoying a typical porn movie is about as unethical as enjoying a device manufactured by Foxconn’s hellish sweatshops (which is pretty much everything Apple, BTW)

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hmm… I think that eating disorders are more damaging than being ‘overweight.’ There are plenty of people defined as ‘overweight’ who are perfectly healthy.

            In any case, the point is that whether or not you ‘enjoy’ something is not the point. People enjoy all sorts of unethical things and simply because you enjoy sexualizing inequality and VAW does not mean it is above critique.

          • Cass

            Given that I have been practicing BDSM for more than a decade and am yet to experience any long-term negative medical consequences (or social, for that matter, thanks to relative acceptance of this lifestyle in my country), this is exactly why I chose “being clinically overweight and enjoying it” and not something else.

            Yes, there are attendant statistical risks, but maintaining an entirely enjoyable and viable lifestyle in this manner is entirely plausible.

            And being overweight “because you like it” is also obviously not above critique (and I would challenge said critique upon encounter, for similar reasons)

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m not sure what it is you want, here. People to stop thinking critically about sexuality, as defined under patriarchy? To stop writing critically about the sexualization of inequality and violence against women?

          • Cass

            Well, I’m having a polite discussion with people with whom I disagree on a certain issue, sharing, you know, my lived experience.

            That’s all.

            But upon some thought… you do have a point – this discussion is unlikely to result in a consensus, and as long as people who share C.K.’s views do not have political power over me and woman I love this lack of consensus is of no practical consequence to me.

          • Laur

            “So they would be unenjoyable by definition.”

            As someone who had severe anorexia for several years, I have to say you are dead wrong. There are many “enjoyable” aspects to anorexia and other EDs, which is precisely why people who have them cling to them so ferociously. If they were not enjoyable, young women would not have set up a whole ring of “pro-ana” sites. At one point in my life, most everyone I considered a friend had an ED or was in recovery from an ED. I think Meghan’s example is right-on the money.

          • Cass

            Laur, at the very least, did you experience intense fear of gaining weight and a clinically significantly lowered BMI ?

            Because the former is clearly “distonic” (unpleasant) and the latter is dealing with the “damage beyond to compensate” aspect, and you kind of need both for a proper AN diagnosis per DSM.

          • Laur

            Cass,
            I just shared private, medical information on a public, well-read blog. I did so because I knew what you were saying about EDs was correct. I know this because, to quote my original post: “As someone who had severe anorexia for several years, I have to say you are dead wrong.”

            You then, knowing nothing about me, except what I have posted on this thread, decided to question the medical diagnosis I received as a teenager. If you don’t want to believe I was ever anorexic, that is your right. I’m an intensely private person, and I rarely share important details from my life, so I’m furiously amused that you would assume I must be lying. I’m not going to list even more personal details in an attempt to convince a stranger on the Internet that I had an illness as a teenager. But keep in mind I have believed everything you’ve said.

            ANYWAY, you are dead wrong that there is nothing that feels “pleasurable” about anorexia (or the other EDs, though this generally speaking, this is most seen in anorexia). Feel free to go to an ED discussion board and ask if they find anything about their eating disorder pleasurable and if so, what it is. And finally, I’d ask you to stop spreading mis-information about eating disorders, including that there is nothing people find “pleasurable” while in the midst of one. If that was the case, anorexics (to take one set of people with EDs) would be 100% set on recovery. There would be no pro-ana (and pro-mia/bulimia) sites. People wouldn’t be in and out of expensive treatment centers only to return to their disorder.

            If you’re still having a hard time understanding this, think about drug addiction. It can ruin people financially, cost them jail time, end their relationships, cause any number of serious diseases and even kill them. So why do people keep taking drugs? Because there is something pleasurable and positive about that (in addition to the physical dependence piece, though this is in many ways also similar to EDs).

          • Cass

            Laur, I do not doubt the truth of what you say, so if it came off as confrontational or offensive – please forgive me, that was not my intent.

            My point is that simply both DSM IV and DSM V, as well as ICD, require both BMI decrease and intrusive fears for diagnosis (first being physiologically disruptive and second being by definition unpleasant)

            I do not contend that AN does not involve subjectively “pleasant” .

            My counterexample of “clinical obesity” was provided precisely because the diagnosis does not include any “mandatory” subjectively unpleasant experiences to be established (and the state is experienced as “pleasant”/”syntonic” by some people who have it)

            Speaking of correlates (and that applies to your counterexample of drug addictions), there is no reliable clinical evidence of negative outcome correlates for sadism or masochism that would be attributable to those behaviors themselves, at least not anymore than for any other physically challenging social activity performed in relative isolation (which is one of the driving arguments of ReviseF65 movement, to whom I am eternally thankful)

          • vagabondi

            How about alcoholism? Oh man did I love my booze… But I don’t miss it now. Well, sort of. Like I’d miss being beat up by someone who claims to love me.

          • Cass

            Funny that you’d mention that.

            Are we talking “alcoholism” as it is defined by the medical professionals, or are we talking alcoholism “folk-psychologically”?

            If the former, this is a wonderful example, since one can be a socially active individual unburdened with alcoholism and yet consume alcohol for recreation (do note that technically recreational doses of alcohol are still “toxic”)

            If the latter, then arguing “folk-psychology perceptions” is a rather pointless affair, IMO

          • Laur

            Cass,
            First, I can see no way to reply to your reply directly.

            “here is no reliable clinical evidence of negative outcome correlates for sadism or masochism that would be attributable to those behaviors themselves”

            We don’t live in a laboratory. We live in the real world, one, you have said, you are not terribly interested in making better, as you don’t believe this is possible. A big argument against S/M is that we are working towards are a world of equality, including in our relationships. But some people would rather beat other people up than work towards social change…

            My problem with what you are saying throughout all your posts here, is that you are leaving a great deal out. I do know people who have been involved in BDSM and they had all had incredibly hard lives. Severe trauma, psychiatric problems, dealing with issues of sexual identity, and so forth. This may be less true of men who “top,” but don’t quote me on this. I’ve heard other people, those who have tried to get into BDSM, say the same thing. Even people who have been in the scene for many years have admitted that it’s rare to come across a woman who doesn’t have a history of sexual abuse.

            Also, sadism isn’t just practiced on people who “consent.” It’s very much so practiced on prostituted women. These are not people seeking out BDSM activities, usually; they need money for a pimp, for drugs, to pay rent. More money is paid to women who are willing to be submissive. I have met women who have topped and bottomed in prostitution, and they are very much traumatized by the experience. They did not fully understand what they were getting into when they started. Like, they may have understood the one act they would be doing, but not that it would open the door to another one and another one and another one. And with prostitution, you do not have a trusting partner, you have one (or more) whom you just met.

            Sometimes it seems feminists separate the issues of BDSM and prostitution when they’re really intimately connected.

            I just believe that if someone does certain acts to a human being, the person is NOT going to be the same psychologically. It’s going to have *some* impact, even if it’s not measured with bruises on the skin (and let’s not forget how often there *are* marks on the body or even blood from these activities).

            The argument is that if you, a sadist, finds a lover, a masochist, and the sadist acts out the masochist’s fantasies consensually, all is well. Doesn’t effect the public. But, in reality, it does. There are books written about it that are on display at stores. Videos are made and uploaded to the Internet. Women at lesbian festivals drip with blood after s BDSM “session” and other women, perhaps children, are exposed to this. The writing of practitioner’s changes to include whimsical mentions of S/M. (See: Cass). And we’re supposed to be the writing alone is what changes? That a person just forgets about this dynamic outside of the bedroom? How is this even possible?

      • hak

        “>How would your opinion about your right to judge someone else’s experience change in the following contexts
        >Since I believe that BDSM can be a consensual and beautiful thing, why should I be concerned if more people develop BDSM fetishes?”

        But you didn’t answer her questions… All you’re saying is “mind your own business” (Appeal to Authority)…

        “>Most of your questions have been angry rants against made-up positions that most feminist BDSMers do not hold.”

        oh since some feminists are critical about BDSM when others are not, then they’re just “angry”? They’re just an “angry minority”? You know that personal attacks are not an argument and have no place in a debate right? #justsayin

      • “As I mentioned in a different comment below, I don’t have time to respond to all the comments on this thread.”

        And I don’t have time to respond to all the people who suddenly replied to my comment (I could have sworn that only yesterday I had zero replies.) I am responding to Clarisse because she responded first and hers is the most extensive (trust me, that’s the only reason, I get the impression that she’s kind of a big shot in the BDSM world, but that doesn’t impress me.)

        “If you are sincerely curious, then I genuinely invite you to read my work, and drop me a line once you’ve gone through my top articles.”

        You don’t have time to respond to our comments, but you want me to read a bunch of your articles? I may not be an online celebrity, but I do have a life, not to mention exams to prepare for. I will read your stuff, only when I have nothing better to do (and that won’t be for a while.)

        “The tone of your questions leads me to doubt that you are sincerely curious…”

        Allow me to explain what I mean by “curious”. According to Google the word means “eager to know or learn something”. You seem to be using it to mean “eager to participate in a sexual practice deamed subversive” or “eager to agree with someone”. I don’t mean it that way.

        I was eager to see how BDSMers would answer the questions, not eager to give up my belief that BDSM was harmful. I will give up that belief when you prove that it is wrong and no, I don’t want to hear more about how consensual and desired BDSM is, because consensual and desired things can still be harmful (e.g. excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, drug use, junk food, etc.) You didn’t answer most of my questions. You just complained about them. I am still waiting for answers, and yes, I’m still curious, but not in the way you want me to be.

        “What is the context in which you are judging whether someone else has been abused? I’m not asking this to be obstreperous; rather, to illuminate some potential problems with your framing.”

        I gave you the context. I have just met two HUMAN BEINGS who are covered in cuts and bruises that are the result of being spanked, whipped, etc. What more do you need? I see humans as humans, rather than a collection of “identity” groups and when humans are being harmed and dominated I want to stop it, because I recognise that human beings deserve liberty and equality. Even if their culture, media, religion, political ideology, etc. told them otherwise (and that applies to Westerners as well, Westerner media is filled with celebrations of violence and inequality, it is naive to think otherwise.)

        Back to the hypothetical situation. Both women say they have not been abused. In fact, let let’s say for the sake of argument that they are completely identical (in terms of personality, culture, etc.) The only difference is that one of them will recognise, in the near future, that all the physical aggression she had experienced and allowed (i.e. consented to) was in fact abusive and the other will continue believing that BDSM is the best thing ever. Is there any way to tell in advance which woman is which?

        “I don’t recall an occasion when I have freaked out when oppressed groups rioted.”

        If that is really the case then feel free to ignore the question, but most liberal so-called leftists condemn rioters for “scaring people” and “making the cause look bad”. In reality, a politicised riot forces the the ruling class to sit up and take note. It also enables less wimpy people to realise that the movement in question is serious about its cause. The Black Lives Matter movement for example, has grown stronger, not weaker, through riots. Of course riots can sometimes harm people (though the ordinary people involved in the riots are in far more danger than the police who try to suppress them), but there are times when the thing worth fighting for (e.g. the right of black people to walk down the street without getting shot) is worth it. This is never the case for orgasms which are a far more trivial thing.

        “No. Why would I think that?”

        Because of this quote from the altered vanilla privilege checklist.

        “A vanilla person will have an easier time finding depictions of people with sex lives that are equally vanilla in the media.”

        Sure sounds as though you (that’s the plural “you”, refering to BDSMers are a whole, curse the ambiguity of the English language) do want depictions of BDSM sexuality to be just as available as depictions of vanilla sexuality. Well guess what, images of heterosexual couples kissing in Disney filmns are a depiction of (what you call) “vanilla” sexuality? So do you Disney to (blatantly) portray and celebrate a BDSM couple? That’s the next step forward, right?

        “Do you agree that our culture is biased in favor of heterosexual sex? If you agree, then do you think that gay people are advocating for gay sex to be depicted in all the contexts where het sex is currently depicted?”

        I said “sexuality”, not “sex”. I don’t want graphic depictions of heterosexual or homosexual sex in the media and I neither know nor care what the mainstream gay rights movement is advocating. Yes, I do recognise that heterosexual sex is favoured in society and I don’t think that should be the case.

        If someone wants to make a children’s film that featured gay people and relationships, I would be perfectly fine with that, so long as no violence or sexual explicitness was featured and the relationship was portrayed as egalitarian (i.e. no dominance and submission dynamics.) I am all for Disney making a film about two princes or two princesses falling in love (except for the fact that I don’t like the “Disney Princess” and “Prince Charming” ideals to begin with.) If the gay rights movement is two cowardly to advocate for that, then that is their problem, not mine.

        Do you support the say thing with regard to BDSM?

        “Since I believe that BDSM can be a consensual and beautiful thing, why should I be concerned if more people develop BDSM fetishes?”

        Answer the damm question. Can sexualised BDSM imagery cause people to develop BDSM fetishes or not?

        But since you seem to like answering questions with question I will do the same thing. How would you feel if there were images all over the culture that could convert BDSMers into vanilla people and these images became so prominent that everyone around you started abandoning the practice of BDSM and you could not find anyone to practice BDSM with, so you had to settle for loving, gentle, egalitarian sex instead (oh, how horrible?) You would be really bored, right? Well, for those who are not into BDSM, having to practice it would not merely be boring, it would be terrifying. The two are not equivalent. Keep that fact in mind.

        “Obviously not. I have never advocated this, and I don’t know how you came up with the question.”

        Once again I must invoke the quote from the Vanilla Privilege Checklist. If you depictions of BDSM to be just as easily accessible in media as depictions of vanilla sexuality, people who don’t want to see depictions of BDSM are going to see them. As a bitter single person, I already see far more depictions of heterosexual “vanilla” relationships (though most of them in fact have some anti-egalitarian elements) than I would like too in mainstream culture. I certainly don’t want to see just as many depictions of blatantly violent sexual acts.

        “No, you shouldn’t cease all negative uses of such terms. Why would you?”

        The original vanilla privilege checklist stated that “vanilla” was not used as a perjorative. The statement was crossed out (because in fact it is used as a perjorative) and replaced with complaints about “appropriation”, but nonetheless, the writer seems to implying that words associated with BDSM should not be used as insults. Besides you don’t want “gay” used as an insult do you (neither do I), even when it refers to things not related to sexuality? (e.g. “that shirt is so gay”) So buy the same reasoning BDSM terms should not be used as insults, right?

        “In the majority of my BDSM relationships, I have much better tools and much more space to negotiate than I do in the majority of my working relationships.”

        You’ve never been in a union? They are a lot more powerful than any individual could be and therefore better at “negociating” (or rather compelling capitalists to treat workers decently, because the former will not do so at the expense of profit unless forced to.)

        “There are quite a lot of people who actually don’t really have the power to quit their jobs, due to economic pressure. I believe this is a significantly worse problem than most consensual BDSM activities.”

        Economic pressure is coercive, but it is still less coercive than being physically tied up so that one cannot move. I know of no (legal) workplace in the West where workers literally cannot physical escape their place of work. If such a workplace existed there would be outrage. In most workplaces, an individual worker has the ability to shout “I’m out of here” and run for the door. They lose their sources of income when they do that, but at least they physically can and their boss cannot stop them. Some people may wind up living in poverty or turning to crime as a result of such choices. The options of an impoverished person stink, but at least they have options.

        Someone who has been tied up really tightly, usually cannot escape on their own. They have to beg their dominant to free them (which is what a safeword is, in actual fact) and their dominant may decide not to do so. An unwilling submissive can scream a hundred safe words and tell the dominant what a bad dominant he is for ignoring them, but that will not remove the ropes, chains, etc. Only the dominant can do that. If the dominant decides that the submissive looks hotter tied up and refuses to let her (or him), there is nothing the submissive can do to change that situation. This is not true of workplace exploitation or even of most supposedly “vanilla” abusive relationshis. At least in those situations running away is physically possible.

        “Frankly, I wish that feminists and leftists gave as much attention to workplace consent as they due to sexual consent.”

        We don’t pay attention to “workplace consent” because our aim is to abolish exploitation in the work place, not to make it more consensual or improve the relationships between boss and worker so that everyone can get along better. You know who does favour that? Economic right-wingers, they are just as obsessed with consent as you are. Too bad they don’t give a damn about human welfare.

        This perfectly highlights how little understanding liberals have of genuine leftism.

        “The angry and patronizing tone of this question helps me understand that you simply don’t want to engage me, or people like me.”

        Picking on my tone are you, where have I heard that before? People (both men and women) have every right to be angry at the fact that paedophilia and racism (including really extreme forms of it, like slavery and genocide) are being simulated and celebrated.

        “But I do think you are significantly misinformed and uneducated about how BDSM negotiation operates, as well as the level of pleasure and satisfaction that many BDSMers derive from these activities”

        I already granted that “race play”, “age play” and strangulation can be consensual (I don’t feel I need a detailed understanding of the BDSM negociation process to understand that basic fact) and I will grant that those practices generate orgasms (sometimes.) Given that this is the case, do you endorse the three practices I listed?

        “Most of my writing and speaking has been about the nature of consent and about how we can achieve better consent practices within the BDSM community.”

        How about aiming for less injuries, less deaths, less verbal insults, less trivialisation of racial oppression and less celebration of fascists, slaveowners and the like? Does consent really make all these things okay?

        “I believe that fundamentally we are part of the same struggle and that your concern is coming from a good place, even if it hurts me and people like me.”

        The struggle for what and against who? I am struggling for a world free from power inequalities, you find power inequalities sexy and cool. I don’t want to be “included” in your movement. Some people are different from you politically, deal with it.

        While I may not not have my own book yet (and have not completed enough university to know what “obstreperous” means), I do have my own blog. Here are some of my most popular posts (if you advertise your blog I can advertise mine.)

        Posts directed related to BDSM

        http://liberalfeministtropes.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/why-im-against-bdsm-radical-feminist.html

        http://liberalfeministtropes.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/the-five-most-common-pro-bdsm-arguments.html

        Posts dealing with other issues relavant to the discussion

        http://liberalfeministtropes.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/why-cultural-relativism-is-racist.html – Which will now be renamed “Why I am a Proud “Naturalist” in honour of Cass.

        I am only joking, but I am proud of the fact that I support those who fight for the basic principles of equality and liberty all around the world, against ruling classes who oppose these principles and justify their dominance on the basis of “culture” and “tradition”.

        http://liberalfeministtropes.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/why-mainstream-feminism-is-corporate.html

        As for Cass’s mountain argument. If there were a sentient mountain that deliberatedly caused people who tried to climb it to fall and be seriously injured (BDSMers regard any injury that does not kill someone as “moderate”, so I daresay that the injuries Cass has in mind, are in fact serious) I would condemn that mountain as a horrible human hating mountain, regardless of whether the people who climbed it did not consensually or not. Since mountains are not sentiment, I would describe both hypothetical climbers as victims of a mountain climbing accident and I would not totally revoke my sympathy for the person who had climbed the mountain consensually, just because the person had consented to something dangerous. Besides, that person would probably hate mountains afterwards.

        • Cass

          Actually, people rarely give up mountain climbing after accidents, especially since the risk is half the point of whole exercise (if I wanted a safer ascent, I’d have taken an aerial lift or something)

          Anyway, point here is not “sympathy revocation” but acknowledgement that it is my body, and I do as I please with it, and I damn well do claim harm when people try (okay, more like vociferously intend, at this point) to mess with third parties whom I need in order to do as I please with my body and in fact whom I love precisely due to the things they do to me when I ask them.

          I don’t need softer or safer mountains, thankyouverymuch.

          And I do find your position to be disturbing and threatening (though fortunately, your ideological peers do not appear to hold much sway in my current country)

          • hak

            “Actually, people rarely give up mountain climbing after accidents, especially since the risk is half the point of whole exercise”

            Actually, a mountain:
            1. Isn’t an animal
            2. Isn’t a human being
            3. Doesn’t eroticize violence
            4. And probably doesn’t give a damn about BDSM

            Conclusion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_equivalence

            ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • Cass

      “1. If two women, covered in cuts and bruises, are standing in front of me, and one of them is an empowered BDSM practitioner and the other is abuse victim and both of them say they have not been abused, how do I tell the difference? Or do you not think it is possible for an abuse victim to be unaware of the fact that they have been abused?”

      Okay, last bite here, I suppose 🙂

      What if two people (gender indeterminate) climb a mountain, both fall, suffer some moderate damage, get saved and all is seemingly fine.

      However, first person went climbing because of love of nature, scenery, mountains, that jazz you know.

      The other person has an emotionally abusive, vicious mountain-obsessed parent, and only went climbing to satisfy said parent and maybe ameliorate the abuse a bit.

      It would be pretty uncontroversial to say that second person is a victim of abuse who suffered both mentally and physically due to, well, abusive relative.

      QUESTION:
      Without mind-reading, super-sincere interviews or crazy NSA-style sleuthing, how do you tell these two people apart?

      • hak

        “What if two people (gender indeterminate) climb a mountain, both fall, suffer some moderate damage, get saved and all is seemingly fine.”

        Did they fall because of an accident or because someone pushed them (and I’m not asking if they “consented to it/wanted it” or if they both “planned” the fall)? 🙂

        The second guy is clearly a victim of abuse, but in this context, the fall was, presumably, an accident.

        In both cases you won’t think “oh they fall because they LIKED it/asked for it”. Moreover, what the first person likes is climbing, not falling (he doesn’t want to hurt himself when he climbs either).

        IndependentRadical had a clear question, when she talked about “an empowered BDSM practitioner and the other is abuse victim and both of them say they have not been abused”, there was clearly a violent person responsible for the bruises and cuts in both cases, even if she didn’t mention him. (And obviously, in both cases, it wasn’t an accident or self-mutilation). In your examples, is someone responsible for the fall? No.

        “how do you tell these two people apart?”

        Well, both are victims of an accident here, or do you think that because the first person “loves” climbing, then we can’t say that he’s here a victim?
        Same for the second guy: is it because he’s a victim of abuse or because he fell that we can say that he’s HERE a victim of an accident? Obviously, it is because he fell. The fact that he’s a victim of abuse didn’t provoke the fall.
        And vice-versa: if he didn’t fall then he wouldn’t have been a victim of an accident, but he would still be a victim of abuse.

        The “he loves it” argument doesn’t change the fact that both are hurt, both could have had severe injuries and that none wanted to fall/to be hurt. (And climbing in itself doesn’t hurt).
        It’s not the psychological abuse alone that can justify that one can be proclaimed victim or not, physical damages are important too.

        This is why your example is a false equivalence: where/who is the responsible of the fall in both cases? If it’s an accident, then Why compare an accident to a premeditated violence (eroticized or not)?

        • Cass

          Actually, climbing mountains hurts (you know, high physical load, low oxygen even with equipment, that kind of thing), but in a funny way (probably wouldn’t be that funny to just everyone, I’m a masochist).

          The equivalence being that both are intentionally placing themselves in situation that is both “kinda painful and non-physiological in best case scenario” and “outright damaging and dangerous at worst”, but one is doing so out of subjective enjoyment while other is doing so due to abuse and emotional pressure.

          Point being, you can’t tell them apart unless you have, like, mind reading powers or very good interview skills.

          Much like you can’t tell me post-session (and by all imaginary friends of all cultures ever, I do love a good, long BDSM session) from some unfortunate victim of abuse who was dragged into a BDSM session against her will (unless the victim chooses to confide in you during some kind of interview or something, or you grow magical mind reader powers).

          • hak

            “Actually, climbing mountains hurts”

            Nah, when you climb, there isn’t somebody else who will hurt you AND when you climb, you don’t want to be hurt by someone else either (a mountain =/= human being/human behavior; being tired because of a physical activity =/= getting hurt) => that was my point. (hence, false equivalence)

            “The equivalence being that both are intentionally placing themselves in situation that is both “kinda painful and non-physiological in best case scenario””

            No, what you described, was an accident, not a premeditated scenario*.

            “Point being, you can’t tell them apart unless you have, like, mind reading powers or very good interview skills.”

            Both are victims of an accident, as I already said**.

            =>*
            **
            Re-read my answer -May 22nd, 2015 at 4:56 am- for more information.

            Can you answer my questions now? Thanks.

          • Cass

            Ah, so you want to sidestep the problem of indistinguishablity by pushing for culpability?

            Fine, let’s play that game.

            Two women.
            Both in lesbian relationship.

            One relationship is happy, the other one is abusive.

            The abusive one is extremely severe – but in a manner that leaves no physical traces that you can observe.

            How do you tell whether the woman before you is the happy one or the severely abused one (without mind reading, sleuthing or extensive interview)?

            You can’t.

            So it’s not some kind of unpleasant feature of BDSM.
            Other relationships are also not transparent to you.

            So you have as much justification to mess with BDSM relationship as you have to mess with “non-BDSM” ones.

            Which is “no justification whatsoever”.

            Your position seems like a desperate attempt to find a rhetorical or philosophical loophole which will allow you to retain the image of being “pro-women” while interfering with the lives of other women, even if they don’t welcome your “help”

          • hak

            “the problem of indistinguishablity by pushing for culpability?”

            Your previous comparison with BDSM was two people who fall by accident.

            => Here’s what I said, because you obviously didn’t read,(and it will also answer your other similar question):
            Same for the second guy: is it because he’s a victim of abuse or because he fell that we can say that he’s HERE a victim of an accident? Obviously, it is because he fell. The fact that he’s a victim of abuse didn’t provoke the fall.
            And vice-versa: if he didn’t fall then he wouldn’t have been a victim of an accident, but he would still be a victim of abuse.

            He’s both victim of an accident (the fall) AND of abuse (the relationship).

            The “he loves it” argument doesn’t change the fact that both are hurt.

            “Your position seems like a desperate attempt to find a rhetorical or philosophical loophole which will allow you to retain the image of being “pro-women” while interfering with the lives of other women, even if they don’t welcome your “help” ”

            lmaoo, but besides saying “I like it! I’m happy! Climbing! Moutain! It’s natural because I say so”, and not answering our points/questions, YOU don’t have any arguments, sooo… 😉

            We’re just being critical, the personal is political, saying that human beings are beings of nurture isn’t a “philosophical loophole”.
            And I didn’t even talk about philosophy in those 2 answers (or do you think that explaining why someone is a victim of an accident is some kind of philosophical loophole?).
            The topic is about the causes and consequences of the eroticization of violence.

            It’s not because you like this or that, that you can’t be critical of it you know?

            BTW, I answered your questions, but you didn’t answer mine (This is why your example is a false equivalence: where/who is the responsible of the fall in both cases? If it’s an accident, then Why compare an accident to a premeditated violence (eroticized or not)?).

            Oh, also, psychological abuse is usually a more complicated situation than just feeling “happy” or “unhappy”. Just sayin’.

  • amongster

    Thank you so much for this series C.K. Egbert! It’s always a great relief for me to see BDSM myths get debunked. I don’t know how I would have responded to this analysis back when I was still involved in the scene but I am sure that I could have gotten out of it much sooner if I had been surrounded by feminists who shared your critical views instead of those people who made the abuse seem like a feminist act.

    I used to fall for the “after care” myth for so long and it is true that it made me seek out abusive situations just to be “rewarded” afterwards. BDSM is in absolutely no way “healing” as many practitioners suggests, it is only (re)traumatizing.

    Love your work!

  • corvid

    Another great entry in this series, thank you C.K.!

    Various studies indicate that the majority of men in North America watch porn. Gail Dines has found that the majority of porn features violence against women, apart from the regular old systemic violence of being reduced to body parts for consumption.

    Answer me this, BDSM people. Given all of the above, *is society “vanilla”?*

    • C.K. Egbert

      My question exactly!

    • Priscila

      Being called vanilla/prude/sex-negative/frigid/whatever by those people is a compliment for me.

      • catperson

        Well said, well said indeed, Pricila!

  • Laur

    C.K. Egbert, I always get something out of reading your posts and comments. This series has provided me with new ways of thinking about and debating BDSM. So, thank you!!

    I know you chose to focus on male doms and female submissives in this series. It seems like the first question that comes up is, “but what about female dommes?” And two women or two men? I would find it helpful if someone wanted to do a series taking on these topics.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Thank you, Laur. I think that would be interesting, too.

      I actually don’t find it odd to find lesbians or gays following the same dynamics as a heterosexual relationship. If there is only one available cultural script (eroticization of violence/hierarchy), it’s no wonder everyone plays along. I also wouldn’t find it odd that some women want to be in the dominant role, given that their only other option is to be submissive (just as I don’t find it odd that some women would like to be men, in order to avoid all the things that being a woman in a patriarchal society entails).

      I think though, that there is a fundamental difference between a submissive man and a submissive woman. For a man, being submissive is merely a game in which he is forcibly feminized (made into a woman), even though it is only a game because he still is in a fundamental position of power (sexually, socially, and politically). For a woman, on the other hand, sexual submission is a reality she cannot escape.

      Here’s one woman’s take on female dommes (I also wonder if the majority of female dominants are actually prostituted women):
      https://freefromsexpozzies.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-internalized-misogyny-of-fem-doms-and-sex-pozzies/

      • Laur

        Hi CK Egbert,

        I always enjoy reading your thoughts, so thanks for the reply. I completely concur with what you said.

        I do think most female dommes are paid. They’re doing humiliating things they don’t really want to be doing because they need the money.

      • Laur

        Also, saying pointing out that there is BDSM where women dominate men hardly is just sidestepping the points you have brought up regarding male-dominant BDSM. Just becomes some men fetishize being tortured by women dressed in hyperfeminine clothing hardly makes this okay. It simply means femdom is yet another male fetish.

    • Anna

      “What about lesbians/female dominants?” to be found in Part 1 of Egbert’s excellent FAQ: http://feministcurrent.com/11630/bdsm-faq-frequently-asserted-quibbles-part-1/

      • Anna

        Sorry, Egbert’s reply wasn’t out of moderation before I posted mine (or I didn’t refresh the page late enough to see it! Oops!).

  • Roxana

    There can be consensual relationships where people derive pleasure from pain and/or humiliation. It is possible for people to masquerade having a BDSM relationship for an abusive relationship just like it is possible for people to pretend to have a healthy relationship and be abusive in reality. The people in these relationships (if they are in a consenting BDSM relationship), enjoy the situations they are putting themselves through. To argue that BDSM is contributing to violence against women undermines the severity of the issue because it would also imply battered women enjoy it on some level the way people in BDSM should be enjoying themselves if they are consenting adults.

    People in healthy BDSM relationships have aftercare not to pretend the situation never happened but to ensure the person you had this very personal encounter with is feeling good and enjoyed what happened which is honestly more than any relationship can hope to have, good communication.

    “It involves a lot of trust” is more of a statement rather than a justification. In this scenario, the trust that is needed is referring in part to safe words that are implemented. You have to trust the person you are performing BDSM with because first of all, it is a relationship and secondly, pain is generally being inflicted and you might be having sex with them. It is fairly common to want to trust the person you are performing intimate acts with and to trust that they will stop doing anything that is making you feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

    “It is not like a 24/7 relationship” would only pertain to someone who is not monogamous regardless of a BDSM relationship. With regards to contracts, people in BDSM do not always have to have contracts. Personally I would not have a contract that gives somebody power over me at all times so I cannot argue for that.

    BDSM as a justification for “interpersonal and sexualized violence”. Categorizing BDSM as sexualized violence sounds a bit harsh but is technically accurate if your definition of violence involves enjoyable. Factually, violence is defined as “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.”, “unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force”, or “strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force.”. This matter becomes subject to personal opinion of what violence actually is, and I argue that people in situations where they are afraid to leave their partner for fear of violence, people that fear for their life and those around them, people that suffer due to this inflicted behavior (unsolicited behavior) would not feel they had similar feelings to the people in consenting BDSM relationships.

    It is definitely possible that people in BDSM relationships have been molded by society to think deriving pain from pleasure is acceptable and desirable. This assumption that people in BDSM are contributing to the perpetuation of violence against women however, does not take into account the relationships where the female is dominant or furthermore, any other type of relationship that does not involve a cis man and woman.

    The way BDSM relationships are portrayed in the media is not the best depiction of a healthy relationship and that definitely negatively impacts society. However, saying a consensual BDSM relationship in general is a large contributor to violence against women masks the fact that people in healthy BDSM relationships are enjoying themselves and battered women are not, to say the least. People have been mistreating women for decades, before BDSM was publicly talked about and there are abusive relationships out there that do not need the façade of BDSM to cover it up. There is a notable difference between an abusive relationship and healthy BDSM one and that is lack of fear and some form of enjoyment.

    BDSM is not always abusive and sometimes non-BDSM relationships are, in a healthy BDSM relationship there would be consent and if there is not that is abuse. Guidelines are established such as safety words so there is open communication and if those are not followed that would be abuse. If you believe pleasure cannot be derived from pain that is not something that will change based on answers to a questionnaire where you are already assuming BDSM practices are all non-consensual. Obviously nobody can justify a non-consensual relationship regardless of whether they are performing painful practices. Healthy BDSM requires consent if you were under the impression that they are all “non-mutual”.

    Honestly it would probably be a good idea if sex-ed taught about what it was to have a healthy sexual relationship in the first place but that is not even currently the case. In sex-ed they should not promote any sexual act, their job should just be to inform, and BDSM is a possibility for all people, precautionary methods should be discussed as with any sexual relationship teens intend to have.

    • C.K. Egbert

      I’m using a non-controversial understanding of domestic violence.
      http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/#tab-id-1

      Please show me where you see it says that these behaviors are acceptable as long as a woman believes she deserves to be abused or that she “agrees” to the abuse.

      Pretty much everything that occurs in domestic violence occurs in BDSM, as noted by this BDSM advocate:
      http://clarissethorn.com/2011/08/02/thinking-more-clearly-about-bdsm-versus-abuse/

      She also doesn’t seem to think that BDSM is necessarily about having enjoyable experiences; she admits that BDSM can make her feel “terrible”. You seem to be assuming, or else deliberately conflating, consent with what is wanted or pleasurable or not harmful. That is simply false, and I think sex positivists know this.

      I don’t assume that all BDSM relationships are “non-consensual” (most abusive relationships are consensual, too). Consent is not sufficient to make a relationship non-abusive.
      http://feministcurrent.com/11630/bdsm-faq-frequently-asserted-quibbles-part-1/
      http://feministcurrent.com/11718/bdsm-faq-frequently-asserted-quibbles-part-2/
      http://feministcurrent.com/9211/why-consent-is-not-enough/

      We consent under coercion (including the coercion of social norms, which I have absolutely never seen any BDSM person address). Women are never told that sex should not be violent; quite the opposite (once again, BDSM promotes that sex should be violent, painful, and degrading for women). Women learn to adapt to men’s sexual violence–we learn to enjoy what men do to us (or at least believe that it is how things are supposed to be), in order to survive our situation and make it tolerable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t violent and harmful to women.

      • Cass

        Okay, if some arbitrarily selected local social norms (a bdsm club’s, or whatever) can be considered coercive, than any ingroup can be considered capable of causing this entire “not-really-consent-due-to-social-coercion” dance.

        If so, how do you go about proving, C.K., that your choices and beliefs are products of your own and not merely the result of some social group influencing and coercing you?

        Any kind of “choice” can be construed to have been done under some kind of social duress (not surprisingly, your rhetoric of “society coercing women into BDSM through media” is remarkably similar to “religious conservative” rhetoric of “media” and “college leftists” coercing women into feminism/socialism/whatever else makes conservatives very sad this time of the year), this unfortunate circumstance is not limited to BDSM choices, and frankly, I don’t see a reasonable way for an external observer to determine a “socially induced choice” from an “intrinsic” one.

        I’m pretty much bound 🙂 to believe you that your choices are sincere and authentic.

        And you’ll either have to grant me same favor, or claim that I am a lesser, mentally immature sort of woman who really doesn’t know herself and what’s good for her.

        Such arbitrary infantilization on part of a blogger from afar won’t be much skin of my nose 🙂 but would reflect poorly on our ability to meaningfully discuss matters (ageplay ain’t my thing 🙂 )

        • C.K. Egbert

          “If so, how do you go about proving, C.K., that your choices and beliefs are products of your own and not merely the result of some social group influencing and coercing you?”

          I’m not going to try to prove that, because I don’t think it is the case. I don’t think there is anything “natural” about me feeling upset about getting wrinkles and gray hairs. However, I can admit that I have this feeling without endorsing the content (I don’t believe it is the case that women’s value is determined by her appearance).

          I’m interested in being honest about the influence and coercion, analyze and evaluate it (this is also why feminism requires consciousness-raising).

          All societies involve social coercion (that’s why we have social sanctions); the content matters. If the content is harmful, subordinating, or unjust, then it becomes problematic.

          “I’m pretty much bound to believe you that your choices are sincere and authentic.”

          I don’t see why “sincere” or “authentic” is a determinant of the acceptability of anything. I think that men sincerely desire to hurt women; I’m not going to say that it is acceptable (if you take “authentic” to mean “natural” or beyond social influence, that doesn’t really say anything about its acceptability either–someone could be naturally aggressive but that does not justify aggression). I don’t think to evaluate the wrongness of slavery we would simply take a poll of the slaves, and if some slaves wanted to remain slaves because they thought it was the natural order of society (which, in fact, has historically been the case) that makes slavery acceptable. Instead we look at the harm and injustice to determine whether slavery is acceptable.

          • Cass

            Thanks for responding, C.K.

            First, when I say “sincere” or “authentic” what I mean is a kind of belief/desire/position that (hypothetically) might have arisen due to reasons other than “social coercion”.

            My point is, simply, that there is no particular way to establish whether a particular belief/feeling/desire/position is a product of social effects (for all you know, my desire to be tied up by other women might have nothing to do with media exposures and whatnot – such a claim can neither be proven nor disproved).

            Of course, as you correctly notice, such an “intrinsic” quality does not automatically confer moral worth (let’s speculate, just for the sake of the argument, that your beliefs and ideas regarding feminism are, too, products of specific peer pressures and not an “intrinsic” product of your “nature”, a kind of coercion, too. Would that automatically make them “wrong” or “morally questionable”? Of course not!)

            However, this admission kind of dismantles your previous claim that a woman’s desire to be bound/flogged/gagged (and other things I personally enjoy being done to me, but let’s not go there here 🙂 ) “can not” be anything other than product of “social coercion” (so it is a claim that can not be proven or disproved and apparently does not explicitly confer or remove any “moral virtue”)

            Also, it seems to me that you invoke the concept of “being unjust” a little bit lightheartedly.
            Justice is a rather relativistic social construct (for instance, Sally Kern would consider it “morally just” to have me executed or locked up for sleeping with other women and not being to eager to get pregnant, while certain fine desert-dwelling folks would probably consider it “just” to throw some acid at me for stringing words into sentences)

            Again, there is a number of assumptions here that are for some reason thoroughly unspoken.

            Hey…

            Would it be problematic for me to go shark-petting? Climbing mountains?
            All those are potentially lethal, harmful activities (climbing a mountain involves physical effort in low-oxy conditions, which is definitely not good for one’s health, and shark-petting is, well, petting a god damned shark, and it’s actually a thing, by the way)

            Are you willing to claim that I am not entitled to the kind of bodily autonomy that is involved in those acts?

          • Cass

            Upon some further contemplation:

            To get things a bit clearer, the claim that women enjoy masochistic/BDSM-y experiences do so out of social coercion essentially amounts to a false consciousness claim (in most basic, Marxist sense)

            Without some fantastic mind-reading, false consciousness claims can not be proved, disproved and do not appear to remove any virtue or value from the subject (what if someone “naturally” non-feminist suddenly developed a “pro-feminist false-consciousness” due to a lucky coincidental interaction of social pressures?)

            It also seems to me that false-consciousness claims lend themselves well to non-constructive arguments when both parties start making claims regarding “false”, “socially coerced” nature of the opponent’s preference (but since false-consciousness claims can be neither proved nor disproved, this will of course go nowhere, an endless echo of “NO U”)

          • C.K. Egbert

            If you don’t think we can talk about social coercion via our social norms, then it would be impossible to talk about things such as rape culture. It would also preclude us attempting to change how people think and act by changing our social norms (or making people of how these norms impact our lives). I don’t think that grooming women into believing that they are objects to be hurt, that they should be hurt, and they they should assume abuse to be part of “normal” relationships is acceptable. That defeats the point of feminism. The purpose of feminism to liberate women from male violence, which includes counteracting those norms that enable male violence (e.g., that abuse is “normal,” that men are entitled to sex, that women should consider any abuse they suffer to be “normal”). I don’t see any response regarding, for example, the phenomena of girls being coerced into dangerous sex acts (causing them serious injury) because it’s expected. You haven’t stated you are a feminist, so I’m not going to assume that you have those aims.

            Regarding your examples surrounding hiking or shark-petting, it is a false analogy. In both of those examples, you are talking about something someone does themselves.

            BDSM is about justifying interpersonal violence–by necessity, it requires that you condone men enjoying torturing, raping, and enslaving women. In the same way, we can’t say much about what someone does to themselves (except perhaps to discourage it, if it is something which is causing them harm) but we can and should apply standards to how people choose to treat others.

          • Cass

            Well, I do consider myself a feminist, though I am not scholarly enough to give precise classification of my position (I probably should work up the time, so as, you know, to better convey which of the numerous “branches” of feminism I am most sympathetic towards and to differentiate myself from the kind of feminist exemplified by “Feminists for Life” organization and Sarah yes-the-Alaska-one Palin)

            I probably am quite close to the liberal individualist feminists so reviled in this particular venue 🙂

            As to our ability or inability to discuss rape culture, I do not thing it is diminished by excision of “false consciousness” concepts, since measurable psychological phenomena do correlate with “rape myth acceptance” irrespective of what our position is on the ultimate origin and “coerciveness” of such attitudes.

            The only thing “false consciousness” claims bring to the table is the ability to accuse your opponent of a different brand of false consciousness (“you hold these views because you were coerced by media” – “no, YOU hold YOUR views because you were coerced by the academia”).
            Also, “false consciousness” only works if you have a kind of “non-socially coerced” consciousness as a counterpoint (Marxism had Gattungswesen, which of course breaks down when you realize that Gattungswesen is just an arbitrary make-believe claim of an old dude without any demonstrable ground for special philosophic status).

            As a woman who prefers to have BDSM acts performed on me by other women, I am particularly interested in how would one prove (or disprove) your claim that my female partners (and/or I) are not acting for our own mutually shared enjoyment, but are playing out some kind of “internalized false desire” into which we were “coerced”.
            I mean, as long as neither you nor me can look into the mind of my partner and determine why she enjoys flogging me, for instance (or for that matter look into my mind and discover why I like having this done to me so much), it would remain as valid a claim as “you are possessed by demons” (you can’t show the demons, and I can’t prove their absence)

            Regarding analogies, both shark petting and mountain climbing analogies are quite fine (to the extent an analogy can be fine) because those are actually things that require considerable participation of third parties (theoretically it is possible to perform them yourself – just like theoretically it is possible to perform sadomasochistic acts on yourself without any third party involvement. and much like with BDSM, mountain climbing and shark petting are way more dangerous when performed without involving or notifying third parties)

            What you propose is, essentially, permitting mountain climbing – but without civilized route planning, oversight, and rescue notification (or shark petting without qualified personnel waiting nearby in case the fishes get way to feisty).

            What you suggest is permitting me to enjoy acts I like, but strictly in the company of my own self, without an understanding partner whom I can trust, because the things I want her do to me (and which she is willing to do) are apparently in disagreement with “standards” you are arguing for.

            That indeed strikes me as a carbon copy of “we will just attack abortion providers” trick. Very much so.

          • Cass

            Oh, and preventing women from being coerced into BDSM sex acts they do not desire would be pretty much same as preventing them from being coerced into non-BDSM sex acts they do not desire.

        • Laur

          “If so, how do you go about proving, C.K., that your choices and beliefs are products of your own and not merely the result of some social group influencing and coercing you?”

          I’m not C.K., but my answer is: I don’t. As you said, all are choices are socially influenced, even when we’re not aware (well, you didn’t add this last part). I don’t think social influence is a problem. Power, and in the case of feminism, specifically male power, is what we’re trying to dismantle. Your choice may be as “authentic” as can be. But the problem is not your choice.

          “I’m pretty much bound 🙂 to believe you that your choices are sincere and authentic.

          And you’ll either have to grant me same favor, or claim that I am a lesser, mentally immature sort of woman who really doesn’t know herself and what’s good for her.”

          I hear people say this a lot, and I want to respond. I don’t think women who disagree with me are “lesser” or “mentally immature” and quite frankly, no one here has said or implied such a thing. I also don’t think my choices are “better” than yours. Saying these things does seem to rely on mind-reading about what I am “authentically” thinking. In reality, I know most of us are just trying to survive in this world.

          • Cass

            Laur, problem is that you can’t seriously make a contrarian third party claim about another person’s relationship (along the lines of “your perception of your relationship is wrong, it is an abusive relationship and you don’t really enjoy it”) without implying that you have some kind of comparatively higher “competence in relationships”

          • Laur

            I am not and have never said that you don’t really enjoy the BDSM activies you participate in.

            Women who participate in BDSM really aren’t much different from women who *do* participate in BDSM. Many, many women have masochistic fantasies, particularly sexual fantasies. Some women know they definitely don’t want anything like this to happen to them in real life, that even if it was consensual, they would not really be in control, and it would ultimately have negative mental and physical consequences on them. Some women realize once they start, it would be hard to stop. A few women realize BDSM goes against their values; for example, if we don’t have non-hierarchical relationships with one another, if we can’t stop inflicting violence on people, how can we expect broader society to become more egalitarian and less violent? some women occasionally engage in BDSM, realize it is not healthy for them, but continue to fight urges to be beat up, etc. They don’t want to spend their time doing something that ultimately they regret doing when they could be spending the time in a more meaningful way.

            Being a female masochist hardly makes you special. But I don’t want to live in a world where there are sadists. I also know that most of the people, particularly the women, who are into S/M have suffered deep trauma and have psychological problems. You have to be aware of this. I don’t believe that traumatized and psychologically “off” individuals should be beat up, or hurt anymore than they have been.

          • Cass

            A lot of women in non-BDSM relationships (even non-het relationships) have suffered severe trauma (and I strongly doubt existence of good evidence on your “most” part)

            If a given woman who does BDSM is unhappy because of it, she of course should get help in organizing a different relationship.

            But when a third party enters the discussion and asserts a third-party opinion regarding the relationship and it’s proper course (especially something as far-reaching as “I want a world without people like the partner you love because she is a sadist, and the fact that she makes you happy is irrelevant”) that very clearly is an implication of some superior “relationship competence” and a power grab.

            Okay, so far it’s a purely rhetorical power grab on a blog, since the fine people supporting C.K.’s position don’t have political power over me or people I care about, but it’s still a rather disconcerting thing.

    • People in healthy BDSM relationships have aftercare not to pretend the situation never happened but to ensure the person you had this very personal encounter with is feeling good and enjoyed what happened which is honestly more than any relationship can hope to have, good communication.

      If consent and mutual understanding truly existed, it wouldn’t be necessary to double-check after the fact. That this step exists demonstrates that this behaviour is inherently risky and potentially harmful. Healthy relationships don’t involve abuse of any kind – most people agree on this, I think. But the reason you don’t have to incorporate safe words and aftercare into non-BDSM sex is because it’s implicitly understood that aggressive, violent, painful activities are dangerous and abusive. BDSM relationships sanction this type of behaviour by utilizing strategies that try to hedge the risk and existence of harm. I understand that people have different reasons for being interested in BDSM and they’re not all bad. More and more, though, I’m hearing people speak pejoratively about “vanilla” sex whereas I think people are justified in responding that BDSM shouldn’t be normalized in the fashion that’s so typical of liberalism. All of this leaves me wondering: whatever happened to the idea that passionate, visceral, mutually-satisfying sex free from hierarchy or power plays is enough?

    • Bernard Linden

      “Guidelines are established such as safety words so there is open communication and if those are not followed that would be abuse.”

      How does a gagged person say a safety word?

      Or is gagging not part of “safe, sane, consensual” BDSM?

      I’ll admit my cynicism upfront, but I’m interested to hear your response.

      • C.K. Egbert

        They do permit gagging, sometimes agreeing on hand signals. However, I’ve also heard BDSM advocates claim it isn’t necessary to have a safeword at all, so and their standards of consent are generally pretty terrible so….

      • Cass

        As a woman who practices gagging a lot, I typically use a handkerchief (I hold a handkerchief, and if things start going south, drop it. It’s of course a pre-negotiated sign).

        Only had one partner who kept going for about a minute after I dropped it (a woman. She of course was sorry later – and frankly, nothing bad happened, but I ended relationship anyway, since I have a rather strict “one strike and you’re out” policy when it comes to doms).

        P.S.:
        Also know a sub dude who has a fancy little custom gadget that can be worn on the palm and pressed when needed – works even in mittens (yeah, heavy bondage stuff). But that’s IMHO overkill, I’m doing rather fine with simple handkerchief

        • Bernard Linden

          There is nothing “strict” about ditching a partner who forces you to engage in unwanted sexual activity.

          And, yes, something bad /did/ happen.

          Respect. We are all worthy.

          • Cass

            Speaking of respect, how about letting me decide whether something that happened to me was unpleasant enough to deserve being called “bad” 🙂 ?

            No offense, but people who feel entitled to manage my relationships and “feel my feelings” for me tend to get on my nerve a little bit.

          • Bernard Linden

            There is no offence to be taken.
            I understand that you do not think something bad happened to you in the story described.

            If it is unclear that I am giving my opinion here then I will state it up front: what I write is my opinion. I do not think I write with god-given authority or any more objectivity that you and others in this conversation.

            We disagree about whether the experience you described constitutes something bad happening.

            You assert that the sole determinant of whether something bad happened is your decision, as the potential victim of assault. I disagree.

            I don’t think I have a magical ability to know what is actually going on for you subjectively (better than you do yourself). I recognise your autonomy and the different priorities you have in pursuing your own ends.

            I have no interest in limiting you freedom to act. I am interested in discussing ideas and sharing opinions.

            I grew up in a conservative Christian household, and my mother disagreed with me about whether something bad happened when my father failed to respect her stated perspective on things. She would say she had been liberated to full womanhood (as a submissive Christian wife).

            I work as a nurse, and I have on occasion observed hospital cleaning staff being treated with disdain, spoken to disrespectfully, required to do unreasonable tasks, and not properly remunerated for their work, by staff with more status and authority (i.e. hospital management, medical officers). Some of these women will dismiss my concerns, telling me nothing bad has happened – they are, after all, lucky to have a job.

            So I maintain that there is more to determining when something bad has happened than whether or not the “victim” of injustice perceives as much.

            I am interested in the consequences of BDSM for people’s beliefs about themselves (what it is acceptable to do to others, what should be tolerated from others).

            Quite apart from this, others here have described the causes and consequences of BDSM in a wider social context.

            Again, I have no interest in controlling your behaviour, or the behaviour of your partners. I respect the differences of perspective and opinion between us.

  • Aftercare-Is-Gaslighting

    “People in healthy BDSM relationships have aftercare not to pretend the situation never happened but to ensure the person you had this very personal encounter with is feeling good and enjoyed what happened which is honestly more than any relationship can hope to have, good communication.”

    You sentence’s logic is what is called in French “bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet”, that is to say a different way to phrase the exact same thing.

    What you’re telling here is that “aftercare” is there in order to ensure that the one who endured the BDSM activity won’t tell a narrative which differs from the BDSM canon, namely “we consented and liked it”, therefore “no abuse took place between us, of course”.

    If “aftercare” is a necessary step to ensure that afterwards the prey-partner won’t say anything else than “oh my, I’m feeling good and enjoyed all that happened”, it blatantly shows that this is NOT communication but brainwashing into a ready-made narrative which doesn’t allow the expression of dissenting voices, which must be thus efficiently cuddled into silence.

    Having been subjected to painful sex acts by previous male partners, I can tell you that commonplace abusers use “aftercare” to silence their victims. It was indeed very effective, because it was at a time when I didn’t know the terms “marital rape” or “date rape”, while I had been repeatedly said that pain and humiliation in BDSM could be “enjoyable” and “liberatory”, and that pain and pleasure were the two sides of the same coin, without having had any sexual experience which could have helped me to form any real personal opinion on that subject. For me rape and sexual abuse were something a stranger did to an unknown victim the abuser left alone in her blood afterwards, not something a desired and loved partner could do to the very person who desired and loved him while expecting the (abusive) relationship to continue after the violent attack on her bodily integrity was (temporarily) over. I didn’t expect my rapist to be my first love, I didn’t expect my rapist finishing his work by murmuring a soft “I love you” in my ear, I didn’t expect my rapist serving me tea and caressing my hair tenderly the next morning.

    The truth is: when you are in a state of shock, so much that you can’t cry and that the trauma prevents you from having linear thoughts and unpierced memories, when you’re unable to express what you felt and feel to the point of having trouble to articulate any sentence having some sense, witnessing the very person who plunged you into that deep traumatic state behaving in a “loving” and “caring” manner towards you further mesmerizes you into that utter unspeakability.
    Because how can you reconcile in your brain this good, loving Dr Jekyll who now takes care of you, with that sadistic Mr Hyde who had an orgasm of your very pain ten minutes ago? This is enough to blow up anybody’s mind.
    And if you didn’t feel guilty of having “asked for it” and supposedly “enjoyed it” right afterwards, your inability to refuse and reject the following “aftercare” definitely makes you feel this guilt and shame for years and years after this “very personal encounter”: what better method can be used to ensure that the prey won’t dare to say anything which will dissent from the abuser’s account than making her feel that she collaborated in her own victimization by finding some comfort in her abuser’s own arms?

    My rapists were very sweet and “caring” indeed. They took good care that I wouldn’t go out of the house and say “this is what happened, this is what he did, and I need a doctor now.”

    PS: Would you be surprised that the first one tried to seduce me into “the Art” of BDSM, and the second one whispered into my ear at an unexpected moment “Pain is pleasure” which led me to mental dissociation?

    • C.K. Egbert

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. It truly sickens me that the pro-BDSM people endorse that sort of emotional abuse.

      Thank you for your feedback.

      • Aftercare-Is-Gaslighting

        Thank you very much for your kind words, Ms. Egbert. It goes straight into my heart.

        I feel much better since I’ve discovered radical feminism. First, coming across Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” has been groundbreaking for me, and then Andrea Dworkin’s writings saved my sanity by allowing me to become more and more articulate about everything I had before my eyes.

        Your voice and your support, as well as Feminist Current as a whole, are part of the healing process. So thanks a million!
        I know now I’ll be “fixed” only by contributing in dismantling this sadistic patriarchal society and reassembling it in a radically new way.

    • purple sage

      This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing and I hope you find healing and peace.

      • Aftercare-Is-Gaslighting

        Thank you so much, purple sage. I find a lot of comfort knowing that you were moved while reading my testimony.

        Healing is on its way indeed.
        Finding peace is more complicated, since I don’t feel at all in security in this world any more. The men who hurt me were perfectly ordinary, one of them particularly respected and admired by his peers – nothing like marginals or creepy monsters popping out from the dark to abuse a random woman. So I’ve troubles to find and accept any form of intimacy with men I appreciate, because I’m constantly afraid that the “Pain-is-pleasure” thing will suddenly come again out of the blue, leaving me with no other defence than terrified submission and mental dissociation.
        So, instead of looking for peace, I look for protection, and I polish my feminist arguments in order to change the environment. If there is no safe and loving space for me, at least I can try to create some for the next generation of women.

  • Aftercare-Is-Gaslighting

    Well, I forgot the most important here:
    Thank you so much C.K. Egbert for setting the record straight at last. =)
    We desperately need to put an end to this toxic BDSM rhetoric which gnaws on our capacity of judgment and actively participates in the grooming process of future young women into the-perfect-silent-victim-ready-for-use…

  • Thomas Eisenecker

    Maybe I’m ill-informed, but I’ve never seen kinksters advertise for “aftercare” for submissive men with the same zeal as they do for submissive women. It’s always the “intense scene”* in which a woman is virtually traumatised by a “Dom”. And because he is such a Nice Dom, he starts being all affectionate and shit after the “scene”. That’s gaslighting, as it’s been said thousands of times. It’s not the same with “submissive” males. He’s a Man after all. He’s in control and, no matter what happens, he’s not gaslighted as easily.

    In the end, the joke’s on women.

    *kinkster-speak for “I beat the shit out of someone (mostly a she) in a sexual context. But with CONSENT!” and, as always, there’s the implied “Don’t you dare say anything against it!”

    • Thomas Eisenecker

      Oh, and I’ve seen a lot of “Daddy Dom/little girl” but never “Mommy Domme/little boy”. I’m sure it exists, but even uttering “little boy” in this context sounds disgusting (he’s male after all). “Little girl”, on the other hand, is just plain old Sexy.

    • I’m not sure whether my comments will be approved here, but since you are linking to my articles, it seems worth a shot. 🙂

      I don’t have time to respond in full to everything you are writing. Obviously, I think that many of the critiques on this site and within these comments are misguided, and that they show a regrettable lack of understanding and empathy for consensual BDSM practice as experienced by many happy people. I would invite you all to read my book “The S&M Feminist,” etc.

      However, I figured that I might as well respond to this comment because it’s easy. There’s a ton of men writing about their experience submitting to women, and if you were invested in actually understanding BDSM perspectives, then you might already have found them. I’ve also written about my dominant activities — and specifically, I’ve written about aftercare with men who felt grateful to receive it. Here is one example: http://clarissethorn.com/2012/02/10/storytime-the-strange-binary-of-dominance-and-submission/

      • Thomas Eisenecker

        ClarisseThorn… Under different circumstances I would almost call it an honour.

      • corvid

        Clarisse, BDSM statistics like these:http://www.thedatereport.com/dating/pop-culture/bdsm-a-breakdown-by-the-numbers/ show that women mostly report themselves as submissives, and men dominants (except in the Dutch study, for whatever reason, but the exception does not make the rule.) In the context of patriarchy this is totally predictable.

  • jo

    BDSM is just plain old abuse with fancy language. Abusive men love it, they can hide behind it.

    BDSM is also mainstream and has been for a long, long time. Look at this picture:
    https://repeatingislands.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/slavery.jpg?w=500&h=306
    This is the type of thing your sexxxy Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission fetish originates from. Actual slavery, oppression and inhumanity. This where your goddamn whips and shackles comes from.

  • purple sage

    This is a clever reversal that obscures the real issue by “disappearing the male.” The issue never has been about what women choose but about how men choose to treat women.”

    Thank you so much for this! This explains all of Choosey Choice Empowerment Feminism, you know. The whole thing about focusing on “women’s choices” and “women’s agency” has the specific purpose of removing the abusive man from the picture. Pimps and johns abuse women and they want us to focus on the women’s choice to enter the sex industry. Women stay in abusive relationships and everyone wants us to focus on “why she stayed” instead of “why he was violent.” Men rape women and they focus on “what she was wearing” instead of focusing on “Mr. X is a rapist.” It goes on and on and this extends to BDSM as well.

    I find it completely absurd that anyone wants to defend BDSM. If a man thinks it’s sexy to hurt you or thinks that acting out rape scenes is sexy, that is a dangerous, misogynist man. Get away from him as soon as possible! There is no need to get defensive about it when people criticize something that you might do. I find dominance and submission sexy too because I was groomed to feel that way by my whole culture. That doesn’t mean I can’t critique that and try to unlearn it. I have been unlearning it, thanks to feminism.

    Re: lesbian and gay BDSM. Lesbians and gays live in a patriarchy too. We are taught like everyone else that dominance and submission is “sexy” and that “vanilla” sex is less interesting than “kinky” sex. It’s no wonder that some gays and lesbians will buy into the culture that they’re indoctrinated into! It takes time and mental effort to unlearn what our culture has taught us. Also, the gay and lesbian liberation movement has merged into a “queer” movement which reinforces men’s rights, the sex industry, and sexual fetishes. It’s very much time for the different groups in the GLBT acronym to split up, particularly the lesbians.

    Re: female dommes. I once read a phrase somewhere, and I’m sorry I can’t cite the source because I forget where it came from, but someone said that female dommes are “bottoming from the top.” This means that the man who is acting the submissive is usually calling the shots and she is doing what he wants, it’s just that what he wants is to be humiliated. In our world it is men who are dominant over women because our social system makes it so. What a particular man likes in the bedroom doesn’t change that social system. Even a female domme is a member of the oppressed sex class.

    • Rich

      “Thank you so much for this! This explains all of Choosey Choice Empowerment Feminism, you know. The whole thing about focusing on “women’s choices” and “women’s agency” has the specific purpose of removing the abusive man from the picture.”

      I do think there is something “wrong” with both the men and the women who are into the heavy bdsm stuff. But– talking about female choice and agency is not just a stall to avoid talking about the men. The women who crave this kind of activity exist. They are, IMO, entitled to be taken seriously.

      If the focus is mostly on the men, then it seems to me that the women are treated as if they do not count for anything, as if their desires are just minor details that can be disregarded while the focus is on what is important, which is the men.

      Lets face it, much of feminist analysis of sex roles involves treating what millions of women want as bad for them and bad for all women, with the added point that it is not even what they really want, if they properly understood things, which they don’t.

      IMO, if you are going to give other women that kind of message, you have to be upfront about it, and it ought to be front and center, not dealt with sub silentio by focusing on the men.

      • Priscila

        I think she was indeed upfront and direct on her point that the problem with BDSM – and with patriarchy in general – is the behavior of MEN.

        Focusing on women’s “choice to be abused” derails the subject. Patriarchy means men sistemically abusing women. Period. THIS should be the focus of feminist analysis. Blabbering about how women “like it” or “don’t like it” is just one step away from victim-blaming.

        Sorry but imo you just need to read the site better. All the questions you raise have been exhaustively answered.

        • Rich

          “I think she was indeed upfront and direct on her point that the problem with BDSM – and with patriarchy in general – is the behavior of MEN.”

          “THIS should be the focus of feminist analysis.”

          I am no feminist, but I would think that a feminist would never want to dismiss the concerns, desires, and arguments of women, even when you think they are the result of false consciousness. And, IMO, that is what too much focus on the men does. I address that in my comment to Laur, below, so I won’t belabor the point here.

        • Cass

          Wait a moment.

          So, I don’t get a say about what I “like” and “don’t like” done to my own body?

          • Lee

            You get to say whatever you want. Other people aren’t obligated to agree with your perceptions, either of yoruself or of your practices.

          • corvid

            Of course you get a say. You’re saying it here. Submissive women are saying it all over the Internet.

      • Laur

        Rich,
        I think you are missing the point of why feminists try to focus on men and men’s choices. Men are the ones with real power to decide what to do and what not to do. In the BDSM context as described in the OP, the male dom can choose to not participate. A sub cannot make a BDSM encounter happen.

        I do think it is important to explore the reasons for women’s desires, while not letting patriarchy and men off the hook. Male sexuality shapes so much of who women become, including shaping our desires.

        “Lets face it, much of feminist analysis of sex roles involves treating what millions of women want as bad for them and bad for all women, with the added point that it is not even what they really want, if they properly understood things, which they don’t. ”

        Look, I think part of what you are saying in your post is valid, but this saying that we are saying that women don’t really want what they say they want, or they don’t properly understand things is a really bad reading of radical feminism. Radical feminist theory comes out of the lived experiences of women, including women who have been into BDSM. Then there are all the women who have struggled with their own submissive or non “PC” sexual fantasies. Erasing one’s sexual desires is not as simple as “properly understanding things”–radical feminists should be the first to acknowledge this.

        • Rich

          I do think the commentators on this site are generally very upfront about their issues with choice and agency. I just had an issue with the particular point that discussions of choice and agency were aimed at putting the role of the bdsm men in the background. When women come on here and say their sexuality revolves around bdsm and they take issue with the idea that there is a problem with it, I don’t think they are doing so merely, or even primarily, to stick up for the bdsm men. I think they are insisting that they be heard on issues involving their own sexuality. And IMO, they are entitled to be a prominent part of the debate on bdsm.

          “Male sexuality shapes so much of who women become, including shaping our desires.”

          Yes, but female sexuality shapes men, too. IMO, if men are ever going to change in the way feminists want us too, it is going to be because women insist upon it.

          • Laur

            Saying “female sexuality shapes men too” is completely unfair and, in my opinion, untrue. It’s the group with power that does the shaping, not the other way around. Male power can shape men, too, but I do not see male sexuality as at all a response to female sexuality.

            As to the first part of your comment, I have not seen anyone here say pro-BDSM women are just sticking up for pro-BDSM men. I don’t think this is the case at all. What I am saying is that I think there is not the difference between the sexualities of pro-BDSM women and anti-BDSM women as you make out to be. Your comments in this post tell me you are not getting the impact male sexuality has on male power and women’s sexual desires.

          • Rich

            “Saying “female sexuality shapes men too” is completely unfair and, in my opinion, untrue. It’s the group with power that does the shaping, not the other way around.”

            I strongly disagree. By the time a male is a teenager he learns that girls and women have likes and dislikes as to how males should behave, and if you act around them the way you act around your buddies, you will not appeal to them at all.

            The fact of the matter is that each sex has things they look for in the other and you have to provide that if you are going to successfully appeal to them.

          • marv

            ‘I think they are insisting that they be heard on issues involving their own sexuality. And IMO, they are entitled to be a prominent part of the debate on bdsm.’

            Victims often vigorously defend their oppressors. Witness devout Catholic women who venerate priests, bishops and the pope, or the women in Saudi Arabia who revere the feudal monarchs of the House of Saud. There are women who claim to love their sexualization by men as well. Are all these women speaking in their own voices? Undermining male hierarchies is the only conversation that can foster liberation.

            Men who jump in to uphold counter-revolutionary rights to speech are indicative of male insecurities in facing male institutional force.

          • Rich

            “There are women who claim to love their sexualization by men as well. Are all these women speaking in their own voices? Undermining male hierarchies is the only conversation that can foster liberation.”

            Whether you agree with them that they are making valid choices is a different thing than taking their position seriously.

          • Laur

            Look, every other media outlet, mainstream, conservative, and even most leftwing material, is obsessed with women and our choices. I like that feminism, or radical feminism, is one place where we can actually talk about the choices of those with power. Since feminism focuses on women, our focus needs to be on men. There are few things misogynists love more than seeing women publicly argue with one another. Yet this is exactly what you are calling for.

            I would also add, a number of the women who write criticisms of BDSM have themselves been involved with BDSM. Marv is right that every oppression has people of the oppressed group speaking in favor of it. Every single one! The ones with the power to make BDSM stop are the colonizer group, men. But, I know you see power as being equal between men and women, per your post above re: women having the same power to shape men’s sexuality as men do, women’s, so there isn’t really much more I have to say.

          • marv

            Indubitably Laur. Looking back on history one can see that the anti-abolitionists of chattel slavery had way too much speech. That is one of the reasons why the structures of command and control last so long.

            Rich has the social position of the privileged male, possibly white, bystander who has no commitment to the elimination of classes: gender, race and financial. He can afford to stand back as a self-appointed referee in debates among unequals. Within his advantaged class the man sees what he has been trained to see, thinks what he has been taught to think. He is the immovable against the resistance.

          • Rich

            I am not saying don’t discuss the men. The point I was responding to struck me as dismissive of the expressed arguments of the women who insist that bdsm is their choice and that choice is important. I was (and am) arguing that position is not a dodge to take the spotlight off the bdsm men, and that these women are entitled to be taken seriously, and that their concerns deserve to be a prominent part of the debate. Nor, by the way, am I accusing the site of ignoring these women. I was addressing that one point.

            As for women debating each other, I have expressed my views before: that is the important part of the debate. Because once a certain mass of women want to change something about relations between the sexes, men in general will adapt in response. We need to appeal to women as much as women need to appeal to us. Perhaps more. I have read lots of women state they they chose to have relationships with other women. I can’t recall reading many men making the same statement.

          • Rich

            Sorry, “I have expressed my views before” comes across as pompous. I meant to convey that I recognized I was not making a new point. Anyway, if somebody wants to skewer that, fair enough.

          • C.K. Egbert

            “Because once a certain mass of women want to change something about relations between the sexes, men in general will adapt in response.”

            No, they won’t. Men rape. Men hold the social and material power, and therefore they will dictate terms. The terms that men dictate is that women are supposed to be hurt. Men will hurt women whether women “like it” or not.

            I’ve never denied that women might “enjoy it.” But the fact that I acknowledge this doesn’t mean that I need to endorse the idea that BDSM is sexy and empowering or non-abusive. Men like hurting women; I don’t endorse that either but I certainly believe that they do.

            And for the last time: Feminism is not about choice. Everyone makes choices all the time. Feminism is about liberating women from male violence.

          • Rich

            “No, they won’t. Men rape. Men hold the social and material power, and therefore they will dictate terms.”

            Yes they will. Men need to appeal to women, just as women need to appeal to men. In order to stay in a relationship of any length of time with a woman, a man has to adapt to what she wants in many ways.

            It simply is not true that men do not change for women. Plenty of men are failures at their first significant relationships and do better in later one’s because they have learned what they need to do.

            Each sex makes changes in how they behave to appeal to the other. It is just not factual to contend that they do not.

          • Rich

            “And for the last time: Feminism is not about choice. Everyone makes choices all the time. Feminism is about liberating women from male violence. ”

            I am not saying you have to validate all the choices women make as being feminist choices. I am just saying you have to take them seriously.

          • vagabondi

            No, Rich, men don’t need to appeal to women as much as women need to appeal to men. As I pointed out on the other thread, men hoard resources. Men as a class don’t pay women as a class enough to survive for the labor that we contribute to society, so that women need to depend on men for our survival in a way that simply is not true for men. You men may feel that you’d prefer to have a woman around, but it’s not a matter of life or death for you. For most of the women in the world, it is a matter of life or death for themselves and their children.

            This is somewhat less true for a small group of women in the west, depending on class and other factors, so some people who live in that little bubble think that it’s not true at all anymore, but it is for the vast majority of the world’s women, and even those of us who have a bit of margin between us and the edge live more precariously than you realize.

            Also, it’s not true that men have to adapt themselves to women’s preference because you are violent and unpredictable. A woman who wants to leave a man has to consider whether he is going to track her down and kill her for daring to reject him. Or “merely” stalk, harrass, and beat her. A man who has trouble getting the sexual access to women that he believes he deserves MAY CHOOSE to change his behaviour to appeal to women, or he MAY INSTEAD CHOOSE to go on a rampage, like Elliot Rodger.

            Men’s choices: 1. change to appeal to women, or 2. find women who are so vulnerable that they have to put up with you anyway, or maybe 3. just go kill a bunch of people.

            Women’s choices: 1. change to appeal to men, and possibly have to put up with abuse, or 2. starve, or 3. be murdered.

            Are you really not seeing the asymmetry here? Patriarchy does everything possible to encourage power imbalances between men and women so that men can do what they want to women and women have to submit and pretend to like it.

            Example: mail-order brides.

            Example: poor, racialized, desperate, maybe drug addicted women being prostituted.

            Example: older men dating younger women are admired, older women dating younger men are ridiculed.

            Example: “I expect my wife to stay home and take care of the children.”

            Example: women with a bachelor’s degree make about the same income as men with a high school diploma, women with a master’s degree make about the same as men with a bachelor’s, etc.

            I could go on and on like this. Do you really think men’s situation is parallel to ours? Do you really think men are under the same pressure to change to appeal to women that we are to appeal to you?

            And if all else fails, if all the pressure brought to bear on women isn’t heavy enough and a few of us still refuse to do what you want, you have the option of just taking what you want. Ever heard of corrective rape?

  • marv

    ‘It simply is not true that men do not change for women. Plenty of men are failures at their first significant relationships and do better in later one’s because they have learned what they need to do.

    Each sex makes changes in how they behave to appeal to the other. It is just not factual to contend that they do not.’

    You are missing the overriding facts. Women have to make modifications to their lives in a male organized milieu. It does happen that men make alterations to their behaviour to compromise with women’s wants and demands though they don’t have to adapt to women’s structures because we don’t live in that kind of world. The nuclear family, the sex division of labour, porn, prostitution, rape, sexual harassment, the capitalist economy, the state, militarization, religions… are all illustrations of patriarchal social forms women have to contend with in different ways than men do. Women resist and accommodate to the social and physical pressures of men’s political configurations while individual men may agree to changes to suit individual women. The model may allow for social policy shifts like affirmative action so that women can become like men but no fundamental overhaul is permitted.

    The conundrum can be compared to employers making structural adjustments to keep employees from revolting without transforming to a worker run system. Wage increases and elevating some workers to the management level are examples. Albeit sexual relationships are more emotionally complex than capital/labour ones due in part to mutual tenderness, affection and a shared life that is often present between lovers. Nevertheless the group power inequities remain with clear impacts on individuals.

    You have a very dim vision of reality and an entrenched unwillingness to correct patriarchal sight. Privileged insecurity perhaps?

    • Laur

      Marv, this was a really wonderful response. I was getting frustrated with Rich’s questions, and then I realized he was talking about individual relationships. Men, like other dominant social groups, have an incredibly hard time understanding how their own privilege works.

      • marv

        Thanks so much for your feedback Laur. Your elucidations never disappoint. I was as dumb as a post before learning from feminists like you. I always feel a sense of loss when regular abolitionist commenters are absent for too long. It’s a much lonelier world without their frequent presence. All of you are my joy, my light and my laughter. Thanks to Meghan for making it all possible.

      • Rich

        “I was getting frustrated with Rich’s questions, and then I realized he was talking about individual relationships. Men, like other dominant social groups, have an incredibly hard time understanding how their own privilege works.”

        Individual relationships are the kind of relationships I have. They are the kind that everyone has. Certainly, they take place in the over all social environment. But no relationships are between the class of men and the class of women. If you come into contact with me or I you, it is as individuals.

        And each relationship is a compromise coming from the give and take between the people in it. And each therefore has its own characteristics. No relationships simply mirror group dynamics. And at least in our society, any man who does not adapt to meet the requirements of women is going to be a single man.

        • corvid

          “No relationships simply mirror group dynamics” huh? So all the men who get their sex education from porn, they’re totally all just individuals acting in individual ways, right? And porn sure does represent women as nuanced individuals, right? And when women inevitably fail to deliver as per the pornographers’ abusive narrative, well, y’all can just go back to watching porn and renting the bodies of disadvantaged women. Equality!!

          • Rich

            ““No relationships simply mirror group dynamics” huh? So all the men who get their sex education from porn, they’re totally all just individuals acting in individual ways, right? And porn sure does represent women as nuanced individuals, right? And when women inevitably fail to deliver as per the pornographers’ abusive narrative, well, y’all can just go back to watching porn and renting the bodies of disadvantaged women. Equality!!”

            Yes, while we are all subject to a certain amount of similar influences, when we come together in relationships, we do so as individuals. I have had two very significant relationships in my life, and I am not quite the same in them both, because the two women affected how I related in somewhat different ways.

            And no, we can’t go back to “renting the bodies of disadvantaged women” because what most of us want are spouses, not prostitutes. You seem to think a high percentage of men use prostitutes. Outside of particular parts of urban centers, most men rarely ever see (meaning,here, recognize) a prostitute, never mind have sex with one. I have not seen any woman I recognized as a prostitute in thirty years, since I worked in a sketchy part of a capital city and would be propositioned on my way home from working late.

            If every prostitute stopped working tomorrow, the great majority of men would never even notice.

          • corvid

            Jeez Rich, I know that men who personally physically use prostituted women are in the minority. The point is not that you all *do* this, but that you *can*. And the bulk of you aren’t making a concerted political effort to stop this from happening. Plus whom do you think stars in porn? (And don’t start in about “ethical porn”, the meaning of the word “pornography” is “pictures of prostitution.”) If all the prostituted women stopped working there would be no porn, I’m pretty sure most men would notice that.

          • corvid

            (**Meant to say there would be no new filmed porn.)

          • Rich

            “The point is not that you all *do* this, but that you *can*. And the bulk of you aren’t making a concerted political effort to stop this from happening.”

            I have only lived in the U.S., so that is all I can speak to. Prostitution is illegal in the U.S. Johns get arrested. After they are arrested, they are the subject of myriad social sanctions. People look down on them. Wives or girlfriends often leave them. If they are in certain kinds of jobs, they might be fired. They are publicly shamed by being in the newspaper, appearing in court. They are fined.

            I agree that most people don’t view suppressing prostitution as being as urgent as feminists do, but it is simply not correct to say that nothing is done to stop and discourage it.

          • corvid

            Don’t twist my words. I did not say that nothing has been done. Prostitution still exists, does it not? The majority of men watch porn that *features prostituted women* do they not? If men wanted to end prostitution, to really create the kind of socioeconomic conditions that would *make it end*, then it would end. But what we get is dinguses like you antagonizing feminists with your endless “not all men!” hand-wringing. Go bark up a different tree Rich, possibly the one Johns hang out in.

          • Rich

            “But what we get is dinguses like you antagonizing feminists with your endless “not all men!” hand-wringing. Go bark up a different tree Rich, possibly the one Johns hang out in.”

            I am not saying “not all men.” That makes it sound like the majority of men use prostitutes. The great majority of men will never use a prostitute.

            As far as men creating socio-economic conditions that will end prostitution, it is a fantasy. Apart from the fact that “men” are not a gourp that can or will do anything as a single unit, prostitution is not simply the result of socio-economic conditions, but of human conditions as well. You could raise the minimum wage to $25, and there are still people who just won’t hold down a regular job.

            Particularly if they are drug addicts. I had a cousin who was an addict. She was around forty when she died, done in by fifteen years of that life style. She had family, including a husband and a young son. She had had a pretty good job. Lots of people tried to help, but they could not. That is not fixable through socio-economic conditions. I think a lot of prostitutes are like that.

          • hak

            “prostitution is not simply the result of socio-economic conditions, but of human conditions as well”

            So some people (ie mostly women and girls) are born to be sexual slaves????

          • corvid

            Prostitution is a human rights emergency in plain sight, and the vast majority prostituted are women. The vast majority of consumers/users/abusers are men. You think men are incapable of acting as a collective, and yet you collectively built the systems we traverse and benefit from them. Would you say the same thing about racism, that white people won’t ever muster the class awareness to eradicate racism?

          • corvid

            So women’s human rights aren’t an “urgent” concern. That says it all right there, thanks for proving my point.

          • Rich

            “So women’s human rights aren’t an “urgent” concern. That says it all right there, thanks for proving my point.”

            On the hierarchy of needs for use of the police force, ending prostitution is not as urgent to most people as it is to feminists. That is not the same as saying women’s human rights are not an “urgent” concern.

          • corvid

            Yeah, we’ll sort out women’s problems (like periods and crocheting injuries and having one’s bodily orifices positioned as a marketable commodity) *after* we deal with the forever *more serious* issues that affect men, amiright?

          • Rich

            “Plus whom do you think stars in porn?”

            I don’t think of people acting out sex scenes in movies as prostitutes. I recognize that they are being paid to act out scenes for the camera that involve sex. But nobody is doing it be be sexually serviced. It is all an act on everyone’s part. And I think that is a real distinction, though I recognize that most people on here may not agree.

          • corvid

            “But ladies, don’t you see that porn movies exist in a world where untold numbers if women don’t have to suck dick for their next meal?”

          • corvid

            pardon me, “untold numbers of women”

          • ArgleBargle

            Rich, you may not be a man who has used his money to gain access to masturbate over and in the bodies of women and girls. But believe me, you are surrounded by men who have paid to gain masturbatory access to women: in strip clubs, with lap dances, in person and by watching the “sexual” humiliation and degradation of women on film. If every women who is being prostituted in person and/or on film could walk away from it tomorrow, and take the films documenting the harm done with them, it would be a revolution. In any place with internet access, you would be hard pressed to find a man who did not notice.

          • Vamp à New York

            “If every prostitute stopped working tomorrow, the great majority of men would never even notice.”

            Yeah, most men would never notice if the constant supply of new pornography uploads disappeared from the world. Pornography could stop being made today and men would be like “whatever” if they even noticed, which you’re saying they wouldn’t because you think most men don’t notice pornography, don’t notice entire buildings called strip clubs in thousands of cities (10,000 strip clubs in the USA at last count.) You think most men don’t notice a hundred cable channels streaming porno 24/7, millions of corner stores selling dozens of porno mags, or entire COUNTRIES in SE Asia that have become synonymous with pay-per-rape. You think this is all caused by a small cabal of misogynists and that rapists are a tiny aberration in a world where most men love and respect femaleness despite all the evidence that you are wrong wrong wrong.

            I never liked you, but the astonishing depths of your stupidity regarding how men’s demand for rape slavery is the driving force behind millions of children and women forced ANNUALLY onto the pile of prostituted victims makes me as disgusted with you as I am with every other navel-gazing douchebag who can’t see farther than the tip of his own dick.

          • Rich

            “Yeah, most men would never notice if the constant supply of new pornography uploads disappeared from the world.”

            How did this morph into a discussion of pornography? I did not say anything about pornography. Certainly, if pornography disappeared tomorrow, lots of men (and a fair number of women too) would miss it.

          • corvid

            BECAUSE PORNOGRAPHY LITERALLY MEANS “PICTURES OF PROSTITUTION”. Is this a reading comprehension issue Rich, or something else?

          • Rich

            I understand the derivation of the word. However as I state above, I think there is a distinction between having sex with people for money and filming sex scenes in movies. No one is doing the scenes to get sexual satisfaction, it is all an act on everyone’s part. To my mind, it is not the same thing. (It also is not treated as the same thing in our culture, legal or otherwise, so I am clearly not alone in this).

          • corvid

            Being paid to “act out” sex and sexual response is what prostitution is, emphasis on the “act out” in terms of sexual response. If you actually think porn has anything to do with women’s sexuality you are dangerously deluded. It’s about money and male power, about servicing the male consumer at the expense of female bodies and lives. It comes from a paradigm of consumption, ownership and control. Women are not items for consumption. We keep saying it and men keep ignoring us.

          • Thomas Eisenecker

            “No one is doing the scenes to get sexual satisfaction, it is all an act on everyone’s part.”

            Riiight. The male ejaculating on the woman’s face, a certain sign for HIS orgasm, for HIS pleasure, *certainly* means that no one gets “sexual satisfaction” from the scene. Nope. It’s all an act, a “fantasy”.

            You know, I could write a book about your comments. I would name it “Yeah, That’s Rich”.

          • In other words, Rich masturbates himself to images of prostituted women being prostituted but that doesn’t count as prostitution because Patriarchy strongly approves Rich’s right to this form of prostitute use as a long-distance johns and Rich is a nice guy who wouldn’t use prostituted women, so even though “technically” it’s Rich getting sexual satisfaction from the (ab)use of prostituted women, it doesn’t count.

          • Laur

            Rich, do you think men and women are unevenly situated in society? In other words, do you believe women’s words are taken less seriously than men’s, women have less confidence in themselves, men are much more likely to be called on in classes and other group settings, even by feminist instructors, a significant proportion of girls are subjected to sexual abuse, many girls and women face DAILY unwanted sexual intrusions while in public places? These are not influences men as a group, are likely to be subjected to, or subjected to even close to the same amount as women. And this is a very, very condensed list.

            You seem to be pre-supposing that men and women are equals, and therefore will influence each other equally as much. Yet, this is far from the case. Men and women are not entering the relationship with the same life expectations, self-image, and experiences. As the other poster brought up, men are so often paid more than women. This is yet another hierarchy to be factored in the relationship. But still, women, feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and fears, and are heard by men, just as much as men do so with women? Not quite. In the U.S., one out of three heterosexual relationships involves intimate partner violence. One out of three!!! But yet, “women change men just as much as men change women” is all you have to say??

            There have been some studies done on how people change over time in a relationship. It’s been shown that when women who are democrats (the U.S. “liberal” party)marry men with more conservative views, the women’s own views are likely to become more conservative over time. The man holds onto his views; maybe he becomes even more conservative. He isn’t swayed by what his female partner may or may not say about politics.

            Think about how men talk about women when women aren’t around, Rich. We’re all part of this culture, and, there’s one group of people who everything they do gets turned into sex: women. But apparently, women are able to impact men just as much as men impact women. Ooohkkaaay. I’d like to know where you live ’cause I’d like to move there.

          • Rich

            “These are not influences men as a group, are likely to be subjected to, or subjected to even close to the same amount as women.”

            Yes, I get that.

            “You seem to be pre-supposing that men and women are equals, and therefore will influence each other equally as much.”

            I am saying that men and women both influence each other in relationships, and that men who do not adapt to fit the wishes of the women they are in relationships with will not be in those relationships long.

            At the relationship level, which partner has more influence on the other depends upon a lot of factors, prominent among which is their temperaments. I have been involved with very assertive, strong minded women and women who were much less so. The relationship dynamic was somewhat different in each case.

            “It’s been shown that when women who are democrats (the U.S. “liberal” party)marry men with more conservative views, the women’s own views are likely to become more conservative over time. The man holds onto his views; maybe he becomes even more conservative. He isn’t swayed by what his female partner may or may not say about politics” I am not familiar with the study. That may well be true. All I can say is, my wife is far more liberal than I am, and neither of our politics have changed because we are married to each other.

          • corvid

            Zzzzzzzzzzz…….

          • marv

            Rich you have made it abundantly clear you dispute the existence of sex and race classes, at least in the USA. You said somewhere that we are just a bunch of individuals in a social environment.

            I am not fond of Buddhism but it has a teaching about a person’s lack of consciousness that I will spin and apply to you – third eye blind. You have spent your whole life seeing conventionally, conforming to a male liberal conservative worldview. Instead of breaking out of your social blindness by opening the eye of your mind heart to feminism you have the audacity to come into a space for survivors of male and white supremacy and instruct them what the real truth of life is.

            You made the same tedious point numerous times. I am guessing that’s one of the reasons corvid fell asleep. I hope to god she didn’t pass away. Why hang around as an unwanted visitor? You and Cass could create your own blog. And if you have any respect for the Feminist Current you should leave a hefty donation on the way out as partial compensation for emotional damages.

          • Laur

            Marv,

            “You said somewhere that we are just a bunch of individuals in a social environment.”

            Yikes! I hadn’t realized just how bad his thinking is. He clearly doesn’t want to admit that he believes “individual” women are not subordinated to “individual” men. Nevermind that sexual abuse and sex discrimination always take place between two or more INDIVIDUALS. How come so many men heterosexual men are suddenly expecting anal sex as part of what heterosexual women “do”? Something in the air? Something like…pornography? If we are limited by looking at only individuals, few social movements could exist, let alone make actual change.

            I really don’t want to spend much time engaging men who do not have already at least a basic understanding that women are subordinated to men. And you’ve made an excellent suggestion to Rich on how to shut the door quietly on his way out (by giving a substantial donation to FC).

            And in response to your other post Marv, thank you for the sweet comments of support. They mean a lot to me. It is good to know what I write is being read and taken into consideration by others. That’s the kind of thing we all want from these posts.

          • marv

            Your words (and the others’) are pure oxygen in a patriarchal polluted world – the breath of life.

          • Rich

            “You made the same tedious point numerous times.”

            Yes, in response to someone else’s comment on the point. You make it sound like I was the only one in the conversation.

            “Why hang around as an unwanted visitor? You and Cass could create your own blog. And if you have any respect for the Feminist Current you should leave a hefty donation on the way out as partial compensation for emotional damages.”

            I discuss why I post here in the comment below. And as I say there, I will stop if the people here want me to. (I assume the “emotional damage” thing is intended to be humor. I doubt that anyone here is so fragile that someone merely disagreeing with them politely will cause emotional damage.)

          • corvid

            1) Marv was joking.
            2) The difference between reasoned debate and irritating, redundant trolling has something to do with understanding the other party’s position and addressing where their arguments invalidate your own.

          • Cass

            Emotional damages?

            From having mild-mannered discussions on a blog?

            That’s a … remarkable claim

          • corvid

            Haha! You’re one to talk.

          • marv

            “1) Marv was joking.”

            Yes I was just trying to poke a little fun at this circular debate. If we go round and round we may as well put some merry into it.

            Not intending to make lite of anyone who may have been actually triggered by the discussion though.

          • Laur

            “I am not familiar with the study. That may well be true. All I can say is, my wife is far more liberal than I am, and neither of our politics have changed because we are married to each other.”

            And your point, is…??? Ah, none made!

            Rich, you didn’t bother to answer the VERY FIRST question I asked, which was whether you believed men and women are unevenly situated in society. I then went on to name just a handful of ways this plays out in society. This was, to me, the most important question I asked you, which was why I put it at the very beginning of my post. Yet you evaded answering it. Women here are free to come to their own conclusions about why.

            I’m not sure what your point in posting here is. Do you see yourself as giving advice to feminists? If so, we don’t want it. I see you arguing with women about our own reality, which is an incredible mindfuck. I can think of many ways men can be useful to feminism, and posting what you are here is not one of them.

          • vagabondi

            That’s what he does every time. He picks out the least important thing you wrote to respond to, ignores the rest. It’s a crazymaker technique.

          • Rich

            “Rich, you didn’t bother to answer the VERY FIRST question I asked, which was whether you believed men and women are unevenly situated in society.”

            Yes, I did answer it, when I pasted in:

            “These are not influences men as a group, are likely to be subjected to, or subjected to even close to the same amount as women.”

            and then answered: “yes, I get that.” I was not trying to evade the question, I was trying to avoid pasting in the whole question, as too much pasting makes the post too long.

            As to what I am doing here, I have always been interested in feminism, probably because I have always been interested in women, and also in ideology. And when I am interested in something I like to discuss it. Where better to discuss it than here?

            I am not trying to “give advice” to feminists. I just like to discuss these topics.

            “I see you arguing with women about our own reality, which is an incredible mindfuck.”

            IMO, you don’t have your own reality. Neither do I. There is only one reality. We all just have different perceptions of it.

            As the “mindfuck” part, from my perspective, if someone does not like what I say they have a number of options. They can blast it (or me), ignore it, or discuss it. But if the general consensus is that I should simply stop posting, I will. I am not trying to wind anybody up.

          • corvid

            The reason this is so frustrating Rich is that we have been saying the same things for years, and yet instead of actually learning something about our position BEFORE engaging in debate with us, gentlemen such as yourself figure the presence of your dick is enough to guarantee that you will be right always, in this super-casual and totally entertaining DEBATE ABOUT OUR LIVES. Fer chrissakes.

  • Cass

    Oh well, I realize that it’s quite pointless for me to comment, but here goes…

    I am a bisexual (mostly women, but occasional male can be fine, too) non-white submissive woman.

    I do, as a matter of fact enjoy acts that some would consider degrading (including “heavy” flogging, bondage, gagging) and consider those to be “authentic” desires for myself (as a matter of fact, few things in life bring me as much pure joy as those activities).

    Of course, you may object that it is just a culture of BDSM indoctrination affecting me – but your claims that my beliefs and desires are products of “media coercion/indoctrination” hold about as much water as those of some of my peers who insist that I have been “indoctrinated” by media into not wanting to marry a man and give birth to a little truckload of children (not that I care, but I can’t help noticing a pattern – just like you, they are convinced they know what’s better “for my own good”, just happen to have a slightly different “good” in mind).

    What passes as “conscious-raising” for one is, pretty much by definition, insidious propaganda for others. You can’t get out of it without postulating some kind of naturalist origin of ethics, and we all know how well those tend to sail (about as well as a tungsten brick)

    Oh, and don’t get me started that “you don’t mean to change things I, Cass, like, but want to change what others can do to me”, it is just trying to do same thing from a different end.

    You’re to shy to call for institutionalizing or prosecuting people like me, so you think that you may cunningly achieve the same outcome by doing “something” about people who do “things” to me – things I like and sincerely enjoy.

    Essentially you want to change my life without my consent (hell, pretty much against it!) because you know what “proper” desires of a woman are and what is “good” for me, and you hope that this entire project will go smoothly because “technically” you avoid directly “touching” me in any physical manner.

    That may seem like a “good” thing to you, but as far as I am concerned, it’s an insidious and hollow ploy – not entirely different from similar ploys of (relatively) clever anti-abortionists who are very busy saving “women’s immortal souls” and “helpless unborn children” by limiting cheap, accessible pregnancy management options (they too, technically, don’t “touch” the pregnant woman, just the doctors and the medical infrastructure needed to provide safe reproductive choices)

    P.S.:
    As to your five wonderful questions, first, saying that “I haven’t heard a satisfactory answer to these concern” without some clear guideline as to what would be a satisfactory answer is just sophistry worthy of Newt “she was dying anyway-so” Gingrich

    Is it some vaguely plausible but practically untested answer that you would find personally convincing?

    Is it some answers that have been scientifically proven to be accurate and lead to demonstrated improvement of measurable outcomes?

    Because if the former, it does not appear to be a particularly worthwhile thing to do (it’s like trying to tell a Marxist what is your reason for not believing in a common-human Gattungswesen) , and if the latter, than no existing cultural theory/program/policy has produced such answers (including your own!) and thus BDSM is in no way special, and no way different from whatever system you might actually really favor.

    P.P.S.:
    As to “how a 24/7 BDSM relationship differs from a really weird instance of domestic abuse”, I’d say the same way as participating in a medieval historical reenactment play differs from being maimed in a real medieval war.

    • corvid

      Nobody here would doubt the fact that your enjoyment of pain is “authentic”, that’s beside the point. You want to make this personal, but it’s not, it’s systemic criticism. You’re making a lot of completely baseless claims… anti-abortionists? Newt Gingrich?? Seriously? The point here is to consider the implications of BDSM for the culture we, you and us, must together inhabit, and for women as a class. Baseless claims, temper tantrums and avoiding the real issues are tactics that might work for you in your personal life,  but they won’t help you here. (And they say it just stays in the bedroom.)

      • Cass

        Excuse me, but the tactic seemingly espoused herein (we’re not against you, just people whom you like and who do things you enjoy to you) is remarkably similar to the “we don’t go after women having abortions, just after the doctors, the funding, and the medical infrastructure that makes abortions available” which is the go-to approach of modern anti-abortionist.

        As to your culture claim, are you tacitly implying that my particular way of living my lesbian relationship is somehow affecting the larger culture (and the entire female class) in a negative way?

        How does one go about proving this claim (or, for that matter, disproving it, to preserve this thing called “falsifiability” thing we’d better also devote some time to thinking of ways to disprove a claim)?

        I mean, no offense, but you do sound a little bit like media “research” alarmists of yore who claimed that TV violence is going to cause a massive wave of violent crime (I’m old enough to remember that and I’m still waiting for the crime wave and world anarchy…)

        • corvid

          Equating feminists to anti-abortionists is an egregious reversal of feminist politics and reality in general. I would like you to please demonstrate where anyone on this website has advocated for any specific legal (or otherwise) consequences for BDSM practitioners, like your anti-abortionists. Because nobody has, and wouldn’t a claim to the contrary mean you are engaging in the very type of argumentation you deride? Abuse is already illegal, but The Man isn’t busting down your bedroom door because The Man loves the idea of women loving torture. Loves it so much that he’ll let a man off the hook for killing a woman in the context of “sex.” If you don’t think the glamorization of sexualized violence against women negatively affects other women, you haven’t been paying attention to those who have been sharing their stories of BDSM used as a catch-all excuse for male aggression and gaslighting. You will find some of these stories right here. I lived this myself. What I am asking you to do is look outside yourself and recognize where other women are entitled to skepticism and critique.

          • Cass

            So basically you contest that position expressed in this post is not supposed to translate into any legal measures or at the very least social shaming?

            So, the intended outcome of a three-part piece about how the lifestyle that brings me joy (and did so for a decade” is “and then we do nothing at all” ?

            That’s…

            … kinda sad.

          • corvid

            The intention is to ask tough questions and foster critical thinking around the way our culture views and treats women. You know, critical analysis. Sorry if that doesn’t contain the requisite amount of blood and guts for your liking.

          • vagabondi

            I can’t speak for everyone here, but what I’d like to see come out of discussions like this is for our daughters to not be broken in their childhoods, so that they won’t be socialized into believing that it’s OK for people to hurt them. So that they won’t believe that love hurts, that someone can love them and yet want to control, dominate, and injure them. It’s too late for us. We’ve been conditioned already, we’re forever going to salivate when the bell rings.

            I am not a believer in any of the Big Three patriarchal religions, so I’m a little hesitant to use this metaphor, but I do think the part of the story where the Israelites had to wander in the desert for forty years is very telling. Because someone who has been born and raised a slave is never going to be free, really, down inside, and can’t create the promised land. But maybe our children can.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Exactly, Vagabondi (though for the record, I think for multiple reasons that we do need to socially enforce prohibitions against assault).

            This is where liberals/sex-positivsts don’t seem to get the “social coercion” part of the argument. Of course women are going to “want” (or at least “consent”, as in acquiesce) to being abused because abuse is normalized within our society and they are conditioned to it. Unless we can show girls what abuse looks like, and let them know they are entitled to respect, having boundaries (that don’t need to include whatever men want them to do), we won’t get anymore.

            More importantly, we need to be able to tell men “it is never okay to abuse a woman.”

            Even something as simple as “sex shouldn’t hurt” is something that sex positivists will never say. This is why they focus on consent, because consent is easily acquired when someone is in a vulnerable social position, punished for any assertions of self respect, and broken into believing they are merely objects to be hurt.

    • Lee

      Oh, Cass, you are so persecuted by a blog critiquing something you do in your life. It’s not like you have mainstream movies, porn, feminists, culture, Playboy, Rihanna, advertising, celebrities, giant media conglomerates, et. al. backing you up on your ‘authentic’ enjoyment or anything. Poor, poor, poor, oppressed BDSM-ers…

  • Miep

    I have tried over and over and over again to unsubscribe myself from this comment thread but your software just won’t do it for me.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I think I’ve unsubscribed you — let me know if you keep getting comments to your email!

  • Cass

    Upon some further thought

    “Masochistic women couldn’t even claim a harm, since no one is entitled to demand that anyone else participate in their sexual practices or desires (whatever they may be)”

    Actually, as a masochistic bisexual woman, I’d claim a harm.

    I’d claim a harm and be outraged and do anything in my power to leave your “utopia”, because you have taken and impinged upon something I deeply enjoy (and the fact that you seek to do so by somehow “removing” the people I love and with whom I seek to share deeply intimate and joyful experiences only would make your atrocity worse)

    It’s funny how positively smug you are about depriving other women of cherished aspects of their life simply because those necessitate a partner for a mutual practice you find distasteful.

    • bella_cose

      I read about a study that said the bdsm scene has a larger proportion of narcissists than the general population. What’s interesting to me, is that in every comment thread, the comments of those defending bdsm prove that study over and over. How many times does someone have to ask you to look past your personal, individual wants and feelings in order to see the impact of certain behaviors on culture and society, and women as a class? It’s like trying to have a reasonable discussion with a 2 year old throwing a tantrum.

      • lizor

        “I read about a study that said the bdsm scene has a larger proportion of narcissists than the general population. What’s interesting to me, is that in every comment thread, the comments of those defending bdsm prove that study over and over. ”

        So true, isn’t it? That’s why I opt out of most exchanges. It’s a waste of time with people who can’t see beyond their own nose and are projecting (or just inventing) all over the place.

      • Cass

        So, you have evidence that I and my loved ones (specifically, the sadistic woman who is currently – and for foreseeable future – my only sex partner) are contributing to something bad for society as a whole?

        Kind of like “second-hand whipping”, perhaps?

        Do you have evidence that could convince me that should I break up with her and live a life of chastity or rather unfulfilling vanilla sex, women in general / society in general will experience some improvement?

        I mean, I could consider sacrificing my happiness for “happiness of others”, but I’d like to be sure that increase in “happiness” for others that is supposed is not a figment of someone’s overactive imagination (and I’m still waiting for the hyperviolence storm that the “violent media” was supposed to cause in the 90ies… any time now, right?)

        • corvid

          Nobody gives a crap what you do in your personal life. But when you enter a public arena and make seriously fucked-up allegations against women who are trying to fight the culture that is harming us, you are committing a political act.

        • Aftercare-Is-Gaslighting

          Cass…
          You tremendously enjoy being heavily flogged and gagged, but you’re terrified by a little bit of “social shaming”?
          Oh, come on, isn’t shame part and parcel of the game of loving to be dominated and subdued? I’m sure you can cope with that, and even get a handful of orgasms from it.

          And if ever you are short of sadists generous enough to torture you, don’t worry: I guess most people on that blog (bloggers and visitors) can collaborate to give you a long, long, long list of the addresses of the sadists and rapists we know to console you. Your saviors would be overjoyed to sadistically beat the hell out of you to make you feel much better.

          Well, seriously, your discourse is so inconsistent and nonsensical that I really wonder if you are but a joke.
          But there’s nothing funny with spitting like you do on abuse victims and with defending their abusers’ right to perform their sadistic whims on others.

    • corvid

      Oh no! Feminists are taking over the world and installing an Orwellian “feminist utopia” where poor submissive women would be DEPRIVED of precious orgasms and the agency to be beaten at will! It’s an ATROCITY!!!

      Honestly I wish you could hear yourself.

    • C.K. Egbert

      “I’d claim a harm and be outraged and do anything in my power to leave your “utopia”, because you have taken and impinged upon something I deeply enjoy (and the fact that you seek to do so by somehow “removing” the people I love and with whom I seek to share deeply intimate and joyful experiences only would make your atrocity worse)”

      You can’t claim a harm, because people are not obligated to indulge in your fantasies. I don’t recall either positing a “feminist utopia” (I don’t do ideal theory), or advocating killing people.

      We don’t permit “consensual murder” in most cases (or there are clear preconditions on when and why it is permissible). If I wanted to die (not meeting these preconditions–I wasn’t terminally ill or in severe physical pain, etc.) and I could find no one to kill me, I could not claim that I have been harmed.

      I can only compel other people to cooperate in my projects when I can claim an actual right to something (food, shelter, protection, etc.). Sexual activity of any kind is never something to which you are entitled from someone else. Women are entitled to not be abused, and not to be gas lighted into believing abuse is normal and good.

      • Cass

        So basically, you’d very much like to cleverly put me in a situation where there are no people willing to give me what I, as a woman and human being, want (because you “have standards” and want others to conform), but you are shy and thus don’t call for killing people (that still leaves enough room for institutionalization or vicious shaming campaigns), is that about right?

        Meghan’s kinda right with her comment way above, I guess I should be goin’.

        Bye

        • Simon

          A world in which no one gets a thrill through hurting women? You wouldn’t give up any number of orgasms for that?

          Astonishing

        • corvid

          Soooo your biggest concern here is the prospect of feminist activism reducing your pool of potential sexual partners. Mmm-hmm.

  • Simon

    I may depart from the other commenters here, but I would indeed like to see the law act when BDSM hurts people: at the least, the availability of civil remedies for individuals injured by BDSM practices; preferably, criminal penalties for “doms” whose partners report they were subjected to BDSM as well.

    • Rich

      I think the criminal law is more unsettled in this area then people realize. Whether a prosecutor would be interested in charging would depend upon the facts, but there is certainly a level of activity that might lead to prosecution regardless of consent.

      On the civil side, a plaintiff could bring such a claim, particularly if it was based on the allegation that agreed upon limits were not respected or safe words not honored. I would expect those allegations would get the plaintiff past a motion for summary judgment. It would then go to trial and a jury would decide. Again, a lot would depend upon the facts and who was on the jury.

  • The Real Cie

    I am no expert in this topic and can only speak from personal experience. I was sexually molested by a relative at a young age. Most of my early sexual experiences were coercive. I gave in although I really didn’t want to and hated myself for it.
    I spent literally decades fantasizing about being degraded and humiliated. It was the only way I could get off, was fantasizing about being beaten and forced into sex by multiple partners. I didn’t want this in real life. However, on an emotional level I always chose men who abused me emotionally, physically, or both. It took me a long time to admit that I felt I deserved to be treated this way because of the stain on my soul from having been forced into sexual activity at a young age.
    My current partner (whom I never expected to find) is very gentle. I never thought I’d enjoy being treated in such a fashion. He never shamed me abut my thoughts, however, he wasn’t keen on humiliating me. We talked about why I had these fantasies and I was finally able to let them go. We do like to talk dirty to each other during sex, but he absolutely, positively does not want to cause me physical pain or degradation, and I no longer desire such things.
    I don’t suppose I can say that all BDSM submissives come from a background of having been abused, but I do wonder if a fair number of them have.

    I take exception to Cass’ assertion about larger people “choosing” to be the size we are, and her thought that being big is inherently “unhealthy.” I did not choose to be a big person–why the hell would I do that in a society that hates larger people? However, I can say that I’m actually healthier than I ever was in the past since I finally came to accept myself at this size and am no longer constantly trying to force my body to become what it does not want to be. I’m not blaming her for this fallacious thinking, because we as a society have been brainwashed to believe the fat = unhealthy lie.

    • corvid

      I remember reading somewhere that bigger people are actually often healthier, more fertile, etc. As someone who is tall and has often been underweight due to body-image problems, I can attest to having poor circulation, fatigue and nutrient deficiencies among other mental and physical issues. Any satisfaction I have derived from my appearance has been pretty much hollow and fleeting and entirely destructive to my development as a person. There have been a number of world cultures that have regarded being big as being prosperous, a positive thing. Not so in our culture where women are held to a standard so tiny that we may as well disappear altogether. “Plus-sized” often starts at size 12! It has the effect of keeping us in line, keeping us down.

  • Hanakai

    You are not kinky. You are pathological.

    Hurting women is sick and twisted.

    Healthy organisms seek pleasure and seek to avoid pain. Unhealthy sick and twisted organisms do the opposite, they seek pain and mistake it for pleasure. Get help. You are not a healthy organism.