Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Tag

Learning How to Fight

I take it back. I do know why I keep doing this. I do it because it challenges me, and because in the process of defending my sexuality, I become more secure in and at home with who I am and what I desire. Participating in those comments threads gets me reading other bloggers and gets us starting our own conversations. I participate because it makes me happy to support other kinky folks when they are being ridiculed or condemned, and it makes me happy to hear the voices of other kinky folk who have *my* back as well.

I also do it because sometimes, I need to remember why the anti-kink folks see BDSM the way they do, and to better understand their position so that when I find myself under attack, I can better defend myself in a way that might actually get through to them. On the Internet, I pretty much think it’s always a waste of time to try and change someone’s mind about this stuff. But I feel I can use these online skirmishes to practice my own defense for the inevitable battles I will have to fight with friends and loved ones. I’m not particularly out, at the moment, but someday, the time will come when a family member finds this blog, or a friend asks me about the o-rings secured to my loft bed frame, or a roommate comes home early and hears whipping noises coming from my room. And I realize that the more secure I feel in my ability to verbally defend myself, the less scared I’ll be of someone finding out about my sex life and the more open I’ll be able to feel with my friends.

One thing that I’ve come to realize is that simply shrugging off demands to “examine my desires” isn’t the best way to deal with things. Oh, don’t get me wrong — it’s what I want to do, of course. My gut reaction to those who suggest that I haven’t “examined my desires” is a resounding “fuck you,” because let’s face it: most of us have done a hell of a lot of self-examination (and often a lot of self-hating) when it comes to our sexuality, and to suggest that we haven’t done so really trivializes the process we have all had to undergo in order to be able to speak openly about our desires in the first place.

But as right and justified as I might be to respond in this way, it doesn’t really get me anywhere if I’m earnestly trying to argue about this issue with someone.

So. First of all, I want to look at some of the responses that I most frequently hear from kinky folks when attacked by anti-kink people: consent, choice, and pleasure. (To be discussed in my next post…)

She Couldn’t Possibly…

If you’ve ever read a story about the death of a young, attractive, white woman, this will sound familiar.

For 17-year-old Taylor Behl of Vienna, Va., happiness was sipping cappuccino and listening to live music at her favorite neighborhood coffee shop….”She was so excited about the future,” [her mother] says. “The list of things that she wanted to do, and who she wanted to be. And she would have succeeded. She would have been all those things.”

She was beautiful, happy, loved life, her family, and friends. Yada yada yada. Pretty much the same description of every murder victim the media considers worthy of a feature story or a foundation in her name. But in this story on CNN (originally from January, but run again with updates last month), the victim is not only portrayed as all of the above, but also as a woman who was sexually naive, innocent, and even prudish. Why? Because her death was the result of asphyxiation during sex in the back of her car.

After reading the story, it’s still pretty unclear what happened — the guy in question sounds sketchy as hell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, in fact, simply rape and murder the girl, as the prosecution contends. But that’s not really the point, here. The point is that in order to make him culpable of her murder, investigators and the woman’s family and friends had to focus on her complete innocence and sexual inexperience, insisting that this young woman couldn’t possibly have been interested in the sort of sexual play the man now in prison insists she was into. And while I suppose it doesn’t really hurt her, being dead and all, it’s frustrating to see yet another story re-emphasizing the “good girls don’t” message.

This is how 38-year-old petty thief Ben Fawley claims 17-year-old college freshman Taylor Behl died: at her own game, a sex game known as “erotic asphyxia.”

…Fawley claims, that at her urging during sex in the back seat of her car, he tried various ways to restrict Taylor’s breathing. The prosecution’s theory? Fawley took Taylor for a drive to a secluded area to have sex. When Taylor rejected him, an angry Fawley strangled her.

Prosecutors also say Fawley duct-taped Taylor’s wrists — not as part of a sex act — but to restrain her. “Now that’s not erotic asphyxiation, bondage, or any kind of sex in any of the textbooks that I’ve looked at,” [prosecutor] Gill says.

Sex textbooks, huh? And according to those “textbooks,” binding someone’s wrists behind their back with duct tape isn’t bondage? Okay, maybe a poor choice of materials, but…

“How would Taylor have any kind of knowledge about this bondage or any of these sexual practices?” Moriarty [the reporter] asks.

“Fawley showed her,” Johnson [a defense attorney] says. “He had a computer that was filled with pictures of, you know, young ladies involved in various bondage poses.”

[Pounding head against wall.] Right. Because there’s no way an eighteen-year-old woman would have fantasized about bondage or asphyxiation without an older man showing her porn. On the computer, no less!

Taylor’s best friend and confidant, Glynnis…says the defense theory is simply ridiculous. “I know for a fact that Taylor would never have done that. She would have never been into bondage. She was not a sexually experienced person,” Glynnis explains. Glynnis says Taylor never talked about an interest in bondage, and that by 17-year-old standards, she was “a prude.”

In fact, prosecutor Chris Bullard says he was unable to find any evidence, other than Fawley’s word, that Taylor had any interest in bondage and risky sex acts. “There’s no computer evidence to show that she was visiting Web sites about erotic asphyxiation,” he explains.

Right, because there’s no reason why a young woman would be reluctant to come out to her friends about her kinky fantasies. And of course, there’s no way she would have had any interest in this stuff unless she had, again, been visiting porn websites.

What’s more, prosecutors say they can prove that Fawley is lying about how Taylor died that night. By re-enacting Fawley’s story, Richmond police showed 48 Hours what they learned. Officer Sarah Powell portrayed Taylor, while Jason McCleellan of the Richmond Police Department played the role of Fawley. The two young officers are the same size as Taylor and Fawley, and the car used for the re-enactment was an exact replica. Det. Jason Hudson read from Fawley’s own statement as a script. The two officers tried to physically follow the “script” as they were in the car. “I’ve only been here a few minutes and already half my body is completely numb,” Officer Powell, who portrayed Taylor, remarked. “So I know that any teenage girl wouldn’t settle for this too long.” The obvious takeaway, say the officers? “Someone could not get any kind of enjoyment out of this,” McCleellan said.

Sure, that makes sense — oh wait, it doesn’t at all. By that logic, teenagers would never be having sex in the back of cars. Because that’s not something that happens often enough to have become a cliche. And of course, what one person finds uncomfortable and not enjoyable, no one could possibly find enjoyable.

But would this be enough to prove that Fawley intended to kill Taylor? Or, as the defense was counting on, would 12 jurors have their own doubts about the victim herself? “Rural jurors expect, you know, men to act like gentlemen and they expect young women to act like ladies,” defense attorney Bill Johnson explains. “That mindset, we believe, certainly played into our favor.”

Yes. I’m sure it did.

Fear of Submission

Sometimes, I want to just forget everything I’ve learned, deny my desires, and shut it all out of my life; sometimes I want to erase everything I’ve written here (as I have once before) and never play with anyone ever again. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever feel completely okay with what I want and with who I am.

And that, in itself—the fact that I’m often not okay, that I get scared of myself—is at times profoundly disturbing, and makes me feel somewhat ashamed and embarassed.

A lot of the embarassment comes from the fact that I don’t often get to see other people having those same thoughts and worries. I know that everyone does (right?), but I also feel that this is something that I should be over by now, that because I know intellectually that there’s nothing wrong with what I feel and what I want, I shouldn’t be agonizing over it as much as I do. It’s also in large part due to the fact that my partner, who’s as new to this as I am, has had a far easier time with it than I have, and has very rarely touched the “oh my god, am I really like this” moments.

We talked about this last night, and he said something that I’d never thought of, but that makes a lot of sense to me: being dominant and assertive is seen, in our culture, as a positive quality (especially in men), and so his being a dom doesn’t really create a lot of dissonance—while his desires have certainly troubled him from time to time, especially at first, the overall position of dominance hasn’t been disturbing to him in the same way that submission is to me. Submission can be much more perturbing, because it’s not valued in our culture the way that dominance is; submission means that you’re not strong enough, that you’ve lost.

I’ve struggled with that dominance game all my life, constantly fighting to prove that I am smart and strong, confident and capable. It’s often felt to me that I have to work extra hard to get the same respect as male peers, to be regarded as an equal. And I feel that I’ve largely succeeded in that.

So it’s really not all that surprising, then, that coming to terms with a side of myself that finds a deep satisfaction in being ordered to a man’s feet, to be collared and bound, to be spanked and slapped, to be choked and suffocated, has been just a little difficult. For me, my sexual identity as a submissive is a complete juxtaposition of the persona I present to the rest of the world, or at least, that I want to present. I suspect that a lot of my friends would be shocked to learn that I’m a submissive. For him, his identity as a dom is a little clearer: domination is a positive attribute for him, and his personality is markedly assertive and dominant to begin with. I expect that even if his friends might be a little surprised at the extent of some of the things he enjoys (especially his sadistic side), his general position as a dom would not be at all surprising.

More thoughts, upon reflection: What’s interesting is that I don’t have the same issues around specifically masochistic desires. I’ve always been okay with fantasies or actual play that’s more focused on pain and endurance (clamps, whipping, cutting, etc.) than on the D/S aspect. But that, too, fits in with my background: if the submission is a problem for me because I’ve actively combatted an association with that in my “regular” life, the masochism fits right in with a history of using pain to break through troubling mental states (began cutting and burning myself at age 14) and a fascination with asceticism and martyrdom (very much a self-denying, morality-obsessed activist type up until a few years ago).