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Eep.

Normally I would wait a while to post after posytinga piece of writing, because people reading my creative outpourings is so important to me.

But then I saw this. (Does anyone know how ro permalink that? I can't find any but the "current" link and I don't want any linkrot.)

It makes me really sad, especially her "Don't even defend this to me in the comments because I know better than you because I've been around longer than you have." Um... huh? "I'm feeling really fragile about putting this out, so please don't debate" is one thing. "I've been an activist longer than any of you so STFU" is something very different.

I remember when someone, I think it was her 9edit: yes, it was, answered a question on the Scarleteen site from a teenager who mentioned that her boyfriend had submission fantasies. She answered it just as I'd hoped someone someday would -- by talking about how for some people fantasies like that seem to be a fairly fixed part of their sexual identities, and by saying that that's OK. By saying that the girl shouldn't do anything she doesn't want to, but that it's not some horrible evil thing to experiment, while warning her that some kinds of topping take practice and skill and there are some worthy reasons to wait until she's of age and can get into organizations where she can learn how at meetings and demos and such. By not hiding the idea that some people's fantasies do include those elements, and it doesn't mean they're going crazy.

As someone who did things like self-injure when she was underage, in part because I had no one to tell me I wasn't becoming something akin to a murderer, I'd wanted so bad just for someone to tell me those very bare basics: that SM could be safe. That others had fantasies like mine. That if I could just hold on until 18 or 21 (some groups' entry age is higher than others') I could find out how to be safe and find a community and I'd be okay. That I didn't need to kill myself. (Yes, I wanted to.) When I saw that article on Scarleteen, written so compassionately, I felt vindicated. It wasn't impossible or inappropriate or illegal, it looked like, to let kids know they weren't, at least, batfuck crazy for wondering this stuff, or for being in love with other kids who did. Hell, I had other teens who, when I finally confessed that some of my sexual curiosities were different than theirs, told me they knew that I and other friends who "did" such things (as if I'd started to, then) were destined to die of AIDS.

I'm not dead yet. Or poz either, for that matter, though what the fuck is with the hatred of people who are that's percolating in every syllable of that sentence anyway?

And I don't see how not doing SM keeps people safe. Not everyone who's dying has a leather vest or chaps. Is it nice to pretend they do because then you get to think you're immune?

And now I see this. "Oh wait, whoops, actually I meant you're a dupe of the patriarchy, though we can still get along. But wait, we can only get along unless you don't talk back because I've heard it all before, you know?"

Years ago I would have been blindingly angry, and probably slightly triggered to SI (because see? That self-acceptance I fought for that kept me from doing that? It's a lie. Look, Heather Corinna said so!) Now I'm just sad.

Because I've thought about this for years too. I've started to see the bad shit that can and does go on in the SM community. I realize that for a lot of people the experiences can be very gross. For some of them -- yeah, these male dominants who have no respect for anybody -- well, I can't imagine that some of that's not patriarchy talking. I look at the number of amazing people I know who identify as subs or bottoms who get that used against them in abusively hellish relationships and -- yeah, it's not so easy for me to be comfortable saying that no, it's never there. I look at some people's ways of defending TPE and yeah, I see it there. I look at the fact that 99.983% of the people I hear saying TPE is great are het and in the other fraction there are some dykes but never, it seems, a man submitting that way and yeah, why is that? So sure, I see it too.

But to say stuff like what Corinna is saying is to say that's all any of us are, even the scene people who are my best friends and even me. And to say stuff like what Corinna is saying is to deny the ties the SM community has always had with the queer community, and to say we're all on some heterosexist, power-mad trip. And it's just like Freud, where you can't deny what she's saying because really, is there any proof patriarchy's nefarious tendrils didn't cause or at least infect ANYTHING except maybe the basic tenets of feminism itself? And then I feel like I am bad and stuff.

Because see, I'm fairly sure I could have an "egalitarian sexuality" without giving up too much if I ever figured out what the fuck that was.

No, I'm not being sarcastic.

There's this huge polarization that anti-SM people (and I hate calling her this because part of me is so keyed into what she used to say, and be, but if she can't even discuss it with people who are trying to honor her discomfort and talk thoughtfully about it that is what she is) draw between "egalitarian sexuality" and sexuality that involves power dynamics. On its face that's pretty simple to understand. No D/s, especially not out of bed. No bondage. No pain play either, though I've never been completely convinced that pain play is about power and control in the same way D/s is.

And well... I could work with that I guess. I used to think I wouldn't even be able to respond sexually to that. Interestingly, I only discovered after I tried BDSM that I could respond to that. It was only after I was allowed to get what I did want that what I did want could expand and include things I hadn't already fantasized much at all about.

But where does that leave a lot of other more ambiguous things? It's really erotic for me to look down at my partner and see my partner looking up at me. To me that's inseparable from my being a sexual top, which isn't so separable either from my being a top in the BDSM sense. I can't imagine that deciding to "go egalitarian" would stop that feeling... of lust, of yearning, but also of feeling trusted and safe at the same time when someone I care about is looking up at me like that. Am I really egalitarian? I know what that locks into, what's encoded in me along with that. I'd be lying if I said it was gone, I suspect.

Maybe it would go away after a while. I don't know. But... is breaking things off like that really what we want to encourage people to do? Especially in a society that's very keen on breaking women's sexuality in little pieces, where it's okay to want sex if you're tied to a man, it's okay to want orgasm if his penis is what gives it to you, it's okay to _____ if _____. Isn't that what we don't like, or did I miss something?

I do think that some forms of D/s are not magically outside the scope of critique. I think people who see BDSM roles as something that absolutely has to structure their every interaction with someone else are putting too many eggs in one basket. I think people who hold that up as some kind of absolute BDSM ideal are making big mistakes. But I don't think that's what BDSM is supposed to be about. I think it's supposed to be about sexuality and feeling good, and then some people took it and decided that it being erotic, it being fun, it being about sex, wasn't good enough because sex is dirty so it had to become this sterile, unsexual WAY OF LIFE thing where the sexual gratification is only justified because of the LIFE'S PATH that goes along with it.

It's not that I mind people being involved in relationship D/s. I just think that the nonsexualizing of it all is pretty wacky... it's right up there with the nonsexualization of lesbianism that happened in some of the women's movement in the 70s. Where lesbianism was something all women should do to get a break from the patriarchy and it wasn't really about lust, because it was political and feminist and that was "better." I mean, I don't think people choosing relationships with other women for feminist reasons is bad, at all. Or that anyone who does isn't a passionate lover. But the weirdness where people stopped paying attention to desire and sexuality because it was a higher calling now... that seems to me like some of IT was not so divorced from patriarchy. Because political loving of women is better than desiring and needing women. Having what women need in your head is different than needing THEM in your gut... but isn't that so weird because wasn't needing them in all ways what people like Audre Lorde were talking about really?

And I see the same thing with the many people who want their D/s not to be about sex REALLY IN THE END. They've got to uphold that it's not about sex, that it's not on a continuum with looking up or down into a laughing lover's face and feeling warm and sexy and happy. And that's what makes it so easy for other people to wave this banner of "egalitarian sexuality" around without thinking about things like how both the gay and lesbian communities are full of tops and bottoms and as long as that's not BDSM it seems like people are okay with it. Or is Corinna gonna say next that anyone who is a top or a bottom is making a mistake too? How much of queer culture would she be telling us should wither on the vine if she did that? Think about it.

It's not that I think every aspect of D/s should be directly sexual. It's that we really are acting like we're in bed with the system if we start talking about our natural fate to be this or that and giving justifications that sound an awful lot like "Some people are just born superior." No... sex is just a whirlwind of vulnerability and strength and warmth and joy and all these things and some of us key into this or that. Why do we have to pretend we're not hard or wet for it to be okay?

Because sex is bad and politics are better... and that's exactly what Corinna is telling us here.

And with that I hope some of you go on to read my smut, because this rant is no more important because it's political than that piece is because it's about sex. Some of you can't or shouldn't because that piece is pretty dark and violent and would be triggering or upsetting. It's dark and it's dark on purpose. But for others of you... I want to say this because sexuality and fantasy isn't trivial. It isn't. I'm not better for saying this than that.

Comments

( 80 comments — Leave a comment )
night101owl
Dec. 16th, 2005 06:34 am (UTC)
I really can't wrap my brain around her assertion that you can't be into BDSM and anti-war. I can't imagine how that fact that I like kinky stuff (rough sex, giggly spankings, being teased with sharp things, licking someone's boots) can IN ANY WAY support the murder of children.

I guess it's one thing to criticize aspects of the BDSM culture, but for to her to say that she can't see how it's not connected, to suggest that there's ALWAYS a connection, really makes me disengage from anything else she says.

Incidentally, while TPE tends to turn me off, I do think that it *can* work in a way that's really fulfilling, because I've seen it work for some people. Four couples come to mind:
1) a hetero male-dom/female-slave couple
2) a couple leathermen (Master/slave)
3) a bi-male-dom/dyke-female-switch-sub couple (they have 24/7 D/s, but not really TPE, and she is pretty much gay-except-for-him), and
4) a hetero fem-dom/male-sex-slave couple

Maybe it's just luck, but I see enough sex/gender diversity among the 24/7-ers that I feel comfortable with it, that it *can* happen outside the patriarchal model.

As for "egalitarian sex"-- as I mentioned before, the only sex that doesn't feel kinky to me is oral sex. Cunnilingus is great and all, but I can't get away from Califia's description of the "ideals" of vanilla lesbian sex, that a world in which all we do is lap each other in the dark just isn't that sexy.

I never spent much time on the Scarleteen site, though I knew about it and was glad it existed. I *maybe* heard Heather Corinna's name before, but don't have any point of reference. Her description of herself as someone everyone knows-- is she that well known?
fierceawakening
Dec. 16th, 2005 06:45 am (UTC)
On TPE
I don't know about TPE to be totally honest. I know some people who say they're in TPE relationships that seem to work for them, but every time I hear people describe TPE relationships that work, their relationships are totally different than what most people I hear call TPE. There's much more flexibility.

Even then... I don't know. I can't imagine that anyone having even so much as veto power over the MOST important decisions in someone else's life is a good idea. We all have to at the very least be able to stand up for ourselves and tell people we trust to make wise decisions 99.989% of the time to go fuck themselves sometimes. The whole appeal of TPE as people describe it is never being able to do this very thing -- always having to convince the other person, or leave. That's what the whole appeal is from what people say: I can leave, but I can't disobey. Ever.

I guess I just have a low opinion of humans in general, or perhaps of hierarchies (OMFG, a top who isn't madly in love with any and all hierarchies?! HOW CAN IT BE!). Or perhaps too high an opinion of autonomy. But I think that ultimately giving up all power is a mistake. The TPE relationhips I've seen that seem to work don't look to me as if they require that -- but how can any relationship that doesn't require that BE TPE?
Re: On TPE - night101owl - Dec. 16th, 2005 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: On TPE - fierceawakening - Dec. 16th, 2005 07:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: On TPE - fierceawakening - Dec. 16th, 2005 07:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: one thought too many - jmpierce - Dec. 17th, 2005 07:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: one thought too many - fierceawakening - Dec. 17th, 2005 11:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: On TPE - peregrin8 - Dec. 16th, 2005 08:00 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: On TPE - noir_girl - Dec. 17th, 2005 09:05 am (UTC) - Expand
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blackperson
Dec. 16th, 2005 08:32 am (UTC)
This article disappoints me Scarlette teens was vital to me when I first came out and I used to link it to anyone who needed it. Now, it's still a great response but I don't know if I appreciate where it's coming from.

She's made a career on not judging people and then writes an artice harshly judging some of her biggest supporters.

I'm shocked.
frankiejlh
Dec. 16th, 2005 08:33 am (UTC)
Guh. so much i want to say to that. ATM, my thoughts seem to boil down to how creeped-out i have been by the nonconsentual power dynamic inherent in anti-bdsm branches of feminism - that which says, "It's not enough that you don't practice nonconsentual violence; it's not enough that you actively support women(/humanity) or decry the myriad -isms and work against them, blah de blah - No, what you DO is not what we want to change with this philosophy; it's how you FEEL. It's about the conceptual links between your nonharmful actvities and, oh, say, genocide. Bcs dogma is such a handy tool."
Get the fuck out of my head, people, i say constantly to said branches of feminism; what i feel is really not yours to change or guilt-trip me out of, or pry out with the crowbar of Mandatory Disclosure Circles, etc. Likewise, it follows, the ways in which others and i enact how we feel in diligently non-harmful ways. Likewise, the learning experiences derived therefrom, including some fuckups which, maybe bcs i'm lucky, were more educational than they were damaging and certainly more educational than just coasting along avoiding any relationship more complicated and intense than complete egalitarianism.
I'm not planning to submit to the assumption that i'm better off taking my feelings and shoving 'em into the cargo hold or trying to change them, any more than i'm willing to submit to some asshat at a play party who wants to call me his b*tch before we've been properly introduced.


fierceawakening
Dec. 16th, 2005 08:36 am (UTC)
It's not enough that you don't practice nonconsentual violence; it's not enough that you actively support women(/humanity) or decry the myriad -isms and work against them, blah de blah - No, what you DO is not what we want to change with this philosophy; it's how you FEEL.

Word. E-marry me? :)
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carib_nymph
Dec. 16th, 2005 10:15 am (UTC)
Being a former pro, and still distinctly kinky, I can see how Corinna may have gotten defensive quite quickly - but I agree that generalized statements are an easy way to offend or at least hurt people who weren't taking that stance.

A lot of the time, professional kinksters feel that they have to defend their perspectives in a manner that may be interpreted as shallow or vicious because that's what works to get people to either listen (through sheer force of "this is the fact, deal with it") or at the very least not try to question their authority.

Not a method I personally enjoy, but then again, there's a reason I'm retired.


Since my oh-so-slow computer isn't loading her specific comments, I'll read them later, but this is more towards how you felt about her post.

I can understand how you would feel sad about someone whom you looked up to appearing to betray what you felt she stood for.
And everything else that you've brought up, I also agree with.


Sex and sexuality is always going to be a touchy subject for people... And some will always try to take it out of the things they believe in because it's an uncomfortable aspect of the details of their lives.

Doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.
It's just what happens.


People have their own opinions - some right, some wrong, and some completely unsupported by what they claim to be "the truth"...

Not knowing you as a person, I can't say that you've found your place in life, but you seem to be doing a lot better at accepting who you are and living your life than a lot of people I know.

^.^
fierceawakening
Dec. 16th, 2005 11:16 am (UTC)
Wait, did you think I was being shallow or vicious? Or that she was assuming most BDSMers are? Or what? *seriously confused*

Sex and sexuality is always going to be a touchy subject for people... And some will always try to take it out of the things they believe in because it's an uncomfortable aspect of the details of their lives.

Right. But to me it's IN everything we believe in and acting like it's not is fucked. Like... I was just reading some of the rest of Corinna's site and I read an essay on violence that helped me to understand what some of her emotions might be. But well... I've seen violence. Not in the way she has, so maybe she can call me sheltered. But I have seen some. And part of the way I deal with it is by acknowledging the ways it makes me feel. And I don't think anyone's reactions to violence are sensible. We want revenge. We want to feel empowered. I think that's where some of the drive for domination comes from -- whatever gave us the idea of lex talionis. And no, we shouldn't be doing that in real life, but we have those feelings. Even something like feminist anger can involve those feelings in fact. Or it does for me (I would put a link here but I can't find the right one, a previous version of this comment linked to the wrong thing) sometimes. You did this unfair thing, I want to crush you.

And if sexuality runs though everything and attaches itself to everything -- and I think it does -- who profics by pretending that we don't feel that way? I don't see it. I can see making personal choices of distance but for me that would be like the Wizard of Oz's curtains.
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skipper_dee
Dec. 16th, 2005 01:02 pm (UTC)
(This post was just brought to my attention, and I'd be absolutely fine with discussing it in more depth, here on in email. - HC)
fierceawakening
Dec. 16th, 2005 01:59 pm (UTC)
HC --

I'm very glad you've read my post. I do want to say that I really did misinterpret your comment back to gf in your blog, and I want to apologize for that first thing. I was stunned to stumble on your journal post and pissed off and I should not have blown up at that.

-T.
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fierceawakening
Dec. 16th, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)
. I'm also grateful to Trin for having triggered the opportunity for us to have this discussion, but I'm taking up a lot of space in her personal journal.

I've got no problem with you debating this in my personal journal at all and in fact I'd be sad if I didn't get to read it! I'm also glad you jumped in because I was feeling at a real loss for words before.

So I hope the discussion stays here where I can see it. :)
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jmpierce
Dec. 17th, 2005 07:40 am (UTC)
I love this post. You are so amazing. I have mad respect for you. I know it seems like every time I post on your journal I'm just blithering about how great you are but I'm being totally sincere about it. I really admire you and consider you one of the most intelligent and enlightened people I've got on my friends list.
fierceawakening
Dec. 17th, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)
Thank you so much.
skipper_dee
Dec. 17th, 2005 07:55 am (UTC)
...and before I head out for the day, just some address of some things you've said up here.

Like I said (and I actually took another look at it this morning), I would write that piece the exact same way today. I would say the same things I said the same way I said them. Well, save the really crazy typo I found in reading it again: I'd not say exclusive when I meant inclusive again. :)

I also am not and was not saying to the commentor in my space to shut the fuck up. One, that's not me. Moreover, what I would say, and did try to say, is that when I say I can't support something myself, in the context of talking about how isolating it can be when your many stances set you outside of nearly any camp, I don't want to be told that I just don't understand something, and that's why I feel that way. Especially something where I have had a myriad of types of exposure -- likely more than the poster has -- for 20 odd years. I also don't want to have language and approaches shoved down my throat or rubbed in my face which I've already said are upsetting to me. THAT is nonconsensual. Obviously, ditto to the "don't talk back to me" comment up there. Again, these aren't my approaches: that's a big part of my personal objection to these dynamics.

I am not willing to say that all forms of bondage/restraint and sensation play aren't egalitarian. And again, I didn't say that. I can envision -- and sometimes do so in my oen sex life -- a myriad of ways to engage in that play without D/S, in an egalitarian setting, and without suffering.

"It's really erotic for me to look down at my partner and see my partner looking up at me. To me that's inseparable from my being a sexual top, which isn't so separable either from my being a top in the BDSM sense. I can't imagine that deciding to "go egalitarian" would stop that feeling... of lust, of yearning, but also of feeling trusted and safe at the same time when someone I care about is looking up at me like that. Am I really egalitarian? "

..and yet, I do not see how what you've described here is about topping. Obviously, if you're topping at the time, it's partially about that for you, but that scenario can exist in any setting and context, simply by virtue of physical geometry. Okay, if the you-up and your partner-down is what the charge is, and that's about *feeling* above them in a sense of having power over them, I get you, and no, I'd not say that's an egalitarian approach. But a partner trusting us with their bodies, with their emotionas, with their plasure in a sexual setting, looking at us with trust...well, that's just a bennie and a facet of good sex in a good relationship. It's not specific to D/S.

"Because sex is bad and politics are better... and that's exactly what Corinna is telling us here."

Once more, I understand you knee-jerked some in this by your own admission, but I absolutely am not saying that, and I truly don't appreciate being represented that way, especially without being asked if that is, in fact, what I am saying. In fact, given my life, my history and how very much of all of it I have dedicated and do dedicate to sexuality education and pleasure activism, often at a high price to me, that sort of assignment is just preposterous. (It also presumes we have to make a choice between sex and our politics, which is a false presumption unles your sex and your politics are completely at odds with one another, or you can't differentiate between your desires and your actions and choose how you act.)

I'm not saying ANYONE is making mistakes here. It's not my place to say so, and I wouldn't dream of saying I could possibly know if what people I've never even spoken with are doing is a mistake for them or not. I'm not saying anyone else should make the choices I'm making, or not make them, either. I was merely talking about the choices *I* am making, for myself and in my own work, and that a big part of making those choices is based on choosing to live by a set of ethics I can live with, and in a way that I feel I best will support the aims that I work for and fit best in the organic whole of my life, my head, my heart and my own sexuality.
fierceawakening
Dec. 17th, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)
..and yet, I do not see how what you've described here is about topping. Obviously, if you're topping at the time, it's partially about that for you, but that scenario can exist in any setting and context, simply by virtue of physical geometry. Okay, if the you-up and your partner-down is what the charge is, and that's about *feeling* above them in a sense of having power over them, I get you, and no, I'd not say that's an egalitarian approach. But a partner trusting us with their bodies, with their emotionas, with their plasure in a sexual setting, looking at us with trust...well, that's just a bennie and a facet of good sex in a good relationship. It's not specific to D/S.

I'm not sure how to explain that any better than I have, which I know is not very well. I'm saying that for me... the charge I get from that being good sex and the charge I get when I think of that as a very mild power dynamic... well, at least for myself I'm not so sure they're not the same. Or so similar that I'm not entirely sure where one ends and the other begins. And that's what I find difficult to understand, I think, when people talk about "egalitarian sexuality" on one hand and "BDSM" on the other. It's just like you're saying, that it's not so clear that, say, all forms of bondage and sensation play AREN'T egalitarian to me because I don't know what that's really supposed to mean. I know what "D/s dynamics outside of bed carry these risks and to me those risks are unacceptable" means. I don't know what creating a new paradigm is about, really, though.

Because to me, all those different kinds of things that do involve a little bit of power stuff are related to one another. To me they're this big web. And I can understand rejecting points where the strands come together because I do that too -- I'm very leery of TPE, not just for me but for anyone. I don't think that I could do most types of contract-based D/s, either. What I saw when I tried was the potential for things to go wrong, and those risks are not risks I think are worth taking any more. But for those things I think I can say why I reject them. I don't reject the web they're a part of because I don't see how that makes sense, at least not for me.

As far as the other stuff, much of it was knee-jerk, and I don't know what more to do besides apologize (and perhaps edit the post, if that's what you'd like me to do.) I misunderstood you hugely and mischaracterized your positions. Part of why is that for some reason I assumed the post was YOU coming out as leaving BDSM and saying, basically, "I did this because I thought this was worthwhile and able to be supported, and I defended it and identified with it and I, and everyone else, were all very mistaken." I took it as "I'm leaving and although I recognize anyone else's right not to, I think that maybe you should too because I realized all hierarchies are pernicious, even the fun ones."

But that's not what you said. I took what you meant as a Goodbye And Here's A Reality Check, You Deluded People. That's what I responded to, that's why I thought you meant you were choosing politics over sex and saying others should too (Because the wording sounded to me like "I realized that we're all really doing X, supporting Y, etc.") And that was, it seems, a big mistake and a total misreading. I'm sorry about that.
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Dec. 17th, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skipper_dee - Dec. 17th, 2005 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
fierceawakening
Dec. 17th, 2005 12:58 pm (UTC)
I think it would be really awesome if we could get out of this discussion something like a plan for the BDSM community to become more responsive to abuse within the community.

WORD.

To digress from the debate going on and just respond that for a moment: I think a big part of this from the inside would be looking at where people go for community. Because in my own experience, the first group I found was very supportive of people and the kind of "You'd better do this or you're not submissive enough, so says the entire community" that HC is talking about wouldn't have flourished there. The others I've found seem like places where such stuff could more easily hide, though those others are still not places where that would be a part of the culture itself.

I think there are people who get into BDSM who latch on to the ideas one often sees online: that if you're drawn to this it's because you're naturally a submissive and your whole life revolves around that. Many of us who find good communities and good people laugh at that stuff, but I think there are a lot of people who find or form enclaves that are supposed to be oriented around that stuff. And it's a lot harder if you're in an environment where people are assuming certain dynamics are "natural" and immutable to stand up and say "No wait, this is fucked." (Even for the tops -- I know that I didn't stop the unhealthy dynamics in the one D/s relationship I was in as soon as I knew something was very wrong, because the person I was involved with and the community he favored had pretty strong ideas about how D/s was "supposed" to work, and even I got caught up in "Well, maybe SOME of this dynamic is necessary and I'm just flubbing it up.")

And it's those enclaves we should be worrying about. Or the people who find enclaves like that online, and then meet each other privately and never get the benefit of hearing what might be wrong with that, "No, wait, it doesn't have to be that way and you're not more real if you do it that way."
(no subject) - skipper_dee - Dec. 17th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skipper_dee - Dec. 17th, 2005 03:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Dec. 17th, 2005 04:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
fierceawakening
Dec. 17th, 2005 04:44 pm (UTC)
That's a really good point.

I know that when one of my friends discovered that a young newbie was being harassed by someone in the local community (one of the few times I did hear of such things), she immediately tried to help, tried to explain to the young woman that she didn't have to obey this guy because he was a dominant, etc. She spent a lot of time trying to help her and also enlisted me and my partner (all three of us were tops) to try and explain that no, such behavior wasn't "just how tops/dominants etc. act", to try and help her get the guy off her back, etc. So I think it can and does happen.

But you're also very right that communities tend to get focused on protecting themselves as a unit; this particular group didn't, I notice, ban the guy from the group (though there was a long period where he wasn't showing up, and I think part of it was because his repute was suffering.) I really disagreed with that -- though it was rough because this young woman seemed to feel badly about admitting it to anyone at all, and was I think intimidated by the idea of telling the org board, of giving us logs of the online harassment that we could have shown them, etc. If we'd had things to show the board, it might have gone differently -- though I'm still very critical of the way that whole thing got ignored, the way everyone seemed to want this woman to be loud and brassy about it all or it must not be worth investigating actively, etc.
fierceawakening
Dec. 17th, 2005 07:11 pm (UTC)
One thing that confuses me: Just like HC has mentioned that "sadism" has a specific meaning for her, "hierarchy" has a NONspecific meaning for me no matter what I do. I understand that people who are politically committed to fighting oppression often use it to mean something like "compulsory power dynamics" but to me it has always meant something a lot more like "the power structure of something that has one," often a rather rigid one but not necessarily.

And to me that doesn't equal bad. My dojo is in many ways hierarchical, as I understand the word. One does not disobey during class, or talk back. That's not to say that the instructors are mean, or that it's not considered totally acceptable to raise and ask any question you want or concern you have when it's appropriate. But when it IS deemed appropriate and when it's not... that's pretty rigidly defined.

And that's not bad. In fact I see it helping a lot of the kids, who really flourish in a structured environment. Structured environments do carry big risks -- if that dojo was run by uncaring militaristic monsters, those kids would be doing even worse. But it's not. It's run by really caring people who are trying to teach discipline, usually by example and sometimes by "No, we don't allow that in class, 2 push-ups."

And that's why when I see "Isn't there a hierarchy there?" and have to scratch my head for a moment. Because it's the faint whiffs of "hierarchy" of any kind that people are fearful of. And I then have to stop myself, and go "No, she means the bad kind of power, the compulsory abusive thing. But wait, how does she know this is the wrong kind? I don't see it." It truly flummoxes me.

And then I feel like maybe I've missed something, in the same way that people that aren't familiar with, say, feminist theory might miss what privilege means, or miss the difference between institutionalized sexism and prejudice against men, etc. But I don't see it. I know ther e are distinctions some people draw between power-over and power-with, but I don't really get what those mean. Do our black belts have "power-with" and nothing else? Well, maybe so, if "power-over" is defined as negative automatically. But it seems to me they're pretty damn capable of telling someone what to do, of giving orders and expecting them to be obeyed. So is that power-sharing, all of it? I'm suspicious. But I'm not suspicious of them.

Or like... when I grade papers am I part of a hierarchy? I'd think that yes, I am. I don't sit together with the students and decide what the paper deserves with them -- though in some extenuating circumstances, if they challenge their grade and have good reason, of course I'll do exactly that. Early and often. I tend to really assume someone has a reason to challenge my power over them (oh gods, she said power over!) and only reassert it if and when it becomes clear that someone's trying to mess with the system and get unearned rewards.

So does SM have hierarchy in it? Yeah, I'd say it does, even stuff that's a lot closer to top-bottom fun than to Fred decides what Marjorie wears or whatever. But is that bad? I just... my mind grinds to a halt there. If the question is refined to "Doesn't this specific behavior here look like this facet of compulsory heterosexuality? Isn't that a problem?" I understand the question and sometimes my answer is "Yes, it does, and I don't like that" (though I'm wary of generalizing -- I think what it means depends on the specifics of the people doing it, unless it's something really really severe, which is why looking "at BDSM" with that kind of eye bugs me, where looking at "Is it healthy for Marjorie to perform oral on Fred?" doesn't -- there can be dynamics at work that make that problematic, but giving head to men surely isn't full stop.)

But if it's "How does that square with eliminating hierarchy?" then I don't even understand completely. Because to me that question has to reference problematic hierarchies and I have to know what precise parallel is being drawn. Otherwise I just go "HUH? What are we eliminating here, again? Patriarchy? Yeah, I'm all for that. How does cutting BDSM out of someone's life do that? What life are we talking about? What does the community look like? Etc."
skipper_dee
Dec. 20th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC)
Back after the weekend. But it looks like we've pretty much wrapped this up.

From what I can tell, you're not really asking this stuff of me, but of yourself. if you are asking it of me, the most general way I define hierarchy is as a system which is ranked, in which any one individual or group is ranked on top, has power and agency which another individual or group does not have, and that latter group or individual having less power or agency or rank has to be for the former to have what they do. In other words, there is top because there is bottom, there is dominant because there is submissive. That feels obvious and silly to say, but there it is.

And once more, I'm not sure if you're asking, but I can't be of help as to whether something is "bad." That's not an idiom I work within or classify things by. I simply know for myself, and for the world I envision as better than what I see we've got now, I think, at a minimum, that less hierarchy would be really helpful. That moving away from it is the direction I want to explore in my work and my life. I know for the individual life I want to live, I want to eschew as much hierarchy as possible. I know that outside that system, in alternative systems, I feel better able to create relationships of equality, and same goes for community.

D/S practice as well as overarching D/S community are usually all about hierarchy. About who is dominant and who submissive, who is owner and who owned, who is master and who slave -- then on top of those individual assignments, you get to who is top dog and who isn't in the overarching communities as well (and very often, that doesn't appear to be based so much on who can really foster community or make it a great community for everyone in it).

So, how does cutting that out of my life eliminate hierarchy? Again, I feel like I'm stating the obvious, and to explain that further than to say it takes one more scenario of top/bottom, owner/owned, directive/obedience out of my life would be totally patronizing and an insult to your intelligence.

Again, it seems this is wrapped up per my stuff, especially since yet again, it's my life, my community, my work I was talking about from the get-go. I wasn't telling anyone else what to do, and I've no plans to (save continuing to do what I can to inform people about alternatives to hierarchy as just that: alternatives, options, something to consider): because my own process in this is public doesn't mean it's directive. It might be worth mentioning that this is hardly the first "cut," of any of these systems for me. When I used to teach in classrooms, I taught Montessori. I grew up knowingly bisexual when the idea of a ten-year-old bisexual would have been abut the oddest thing anyone had ever heard. I came of age primarily in alternative education environments, I went to a socialist college. I've designed all of the work that I do so that it is totally non-compulsory and opt-in for anyone. I'm vegan. I'm Buddhist. I barter as much as is humanly possible, I always have. In a word, I already live more outside these systems than most people do, and doing that has been a huge part of my life for at least two decades. In many ways, I look at hierarchy from further outside it than most people probably do, because I've had or made opportunities to do so a lot. Even when I *did* directly participate in D/S stuff to any degree, surprise, surprise; I was always a switch. :)

(no subject) - skipper_dee - Dec. 20th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Apr. 15th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fierceawakening - Dec. 20th, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
museumfreak
Aug. 1st, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC)
http://www.femmerotic.com/journal_archive/121205.html is the closest to a permalink i can do, and then it's the second entry from the bottom.
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