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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

skipper_dee
Dec. 20th, 2005 11:22 am (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. :)

skipper_dee
Dec. 20th, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)
Is an egalitarian approach utopian? Is it automatically better, easier, "good?" Anyone who has ever sat through a concensus meeting on anything will tell you that it's not paradise on earth, and there are times they'd give their left arm to have one person be in charge and just make a call. All I know is that it seems to be better for *me*, that it seems to fit my aims best, that thus far, doing what I can to keep hierarchy out of my bedroom and as many other areas of my life as I can seems to help me to have the kinds of relationships and community and headspace that I want for myself and the people around me (and per the bedroom stuff, heck, I have sex which I enjoy more this way, to boot). I also know that I just can't listen to friends anymore call their partners slaves, read "rules" for submissives that could have been copied right out of 1940's books on wifely etiquette, or accept and dismiss a lot of stuff in the BDSM community and practice that IS very patriarchal: again, that's a personal preference. Putting that sort of stuff in a different context just doesn't improve or negate it for me.

What's best for you and yours, only you can know, obviously, and I wouldn't dream of telling you what that was. All I can know is what seems to be best for me right now, where I think I want to go, and what I can suss out are the best ways for me to get there. And per usual, I know that in my book of Heather's Life of Quality, I need to be able to tell my own truths, and when I do so making clear that's what they are in any system that isn't fascist; when in my work I'm still being very mindful to recognize other's truths and other ways of being and doing, that really shouldn't be a huge problem. I've never been any group's mouthpiece or purported myself to be so; I've never wanted to be. I've never claimed to represent anyone other than myself.
(Deleted comment)
fierceawakening
Apr. 15th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
hahhahahahahaha

you realize don't you that this post is from like '05 or something :)

but that was a good one!!
fierceawakening
Dec. 20th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)
I think you're right; I don't see how we're anything but done here.

Honestly I am not sure why you think that I must not be talking to you, when your statements that what you're doing is all about eliminating hierarchy are what brought that question on in the first place. Although I do sometimes see other people talking about "hierarchy" in a very abstract sense, your post was the first I'd run across in a while.

I've always found people who use very abstract terms for power and speak as though even that very abstract idea is something that they ought to actively expel from their lives to be near-incomprehensibly overgeneralizing. (But I don't know that saying again that such things don't make sense to me unless they're specific is productive -- I've said it once and I can't think of anything especially enlightening to add to better explain.)

I didn't think you were telling anyone what to do, and I'm certainly not telling you not to rid your life of dynamics that don't work for you, any more than you're telling me not to do BDSM or to limit the ways I do it. I simply find that abstract idea incomprehensible, and I think that may well be part of why the idea of consensual hierarchies for sexual pleasure doesn't bother me (unless there is something unhealthy about the specifics of a given case, which I agree there often can be.)

Anyway, the conversation's been very interesting to me. But I think this is the heart of our disagreement, and I don't know that either of our views is close enough to the other that we can do anything but part ways here, hopefully amicably.

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fierceawakening
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