Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ten Misunderstandings About Sadomasochism

While websurfing the other day, I ran across AntiPornography.org. Being open to the idea of anti-porn ideology myself, it seemed like a good resource. But then I ran across their "Ten Lies About Sadomasochism" section, which is paraphrased from a longer article by Melissa Farley found here. It's basically saying masochists are delusional losers victims who need to be liberated by smart, loving feminists. It's really condescending. Sadly, this is a popular attitude, so this makes this first Going Rampant screed attacking the words of someone I wouldn't describe as a straight-up nutter.

First of all, these items Melissa Farley's criticizing are not "lies". They are points made by BDSMers she considers problematic, sometimes false, but that doesn't make them "lies". Calling them "lies" only serves to antagonize.

Lie #1:Pain is pleasure; humiliation is enjoyable, bondage is liberation.
Yes, pain is pleasure. At least it is to me and other masochists. Most people aren't masochists, so I understand that it isn't pleasure to them, but it doesn't make saying "pain is pleasure" a lie. It's a matter of taste. Is an Australian saying "Vegemite is delicious" to a bunch of Americans a lie? Here, I can prove pain can be pleasurable right now. *smacks self with nearest implement*

Humiliation can be enjoyable. For me, the enjoyment is mainly fantasy, but I often fantasize about such. It's just how I'm built.

"Bondage is liberation"? Does anyone actually say that? It sounds like it was lifted from Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four's "Freedom is slavery; slavery is freedom" mantra. It thus comes off as disrespectful. Yeah, I haven't tried bondage exactly, so I can't speak from personal experience, but I can definitely see the enjoyment in being restrained. I had bondage fantasies before I even knew that was a thing. Again, it's a matter of taste. Some people are masochists, others aren't.
Part of the reason that we are vulnerable to this lie is that many of us were raised with religious notions that punishment is love and that suffering is redemption. A young acquaintance who rowed on a crew team showed me a t-shirt which said: “What does not kill me will make me stronger.”
You see, she thinks it's religious. I once got into a conversation with a guy in a chatroom about how I like pain. He kept saying things like "No, no, Jesus didn't want that. You misunderstood what Jesus meant." I kept saying "I'm not a Christian" but it took him a while to register that. He thought I was like those flesh-mortifiers from The De Vinci Code. When I finally got through to him that I don't believe in Jesus and thus don't make decisions based on what he did or didn't say, he was completely baffled. If a god didn't command it, why did I feel I had to hurt myself? Well, if he was paying attention, he would have known that I do it because I like pain. It feels good. I made an analogy to eating candy: something you do for pleasure even though it's unhealthy. Someone else in the chatroom got it at that point, but the first guy never really did.

Break free of the religious paradigm. Not everyone is religious. Not everyone is like you.
As women we are taught that love is selfless devotion regardless of the pain suffered. We believe that love is pain because we keep getting hurt. Women are taught not to believe our senses or intuition.
That's a different concept, unrelated to masochism.
We are taught to believe that pain, suffering, and humiliation are challenges which we should look forward to because they teach us the important things in life. After that, what can’t they do to us, what can’t they get us acclimated to?
Also a different concept unrelated to masochism. That's about building character. You don't do that for primal enjoyment.
We’ve learned to “consent” to subordination, even become culturally enthralled by it. If chains and a collar represent rebellion and “being in control,” then Madonna is our “rebel” Barbie and Ted Bundy her Ken. (from Morgan, 1993)
I'm confused... I understand enough to be offended, though. Ted Bundy? Really? BDSM is not about taking away choice, especially for those who aren't into it. Being murdered isn't something you can consent to, so there's really no sense in making the comparison except to antagonize.
Lie #2:Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.
A healthy relationship is about love and trust. Being into S and M doesn't have anything to do with whether a relationship is healthy or not. Sometimes sadomasochism is present in a healthy relationship, and thus be associated with love and trust, so the "lie" may be a truth in some circumstances. The only falsehood about it is its literal truth, which is the result of poor wording, stemming from the author completely missing the point.
Sadomasochism has to do with annihilation. Contrary to the popular legend that sadomasochism expands one’s sexuality, I believe that it restricts and ultimately destroys one’s sexual being.
That's easy for someone who's not a masochist to say. The author describes herself as a lesbian and so presumably finds the idea of having sexual intercourse with a woman to be enjoyable. I further presume that she would not force this on a straight woman, and that she would recognize that not everyone has the same sexuality and find different things enjoyable and restrictive. It's just like that.
Subordination, humiliation , and torture are all means of deliberately destroying the self.
Only the coercive kind. If subordination is desired, the person feels fulfillment. Humiliation and pain play are both controlled by the submissive, who can safeword out, therefore the subjects are not humiliation and torture as the author means the words.
I recently read an article about the way Texas patriarch Koresh entwined “sex, violence, love and fear” in order to control cult members. These techniques are not new; people have long harmed others in the name of love, religion, or politics.
Yes, I am familiar with such methods of control. Consensual BDSM is different.
Today’s lesbian sadomasochism is all dressed up in a new coat: the coat of “lifestyle choice,” “oppressed minority,” “sexual liberation.” Although the violence turns my stomach, I appreciate Jan Brown’s candor which cuts through the liberal rhetoric about the delights of sadomasochism, and gets to the core of the matter. In an article from Outlook, 1990, entitled, “Sex, Lies and Penetration, a Butch Finally ‘Fesses Up,” Brown writes: “Sex that is gentle, passive, egalitarian, does not move us. [Remember when we] emphasized the simple difference between fantasy and reality? Well, we lied. The power is not in the ability to control the violent image. It is in the lust to be overpowered, forced, hurt, used, objectified. We jerk off to the rapist, Hell’s Angel, daddy, the Nazi, cop. We dream of someone’s blood on our hands, of laughing at cries for mercy. Sometimes, we want to give up to the strangler’s hands. We want to have the freedom to ignore ‘no’ or have our own ‘no’ ignored.”
I don't entirely understand this quote, given that I'm not sure of the exact context. I will say that vanilla sex has never appealed to me and likely never will. The only way I have ever understood sexual excitement is in the realm of violent imagery. If I were to engage in sexual activity without enjoyment, it would be coercion of some sort. That, I believe, is worse than the superficial enjoyment of rapists and Nazis, which is carried out in a safe, sane, consensual manner.
Lie #3: Sadomasochism is not racist and anti Semitic even though we “act” like slave owners and enslaved Africans, Nazis and persecuted Jews.
It can be racist, it can not be. It's really dependent on circumstance.
My silence about lesbian sadomasochism ended when I saw two anti Semitic sadomasochists at a women’s festival. One woman who wore a yarmulke was being walked like a dog with a chain around her neck by a woman in Nazi “leathers.” When I protested, the woman in leather politely listened and agreed to remove her own Nazi insignia and her captive’s yarmulke. I had the impression that she had never even considered the political implications, that is, the anti Semitism, of the “scene” she was enacting. To identify as a Nazi (her uniform) in any context, is to identify not only as a sexually dominating sadist, but also as one who hates Jews, one who wants Jews to suffer and to be annihilated. To masquerade as a Jew, (wearing a yarmulke), chained with a leash, is not only to identify as a sexually submissive masochist. It also embraces the humiliation and torture of Jews under Nazi anti Semitism: the Jew is the one who gets hurt, and here, see how much she likes it.
This is a complicated issue. I personally am squicked out by the idea of Nazi/Jew D/s play, as I grew up knowing Savta (Hebrew for grandmother) had narrowly escaped the Holocaust by moving to Israel. This said, I can understand where the appeal comes from. The D/s dynamic is right there, and I am turned on by similar dynamics with fictional characters, some of which derive inspiration from the Nazis.

On the other hand, there is a problem with people viewing the Nazis as if they weren't real people who did real horrible things. Phrases like "Grammar Nazi" are tossed around frequently. It's one thing if they were talking about Daleks, inspired by Nazis but clearly fictional, but the Nazis really caused harm. Then there's the lovely "feminazi", thrown about by people who have no understanding of feminism or the Third Reich. On the fourth hand, I do agree with Mel Brooks' thing about turning Hitler into a joke to take away his power.

I don't know. It's complicated. I think those people the author describes probably were being disrespectful towards Jews by appropriating a historical dynamic without giving thought to the idea that it might offend people affected by the Holocaust. Unless it was a BDSM-specific event, they probably shouldn't have been outwardly in character. That said, that they play out Nazi/Jew role play is not inherently problematic.
Some liberal gay newspapers “censor” ads for the KKK, but still publish personal ads for readers looking for Black, or Latino or Asian sexual slaves. Racism seems to be more acceptable to them if it is eroticized. Somehow, if eroticized, the humiliation, sadism and torture of racism and anti Semitism become acceptable.
Well, the BDSMers are not looking for actual slaves. The KKK believes in white superiority. BDSMers who engage in race play just act it out. And not all dominants are white, so it's not clear that's even what such ads imply.
Torture always has a sexual component to it.
No, it doesn't. Torture can be carried out by people who don't care at all. Not just psychopaths who don't feel empathy, but people just following orders who feel totally apathetic to the whole situation. Then there are the type of people Milgram observed, who just feel awful as they carry out orders to torture.
If a radical feminist were to challenge the same newspaper on the issue of sadomasochism, we’d be called “censors.” The whole issue of censorship is used to intimidate us and silence critical dialogue about sadomasochism.
The idea about free speech voiding criticism is problematic. However, if they are simple personal ads for safe, sane, consensual sex play, they are not at all in the same vein as KKK ads, and more akin to personal ads seeking partners for vanilla sex.
Lie #4: Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”
Again, this is dependent on circumstance. Healthy relationships are consensual. The BDSM community promotes healthy relationships, as do most communities. As such, any S and M promoted by BDSMers is consensual. Within consensual BDSM relationships, the submissive has a safeword to completely back out of anything ze doesn't like. Some people have died, but this is not the norm. The mantra is "safe, sane, and consensual", so in healthy relationships every measure is taken to keep things safe. There have been abusive BDSM scenes (I don't know what's up with the scare quotes; scenes are scenes), but that no more invalidates BDSM as a whole than the existence of rape invalidates consensual sex.
“It is the focus on the bottom’s desire that distinguishes sadomasochism from assault.” (Califia, 1992) Is it ever OK to consent to one’s own humiliation and victimization? I do not think so. Just because we “consent” to domination or abuse, does not mean it is not oppressive.
It's not victimization if the submissive seeks it out for hir own enjoyment. It's not like in Dollhouse, where real victimization occurs because the people signing on for submission are often coerced and then can't safeword out.
“Has a woman who has run away from sexual assault by her father and ended up turning tricks for a living consented? Has a woman who learned sexual lessons from incest consented to a sexuality in which she can get no pleasure unless she has no power?” (Cole, 1989) Has a ritual abuse survivor, having been through her own Inquisition in childhood, consented when she reenacts sexual torture in adulthood which trigger her memories as an adult?
Cole's quoted examples and Farley's example are not comparable. Submissives have power. Sometimes people with a history of being abused find it therapeutic to act out the scenes that caused trauma. If that has the potential to trigger, that's something the person should think about while thinking through whether or not to do it. If she communicates well with her partner and they both make the informed decision to try the scene, then that is consent. Anything bad that happens is unfortunate, but it doesn't make the dominant partner abusive. To say that the submissive can't consent is to deny her her own agency. Frankly, this whole argument sounds like it's saying that abuse survivors are fundamentally broken and can't be thought of as true adults with the ability to consent. I don't think that's a straw man.
The ability of words to hurt should not be underestimated. The threat of rape is backed up by words, weapons which define us as objects and which tell us we deserve whatever we get. Women’s self-hate arises as much from verbal assault as from physical assault.
This is true of abuse situations, yes.
Some form of verbal abuse is involved in most sadomasochist scenes.
And this is where it gets off track again.Verbal abuse is not the same as the kind of taunts thrown out in BDSM scenes. Real verbal abuse is real and thus harmful. The kind of mean things said in BDSM scenes are mock verbal abuse. It's just playacting.
When these vicious words are delivered in the context of sexual arousal, they have a powerful impact. Sexually sadistic words contribute to women’s self-hatred.
Not all women, everywhere. I definitely agree some women (and men) can't cope with such play and find it psychologically problematic. That doesn't mean that it is inherently abusive, though. Some women enjoy it. It just strikes their fancy, and they can appreciate it in the context of a scene of erotic playacting.
Sadists pay lip service to consent, but ignore the power systems which create inequality and make meaningful consent impossible.
Oh, yeah, this is totally denying the agency of masochistic women. It makes it seem like sadists trick women into thinking they want to engage in such play. News flash: masochists are people too! Would a masochistic woman have to coerce a sadist in order to consent? Hell, then she'd probably be cast as an insane person, also without the ability to consent because of course no one can consent to something considered bad by someone else entirely...
In this culture we have no experience of equal power relationships.
It's true that there are no entirely equal power relationships. Any set of people will have some kind of inequality just from lived experience, privilege, and physical ability. By that definition, no one can consent, so consent itself loses meaning. There is no point in arguing about it. So, you have to draw a line somewhere. The type of negotiation that transpires prior to BDSM scenes is consent enough as far as I'm concerned. BDSMers actually put more focus on consent than in vanilla relationships because of the edgier nature.
“It is not the acknowledgement of the hold sadomasochism still has over our psyches that conflicts with feminism, what we have a problem with is the unwillingness to reflect on its political meaning “( Fritz, 1983)
 Trust me, there's reflection. I'm totally willing to criticize sexism existing among BDSM fans. I just don't find the practice inherently sexist.
Extreme violence sometimes occurs during sadomasochistic “play.”
 As long as everyone involved has consented and finds it enjoyable, that's fine with me. If people don't find it enjoyable, the scene should end. If it continues despite attempts to end it, that is abusive. Violence on its own is not bad. It depends on how it is perceived by everyone involved.
I have been informed of many instances where “safe” words were ignored during a sadomasochistic “scene.”
Then that is abusive. That is not BDSM itself, though. I know of many instances of rape during vanilla sex. The woman says no and the man doesn't listen. That doesn't say anything about the sex practices in general, just that rapists exist.
I also know that women have died during sadomasochistic activities and that these deaths are only whispered about - they are not openly acknowledged.
 Okay, I know of a few incidents with actually abusive people that have been publicized. They practiced BDSM, but not in the healthy way promoted by the overall community. I believe they are acknowledged, especially because they usually herald some active prejudice against BDSMers in general by the politicians. As they do not represent BDSM in the real spirit of the community, there's really no need to hold such incidents up as evidence that BDSM is inherently flawed.

If this quoted portion refers specifically to attempts at consensual BDSM that went horribly wrong, then I think it's just flat out incorrect. BDSM is risky; this is acknowledged, and thus safety is promoted. Just as mainstream sex education tries to preach condom use, BDSM groups often try to educate people in safe practices (e.g. making sure gags don't cause suffocation). Some people have died; this is tragic; don't end up like them.
Lie #5: Sadomasochism is only about sex. It doesn’t extend into the rest of the relationship.
 I'm noticing a pattern here of taking what one person has said and extrapolating that into a statement about all of BDSM (hell, all of humanity!). I'm sure for some people it is only about sex... and for other people it's more than that.
Sadomasochism has everything to do with sexism, racism and class in the real world. It is very much related to internalized self-hatred. One Samois member wrote:” To be a good bottom [masochist], to please my mistress, is a very powerful feeling. Those lessons I have learned in my bed, I can take into other aspects of my life and see how that makes me powerful…to enjoy every moment of what I’m doing.” (Linden et al., 1982)
Without knowing the intricacies of that woman's relationship, it sounds like something entered into willingly because it meets her interests. She seems like someone who values submission and has extrapolated that into her daily life. This doesn't mean she's become a doormat. Some people just like being diligent workers. As she doesn't seem to mind any part of that, I don't see the need to address it in the framework of an abusive situation.
I see lesbians embracing the dominant/submissive hierarchy that feminists have spent their lives trying to eliminate in heterosexual relationships.
 As long as that power structure fits their personalities and they together find it enjoyable, it doesn't seem problematic to me. If it's not tied into gender essentialism, it's in no need of a feminist criticism. If you see dominance as inherently masculine and submission inherently feminine, perhaps you are the one in need of a little feminist reflection.
Just the way racism and anti Semitism are eroticized in sadomasochism, so the domination, the sexism itself, is eroticized in sadomasochistic relationships.
 Are we talking about het relationships now? If so, I can sorta agree. I'm not a fan of the conception of men as naturally dominant over women, and BDSM thus naturally following that. If it's accepted that men and women are equal and either can be dominant or submissive, and that any play that casts men as naturally dominant etc. is just roleplay for the sake of a fantasy, then it's not a big deal.
The sadistic sexual relationship sets the tone for the rest of the relationship.
 It can...
Submitting and giving in during a disagreement, for example becomes a sexualized act.
 Not necessarily.
And real physical violence can and does occur as a natural extension of the inequality of the sexual relationship.
 Real physical abuse can occur as a result of that. It is not, however, a rule. Abusive situations are simply abusive situations that exist within the BDSM paradigm. They are to be avoided, as with other situations of abuse, through promoting respect.
Hitting someone is usually a sadistic act.
 There seems to be a real misuse of language here. What does "sadistic" mean in this context? Are we discussing sexual sadism, schadenfreude, or abuse resulting from either? There is a distinction!

Sexual sadism is sexual pleasure derived from someone else's torment. Schadenfreude is simple pleasure at another's expense without anything sexual tacked on necessarily. Physical abuse can involve both or neither, and sexual sadism and schadenfreude can occur without abuse.

So, what's the scenario thought up here? A lesbian D/s relationship in which the dominant partner strikes her submissive partner in an act of physical abuse? And the question is whether or not it's sadistic? It could be; it might not be. It doesn't really matter, though, if it's abusive.

On the other hand, are we talking about some BDSM scene involving hitting? That would be sexual sadism, but it wouldn't be abusive unless it occurs out of scene, not negotiated, or otherwise infringing on the submissive's boundaries.
Assault and rape do occur in lesbian relationships - and they are normalized by the patterns laid down sexually.
 Assault and rape do occur. That's true. However, just playing out assault scenarios needn't normalize assault itself. A production of Hamlet doesn't make the actors and audience apathetic about murder.
The dominating, coercive mockery of the sadist is sometimes forced on our communities. In 1988, I posted a notice for a workshop called “The effects of sadistic/violent sexual practices on nonparticipants: a support group; closed to sadomasochist participants and advocates.” As a small group of us sat on the ground and talked, six or seven women with whips came and stood, arms folded, behind us. They said nothing; the intent to intimidate was clear.
 Yeah, because feminists never stage organized demonstrations intended to elicit change through intimidating but peaceable protest.
Another example of the pervasive effect of sadomasochism on a community occurred in 1990, when the organizers of a large women’s festival wrote about how sadomasochistic activity of some women infringes on other women’s rights “to move freely and safely without fear or horror.”
 It's impossible to really respond to that without knowing the exact details. It's not cited. It could be nothing; maybe it's something. Is this describing some BDSM incident that disturbed nearby people or is it just some a priori radical feminist analysis like the rest of this? I don't know. It's out of context, and it can't be responded to without my having the full context.
Lie #6: Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”
There is no "sadomasochistic society". That's another misuse of language. There is a patriarchy and a kyriarchy--an interconnected system of oppression--but that isn't a sadomasochistic society. Sadomasochism refers specifically to sexual pleasure derived from pain of oneself (masochism) or others (sadism).
We internalize sadomasochistic fantasies because it is the sexuality which has been shoved down our throats from the day we were born.
 Er, not really. There is some sexist sexuality that is promoted, but it is distinct from sadomasochism. Youngsters displaying sadomasochistic tendencies are generally looked down upon because BDSM is considered deviant and not accepted as natural.
As women we’re raised to be “bottoms:”
 Uh... Submissive, yes. Bottoms, no. At least not in the BDSM sense of the word.
lesbian “bottoms” tend to outnumber “tops” [sadists] by 10 to 1. “What feels good” is largely constructed by social oppression: racism, sexism, classism. We are not born with an innate sexuality where no elements of it are learned or manipulated. Yet many liberal, pro-pornography advocates deny any relationship between sadomasochism and the violence in the rest of our culture. It is no longer possible to discount the causal effect of pornography on violence against women.
 Okay... I am willing to accept that sexuality is in part shaped by culture. I agree that patriarchy plays a part in why so many women readily identify as bottoms. That doesn't mean that the fundamental nature of sexuality is molded by culture like the flawed tabula rasa model of learning. Sexual orientation is not molded by culture. For truth, there are many gay people who come from cultures that condemn homosexuality. Masochism is like that.

Girls are raised to want to have a subordinate role in their future romantic relationships with men. This is how patriarchy works; it's sexist, I agree. However, the girls are not expected to have kinks like fantasizing about being tied up or enslaved or beaten. That's seen as shocking and something to be gotten rid of. You are seen as broken. Patriarchy does not encourage masochism.

The little details I'm sure come from external stimuli. When I was a kid, I fantasized about being Nala from The Lion King and being enslaved by Jafar from Aladdin (I was a weird kid; what can I say?). I was directly influenced by two of my favorite movies, which were based off of previous stories that reflected real world violence. If no one ever tried to hurt anyone, those stories wouldn't exist to influence me. But even if there were a utopia of nonviolence, I think my masochism would still manifest in some form because it is an essential part of me.

And then comes the reference to pornography causing real violence. Well, that pretty much comes out of nowhere. I happen to agree with the sentiment in general, but the previous sentences are not a proper lead-in. BDSM in porn is presented without proper context to a mainstream audience that would have no knowledge of the extensive emphasis on consent in normal BDSM conduct, and in that way BDSM in porn contributes to real world violence.
Diana Russell has recently published a summary of research about the ways in which pornography has been shown to cause women harm. (Russell, 1993) I believe that her argument can be applied to lesbian pornography in exactly the same way: pornography , whether straight or lesbian, promotes inequality and eroticizes that unequal relationship.
 I disagree that it has to depict or promote inequality. Porn, like all media, is unrestricted in what it can or cannot do. There are problematic predominant trends that should certainly be criticized, but that doesn't mean it's all bad across the board.
Actually, like our eating habits, sexuality is utterly conditionable.
 No, it isn't.
When we rehearse sadistic abuse in fantasy, pornography, and sexual games, we legitimize its authority in our own minds, and may end up helping other authorities in our lives keep us in bondage in other ways. Sadomasochism is everywhere in this culture - just take a good look at your workplace, your family, your church..
Fiction is separate from reality. We learn the difference early on. The Coyote is able to walk on nothing as long as he thinks he's walking on ground. We understand intuitively that cartoon physics are silly. Fantasies are basically the same thing: just intriguing ideas we recognize as not part of reality. Sex games are fantasies played out, which can be psychologically troubling for some people, but others are able to compartmentalize just fine. Porn--it's not made clear if this is supposed to refer to the creation or consumption of it. If creation, that has its own issues as pornography, but if everything's consensual, it's not really different from the sex games that aren't filmed. If consumption, it might cause some effect like that for those who aren't aware of the issues surrounding it, but I think the more conscious individuals should be able to view it without turning into doormats in real life.

Second, there is a heavy misuse of language here. I don't know if it's supposed to be metaphorical, but the use of words like "bondage" and "sadomasochism" just serves to confuse the issue. Sadomasochism is about sexual pleasure from pain and is not synonymous with oppression. In the immortal words of Indigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Lie #7: Lesbians “into sadomasochism” are feminists, devoted to women and a women-only lesbian community. Lesbian pornography is “by women and for women.”
 Again, we have some people vs. all people. Some lesbian feminists are into sadomasochism (again with the scare quotes!). This doesn't mean that all lesbians into it are necessarily feminists. As for lesbian pornography, some of it is created by women for women and some is created by men for men using straight women playing gay. Goodness, there is such a thing as something being true in some circumstances!
Pat Califia has said that she’d rather be stuck on a desert island with a masochistic boy than with a vanilla lesbian. Bottoms are seen as “generic, interchangeable, and replaceable.” (Califia, 1992) Califia is committed to the role of sadist, not to any particular sexual preference.
Pat Califia's bisexual, perhaps with a preference for women at that point, and his (he later came out as a trans man) sexual sadism is more essential to his sexuality than his preference for women. What of it? As for the quoted article, I haven't been able to read it. The abstract, however, says that "most top people feel that they are frequently depersonalized and objectified by the people who cruise them", which kind of casts doubt on Farley quoting it in the right context.
” Sex defined as a commodity [sadomasochism] leads to a marketplace where the gender of whore and client is irrelevant compared to kind and cost of services provided.” (Clarke, 1993)
You know, bisexuality's actually a sexual orientation.
While lesbians who are “into sadomasochism”define themselves as lesbian, their sadomasochistic practices are bisexual.
 Some lesbians. Some! And it doesn't necessarily have to do with BDSM. That's just Pat Califia who happened to both be a sadist and identify as lesbian while being more bisexual. That's an anecdote, not a trend.
I have no political criticism of bisexuality - what I am criticizing is sadomasochist posturing as devoted lesbian members of the women’s community.
 Oh, what the hell? Again, we're just talking about Pat Califia. He doesn't count as any "sadomasochist posturing".
Pseudolesbian pornography, that is, pictures of women who are imitating lesbians’ sexual behavior, has been a favored element in straight male pornography since it was first published. It sells. Despite the fact that it is often advertised as being owned and distributed by and for women, “lesbian” pornography sells briskly to straight men.
 Pseudolesbian pornography is completely different from someone identifying as a lesbian while really being bisexual. To make such a leap is biphobic. Being a lesbian means different things to different people. To some it can mean bisexual, especially if they live a primarily gay lifestyle. Pseudolesbian porn is mostly conducted by straight women, which is why lesbians tend not to like it. The women are clearly not into each other. That makes it an imitation of lesbian relations solely for the enjoyment of men, which is problematic but a completely different thing from bisexual women identifying as lesbians.

There is actual lesbian pornography, created by lesbians for lesbians. That straight men are a main consumer demographic is an issue, but it is distinct from the pseudolesbian one. If anything, I would think that the porn made for lesbians would be less socially problematic for male viewers to consume than pseudolesbian porn. Actual lesbian porn is made with women's enjoyment in mind.
Lie #8: Since lesbians are superior to men, we can “play” with sadomasochism in a liberating way that heterosexuals can not.

I do not think that women are biologically superior to men. In fact, I see that notion as dangerous and reactionary. “Anatomy is destiny” is not exactly a feminist idea.
 Agreed.
Sadistic and masochistic attitudes and behaviors among lesbians, in fact, are a good example of how we internalize abusive ideas just like everyone else does. We’re seduced by male domination - because we see that that is where power lies.
 Oh, look: gender essentialism. Dominants are viewed as masculine and submissives viewed as feminine. Not exactly a feminist idea.
Yet we delude ourselves if we think it is possible to “play” the rapist without becoming the rapist.
 You know, it's amazing that all those action movie stars haven't gone on killing sprees considering how many times they've played killers. Oh, wait, pretending to do something does not inform future actions.
Lie #9: Reenacting abuse heals abuse. Sadomasochism heals emotional wounds from childhood sexual assault.
 Some! Some! Some people find it effective in working through memories of abuse.
This lie really disturbs me.
And stop calling these claims lies!
A greater percentage of women “into sadomasochism” have histories of childhood sexual assault, than those women who do not participate in sadomasochism.
 I'm not sure that's true; but even if it is, so what? They end up as sadists or masochists and should be treated as full human beings regardless of how they may have gotten there. Maybe masochists just seem like good victims to predators and it has nothing to do with causality.
However, sadomasochism obscures the real pain and abuse of women. How can you tell the difference between “real” and “pretend” when someone has a flashback and becomes a child again in the middle of “consensual” sexual torture? Some feel an intense, even compulsive drive toward sexual annihilation that is expressed in sadomasochistic activity which mirrors the abuse suffered as a child.
 Again, there's this perception of sadists as abusively tricking women into being bottoms, thereby denying masochistic women any agency. How dare sadists aim to please their masochistic partners? The nerve!
The notion that acting out abuse helps to heal and eliminate abuse arises from the catharsis theory: do it once, just get it out of your system, then you will get over it. There is no evidence that catharsis works as a solution to social or psychological conflict, yet this theory is used to rationalize the dissemination of pornography.
 I don't think the point is to heal abuse, just to help work through psychological issues. Catharsis doesn't work as effectively as the Ancient Greeks intended it, but it can help some people.

And then we're talking about pornography. Which, you know, has just about nothing to do with the preceding sentences.
Pornography does not seem to have served as a pressure-cooker-release for men, thus freeing women from rape. On the contrary, pornography seems to have functioned as pro-rape propaganda.
 Without exactly disagreeing, I will say that this complex subject cannot be simplified effectively, nor does it have much to do with abuse survivors recreating scenes of their abuse as a way of dealing with the trauma.
Sadomasochistic catharsis does not seem to heal sexual abuse either: one women wrote, “after seventeen years of [childhood sexual assault], the lesbians I met just wanted to do more of the same. I have nightmares and damage from both.” (Anonymous, 1990) Sadomasochism is a repetition, not a healing, of childhood sexual assault.'
 Does anything heal sexual abuse, really? We're talking about working through issues that abuse survivors have about the abuse. There might be no serenity goal to be achieved, but you can still try to work through your issues.

That one woman wasn't suited for BDSM play. I know there are several women with similar experiences. I wouldn't declare BDSM universally suited for everyone. That doesn't mean that there can't be women who honestly get something out of it.
Some have suggested that sadomasochism can actually be physiologically addictive.
 That would be the endorphins. Athletes and bodybuilders can get the same kind of addiction.
I have heard women describe themselves as being “in recovery from sadomasochism,” the same way they speak of alcohol addiction. Perhaps the physical addiction to certain kinds of trauma begins with complex physical reactions to prolonged abuse in childhood which is then rekindled in adult sadomasochistic relationships.
 Wow. That is so incredibly condescending.
Lie #10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

The posturing of sadists and masochists as “transgressive” can be confusing to those not familiar with feminist theory. By definition, the ultimate goal of feminism is to end sadomasochism. Our system is sadomasochistic to the core, how is celebrating it any kind of true rebellion? (Fritz, 1983)
Once again, sadomasochism does not equal kyriarchy. You can make any bizarre association if you like just by confusing words. You could say that lesbianism equals patriarchy, therefore a lesbian feminist is an oxymoron. Doesn't make sense? Sounds stupid? Yes!
The political values of sadism are blatantly antifeminist, totalitarian and right-wing.
 There is no political value of sadism. There are only the politics of sadists. Farley confuses BDSM with the patriarchy of Abrahamic religion, which is right-wing, but this association is a mistake.
Sadomasochism is business as usual;
No, it isn't!
power relations as usual; race, gender and class as usual.
 Yeah... except when it isn't! Women can top men, and blacks can top whites... I don't recall class being mentioned, but that power relation needn't be portrayed "as usual". There is such a thing as confirmation bias.
Sadomasochism is one ritual version of dominance and submission.
 Yeah, but it has the advantage of being consensual in its best form rather than coerced like it is in the real world.
Sadomasochism is not a creative deviation from normal heterosexual behavior. It is the defining quality of the power relationship between women and men. Sadism is the logical extension of behavior that arises out of male power. ( Wagner, 1982 )
 Really, what can I say? When your premises are wrong, even a logical conclusion is also wrong. Sadomasochism is not an imitation of patriarchy. It is a facet of human sexuality just like sexual orientation.
We live in a misogynist world, and women have so little political power, that it’s easier to fantasize about absolute personal power than to politically organize for change. (Clarke, 1993). Several young lesbians recently said to me that their fantasies about sadomasochism were their “salvation” in a world where they see no possibility of attaining real power. Sadomasochist dykes play-act power and prestige in a world that crushes any attempt to organize for real power. The play-acting helps us to forget how much we are hated and hurt. And forgetting that is the real danger.
 I really don't see the issue in a few young sadists reflecting on how BDSM fantasies make them feel powerful. 'Don't you dare forget about patriarchy!' Yeah, fat chance of that.

*sighs* Honestly, now, this argument is extremely flawed. It confuses several issues, thereby rendering conclusions worthless. It takes any claim about a good part of BDSM as a universal statement that must therefore be a lie. It maintains gender essentialism by associating dominance with masculinity and submission with femininity, which is problematic from a feminist viewpoint. Even though Farley intends to provide a voice for victimized women, she ends up being incredibly condescending toward masochist women by denying them their own agency.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I am a fellow masochist, I stumbled
upon this blog randomly and found it comforting; in a odd sort of way. I found it really intriguing, your views on the subject and I was sad to find no comments on the matter. Once I began reading I could hardly stop. You are a very passionate speaker.I could sense, as I was reading, the underlying
tones of deep rage, which is good!, If I had read the artical I would have be pissed. I just dont have the control to put words together,
in the compelling way that you have, when I am angry. If I may I noticed a slight confusion
when you Spoke of "Bondge is Liberation"
Maybe my veiw can help to clear the mist?


On the whole "Bondage is Liberation" is very simple, at least it is in my eyes. It has just a little to do with trust as you would probably want to trust anyone tying you up otherwise it seems reminiscent of a mass murder case, if you follow. It may just be me but there is a whole psychological aspect that to me makes it the most enjoyable and the simplest way to explain it is this; It's like relinquishment all responsibility and problems over to some other party, If one is in bondage they are not necessarily responsible
for what happens for a moment they can be free from all burdens and blame, It's a mental release like sex is physical.

I dont know if that is helpful at all but Just maybe it helped to clear up any confusion.

Your comment "You know, it's amazing that all those action movie stars haven't gone on killing sprees considering how many times they've played killers. Oh, wait, pretending to do something does not inform future actions."
Had me rolling with laughter. I assume if you were a public speaker I would love to watch your debates as your style is very compeling.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I am a fellow masochist, I stumbled
upon this blog randomly and found it comforting; in a odd sort of way. I found it really intriguing, your views on the subject and I was sad to find no comments on the matter. Once I began reading I could hardly stop. You are a very passionate speaker.I could sense, as I was reading, the underlying
tones of deep rage, which is good!, If I had read the artical I would have be pissed. I just dont have the control to put words together,
in the compelling way that you have, when I am angry. If I may I noticed a slight confusion
when you Spoke of "Bondge is Liberation"
Maybe my veiw can help to clear the mist?


On the whole "Bondage is Liberation" is very simple, at least it is in my eyes. It has just a little to do with trust as you would probably want to trust anyone tying you up otherwise it seems reminiscent of a mass murder case, if you follow. It may just be me but there is a whole psychological aspect that to me makes it the most enjoyable and the simplest way to explain it is this; It's like relinquishment all responsibility and problems over to some other party, If one is in bondage they are not necessarily responsible
for what happens for a moment they can be free from all burdens and blame, It's a mental release like sex is physical.

I dont know if that is helpful at all but Just maybe it helped to clear up any confusion.

Your comment "You know, it's amazing that all those action movie stars haven't gone on killing sprees considering how many times they've played killers. Oh, wait, pretending to do something does not inform future actions."
Had me rolling with laughter. I assume if you were a public speaker I would love to watch your debates as your style is very compeling.

Anonymous said...

Hi there.
let me start off by saying your writing style is very interesting, well worded, and strongly opinionated. I like all three of those things, they made the article very compelling.

so I'll give you a little information about myself before I ask my question. My name is Morgan, I am 18, & I am a straight woman. I am definitely a sadomasochist, and it's been that way for as long as I can remember. I haven't done a whole lot of research yet, but I'm extremely interested in knowing more behind the reasons that I do things. I know I'm not mentally ill or anything like that, and when I'm not tied up, I like to smoke weed and bake and shit. I'm very laid back and peace-loving. My interest started as nothing more than that, an interest, but before long, I found that my fantasies intrigued me so much that I could not keep them in my head. I want to be tied up, whipped, burned, bitten, spanked, choked, you name it. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy plain vanilla, and a little romance every so often is wonderful. I can cuddle and hold hands and watch Netflix... But some days, I want to inflict intense sexual pain on someone else who wants those things just as bad as I do (for pleasure) ). I currently have a relationship with another sadomasochist, which is exactly what I need. I could never inflict pain on someone who didn't want it, and I couldn't take it from anyone who was unsure about giving it. My pain comes from his pleasure and vice versa, but only if it's what he REALLY wants. All or nothing.

So my question is: are there any other articles I can read on subjects similar to this one? I don't worry myself, but I am interested in researching the reasons behind my actions. also, any feedback would be great. I want to know as much as possible, I just have a thirst for curiosity and knowledge. I guess I would just like to know myself a little better ;)