Archive for the ‘The Scene’ Category

The “Bondage Awards”

Through Bitchy Jones, I stumbled onto the Bondage Awards website, and good god, is this a perfect example of the sort of sexist & heterosexist crap that makes it so fucking hard to defend BDSM when arguing with non-kinky feminists. I mean, to take the words of a certain radfem blogger, they’re making it too easy.

Take a look at that page. Does it give you any indication that not all bondage models are female, not all riggers and photographers are male, not all women are submissive, and OH YEAH not everyone is fucking straight? Nope.

Now, you’ll notice that on the home page there’s a post indicating that there have been a number of people writing in to him about the sexism/heterosexism issue. Here’s the response, summarized:

I didn’t intentionally make it sexist. I just looked through my photo collection and picked out some pictures I liked. Also, last year the awards got great feedback, and not one person suggested that gender neutrality was important. So let’s not talk about it any more and just have fun, because that’s what this is all about, right?


As Bitchy points out, probably next year they’ll just include a couple of busty women with whips and absurdly high-heeled boots and call that “gender equality.”

The thing is, after getting really upset about this last night, I came to the realization that this person’s website is actually just sort of sad. It’s an egotistic attempt to place himself (I’m guessing this is a single dude running the site) at the center of the bondage porn industry by working this annual “bondage award” thing up to be a well-recognized event. The stuff that makes me angry about the website is really no better or worse than pretty much any other fetish website out there. And that, really, is what I should be upset about.

Sex in our culture is so, so broken.

Sexism in BDSM

I wrote earlier that I wanted to talk about consent and choice and how they are and aren’t relevant to a feminist reading of BDSM, and I still do, but all of this arguing has led me to something that I think is really important to recognize first:

A lot of people who engage in BDSM are sexist.

Pretty simple, right? This is something we can totally agree upon with the radfems. Here’s the big difference, as I see it. (Some of this taken from comments left elsewhere…)

From the anti-kink perspective, BDSM is a product of the patriarchy and is thus inherently sexist. Because BDSM is inherently sexist, we mainly see maledom-femsub pairings in which men get whatever they want from the women who serve them because they have been socialized to submit.

From my perspective, BDSM is a product of human sexuality and its wide variety of expressions and is not inherently sexist nor inherently feminist. Because we live in a sexist and heterosexist society, we mainly see maledom-femsub parings, while any other combinations, including those involving trans and queer folks, are marginalized; and female dominants are largely still expected to be fetish objects for submissive men. (Or they aren’t really thought to exist.) Also because of the sexist culture in which we are socialized, there are a lot of men (in general) who are accustomed to getting what they want from women, and there are a lot of women (in general) who have a hard time saying “no” and sticking to it. This means that within maledom-femsub, there exist male dominants who expect all women to defer to them (if not to submit entirely) and women who find it difficult to negotiate or leave relationships. Unfortunately, it is often tricky to address or see sexism at work in BDSM relationships, because it’s hard to tell how much is “fetish” and how much is “what I really think.”

…so the big difference, of course, is that I think (and I imagine a lot of folks reading this think) that sexism and abuse found in the BDSM scene isn’t any different than the sexism and abuse found outside of it — it’s just that sometimes, and especially when people are very new to BDSM, kink can be used as a mask to hide sexism for what it really is. (Of course, all sorts of things can be used to mask sexism outside of kink culture, and it’s a cliche that love can be used to mask abuse in any relationship.)

The actual things that we do are not the problem. It is the way that we approach and relate to what we do. The problem is not dominant men who enjoy activity X, but dominant men who say things like “well, if you don’t enjoy X then you’re not a *true submissive*.” The problem is not that submissive women eroticize Y, but that some submissive women do Y even when they’re really, truly not wanting to do it, because they feel like they’re being “bad” if they safeword or refuse. The problem is not dominant men who seek out submissive women to play with or to form relationships with, but dominant men who assume every kinky woman they meet is in need of a strong man to teach her about her deep submissive urges (regardless of whether or not she identifies as a dominant or submissive). It is not a problem if a submissive woman likes being whipped, but it is a problem if she doesn’t have some sort of basic control over when and how she is being whipped.

Of course, as I said earlier, this argument only makes sense if you can get beyond the idea that BDSM is created by the patriarchy, and that any act that inflicts pain on another person or that eroticizes power is “patriarchal” and thus bad. But that’s another argument, I suppose.

Anarchist BDSM Group

So this is really going to happen. Months of talk with some other kinky anarchist friends has finally resulted in finding a space and setting a date for the first meeting of an Anarchist BDSM group. I’ve even made a flyer, which I intend to distribute in all manner of anarchist and radical spaces. (See below.)

I’m excited, but also nervous. This is for a few reasons.

  1. I consider myself a total noob when it comes to the BDSM scene, and I’m afraid that people who are in that scene might take offense to my essentially saying that after my extremely limited interactions with the mainstream kink/leather scene, I feel the need to create something separate rather than use what they’ve spent decades building up. There’s certainly a part of me that feels I’m throwing it all out prematurely, judging it all as flawed and “not for me” before I’ve even given it a chance.
  2. On a similar note, being relatively new to BDSM also means that I don’t really have any techniques to share, which I think is a large component of what I’d want in a group like this. Obviously, the idea here is for multiple inexperienced people to teach themselves and learn from each others’ successes and failures — but I’m afraid that as the person kicking this off, the fact that I’m not able to immediately bring any new ideas or skills to the table will make the group short-lived unless there are other people who do have those skills ready to step up.
  3. I’m afraid that a group like this will be of interest to only a handful of people, most of whom I already know. I’m afraid that most anarchists who are into BDSM are fine with just playing on their own or using the resources of the existing scene, and that people won’t understand why a group like this needs to exist: “What difference does it make if you’re an anarchist or not? Your political opinions don’t have anything to do with the way you play.” My response, of course, is, “Yes, they do.” I wouldn’t want to sub to someone who held sexist ideas about the relative worth or “natural” tendencies of women; I wouldn’t want to sub to someone who thought that we were simply bringing out latent non-sexual power dynamics that already existed between us. I wouldn’t want to sub to someone who’s a cop. The political opinions of the people I play with affect how I view our d/s dynamic, because they make me wonder how much of that power dynamic is sexual fetish and how much is what they actually believe is an appropriate way for human beings to interact. It affects how deep I can go into subspace while still feeling safe. (Obviously, there’s a hell of a lot more to say about this, but this will have to do for now…)
  4. My fourth big fear is the fact that working to organize and promote this group is going to require me to be a lot more out about my sexuality — of course, it will mostly be to other kinky folk, which doesn’t seem so bad, but I still have some huge blocks around talking publicly about my sex life. Blogging about it, sure. But speaking about it? To a group of people? [Shudders.]

But hopefully, there really is a need for a group like this, and plenty of people will show up eager to participate, with lots of ideas and energy, and nobody will criticize me and I won’t feel nervous at all. Yes, that would be ideal.

Please spread the word to any radical kinky folk you know, and feel free to repost the flyer. Also, if anyone can come up with a clever name for the group…let me know. As my partner pointed out, it’s really too bad that “Bound Together” is already taken.