Jian Ghomeshi’s ‘consent’ defence shows why ‘consent’ isn’t good enough

Jian Ghomeshi

The CBC announced yesterday that they would be ending their relationship with Jian Ghomeshi, host of cultural affairs radio show Q, and probably the most famous radio host the CBC has ever had.

“The CBC is saddened to announce its relationship with Jian Ghomeshi has come to an end. This decision was not made without serious deliberation and careful consideration. Jian has made an immense contribution to the CBC and we wish him well,” the network said in a statement.

Before Ghomeshi himself dropped the bomb of all bombs, via an explanatory post on his Facebook page, it was clear something sketchy was up. It would take something pretty serious in order to fire Ghomeshi. He is widely beloved across Canada and the show, I’m certain, is the most popular on the CBC.

Shortly after the announcement, it was reported that Ghomeshi had hired the services of Navigator, a “high-stakes public strategy and communications firm” and that he planned to sue the CBC for $50 million.

It was clear Ghomeshi was going to be trying to save his reputation.

We didn’t have to wait long before learning what was behind the firing — Ghomeshi posted his defense, only a few hours after the announcement.

I’ve long admired and respected Ghomeshi’s work and was beyond disappointed, not only by what Ghomeshi revealed, but by his defense which, as far as clichés go, was way up there.

He immediately positioned himself as a victim, pulling out trope after sexist trope as he went along:

“This has been the hardest time of my life. I am reeling from the loss of my father. I am in deep personal pain and worried about my mom. And now my world has been rocked by so much more.

… Today I was fired from the company where I’ve been working for almost 14 years — stripped from my show, barred from the building and separated from my colleagues. I was given the choice to walk away quietly and to publicly suggest that this was my decision. But I am not going to do that. Because that would be untrue. Because I’ve been fired. And because I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Give me a moment to let the nausea pass…

Ok. Moving right along.

“I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer.”

So we have the male victim, falsely accused by your classic jealous, bitter ex — out to get revenge because a man didn’t want her. We also have the beginnings of what becomes the crux of Ghomeshi’s defense: what he does in the bedroom is none of our business, even if it involves violence against women, because 1) Sex is private — anything we do that involves sex is “ok” because it’s just our personal, private, sexy sex times. Mind your own. And 2) “Consent” — anything that can be said to be “consensual” is allowed to exist in a magical bubble, safe from any criticism whatsoever, because consent.

And away we go.

“I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.

About two years ago I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year. I don’t wish to get into any more detail because it is truly not anyone’s business what two consenting adults do. I have never discussed my private life before. Sexual preferences are a human right.”

There you have it. It is no one’s business what anyone does in the bedroom. It’s private. Abusing women because it gives you a hard on — ahem, “sexual preference” — is a human right.

We’ve heard this bullshit a hundred times over. To hear it from Ghomeshi, someone who is extremely intelligent, and who has spent much of his life thinking, questioning, learning, interrogating, feels particularly disappointing in its mundaneness and in its predictability.

He goes on to discredit his accuser in an equally banal (and sexist) way:

“Despite a strong connection between us it became clear to me that our on-and-off dating was unlikely to grow into a larger relationship and I ended things in the beginning of this year. She was upset by this and sent me messages indicating her disappointment that I would not commit to more, and her anger that I was seeing others.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. You are so sought-after, so desired — she just couldn’t take the rejection. We’ve heard it all before. Does anyone still fall for this crap?

“It came to light that a woman had begun anonymously reaching out to people that I had dated (via Facebook) to tell them she had been a victim of abusive relations with me. In other words, someone was reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious.”

Really? Are they “reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious?” Or are they saying that, from their end, the relationship was actually not so great? That they felt abused or victimized or exploited? Is it really up to you to decide what the relationship was or was not? Based solely on what you would like to believe? Oh. Of course it is. Of course. Because you are a man and it is your right to orgasms at any cost. And if you can claim or coerce “consent” from she who is to provide you with orgasms — your human right goddammit — all the better.

“I learned — through one of my friends who got in contact with this person — that someone had rifled through my phone on one occasion and taken down the names of any woman I had seemed to have been dating in recent years. This person had begun methodically contacting them to try to build a story against me. Increasingly, female friends and ex-girlfriends of mine told me about these attempts to smear me.”

You hear that? He has female friends. He is legit, he is ok. Even the women are onside. His accuser is just a lone crazy. Gotta love a man who pits women against one another.

“Someone also began colluding with a freelance writer who was known not to be a fan of mine and, together, they set out to try to find corroborators to build a case to defame me. She found some sympathetic ears by painting herself as a victim and turned this into a campaign.”

What the honest fuck, Jian? “She found some sympathetic ears by painting herself as a victim??” Or could it be that she felt victimized. Could it be that you victimized her. And god forbid anyone “sympathize” with her story of being abused. What a bitch. What a world of bitches, right bros?

“The writer boldly started contacting my friends, acquaintances and even work colleagues — all of whom came to me to tell me this was happening and all of whom recognized it as a trumped up way to attack me and undermine my reputation. Everyone contacted would ask the same question, if I had engaged in non-consensual behavior why was the place to address this the media?”

Me me me me memememeeeeeeeee! This is, lest we forget, about his reputation. Not about the abuse he inflicted on other women (there are four, apparently, who have come forward with similar allegations) — not about those who Ghomeshi allegedly “struck with a closed fist or open hand, bit… choked until they almost passed out,” tried to suffocate, and verbally abused. What really matters is Ghomeshi’s rep. Those are just bodies after all — they exist to be used and abused — this is a man’s right… I’m sorry, a human right.

“And this leads us to today and this moment. I’ve lived with the threat that this stuff would be thrown out there to defame me. And I would sue. But it would do the reputational damage to me it was intended to do (the ex has even tried to contact me to say that she now wishes to refute any of these categorically untrue allegations). But with me bringing it to light, in the coming days you will prospectively hear about how I engage in all kinds of unsavoury aggressive acts in the bedroom. And the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie.”

Remember consent? There was consent. The great conversation-stopper. Consent. Shut up. Didn’t you hear me? Consent.

“On Thursday I voluntarily showed evidence that everything I have done has been consensual. I did this in good faith and because I know, as I have always known, that I have nothing to hide. This when the CBC decided to fire me.

CBC execs confirmed that the information provided showed that there was consent. In fact, they later said to me and my team that there is no question in their minds that there has always been consent. They said they’re not concerned about the legal side. But then they said that this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC. They said that I was being dismissed for “the risk of the perception that may come from a story that could come out.” To recap, I am being fired in my prime from the show I love and built and threw myself into for years because of what I do in my private life.”

No, Jian. You’re not getting it. This is not — despite what even many feminists will claim — about whether or not you can “prove” there was “consent.” It is not about whether or not these women technically consented. This isn’t about all the prudes who find your behaviour “distasteful” (read between the lines — this is, of course, what he believes and wants to convey — that we are just “personally” uncomfortable with his “sexual preferences”) — this isn’t about CBC execs thinking your behaviour is “unbecoming.” This is about the fact that beating up women turns you on. And that behaviour is abusive. It’s abusive despite your hard on. It’s abusive despite the fact that society has decided dominance and violence is a “sexual preference.” It’s abusive despite the fact that many will argue they enjoy it.

And the law agrees. As Brenda Cossman wrote for the Globe and Mail,

“… when it comes to BDSM — or at least its more intense versions — the law doesn’t actually care about consent. The Supreme Court has said that a person cannot consent to assault… if a sexual activity causes bodily harm, a person cannot consent to it.”

You cannot “consent” to abuse. I mean, imagine how would that play out in a situation of domestic abuse. “She stayed,” would be the defense. “She stayed,” meaning “she consented.” Women everywhere would have “consented” to their own abuse if “consent” were the key factor in decided whether something were right or wrong.

Since Ghomeshi posted the statement, it’s come out that there are allegations from three women, all about 20 years younger than him. A fourth woman, who worked at CBC, said Ghomeshi told her at work: “I want to hate f— you.”

BDSM, aside, a 47-year-old man who has a pattern of dating much younger women has issues with power — his power, to be specific. Good, normal, healthy, men who respect women as their equals do not exclusively pursue women who are 20 years younger than them. Good, normal, healthy, people who respect human beings as human beings do not get turned on by beating people up. Yell at me all you want, but it’s the truth.

Ghomeshi concludes by repeating the BDSM mantra: You may think I’m a weirdo, but MYOB, keep the state out of my bedroom, me, my life, meeee.

“Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. We all have our secret life. But that is my private life. That is my personal life. And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life.”

But Jian. Violence against women is our business.

“I am still in shock,” he writes. “But I am telling this story to you so the truth is heard. And to bring an end to the nightmare.”

I think we’re all probably in shock. But Ghomeshi’s experience is not the nightmare. The nightmare is Ghomeshi. The nightmare is the fact that we live in a world wherein we are to believe that abusing women is not only acceptable, but sexy. Abuse is just an exciting thing to try in the bedroom — something “fun,” “safe,” “adventurous” people do. The “nightmare” is not that a 47-year-old, powerful man is, for once, being held to account for sexualizing violence against women — that he is being judged for his “private sexual practices.” I imagine that if we all were a little more judgemental — if we judged others (and ourselves) a little more harshly when it comes to acceptable, normal, healthy practices in the bedroom — ones that are based on treating one another with respect, kindness, love, and humanity — we would be less inclined to twist male violence into a “personal sexual preference” that is no one’s business but the perpetrator’s. Certainly we’d be less inclined to claim violence against women as an inalienable human right.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • anne cameron

    Anyone who makes a practise of dating people twenty years (or more) younger has some real issues with perceptions of power and control. Anyone who has to resort to violence in order to reach orgasm is a total creep. And to go on Facebook or Twitter to give your side of the story and, by inference, slag the person who is calling you on your “choices” is not only cowardly, it’s juvenile. Nyah nyah, I got my story out before you did, nyah nyah.
    I hope whoever she is sues his ass off, calls his posting slander, and nails his hide to the garage wall.
    I admit I do not “understand” BDSM, I will even admit I find it distasteful and often disgusting. I have no way of knowing if that’s what this guy was into with his unfortunate partners. I object to much of what he has posted. It’s an unfair stunt which negatively characterises his ex and paints her as some kind of flake. I’m surprised his doubtless high-priced lawyer allowed it.
    AH, poor little Jian-boy. Wah wah, the bad old Corp won’t stand by someone who admits he gets a stiffer from slapping around a woman. Oh wah wah, poor little pillock.

  • Naida

    It’s disgusting how “consent” (along with “choice”) seems to be the magic key to legitimize every act that objectifies, hurts and degrades women and how “slut/kinkshaming” would be the magic buzzword to shut down any critical discussion about structural oppression and violence. Everyone goes like “omg I like BDSM, I’m such an outlaw, everybody’s shaming me” when the truth is that female submissiveness is super modern and en vogue, be it in 50 shades of grey or in its “tame” vampire version Twilight. What’s next? Will there be john-or rapistshaming? (well, ok, rapists and johns have certain things in common anyway). I mean, they are marginalized because of non-standard phantasies, leave them alone you guys! They got a damn right to female bodies, don’t you kinkshame them!

    • Morag

      “What’s next? Will there be john-or rapistshaming? (well, ok, rapists and johns have certain things in common anyway).”

      Absolutely this is next! Actually, social prohibitions against shaming Johns has already been with us for a long time (think, for example, of how many movies we’ve seen in which the man purchasing sex is portrayed sympathetically–unfortunately unattractive (but a really nice guy), say, or lonely and isolated, or suffering from a disability which precludes the usual channels of meeting sex-partners).

      Only now, with widespread and world-wide discussions on anti-prostitution laws, men who buy women are becoming more vocal and formal about their right–their need–to exchange money for the use of women’s (and children’s?) bodies. And, of course, this will be framed more and more as “human right”–as in “all people have a right to sexual pleasure and access to a partner.”

      Watch for more “women buy sex, too!” and the trotting out of female consumers of sex services (all 6 of them) whose testimonials will prove that gender has nothing to do with anything. It’s everyone who is buying and selling sex, and if only we could deal with that pesky abuse, violence and murder problem, we’d all be happy with the vital role sex work plays in a healthy society.

      Rapist-shaming is a much harder sell than John-shaming. But, the workings are there, too. It’s all in the it’s-all-about-our-brains approach to personal psychology. Sociological and feminist analysis is dismissed or marginalized into a very small role and, instead, we’ll be reading about what brain scans reveal. Some men, the experts are saying, are wired to “prefer non-consensual sex” (i.e., rape) in a biologically pre-determined way and so on … Like BDSM, it’s yet another sexual preference. No one, of course, will come out and say that a certain amount of rape is socially acceptable. But, they are and will continue to frame rape-as-sexual-preference as a mental health issue that requires compassionate treatment and, also, safe expression, similar to the kind of talk we hear about the sado-masochistic scene.

      In fact, the righteous struggle against rapist-shaming and John-shaming will converge at certain points, won’t they? After all, men who are wired–through no fault of their own!–to get off on violation will ultimately need a safe outlet for their desires. In comes the “value of sex work.” To keep women safe from men whose preference is non-consensual sex, sex professionals will be required to absorb that violence …

      I wonder if Ghomeshi also used prostitutes?

  • Essie

    1) Nothing has been proven yet so
    2) There is no way for ANYONE to know who is telling the truth: the accusers or the accused so
    3) You are free to interpret Ghomeshi’s statements as a complete lie and totally self-serving bullshit but
    4) That is no different than assuming that the accusers are crazy groupies involved in a plot to smear him.

    You don’t know what happened behind closed doors. I don’t either. No one knows except for the two people that were there. I find it pretty disturbing that someone would get sexual pleasure from beating another person; I also find it pretty disturbing that someone would get sexual pleasure from being beaten. But all we know is what he is ACCUSED of, not what has been proven. I have been a committed feminist for decades but that doesn’t mean that I automatically take a woman’s word over a man’s, anymore than I think it is right or fair to assume that because some man is powerful, attractive, talented or rich, he is also above suspicion.

    Fairness is about reserving judgement until all the facts are known. The really horrible thing about all forms of sexual misconduct is that it is so hard to prove one way or the other. Most other crimes can be proven by evidence.

    I have my own feeling as to the guilt or innocence of Ghomeshi but I am pretty clear that it is an opinion, not a fact.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t care what has been ‘proven.’ Ghomeshi’s defense on Facebook says it all, as far as I’m concerned. Like, what do you need ‘proof’ of in order to tell that this guy is a sexist, violent, narcissistic creep?

      • Essie

        Well, seeing as I don’t know any of the people involved personally, yes, in fact I do need SOME kind of evidence. Are you suggesting that we do away with a justice system entirely and just go on our feelings?

        • Meghan Murphy

          The justice system?? He isn’t being charged with anything as far as I know/as of yet. His defense is enough for me to have lost all respect for him. How could the CBC possibly keep him on after this?

          • Adam Rallo

            Toronto police have confirmed that no-one has ever even filed a complaint about Ghomeshi. No-one is accusing Jian of anything. This is a labour dispute.

          • H Galaga

            Yeah, not a labour dispute. It’s a sexual assault accusation.
            He said it himself.
            Four women have claims. Sh*t needs to be taken seriously.

          • Essie

            I don’t really know if CBC should have kept him on or not because, as I said before, I don’t know what information was put before CBC by Ghomeshi or by the “other side” (the Star? Jesse Brown? the women involved?). I’m assuming there is more to this story than any of us know, which is why I don’t feel that I have enough to go on yet to make up my mind.

            As I read through your breakdown of Ghomeshi’s statement, I can see exactly how you come to the conclusion you did and, at the same time, I am saying – well, don’t some men have female friends? Haven’t other people had ex-lovers (male or female) that told the story of the relationship in such a way as to make the other people look like creeps?

            You said: “…we would be less inclined to twist male violence into a “personal sexual preference” that is no one’s business but the perpetrator’s. Certainly we’d be less inclined to claim violence against women as an inalienable human right…” I don’t see anyone claiming that violence against women is a right, nor did Ghomeshi imply that it is no one’s business but his own. In claiming that the rough sex was consensual, he is saying that it is both his and the woman’s business.

            Is it any wonder that sexual assault charges are confusing when “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a blockbuster hit? There is a HUGE market for it and it is women that are buying and reading it, not men. There are women who enthusiastically enjoy something generically called “rough sex” (both the giving and the receiving) and would be outraged that another woman has the temerity to object. Who defines what “rough sex” is and is not, when and where someone steps over the line? There are women who like being tied up and spanked, with some humiliation thrown in, without that changing their confident personality in ‘real life.’ What about all the movies showing men AND women throwing each other up against the wall? Have you seen “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt)? If the sex scene was real, they’d both be in the emergency room afterward.

            I am NOT endorsing rough sex, nor am I saying that Ghomeshi is NOT a violent sexual predator. I’m saying that I can’t jump to any conclusions based on what I know so far and I don’t see how other people can either.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Is it any wonder that sexual assault charges are confusing when “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a blockbuster hit? There is a HUGE market for it and it is women that are buying and reading it, not men.”

            Yeah that doesn’t surprise me at all, considering we live in a patriarchal society that sexualizes dominance, subordination, and violence against women…

          • Ash

            There’s a huge market for it, therefore it is good. Or, it’s a mirror of a society that views women as fuck toys to be dominated and sexualizes power inequalities.

          • bella_cose

            “There are women who like being tied up and spanked, with some humiliation thrown in, without that changing their confident personality in ‘real life.’”

            That sex is happening in “real life”. Did you think it happens in some mystical bubble, where nothing that happens inside can affect anything outside of it?

            Where do people get these ridiculous ideas?

          • Bella_cose,
            Essie did not assert that what happens in the bedroom never has an effect outside it. It’s that intimate activities don’t necessarily have external effect, and I would add that one cannot *reliably* “tell” that someone is sexually dominant, submissive, or into giving or receiving pain, or doing other kinky things, from their behavior and attitude in non-intimate spaces.

            That does not imply abusers do not operate under cover of BDSM. I am sure they do try to, and the evidence suggests Ghomeshi may be one of those.

            I do think that the D/s and S&M parts of BDSM derive from patriarchy, especially if one sees all heirarchical structures of authority (classroom, parental, corporate, government) as patriarchal in nature. If we are going to strive to get rid of patriarchy, does this mean we must condemn or at least discourage such manifestations of patriarchy as pain play, and dominance and submission role-play in our sexuality? maybe bondage too?

          • Missfit

            We simply discuss, we are not in a Court of law. Just reading his ‘defense’ or whatever you want to call it, the whole thing reads like a cover up, not something written from the heart. He refers to 50 shades of grey, a pop success, specifically for the effect of making whatever he did appear benign. He makes vague references to ‘sexual preferences’ whereas we have a woman referring to closed fist punches and choking till suffocating. It looks like he hired an MRA to write his ‘defense’: bitter vengeful exes are after his reputation, it’s a conspiracy, the word ‘consent’ being repeated like a mantra, and the words ‘human rights’? please. Now we have more than one woman having come forward telling about his abusive behavior, a colleague testifying to his behavior too. I’ll go with a ‘balance of probabilities’ test to say he’s a violent misogynist.

          • Ash

            yeah like you can somehow divorce yourself from this “Secret Life” where you’re a violent predator who chokes and punches women. Have some fucking integrity.

          • Garth

            So how do you explain that not one, not even one, of his “accusers” filed a police complaint, or, for that matter, even a complaint with HR at CBC? Sounds like a smear campaign at best, or perhaps an attempt at blackmail. I fear our “public broadcaster” will soon be 50 million poorer due to poor judgement. I will reserve judgement on this man until I hear the evidence.

            I agree with Mr. Ghomeshi on at least one thing: the media, and the government, have no business in the bedrooms of the nation, unless it becomes
            possible or probable that a crime has been committed there. And, if that were the case, the proper channel would have been to go to the police (for assault or other serious matters), or perhaps counselling, for non-criminal matters, not to the media (social or otherwise).

          • Meghan Murphy

            Why would they file a police complaint? Most women don’t… Also, the woman who claims she was sexually harassed at work by Jian apparently did go to her union rep. Why on earth would someone be trying to smear or blackmail Jian? Just because he supposedly dumped them? That makes no sense…

            Assume the CBC has a bunch of information you don’t. It’s not likely they would make this decision lightly.

          • Ash

            When i was sexually assaulted, my rapist got to the people before me and told them it was “all consensual” – i was humiliated and blamed by people at college, including people in power, and so i never reported to the police…for years i thought it was my fault because i was blamed so harshly for what i was wearing and for being drunk. A lot of us are too afraid to report to the police who interrogate us like we’re the rapists, not the victims.

          • Meh

            Oh Ash, that is so horrible 🙁 I’m so sorry that happened to you.

            ‘Consent’ is SUCH BULLSHIT – what the hell is wrong with people?!

          • Garth

            Ash, I am so sorry to hear of your ordeal. You say the attacker got to “the people” before you. What people? Were the police ever involved in your case?

            I have a better understanding now of why so many victims don’t report to the police. However, I also wonder how much shorter the list of Ghomeshi’s victims might have been if someone had done so (gone to the police) sooner…

          • amongster


            And I wonder how much shorter the list of Ghomeshi’s victims might have been if there were not so many people out there defending violence against women by calling it BDMS. Not the victims are at fault but people who are violent and/or apologetic about violence.
            You really don’t help at all when you blame the victims again. No wonder they mostly keep silent.

          • Garth

            Hi Megan,

            Thank you for writing this article. Yours was the second article I read in full after this story first broke. The first was Jian’s Facebook post after a friend shared it with his/her Facebook friends.

            I do stand by everything I have said in the past. However, I do acknowledge now that I have a much better understanding of the challenges faced by victims of sexual assault. Thank you and your followers for getting me started on that “path of research”.

            My main point was that everyone, regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, and so forth, is entitled to due process.

            Understand that, my lens on viewing this topic is somewhat coloured by personal experience – when I was nineteen I was detained by the RCMP based on statements made by a girl whose friend had been sexually assaulted at a party we all had attended. Yes, I had been at the party. I have no reason to believe that this alleged sexual assault did not occur; problem for me was, it seems it occurred sometime after I left but I had no alibi, as none of my close friends who had been at the bar with us earlier had come with me to the party. I had no way of proving I had not been there when it occurred; I also met the general description of the assailant(s) – long hair, bushy beard, biker. You know, the type of guy who by visual appearance alone you assume to be guilty until proven innocent – and even then you might just think he had a good lawyer and the justice system failed.

            The girl who gave my name to the police apparently knew who I was because my father had been the principal at a school she attended and she didn’t like him.

            Long story short – people DO get falsely accused and careers (futures) do get ruined or altered by false allegations.

            I do agree with you that in the case of sexual violence against women, more often than not the victims are telling the truth.

            I also would like to say that I now have a better understanding of why so few victims do file police reports.

            It seems now that with more allegations coming to light and more information being shared via the proper channels, that you may be yet proven wrong on one point you made earlier – I think now that the end result may very well be that Jian will go to jail.

            Perhaps now that a few of Jian’s alleged victims have gone to the police, we will see justice be served, despite the fact of the power imbalance between Jian and his alleged victims.

          • bella_cose

            I don’t really see what due process has to do with this. That only pertains to the legal system. People can form opinions based on knowledge, experience, and whatever information they have. No one would survive in this world If they didn’t do that everyday, and instead waited for irrefutable evidence for everything. Besides, due process doesn’t guarantee that an innocent person won’t go to prison, or that a guilty one will (ever hear of O.J. Simpson?). I suppose my point is that discussions of due process aren’t relevant to the conversation at hand.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Right. Due process has nothing to do with anything in this case, seeing as Ghomeshi hasn’t been charged.

          • Johnny

            Yes. About that union rep thing. Conflicting reports. Only the Toronto Star story said that. Check the National Post.

            Anyway, nice to see more women finally coming forward. And a few actually went to the police! Imagine that! Reporting crime to the police? Who’da thunk?

            Anyway, this creep needs to be dealt with. Better later than never. He always creeped me out. And I’m a dude! Never could figure out what the ladies saw in him.

          • Johnny

            Oh. Just noticed. So just to be clear. I’m a different John than who posted October 27, commending Essie for her balanced approach. And, yes, I get the irony of my name here.

            You can call me Johnny if it makes things less confusing.

          • Laur

            50 shades of gray is supposed to be a work of fiction! And here I thought it was anti-porn feminists who couldn’t tell fantasy from reality?!

          • John

            Thank you for your balanced approach here, Essie. Let’s reserve judgment until we know more facts come to light before jumping to conclusions about Ghomeshi’s innocence or guilt.

          • CPen

            “Without that changing their confident personality in ‘real life’? I think not. Hidden things seep through, affect day-to-day relationships and reactions, even if one is suffering from multiple personality disorder. Things slip out, like JG’s creepy remarks and behaviour at work and with acquantances.

          • CPen,
            I think you’re conflating Essie’s assertion, about individuals who enjoy various types of submission, with something about people who get off on abusing others.

            Creepy behavior such as that ascribed to Ghomeshi toward his colleague is not typical of Dominants, it’s symptomatic of arrogance, sexual entitlement, and misogyny.

          • Ash

            lol, the justice system, it helps us all out so much! let’s just trust the law to protect women (they have a great track record don’t they?)

          • Garth


            “Most men never learn…them” Wow. That has got to be be one of the most sexist comments I have heard or read all week.

            I have met a lot of people in my day who thought the world revolved around them, and I must say, at least half were women.

            Anyway, I could respond to your comment in kind, or with some kind of reference to sex and travel, but I won’t.

            I will just say this: before you try to change the world, first look within. What needs to change there first? How do you feel you are helping your cause by treating men in ways you don’t want to be treated?

            And before you discount my opinions and posts as being just those of another “MRA”, I will deny you that smug self satisfaction – I am not. If you must use a TLA to describe me, use HRA.

            (I didn’t even know what MRA meant in feminist circles until after I read Meagan’s blog here and googled it.)

            Anyway, thanks for the tip. I did do my own research. Bye now.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “before you try to change the world, first look within. What needs to change there first? How do you feel you are helping your cause by treating men in ways you don’t want to be treated?”

            OOH GAWD OPRAH STOP.

            This is not some kind of creepy self-help forum where dudes get to tell women they are troubled and need to ‘look within’ and ‘be nicer’ to the poor men. Like being ‘nice’ to men has ever helped our cause anyway.

          • John

            I don’t think Garth was suggesting you need to be nicer to “the poor men”. He was suggesting you need to be fair. Discriminating against someone because someone from their “class” once discriminated against you is still discrimination. Is that so hard to see?

            Kicking your brother in the shin because his friend broke your dolly is not acceptable. C’mon, ladies, we all learned this stuff in kindergarten. And the teacher was most likely a lady, and not a “dude”. Get a grip.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok. That’s enough. Move along now, Johnny.

          • lizor
          • Johnny

            I read the article. Interesting perspective.

            I must point out, little boys get grabbed too. We also loved and worried for our sisters.

            Having said that, if there is a silver lining to the Ghomeshi case, and the increased traffic to this site due to this blog’s connection to it, bear in mind that there are men coming here trying to gain understanding, and willing to help, and being chased away.

            Let us know when you are all done talking, and when you are ready to let us help with moving that rock up the hill. I suspect we’ll be waiting quite a while.

            Let me remind you now too, there are many of us also on the other side to make sure the rock doesn’t roll down the other side of the hill and crush OUR village. And no, we’re not the ones who rolled it down into your valley.

          • Meghan Murphy

            The Ghomeshi stuff hasn’t brought ‘increased traffic’ to the site… This was the biggest feminist website in Canada long before the Ghomeshi allegations came to light. I know you’re new here, but that’s just you…

          • Anthea Brainhooke

            You might not have rolled the rock into our valley, but you sure as heck didn’t try to stop the guys that did.

            And now we’re trying to get rid of the rock all you’re doing is sitting back and telling us we’re rolling the rock wrong, but you won’t help us until we Ask Nicely.

            But if we manage to keep our cool and Ask Nicely then you tell us that it’s obviously not urgent or else we’d be more upset about things, so call you again when we really need help and aren’t just whining to get attention.

            But if THAT pisses us off to the point where we say HEY ASSHOLE, WE COULD USE A HAND WITH THIS ROCK HERE you’re all “Why do you always have to be so ANGRY about everything?”

            Nice double-bind, that one.

          • Johnny

            With all due respect, I don’t buy that argument.

            With specific reference to the Ghomeshi case, hundreds of women (and men) in media circles apparently knew about his creepy behaviour, and nobody until recently, really tried to do anything significant about it.

            Sure there were whispered rumours, texted warnings to stay away, but everyone in those circles really just sat around pretending the rock wasn’t there. Sick really.

          • bella_cose

            Please stop with the reverse sexism bullshit. There’s no such thing as reverse sexism, just as there’s no such thing as reverse racism. Men as a class are not oppressed by women as a class.

          • A woman can say something toward a man about his sex that may be hateful, derisive, show contempt on the basis of sex, but it’s not “sexist” because the woman is not speaking from a position of privilege in the culture they share? An individual’s remarks can be legitimately characterized as sexist or racist only if they speak from a position of cultural privilege or power with respect to their sex or race, which means only if the target of the remark suffers from institutionalized sexism or racism?

            Please help me understand.

          • hypatia

            Correct. If you’re on the losing side of institutionalized oppression, you can be prejudiced, but not sexist, racist, etc.

            This link explains it:


          • Thanks for sharing that link. Very helpful, for for this question and for all the additional material there.

      • alex

        Yeah, “proof” sure is silly…grab the pitchforks, the story came out today so no more information will come to light.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Did you read his statement? Did you read my argument?

          • JaQuay

            Yes we all read your argument and his statement. You say “He immediately positioned himself as a victim, pulling out trope after sexist trope”. What did he say that was so sexist Meghan Murphy? Hmm?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Read the post and find out!

          • JaQuay

            Meghan Murphy please stop with that “read the post and find out”. Everyone did read it and that’s why we don’t agree with you. Bad post!

          • Meghan Murphy

            Nobody cares what you think, tho 🙁

            (Engage with the actual arguments in the post or go somewhere else please and thanks.)

          • Ash

            lol, oh no a man who wants a “balanced approach” which translates into “the women are by default liars and the accused is by default innocent” i love liberal’s logic…

          • Garth

            Ash, what does it mean then when a woman wants a “balanced approach”? Does that translate to “all women always speak the truth and all men are assumed to be rapists until proven otherwise”? Guilty until proven innocent (or poor)?

            More seriously, I found your comment to be extremely sexist and patronizing to men.

          • Garth

            “Nobody cares what you think, tho”

            Sad response. Many men have been saying that to women for generations. It don’t make it okay to just switch the roles. Men need to have a voice in this too. Some of us can help you get things done.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Um. Well, feminism is a women’s movement. Not a men’s movement. So actually it really doesn’t matter what men think about feminism.

          • bella_cose

            Men already have too much of a voice elsewhere. They need to learn to listen to, believe, and support women. If they want to help, then they need to focus on educating other men.

          • Johnny

            Garth. Take the hint. They don’t care what we think; their minds are made up.

            Men are the evil ones. We must go.

            One day, in the dreamy dreamy future, we will have a perfect utopian socialist society made up only of women and their same sex partners. All people will be the same cocoa brown colour because the brilliant lady scientists will have genetically engineered things so there are no races, no classes, everyone dreamily equal in a purely non-patriarchal paradise. Sadly (for us), their brilliant logic has determined that the only way to achieve this is to get rid of all the men.

            Garth: You are so cute, and naive, you remind me of a little black kid stumbling upon a KKK BBQ, and admiring the cake, wondering if they might share a piece with you.

            Nothing good will come from your presence here. Go home. Quickly.

            (nice job ladies. Another “good man” out of the way, running into the arms of his local MRA group. Score one more for your team – NOT).

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh my goddddd. Different races and ethinicities don’t cause racism!!!

            Also, for the record, I’m heterosexual. My boyfriend is a man. I have lots of great male friends. I have zero interest in getting rid of men. I have an interest in ending patriarchy and male violence against women. If you think that = ‘getting rid of men’ then you must have a pretty low vision of what it means to be a man. Like, can they not help but perpetrate violence against women? Are they ‘naturally’ domineering?

            Also, comparing feminists to the KKK? And you expect us to take you seriously? Really? Good luck with that…

          • Johnny


            This only supports my view that we really need a sarcasm font.

            My entire previous post was sarcasm based on the hostile response that Garth and a few other “dudes” have received here for pointing out that blaming men for everything wrong in our society is fruitless and no better than blaming white people or black people or little green creatures from Mars.

            I have read far more of the site than you probably give me credit for and was aware of your sexuality.

            One thing we can agree on is that we have a problem with violence in this society, yes, much of it is men against women, but the problem is violence. How do we address it together?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Based on many of your other comments here, I would not have assumed what you said to be sarcastic. But ok.

          • JaQuay

            It’s sad that you think you have the right to tell women how they should act in the bedroom. Mind your own business. Obviously it wasn’t abuse if that’s what they wanted. Alot of women want that, not me, but look how popular 50 Shades of Grey is. You must think you are the morality police. Like I’ve posted before why can’t you talk about something positive instead of man-bashing constantly.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok. Bye for real on account of “man-bashing.” NBD, I’m sure you’ll find many other forums online that will welcome you with open arms.

    • hypatia

      So you are a committed feminist, and yet your default position is to withhold judgment and/or wait for the justice system to sort out accusations of abuse and sexual assault? Despite the fact that studies have shown that 95-98% of rape accusations are truthful? And despite the fact that, in the US at least (and I’d imagine that Canada is similar), only 3% of rapists will ever spend even a single day in jail?

      Have you perhaps not noticed what happens to women who speak out publicly about experiences of rape and abuse? A simple application of Occam’s Razor here will tell you who has motivation to lie in this situation and who doesn’t, provided, of course, that you have the critical thinking skills to see past patriarchal tropes about lying, vengeful sluts.

      • Essie

        My default position in anything, is to try to be as objective as possible and to reach a conclusion based upon as much information that I can get. This only happened in the last…what? 30 hours? I think there is going to be a lot more information that is going to come out. Is there some reason we all have to stake out cast-in-stone opinions immediately?

        The other thing is – I haven’ heard any first hand reporting from the women involved, only the the third hand account from the Star, which they themselves have said is not complete as yet. The application of Occam’s Razor is, in my opinion, premature.

        • hypatia

          Well, first of all, Jian’s Facebook post reads like it came from a manual for abusive men. If I knew nothing else about this case, his words alone would have set off all kinds of alarm bells for me.

          There are now 8 victims who have come forward. But to answer your question–why stake out an opinion so quickly?–it’s because those victims are out there somewhere, maybe reading the media coverage, maybe reading this blog. There are without a doubt many other victims of many other abusers reading the coverage, including this blog. And those women need to know that when and if they get the courage to speak out, they will be believed and they will be supported. Given the statistics, any time any woman speaks out about abuse or assault, she is most likely telling the truth, and yet our culture has a default position of disbelief. That alone is reason enough to simply believe women.

          I am not a judge and do not have any power over Jian’s freedom or fate; there is no need for me to apply the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Preponderance of evidence is a perfectly reasonable standard for me to go by.

          And it’s a question of harm. Whom am I harming and in what way if I remain “neutral”? Whom am I harming and in what way if a perusal of the available information leads me to the conclusion that the allegations are likely true? What do either of these actions mean in the context of a culture where women are routinely disbelieved, where rapists and abusers routinely get away without accountability, where violence against women is so normalized that the idea of strangling a woman to the point of unconsciousness is acceptable to many people so long as it was “consensual”? It’s a question of choosing not to be part of the problem.

      • amongster

        Yes! I think this is exactly what most forget. That we don’t live in a society free of oppression. We have been socialized to be biased, to think of women as liars and disposable objects. Whenever people claim to be objective they actually mean that they believe the men even though studies have shown again and again that it’s far more likely that the women say the truth.

        • Ash

          ding ding ding!

      • Garth

        I don’t know about that, money is a huge motivator. Do you think every story sold to the tabloids is true?

        I’d also like more information about the studies you reference. I find those numbers really difficult to believe. We’re any of the studies done scientifically within the past 10 years?

        • bella_cose

          Maybe if you want to comment on a feminist blog, you should do the research yourself. We don’t need to prove anything to you. Your opinions are the ones that need support.

          I know that this may be difficult to hear, since most men never learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them, but the world doesn’t revolve around you.

    • Joseph

      Well said and Meghan’s response of “I don’t care what has been proven” pretty much sums this article up.

      PS: Meghan, the one thing that keeps me interested in your blog is that you keep posting my adversarial posts and replies without cencorship.

      I don’t agree with your opinions, I think you shot from the hip without waiting for the whole story, I think you’re too quick to demonize a man just because he’s a man, I don’t think you make a strong argument or an informed one when you say that “consent is not enough”, but I do respect you for allowing comments that so fully oppose yours. Thanks for that. And now… as you put it… “k bye then”

  • I had never heard of this guy before this week. And the first version I heard was one angry ex, not three women with similar stories (shades of Bill Cosby), plus a fourth woman sexually harassed at work. Nice slant there, fella!

    I saw the Star article earlier today, linked from Jezebel, but I hadn’t seen the Globe and Mail article until just now. It was an eye-opener. I had no idea the law handled BDSM this way.

    Good article. I hope this incident gets lots of people talking about the issues intelligently (in addition to the usual internet nonsense).

    • Garth

      Yes, that bit in Canadian law was an eye opener for me too. One cannot legally consent to abuse, if the abuse leaves obvious signs of physical harm.

      That leaves plenty of gray area and wiggle room for the BDSM crowd, everyone for that matter. Just ask anyone who’s ever played “good cop, bad cop” with a big phone book and the local police.

  • I’m reminded of your title on another post, “Oscar Pistorius knew exactly what he was doing” and I want to point out that the same title is applicable here. Jian Ghomeshi knew exactly what he was doing, too. He knew he was using his celebrity status to lure young women. He knew he was looking for women who were into BDSM, because he wanted to be abusive and that would give him an excuse. He knew that he pushed women’s boundaries and did things they didn’t want. He knew he was hurting them beyond reason. When he found out some women were going public, he knew he was in trouble, so he hired a PR firm and a lawyer. He wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t know he was in trouble.

    His “poor me” rant on Facebook states several times that everything was consensual. I ask everyone out there, when you have consensual sex with your partner, do you put out a press release stating that it was TOTALLY CONSENSUAL and that if anyone at some point says it wasn’t, they are lying? No? Yeah, that’s because consensual sex doesn’t warrant a press release. Consensual sex doesn’t warrant hiring a lawyer or a PR firm. Consensual sex doesn’t get you fired from your job.

    He is framing himself as a victim of a woman who creates a false rape accusation because she’s jealous of his other girlfriends. This is exactly what MRAs do. The self-aggrandizement, the false victimhood, the belief that lots of women are into him and his manly abuse, and the belief that women are just lying and vindictive, it’s classic MRA.

    He is attempting to be the only person who gets to define what happened. It is up to him to decide whether the women consented or not. What they say about it doesn’t count for him. He believes it is a “private matter” because it only involves one person: him. The women he choked and hit are not people in his eyes, so what he did was truly “private,” that is, only involving him and no other people. The women were just props in his private theatre. Now the women he abused are trying to assert their humanity and tell him “NO,” you cannot treat people that way, we are people, we are not to be choked or hit, we are not to be dehumanized. And he is doing the same thing he has always done: he is using his privileges to his advantage. He is using his money to buy “justice” for himself and he is using male privilege to shut the women up and shame them for asserting themselves. He will keep doing this as long as he possibly can. He will not think critically about his behaviour. He will not stop to consider that maybe he really did something wrong. Why would he? An entire male supremacist system is propping him up, and will continue to buoy him against rough waters, no matter what he does.

    • Chris

      “His “poor me” rant on Facebook states several times that everything was consensual. I ask everyone out there, when you have consensual sex with your partner, do you put out a press release stating that it was TOTALLY CONSENSUAL and that if anyone at some point says it wasn’t, they are lying? No? Yeah, that’s because consensual sex doesn’t warrant a press release. Consensual sex doesn’t warrant hiring a lawyer or a PR firm. Consensual sex doesn’t get you fired from your job.”

      ^ the above is complete nonsense.

      if these woman were so appalled why did they seemingly go out on additional dates/meet in private with this “rapist” on more than one occasion (of course discounting the supposed workplace incident that was never brought up through the proper internal avenues)? i would imagine if i had gone on a date with someone and felt harassed or abused in the least that i would not put myself into a position to perpetuate that kind of action. if someone inappropriately touched me during lets say a dinner or a concert like was portrayed in one of the accusations, i certainly would not end up in the bedroom of the very same person. please, do not interpret this as condoning abuse or assault towards woman or bend this into me saying it was somehow the woman’s fault, because i like to think that result is never appropriate nor justified. let us not make snap and/or emotional judgement before we have more information.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Why do women stay with their abusers? Were they not abused because they went back? Why do women go on dates with men who raped them? This is victim-blaming 101….

        • Ash

          yup. could you imagine if they tried this for a domestic violence case? “oh she consented to being smacked around, so…mind your own business!” anyone defending Jian is defending victim-blaming…they think they’re being these noble liberals who trust the police and the law to help women and listen to them but they’re actually perpetuating a culture that BLAMES women.

          • Garth

            Ash, I’m curious what you mean when you use the word “liberal” in these posts?

            I’m finding it a confusing use of the word, perhaps because it means something different in the region where you live compared to where I come from.

      • Jane

        Stockholm Syndrome. The stuff every Pick-Up-Artist website is based on.
        In four easy steps, they promise rejected and lonely men, will they have groomed their personal human victim:
        -traumatic experience (negging or in this case violent sex)
        -isolation (getting her away from the group, make her sever contact to friends and family [big one])
        -indoctrination (what I want/say/do is right, what you want/say/do is wrong)
        -promise of reward (if you do what is right I will love you)

    • Garth

      Interesting hypothesis. Possibly true. However, two basic flaws with the hypothesis. This happened in Canada in 2014, not Iran or 1950s America. The feminists and PC (politically correct) crowd run this country now. Secondly, why no police reports then? None of the women ever spoke out until contacted by a sleazy journalist chasing a story.

      Don’t get me wrong – I have no sympathy for this guy if he is actually guilty of physically assaulting young women. If one of them were a daughter of mine, he’d need a lot more than a high priced lawyer and a PR firm for protection.

      I’m just saying we should reserve judgement until more information comes out.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Why is the journalist who broke the story ‘sleazy’? Why have you assumed no women have spoken out just because they didn’t go public? My sense is there have been plenty of rumours and rumblings about Ghomeshi previous to all this — why else would The Star have begun investigating last summer? Were they just out to get him for no apparent reason?

        • Garth

          He is sleazy because of how he uses social media to promote his ‘journalism’ and how he writes. Anonymous sources. Rumour and innuendo presented as fact.

          Do you not think it odd that it was the star that picked up the story first? The Star is Canada’s version of The National Inquirer.

          Now, having said all that, I’ve done a bit more research. I think JG is probably guilty. But let’s see where this goes. I’ll leave my pitchfork in the barn for now…

          • Meghan Murphy

            The Star is not, by any means,”Canada’s version of The National Inquirer”…

          • hypatia

            Maybe Garth is confusing the Toronto Star with the American gossip rag Star Magazine? If so, he’s giving away the fact that he couldn’t have read the articles in question, because one glance at The Star’s website would clear up any confusion.

          • Garth

            Hypatia: I’ve read the articles. I was using hyperbole. The Toronto Star is certainly more credible than Star Magazine, The National Inquirer, or even The Calgary Sun. But just barely.

            If you want credible news in Canada, you need to be a much more discerning consumer now than ever before.

            We used to be able to rely on the CBC, The Globe and Mail, and other regional or local papers like the Edmonton Journal or the Vancouver Sun for reliable, well researched news articles.

            Now, with cutbacks, mergers, acquisitions, and an appalling decline in career prospects for good investigative journalists, we are left with press releases from the PMO, or the White House, slightly re-written and passed off as news, or simply a “retweet” of something that came off an American news wire. How do you think so many Americans still believe that WMD were an imminent threat in Iraq just prior to Desert Storm? Because that is what their government and media kept telling them, until it was either no longer relevant “news” (in some circles), or accepted as fact rather than propaganda (in others).

            I’ve even seen our beloved CBC post so-called “news” articles on their website that were little more than regurgitated tweets of opinions from celebrities and/or members of the general public! How is that news?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m not saying the Toronto Star is, like, the most reputable media source around and that they don’t publish crap sometimes, but they also broke this story and the Rob Ford story (I mean, like, if Gawker hadn’t kinda scooped them) — but they aren’t a tabloid rag… Like at all. Every mainstream paper is a tad crappo. But they still do good journalism alongside the crap. Part of our jobs as citizens is to be able to read media critically, look to other sources, question, read between the lines, figure out what is solid information, what might not be, etc. Media literacy FTW!

            Here, we are fully aware that we must analyze and digest media with a critical eye… We know that MSM is MSM. I mean, at least half of what we do here is look, critically, at media representations of stories and events — particularly with regard to women, sex, and gender. It’s not like we’re just reading media reports blindly. I mean, please.

            I’m not super stoked on the attitude you’ve come here with, Garth — we’ve all been doing this for some time now, and we know better than you. You might try exploring the site/comments a little more before presuming to know more or to be a more ‘discerning customer’ of the news than the rest of us.

            I mean, like, speaking for myself, this is my job — media, critical thinking, journalism…

            Too many of your comments are naive and mansplainy to commenters here. Like I said, presume they know better than you. You can learn a lot from them.

          • Garth

            “Presume they know better than you.”

            That sounds a lot like ” Don’t worry your pretty little head about this”, “we (wo)men have this all figured out .”

            K, bye then.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Except you’re a dude so it doesn’t sound like that at all. See ya.

  • corvid

    Pop culture and porn culture trick progressive women into engaging in BDSM. It is held up above our heads that the “kink” sexuality is the most enlightened, the most advanced, the most sophisticated. Because who wants to be seen/mocked as prudish, unenlightened and “vanilla?” Many women don’t, and therefore in the spirit of “having an open mind”, we “consent” to our own abuse, only to realize later what has happened and feel its effects.

    What patriarchy, the pornographers and porn-sick men do to women reminds me of that childhood prank: grabbing someone’s hand, hitting them with it, and then saying “stop hitting yourself!”

    • Cal

      I completely agree and I’m glad that someone is saying this. The BDSM/’sexual preference’ thing is being used to stop criticism about a man who is sexually turned on by hitting women. That is not someone with a healthy relationship with women. That is disturbed. The way you’ve phrased it is just so right.

    • Tina

      What about women who enjoy submission? Or domination? There are both. I’ve engaged in negotiated BDSM with kind and affectionate partners who monitored my comfort, and when I said stop, we stopped. I never felt bad about what we did, or about setting limits. Never once have I regretted it. So, to me, this feels very judgmental. Your post will ring true for some women, absolutely, and I agree it’s the result of a deeply misogynistic culture. It can also, unquestionably, be abusive. But that’s not everyone’s experience.

      (At the very least, this whole horrific mess has gotten people talking about sexual violence and consent, right?)

      • corvid

        Where the is my “safe word” to opt out of being involved in this bullshit patriarchal culture? Oh yeah, there isn’t one.

        • Samantha

          Tina is talking specifically about a sexual activity. To say that “because patriarchy, your sexual preference is wrong” is rather simplistic (and, some might argue, oppressive in itself), don’t you think?

          • lizor

            Nobody said “because patriarchy, your sexual preference is wrong”. There is a difference between saying BDSM happens in the context of patriarchy and re-performs patriarchal hierarchy where a person who is seen as weak/feminine is hurt and treated with contempt by someone who is a seen as strong/masculine. That is not saying “your seal preference is wrong” it’s saying “this is the context of your sexual preference”. It’s up to you decide it value, while being honest about what is being done and in which cultural context..

          • Samantha

            But what about the case of a female dom and a male sub? Surely this role reversal speaks volumes about how BDSM culture is not pro-patriarchal – maybe it could be argued that BDSM culture allows feminists to fight against patriarchy in the bedroom?
            In the case of a male dom/female sub relationship, I have to reiterate that doms (of both genders) are extremely cognizant and respectful of their subs needs and desires when it comes to everything, not just sex – which is more than can be said of plenty of vanilla relationships. A whipping might occur, for example, but spaced out with loving and healing caresses, and followed up by care to the wounds (if any).

          • Lee

            The dom/sub dynamic is, itself, patriarchal. Patriarchy could be viewed as the origin of the cycle of abuse. People from war-torn or economically destroyed countries, for example, often reenact the abuse they’ve suffered within families, for generations. It isn’t only the men reenacting it, but it’s still based on the patriarchal view of how humans must interact (hierarchy). It’s based on the idea that someone has to have power over someone else to have power.

          • hypatia

            Two things. One, what’s “hot” for a lot of men about the idea of a female dom is the factor of degradation; it’s degrading to be dominated by someone “lower” than you. These roles are not being played out in a vacuum, and the patriarchal subtext present everywhere in our culture shapes the meanings involved in who plays what role, regardless of how the individuals involved feel about it.

            Two, reversing the direction of oppression or domination (even if it were possible) is in no way a feminist act, nor does it challenge patriarchy. Feminism is about women’s liberation from oppression, not about rearranging existing hierarchies while leaving the basic power structures intact.

          • bella_cose

            I find it perplexing that people equate female liberation with the ability to be dominant. As if what we should be striving for is an equal chance at being on top, instead of dismantling a system based on hierarchy. What they don’t understand, especially in the case of BDSM, is that anyone in the dominant position is in opposition to, and degrading, what is considered the feminine. It doesn’t matter if it’s being done by a man or woman, it’s still about a masculine and feminine binary, where what is masculine is superior.

          • hypatia

            Exactly, bella! Well stated.

          • corvid

            Too true! It’s like, “those feminists just want to be dominant, let’s placate them by assuring them they can be dominant too! Yay!”
            Uh, no. We are angry, and it’s because we want to *stop being dominated* and treated like objects, to abolish this hierarchy. Our anger isn’t a will to dominate, it’s a will to stop being subordinated in all aspects of life and to be allowed freedom from, not merely freedom to. There’s a big diff there.

          • I find it utterly dismaying. It seems as if many (most) people are so immersed in the knot of patriarchy and capitalism, they cannot conceive of any other way of being beyond “dominate or be dominated, exploit or be exploited.”

        • Tina

          Alright, what about same sex couples who are involved in BDSM? Is it still an issue of patriarchy or misogyny? Like I’ve said before, I think there are some very valid concerns presented in this article about the way Ghomeshi chose to defend himself. But how is assuming that any woman who enjoys BDSM is unenlightened and subjugated any better than assuming that a woman who enjoys the missionary position is boring? And, again, equating all BDSM with abusive relationships is insulting to both.

          • Meghan Murphy

            This isn’t about saying women who enjoy BDSM are “unenlightened” — it’s about looking at the ways in which our society — which is based on domination, subordination, and hierarachy — impacts our supposed “sexual preferences.” Obviously lesbians and gay men would be impacted by this as well and play out those same roles… The trappings of femininity and masculinity don’t necessarily escape same-sex couples…

          • Ash

            nailed it

          • RB

            And not only does pornography unjustly sexualize and therefore legitimize male dominance and female submission which are the epitome of gender inequality,but when heterosexual men outside of pornography (or rarely in it) are submissive,and a woman is dominant,he’s only temporarily reversing the sexist male dominated unequal gender roles,and playing the “female” role as object and or victim which only helps keep these sexist unequal male dominated roles in place,instead of getting rid of them in place of gender equality!

            And as pro-feminist gay male anti-pornography educators and activists John Stoltenberg and Australian Christopher Kendall point out,not only everything I said above too,but that in gay male pornography there is the same femiphobia,and woman-hating,with one of the male partners treated with contempt in the “female” role as a passive,submissive,used and abused sex object.Or when it’s two women together,the one who is dominating,and violent is in the so-called,”masculine’ role and the woman who is the sex object and victim is in the so-called ”feminine” role.

        • Sabine

          Oh spot ON!!!!!

      • Cal

        Whether or not you or anyone else ‘enjoys’ a particular ‘sexual practice’ shouldn’t be used as a bludgeon to make everyone else say, okay, that’s fine. We’re all so worried about being perceived as being judgemental that we stop thought. But we don’t let people escape criticism for things that they ‘enjoy’ in other areas of life, so I don’t see why this is any different.

        Perhaps we need to have a discussion about how healthy it is to enjoy domination; to derive sexual pleasure from it. Isn’t that always at least dangerously close to abuse, if it isn’t always actually abuse?

        Maybe you can explain to me how someone who likes dominating you is also being “kind and affectionate” towards you?

        • bella_cose

          My guess is for people who are sadists, the time spent being nice is stimulating for them, in that it makes the contrast between that and BDSM more exaggerated. So there’s more build up to when they get to be dominant and abusive.

          • C.K. Egbert

            A classic technique of abusers is to be “con artists”: abusers are often extremely charming and even “kind” in some contexts (as long as you do what they say and don’t make them angry of course), as well as excellent at manipulating you by trying to make you feel like you are insane and the only reality is theirs.

      • Ash

        well, if people enjoy it therefore it just be good and above criticism. or…not?

    • Sabine

      YES. YES, YES! In the words of J.Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

      • Sabine

        P.S. This was in response to Corvid’s excellent comment above.

        • corvid

          Great quotation, Sabine!

  • Melanie

    Believe it or not, some women actually DO consent to BDSM (some even enjoy the role of Dom). And, even more shockingly, some women actually do get pissed off and become vindictive.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t care whether or not women technically “consent.” Abusing people isn’t hot.

    • Naida

      some people consent to selling their kidneys, or they consent to being eaten. It has become a hugely widespread phenomenon in neoliberalism to tell everyone to mind their own business, no matter how self-harming people would behave. Being compassionate has become one of the worst traits you can show while being detached and indifferent is considered cool and confused with being tolerant.

      • Cal

        So true.

      • Ash

        Exactly. It’s not an argument. A lot of people like watching snuff videos and hurting animals, a lot of people like buying clothes from exploitative sweatshops, a lot of people like buying food from Macdonalds…

    • Lee

      Lots of women also consent to being slapped around in non-sexual contexts (in the kitchen as opposed to the bedroom, after someone has a hard day), so people should just let domestic abuse be a private matter, too, right?

      • Sexprof

        This is a really interesting point. But if we take away consent, and if we take away agency, what are we doing? What’s all this for? So some women (who feel that other women don’t know how to consent properly or use their agency properly) can overcome the patriarchy by ruling over… those other women? I just want to understand the logic of this kind of argument, because it is an interesting one.

        • EEU

          Oh the magic word. Define ‘agency’.
          It’s not about women’s consent, it’s about MEN’S actions. It’s about the fact that (mostly) men like inflicting pain on another human being and get off on it. Rape culture, hello?

        • amongster

          Nobody wants to rule over anybody. It’s not like you can shove feminism – or self-respect for that matter – down someone’s throat. Actually, that’s exactly how it won’t work.
          As long as we live in an oppressive system something like the concept of consent cannot be useful to those who are oppressed. And I bet that in a society free of patriarchal brain-washing you wouldn’t find many women who are into being subs.

        • bella_cose

          Who wants to rule over these women, other than men? I don’t, and I don’t think anyone else here wants that. What’s wrong with being critical of a culture that eroticises violence against women, and submissiveness in women?

        • Carnation

          Because writing a blog post and hosting a discussion = ruling over?

          For people who claim to have the firmest grip on the underpinnings of domination and submission amongst human beings, defenders of BDSM sure seem to operate from the most skewed, philosophically bankrupt concept of power relations I’ve ever seen. Libertarians at least name corporate-controlled governments as their primary critical target.

        • lizor

          Yes, please explain “agency” to me and how, by writing a comment in a blog post it may be removed.

          Also, can you point out where and how someone articulating their thoughts based on observations of real-world actions is equivalent in any way to “ruling over”.

          Seriously, I really want to understand what it is you mean.

          • Sexprof

            I do have to go, so I won’t be able to respond unfortunately, after this point. When someone says (as Lee did above) that women also “consent” to being slapped around, it means that person does not trust that woman to properly consent to how she is treated in the home. So logically what follows, is that it’s that’s person’s word over the woman’s word. So if you’re going to discount the notion that women have agency – that they can properly consent to choices made about their own lives – you are saying that other people (like the poster) should get to make those decisions for that woman. I’m saying, that’s no better than patriarchy. Is that clearer?

            Agency means intrinsically motivated and freely chosen activity. We all know, that “choice” and “freedom” and “agency” and “consent” and yes, even “rape culture” are all social constructs, but their definitions and applications have very significant legal and cultural consequences. So they’re all “magic words” as you put it. If you take away a the focus on women’s actions in favour of focusing only on men’s actions, once again you deprive women of agency and consent, which historically has not gone well for us.

            I’m concerned that many of you seem to think these conversations that happen on these boards have no real consequence or power – why are you spending your time and energy here if that’s so? If you think this is just a comment on a post, get off the computer and get out and make some policy, make some change, resist! I happen to believe these comments and blogs have significant power and I thank you for providing the space.

          • Lee

            I never said I get to choose for women who consent to be abused in the kitchen. I am not, for many reasons, going to go busting down doors and pull those women out, but I am also not going to pretend that abuse is OK because they’ve consented or stayed with an abuser. Abuse is complicated; both abusers and abused people have their perceptions warped by it. It’s not a simple matter of consent.

            The magic words, consent and agency, don’t shut down discussion of domestic abuse in feminist circles. Someone saying, “But I like it when he hits me because I burnt his toast!” doesn’t stop all analysis. You say the bedroom is different, that it’s a place where people’s actions, where men getting off on that same dynamic, is off limits. That’s your opinion. I don’t agree to adhere to your rules about it, that’s all.

          • Lotus Blossom

            “This is a really interesting point. But if we take away consent, and if we take away agency, what are we doing? What’s all this for? So some women (who feel that other women don’t know how to consent properly or use their agency properly) can overcome the patriarchy by ruling over… those other women? I just want to understand the logic of this kind of argument, because it is an interesting one.”

            You seem to be implying that it is a bad thing that some women rule over other women…? I thought you BDSM types were all about people ruling over other people (i.e. Domination and submission). But, ok, I get it now. Telling people what to do/ruling over them in the BEDROOM is okay, but telling people what to do/ruling over them in other areas in life is NOT okay. That totally makes sense.

          • sexprof,

            You wrote: “Agency means intrinsically motivated and freely chosen activity”

            You make a statement about a naturalized (for want of a better word) impulse alongside some notion of decontextualized choice, the former based in biological determinism and the latter in Euro-enlightenment theory that, as we know is hunky dory in the abstract but has, as often as not, been used to facilitate colonial expansion and exploitation. The idea of freedom and rights was born amidst unprecedented wealth in Europe thanks to the enslavement of millions of people. So in most contexts it boils down to “freedom” for some at the expense of others.

            Then this:

            “We all know, that “choice” and “freedom” and “agency” and “consent” and yes, even “rape culture” are all social constructs, but their definitions and applications have very significant legal and cultural consequences. ”

            … which contradicts your first sentence. So is it “intrinsic” or is it “social construct”?

            Agency, as I know it, comes out of Actor Network Theory wherein everything that has influence has agency – a rock in the road, a windy day, all of it. It’s a pomo concept that gets little done when the task is dismantling hierarchy.

            When the 35 year old well known man raped me when I was 15, I chose to go to his house. I also chose not to go to the police. I exercised my agency and choice both times. I still don’t regret the second choice, but I do wish someone had robbed me of my agency with the first one.

            You do realize that the “robbing of agency/choice” argument has been used against critiques of child beauty contests and toddler bikinis? – “Robbing the children of their right to express their sexuality!!!!”. It’s an argument that might have some substance in the abstract, but from what I can see it bogs down and dumbs down and ultimately disables discourse on progressive social change.

            And then, of course, there’s the fact that the commenters here who are levelling critique that you object to are also exercising their choice and agency and therefore, by your own definition, you are “policing’ them by insisting that what they are doing is wrong and dangerous.

          • hypatia

            Here’s the problem: we are speaking different languages. You are coming from a liberal standpoint wherein the individual is the primary social unit, whereas we are coming from a radical standpoint wherein classes of people are the primary social unit. So when we say, for instance, that the normalization and/or sexualization of submission and domination is oppressive, we are talking about the impact on women as a class. Whether or not a particular individual woman consents to being dominated, whether or not she feels oppressed by it, is not germane to the analysis. By misunderstanding the framing of the discussion, you end up responding to a straw man.

            Let’s take the example of the women who is being physically assaulted by her partner. On an individual level, the absolute last thing she needs is to be told what to do. Her partner is already trying to control her and to have power over her, and that is precisely the problem. However, the solution to this isn’t to say, oh well, she has agency, she’s consenting to this treatment, therefore we cannot criticize domestic violence as a practice. Of course we can criticize domestic violence, we can analyze violence against women in the context of the patriarchy, we can recognize its effect on women as a class, and we can do all of this while supporting and building up this individual woman and reinforcing her agency. We can (and do!) respect her right to make her own decisions about what she needs, even if her decision is to remain in the abusive situation, without also deciding that domestic violence is therefore unproblematic.

          • Excellent points hypatia. Thank you.

        • Ash

          it’s funny because it seems no one in this debate, including Jian, understands what consent is. Consent is not a one off affair, it is ongoing and enthusiastic. This type of “consent narrative” Jian is putting out places him in a position where he’s the one in the right and the women are in the wrong because “consent.” This is a slippery slope…I truly feel terrible for the generations of kids ahead of us who learn that hitting and beating people is wrong but only sometimes…we lived in a super fucked up, hyper-violent world and people can’t see the connections to this and the normalization of sadomasochism. Shit is interconnected, none of us are islands drifting off in some decontextualized abyss…

        • Lee

          I honestly don’t really understand what you’re saying. I am not taking anything away from anyone, I am asserting my right to think critically about sexual behavior, and discuss my thoughts with others (this is often called critique or analysis — people do this a lot in political circles).

          I don’t consider the bedroom a sacred place encircled in clouds of magic that, once sex starts, transport the participants into another dimension where anything that happens isn’t really “real”, and therefore, abuse that takes place there is not off limits for me to think critically about and discuss in a political context, because I think abuse is wrong.

      • Lee –
        Are you insinuating that someone who fails to confront a partner for using physical violence against them, or else leave, is consenting to physical abuse? or that if the victim later denies having been battered, declines to press charges, etc, they have consented to that violence?

        That smacks of a rapists’ argument that if a women didn’t clearly say no, or protest, or struggle, she consented to sex.

        • Lee

          Oooh, you got me! I’m totally blaming those women for staying.

          Women actually do consent to be in abusive relationships, for comfort, money, security, survival, etc. In other words, non-orgasm-related rewards (although, some women do stay for good sex even though they’re being treated like dirt — I know, I’ve been there, and I defended my actions, thought I knew what I was doing, didn’t see it as abuse). Those women feel they are making the best choice for themselves. So do BDSM-ers. I don’t necessarily agree. If you’ve never heard women say they like the physically abusive situation they’re in, you’re not paying attention. You will find plenty of women who really, deep-down, truly believe that hitting is just part of how a husband is supposed to behave. Is that where living in a patriarchy comes in? But it can’t possiblyaffect sex lives?

          As I said in another comment, abuse warps perceptions. Coming from a background of abuse can completely obliterate healthy boundaries, can make it impossible to know what a trustworthy person or a healthy relationship is like, what even feeling good is, how to connect to other people, what self-worth is and so on. Someone, male or female, can tell me repeatedly that when their partner gets really angry and calls them c*nt or stupid bitch, or useless piece of shit or whatever, that it’s OK because they think it’s funny or they like that he’s so passionate about them, and I’m going to have skeptical thoughts.

          You’re hung-up on the word consent because of the way youuse it in BDSM circles. You believe it’s always a simple matter of humans with perfect agency making rational choices. I reserve the right to skepticism, even thought it’s against your rules. I reserve the right to see consent as more complicated than you do, even when it comes to S-E-X. Because I have experienced enough as a woman to know better than to always, always, always believe every choice a woman makes is a healthy one, no matter what the circumstances around that choice are, just because she said so (and she’s a woman! so I have to support her!).

          • No, Lee, I did not suggest you blame them for staying.

            I have heard of individuals staying in an abusive relationship but never of consenting to, much less liking, their abuse in a relationship. When someone stays because that seems to them to be their best choice, they should not be seen as giving consent to their abuse. You cannot consent if you do not feel that you have a viable alternative. At best they are trying to deal with the abuse, maybe accepting the price for now – still not consent. I imagine it’s a horrible place to be.

            You say that if I had been listening, I would have heard women saying they like the “physically abusive situation they are in.” No. I’ve not heard a single woman indicate they like physical abuse. However, you make an excellent point, the woman may not recognize their treatment as abusive. I have heard some describe things, especially in a sexual context, that might be “abuse” in another’s experience. If abuse includes being restrained, or ordered around (mildly dominated, I guess), then yes, I know several, and they don’t recognize that treatment as abuse, they do enjoy it.

            Lee, why do you say I am “hung up” on the word consent? I agree consent is not necessarily simple, and its especially more complicated in light of the warping effect of abuse, and concepts like “adaptive preference” – though I absolutely do not buy into C. K. Egbert’s related assertions in a post here that a) we will want ONLY what we are taught we are entitled to, and b) women are taught that they are only entitled to pain in sex.

            FYI, I’m not in any BDSM circles; I am aware of their practices, and know and respect some participants.

          • Lee

            There are women, who, yes, think it makes their husband a good disciplinarian to hit them. It has fallen out of fashion in Western countries, but it didn’t used to be that way. There were women who would, yes, consent, to being hit, for doing something without the husband’s permission. He was a “fair” disciplinarian, he didn’t take it too far, she said it was OK beforehand. Yes, this happened, and happens in many countries where, now, today, the husband is considered to be the head of the household, AKA the authority/patriarch/father of his wife. The good ones don’t take it too far. You’ve never heard of this?

            “Mable, did you take out the car when I told you not to?” “Yes, George. I know, I know.” “I’m going to have to give you one for that, I’m sorry, but I can’t just let that go.” “That’s fair, George. I knew when I did it (laugh)” And yes, these women were in the complete and total belief, until the end of their lives sometimes, that their husbands were good men who did not want to hurt them, in fact did not hurt them, were doing what was accepted and fair, and even felt comforted by the discipline. Many women believe this now, in the world. And I wouldn’t even necessarily fault the men who did this as monsters, because the culture was the way it was. It was seen as kind of a revolutionary, progressive thing that Dick Van Dyke didn’t hit Mary Tyler Moore (Laura).

            Many husbands even spanked their wives. Have you ever seen old ads with grown women being spanked? It happened. It was normal. Hitting your wife, or physically disciplining her in some way, physically dominating her (or certainly the threat), even controlling where she might sit or stand when out in public, etc. were considered normal, because women were considered something like children. And they consented to it, and would tell you it was the right thing, that it made them feel loved. Really.

            I do believe people who are taught that they are not entitled to certain things end up not really believing they exist. It may not be 100% universal in all cases, but we are not omnipotent beings possessed with perfect rationality and information. Our perspectives can be much narrower than we realize. People, yes, do have to be told that they should not be treated badly for them to know it, and what constitutes bad treatment is shaped culturally over time. What they are taught as children, then by the broader culture, and later as adults, has a huge impact on their choices. You can go to a supermarket in a food desert, have hundreds of choices of things, but no access to real food. If you grow up with that, you just don’t know a difference.

            I don’t know if women all have the experience of being taught that sex should involve physical pain, but I think there is a constant message that sex is a place where women should be self-sacrificing and that putting on a performance is paramount, for many reasons. Oprah actually did a show (at least) once, not long before retirement, where the entire time the women were urged to have sex with their husbands when they didn’t want or enjoy it (that was specifically stated, several times), because it was what the men needed. Oprah, of all ‘women-friendly’ places.

            So, yes, I think it’s easy to see someone as free from coercion in a moment of making a choice as long as there is not blatant coercion present, but only if you take them as individuals divorced from the influences that shape their perception of reality; but I don’t think it’s accurate.

          • Lee –
            Yes, of course I’ve “heard of” the model of good disciplinarian you describe; I also believe such discipline has been out of favor for a few decades, and I understand it has been actually contrary to law for a century or more in most jurisdictions in the US and the UK. It’s infuriating that it’s taken our culture so long to even begin to catch up to its own legal code.

            Regarding the point about being taught one is or is not entitled – I would point out that I was disputing an assertion that one can want(I read this as “is able to conceive of wanting”) ONLY those things one has been taught one is entitled to. YOu responded about people being taught they are NOT entitled to certain things – something I find feels distinctly different.

            My own view is both of these can operate – teach someone they can reach for the stars, maybe they will reach. Instead teach someone they have a well-defined place they cannot deviate from, maybe they will accept it and not even think of trying for something else. Neither is certain, so humans are very interesting to study and discuss.

          • Lee

            I agree with what you’re saying, but clearly somewhere inside there does have to be at least the flicker of belief that you can have things for you to reach for them, and you have to actually be aware that they exist at all to have the possibility of wondering if you want them. Many people don’t know healthy relationships actually exist or what they look/feel like.

          • Lee –
            People do not *necessarily* have to be told they have been treated badly to know it. I will grant that some individiuals do need to be told in certain instances, and that as a class, women may “have to be told” more often or more specifically than men, because of previous cultural training, and that culture helps define both bad and good treatment.

            I think you are entirely correct in pointing out that what we are taught has an impact, and that individuals’ perspectives can be much narrower than they realize.

            The performance aspect you mention does serve to explain one reason why women might choose to fake orgasm.

            Meghan’s title said consent is isnt good enough. Is the issue really that consent is complicated by cultural training to gender roles and expectations, so that “yes” has to be interpreted, it cannot be accepted without considering the specific history (pedagogical and otherwise) of the speaker?

          • Lee

            I’m of the opinion that consenting to abuse doesn’t change what it is. So choking a woman is bad, it’s bad. Not sometimes bad and sometimes good, depending on her willingness. I don’t think someone should want to choke a woman, and I really don’t think it should be seen as glamorous or normal to be involved in it from either side.

            As to the issue of why consent is complicated in an area where people are consenting to abuse and violence (or exploitation), yes, we’re influenced by our culture, beliefs and experiences. Take a 20-year-old woman who has grown up watching misogynistic porn, dating men who watch it, too and who also have their own misogynistic attitudes, no real feminist awareness (other than ‘yes means yes’, my body my choice), and who didn’t grow up in a household that gave her a strong sense of her own worth. She may do things to please someone else, while not feeling great about it, because she thinks that’s what sexual women do, or what ‘cool’ sexual women do. She may love someone and want to keep them. She may get into porn attempting to find self-worth (and no, I’m not saying this is the only reason a woman could get into porn). She may be enjoying things, as a 20-year-old who knows misogyny to be normal and is trying to find self-worth, that, if she gets a handle on these things later, she may come to understand she didn’t enjoy those things very much at all.

            Women often find there are rewards for doing sexual things they don’t enjoy, such as social status, a feeling of being ‘seen’ or a feeling of security from fitting in, the sense that they are doing womanhood ‘right’, etc. They, like all human beings, can then associate things they don’t like with other things they consider to be positive. I think it’s a very common experience.

            You know, cutting or self-injury, and anorexia are also very ‘cathartic’ for people trying to cope with certain things, like control issues or abuse. I don’t judge someone using what they see as the best coping mechanisms available, but I also don’t think these things should be glamorized or normalized. I think if ‘cutters’ involved another person to do the cutting, especially someone who likes cutting people, the issues of consent would be pretty tricky for me. I can’t say I know that every woman in BDSM is struggling emotionally or psychologically, or with cultural misogyny, but I can believe at least some are. They may later come to see the ‘consent’ they gave in those cases as not being at all as meaningful as they believed it was at the time.

            (Also, we may accept violent sports like boxing or MMA fighting, but should we accept every young man’s assertion that when he got beat up, it was consensual, because he agreed to fight, and decide that therefore that type of fighting is a healthy and culturally acceptable thing?)

          • Anthea Brainhooke

            I fail to see how not being killed (“survival”, above) counts as a “reward.”

          • Lee

            Well, it depends on your definition. Some women survive for their kids, which is ‘rewarding’. Is it the same as winning the lottery? No. But it depends what the alternative is (like getting hit but also getting the reward of food, without having to be a sex slave for manymen as opposed to just one). You can use a different word if it suits you, but the underlying idea is that we base our choices on what options are available. Safety, even if it’s just some of the time (survival), can be more rewarding than no safety at all. Many, many, many, many, many people stay in abusive situations because the other option is less ‘rewarding’.

  • Ash

    When this surfaced I was so disgusted and upset but not totally shocked. Last year, I came across a woman’s post on xojane describing being sexually harassed and pursued by Jian at a Metric concert in Toronto. http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/non-date
    I was disgusted and stopped listening to his show. But this new story is really showing the extent of his hatred for women, esp. with his comment to co-worker ” i want to hate fuck you” which translates into “i hate women so much that i get boners from it.” I met Jian once, after a taping of Q live and I used to think he was so hot and sweet and was so pleased when i went to hug him and he rubbed up and down my back with his hand. At the time, i thought nothing of it but now it gives me the shivers just to think about.

    I am so glad you wrote about this and it is my hope that more feminist bloggers talk about this because there’s an awful lot of dudes supporting Jian right now. I think this may be the beginning of people examining BDSM and its relation to rape culture…i sure hope so.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I know how you feel… I’ve been a fan for so long. I’m so disappointed and disgusted.

    • Garth

      I would hazard a guess that the majority of Jian’s supporters were female. Regardless of gender, however, I think you will find the number of people in his corner is getting smaller and smaller every minute.

      • Meghan Murphy

        As if. I mean, I was as disappointed as the next to see so many women repping for him, but I’m pretty sure most of his supporters were dudes who felt he was being falsely accused by a bitter, jealous craaaaazy bitch.

        I’m sure many are embarrassed now, as they should be.

  • Chris

    Just wanted to say Good Job. Articles like this are why I support this site. In fact, I think I’m going to increase my monthly contribution. Thanks.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Chris! I very much appreciate your ongoing support.

    • Joseph

      Interesting. I’ve never been here before and this editorial has certainly convinced me not to visit again. I certainly wouldn’t support this site if this is the kind of ignorance that is promoted.

      • Meghan Murphy

        K bye then.

        • Joseph

          Yeah… haha, k bye then indeed. Great post.

    • Ash

      I appreciate men who can get past bonerland to see women’s humanity. Thank you Chris.

  • Kyle

    So all of you have already condemned Jian based on hear say? Depressing that these social media sites have hopped onto the anti- Ghomeshi band wagon without any proof. There has been no verdict is the courts or even by the CBC based on tangible evidence. This is a shame of the Canadian court of baseless opinion.

    • Meghan Murphy

      No. Not based on hearsay. On the statement made by Jian himself.

      • Sabine

        How are people glossing over the most important thing here: HIS statement; as in, the creep’s OWN words?! I don’t need to know the ins and outs of the break-up or the fact he believes his ex is being merely vindictive or even that other women he has said horrific things to have come forward now – the man has clearly stated that he is turned on by beating women. And HOW MANY FUCKING TIMES DO WE HAVE TO KEEP GOING OVER THIS “CONSENT” BULLSHIT?!!!! Yes, I DO judge men who get sexual thrills out of roughing up women, consensual on their part, or not. I’ve been in situations myself in the past which I had been brainwashed into believing were “sexy” (for him at least – and that’s all that matters according to this society) and went along with stuff despite feeling like a degraded piece of meat. But hoorah for consent! Decades of rotten conditioning apparently doesn’t come into it and drastically affect WHY someone would consent to being tied up and spat on (yeah, that was SO sexy for me, obvs!) The issue is NOT and NEVER WILL BE about consent. This shit is so entrenched in our sexual psyches that the women become “willing victims” in order to please men, men, men because that is what we are here for, right? There is just no getting through to some people about the broader contexts of issues like these. It’s deja-fucking-vu. Meghan, I don’t know how you manage to cling onto your sanity having to repeat yourself over and over and over and over and over and…..ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

        • Andrew

          I’m sorry to hear that you were coerced and manipulated into sexual activities you didn’t enjoy. I don’t approve of that behavior and I wish we lived in a world where people’s, and especially women’s, boundaries and sexual preferences were respected and you could have just said no without there being backlash.

          However, I would ask you to consider that thst is not every persons experience and that some people do honestly enjoy it. I find it almost impossible to understand why people eat hot peppers and curry, but millions do.

          • hypatia

            Can you say with absolute certainty that every woman you’ve engaged in any kind of BDSM with “honestly enjoyed it”? Can you say with certainty that not one of them, not even for a moment, was simply going along with it (even enthusiastically) because women have been socially conditioned to place men’s desires ahead of our own wellbeing? Unless you are omniscient, it seems to me that you cannot say those things, and given the probability (basically 100%) that every woman you’ve interacted with sexually has been personally affected (both consciously and unconsciously) by patriarchal socialization and norms around sexuality, violence, and power, you are coming off awfully like a person who is more invested in his own desire to believe himself to be a good person than in honestly evaluating the origins and potential impact upon women, both individually and as a class, of his behavior.

          • Andrew

            Yes I can say that they have all enjoyed because I’ve only played a few people other than my wife, who were close friends, and it was always at their request, not mine. Sex wasn’t even involved.

            And since I am the submissive, I have never hit, spit on, humiliated, etc., a woman (or anyone for that matter).

            Not everyone is as respectful of each other and there problems. I have admitted this over and over again.

            What you fail to realize is that BDSM isn’t an organized thing, with a charter or mission or dictator. It’s more like food culture. There are trends and patterns and some people are more influential than others, but nobody is in charge and does their own thing at the end of the day.

            A person can criticize the Catholic church because they are organized, and any self-identified Catholic is saying that they agree with its beliefs and decisions.

            I don’t agree with mainstream BDSM culture and wish it would go away because it can only do more harm than good, and if I didn’t care about the problems that other people are having, because my marriage is great, then I wouldn’t be here.

            I don’t need to defend myself to you or anyone else, and frankly I don’t give a damn if you think I am a good persr or not.

            You will just continue with this mantra that I haven’t *really* addressed/studied/understood the issues until I agree with you. Isn’t it possible that I’ve just come to different conclusions because I have a different perspective and life experience?

            There is really not point in having a discussion when you think everyone who hasn’t bought into your ideology and its conclusions is wrong.

          • amongster

            Oh those crocodile tears. Don’t you understand how offensive your comment is, Andrew? “Sorry that you got abused BUT..:” Yeah right, other people’s boners, *your* boner, are of course so much more important.

            Also, a hint: hot peppers don’t oppress classes.

            You either can’t understand what’s being said here again and again about consent or you don’t want to.

          • Andrew

            Your misplaced Marxism doesn’t impress me. I’ve explained why it the arguments don’t carry over perfectly from economics to feminism but nobody really wants to address that.

          • lizor

            ” I’ve explained why it the arguments don’t carry over perfectly from economics to feminism but nobody really wants to address that.”

            Well gosh, if you’ve explained it we’d all better hop to attention, accept your arguments and spend our time engaging with them, no matter how uninteresting and irrelevant they are!

            Poor little man: the meanie feminists won’t let him educate them.

        • Sabine,
          I’ve been a member of “this society” for over half a century – ok, for thirty years with full privilege as an adult – until I regularly read this blog I was blissfully unaware that for women,
          “This shit is so entrenched in our sexual psyches that the women become “willing victims” in order to please men …”.

          Maybe I missed a change, since I’ve been married for twenty five years, while learned in useful detail about BDSM only a few years ago, and began reading this blog a only a few months ago.

          I regret you, or anyone, went along with anything while “feeling like a piece of meat”; as much as a hetero man can I sympathize and I fervently hope you never experience that again.

          Consent is not bullshit, but it’s also not a legitimate defense for abuse.

  • When I read that OXJane piece last year it rang true to me, having crossed paths with the man a few times, (though admittedly it was years earlier). He always came across like he believed that everyone wanted to suck his dick. A guy who believes that has no capacity to comprehend consent in any kind of sex, abuse play or no. It’s notable that his BS has been called out by someone in the BDSM community as well: http://sexgeek.wordpress.com

    I agree with anne cameron that it would be great to see him not only charged with assault but also sued for libel. However, the women who have come forward so far (I’m wiling to bet there are others) have been so thoroughly intimidated by the fact that because a) they did consent to some kinky scenario, they are unlikely to be taken seriously, b) they are already being vilified all over the web (the writer of the XOJane story was seriously harassed and threatened), and c) because of the immediate pile-on of outrage at Ghomeshi’s supposed “persecution” by the CBC. I think there were something like 10,000 signatures on a petition to have him reinstated in his job within a couple of hours of that FB post [that his expensive PR firm undoubtedly advised him on].

    Personally, I was never a fan. I thought that in later years he had learned to conduct a good interview, which he ought to have given his salary and his ample opportunity to practice up. Other than that, I felt the show suffered from the host’s belief that it was as much about him as it was about the guests.

    The great thing about the show was the guests and as Brent Banbury (sp?) noted in his opening remarks introducing the show today, it is constructed by an entire team of people (presumably including the woman Jian wanted to hate-fuck).

    As a feminist and human being, I hope the women find solid enough support to stand up see that justice is done. As a CBC listener, I’m looking forward to the show without this narcissist as the voice of it.

    • CPen

      No, the woman employee quit after her union rep asked her how they could make the workplace less toxic for her, apparently.

      • That’s significant too, for the “no evidence” choir. I wonder how many of these sorts of complaints are on record with the union.

        I saw a comment yesterday to the effect that scores of people will not believe four women until they file charges with the police, but a famous dude makes a FB post and thousands are ready to buy his story.

        • Garth


          The reason stories from 4 people were perhaps not believed by many until recently is that those stories were from “anonymous sources”, and the accused went public (non-anonymously) first, with his side of the story. It is not because they were women.

          Bear in mind too that the first exposure many people had to this story was Jian’s Facebook post.

          Now that the proper channels are finally involved, and more information is coming out, perhaps justice might be served.

          One can only wonder how different things might have been if even just one of those many women had filed a complaint with the police oh so many years ago. Because from every thing I’m reading now it seems this creepy and violent behaviour has been going on for more than a decade.

          • bella_cose

            No, the accusers weren’t believed because they were women. This is something women live with every day. People pay attention to, respect, and believe men when they speak, but don’t give women the same consideration. I know you don’t believe it, but you don’t experience it all the time either. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought something up to a man, or group of men, and none of them pay attention. Then another man will say the same thing, and like magic, they all pay attention. It’s a common occurrence.

          • Garth

            Hi bella_cose:

            “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought something up to a man, or group of men, and none of them pay attention.”

            I do believe it, bella_cose, because I also experience it all the time too. However, in my circles, it has nothing to do with your gender. It has everything to do with the fact that what you are saying is either something the audience doesn’t want to hear, or that you are not the “authority” or the “hot chick or dude” that the audience wants to hear it from. It is not a gender specific phenomenon.

            (Megan – I promise this is my last comment on your blog unless I am asked a direct question. But I also think I know that you probably think talk from “all dudes” is cheap. Adios.)

          • bella_cose

            Actually, no. It was none of those scenarios.

            I don’t understand why you’re commenting on this blog unless you’re just a troll. Everything you write is an insult to every woman commenting here, even the ones I don’t agree with. I sincerely hope you do stop commenting after this. You’ve brought nothing but disrespect to the conversation.

          • John –
            You left off a critical part of the quote:
            “Then another man will say the same thing, and like magic, they all pay attention.”
            In that instance, it seems obvious the listeners were willing to hear the thing the woman was saying, just not from her. When this pattern repeats consistently, what shall the woman conclude but that these men discount what she says because of the one attribute of hers that readily distinguishes her from those they do listen to in these situations?

          • Garth

            Scott: Garth here (I wrote that, not John)

            I read that part of what bella_cose said, and stand by what I said. In the context of the situation it is possible that she was being ignored because she was a woman, but it is also possible that she was being ignored because she isn’t part of the management team, because she isn’t tall, blonde, good-looking or rich, or an “authority” figure acceptable to the group. Re-read my post and help me understand if I have made an error in logic. I get ignored all the time. Often in a roomful of female friends. Probably sometimes precisely because I am a man. It has certainly happened on this blog.

            I repeat: it is not a gender specific phenomenon. In her case, yes, it is very possible that it is because she is not considered an authority figure by those men, perhaps even simply because she is not a man. Not enough information, sorry. I acknowledge, there are still a lot of chauvinistic men out there. However, what I said is accurate. Her comment as I see it was a vague generalization to support the notion that, even in 2014 in Canada some women feel that they are “oppressed” by a male dominated, patriarchal society, and that the only solution is to get rid of capitalism [which by its very nature is patriarchal (I don’t understand this notion)] and impose some form of (begin sarcasm*) dreamy socialist, female dominated society that will make it “all better” (end sarcasm).

            If North American women really wanted to improve the lot in life of their fellow women, they would cast their gaze outside our borders, to the rest of the world, or address the issue of poverty in our own country. There is some serious shit to be dealt with out there. Being ignored at a cocktail party and having some boor steal your idea for conversation isn’t one of them.

            *taking a tip from John

          • Sure, having people seem to ignore one is not gender specific. However, when it happens to women, when men do the ignoring and then pay attention to another man saying the same thing, the men’s behavior echoes historical sexism. Bella_cose says it’s common in her experience. I interpret that to mean it happens to her in a variety of contexts, with different sets of males. I think that makes it less likely due to anything other than sexism.

          • Mar Iguana

            “…notion that, even in 2014 in Canada some women feel that they are “oppressed” by a male dominated, patriarchal society, and that the only solution is to get rid of capitalism [which by its very nature is patriarchal (I don’t understand this notion)] and impose some form of (begin sarcasm*) dreamy socialist, female dominated society that will make it “all better” (end sarcasm).”

            How can we wrongheaded women with nothing but notions filling our heads, in the second millennium no less, thank you enough, Master Garth, for taking your valuable time to set us straight regarding capitalism, patriarchy, socialism and female dominated society? Hopefully, you will inspire us to disabuse ourselves of the silly notions put forth by the likes of feminists from Wollstonecraft to Sarkeesian, whose hidden agenda is to achieve domination over men (who knew?).

            Have you ever read one of the many, many books written by feminists? No problem. They’re just filled with a bunch of dreamy notions. I can only aspire to have the kind of confidence you possess that enables taking such pride in the level of willful ignorance you enjoy. It must be shear bliss.

          • Garth

            Well you’ve got me there. I haven’t read Wollstonecraft, but I have read her daughter’s works, does that count? (just kidding).

            My ancestors also used to subscribe to the Anti-Jacobine Review, so perhaps all I’ve been taught about the era and Mrs. Wollstonecraft’s legacy is colored by that fact.

            Perhaps I’m overly paranoid of a future Reign of Terror. The classic works of fiction that I’ve most closely identified with include Animal Farm, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451.

            Or maybe it’s because I’ve been overly restrictive in imagining people like Monique Wittig and Alexandra Kollontai as being the “face” of radical feminism?

            I’m a huge admirer of the courage and fortitude shown by Anita Sarkeesian and simply appalled by the campaign of harassment she was subjected to by a subset of the gaming community. I enjoy gaming, but I must say I find nothing I can find at fault in how Anita has carried herself. She is a superhero from all I can discern, although I’m sure she displays some human faults, as we all most certainly do. For mine, I do sincerely apologize.

            Perhaps we’d find some more common ground in the writings and philosophy of Lord Acton, William Godwin, Thomas Paine, Daphne Patai, Ellen Willis, and/or Roy F. Baumeister?

          • hypatia

            “It is not because they were women.”

            Hahahahaha! Good one, Garth. Thanks for explaining that.

            “One can only wonder how different things might have been if even just one of those many women had filed a complaint with the police oh so many years ago.”

            Totally different! Since every complaint begins with the police taking the issue seriously and ends with an appropriate conviction and jail time, all while the media and the general public offer respect, support, and compassion to the woman who was victimized. Why oh why didn’t any of these women go for this awesome deal?

          • “The reason stories from 4 people were perhaps not believed by many until recently is that those stories were from “anonymous sources”, and the accused went public (non-anonymously) first, with his side of the story. It is not because they were women.”

            Oh geeze, was THAT the reason? Wow, thanks a lot for enlightening me Garth!

            “Bear in mind too that the first exposure many people had to this story was Jian’s Facebook post.”.

            Well, golly gee, I never managed to wrap my little lady brain around that bit of nuance.

            Listen Garth, Meghan has already suggested you shut up and listen to the people here who have more knowledge on this subject in their baby toenails than you apparently do.

            Now I think you should go read the article I linked for you upthread. Maybe read it a few times.

            And please stop with these comments. You really are embarrassing yourself.

          • Garth

            I read it. Thanks. No further comment.

            I am sorry to have taken us far off topic on a couple of occasions here. It was not my intention to offend; I came hear to learn and discuss, not be a troll as some have suggested, but as many here have pointed out to me, now in particular, is a good time for men (me included) to shut up and listen. And women too, who have a political agenda to push. We all need to shut up and listen to, and encourage, and support the victims who now have the courage to come forward and have their voices heard.

            Certainly this crowd has more knowledge on the history of radical feminism than I do. I have learned a lot since my first visit here; thanks to everyone who has contributed in a respectful (if even firm) way.

            And I could never presume to have more knowledge about what it means to be, and what should be done by, victims of a sexual predator than any of the members of this on-line community. I have been a victim of violence, I have felt my human rights violated (sometimes to extreme) in the past, I have been treated unjustly many times, but I have never been raped. I can’t even imagine how someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted feels, or the challenges they face if they choose to report it. For the violations anyone here has suffered at the hands of these creeps, my heart weeps for you. I am truly sorry for what has happened to you. And I am angry. Angry with men like Ghomeshi, with anyone who thinks violence is a routinely acceptable way to get what they want.

            I am also sorry if I have offended anyone here, if anyone has been offended by my (sometimes) naive comments, if you have felt disrespected by me, or if any thing I have said has, with no intent on my part, caused a trigger moment for anyone. It was not my intent.

            I have thought deeply on this topic over the past few days and realize I was out of touch with reality by commenting here. The part of Canadian society I now live and participate in, after a very rough childhood and young adulthood, is now particularly suburban and egalitarian. But even in our modern era I acknowledge that there are still many challenges women face, that I don’t, and I get it.

            I get it. Now is the not the time or place for men like me (or unlike me) to “have a voice about this”. Men like me, or particularly men like Lorne Gunter, need to shut up and listen for a while.


            Let the female journalists and editors do all the future articles, editorials, and commenting please.

            There will be time again in the future to debate policy, politics, and discuss which feminists made great contributions to the advancement of human rights, and which ones posed ideas of more questionable merit for society. Now is not the time. I get it. Let’s hear from the victims. The ones that choose to come forward.

            I bid you farewell. I will not be back on this thread; and I will not likely be offering further comment on Meghan’s blog posts in the future unless I return at some point in the distant future to offer words of encouragement and support. But there is no point in debating here on human rights issues or politics because I now realize that most, if not all, of Meghan’s followers speak a completely different language than I when it comes to the topic of human rights. And that’s okay.

  • Chris

    As a man, I want to ask any other man posting here to try, just for a minute, to put yourself in the shoes of one of these women. After posting publicly about agreeing to a date, or even more, then finding yourself abused or assaulted by someone with obvious power and privilege, would *you* go to the police? Would you put yourself through that, knowing the consequences, knowing the large amount of rhetorical and legal firepower that would rain down upon you? I bet you wouldn’t. I know I probably wouldn’t. I would want to forget about it and hope that no one else ever knew about it.

    I know I would also probably hear a voice telling me that if I didn’t do something, maybe other women might suffer, but I’m not sure I would be strong enough to be willing to endure the onslaught. That is the position these women are in. So, try to imagine that is you. How would *you* feel, and what would *you* do?

    • Joseph

      You need to put yourself in the place of any person who is supposedly being accused of a crime in the media without the ability to defend yourself legally because that person is bold enough to threaten your reputation without ever mentioning a crime to police… because they can’t face it? Dealing with this in court would have been much more subtle than what has happened.

      You are making a series of assumptions that may have no basis in reality. You ask me to “put myself in the place of one of these women”. How would I do that? I don’t really know what he’s being accused of, because he hasn’t really been accused of anything.

      • “Dealing with this in court would have been much more subtle than what has happened.”

        Since when are arrests and court cases involving celebrities private or “subtle” as you put it? My guess is, the woman did not go to the police because she did not know that physically assault is illegal in Canada, even when it is consensual. In many places, BDSM activists have suceeded in changing the law from “do not beat people up” to “do not beat people up, unless they tell you it is okay, in which case go ahead and beat them until their bodies are covered in cuts and bruises and they have been in danger of dying”.

        “I don’t really know what he’s being accused of, because he hasn’t really been accused of anything.”

        He has been accused of commiting acts of extreme physical aggression against women and justifies his actions by claiming they consented to such aggression. His acts include “[striking women] with a closed fist or open hand” and “[choking them] until they almost passed out”. The accusation are right there in the article and they are not just from one woman.

        I am not planning on responding to anything else Joseph says, since I consider debates with MRAs to be a waste of time. This is for the other anti-BDSMers on the site.

        The site “Anti-pornography.org” claims to be anti-BDSM while opposing discrimination against people who practice it. While I would never complete an entire moral assessment of a person (yes, I do make moral assessments of people, go ahead and tell me what a bad person I am for doing so, then take a moment to realise how ironic such an accusation is) based on sex acts alone, I worry that anti-pornography.org’s approach may be too simplistic and liberal.

        I think there are some situations in which we are justified in treating people who into BDSM (particularly extreme dominants) differently from people who are not into it. If somebody is turned on by the thought of dominating others or seeing others in extreme pain, then I do not trust that person to be a police officer, prison guard, doctor, domestic violence counsellor or another other job that involves interacting with people who are likely to be vulnerable or physically hurt. I think that in a future, socialist society, police in particular should be held to the highest of moral standards.

        I do believe that everyone has to right to some of kind of work (Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says they do) but that does not mean people have a right to any particular job. I am sure we could find some kind of work that was appropriate for BDSM dominants, work that did not give them the opportunity to act on their dominant sexuality while at work.

        I do not think we should come up with a law against BDSM in particular, but physical assault should remain illegal (in the places where it is illegal). That way, submissives who are traumatised by acts of extreme BDSM that they previously consented to, can have some means of receiving recompense. In my view, if something a man does to a women leaves her physically or emotionally scarred, the man is guilty of wrong-doing, no matter how many contracts the woman signed.

        • C.K. Egbert

          I’ll disagree with you on the basis that women often stay with abusers out of love and affection (or they have been so completely abused that they don’t consider that they are entitled to a life free from suffering or abuse). We wouldn’t, for example, justify the existence of slavery on the basis that some slaves didn’t want to be free and that only those slaves that want to be free can do so. It seems that would leave out of our sphere of protection people who have been so severely abused that they no longer see themselves as having boundaries or deserving of respect, and if anything those are the people we should be most concerned about. I’d be in favor of intervening if we have evidence that someone is indeed being assaulted or abused, regardless of whether they see this as wrong (for one thing, unless other people treat it as a wrong the victim themselves will often not see it as a wrong).

          But otherwise, yes, definitely.

      • ” being accused of a crime in the media without the ability to defend yourself legally”

        Jian does have the ability to defend himself. He has enough money to hire lawyers and a PR firm, and he already has.

        “I don’t really know what he’s being accused of, because he hasn’t really been accused of anything.”
        Jian has been accused of choking and hitting women. You would know that if you read the post.

      • ^Man reminds another man to play for the men’s team. “Don’t betray your sex to the women.”

      • Anthea Brainhooke

        The poor thing, he’s so powerless to defend himself that he went on the attack before anything had been made public.

        And it’s such a damn shame that he has no access to money, media, lawyers, no way of getting “his side of things” across at all.

        … Wait.

    • Ash

      Thank you so much for being a good man, Chris and for calling out other men. Standing up for women and believing them when they say they’ve been hurt makes you a true ally to the cause. Thank you, thank you.

  • Tina

    This is an interesting piece that makes some good points. I’m not entirely comfortable with the way ‘consent’ is just jettisoned as a construction of male privilege, though. I understand how it can be that, certainly, and statistics suggest that these women are probably telling the truth. But to say that consent doesn’t matter, because it’s *possible* to coerce it, is equally troubling. Now, in the case of coerced or ‘technical’ consent, then consent doesn’t exist – that’s a different matter. But to conflate BDSM with an abusive relationship is also troubling. I can’t say that Ghomeshi engaged in consensual BDSM, and not sexual abuse, because I don’t know. But there is a difference and it should be respected.

    Still, a smart and well-written article. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Samantha

    I really disliked reading this article. You state that “what he does in the bedroom is none of our business, even if it involves violence against women, because 1) Sex is private — anything we do that involves sex is “ok” because it’s just our personal, private, sexy sex times. Mind your own. And 2) “Consent” — anything that can be said to be “consensual” is allowed to exist in a magical bubble, safe from any criticism whatsoever, because consent.”
    as if he is implying that all sexual activity, including illegal activity, is fine and private. That’s not what he’s saying. Nor is he saying that domestic violence should also be a private matter, as a previous commenter suggested.
    If Ghomeshi did indeed assault these women, or engage in BDSM practices without their express consent, then I will be the first to agree that he should be punished for it – and the BDSM community would wholeheartedly agree as well. But to condemn a whole subculture’s sexual preferences, and a community as a whole by likening it to non-consensual domestic violence/assault/rape/etc, is wrong.

    What happens in the bedroom between two consenting – and I mean fully consenting – adults is indeed of nobody’s business. Which is why it’s discrimination to fire someone on the grounds that they are homosexual. I don’t understand why this logic cannot be extended to fully informed and consensual BDSM practices. It’s a sexual preference, shared to different degrees by both men and women, and should indeed be safe from criticism. BDSM practices, when done right, when done well, between two consenting adults (of the same or opposite gender) are perfectly normal and should be acceptable.

    I also feel that your equating of BDSM to violence against women (ie: something illegal, and wrong, and unacceptable) is misguided and simplistic. I personally don’t live a BDSM lifestyle, but I have friends who do, and they are very respectful and very adamant about consent when it comes to their partners. Limits and boundaries are discussed at length before any activity even takes place. The relationship can be ended at any time, by either party. No one should feel victimized, pressured, or unhappy with the relationship.

    As someone who enjoys extremely light and vanilla BDSM from time to time, and takes pleasure in it, I am personally offended that you are belittling and condemning my sexual preferences as “not hot” and inappropriate. Yes, I am a woman, and yes, I like to be spanked and have my hair pulled and choked in the context of sexual activity. I get off on it; and yet, you seem ready to take away my free agency to participate in sex as I see fit, which is abuse I will not tolerate. The oppressor in this context is you, and not my sexual partner.

    • Chris

      From what I have read, nothing here has comdemned BDSM at all. That’s simply not the issue. The issue is women being abused and subjected to physical violence. The point being made is that no one can consent to physical attack or rape, just the same as no one can sign a contract into slavery. You cannot consent to give up your human rights. They are innate. They exist regardless. You cannot give them up or sign them away.

      Yours is a first world concern of the absolute worst order.

      • Samantha

        I have to disagree. The author states that a man hitting a woman for the sake of an orgasm is “not hot”. While I agree wholeheartedly to that statement when taken out of context like that, in the case of a healthy, consensual BDSM relationship, it is completely false.
        Furthermore, to be told that I, as a woman and as a person, cannot consent to physical attack (a light version of which is my personal sexual preference), means that my free agency is being undermined. THAT is the root of feminism, and as a feminist, I have to stand up against that oppression, just like I stand up against ALL oppression of women (and humans).

        • Meghan Murphy

          “Furthermore, to be told that I, as a woman and as a person, cannot consent to physical attack (a light version of which is my personal sexual preference), means that my free agency is being undermined.”

          What an incredibly ridiculous thing to fight for. Can you imagine nothing else to put your energy into than the right to be abused? What a warped notion of ‘liberty’!

          • Samantha

            There are countless things I can think of at which I can direct my feminist energy. But this forum is a debate on BDSM, and that’s what I’m arguing for. Bringing up completely unrelated topics won’t help the discussion much, will it?
            What I’m arguing for is for my right – and the right of all women – to be able to have sex in any way they see fit with other consenting adults. Because I like to be spanked now and again doesn’t mean I want the right to be abused.

          • Meghan Murphy

            And what we are arguing is that men should not have the ‘right’ to abuse women simply because it fulfills some kind of sexual fantasy.

          • Samantha

            Thereby removing my right to participate in kinky BDSM sex with a man if I so choose, sex that I initiate, I might add.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Maybe womens’ right not to be abused trumps your desire, as an individual, to be abused?

          • Samantha

            Now there’s an argument that makes no sense. Because some women like to have rough sex, that opens the door for all women to be abused in completely unrelated contexts?

          • lizor

            ” in completely unrelated contexts”

            How do you figure the contexts are completely unrelated? We’re talking about the re-production of culture. Do you live on the moon?

          • Chris

            No, Meghan was spot on here. The issue is not what you like, the issue is that if the the law is defined in such a way so that you can enjoy what you want without legal repercussions, the objective consequences are severely negative for the vast majority of women.

            Put plainly, if consent is legally defined the way you want, other people, primarily women, will be hurt and killed because of it. Your privilege does not trump basic human rights. Your physical pleasure is not worth more than the lives, and flesh, and souls of others.

            You are nothing more than a spoiled aristocrat.

          • Ash

            I know, warped neo-liberal thinking. God damn do we ever need a revolution.

          • Ash

            Amazes me that, in a post about women alleging horrific violence and abuse, people come on here to say “you don’t like my kinks, you’re oppressing my choices” like, can you get past your orgasms for a microsecond to consider the pain and trauma of your sisters? Or is that too much to ask?

          • bella_cose

            Circus linked to a slate article about BDSM, where researchers found that practitioners of BDSM had a higher rate of narcissistic personality traits (I can’t remember exactly how it was put). As soon as I read it, I realized that there was no common ground between me and the defenders of BDSM. In their minds, it’s only about them, and they don’t care about other women.

          • bella_cose

            Oh jeez, how embarrassing! Circus was my phone’s auto correction for Corvid. I probably shouldn’t type while rushing to catch my train.

      • Tina

        From the article: ‘This is about the fact that beating up women turns you on. And that behaviour is abusive. It’s abusive despite your hard on. It’s abusive despite the fact that society has decided dominance and violence is a “sexual preference.” It’s abusive despite the fact that many will argue they enjoy it.’

        Sounds pretty condemnatory to me.

    • Nicole S

      I completely agree with you Samantha.

      How totally oppressive is it of anyone to tell someone else what is or is not “hot” when it comes to THEIR own sexual preferences?

      I would argue that this is a very ANTI-FEMINIST article. Feminism is about treating both genders with EQUALITY and letting every women DECIDE WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO WITH HER OWN BODY.

      Abuse is never acceptable if it is non-consensual. But we do not know the entire story at this point to make any conclusion on that yet.
      But if it turns out that the sexual relationships Jian had we’re in fact consensual, than abusive or not, BOTH parties agreed upon this and knew what they were doing with their bodies so it is absolutely nobody’s business at that point.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “Feminism is about treating both genders with EQUALITY and letting every women DECIDE WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO WITH HER OWN BODY.”

        No. Feminism is about ending patriarchy and male violence against women. Beating women up in the name of orgasms equates to violence against women.

        • John

          And some people are in to “violence” in the bedroom. Whether or not the women consented will be the crux of whether or not Ghomeshi is guilty. If two adults agree to hitting and choking to get off, then that is their right.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, no not really. I mean, obviously folks are still doing it free of consequence, but as was pointed out in the article, you can’t ‘consent’ to assault/abuse. This ‘anything goes’ when it comes to sex thing liberals are so fond of is baffling. If you can’t get off without beating up women you need to check yourself.

          • Essie

            What about men who enjoy being dominated? What about women who enjoy dominating?

          • jo

            To see all these phrases again so soon after the previous bdsm post/thread…please go read it.

          • Missfit


            Now if we stick to this story, this story highlights the problematic of how BDSM can be used as an easy cover for non-consensual forms of violence. I feel that before BDSM normalization/porn culture (BDSM being normalized through porn culture), the average person’s reaction (at least women, more so feminists) to women’s stories of being punched and choked would be to be horrified and see this as abuse. Now, too many people appear not to be upset by this display of violence against women but only concerned about consent (and as we know, consent is a matter of he said/she said, what he thought/what she thought and all the ‘blurry lines’ in between). We consent to all sorts of things we might not enthusiastically want because our options are at some point limited (I did not enthusiastically go to work today). The problem here does not strictly reside with consent, it’s about what is being consented to or not. The crux of the matter here is violence against women.

            That being said, these women say they did not consent to the violence they endured. They might have consented to some form of BDSM (the basis for this consent still being arguable) but obviously, they did not consent to nearly dying and this is what they denounce. The fact that Jian hides behind BDMS and its jargon like ‘safe word’ demonstrates the problems that can emerge from this lifestyle, an entry door to outright abuse. To bring up 50 shades of grey as a way of minimizing his actions and discrediting the women who claim they were violated just show how this book and BDSM normalization is dangerous.

          • Samantha

            You are focusing solely on the fact that in this case, a man hit a woman for the sake of sexual pleasure. If the tables were turned, and the story was of a woman being fired because she is a dominatrix in her spare time, I believe you would be writing a much different article.
            Abuse is always wrong, but you can consent to a form of it, in the case of BDSM. I would in fact argue that BDSM is not abuse, since both parties lay out the terms of it before it takes place and the relationship can be ended at any time.
            I’ll say again, I enjoy, and request frequently, things that you might consider to be physical violence in the context of sexual activity. Who are you to undermine my right to consent to and request these things?

          • bella_cose

            You keep writing the same thing over and over, no matter how often you are answered. Repeating yourself isn’t going to get you a different set of answers. You are determined not to think about what has been explained to you, but just to argue about your right to do whatever in the bedroom. Guess what? This isn’t about you. None of this is about YOU, so maybe you should take a deep breath, put your thinking cap on, and see if you can understand why this is not about you and your sex life.

          • Lee

            Who is anyone to undermine someone’s right to consent to work in a sweatshop by criticizing the dynamic of companies exploiting 3rd world labor? Who is anyone to undermine someone’s right to consent to working for an emotionally abusive or sexually harassing boss by criticizing that type of work environment? Who is anyone to undermine a woman’s right to consent to live in a religious cult where women are treated like slaves by criticizing the ideology of said cults? Who is anyone to undermine someone’s right to consent to drive heavily polluting automobiles by looking critically at the unhealthy effects of pollution? Who is anyone to undermine a woman’s right to consent to getting cat-called on the street by criticizing the behavior or thinking of those men?

          • Meh

            You seem to care a lot about women ‘consenting’ to being choked/hit. You’re weird.

          • Ash

            agree. what fucked up priorities. we seriously have a problem with the state of feminism. cognitive dissonance overload.

          • Here you go John (Maybe pretend a man posted it on Facebook so you can take it seriously.)


        • Joseph

          Your premise is inherently illegitimate as applied to BDSM. If I was with a girl who enjoyed being spanked or even tied up, and she asked me to do this, and I agreed to do this for her against my normally vanilla ways, you’d be their to swoop and launch the insurrection against my awful abusive behavior?

          Come on.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thought you were outie?

          • Joseph

            bahahahaha. 🙂
            You might be growing on me…
            but I’m still Mad
            yes >:

          • Meh

            He was, but now he’s talking about his penis so he’s back again. Important biznis.

          • Ash

            dick rights before women’s humanity! super edgy and “deviant” you guyzzz. us prudes on the other hand, well…we’re ruining feminism by being boring and standing up for women.

          • Laur

            If you tied and gagged a woman just because she asked, even begged, you to, that would still be abuse.

        • Samantha

          Feminism is about ending oppression, with a particular focus on issues that affect women, end of story. Patriarchy is a form of oppression, and there are many others (government, for example). I feel your view is overly simplistic.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No, if feminism were simply about “ending oppression” than it wouldn’t be called “feminism,” it would be called something more gender-neutral. It’s called feminism because it’s specifically about the liberation of women from the system of patriarchy (i.e. male dominance, i.e. male violence against women).

          • Samantha

            – with a particular focus on issues that affect women –
            Is what I wrote.

      • bella_cose

        “Abuse is never acceptable if it is non-consensual.”

        Abuse is never acceptable, period.

      • Meh

        “I would argue that this is a very ANTI-FEMINIST article. Feminism is about treating both genders with EQUALITY and letting every women DECIDE WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO WITH HER OWN BODY.”

        Um… OK THEN. So, what you’re saying is that the personal is personal and feminism should stop being so pesky and politicising everything?

        Gotcha. I’ll make my feminism more about consenting to being choked by cock, and less about politicising the fucked up shit that women have to deal with. Because that makes full sense and doesn’t sound insane at all.

        • Samantha

          I’m pretty certain that isn’t what the poster meant. This is a debate about consent to sexual violence in the case of BDSM. Were it an article about a completely different and unrelated topic of feminist interest, we would not be talking about getting choked by cock.
          Removing a woman’s ability to consent to a sexual activity she wholeheartedly agrees with and embraces because “men hitting women isn’t hot” is an anti-feminist viewpoint. It removes a woman’s free agency, which is the core of feminism.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Feminists arguing that violence against women isn’t sexy and doesn’t promote gender equality doesn’t equate to “removing a woman’s ability to consent to sexual activity.”

          • Samantha

            True, but you are also arguing that BDSM equates to violence against women and that women cannot consent to it. That is what removes my free agency.

          • Meghan Murphy

            The law says that women can’t consent to abuse. Is the law removing your free agency? Perhaps there is more to ‘free agency’ than simply ‘anything goes.’

          • bella_cose

            The “core of feminism” isn’t about individual women and their personal choices. Due to sexism, racism, and classism, women have varying degrees of freedom to make choices. Feminism is about ALL women, and if a few women need to sacrifice their privilege for the greater good, I’m all for it.

          • Meh

            Well, I waited for it and I got it – ‘agency’. Thanks for the barrel of laughs.

      • What’s with all this “doing it with my body” shit? Are you writing this post “with your body”? Do you eat breakfast “with your body”? Dissociate much?

        Sorry to be harsh, but normalizing the dissociative objectification and commodification inherent in pornified sexuality as it pertains to women disturbed the hell out of me. Doing stuff “with my body” seems to be exclusively the domain of females.

        I have never, ever heard a man talk about stuff he does “with his body”; he just does stuff.

        • andeväsen

          Dissociation from the body is a learned skill and part of the feminine gender. It comes in handy when claiming to respect women and simultaneously abusing women’s bodies.

          • lizor


      • Ash

        ever heard the feminist mantra “the personal is political” maybe it’s time…

    • Lee

      People have different opinions about BDSM, namely whether consent magically changes sexualizing abuse into something else — I don’t think people who need their (mostly female) partners to act like middle-schoolers so they can role-play a pedophilia scenario get to claim it has nothing to do with pedophilia even though that’s clearly what they’re enjoying about it because: adults/consent. Maybe you do, and that’s fine. Personally, I think it’s pointless for either side to try to convince the other (although I don’t think it’s entirely pointless to engage with those differences in views). There are many, many places that have your view, though, that stick to the script you are comfortable with. This is not one of those places (thank you, so much, Meghan!!!). Now, I could argue that what you and others who are offended that this is not a place where BDSM is embraced are attempting to engage in is censorship, but I’ve seen that argument used too many times by pro-porn and BDSM activists against any criticism of the industries or practices, so I won’t do that, but I am left a little confused by why it’s upsetting to you that people have differences of opinion on such a controversial and potentially dangerous practice.

      • Samantha

        Well, debate is healthy, and that’s what I’m here to do. If I were to stick to spheres that agreed with me in every way, then sharing ideas and discourse would be rather pointless, don’t you think?

        • Lee

          Yeah, it depends. You’re assuming people who believe differently than you haven’t heard the arguments you’re making hundreds of times. Honestly, it’s just tedious. We have different views. We’re at an impasse. We have a few options — argue the same things over and over, agree to disagree on that particular thing and move on, actually have discussions of substance about the disagreement(s) (why people either believe that consent changes what a man likes about hitting a women or don’t), etc.

          Internet commenting is usually reactive and ego-driven, and I am just tired of this “How dare you??” tone from BDSM-ers who are offended that there are feminists out there committing heresy by straying from the approved BDSM message. Be offended, I guess, but that’s not really debate.

          • bella_cose

            I totally agree with you. Honestly, I’m starting to think this is a conversation that can never go anywhere. There is no middle ground. Either you support the population of women who have enough privilege to choose to be abused by men through BDSM, porn, and prostitution, or you support the hundreds of thousands of women who have no choice. I know what side of the divide I stand on, and I’m completely comfortable with that.

          • The thread today is so fast and furious it’s hard to keep up, but I have to say that this:

            “Either you support the population of women who have enough privilege to choose to be abused by men through BDSM, porn, and prostitution, or you support the hundreds of thousands of women who have no choice. I know what side of the divide I stand on, and I’m completely comfortable with that.”

            … is beautifully succinct. Thank you again, bella_cose.

          • Garth


            That is brilliant. I agree. It is time to take feminism global. Your work here (in North America) is (almost) done.

            Only the number is “billions” not “hundreds of thousands”.

          • Ash

            yeah like radical feminists haven’t been doing BDSM research and analysis for years, since Audre Lorde put out her amazing critique on lesbian sadomasochism decades ago. Which is here by the way, for your viewing pleasure http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/lordesm.htm

            Remember when Nine Deuce went undercover back in 2008? http://rageagainstthemanchine.com/2008/11/28/bdsm-the-sexual-equivalent-of-being-into-renaissance-faires-part-1-some-background-and-a-few-warnings/

            Oh my god, we’ve been hearing these arguments for BDSM for years…

    • Joseph

      I fully agree with you. This article was nothing but a biased rant that does nothing to advance any argument… feminist or otherwise. The problem is that no one on here seems to be interested in evidence, least of all, the author. She is simply using this troubling situation to have her opinions heard, and that’s fine, but those who buy in to this blindly do so at their own philosophical peril.

  • pisaquari

    “I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom…let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable…outright offensive”

    AKA: Some REALLY nasty shit is about to come out and I need you to deactivate every moral fiber in your being to withstand the Tsunami of Awful that is *my sex life* so I can keep my job. Also, my dad died soooooo……

    And wtf is this?? “On Thursday I voluntarily showed evidence that everything I have done has been consensual…CBC execs confirmed that the information provided showed that there was consent. ”

    What on Earth does someone show in a day that proves every sexual encounter they’ve had was consensual? Did he tape everything and show the execs the “consent interviews” (a la kink.com style)? That makes no sense. But I encourage this idiot to keep talking. His victims don’t need lawyers at the rate he’s going.

    • hypatia

      I was wondering the same thing: how does one prove that every act with even one other person was consensual? This absurd claim by itself would have me giving him the serious side-eye, even minus all the other dubious things he said.

    • andeväsen

      “But I encourage this idiot to keep talking”

      It’s a masterclass in using a petard to self-hoist.

    • Anthea Brainhooke

      Some of his “evidence” was in the form of photos and videos. Wanna bet how many of the women in those photos and videos had “consented” to a) them being taken in the first place AND b) being shown to whoever Jian deemed appropriate to see them?

      It’s obvious the CBC didn’t agree that everything was “consensual,” as he stated, or he wouldn’t have written that whiny-ass Facebook post in the first place.

  • What is also so terrible about this is that so much of the public bought his diatribe. If he hadn’t been on top of his damage control and the Star article had come out first, his letter would have sounded pathetic and desperate to a lot more people’s ears.

  • John

    This article assumes Ghomeshi’s guilt. That’s a problem. We should reserve passing judgment before the facts come to light.

    • Meghan Murphy

      He told us the ‘facts’.

    • I just wrote a piece on my blog (erinmoores.wordpress.com) explaining what is wrong with wanting the “facts” before passing judgment. There are already MANY actual, real, proven studies telling us facts about how often people falsely allege abuse or assault (virtually never) and many actual, real, proven studies about the legit reasons people won’t come forward publicly when they have been abused or assaulted.

      When you say you are waiting for facts, you’ve a) either already taken a side, and it’s Jian’s, because you may never hear these women’s full sides and b) you actually think courtrooms are good places for “Facts” to come to light. 2.5 years so far of law school has taught me not to share your faith, unfortunately.

      • Ash


    • Ash

      yes, let’s believe him and discredit his victims as liars first because “thats what good liberals who believe in due process do” – or we could do the opposite and BELIEVE WOMEN WHEN THEY SAY THEY WERE ABUSED. so strange, i know…

  • Joseph

    I don’t think this slanted opinion piece is any more enlightened or enlightening than Jian’s facebook post, nor any statement made by the CBC. That being said, you are welcome to make up your mind without hearing any evidence whatsoever. It’s a free country.

    We are also free to practice our sexuality as we see fit, so long as we do it with people who also share our interest in those kinds of things. I am not a practitioner of BDSM or rough sex, but my understanding is that that community is quite large and they (both women and men) are quite comfortable with undertaking activities that some of the rest of us view as violent. If a rape occurs, if abuse occurs, those are crimes that should be investigated by police and either proven or disproven in the courts.

    I don’t know if Jian is lying or if the woman is lying… I don’t actually know what he’s being accused of, and neither do you. What I do know, is that someone decided to use the media to attack someone rather than filing a complaint with law enforcement.

    You are free to profess your nausea and angry opinion, but don’t expect to be taken seriously if you’re not interested in actual evidence.

    I don’t take Jian’s PR firm tactics seriously because it’s all just his word, but his word against what? We will wait and see. I will wait and see before I make an informed, intelligent, pro-feminist, pro-consent, pro-justice decision on what I believe about this situation.

    Also I’d like to point out that jilted lovers and vengeful ex’s DO occur. (In both sexes). Don’t decide without knowing.


    • Lee

      Here’s the point of the blog post:

      “This is about the fact that beating up women turns you on. And that behaviour is abusive. It’s abusive despite your hard on. It’s abusive despite the fact that society has decided dominance and violence is a “sexual preference.” It’s abusive despite the fact that many will argue they enjoy it.”

      You can’t fathom that opinion, and have therefore completely missed what was said.

      • Joseph

        Here’s the reply:

        “You get wet from being slapped. Your orgasms are more intense when you’re tied up. You’re a very empowered and dominant woman in your everyday life, and you enjoy being dominated by someone you trust and love because it is your choice to allow it, because it gives you a release.”

        And also…

        “You enjoy opinion pieces that are based on what the media feeds you, you don’t pay particular attention to facts, but prefer to rely on hearsay, you are cool with demonizing someone without hearing ANY evidence.”

        Those are the parts you are willfully choosing to ignore. It’s not that you can’t fathom it as you accuse me of, but rather that you choose to blind yourself to it.

        I am not pro-Jian… I liked him fine, but I’m no devout fan… you just need to wrap your head around some truth rather than being led by someone else’s opinion.

        • Lee

          Do you have the ability to reply to the fact that people disagree that getting off on being an abuser is okey-dokey as long as consent is involved?

          You repeating that some people like it is not going to make headway. Do you get that, at all?

  • A disclaimer first of all on my interests. I am a scholar, regard myself as a feminist, and wrote one of the major books ever published on the subject of the Dominatrix. (‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’) I have an MA degree in Comp Art & Archaeology, with undergrad in Art History and many papers in women’s studies, women and religion and so on.

    The Ghomeshi case raises issues of whether what occurred was consensual BDSM, or self-serving sexual abuse on the part of Ghomeshi.

    I went in to my own studies of the Dominatrix and BDSM with an open mind, and what I found was that within the BDSM community, there were women who enjoyed to be Dominant and submissive (or indeed ‘switch’, referring to those who do both). Within the BDSM community, there are well-established moral and ethical notions of SSC (“Safe, Sane and Consensual”), or another standard used called “RACK” (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink”) which has a slightly lower standard of care.

    Within consensual BDSM play, the ideal upheld up is one of dialogue setting out mutual pleasures and agreements to play, negotiating the level and intensity of play, awareness and mitigation of risks, establishment of a safe word (and / or hand signal), continual “checking in” with one’s partner, after-care and concern for the other. Consent can be rescinded at any time. It’s also very normal to have discussions afterwards, to discuss what did or didn’t work for individuals, with openness, honesty, care (and most often with partners – with love.)

    Feminists do not help their cause when they paint BDSM as anti-feminist.

    Surely feminism should be empowering women, within their lives, their work, and their sex lives. Some women enjoy erotic domination within their sex lives. Some enjoy erotic submission.

    Would you allow women only to explore their desire for domination and not submission? Would you shame those women who are immensely turned on by exploring roleplays in which they are submissive? Many – both male and female – enjoy submission – it switches off the busy-ness of their mind, the responsibilities they take on, the having to be active and self-conscious,- and provides them a meditative and receiving state of eroticism. And ultimately, as many BDSM enthusiasts will note, the submissive ultimately holds the power. For they can use their safeword, withdraw their consent, walk off and never play again within the BDSM power dynamic. There is a big emphasis on safety, sanity, informed consent, communication and care.

    Now it may be that Ghomeshi was driven by his own fetishistic sexual desires to dominate, and he didn’t care about the woman’s true desires, her interests and the level of what she wanted to explore. He may not have got consent from her for what he had in mind. He may have exceeded the bounds of what they were consenting to. He may have ignored their use of a safe word. Or he may have incapacitated or gagged them sufficient to be unable to use their safe word. All of which would abhor those within the BDSM community who are bound to these ethical concerns.

    If what occurred was abuse and sexual violence, this is not consensual BDSM. The difference bears many similarities to RAPE versus consensual sex.

    However it would be truly a step backwards for feminists to ban BDSM, and women’s desirous exploration of BDSM. On the other side of this, the Dominatrix has much to teach us. She reverses male dominance and upholds a woman in charge, elevated in status, in the position of agency. But the Dominatrix too would defend the right of women who enjoy consensual BDSM activities in submissive role – to be able to explore those. As well as wanting to shape a world in which women are empowered to explore their sexuality in whatever form, to have voice to choose what they want, to not feel bullied, oppressed or abused for their desires or decisions. And to be able to change their mind about what they want, whenever they want.

    Anne O Nomis

    Author of ‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’

    • Lee

      “Many – both male and female – enjoy submission – it switches off the busy-ness of their mind, the responsibilities they take on, the having to be active and self-conscious,- and provides them a meditative and receiving state of eroticism.”

      Where do you factor in the violence and rape enactment in this charitable description of the dom/sub dynamic?

      • Sexprof

        What would you see as the problem with reenacting rape within a consensual relationship with all the attributes of BDSM detailed above about communication, respect, safe words, etc? We’re not talking about recording it or redistributing it, and we’re not talking about anyone underage. I mean, obviously real rape is bad. But can you flesh out that argument for me? Isn’t there a different between real and pretend?

        • As I mentioned in a separate comment here, research shows that pretend violence that is shown to be harmless increases aggression and decreases empathy. And there are concerns that video games are worse because they’re active role play rather than passive viewing. I don’t know of any similar research on BDSM but it’s possible role playing violence could mess with people’s perception of real violence somewhat. You know, desensitize people to some aspects of it.

        • Lee

          I have an ethical problem with people getting off on rape, because rape is a horrible thing. I think people who are tickled in some way by horrible things have problems (on a spectrum, ranging from psychopathy to just feeling angry and empty, or compulsions around having been abused).

          People can masturbate to horribly graphic (even non-sexual) fake violence all alone without hurting someone, and I am free to still think that getting off on people’s pain is a bad thing. I don’t think training or reinforcing in a person’s brain that other people’s misery or pain comes with the rewards of pleasurable brain chemicals or things like amusement, glee, or fun is good. I think that enjoyment some people get out of seeing others hurting is a dysfunctional behavior or trait. I think, for example, watching things like videos of people getting hit by busses and enjoying or feeding off that type of horror, misery, pain, awfulness, whatever, is really screwed up.

    • Meh

      “Would you allow women only to explore their desire for domination and not submission? Would you shame those women who are immensely turned on by exploring roleplays in which they are submissive?”

      Umm… “allow”? Thanks for thinking that I’m way more powerful than I really am. Seriously, I’m flattered.

      “However it would be truly a step backwards for feminists to ban BDSM, and women’s desirous exploration of BDSM.”

      Ban? Wow, I can ban stuff? Ok… I’ll start with BDSM, then I’ll ban the colour orange, and then I’ll ban weird bugs and shit.

      “Surely feminism should be empowering women, within their lives, their work, and their sex lives. Some women enjoy erotic domination within their sex lives. Some enjoy erotic submission.”

      Ok, so if I empower women to enjoy ‘domination’ and ‘erotic submission’, does that mean that I need to stop thinking politically? Cuz, like, that’s what will happen if I assume that women can be empowered through spanking, leather and related bullshit.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Orange is my favorite colour!! 🙁

        • Meh

          I’m open to negotiations… we’ll scrap maroon.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok. Thank you for being flexible.

      • Essie

        It seems to me that you really aren’t interested in a discussion. All you have to say to opposing opinions is couched in condescension and sarcasm.

        • Meh

          Yes, I am being sarcastic.

          • Ash

            I am sarcastic a lot because i’m tired of the same old garbage arguments defending violent men.

    • bella_cose

      Why should we support acting out patriarchal norms just because orgasms are involved? Is it just me, or do most people become complete morons around the subject of sex, as though it happens in a far off land, untouched by any real world experiences? I just cannot understand this blind spot wherever orgasms are concerned.

      • amongster

        This. I don’t get how you could call yourself a feminist and defend BDSM. There is some serious doublethink going on and people need to snap out of it.

      • Sexprof

        So, if I’m following your argument, the only kind of orgasms you support are those that don’t act out patriarchal norms? So what if a woman orgasms when a man is mansplaining to her, or when she’s thinking about being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or when she’s babbling about wanting to be underpaid and overworked, what if those things turn her on? What is our role here, are we supposed to police people’s orgasms? Tell her what should be turning her on (presumably being empowered but not dominant or oppressive, and dismantling the patriarchy? You gotta admit, that sounds a little dry.) If a woman or a man is happy and healthy and safe yet engaging in sex that reinforces patriarchal norms, what are you saying we should do about it? Unless we’re their therapist, I would suggest our energy as feminists is better spent in other places.

        • lizor


          Critique and “policing” are very different things. You do get that, don’t you?

          You are are arguing as if someone here has proposed that new legislation be tabled that would prevent certain sexual activities. Nothing anyone writes here is going to actually prevent you from doing what you want to to get off. In fact, even if you were committing illegal acts, no blog comment is going to stop you, but that’s beside the point.

          Engaging as if someone’s expressed thoughts were actually doing anything else than making you uncomfortable is dishonest and responding as if someone was preventing you from your sex play is a dishonourable way to engage. It’s almost as if the some of the ideas expressed here are too threatening for you to consider at face value, so you resort to misrepresenting them.

          • Ash

            lol, yes us super powerful feminists will use our awesome political power to table legislation about sexual sadism…

        • bella_cose

          It’s not about telling women what they can or can’t do in the bedroom. Being critical of something is not the same as outlawing it. Desires don’t come out of nowhere, they are influenced by culture, so I do think that by saying sex is off-limits to any kind of critical thought or analysis is unreasonable at best, and dangerous at worst. There are tons of women who struggle with a desire to be sexually submissive, but aren’t comfortable with it because they know where it comes from. Submission is what women are groomed for. I won’t stop criticizing BDSM, because I want those women to know it’s perfectly normal to feel that way, but to be disturbed by it, and the fact that men get off on dominating them, sexually and otherwise, and it’s possible to have equality and pleasure in a sexual relationship.

          • Ash

            exactly – sexual preferences come out of somewhere, we’re not just born being sexually aroused by battering women and choking them out.

    • hypatia

      “Surely feminism should be empowering women, within their lives, their work, and their sex lives.”

      Feminism is a political movement which aims to liberate women as a class from oppression. That can’t be done if we’re all busy supporting the sexualization of oppressive power dynamics because it pleases some individual women to do so.

    • Ms. Nomis,

      Your question, “Would you allow women only to explore their desire for domination and not submission? ” and late assertion that being Dominatrix is about women’s agency but that a Dom would also support a Sub (like we have never heard this argument or considered it – please) tells me that you simply do not get the critique that has been posed over several posts at this blog site and others.

      The position is not that we want women to dominate, to simply enact the role of top dog in the hierarchy. We want rid of the hierarchy. The objection is to the fetishization of humiliation, pain and abuse and that includes a rejection of the argument that arousal and orgasm magically removes social implications. I think most of us do not give the tiniest shit what theatrics people get up to, but the mainstreaming of the idea that abuse in certain outfits is super sexy makes it easier for abusive men to abuse women by simply calling “consent!!!”, with a little “she’s a vengeful bitch” thrown in.

      FTR, I do believe that women can have a good time being “play” treated like shit, but that has nothing to do with feminism any more than eating a large bag of cheezies is a feminist act because it’s enjoyable at the time. I also think the onus is on the BDSM community to be vigilant about abusive men using the trope of “consent” to get away with their heinous shit.



      • Johnny

        “We want rid of the hierarchy.”

        OK. I’ll bite. With what shall we replace it?

        • Candy

          In favor of no hierarchy and sadism? The less power dynamics within society the better, in my opinion.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Who said anything about “exploring a desire for domination”? That demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what should be the norms around sex and sexuality–equality.

      Promoting BDSM as an example of healthy sexuality crumples as soon as you consider that you are forcing women into the position of having to say “no” (thus, consent is lack of active resistance). This is incompatible with any progressive standard of consent as being active, voluntary, and in the moment. If sex is happening the way it should, a woman should not have to tell her partner “no” (for one thing, it is difficult to say “no” and that much harder when you are being physically and sexually abused by someone who enjoys dominating others). So please don’t act as though BDSM is the perfect model of consent, because “consenting” beforehand or forcing someone to “maintain their boundaries” by saying “no” (or the “safe word,” since you cannot even say that “no means no”) is not consent.

      Being forced to say “no” when someone is abusing you is NOT empowerment. It means you are being abused, and it is forcing the abused person (the woman, in nearly all cases) to be in the position of having to defend herself. That is not power; that is disempowerment and vulnerability (you do realize that a lot of women end up raped just because they didn’t say “no”? Do you think it isn’t “really” rape or that the raped woman was “empowered” because she could have withdrawn her consent?).

      I have no problem advocating against and socially or legally sanctioning inflicting physical abuse upon women. As it stands now–thanks to patriarchy and pro-BDSM–it’s even more impossible to consider violence as violence (because “consent means beating up a woman and having violent sex is not violence!”) and to prosecute it (“But officer–she LIKES rough sex and she consented!”).

      Advocating and promoting the eroticization of rape scenarios, physical abuse (yes, causing someone pain or injury is abuse), and slavery whilst claiming to be against rape and abuse is inconsistent at best. In fact this man is following the pro-BDSM script to justify his actions word for word (empowerment, choice, I have a right to my sexual preferences and I’m being shamed, etc…). There’s probably a reason for that.

      As for “agency”,women are trained from the moment they are born that they are things to be hurt and used by men. You then promote pornography that eroticizes physical and sexual violence, and train men that they are entitled to women’s bodies and it is sexy to physically and sexually abuse women (and coerce them–once again, something else that BDSM eroticizes). The idea that sex should be anything but painful and directed toward the pleasure of the man is something absolutely unthinkable–except insofar as women are supposed to enjoy pain. Those are our norms and practices as they are.

      I have yet to ever see any pro-BDSM person address the systematic and systemic coercion, the practices of grooming and manipulating women into these sexual practices, the harms of these sexual practices, using these practices to inure women to pain and abuse, using pornography to “train” women to get to accept sexual practices or coerce them into sexual practices, or training people into patriarchal norms. You could not ever say, and in fact don’t want to say, to young women: “Men should not hurt women during sex.”

      • bella_cose

        When I first started paying attention to BDSM, I was horrified by the number of times I saw an article about how to to BDSM safely, that would include a section on pushing the sub’s boundaries. Not just soft boundaries, but hard ones, as in “make the sub comfortable and trust you, and then start doing what the sub doesn’t want you to do, but stop before they use the safe word.” It’s a way to wear down a sub’s resistance, and for a practice where consent is touted as super important, it’s telling that it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

      • Sexprof

        I would argue that it’s not pain, dominance, or violence that’s the problem, it’s how these things are used that’s the problem. And while I am disgusted by and committed to fighting against everything you’ve rightly mentioned (grooming, systematic coercion, the evil pornography and sex trade industries), I am not ready to tell my daughters “you should not be hurt during sex”. I want to be able to say this as a blanket statement, but I don’t want to disenfranchise them or take away possibilities for them to experience pleasure in their lives by simplifying a complicated issue, unless it is to tell them (and my son): “You should never, ever do anything sexually that you don’t want to do. You can always stop at any point, and you always have to let someone stop at any point. You should always, always ask for consent before touching anyone, and you should never, ever do anything sexually that isn’t making you happy.” And then contextualize those hard and fast rules with a discussion of just what you’ve detailed above regarding our long, horrible history with sexual violence against women, girls, and boys, mainly perpetrated by men. And make sure to add that you should share with a sexual partner trust, respect, and the ability to communicate well. I want this to be an easy issue, “sex should never involve pain”, but that risks reinforcing the same binaries and boundaries that patriarchy has enforced against women for thousands of years.

        Because… I’m just going to go ahead and come out as a completely vanilla person sexually, who does NOT enjoy pain and finds it a considerable turn off if I’m even the least bit uncomfortable. But I do enjoy pain in other contexts, including the pain of giving birth, the pain of staying up all night writing, and the pain when I play sports. So, using me as an example, if the rules are clear, if the game is clear, if the communication and consent is clear, what is wrong with me enjoying throwing myself all over the court to save the ball, leaving the gym bloody and bruised, but happy and safe, with my male coach, who is inarguably in a position of power and privilege, representing a long history of male domination in sport and coaching, and who also spent a lot of time screaming at me during the game? Why is it ok to experience and enjoy pain in something like sports but not in something like sex?

        All I’m saying is, I think we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Just because many people have used pain, dominance, submission and violence beyond badly, does not mean there aren’t ways we could retain those things (as we have in sports) without the horrors that have accompanied them in the past.

        • Carnation

          This entire post is absurd. Women don’t inflict sexualized insults and pain on themselves while men watch because those women enjoy doing that to themselves, and any coach worth their salt will resolutely not permit athletes to push themselves into ACCIDENTAL, permanent harm.

          The most absurd part of an absurd post:

          “‘sex should never involve pain’, but that risks reinforcing the same binaries and boundaries that patriarchy has enforced against women for thousands of years.”

          Not even close, like, not even in the same universe. Then as now as Ghomeshi proves, patriarchy concerns itself with what men desire and hasn’t spared a thought for what women need. See also: prostitution.

          You are insouciantly naïve to think moms set the rules for the sex their kids will have. The rule “sex should involve pain” is a rule by men and for men with women as barely an afterthought, and the pornified sex rules of the 21st Century are the same, by men and for men with women barely an afterthought.

          The teensy feminist pushback of “sex should not involve pain” is an ant on the Titanic no matter how much sex positive feminists try to convince themselves they are queens steering the patriarchal ship through whispers in the male crew’s ears.

      • To reply to some of the issues addressed above (I had not checked online for a day and had not realized how many questions had been raised. Apologies.)

        I want to respond to a few of those points from the five years of academic research I’ve done.

        – On the Desire for sexual submission
        The desire for sexual submission comes from a complex combination of things, of which acculturation of women as a class could only be seen as a small part of the equation. In fact, a significant percentage of men prefer sexual submission. (From memory, I believe the major statistical surveys put it around 30-36 percent.)
        Some of the things I believe play into the desire for sexual submission are:
        i) Counter-balance to taking high level responsibility (those in high power jobs are particularly highly represented in Dominatrices’ clientele, expressing their desire for relief from responsibility, to be put in bondage and dominated, to find relief from responsibility, a ‘special space’ of submission.)
        ii) An enjoyment of the (sensory) aspects of experiencing / receiving (which I would hear anecdotally compared by men and women to liking to receive a deep tissue massage, or those who enjoy others to cook for them and not have to do the cooking. This is similar to the above point but more involved with the sensory aspects of receiving and enjoying.)
        iii) Humans are social animals, and like other social animals, tend towards a dominance heriarchy within individuals of a tribe or group, often described in relation to ‘alpha’ character types (whether male or female), leaders and followers. Some individuals prefer in social groups to be more passive and follow. I don’t believe this is only upbringing, although Upbringing can by all means impact on confidence and social ettiquette and social conditioning and absolutely can impact on women as a class. But there’s more to it than merely social conditioning of women / females.There are differences within individual humans and individual animals in the more dominant and submissive roles they play within a social group. We are closest genetically to bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas, who have their social structures in which dominance positions come in. Bonobos being more egalitarian and sexually expressive than gorillas.
        iv) Biology, anatomy, hormonal endocrine system response
        I am well-aware that feminists often don’t like hearing about biological arguments, but biology and genetics do form part of the picture. And I do believe there is an aspect in the higher percentage female desire for submission due to in part to biological factors. In many animals, the female is sexually submissive to a degree, even while often retaining important aspects of control and of mate selection. You could go through examples of wild dog groups – female leaders of the dominant pair engage in mock-copulation to keep useful male members working and hunting to help raise the offspring of the dominant pairing. There’s all kind of examples within biology, which I won’t go into but do play some part in things.
        v) Acculturation and social structure of gender in which females are taught to be submissive, reinforced through religion, through media, through social values and expectations
        vi) Erotic desire and fetish grows in the fertile soil of the taboo. People will play with their taboos, as that’s where the psychological thrill is.
        vii) People like to see out and play with the rush of fear. Whether this is going to a roller-coaster theme park, watching horror or thriller genre films, extreme sports like sky-diving. Part of the desire for exploring BDSM and submission in particular is the desire to experience the ‘rush’ of ‘real’ fear, in an environment believed to be actually safe.
        viii) Discovering the desire of the ‘other’, and themselves. Another reason that couples explore BDSM together, and may ‘switch’, is to see what the other wants to do to them or with them, within negotiated boundaries. This is often give-and-take. Actually researching BDSM sub-cultures, it was fascinating the degree to which partners did ‘switch’. Through BDSM (and in particular Dominance/submission and Topping/bottoming roleplay), they gained greater understanding of what they enjoyed, and what their partner enjoyed, in the disruption of the egalitarian and vanilla framework.
        ix) BDSM as carnival and play. By dislodging normal social roles, by taking on a role you don’t normal take in everyday life, you are able to see the apparatus and power structures of everyday. I think this is one of the reasons people like Michel Foucault have such interesting things to say about topics of the history of sexuality, the prison system and punishment (including punishment of women, and of people who were non-normative in their sexuality for their era), is that they have played with the very apparatus.

        So where bella_cose makes the point that:
        “There are tons of women who struggle with a desire to be sexually submissive, but aren’t comfortable with it because they know where it comes from. Submission is what women are groomed for.”

        Bella_cose – I both agree and disagree with you. Social grooming of women to be submissive is only a part of the equation of why there are women who want to explore sexual submission, but certainly not the whole thing.

        Hypatia writes:
        “Feminism is a political movement which aims to liberate women as a class from oppression. That can’t be done if we’re all busy supporting the sexualization of oppressive power dynamics because it pleases some individual women to do so.”

        I agree with you in principle but not in the assumption that it is “oppressive” power dynamics at work in BDSM play. In most BDSM play, the power structure isn’t “oppressive”. It’s mutually desired and sought out, mutually agreed upon, discussed, consented to in advance, with safe words set, play with power exchange, and oftentimes ‘switching’ of partners and roles.

        Certainly it’s a complex topic for feminism to navigate, particularly when you put female + sexual submission + erotic desire together for consideration.

        And it’s a shame that this discussion has spawned by the topic of Ghomeshi, who may well have sexually assaulted women, violated consent. And it been about His desire and eagerness to play out his dominant desire without consideration or care towards the women.

        But nonetheless there are important issues very relevant for discussion around sexuality and feminism, BDSM and submission more generally.

        Anne O Nomis
        Author of ‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’

        • Lee

          It’s interesting that your perspective is that feminists don’t like to talk about biology, because that’s my perception of the BDSM community WRT the biology of addiction. Speaking generally, people who need what you call a rush but what others might call a “fix”, people who constantly seek excitement or novel experience, and often go to extremes to get it, can be seen to be in an addictive pattern. People who are healthy (say, have worked to understand their addictions and how to deal with the feelings of discomfort they have in different ways than the risky behaviors they used to) generally aren’t seeking out such rushes. There’s quite a lot of research concerning how extreme experience can alter the homeostasis of the brain, and how addiction is often a result. People can also, in essence, train themselves to “get off” on or be excited by things such as overblown fear responses, if they have PTSD.


          • jo

            There is a huge link between PTSD and women in BDSM, we need to talk about it more.

            The BDSM community promotes the idea that women can get over rape and abuse if they re-enact it and sexualize it.
            This is absolutely inhumane, destructive advice. Trauma victims should not have to sexualize their own trauma.
            I’m worried about all the women in relationships with doms that are staying traumatized and not healing. You don’t get to heal when you keep repeating a similar experience to the abuse you suffred.

          • amongster

            I was one of those who stumbled over a “feminist” page that promoted BDSM as therapy for rape victims. Unfortunately it made sense to me but, of course, all it did was starting another cycle of abuse that was even more disturbing because I had to tell myself it was helping me and also because I had made that “choice” myself and felt responsible.
            I totally agree that we have to talk more about it.

          • jo

            I’m very sorry to hear that, amongster.
            It sadly seems to be a common experience, too. This is why criticism of BDSM is so important.

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’m sorry to hear that too, Amongster. I think it’s important to hear from women who have been in that and seen how harmful it is. The pro-BDSM, “sex positive” people simply do not care about how it harms women.

          • amongster

            Thank you. And yes, I have met a lot of other women who have similar experiences. Of course it’s no surprise that traumatized people are most vulnerable and easily become victims of abuse again but I find it absolutely outrageous that self-proclaimed feminists play a part in this. I’m so glad that “consent” is so critically looked at here!

          • Lee

            I have PTSD, and you’re absolutely right as far as all the research I’ve seen on the topic. Reenacting it over and over again just reinforces it (maybe giving you a sense that if you can control it, you can control it — we often compulsively reenact trauma to try to master it, but it doesn’t work, because the thing already happened). This is how I got interested in the pro-BDSM PR, because it is so, so, so wrong on PTSD, and those promoting it won’t have you using science or psychology to question it. That has to be causing harm to people looking for answers after sexual assault, and to promote it in feminist circles, without at least allowing the research on PTSD as a counter-point, is so unethical, it was what made me turn off to most popular feminism.

            I remember a writer on a feminist blog claiming she had PTSD from listening to a woman talk about her rape, and then healed it by having violent sex. PTSD doesn’t work like that. You have to go into the “freeze” response, feeling that your life is in danger, and then everything shuts down, including your ability to process what happened. You can get PTSD from watching someone else’s life-threatening experience, but not simply hearing about it (although, if you already have PTSD, you can get triggered into a flashback from that). Your brain turns off the processing because it is too much to handle, and anything that then “gets in” to your brain after the freeze response, just stays there, kind of floating around. One expert talks about the idea that the freeze response is a way of making it easier to get eaten in the animal kingdom (submitting rather than fighting hurts less, and if your brain is not processing what’s happening, it isn’t as frightening).

            Treating PTSD/trauma is about DEsensitization, unlinking those trauma links in the brain, getting it all processed; not in reinforcing the initial trauma through re-enaction, making the violence “OK”. I recommend people with trauma read up about it (I hope that doesn’t sound snarky).

          • amongster

            Whenever I criticized the pro-BDSM PR in regards to the treatment of PTSD in liberal feminist spaces I got told that just because it wasn’t for me didn’t mean that it wasn’t helpful for others (and most people here who are pro-BDSM keep saying the same). There is so much lack of critical thinking and also of empathy. It’s always about the happy slaves and how to keep them happy while those who are suffering from abuse are painted as intolerant and narrow-minded.

            I have also encountered those who get angry and upset when there are no trigger warnings while praising BDSM. So much confusion! And it’s terrible that this kind of thinking is what most people with trauma will find first when they seek for answers and help.

          • “I remember a writer on a feminist blog claiming she had PTSD from listening to a woman talk about her rape, and then healed it by having violent sex. ”

            I also remember an article by a journalist who had covered the earthquake in Haiti and who claimed that the trauma she experienced from witnessing other people’s extreme tragedy pain and loss was healed by having rape-y sex with a guy. It was a story that was problematic on so many levels and it gained HUGE traction. There was a few weeks there where I could not seem to avoid the damn thing every time I logged onto the web.

            I think you might be right about freeze response, and apparently that can be a very blissful feeling (as reported by people who have survived large predator attacks).

            What I’m not clear on is what you mean when you say “Treating PTSD/trauma is about DEsensitization”. My understanding of trauma recovery involves bringing the self back into sensed, bodily experience in order to break the protective dissociation response.

            Would you mind writing a bit more about that? (and please don’t read any snark into my question either. 🙂 I fully respect your knowledge and experience.) Thanks!

          • Lee

            Oh, I totally agree with what you’re saying. I think I might be using the word in the wrong context. What I mean is to get the part(s) of the brain that are continually looking for trouble to calm down and, I think the word is extinguish, the extreme arousal state and neural connections associated with the trauma. So yes, bringing yourself back into a state of safety, normalizing your responses, getting the brain to treat what happened as over now; not continually poking at that part of your brain that is going haywire, inducing yourself to normalize that extreme response and reinforcing, rather than weakening, the neural connections. Getting safe, processing, filing it away as behind you, not making violence or trauma a ‘safe’ thing you can deal with.

            I had great success with a certain machine, I can’t remember what it’s called. It’s basically two rods that vibrate alternately that you hold in your hands, and you think about or talk about the experience. It’s the same premise as EMDR. EMDR is supposed to work well, too, but I had problems focusing my eyes to be able to do it. ‘Healing Trauma’, a book by Peter Levine was helpful for me. There’s also something called brainspotting that was recommended to me but I haven’t tried it. It’s supposed to be able to unlock older trauma that you may not be aware of.

            Until I see some research about how violent sex would treat PTSD-brain, I can’t say it makes any sense to me. It’s the opposite of what (I understand, at least) the research says. It would be similar to people recommending those who’ve lost their homes in fires burn something else soon after and get on with their lives. It might symbolically feel like they’ve exorcised demons or something, maybe anger, maybe they feel like they’re in control for a short period of time, but it makes me have extreme doubts about their understanding of PTSD or their diagnoses. It’s possible they were in the “numbed” or deadened phase of PTSD, and doing something scary brought them out of it for a time, but the survival/fear response, the body’s rigidness, dissociation, etc. just wouldn’t magically disappear without the brain having actually filed the experience away (re-experiencing, even in a safe environment, without completing treatment first and being in a good place, just doesn’t do that; and re-experiencing trauma, even in a safe environment, is still likely to illicit a high fear response and possibly re-trigger PTSD). I think they’re closer to training themselves through a kind of exposure therapy, like you do when people are afraid of normal experiences, like flying, but… it doesn’t make sense to me why you would want to normalize violence for yourself, especially if you have a genuine PTSD-type response to it.

          • hypatia

            This is really insightful, thank you. I’ve never heard anyone explain it all quite like that, and it resonates. It feels like you answered a question I didn’t know I’d been carrying around.

          • “I think I might be using the word in the wrong context.”

            No, I think I just misunderstood the context that you meant. This is very clear and helpful.

            I am not familiar with a lot of these therapies. For me it was a combination of talk therapy and bodywork that reawakens and propriceptively re-acesses the areas of the body that are shut down and numbed. (Culturally, there is a general shut down of the pelvic floor from constant sitting, high heels, body shame and other factors – it’s no wonder so few women enjoy sex, easily dissociate or go after hyper-sensational practices like those found in bdsm – it’s like cultural grooming. But that’s a digression).

            Your comment is informative and your take on treating ptsd by revisiting trauma is dead on. Thanks for this and all of your other succinct and insightful comments on this thread.

          • Lee

            I’m glad some are finding my comments useful. It is absolutely invaluable to me to be able to honestly and openly share my thoughts on this topic. The shutdown that usually happens makes me very curious about whether money is involved in the promotion of BDSM as a healing, ‘alternative’ lifestyle choice…

        • hypatia

          Hierarchies of power are inherently oppressive. BDSM does not happen in a vacuum, it happens within the same patriarchal context as everything else, and it reproduces and sexualizes hierarchical power differentials, regardless of whether it’s “play” or “consensual.” Whether or not the individuals engaged in any given BDSM activity find the experience oppressive is irrelevant to a structural analysis of the issue, that is, how the practice and acceptance of the practice affect women as a class of human beings.

  • A fifth customer is now confirmed:

    No. 1 gossip site in USA, “Blind Gossip” solved their Canadian creeper story today ‼ Hi Jian Ghomeshi http://blindgossip.com/?p=54310#more-54310 #ghomeshigate


    • Meghan Murphy

      Ya read that one on xoJane last year… It was pretty obvious it was about Jian.

  • marv

    Face palms to consent ideologues. A middle aged man having sexual relationships with young women is unconscionable in itself. Everything that flows from there augments the original injustice. His conduct which is quite common among men, demonstrates male privilege. Liberals are astonishingly deferential to the sacred authority of individualism as conservatives are of their imaginary gods. The unexamined assumptions of either group are ideologically rigid and institutionally conformist to sexual inequality.

    • “Liberals are astonishingly deferential to the sacred authority of individualism as conservatives are of their imaginary gods. The unexamined assumptions of either group are ideologically rigid and institutionally conformist to sexual inequality.”

      Oh yes, this.


  • amongster

    Amazing how many men and handmaiden suddenly pop up to defend their brother and abusive men, aka kinksters, in general. Violence is violence, no matter if someone consents to it or not. When you get off on being violated or on violating others you have a problem that has to be addressed and solved in therapy.

    • Samantha

      Really? Is this the view you have of all kinks, or just ones you deem ‘violent’? Are all alternative forms of sexual pleasure worthy of therapy? Who sets the standard from which we should not deviate?

      • Lee

        You’re confusing critique with some kind of hardline, THIS IS THE WAY YOU MUST BEHAVE OR ELSE THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES stance. I can critique any kink, any human behavior (even including going to therapy). I find others’ critiques of things I do interesting and often enlightening or helpful. They are asking me to think about things, maybe from a different, and often more studied and thoughtful, perspective than the one I previously had.

        • Lee ,
          Samantha was not reacting to “critique” of particular practices. She was reacting to Amongster’s categorical judgment: “When you get off on being violated or on violating others you have a problem that has to be addressed and solved in therapy”.

          I sympathize with Amongster, except I would not deign to tell someone who experiences pleasure in their own pain and/or “humiliation” that they are mentally unhealthy and should get help. If they are comfortable with it, we should let them be. Certainly we should NOT promote shame for those desires, which is exactly what telling them they need therapy does.

          • lizor

            Oh. Is it shameful to work with therapists?

          • No, that’s neither what I wrote nor what I meant.

            Telling someone that their pleasure in their own pain or humiliation is wrong and unhealthy and they need therapy to get better promotes shame. It’s “You have a serious problem”, or to get “shame” in there: “you should be ashamed of yourself!”.
            Is that clear?

            If someone saw that their own desire for pain or humiliation was interfering with their life in some way, such as leading them to form unhealthy relationships, then I would wholeheartedly endorse that they pursue therapy. Here I see that I do have to condone making that recommendation to someone when it seems that pursuing these desires appears to be creating problems for them. Even then, my position will not be “Liking pain is bad, you had better fix that”.

            Insight into one’s kink, whether from therapy, introspection, recovered memory, feminist critique, or whatever, doesn’t necessarily dissipate the desire. A middle-aged man of my acquaintance has a desire to wear a particular article in sexual contexts. It’s a safety and security thing for him, and his detailed insight into its sources in his very early years has not reduced its power. Probably this kink has limited his selection of partners, but so far it is is something he accepts about himself.

          • Missfit

            ‘Insight into one’s kink, whether from therapy, introspection, recovered memory, feminist critique, or whatever, doesn’t necessarily dissipate the desire.’

            Not necessarily, but it sure is interesting to know and understand where it comes from. Seriously, I wonder why the sex act is so much linked to humiliation and I can only see misogyny as the root cause.

            And it’s interesting that you automatically took as an example the person who takes ‘pleasure from their own pain and humiliation’, leaving out of the picture those who inflict said pain and humiliation. Everytime the topic of BDSM comes up, we always see people (usually women) defending their desires, or the desires of others (usually women), for submission/pain/humiliation. The desires of people/men who take pleasure in inflicting said pain and humiliating is never addressed. It is as though these people/men are only there to indulge in the sub/women’s desires. What about all those men enthusiastically enacting violence against women and/or consuming images of women being choked and insulted? Can we focus on them for once?

          • Missfit, I agree it’s interesting to “know and understand” where one’s kink comes from.
            I understand but resent that you “find it interesting” that I took as “an example the person who takes ‘pleasure from their own pain and humiliation’”
            I didn’t “automatically” take as an example the masochists. Rather, I intended to do just that in my reply to Lee, to look specifically at the ones who desire pain rather than the ones who want to provide pain. The latter disturb me; the former I am willing to work with.

          • amongster

            What does it mean that you are “willing to work with” those who desire pain? Do you think that those who desire to inflict pain should be allowed to do that because there are also those who need these people to get off?

          • I’m not sure exactly what i meant in “willing to work with”. I suppose I meant simply accept.

            I am troubled by the very idea that there are people who actually desire to inflict pain, and find doing so pleasurable or erotically stimulating. I used to think the ones who delivered pain did it just to enjoy their partner’s pleasure. Now I accept that some of them, including a friendly acquaintance of mine, specifically enjoy causing pain and I struggle with it. I assume he’s doing that with his current partner, whom all visible evidence shows he adores. I don’t get it, but I also cannot see forcing him to refrain (never mind that I also don’t see how to enforce such a restriction).

          • Lee

            In reply to Scott S.

            I don’t think you can force people who are sadists not to do sadistic things, especially if they have willing partners; but I do think those of us who don’t condone it can claim the right to say we don’t.

          • corvid

            And there you have it: to cause an individual to feel “shame” – and by that I mean, analyze her own behaviour – is deemed worse than the perpetuation of a culture that shames all women. Whatever way you slice it, BDSM culture glamorizes destructive patriarchal hierarchies and “consensual” violence against women and this plays into an actual culture of violence against women. With the prevalence of “kink”-themed porn consumption among men who don’t technically identify as BDSM practitioners, and a general culture of competition and escalation among men, it is commonplace that men beat women during sex without any discussion first: it’s happened to me with most of the partners I’ve had, they think that because some women appear to like it and consent to it then it must be reasonable. You may say that’s because they don’t understand their responsibility to adhere to correct kink procedure…. well, who in a patriarchy is going to hold them to correct procedure?? Who is going to make them understand? You? Anyone you know? Unless you are actively doing something to stop this then you are part of the problem. Obstructing feminist discussion by resorting to the kink-shaming accusation is not helpful. Maybe y’all live in a consumerist bubble but many of us don’t, and the culture you create as privileged people has far-reaching effects.

          • Corvid –
            I never said one must not ask or encourage another to analyze their own behavior and desires. Actually I would encourage that. I was reacting to the judgmental, dimissive, “When you get off on being violated … you have a problem that has to be addressed and solved …” as if the author of the comment would advocate saying exactly that to anyone, friend or stranger, who admits experiencing pleasure from pain. Truly, I do realize people here are not advocating that sort of action.

            I am not comfortable with entirely pathologizing that kink, though I agree that someone who “needs” pain to orgasm should be encouraged to try to change that (I once heard about a man who needed pain that way). People who enjoy giving pain? Another’s expressions of agony give them pleasure? Go ahead and pathologize them.

          • amongster

            You realize that I, “the author of the comment”, was someone who got off on being violated which is exactly why I tell everyone who felt or feels the same, that they have a problem.
            It’s called abuse and is hard to spot when you are conditioned to think and feel that it’s not abuse when you gain pleasure from it.

            I’m sorry that my comments may sound simplistic, English is not my native language. I can’t understand though why you don’t read my comment in the context of what I have said elsewhere on this thread. I think I made it clear that I don’t think that subs are the real problem. I simply think they were all better off when they stopped practicing BDSM and see it for what it is. Abuse.

          • Amongster –
            No, I didn’t realize that you were a reformed BDSM’er, and I had not read all your comments elsewhere in this thread (there are hundreds now).

            I have not yet come to the conclusion that all Bondage, Discipline, Dominance/submission, Sadism and Masochism is indicative of abuse, despite the opinions of this blog’s author and her supporters.

            You say that you don’t consider subs “the real problem”, yet you did write that someone who “gets off on being violated” has a problem they should seek therapy to solve.
            Maybe encouraging therapy for masochists is the right course for society: If all the people who get pleasure from pain fixed that problem, the ones who get pleasure from inflicting pain would have no willing victims.

          • Lee

            I apologize for such a long comment and for commenting so much.

            I do not consider the term “unhealthy” to be anything but descriptive. If people want to do unhealthy things, that’s fine with me, I know I do them. I also don’t believe healthy/unhealthy is something that is perfectly objective, either. I just don’t agree to play along with the idea that I have to affirm everyone’s perceptions of themselves. I don’t believe people have a right to demand others see them or what they do the way they want others to — they have a right to argue about why others perceptions are wrong though, and I’m open to those arguments, but I don’t have to agree.

            I am only speaking for myself, but I am not trying to shame people, at all. I’m not coming from a place of dogma or trying to get people to “fix” themselves. Trying to control people into being healthy is impossible, and even having the desire to do that comes from an unhealthy place, IMO. It’s not about moralizing on some set of right and correct rules for good and respectable people to follow. I’m not trying to force anyone to be healthy or saying they even shouldbe. It’s not a prescriptive view on my part. I’m just not going to modify my own perceptions to match others because they feel they need that.

            Some people don’t think veganism is a healthy choice. I don’t feel remotely “shamed” by that, because I don’t feel ashamed about it. I am truly comfortable with the choice and don’t need to prove it to anyone or make anyone agree to the “rightness” of that choice. Their beliefs don’t have to match up with mine for me to be OK. It doesn’t hurt my feelings that someone out there might think I’m unhealthy because I am not emotionally tied to their opinion. It’s really fine with me that they think that. They can’t make me feel something I don’t feel.

            In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that I think the demand in a lot of libfem circles that everyone refrain from saying anything contradictory about anyone else’s lifestyle has gone so far as to be unhealthy(I guess codependent might be the right word). I’m genuinely a live-and-let-live, as-long-as-you’re-happy type, who doesn’t stick my nose in other people’s lives, and doesn’t get ruffled about people doing weird things, but I’m just notgoing to lie about my opinions on BDSM and porn because it might make someone feel invalidated. They are used to people in these circles giving validation for those choices to them and it feels shocking and judgmental when someone won’t. If they fall apart without that validation, it means they’re using it to prop up their belief without the actual foundation of honestly believing it themselves. Tell me I’m right, tell me I’m OK, tell me what I’m doing is fine, because if you don’t, I’ll have to look at that, I’m not sure I’m actually OK with it, I need to constantly feed on affirmation from somewhere outside of me. Teenagers and young adults often struggle with this. Many are coming from a place of being used to depending on validation from their peer group for their choices. It doesn’t make people happyto have their self-worth or identity be dependent on others perceptions. It makes them fragile if they can’t find a way to control the way others see them; their emotional wellbeing is easily set off course by other people; and it can make it hard to feel OK if they’re not getting that from somewhere outside.

            Someone thinking something you do is unhealthy really shouldn’t be a devastating blow if you have a realistic understanding of the difference between you and others, and what you may or may not be trying to get from them (approval, affirmation, validation, self-worth, etc.). If it does feel like judgment or shame, it might be because there is a struggle with your own (not specifically you) shame or self-worth going on, and you are attempting to deal with that by controlling other people. If you see me as putting myself “above” anyone and “disapproving” of being unhealthy, that’s you inserting judgment or hierarchal competition where there is none. I’m not judging people for their health or lack of it, I’m just not agreeing to play into the dynamic of affirming things I don’t actually believe to prop up their views.

            I don’t see how wearing an article of clothing is likely to cause negative effects to someone or others. I don’t know if it’s an article of clothing that might be rooted in misogyny or racism or something. I think people should make an effort to work out those kinds of hateful feelings rather than reinforce them. However, if what you hear in my comments is that I don’t want anyone doing anything “weird” or “abnormal” in their sex lives, that’s not at all what I believe. If your kink is velcro-ing yourself to the wall naked and having glitter thrown at you while harp music plays and the houseplants watch, I do not care in the slightest that it’s “strange”. If you need to dress up like Hitler and beat somebody, I cannot affirm that as a healthy thing, either for you, the other people involved, or society. If you get off on watching people choke on c*ck until they puke (or choke at all), I cannot agree that it’s OK just because it’s a fetish. Weird, and unethical or dangerous, are different things. Hurting people is not just “weird” or taboo, it’s hurting people.

            And one last thing, what we are doing here is criticizing the political implications of these practices, the effects on other people, women as a class (and I would throw in children and teens). We’re not talking about your (in general) individual sex life and taking you to task dogmatically for straying from morality. We’re pointing out, hey, this is having a lot of negative effects for women.

          • “Someone thinking something you do is unhealthy really shouldn’t be a devastating blow if you have a realistic understanding of the difference between you and others, and what you may or may not be trying to get from them (approval, affirmation, validation, self-worth, etc.). If it does feel like judgment or shame, it might be because there is a struggle with your own (not specifically you) shame or self-worth going on, and you are attempting to deal with that by controlling other people.”

            Ah yes. This!!!

            Thanks Lee.

          • jo

            Excellent comment, Lee.

          • Lee

            Oh, thanks!

          • So if you feel someone is engaging in something unhealthy, there categorically is no way to express that without it converting to “you should be ashamed of yourself”?

            You connect identifying a reiteration of a sick culture – no matter how little harm it may do to anyone else with condemnation. That is a false equivalency. If I have orgasms through someone calling me a piece of shit and bruising me, under a libertarian approach, it’s no one’s business but mine and the person who is willing to do that. That does not mean that it’s born of some decontextualized random desire. It’s an expression of who we are as a society and what we are as a society is kind of fucked up. No shame in that statement. Just fact.

          • amongster

            You got it wrong. I don’t shame female subs in the slightest, also not those female subs who promote and defend BDSM. I have been one of them before I found radical feminism and understood what is wrong with BDSM – everything that is.
            I have no problem though shaming males, particularly doms but also subs, who think violence towards women is ok in the right context. There is no right context.

            It’s telling that you focus on the right of females to be subs and free of being shamed while ignoring the males who inflict pain on others. Missfit has already said it better than I could. I also want you to focus on the male desire to hurt females.

            Lee also made me think of something to consider: the doms who inflict pain on others are rarely those who seek validation from others. They don’t feel threatened by being shamed or judged because they are already in a dominant position that allows them to do as they please.

            Besides, I don’t see going to therapy as something shameful – I have been in therapy myself – but I also don’t consider it to be the right thing for everyone. So I should have written that I want people to seek help of any kind, even if that just means that people try to help themselves.

    • lizor

      In fairness, the kink community has not exactly leapt to Ghomeshi’s defence. It’s overwhelmingly liberals who have jumped on the bandwagon. I think the critique of BDSM and the risks it engenders that has come out of the story is what is getting the community on the defensive, but credit where credit is due, a number of self-professed kinksters have viewed his letter with extreme suspicion.

  • jo

    Yeah it’s terribly disappointing, but at the same time I just don’t trust any nice famous men to not be secretly horrible anymore.

    • jo

      I mean even Ghandi was horrible to women.

  • justme

    I find it a bit insulting that you presume to tell me what is “hot” or what isn’t “hot”. I find it a lot insulting that you presume to tell me that if I like pain during sex, that i somehow need you to politicize it in order to protect me. I find it extremely insulting that by claiming to be a feminist, that you somehow have the right to categorize me into the roll of victim, just because I’m a woman. Women have choices. They have a voice. If they choose to date a man that is twice their age, why is that man a creep? People find all kinds of things attractive for different reasons, including biology. Beating someone up is never ‘okay’. Its wrong. So is ruining a person’s life without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves.

    • bella_cose

      Older men who consistently seek out younger women are creeps. They have issues with control and power. And no, it’s not biological, and less young women would be interested in older men if they had the same social and economic status as men. Youth in females is eroticized, and you can see it happening to younger and younger females. Just look at the sexy Halloween costumes aimed at girls as young as 4.

  • Pingback: ERIN MOORES | What to Read about Ghomeshi-gate or whatever it is called now()

  • Good god. The pro-BDSM faction strikes again.

    I don’t know, but the whole thing reminds me of the Great and Honourable William Burroughs. He shot his wife while “consensually” playing Wilhelm Tell with her. And then all those dudely, phenomenally woman-friendly intellectuals, like Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg etc. immediately demanded his acquittal and release, because poor Burroughs was just an innocent and vilified nice guy (“possessed by genius”). People just didn’t want to hear HIS side of the story! A shame, that we didn’t get to hear HER side of the story.

    Which leads me to my point: I have seen, in all my life, only on the rarest of occasions a man who just generally and without ulterior motives takes women’s side on such issues. They either flat-out villify the woman or they want “to hear both sides of it” or they DEMAND “proof”. Such obviously biased pieces of writing, like Meghan’s, just don’t qualify for our big manly egos.

    All you lovely men, posting here, expressing your dislike, as though the validity of women’s words are contingent on our approval and “objectivity”, just prove my point.

    • Essie

      “….phenomenally WOMAN-FRIENDLY intellectuals, like Norman Mailer…” (emphasis mine)
      You have GOT to be kidding me. Norman Mailer woman-friendly? I’m sure the old bastard is rolling in his grave being accused of such.

      By the way, I don’t have a “big manly ego,” at least not last time I checked out all my parts and, in spite of that, I think there is more info to come. I hope you don’t mind if I reserve my almighty judgement until that happens.

      • @Essie,

        calling Mailer “woman-friendly” is one of the most ironic things I could conceive of, that is why I wrote it.

        • Meghan Murphy

          That was pretty obvious, I thought…

  • C.K. Egbert

    I just wanted to give a quick note of solidarity with victims. I can’t imagine the pain and anguish it has to be for a victim to finally have the bravery to come out with what happened, and then being dragged throughout the mud, victim-blamed, and never believed (thanks to our legal system and the horrendous way it treats victims, prosecuting violence is impossible for most cases). And thanks to BDSM, no matter how much physical injury you have the man will always claim it was “consensual” and thus be acquitted of any crime.

    As MacKinnon says: “If it happens to women, it happens.”

  • Sexprof

    First of all, I want to express how pleased I am to see a critical discussion of consent and a deconstruction of JG’s “script” posted on Facebook. I had the unsettling experience of reading the script a few days ago and found myself immediately on his side. Interesting how a writer, a popular media-savvy male writer in a position of power drawing on pre-established victim-blaming tropes, can sway even me – a professor of sexuality and a life-long feminist. I found my bizarre acquiescence troubling, but academically interesting, as I find these discussions on the boards.

    Second, I am disappointed to see so many thoughtful counter-arguments written by posters who seemingly are interested in having an actual dialogue about consent, feminism, sexuality, law, media, etc being shut down by fellow posters (including the author) claiming to be feminists. A feminism that shuts down dialogue and reverts to glib non-answers is not one I identify with, and it’s certainly not helping the cause. I would urge all feminists posting here (as I do in the classroom) to use your words, use your evidence, use your skills at debating and communicating and use your anger sparingly and strategically.

    I would argue, as a professor of both women’s studies (dedicated to disassembling the patriarchy) and sexuality, that these issues are complex and nuanced and thus our discussions of such issues need to be complex and nuanced as well. I agree with others who have posted that enacting violence in our sex lives might just be an extension of the patriarchal world in which we’ve been raised and practice our sexuality. However, I don’t agree with those who have suggested that dominance and submission and even violence are innately abusive and unconsensual simply because they might mimic the patriarchal culture in which we live. Many couples (both straight and queer) mimic the heteronormative, patriarchal culture we live in during their sex lives – calling each other “mommy” and “daddy”, playing the sexy homemaker, librarian, nurse or fire fighter, delivery guy, construction worker, etc. Over the lifecourse, our sexual lives, relationships, and imaginations are fluid and take us places we might not expect – why add further shame and policing to those sexual feelings, after a history of cultural condemnation of the sexualities of women, queer people, men, transgender people, disabled people, older people, interracial couples, interreligious couples, and so on. What about talking dirty during sex, or getting angry, or using crude language, enacting reluctance, all within consensual relationships? We could argue that these practices reinforce the patriarchy and we might be right theoretically, but it would dangerously wrong and stigmatizing to condemn and shame these individuals in these couples as harmful, abusive, or “not hot”. That’s how persecution and oppression begin, remember?

    It’s not what people find “hot” that we should be policing, it’s what they DO that should concern us. And I know couples who have had long, healthy relationships involving role-play, violence, dominance, submission, and some of the best communication around consent I’ve ever seen. I’ve known people who subvert, resist, and critique patriarchal norms and structures through BDSM. So when I’m examining their happy, healthy sex lives, it doesn’t immediately concern me that they use violence to express their sexuality within that relationship. But when I’m examining what JG has done, it concerns me that there appears to have been very little communication, respect, and consent involved. THAT’S what I’m judging. Not what makes them “hot” or what they feel is sexy.

    Because what some of these posts suggest is that sex that can be tied to mimicking the patriarchy is wrong. So my question to everybody is, what kinds of sex are “we” going to allow? What kinds of sex do need policing and what kinds don’t? What about those who derive pleasure from consensually role-playing rape? What about those who have very vanilla, but unsatisfying, unpleasurable sex that doesn’t, however, mimic the patriarchy at all? Where neither partner dominates or submits and all is somehow equal, yet unpleasurable. Is that what we’re wishing for women? These kinds of questions seem frivolous but they are at the crux of very important cultural and legal debates about consent and sexuality in our country.

    I think we can’t make blanket statements like: enacting violence in our consensual sex lives is innately abusive and perpetuates the patriarchy. I wish it were that simple, but I don’t think it is. I think that as feminists, we need to move forward with critical, open, intelligent conversations like some of those I’ve seen on this blog, constructing complex, nuanced and respectful arguments.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Because what some of these posts suggest is that sex that can be tied to mimicking the patriarchy is wrong. So my question to everybody is, what kinds of sex are “we” going to allow? What kinds of sex do need policing and what kinds don’t? What about those who derive pleasure from consensually role-playing rape? What about those who have very vanilla, but unsatisfying, unpleasurable sex that doesn’t, however, mimic the patriarchy at all? Where neither partner dominates or submits and all is somehow equal, yet unpleasurable. Is that what we’re wishing for women? These kinds of questions seem frivolous but they are at the crux of very important cultural and legal debates about consent and sexuality in our country.”

      I don’t understand how you got “policing” from “sexualizing violence against women” and enacting literal violence against women does not promote equality or respect for women as human beings. “Pleasure” is not the end of the conversation — just because someone gets pleasure from acting out rape fantasies doesn’t mean that is a necessarily healthy practice and that it should not be questioned or critiqued. Also, sorry but what is with our current culture’s obsession that sex is “boring” unless we add porn, whips, sadomasochism, etc.? Like, when did orgasms in and of themselves become “unpleasurable” simply because there is no verbal or physical abuse? I find sex pretty exciting on its own. So do the men I have it with.

      • Samantha

        Alternative forms of sexual pleasure are not limited to BDSM. Some people like getting pissed and shit on during sex. Some people like clucking like a chicken. Some people want to be covered in whipped cream and have it licked off them by ten other participants dressed as anteaters. Do you critique these sexual practices as much as you do BDSM? Sex is exciting on its own, but trying new things shouldn’t be frowned upon, either.
        You’re right, not all alternative forms of sexual pleasure are healthy. Pedophilia isn’t, rape isn’t, bestiality isn’t – sexual acts that involve a lack of consent. But if two or more people want to add things to their sexual activity, to gain more pleasure out of it or just to try new things, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that as long as there’s consent.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I am specifically critical of the sexualization of violence against women and gender inequality. I fail to see how clucking like a chicken perpetuates gender inequality and violence against women.

          • Samantha

            Clucking like a chicken perpetuates gender inequality and violence against women as much as real BDSM does – not at all.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, now that you aren’t using any logic whatsoever in your arguments, it’s going to be hard for people to take your comments seriously. If you can’t see the difference between abuse, violence against women, the sexualization of violence and gender inequality and ‘clucking like a chicken’ I don’t really know where to begin with you…

          • Samantha

            My entire argument is based on the belief that BDSM is not abuse, nor violence, nor perpetuating gender inequality. I fail to see how my statement is illogical.

          • Meghan Murphy

            BDSM exists based on a foundation of gender inequality. It’s titillating specifically because of those gendered power roles. That is obvious.

          • Ash

            um, look who started all this shit? Marquis De Sade…libertine fascists…BDSM is a reflection of that.

          • C.

            You seriously don’t see how, in a culture with a dominant and aggressive paradigm of masculinity, in a culture with sexual double standards and names placed on women for enjoying sex,, BDSM, with its gender slurs, male subs who get off on being likened to a woman as a method of humiliation, predominance of male doms, and even sexualization of racist stereotypes is remotely emulating reality?

          • If I am not mistaken, the “clucking like a chicken” comment was a reference to a type of BDSM in which people (read “women”) pretend to be animals who are owned by the dominants, who play the “human” role. It often involves submissives being led around on leashes and referred to as “pets”. So I daresay that it is not as innocent or egalitarian as it may seem. I suppose if somebody was simply making clucking noises without trying to imply that they were an animal (being dominated by a person) that would be okay, but that is not what often happens in real life.

            It common for people to say that communism is good in theory, but oppressive in practice. I think this is more true of sex. It theory it seems like a good thing, two people coming together to generate pleasure, and there is nothing inherently wrong with generating that pleasure (though I do believe that physical pleasure is over-valued and that we should be putting more emphasis on deeper forms of pleasure), but in practice sex never seems to end up being as egalitarian as I would like it to be.

            If we accept the premise that our sexualities are a product of our society, then it should not surprise us that most real life sex acts (including both “subversive” and “conventional” ones) are not completely egalitarian, but instead contain some kind of subtle dominance-submission dynamic. Of course, subtle dominance and submission is not nearly as bad as the overt dominance and submission that goes on in BDSM, but I think we should aim to ensure that our sex lifes as free from dominance and submission dynamics as possible, so we should be on the lookout for more subtle elements of dominance and submission that we may have subconsciously incorporated into our sex lifes.

            The fact is, we have no idea what kind of sex will occur once we live in a world in which human beings are no longer indoctrinated into being part of hierarchial systems (capitalism, patriarchy, etc.), but I suspect it will be very different from the kind of sex that occurs in our society and no sex acts which occur in our society should be immune from criticism, not even the ones that are free from outright violence.

        • It doesn’t make any sense that anyone would enjoy getting pissed or shit on. Come on!

          • Sexprof

            See, this is where the logic of many of you folks concerns me – just because you can’t relate to getting pleasure a certain way, doesn’t mean you should be able to dictate how others experience pleasure, right? Because your reasoning is the same reasoning used to justify anti-same sex marriage movements, homophobia and violence against the queer community. It doesn’t make any sense, because I find it wrong, gross, unnatural, whatever. I get what Samantha is saying above – when it comes right down to it, clucking like a chicken and real BDSM are doing the same amount of damage to women’s rights. It’s patriarchy that’s the problem, not the way adult people consensually have sex with each other.

          • No, it’s not because I “can’t relate.” It’s because it’s completely ridiculous that having feces smeared on your body can be “pleasure.” That would be degradation and humiliation.

            I do not “dictate how others experience pleasure.” How could I do that, anyway? How could I possibly change the way other people decide to have sex? Stop being so ridiculous. It’s insincere and it’s trolling.

          • Ash

            Again, the fascists in Italy would do this to people – they would make them eat shit and would beat them for their own sexual gratification. This shit didn’t just come out of nowhere, fell from the sky by chance…

          • Lee

            I understand that people like things I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to think certain things (yes, like being shit on) are unhealthy and/or come from an unhealthy place. What you are dictating that people do is be enablers by always validating anything and everything someone likes. Lots of people “like” drinking themselves to death, and if they are lucky enough to have people who actually care about their wellbeing, those people will not smile happily and give the thumbs-up about what a healthy choice it is.

            I don’t think wanting to be abused or to be an abuser, even in a sexual context, comes from a healthy place or is a healthy practice, even though I understand and truly believe that people enjoy it — I do not agree to validate people because they have fragile egos and lie about what it, actually, in reality, is, so that they don’t have to look at it.

          • pisaquari

            Sexprof, this ultimately comes down to how to measure women’s liberation from patriachy. It seems, in your book, that the presence of some form of “consent” is a proper endpoint for saying: this sex act is not oppressive and/or hatmful.
            What Meghan and others are saying is that consent is not good enough, that it does not go far enough. And I agree: consent is a dangerous thing to depend on in an extremely power-imbalanced world. Men hold and wield power in a multitude of ways, and one of the most if not THE most powerful ways they do this is through violence.
            Thus, an endpoint for women’s liberation from patriarchy is the ending of that violence, all forms of it, with no onus on women to decide which forms are acceptable, tolerable, orgasmic etc. (<Ultimately, this method leads to victim-blaming).

            If it is the case that some women have to reroute their arousal pathways because men are no longer allowed to commit the acts that obfuscates the most important metric of women's liberation? Oh well.
            You may call this baby out with the bathwater, but I'm telling you that baby is dead–and no amount of "complicating" can change that.

          • Meh

            YES THIS

          • C.K. Egbert

            Thus, an endpoint for women’s liberation from patriarchy is the ending of that violence, all forms of it, with no onus on women to decide which forms are acceptable, tolerable, orgasmic etc. (<Ultimately, this method leads to victim-blaming).

            So insightful!

          • Sexprof

            I don’t have a clue what book you’re talking about. I publish journal articles and chapters, not books.

            Look, I think we agree on a lot. I think consent is not enough, it’s obviously a buzz word, along with agency, etc., as I said above. I’ve read the same books as you folks, taken the same courses, seen the same memes, I get it! 🙂 And I don’t want to be pissed or shit on or anything beyond having a nice meal and a bath and be left alone – that’s where I’m at in my life – but I’m saying you’re talking about taking away some women’s liberation (to be hurt) to give some women liberation (to not be hurt), and I’m saying that it sounds great on paper! But at a very basic level (both philosophical and practical), there are going to be some major logistical holes in that plan: who gets to decide that? And on what basis? Which women get to decide what for which other women? Making decisions with the assumption that all women are on board and have the same needs, desires, and life experiences is exactly why feminism has gotten into so much trouble for being elitist, racist, classist, and concerned predominantly with first world problems. Are you sure you want to use those same tools to bring what YOU think is liberation to “all” women? If so, please tell me why you’re so confident in that. I’m genuinely interested. You’re asking some really fascinating philosophical questions, so fascinating that I WANT to get on board, but all the anger is getting in the way, I think, of you folks really presenting a sound argument.

            I love the idea of giving up the privilege of being abused during sex so that no one will ever have to be abused – this sounds cool to me, especially because I don’t like pain during sex to begin with, so giving it up – personally, not a big deal! But doesn’t it bother you a bit that your answer is so simple? Even Marx knew it was more complicated than giving up some shit so everyone could have the same shit. You’ve criticized me for saying these are complicated issues, but anyone who has actually WORKED in feminist organizations or with feminist movements knows that these things are ALWAYS complicated. I’m asking YOU to complicate things for me, explain how your logic works, spend your energy convincing me rather than mocking me, because I know from years of research and teaching, that these simple answers are never the right ones, though I WISH they were, and that those who spend a lot of time mocking and name-calling are really projecting their own shit.

            I’m not a “BDSM-type” by the way, or a troll, or a man, as people keep saying to me, I’m just a prof, who’s currently on family leave and is interested in keeping my mind active (anyone who is a parent here will surely understand that need). I have no “agenda”. Is there a reason everyone’s so reactive and vitriolic here? You know the feeling when you walk into a party, and get the sense you’ve already missed half the conversation? Are you all angry about something else that I don’t know about, something that happened before I got here? I mean, besides the obvious things we feminists are always angry about?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think you’re missing the point… What we are trying to get at is the why of why men get off on abusing women and why that is ok. I mean, of course we know why (because violence against women has been sexualized).. The fact that men like hurting women, that it turns them on, and that this has been turned into some kind of cute, funny little fetish people have is kind of insane. The goal here is to protect women from male violence, not to ‘take away women’s right to be hurt’ during sex (which, you must admit, sounds like a bit of a strange thing to fight for…)

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’ve read your comments, Sexprof, and I think part of the frustrating things for commentators here is that your views seem inconsistent (I’m also an academic who works on feminism at Northwestern University and I’m currently working on the issue of consent, you can find my contact info on the internet if you are interested in talking to me further. If you do, please email me from your university address.)

            You’ve said here that consent is not enough, that pleasure is “not the end of the conversation”, and that agency is a buzzword, even that violence against women is sexualized (for the sake of charity I’m going to presume you think that is oppressive).

            But then you say something like this:
            * ” My response isn’t coming from a need to defend my own sex life or valorize whips, rather it’s coming from the need to respect a woman’s desire to use a whip should she and her partner please, even if I personally find that hard to relate to. It’s also coming from the need to question several posters’ suggestions that some orgasms are “ok” and some are decidedly “not”.”

            In this comment you are basically saying that because a woman “enjoys” it and because she “consents,” it is ergo wrong to critique the practice or analyze how it relates to patriarchy (even though you just admitted that you agree that violence against women is sexualized–the connection is right there). But then you do think that consent, and whatever a woman “desires” is thus sufficient justification to accept a behavior, in spite of the fact that you said that you agreed consent is not enough.

            * “I’m saying you’re talking about taking away some women’s liberation (to be hurt) to give some women liberation (to not be hurt), ”

            First, this is a false dichotomy. There is no “right” to be abused, so there is no competition of rights here as you make it sound. Second, if you do think this is a dichotomy, by your other comment(s) you believe that we should instead accept that women do have a “right to be abused” and thus you are saying women do not have a right to not to be abused (and that’s antifeminist to say the least). Third, thinking women are liberated by being abused…I know this is popular parlance, but in that case women aren’t oppressed and instead are the most liberated people on the planet, and the more they are violated and abused the more liberated they are. I don’t buy it.

            So, what could possibly make it acceptable for men to abuse women (once again, this is not as though these are women’s individual choices–if women really like pain no one’s going to stop them from self-harming)? Consent and agency. And you just previously admitted that these are often problematic.

            As for not having shared experiences/desires/views, that doesn’t change basic feminist analysis or critique either (my experiences are unique in that I’ve never experienced anything but some mild emotional abuse; that doesn’t mean I still don’t live under sexual terrorism). Patriarchal and social institutions are real and all women live under them. Physical, emotional, sexual and social violence is not a matter of perception but reality (e.g., men often do not think rape is “really” rape…and neither do women). Liberation is not about the individual but about changing our basic social structures.

            I can’t respond to more of your points without writing an essay, so I’ll end with this: Those of us that think violence against women is unacceptable do not need to justify our position. It is those who think it is acceptable, unproblematic–even good or “liberating”–who do. The burden of justification is thus on you.

          • bella_cose

            And the way adult people consensually have sex is influenced by patriarchy. Even “vanilla” sex, which is also not above criticism either.

            These issues aren’t discussed in order to give women tools, like the right to say no, in order to navigate patriarchy better. It’s about dismantling a social and economic system based on hierarchy, which is the invention of patriarchy.

          • Meh

            Sexprof is concerned that women don’t want to be pissed and shit on (or that they’re not ok with that). We’re so horrible and closed-minded for not wanting to be pissed and shit on. DAMN US

          • Kate

            Actually, I can relate. I never wanted to be pissed or shit on, but I engaged in a lot of rough BDSMy sex when I was in my early twenties with men who pressured me to go a lot farther than I wanted to. You know what else was happening in my early twenties? I fucking hated myself. I thought I was a worthless piece of shit with nothing valuable to say, and looking back now it makes perfect sense that I sought out degrading sexual activities. I got out of that swamp eventually, and came to enjoy and value and love myself. And like magic, I suddenly didn’t want to have that kind of sex anymore. I’m not saying that all submissive women deal with insecurity (I mean, all women deal with insecurity, so I don’t want to single out submissives), just that my journey from BDSM to vanilla sex was also a journey from crippling self-loathing to self acceptance and confidence. That’s no coincidence, and I don’t think my story is all that rare.

          • hypatia

            The question here isn’t whether anything is “gross” or “unnatural”; it’s whether it reinforces, reproduces, normalizes, sexualizes, or otherwise furthers the oppression of women as a class.

      • Sexprof

        See my post above re: my own sex life as well as my own commitment to bringing down the porn industry. I’m completely vanilla, don’t like pain during sex in any way, none of my partners have ever enjoyed pain, so it’s a non-issue for me in my personal life. My response isn’t coming from a need to defend my own sex life or valorize whips, rather it’s coming from the need to respect a woman’s desire to use a whip should she and her partner please, even if I personally find that hard to relate to. It’s also coming from the need to question several posters’ suggestions that some orgasms are “ok” and some are decidedly “not”. Comments about BDSM being conflated with violence against women, about BDSM not being “hot”, about liberals and their “anything goes” sexuality, are comments that explicitly tell people what their sex and fantasy lives should look like – this is the definition of policing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is absolutely what you’re suggesting. I don’t know why you would shy away from the term “policing” since this post draws upon articles about both the cultural construction and legality of consent and sexual violence, which again, is the very definition of a discussion about “policing”.

        I also agree with you that violence against women is sexualized and did not say anything to refute that point – not sure how to further comment.

        Finally, I wholeheartedly agree that pleasure is not the end of the conversation, I was speaking to the fact that I haven’t seen it factor into your conversation very much at all. I was hoping, in fact, that it would not be the end of the conversation but rather the beginning of a dialogue about sex, violence, pleasure, feminism, and the politics of consent, but I see you didn’t take me up on any of the questions I’ve posed to you. I think I’ll save them for class – thank you for initiating some very interesting conversation.

        ** For some reason, the site isn’t allowing me to “like” others’ comments, but I assure you, I do. 🙂

        • Meghan Murphy

          I “shy away from the term policing” because 1) I am not the police, and “policing” is defined as “The governmental department charged with the regulation and control of the affairs of a community, now chiefly the department established to maintain order, enforce the law, and prevent and detect crime, and 2) because it implies the conversation is simply about criminalizing desire/people’s sex lives which I think is a misrepresentation of the actual conversation we’re trying to have.

          Ghomeshi isn’t going to jail. The point, from my perspective, is that he — and many others — don’t see the sexualization of violence against women as being wrong at all, they just see it as ‘sex’ — they certainly aren’t willing to connect it to patriarchy, and that’s a huge problem and is very dangerous.

    • bella_cose

      If you’ve read much of this blog, not just this post, you’ll see the same arguments come up over and over. They’ve been answered a hundred times. Now it’s just tiring when proponents of BDSM haven’t read any other posts dealing with the topic, comment and say the exact same things like we never heard or thought of those arguments. If you can think it up, we’ve heard it, and responded to it with many different perspectives, but always with the idea that dominance and hierarchy comes from patriarchy, and it’s not subversive to act out what is normal in our society for orgasms.

      We have a culture that leans heavily on the idea of equality, but the reality is we are entrenched in inequality. Capitalism requires it, and capitalism and patriarchy are inseparable.

    • @Sexprof,

      with all due respect (no, really), I don’t want to condescend, but our (men’s) use of fantasies which include dominance and submission has been inextricably linked, throughout the centuries, to anti-feminism and profoundly woman hating pornography. Those “fantasies” may have been “shamed” by some moral apostles (for all the wrong reasons) to distract from their own shortcomings but male intellectuals have consistently used those same fantasies and even plain old “vanilla sex” to undermine every single progress women have achieved and to justify women’s subordination to men because they know that it works.

      Just two examples: Havelock Ellis (e.g. Love and Marriage) and Anthony Ludovici (Lysistrata); both of them, the great sexual revolutionaries they were, would have argued similarly to you (as in: those old prudes just want to police women’s sexuality!), but lo and behold, how they loved to hate women.

      When I look at BDSM, pornography, prostitution etc. and how they are defended today I only see history repeating itself.

      • Sexprof

        Did I just get mansplained?? 🙂

        I’m a women’s studies prof, and I appreciate the respect, because it is in fact, due! I have my PhD and teach at one of the best universities in the country, so I’m with you, Thomas. 🙂 No condescension read into your remark, and none intended here.

        I absolutely get what you’re saying, but please do read my comment far above re: it’s a mistake to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because sex, dominance, submission, and pain have been used horrifically in the past by men against women does not mean that we can’t have the sex, dominance, submission, and pain without the horrors. It’s just not a logical argument.

        I too look at BDSM, pornography (as an industry), and sex work, and see history repeating itself. But that’s my FIRST glance. That’s why, as good scholars and citizens, we have to take many, many glances at an issue before we come to a conclusion. Because after doing much research on each of the above topics, I feel differently about each of them than I did at first, quick glance. For the record, I am entirely against the pornography industry, I wish to complicate our discussions about each of the others.

        Many folks have found many ways to convince one group to oppress another – there is no one way. So my response would be to be careful of all kinds, both those who say “those old prudes!” AND those who say “history repeats itself”.

        And again, for the record, I AM a prude! As vanilla in my own sex life as they come, no pun intended.

        • If you were a women’s studies prof at “one of the best universities in the country” then you wouldn’t be sitting around during the day trolling a feminist blog, and you wouldn’t be supporting the backlash against feminism and male abusers. You’d be writing excellent articles with a feminist analysis and using your real name. What a stupid lie. We’re not buying it, dude.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Well…I’m an academic who trolls Meghan’s blog…

            I actually find the anti-pornography stance to be very rare in academia (most are either pro-pornography or at least not against it). The arguments for prostitution/pornography/BDSM are founded in the same concepts of agency, consent, and choice.

            This is all to say I Sexprof’s positions are consistent with my experience of academia, so I don’t doubt she is in fact a professor.

            Personally I comment under my own name because I do things I know I will regret and saying things impulsively on the internet is one of them.

          • You don’t troll here, you write thoughtful and excellent comments from a feminist analysis.

          • Pretender Prof never said he was anti-pornography, in each instance he made sure to put it in his deceptively prickish way that he was pornography “industry.” Oh but men do love being tricky, insincere assholes who get one over on women.

            I’ve seen these trolling fuckers pull that “industry” bullshit soooo many times.

          • Missfit

            Maybe she is teaching at Concordia? Though I don’t think it classifies as ‘one of the best universities in the country’. I thought feminism wasn’t for me after taking some women’s studies classes there. Fastforward 10 years and I am a committed radical feminist (needless to say, I wasn’t introduced to any radfem theory then, just pomo queer sex-positivism and completely apolitical stuff).

          • Ash

            This is why i didn’t return to academia – i was going to but was noticing the rapid de-politicization and POMOfication of women’s studies. The day when it was ‘mandatory” for me to go to this pro-stripping workshop where a woman came and told female students it’s a “good plan” to save up money through stripping, in fact it’s LIBERATING. I refused to attend out of protest. Any way, being out of school now I figured i’d do more on the ground, working with women and trying my best to help people and the planet.

        • lo

          ” I AM a prude!”

          So you think “prude” and “sluts” women exist?


          That’s a patriarchal and unreal dichotomy FYI

          You really don’t understand feminism huh?
          What’s the point of wasting your time on a feminist blog when you don’t even know the fundamentals of this ideology? Poor troll you aren’t even funny :/

        • C.K. Egbert

          Refusing to say that sex shouldn’t be painful for women is merely reinforcing what they are told as the subordinated class: they are things to be hurt and used by men. They are not entitled to bodily integrity or bodily safety at any level, because it is perfectly acceptable to abuse, or torture, them because of “consent.” While you say that you are adding complexity, I have to say I’m skeptical because it seems like you are trying to create a complication where there is none. Either it is acceptable to hurt women or it is not. I’m on the side that it is not (notice I don’t have to remark anything about whether a woman “wants” it or not; this is about how we think women should be treated by men).

          As a professor of women’s studies, I’m assuming you are aware of adaptive preferences and how our self-conceptions are strongly shaped by our social conditions. We will not want something unless we are treated by others to believe we are entitled to it, and that is precisely the problem: women are not told that they are entitled to anything but pain.

          • Laur


            I enjoy each and every one of your posts so very much!!! You’re brilliant!!

          • C.K. Egbert

            Thank you, Laur! I love this blog, I learn so much from the people here.

        • Sabine

          Sexprof: A Woman Studies Prof at one (which one, pray tell???) of the best universities in the country? Hahahahahaha! Pull the other one, it’s got bells on. There is nothing even remotely intellectual, scholarly or academic in your comments – surely requisite attributes for such a prestigious position in the world of academia? – and they come across as almost certainly written by a male. And not a male professor either!

    • river

      You say new-annnce. I say bulllshit.

      You let this through Meghan. I am tired of such posts as above masquerading as intelligence. That’s what got us here.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Me letting comments through ‘got us here’? I’m confused…. I don’t think anyone is falling for Sexprof’s arguments…

        • river

          So fed up with faux feminism.

          No, of course, not you.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh ok. thx

    • C.

      I honestly don’t see how boys watching porn and learning to eroticize calling women sluts (etc) isn’t harmful. It perpetuates the same old patriarchal shit. I think in a world free of this gendered, double standard bullshit, less BDSM would exist.

      Would you mind going on about how they subvert patriarchal norms through BDSM? Because to me, a lot of it just seems like mere internalization. Like, a woman may consider liking to be called a slut subversive because she “owns” it now, but it’s not an active choice. She’s doing it because it turns her on, not because of any subversion, and subversion needs to be an active, logical decision. She didn’t choose to be turned on by being called a gendered slur. This is the result of internalization. Society teaches us that sexual women are sluts. And I doubt the guys who like calling her that like it because they just love being subversive so much. More internalization. There’s nothing subversive about replicating society double standards, IMO.

    • sexprof wrote: ” I am disappointed to see so many thoughtful counter-arguments written by posters who seemingly are interested in having an actual dialogue about consent, feminism, sexuality, law, media, etc being shut down by fellow posters”

      See, there you go again. You call a counter-argument from someone you disagree with “shut[ting] down” while those you agree with are merely participating in “discussion”.

      You are derailing this discussion by tossing around inappropriate, inconsistent and misrepresentative labels that have been used to avoid engaging with feminist perspective since its inception.

  • Sexprof, you claim to be a lifelong feminist, yet you took Ghomeshi’s side when you read his Facebook post? Yeah, right. If you were a lifelong feminist you’d know that false accusations of abuse are rare, that it is a terrible ordeal for women to make allegations against a celebrity, and that the odds of these allegations being false are therefore infinitesimally tiny. You’d also know that men have a long history of violence against women and that society almost always sides with the perpetrator. If you were a lifelong feminist, there is no way you would side with an abuser.

    You are accusing Meghan of “policing” people’s sex lives and not “allowing” certain sex acts. This is what the anti-feminist backlash does—it suggests that feminists are policing people’s sex lives when we’re actually working to stop male violence. Meghan will not be showing up at your house and stopping you from having sex, and you know it. She’s not policing anybody or disallowing anything. She’s calling out Ghomeshi’s violence.
    If you were a “life-long feminist,” you’d be calling out his violence too. Judging by your comments here my guess is that you’re a) a man and b) an anti-feminist.

    Anyone who is violent toward their partner, whether in bed or anywhere else, is abusive. Violence is NOT a part of a healthy relationship.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t buy the insistence that this person is a ‘prof’ or a ‘lifelong feminist,’ for the record… I’d agree with your prediction that this person is a dude, too.

    • Sexprof

      Ok, that’s pretty funny. So now you’re the orgasm police AND the feminist police? I’ve got to say, I’m getting concerned about the state of feminism if the only way to respond to an argument is to claim that the person must be (a) a man or (b) not a REAL feminist. If this is the game you folks are playing on this site, then I’m not interested. I thought we were here to have some actual conversation about common interests with a common nationality, but if we’re just going to play the “you’re not a real feminist” game, I have very little to contribute. It’s not a competition, and I’m not going to feed into your anti-feminist paranoia – which is unfortunate, by the way, because it’s clouding your ability to deal with feminists who can add complexity and alternative perspectives to your understanding of the ideology.

      I meant “policing” metaphorically, you know that right?

      My experience as I read JG’s facebook post was interesting because my knee-jerk reaction was that I believed him. You claim this means I’m not a feminist. What it actually means is I’m human and also that I’m a member of our culture who is not immune to the influences of patriarchal norms and ideologies just because she happens to be a feminist. I’m a feminist, not a superhero – my spidey-senses sometimes fail to tingle, and I know many of my feminists colleagues – particularly those who are fans of JG’s – had the very same reaction, which we are currently dissecting over email as I speak as a fascinating example of just how easy it is to blame the victim and believe the perp. We’re examining our own privilege and assumptions and socialization, which is what feminists do. So again, I think you want to reassess your logic a bit and allow a little complexity to come into your analysis – it will make you a stronger feminist and citizen.

      And yes, life-long. Born and raised in q rural, conservative community where I was routinely beat up for being a feminist, so I DO get to claim “life-long”.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Men beat you up for being a feminist? Also, what do you mean by “common nationality”?

        • Sexprof

          I was beat up by all kinds, my friend. And by common nationality, I meant Canadian. Isn’t this a Canadian blog?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m Canadian. Not all of my readers are. I fail to see what ‘nationality’ has to do with anything… Mostly I’m just not buying your claims as to who you are. Your language, arguments, and story is unconvincing.

          • Sabine

            “I was beat up by all kinds”. Hmmm, do those sound like the words of a “professor at one of the country’s top universities”? I think you mean “beat(en) up by all kinds (of people)” – yes? I know standards are slipping in education but I find it hard to believe this is the level of English being accepted within the higher levels of academia…

      • If you are a professor, then why will you not answer questions directed to you?

        A number of people have challenged your “policing” accusations and you refuse to address any of them, besides saying it’s a “metaphor’ and hey-presto!: you still dodge the critique! Your posts indicate that your comprehension and articulation skills are quite inadequate to engage with the people who have addressed you, so I have to say that I, too, doubt that you are who you say you are.

        Surely you are not so disconnected from the real world othat you must shield yourself from any form of critique by calling it “policing”? If your analysis of the world is that ham-fisted, I might not say you aren’t a feminist by definition, but I’ll say you’re not a particularly effective one. Here’s a hint: feminism is does not start and end with what makes first world ladies feel yummy.

        Please prove me wrong. Go back and answer the questions I posed to you upthread and all of those from others in between. I hope you will, but I’m not holding my breath.

        • Sexprof

          So you want me to “prove” my gender, my voice, my education, my intelligence, my profession, my identity as a feminist, and yet you still don’t understand what “policing” means? As I commented yesterday (though I see it wasn’t printed), policing is a sociological term – google is your friend. I think it’s a matter of us speaking slightly different languages.

          Look, I’m checking back in because I was considering using this post as future course material, but I won’t be back after this response. I’m not going to go back and respond to other posts because I tried that yesterday and the site is too slow for those of us who work at jobs where – yes – we ARE extremely effective feminists who do little things like get grants, change government policy, work and fundraise for non-profits, women’s centres, shelters, and organizations, volunteer on boards and sexual assault clinics, provide counseling and legal aid to students who have been sexually assaulted on campus, and teach thousands of students, many of whom as a result find feminism welcoming rather than polarizing and oppressive. I spend most of the first month of any of my courses trying to undo all the stereotypes students have about feminism – women who are man-bashing, illogical, exclusionary, anger-mongering, rude, argumentative, irrational, with a lack of appreciation for multiple perspectives and intersectionality. I often tell my students, “You know what, I’ve been doing this my whole life and I’ve never actually met one of those “stereotypical” feminists.” Now that I’ve seen this, I feel that I have. Consider that you are making a lot of work for those of us trying to actually convince people to join the fight when you act this way – even online. It matters.

          I considered using this blog in class as a discussion starter – I teach sex and pop culture. But I am so discouraged by the lack of genuine, critical, well-researched, well-constructed and well-meaning dialogue that instead I’m going to suggest in my next class that they start their own Canadian feminist blogs for extra credit. Blogs where rather than trying to tear counter-perspectives apart by attacking the individuals interested in having a productive conversation, we actually dialogue like adults to solve some of these problems. Much of what I’ve seen on this blog – in-fighting, personal attacks, mocking, non-answers, a lack of appreciation for multiple viewpoints, lived experience and intersectionality is, in your words, “not particularly effective” feminism. I have been doing this a long time, I have made and seen change, fought tooth and nail for each of my degrees, and competed with hundreds of PhDs for my job. So I feel no need to post my identity or CV just to satiate your curiosity about something you obviously know so little about.

          Besides which, again quite obviously, your moderator has my email and can very easily confirm my identity via google, if she feels like further policing the feminists who happen to not agree with everything she says.

          Good luck to everyone here. As unfortunate as my experience has been on this site, I hope (as always) for change, perhaps a more open, considerate, space for real dialogue that is worth the time and effort we’re all taking to come here and comment. Otherwise, let’s get back to making some real change in the world, hey?

          • Meghan Murphy

            This blog is used in courses/curricula across Canada and a number of posts have been reprinted in academic texts, so ok, don’t use it in your course. It’s no threat to us, I have no idea why you would even bring it up. I also have no idea why you would reach out to me under the guise of ‘extending an olive branch’ privately, via email and then simultaneously trash my work and my commenters publicly in the comments section. The reason I doubted (and probably many others doubted) your claims to be a feminist prof was that your arguments simply didn’t seem very educated or feminist… Also (as I mentioned to you via email), repeating that you are a prof over and over again, in order to gain credibility over others here, I suppose, comes off as an effort to sell yourself as something you are not. It’s a red flag. Most commenters here use the ‘show don’t tell’ strategy — meaning they don’t go on about why their opinions and arguments should be viewed as more legitimate than others, they simply make good arguments… Those who make good, well-founded arguments become more respected than those who make boring, cliched, sexist, or weak ones. The reasons the conversations that happen here are so much different than other spaces — feminist and otherwise — online is because we actually allow critical thought and discussion here that is routinely shut down or drowned out by liberal feminism/libertariansim/queer studies blather in most places online. I wish you all the best in your work, and I think encouraging your students to blog themselves is a great idea, but ignoring radical feminism and the kinds of conversations and debates that happen here only hurts your students, who will come out of your classes with an inability to think and question the status quo. I think there’s probably a reason our comments section is more robust and intelligent and original and critical than on any other big feminist site and I think there’s a reason this is the most-read feminist blog in Canada. Whether or not you choose to deprive your students of those conversations is your prerogative, but it makes me wonder about the state of feminism in academia today, despite the fact that I keep repping for Women’s Studies, having completed a BA and Masters in the field, myself.

          • Sexprof,

            Despite the fact that Meghan has answered you quite effectively, I want to comment further on this post of yours.

            You write:

            “So you want me to “prove” my gender, my voice, my education, my intelligence, my profession, my identity as a feminist…”

            I did nothing of the sort. I asked you as a university professor, who supposedly understands the protocols of engaging in discourse and debate, why you would not address questions directly. And you respond by attributing challenges I never issued – to prove your identity and so on. It’s an avoidance tactic with which you claim you are familiar, so why are you employing it?

            “and yet you still don’t understand what “policing” means?”

            I understand what “policing” means perfectly well. I also understand what “projection” means. I ask you: is there any critique of BDSM that you are willing to engage with without “policing” and “shutting down” through the use of those exact labels?

            Do you honestly think that expressing the idea that a behaviour is not particularly healthy for the individual is inherently oppressive to them? Do you think that individual possibly unhealthy behaviours happen in a bubble and have no repercussions for the collective?

            I have had friends who use alcohol and pot as a regular part of their day. A person who can’t deal with showing up to work sober and copes by smoking a little pot first is not doing so out some sort of decontexualized “agency” and “choice”. A highly functional man who drinks half a bottle of liquor before bed every night, isn’t making the best choices for his bodily and perhaps mental health. Am I robbing those people of their “agency” by thinking that the requirement of a drug is not ideal? These are people I love, respect and admire? Is my framing of their self-medication “policing”?

            Finally, this:

            “those of us who work at jobs where – yes – we ARE extremely effective feminists who do little things like get grants, change government policy, work and fundraise for non-profits, women’s centres, shelters, and organizations, volunteer on boards and sexual assault clinics, provide counseling and legal aid to students who have been sexually assaulted on campus, and teach thousands of students, many of whom as a result find feminism welcoming rather than polarizing and oppressive”

            Do you honestly think that none of the people here with whom you are finding such fault for their “strong reactions” might engage in those activities? You think no one else is busy? Can you imagine that maybe some of us are busy with this sort of work and do not enjoy the financial compensation that a professor does? The complaint that the site is “too slow” for a person such as yourself, so caught up in your noble works is really insulting.

            The reason that I and, I expect, others respond with irritation is that we’ve heard your arguments before, we’ve witnessed your own form of projected “policing” and “shutting down” and it’s tiresome. We’re all busy and we’re all struggling. It’s frustrating when someone who presents themselves as a holder of extensive knowledge of the discussion topic demonstrates that they don’t actually get it by reiterating received “wisdom” over and over. It’s deeply disappointing and some days the disappointment – like the feeling I had on Sunday when I saw scores of smart, critically thinking friends posting Ghomeshi’s statement and joining the chorus of the morally outraged on his behalf – just gets to be a bit much.

            Like Meghan has said, I wish you the best with your teaching and I do hope for the sake of your students that you will at some point engage with this discussion beyond what you have shown so for. I posted a tonne of resources for you below.

            All the best.

        • Sexprof

          Arrrrg. I went back to work, and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had done something wrong. Here I was saying we need to be less divisive and argumentative as feminists, and I wrote a response that could definitely be characterized as divisive and argumentative. Here’s the thing:

          We’re online, and communication is difficult. I apologize if I’ve added to that difficulty. What I really want to say is that I find this discussion interesting at both a theoretical, philosophical level, and at a practical, legal level. I have never encountered feminists that fight so strongly against BDSM, and since my only experience with BDSM is knowing couples who practice it, and having many students (both queer and straight, of all kinds of genders, races, classes, ages, abilities, sexualities, nationalities and identities – not just “first world women” as one person posted) who identify as subs or doms, I suppose I wasn’t prepared for the strength of the reaction from some commentors. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect your opinions nor does it mean I’m not interested in hearing more. Perhaps, though, the online context is making the conversation more vitriolic than it has to be.

          So I wrote Meghan an email asking her if, when I teach again, I could get in touch to hear more about these critiques of BDSM. I’m always interested in alternative perspectives and perhaps some of you might be interested in sharing your perspective with me at that point, too.

          Now that I’ve settled my conscience, I really WILL be leaving this time. 🙂

          Take care.

          • lizor


            You complain about the anger of some posters, yet you inflame the discussion by conflating critique with “policing” and “shutting down”, not to mention tossing out the “robbing women of agency” argument that is so predictable and tired and has been dealt with over and over and over here on this blog.

            In fact, here’s a recent post from this very blog about “agency”:


            And while we’re at it, check this:


            You also make generalizations about the people posting here as if we’re all one monolithic chorus, lumping us into one big pile of unreasonable meanies who are not meeting your standards of intellectual integrity and conduct. You have, more often than not, ignored questions directed at you and attempts to seriously engage with you in favour of what I just described.

            Here are two of mine:

            lizor – October 29th, 2014 at 3:38 am

            lizor – October 29th, 2014 at 3:28 am

            If you really plan to get in touch with Meghan, I suggest you respect the fact that her labour here are unpaid and try reading through the archive before asking for her to repeat what she has already articulated over and over.

            Try this:


            I also draw your attention to this comment:

            Kate – October 29th, 2014 at 9:26 am

            and also the comments from a poster named Candy on this thread:


            Finally, please read Nine Deuce (an american academic/feminist blogger and terrific wit) on BDSM. Here’s the link.


            If you take the time to consider all of this, I think that when you finally do contact Meghan, you’ll be much better equipped to engage with her productively.

            And FTR – it was me who made the “first world women” comment. I was not talking about geography – I would have thought that was obvious. The fact that you have a few young cosmopolitans from foreign countries does not counter my comment. If they can afford an overseas education, chances are they are fairly privileged. My point was in the spirit of what bella_cose said so succinctly above: “Either you support the population of women who have enough privilege to choose to be abused by men through BDSM, porn, and prostitution, or you support the hundreds of thousands of women who have no choice.”

  • jo

    Multiple women accuses famous man of violently abusing them.
    Famous man feels sorry for himself, writes a statement saying it was all consensual and the women are manipulative liars.
    Woman write blogpost about it.
    Kinksters jump on the woman’s post and tell her she is against kinky sex.
    It says a lot about the BDSM community, doesn’t it.

    By the way, he allegedly almost murdered one of them. Strangulation is never safe. It should never be “played” with.

    • Henke

      Yes it does and add to this that it is not that uncommon that BDSM clubs (and of course the very practitioners who go to these clubs) sexualises some rather sick things. I’ve read about both the holocaust and the american slavetrade to have been roleplayed and I’m pretty sure that if these two gets a pass anything gets a pass.

      • jo

        Yes, “raceplay” is a thing. It shouldn’t be. Also look up “daddydoms” if you are ready to be truly disgusted.
        Pretending to be a father who rapes his child is FUN! Right? No, it’s awful.

  • For me, BDSM is problematic the way media violence is problematic. There is a lot of research on the negative effects of media violence, and a lot of consensus among researchers. Media violence increases aggressiveness and decreases empathy, especially when it’s portrayed as good harmless fun (it’s safer when shown realistically, not taken out of context), and I’ve seen the suggestion (I think it was an article on Badass Digest) that Gamergate would probably not have happened if video games weren’t so violent. I don’t know how this relates to BDSM, except that when BDSM is promoted in public as good harmless fun, it may feed the same effect that video games and violent films and TV shows do.

    Media sex has the same effect that media violence does, even non-violent media sex. And of course it doesn’t matter who the victims of media violence are (e.g. male vs female vs animal). All that matters is that it’s shown as harmless entertainment.

    Something to think about.

  • Pingback: Oct 28: Media Mornings—Feminist Current’s Meghan Murphy on Jian Ghomeshi firing— | Media Mornings / Democracy North()

  • Homer

    My girlfriend and I enjoy BDSM. I am the submissive, while she is dominant. Does that mean that if we were to break up, I could claim that she sexually assaulted me? The answer is no, because we both consented (Yes, I know that for some reason you think this is a dirty word, but bear with me) and we both enjoy the sexual activities that we engage in.
    If it is the case that Jian and his exes both consented to the sexual activities they engaged in, then Jian is no more at fault than the girls he was involved with.
    I’m not saying that what happened wasn’t sexual assault, because there is no way for us to know right now. But nothing about Jian’s statement should make us think that it was. It is merely his side to the story.

    • Ash

      aw thanks for telling us about your sex life

  • Yumi

    didn’t even know who this guy was, only saw his screed on Facebook because someone on my “friends list” liked it.

    So I was not clouded by admiration of his other work nor have I even heard his accuser’s side of the story when I reacted to reading it: “Wow, he sounds like a douchecanoe who doth protest too much.”

    Based only on what he wrote for himself. Nothing else.

    Ironically I would probably have been more inclined to reserve judgement if all I’ve heard was accusations against him.

    Seriously, what he wrote read like a checklist off the typical creeper manifesto:
    1) Waaah, I’ve been having a hard time, everyone should feel sorry for meee
    2) Bitches be crazy, y’all
    3) Whatever it was that happened was totes consensual because I say so repeatedly
    4) I have my pick of chicks who want a piece of me
    5) I’m not sexist, I have female friends!
    6) Now that I gave everybody TMI about my sex life, I want everyone to mind their own business and stay out of mine!

    Note that his defense, according to himself, is not that he didn’t do it (whatever it is he thought he was about to be accused of). His defense is it was only a bit of kinky fun.

    If all that matters is whatever he did was consensual fun for everyone, then why couldn’t he stick to recounting how the act was agreed upon and carried out? Let the facts speak for themselves? He was purposefully vague, though. Instead redirecting people’s attention by claiming this is not really about anything he has done, oh no, it’s about persecution against kink, apparently.

    Being kinky doesn’t automatically mean someone is abusive, but it also doesn’t preclude someone from doing something abusive. It disturbs me that he seems to think no more information is needed, just knowing he’s kinky is supposed to be enough to prove anyone who comes forward to say he did anything wrong ever are just haters of alternative sexual preferences. More disturbing: plenty of people are falling for this blatant misdirection!

    Besides that, his dad’s death is irrelevant to whatever he did with these women. It was nothing but emotional manipulation to start his defense with that. Why does he feel the need to manipulate his readers? This is pinging my BS meter something fierce.

    That whole thing was one big “WTF?” So much like a train-wreck I couldn’t look away.

    • Lee

      I assume he has been afraid of or counting on these allegations coming out at some point. It wouldn’t surprise me if he spent a lot of time working out what to say.

      • lizor

        He hired what is perhaps the most prominent PR firm in the country and consulted his lawyers (don’t forget he can afford expensive ones), so even if he did write it, both of those parties would have advised and reviewed his statement.

  • river

    He’s desperate really. But it’s out there now. @Dad. #Mommmmeeee. #Bitches. #Please? I said PLEASE. #Freelance writerrrrr.

    The CBC fan page is just as braindead. Honestly when you read them you wonder they’d ever get laid. Maybe that’s how BDSM came about?

  • Sean

    Your article presumes he is lying. That is its fundamental flaw. Your argument loses all credibility when you reproduce something he says and then in response say something like, “give me a moment to let the nausea pass” or “Does anyone still fall for this crap?” None of this is fair to him. It is just prejudiced. That is pre-judging him as guilty, as a liar, etc… It is entirely possible that he is telling the truth in the statements he wrote. Someone else could make the very same statements about what his women accusers are saying. They could reproduce their allegations and then write things below them like, “does anyone believe this crap?” If your point is that EVEN IF WHAT HE SAID IS TRUE, bla bla bla, then that would be a different argument than what you are saying. You’re saying, in essence, “he’s lying” in various forms. I agree absolutely with the comments of Essie and many others above. You and everyone else don’t know who is telling the truth. Basing an argument on a belief that he is lying gets us nowhere.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It doesn’t necessarily “presume he is lying” — I am critical of his sexist and transparent response as we’ve heard it all before. I also “presume” that when women say they were abused or victimized, they are NOT lying. If you want to flip it — if you you believe him than aren’t you saying that four women are “lying?”

  • So just to be clear: you’re actually claiming that women aren’t capable of consenting to sex that you deem to be abusive?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Who said that?

      • Maybe I should quote directly from your headline:

        “Consent Defence Shows Why Consent Isn’t Good Enough”

        Or perhaps your assertion that one cannot consent to what you deem to be “abuse,” which includes receiving any physical pain during intercourse.

        Or maybe I could just read your article, which is a giant rant about how you find rough/kinky sex to be “violence against women”, and therefore it’s literally impossible for women to consent to it. I mean, you quite literally say that women can’t actually enjoy taking a submissive role in the bedroom if it involves physical pain, despite the fact that plenty of women (and men) enjoy just that.

        So you said it. You said it in your horribly misinformed diatribe of an article, which makes all feminists look worse.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Yeah. “Consent” isn’t good enough. Clearly. People can “consent” to all sorts of things that are damaging, dangerous, and unethical. That is not at all the same as saying that “women aren’t capable of consenting to sex that [I] deem to be abusive.” Are you just mad because that’s too complicated of a concept for your to wrap your head around? Or do you just need somewhere/someone to spew rage at on the internet?

  • Andrew

    Well, the comments on this article have certianly exploded!

    I had never heard of this guy before I read this article, but his facebook post smells like the usual defense people put up when they know that more damaging information is likely to come out at some point. Nobody knows for sure, but he is certianly not acting like an innocent man, not so much because of what he said, but because of why he felt the need to say anything at all.

    With that out of the way, I’d like to take a moment to address a problem I have with the critcism against consent, since it is a main theme here, and the BDSM article, and likely why they are so popular.

    The biggest problem with discrediting consent is that consent is a subject expression and we have no way to objectively measure value in other peoples interpersonal relationships. For contrast, lets consider employment under the free enterprise system. We can say, objectively, that employees are being exploited because they are being denied the full value of their labor; however, we can only say that becuase the value of money, which labor is measured in, is objective–it spends the same for me as for you. There is no such currency in relationships. We all know and understand this when somebody claims to be a victim.

    If a woman says that she was sexually harassed, then she WAS sexually harassed. If a woman says that she was raped, then she WAS raped. That must be the case because we have no objective way to determine if someobody was sexually harassed or raped based on physical evidence alone–it’s in the eye of the beholder. Unless we identify every action as harassment or rape, then we have to trust the victim to identify when the transgression happened. When is penetration sex, and when is it rape? Only the victim can say.

    If we are going to trust the victims when they tell us they were abused, and I think we should, then we must also trust them when they say they were not abused. We must do that because we have no objective way of determining it otherwise.

    I’m not suggesting that consent is a perfect system, but it’s the best one we have. Of cousre there are going to be people who slip between the cracks, and that happens WAY too often to women because they feel that they can’t speak up when have been victimized, but that is a problem with the culture, not with the concept of consent.

    It seems that a lot of people around here want to do away with conesnt without having anything to really replace it with other than claiming that women are always victims all the time, but there is no reason to believe that. If we can’t objectively prove when somebody has been abused, then we need to trust them to tell us and create an environemnt where they feel comfortable coming forward.

    • Lee

      “If we are going to trust the victims when they tell us they were abused, and I think we should, then we must also trust them when they say they were not abused. We must do that because we have no objective way of determining it otherwise.”

      Nope. Wrong. We have ways (not perfectly objective, no) of determining what abuse is. If I say my neighbor abused me because they showered at 7 o’clock, it doesn’t mean it’s objectively abuse.

      What’s your objective way of determining free agency?

      • Missfit

        We should get rid of assault (or any) offences in our criminal code and simply replace everything with ‘breach of consent’.

        It scares me to think that I could go to the police with black eyes, bruises on my neck and blood spitting from my mouth and be put in the position of having to prove that I did not consent to this because the perpetrator says ‘BDSM sex’.

        Andrew: if a woman in this situation says she did consent (who knows if she is scared, threatened, or suicidal), then we shouldn’t investigate more, despite evidence of physical trauma? Because ‘consent’?

        • Lee

          Yes, it’s incredibly scary and becoming very common in rape cases. I think any feminist worth their salt should take that reality, the reality of the culture we are in right now, extremely seriously.

        • Andrew

          To be clear, and maybe I wasn’t clear enough before, I would never expect someone to prove that they didn’t consent. In fact, I believe the opposite. Consent only works one-way. If you showed up with bruises and said that you were abused, then there should be no contest there. The perpertrator does not get to claim that you consented: only you can do that!

          It’s true that some women feel pressured to hide their abuse, but that’s why I think we need a better culture and a better criminal justice system that allows people who have been abused to come forward without fear of retaliation.

          Consent is just a way for someone to say: I know it looks like I was abused, but I wasn’t. At the end of the day, I don’t see anyway that we can prove that someone was abused who doesn’t FEEL that they were. If the feel abused but are hiding it, then that is a different problem that does need to be addressed.

          • Missfit

            As Lee said, ‘if I say my neighbor abused me because they showered at 7 o’clock, it doesn’t mean it’s objectively abuse’. Even though I FEEL like I was abused. That is to say, we can’t act as if everything is objectively equal. By putting consent as the measure of all things, violence against women (as in beating up, choking, punching) becomes equal to a handshake, as only consent matters. What we say is that violence against women matters. In and of itself.

          • Andrew

            If you honestly feel abused, for any reason, then I’m not going to tell you that you weren’t. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that society should, or will, do anything about it. Rape? Let’s get the police involved. Neighbors took a shower? Probably not.

            Again I ask, by what methodology do you determine abuse? I think I have shown that physical violence alone is not necessary or sufficient because there are abuses that are unacceptable that don’t involve that.

            This is a complicated issue–unfortunately and to the detriment of women.

          • hypatia

            Actually, those of us who have worked in domestic violence advocacy have a fairly simple and straightforward definition of abuse: it is a pattern of power and control. There’s really no need to leap into an abyss of postmodern subjectivity here. If a person or group of people is enacting a pattern of power and control over another person or group of people, or if a cultural practice (such as BDSM) serves to enact or reinforce a pattern of power and control over a person or a class of people, it’s abuse. Full stop.

          • Andrew

            A vague definition isn’t going to get Ghomeshi convicted of a crime. Anyone can define anything to whatever they like. The hard part is proving it. Maybe that’s just the mathematician in me.

            I’m sure that all of the victims of abuse are satisfied with your definition while deciding not to report it because he won’t get ib trouble and might abuse her more in retaliation.

            Full stop.

          • Lee

            Yeah, well, criticizing the misogynistic practices, beliefs, and traditions of the Catholic church or any religious institution isn’t going to get anyone thrown in jail (without having committed a crime), but those anti-women things they do and believe might fall out of favor. Popular opinion might change. Eventually, laws might change to be more in line with popular opinion. Which is what’s so threatening about the criticism of the misogynistic practices, beliefs and traditions of the institutions of porn, prostitution and BDSM.

          • Apparently you need to give this a read too Andrew.


            Seriously, what are you doing here with your inane and supercilious little comments about “methodologies to determine abuse” and letting us all know that these issues are “complicated”?

            Do you realize what many of the posters here have lived through? Do you realize how many years; how many decades we have devoted to studying, discussing these issues ? How many years we have been living this shit without any choice in the matter? It helps nothing but your ego to waste megabytes telling us “it’s complicated”.

            So much that has been talked about on this and other blogs, under a rain storm of arrogant and ignorant resistance is getting ripped out into the open this week. The deniers are finally being pushed to the side for once, and you are bunging up this thread with gunk.

            Please read the piece I linked. And please get with the program or get out of the way.

          • hypatia

            That link is SO GOOD. Thank you for sharing it.

      • Andrew

        I suspect that your method for determining abuse has something to do with physical violence, but I can’t be sure because you didn’t elaborate. I will however address that issue because I have something to say.

        First of all, not all violence is physical, and not all victims suffer physical violence. We have a criminal justice system that, rightly or wrongly, values evidence above all else and assumes innocense until proven guilty (at least in the United States). A woman basically has to be violently assaulted, and then penetrated in order for there to be ‘proof’. However, that doesn’t even cover all the cases.

        What about women who are just threatened with violence, maybe with a gun, in order to get them to capitulate, or women who are a part of communities that emotionally manipulate their vicitms into compliance. I freely admit that there is a problem with this in BDSM, and I have been admiting it even in the other article, but it’s not the majority of people, frankly it happens way more often in religious communities because there are so many more of them, and cultural shame associated is much worse.

        If a woman shows up at the police station and says that a man put a gun to her head to force her to have sex, or that an uncle was sexually abusing them, or that they were pressured by their father to have sex with his friends, or a ‘slave’ is pressured to do something they didn’t want to: how does she prove it? Clearly they were raped, and abused, and victims. The problem is proving it. If we don’t take their claims seriously, then men will continue to abuse them in that way because there are no consequences.

        I would also argue that not everyone who has experienced physical violence has been abused. I have seen some comments on here talking about desensitisation of violence and things like that and I’ve just had too many life expereinces to take that seriously. I was a soldier. I spent two years in Iraq and saw some horrible violence. Instead of desensitizing me, it only made me detest violence: real violence that is.

        I also grew up playing violence video games, though just barely as I’m a bit old for the newer more graphical ones. BDSM was a part of my personality before I even really knew about it, and I can tell you without a doubt that BDSM between two people who respect each other is not real violence. Mutual respect is the key here. Violence isn’t about what you do, but why you do it. A doctor might break someones toe so that it can heal properly, but that is still violence. We need to question people’s motives as much as, if not more than, their actions.

        Ghomeshi does not respect women. There have always been people like that and there probably always will be. He may hide behind BDSM, but if that didn’t exist he would find something else to hide behind, like religion, or perhaps just nothing. Before vidoe games people blamed violence on TV, radio, and books. There will always be something to point your finger at and say: that’s the problem, but it isn’t. The problem is the same as it always has been: a lack of respect for women. At the end of the day it’s people like ghomeshi that are the problem, not the activities they participate in.

        If you want to argue that there are problems with a lack of respect for women in the BDSM community, and that the culture has problems, then I have never disagreed with you, but I am not seeing a nuanced approach here. Most of the opposition seems to want to just get rid of it entirely because violence is always wrong (even when it isn’t), and because it’s rooted in patriarchy (what isn’t).

        I don’t want to abuse women, or for women to be abused, regardless of where they live, or what cultures they belong to, or what activites they participate in. I think (or at least hope) that everyone on this site can agree with that, even if we disagree on some of the particulars.

        • corvid

          “There will always be something to point your finger at and say: that’s the problem, but it isn’t. The problem is the same as it always has been: a lack of respect for women.”

          How do men communicate their lack of respect for women? They do it through pornography, violent and misogynistic content in mainstream film, books, music, TV, and yes, the mythology of sexual sadism. Perhaps you don’t notice being up to your neck in these things because you aren’t female. As a young girl I read popular literature that included graphic scenes of gang rape, rape-murder, kidnapping, etc. One of the first images on TV I actually remember seeing was of a man stabbing a woman in the breast with a big knife (a film being shown mid-afternoon.) You fail to understand the effect that growing up in such a culture/word has on women. How can BDSM be anything but deeply facetious in this context?

        • Lee

          If the doctor gets off on breaking that toe, it’s violence. That’s all the effort I’m going to put in here, because it’s clear you absolutely will not address what getting off on hurting people means.

          • Andrew

            What a ridiculous schrodinger’s cat you’ve created. So you’re telling me that if got into an accident and injured your foot, and needed to have a toe broken so that it would set properly, and went to a doctor who performed that service: the only thing determines whether it was abuse, regardless of your knowledge or feeling, is whether he went home that night and masturbated?

            What kind of completely nonsensical definition of abuse and violence is that?!!


          • Lee

            He may have healed it, he may have treated it, but if he got off on it, he got off on it. That’s not OK with me. It suggests he gets off on hurting people. I am not talking about prosecutable offenses, just whether people get a thrill or get aroused from hurting others. YOU may think it’s fine and dandy to do so as long as there is consent, that there is no moral quandary there. I do NOT.

          • C.K. Egbert

            Thank you. Attitudes matter. The idea that we have to defend the idea that it is not okay to enjoy watching another human being suffer is absolutely maddening.

          • C.K. Egbert

            You’re not getting the point.
            Situation A: Doc gives me electric shocks to diagnose a health issue (yes, they do this and I’ve had it done).
            Situation B: Doc gives me electric shocks because he enjoys causing me pain.

            A is theoretically defensible, B is not.

            Doctors can engage in behaviors that might cause someone pain to the extent that (1) it has been empirically demonstrated to be necessary either to diagnose or treat some problem, and (importantly) (2) they do what they can to alleviate any discomfort you experience (like give you drugs during or after a painful procedure).

            Of course I’m not denying medicine is terrible at doing (2), but they could theoretically justify their actions and yet not be sadists.

          • amongster

            I don’t know why it is so hard to understand why we also need to be critical of the intentions of people. Just because no harm was done to the person with the broken toe doesn’t mean that the sadistic feelings the doctor gains from treating the patient are okay and won’t eventually lead to harm.

    • Andrew –
      As I see it, the issue for many here is not that consent itself is a problem, especially not one to be eradicated, the problem is use of a victim’s alleged consent to legitimize abusive actions in the eyes of society, if not always the law, which, Meghan points out, in Canada doesn’t allow that one can consent to violence that produces bodily harm.

      In my view, consent in the context of interpersonal relationships cannot be static and isn’t for building a defense, it has to be an ongoing process for ensuring mutually agreeable experiences and exploration. It’s going to work best when each participant can trust everyone has a compelling interest in their well-being.

      I believe the widespread adoption of the standard of enthusiastic, ongoing consent will reduce the societal problem of the objectification of women.

      • marv

        “I believe the widespread adoption of the standard of enthusiastic, ongoing consent will reduce the societal problem of the objectification of women.”

        You are still only scratching the surface of the objectification of women. Without abolishing patriarchal structures like porn, prostitution, marriage, capitalism, militarization and the liberal/conservative state, women will remain inferior to men and therefore violable. You can always find women who exhibit ongoing enthusiasm for these institutions, and not just in the “sex work” movement. Secular and religious women revere weddings and are proud patriots of their respective countries, honouring their predominantly male armies. BDSM, as integral to MAN’S dominion elicits the same kind of indoctrinated sentiment.

        We have to focus on revolution, then real consent will be achievable.

        • Is it naive to think that getting men to regularly think about what the women they interact with want and need will get them to see those women more as human beings and less as toys/objects/providers of services, and that this thinking will extend to women as a class?

          marv, I am very curious what your revolution might look like, especially as it involves abolishing “the liberal/conservative state”, whatever that is, as well as capitalism, which implies (I think) an end to the notion private property as well?
          How do radical feminists envision this being achieved?

  • When did “consent” and “submit” become synonyms? Nobody tells me anything.

  • C.

    Longtime reader, first time commenter.
    I know this will likely get lost in the sea of replies, but I thought it was worth reiterating:

    Some people keep asking why the women are not “coming forward” (which is ridiculous, because they already have come forward in the way they feel most comfortable), and it’s very simple. Ghomeshi filed a lawsuit to manipulate the system. As soon as he filed it, the hands of CBC and the victims are tied (*sorry, bad choice of words), they now CANNOT comment/defend themselves without violating the law and leaving themselves open to another suit.

    So essentially, the lawsuit is part of his manipulation tactic. File the suit so nobody else can tell their side of the story, then release his version of the ‘truth’ (with PR firm), knowing it is the only side the public can access until the lawsuit goes through in 4 or 5 years. It’s a way of trying to dominate the discussion and ensure that the whole event of his firing is processed by the public with only his perspective to frame it. Very crafty.

    Thanks for the great article, Meghan. We all benefit from your voice on this. Keep it up 🙂

  • Pingback: Fifth woman comes forward with allegations against Jian Ghomeshi | Feminist Current()

  • Scrolling down all the comments, I apologize I didn’t reply to a couple.

    To this I would note that BDSM-ers regard BDSM play as ‘play’. In my book on Dominatrices, I mention “The word ‘play’ is particularly important, for it points to the intuitive, responsive, experimental, theatrical, transformative nature of their (the Dominatrices’) work.”
    BDSMers ‘play’ with gender transformation, cross-dressing, androgyny. BDSMers ‘play’ with power exchange, with Domming and subbing, with Topping and bottoming (in different terms to Dom/sub). BDSMers ‘play’ with pleasure and pain, with sensory experiences, with sharp and soft. They ‘play’ With the drivers of their desire; their endocrine and endorphin responses. With their fears, with their wants, with their expression, with the bounds and bondage of what is possible in relationships.

    There is a potential in BDSM play to draw attention to the very apparatus of power structures, shining light on it, bringing discovery and clarity to it’s presence outside in everyday lives. Interestingly writers like Michel Foucault – claim indebtedness to personal experience with BDSM to draw attention to the power hierarchy at work in heteronormativity, to privilege of social classes, to policing, discipline and punishment, which is of great relevance to feminist thought – I believe to consider.

    I’ve found the discussion here very interesting and fruitful.

    I appreciate the diversity and arguments put forward. (I wish for a little less personal attacks, cynicism and heavy sarcasm directed in lieu of proper intellectual thought. They seemed to design to belittle and ‘fob off’ which is not I don’t think nice when the person at whom they are directed is clearly trying to contribute intelligently to the dialogue and consideration of the issues.)

    Somewhere in the thread, so far back now I’m finding it difficult to locate on my small screen, there was a comment about BDSM stemming from Marquis de Sade – as a libertine fascist.

    BDSM didn’t stem from Marquis de Sade. Merely his name was taken for the construction of the term BDSM (as Bondage/Discipline, Domination/submission, and Sadism / masochism), which goes to Kraft-Ebling taking up the names from Marquis de Sade’s writing and Leopold van Sacher Masoch.

    In fact, interestingly for feminism, BDSM finds its earliest manifestations in rituals of a Goddess cult. These describe the Goddess Inanna (a Goddess of sexuality in ancient Mesopotamia) and rituals of cross-dressing her cult officiants, turning man into woman, woman into man, (in what is sometimes referred to as the head-overturning ritual, although I personally haven’t called it that), and of punishment, pain and ecstasy.

    The text is believed by many to have been written by a woman, an En-priestess (High Priestess) named Enheduanna. Her’s is the first author name recorded in history.

    Unfortunately the clay fragment from this Hymn to Inanna (Poem to the Goddess Inanna) is partially broken. Translated into English, what is has the Goddess Inanna who “opens the door of wisdom and makes known its interior.” It reads:
    “The man she has called by name she does not hold in esteem. Having approached the woman, she breaks the weapon and gives her a spear. The male gˆišgisagˆ keš, the nisub and the
    female gˆišgi ritual officiants, after having . . . punishment, moaning . . .
    The ecstatic, the transformed pilipili, the kurgˆara and the sagˆ ursagˆ . . .
    Lament and song . . . They exhaust themselves with weeping and grief, they . . . laments.”
    (The hymn is known as ‘Lady of the Largest Heart’, or ‘A Hymn to Inana (C)’, ETCSL, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford (http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/
    etcsl.cgi?text=t.4.07.3# – ‘A Hymn to Inana [Inana C]’, see lines 80–90.)

    It was a ritual which seems to have given people of non-normative sexuality a place within Inanna’s temple and cult. This included people of third gender, transvestite and transgender people, cross-dressed officiants, possibly eunuchs, and there are women in Inanna’s cult in Mesopotamia who had a status other than married. Who appear to have been a special class of women who were independent and attached to the temple.

    It’s a shame we have only fragments at the present in archaeology, and ancient Sumerian isn’t the easiest language. From the late Renaissance there are many of images of erotic female domination (such as Phyllis riding Aristotle) and I shall leave it to cultural historians and feminists to debate the meaning and interpretation of such images. There are texts in ‘forbidden books’ as well as ephermera of the 17th Century onwards which feature dominant women whipping men. Many certainly for pay, and fulfilling male desires – as far as the relevant feminist discourse may want to consider.

    The Marquis de Sade didn’t invent BDSM.

    Anne O Nomis
    Author of ‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’

  • I have to go to work shortly and may not be around for a wee while if an onslaught of messages follow.

    But I would add to the above, that besides rituals of whipping, cross-dressing, sacred union ‘hieros gamos’ of Goddess/God later adopted by patriarchal structures to validate kingship, in the Goddess cults, the other relevant factor off the top of my head seems to relate to animal mastery.

    I’ve not argued this anywhere, but my ‘best guess’ for factors around the birth of domination seems to relate to agriculture, keeping animals captive, training (and dominating) animals, and the notion of ‘private property’. There are plenty of artifacts and images referred to as ‘Master of Animals’ or ‘Mistress of Animals’, which I’ve not really considered previously but are resonating. In many case they depict a Goddess, God, King or Queen evidencing their mastery of animals by holiding animals up, or by standing on a lion.

    Within patriarchal power structures, women were property. (Unless taking on such other status terms as Inanna’s independent women attached to her temple, or priestesses, or in later eras nuns – where they were not the wife in bondage / owned by the husband.)

    The other thing that just crossed my mind is a book by Chris Knight ‘Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture’ and essentially women coming together to leverage power from denying and controlling men’s sexual access to women in communal sex strikes. People might ordinarily think this a rather bizarre thesis, but it’s surprisingly well-supported by a range of anthropological ethnographic practices.

    I mention this as female domination in practice has a large element of ‘controlling the cock’, by way of male chastity, tease-and-denial used to train the man, which is a large part of ‘FemDom’ discourse. The man seeks her favour – and hopes for sexual gratification – and she uses this levereage over him.

    In matrilineal cultures, there is the architecture of the long house, with the elder women’s room typically at the front of the house beside the open lounge area, followed by the next eldest daughter and her husband (who she chooses), followed by the next eldest daughter and her children (who she chooses). The symbols are of animals like elephants, breasts, the moon – on the Ede House in Vietnam for example.

    There are two stairs, the ‘women’s stairs, and the mens. The women’s is beautifully carved with breasts and a moon. The men’s is plain and inferior. The men are allowed to use the stairs if they are in good esteem, and if they misbehave they are shamed by being forced to used the men’s stairs, signalling to everyone they are in trouble. (Akin to what we would call ‘being in the dog box’ in England) It’s humiliating for men to use the unornamented men’s stairs.

    So mmm…interesting.

    Anne O Nomis
    Author of ‘The History & Arts of the Dominatrix’

    • Meh

      “There are two stairs, the ‘women’s stairs, and the mens. The women’s is beautifully carved with breasts and a moon. The men’s is plain and inferior. The men are allowed to use the stairs if they are in good esteem, and if they misbehave they are shamed by being forced to used the men’s stairs, signalling to everyone they are in trouble. (Akin to what we would call ‘being in the dog box’ in England) It’s humiliating for men to use the unornamented men’s stairs.”

      Is there something so fundamentally fucked up about humans that we need to continually keep classifying each other as either dominant or submissive? Any imagination in here? Hello?

      • jo

        Many of us have no interested in such bs. We just want to live our lives in peace and not harm or be harmed. So, as someone else wrote earlier, where are our safewords to opt out of patriarchy and other strong hierarchies?

        • Meh


          If someone knows the safe word out of this shit, let me know.

        • Might not how patriarchal hierarchies come about – how and under what circumstances they come into being – be relevant to how they might be dismantled or overturned? We are better off if we understand what germinates them, feeds them, maintains them and gives them currency to operate. And what alternative models exist and have existed in which women are not oppressed by patriarchy.

          So I would have thought the Ede culture, and other matrilineal cultures, are potentially interesting. (I note they’re not ‘matriarchal’, but matrilineal, and co-exist across with nearby patriarchal tribes.)

          Women having power over their sexuality, choice of marriage partner and social privilege seems to get closer to an egalitarian and more equal society.

          • We’re large primates. Primates that live in groups typically have a male pecking order and a female pecking order. Primates with a mating season tend to be female-dominant except in mating season, because male testosterone levels are only higher in mating season (e.g. ring-tailed lemurs). Larger primates like us don’t have a mating season and the males are high testosterone and dominant year round. Not that the females are keen on being dominated – among chimps females will gang up on abusive males when they can, though rape is still common. We do that too. 🙂

            Among humans, the most egalitarian cultures are the ones where women and men make more equal economic contributions. One historian I read (Romila Thapar) pointed out that poorer castes in India have tended to be more egalitarian than richer castes because of the need for women’s economic input and the relative lack of power of the men in the poorer castes. People tend to pull together more in harsher conditions and less so when things are easy.

            Pretty straightforward: Men have a tendency to try to dominate, but women can get out of the male pecking order stuff better when we have our own money. And letting anyone (but especially men) have a disproportionate degree of money/power is asking for trouble.

          • Meh

            Are you suggesting that women can overturn patriarchy if they ‘control’ patriarchal practices?

      • Maybe this appearance of dominion of one sex over the other in matrilineal cultures indicates that development of social hierarchy is NOT specifically a patriarchal, but rather a human (or maybe primate) tendency? Is that suggestion sacrilegious here, on a radical feminist blog?

        • Meh

          Are you saying that it’s not patriarchal?

          • I’m saying that the presence of what seems like a dominance heirarchy in the Ede and other cultures might be evidence that such heirarchy is not distinctly patriarchal or masculine in origin. Whereas, often in comments here that mention heirarchy I get the impression the writer blames patriarchy for the very existence of a model of one sex dominant over another – as if that would only happen when males get power.

            I do understand that egalitarianism is the goal, and for the culture we live in, male dominance is the norm and that is what has to go.

          • “I’m saying that the presence of what seems like a dominance hierarchy in the Ede and other cultures might be evidence that such heirarchy is not distinctly patriarchal or masculine in origin.”

            That is operational only if the “dominance heirarchy in the Ede” actually exists. Cursory searches of academic literature turns up no evidence whatsoever of this. I’m not saying it’s untrue, but I am suspicious. There’s plenty of fantasizing around reversal of sex class hierarchy in matrilineal societies and most of it boils down to western patriarchal projections or wishful thinking, (however you choose to frame that).

            An example counter to AnneO’s claims: pacific rim Haida are matrilineal and also build Long Houses. The architecture has none of the features or functions she describes. Traditionally Haida were acquisitive and kept slaves. In their current configuration they are no less male-dominated than patrilineal groups.

          • No argument from me regarding my suggestion of a dominance heirarchy of the Ede. I do recall Anne O Nomis did assert the Ede were matrilineal, not matriarchal. I was reacting to some of the behavior described as suggesting the women were dominant, but even that may apply only and specifically to matters within the home.

        • corvid

          Ever hear of the naturalistic fallacy? Just because something is deemed “natural” or a “human tendency” doesn’t make it good.

          The point is we don’t, currently, right now, right here, want oppressive hierarchies! This is a well-founded belief and aspiration.

          • Agreed.

            I did not suggest that the idea that developing social dominance by sex may be a human trait rather than only a male trait meant it should be considered a “good” thing.

    • “essentially women coming together to leverage power from denying and controlling men’s sexual access to women in communal sex strikes. People might ordinarily think this a rather bizarre thesis”

      Not bizarre at all. Bog standard and common if you ask me. We have been told again and agin through countless venues and media that withholding sex and “controlling the cock” is the alpha and omega of women’s power; that women’s power is all about men.

      “In matrilineal cultures, there is the architecture of the long house, with the elder women’s room typically at the front of the house beside the open lounge area…. etc.”

      What cultures in what geographic location and in what time period? This statement seems a bit ridiculous – as in “In patrilineal there is the split level bungalow with breakfast nook and ensuite bathroom for the master bedroom”. Specific architecture is endemic to all cultures with matrilineal decent systems? Give me a tiny break.

      • Afterthought:

        This is the thing with BDSM: it’s SO utterly conformist. It is a reiteration of the status quo all dressed up as some sort of subversion. It exercises obedience to the powers that be while using “***oragasm***!!!” as a pretence to some sort of progress, freedom, or even rebellion.

        • Lizor-
          respectfully, I disagree with your assertion that BDSM is “a reiteration of the status quo all dressed up as some form of subversion”. But, what I mean by “BDSM” in that statement is probably not what you mean, especially if your description of BDSM coincides with Nine Deuce’s reported experience.

          Yes, there are men who stylize themselves “Dominant” who use that as a means to demean women. Those men do not represent BDSM. I do wish the BDSM community would more actively campaign against such attitudes.

          • Nope. I’m talking about good old, We’ve Talked the Play Through and Everyone’s Cool With It – style BDSM.

            Doing gender-based hierarchy is conformist. It just seems rebellious or resistant to status quo because it’s sex. We are a sexually repressed society and BDSM is an expression of that.

        • Lizor,

          With respect, BDSM is not utterly conformist. The kink / BDSM / fetish scene taken as a whole, expresses one of the most diverse and open-minded attitudes towards sexuality as I’ve encountered.

          The ‘play’ is diverse, imaginative, carnivalesque.

          Like other rainbow cultures such as LGBT – it embraces all kinds of sexualities, expression and preferences.

          Yes certainly some names are used for people to attempt to identify what their preferences are. Indeed language tends to do that, to be used for people to try and describe themselves.

          However there is very little conformity that I can think of, other than to ethics of Safe, Sane and Consensual (or Risk Aware Consensual Kink).

          I don’t think BDSMers consider themselves as progressive, necessarily, but many would agree with being non-conformist and somewhat subversive.

          I don’t see that there’s a ‘status quo’ in BDSM being reiterated. What on earth status quo would that be? That it’s normal to walk around Times Square in stacked heels and fetish rubber leading a businessman around in a leather hood and on a leash? I’d say that was subverting the status quo and indeed bringing the status quo into question. Individuals ‘gender fucking’ in their attire and costumery, playing with and expressing androgyny, cross-dressing, drawing attention to the signifiers of gender that people overlook every day and take for granted.

          No I don’t think BDSM is conformist. I’d be interested to hear why you would think that?

          As to how that relates to feminism, or what it might offer to feminism, remains to be seen. And is certainly not without its problematics. However like the LGBT community, offers additional perspectives which may be prove to be useful to thinking about some of the issues of society, hierarchy, heteronormativity and patriarchal power.

          I would also add that a number of interesting authors and writers dabbled in BDSM and got some ‘juice’ out of it, in terms of their theoretical approaches and understandings of power, sex, gender and so on.

          • corvid

            “The kink / BDSM / fetish scene taken as a whole, expresses one of the most diverse and open-minded attitudes towards sexuality as I’ve encountered.”

            Here we go again. This is exactly what I was talking about upthread.

            The language you use to describe BDSM is incredibly obfuscating. Subversive to what? In what way? Domination/submission is the primary rule of patriarchy and that is the “status quo.”

            “Individuals ‘gender fucking’ in their attire and costumery, playing with and expressing androgyny, cross-dressing, drawing attention to the signifiers of gender that people overlook every day and take for granted.”

            What does that have to do with BDSM? You are lumping all kinds of categories together. Stop hijacking other people’s politics. By the way, the things you describe do *nothing* to alleviate the oppression of females as a class. Endlessly reiterating the oppressive fakery of “gender” in different combinations is not social activism.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ugh. I feel like this is totally representative of our current understanding of what ‘open-minded’/’diverse’/progressive means today. The entire ‘queer’ scene in Vancouver looks like this — burlesque, drag, naked chicks with tattos, kink, etc. Not that I’m against debauchery, per se, but it feels more like we’re in a period of narcissitic hedonism/debauchery than ‘progress,’ re: gender/challenges to the status quo. It’s more like every day is Halloween — like, it’s just about costumes and makeup and partying. And I love to party, but partying isn’t political…

            Anyway, who cares if wearing some weird fetish outfit in public is ‘non-conformist’ — what does that do? Are we teenagers? We need attention? We want the ‘suits’ to think we’re rebels? It seems self-absorbed and adolescent more than anything else — “Look at me!! I’m so BAD.”

          • Corvid,
            I think one issue here is that “BDSM” is not all or only about Dominance and Submission, especially as that’s often shorthand to include everything “kinky” or fetish.

            Practitioners who do play in the area of D/s may see themselves as subversive when they are inverting the cultural norm, or see taking things to extreme as poking fun at that norm. Indeed it’s a small thing that has little ability to affect the broader culture, especially what’s done in private. The public performance aspect can do slightly more, I think, but nothing directly, to promote the equality of and respect for women.

          • corvid

            BDSM stands for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism. Maybe its supporters and practitioners should consider that words mean something and that you can’t just lump together unrelated fields just because you find it politically convenient.

            They may see themselves as subversive, but they are not. Spending one’s leisure time enacting an exaggeration of harmful unequal power relations for kicks and orgasms is not subversive. Play-acting at the very scenarios in which so many women have been (and continue to be) maimed and/or killed is, as I have said, facetious and extremely offensive. Worse, it sets up the narrative that some women like this treatment, and abusive men can and do take full advantage of this in many ways.

          • amongster

            “Subversive” is just another word that gets liberately misused by oppressors, just like “satirical”, in order to disguise their sexism/racism/you name it.
            Newspeak hello!

          • amongster

            *deliberately that is, of course.

          • Yes. All of this.

          • Neither feminists nor anyone else have been granted the right to define what the initials “BDSM” represent.

            Corvid, I sympathize – words mean something, indeed, but no-one can authoritatively insist the definition of the acronym “BDSM” for everyone includes only practices specifically identified by those initials. (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism, Masochism). We can wish that folks would universally have used “Kink” or another word as a more general umbrella term when they included other practices, but, sadly, they have not yet done so.

            I certainly understand that the prospect of people acting or simulating events that have killed or injured others is offensive. I don’t know what to do here.

          • corvid

            Go ahead and keep moving the goal-posts. It doesn’t change reality.

          • “Neither feminists nor anyone else have been granted the right to define what the initials “BDSM” represent.

            Corvid, I sympathize – words mean something, indeed, but no-one can authoritatively insist the definition of the acronym “BDSM” for everyone includes only practices specifically identified by those initials. (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism, Masochism). ”

            “B” for “Bondage”, yes? “M” for “Masochism”? The other two initials have dual possibilities. So what? You are saying absolutely nothing. Pouting and sputtering about feminists not having a “right to define” seems a little desperate.

          • lizor

            Corvid and Meghan have responded quite effectively, but I will add that BDSM is entirely intertwined with repressive sexuality under patriarchy. Take away “Ooooh, look at me: I’m SO BAAD”, take away “naughty”, take away “slut”, take away the degradation of one person by the other, feigned or otherwise, and BDSM disappears.

            “That it’s normal to walk around Times Square in stacked heels and fetish rubber leading a businessman around in a leather hood and on a leash?”

            It might not be normal public behaviour, but without the ingrained power of the businessman in patriarchal capitalism, all you have are two people doing something physically uncomfortable for no reason. It might invert the power of the white male corporate executive, but it certainly does not “subvert” the power structure. It’s just a boring display of public narcissism.

            You’re right, the LGBT community does have useful perspectives, like Audre Lorde’s views on sadomasochism in the lesbian community for example.

            It is interesting that your only concession to conformity is the ethics of Safe, Sane and Consensual. I think that might be the one area where BDSM parts ways with the status quo. In an era where California has recently tabled a Bill on student safety that moves the goal posts on consent from “just say “no”, implying that anything but no is “yes”, to a definitive agreement, I would say that negotiated consent is the one area where the kink community has something to of value to offer those not within its ranks.

            Here’s the wording from Senate Bill No. 967:

            “(1) An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

          • C.K. Egbert

            I have to say though, the affirmative consent standard didn’t come from BDSM (and in fact in discussions from pro-BDSM people with the emphasis on “safety words” and “lack of control” I don’t think they ascribe to this standard at all, and I’ve been pretty appalled at the acceptance of grooming, manipulation, and outright coercion).

            The affirmative consent standard comes from feminist work on the importance of mutual desire and explicit communication, not from BDSM.

          • Agreed C.K. Egbert. The requirement of a “safe word” indicates a lack of safety.

            I was not suggesting that affirmative ongoing consent originated with the BDSM scene. I am referring to the idea of communicating what you like, assuring that the other person has heard and understood and that that process be a mutual exchange. I am in no way under the delusion that this is unique to bdsm or that it is necessarily practiced effectively there. Not at all. I was acknowledging an aspect of their discourse – detailed explicit communication around a sexual exchange – that I could agree with. I was suggesting that this is the only theoretical (and it’s important to distinguish that I am addressing theory here) facet of the scene that is not totally embedded in the mind-set, symbols, and practices of a patriarchal hierarchy.

            I mainly brought it up because it was the only aspect that AnnO felt was conformist. Open communication is conformity!! Beating someone is revolutionary!! Ironic, no?

        • Candy

          It really is hardly ever subversive. That’s why you won’t see dominant men or women get called sluts and whores, it’s the submissives, the women or the men who find being likened to a woman humiliating. You will see scenarios like men wanting an aggressive black man to fuck their wives, or even men who find a black man fucking their wives degrading and get off on it. You will see more female submission, women eroticizing their physical weakness in comparison to men’s, women more likely to don clothing associated with little girls than women which is more common in reality as we’ll (look at fashion: you will rarely see men’s fashion look as childish), you will see more women fantasize about being raped and more men fantasizing about doing the raping, you will find men who find choking women with their cocks a great boost to their masculine ego, because masculinity is power and having a big dick that can “do damage.” Power dynamics themselves are as conformist as they come and not kinky in the slightest; they’re the backbone of society. Ad infinitum. The aesthetic is not conformist, sure. The latex and the leather look exotic, shiny, interesting. But the content tends to be a repetition of real societal dynamics, not a radical subversion of them.

      • Lizor

        There is specific differences noted in the architecture of patriarchal and matrilineal houses. It’s a shame there’s not yet a book on the topic. Chris Knight writes: “matrilineal longhouses tend to be bigger and much more integrated internally.”

        I’d love to do a book on the architecture and art, but would require big funding to fly around and do it all.

        • Where, Anne O Nomis? I what era? Please answer the question.

          • Apologies – long houses are ubiquitous within matrilineal cultures around the world.

            The Ede culture I referred to is the 20th Century and contemporary matrilineal tribe culture in Vietnam. However there are numerous other examples.

            I’m not an expert anthropologist (rather I’m a trained archaeologist and art historian) so it’s slightly outside of my specialization although I have some familiarity with the topic, and have been inside long houses.

            From speaking with anthropologists who know a lot more than me, they’re the most common form of house structure within matrilineal tribes around the world. Including documented historical ethnographic studies.

            I’m interested in trying to document the topic and symbols, and then I could compare it to the archaeological record – which would be interesting on whether there was prehistorical matrilineal cultures that were the majority.

            My best guess is that both patriarchal and matrilineal cultures co-existed going back in archaeolgy, and depending on what may have been advantageous or became culturally established due to a range of factors. Anecdotally, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see a major shift that went along with agriculture and less egalitarian social structures emerging in which patriarchy took hold. But that’s a best guess.

            Hope this helps. I know of a few researchers working on matrilineal tribes. There’s not a lot been written though, all things considered.

            I come at it from an art point of view. And if I can bridge over through careful evidence to architecture and structures of power literally structured within the tribal houses, it will be very interesting. But a lot of work and funding required.

          • lizor

            When you write: “There are two stairs, the ‘women’s stairs, and the mens. The women’s is beautifully carved with breasts and a moon. The men’s is plain and inferior. The men are allowed to use the stairs if they are in good esteem, and if they misbehave they are shamed by being forced to used the men’s stairs, signalling to everyone they are in trouble. (Akin to what we would call ‘being in the dog box’ in England) It’s humiliating for men to use the unornamented men’s stairs” you iterate an common misapprehension of the wide array of cultures that westerners label “matrilineal”; and that is that they are merely a reversal of the rigid gendered power hierarchies that appear in most patriarchies. That is inaccurate.

            If the Anak Ede, a group of less than 1000 people build homes that specifically degrade men through their architecture, which I highly doubt is the case, I have no idea how that buoys up your contention that there is any relationship whatsoever between the feminist project and being a dominatrix.

            Frankly, I find the global reference to matrilineal cultures both reductive and colonialist. If you think Playing Dom is super cool, great, but it is irrelevant to a discussion about feminist strategy.

    • C.K. Egbert

      You do realize that withdrawing sex is not power, right? “Teasing” a man does not give you power (in fact it’s a great way to get victim-blamed). This just means they are exploiting their sexuality to get what they need because they cannot get it themselves; their sexuality/body becomes a means for exchange because men hold power over women (this is pretty much the definition of sexual exploitation, I see a lot of feminists nowadays don’t seem to get this idea at all). The point is that sex is not something the WOMAN wants and has on her own terms; it is something the MAN wants and is “given” by the woman (she wouldn’t want to “tease” him if she wanted sex as much as he would. There’d be no reason for that.)

      Not to mention to think this is “power” is absurd given that if a woman doesn’t “willingly” (that is, acquiesce) to sex, a man will simply rape her (with impunity).

      • No, rape (with impunity) is not a foregone conclusion when a woman doesn’t “willingly acquiesce” to sex.

        C. K. Egbert, do you assert that a woman, in general, doesn’t want sex as much as a man would?
        My own, and I believe, many other men’s experience, differs. I think you’re wrong: sometimes sex with a specific male is something a woman wants and obtains on her own terms. I am relating my personal experience, from my initial encounter thirty years ago with my eventual spouse, through to the present.

        • hypatia

          Scott, you need to reread C.K. Egbert’s comment again, because you’ve gotten it exactly backwards. This: “The point is that sex is not something the WOMAN wants and has on her own terms; it is something the MAN wants and is ‘given’ by the woman” is a description of the BDSM point of view she is criticizing, not an expression of her own beliefs.

          As to your first statement (“No, rape (with impunity) is not a foregone conclusion…”), I suspect you’re coming from a place of “not all men” here, but let me assure you, whether or not you personally would rape a woman who refuses to have sex with you, rape is indeed a foregone conclusion for women. One need only glance at a few statistics or a few chapters of history (or talk about it with some women who trust you enough to be open with you) to know that.

        • C.K. Egbert

          I’m not saying that women never want sex with men. I’m saying that the idea of a woman having power over a man by withholding sex presupposes that a woman does not have equal desire, but that her sexuality exists merely as an object for exchange (see Hypatia’s comment, she explains it better than I did). If there is mutual desire from both parties (i.e., the woman wants it as much as the man does, which is how things should be) there wouldn’t be the “tease.”

          “No, rape (with impunity) is not a foregone conclusion when a woman doesn’t “willingly acquiesce” to sex.”

          I’m not saying that every time a woman says “no” to sex she will be raped. I am saying that the man has the real power in this situation, because if a woman does not give him what he wants he always has the option of raping her without consequences (if anything, the victim is the one who will be socially punished, treated like a criminal, etc.). Thus, to think women have “power” over men by offering/withholding sex does not make sense.

          • I fail to see any logical connection between comparative level of desire for sex and ability or interest in either teasing or bargaining with sex. Or have I misread? I think you plainly wrote earlier and then again above that if a woman wanted sex as much as a man, there would be no “tease”, and then the idea that women can withhold sex, using it as “an object of exchange” “presupposes” their desire is lower. Do you mean that the culture in which this can occur must believe that? Why?

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’m saying that the idea of a “tease” as a means of holding “power” over a man presupposes that (a) that women’s desire for sex is not mutual, and (b) that women’s sexuality is a commodity for exchange (which is the definition of sexual exploitation and is fundamental for women’s subordination).

            This sort of dynamic also presupposes and normalizes coercion by men: for example, repeatedly requesting or “begging” a woman for sex (which is a form of emotional coercion).

            I’m afraid I can’t explain more now.

          • hypatia

            Because the entire premise frames sex as something that women “have” and men want or get. C.K. Egbert isn’t pulling her position out of the ether; this is pretty 101-type stuff. If you really want to dive into it, I highly suggest reading Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse.” But for now, all you have to do is think this framing through to its logical conclusion and consider the connection to rape culture. If women desired sex just as much as men under this framing, then what would stop men from withholding sex in order to have power over women? Why would women have any advantage there? The supposed advantage only exists if sex is something men want more than women.

    • hypatia

      “I mention this as female domination in practice has a large element of ‘controlling the cock’, by way of male chastity, tease-and-denial used to train the man, which is a large part of ‘FemDom’ discourse. The man seeks her favour – and hopes for sexual gratification – and she uses this levereage over him.”

      What you are doing here is demonstrating the patriarchal underpinnings of the entire concept of so-called “female domination,” though you don’t seem to be making the connection. The ideas that sex is something women have and men take (or are given) and that women’s bodies and sexualities are prizes for men to win are deeply patriarchal in nature. In this framework, one can only view women’s bodies and sexualities in the context of their usefulness to men. Do you not see the problem with this? Take a moment to consider that MRAs espouse a nearly identical view of women, sexuality, and power.

      • Within anthropology, it’s believed that in order for the human brain to develop to its larger size, the woman had to achieve a unique anatomical feat in labour – in which the baby does an about-turn half-way through, limited by women’s hip size, and having babies born very dependent for a long period of time (one of the most uniquely vulnerable / useless species at birth and for a long time after) – it is postulated that there was a “sex for meat” trade-off. Essentially it is believed that men were pushed to greater paternal support and investment in women and their young, by communal sex strikes and essentially rewarding men with sex for their additional labour and provision including of high protein foods.

        Some of the evidence for this comes from ethnographic anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer tribes, of studies showing so-called prostitutional exchanges in animals. Such as Adelie Penguins, the females of the species who have been documented rewarding males for stones brought to them (used for their nest) with sex.

        In every animal species, there is some level of “battle of the sexes” in terms of slightly different agendas, and it’s built into evolution by success and selection.

        Feminism of course would prefer we were egalitarian, but power is inbuilt into sexuality – for example of mate selection being an obvious area where females tend to hold power, for their evolutionary bias. One egg a month, and nine months pregnant, means a big investment if they choose to mate. For a man, they have multitude of sperm.

        Humans have evolved hidden oestrus, in which it is not advertised by their bodies when they are at their most fertile. And numerous studies show women attracted to ‘alpha’ type men while they are at their most fertile, and nice dependable men when they’re not ovulating. Presumably in history some women got pregnant to the strong athletic type – and had the nice reliable guy help support them. Essentially cuckolding him.

        How one wants to play this into feminist arguments is up to the individual, but I wouldn’t say that female domination is necessarily underpinned by patriarchy. Certainly you could argue the ultra-fetishized service-based female domination is set up to fulfill male sexual fantasies, desire to be anally penetrated and worship women’s feet and so on. However in lifestyle female dominance, women often will have men attending the housework, pleasing them, attending to their every desire and want – and not necessarily sexually.

        I don’t say this is some superior arcadia for women, but I do say it’s worth looking at these interesting scenarios and models for consideration, for debate, and for thinking about what they may contribute to feminist theory and how we think about how society might alternatively be structured, and how women (and all people) may be ’empowered’ given some like to be more passive by way of their personality not merely and only cultural conditioning. In the same way that some people are more introvert and some more extrovert in nature.

        • C.K. Egbert

          First of all, reading back evolution into human behavior strikes me as very bad science (for one thing, you cannot falsify your theories at all). Second, what is your point? If we were so biologically driven to mate and reproduce we wouldn’t be striving to get birth control and abortions. Many women want nothing to do with men whatsoever and are not attracted to them. Childless women and lesbians are not some freaks of nature.

          As for women holding “sexual power,” all you have to do is actually look at the way “mate selection” works in reality to realize that is completely false. Women are almost universally not in control over with whom they have sex because of the norms that eroticize coercion, violence, and the reality of sexual violence. Women throughout history and today also often have no control over their husbands or mates; they are treated like chattel that is exchanged between men. You can’t claim that male sexual domination of women is due to this evolutionary “battle of the sexes” and yet acknowledge the reality of the dominant cultural forms.

        • bella_cose

          Sorry, but I don’t buy that anthropological view. In fact, I’ve read it’s more likely that women had several sex partners, and when she conceived, all the men she had relations with considered themselves fathers. It seems like it would be a much better survival strategy to have several men taking care of you. Women didn’t dole out sex in exchange for food, because their wasn’t ownership of resources. If you didn’t share freely, you were ostracized from the group. Most of anthropology has been done by men, and their biases are quite evident in how they view other societies, including hunter-gatherer societies. Their findings are often tainted by the patriarchal lens.

          Also, while we share some similarities with animals, we are quite unlike any animals that exist in the world. Just because apes do something, or penguins do something, doesn’t mean it says much of anything about humans. Though it is quite convenient for people who want to push the males are dominant and females are passive dogma.

          • lizor

            You are right about anthropology being male dominated, but even so, this naturalization of sex as a commodity is not nearly so pronounced as Anonmis presents it. And yes, you are right there are examples of the communal parenting that you describe.

            There’s a nice short presentation by Levi-Strauss entitled “Parenthood Revisited” that offers up a number of examples of alternative structures to the dominant (and recent) capitalist nuclear family model that is assumed (and argued) to have biological and/or pre-capitalist roots. I can’t find a link, but if I do, I’ll post.

        • bella_cose

          Also, I think if women were naturally predisposed to prostitution, it would be no big deal, and women wouldn’t mind it at all, because that would just be the way of the world. However, around 90% of women in prostitution want to get out, and are terribly traumatised by their ordeal. In the past, in marriages where women were forced to stay at home, providing sex and domestic labor for economic security, most were miserable. If they weren’t, there would be no feminism. I would think evolution would have found a way to make such arrangements easier on women, perhaps by making them less intelligent, passive, and without a sex drive. Oh wait! That’s what men said about women for years!

          Obviously, they were quite wrong. I wonder what else they’ve been wrong about?

        • corvid

          But we don’t want to come out on top of some “Battle of the Sexes” Ms. Anonymous – pardon me, “Anne”. We want freedom! We don’t want men to cater to our every whim in domesticity, in a reversal of patriarchal roles. We don’t want to be caught in an endless battle against sexual intrusion by males and barter with them using our bodies. We want to end the subjugation of women as a class by men as a class. Being able to “choose a mate” is great, but on its own it’s not “power”, and it is not domination by any means. It’s damage control.

        • lizor

          Oh for the love of….

          “Within anthropology, it’s believed that in order for the human brain to develop to its larger size, the woman had to achieve a unique anatomical feat in labour – in which the baby does an about-turn half-way through, limited by women’s hip size, and having babies born very dependent for a long period of time (one of the most uniquely vulnerable / useless species at birth and for a long time after) – it is postulated that there was a “sex for meat” trade-off. Essentially it is believed that men were pushed to greater paternal support and investment in women and their young, by communal sex strikes and essentially rewarding men with sex for their additional labour and provision including of high protein foods.”

          Look AnnOnamis. I’m an Anthropologist and this is the biggest pile of horse shit I have read in a long time. Please just stop it.

          To all the others who have responded to this nonsense, none of it is “believed” within the discipline of anthropology. There may be some dick-heads stuck away somewhere presenting this sort of bio-destiny crap, but if they are, you can bet it’s broadly and roundly contested by the majority of scholars.

          Ug. I’m actually nauseated.

          • Lizor,

            With respect, the theory you’re referring to is the majority view across anthropology and archaeology (and neuroanatomy) in respect of the evolution of human cognition. My own MA course in the subject was UCL (University College London), and I’d be happy to pass on the reading list of all the sources supporting that theory. It’s also taught by University of Oxford and University of Cambridge professors.

            It addresses in particular how the human brain increased in size from other primates, addressing the nutritional requirements that a larger brain requires, the long dependency of human infants for survival (who are unable to walk, talk, feed themselves or survive unaided for a long period of time – regarded as unique in the animal species), and the evolutionary adaptions in the way women give birth unlike any species with the birth canal flip-around as an adaptation to larger brain size and restricted by hips and birth canal size, and the ‘hidden / concealed oestrus’ in women.

            How did women get this extra protein and nutritional resource? How were they supported to look after small children? It is believed this was by rallying greater paternal investment. And the most widely espoused theory goes along the meat for sex. I don’t necessarily myself buy into it myself and in fact I suspect it’s a much more complex array of factors, but it’s certainly the ‘standard’ view within the field. And the one taught at the world’s top universities.

            Certainly high protein food didn’t drop from the sky, it came from somewhere. Certainly hidden oestrus didn’t evolve for no purpose or reason. Humans have a high level of paternal investment which has come about, compared to other species. Sex is a part of this, and what part this may be is debated. But it’s also often discussed in relation to the face-to-face missionary position (believed to go toward greater intimacy and bonding), and women being able to have sex outside their fertility window to help bonds and aid support of themselves, their young and family members.

          • bella_cose

            Could it also have something to do with the fact that men are human, and it’s possible they were capable of empathy, and maybe wanted to help care for other people in their groups, even infants and children? Of course, I’m talking about before we started socializing them into psychopaths.

          • nightcap

            Wow, a theory created by men emphasizes the importance of men. Whoda thunk it?

            This theory reverses cause and effect. If big-headed babies evolved before women had sufficient nutrition, they would have died. Nutrition must have come first, and then the big-headed babies.

            Hidden estrus is not unusual. It has nothing to do with provisioning.

          • hypatia

            I don’t know how long ago you studied for your MA, but it’s pretty well understood at this point that in hunter/gather societies, the vast majority of the food came from women’s gathering activities. Studies on modern hunter/gatherer groups have confirmed this. And in agricultural societies, women do the majority of the farming (even today, women make up the majority of the world’s farmers, despite Western stereotypes to the contrary). Having two children myself, I’m well-versed in the birthing process and in the extreme dependence and prolonged helplessness of human offspring, including the evolution of the human brain and of the consequences of walking upright for the shape and size of the female pelvis. None of that is news, but the leap from there to this meat-for-sex business is hardly logical or settled. Thanks to capitalism, most of us are now stuck with the nuclear family as the primary unit of social/economic organization, but it wasn’t always so, and there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that women didn’t live in groups and help each other out (the Mosuo in China, for example, are matrilineal and don’t even have a word in their language for “father”).

            This entire idea of women as completely helpless and dependent is a bunch of evo-psych nonsense, and the fact that a university (even a very good one) would teach a poorly-supported view of human history and that just so happens to prop up patriarchal nonsense is hardly surprising.

          • EEU

            Not an anthropologist but I’m pretty sure that women could and still can hunt. Two hands, two feet – it’s all you need. Why is there an assumption that it was only males who hunted?

          • vagabondi

            Anne O Nomis: In Woman: an Intimate Geography, Natalie Angier suggests that the extra calories needed by a pregnant or nursing mother to make our big fancy brains is mostly supplied by other females. Not by males, impregnators or not.

            It’s called the Grandmother Hypothesis. The idea is that first we developed menopause, and increased female lifespans. (Males have halfway been dragged along intothe ability to achieve old age, but they never live as long as we do.) Then, since there were post-reproductive women to help with the gathering and hunting, we were able to invest more in the long pregnancy/ long childhood.

            Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s book Mother Nature seems to support this as well, though she never uses the words “Grandmother Hypothesis” directly.

            I don’t have either book handy right now so I can’t direct you to either of their sources. But Hrdy is a fantastic anthropologist and did a lot of the fieldwork herself.

            If we had depended on men for food, trading sex or not, the big brain experiment would have been a short one. Nowhere in the world do men produce or bring in most of the food, except for where it involves huge machines that they can play with.

          • Vagibondi,

            Completely agree with you on the grandmother hypothesis and its relevance. I’m very familiar with it, and it makes complete sense to me that that would be the case and form part of what went on in evolutionary and social terms.

            I do however also think that there’s something going on with sex, power and evolution. Chris Knight wrote an interesting book which I don’t necessarily agree with wholeheartedly, but was looking at menstruation, symbolism, ochre, rituals and sex strikes. (I think Camille Power from memory also took up some of the ideas applying them to for example Minoan snake Goddess figurines, exposed breasts wielding symbols of danger and stay-away.)

          • vagabondi

            So you are aware of the Grandmother hypothesis, which matches up better with observations, and still you prefer to think that our human and pre human ancesters were like some kind of primordial Victorian nuclear family, where mom better put out because dad is the only one bringing home the bacon and if she doesn’t her babies will starve?

            There have been incredibly detailed analyses, all over the world, of who collects what kind of calories and shares with whom. Over and over again it has been shown that in societies where men do most of the big game hunting, the food a man brings back is given out broadly to most of the group in ways that will enhance his status, NOT primarily to his sexual partners or their children. If he favors particular women, it’s much more likely to be his sisters.

            These analyses have also shown that the calories and yes, the amount of protein brought in by these hunts is insufficient to support even the hunter, let alone for him to support his wife and kids as though he were a 1950s American. Women are supporting themselves, and each other, and the men too. Men contribute exciting treats at intervals too great to really keep people alive.

            I was assuming that your knowledge of anthropology was simply shallow and/or out of date. But if you’re aware of this stuff and still spouting that man-the-mighty-hunter, woman-the-housewife/prostitute junk, I can only assume that you’re deliberately trying to use false information to push an agenda.

          • Ingold has written extensively about his frustration with the impassible divide between biological and socio-cultural anthropologies. As a cultural anthropologist, I have had little exposure to biological anthropology but I did assume that it had moved beyond the shamefully colonial roots of the discipline. My studies have focussed on social inequality, cultural economy, epistemologies in relation to power differentials, and ontologies. Most people know that anthropology grew inside of and because of European colonial expansion, and that its foundational theories were built in service to that project. Undergrad theory courses cover the early linear universalizing evolutionary theories that were applied to cultural formation, but those have been roundly dismissed for their blatant racism.

            The embedding of sex as commodity, of prostitution, etc , (as you represent it) reeks of much the same sort of agenda. If such theories were tabled in any of my seminars they’d be rapidly shredded. What is central to anthropology as I know it is the vigilant critique of colonialist othering, of projection of our own cultural assumptions within the disciplinary theories.

            The idea that females are so disabled by childbirth and babies as to render them dependent in the way you describe or that early males would barter for a fuck is unprovable. It’s based on the same invented theories that enabled colonial expansion and exploitation of non-european people, and I guess its unsurprising that patriarchy-indentified individuals like yourself would embrace a set of theories to naturalize the control of women through dissociative, objectified, alienating sex. You also base your argument on the contested idea that hunting activities were rigidly divided between the sexes: a hypothesis that is mostly post-enlightenment capitalist conjecture.

            When you wrote your statements naturalizing prostitution and your sweeping descriptions of common house design in matrilineal cultures I took it to be non-scholarship. I guess I was mistaken. It’s just really poor scholarship. We’ve all heard propositions from social science that early human society looked just like Levittown U.S.A. without the lawn mowers and beauty salons, but I really thought no one took that shit seriously anymore. Again, I was apparently mistaken.

            As for your overall argument: the other part of my background is in the live arts. For several decades I’ve practiced and taught various forms of body work and body awareness, performance technique and creative process. I’ve done so in many venues, including Long Houses. I am very familiar with the transformative capacities of sensation, physical movement or restriction and of costume, character and performance. I’m familiar with the the concepts you laid out to edify us by informing us about the appeal of pain and domination scenarios. I just find your framing of those capacities to be rather narrow and limited. Dropping down into pain, surrendering to humiliation and/or playing at cruelty can feel terrific, but it is a practice away from connection to the other. It’s inherently individualistic and anti-collective. And yes, I know that the bonds that grow out of those negotiations can be strong and intimate, and that there is a community around the practices. I’m talking about the body practice itself.

            This is a comment thread on a blog post about revelations that a well-know Canadian personality is a serial rapist and abuser; one who hides his crimes behind “consent” and “sexual freedom”. You stepped in to let us all know what bad feminists we are to critique BDSM and how we are supposedly denying women the ability to “explore their sexuality”. What you do not/will not comprehend is that we’ve heard this time and time again. You seem to have such a hard-on for your own role as expert Dom that it seems to be outside of your own comprehension to consider that we do not want to embrace phallic womanhood. We’re not interested slipping up and down the narrow ladder of patriarchal capitalism. We have no interest on being on the winning side of Thatcherite individualism. We do not believe that embracing the innately capitalist patriarchal games of dom/sub are going to reproduce a more just culture, no matter what sort of a personal power trip it might be to receive the attention and approval cookies you undoubtedly enjoy by not only towing the line, but doing your bit to justify it.

            Do you seriously think playing “bad dog, no biscuit!” with the boys is going to lessen the number of incidents like the one that triggered the writing of this blog post? Playing Dom is no more of an outlier role than bleaching your hair blond, spraying on a tan, getting a tattoo across your sacrum and humping a pole. In fact the two are relics of the same commodity chain and I am sure I could as easily troll for fragments of cultural information that I could then misrepresent and manipulate to make a case for it having some sort of legitimacy as female power.

            Your case, as it pertains to dismantling the sex class power differential is unsupportable.

            It’s also boring.

          • corvid

            Lizor, words are mostly failing me on this right now, but your comments are amazing. Thank you.

          • bella_cose

            Brilliantly put, lizor. Thank you.

          • Thanks corvid and bella_cose. I am always enriched by reading both of your contributions here.

          • Meh

            Oh, I know. The ‘communal sex strikes’ thing was especially really funny/nauseating. Reminded me of that ancient Greek play Lysistrata, where the women wanted their men to come home from the war so they issued a sex strike and all the men came rushing back. The ancient Greek’s considered Lysistrata a comedy, because it’s hilarious to think that women hold all this sexual power over men, when men are able to screw each other (and the prostituted women of the time). It’s utter nonsense.

        • nightcap

          There are a shit ton of theories in anthropology. Some of them are well supported with evidence; some of them have no evidence at all. Many of them, unsurprisingly, privilege a male perspective.

          “Essentially it is believed that men were pushed to greater paternal support and investment in women and their young, by communal sex strikes and essentially rewarding men with sex for their additional labour and provision including of high protein foods.”

          Believed by whom exactly?

          Increased support from males most likely came with increased monogamy. It doesn’t necessarily follow that this was paternal support. Males who found that they had fewer opportunities to mate may have chosen to help raise their mother’s other children (their siblings and half-siblings) instead. The fact that there is so much variation in the amount and quality of men’s provisioning makes it quite clear that there was no strong selection pressure here.

          And then we have the evidence that has been distorted for clickbait and/or ideological purposes. Meat for sex. The chimp study. How it is presented to the public: female chimps trade sex for meat from males. What it actually showed: some males shared meat with females, and later when the females came into estrus, they mated more with males who had shared meat than those that didn’t (chimpanzees mate promiscuously and even in this study the females mated most with the alpha males regardless of whether or not those males had provisioned them with meat, second most often with lower-ranking males who had provisioned them and least often with lower-ranking males who had not provisioned them). What is missed in the popular version is that these exchanges take place in the context of ongoing relationships.

          Adelie penguins. Females do not “reward” males for bringing them stones. Adelie penguins spend a fair bit of time stealing stones from each other for their nests. The research in this cased showed that SOME females SOMEtimes will mate with a male at his nest before taking one of his stones back to her nest. If a male mates with a female at her nest, he does not take a stone. Here again we have male-dominated culture leaping to the conclusion that this is prostitution rather than considering that this is perhaps female strategy.

          Oh yes, the “dual mating strategy” theory. A bunch of undergraduate women sitting in front of computers rating the “attractiveness” of computer-generated images of men’s faces for extra credit in their Psych 101 courses. Is this an interesting finding? Sure. Any evidence that it’s applicable to real life? No.

          Feeding and reproduction are functions of ecology. That’s what it comes down to. There are countless variations on this theme and not one of them is any more “natural” than the others.

  • MSS

    Why does someone get off by humiliating or giving pain to another and why does anyone get off by having it done to them? Is bdsm more popular now than in the past? What is pornography’s role in this? Since pornography is mostly made for/by men how does its prevalance affect women’s development of their own authentic sexuality?

    • Zoe

      Considering the judgmental tone not only of the article, but of the numerous comments, I don’t think you will have many answers here. For one, discussing openly this topic demands openness and trust. Bigotry is one of the most counter-productive reaction one can possible have as it completely stops any meaningful discussion. Its trying to control somebody’s else behavior, to have them conform to your standards by inducing toxic shame. I can only say that what Ghomashi has done is unethical by all the standards of the BDSM community. Consent is key. It honestly feels like this post is a bait to further attack people who practice a sexuality that does not meet some sort of mythical kosher standards of mental sanity. Once upon a time, gay sex was deemed unhealthy and immoral.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Yeah totally turn a conversations about abhorrent male violence against women into an ‘attack’ on kinksters.

      • MSS

        I am truly curious and think that only through listening and understanding can we further this debate. I hoped that on an anonymous forum like this I might have gotten some answers or at least a link to some helpful articles. Simple one or two line answers about the sub having the true power doesn’t explain anything to me.

        Also, it seems to me that we haven’t really heard any accounts of J.G. and bdsm. What we have heard about is accounts of assault. I am wondering if the prevalence of violent pornography (not bdsm) encourages assault on women. I have heard of many women shocked to be strangled during sex. That to me sounds like assault. When women are coerced/bullied into sex or verbally or physically assaulted I wish we had the personal power to recognize it for what it is and stand up for ourselves with support from society.

        What influence does pornography have on men and women when it is often made from a violent male point of view? How can women more fully develop their own authentic sexuality and power not authored by pornographers?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Well and I wonder why women thought, as they were being or after they were assaulted, “maybe he’s just into this,” “maybe we just need to communicate better,” etc.??

          Because all this mainstreaming of BDSM/Fifty Shades of Grey crap has convinced women that violence in the bedroom is totally normal and exciting and sexy!

          • MSS

            I agree that we need to figure out why it is that women often think these things and are in shock, denial or feel helpless. I think it is not only what we are taught with porn, music videos, novels, etc. but how we are not taught through media, socialization, education, to develop our own sexuality and power apart from that authored by others, i.e. women often care more about their relationship with a man, what he thinks of her, if he desires her, what other people will think…than how she feels, what she thinks and wants).

        • lizor

          “I hoped that on an anonymous forum like this I might have gotten some answers or at least a link to some helpful articles. ”

          Try reading through the archives of this blog. There’s a tonne of information. People don’t have time do reiterate for you what’s been published here many times.

          • MSS


            I have read a lot of this blog. Talk of anthropology and subversion do not answer my questions. This quote is the closest I have come to an answer:

            C.K. Egbert – October 28th, 2014 at 5:43 pm
            …As a professor of women’s studies, I’m assuming you are aware of adaptive preferences and how our self-conceptions are strongly shaped by our social conditions. We will not want something unless we are treated by others to believe we are entitled to it, and that is precisely the problem: women are not told that they are entitled to anything but pain.

            As that is not pro bdsm I am still looking for something to help me understand it better. If people do not have time, I certainly don’t hold it against them. I also, do not have time to go through all of the pointless arguing to find the nuggets of information.

          • Not this single blog post. This blog. Go to the search window and search “BDSM”.

          • MSS

            Lots of great anti-bdsm points.

          • It’s a shame if feminism as a movement aligns itself with an anti-BDSM stance, disseminiated from a lack of understanding about scene, the individuals and community practices of what are some of the most diverse imaginable.

            I first got in proximity to BDSMers when I was managing a design showroom in Melbourne, whose carpark happened by chance to be a few doors down from a professional dungeon which catered for some 15 Dominatrices (& switches and submissives). It was one of two in the nearby area, and the Dominatrices them formed part of the geography of place. High heel stilettos of boots clicked along the pavements, and the local bars named their cocktails with a nod of the hat to the Dominatrices.

            I was with a group of friends in one such bar when a woman in a chaise nearby told her slave to kiss her foot, and he dropped to the floor obediently to comply. I didn’t meet these women until a birthday party at which some were in attendance. One was a retired kindergarten teacher, one was a circus trapeze artist, one was a Chinese medicine doctor, one was a permaculture expert specializing in the irrigation of desert environments. These were interesting women. And was curious to understand what they did, and its history and how long it had been around for.

            I looked for a book. There was none. And I spent the next four years writing what would be the first book in the world on the subject. There was another book published just before mine, from an outsider’s sociological perspective, by Danielle Lindemann, for anyone who may be interested from an academic point of view.

            My study involved a formal one year internship of 18 hours a week training, under tutelage of more than a dozen Dominatrices. It also involved experiencing everything you learn from both sides – learning to cane and experiencing being caned, and so on.

            To research the longer history, I had to go to Europe and study at the British Museum and British Library in particular, over several years, gathering the material. The subject is so taboo, most everything published was underground forbidden books privately printed. So in the former collection of Henry Spencer Ashbee, the Victorian erotomaniac. Distributed by mail and by the women themselves, or from under the counter at a specialist shop to those in the know. The women were typically called ‘Governesses’ (with a wink), as well as by names such as the Whipstress, School Mistress, Lady Judge, Lady Termagant, and so on.

            In the modern dungeons, as well as Dominatrices working there, there were professional submissives. Just as there were historically. I got to hang out with these women a lot. Conversation was candid, sharing and at times intimate.

            The professional submissives (who were rarer in numbers) at the dungeons were there out of a love of submission. One described it to me as being like having the job of a chocolate taster for Cadbury, being paid for eating chocolate. She loved submission. I understand why.

            The professional BDSM scene is sex work but has some tendencies which are perhaps different from conventional sex work. BDSM itself emphasizes consent, coming to understand yourself and what you like, setting your limits, communicating, reflecting on the play and your responses, what ‘works’ and what doesn’t ‘work’ for you. Submissives become very adept at understanding the flavour of what they enjoy, and wish to offer. They will often call themselves terms like a ‘pleasure-puss’. Touch me like this, not like this. I want you to flog me, but the way I like. I find ecstasy when you start slowly, then increase, then as I begin to resist pull back, let the endorphins flood my body, then push harder again, mmmm.. like that.

            They often want to play with Mistresses as well. Some form relationships with each other. It is very frequent to find Dominatrices dating another, or playing with another for pleasure, in various dynamics.

            It’s a shame there hasn’t been more written on the subject of BDSM, within academia. There’s a memoir entitled ‘The Pleasure’s All Mine: Memoir of a Professional submissive’ by Joan Kelly, to whom I have no affiliation nor ever met.

            Dominatrices are operating in a patriarchal / commodity / commercial environment. However they are also in the habit of challenging male authority, well beyond their work. It’s interesting how many practise a kind of life mastery. In fact ‘life mistressery’, to escape the male term of ‘master’. They exercise entrepreneurial control over their business, choose their look, their style, a kind of super-identity rather than a false identity. Channeling their rolemodels of female power, from sources which range from mythical, literary, filmic, and so on. It is not merely tailored for male desire, it is tailored from their own self-expression and identification with female power. There’s some interesting juice their for feminists I believe, if they were willing to be sufficiently open-minded to consider it.

            They practice a craft which is passed on like a batten of erotic wisdom, from senior Mistress to apprentice. It take a year or more typically to train and become qualified, within the Australian model. This is the case too in the majority in the USA. The UK is a different because the law restricts sex workers working together, or anyone profiting off the earnings of a sex worker. It’s designed to prevent pimping. However it has the run-on effect of making it more dangerous for sex workers to work together, to train, to supervise a more junior Mistress for a more complex suspension bondage scene with a client, and safety wise. It may be a good thing for preventing pimping however, I can’t speak to its effects or usefulness in that regard.

            A number of Dominatrices work as ‘switches’, offering both Domination services and submissive services. This may be to take opportunity of more commercial versatility, but in real on-the-ground observation, it’s also because many are into BDSM and enjoy it from both sides. And they enjoy the challenge, the experience, the sensory aspects of switching.

            In Australia it’s a significant investment to spend a year training without pay. For a Dominatrix to set up her own dungeon it’s a 60,000 + investment. So it’s not something they just “drop into” from desperation or lack of options. It tends to be that the person is interested in BDSM, wants to learn, wants to experience, and is attracted by a subversive career in domination. Those who think it’s going to be a massive money-spinner drop out quickly when they see the reality. That it’s actually a lot of work, they need to learn a lot before they practice, there’s significant set-up and attire, and it’s not an easy cash cow.

            The 5 submissives I know in the local dungeons love submission. They either ‘do’ other jobs as well, or are studying as well. They develop sexually submissive relationships in their personal life. They love experiencing more submission at work.

            Someone in the blog feed mentioned ‘addiction’, and to be honest I do think that there is an element of that in it. It’s one element of many. There’s the curiosity of exploration, of exploring oneself, of exploring relationships and what is possible within them. There’s the sensation play. There’s the exploring fantasies, roleplays. Understanding your own desires, and understanding other people’s desires. Guaging a sense of the ‘underground’, the repressed, and the way pressure builds up when people’s personalities are squished -for lack of a better word. It’s a cliche but there’s some truth in it – that CEOs of companies seek to be put into bondage, hooded, sensory deprivation, to be told what to do, controlled. To have all responsibilities taken off them – to enormous relief. There’s men who developed fetishes in childhood from exposure to things that gave them a thrill – frightening, taboo, curious, arousing, ritualized. Repeated over-again in memory, reinforcing the thrill. And suring up perhaps the neuronal connections in the brain between the ‘thing’ and arousal-effect.

            I met also many people within the lifestyle BDSM scene. Lifestyle Mistresses who dominated their husband. This tended to differ in form from professional domination in terms of the women’s desires taking precedence. In anecdotal terms, lifestyle Mistresses had their husband doing more housework, running more errands, they saw he enjoyed to be feminized so they would have him in a French maid outfit. They would have him perform cunnilingus, sitting with knees on a cushion while they were seated. They didn’t tend to whip or inflict pain as much, other than spankings and what we would refer to as ‘domestic discipline’. Although former professional Dominatrices would tend to use the more ‘hardcore’ whips and other implements, which masochist submissive men tend to seek, and the former pro-Dommes enjoy giving. Having mastered (mistressed) the practice, enjoying the physical exertion, the man’s enjoyment, and taking pleasure themselves in the feeling of power, the aesthetic, the peformance, the elegance of the line of whip and their form – like a dancer perhaps is the best analogy I can give. And expert craftswoman.

            In any case, I believe there’s some interesting ‘juice’ in BDSM. In the sheer range of play, in dismantling the status quo, in fucking with gender, of exploring desire, of understanding one’s desire and pleasure and limits – psychologically, ideologically. Of contracting the terms of a relationship afresh, on each party, considering respective desires and needs and exchange, rather than the traditional roles. On setting and communicating limits. On negotiating scenes. On empathy, after-care, nurturing and love.

            I did five years in the field. I personally am not practising nor exploring BDSM at this time, nor am I sure I will re-visit. I feel like I gleaned what I wanted to glean in that time.

            I certainly think it’s been interesting in practising such power dynamics and play, to see the operation of power in my everyday life. I was offered a job recently in the management one of the largest high-end furniture showrooms, with power dynamics more oppressive than any of seen in any dungeon. The rigidity, lack of negotiation of terms, one-sided consideration for the company profits, the denial of higher knowledge to keep staff within a particular division or restricted to their role, to avoid ‘rocking the boat’, to impose regulations from the top-down without consultation. I chose note to take up the role, with my sense of the ‘flavour’ all the more clear from my experience in power dynamics.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Feminism as a movement doesn’t align itself with an anti-BDSM stance… If you read almost any other of the bigger feminist blogs/websites in North America you’ll find a decidedly pro-BDSM position.

          • C.K. Egbert

            1) If you are being controlled and told what to do, there is no affirmative consent. There is only consent as lack of active resistance. That’s about as bad a version of “consent” as one can get.
            2) You have never answered ANY concern any feminist has brought up about the practice: the grooming, the manipulation, the coercion, inuring women to painful sex acts, using pornography to “train” women into sex, or how this relates to actual reenactment of trauma for victims, victim-blaming, etc. The fact that you realize this is about training peoples’ sensory responses around subjugation and abuse should clue you into why this is so problematic.
            3) The situation you are talking about is a “professionalized” and elitist practice; you thus have a very narrow view of it. That may be fine for your book writing, but not for actually understanding the social implications and how it relates to women’s subordination.
            4) Feminists have researched and discussed BDSM. For decades. Numerous women here have been trying to recover from the “kink” scene, numerous women have described the coercion and abuse they’ve experienced on account of this pro-abuse/pro-inequality stance toward sexuality. Just because what feminists say isn’t what you want to hear about BDSM/kink doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are talking about.
            5) Dismantling the status quo? I know this is popular in academia, but…no. You aren’t doing anything to stop violence against women. You aren’t even condemning it.

            Meghan, if I may make a suggestion, we need a BDSM cheat sheet.

          • I would be very interested in reading feminist critiques of BDSM from those who actually understand it and have inside knowledge of it. If anyone can direct me to relevant material, I would be keen to read it.

            My experience was within the BDSM scene as well as professional practices, so “no” – my view is not the narrow one you presume.

            I would say it is entirely possible for an individual to get into an abusive relationship – whether BDSM or vanilla – and for a variety of complex reasons, not get out of it. Whether that’s a domestic abuse situation of power and control, with low self-esteem and increasing sense of powerlessness. I feel very sorry and enormous empathy for anyone who has gone through such an experience. I think a lot of soul-searching comes about from such experiences, reflecting on how one has enabled a person to treat them in such a way, and how society can turn a blind eye to ‘private situations’ and wider societal implications of domestic abuse.

            To reply to the questions you set out:
            1) You are not being controlled with no affirmative consent in BDSM play. You discuss your interests, what play you wish to engage in, and what your boundaries and hard limits are in advance. BDSMers take a very negative view of anyone who would violate a person’s hard limits. This would be treated as a non-consensual violation, as an assault, as rape, and BDSMers would be very anti that person and warn others, if not – actually report it.
            BDSMers also practice ‘informed consent’, thus taking extra time to discuss the possible risks of play, and clarification over any concerns, to mutual agreement and understanding, before play begins.
            In addition to the forward discussion and framing of play, the submissive IN ADDITION is given a ‘safe word’. And/or hand signal. This allows them to change their mind at any time, to communicate their discomfort or desire to stop with any activity. It may be that they have an unexpected reaction to something they previously thought they would be ok with. It may be that they are uncomfortable or in pain or not enjoying themselves. Whatever the reason, they can at any time and for any reason use their safeword.
            BDSMers also have communication and talking after their play, and what is referred to as “after-care”. This means that if a submissive sought out particular play, went through with it, and subsequently felt uncomfortable with something that came up… they can talk about it with their Dominant and with others. They can process through any aspect, reflect on their own reactions, psychological and emotional processing, alter their forward-framework for what areas they wish to explore or not. Set limits in accordance with what they feel comfortable with. And they are encouraged to do so.

            There is however an onus on the submissive of taking some personal responsibility for communication and using their safe word.

            It is the responsibility of the Dominant to ensure play is “safe, sane and consensual”, to check in with their submissive throughout and after play. To provide appropriate “after-care”, and generally a duty of care towards the submissive.

            I hope this clarifies some points in respect of BDSM.

          • Nicely done C.K. Egbert. Thanks.

          • Thank you so much for this!

          • hypatia

            We’ve reached the end of the nesting for this comment thread, but this is meant for Anne:

            “How one has enabled a person to treat them in such a way…”

            This statement, here, tells me you know nothing about the dynamics of abuse. Nothing. Which makes any claim you have about anything being not abusive just utterly null and void.

            Victims of abuse do not “enable” anything. They are not codependent. They do not “allow” themselves to be abused. These ideas are pernicious myths, and they are victim-blaming. A person is responsible only for her own choices, not for others’ choices (like the choice to be abusive), and not for the constraints that both her individual abuser and the patriarchy at large put upon the choices available to her.

            You are right in that the experience of abuse is a cause for soul-searching for many women, but women wondering how they might have contributed to their own abuse (through “enabling” the abuser or anything else) are just the measure of trying to sort this stuff out while trapped in a culture that hates women.

          • corvid

            “It’s a shame if feminism as a movement aligns itself with an anti-BDSM stance, disseminiated from a lack of understanding about scene, the individuals and community practices of what are some of the most diverse imaginable.”

            How could this POSSIBLY be the case when we have to sit through narrative after excruciatingly self-important-masturbatory-brain-fart narrative from the BDSM camp? Christ on a cracker, I’ve been hearing all about this crap since I was about 12 (old enough to read the weekly free newspaper; nowadays it would be the internet i.e. being old enough to read in complete sentences and click a mouse.) As Ms. Nomis explains, it’s intricately tied up with commercial enterprise and it strikes me that this could indeed be why every BDSM narrative has all the puke-worthy flourishes of an advertisement for fine fountain pens! Sorry, not buying it.

          • corvid

            *Not knocking fountain pens. They’re actually useful.

          • “How could this POSSIBLY be the case when we have to sit through narrative after excruciatingly self-important-masturbatory-brain-fart narrative from the BDSM camp? ”

            hahahha! So true!

          • pisaquari

            Anne, I don’t suppose you’d find it very respectful for a bunch of people to take your oppressive management situation and write dissertations on how hot it is in this thread.

            BDSM celebrates that rigidity, that lack of egalitarianism. Two people who enjoy acting out non-egalitarianism cannot go onto say they love egalitarianism (sorry/not sorry).

          • “… an anti-BDSM stance, disseminiated from a lack of understanding about scene, the individuals and community practices…”

            Where do you get the idea that no one “understands the scene” or has interacted with “the” community and it’s practices? Your entire stance is based on a fallacy.

            “The subject is so taboo, most everything published was underground forbidden books privately printed. ”

            Again, here you go with the fantasy. When I visited the UK in the 1980s there were dominatrix cards filling every phone box. London was littered with them. “Personal Services” was a hit film in the 80s. A 1990s tv reality series in Canada called “kink” edified the BDSM scene. An ongoing storyline in one of the most popular U.S. crime shows involved an alluring dungeon mistress who continually entices the lead forensics investigator. The mistress uniform is assimilated into popular fashion. The most visible advocate for full decriminalization of buying sex in Canada is a Dominatrix who marches around parliament slapping the furniture with her whip – a publicity stunt that would never work if such imagery were in any way unfamiliar, “underground” or subversive. Most people in North America are well aware of the hugely profitable “kink-dot-com” empire…

            And that’s just off the top of my head.

            “It’s a shame there hasn’t been more written on the subject of BDSM, within academia. ”

            Right. A search on a university library site offers numerous academic articles.

            Your lengthy autobiography tells us nothing we don’t know about bdsm. What it tells us about you is, as I pointed out before, that you regard the narrow range of your own interest to be universal. Your training experience and the protocols for getting into the business in Australia are only one aspect of a much broader, very visible and appallingly popular phenomenon.

            When I read your posts I get a mental image of a pit bull with her jaws clamped onto a stick that she will. not. let. go. of.

            You are so absorbed in your [innacurate] presumption of your own unique experience and expertise that you cannot consider that anyone else knows as much or more than you. You do not acknowledge or engage in any of the ideas or counter-postions put forth here. You just take up a lot of space with a perfect replica of mansplaining, fully outfitted with an air of the detached expert in a cloudy mist of self-regard. You even try to claim your book was the first while simultaneously admitting that it was not.

            I was going to ask that you respond to C.K. Egbert’s clear and articulate reply to your latest post (this being one of many replies that you will not acknowledge), but honestly, I don’t care. I have read enough of your posts to conclude that there is nothing of value to be gleaned from reading what you have to say.

            All the best with the “power play”.

          • I realize that my “pit bull” comment might have come across as name-calling. It was not meant to be. I honestly did get that image very strongly in my head when I read the last couple of comments from you AnneO. It was meant as illustration only and might better have been left out.

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’m responding here to your comment below:
            “There is however an onus on the submissive of taking some personal responsibility for communication and using their safe word.”

            This is a victim-blaming attitude. It is NOT the “onus” of the submissive to use their safe word. Rape is not only defined by the presence of a “no” but by the absence of a “yes.” It is not a woman’s responsibility to either verbally or physically resist abuse. It is not her responsibility to “enforce her boundaries” (and yes, I’ve heard this from “kink” people before in reference to a woman who was raped). It is by no means easy for people to say “no,” particularly when they have been trained into thinking they merely objects to be used (from day one, no less). I’ve mentioned this on the other blog post, humans are very susceptible to social coercion. That becomes extremely heightened with regard to women, who are told that they are not entitled to bodily integrity.

            Affirmative consent means that I am actively consenting DURING the encounter. Not beforehand. Not afterward. NOW. (As someone else brilliantly stated on another thread, by the time someone says “no” the abuse has already occurred.) The idea of “aftercare” for me indicates an unhealthy encounter. If you had a genuinely good, healthy, mutual, and respectful sexual encounter, there’s no need to “process” what happened; that seems to me to indicate that there is some emotional trauma going on (beyond merely talking about what worked and what didn’t).

            As for people who’ve been “in” BDSM…There are multiple women on this thread and on this site who’ve been willing to share their stories. The feminist critique of BDSM (and pornography, and prostitution) has been from women who have listened to women who have been subjected to these practices (Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon are two examples that come to mind). And you forget that we all have to live in a culture where the eroticization of abuse, subjugation, and coercion is the norm and the practice. We’ve all seen a side of BDSM, just by having to live in a culture in which we are hammered over the head with how sexy and empowering it is.

          • Anne O Nomis

            Apologies for not replying to threads, which I’ve only just seen. (Having begun a new job and flat-tack.)

            To Pisquari, BDSM doesn’t “celebrate rigidity”. In fact the BDSM scene embraces diversity, of sexuality, of sexual identity, of forms of play, of sexual preferences.

            BDSM also isn’t necessarily non-egalitarian. Many BDSM-ers “switch”, that is they switch from playing Dominant role to submissive role, and vice-versa back the other way.

            People’s fantasies are rarely politically-correct in their constitution. They grow in the fertile ground of the taboo. Esther Perel has some quite interesting things to say on this level.

            To Lizor, speaking for myself, I certainly didn’t realize before I begun my research how BDSM play worked, its vast range of play, its social embrace of such diverse interests, or its transformative processes. That was all news for me. And what gives me the idea that some others on this post don’t understand BDSM is from some that display of common myths and misconceptions that no-one in the BDSM scene or who has explored it to any depth would express. Some have expressed an understanding of BDSM, to varying degrees.

            For clarity, my book was the first book in the world on the history of the Dominatrix. Yes, the first. There was no book or any journal article on that subject. It was also one of the only books on the Dominatrix more generally. I begun writing in 2009, and not long before my book came out, a sociological study of the Dominatrix came out. My book is still the only book on the history, and the only book that details what Dominatrices ‘do’. The academic articles that exist are only on topics of Dominatrices choice of working names, and a comparison with Bordieu in terms of Dominatrices self-identifying as artists with a similar venacular.

            In relation to my explaining that the subject of the Dominatrix was so taboo there was very little written on it, you write:
            “Again, here you go with the fantasy. When I visited the UK in the 1980s there were dominatrix cards filling every phone box….”

            In my book I explain that the only sources of the Dominatrix that existed were in “forbidden books” and flagellation prints which circulated in the underground (I’m referring to the 16th-19th Century), and within the mid-20th Century only in rare photographs given to magazine editors of the era (who I had to track down to obtain these rare photographs), and in ephemera such as small cards in Soho in windows of tobacconists and phone boxes. There was an autobiography of Monique Von Cleef which I drew from. Apart from that there is very little. The reason is that the subject was so taboo it was difficult to publish. (Indeed my own book ran into exactly this problem due to its subject matter, rather than quality.)

            Also Dominatrices operate typically under a psuedonym, so when they closed down or retired they would often disappear over night, and their furniture would be sold off to other Dominatrices and there would be no presence of them on the archival record.

            The rare papers of Theresa Berkley came to be destroyed at some point soon after her death, and we have only fragments mentioned in other forbidden books in the British Library.

            Only in the late part of the 20th Century has the subject of the Dominatrix come into the mainstream, and even then that came through underground publications filtering into the hands of creatives. (ie Velvet Underground, Madonna referencing the Dominatrix) The subject was still highly subversive.

            The Dominatrix has been a highly taboo and subversive subject. What she got up to in her dungeon space was very secretive, mentioned only in ‘forbidden books’, and Von Cleef was one of the first to write an autobiography of her life – mainly as she’d been subject to a major court case which became a precedent case on people’s right to privacy in their bedroom / personal erotic life.

            The situation bears many similarities to Terri-Jean Bedford, who I interviewed for my book and am still in contact with. And she would absolutely agree that the Dominatrix is a taboo, and one she’s enjoying playing with in taking her case in Bedford v Canada. She also believes that practising female dominance helped give her more courage in challenging male authority. “Because you get used to doing it every day. I’m not scared of them.”

            And no there has been very little academically done on the subject. When I began researching in 2009 there was virtually nothing at all. Hence why fetish magazines who’ve been around 30 years reading everything they can on the subject have called it “ground-breaking”, “unique”, “the first of its kind”.

            I don’t say that to brag or from any place of arrogance. Merely to hold firmly that actually, there was virtually nothing. And certainly nothing on their history, or what Dominatrices actually do. I was motivated to help put their record down so it will be accessible to others, footnoting my sources and the forbidden books so that academics can find these materials which were literally buried in the vaults of the British Library and in old folders of magazine editors of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

            I appreciate that you may have been under the impression that due to the popular culture references to the Dominatrix in CSI, or Mr & Mrs Smith, then it was a kind of known thing. Really only superficially in terms of their appearance, the signifying attire and props of whip and thigh-high boots. I would add to that the film ‘Maitresse’ which came out at the same time as ‘Dominatrix Without Mercy’ and those were really the films which brought the Dominatrix into popular view.

            If you look up newspaper articles, you’ll see that the word Dominatrix itself was relatively new, dating back to 1967. Before this the women were referred to by a variety of different names such as Governess, School Mistress (said with a wink), or as the new ‘bizarre’ style came in, they were referred to as ‘bizarre ladies’.

            I’m not so much a pitbull, but I see that there is something of value – of ‘juice’ – which has not been understood. And which is potentially useful and interesting to feminism. It helps reveal the very apparatus at play in patriarchy. And that to me is of interest.

            To C.K Egbert, I find your point very relevant. In reality, submissives are often the ones orchestrating their own fantasy though. Asking for what they want. How they want it. What their limits are. But it does place responsibility on the submissive for using his/her safeword. There is that personal responsibility put on them.

            It’s an interesting issue. I’ve trained for Women’s Refuge in New Zealand years ago. I’ve witnessed domestic abuse. I also know that statistically there’s a better chance in stopping domestic abuse by the woman going on courses which explain the cycle of domestic abuse, and based on empowerment, as opposed to courses for the man in anger management.

            Women in domestic abuse don’t have a ‘safe word’. Domestic violence is a cycle which revolves around power and control. Often the relationship is both psychologically and physically abusive, the man controls the woman often also financially, cuts her off from her friends with his jealousy and exertion of power, threats and intimidation. The woman is victim, increasingly feels disempowered within the relationship and within her life, typically.

            However in BDSM, the submissive holds power. Power to set out their desires. Power to engage in play, and power to opt out at the drop of a simple word.

            This is not to say that BDSM relationships cannot become abusive. Of course they can. However the BDSM scene and sites like Fetlife form a close support network, supported by ethics of Safe, Sane and Consensual.

            Submissives are encouraged to communicate, their view actively sought out – verbally and in body language.

            Personally if I have a concern, it is someone who has low self-esteem, perhaps a history of abuse, and seeks to play with BDSM in submissive role, isolated from a support network of people in the scene or online. And fall prey to someone who is not merely Dominant-identifying but actually someone with a sinister psychology and desires. Where BDSM could become the vehicle of social acceptability, potentially. That’s the risk, in all honesty.

            So hmmm… interesting issues.

            In any case, I do think BDSM has some ‘juice’ for feminists so I do hope it’s something that becomes more deeply explored, rather than pushed away on assumptions that it’s merely reinforcing patriarchy.
            – It’s a very open and inclusive scene which embraces many identities and desires
            – It plays with dominance and power in such a way that it reveals the apparatus. Making people more aware of it in their daily life, and more able to expose it. (And I think Von Cleef and Bedford – the two Dominatrices who were initially ‘victimized’ by the courts for sex work, later took on the powers and pointed out the hypocrisy of judgment of female sexuality by people who go to see sex workers. I think Foucault has also used his knowledge of BDSM to help reveal the mechanisms of discrimination and punishment of homosexuality, and other sexuality which was formerly criminalized and punished.
            – It emphasizes and elevates the role of the submissive to communicate, consent, or withdraw consent. It develops a mode of personal responsibility for expressing one’s desires and discomfort, negotiating scenes, communicating any ill after-effects or any realizations or developments that came out of play. It also places a duty of care on the submissive to be responsible, ethical, considerate.

            It’s not without its problematics, but it’s an interesting scenario.

            Female dominance in BDSM looks different to male dominance in BDSM. I haven’t written on that, but the activities, preferences, desires are not an equivalent ‘flip’, as it were.

            I also find it interesting as I go on to study alternative modes to patriarchy – including matrilineal cultures which are importantly not matriarchal but matrilineal.

            Plenty of anthropologists on here so I needn’t go on.


            Anne O Nomis

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  • The LAW that you talk about actually DOES allow for consent to bodily in the context of say… boxing… professional sports, etc. But for some reason, when it comes to people’s sexual preferences (not Ghomeshi’s victims, who pretty clearly did NOT consent), suddenly there’s a double standard. Not surprised that you didn’t mention that.

    Cossman expands on it here: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/consent-to-harm-part-2-1.2973333

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Sexual preferences” are not immune from critique simply because they are legal.