Tuesday, March 31, 2015

to the blog, Batgirl. Kinksters, psychopaths and feminism.

I've just nearly left a comment on various posts/articles today, but maybe in the long run we should all be having our say on this one. I'm completely open to discussion on this because I no longer seem to have the ability to order the thoughts I have as instinctive gut reactions when I read something into a coherent and cohesive response. So maybe this makes no sense at all.

I've been following the Dwyer O Hara murder case, as any Irish person has been, but I look at the photos of Elaine O Hara and I see someone who could be me. I know her body type and her lack of self worth and her depression and her longing for love and a Sir, but thankfully not her institutionalisations or the conviction of her suicidal urges. I've no urge to flirt with someone who wants to stab me to death, or stab me at all, thank fuck. Knife play... it's not for me. I'm grateful. I'm not that strong. But if I were into it, I would hope that it wouldn't be driven by a death urge or an inability to see what the person I was playing with was. A murderous shit in wolf's clothing, in this case.

My heart goes out to that poor, tortured woman, and the fact that the only person she could find to give her attention was a twisted sociopathic fucker who saw her as nothing more than a means to his own homicidal gratification.

No, this is not what BDSM is. Kink is not about wanting to kill women, or anyone. It's not about wanting to be killed. But people are allowed play with the metaphors. And that means they should keep their eyes open about why.

Emer O'Toole wrote a piece today suggesting that in the midst of kink positivity, we do still have a responsibility to look at the cultural morées that our play has grown out of. It's no longer de rigeur to dismiss BDSM as misogynist. Men like submission too! And yes. Choice and consent count for a lot. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't look at where this urge to be on your knees, or have someone kneel before you comes from. Especially if you think 50 Shades represents what BDSM is.

To be honest, my personal impulse is to analyse the emotional, psychological why of the impulse over the cultural and historical one. I'm a little more interested in what's in my head and how it was shaped by my own experiences and relationships and exposures than by the sociopolitical culture I live in. I don't think that means it's any less important, though. And I agree that the lines between those two things are extremely blurred - I'm the scared daughter of an unquestionably dominant, aggressive, verbally abusive Virgo father who I also have to recognise as a pretty misogynist person. There is nature, yes, but sometimes nurture waves a brightly painted flag too. And this is why I look at Elaine O Hara, and I can understand, and I can see her intense vulnerability with such searing night vision.

I've watched and read enough crap porn to recognise sexist tropes when I see them. 'My stable of women are just holes for my use' doesn't stop being sexist just because it turns us on. Sorry. Doesn't mean we shouldn't play with it; if it speaks to your erect and swollen bits, go for it, but don't pretend it's above a rigorous feminist inspection. To think otherwise would be a little incurious.

Ahem. Back to the sainted glory of BDSM. Accepting that BDSM isn't influenced by cultural power imbalance just doesn't make sense to me. I agree with others that BDSM practitioners are not psychopaths or murderers. I'm as ready to jump on stupid statements about why should we teach our children 50 Shades is good and Graham O Dwyer is evil as the next girl. Ok, 50 Shades is massively problematic, and that asshat commenter doesn't understand anything about why it doesn't represent BDSM etc., but he doesn't know that.

I think BDSM can be beautiful, brave and freeing. I don't think Emer O'Toole is unintelligent enough to suggest that Dwyer's impulses are BDSM gone awry, as GirlontheNet suggests in her angered response. I won't speak for Emer, but I don't think her assertion that we should ask why BDSM is becoming so popular is anti-kink. She seems to be asking questions about our culture that is so rife with violence against women, which sees women as expendable, is also so keen to roleplay on such a fine line. Half the lines that turn us on were once (and in all honesty, still are) spoken with utter seriousness by some asshole who subscribes to every patriarchal, sexist belief you've ever rejected. I don't think that means we should do away with whatever 'suck my cock, whore' line we've ever loved, but it does mean we should think about it.

 In this case, we have a columnist questioning her own fantasies about BDSM sex because a woman was manipulated and violently murdered. BDSM is not about this – it’s not. It’s about mutual, consensual exploration of fantasy with willing participants.

Now, I know Emer a little, and I think this is a massive reduction of her point about underlying sexism in our culture and and insult to her own sexual awareness. She's neither that headshy or that stupid. What she is is extremely aware of how insidious misogyny is. I'm looking for a quote to back me up, but there's too much. Just... read the article again, please. It's the ideology she wants to look at. The acceptance of, or influence of social conditioning behind the consent.

What’s more, to use this as a reason to question one’s own BDSM fantasies is to legitimise the excuses of the perpetrator. To say ‘hey well you know BDSM does make us do fucked up stuff’ is to utterly ignore the impact of context, consent, and all the other things that matter when you’re doing something like this.

Do you see Emer's article as doing this? I don't see her as demonising BDSM, but recognising that its action is influenced by a common normalising of violence against and subjugation of women. It seems oddly blind to assert that it does not contain those elements, however it deals with them. If you slap your sub in the face and then push her head back onto your cock again, where does that action come from and why does it turn you both on? Shouldn't we ... ask that? Does it mean that we can't enjoy it if we do? She's not ignoring context or consent. She's saying, do not be blind as to where this thing that turns you on originated. Why do you now claim it as your own ?

 I’m making this critique not as a kink-shamer, but as a challenge to myself: what are my reasons and justifications for inviting or accepting male sexual violence? And, at this point in history, when kink is becoming ubiquitous, I’m calling on all responsible, egalitarian kinksters to take a step back from personal desire and pleasure and ask similar questions.

 I don't think this paints her as a kinkster who's lost her nerve because of a nasty story. I think it paints her as the feminist academic she is who questions the providence of sexual customs in a problematic society. I certainly agree that asking questions and exploring our submissive and dominant impulses and what they're born out of is a good idea. I couldn't operate any other way, personally. You may want to mould your sub into all that they can be, in altruistic fashion, but if you're someone with an inborn need to hit another person, I don't think you should do so without a certain amount of introspection. There's nothing wrong with looking, or requesting that we look before we welcome the act with wholesale acceptance. Asking questions does not mean denying your kink, or suppressing it.

Tumblr is full of littles (who are genuinely still little) who want Daddies to discipline them. Of teenagers who find the idea of living in a 1940s relationship where the man has control of the woman as if he were her parent a massive turn on. Sexism is sexy! they were all clamouring, before I unfollowed because I couldn't take any more. Why is he turned on by that control? Why are these not-quite-yet women so seduced by the idea of having their every choice, from spending their own money to the colour of their underwear made for them? Shouldn't we ask? Listen, I would love to have someone spank me for not observing bedtime and being too tired to function well the next day. But I also try to be quite aware of my own struggles with self-discipline (as well as all the rest) and I'm not content to explain it all away with 'because it would turn me on'.

I certainly think that had he realised his phones and deleted  videos and records would be found, Dwyer would have pleaded a consentual sex game gone wrong. I'm sure he would have loved to have painted himself as the victim in some way. Instead, the evidence made painfully clear that he had about as much regard for O'Hara and her broken self as a meat eater tucking into a burger does for the animal it came from. In his arrogance, he thought his trail would stay hidden, so he pleaded not guilty. If he'd known, I think he would have argued all the way that theirs was a relationship of consent. Yes he's a shit, a sociopath, and manipulative, murderous abuser, without empathy for the woman he was tormenting so cruelly. Yes, most Doms want to treat their subs with infinite responsibility and care.

But then there are stories like this, by Cliff at the Pervocracy, who is pretty much a consent warden (as you can see from her extremely detailed breakdown of what's wrong with 50 Shades). This link details an assault she was subjected to within a scene, and why she didn't report it - much of the why says depressing things about the kink community. She later goes on to write a post about how her rapist was giving consent lectures, something that's deeply alarming.

In sanctifying kink, I fear we take our fingers off the button, for want of a better phrase. Our eye off the ball (for god's sake, help me). Yes, this man is a psycopath. Yes, Remittancegirl's point that there are far more psychopaths who've used religion as an excuse to kill than there are Doms Gone Mad is absolutely right. Sadism exists outside the beautiful bubble that is the mutual need and response of BDSM. But I don't think that means we shouldn't police and investigate ourselves and our desires.

No, sexual psychopaths' existence should not deny us our kink. No, you are not Graham O'Dwyer. Or Elaine O'Hara. But I bet you thought quite a lot between the burgeoning fantasy of slapping someone in the face and how it made you hard or wet, or being slapped in the face and how it made you hard or wet, and the act of slapping or being slapped for real. And if you didn't, do you not think maybe it would have been a good idea to do so?