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Examination

I'm having a discussion which actually seems to be more productive than usual over at this Feministing post on submissiveness and feminism.

I have noticed, though, that one of the people I'm conversing with seems unacquainted with the problem I've usually got with the "examine your desires" meme. Namely, that as I've often experienced it, the seemingly reasonable "Well, have you thought about why you might enjoy [BDSM/porn/submission/blowjobs/gonzo/rough sex/whatever]?" turns into a rhetorical bludgeon, where the only acceptable answer to the question seems to be "Yeah, I admit this comes from patriarchy and I do it anyway."

She's being very reasonable, saying that "I don't know why" and "I don't think that's productive any more" and "I've done that, thanks" are all reasonable responses. HURRAH!

But I'm wondering whether any of you lovely people would be willing, in comments to this post, to describe any experiences you've had where "examine" was used as that bludgeon, just so I have something to point to. (Or link to any posts you've made about this.)

Comments

sweetchild92
Mar. 25th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
Hmmm. I'm a radical feminist. Just to get that out there. What me and others were saying, the majority of us, was that to act as if your sexual desires are not susceptible to influence is...well, it's a bit odd to think that things just shut down once sex is involved. Most of us aren't saying (I speak for me, oh hey, I'm 'danielle' btw, SarahMC and RachelWY) "this is a bad desire, you're not a feminist for it" but "looking at where a desire MAY HAVE come from is not harmful, it's not "intruding into your bedroom" etc. If you say "no, I don't feel like that's something I want to examine about myself right now or ever" alright, nothing wrong there. Or even "no, I don't think it is" is cool. But "it is definitely not, and you even trying to have a discussion about it is not good" is where it gets ridiculous. If you don't want to participate in the discussion, don't. If you don't agree, say so, but do it in a reasonable way (I'm thinking of the "you're an idiot!" comment). The only thing I take issue with is "sexual desires are NEVER EVER even slightly influenced by the patriarchy."
sweetchild92
Mar. 25th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
I meant "NO ONE'S desires"
fierceawakening
Mar. 25th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
Sweetchild,

I first want to say that I'm in a terrible, terrible mood this evening. So I apologize in advance for my lack of patience right now.

but "looking at where a desire MAY HAVE come from is not harmful, it's not "intruding into your bedroom" etc.

On the Feministing post and in this thread currently, and in countless threads over at SM-F and elsewhere in the past, we have explained why we feel that this line of thinking is inherently intrusive. If you don't feel up to a thorough study, at least please thoroughly read this post and its comment thread.

I'm not asking you to agree with us that it is intrusive; I'm just asking you to give serious thought to why we might feel this way. Far too often, radical feminists see us get angry with the "examination" demands and conclude that we are just thin-skinned, or selfish, or particularly absorbed in pleasure.

This ignores that these discussions have a history, and very often it is a history of directly telling BDSM people we are sick, wrong, confused, and brainwashed, if not a history of directly telling us that we behave inappropriately. Or even that we're so corrupted we ought to end our own lives.

Please do so not with the idea in your head that we just don't understand what you're really saying and that if we could only see how you intended it, we wouldn't be bothered. I've written academic papers on the sex wars; I know "BDSM is patriarchy writ in women's braaaaaainz!" like the backs of my hands.

I still believe that the idea that we have never examined our desires -- or that if we have, we must simply not have done so in a feminist enough manner -- infantilizing and a tactic some women use to shame others.

I still believe that in some circumstances, not asking why is dignity-preserving, and/or an appropriate response to the presumption that you must justify yourself in a way not required of others.

While I know that radical feminists often claim to interrogate non-kinky sex, lesbian sex, and other sex they often hold up as less damaged than BDSM, the fact remains that I very rarely see posts or essays devoted to such.

Which is of course not to say that I never see them. Often when I do, they're quite interesting. But it seems there's a much greater proportion of "Hey BDSMers, have ya thought about this? I know I asked six months ago, but I can't seem to remember your answer!" than there is "I've often wondered where my desire comes from *interesting personal blog post ensues*..."

Think of what these demands mean to us, when we've heard them come with language like that I've linked.

Then ask yourself why we might be unreasonable about acknowledging that we might maybe kinda be sorta influenced by patriarchy maybe.

Which is actually not anything I saw anyone over at that thread deny. It's the way it's phrased not as "are some BDSM fantasies shaped by patriarchy?" but rather as "is BDSM itself the end result of some distorting patriarchy-thing that takes good sexuality and warps it utterly?" that gets my goat.

And "don't tell fairy tales."

Fuck that: my life is mine, and my life is real, and I've never asked anyone to like it.

From previous abuse I am sure as shit accustomed to being told that what I think's going on is make-believe, and I'm not twelve any more and sure as shit not going to stand for being erased like that now.
sweetchild92
Mar. 25th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
But we aren't saying BDSM automatically equals patriarchal influence. I also mentioned that I was responding for the majority-the person who made the fairytale comment was the only one to do so. I also didn't see anyone get angry-the only anger there was at rude responses to dissenting opinions. Calling people names will get discussion nowhere. And from what Is aw, it was mostly some of us pointing out over and over again that we weren't trying to "shame" anyone, since some were equating us to the Religious Right. We aren't shaming, we just said that there's possibility that sexual desires are influenced. Only one person I saw said it was definitely patriarchal influence. The rest of us (and by the way for clarification-I know Rachel in WY has specifically stated she is not a radical feminist) are just trying to say "sexual desire is not free from influence." {whatever influence that may be}There's a lot that makes us uncomfortable, but feminist discussions need to go there. I'm sure plenty are really not happy with the religion thread, but it's something that should be discussed. Because to me, as long as we're not attacking you and your desires, and just trying to foster a discussion about patriarchal influence on sexuality-which is only ONE aspect that patriarchy can influence-which is respectful, I think it should continue. I'm not looking for a "yes, my desires are influenced," I just want "yes, it's possible some people's sexual desires are influenced, the end." Because as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's done consensually and doesn't result in any negativity, whatever. And just so you know, I am not attacking your desires or trying to put you down-that's grossly unfeminist. The only thing I DON'T want? "No one's desires are ever even slightly influenced." If someone says "yea, maybe they are, but so what? It doesn't harm me, I'm ok." Then that's really all I'd be looking for. Or even if they were to say "you know, I don't think mine are, I'd prefer not to discuss it, but sure it's a possibility, NEXT!" that'd be cool to. So what I'm just trying to say is, all we want is an acknowledgment-we don't need everyone to analyze their desires, just to know that they are not ALL free from influence.


SIDE NOTE: When I was little, I thought S&M stood for 'sex and masturbation.'

P.S. Thanks for discussing with me
miz_evolution
Mar. 25th, 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
Well then, you are far more reasonable than many of your sisters. Time and time again, in any of these sorts of discussions, it is the people who are into BDSM who are asked to examine, who are obviously so much more tainted by the patriarchy than others, and why yes, are shamed...and very rarely in truth do the BDSM folk stand up and scream "NO WAY ANY of MY desires are influenced by ANYTHING"...but for real, take a look around, see some of the back history: People into BDSM are dupes, are weak, are fucked up, have no self esteem, can and cannot determine when they have been raped or absued, cannot consent, or do not give a shit about consent.

I want some examination done on why the hell some radical feminists really give a rats ass how other people have sex, and why they think they can trot out all these assumptions and armchair shrink theories to write off sexual conduct they may not like or understand. There needs to be some damn examination there.

Why do some people like mashed potatos, and why do some people like Red Savina peppers. Shall we examine that or dwell on endlessly about what influences have caused those different preferences in food? Because you know what, that is about as useful as doing it when it comes to sex.

lilairen
Mar. 25th, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
No shit. "Abuse." "Violence." "Ethically wrong." The person who said "fairy tales" also said "brutalisation" and "torture", and while nobody else used those words, there were more than a few who agreed completely.

And then the handwringing, the why-are-they-so-defensive?!, as if this was happening in a vacuum, that privileged space where there are no continual patterns. That "fairy tale" was a one-off thing, not following on a month after the multi-part series of delusional ranting titled "BDSM: the sexual equivalent of Renaissance Faires", which wasn't original either, just a part of cascades upon cascades of question-question-question-question.

And it's not like "questioning" means something neutral. "Questioning" means challenging the integrity, truthfulness, and correctness of a thing. "Questioning" my identity and my reality is not capable of being polite. I am who I am and I don't give a flying fuck at a rolling donut if that makes someone ideologically uncomfortable.

And I don't owe them any goddamn answers.
fierceawakening
Mar. 25th, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
Yeah. People are acting all alarmed that someone responded to that comment with "You're an idiot" (which I also think was pretty stupid), but don't seem to care that she said we brutalize one another.

*facepalm*
sweetchild92
Mar. 25th, 2009 06:48 am (UTC)
I think people group radical feminists into some strange group that screams at anyone who does anything ...not radical? I have yet to come across fellow radicals who are insulting to others, etc. Looks like we have a common problem. No one in the thread mentioned aside from laughingrat said "abuse! you're weak!" No one.

I'd like to hear why people speak of radical feminists as if what some have said represent everyone. That's like me saying the people who tell me I can't discuss sexuality in relation to patriarchy are representative of women who are submissive-I don't know if there's a certain term.

I'm not examining little details about sex. I'm wondering what influences the culture we're raised in has on our sexual desires, if it effects people, if it effects any one, w/e. Honestly, I really don't know how else to put this. I'm trying, really fucking hard, and I guess it's just not getting across.
miz_evolution
Mar. 25th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
Did I just not say you do not sound like a lot of your fellow radical feminists? I believe I did. I may be a lot of things, but unaware of what I just typed is not one of them.

But, if you'd truly like to be further educated on why so many of us are sort of damned fine with the Oh Go Fuck Yourself Mentality towards this topic, check out the threads Trinity has so kindly highlighted for you.
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Mar. 25th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilairen - Mar. 25th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
fierceawakening
Mar. 25th, 2009 05:32 am (UTC)
And from what Is aw, it was mostly some of us pointing out over and over again that we weren't trying to "shame" anyone, since some were equating us to the Religious Right. We aren't shaming, we just said that there's possibility that sexual desires are influenced.

What you seem to be missing is that given the history of these sorts of discussions, it's quite difficult to take people at face value when they say they're just throwing out a possibility.

Especially when the comment that begins this "throwing out" isn't worded as a helpful hint. Let's take a look at it again:

We live in a society that is based on domination and submission--the brutalization of one person or group of persons for the benefit of another. This is called "patriarchy." Nothing we do or think is free of patriarchy; everything we can currently imagine or act is done within the context of patriarchy. D/S in the bedroom, fetishizing torture of the body or spirit in the bedroom, is by definition happening within and saturated by patriarchy.

Do what you like in bed, but please do not tell fairy tales about it, and don't tell me it's "feminist" to hurt or inflict hurt, to dominate or be dominated, because it's not. If we had no patriarchy, if there was no overriding, hideous system designed to subjugate some and elevate others, I might be inclined to believe that BDSM is a positive behavior--but then, if we had no patriarchy, BDSM would not hold nearly the fascination it does now. Without patriarchy, the so-called "submissive side" of our personality, taken for granted as being natural because we can't currently imagine the possibility of life without domination and submission, would simply go away.


That doesn't sound like a suggestion to me.

Also... have you had a look at all the links in this discussion? Because both Nerdisms and I have talked specifically about why our sexualities look the way they do, and why certain things bother us or don't. Why the suggestion that we still ought to examine when we're in the middle of doing it? (At least I'd suspect we are; it's never quite made clear what "examination" looks like when done right.)

That really does start to look like what the person saying "examine" wants is not a process, but a specific conclusion?

Because to me, as long as we're not attacking you and your desires, and just trying to foster a discussion about patriarchal influence on sexuality-which is only ONE aspect that patriarchy can influence-which is respectful, I think it should continue.

But what we're trying to tell you is that we do see elements of attack in it.

Of course, you're free to think that's unreasonable on our part.

But, well, if I really were interested in conversing with someone who was, in my view, reacting irrationally because of past hurt, I don't know that I'd insist "the discussion should go on!" I think I'd be a lot more compassionate about carefully explaining the difference between myself and the people who upset my interlocutor, or even try to talk in ways that are respectful of those raw nerves.

I'm not looking for a "yes, my desires are influenced," I just want "yes, it's possible some people's sexual desires are influenced, the end."

Can you show me where any of us has said anything remotely approaching "It is impossible that anyone's sexual desires are influenced?" Because I really think you're reading something that isn't there into most of our comments.

SIDE NOTE: When I was little, I thought S&M stood for 'sex and masturbation.'

Heh! I have to say I blinked at a radical feminist calling herself "libertine" in her profile. I'm used to seeing it used to describe de Sade and the characters in his books.

Is there some other meaning of the word?
lilairen
Mar. 25th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)
I do still like the "In my magic superfeminist imaginary land you wouldn't exist anyway!" following calling other people's lives "fairy tales".

It's a good thing I got one of the expensive high-end reinforced irony meters for my birthday.
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Mar. 25th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - miz_evolution - Mar. 25th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Mar. 25th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lilairen - Mar. 25th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
sweetchild92
Mar. 25th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC)
You're quoting laughingrat-not the majority. We're also not talking about people who discuss it in any way, but the people who refuse to do so, and say that any discussion of sexuality and its possible link to patriarchy is somehow policing. There were quite a few comments that feminists need to stay out of people's bedrooms, etc. We're not going into your bedroom. That's really the last thing I'd want lol. It's an overall discussion of BDSM desire in relation to the culture we're brought up in. Examination is simple; looking at what may have influenced our desires. Not just sexual, but desires for anything-marriage, family, children, religion, w/e. Not examination is absolutely refusing to think at all about what influences could have contributed to your sexuality. But that isn't a problem. Telling others they shouldn't discuss a general subject from a feminist lens (I don't get that term, I feel I have a permanent one) within a feminist community is where it gets not cool. If someone doesn't like the conversation, they don't have to participate. If they don't like what someone's saying, then engage in discussion, or say one thing. As long as it's not calling someone an idiot or any other ridiculous word.

And if anyone told you you weren't examining then I don't know what to say, because it sounds like that's exactly what you were doing.

It seemed as if a few, especially the "idiot!" poster were pretty damn confident patriarchy had nothing to do with her bedroom activities, or those of anyone else. "That's because it shouldn't BE a conversation" I think the username was 'eevryday22'? And some people's responses were offensive to me as well. Saying that those of us who thought similarly to laughingrat are anti-feminist? that we have a 'Morally Correct Way to Fuck'? That's ridiculous. It's a shame those responses are seen before you and nerdism's discussion. I guess it could go both ways with reading into it as well. I don't think most of the women say "nope, I nor any other feminist have sexual desires that are in any way influenced!" and I also don't think what the questions I and the others bringing up were uncalled for or RR like behavior. Looking back, it may just be that the loud several who I have problems with were exactly that-several, not the majority.

I remember-I think I was 13 when I came across that word, looked it up, saw something along the lines of "rejects religious things, and the norm imposed by society." hell yea XD And never looked back. I also like the way the word sounds, but that's personal.


PS...I'm not sure if I've articulated one thing clearly enough? I didn't find anything on that thread bothersome until everyday's response. That's when I had an issue.



(no subject) - miz_evolution - Mar. 25th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC) - Expand
pierceheart
Mar. 25th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
But we aren't saying BDSM automatically equals patriarchal influence

You, singular, may not be.
You, as a collective group, have been.

Every time you ask "is it?"

And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.

and then change it to

"Are you sure you haven't thought of this?"

And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.
And ask again.

You are badgering the witness.
It's a common tactic in abusive situations and mind control programs to "gaslight" someone: to try and convince them that night is day, through artificial means, in order to get them to think what you want them to think.

And many times when a woman has said "I want this (bondage, domination, sadism)" and her partner chimes in with agreement - the partner has been castigated to a level that, were it done face to face, would leave a reasonable person fearing for the physical safety of the castigatee - by being accused of "blaming the victim".
fierceawakening
Mar. 25th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
You are badgering the witness.
It's a common tactic in abusive situations and mind control programs to "gaslight" someone: to try and convince them that night is day, through artificial means, in order to get them to think what you want them to think.


Exactly, which is why the "fairy tales" comment got to me so bad. It's not brave dissent to tell your interlocutors they're telling tall tales.

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