[TRIGGER WARNING: The following post and comment thread will contain extremely triggering material. Please read cautiously and heed appropriate trigger warnings]
There are some people who say that all BDSM/kink/WIITWD is incompatible with feminism. I am not one of them. I do, however, think that kink and the communities who practice it can be problematic, particularly from a feminist perspective. People have written scads about how, within the scene, normative gender roles often lead to the erasure of submissive men and dominant women and to the marginalization of alternative sexualities and gender presentations, about the sometimes competitive nature of being the “most transgressive” of vanilla sexual practices, and the dangers of the desire to have others view you as a “true” kink practitioner when someone else makes the standards.
Feminisms and feminists have as much right to be critical of kink communities and organizations as they have any other space where people of multiple genders come together, as we can’t leave our kyriarchical conditioning behind – kink communities do not exist in a void.
BUT. There is a big difference between useful criticism and condemnation, between trying to make something better and trying to make it go away, and between empowering people to do what they like how they like it and judging them for what they like. It’s one thing to say that kyriarchical conditioning is harmful because it causes people to assume that a man is a dom and a woman is a sub automatically, and quite another, harmful, thing to say that sub women are just brainwashed by the patriarchy, and that’s why they like to be submissive.
I am BDSM postive, though I am not uncritical. I am, however, sick to death of people judging the sexual practices of others. I am sick of people extrapolating from one member of a group the preferences and habits of everyone else of that group. I am sick of people misunderstanding the profound differences between reality and fantasy, consensual versus nonconsensual encounters, and making facile, bad-faith arguments that purposely misconstrue people’s actual words. I am sick of people telling others “you are not a member of X group, therefore your sexual practices are invalid or wrong.” This will be a space where you do not have to deal with that. People who cannot see the difference between kink and abuse are not welcome to comment, though people who have experienced abuse under the mask of kink are welcome here.
This is a heavily moderated thread that follows the commenting policy of Shakesville, since the desire for such a discussion space originated there. The greatest rule is: engage in good faith. As long as the comments fall within the commenting guidelines, feel free to address any issues related to the intersection of BDSM/kink, your gender, and/or feminism. Please put appropriate and specific trigger or content warnings at the beginning of your comment.
Judgement of others’ sexual practices will not be tolerated. This is place to talk about that judgement, or one’s own ethical or intellectual struggles with one’s sexuality. This is a place to engage critically but constructively with the intersections of our society and cultural conditioning with our sexualities.
Personally, the ubiquitous images of sexual violence present in our culture have made deep impressions upon me. I have a morbid fascination with rape I think many women share. It is a fantasy I have played in my head, but have never told anyone about for fear of being misconstrued. I do not want to be raped. I do not want others to be raped. I would, someday, like to play it through with a trusted partner and a safe word. In some ways, I feel that the pervasive images of sexual violence, and the prevalence of rape itself, subtly wound many people. Though some of us may not have experiences actual sexual violence, we are told about it in such detail, see it on big screens, try to comfort our loved ones in dealing with a rape or sexual assault…we know it in a way that is more than hypothetical, and that can be wounding in itself. When I lived at home or in a dorm, if someone came into my room while I was sleeping I would wake in a cold sweat and freeze myself totally, waiting to make out the face and what zie was doing. Walking alone at night, small sounds can startled me into running a few steps, before I realize it was a cat or the wind rustling a plastic bag. My culture was trying to teach me to be vigilant about my safety, but it succeeded in making me scared. Mac McClelland, a reporter working with rape survivors in Haiti who was not actually raped herself, found out the devastating power of secondary trauma. Sometimes I think acting on my rape fantasies might help me work through my fear and my confusion. Sometimes I think it’s just a kink that would be sexual gratifying but not therapeutic. Either way, fantasizing about being raped doesn’t make me anti-woman or pro-rape or “not a true feminist.” I am a human who grew up in a rape culture, and denying the baggage from that, whereever it may manifest in my life, would be anti-feminist. Dealing with it, being critical but accepting of who I am and how I can and cannot change myself, not letting someone take my statement that I fantasize rape to mean that all women fantasize about being raped, or extrapolating from it to conclude that women like to be raped – that is the work of feminism. To have women be seen as agentive, individual people who have a right to do whatever they like with their own bodies, whether it’s the right to say no (the right to not be raped) or the right to say yes (playing through a rape scene voluntarily).
No person deserves to be judged for hir sexual proclivities, as long as they are
safe, sane, and consensual risk aware, fully informed, and consensual. Whether my theory about secondary trauma is right or not about myself doesn’t mean it will hold for others, and they no more deserved to be judged than do I.
So let it out, my friends. What are you into and what does it mean to you?
(Moderation Note: Please be patient about the amount of time it takes for your comment to appear. Because I want this to be a safe space, but I have to eat and sleep and go to work, comments will be individually approved. Depending on the time of day and the number of comments in the queue, it may be slow. Thank you for understanding.)