This is how they broke our grandmothers

witch hunt

Once, there were witches. No. There were never witches. Not in the way men said, anyway.

Once, there were many Indigenous polytheist and animist faith traditions in what is now Western Europe. Their customs supported varying levels of respect and authority for women. They had holy women, woman healers, and woman leaders.

Once, there was a church that was a kingdom, built on the body of the Roman Empire, which itself was built on the abduction and rape of the Sabine women. This church was a principality in truth, ruled by princes who had a lust for land and gold that was almost as insatiable as their burning hatred for women.

They converted heads of state and demanded tithes of members, while leaving most local governance alone. They created a very early, very ephemeral transnational empire that required little in the way of personnel or men under arms, and was mainly concerned with governing what’s often classed as the private sphere.

Eventually, the church’s client states had a problem keeping their peasants in line, because the church and the aristocracy wanted to steal all the land and privatize it for themselves through enclosure of the commons.

As Sylvia Federici explains in her book, Caliban and the Witch, secular authorities eventually hit on the popular strategy of giving everything that women had to men, including the women themselves. Civil servants didn’t forget to account for the economic value of women’s work; rather, it was explicitly written out of economic accounting — declared to have no value during the enclosure era. Male tradesmen coordinated boycotts of female competitors and of men who worked with them. Women who persisted in trying to engage in public trades were harassed, called “whores” or “witches,” or were even assaulted without repercussion.

Eventually, to be a woman in public alone was very nearly synonymous with being presumed a witch or prostituted woman. Violence against women was both normalized and sexualized. Women were increasingly driven into prostitution if no man supported them or if they were pushed outside of polite society through accusations of misbehavior, unsanctioned relationships, or sexual abuse. In the sex trade, upstanding men in their communities could torture these women at will, their victims the only party subject to legal sanction.

In order to do their part in solving the problem of the revolting peasantry and acquire their own share of the former commons, the church stepped up to bless this destruction of women’s rights and independence with the seal of divine approval. Their priests invented witches. That is, they invented women who worshipped and had sex with the Devil, who then gave them ludicrous powers — what feminist historian Max Dashu calls “diabolism.” The church further asserted that everything that wasn’t approved as Christian was diabolism.

Again, there weren’t any witches as the church defined them. The pornographic, diabolist image described in the Malleus Maleficarum didn’t refer to any existing persons. For the most part, it didn’t even refer to things that are possible, in spite of the fact that some Indigenous spiritual and women’s health practices were included as evidence of witchcraft.

“Witches” were just women. That’s what men meant, in their own words.

“All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman… What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours… When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil… Women are by nature instruments of Satan — they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation.” – Malleus Maleficarum

Diabolism was so broadly defined that any female rejection of male authority was potential evidence of witchcraft. Any woman could be a witch. Any look or word that offended a man, any angry speech, any unnecessary fraternization with other women, any sexual activity outside church-approved relations — all could trigger a charge of witchcraft.

Accusations could also be levied for material gain, as the church or state could then seize the property of the accused or charge them ruinous fines for a chance at freedom. Jews and Muslims were targeted as well, fitting the expansive view of diabolism as synonymous with being non-Christian, conveniently enriching the prosecuting authorities.

It became a major public project to humiliate and subjugate women, or to get women and girls to testify against their accused mothers and then stand at the front as they were executed.

Women could also be made to wear scold’s bridles, or branks, in public for speaking out of turn to any man, including their husbands, or for simply being poor and too old to work. The injuries sometimes sustained while they were paraded through the streets would have been life-threatening in the days before modern medicine and antibiotics.

When chattel slavery was instituted in the colonies, the brank was used as a method of breaking the will of slaves. It had worked so well with the women back in the old country, after all. Throughout the colonies, subjugated peoples were controlled after the initial conquest in ways that strongly echoed the patterns of dominance European men had been trained to enact towards their female peers.

Again, every woman was maybe a disobedient witch who might displease her Lord or master. Every woman needed strict control to keep her in line and loyal in allegiance to men. The fact that the last two sentences are both true and sound like purple prose from a BDSM story should indicate that these attitudes remain with us. Eventually, European men no longer needed to burn their women alive or subject them to public torture in order to get them to cooperate, to be quieter, or to consent to play along willingly, even eagerly, in their own submission.

“Sadomasochism is an institutionalized celebration of dominant/subordinate relationships. And, it prepares us either to accept subordination or to enforce dominance. Even in play, to affirm that the exertion of power over powerlessness is erotic, is empowering, is to set the emotional and social stage for the continuation of that relationship, politically, socially, and economically. Sadomasochism feeds the belief that domination is inevitable and legitimately enjoyable.” – Audre Lorde

When men are put under constant surveillance, restricted in their speech, dehumanized, otherized as dirty and innately evil, or subject to torture or murder on the barest pretexts, all in hopes of a societal rebirth from the decadence of carnal softness, they call it fascism.

When women have to teach their daughters to conform to that sort of oppression, generation after generation, without any other hope of survival, men call it the natural order.

People seem to think that it was so long ago, it could hardly matter. Or that it only affected witches, whoever they were, and they sound like awful, terrible women, anyway, didn’t they.

The important thing to realize is that “witches” were just women that men were either jealous of, felt threatened by, or didn’t like. In practice, those were the triggering conditions for getting tried as a witch. More simply, witches were just women. Potentially all women.

To survive, women under the Inquisition submitted to isolating themselves away from the friendships of other women, and learned to be very good at making men like them. They taught their daughters to do the same.

For hundreds of years, any woman could be taken away to jail to be tortured and sexually assaulted. Any women could be pornographically tortured in public before her execution, in front of her family if she had any.

Why didn’t she speak up? That’s why. Why didn’t she stand up for other women? That’s why. European men ritually abused women for expressing any social solidarity with each other, or independence for themselves, for generations.

Men forced women to testify against other women, even their own mothers, to live. Yet they still mock women as jealous and spiteful of each other, still joke about “cat fights.”

The destruction of women’s history of community leadership, economic independence, and support for each other wasn’t so complete that there was no evidence remaining. But the living cultural practice of female solidarity was so utterly destroyed that it’s still newsworthy for us to talk about supporting each other.

Long after they stopped burning us alive in public, women could still be removed from public life to asylums, or subjected to torture, for displeasing men or showing too much independence. They could be abused for being pregnant or an unmarried mother.

When domestic violence wasn’t a crime, that meant it was still legal for a man to torture his wife in the privacy of their home if she displeased him. Or for no reason at all. The state considered it a matter of public health and safety to prosecute assaults, except of a man against his wife, which was legal. Marital rape wasn’t a crime in all 50 U.S. states until 1993. And given that barely one per cent of rapists ever see a day in jail in even the most supposedly egalitarian countries, that form of male torture against women is still effectively legal, also.

Individual men sometimes go to great lengths to plan to commit abuses against women and children, and this is often written off as inevitable misfortune. Other men often cover up for them out of a sense that they should give the male perpetrator the benefit of the doubt — an attitude which even police seem to extend to accused men, but often lack for female victims, empathy for women having been burned right out of our social norms. Male coverups and victim blaming is how individual misdeeds are transformed into what Andrea Dworkin called the barricade of sexual terrorism.

There are women still alive today who were simply disappeared from their communities for unsanctioned sexual activity. Maybe they became pregnant “out of wedlock,” outside the control of a husband, whether by choice or rape, and their children were taken from them. They were the girls who went away, either to give a child up for coerced adoption or to be committed to psychiatric hospitals and possibly treated with electroshock.

If you make the men angry, you can just disappear. That’s been true for a very long time. So many men still act in expectation of the instant obedience such fear can command, that the tragedy continues.

These forms of abuse were exported to colonized states, and having started as a political persecution of women for economic gain, they metastasized into a political persecution and style of conquest employed against non-Christian peoples across the world.

The theft of children from Indigenous populations by settler states, alone, is an ongoing rights violation that differs more in scale than in kind from the historical thefts of children from “wayward” white women. It’s a logical consequence of societies operating under the cumulative presumption that only (white) men really have any rights to children; damn the mother, damn the child themselves, damn the forcibly “feminized” masses of the brutally subjugated.

The Inquisition certainly didn’t invent patriarchy, torture, or reigns of public terror designed to break the will of a conquered people. Yet it did set in motion a powerful set of social norms that remain with us. And even though the world has changed so much that the Catholic Church has apologized for persecuting heretics, such apologies are rare among the other churches and governments that murdered people on allegations of diabolism.

Women continue to be driven out of employment by male harassment, publicly vilified in sex-specific ways, tortured for entertainment in the sex industry, and killed for displeasing men.

As then, as ever, these injuries add up to degradation and disadvantage. Though they feel very personal when we are subject to them, the men who benefit from driving us out of public competition for power and resources don’t really care who we are. If another woman was in our place, they’d do it to her.

It’s the result of a centuries long, deliberate political project of destroying women’s will, power, and independence. That power and independence won’t be restored without similarly deliberate political resistance. Because, as Lierre Keith says, oppression is not a misunderstanding.

This is how they made her a political prisoner in her own home. This was how they broke her. Remember.

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States.

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  • Cangle

    This is one of the most cogent historical synopses of women’s enslavement I’ve ever seen in print. THIS is why I give a monthly small donation to FC!!!! THIS! Thank you.

  • Cangle

    And, I remember in my DNA my “junk DNA” all this memory is in there….recognizeable. How many of my ancestors burned?

    I know that town records in Europe document women’s deaths during Burning Times, we should all do Ancestry dot com, document how we are OWNeD reparation by this dirty church. For our property, our murdered relations, stolen everything STOLEN.

    Female Reparations – empty that Vatican coffer.

  • therealcie

    “Women’s work” (i.e. nursing, housekeeping, child care) is still looked down on as lesser, and those of us who hold viewpoints contrary to those of the male dominated church and government are still seen as dangerous and to be silenced.
    Natasha, this is an amazing and powerful piece. It brought tears to my eyes. As someone who was accused of “devil worship” back in junior high and high school because I was a feminist, held socialist viewpoints (I once dared to say that “socialized medicine such as they have in Sweden, seems like a good idea to me”), and liked the “devil music” (hard rock and metal). The way I was treated actually drove me away from the church and into exploring witchcraft. It took many years before I stopped having nightmares about the devil and hell.
    In junior high, I was also accused of being a “slut” and there were rumors that I had numerous abortions because I’d had sex with so many guys. The truth was, I was so naive about sex that I believed a blow job was blowing in someone’s ear and had no idea why anyone would like that.
    I’ve learned over the years that women who speak out against the establishment tend to have people try to shut them down. A lot of these people would love to still be able to burn us at the stake, or at the very least humiliate us publicly and get away with it.

  • Alienigena

    “Eventually, the church’s client states had a problem keeping their
    peasants in line, because the church and the aristocracy wanted to steal
    all the land and privatize it for themselves through enclosure of the
    commons.”

    Given the recent visit of Prince William and Kate Middleton to Canada I am left wondering why the British crown is so celebrated in Canada. I mean the crown was central to the enclosure movements in Britain (they needed the support of the aristocracy, whom they bribed with land and additional titles). The mass displacement of people from Scotland (enclosure movement began in 1700s (and ramped up in early 1800s), at least a century later than southern England) and from England. Some of the Scottish people went to Ireland and displaced the Irish. These same people who were displaced over a few centuries would have been some of the colonists to the New World. So the British crown and aristocracy should be held to account for precipitating the mass movement of people to North America. They created the conditions (impoverishment, landlessness, etc.) that led to people feeling the need to move to North America. Of course the people displaced by the enclosure movements then displaced indigenous people in North America and on and on it goes. I don’t think the majority of people moved to North America to pursue religious freedoms, the majority came because of economic (and literal survival) reasons.

    I had read that women were pushed (sometimes violently) out of traditional work (as healers, apothecaries) and commercial enterprises (e.g. making of alcohol and running of pubs). “After the colonization of America, women were the family brewers,
    crafting rich beers from corn, pumpkins, artichokes, oats, wheat, honey,
    and molasses.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/women-and-beer-a-4-500-year-history-is-coming-full-circle/281338/

    https://www.nwhm.org/blog/women-beer-a-forgotten-pairing/

    With industrialization the craft of beer brewing was also mechanized and women ceased to be involved.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Given the recent visit of Prince William and Kate Middleton to Canada I am left wondering why the British crown is so celebrated in Canada.”

      I have no idea. It is totally baffling to me why anyone would celebrate the British monarchy.

      • lagattamontral

        Fortunately they aren’t very popular in Québec and rarely set foot here.

    • lagattamontral

      The English aristocracy mastered divide and rule, as per that example of Irish and Scottish crofters who were deemed less profitable than sheep.

    • Liz

      And continues today, with women pushed out of computer programming as soon as men realized it is more than secretarial work

      • pennyroyal

        women pushed out of the healing arts, from midwives to male doctors who brutalized women, infecting them with ‘childbed fever’ which killed hundreds of thousands. They didn’t know anything about germs but basic sanitation would have stopped them from bedside to bedside to stuff their finger up the women’s vagina. And going from corpse dissection of women who had just died to healthy women who has just delivered.

        The midwives kept everything clean during deliveries. This is out of a sense of order and ‘rightness’. But midwives were persecuted as witches and ‘filthy’ and unscientific. When Semmelweis tried to show them the germs under his microscope (they were new), they brushed him aside. He tried to get them to wash their hands, take off their bloody lab coats, and use carbolic acid to clean their hands they refused. Thousands more died. It’s a tragic story, seldom told. I’m not anti-science, but male attitudes of superiority, and the callous doctors wanting to make money doomed many women.

      • PhoenicianPrincess88 .

        I think men try to push women out of jobs when they realize that the jobs will advance our individual or collective freedom.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thank you for sharing this story, Alienigena! How incredibly sad and unfair it all is.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Indeed. Having all this on public record somewhere would be incredibly useful. Incredibly upsetting, too, but I do think it’s important we bring the reality and history of misogyny out into the light — people these days seems to almost not believe women’s oppression — like they don’t understand the extent to which it happened, how gruesome it is and has been, etc.

    • anne

      We need feminist museums that will feature the suppressed history, all of it, in every capital world wide.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Same.

    • Wren

      Oh definitely same.

  • Girl with a Knife

    Your comment makes no sense. You say this article “simply views”, like it’s reduced something down to something smaller, when you’ve decided that only burnings matter, and not the torture, not the hassling and harassment, not the beatings, not the rape, not being kicked out of one’s field or profession, not being barred from future work or education, not the theft of property, &c &c &c not the myriad other ways in which “straightforward male oppression” plays out.
    How very male of you to focus on only “the most interesting parts” of the ongoing war of torture and genocide against the majority of the human race, Anthony. I’m so sorry simple things like “losing everything one’s ever owned” or “being forced to birth child after child” just don’t get you up.

  • Alienigena

    “So, what you need is misogyny (of course), but also some other factor. By leaving out the other factor, you leave out the most interesting part” I think that institutional and societal misogyny is very much of interest to women on a feminist forum. And is the most interesting part … especially given the fact that men like you seem keen to downplay the role that biological sex played in terms of who was targeted, in the main, across Europe and North America.

    I think the campaign to treat women as lesser than human preceded the witchcraft frenzy but claiming that women were not the main targets of these accusations is also not accurate according to historians, even those that argue that males were more persecuted in certain places like Scandinavia. Exceptions do not erase the fact that the majority of people targeted (i.e. accused) were women. I have encountered people who claim only 500,000 Jewish people were killled during the Holocaust (versus 6 milion that is the generally accepted number). Do men want to claim that women were not specifically targeted, like Holocaust deniers? Male anthropologists were often not interested in women’s lives (or lives of non-human female primates) and/or did not have access to women so they didn’t study them leading to some very partial descriptions of cultures and societies. Given the time frame under question and the fact that women had a lot fewer rights in law (e.g. they were considered chattel) I don’t know that it is possible to know with exactness how many people were killed and exactly how many were men or women. But I am not an historiographer and they no doubt have methodologies they think are reliable.

    From Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of
    Witches), published by Catholic inquisition authorities in 1485-86.

    “All wickedness,” write the authors, “is but little to the wickedness of a woman. … What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours. … Women are by nature instruments of Satan”

    http://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Courses/Phil%20281b/Philosophy%20of%20Magic/Arcana/Witchcraft%20and%20Grimoires/case_witchhunts.html

    Aren’t women still seen as a source of temptation by those who excuse sexual assaults of women who are drunk or unconscious, who wear revealing clothing, who are out late at night, who are unaccompanied, who don’t wear head or body coverings (cultural but claimed to be religious). Women just being in the public sphere seems to be an affront to a certain proportion of men (including in North America, see street harassment). Number of witches killed in Scotland is around 4000. There is no mention of men or women, just people in this BBC article.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8334055.stm

    We do know that women were demonised and considered less human than men (see The Woman Who Never Evolved by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy for an anthropological take on the male view of the female) by societies. There were of course a variety of reasons to make witchcraft accusations: economics, spite, jealously, paranoia, cowardice (naming names), and supposedly a belief in witchcraft (on part of some), wanting to blame someone for calamities like the black plague (which Jewish people were accused of causing in some cases). Sarah Wardwell was incarcerated but later released and it is thought accusations were made by neighbors who wanted to claim her land (inherited from her first husband (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Wardwell)). in fact some witchcraft accusations were manufactured to drum up business for the witch hunters. As to the means of dispatching witches I think it varies according to geographic location, and time frame. In Salem most witches were hung. I understood that judges that were merciful in England (late 1600s to early 1700s) would sentence the witch to hanging, only if she confessed to her crimes, however her body would be publicly burned. If she did not confess she would be burned alive. But heretics were also brutalised and burned alive. Unless you cite the ‘other factors’ no one can respond to your claims.

  • Alienigena

    “Thirty years ago I was holidaying in Rome. I was about 20. Some friends
    thought it would be interesting to visit a travelling exhibition on
    torture instruments used throughout the ages”

    My brother and father found a museum featuring torture instruments (mainly from 1500-1600s). It also included some pickled infants, maybe full term still borns. Of all places to find this, Hawaii, on Christmas break. It never ceases to amaze me what certain people find entertaining. Many of the torture implements seemed to have a sexual component, at least to my naive 16 year old brain. Can’t forget the chair that resembled a primitive wooden commode, with a tetrahedral shaped spike coming up the middle. Like a Judas cradle but built into a chair.

  • Wren

    My god, how did you find that article? I’ve only perused it, but it’s amazing and terrifying. There’s still so much I do that I don’t understand.

  • Wren

    “It would be good if there could be a traveling exhibition of torture
    instruments used specifically on women, so that people could see the
    hatred, fear and loathing was directed towards us.”

    Or they can just google some porn. Same difference to me.

    • Georgia95Luciana Todesco

      Yeah, these days we’re supposed to love our torture–gagging, crying, vomiting, getting gangbanged. But seriously, you cannot imagine what things were done to and used on women in state-sanctioned torture–far worse than anything done to men. And it’s NOWHERE to be found.

  • Liz

    PLZ tell us ladeez how to do it better!!! We want to accommodate your fee-fees and interests!

    “Were the men just more horrible in Scotland? Or was Calvinism to blame?”
    same difference, your dudeness!

  • This was very poignant, Alienigena. Thanks for sharing.

  • Because of course, misogyny cannot, ever, be *the most important part* of any story.

  • Natasha, as everyone else said, thank you for your work here. This was very thorough.

    I’ll only add this: it will be a little expensive for sure, but I am planning on printing this a bunch of times and keep them in my backpack. I’ll hand a copy of this piece to everyone&anyone who dares to comes at me with that “women are privileged” crap.

    For that, I also thank you and Feminist Current!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Gonna look that one up — thanks!

  • lagattamontral

    I’m involved in far too many things, but perhaps I could lend a hand with French records. I’m a trained social historian.

    • Alienigena

      Thanks for the offer, very generous. I think I would like to investigate a few more sources and family members who are alive. If I still have no answers I might take you up on that, offering fair remuneration.

  • lagattamontral

    Actually very little class or social history is taught in secondary schools either. It isn’t a competition: we need a history from below, which certainly means a women’s history just as it means a history of subaltern classes.

    • yummymoussaka

      I went to high school in Canada, so this might not be the same everywhere, but I do vaguely remember being taught about how bad the serfs had it in the middle ages, all the way up to how bad things were for workers in the industrial age, and how that gave rise to communism.

      Pretty much none of the stuff in this article was covered in those classes, and now I wish it had been! Reading this feels like a huge chunk of missing puzzle was finally filled in.

      That’s all I’m talking about. Not implying that there’s no need to learn about class or social history.

      I didn’t think about it as a competition – but now that you mentioned it, maybe it is a competition, in a way. History is such a vast subject with so many different possible viewpoints and most people only spend a limited amount of time learning about it. Some limited version of history “wins out” and becomes the one that most people remember. It affects our present and future since people are doomed to repeat the history they didn’t learn about. It’s mind-blowing to think about how much knowledge can really change things in the world.

      • Lavender

        I went to high school in Canada too (Ontario) and this describes my education as well, both in terms of what was included and what was left out.

        • Meghan Murphy

          same

  • lagattamontral

    Yes, for example it means looking down on peasant agriculture and other non-monetarised labour. Waring has a website: http://marilynwaring.com/

  • Georgia95Luciana Todesco

    If you believe in reincarnation (as I do) most of us have at some time been prostituted; kept as sex slaves; tortured; decapitated; accused and punished for talking too much, sorcery, witchcraft, disobedience, unfaithfulness and ‘self-inflicted’ miscarriages; thrown down wells; locked up; kept in pits; cast out of society for not only being raped but also bearing the illegitimate children that were the products of those rapes and catching the diseases our rapists gave us. In other words, EVERYTHING was/is our fault; all the ills of the world exist because of women; we are the cause of every man’s suffering.

  • lagattamontral

    As a very lapsed Catholic (a hardcore atheist) I heartily agree. But at least under Czarism, Eastern Europe had its share of pogroms, which included mass rapes as well as torture and killings of outsider peoples (Jews and Romany – Gypsy – people).

    Indeed, Renaissance Rome, while it had the highest number of printers in Catholic Christendom before the Sack of Rome in 1527, it also had by far the highest number of prostitutes, serving supposedly celibate men.

  • lagattamontral

    In modern times, the Nazis used rats in this way (among other things) against women prisoners, and these techniques were exported to the Americas especially the Southern Cone countries (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay). The latter also deliberately kept female “disappeared” alive if they were pregnant, and once they gave birth, the mothers were murdered and the bodies thrown away, the babies adopted by supporters of the military régimes.

  • lagattamontral

    Or in a different part of the world today. But it is important to remember that torture sects don’t only arise in Muslim countries. Catholics have certainly had their (“our”, in the cultural sense from where I see things) share of such rape and torture cults. Do any of you know the song by Anne Sylvestre, “Une sorcière comme les autres”, which is a litany of misogyny and “female roles” through the ages? The late Pauline Julien also sang it here in Québec. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6wq8UVy94s

    It is only a partial victory so far, but I feel so proud about our sisters in Poland.

  • will

    Waring’s work should be included in social and economic curricula everywhere, but in keeping with the thesis here, it is not. It’s telling that, even in the academy and in departments peopled by very socialist-leaning professors, Waring is unknown.

    There’s also an excellent doc available online here:

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

  • Rm Mize

    Yes, please mansplain to us. Correct our understanding since we are unable to come to any more logical, or at least more interesting, conclusion.

  • Margarita Villaronga-Mejias

    Wow, I know how that works. In my old age I was able to recognize when and how I lost my person. I’m happy to be able to see it. I believe I’ve been left with a surviving power: compassion.

  • Novo

    Wow, this was an amazing article, made me very sad though. I also had no idea Audre Lorde said those things about BDSM, thanks for linking to that interview! Will have to pull that one up next time I get told that only pwoblematic White Feminists are sex-critical.

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine

    This is why, whenever I write a story, not only do I depict strong female characters, I depict them as supportive of each other. My stories will contain no catfights or anything like that. Just women who want to ensure that they are not on the receiving end of male brutality.

    • anne

      Right on! Same here 🙂

  • Cassandra

    Yup. Trans ideology/gender identity is unspeakably horrific for us. It is absolutely meant to shut down acknowledgement of sex-based oppression. I think it has something to do with how quickly women gained rights and independence in the last 100 years. Patriarchy is really trying to put the breaks on it, all the way up to completely re-defining material reality.

  • Stacey Johnson

    This is a great article, but like much that gets printed it fails or so I feel to explain “what” the thing that calls itself the “church” really is. If we don’t ever get to the meat of the issue…there is always this Pollyanna simplistic view. Oh it is the churches fault, but why would the “church” do such a thing? If we don’t look at the top three world religions, Jewish, Christian and Muslim and realize that they have exchanged the Creatrix or “Great Mother” for the false war god “Yahweh” we will NEVER understand and break free of the “real” sorcery that has taken control of this world. Did you know that the word “sorcery” means:.devotion of general/army to infernal gods for country; The War God Yahweh makes sure the “dead” just keep on coming…the warmongers of the world are the BIG 3 and they continue their influence everywhere.

  • Karla Gjini

    Thank you for sharing.

  • lagattamontral

    That would be interesting to study. Of course this exclusion was similar to that of the Jews and the Muslims (mostly in the far south of Europe: Sicily and Iberia), and the Romani people, but at this particular historical moment, it seems to have been a matter of women being expelled from trades and professions they had long excercised. There were many entrepreneuses before this horrible backlash.

    The fact that the Rothschild family and some other Jewish entrepreneurs – and entrepreneuses – became very wealthy and influential – must not hide that the vast majority of Jews tortured and murdered during the Shoah were poor people with no means of escape.

  • Michelle

    This is an incredible piece, thank you so much for your time and effort writing it. I tried to donate but I got this message, “PayPal does not currently support Donation Payments from buyers in JP. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.” Is there another way?

  • Penny Angely

    This is brutal perfection.

  • Liz

    I just watched part 1 on Netflix (US version). what a nightmare. I kept thinking…I don’t believe that prevailing wisdom absolves people or justifies their behavior. the “it was a different time” defense. It’s just not true. Perhaps the pressures of the times resulted in horrible bargains or staying silent, but “they didn’t know what they did” is a lie. I’ve always thought the same about slavery and jim crow too.

    On to part 2…

  • Liz

    and now I have watched part 2. if they were convinced that these women were in cahoots with satan, why didn’t they fear any devilish retribution for exposing satan’s activities? (my theory is they obviously knew the accusations were lies AND i loved the host’s point that these witch trials were probably a matter of villagers cleansing themselves of enemies/undesirables)

    there are no “good old days.”

  • wincky59

    They basically are what?

  • wincky59

    Women consenting to their misery is so true. This explains why women suffer from depression more than men. Do they consent out of fear, or is it because of religion? There is a toxic climate and we have slipped backwards. I agree that I always thought that after the old guys die out, maybe it would get better. Don´t see that happening.

    • Anon

      lack of real choices? Lesser of 2 evils?

  • cleos_mom

    And of course, for many generations (and still not ended) that was the situation of LGBT people as well.

  • lagattamontral

    Careful there. I’m bloody thankful that I didn’t have to produce the number of children two of my (Catholic) aunts did, and I want the needle instead of horrible suffering if I die of a disease that means such an agonising end. Look up Francine Lalonde, an MP from Québec whom I knew as a trade union activist. She was suffering from bone cancer and fought for assisted death if the sick person didn’t want to go through agony.

    • Jennifer R.

      Just jump off a bridge if you want to die, don’t ask permission.

  • lagattamontral

    Yes, but approximately half the Jewish population was and is women and girls.

  • shepsil

    I think this was a very well laid out perspective from an historical context. The reasons for this very conservative treatment of women by men, now, has a clearer explanation for why it has happened and continues to happen to women and the vulnerable on earth. It concerns our minds and the two very opposite moral values that exist within.

    In 1996, the well known grandfather of Cognitive Linguistics, Linguist, George Lakoff, wrote “Moral Politics”. The book lays out the empirically provable and completely opposite moral values of conservative versus progressive minds. The core progressive value being “empathy” or the “nurturant parent” model. The complete opposite of the conservative mind’s “strict father disciplinarian” model.

    In Moral Politic’s Preface, Lakoff said:

    “The conservative/progressive division is ultimately a division between strictness and nurturance as ideals at all levels – from the family to morality to religion and, ultimately, to politics. It is a division at the center of our democracy and our public lives, and yet there is no overt discussion of it in public discourse. The reason is that the details are largely unconscious, part of what cognitive scientists call the Cognitive Unconscious – a deep level of mind that we have no direct access to. Cognitive scientists, however, can infer the Cognitive Unconscious and study it in detail, as we shall in this book. But is difficult to engage in public discourse about things that most people have no public access to. Yet it is vitally important that we do so if Americans are to understand, and come to grips with, the deepest fundamental division in our country, one that transcends and lies behind all the individual issues: the role of gov’t, social programs, taxation, education, the environment, gun control, abortion, the death penalty, Women’s rights and so on. These are ultimately not different issues, but manifestations of a single issue: strictness versus nurturance. This is anything but obvious, which is why it takes a book to spell it out.”

    It has been 20 years since this book was written and women’s rights are still in jeopardy every day because of the politics of our minds. Since then, we have elected a black President and next month, we will have the honour of being able to elect a Woman President. We have come a long ways towards achieving a truly progressive society and yet we still have such a long way to go.

  • Jodine Chase

    Yes, this:

    “… The important thing to realize is that “witches” were just women that men were either jealous of, felt threatened by, or didn’t like. In practice, those were the triggering conditions for getting tried as a witch. More simply, witches were just women. Potentially all women. To survive, women under the Inquisition submitted to isolating themselves away from the friendships of other women, and learned to be very good at making men like them. They taught their daughters to do the same. For hundreds of years, any woman could be taken away to jail to be tortured and sexually assaulted. Any women could be pornographically tortured in public before her execution, in front of her family if she had any. …”

  • Jennifer R.

    You could try DNA testing – both ancestry.com and 23andme offer it, and have a method for connecting with your DNA relatives.

  • Lavender

    Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve seen it and agree with Liz. I’ve watched many documentaries about witches and this one in particular made it clearer than ever that there was probably never a true pervasive belief that these women were supernatural subversives. It was just a narrative to distract from plain old patriarchal terrorism, with some males thrown into the mix because it was a convenient way of getting rid of people.

    I’m convinced we don’t give people of former eras enough credit when it comes to knowing what was going on around them. They weren’t all a bunch of blind sheep. But once you install a brutal power system, by design, it’s very hard to challenge it. I think people have always been able to recognize oppression when they see it, they just don’t always feel (or are) able to do something about it before things get way out of hand.

  • Lavender

    You just had to say something to show how smart you are. “has nothing to do with… persecution of women”… FFS. It’s a woman being burned at the stake by men who hide behind religion. That sounds pretty damn relevant.

  • marv

    Which gender do you think fabricated patriarchal religions and executed women, men and heretics, and still does?

    • Duzinkiewicz

      Persecution is due to human nature. No doubt had women been in power they would have also perpetrated atrocities. There are not two human natures, one male, the other female, one evil and the other pure.

      • Meghan Murphy

        You seem to have an incredibly limited view of society and how societies could work outside patriarchy and capitalism.

      • marv

        I don’t follow the cult of human nature fundamentalism. The authority of nature is as suspect as “the devil or god made me do it”. There is no essence to existence when it comes to social political relations.

      • lutrislutris

        The persecution of women by men is due to men.

      • Janet French

        I suggest that you look at bonobo culture. It’s very eye-opening on many levels.

      • Sarah Bartlett Shelton

        The peaceful existence of matriarchial societies contradicts your assumption.

        Men like to think women are as brutal in their thinking and treatment of others. History and the very lives of women prove otherwise.

      • Sylvie Balzar

        Oh, there is plenty of doubt regarding that point. Women are not men, women are community and family oriented. Men are self aggrandizing and ego oriented. There are many archaeological findings that support the existence of peaceful, matrilineal, female led societies, with cities and communities built without defensive walls, that existed for hundreds of years.

  • Richard Rabinowitz

    then again, the current Queen of England is a rather polite person… she attended the US Bicentennial, and generally seems respectful. So why should she not do the same with regard to the Pope?

  • Duzinkiewicz

    The point may be valid but the illustration is inaccurate.

    • Til

      That depends on what you think it’s illustrating.

  • Meghan Murphy

    So the way things are is the way things are? No point in trying to change things? By your standards, racism is a-ok and women should never have gotten the vote.

    • Duzinkiewicz

      That is not a logical conclusion.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Solid argument, bro!

      • Ling Trave

        Agree.

  • marv

    Gender politics is objectively there in the past and present. We don’t have to project it onto the “chaos and brutality”. Men were and are doing the tortured killings of both genders. Denying facts is “Putting the wrong picture up” and “beautifully illustrates [her] point”.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I was being sarcastic…

  • Julie Anne Bereczki

    It has also been hypothesized that many of the “witch” claims were against many/most of the villages medicine women. It appears that many ‘witches’ were killed in order to kill off the ancient knowledge so that people were forced to only be treated by the new ‘modern’ allopathic model. There was a staggering amount of women killed during this time but I am struggling to find good articles and exact dates right now. This came up in a herbal history class that I took once.

  • Duzinkiewicz

    And there is no shame for such overt sexism?

    • Sarah Bartlett Shelton

      Sexism is not perpetrated by its victims.
      Sexism is deeply entrenched beliefs that male is the superior, the norm. And (Fe)male is is inferior the abnormal.

      It does NOT go both ways.

      It is a systematic raising or one part while denigrating and tearing down the other.

      Women CANNOT be sexist. It does not exists. We are standing up for our selves and pushing back out oppressors. Our fight to be seen as fully human is not sexist. It is survival.

      And the fact that we’re still having to explain this simple proves how deeply entrenched YOUR sexist beliefs and behaviors are.

    • Sylvie Balzar

      Evidently you have none,

    • Goblin Queen

      Oxford English dictionary defines sexism as:

      Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

      ‘sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women’

  • Til

    It does count. But the few who managed to survive and thrive despite persecution were used to invalidate the historical claim of being persecuted.

    And the greedy Jewish banker thing was the stereotype used to mobilize later persecutions. The one thing the racists couldn’t forgive them for was success.

  • lutrislutris

    No one said anything about a pure/benevolent female nature. You’re responding to an argument no one made. Most people here believe gender is socialized rather than innate.

  • Jennifer R.

    But the system the way it is, with profit, doctor status, and discrimination against the disabled, the mentally ill, and the elderly isn’t capable of preventing coercion in this area. Any patient with an unpaid bill, complex case, or medical harm is vulnerable.

  • Renegade Hooker

    Nailed it ! Thank you!

  • Stephanie Nic Cárthaigh

    Richard, please do not propagate the Irish/white slave meme. This is white supremacist propaganda, and has no basis in history.

  • Stephanie Nic Cárthaigh

    Richard, please do not propagate the Irish/white slave meme. I am referring to the redbonenation link in your comment. This is white supremacist propaganda, and has no basis in history. Liam Hogan, a historian from Limerick, has thoroughly debunked these fraudulent claims. And Irish historians, academics, scholars, students, etc. have publicly objected to these claims as well.

    Feminist Current: I do not mean to derail, but propagation of this meme should not go unchallenged. Too many people are accepting this as historical fact, when there is absolutely no evidence of it. Even well-intended, this is harmful.

    • Richard Rich

      You have got it all wrong in calling this “white supremacist” propaganda, since slavery and subjugation isn’t limited to what the white male has done to the African or the New World Amerindian, but a practice that has been going on across nations and continents for many millennia.

      And Red Bone Nation is a website (I barely frequent, BTW) moderated by a Native American with the purpose of educating visitors on the history of slavery across the Atlantic. You won’t find any swastikas or Third Reich literature there.

  • Jennifer R.

    There is no way to know how much coercion is being used, though. That’s the problem. Of course, if someone were to jump off the bridge, that could have been coerced, too.

  • Lisa Tremblay

    Thanks Natasha Chart. The centuries of burning women at the stake were surely the most deadly for us in the history of misogyny. Pope John Paul II’s sweeping apology for 2,000 years of violence and persecution was pathetic. Ratzinger is quoted as saying the methods used during the Inquisition were not in keeping with the gospel. That must be the understatement of the century.
    No one can apologize for 2,000 years in one speech from the Basilica. An apology involves a full account of what wrong was done, how many people were actually hurt, an explanation as to why it happened and what actions will be taken to make up for it.
    The Church has been oppressing women since Adam and Eve and persecuting Jews since a man named Jesus died on a cross. It has also destroyed pagan religions and attempted to annihilate the world’s Indigenous people and their connection to the Great Spirit. The Church should just apologize properly, give their resources to affected groups and find another line of work. Then maybe we’ll heal from the atrocities that it committed.

    • VY

      Most of the witch hunts took place in Protestant countries. Nobody’s ever apologized for it on the Protestant side.

    • walnutosage

      The church’s work should be first and foremost to serve and heal.

      • marv

        The church’s work should be to dissolve itself and god as a male creation. Then an apology with reparations would mean something.

  • Sarah Bartlett Shelton

    Says the man, probably the white man, in the room.

  • Michael Miller

    They didn’t break our grandmother’s. I had two and was raised by one.my mom was a single mother. My mom wà gay. My great grandmother was a founding member of the league of women voters in dekalb. I have six daughters that will one day be grandmother’s. The travesty is that the institution of hate, Misogyny and ignorance still does this NOW. TODAY and every Sunday they meet everywhere to perpetuate their adgenda…they have ruined our government…they are spreading hate, homophobia, racism, right NOW.

    • LeelaLeah

      You’ll see the title is metaphorical after you read the article

  • Sylvie Balzar

    You are judging women by how they behave in a system created by men. These women have no choice but to fit in to the only system there is in our society. The system is the problem. Women would not have created a strictly hierarchical system. Women would have made a system that was more community oriented, and allowed for many voices and opinions. Women would have created companies owned by the people that work there. They would all vote on policy. There would be councils, not single rulers. I don’t think that you truly understand women, maybe you don’t even want to. Being gay doesn’t free you from being male and the prejudices that come with that in the western world today. I hope you open your mind a bit and try to grok that women are different and would organize society differently, perhaps even in a way you would prefer to what we have today.

  • Goblin Queen

    Your experience of women bosses and workers in a patriarchal system, you mean? It could be helpful to study women in a matriarchal system but few exist. The Mosuo in China and this one in Kenya are the very few examples we have on our ENTIRE PLANET. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnmBLB-UX4

    ~ 6.7 billion women are forced to live in or are exposed to a STRICT FATHER model moral & social construct.

  • walnutosage

    Among much of my Facebook feed posts from various feminist organizations, this one caught my eye because of the picture used. It is from the “Martyr’s Mirror”, (book 2, page 539) a compilation of persecution of early Christians and those in the “Radical Reformation” in Europe.The woman was Anneken Hendriks, in 1571 Amsterdam, who was an outspoken opponent to the practices of the state church. She may well have been accused of being a witch, but her main problem is that she thought for herself, made up her own mind, and nevertheless, persisted. She was actually an “Anabaptist (re-baptizer)”, the movement which spawned Amish and Mennonites. I believe she is being burned by Lutherans. When I can bring myself to read some of the gruesome accounts (tongue screws, live burials, drowning, and lots of burning…) in this hefty tome, I am amazed at the number of women the writer thought worthy of mention, for his being a 17th century male author and all . She is my spiritual grandmother. So thanks for using that picture, and for a very timely and thought-provoking piece to accompany it. What was said needs to be constantly repeated for each new generation, because there is still a long way to go and sexism will never go away.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You are a feminist but you believe sex shouldn’t be analyzed within a broader context of patriarchy/colonialism/white supremacy?

  • Meghan Murphy

    No one is telling anyone how they should feel or love and analysis is not ‘shaming.’ You are arguing we shouldn’t think critically about or question sexual practices, within a context of patriarchy, which I think is pretty dangerous. Anything deemed “sex” is not sacred or untouchable, in terms of critique.

    • Elise Esclave

      How is what you are doing different from the right wing Republicans legislating “family values”, or the right of women to have abortions? You are both questioning sexual practices of individuals in terms of how they are affecting society, just from different perspectives.

      • Meghan Murphy

        May I ask you a question? Do you believe we should analyze and critique sex and sexuality, as feminists?

  • Meghan Murphy

    “Frankly, I don’t think we as feminists are competent enough to analyze sex.”

    What on earth is it you think feminists do or are meant to do if not analyze and push back against patriarchy and patriarchal ideas? Surely you understand that sex and sexuality are shaped by patriarchy, yes?

  • Meghan Murphy

    I haven’t deleted any of your comments. Sometimes it takes a while for comments to get through moderation.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You aren’t responding to anything I’m saying and instead are repeating the same strawman-based arguments over and over again.

    No one is telling anyone what they can and cannot do.

    Sex and sexuality, in patriarchy, are male-centered. This means that sex and sexuality absolutely must be viewed critically, through a feminist lens.

    Asking feminists not to think critically about sex and sexuality is asking them not to be feminist or think critically.

    • Elise Esclave

      My answer – no, sexual and sexuality are not male-centered, and are not representative of patriarchy. They represent the most primal of human instincts. Your analysis is incorrect. You have invaded the bedroom for no good reason.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Of course they are. Do you not understand how patriarchy works?

  • Morag999

    Did Meghan Murphy bust into your bedroom with a battering ram while you were engaged in a sadomasochistic sexual act and forbid you to continue and start reciting her feminist essays through a megaphone while addressing you by name and telling you that you ought be ashamed of yourself? Or did you come here, of your own free will, to tell us how fragile your identity is and how little confidence you have in your choices?

    Because you sound narcissistically over-sensitive to the opinions and political analysis of women who don’t even know you. In fact, it sounds like you can’t really handle all the liberty/choices you think you want.

    Why do you seem to experience an intellectual challenge — that you sought out — as if it were edict from a supreme judge? It’s weird. I think people who engage in BDSM have an authoritarian worldview. Not a lot of imagination beyond slaves and masters. Yes, that’s my opinion and there’s judgement in it. And it won’t kill you!

    • Elise Esclave

      Thank you for the free psychological analysis. It seems a trait here, psychoanalyzing people without an invitation. I have come here to tell you that clearly you are not equipped to analyze human sexuality and you are disparaging feminism when you do. Anything you surmise from my repeated statements that its wrong to judge people’s sexual practices with a narrow lens of one topic and shaming people’s sexuality – a distinctly American puritan trait by the way – is your own invention you chose to entertain yourself with.

      By the way, I think women who look down on BDSM or any irregular sexual practices are frigid and close-minded. I guess we can all keep our own prejudices.

      • Meghan Murphy

        It is honestly insane to suggest feminists don’t analyze human sexuality. But you sound like a pretty big misogynist, based on your last comment, so…

        • Elise Esclave

          Thank you both for showing me why and how the feminist movement will fail. Its very disappointing. I am hoping you both are not representative of the bulk of the feminist movement, but I am likely being too optimistic. Please continue telling people how their private lives need to be analyzed for patriarchy. Lets see how that will actually help women and attract more followers to your cause.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, I suppose saying nothing would make us more popular. Alas.

          • Morag999

            Ha! The next wave of feminism will be complete silence. That’ll show ’em!

        • Morag999

          It’s a short distance between the phrase, “I consider myself a feminist, but …” and the big reveal. The misogyny inevitably comes to the surface.

          Have you noticed this precise pattern? As soon as I hear those exact words, “I consider myself a feminist,” I wait for the other shoe to drop. So predictable, it’s practically science.

          Actual feminists never say that. It’s such an odd thing to say, because it puts female liberation from male domination into a misty picture, as if it were a quirky personal preference or particular type of temperament. You know, not an objective political movement, but a subjective, groovy feeling inside an individual’s mind.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes. Men like to do this also, right before they mansplain. “As a feminist….” They think they can gain leverage this way, not realizing that actual feminists don’t fall for that shite. Total red flag.

      • Morag999

        Your masters have taught you well.

      • calabasa

        Sex is at the crux of women’s oppression, and sociosexual conditioning the lion’s share of what it means to construct our identities, sexually, within the paradigm of masculinity and femininity…and yet we cannot critique it? (And no, critique does not mean the same thing as criticize).

        Also, to be clear, nothing happens in a vacuum. This means people’s sexual choices are not made in a vacuum, nor do they come (pardon the pun) without consequences.

        For example, there was a case not too long ago of a man who raped and murdered his elderly neighbor. He tied her up during the act. When caught, he said it was her fantasy to be tied up and strangled during sex, and it had just gone a bit too far. This was seen as a legitimate defense.

        It’s hard enough to prove rape by a date, acquaintance, or intimate partner as it is without the “women like it rough” narrative being normalized. Also, I do feel serious concern that there are many female subs in the scene who are engaged in repetition compulsion, which far from being healing is retraumatizing; and that there are doms who are engaged in real rape and real abuse. Many within the scene have expressed these concerns as well.

        In any case, yes, our sexualities are constructed by the patriarchal paradigm (what matriarchy are you referring to again? Just curious). Critiquing those practices which seek to recreate that paradigm in its starkest and most violently unequal form is just fine (the idea of “what goes on between consenting adults is nobody’s business” is illogical and ludicrous; otherwise we’d have no labor laws nor anti domestic violence advocates; people will agree to all kinds of things because they are desperate for money, or because they are being abused and have been traumatized).

        If I had a friend who was a crackhead, and asked me to buy him crack, I would not. I might not be judgmental (if I’d tried to get him help and it had gotten nowhere), but I certainly would not buy him crack; that would be helping him harm himself. Similarly, if I had a friend who asked me to beat her, I would not beat her. I might not proselytize (to her), if that had failed to help–just being there and being her friend might be better–but I certainly would not beat her. I’d let her go find someone unscrupulous enough to help her harm herself, in the name of “love” (because people find something cathartic about violence, or because they have been trained–both sexes–to equate abuse with love?–whether it’s abusing or being abused).

        Can we critique these practices in the hopes that people will start to do what’s *truly* risque–have sex that is about love and connection, free of violence? (Not sex that is just about orgasm, not satisfying an itch, but love and connection, and fun and affection)? “Vanilla” sex is still very much one-way, much of the time, male-centric, orgasm-focused, and not much about love or laughter.

        If we cannot critique our constructed sexualities, we cannot critique patriarchy. And what you do behind closed doors–and what you normalize–does affect and can harm others.

        Do you know that the Supreme Court of the United States does not recognize BDSM as a reason for bodily assault? (I.e., I could give you permission–nay, ask you–to assault me, and then go to the police, and you could be arrested)? They don’t think sexual practices justify one party inflicting severe bodily injury on another. They certainly don’t think sexual practices justify sexualized murder (“consenting” or not), which is the logical endpoint of sadomasochism.

        Incidentally, have you researched any critiques of the notion of “consent?” It’s a bizarre idea to begin with, and one pushed by those in a position of power. “Consent” is the green light the powerful give themselves when they’ve extorted it out of those weaker than they. You don’t “consent” to hang out with your friend on a Saturday night, you just want to. The bizarre fetishizing of the notion of “consent” is by all those who wish to justify everything up to the point of rape (which is really just the point when a safe word is employed, or a man fails to pay after his transaction), no matter what kind of coercion may have come before, be it financial, psychological/emotional, or otherwise.

        • Elise Esclave

          Abusers lurk in all lifestyles, and BDSM is not immune from it. It’s pretty illogical to paint all D/s relationship with a wide paintbrush of abuse, as many are balanced and healthy relationships. As to pain being an inherently wrong thing to ask for – even in French, an orgasm is called the little death, because pleasure and pain naturally intermingle neurologically for humans. New findings suggest that the pain and pleasure receptors are connected, and so some types of painful sensations are literally experienced as pleasure by some people, on a physiological level. Your view on BDSM activities is just another self-entitled view that generalizes people to fit into your own narrow perception on what is right or wrong. It’s an easy intellectualization to make, because you have nothing to lose from it – your own desires are not marries to unusual practices, and you lose nothing yourself by denying other people parity to love in a way they chose. To say that all sex must be about love and connection, must be tender and soft, and is a very narrow and incorrect interpretation of human sexuality itself. Both men and women engage in sexual acts because they chose those experiences, and not always for love and connection. As ones who own our own bodies and live fully engaged with our flesh, we have the ultimate right and ability to push these bodies into any direction we chose. For me, this is inherent in my own independence and my own sense of personal freedom, this is how I own my own feminine power that no dogma could ever take away from me. There are a myriad of reasons why people have sex, love and connection is just one of those reasons, and moving into their bedrooms, intellectualizing a primal act, and then directing how they should feel about it is inherently wrong, no matter how you intellectualize it. Telling people who like to be hurt that it’s wrong to feel as they do because of an intellectual study is pretty much like telling gay people it’s wrong for them to have sexual desire for one another. I find it pretty gross, personally, because it seems that women are now that are repressing women to further a political agenda.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Pretending away the fact that systems of domination and oppression shape our understanding of sex and sexuality and that they most certainly factor into BDSM practices is silly.

          • calabasa

            I find you pretty gross, personally, for comparing your love of BDSM to gay people’s identity and trying to appropriate their oppression.

            Try to understand what I wrote, for a minute, please. Your choices don’t occur in a vacuum, and they do affect others. And having sex to express affection *is* the most radical act these days, as it’s not what’s advertised in mainstream porn, or in liberal feminism (which is all about using other people’s bodies/letting our own be used for sexual “empowerment”), or anywhere, really. Affection in sex is not the same as monogamy or relationships, it is merely that: affection during sex, rather than violence or power games.

            A sexual orientation is being oriented toward specific individuals, not acts, and kink is *not* a sexual orientation. Absolutely no one is oppressing white men who like to abuse women, so seriously, shut the fuck up with comparing the critique of BDSM to the oppression that gays experience.

            Also maybe learn to read.

          • calabasa

            As an addendum to that, there is considerable evidence that there are WAY MORE ABUSERS in the BDSM scene, which makes sense, considering it is ALL ABOUT FETISHIZING AND RITUALIZING ABUSE, so of course it’s going to attract a lot of sleazes who get off on the idea of rape and violence. Women who like this might want to reflect on why they do.

            I am not personally critiquing two people in a relationship who mutually decide, without pressure from either party (though this seems rare to me) to incorporate some kink into their relationship. I am critiquing the SCENE, the circuit, which seems rife with abuse and the justification of age-old violence and dominance/submission politics through the use of ritual (and now the appropriation of the oppression that gays experience, which is extremely gross).

            If you can’t understand why feminists would critique the normalization of violence against women, WHETHER WOMEN ASK FOR IT OR NOT, you are pretty strange. We don’t care if women are “asking for it,” as we critique systems of power that have historically and continue to engender Stockholm Syndrome in women.

            Again, if you think “policing what goes on in people’s bedrooms is gross,” then you must also think it’s gross to be against domestic violence. Plenty of women justify their abusers’ behavior, and go back to them, and put up with their violence (including sexual violence), even until the point of death. Can we critique domestic violence and condemn those abusers? Why? Because they don’t enter into explicit contracts with their victims or employ safe words? If an abuser who enjoys controlling and hurting women were to find a willing victim and get her to sign a contract to be his slave and submit to his abuse, would that make it all okay? That is what you are suggesting. (Why should we critique domestic violence at all, then? After all, the victim probably likes it, right?)

            As to the “pleasure/pain” hypothesis–again, we have little reason to believe we are not trained into this. There is zero empirical evidence that this is “natural” (that it is “natural” to experience pain as pleasure; in fact, evopsych, which is what you seem to be pushing with all your “natural” and “sexuality has nothing to do with women’s oppression” and “it’s always been this way” bullshit, would seem to rule out this “pain is pleasure” hypothesis, as we’d have died out as a species long ago if this were “natural”). If you mean that adrenaline is released when were are injured to numb the pain in order to help us escape the perilous situation, you are correct. Putting the body repeatedly into this perilous situation? Probably not good for it (that’s the entire point of the numbing, to help the organism get out of it).

            To deny that sexuality is the crux of women’s oppression, and that both male and female sexuality are shaped by patriarchy, is both ridiculous and makes you not a feminist. So please, go away. Go practice your kinks and keep justifying and rationalizing your fetish (as if we cared about your sexual practices at all, as long as they are not harming others and you, yourself, are not being coerced or psychologically harmed; love to get burned and cut? Great, doesn’t mean we have to be in favor of it, or normalizing that behavior), and keep on with the notion that you are being oppressed because other people don’t like some behavior of yours. Absolutely none of that is feminist, though, so stop calling yourself one, and don’t let the door hit you on your way out (unless, of course, you would like that).

          • calabasa

            Oh, and one last thing: studies show that in domestic violence relationships, abusers and their victims are addicted to each other. Abusers (like doms) use variable reward to stimulate the dopamine cycle within their victims (and abusers themselves are addicted to the chemical high of hurting). Does this make it okay?

            So why, again, is it okay when the victims “like it?” This is a dangerous argument that reinforces the notion that women are “natural masochists” and can be used to support the claim that women like being dominated, including being raped and abused. This can be used to support the claim that *anyone* in a subordinate position “likes it.” There’s a reason people in positions of power behave as they do, and that’s because it *works.* And then they can blame it on their victims, because they’ve been quite literally conditioned to *like* it (if you think addiction to a miserable condition is the same as “liking”).

            Again, why is normalizing this is a good thing? Because you said so, and it makes you have orgasms? Oh, okay.

  • Elise Esclave

    “Should individual choices reign supreme over collective responsibility”. People who are having consensual sex in the privacy of their bedrooms have no responsibility towards the collective, and any such responsibility should never overreach over their individual right to make the decisions in their bedroom . They are practicing their individual and private choices, and the subject of why they make these choices is much too subjective to cut it with a meat cleaver of one reason – must be patriarchy. In a word, saying that sadomasochism is a reflection of patriarchy is incorrect. Substituting things hardly proves your point. There are a number of factors that created consumerism in our society, patriarchy is but one of them. To disregard the complexity of the issue is to render your analysis inferior and not representative of the truth.

    I never said that sex is sacred. Rather, it is a primal and terribly subjective act. I repeat, stay out of our bedrooms. You lose your own feminist agenda when you subvert people’s private choices to suit your own ends. Its disrespectful to liberty.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Ha. Yes, this is aaaall about you and you alone. Because BDSM and the sexualization of male violence hasn’t at all had any impact on anyone else, right? And any critique of ‘sexuality’ somehow = ‘shaming’. Clearly you’ve really thought this one through.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Dude. No one is encroaching on your freedom by criticizing the sexualization of violence/domination.

  • melissa

    “Abusers lurk in all lifestyles, and BDSM is not immune from it. It’s pretty illogical to paint all D/s relationship with a wide paintbrush of abuse ”

    Why not though, when you’ve got a community that’s made an identity out of eroticized abuse(in varying degrees)? D/s relationships often perfectly mimic abusive relationships, ticking many boxes on a DV checklist. I’ve never gotten a concrete explanation of how you would make a clear cut,solid distinction between an abusive, misogynistic dynamic( specially considering they’re also often perfectly consensual and stridency defended by the victims themselves.) and a 24/7 D/s relationship. Consent means very little when it comes to abuse. People apologize for and sign up for their own abuse all the time. Many things recognized as abuse is par for the course in 24/7 agreed upon sub/dom relationships.

    When someone lets their partner have full authority over them,have your behavior controlled,corrected,be “punished” for displeasing them,gets treated like a pet or slave at all times, how do you make a strong distinction there from abuse?Where does the abuse begin and where does it end, when women often consent to, defend and return to abusive relationships that mimic similar power inequalities/male control/violence? And even if it weren’t abuse, its still legitimatizing,condoning sadistic misogyny as a mere choice and perpetuating, normalizing uneven power dynamics between men and women as just a matter of preference.

    Not only is this not feminist, its anti-feminism on steroids.Consensual inequality and misogyny doesn’t just cease to be inequality and misogyny. Willingness doesn’t magically neutralize these things.And not to mention in many cultures its perfectly normalized and agreed upon behavior by BOTH genders for women to obey men, (http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-women-in-society/) or for men to physically discipline women.(http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toierrorfound.cms?url=http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/57-of-boys-53-of-girls-think-wife-beating-is-justified/articleshow/12862006.cms) Eroticism of violence against women, and female subservience should not be immune to criticism just because some like it or agree to it.”SSC” is a vague,counterproductive, meaningless mantra that puts the onus on the participants willingness, instead of analyzing or questioning the behavior itself.

    “In places in Africa and the Middle East, tradition forces women to cut off the parts of their private parts so that they can never have an orgasm as long as they live. This is how men control their women there.”

    How ironic, that you criticize men controlling women, while defending a lifestyle that fetishizes male(typically) control and authority over women(typically) ,both in an out of the bedroom. And how drastically different are these Middle Eastern men from ‘Doms’ exactly? Both desire and seek out female subservience and ownership.Both prefer women as property than women as equals. Instead of women in burqas being treating as men’s private property, you have women on a leash being treated as their property.What does it say about the kind of men that want this? Can we focus on their choice for once? Why is it that when a conservative/religious man wants women to be submissive to them, its plainly understood as misogyny. When its “Redpill” men that want the same its still misogyny, but as long as he calls himself a “Dom” and individualizes it, it no longer has anything to do with misogyny? Even when there’s always enough women to sign up for all of these life styles that recreates and romanticize very similar gendered hierarchies?

    And honestly, why is it that you’re allowed to only relativize abuse and misogyny when it suits you, but it doesn’t apply to Middle Eastern men and women? Many women after all strongly AGREE with these men. They agree with and praise male authority,wife beating, even FGM(https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/female-circumcision-is-becoming-more-popular-in-malaysia). If you can luxuriate in suffering, restriction and subordination, why can’t they? Maybe they get some deep satisfaction and meaning out of this kind of life style.Many certainly claim that’s the case, so who are you to “shame” them? Who are you to say this is wrong?

    When feminism get reduced to little more than just a matter of individual “choices”, then every form of misogyny and male supremacy becomes just as much of a legitimate “choice” as well, that’s now immune to criticism as long as you can get women agreeing to them. This kind of thought ending argument is is self defeating and cuts off feminism at the knee. Either BDSM or Abrahaminc religions the effects and results are the same. You don’t really need the supernatural to justify,normalize and establish female subordination and hierarchy. When not religion there’s always something else ( Just look at the Alt right or “Redpill” men and women who are predominately non religious but obsessed with female submission and male dominance)

    Questioning BDSM is just consistency on my part. Your attempt on the other hand, to align feminist criticism with the attitude of the Christian right is bizarre, when the dynamics and lifestyle you defend is far closer to the hierarchical, dived roles Christian conservative revere, than it is to people that are arguing for a world without gendered hierarchy,male authority and violence against women. No amount of Orwellian double speak, like framing the defense of ideas around slavery and obedience as “freedom” and “power” changes that.

    Oh and yea, being gay is just like being into BDSM. Because saying your uncle likes men is no different than saying your uncle likes to beat, humiliate and lord over women.Two same sexed people walking hand n hand is no different from a man walking a woman on a leash. /s …. And is your argument that gays did it therefore it can’t be abusive or misogynistic? Does that mean the fashion industry can’t criticized for misogyny since so much of it is dominated or normalized by gay men?

  • Expatmom

    How can one not think of how HRC was treated! Or of VP Pence? (President of Vice???)

  • Meghan Murphy

    Women weren’t targeted because they were easier to persecute, they were targeted specifically because they were women. While yes, some men were persecuted as witches, the vast majority were women, and the men were targeted, as I understand it, because they were somehow associated with the female ‘witches.’ I actually just attended Max Dashu’s talk last night in Vancouver about the witch hunts, and will hopefully post the audio some time soon, as a podcast. Her book is available to buy, too, and is an excellent resource on this history: http://www.veleda.net/

  • Limitless Megan

    Men were persecuted too but the percentages, though they vary from country to country are undeniable that women were the target and men simply got added in when it served that community.

  • Ste Bunches

    Stilll happening. Check the rates of how many women are losing their children to the state.

  • Nancie Chmielewski

    wow.thank you for your insight and sharing of important info.

  • EmilyS

    This was horrifically disturbing to read…