God, Sex and the Left
December 26, 2011 12:59 PM   Subscribe

"In all other circumstances we praise non-violent activities and when people, for whatever personal reasons, enjoy sexual violence even in a consenting context I think we shouldn't just say “whatever turns you on”. We should say “There's something wrong here”. But people on the left are so terrified of being accused of moralising and therefore of being oppressive that they've abandoned their critical faculties in this area." Clive Hamilton on God, Sex, and the Left (Part 2).
posted by daniel_charms (358 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was part of the sexual liberation movement in a small way and it was tremendously liberating. But it didn’t have a way of recognising where personal freedoms crossed the boundaries of the perverse.

...

Let’s say it: sex and violence don't belong together and there's something perverse about wanting to play out violent fantasies in the sexual act. Giving consent doesn't in itself make it acceptable, because it normalises violence or implies it's acceptable in certain circumstances.


This is, of course, rubbish. Lots of things are unacceptable in most circumstances but perfectly fine in certain ones. A karate tournament includes an awful lot of violence but nobody denies that it's a legitimate place for it. This entire essay simply declares things without providing any basis, like an explanation of why "the perverse" is even something awful that must be avoided, never mind where the line is drawn - I've known people who considered oral sex perverse, or anal sex. Whose "perversity" are we even talking about here?
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:06 PM on December 26, 2011 [71 favorites]


As philosopher Perry Farrell opined: "Sex is violence."
posted by gcbv at 1:06 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


"But people on the left are so terrified of being accused of moralising and therefore of being oppressive that they've abandoned their critical faculties in this area."

This is just plain wrong. I'll (and others on the left) moralize all day about different things; the necessity of welfare, the evil of war, the rape culture. Just not that; sex, and violence, in a consenting relationship, is not something I have a moral problem with. It has nothing to do with somehow lacking the desire to moralize. To characterise the entire "left" that way is just silly.

Ok, on to part 2, but I didn't really dig part 1....
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:07 PM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't understand his argument about "violent" sex at all. He says:
The ideology of the time, which still persists, is that anything goes, the only thing that matters is consent and that any judgement about sexual practices or attitudes is a form of oppression.

But then a few paragraphs down, he mentions bestiality and rape, which aren't consensual. In part 2 he mentions sex trafficking - again, not consensual.

He also doesn't define "violence." Is spanking violent? Is the mere act of tying someone up violent? Are these violent (NSFW)? What if it's a woman doing it to a man? What if it's done with fuzzy handcuffs or silk hankerchiefs? What if you engage in BDSM without ever looking at BDSM porn (as is the case with me)?

Porn has very little to do with the sex people actually engage in.
posted by desjardins at 1:09 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


As philosopher Perry Farrell opined: "Sex is violence."

To be fair - said Venice Beach street philosopher was probably deep in the throes of a heroin addiction when he came up with that bon mot. Your mileage may vary.
posted by loquacious at 1:10 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and is there a special award we can give for declaring that sexual liberation was liberating?
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Parents don't want to be turned into policeman in their own homes.

Then they shouldn't have had children.

Even five year olds are now reported to be acting out scenes they could only have witnessed in porn videos or websites.

"Reported," eh? Sounds like those five-year-olds took too much Blue Star acid.

We see on the internet what happens when there are no restraints—every violent fantasy is indulged. We have regulation of every other form of media--newspapers, magazines, books, television, cinema. But somehow the internet is sacrosanct, and we see what happens as a result.

You're damn right the Internet is sacrosanct - it's the only free place LEFT, dammit! And rapidly losing ground at that.

I don't think we should shy away from the fact that some things are perverse.

Only when done right.

This whole interview makes me want to throw things at the screen. Someone please get the big vaudeville stage hook for this guy.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [35 favorites]


Lets say that somebody enters into a master/slave relationship voluntarily. Do we tolerate it because its consensual? Or are we against all slavery no matter how consensual the slaveholding agreement is?

If we tolerate consensual slavery in private, would we be willing to tolerate it in public? Would we be willing to allow corporations to hold employees in consentual bondage? If not, why not?
posted by Avenger at 1:20 PM on December 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Lets say that somebody enters into a master/slave relationship voluntarily. Do we tolerate it because its consensual? Or are we against all slavery no matter how consensual the slaveholding agreement is?

If you're talking about full-time BDSM roleplaying, it's not literal slavery. It's pretend.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:22 PM on December 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


What if consenting adults decide to do so for real? what if one person agrees to give up the right to autonomy completely and permanently into terrible end to themselves? And again taken out of the bedroom, would we tolerate this concept in other relationships?

When we know the "consent" was arriced at because of mental health issues, lack of financial autonomy, disability, terrible misfortune, or childhood abuse issues that the person has no support coping with?

What does consent mean if one person allows another to do them terrible harm? At what point CAN we say, "Hey that person is allowing themselves to be treated terribly and it seems to actually be harming them. Maybe this is not cool."

Why would we think a man can hit a woman in the bedroom if it makes her horny but he can't hit a woman because she doesn't have dinner ready on time? What if he badgers her into believing she deserves to be hit when she makes a mistake so she "consents"

What if the same thing happens in the bedroom? What if the woman is thinking, "All men really want to harm their women physically and this is what they really want so I should let them even though I feel empty and bad inside"? What if she learned that because her culture and her early life experiences taught her that directly?

If you meet a woman or man with this mindset, is it not possible you're coming along and exploiting the situation?
posted by xarnop at 1:30 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


If we tolerate consensual slavery in private, would we be willing to tolerate it in public? Would we be willing to allow corporations to hold employees in consentual bondage? If not, why not?

There may be some "slippery slope" in the consenting adults sexual activity spectrum, but to get from there to corporate indentured servitude you had to slide all the way to the bottom, cross a jungle rope bridge, then hire some sherpas to carry your argument up a different mountain.
posted by justkevin at 1:30 PM on December 26, 2011 [88 favorites]


Actual slavery that you can't escape from: no.

Pretend slavery complete with a safe word that you can easily walk away from: weird, but yes.
posted by emjaybee at 1:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you're talking about full-time BDSM roleplaying, it's not literal slavery. It's pretend. posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:22 PM on 12/26 [+] [

So if the slave is free to physically leave whenever she wants its not "literally" slavery? What if her master dominates her finances and social life? What if her master is also her boss? How free is she to leave, really?
posted by Avenger at 1:32 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


P.S., and even if it weren't some kind of roleplaying game, the question is kind of incoherent. In the US, at least, there is no legal ownership of another human being, and no legal basis for holding someone without their consent, except via the due process of law (and Guantanamo but let's not go there). So if two people entered into a master/slave arrangement for labor purposes (like a butler who works for free, or something), the minute that the "slave" no longer consented to the relationship, the "master" would have to either let him go, or resort to illegally confining him (holding him prisoner). The "slavery" wouldn't have the social infrastructure to give it teeth, such as laws which returned freed slaves to their masters. It would STILL be a form of roleplaying.

Minimum wage laws, child labor laws, laws against unpaid internships, etc., exist not to discourage the consensual expression of hierarchical relationships, but rather because the majority of the time, these relationships come about without consent, instead via exploitation and abuse.

It's like asking, "What if someone consented to be raped? Should society allow this?" If it's consensual, it's not rape, it's just elaborate make-believe (which should be undertaken safely, obviously). If it isn't consensual after all, then it's just plain-old rape and dealt with as-is.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:33 PM on December 26, 2011 [23 favorites]


People who are clearly not wired to enjoy pain should stay out of moralizing other people's fun. That's all.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:36 PM on December 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Ooooh, someone saw an Insex clip and got squicked. This seriously reads like the anti-gay screed of someone you can just tell is deeply closeted, except Clive's problem is BDSM.
posted by localroger at 1:38 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's like asking, "What if someone consented to be raped? Should society allow this?" If it's consensual, it's not rape, it's just elaborate make-believe (which should be undertaken safely, obviously). If it isn't consensual after all, then it's just plain-old rape and dealt with as-is.

See, I'm bringing this up because here in America we have this problem: We believe that consent makes everything okay. But it doesn't. Consent, as practiced in the United States, is really just about making the Master feel better about his decision to enslave people.
posted by Avenger at 1:40 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


"People who are clearly not wired to enjoy pain should stay out of moralizing other people's fun. That's all."


Yes but many people who are wired to be aroused by pain can be seriously injured by people who think consent is as simple as getting a person submissively passive to what is being done.
posted by xarnop at 1:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have none of you people heard of safewords?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am pro-openmindedness toward kink.

I am also pro- criticical thinking about how kink can affect people, and I personally believe that consent does not automatically make what you're doing to someone else ok.
posted by xarnop at 1:42 PM on December 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


Why would we think a man can hit a woman in the bedroom if it makes her horny but he can't hit a woman because she doesn't have dinner ready on time?

Because she wants him too? Why can people acting in a play make out with strangers without their SOs thinking they're cheating?

What if the woman is thinking, "All men really want to harm their women physically and this is what they really want so I should let them even though I feel empty and bad inside"? What if she learned that because her culture and her early life experiences taught her that directly?

That's not the same as her wanting it, and it won't turn her on. Which her partner should you know, notice. If they ignore that, then that's fucked up. But you can't read people's minds. You have to negotiate these things as you go, and you can't sit from on high and determine the morality of this stuff based on hypotheticals, when you're talking about such inherently gray area shit as the intersection of desire and power.

But if the argument is, "We should define all desire which involves any form of violence as pathological" then I think that's bullshit, not to mention stupidly counterproductive. Taboos only make shit more likely to be fetishized. Sex is something which, for very good societal reasons, has a lot of rules around it. The idea that your desire is so great you are compelled to break those rules, is behind pretty much every fetish you can name. That will never change. Making additional rules which make a broader range of behavior more shameful and illicit will not unplug those wires in people's brains.
posted by Diablevert at 1:45 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


So if the slave is free to physically leave whenever she wants its not "literally" slavery? What if her master dominates her finances and social life? What if her master is also her boss? How free is she to leave, really?

This has jack shit to do with consent in BDSM. Plenty of people are in that position without BDSM being explicitly or implicitly involved, so making it specifically about "slavery" is a red herring.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:46 PM on December 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


xarnop:What does consent mean if one person allows another to do them terrible harm?

I have never seen a BDSM scene either in person or in porn where I would characterize what is happening to the bottom as "terrible harm." Unless you think having super powerful orgasms is a terrible thing.

Why would we think a man can hit a woman in the bedroom if it makes her horny but he can't hit a woman because she doesn't have dinner ready on time?

Because in the first instance she wants it and in the second she doesn't.

What if he badgers her into believing she deserves to be hit when she makes a mistake so she "consents"

Um, Clue Train, it usually works the other way around. The phrase you should look up is "Smart Ass Masochist" or SAM.

What if the same thing happens in the bedroom? What if the woman is thinking, "All men really want to harm their women physically and this is what they really want so I should let them even though I feel empty and bad inside"? What if she learned that because her culture and her early life experiences taught her that directly?

You know, you really should meet some S&M people before pontificating on their inner thoughts. Masochists don't submit because they feel bad and worthless, they submit because the attention and exaggerated feelings are exalting.

The world would probably be a much better place if there was more BDSM, because one thing about playing with power is it sensitizes you to the situation when you aren't playing. Being a sadist has meant that I have never even been tempted to hit a woman in anger in my entire life. It's not cool when she isn't getting off on it. But by the same token, it's not cool when she wants something and you come into her bedroom and tell her she can't have it because it makes you feel all squicky.
posted by localroger at 1:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


The slave talk is also a derailment from the original article, which attacks "vanilla" BDSM. It's a far distance between someone that enjoys a spanking and someone that wants to contractually sign away all their rights.
posted by ymgve at 1:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, it's true that we tend to be less skeptical of violence in sexual situations versus non-sexual situations. If we know of a guy that goes out in the woods to shoot guns or play with knives or break things, we tend to be much more willing to label that person violent or even pathological, while behavior in the bedroom is considered off-limits for talking about a history of violence (even if no one is hurt). We give free pass probably for good reason, though it's good to be skeptical of these things. Perhaps the solution is the opposite: we should be less judgmental of violent behavior that doesn't harm others and not jump to conclusions based on it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am also pro- criticical thinking about how kink can affect people, and I personally believe that consent does not automatically make what you're doing to someone else ok.

I agree completely, from a personal standpoint. Everyone has their moral values and personal limits, things which weird them out, which they wouldn't do to someone else, or people they know who are into ______, and they wonder whether they might be kind of messed up.

However, Hamilton is speaking from a political/societal viewpoint to a politically-oriented publication. He invokes several times the responsibility of society to face and deal with things which he finds abhorrent in spite of the fact that the people engaging in them are consenting adults. This is the same garbage the right wing wrings its hands about when it comes to gays. "All that ______, out in the open, and in view of the CHILDREN, no less!"
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


If we know of a guy that goes out in the woods to shoot guns or play with knives or break things, we tend to be much more willing to label that person violent or even pathological,

Dubya Tee Eff? You just described most of the rural population.
posted by localroger at 1:52 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Gays are promiscuous and diseased and perverted and we shouldn't allow homosexuality, consent be damned! Why would a guy consent to having a penis in his asshole? That's ridiculous! No sane person would want that. It's unsanitary. Exit only!
posted by desjardins at 1:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


this weird direction the Left has been heading in lately, of decreased "permissivity", is creeping me out

this tendency toward Purity

it is like the idea of Shaping Man Toward Perfection is waking back up. worrisome
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:55 PM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


So if the slave is free to physically leave whenever she wants its not "literally" slavery? What if her master dominates her finances and social life? What if her master is also her boss? How free is she to leave, really?

The same complications arrive when you have any kind of sexual or nonprofessional relationship between coworkers or managers and subordinates. You're talking about the possibility of someone who has the upper hand in an existing power dynamic exploiting their position. If someone is exploiting their existing position of power to secure "consent", I would argue that there wasn't really "consent" being given at all. Whether they're trying to convince someone to give them a blowjob or be a sub or give them $200 is irrelevant; those scenarios aren't consent based.

Summary: hypotheticals like this are why HR managers can't sleep at night.
posted by verb at 1:55 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's ridiculous! No sane person would want that

And those who "think" they've consented were obviously abused into thinking they ought to.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:55 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, it's true that we tend to be less skeptical of violence in sexual situations versus non-sexual situations. If we know of a guy that goes out in the woods to shoot guns or play with knives or break things, we tend to be much more willing to label that person violent or even pathological, while behavior in the bedroom is considered off-limits for talking about a history of violence (even if no one is hurt).
Seriously? I think that going off into the woods and shooting guns for fun is pretty normal behavior. I don't target shoot or play paintball, but I'm not shocked that other people do. I think people would be weirded out of a person was sexually aroused, and not just entertained, by shooting guns, which suggests that it's actually the sex and not the enjoying fake-violence that squicks people out.
posted by craichead at 1:58 PM on December 26, 2011


"You know, you really should meet some S&M people before pontificating on their inner thoughts."

I've been an "S&M" person all my life so perhaps you could consider you don't speak for the entirety of people who feel aroused over sexual harm.

"Um, Clue Train, it usually works the other way around. The phrase you should look up is "Smart Ass Masochist" or SAM."

Seriously? You think abusive relationships "usually" are the result of women begging to be hit? On what are you basing this claim?
posted by xarnop at 1:59 PM on December 26, 2011


"And those who "think" they've consented were obviously abused into thinking they ought to."

I know, I hear your sarcasm dude. Obviously it's never possible that people could have been abused into thinking they should consent to things that will harm them. That definately never happens.
posted by xarnop at 2:01 PM on December 26, 2011


this tendency toward Purity

It's really not new. In this form it goes back to the 1980's when some prominent feminists decided to double down on their successes of the 1970's and use the power of their movement to suppress pornography entirely.

Their propaganda was full of lies about how all porn was the result of oppression and degradation and was well onto a slippery slope toward ubiquitous snuff films. Since nobody ever actually found a real snuff film they unashamedly mixed up images from crime scenes and movies to force the argument that porn == BDSM == violence. And then they tried to whip up laws, a few of which were actually passed at the local level, before Andrea Dworking blew the gaskets out of their movement by publishing a BDSM bodice-ripper and exposing their hypocrisy.

It's just been long enough for enough people to forget about that so that the purists can get a running start again.
posted by localroger at 2:01 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


If we tolerate consensual slavery in private, would we be willing to tolerate it in public? Would we be willing to allow corporations to hold employees in consentual bondage? If not, why not?

...

See, I'm bringing this up because here in America we have this problem: We believe that consent makes everything okay. But it doesn't. Consent, as practiced in the United States, is really just about making the Master feel better about his decision to enslave people.

I don't know where you're going with this. BDSM leads to people working for a corporation for no pay but of their own volition?

If BDSM leads to people volunteering at the food bank, I guess I'm okay with that provided they wash their hands first.
posted by justkevin at 2:02 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, my god! I am trapped in re-runs from the 80s! Heeeelp!
posted by Wylla at 2:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been an "S&M" person all my life so perhaps you could consider you don't speak for the entirety of people who feel aroused over sexual harm.

Sexual sadists don't get aroused over sexual harm. You would not fit in with most of the BDSM people I've encountered if that's really the way you feel.

Seriously? You think abusive relationships "usually" are the result of women begging to be hit? On what are you basing this claim?

BDSM is not abuse. It's about giving someone, usually very carefully, something that makes her feel wonderful. I would have no interest in dominating someone who was clearly clinically depressed and not responding to my actions with sexual excitement.

For someone who claims to be an "S&M person" you don't seem to think that masochism, as it's understood by actual masochists, actually exists.
posted by localroger at 2:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


As philosopher Perry Farrell opined: "Sex is violence."
posted by gcbv at 3:06 PM on December 26

Exploited said it first.
posted by symbioid at 2:06 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wylla, I propose that we break the cycle of stupid by giving up technology and flying our spaceships into the fracking Sun.
posted by localroger at 2:09 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we tolerate consensual slavery in private, would we be willing to tolerate it in public? Would we be willing to allow corporations to hold employees in consentual bondage? If not, why not?

The situation you're describing between corporation and employee is a kind of coercion. The corporation offers the employee a terrible situation because they know they have the employee over a barrel; his/her other choices are to take an even worse job or to starve. These situations would be equivalent only if everybody who worked for the corporation could have taken much better jobs but they chose to work there because they got off on it, because being a coroprate slave was exactly what they wanted.

posted by Adventurer at 2:09 PM on December 26, 2011


He basically has a pretty depressing view of male sexuality, doesn't he? He thinks the "male libido" is this very dangerous, violent thing and society has to keep it in check so it doesn't do all the dreadful things that it wants to do. And I'd like to think that's not true: there's nothing inherently awful about men's sexuality, and sexual violence is caused by problems in society, not just checked by social taboos on it. Maybe I'm just terribly naive.
posted by craichead at 2:11 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


As philosopher Perry Farrell opined: "Sex is violence."

***

I remember getting into Jane's Addiction as a teenager, and the first time I heard that- in a Camaro, natch- turning to my friend and saying, "Not if you're doing it right." And then we laughed for five minutes.

Of course, we were pretty stoned at the time.
posted by Leta at 2:11 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Porn has very little to do with the sex people actually engage in.

This.

Exploited said it first. yt

Weren't they saying "sex and violence," not "sex is violence"?
posted by Forktine at 2:12 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


More subtle thinkers recognise that there are literal truths and there are symbolic truths, and that there are certain psychological facts which interpreted scientifically are manifestly absurd and yet are true psychologically, and perhaps metaphysically. They are powerful, have a truth about them.
i will now gloat that i anticipated this defense coming into vogue as early as mid '10

also it is kind of intriguing that you have this guy speaking out against internet porn while SOPA is still floating around

there is this awful sense that certain factions on the left (and the right) want to purify this weak, decadent world

i'd bail but i don't know any other countries that i could go to
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:17 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


He basically has a pretty depressing view of male sexuality, doesn't he?

Actually, he doesn't seem to think much of female sexuality either unless it conforms to his norms.
posted by localroger at 2:21 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Sexual sadists don't get aroused over sexual harm. You would not fit in with most of the BDSM people I've encountered if that's really the way you feel."

What is your definition of harm?

No I don't engage in BDSM, but I read quite a bit of commentary from people in BDSM communities. In fact, many of whom have very different perspectives than you appear to on the subtlities of ethical consent.

This guys writing is problematic all over the place, so I'm not saying this guy is going the right direction, but I find that it DOES seem to happen that if you introduce the idea that sexual arousal over physical violence, humiliation, violation, domination, role played non-consent, etc is a pretty common phenomenon and wondering where it comes from and why it so easily goes together for some many people is perfectly valid to wondering about.

I find it problematic when I'm at work and my male coworkers are standing around talking about how hot anal rape is.
posted by xarnop at 2:21 PM on December 26, 2011


i've often found that there's very little room for political correctness in the beedroom.
in fact, usually the more politically INcorrect it is, the better.
now shut up and fuck me harder, bitch.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:23 PM on December 26, 2011


Even five year olds are now reported to be acting out scenes they could only have witnessed in porn videos or websites.

I'd like some citations on this. (Or on any of this dude's assertions.) I think five-year-old kids are more likely to be acting out scenes they witnessed in the home, or in a friend's home.

I grew up around military kids, mostly the children of enlisted men. There was a culture of violence within the community that seemed to have a negative effect on some of the boys.

When I was five, a group of Army brat boys who were all six or seven pretended to "rape" me on the playground. (And thus I learned of rape years before I learned of consensual sex.) The boys tackled me to the ground, and one sat on each of my legs, my arms, and, most disconcertingly, my neck. They were just about to pull down my pants when one of the group started shouting for the others to stop, and then they all ran off.

I thought this was just one of those things boys do. When I told my mom, I just said that a bunch of boys tackled me to the ground.

Another time, and this was a much worse experience that took place when I was five or six, a friend's older brother decided to "take my temperature." He and a friend of his held me down and did take off my pants, and did indeed take my temperature. My friend was there the whole time. The boys were maybe in their early teens, or even just in their tweens. I didn't tell my parents for years.

Those things happened in the mid-eighties.

I'm sharing this because I think the bigger problem with boys acting out rape-y scenes is that of what they are (or aren't) learning at home and at school and on television and in books from a very young age: that the worst thing you can do to another person in this is to overpower them and touch them in ways they haven't agreed to be touched. It's hard to explain power to kids, but you've got to find a way.

Obviously, if there's violence in the home or the community, that's going to have a bad effect on the kids. I would bet a lot of money that there was violence in the homes of most of the boys who harmed me when I was a child. There was, without question, violence in the community.

This, combined with years of violence in my home, probably had an effect on my own sexuality, which definitely veers toward the dark side. But for me, at least, it's therapeutic and full of wonder and intensely joyful. By adding a layer of consent and "pretend," while shedding light on the darker aspects of humanity, I'm able to work through all these things and get in touch with them and understand them. If that's "perverse," so be it. If sex is about one thing, it is about understanding yourself. And accepting yourself, dammit, and not judging yourself for being weird. Do you judge cats for being weird? No, you do not.

This dude is fortunate, I suppose, not to have been exposed to the actual brutality that is in the world. Sometimes kink can be a way to make peace with that brutality.

He's got some legitimate concerns about porn. I don't have a problem viewing porn that is degrading to women, but I do have a problem sourcing porn that I know is only fictionally degrading to women. Thank the gods for kink.com.

Finally, I have objections, as always, to classifying people who have been abused and people who suffer from mental illness as somehow victimized by kink, or disqualified from participating. The point of recognizing abuse and mental illness is to return agency to the individuals who have experienced the power deficit, not repeat the experience of disempowering them.
posted by KinkySockPuppet at 2:25 PM on December 26, 2011 [28 favorites]


I recommend Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do, which covers a lot of ground in the discussion of victimless crimes, consent, personal and government-imposed morality and all that.
posted by binturong at 2:30 PM on December 26, 2011


i don't give a fuck about sex but this trendy New Moralism has got me fucking frightened

also he popped off with some shit about assange which was sort of ill-conceived

basically what i am trying to say is he has that same liberal-but-actually-pretty-conservative lilt to his voice that Christopher Hitchens did
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, he doesn't seem to think much of female sexuality either unless it conforms to his norms.
Maybe, but he's especially got a thing with male sexuality. As in:
Every society throughout the history of humanity has adopted certain measures, prohibitions and taboos whose function has been to regulate the sexual relationship between men and women so that the male libido doesn't get out of hand. And we see what happens when it does - in wars for example. When people say rape is a weapon of war, what they're talking about the circumstances in which discipline breaks down the restraints on the male libido. Sometimes that collapse of discipline is actively encouraged as a way of terrorising the enemy. It can be a horrendous thing. So all societies have modes of discipline to keep it in check, so that the male libido is a positive force rather than a destructive one.
And I'm not sure that I'm on board for the argument that rape-as-tool-of-war is what unregulated male sexuality looks like, and the only thing stopping the entire world from looking like that is the imposition of "discipline."
posted by craichead at 2:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find it problematic when I'm at work and my male coworkers are standing around talking about how hot anal rape is.

Anal rape isn't BDSM. That would squick the hell out of me too.

No I don't engage in BDSM,

Well that was kind of obvious...

but I read quite a bit of commentary from people in BDSM communities. In fact, many of whom have very different perspectives than you appear to on the subtlities of ethical consent.

Well that's kind of funny since I haven't actually posted anything in this thread about the subtleties of ethical consent.

What is your definition of harm?

Something that causes permanent damage. Which is vanishingly rare among BDSM practitioners.

You seem to think masochists are doormats and sadists are people too chickenshit to go all the way and become serial killers. I have to wonder what "BDSM" people you've been hanging around if you haven't got the notice that generally it's the masochist who one way or another guides the scene. In both the gay and lesbian kink communities, which can be studied a little more easily than hets because they're more apt to be vocal, masochists generally outnumber sadists. And lots of people enjoy both roles. None of that fits with your model at all.

If you think it would be fun to imprison someone and torture them whether they're experiencing it as fun or not then your problem is not an interest in BDSM.
posted by localroger at 2:36 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


And I'm not sure that I'm on board for the argument that rape-as-tool-of-war is what unregulated male sexuality looks like, and the only thing stopping the entire world from looking like that is the imposition of "discipline."

It's rather ironic that the solution to the problem of people who want to fake-oppress others for role play and entertainment is to real-oppress them.
posted by localroger at 2:38 PM on December 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well, and I don't know if he noticed this, but those "measures, prohibitions and taboos" have usually had the effect of oppressing all women, and in many (maybe most?) societies, certain women have been exempt from them and therefore fair game. The idea that sexual moralizing has historically benefited women is weird.

None of which is to dispute that I'd probably find plenty of internet porn really disturbing if I spent more time looking at internet porn.
posted by craichead at 2:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


The power plays in S/M relationships are very interesting, and I've heard that (as localroger says) the masochist generally calls the shots and is therefore paradoxically "dominant." Although I'm reminded of the old joke:
Masochist: Beat me!
Sadist: No.
posted by binturong at 2:41 PM on December 26, 2011


? I haven't given a model. I was pointing out that people consent to being treated with violence or humilation for a lot of reasons and that in many situations, we still think it's wrong even if consent was achieved.

I don't think consent automatically means the thing being consented to will not cause harm. I think it matters where a person is coming from and why they are consenting. And I think it's perfectly valid to wonder how the myriad of things that people can be willing to consent to might affect them during and after.
posted by xarnop at 2:43 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded of a passage in Gravity's Rainbow, which I can only find online in a partial quote:

"Why will the Structure allow every other kind of sexual behavior but that one? Because submission and dominance are resources it needs for its very survival. They cannot be wasted in private sex. [...] It needs our submission so that it may remain in power. [...] if S and M could be established universally, at the family level, the State would wither away. This is Sado-anarchism"
posted by thelonius at 2:44 PM on December 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


what if one person agrees to give up the right to autonomy completely and permanently into terrible end to themselves? And again taken out of the bedroom, would we tolerate this concept in other relationships?

Ask Armin Meiwes.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:45 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


thelonius: There's another quote IIRC from Pat Califia about the 80's era antiporn feminists: Paraphrasing, "They don't want us sexualizing and making fun of the uniforms [of people who oppress us]. They want uniforms of their own."
posted by localroger at 2:46 PM on December 26, 2011


First of all, can we please stop talking like male dominating female is the only way people get their kink on?

Why would we think a man can hit a woman in the bedroom if it makes her horny but he can't hit a woman because she doesn't have dinner ready on time?

I am alarmed you need to ask this but-what is the difference between a man sticking his penis into a woman and rape then?

Seriously, the way you phrase things basically gives no room to have actual consent as an adult woman to any action. What if I'm only letting the hair dresser cut my hair because I'm forced into it. What if I only made a ham and peas dinner tonight because I think I'm supposed to? What if I only gave that loving blow job because I think I'm socially expected to suck a prick, and not because OMG, as a heterosexual woman with a lot of nerve endings in my mouth a nice clean male penis is an awesome thing to get a hold of. What if, what if...?

Sexual sadists don't get aroused over sexual harm.

We need to define this one a little better. Sexual sadists and masochists sometimes get off on the idea of horrible things, myself included, but actually doing horrid things is an equal opportunity purveyance of the human species. I truly don't want my sexual partners to have anything other than happy memories as a lasting impact of playing with me, but I'm capable of writing erotica including things I would consider human rights abuses, and write about it purely to titillate. It's like the difference between Hamlet and actually invading Denmark.
posted by Phalene at 2:46 PM on December 26, 2011 [33 favorites]


xarnop, maybe I'm misinterpreting but I think overeducated_alligator's point was that people also used to draw a link between being gay and having been abused (c.f. Anne McCaffrey's infamous "tent peg").
posted by en forme de poire at 2:48 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Social deviancy is always defined by the normative group…duh. This is some of the dumbest stuff I've ever read. And I look at his website and see he's made a career out of this stuff. Ah geez, and I think I had dinner with him once.
posted by chrisgregory at 2:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This topic is a minefield and has been a minefield since at least the 80s antiporn movement. It's not going to get any less of a minefield due to anything anyone says here, no matter how well-versed you are in the topic or how much you think you've lived the other person's "side" of the argument and have them all worked out in your head.

The topic is too important-feeling to everyone who has a strong opinion on it. The personal-trajectory stakes are too high. It's like arguments between people who escaped fascism and people who escaped communism.
posted by ead at 2:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


No I don't engage in BDSM, but I read quite a bit of commentary from people in BDSM communities.

I've watched a lot of skydiving videos so I know what it's like to jump out of an airplane.

Or, more relevant to the subject, I wore a strapon so I know what it's like to have a dick.
posted by desjardins at 2:51 PM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why would we think a man can hit a woman in the bedroom if it makes her horny but he can't hit a woman because she doesn't have dinner ready on time?

I am alarmed you need to ask this but-what is the difference between a man sticking his penis into a woman and rape then?



And this is the perfect point to make about all of this.
posted by gcbv at 2:51 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


? I haven't given a model.

Of course you have; you've said that beating someone down who is not sexually interested in that sort of thing is a source of sexual excitement. I have never, ever seen anyone publicly self-identified with BDSM suggest that that is appropriate or very common at all.

BDSM community people tend to be fanatical about establishing and following safe words, having trusted people present when playing with strangers, and other safety measures that it is somwhat controversial to suggest that even something as innocuous as winging it on the safe word might sometimes be appropriate. Some subs don't like them because they'll use them when they don't really mean to, but it's usually not hard to tell the difference between "No, keep going" and "No, crap I have a cramp." It can't be faked. The phrase for this is "Risk Aware Consensual Kink" or RACK.

I frankly find it unbelievable that you have read much actual BDSM community output at all. I suspect that, like the author of TFA, you are scared by something within yourself that is possibly much more scary than anything within people like me.
posted by localroger at 2:53 PM on December 26, 2011


Just fyi, for those who may not be aware, Hamilton is basically a considered a professional troll here in his homeland, Australia. He makes good money writing articles baiting the left while pretending to be one of them, and engraging and exciting the right when making astonishing statements on behalf of "the left", which they can then use to promote the idea that the left wants to euthanise old people or whatever.
posted by smoke at 2:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [23 favorites]


Go back a step. Let's say I'm in a park, wearing a suit of armour and beating an similarly clad lady or gentleman with a club. And we've both drove two hours to get there, signed waivers and put on said armour of our own volition and rolled our eyes while someone spent way to long explaining how a round robin tournament works and piddled away our precious helm time.

Am I the baddy?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


We need to define this one a little better. Sexual sadists and masochists sometimes get off on the idea of horrible things, myself included, but actually doing horrid things is an equal opportunity purveyance of the human species. I truly don't want my sexual partners to have anything other than happy memories as a lasting impact of playing with me, but I'm capable of writing erotica including things I would consider human rights abuses, and write about it purely to titillate.

I agree 100% with this.

It's like the difference between Hamlet and actually invading Denmark.

And this is genius.
posted by localroger at 2:55 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the FYI smoke. That makes perfect sense. Excuse me while I try to get this hook out of my mouth.
posted by localroger at 2:57 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Following up on Phalene's remark, while I am no expert on the subject, I have heard from people involved in BDSM that a plurality, or even majority, of people in it are male subs. If that is the case, then it seems incorrect to present BDSM as primarily focused on the degradation of women.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 2:59 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pseudophedrine: I have heard from people involved in BDSM that a plurality, or even majority, of people in it are male subs.

In the 1980's that was one of the surprises of the groundbreaking Weinberg anthology.
posted by localroger at 3:02 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


en forme de poire-- The only statistics I have found, seemed to indicate that self identified BDSM people taking surveys seem to indicate there are a low percentage of perviously sexually abused people. So, at least going by the little and possibly not so accurate info I can find, I don't think it's the case that people are into kink BECAUSE of prior sexual abuse. Now those surveys which I read were vague and very incomplete. I'm curious about more details personally.

"Or, more relevant to the subject, I wore a strapon so I know what it's like to have a dick."

Uh seriously? Yes I'm interested in the subject of BDSM arousal because I discovered at a young age I was severely aroused by actual sexual abuse to me. No this is not something I wanted to happen and I learned to dissociate. For me, it's rather unpleasant and I don't like it but many people have discovered how to get me to dissociate and do awful shit to me. I think it's perfectly valide to be concerned about others like me in the world who might be willing to consent to things that will genuinely harm them. I get that no one else gives a shit, but I do and will continue to. I'm not looking to mess up other people's fun, I just think that human decency should include looking out for others even if they're willing to consent to things that will really mess them up.

" I suspect that, like the author of TFA, you are scared by something within yourself that is possibly much more scary than anything within people like me."

I didn't suggest that you're a scary person, and I think you read my words more defensively than you needed to. I also think this was unecessarily hurtful but ok. Yes I have had a lot of terrible experiences and yes many of them are really scary and have messed my shit up. I worry about people, and fuck if I don't wish more people had thought twice before fucking my shit up.
posted by xarnop at 3:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Following up on Phalene's remark, while I am no expert on the subject, I have heard from people involved in BDSM that a plurality, or even majority, of people in it are male subs. If that is the case, then it seems incorrect to present BDSM as primarily focused on the degradation of women.

Another tasty little red herring there... ultimately, BDSM is not about the degradation of anybody, but the mutual pleasure of both parties. The number of male subs vs female subs makes no moral difference to anything.
posted by Crane Shot at 3:08 PM on December 26, 2011


xarnop, the best thing about the BDSM community is that they care a lot about not fucking you up, or anyone else. It's rule number one.
posted by brina at 3:09 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that we're all at something of an impasse. It seems like there's a faultline which runs down the area of the brain which liberals (like myself) use to think about consent:

1) We believe that people shouldn't be subject to arrangements which are harmful to themselves (indentured servitude, poverty-level wages)

2) We believe that women (and men) shouldn't be subject to violence or degradation

3) Harmful arrangments, violence and degradation are okay if they happen between consenting parties or if the consenting parties are really enjoying themselves

I'm trying to clarify my thoughts on consent and the issues around it. But this line of thinking seems inconsistent and I'm trying to come up with a better way to think about these issues.
posted by Avenger at 3:11 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's perfectly valide to be concerned about others like me in the world who might be willing to consent to things that will genuinely harm them. I get that no one else gives a shit, but I do and will continue to. I'm not looking to mess up other people's fun, I just think that human decency should include looking out for others even if they're willing to consent to things that will really mess them up.

And this is why people who actually practice BDSM do a lot of communication with potential partners to make sure they can and should actually consent. I have never met someone in the BDSM community who "wouldn't give a shit" that wasn't immediately drummed out of said community.
posted by desjardins at 3:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Avenger, I think the point that others are trying to make is that statement 3 is actually a red herring: you're assuming that other people's sexual lives constitute "Harmful arrangments, violence and degradation" and they are explaining that this idea is generally false (and that the "Harmful arrangments, violence and degradation" you are afraid of, when they do occur in any context, are covered by laws that cover actual harmful arrangments, violence and degradation, rather than playacting.)
posted by Wylla at 3:16 PM on December 26, 2011


I'm also a little skeptical of the idea that a man beating up a woman is okay as long as the woman is really enjoying it. Just asserting that "most kinksters are male subs" seems kind of hand-wavey to me -- a way of avoiding potential conflict with feminist values by just waving them away.

Also, I'm not saying that women can't enjoy being abused or beaten up, I'm just highly skeptical when women in a patriarchial society go around talking about how of course they totally consent to the treatment that they recieve at the hands of their men.

I guess I'm trying to figure out if False Consciousness is really a Thing, so to speak.
posted by Avenger at 3:18 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get that no one else gives a shit, but I do and will continue to

It's not that no one gives a shit, dude, it's almost exactly the opposite. You're oddly (oddly for you, I mean, as your comment history shows that you're a person with excellent capacity for empathy and understanding) unwilling to accept that people here are telling you that careful, caring, educated consent is a big deal in the BDSM community. No one's trying to minimize your opinions or experiences, they're trying to reassure you that your concerns are valid and rarely go unaddressed.
posted by elizardbits at 3:20 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Harmful arrangments, violence and degradation are okay if they happen between consenting parties or if the consenting parties are really enjoying themselves

The problem is that harm, violence and degradation are not defined here. Harm especially is tricky to define. Is my husband harmed if his back is sore the next day after sex? Is he harmed if I leave scratches from my nails during normal sex? Is he harmed if I leave bruises (in a place that's not visible when dressed) during BDSM? Is it violent if I pull his hair? Where are your lines, or is it "I know it when I see it"?
posted by desjardins at 3:21 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, who is Clive Hamilton, and why should I care much what he thinks?

Lots of things are unacceptable in most circumstances but perfectly fine in certain ones. --- Boxing, for example... though now that they know how much damage all those repeated blows to the head are, I suspect that it won't be acceptable for much longer.
posted by crunchland at 3:22 PM on December 26, 2011


I'm not saying that women can't enjoy being abused

BDSM is not abuse.
posted by desjardins at 3:22 PM on December 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm also a little skeptical of the idea that a man beating up a woman is okay as long as the woman is really enjoying it.

You've got a bit of a straw man there. You're describing (perhaps vigorous) sex play that might hurt or leave a mark as "beating up" - and it's just not the same thing.
posted by device55 at 3:23 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


BDSM is not abuse.
posted by desjardins at 3:22 PM on December 26 [+] [!]


How is this determined? Do you simply define anything consensual as being non-abuse or is there some other standard to determine this? I'm honestly curious.

You've got a bit of a straw man there. You're describing (perhaps vigorous) sex play that might hurt or leave a mark as "beating up" - and it's just not the same thing.

How are they not the same thing? By what standard do you make this informed judgement?
posted by Avenger at 3:25 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


there's nothing inherently awful about men's sexuality

Whew. Glad to hear that. Good thing too, since without it none of us would be here.
posted by spitbull at 3:27 PM on December 26, 2011


xarnop, I'm sorry if what I said was hurtful; in a lot of cases the forces that imprint us on the idea of power as a part of sex are, in fact, bad things. My wife was physically abused and I was emotionally abused. In fact, I was drifting more toward masochism than sadism until the day I read an article which reminded me that female masochists existed.

This caused a physical reaction in my body. I had had quite enough of being a doormat to my domineering control-freak parents.

The thing is, once we are imprinted with something like that we are imprinted. You can sometimes manage to suppress your sexuality but trying to change the triggers once they are set just doesn't work. I really can't work up an interest in sex unless it includes some kind of power exchange, whichever end of it I'm on.

I really never wanted to hurt anyone and my original interest had more to the BD than SM side, and when I was fortunate enough to meet my wife and we realized how well we clicked, she was the one who turned me on to the joys of a good whipping. At first I was reluctant to really give her the good thrashing she wanted, but her obvious joy in the aftermath could not be faked. And whip marks are not harm; they go away.

On one occasion when I was observing how carefully she had to sit down a day or two after the scene, she said that she liked having the welts because every contact reminded her of the scene and how good it felt. Being on top was my fantasy, but she had to show me how far atop her I should be.

And to this day, she hates safe words (I say we have one, which I know she would be far too embarrassed to actually use). Instead I observe her body. Those reactions that cannot be faked. It is almost always instantly clear when something is wrong and the scene is over.

I hope you one day find someone who can let you actualize the things that bother you so much in a safe and consensual way.

Incidentally, in the Weinberg anthology I linked above there is an interesting interview with a couple whose submissive female was "seduced" into masochism by her dominant husband. The methodology was anything but cruel; he always respected her limits, and tempted her with bondage as extremely prolonged foreplay and punishment as carefully introduced sensation enhancement. She wasn't imprinted as a child but was an enthusiastic proponent of S&M by the time she met the researcher, not because she had been crushed but because she had been exalted.

It is possible for you to turn that dark force at your core into a source of pleasure and hope. Doing that feels better than just about anything.

And anyone who wants to stop us from having our fun can go straight to hell.
posted by localroger at 3:30 PM on December 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


How are they not the same thing? By what standard do you make this informed judgement?

Intent.

The intent of rough sex or BDSM play is to excite and pleasure. The intent of "beating up" is to hurt, injure, cow, instill fear in, etc.

In consensual rough sex play, when someone says "stop" one stops. When you're beating up someone you don't.

It's obvious.
posted by device55 at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


We liberals here on Metafilter are all about False Consciousness. We deny that people in Kansas really want to be lorded over by theocratic militant capitalists, so we assume that they've been decieved in some way. That their self-interest is misplaced somehow.

Well, are they? Is it possible or impossible that people could consent to the Wrong Things? That they should (or shouldn't) be educated in what we believe to be the proper way to do things?

This really seems, to me, to be the faultline between Paternalistic and Libertarian liberalism. There may be no real answer, but again, I'm just trying to figure out which is more consistent.
posted by Avenger at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Clive Hamilton is a fool.

A while ago I had a certain amount of time for him, based on his reasonably intelligent writing on climate change and post-industrial malaise. But then a few years ago, when the "debate" about Internet filtering was at its moronic peak, I read a couple of his articles in Crikey where he started by making some spectacularly ill-informed claims in support of Conroy's policy then, when he received a certain amount of abuse alongside a range of intelligent and polite counter-arguments, he went into a rant about how the Internet meant the death of civilised discourse and he was still right, dammit, although he may have missed a few details, and went off to sulk somewhere where the brutes couldn't flame him anymore.

(I think this is the second article; I haven't been able to find the first.)

That was when I stopped paying any attention to him at all.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2011


Ah, I think this was the first article I was talking about.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:38 PM on December 26, 2011


Intent.

The intent of rough sex or BDSM play is to excite and pleasure. The intent of "beating up" is to hurt, injure, cow, instill fear in, etc.

This is an interesting idea but it doesn't really answer my concerns, I think. "My intentions were good" can be quite problematic -- but that also cuts to the heart of liberalism too. I recognize that, and don't have a good answer for myself either.

In consensual rough sex play, when someone says "stop" one stops. When you're beating up someone you don't.

That's kind of an ad-hoc definition, isn't it?

It's obvious.
posted by device55 at 3:31 PM on December 26 [+] [!]


It is?
posted by Avenger at 3:40 PM on December 26, 2011


False Consciousness is another incredibly fucking worrying concept

i am not who i am?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:41 PM on December 26, 2011


Hamilton is basically a considered a professional troll here in his homeland, Australia. He makes good money writing articles baiting the left while pretending to be one of them...

Reading the article, I was pretty taken aback at how much it read like something someone would write (if not post) to deliberately tweak the MeFi userbase.

How was this link anything other than MeFi bait?
posted by joe lisboa at 3:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I'm not saying that women can't enjoy being abused or beaten up, I'm just highly skeptical when women in a patriarchal society go around talking about how of course they totally consent to the treatment that they receive at the hands of their men.

I guess I'm trying to figure out if False Consciousness is really a Thing, so to speak
."

So, can women consent to anything, or are we all left with no ability to make actual decisions of any kind until some feminist utopia is attained? Perhaps we should all stop worrying our pretty little heads about how we organise and live our own lives, and just leave those decisions to the only people clear-headed enough to make them...men?

I am asking because I've had this exact argument thrown at me for taking maternity leave: how can a woman like me, even with a good education, goals congruent with taking maternity leave and possibly being an SAHM for at least a while, and a totally supportive spouse, possibly really make an informed decision to 'sabotage her career in favour of her husband's?" I can't really have made that decision - I'm a victim of the patriarchy, and I don't even know it!

Taken to its logical extreme, which it routinely is, the idea of female 'false consciousness' is the most woman-hating sentiment around.
posted by Wylla at 3:44 PM on December 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


That's kind of an ad-hoc definition, isn't it?

It's an example intended to draw contrast.

It is?

Yes. Intent is inferred by the surrounding actions. If a couple engages in BDSM play (emphasis on "play") there is a series of rules, procedures, and safeguards in place. Much like staging a sexy play. From this, one infers that the intent is not malicious.

When a man blackens his wife's eye in anger then demands that she lie about how the injury occurred, one can infer malicious intent.

Calling BDSM "abuse" is the same sort of false equivalency theists use when they say "science requires faith".
posted by device55 at 3:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I do find it confusing to say that violence and degredation are not violence and degradation if you are play acting. That's really confusing. Are the emotions during BDSM not real? I like Clarrisse Thorn and Thomas from Yes Means Yes discussions of these topics but I find it confusing that violence is not violence if you agree to it or call it "role playing" except that it's still real violence? That's confusing.

I would like to hear more discussions that address that this is perplexing without resorting to pathologizing people for being into varying amounts of dominance and submission or roughness etc--- which as far as the studies/surveys I've found, in general is WAY more people than actually identify as kinky.

"No one's trying to minimize your opinions or experiences, they're trying to reassure you that your concerns are valid and rarely go unaddressed."

I have seen tons of awesome discussions about how to keep safe during BDSM and the differences between abuse and BDSM but when I read discussions about the differences between BDSM and abuse I find it rather confusing.

And from an ethical standpoint I think it's ok for the general community to want to understand and figure out their own thoughts about it, such that if a person calls the police locked in her closet and says, "We were role playing without a safe word and now my partner won't let me out of the closet which is what I agreed to but I changed my mind and I want help getting out!" We can all agree that the police should go in and help, but what kind of charges should that kind of thing result in? It gets really confusing.

What I'm trying to say is---- Hamilton totally skrewed up, but I think more discussion between kink and non-kink oriented people is a good thing, and I think many questions that kink people answer with "It's obvious why it's not abuse" are not entirely fair to people who are genuinely trying to understand the difference. And it does matter that people understand the difference.

I have had literally three people in my life tell me specifically that they find the sexual abuse I went through arousing. One read my journal and told me he wanted to do the same things?? Like, I guess what I'm saying is that my interest is different than others because I meet a lot of predatory men and submissive/doormat/masochistic women-- not the PC kind--- and they tell me what they think and it seems like it's every where. And so often people tell me these things and it's the first time they've ever talked about it.

I want more discussions of the complexity of human sexuality to be out in the open where we can try to understand it better and make sure we understand ourselves compassionately while also making sure ourselves and others are safe-- which seems way more complex than it should be.

But if kink awareness is to be something that happens in the general community--- there are some valid ethical dilemmas that come up with attempting to firmly define abuse vs BDSM.
posted by xarnop at 3:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


All of us, at every moment, consent to domination on the one hand, and seek the consent to dominate others. Look at any workplace, any profession, any classroom, and political process and you will see an extraordinary sublimation of "sexual violence" into symbolic forms

We are violent creatures by nature, the drive to harm pretty much equal to the pleasure drive, the two fundamentally intertwined, and mutually constitutive of social constraints. Sexuality is a symbolic system as well as a reproductive one. Reproduction depends upon our capacity to understand symbols, hence our concepts of attraction and repulsion, or better and worse genetic mates, so finely honed and instinctive as to constitute much of our culture's (any culture's) political and aesthetic substance. Reproduction is competition for mates and resources, and that carries over into every other domain of human society and psychology, the same forces differently rationalized in every human culture.

And as anyone can see, the more you forbid something, the more compelling it becomes as a symbol of freedom.
posted by spitbull at 3:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Taken to its logical extreme, which it routinely is, the idea of female 'false consciousness' is the most woman-hating sentiment around.
posted by Wylla at 3:44 PM on December 26 [+] [!]


I'm willing to believe this, but the idea that "whatever women consent to is ok" seems as problematic to me as saying "women are incapable of consent in a patriarchical society". The truth may lie somewhere inbetween (or there may be no truth at all) -- I'm trying to find out in which general direction the truth lies.

We do live in a patriarchial society and I do remain skeptical of any line of thinking which supports the dominance and submission dynamics of that society.
posted by Avenger at 3:53 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are the emotions during BDSM not real?

Are the emotions you feel while watching a sad movie not real?
posted by device55 at 3:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are the emotions during BDSM not real?

Sure? But you seem to be assuming that they're the same kinds of emotions that a person would experience if they were leapt upon by a stranger in a dark alley and raped and beaten and left for dead, or would experience when they are hit or pushed down the stairs by their spouse for not hanging the towels correctly in the bathroom.
posted by rtha at 3:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


xarnop said it better than I could. The idea that "me hitting you is normally abuse but now it's cool because I do it with joy and you are consenting" just seems confusing and more than a little suspicious to me.
posted by Avenger at 3:55 PM on December 26, 2011


I do find it confusing to say that violence and degredation are not violence and degradation if you are play acting.

Are you really serious? Is this actual violence?

We can all agree that the police should go in and help, but what kind of charges should that kind of thing result in?

Kidnapping and false imprisonment for starters.
posted by desjardins at 3:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that "me hitting you is normally abuse but now it's cool because I do it with joy and you are consenting" just seems confusing and more than a little suspicious to me.

I just do NOT understand why this is a difficult concept at all. First, it's like the old question "when did you stop beating your wife?"

Really, "Now it's cool because ... you are consenting"? You think an abused person suddenly goes "yeah, this is awesome! I want more!"
posted by desjardins at 3:58 PM on December 26, 2011


I do find it confusing to say that violence and degredation are not violence and degradation if you are play acting.

You find the difference between reality and play acting confusing? Really?

such that if a person calls the police locked in her closet and says, "We were role playing without a safe word and now my partner won't let me out of the closet which is what I agreed to but I changed my mind and I want help getting out!

This is the kind of hypothetical that almost never happens in real BDSM play. Because it's play.

I have had literally three people in my life tell me specifically that they find the sexual abuse I went through arousing.

I once wrote a sexual fantasy called The Mitigator Strike -- you can find it easily via Google -- set in a dystopic future America where torture was a standardized form of judicial punishment. I was completely horrified when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke while I was proofreading it.

People find ideas arousing as fantasies that they would never want to actually experience. This is very common, even among people whose tastes are relatively vanilla.

Perhaps this is what is confusing you.
posted by localroger at 3:59 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The idea that "me hitting you is normally abuse but now it's cool because I do it with joy you are obviously receiving it with joy and you are consenting"

FTFY
posted by localroger at 4:00 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The idea that "me hitting you is normally abuse but now it's cool because I do it with joy and you are consenting" just seems confusing and more than a little suspicious to me.

What do you imagine happens during BDSM play exactly?

I'm not intimately familiar (heh) with it myself, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve unrestrained punching.
posted by device55 at 4:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Avenger's comment about false consciousness/"What's the matter with Kansas" really hits a chord that I think most people on this thread will avoid hearing. How and why do we draw any lines in the bedroom?


I believe in freedom, and as such I believe in your right to do what you want with your own life. I believe you should be able to post videos and how-tos on the internet, to exchange information. I also believe in my freedom to judge the heck out of these practices when they're more extreme- when the role-play or living situation gets beyond furry handcuffs and outfits in the closet. And I believe we as progressive humans looking for a "best of all possible worlds" have a collective interest in being concerned about cases that go too far- such as the Armin Meiwes case above.

And you might say "Well that case wasn't BDSM, that was different" to which I'd posit you BDSM defenders sound no different than the prudes: you've conveniently defined the line as "Kinky is what I do, perverse is anything more", whether your boundaries are no fellatio and sex with the lights out in the missionary position, or bodily mutilation and Total Power Exchange.


I favorited localroger's comment about using BDSM as a form of therapy/interaction with their imprinted abuse, because again I think that's his absolute right and might be- no, wait, almost certainly is- much healthier than suppressing those feelings. Me, I can't help but think ultimately the goal should be to move past these definitions and desires, but that's my right, just as yours is to have these kinks be a part of your identity till the day you die. (On preview: and spitbull's comment here, because the elephant in the room for some of us is that human beings are really, really violent simians in many ways. And because of that, I can understand on some level wanting to play-act power dynamics in the larger world in the bedroom, not dissimilar to how our dreams might play out hypotheticals to help us deal with our waking life.)


But... well, I'll leave a few hypotheticals:

First, do you believe teenagers should have sexual agency- that say two 15-year-olds should be able to explore their new feelings and even have sex, and we ideally should teach them to be responsible about STDs and birth control and rape? Good, great- me too! We've found some common ground.

So... would you be opposed to a 38-year-old having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old? Is it because a 15-year-old can't consent- when they did with another teenager? Or is it because the power dynamics are too great (that would be an... interesting... argument from the BDSM community)? I have issues with someone well into adulthood wanting to date a 15-year-old... which oddly would center more on what mental health issues are present to drive that desire, on both sides. I'm actually not of the opinion that such a relationship is inherently "evil" or "bad", but I'd be really concerned at the desires on both sides, and wonder "What the hell is going on?" and whether there was something exploitative. Then again, as Avenger pointed out, how do split the hair of coercive consent? If you share my concerns about this hypothetical... you surely admit they sound familiar?


How about this little powder keg? A 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl date, and have sex. Sounds nice- sounds like your own teenage years, probably. Now that 16-year-old boy insists that since they are in love, she should get a fake ID and get his name tattooed on her back or her breast. And then, hey, they're in love, so show your love baby and have sex with my friends. Or maybe you should charge them a little cash, baby? Hm- a 15-year-old girl with someone's name tattooed on their breast, having sex for money? That's not child sex trafficking- that's just a healthy BDSM relationship, with two consenting partners. Maybe she had an uncle molest her, and this is how she's working that shit out in her mind, you know?

I obviously have, like you I hope, real issues with the latter scenario (including when they parties are both 18 or older). And really, if your only defense of those hypotheticals is the ages and that "Well, kids can't consent like that!" then why isn't the BDSM community leading the forefront of abstinence education?
posted by hincandenza at 4:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every society throughout the history of humanity has adopted certain measures, prohibitions and taboos whose function has been to regulate the sexual relationship between men and women so that the male libido doesn't get out of hand.

On the contrary, it's the female libido that's been regulated, by making it the property of men. Women do not and have not had power over men's sexuality historically. Women have faced far more danger and censure for engaging in sex outside of the permitted guidelines, and quite honestly, rape was most often not the expression of this sexual transgression, but a way of punishing women for it (or just for being women). Men, meanwhile, have had access to practices such as polygamy, mistresses, rape of civilians during war, concubines, and prostitutes. And quite often sexual relationships with other men, in many circumstances.
posted by emjaybee at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I get that no one else gives a shit

About what? As someone correctly predicted, this seems more about your mishaps and need to be protected than my sexual fetishes, but where I came in you seemed to be talking about both of us.

But this line of thinking seems inconsistent and I'm trying to come up with a better way to think about these issues.

I appreciate what you're doing and I'll endeavour to respect your position just as hard. (No sarcasm)

I'm just highly skeptical when women in a patriarchial society go around talking about how of course they totally consent to the treatment that they receive at the hands of their men.

Yes, but this is also not respecting that a lot of us women are more interested in beating the crap out of men (sexually) or that there's other fish to fry within kink if you want to dredge kink for its gender demeaning demons. But let me try to explain some of the logic about accepting kink-

Fetishists can be abusive- of course, but so can anyone! Kink is not a separate world free from gender baggage, and this stuff gets debated endlessly even within kink. Obviously you can never know for 100% certain if I consent to everything I do, however you can't be 100% certain I consent to anything. Perhaps my perception of your male gender (true or not) relieves my ability to consent to this debate as another thinking human being. After all I'm socialized to submit to men, right? We are not telepaths, so the same thing that should allow you to finish this debate without fretting I can't consent to a frank exchange of ideas should assure you that I can consent.

You can't treat anything as black and white- people will worry about religious fundamentalists not being able to consent to their culture, but they'll argue for religious freedom. The left and right are not monoliths, we're both liberals and we disagree. And we can continue to disagree without one of us giving up left wing membership.

You should be suspicious of kink, but you should be suspicious of everything. Nothing is sacred, not even queer, sensitive and self actualize lovemaking between two hermaphrodites. Please peer into everyone's sexual politics and don't stop opining on the subject, however, please do not assume that no woman is allowed to have something just because some women might indeed only be going along with an activity out of social pressures.
posted by Phalene at 4:11 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


why dont we just stop having sex at all, it never leads to anything good
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:12 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or is it because the power dynamics are too great (that would be an... interesting... argument from the BDSM community)?

The power dynamics in BDSM play are fake. Everyone involved knows the power dynamics are fake.
How about this little powder keg? A 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl date, and have sex. Sounds nice- sounds like your own teenage years, probably. Now that 16-year-old boy insists that since they are in love, she should get a fake ID and get his name tattooed on her back or her breast. And then, hey, they're in love, so show your love baby and have sex with my friends. Or maybe you should charge them a little cash, baby? Hm- a 15-year-old girl with someone's name tattooed on their breast, having sex for money? That's not child sex trafficking- that's just a healthy BDSM relationship, with two consenting partners. Maybe she had an uncle molest her, and this is how she's working that shit out in her mind, you know?
wat.
posted by device55 at 4:13 PM on December 26, 2011


So... would you be opposed to a 38-year-old having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old? Is it because a 15-year-old can't consent- when they did with another teenager? Or is it because the power dynamics are too great (that would be an... interesting... argument from the BDSM community)?

Nevertheless, it's what I'd wager most BDSMers would tell you, and there's really no contradiction here with the values we actually hold — only with the values you seem to imagine us holding.

Before two people do kinky shit together, the norm is form them to do a lot of negotiation first. Any sort of coercion or power imbalance during that negotiation is viewed as deeply suspicious. If you can approach each other as equals and give your consent, then yes, you can spend the next hour or two pretending to be master and slave or whatever the fuck you want. If you can't approach one another as equals and give your consent, then you have no business playing together.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


why dont we just stop having sex at all, it never leads to anything good
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:12 PM on December 26 [+] [!]
Ouch. That was just hitting below the belt. :)
posted by hincandenza at 4:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Before two people do kinky shit together, the norm is form for them to do a lot of negotiation first

Fixed that for me
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:18 PM on December 26, 2011


nebulawindphone: Nevertheless, it's what I'd wager most BDSMers would tell you, and there's really no contradiction here with the values we actually hold — only with the values you seem to imagine us holding.

Before two people do kinky shit together, the norm is form them to do a lot of negotiation first. Any sort of coercion or power imbalance during that negotiation is viewed as deeply suspicious. If you can approach each other as equals and give your consent, then yes, you can spend the next hour or two pretending to be master and slave or whatever the fuck you want. If you can't approach one another as equals and give your consent, then you have no business playing together
But that was the heart of my question- and the one posed by Avenger- wasn't it? That how do we determine the consent and "equality" was there to begin with? And is it only necessary for these negotiations when doing kinky shit?

And in my second hypothetical, the consent and equality is there- and yet it's a terribly fucked up situation, to which device55 could only muster a half-hearted "wat".
posted by hincandenza at 4:18 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


would you be opposed to a 38-year-old having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old?

No, as long as the 38 year old wasn't a parent, guardian or other person in a position of responsibility. I'd be suspicious of it because 15 year olds have way less legal rights on paper, much less socially established, but keep in mind that up until recently this was blanket legal in Canada, and right now 16 years old can go with 38 and the only thing you can do is frown and wag fingers.
posted by Phalene at 4:19 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have never seen so much uninformed idiocy in a mefi thread. Read moar.

Different Loving
SM 101
Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns
When Someone You Love is Kinky
The New Topping Book
The New Bottoming Book
The Loving Dominant
The Compleat Slave
posted by desjardins at 4:21 PM on December 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


You know, as a music lover, I really can't, for the life of me, understand why anybody in their right mind would listen to Nickelback. I mean, they're so unambiguously awful that anybody who would subject themselves to that kind of sonic abuse must have something wrong with them. I suppose I could just let it go and listen to the stuff I like, but I'm genuinely curious and I'd like to understand it better.
posted by Crane Shot at 4:22 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


And in my second hypothetical, the consent and equality is there- and yet it's a terribly fucked up situation, to which device55 could only muster a half-hearted "wat".

Your hypothetical doesn't describe anything close to BDSM. It's nonsense.
posted by device55 at 4:22 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


That how do we determine the consent and "equality" was there to begin with?

How do we determine than every instance of sexual intercourse is not rape?
posted by desjardins at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


desjardins: I have never seen so much uninformed idiocy in a mefi thread. Read moar.
Um, I'm not going to spend a week buying and reading those books before coming back to this thread. Can you maybe instead partake in the discussion happening here and now, which from what I can tell has remained civil and engaged, outside of blanket claims of "uninformed idiocy"?
Phalene: No, as long as the 38 year old wasn't a parent, guardian or other person in a position of responsibility. I'd be suspicious of it because 15 year olds have way less legal rights on paper, much less socially established, but keep in mind that up until recently this was blanket legal in Canada, and right now 16 years old can go with 38 and the only thing you can do is frown and wag fingers.
Right, and I'd agree, but if that relationship then started going into deep BDSM waters, did they negotiate as equals as nebulawindphone described? I know it's not a 'rational' response, but if you told me of that relationship, and that it was something akin to a master/slave 24/7 relationship... I'd be really, really bothered and think something was wrong. And yet... I can't find the leg to stand on as to why that bothers me, and presumably would bother a majority of people in the BDSM community.
posted by hincandenza at 4:27 PM on December 26, 2011


True story:

She'd been spread-eagled for about three hours, face down on the bed. I had teased her, beaten her, fucked her, beaten her some more, and fucked her again. I apologize for none of this; she'd had four or five orgasms and was tripping merrily. I had judged that I'd done about as much damage to her as she needed and moved to release her cuffs.

"No sir, please," she gasped.

I stopped. "What do you want?"

She considered this for a few seconds, and said "I want you to whip me more."

"You're pretty well done," I said. And she was. I kneaded her ass to remind her and she gasped in a way that, in any other context, would have unmistakably been a sign of pleasure.

"I want more."

I have used the phrase "can't be faked" several times in this discussion. This was one of those times. She was tripping on the feelings and she wanted more. So I went back to the perv cabinet and got the whip. I showed it to her. "You sure about this?"

She nodded.

And so I whipped her more. It wasn't so much joy but fascination that I felt as I watched her respond. She cried, but her body stayed filled with tension and I periodically checked her genitals for lubrication, both to make sure she was feeling what I thought and to let her know that I knew.

After another hour or so (I was whipping her really slowly, to tease and limit the actual harm) she began to relax. She didn't have another orgasm, but the tension gradually drained from her body. The next time I decided she had had enough she didn't protest. She had had her fill.

It was a couple of days later that she made the remark I mentioned upthread about liking the welts because they reminded her of the experience.

This is what some people are comparing to punching her because dinner was cold.
posted by localroger at 4:30 PM on December 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


I only wish that we on MetaFilter could discuss BDSM reasonably. Years on we still don't. It is frankly bizarre to me.

Bowing out. Not literally. Very disappointing.
posted by vers at 4:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd be really, really bothered and think something was wrong. And yet... I can't find the leg to stand on as to why that bothers me, and presumably would bother a majority of people in the BDSM community.

If you can't find a leg to stand on, it's not much of an argument. I dislike mid century modern furniture, but don't assume that the pit of my stomach "that's wrong!" feeling is more than just personal aesthetics unless I can prove Danish Modern chairs cause cancer or something.
posted by Phalene at 4:33 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


desjardins: That how do we determine the consent and "equality" was there to begin with?

How do we determine than every instance of sexual intercourse is not rape
Assuming you mean that as a legitimate question... well, it's a valid question! Just as there is a lot of thought on what counts as rape, how to identify it, resources to get help, etc- here on the blue in past threads among countless other places, then why is it invalid for me to ask "When is BDSM play not just play? When is consent truly there?"?
posted by hincandenza at 4:34 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I certainly think it's possible on the one hand to say "kinky relationships are loving, safe, sane, and consensual, and there is nothing wrong with anyone who chooses to participate in them" and on the other to say "but perhaps our culture's screwed up power dynamics vis-a-vis race and gender are responsible for so many people having their crank turned by power exchange." That's a reasonable and worthwhile avenue of exploration that doesn't remove anyone's agency. But I also think there's a big failure to understand that a lot of people, myself included, are crazy turned on by things in theory that we/I would find absolutely horrifying in practice. And that's OK.

and yeah, hincandenza, I am a lot more comfortable with 24/7 TPE relationships when they start from a position of relative equality. I figure it's my job to help create a society where there is a lot of support for disempowered people, because that helps all KINDS of people, and to remind myself that other people's relationships aren't about my comfort.
posted by KathrynT at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


The power dynamics in BDSM play are fake. Everyone involved knows the power dynamics are fake.

The conversation here is people talking past one another. Well-versed, autonomous kinksters with perfect agency aren't the issue. Everyone else is the issue. Everyone who exists in a shades-of-grey circumstance wherein reality (past and current real non-acting sexual relationships between often not-fully-power-equal people) very much does mix with fantasy (porn consumption, fashion, cultural norms).

Real sexual relationships are influenced by fantasy and cultural material and do often involve power-unequal partners. Relationships don't occur in a culture-and-power varcuum. Saying that does not equate to an argument for censoring culture or enforcing power-equality; but it's foolish to pretend people invent their own sexual repertoires out of thin air, or negotiate them in perfect power-equality.
posted by ead at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have never seen so much uninformed idiocy in a mefi thread.

I'm pretty sure I can think of much worse examples, sadly.

I'm willing to believe this, but the idea that "whatever women consent to is ok" seems as problematic to me as saying "women are incapable of consent in a patriarchical society". The truth may lie somewhere inbetween (or there may be no truth at all) -- I'm trying to find out in which general direction the truth lies.

We do live in a patriarchial society and I do remain skeptical of any line of thinking which supports the dominance and submission dynamics of that society.


So what about a woman whipping a (consenting, happy) man? Kinky gay dudes? Or hardcore bdsm lesbians? What about a couple where one or both gets off on cross-dressing or gender-queer stuff?

Making this all about dominant men and submissive women doesn't reflect the complicated ways real people do this stuff in real life. People are complicated and pretty much all of us are deeply imperfect. So you can find the same abuse and violence in kinky relationships that you can find in the most mainstream household down the street -- there's nothing separate about it. We have met the enemy and he is us, as Pogo said. The kink is window-dressing; the violence and inequity permeates our culture regardless of what you do or don't do in the bedroom.
posted by Forktine at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks to the people involved in BDSM who have contributed their personal experiences to this thread.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Look, the most important thing this whole conversation seems to be overlooking is that Perry Farrell was sorely misquoted.
He says, "Her sex is violent."
Jeez people.
posted by hypersloth at 4:42 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I get that no one else gives a shit

About what? As someone correctly predicted, this seems more about your mishaps and need to be protected than my sexual fetishes, but where I came in you seemed to be talking about both of us."

Phalene, I take that your sexuality is deeply important to you, even though it's just about you and that your words here are deeply affected by your personal experience. I also take it that you want a society that matches those truths you've discovered about yourself so that you and people like you can live the kind of life you want to live. I think it's a bit of a stretch to purport you doing this is some how more enlightened then me learning truths about myself and wanting a world that is protective of people like me.

As you have referred to yourself as "us women" I pressume you identify as a woman. We are both women. Can women's rights not serve women who have differing needs, some of whom are more vulnerable than others-- or should they serve women who think and feel the way you do first and foremost?

I am a woman who has experienced arousal over sexual abuse and over threatening stimulus and my arousal patterns around this are indistinguishable. It has been a difficult journey understanding myself and regardless of if I am an outlier in the BDSM community, there are many others in the world like myself. I get that our issues aren't your bag, but just as creating a world where your fetish is respected and unquestioned seems to be your hope, I hope for a world were women and men who are more vulnerable get factored into the discussions of consent and safe play as well.

I am curious about the origins of kinky desires and why it happens and whether it is actually a sign of health, or a problem or when it might be a problem. I believe I have a right to want to see these things researched, discussed and explored without being blasted for never voluntarily doing kink.
posted by xarnop at 4:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


It does seem interesting that those on the "left" or "liberals," or whatever shorthand one may use, very often assume as a given and rely on an imbalance of power in support of their moral and social judgments. Yet the general response here is to assert that no such imbalance exists in this context. The other common response is simply that the bedroom is off-limits to any inquiry about such an imbalance, and that everything is fine-and-dandy as is, but without any justification for why the bedroom is exempt.
posted by cheburashka at 4:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


cheburashka, I think you're getting it backwards. Why don't you try justifying why my private bedroom goings-on should be subjected to your imbalance inquiries?
posted by Crane Shot at 5:03 PM on December 26, 2011


It's more that the power imbalances in society are not any more present in the BDSM community than they are in society in general and thus it is not helpful to single out the BDSM community as unacceptble while holding up mainstram sexual expressionas wholesome and unquestioned.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:05 PM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


xarnop, I must admit to surprise that you are female; your other comments made me think you were more likely a dominant male disturbed by your own thoughts. Suddenly it seems you might be a potentially submissive female afraid of what someone like me might be thinking of doing to you.

Please let me reassure you that I would never do anything to another human being who was helpless under my control if I wasn't certain that both (1) they wanted it and (2) it would not permanently damage them.

Also, while BDSM people tend to be pretty fanatical about safety we also like to talk trash, and if you're submissive that could explain why you think some people on BDSM forums were being, um, extravagant in their threats. For some of us that's foreplay.
posted by localroger at 5:11 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was forced, as a minor, to sexually dominate my abuser, pretty much everything was the opposite of the way BDSM is practiced.

The abuser insisted on unsafe practices. Kinksters are fastidious about safety. For instance, did you know that there are safe and unsafe ways to slap a person? I learned this from a MeFite BDSMer. Turns out, when you're slapping someone, you can give them whiplash if you don't cradle their head with one hand. And even then you should slap much more gently than you think, because of the risk of neck injury.

The abuser also didn't consider my feelings in any of his scenarios. It didn't matter whether I wanted to participate, so in spite of my "dominant" role, I was completely powerless to make any decisions about when or whether or how to engage in sexual activity.

In kinkland, I get to make up the scenes that I act out, or work with others to make up scenes in which we'll participate together. I always get to set my own boundaries. And then there's negotiating. I'm pretty sure I spend longer negotiating about sex than I do having sex. Which is exactly what I need, to know that my boundaries are going to be respected. I have had far more vanilla lovers cross the line than kinky lovers, because kinky lovers are hyper-aware of the line.

The abuser insisted on secrecy. He lied constantly. These sorts of things are absolute red flags in a BDSM context. You know how on vanilla dating sites people lie constantly about their age? A guy on a kink site does that, and he is not only blocked but chances are he'll never even get to talk to you. That's how important honesty is.

The point of BDSM is to explore power imbalances, to acknowledge them and talk about them and then have some fun with them. Abuse is about enforcing power imbalances and repressing discussion of them.
posted by KinkySockPuppet at 5:23 PM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


It strikes me as ludicrous to suggest there is any real lack of consent in all of this. Before I play with someone we go over our limitations at least a dozen times to weed out the fantasy from the reality.

But if we accept that people are truly incapable of consent then we don't need to bring BDSM into it at all. If a spanking is abuse then a blow job is rape. If anything members of the community go through even greater lengths to ensure that everyone is on board than people do when picking up partners for casual sex at a bar. When a sub comes over we both know exactly what is on the menu and we both know it will end with one or more orgasms. When I go home with a stranger from a bar all I know is that a condom better be involved or someone will have to go solo.

If ultimate consent is the issue then BDSM is just a red herring.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:27 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I love that What's the Matter With Kansas got shoehorned in here somehow. The book's Kansans have been manipulated, in the absence of a smart, clear-eyed alternative, into genuinely harming themselves. In return they get to feel righteous (not gay, not OK with abortions), in with the in-group, put upon by the shiftless scheming poor, potentially rich. Whereas with BDSM practiced according to its definition, as I understand it, and not just ad hoc by some asshole who watched a video, you have no harm, informed consent, and physical pleasure. That last is a real thing that is either there for you or not in a way that is very different from self-esteem or the promise of job creation via tax cuts for the wealthy. Of course one partner can abuse another's trust, but this is true of any relationship. I get the impression that someone who is serious about the practice is in fact considerably more likely to be an ethical and attentive partner than somebody who isn't involved.

Not clear on where these hypothetical cases where nobody thinks one of the parties can consent is coming from. This would maybe be useful if you were arguing that whipping somebody for sexual purposes should be criminalized across the board or something but otherwise the only answer seems to be "that's not what BDSM is." Examples in which one party is not experiencing pleasure are also something else entirely. Closer to the opposite of the thing.

What women and men whose partners want to get violent for fun need to know is that they're supposed to be getting off on it themselves, and not just by proxy, or they shouldn't do it; maybe then they could be spared more than one encounter with some selfish jerk who doesn't know how to be safe or actually make a good-faith attempt to get the other person off and wouldn't care anyway. But this could be generalized to so many other things.
posted by Adventurer at 5:28 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a woman who has experienced arousal over sexual abuse and over threatening stimulus and my arousal patterns around this are indistinguishable. It has been a difficult journey understanding myself and regardless of if I am an outlier in the BDSM community, there are many others in the world like myself. I get that our issues aren't your bag, but just as creating a world where your fetish is respected and unquestioned seems to be your hope, I hope for a world were women and men who are more vulnerable get factored into the discussions of consent and safe play as well.

I'm not sure I follow what you're getting at? BDSM should not be so broadly accepted because you don't feel you're capable of consent because you were turned on by things you didn't want to have happen to you?
posted by Phalene at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


cheburashka, I think you're getting it backwards. Why don't you try justifying why my private bedroom goings-on should be subjected to your imbalance inquiries?

I believe both the links and several comments up-thread articulate such reasons, among them violence and victimization. Some people in this thread apparently find these reasons compelling enough to warrant a discussion. If you do not, that's your privilege.

It's more that the power imbalances in society are not any more present in the BDSM community than they are in society in general and thus it is not helpful to single out the BDSM community as unacceptble while holding up mainstram sexual expressionas wholesome and unquestioned.

But that seems to be begging the question. That response assumes that violence/degradation/humiliation/that-stuff-that-worries-people-in-this-context is not an element, whereas for the people on the other side of the discussion it very clearly is an element.
posted by cheburashka at 5:36 PM on December 26, 2011


I always get to set my own boundaries.

This is a really, really important statement. I'm not in the BDSM world, but a lot of my friends are (no, really! some of my best friends etc! cliche, yet true!), and I have witnessed way more fucked up boundary stuff among non-BDSM folks than among those who are deeply in the life, because if you're deeply in the life, or even brushing up along the outskirts, as I do, things like boundaries are talked about and examined a lot. A lot of "Hmm, what do I want, and how do I want it?" happens.

Read enough relationshipfilter askmes from people in screwed up but vanilla relationships, and you rarely see people who A) have spent time really thinking about what they want, and how, and how to communicate that and B) have any idea what their boundaries are, let alone their partner's.

Not like the BDSM community is all sunshine and roses (or bruises and welts, as the case may be), because there are assholes and jerks everywhere, but in my fairly limited experience, the base assumption is that there will be talking about boundaries and wants and needs, instead of assumptions.
posted by rtha at 5:37 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


if we decide it's bad, how do we enforce that
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:40 PM on December 26, 2011


And that's why, KinkySockPuppet, I don't think there should be anything illegal about BDSM, or why adults should be free to do what they want with their lives.

My big questions are:
A) Is a desire for BDSM akin to an eating disorder or OCD (or other -philias such as a strong desire for young teenagers), in reflecting some underlying "imprinting" that might be resolved? Not that it has to be, but do most people into BDSM put as much effort into analysis as they do structuring their play? This question is purely a curiosity on my part.

B) Are there times when external parties need to get involved in the bedroom? As someone said above, there's a talking past each other going on, where I'm not referring to say two experienced BDSM veterans who are autonomous single professionals meeting via a kink website for some structured role playing, but to something fuzzier, greyer, where the dynamics and consent might be illusory. I gave the hypothetical above of basically a pimp relationship... but don't pimped women often (at least for a while) claim to love their pimps, willingly getting tattoos and branding, give them all their money? Pimps, and their techniques, are one of my only two qualms with prostitution; yet from this thread, you could argue that pimps do nothing wrong. And that, honestly, doesn't pass the smell check.
posted by hincandenza at 5:41 PM on December 26, 2011


I am sympathetic to the idea that consent, on its own, doesn't make an act moral. I think of consent as a way of transferring responsibility: If someone hurts you without your consent, it's all their fault, none of yours, and society has a need (often ignored) to recognize that and apply some form of justice; whereas, if someone hurts you with your consent, you share some of the blame for your own injury, and you have made it into a private matter between you and your partner. That still leaves lots of ways for determined amoral sadists to hurt people; all they need to do is find a submissive who is bad at risk assessment, which is pretty easy to do. People who do that are doing something immoral, although not so immoral as rape.

However, if you're going to try and have some kind of society-wide discussion about what kinds of consent are okay and what kinds are not, sex is kind of a weird place to start. Most USA high schools have football teams. American football has long been known to cause lasting brain damage, and the armor its players wear might actually make the problem worse. That's pretty violent in my book, and probably more dangerous than your average theatrical gang-rape reenactment, which only presents those dangers associated with rope, semen, and the like.

I am also sympathetic to the idea that a person's fantasies tend to affect that person's actual desires, especially children's. However, saying that violent pornography normalizes violent sex is actually a rather complex inference. Porn is hawked as "graphic" and "hardcore" but hardly ever "realistic". If your kid gets the idea to reenact it--which is plausible--that is a form of play, however disturbing; it's like how kids act out Power Rangers episodes, cops'n'robbers and lightsaber battles, which I don't think are particularly associated with criminal tendencies later in life. Play isn't expected to be realistic. Adult gamers need to go to great lengths to make their games properly reflect reality; I don't think many kids can be bothered. So it's more likely that porn will affect a child's concept of play, rather than sex as such. That may be a problem, but it's not what Clive Hamilton fears. He seems to be demonizing things, which is a regrettably common response to disgust; I think it serves more to distance him from the problem than to solve it.

I actually think it would be a great idea for parents to talk to their kids about creepy internet porn and what it all means--or rather doesn't mean--about real-world sexual relations. That would be more likely to have its intended effect than censorship is. Censorship didn't stop kids from getting porn back when it was all printed material. It doesn't stop them now. It won't stop them if you get your federal government behind it, although it might just motivate them to become better hackers, which I'd like but probably isn't what this fellow had in mind.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:42 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


"BDSM should not be so broadly accepted because you don't feel you're capable of consent because you were turned on by things you didn't want to have happen to you?"

What? I honestly think you are reading something totally different than what I'm saying. Personally I would like kink awareness to be part of sexual education for young people. I'm not sure where on earth you're getting the idea that I want to stiffle you simply because I think there are hard questions worth asking.

Yes as a submissive woman, I damn well wish I had been given information about that as a younger age. But that's where I would differ some from you, I don't think that simply because your arousal patterns can match up to kink that it means you need to explore it or that it's healthy for any given person.

I also think that it CAN be the result of pathological problems and that some people could really use help with it that neither tells them they need to go do BDSM stuff in order to be happy, or that they need to be pathologized in a degrading way.

I'm not sure that kink works out fine for everyone and as someone who gets nudged to do BDSM relatively often, I think it's valid to point out ways that kind might not be healthy for some people. I'd like to see more research on it: so far I see research from people who are already PRO KINK or people who obviously have decided it's a terrible pathology. I think it's an open question how the urges arise, whether they happen due to environmental factors/rearing environments/cultural environment/media exposures/innate to some degree in all humans etc...

And also whether this is something that as a culture we want to leave the same, feed, or lessen if it's possible to do either.
posted by xarnop at 5:52 PM on December 26, 2011


However, if you're going to try and have some kind of society-wide discussion about what kinds of consent are okay and what kinds are not

I would say that consent should be the dividing line between which practices we tolerate and which we don't. Full stop. What other criteria could we possibly use? What I consider to be mild, fun kinks might well be horrifying perversions to you, and there are things that other people do that I find absolutely over-the-line gross. So whose standards of "acceptable kink" would we adopt? If some kinds of consent are "not okay", then the whole concept of "consent" becomes meaningless.
posted by Crane Shot at 5:54 PM on December 26, 2011


Is a desire for BDSM akin to an eating disorder or OCD (or other -philias such as a strong desire for young teenagers), in reflecting some underlying "imprinting" that might be resolved?

Do you have ANY idea how offensive this is? Would you ever say anything remotely like this in a thread about gays and lesbians? Homosexuality used to be in the DSM, you know.
posted by desjardins at 5:58 PM on December 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


There is no socialism without Christianity, and there is no Christianity without socialism. There, I said it.
posted by No Robots at 6:00 PM on December 26, 2011


I also think that it CAN be the result of pathological problems and that some people could really use help with it that neither tells them they need to go do BDSM stuff in order to be happy, or that they need to be pathologized in a degrading way.

See also a vanilla sexual addiction, or the whole host of relationship woes people suffer from. Obviously kink isn't for everyone, even the people who are kinky, just like some people should be more careful than others about ANY sexual activity.

But that's why I'm baffled you were arguing with me and why I asked to check- you seem to find something to disagree with from what I'm saying, and you seemed to be implying nobody in kink-as-an-identity agreed with you. Hence all the question marks.

I don't want to be cured of my kink, whether or not psychology discovers it's caused by my daddy issues or can be muffled with side effect free pills, it's not my emotional or psychological baggage therapy and I'm not a menace to society. I'm a source of mild contusions, abrasions and tea to male masochists, and generic service topping to females I like as friends. I also write a lot of porn.
posted by Phalene at 6:02 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


mild contusions, abrasions and tea

one of these things.. etc.
posted by desjardins at 6:04 PM on December 26, 2011


I like that kink can be used as a springboard to perhaps launch (or knife to perhaps pry) into what I find to be a more interesting discussion of the limits of consent, or the legitimacy and nature of False Consciousness.

It
posted by cytherea at 6:07 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If some kinds of consent are "not okay", then the whole concept of "consent" becomes meaningless.

I'm actually fine with people not being able to consent to permanent harm. A long time ago, when I frequented the bondage.com forums, there was an extremist claiming that his sub was okay with him breaking her arm. It's likely that he was just trolling, but either way he was run off the site by hordes of indignant kinksters. Anyway, I don't think that someone can make an informed, rational decision about severe bodily damage (broken bones, amputation, purposely contracting HIV, etc). Others may disagree with me, but I'm on the side of the law in this case.
posted by desjardins at 6:07 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


xarnop: I am curious about the origins of kinky desires and why it happens and whether it is actually a sign of health, or a problem or when it might be a problem. I believe I have a right to want to see these things researched, discussed and explored without being blasted for never voluntarily doing kink.

I'm surprised no one's linked to this yet, but there's actually a great blog that works to gather up all the research done on kink and make it accessible to laypeople, Kink Research Overviews. You might in particular be interested in this entry on studies into correlations between kink and psychological disorders (there's not been any correlation ever made). This enormous literature review of all the studies done on women and erotic rape fantasies is also really enlightening.

I wish people would do more research, but so far, from the research that's been done, there's little evidence of correlation between kinky desires and mental illness. As to the "why," we just don't know conclusively, any more than we know conclusively why some people are attracted to men and some are attracted to women and some both.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 6:09 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think it's an open question how the urges arise, whether they happen due to environmental factors/rearing environments/cultural environment/media exposures/innate to some degree in all humans etc...

If we (for some value of "we") can't even agree on what constitutes kink, this can't be a question at all, at least not as it's directed at the kink-practicing. As others have pointed out, some people will see some practices as perverse/kinky/out of the norm and other people will see those practices are perfectly ordinary. This question is so broad that it encompasses all sexual practices.

So what is kink? Is it only pain? What kind? Must it involve humiliation? Who decides what humiliating is?
posted by rtha at 6:12 PM on December 26, 2011


what about confucian/taoist socialism, No Robots

also all consciousness is false
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:16 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm actually fine with people not being able to consent to permanent harm. A long time ago, when I frequented the bondage.com forums, there was an extremist claiming that his sub was okay with him breaking her arm. It's likely that he was just trolling, but either way he was run off the site by hordes of indignant kinksters. Anyway, I don't think that someone can make an informed, rational decision about severe bodily damage (broken bones, amputation, purposely contracting HIV, etc). Others may disagree with me, but I'm on the side of the law in this case.

I agree, that's a toughie. I'm not sure whether I can come up with a logically consistent reason why that type of consent shouldn't be allowed, except to say that it's something that would be far outside the scope of what 99.9999999% of BDSM practitioners would be doing. It could be argued that people who want their limbs broken would fall into the category of people whose sexuality simply cannot be fulfilled in a socially acceptable way -- but it's not quite the same as pedophilia or bestiality, where actual harm to others is involved. Interesting question, and I don't know what the answer is.
posted by Crane Shot at 6:17 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is a desire for BDSM akin to an eating disorder or OCD (or other -philias such as a strong desire for young teenagers), in reflecting some underlying "imprinting" that might be resolved?
desjardins: Do you have ANY idea how offensive this is? Would you ever say anything remotely like this in a thread about gays and lesbians? Homosexuality used to be in the DSM, you know
I did know. Man you're uptight- someone needs a good spanking.

Seriously, though- to those not in BDSM like myself, I literally cannot imagine wanting someone like localroger to whip me until I had welts. The idea of resisting pain and injury is something so basic to the animal condition, it's seemingly as true a thing as can be said about life on earth- and yet, here are people who engage in it for fun. The idea of eating to live is as basic as any digestive organism on earth- and yet, here are people who starve themselves on purpose. And unlike your hysterical overreaction, I fully believe that localroger and his lady friend should be free to do that till the cows come home- unlike those who'd consider homosexuality a mental illness. So long as BDSM leaves no actual physical harm, it's harmless. But... what about a master/slave relationship where permanent bodily modification is undergone? Or what about a dominant boyfriend who "makes" his girl get a boob job?


So I believe it's legitimate to ask why anyone's kinks are their kinks. Are you a shoe fetishist? Do you ever ask why? Do you enjoy gangbang or bukkake videos? Do you ever ask why? Into cuckold videos? Do you ever ask why? Do you like to get pierced by hooks and lifted off the floor by your back skin? Do you ever ask why? Do you masturbate to stories about incest? Do you ever ask why? Do you rail against homosexuality, then hire rentboys to "carry your baggage" on your vacation? Do you ever ask why? Etc, etc. It's an uncurious mind that doesn't ask these questions, and since this thread is about BDSM and not gangbangs, piercing, incest, or homosexuality, I'm not asking all those other questions.

To me, it's a totally fair question for people to ask of others and especially themselves: why does BDSM turn you on? And does a part of you ever think "I may do this until the day I can't have sex any more, but yeah- this is probably because of ____ that happened when I was ___ and then I ____ so that's why I need to be whipped till I bleed".


Also, I see no one has answered my question as to why pimping isn't just a less-scripted form of consensual BDSM. Those who are arguing the "No True Scotsman" approach to "Well, that isn't BDSM!" seem to be as rigid in their kink as the schoolmarm who only has sex on birthdays and anniversaries, or those 90's efforts on some campuses that sex would occur one contractually agreed step after another. "May I put my hand on your shoulder?" "May I lean close to you?" "May I kiss your lips with my lips?" etc.
posted by hincandenza at 6:19 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think many questions that kink people answer with "It's obvious why it's not abuse" are not entirely fair to people who are genuinely trying to understand the difference. And it does matter that people understand the difference.

I agree.

There's a lot of talking past one another.

Framing BDSM as a dominant male and a submissive female, and adding in a variety of power dynamic or abusive elements that may exist independent of BDSM really illustrates someone who is just not getting it. I think many people have a hard time imagining any of this kind of play in a relationship that isn't also abusive because they find it impossible to put themselves in that situation consensually.

The answer, of course, is that it's not abusive if it is consensual.

"CONSENT!" as an answer, though, ignores the fact that consent is still something people get wrong in our society every day. You see it every time there's a discussion on date rape, or 'pressuring' someone into sex, or "she changed her mind afterwards" or "she never said no" or "we were both drunk, your Honor!" or "male rape doesn't happen".

People who are heavily into the BDSM scene and communities have a much stronger understanding of consent, the right to withdraw consent at any time, and have tactics and a vocabulary to share these community rules. This is really great! It's how it should be, and it's where most kinky or kink-aware people in this thread seem to be coming from.

However, lots of people who are into dominance/submission aren't actually in the public scene or involved with BDSM communities that winnow out abusers and ensure safety of participants. Without those tools, it's easy to see ways in which abuse can manifest in the form of nonconsent and confusion around consent.

It's really not obvious why "CONSENT!" should put any skeptic at ease when the subtleties of consent is so poorly understood by so many people. It's also frustrating for people who use the tools BDSM communities have provided because, for them, "CONSENT!" really works as an appropriate answer in their lives.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 6:23 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Man you're uptight- someone needs a good spanking."

"And unlike your hysterical overreaction"


Perhaps you could consider that no one is answering your questions because you are acting like an enormous condescending dickhead.
posted by elizardbits at 6:27 PM on December 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


Right- because my previous comments in this thread were solely met with civil responses from desjardins, and not claims of "uninformed idiocy".

Some people are not participating in this thread in good faith, but it's typical of Metafilter that the wagons of the perpetually put-upon will circle up to protect their own.
posted by hincandenza at 6:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If some kinds of consent are "not okay", then the whole concept of "consent" becomes meaningless.

That's a puzzling position. We already deny children and the mentally ill their right to consent. Maybe you feel that's unjust, but what's the alternative? If there are some restrictions on who can legally consent, when, and why, then some kinds of consent are "not okay"--I mean, I don't think there's anything magical about turning 18 that gains kids their consent ability. It's just something we have to decide when we need decisions about that sort of thing.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I see no one has answered my question as to why pimping isn't just a less-scripted form of consensual BDSM.

I have no idea how this is a good-faith argument, but I'll bite anyway. I am not certainly not an expert on prostitution, but as I understand it, the putative role of a pimp is to "protect" the prostitute from clients who get too rough or refuse to pay. For this protection, the prostitute is obligated to give him a share of her earnings.

As I understand it, in practice, pimps are often quite abusive to the prostitutes in their employ, and supply them with drugs in order to keep them around. I don't see how this has any relevance to BDSM - the prostitute isn't getting a sexual kick from being beaten by the pimp or getting addicted to drugs. She doesn't like it for its own sake; rather she has no better options that she can see. It's an exploitative relationship even if she consents to it. The pimp takes relatively little risk, and gains proportionally more rewards. The prostitute runs the risk of rape, disease, pregnancy, and beatings.
posted by desjardins at 6:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I did know. Man you're uptight- someone needs a good spanking.

Wow, that is an incredibly offensive thing to say to someone you don't know. Guess that makes me uptight, too!

As to this: Do you ever ask why?

Dear lord, yes. For about 20 years. Didn't change a damn thing, just made my sex life worse. If you're asking that question, you've clearly never met any kinky people, who generally tend to be very introspective about our desires, something that naturally happens when your sexuality is so different from the societal norm. If you are honestly interested, I can give you some great blogs to read. If you can't even be arsed to do the littlest bit of research into the topic, and you insist on insulting the very people you claim to want to understand, then frankly, I'm not going to waste my time explaining myself to you.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 6:39 PM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Right- because my previous comments in this thread were solely met with civil responses from desjardins, and not claims of "uninformed idiocy".

This argument is known as the "NO U" fallacy. It is considered a fallacy because it is based on the untenable premise that, whatever anyone else is doing near you, it's okay, and that makes it okay for you to do it too.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:40 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I'm trying desperately hard not to make this thread about one person)

So for all you vanilla non-kinsters in here, what specifically happened to you that you decided to have vanilla non-kinky sex? Why are you vanilla?

Also, the answer 'Nothing happened, I had no $EVENT' is disallowed.

Kink sex-havers, anyone NOT have $EVENT, and just (like me) drift into it?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:47 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


People who are heavily into the BDSM scene and communities have a much stronger understanding of consent, the right to withdraw consent at any time, and have tactics and a vocabulary to share these community rules. This is really great! It's how it should be, and it's where most kinky or kink-aware people in this thread seem to be coming from.

My personal stumbling block came about when I found out there were people with a very specific kink for going without safewords and so-forth. (I remain uncertain of how common this is.) I figured, if you accept the principle that respecting consent is necessary in every circumstance, the only ethical way to do anything is to take every reasonable precaution to ensure that consent is respected. I figured that would put safewordless play in the same category as rape roleplay: OK as a fantasy, just so long as you have a safeword available for last-resort. If you want to go that far you could rely entirely on safewords that are not spoken, like sign language or something. I couldn't see why a kink would provide an acceptable reason to violate that principle, any more than a kink for rape should permit a person to rape.

It makes more sense when I think about it in the context of business contracts, which are also supposed to be consensual, but which need to permit situations where the parties involved are on opposite sides of the world and don't know anything about what the other is doing.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:48 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would we be willing to allow corporations to hold employees in consentual bondage? If not, why not?

We do. They are called nondisclosure agreements, or contracts. For example, when I was laid off from Citigroup last year, I had to either just go, or get a compensation package for the layoff in exchange for not saying anything bad about them in public, or chasing employment with a direct competitor, for a year afterwards. That sounds like a form of consensual bondage, in that my rights were subrogated to the corporations in exchange for something else. Most companies have that now, some more than others. (If you can lose your job due to a post on Facebook of something you did on your offtime, that strikes me as a form of slavery.)

And I had another idea for an example, but going there would result in another Thing MeFi Does Badly occurance and none of us need the agita.
posted by mephron at 6:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just highly skeptical when women in a patriarchial society go around talking about how of course they totally consent to the treatment that they receive at the hands of their men.


You are confusing "masochist" with "passive recipient" which makes me LOL heartily. I often boss people into hurting me or have them hurt me while they're tied up or partially incapacitated. Good times.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If some kinds of consent are "not okay", then the whole concept of "consent" becomes meaningless.

That's a puzzling position. We already deny children and the mentally ill their right to consent. Maybe you feel that's unjust, but what's the alternative? If there are some restrictions on who can legally consent, when, and why, then some kinds of consent are "not okay"--I mean, I don't think there's anything magical about turning 18 that gains kids their consent ability. It's just something we have to decide when we need decisions about that sort of thing.


I guess I'm going on the assumption that for the purposes of this thread, "consent" means "informed, adult consent".
posted by Crane Shot at 6:56 PM on December 26, 2011


Kink sex-havers, anyone NOT have $EVENT, and just (like me) drift into it?

Yep. There's no abuse in my past, no defining moment. I met people online who were into it, I was like "huh? what's that all about? oh hey, this is fun..." I have zero need to question it; for me it makes as much sense as asking why I like chocolate.
posted by desjardins at 6:59 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Informed" of what by whom to what standard and when?
"Adult" by age or experience or mental acuity or blood alcohol level at time of consent?


You seem to be ignoring the inherent subtlety in the concept of consent. I'd try to point it out to you, but given how you responded to my initial comment with an argument that didn't really address anything I said, I'm guessing that I'm not the right person to do that, or this isn't the right thread.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:00 PM on December 26, 2011


Oops. (Cat)

It seems like it's a question that reappears in quite a number of different contexts: When is participation in a group a free-willed choice, and when is it the result of brainwashing by a cult, which ethically demands intervention? I think we face the same choice when confronted by even democratically elected governments (Kansas and the GOP, Berlusconi, etc.), bizzare consumer worship, and what the dividing line is between a healthy (vanilla) relationship that would ethically compel intervention.

For example, I happen to think that my mother is in an abusive (vanilla) relationship with my father. But she doesn't see it that way. But I don't think she is able to think clearly for herself. So I feel guilty for not intervening, but outside of speaking frankly with her, I'm not sure I should have much say in how she chooses to live her life.

I'm sure the same question is agonized over by sincere religious fundamentalists over gay children: what is the limit of their responsibility? Allow their children freedom, or ought they do everything in their power to save them from an eternity of sure hellfire? I'm sure that the people who believe fetuses are people with souls wrestle with these same issues.

I'd wish to think that science could solve these moral dilemmas for us, but given that's it's not even really that good at settling the nonexistence of souls for most people, I don't hold out much hope.

I'm curious how one would distinguish an abusive BDSM relationship from a non-abusive one, and if it would be more difficult given the context.

Perhaps in the healthy BDSM relationships, power is not actually relinquished or obtained--so that even though the essence is all about power exchange, it's only an imaginary power exchange. Hence the safe, fictive, play nature of it.

But where do we draw the lines in the real, fuzzy, grey-scale world?
posted by cytherea at 7:01 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My personal stumbling block came about when I found out there were people with a very specific kink for going without safewords and so-forth. (I remain uncertain of how common this is.) I figured, if you accept the principle that respecting consent is necessary in every circumstance, the only ethical way to do anything is to take every reasonable precaution to ensure that consent is respected

People who totally eschew safewords (I can count the ones I've met on one hand) are extremely picky about who they play with. There are certain people you know you can just trust. I'm sure there are people you'd happily hand your car keys or credit card over to sans an explicit discussion, and you know they wouldn't violate your trust. In a similar fashion, some people trust specific others enough to hand their body over without a safeword (though there are always lengthy discussions beforehand).
posted by desjardins at 7:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


By default, we tend to think about power in terms of amount. When one person has more power than another, it means they get their way more often.

I think this is inadequately detailed for the purposes of intimate relationships. BDSM negotiation is all about who's allowed to do what, when, and how to deal with errors and exceptions. "Power levels" don't enter into it--well, they're not what the negotiation's about, anyway; the experience is a different story.

So maybe, if we're concerned about power in intimate relationships, we shouldn't talk about power exchange, because the metaphor of power as a substance like money is insufficiently detailed for intimate concerns. We're concerned with what particular decisions one has the final say in, and which decisions one can only influence.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I literally cannot imagine wanting someone like localroger to whip me until I had welts. The idea of resisting pain and injury is something so basic to the animal condition, it's seemingly as true a thing as can be said about life on earth- and yet, here are people who engage in it for fun.

I think this is it, right here. You have an incurable case of 'inability to put on anther person's shoes,' and thus, decisions made by those people will be incomprehensible to you.

People are saying its about consent, but for me, it is on a deeper level. It is about trust. Can I trust this person, that he or she is representing themself truly? Can I trust this person to react in the way I expect them to react?

For people on the receiving end, they tell me that giving up that responsibility, having someone else make decisions, being able to trust someone that completely is the real source of pleasure, and why they do it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:19 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kink sex-havers, anyone NOT have $EVENT, and just (like me) drift into it?

No event here. Some of my earliest memories involve having a "funny feeling" during childhood games involving Bad Guys, and fantasizing about being spanked and kidnapped. I had an idyllic childhood blissfully free of abuse, nor was I introduced to kink by a partner. It's always been a part of my sexuality.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 7:20 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lots of people enjoy fighting. Animals too.

A fair fight requires genuine uncertainty about whether you will win or lose. If you can't accept loss then you can't really fight. So lots of people accept some punishment for fun, even if it isn't their particular kink.

Fighting is painful. This is still true when you're winning. Whenever you hit something, it hits you; that's basic, Newtonian physics. People tend to enjoy things ancilliary to their interests, so it's not surprising that people who like fighting might like the sensation of hitting--which, as it happens, is the same sensation as being hit.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:25 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Informed" of what by whom to what standard and when?
"Adult" by age or experience or mental acuity or blood alcohol level at time of consent?


By "informed" I mean "being in possession of one's faculties to the degree legally required to make their own decisions about their behaviour".
By "adult" I mean "having attained the age of majority in the jurisdiction where they live".
posted by Crane Shot at 7:27 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


A fair fight requires genuine uncertainty about whether you will win or lose. ... Fighting is painful. This is still true when you're winning. Whenever you hit something, it hits you; that's basic, Newtonian physics. People tend to enjoy things ancilliary to their interests, so it's not surprising that people who like fighting might like the sensation of hitting--which, as it happens, is the same sensation as being hit.

Happy, uh, Boxing Day?
posted by joe lisboa at 7:30 PM on December 26, 2011


Perhaps someone who paid more attention in biology class than I did can summarize this article (PDF), which talks about "common regions [in the brain] for pain and pleasure" (page 3).
posted by desjardins at 7:32 PM on December 26, 2011


straw man generalizations + hippie punching + using the word "ontological" while not being Martin Heidegger = yet another shitty article
posted by facetious at 7:40 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, I see no one has answered my question as to why pimping isn't just a less-scripted form of consensual BDSM.

What do you want, a stuffed animal prize?

They have, indirectly, many times. I don't get where you are going with this. Certainly your example doesn't even hold up, as it is hypothetical. It starts out which the clear intent of coercion by one party and it degrades to totally non-consensual at the end. It says nothing about consensual BDSM, nor really even prostitution because it's not real or particularly nuanced.

It's like me likening eating oysters to eating shit off the pavement because I really can't imagine eating oysters. And, hey, I believe people can eat oysters all they want if they want, but it seems so similar to eating shit to me -- I have to wonder about their health.

Are you trying to say that all consensual BDSM has the potential to degrade into non-consensual without truly informed consent? This is reasonable if you consider all levels of potential, and it's something reasonable people are careful about in those circles.

This shouldn't be a huge stretch. The same thing could be said about sex or anything else with severe consequences -- reasonable people try to be careful about it. Are there lines most people don't want crossed? Are there people who aren't "reasonable"? Sure. Such is life.
posted by smidgen at 7:40 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe it's legitimate to ask why anyone's kinks are their kinks. Are you a shoe fetishist? Do you ever ask why? Do you enjoy gangbang or bukkake videos? Do you ever ask why? Into cuckold videos? Do you ever ask why? Do you like to get pierced by hooks and lifted off the floor by your back skin? Do you ever ask why? Do you masturbate to stories about incest? Do you ever ask why? Do you rail against homosexuality, then hire rentboys to "carry your baggage" on your vacation? Do you ever ask why?"
I think why is a an extremely interesting and legitimate question. But I think I wasted too much of my life fruitlessly investigating the why I was the way I was, and too little time actually living it. Even if there was a answer to the why, I don't think it would have changed who I was, or my situation in the world, or the moral, ethical, and personal aspects of it. I'm sure you could write a thesis on the pattern on the rug in front of me, but it wouldn't change the pattern of the rug. In the end, you have to make a choice: Is this ethical? Is it bad for me or others? And does the cost outweigh the difference between actually living a life and pretending to live one?
posted by cytherea at 7:45 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I started asking my first questions because I wanted to explore the realm of sex, consent and liberal politics. Sadly, the whole thread blew up after that -- completely without my consent.

Sorry for that. I won't be asking questions about BDSM/consent/feminism on Metafilter anymore.
posted by Avenger at 7:50 PM on December 26, 2011


I appreciated your questions, Avenger.
posted by cytherea at 7:52 PM on December 26, 2011


...using the word "ontological" while not being Martin Heidegger

seems like an awfully small window for accepted use of a fairly central metaphysical concept. I mean, how would you react if someone posted:

using the word "sadomasochistic" while not being Marquis de Sade?

It's just lazy critique.

posted by joe lisboa at 7:53 PM on December 26, 2011


Using the [small] tag because I don't actually want to derail...
posted by joe lisboa at 7:58 PM on December 26, 2011


It's not really a metaphysical concept. It has a pretty mundane use in formal semantics.
posted by cytherea at 7:58 PM on December 26, 2011


Okay, it's both, cytherea. But a previous poster (facetious) suggested that its use by anyone other than Heidegger was somehow (heh) inauthentic.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:00 PM on December 26, 2011


On prostitution, I have a number of family members that are sex workers. And who have launched into speeches about how they like giving their bodies and servicing men and their services are needed while meanwhile being so drunk they are googly eyed and can't stand up straight. I don't believe it for a minute. If I were buy services from someone under such conditions it would be majorly unethical. My cousin likes to self harm. She has been severely sexually abused from a young age and has a lot of issues. If I were to agree to participate it would be majorly unethical.

You can claim I am "removing her agency" by believing what I see with my own eyes about how negatively she has been affected by so many things in her life that she has consensually participated in and claims aren't harming her, but I think she's wrong.

I agree with the statement that overvaluing agency to do anything to anyone so long as they agree regardless of why they agree is equally cruel as removing all agency to participate in self harming behaviors. If my cousin wants to self harm I don't want to see her mocked, degraded or pathologized. She has issues, she's probably not getting better, I still care about her.

I'm still not going to agree to do anything of the nature she would be willing to consent to. I don't think it's unreasonable to question whether someone is accurately assessing the potential harm of what they are agreeing to--- or assessing whether life factors may have made agreeing to something sincerely harmful seem appealing or arousing for reasons that are still not good for the person to indulge in.

My point is still that we should look out for each other and that consent does not ensure the activity might not be emotionally harmful. People can stay in genuinely abusive relationships for a long time and even agree to allow the abuse to happen. The consent part isn't what determines how much they are harmed by this. If anything I feel more harmed by the abuse I consented to than the abuse I fought passionately.
posted by xarnop at 8:02 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reading Heidegger is some serious masochism.
posted by cytherea at 8:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're making decisions based on significantly more information than anyone here had.

I don't think it's unreasonable to question whether someone is accurately assessing the potential harm of what they are agreeing to--- or assessing whether life factors may have made agreeing to something sincerely harmful seem appealing or arousing for reasons that are still not good for the person to indulge in.

This is a big part of BDSM, at least my experience of it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 PM on December 26, 2011


xarnop: So, I think you agree that false consent need have nothing to do with kink in the bedroom (being that there are situations outside the bedroom, situations inside the bedroom which do not involve kink, and situations inside the bedroom which do).

But at what point do you think it is ok (or ethically required) for you to abrogate your loved ones' self-determination? And how can you do that without becoming the very thing (a forceful coercer) you are in good faith attempting to rescue them from?
posted by cytherea at 8:13 PM on December 26, 2011


This thread is a great example of why I have a lot of reluctance in talking about my own thoughts on BDSM, let along what my own particular preferences are. There are still a lot of misconceptions that all subs are psychologically damaged people, and all Dom/mes unfeeling, arrogant sexists.

In the community, there do of course exist people who are genuinely fucked up. These people also exist in the vanilla dating community. People "consent" to putting themselves in damaging but vanilla relationships all the time. I do not think the BDSM community is necessarily more fucked up than the vanilla world.

In fact, the healthy adults who engage in BDSM do so within some pretty rigid boundaries. It is often said that the real power is with the sub, and that is most certainly true - it is the sub, after all, who decides who to play with, who establishes what the boundaries are, who gets to say "pull back from the limits" or "stop". It's a relationship based on a great deal of mutual trust and respect, both of which are based on frank and open communication.

What a lot of people have a hard time understanding is the disconnect, the seeming contradiction between how a person is in their daily lives and how they are in the bedroom. The corporate alpha male who enjoys being verbally humiliated, the ardent feminist who takes joy in emotional sadism towards female sexual partners - these people confound those outside the BDSM community. In a way, this is understandable - our personalities shape a lot of our attitudes about sex. But just as my politics don't inform what I consider my tastiest foods, my sociopolitical beliefs also don't inform why I'm a Dom.

Ultimately, any relationship, no matter how consensual, can be emotionally damaging. BDSM, unfortunately, with it's air of deviance and perversion, bears a lot of the brunt of being considered emotionally damaging. In some small part, though, those of us in the community share the blame. Every time we're reluctant to speak up, and engage people in good faith, to be unafraid to talk about what we like and how we play, we allow the veil of ignorance to remain. Perhaps that would change if more people talked about it. I'd venture to say a lot of couples engage in BDSM play without even knowing it, because BDSM is, after all, something only perverts do. They might do the very same things and just call it "playing around". Maybe if we in the community spoke up more, it'd be less mysterious, less dangerous-seeming, and more people would have an idea that really, it's informed and consensual fun that they themselves are already taking part in.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I believe it's legitimate to ask why anyone's kinks are their kinks. Are you a shoe fetishist? Do you ever ask why? Do you enjoy gangbang or bukkake videos? Do you ever ask why? Into cuckold videos? Do you ever ask why? Do you like to get pierced by hooks and lifted off the floor by your back skin? Do you ever ask why? Do you masturbate to stories about incest? Do you ever ask why?

Yes, though I think you abandoned the "good faith" part of debating when you behaved so shamefully to Desjardins.

We think about it a lot. Pages of pixels have been spent on people with fetishes asking why or forums. Keyboards have been pounded into dust, ice is broken at kinky parties, arguments are carried on until midnight, pod casts and blogs, books you can buy off Amazon of from open minded book sellers.

If you're asking me why, do I look like I have a phd in human sexuality?
posted by Phalene at 8:20 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


My point is still that we should look out for each other and that consent does not ensure the activity might not be emotionally harmful.

You're right. It does not ensure it in BDSM, nor in vanilla sex, in a relationship, in a job, in a friendship, in a trip to the park.

All things we do with other people are open to abuse. Human relationships are dangerous things. Trust, compassion and patience can all be abused just as badly as a desire to be sexual dominated. In all honesty, I'm certain they are abused much more often, and often to a much greater extent.
posted by howfar at 8:21 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's unreasonable to question whether someone is accurately assessing the potential harm of what they are agreeing to--- or assessing whether life factors may have made agreeing to something sincerely harmful seem appealing or arousing for reasons that are still not good for the person to indulge in.

We can really only do this with people we are personally involved with. I've refused to play with someone who I didn't think could handle it emotionally, and refused to do specific things when I didn't think the person was capable of consenting to them. The top has to consent just as much as the bottom does, and I don't know any top who will do just anything to anybody who asks.

Beyond personal relationships, I don't know how there's any reliable way to ascertain who is "accurately assessing the potential harm of what they are agreeing to" and who is incapable of informed consent. There are some bright lines - age, intoxication, mental incapacitation, duress - but the vast majority of people end up in a gray area. If the person says "yes, I am consenting to this activity," what choice do we have but to take them at their word? I've seen things in BDSM play parties that I would never consent to, but in the absence of any imminent danger, I have to assume that the people involved know what they're doing.
posted by desjardins at 8:29 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I started asking my first questions because I wanted to explore the realm of sex, consent and liberal politics

No, you wanted to have everyone here agree with you about your gut feelings.

I can say with complete confidence that political realm you decide to live in will provide a clear twisty path to things you already believe true in your heart of hearts. But the real world isn't going to yield to that kind of analysis... therefore you should expect resistance when positing theoreticals against people's real experience.
posted by smidgen at 8:38 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


"In all honesty, I'm certain they are abused much more often, and often to a much greater extent."

I can't speak for anyone else but, it's only sexual abuse that has made me feel like I lose connection with my body and feel that I am disappearing into a tiny speck and looking up a tunnel at a huge monster. I don't think I can describe in words the horror that can happen in sexual abuse and I've been treated pretty badly outside of sexual abuse as well.

I personally have a stronger desire to protect human beings from experiencing this than any broken bones.

I want to know sexual abuse, in reality and fantasy is so appealing to so many people. Sexual abuse is a real thing that mostly happens outside of people's control. I don't think well informed BDSM is a bad thing, I think people, especially those who have never been sexually abused, see cues in movies where people are tied up, play games where the bad guy captures the helpless victim... these things are normal--- I think they wound up in movies because of how innate they are and not the other way around.

But that fact that humans tend to be aroused by the idea of struggling victims and powerlessness? It's itself a strange thing. I'm not so sure it should be celebrated as a great thing. It is a thing, but I'm not sure it's a thing to celebrate or a thing that arises as a sign of societal health. Maybe so, but even still it's a bit upsetting. BDSM itself-- consensual play-- is I think a method of coping with a thing that exists.

The problem is not the play itself but-- why does this thing- arousal over conditions of pain or force or powerlessness-- exist? I can't help but find it upsetting.
posted by xarnop at 8:41 PM on December 26, 2011


I don't know how there's any reliable way to ascertain who is "accurately assessing the potential harm of what they are agreeing to" and who is incapable of informed consent. There are some bright lines - age, intoxication, mental incapacitation, duress - but the vast majority of people end up in a gray area.
So, given that we live in a mostly murky swamp (outside of bright, shiny BDSM and otherwise examples, and clearly dark pits of horror), how should we draw the lines in order to do the most good (balancing freedom against protecting the helpless?)
posted by cytherea at 8:46 PM on December 26, 2011


The problem is not the play itself but-- why does this thing- arousal over conditions of pain or force or powerlessness-- exist? I can't help but find it upsetting.

But it's not just sexual arousal. People dominate and acquiesce in dominance all the time. The reason that this whole discussion goes on in the context of patriarchy and capitalism is that the desire to dominate and control, or to submit, is not something confined to a small group of perverts.

If this were not the case, why would anyone be worried about the role-playing of abuse? It is precisely because abuse exists throughout our society that people into consensual BDSM are so keen to make sure it remains that way.

If you're really interested in power and how it functions in our society, there are plenty of things to study on the subject, but I don't think focussing on BDSM is particularly fruitful. It's like trying to understand the human warlike impulse by watching episodes of Blackadder Goes Forth. Obvious starting points, to me, are Nietzsche, Marx and Foucault.
posted by howfar at 8:55 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I want to know [why] sexual abuse, in reality and fantasy is so appealing to so many people.

I think the mistake you're making here is calling BDSM a form of pretend sexual abuse. This is a very charged description and muddies the waters right from the start.

To your larger point, though, about why people get off on themes of powerlessness, control, and humiliation - the reasons are probably as numerous as there are people who participate in it. There is no grand Theory of Kink Everything. I'd recommend reading up on a few forums where BDSM is discussed or, if you have the occasion, ask someone in the community. Keep in mind, though, that this will only tell you what motivates them; not what motivates everyone else.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the mistake you're making here is calling BDSM a form of pretend sexual abuse.

Exactly. It's not as if I think "gee, I'd really like to abuse someone, but I might get caught or I'd feel guilty, so I'll engage in BDSM instead." The two are miles apart even if the physical motions might look similar from a distant observation.
posted by desjardins at 9:05 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Keep in mind, though, that this will only tell you what motivates them; not what motivates everyone else.

And, as has been mentioned above, only a very small percentage of people self-identify as kinky, much less are active on bdsm internet forums. But at the same time, much larger numbers of people engage in sexual behaviors that I would comfortably call kinky, if not downright perverted, without ever labeling themselves in that way.
posted by Forktine at 9:26 PM on December 26, 2011


xarnop: Why? Ah. I'm just guessing here, but I imagine that things were much more brutal in our past, and that the inclination to identify with your conqueror was socially and genetically worth any loss of self. The old testament lays it out quite specifically: Kill all the men and boys, and all the women with children, but keep the virgins as slaves. A captured slave who learned to love the abuser probably had a higher chance of survival than one who fought back. Who knows how long that kind of thing went on. I mean, it's only recently we started to think that the poor might not be totally expendable (hah!). Assuming these dominant and submissive traits can be bred, and then chopped up and splayed out, it's no wonder that this kind of thing is marginally rampant.

But creepy or exalted, natural or un-, should we even be talking about this? Clearly we can't figure out where to draw the line between consent and abuse in personal relationships. But we do know one hundred percent that we are getting brutally, non-consentually fucked in the ass by the 0.1%. Let's go for social justice now, and later worry about the etiquette of taking your boyfriend out for a walk in the park on a leash.

posted by cytherea at 9:27 PM on December 26, 2011


And, as has been mentioned above, only a very small percentage of people self-identify as kinky, much less are active on bdsm internet forums. But at the same time, much larger numbers of people engage in sexual behaviors that I would comfortably call kinky, if not downright perverted, without ever labeling themselves in that way.

Yes, that's what I meant by normally vanilla couples not believing they're engaging in BDSM when they engage in the same activities.

A couple who don't self-identify as kinky using handcuffs, a leather belt, and verbal abuse during sex = playing around. A couple who self-identify as part of the BDSM community using handcuffs, a leather belt and verbal abuse during sex = there's probably something psychologically wrong with these people.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:30 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the thrill of giving up control manifests itself in many ways. If you think about it, even the act of watching a movie in a theatre is a way of giving up control. You sit there, captivated, as someone takes over and tells you a story, takes you on a trip. It can be an action-packed thrill-ride or a quiet, meditative character study, but either way you're letting someone else call the shots for a little while.

Maybe we're just so conditioned to the idea that being helpless is a Bad Thing that we have trouble conceiving of control being voluntarily relinquished, even temporarily. So when we see one person helpless under the control of another, the only way to process it is that "something bad is happening". But if, in the minds of both people, something awesome is happening, then it's a whole different category of helplessness, the kind that is voluntarily engaged in, not forcibly imposed. Nobody would want to be pushed out of a highrise window, but plenty of people love to ride rollercoasters.
posted by Crane Shot at 10:24 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh dear, now it's evolutionary-psychology storytime? Someone put on a kettle.
posted by ead at 11:13 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


what i am wondering is, if we collectively as a society decide that this is bad, how are we gonna stop people who want to do it, and what are we gonna do to them

how would a cop even go about beating up a masochist?

hehehe, etc.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:24 PM on December 26, 2011


There have been questions on AskMe that basically ran "I have a violent temper so I could date masochists, win win amirite" that have been met with a wall--a literall WALL--of comments going "don't you fucking dare enter a BDSM relationship woth that mindset, get thee to therapy". I've always found those threads...reassuring, for lack of a better word.

The biggest disconnect in this discussion seems to be the thought that physical aggression is abuse, regardless of intent. The same way that being an actor in a mugging scene carries different emotional weight than actually being mugged, even though the physical exchange may be the same, a spanking feels different depending on if it's someone trying to assert their dominance over your will, or if it's being administered at your request. The physical sensation is distinct from the emotional impact. Even vanilla people enjoy scratching or nibbling, when those two things can be either used to intimidate or simply be totally creepy. Previously ascertained intent does matter, even if you can't put yourself in the position of someone who might desire a greater extremity of physical sensation than you do.

(Plus, where do you draw the line? Leave aside flogging and paddling...what about rope pla? Orgasm control? Is that still "pretend sexual abuse?)

As for where the line is regarding consent... Well, I believe in pretty much unlimited bodily autonomy, so I may be the wrong person to answer that question. However, while some people find kink because some early experience has scarred them and forced them to explore that side of themselves, others are into it despite a picturesque childhood. To imply that every kinkster is damaged and repressed is more than a little insulting. Can BDSM be abused? Sure. So can everything else in our lives. I'd still like the ability to make my own decisions on a case by case basis unless absolutely necessary, rather than let the gut instincts of people like Hamilton drive legislature. Suicide used to be illegal, too, after all.
posted by Phire at 11:29 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The difference between kink and abuse is the same as the difference between sex and rape. CONSENT. I do what I do because I enjoy it. I do it with partners I have a sense of mutual trust and respect with. We acknowledge that some of what we do is dangerous, so we take steps to mitigate the danger, or at least minimalize risks. We do it because its what we BOTH enjoy, not because either of us is forced or coerced into it.

I do it because it makes me happy, and just as within any other type of relationship... when it stops making me happy I stop doing it.

I'm not into being abused, humiliated, degraded, or objectified (well, maybe a little objectification is nice now and then... I do like the attention)

But a tall, broad shouldered man who knows what he wants and isn't afraid to tell me so? Yum. Even better! One with a commanding, charismatic presence who makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and safe... But best of all? One who isn't afraid to push me down on the bed (throw me onto the couch, pin me up against the wall...) and sensually overpower me until I can't think of anything but the way he makes me feel...

Hell if that makes me crazy, bring on the straightjacket, I can think of ways to make that kinky too ;)
posted by myShanon at 11:47 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


To add a little more to the pimping question: this is complicated mightily by the fact that the pimp is her employer and the person whose existence is supposed to keep her from being injured or killed by her clients. Does she feel she has other viable ways of making a living? Does he control her drug supply? Is there a stockholm syndrome kind of situation going on wherein she loves him and identifies with him as a way to not be terrified? It is certainly possible for a woman to enjoy being farmed out by a man, but there are a lot of potentially coercive elements and a number of possible reasons for a lack of real agency on the sex worker's part when you are talking about an actual employer-employee relationship in which the employee has a higher-than-average risk of being killed, injured, raped, or infected with an STD on the job than most people have, and in which the employer traditionally (but wouldn't in an actual BDSM relationship) enforces their contract with the threat of permanent extralegal harm. There is a very strong argument that if a pimp is not vetting his employee's partners he is in fact exposing her to unacceptable risk of said harm.
posted by Adventurer at 12:26 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, while it is possible for a person to have to literally trust their partner with their life (asphyxiation could go on too long, etc., although of course this is also possible in all encounters of all types), the idea that the employee depends on the employer to keep them from being killed by a random stranger he wants her to work with even if he isn't on the site and hasn't met the stranger, who might be one of those dudes who thinks prostitues are the best people to abuse and murder, this seems to file the pimp in the same category as the person who's OK with breaking an arm, or worse, and the person consenting has to be examined closely for ability to consent before we, the consent judges, can address the question of whether a sane adult who is not participating out of economic hardship or hopelessness can consent to a potentially genuinely harmful situation. If she's in a safe situation, that's very different, but there's still the economic relationship and the nature of their contract to consider.
posted by Adventurer at 12:41 AM on December 27, 2011


(And if she's 15, consider that she should be covered not only by age of consent but also child labor laws and OSHA, if her job were legal.)
posted by Adventurer at 12:47 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's just lazy critique.

I read it as a half-joking shorthand for "pretentious" rather than "inauthentic". I'm sure the poster didn't really mean that no one else can use the word ontological.

posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 3:10 AM on December 27, 2011


Would we be willing to allow corporations to hold employees in consentual bondage? If not, why not?

Hello, and welcome to WalMart. Good morning, welcome to WalMart. Hi, welcome to WalMart.
posted by erniepan at 5:25 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I personally believe that consent does not automatically make what you're doing to someone else ok.

Do you believe in the autonomy of the individual to decide where their own boundary between "ok" and "not ok" is?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:42 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Do you believe in the autonomy of the individual to decide where their own boundary between "ok" and "not ok" is?"

Not with absolutism. I believe it's ok to physically intervence with someone who is committing self harm or attempting suicide. I believe it's ok to tell someone you are concerned about decisions they are making--- NOT with judgement, sometimes we lose control of our thought processes and behaviors, I find this ok, but with compassion. I believe it's ok to hold a different view of what the present and long term implications someone else is doing to themselves seem like they will be to and refuse to agree with their mindset about it.

If someone is addicted to drugs, I think it's ok to tell them you won't buy them drugs or participate because you are really worried about them and tell them if that is the journey they seek they will need to go on it without your presence.

So in a certain sense people can make decisions about their bodies, but I know for sure that sometimes people can be thinking without processing all that their actions and decisions mean for them, meaning that in an issue as sensitive as sex a partner pushing someone towards something they can tell there is resistance that's not being honestly expressed has a responsability to read more than just verbal cues, and know the situation well.

I absolutely believe that if you know someone well and your gut tells you that doing x to them is going to affect them way more deeply than they say, then you have a responsability to trust your gut over what they say. Yes that might mean breaking up the relationship and letting the person know if they really want someone to do x to them they will have to go on that journey with a different person.

So no, I am not an absolutest about bodily autonomy. Everyone I know has issues figuring out what is or isn't safe or healthy for them, so despite I may be in a different world than most people I know for sure there are too many people in the world who are in desperate situations and willing to let others cross their boundaries for really sad and tragic reasons that they won't express or acknowledge to themselves and I am not going to pretend I can't see that when someone's pain is apparent to me. This doesn't mean I make decisions for them, I believe in harm reduction and I believe in compassion for everyone despite whatever kind of journey they go on. It does mean I make decisions about what I do. And in an instance where someone is about to commit self harm or suicide or something of a similar nature? I think it's ok to intervene. If someone was overdosing on drugs and said they were fine, I would call the ambulence rather than listen to what they say.

My experiences are with a lot of messed up people with problems and boundary issues. I recognize that people like this cloud issues of consent, but outside the BDSM community there is a whole world of messed up people with boundary issues, maybe it's just the poor people of Austin, but I'm pretty sure there are issue filled struggling people with abusive backgrounds all over the place. I'm not sure that they join online BDSM communities but they do versions of BDSM and it's definately intermixed with abuse and very gray. I think that means when you are an instigator of sexual activity you should know your partner, and be on the look out for how things are working for the other person despite what they say.

My concern (Remember Xarnop always has The Concern about every issue anywhere. I'm true to form like that... I destroy fun.FUN! I eat you for breakfast!!! HAHAHA!) Um... anyway, my concern is that saying we need to trust people autonomy to decide how they want to be treated and ignoring all of the circumstantial and emotional situations that influence how people are willing to be treated opens up all kinds of doors to exploit people.

I think it's a terrible attitude and it's exactly the kind of attitude that let's people feel like heroes for opening up a sweatshop that causes cancer in a third world country and saying the employees like it and are greatful because they signed a consent form and say they understood they would work 15 hour days and sleep in the unheated basement and get cancer and they don't care! SEE! They SAID SO!

That's a shitty way to judge how to treat others.
posted by xarnop at 6:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


By "informed" I mean "being in possession of one's faculties to the degree legally required to make their own decisions about their behaviour".
By "adult" I mean "having attained the age of majority in the jurisdiction where they live".


I see. You were talking about legality the whole time.

I'm talking about ethics. Are you concerned about the ethics of consensual situations?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:44 AM on December 27, 2011


Um... anyway, my concern is that saying we need to trust people autonomy to decide how they want to be treated and ignoring all of the circumstantial and emotional situations that influence how people are willing to be treated opens up all kinds of doors to exploit people.

Likewise, saying that people DON'T have autonomy to to decide how they want to be treated opens all kinds of doors to exploit people by large authoritarian institutions. And there are lots of authoritarian types who will be happy to enforce your concerns with IR cameras, helicopters, wiretaps, sting operations and multi-decade jail sentences for those poor fools who thought they had the right to give consent. When really, it's actually the authority that is the only one with that right.

I could ask what part of your personal history makes you inclined toward totalitarianism and oppression, but honestly, that's your business. The only question in my mind is when the government sets up 24-7 monitoring for "deviant sexual practices", will you and the other "concerned questioners" say "Oh no, it's gone too far","Well, it's for the best. Some sacrifices have to be made to ensure safety. Omelets and eggs, after all."? In my experiences "concerned citizens" almost always go for the latter, because in any relationship, somebody has to have the power.
posted by happyroach at 7:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


xarnop, I still don't understand what you want us to do. You're the only one who has brought up drug addicts in this thread, and I really doubt anyone disagrees that it's compassionate to try to talk to the addict and get them help. I also doubt anyone would disagree with stopping someone who is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others. We can have different definitions of harm, but many things are pretty clear cut. If I know a person who is being beaten by their spouse (again, not BDSM) I will offer them whatever help I can. Look at AskMe questions about abuse - the answers are almost unanimously "get out and get help." I don't understand why you think people don't care.

The only exception I'd make to this is euthanasia; if someone is in a lot of pain, has a fatal disease and chooses to end their life, it's not my business, even though I'd be deeply upset if it were a family member.

Anyway, can you give me an actual situation where both partners are consenting in a BDSM situation yet you feel like intervention is needed? I'll give you one of my own - I knew a woman whose partner liked to play really, really rough. At private parties he'd slap her, pull her by her hair, call her bitch, force her to kneel, etc. He was pretty indistinguishable from an asshole. This was outside of my experience at the time, and I pulled her aside one night and asked if she was okay. She had a brightness in her eyes as she told me "Oh yes, I love this." We talked a little further until I was sure she was okay, and she thanked me for my concern. It's been about 10 years and they're still together, she's still posting smiling pictures and happy love poems to him.
posted by desjardins at 7:45 AM on December 27, 2011


I see. You were talking about legality the whole time.
I'm talking about ethics. Are you concerned about the ethics of consensual situations?


I was simply responding to your question about who can give consent. Whereas I think this discussion is more about what people should be allowed to consent to.
posted by Crane Shot at 7:52 AM on December 27, 2011


I believe it's ok to physically intervence with someone who is committing self harm or attempting suicide. I believe it's ok to tell someone you are concerned about decisions they are making--- NOT with judgement, sometimes we lose control of our thought processes and behaviors, I find this ok, but with compassion. [...] If someone is addicted to drugs, I think it's ok to tell them you won't buy them drugs or participate because you are really worried about them and tell them if that is the journey they seek they will need to go on it without your presence.

Drugs and suicide are not sexuality, though.

So let me amend my question: do you believe in the autonomy of the individual to decide where their own boundary between "ok" and "not ok" is, specifically when it comes to the expression of their own sexuality?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on December 27, 2011


I think that people are reading more into what I'm saying than I actually am. I am dissapointed that despite that people like Clarrisse Thorn and Thomas at Yes Means Yes are so awesome at discussions of the subtleties of consent everyone seems to have jumped on me for bringing that up here as if I can't say that out loud without being "not kink friendly"

Why is it inherantly seen as an attack on all things kink if I say, "Hey this might affect people even when they say it's not" just like anything else in life?

You're reading into my words that I believe that means the world should crack down on kink. You've made that up because I am not saying it. I am saying one can thinking critically about it and challenge certain assumptions you're not allowed to challenge in "kink friendly" communities and still be ok with people getting their kink on.

I'm not talking about legality. I have been in so many discussions where immediately if you bring up that the desire to combine violence and sex might be influenced by environmental and cultural variables that play on innate biological drives, and maybe we should not celebrate cultural values that INCREASE peoples innate desire to combine violence and sex-- it's immediately, "You're not being kink friendly!"

I believe in harm reduction which is why to me, even in the event that suddenly kink were proven to exacerbate certain negative health factors for a percentage of people, the goal would still be focus on accurate information and support- NOT totalitarian control of people.

"So let me amend my question: do you believe in the autonomy of the individual to decide where their own boundary between "ok" and "not ok" is, specifically when it comes to the expression of their own sexuality?"
Of course. That doesn't mean a partner has to oblige if it goes against their judgement of how they think the behavior or activity will affect the other person. If someone said they wanted me to punch them in the face during sex and I felt this would feed issues they are dealing with about how they deserve to be treated I would say no and they will have to find someone else to do that with if it's important to them.
posted by xarnop at 8:17 AM on December 27, 2011


"So let me amend my question: do you believe in the autonomy of the individual to decide where their own boundary between "ok" and "not ok" is, specifically when it comes to the expression of their own sexuality?"

Of course. That doesn't mean a partner has to oblige if it goes against their judgement of how they think the behavior or activity will affect the other person. If someone said they wanted me to punch them in the face during sex and I felt this would feed issues they are dealing with about how they deserve to be treated I would say no and they will have to find someone else to do that with if it's important to them.


Then that is an example of you enforcing your own boundary on sexuality. And that's perfectly fine.

I think the reason that people are assuming you want to "crack down on kink" is...well, because you kind of are. On one hand, you believe that each person has the autonomy to make their own decisions about their own sexuality - but on the other, you've said: "What does consent mean if one person allows another to do them terrible harm? At what point CAN we say, 'Hey that person is allowing themselves to be treated terribly and it seems to actually be harming them. Maybe this is not cool.'" and: "Yes but many people who are wired to be aroused by pain can be seriously injured by people who think consent is as simple as getting a person submissively passive to what is being done."

So on the one hand, you beleive each person has the autonomy to make decisions about their own sexuality, but on the other, you also sound like you want to reserve the right to judge whether a person deserves that autonomy or whether they're not "in their right mind". That...sounds like someone who wants to rein in or squash kink.

If you believe each individual has the right to make their own decisions about their own sexuality, then...you need to understand that some of them are going to make decisions that you think are wack-ass. Also, you don't have to think that you have to do something you don't want to do -- someone accusing you of being prudish because you yourself don't have a kink is being just as judgy. Just because they want you to spank them, it doesn't mean you have to if spanking people still just wigs you out. But -- if you've got one person who wants to be spanked and another person who does want to spank them, and both of them are enthusiastically saying "oh, my yes, we're perfectly cool with this happening," then....that's their decision, and that doesn't mean either of them is "being treated terribly".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"What does consent mean if one person allows another to do them terrible harm? At what point CAN we say, 'Hey that person is allowing themselves to be treated terribly and it seems to actually be harming them. Maybe this is not cool.'" and: "Yes but many people who are wired to be aroused by pain can be seriously injured by people who think consent is as simple as getting a person submissively passive to what is being done."


I stand by those statements. I have the right to stand around saying "That is not cool" all I want. It's a free country like that. ;)

I think that partners SHOULD read between the lines and the words and the reason I want to point out how important this in the kink community is that most people DON'T think about the complexities of consent. Despite that these great discussions about it happen in kink communities, somehow kinky people get to the "general" community and suddenly the message gets watered down to "It's simple! If someone consents it's fine!"

That's not even how it should work in the kink community, or in sex in general, or in human relations in general, or in interactions between employers and employees...

We have a responsability to think through what we do to others more than just what they will agree too. This seems to be pretty standard in discussions of consent in the BDSM community and suddenly here, it's the BDSM community who are trying to stifle that concept? Confusing.
posted by xarnop at 8:38 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have the right to stand around saying "That is not cool" all I want. It's a free country like that.

Are you saying "that's not cool", or are you saying "that's not cool and so you should stop"? Because it sounds like the latter.

I think that partners SHOULD read between the lines and the words and the reason I want to point out how important this in the kink community is that most people DON'T think about the complexities of consent. Despite that these great discussions about it happen in kink communities, somehow kinky people get to the "general" community and suddenly the message gets watered down to "It's simple! If someone consents it's fine!"

....Were you ever in the kink community to know this yourself? If so, then all I can say is "there are always some jerks in every community who don't get it, but that doesn't mean that everyone is like that. If you weren't ever in that community, though, then...how do you know that people who actually do engage in sexual practices you don't like don't consider their actions carefully?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is it inherantly seen as an attack on all things kink if I say, "Hey this might affect people even when they say it's not" just like anything else in life?

Because it's an impossible to prove premise that can be broadly applied to anyone, and because kink spends so much time shouting "go fucking damn it, this is ME!" that one more little voice saying "maybe we shouldn't" is neither novel nor perceived as benevolent.

It's also how you're going about saying it. And we have the right to respond to "That's not cool!" with "You're so mean!" ~ free countries work both ways.
posted by Phalene at 8:46 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems to be pretty standard in discussions of consent in the BDSM community and suddenly here, it's the BDSM community who are trying to stifle that concept?

I have no idea where you are getting this and it is extremely baffling. The only concepts being stifled here are bad faith arguments comparing consensual bdsm relationships to underage prostitution.
posted by elizardbits at 8:47 AM on December 27, 2011


People do stuff all the time that a sensible nanny state might decide is to unsafe to permit. They jump out of perfectly good airplanes and occasionally their faith that the parachute will open is not rewarded. They ride machines whose only purpose is to subject them to extreme G-forces for a few minutes, and occasionally the maintenance wasn't done right and a few riders die. They hike off into the wilderness where they might succumb to exhaustion or surprise weather changes or get lost or get eaten by a bear. They enter competitions where they have to run, bike, or swim ridiculous distances. They play American tackle football even when they're not being paid millions of dollars by the NFL to subject themselves to that.

To me the only difference between BDSM and riding a roller coaster is that BDSM involves sex. Oh, and the roller coaster doesn't observe safe words.

I've met avid fans of all of these activities who would be heartbroken if they were forced to give them up. As a matter of fact I know a few people who were forced to give up playing football because their health wouldn't permit, who were heartbroken even though it was the football that had wrecked their knees.

This is the world we live in. It is not safe and never will be, and some of the most enjoyable things about it make it less safe.

Do you question the consent of someone who wants to play football or jump out of an airplane? If not, what is it about the sexual component that makes BDSM so different? And is that so important as to abrogate fundamental freedoms to save us from it?

That is exactly the argument TFA was angling toward. And it's a very, very dangerous argument. Questioning an individual's ability to consent to the dangers of an activity is equivalent to questioning whether freedom is worth the risk. The fact that sex is involved does not change that one bit.
posted by localroger at 8:49 AM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think that kink is not cool.

What I think is not cool is making a generalized statement that it is MORE ethical to treat people exactly as they allow themselves to be treated rather than reading people more carefully and using judgement in how we treat others beyond what they are willing to agree too.

Human rights abuses that involve consent happen all over the place. If we say that consent makes whatever you want to do to someone ok, that is a problematic statement. And saying that it's anti-women's rights to point out that exploitation can happen with consent is a very frustrating way to uphold the right to exploit people so long as the consent.

Kink is not itself exlpoitation. But the attitude that anything goes so long as someone gives consent? That opens the doors for all kinds of horrible exploitation.
posted by xarnop at 8:51 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I think is not cool is making a generalized statement that it is MORE ethical to treat people exactly as they allow themselves to be treated rather than reading people more carefully and using judgement in how we treat others beyond what they are willing to agree too.

So, in other words, you don't think that people have the right to make decisions about their own sexuality.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 AM on December 27, 2011


"So, in other words, you don't think that people have the right to make decisions about their own sexuality."

Legally people can do anything within the law.

Morally, I think when your partner is willing to let you do something that you think hurts them, you have a responsability to read beyond their consent. The same goes for other human relations issues. Legally you can build a sweatshop if it meets the legal requirements of your country/the other country in question.

Morally you should use your own judgement about how to treat the employees with dignity for their humanity beyond what they are willing to consent to.
posted by xarnop at 8:55 AM on December 27, 2011


What I think is not cool is making a generalized statement that it is MORE ethical to treat people exactly as they allow themselves to be treated rather than reading people more carefully and using judgement in how we treat others beyond what they are willing to agree too.

Oh my dear god. Is anyone, anyone here saying that people shouldn't treat others carefully or use judgment when choosing/doing things with their partners? Do you really think that anyone is saying, sure, go ahead and beat the snot of someone you don't think can really consent to what you're doing? I think you are just making this shit up to fit your own agenda.
posted by desjardins at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Morally, I think when your partner is willing to let you do something that you think hurts them, you have a responsability to read beyond their consent.

Which means, that you need to second-guess what your partner is saying.

Which means, you don't believe that people should have the autonomy to express their own sexual preferences.

The same goes for other human relations issues. Legally you can build a sweatshop if it meets the legal requirements of your country/the other country in question. Morally you should use your own judgement about how to treat the employees with dignity for their humanity beyond what they are willing to consent to.

We're talking about sexuality, why are you bringing workplace safety into this?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because I find there to be a disconnect that you are defending the right of individuals to harm each other so long as they can get consent, but most people can see this is morally wrong when looking at a major corporations actions.

Ethics of consent should more complex than simply finding someone who will let you do things to them. That is not ethical behavior.
posted by xarnop at 9:03 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


i give up. the hot dog bun excoriation in Meta is a thousand times better than this.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ethics of consent should more complex than simply finding someone who will let you do things to them.

You keep framing this in terms of one person letting the other do things to them, as though the consent you're thinking of is one person consenting to indulge the other's desire to be on top. Is it really that hard to imagine that someone genuinely likes being flogged or whatever, and that the consent they obtain from someone to top them is equally important?

Also,

I find there to be a disconnect that you are defending the right of individuals to harm each other so long as they can get consent, but most people can see this is morally wrong when looking at a major corporations actions.

Can we please define harm here? What harm do you think people in BDSM relationships are doing to one another?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:10 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


My understanding was that the kink community tends to espouse to enthusiastic consent which does mean more than simply getting a yes out of someone. Which does means second guessing your partner if you get a yes out of them but look dismayed to have said yes and utterly miserable.

Why would you not check in if you felt your partner was submitting to something they felt miserable about? I haven't seen anyone in the kink community say that is ethical behavior and yet here you are saying, "If someone agrees to something their agreement should be final and they should be treated that way"

???

In fact it is exactly kink friendly people who I thought had the best discussions about enthusiastic consent and detailed communication? I'm utterly confused why you want moral behavior to operate under "If someone says yes to something then it would be wrong to think beyond what they say and consider how things seems to be affecting them"
posted by xarnop at 9:11 AM on December 27, 2011


right of individuals to harm each other so long as they can get consent,

Quick question for the receivers!

Is what you experience 'harm'?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2011


I tend to refer to it as 'OMG AWESOME DO THAT MORE' but apparently I have been subverted by the demands of the patriarchy and my alleged consent requires careful review and approval from a nonparticpating third party.

Also I wish I hadn't forgotten the password to my sockpuppet but really, what the fuck ever.
posted by elizardbits at 9:18 AM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why would you not check in if you felt your partner was submitting to something they felt miserable about?

Who is saying not to do this? WHO? Name names and provide links or again, you are just making up strawmen.

EmpressCallipygos is not talking about not getting enthusiastic consent from your partner - she is referring to people she is not in relationships with, that she can't possibly know if consent is enthusiastic or not, so she is giving them the benefit of the doubt. If you are not giving people the benefit of the doubt that they are being honest in their consent, you are taking away their autonomy.
posted by desjardins at 9:19 AM on December 27, 2011


Harm can easily when a partner gets a consent out of someone who didn't want to consent and then plows ahead with what they are doing without caring how that damages someone. This is not a kink specific issue, it's all sex.

I guess the kink community doesn't care about enthusistic consent as much as I thought. That is disappointing. I was under the impression that reading beyond what your partner says and checking it when things aren't going right, reading body language, knowing a persons history and how things might fit into that, were all good things to do in a realtionship.

I was under the impression that is exactly something people in kink try to do.

I don't see how that matches with the statement that so long as you get consent whatever you do from there is ok no matter if it actually is causing harm.
posted by xarnop at 9:20 AM on December 27, 2011


I think you're confusing consent with verbal consent, and I think you're doing this on purpose because you're feeling set-upon.

I apologize for my small contribution to this.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:22 AM on December 27, 2011


"Which means, that you need to second-guess what your partner is saying.

Which means, you don't believe that people should have the autonomy to express their own sexual preferences."

This statement seems to be exactly opposed to reading beyond people's words and saying it's ok to keep going with something that appears to be genuinely harming someone so long as you have acheived consent.
posted by xarnop at 9:22 AM on December 27, 2011


I guess the kink community doesn't care about enthusistic consent as much as I thought. That is disappointing. I was under the impression that reading beyond what your partner says and checking it when things aren't going right, reading body language, knowing a persons history and how things might fit into that, were all good things to do in a realtionship.

Man, I'm done responding to you.
posted by desjardins at 9:23 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess the kink community doesn't care about enthusiastic consent as much as I thought.

Where are you getting this?!
posted by Phalene at 9:26 AM on December 27, 2011


I thought enthusiastic consent DID mean reading beyond just getting a yes?? Second geussing your partner by checking in and asking questions and finding out where they are coming from DOES seem exactly like it fits into enthusiastic consent?

Why are people stating that as long as someone states something is ok they should be taken at their word? I thought enthusiastic consent itself meant looking beyond that.
posted by xarnop at 9:28 AM on December 27, 2011


I guess the kink community doesn't care about enthusistic consent as much as I thought. That is disappointing. I was under the impression that reading beyond what your partner says and checking it when things aren't going right, reading body language, knowing a persons history and how things might fit into that, were all good things to do in a realtionship.

1. This is bullshit, and I'm having a hard time believing you don't know it's bullshit
2. One of the many reasons this is bullshit is that you are talking about a group of people you don't really know and have spent no time around. How do I know this? People in kink communities talk about informed consent all the goddamned time. They talk about consent and they talk about communication. They never stop! Seriously. Go to a dinner with these people sometime. They communicate about communication. It'd be incredibly fucking tedious if it weren't so refreshing.

Obtaining informed consent is pretty much the be all and end all of kink. This means checking in before, during and after a scene. This means knowing the person. It means understanding where they're coming from and having a sense of what's happening in their head. It is not a rote exchange of assent. This is true whether your particular blue heaven is candlelight and satin sheets or getting hung from the rafters.

This also means that there are people who don't do this. You know what else? There are people in vanilla relationships who beat the shit out of their spouses or try to control their SO with threats of suicide. But if I said these are examples of bad, non-functioning relationships, you wouldn't call that a "no true Scotsman" argument, because suddenly it's a lot more intuitively clear why that'd be wrong to say.

Harm can easily when a partner gets a consent out of someone who didn't want to consent and then plows ahead with what they are doing without caring how that damages someone. This is not a kink specific issue, it's all sex.

Since that is equally bad in kink or any other kind of sex, why is it relevant? Do you think that people in BDSM communities and relationships give each other a free pass on abusive behaviors? Why the hell would you think that?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:35 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


My understanding was that the kink community tends to espouse to enthusiastic consent which does mean more than simply getting a yes out of someone. Which does means second guessing your partner if you get a yes out of them but look dismayed to have said yes and utterly miserable.

Well, yes. I don't see a single person in here who is disagreeing with you on this.

So where are you getting the idea that people aren't taking this sort of enthusiastic consent as a given, and that that's the reason they're not talking about this?

And moreover: what desjardins said here is exactly true. I'm not questioning what happens between two consenting adults. I'm questioning why you feel that you have the authority to look at that couple and assume, "oh, you know, I don't see one enthusiastically consenting to the other, they must not really want to do that." Maybe the reason you're not seeing that "enthusiastic consent" is because they're waiting for you go go away, because that's not your business. Just like most vanilla-sex couples would also wait for you to butt out because they don't want you watching them either.

You seem to be assuming that an outsider has the right to pass judgement on other people's sex lives. You'reprojecting your own "maybe one of them doesn't really want to" concerns on to them, and not paying attention to their insistance that "no, we're good, really." You're assuming the reason they're not showing you that "enthusiastic consent" is because it's not happening, when really it's because you're an outsider, and their private sex life isn't your business, thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Xarnop, I don't want to pile on here, but can you please just give an example of a BDSM kink which really exists (like, not "I get off on being literally ripped apart by wolves,"), which a person could enthusiastically consent to and enjoy, but which you would still consider harmful or wrong?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:41 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: Then why would you say that second guessing your partner is disrespecting someones automony if you agree that this is something that often happens in enthusiastic conent?

I agree, all the best discussions I've seen about enthusiastic consent have been in the BDSM community. So I'm not sure why you're mad at me for saying that even if you get a yes out of someone you can still harm them by plowing ahead without reading other contextual variables.

I'm not saying that kink in the context of enthusiastic consent is harmful. I'm saying that people can agree to things that are harmful. I think the attitude that it's ethical to do anything to anyone so long as you get verbal consent opens the doors to exploitation.

I'm just saying that consent involves more than just getting a yes. Which is what I thought was already an agreed upon tenet in the conversations I've read in BDSM communities.
posted by xarnop at 9:46 AM on December 27, 2011


Why are people stating that as long as someone states something is ok they should be taken at their word?

No, we're telling you that YOU, the person who has made other people's sexuality your business, need to take them at their word sometimes. You're not in a position to say, affectionately fondle their genitals like localroger uses to ascertain that the requisite level of arousal is met. Nobody owes you a play-by-play of their love lives so you can pass judgement and that's what your premise needs to be happy.

Seriously, you can't answer your own anxiety without sexually violating people or advocating blanket bans, with the terms you've set for us. And then you're wondering why we're acting creeped out by you, and you have the audacity to tell us we are being unkind to you by not respecting your sensitivity.

Jesus, every fucking time I and a nice young (wo)man get at it, I observe a thank you note protocol that would make Emily Post cream her coffin, and this after talking the befores to death, enduring nannyish safety nonsense about how a flogging bottom's kidneys will explode if you sneeze on them from well meaning safety fetishists, and bombarding the actual partner with so much aftercare you'd think they were a basket case after someone bumped into them in the metro. And then you say I don't care about informed consent? Man, this conversation is walk around the block time.
posted by Phalene at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was simply responding to your question about who can give consent. Whereas I think this discussion is more about what people should be allowed to consent to.

Well, if you're strictly responding to the single comment that I left last, you're not participating in a discussion with me.

According to my screen we got onto this particular sub-discussion when I said I am sympathetic to the idea that consent, on its own, doesn't make an act moral. and you disagreed, saying I would say that consent should be the dividing line between which practices we tolerate and which we don't. I thought that was strange, because we don't tolerate sex with minors; the particular legal fiction we use to forbid this is to say minors can't consent, but I don't think there are many people who really believe that no 17 year olds are capable of consent (here speaking of the mental capacity and not the legal one), but all 18 year olds are. So our criteria for deciding whose consent makes sex permissible has to do with a person's age. That means we have already admitted that consent (the mental capacity) is not a sufficient precondition for sex to be permissible; you also have to be old enough (the legal capacity).

Saying that consent is the universal dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior isn't very informative if you're going to define all problematic consent situations as non-consensual.

Even granting the legal concept of consent though, in my first comment I brought up a specific example that you ignored: amoral sadists who seek out weak-willed people who are bad at risk assessment and get one of them in a relationship. I can't imagine a legal mechanism for determining when this is happening, but sometimes it happens, and I consider it immoral. Do you?

I suspect that most 18 year olds actually aren't mentally prepared to consent. Risk assessment is a skill that must be learned with practice. It's possible that a given 18 year old has been managing all their own money since they were 14 and got their first job, but even then they're unlikely to have seriously risked e.g. getting the power turned off if they haven't paid their bills. They haven't been in a situation where they can meaningfully practice risk assessment, and that's an ability you need to have in order to consent, so they're most likely not capable of the mental act of consent.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:50 AM on December 27, 2011


I'm not making other people's sexuality my business--- when you say it's ok for people to anything to anyone so long as they get verbal consent you're in MY business-- you're saying that everyone who has done shit to me without using any principles of enthusiastic consent to cause a lot of harm to me, it's ok so long as they were able to get submission.

I'm saying I believe that is an unethical way to determine what is ok to do to someone.
posted by xarnop at 9:52 AM on December 27, 2011


ctrl-f 'verbal consent'.

You and I are the only people who have used that phrase, and I used it in the context of you mischaracterizing what other people are saying.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:55 AM on December 27, 2011


Then why would you say that second guessing your partner is disrespecting someones automony if you agree that this is something that often happens in enthusiastic conent?

What does that sentence even mean?

So I'm not sure why you're mad at me for saying that even if you get a yes out of someone you can still harm them by plowing ahead without reading other contextual variables.

I'm not saying that forced consent never ever happens, I'm asking you why you seem to be assuming it always happens. Or why you assume that forced consent is the rule rather than the exception.

I'm just saying that consent involves more than just getting a yes. Which is what I thought was already an agreed upon tenet in the conversations I've read in BDSM communities.

It is. Where did you get the idea that it isn't?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on December 27, 2011


Let me try to make the argument another way:

Xarnop, can I come watch you and your partner have sex to make sure that you're both consenting? No? Well, then I guess you must be trying to hide something. Why are you trying to force your partner to do something they don't want to do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on December 27, 2011


when you say it's ok for people to anything to anyone so long as they get verbal consent you're in MY business-- you're saying that everyone who has done shit to me without using any principles of enthusiastic consent to cause a lot of harm to me, it's ok so long as they were able to get submission.

No, we're not. Because you're asking to make a judgment call about other people. Your rape/sexual assualt, (and I will fully support your right to consider it an assault on your person) does not justify you to worry to the point of intrusion about other people to the degree you are.

Your point can go no further than "Well, X happened to me, so sometimes I wonder, but I recognize I can't be in their bedrooms uninvited" without moving into the territory of being up in other people's business.

Multiple people have told you what informed consent looks like in this thread. They have also said that you have to take other people's word for it because we're A) not telepathic and B)we'd have to second guess every single human action ever, all the time.
posted by Phalene at 10:01 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


When you make the statement that if someone agrees to something they should be taken at your word, I pointed out that you should look beyond that at contextual variables and you kept disagreeing with me.

You seemed to keep telling me that looking beyond just the words and at the contextual variables as well was disrespecting someone's autonomy. In the context of deciding how to treat your partner, I think it's the right thing to do. Are we in disagreement?
posted by xarnop at 10:01 AM on December 27, 2011


"ecause you're asking to make a judgment call about other people."

I'm not worried about what other people do in their bedrooms, I worried about what we say ismorally acceptable to do to people like my younger self in our society.
posted by xarnop at 10:02 AM on December 27, 2011


When you make the statement that if someone agrees to something they should be taken at your word, I pointed out that you should look beyond that at contextual variables and you kept disagreeing with me.

But you're talking about what one partner does to another -- WE are talking about what happens when YOU, an OUTSIDER, looks at the couple.

....Like how I want to watch you have sex but you're not letting me. I think it's the right thing to do, to make sure you're not forcing someone to do something they don't want.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on December 27, 2011


overeducated_alligator, I know of one. It's called internal enslavement, and it isn't very interesting to look at, because it's mostly to do with the way the people involved think and talk about their relationship. The fundamental idea (one that I consider fallacious) is that if you get far enough in a relationship that you literally can't imagine leaving it, that's equivalent to saying that you can't leave it.

I consider this harmful because it prevents you from considering your options. Leaving your relationship might never be a good option, but I think you should always be aware of it. If you ignore some options to make yourself feel better, you'll never really know whether you're ignoring one that you absolutely need.

The name of this fetish is from BDSM but I think it's most common in non-kinky codependent relationships. So I can't blame the BDSM scene for it. Well, really, I would tend to avoid blaming any given scene for any given hazard, since "scenes" are abstractions, and as such are unlikely to accept any responsibility for what I blame them for.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:04 AM on December 27, 2011


I'm not worried about what other people do in their bedrooms, I worried about what we say ismorally acceptable to do to people like my younger self in our society.

That's a conflicting statement- "I'm not worried about people having sex in general, I'm worried about YOUNG people having sex in general." Young people are people too.
posted by Phalene at 10:06 AM on December 27, 2011


Xarnop, of course enthusiastic consent has to be gotten and given -- by the people involved in the experience. Not by you, not by me, and not by some amorphous "we" as in "what we say is morally acceptable."
posted by KathrynT at 10:07 AM on December 27, 2011


I'm not making other people's sexuality my business--- when you say it's ok for people to anything to anyone so long as they get verbal consent you're in MY business-- you're saying that everyone who has done shit to me without using any principles of enthusiastic consent to cause a lot of harm to me, it's ok so long as they were able to get submission.

No one is saying this. Let me repeat that: No one is saying this. Let me quote you again and then repeat that:

you're saying that everyone who has done shit to me without using any principles of enthusiastic consent to cause a lot of harm to me, it's ok so long as they were able to get submission.

No one is saying this.

The problem here appears to be that you don't see a difference between adults who have given one another informed consent in a decision made as equals, and a multimillion dollar corporation with its hand in the pants of government entities, a tremendous amount of influence and power, and a horrible record of human rights violations.

These two could not be more different. A defense of one is not a defense of the other. The power dynamic in one situation is completely different from the power dynamic of the other.

In a functional kink relationship, everyone involved is an adult giving informed consent and is under no duress; they may choose to play roles which contain an imbalance of power but they are only roles, and at the core of it there is no imbalance of power. Any party can withdraw consent at any time and there is no threat of repercussions if they do. They are aware of whatever potential risks may be involved in what they do - that is the definition of informed consent.

If the above does not apply to a situation or relationship then it is not a functional kink relationship, and does not represent the idea of informed consent. I find it extraordinarily hard to imagine that when you say "everyone who has done shit to me," you are talking about scenarios which match the above description.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:08 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not making other people's sexuality my business--- when you say it's ok for people to anything to anyone so long as they get verbal consent you're in MY business

How is it YOUR business if one person says "can I spank you in the bedroom?" and the other person says "sure!" and you are not either one of those people?

-- you're saying that everyone who has done shit to me without using any principles of enthusiastic consent to cause a lot of harm to me, it's ok so long as they were able to get submission.

If they harmed you, they didn't get your consent first. So why does this count?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on December 27, 2011


I will try, once.

xarnop. When people here say, "when someone says they have given consent, you should take them at their word". What they mean is:

"When you, xarnop, are told by someone you are not sexually involved with in any way, that the things being done to them are things they enjoy and have consented to, it is reasonable and considerate in most cases (with some possible exceptions that have been discussed, such as permanent physical damage) for you, xarnop, to take them at their word and assume that they really enjoy and consent to the things that they claim they enjoy and consent to."

What they do NOT mean is:

"If my personal sexual partner gives me verbal consent to something once I can assume for all time it is something they have consented to without ever checking in again."

Your inability to realize this is driving a lot of people here up the wall, frankly.
posted by kyrademon at 10:22 AM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm not worried about what other people do in their bedrooms, I worried about what we say ismorally acceptable to do to people like my younger self in our society.

It seems from your comments that you have been abused in a manner that has superficial similarities to kinky sex. That's awful, and I understand that it may heighten your concern about kinky sex. What you are perhaps missing is that abuse does not solely or primarily take this form. There is sexual abuse that resembles vanilla sex; emotional and physical abuse of children that resembles healthy parental discipline; emotional and physical abuse of partners that resembles a healthy desire for monogamy. Abuse can be related to sex, money, love, anger, fear or any other strong human social desire. Abuse, in this context, means not just a misuse of the victim, but a misuse of the relationship.

Unless you are suggesting a radical shift in societal politics toward the authoritarian, you need to recognise that people will do all kinds of things that are potentially open to abuse, and that these need to be accepted as healthy in themselves. You need to see that the potential for something to be abused, or its similarity to certain types of abuse, really isn't enough to make it a malign influence. We surely cannot wring our hands and say "maybe we should allow adults to do competitive sports, because what if that makes teenagers think that it is ok for their parent to force them to train 6 hours a night and belittle them for losing".

As for the consent thing, what you are calling for is the enthusiastic consent everyone should look for everywhere, and exists more in kinky sex than outside it. If my partner were crying after every bout of gentle vanilla intercourse I'd gently and charmingly persuaded her to have, we would need to have a good look at what was happening. This would involve communication, and my limited experience of kinky sex and the emphasis that tends there to be placed on communication would be a help. If I ignored the tears because of her consent, I'd be just as much a dick as if I'd chained her up and whipped her without thinking about what that meant to her. So yes, nobody disagrees with you about enthusiastic consent, just with your seeming belief that it is of particular relevance to kinky sex, and that kinky people probably aren't doing enough, but vanilla people probably are. If anything, vanilla sex needs to learn from kinky sex.
posted by howfar at 10:35 AM on December 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


I completely support people making their own informed decisions about what they like. I care what we decide is ok for instigating partners to do because as a person with tonic immobility to sexual advances I physically shut down and can't move and disappear from reality and have a host of fear responses and panic attacks to situations where a man has managed to get alone with me.

For me under these circumstances of fear I have consented to things happening that were extremely harmful to me. I have also experienced being completely alone and the kinds of things people will ask you to do to trade for friendship when you are in too much pain to have friends. I don't think that is ethical when you know someone has stated they just want a friendship and you know they have extremely difficult life circumstances and grief and have a higher level of need than you do. I don't want a world where we say so long as you get consent it's ok to do whatever you're wanting to do to someone.

So no I'm not trying to generalize statements to other people's bedrooms, but when people say, "So long as you get consent it's ok" the statement AS IS, is extremely problematic and especially when backed up with "Anything else is failing to respect women's autonomy!"

I'm just saying, I am a woman and those statements don't speak for me. Anyway, I think that everyone here is reading anti-BDSM into what I'm saying where it is not. But considering that Hamiltons crappy words were the opening, I get why people think that by me saying, "Well maybe the desire for violence and sex IS something that environmental/biological/and cultural variables can increase or decrease and maybe it IS something we might want to reduce" would come across as agreeing with all the crap he said.

That wasn't where I was coming from. Combinations of sex and violence in movies and porn are cultural variables that might have an affect. Cultural variables that celebrate violence and aggression, and romantisize victimization likely do increase whatever is innate about these kinds of urges. I think it's likely that reducing the desire to combine sex and violence is good. I care about this as the recipient of people who get off on causing real harm to people.

I want to know what increases these urges in people and if there are cultural/environmental/biological variables that we could use to create people for whom these kinds of urges don't feel so strong they need to act on them in harmful ways.

"Unless you are suggesting a radical shift in societal politics toward the authoritarian, you need to recognise that people will do all kinds of things that are potentially open to abuse, and that these need to be accepted as healthy in themselves."

I agree with you.
posted by xarnop at 10:40 AM on December 27, 2011


Some people drown kittens. How do you know your neighbor does not drown kittens? He says he doesn't. But how do you ever really know? Maybe we should all take a closer look at our neighbors, just in case they might be drowning kittens.

Kitten drowning is immoral and I can't believe that some people are suggesting otherwise!
posted by desjardins at 10:41 AM on December 27, 2011


Well, everyone knows that consensual, healthy sex is consensual and healthy. What this article presupposes is... maybe it isn't?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 10:41 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to throw a few more peanuts out from the gallery.

Not all forms of Kink are dangerous, and not all kinky relationships involve pain or control. Sometimes a consensual kinky relationship is about finding someone who shares a particular interest or fetish (Wait, YOU like dressing up like a japanese schoolgirl and going to the mall too??)

Yes, bdsm dynamics can be abused, misused, and generally F***ed up.... But no more than "vanilla" relationships. In fact, the two abusive relationships I fell into were both purely vanilla, with men who felt that my wishes and wants were irrelevant so long as they could keep me cowed and obedient.

In the worst of the two, I was not allowed to have a job, not allowed access to money (he gave me gift cards to grocery shop with, and checked the balance afterward to ensure I only bought what he wrote on the list), constantly screamed at, insulted, and degraded... and if I tried to defy or resist anything he wanted (including sex) he would punish me by harming my pets. He fed my pet rats to his snakes to punish me for not answering my cellphone when I was out with friends! He decided I was taking my dogs on too many walks which must mean I was meeting up with another man somewhere, and threatened to have them put to sleep. He monitored all of my online activity and communications to prevent me from reaching out to anyone who might help me escape. He locked me in the basement overnight after pinning me in the corner screaming at me for over an hour because I gave a friend a nearly empty bottle of cooking oil. When I refused his sexual advances, he threatened to throw me out into the street and call the cops if I tried to come back and "steal" any of my clothes or belongings. I trained my dogs to sleep up against me and growl if he tried to get too close, because I couldn't find any other way to keep him from forcing himself on me while I slept. As a result, he tried to give my dogs to his step mother, then kept her and I trapped in her home for almost 8 hours screaming at both of us for being worthless cunts and not doing what he wanted.

It took me several months to escape him, because I felt I had to get my pets out safely first. The remaining pet rats went to new homes, the dogs went to a Basset rescue. I spent several weeks secretly moving my things into the laundry room off of the garage, so that one day while he wasn't around I could have a friend pick me up and sneak everything out of the house without him noticing.

He never physically harmed me, and I had no proof to give grounds for a protective order after I escaped, so I had to give up everything I knew and move out of state, block him on all social media, cut off contact with any friend who might give him information about where I had gone. When I left, he for some reason became convinced that I was pregnant, and made threats to kidnap me and force me to stay with him and take care of the child he thought existed.

Even though I spent a year or two after this experience TERRIFIED of men (and am still nervous around anyone who is too pushy about expressing their interest)... I feel safe and comfortable within the confines of a BDSM relationship. Why? Because I know that the psychotic ex's insanity is not something that I will find within the kink world. Because CONSENT is the end all be all of these relationships, and because I do not even consider entering into that type of relationship without taking a great deal of time getting to know someone who is willing to take steps to prove themselves worthy of my trust and affection, who will treat me with respect as a person even while "playing rough" in the ways that I like...

Most importantly, within the confines of a CONSENSUAL bdsm relationship I have the right to speak up about something that makes me uncomfortable or unhappy, I have the right to ask that we sit down and discuss something that I'm not entirely okay with it. Even in the middle of a "scene" I can call things to a halt if I feel something is wrong, or am just not enjoying whats going on. Granted, all of these things should be pure common sense, even within vanilla relationships, however... because the kink world is so aware of the potential for abuse, these things are stressed so much that I feel safer. I know that should my requests for communication be ignored or refused this is a huge red flag (with flashing lights and wailing sirens).

(side note, the other abusive relationship was with an alcoholic who was verbally abusive, picked fights so that he could have an excuse to storm out and disappear for a few days with the guys, was ridiculously immature and insecure... and had a habit of setting fires while he was drunk.)
posted by myShanon at 10:48 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, oh, man does this guy meander a ways. I understand that he's freaked out by people doing things that scare him but hell, you could have just written that up in a paragraph.

More dangerous by far, I would argue, is non-violent emotional manipulation by those who really know how to twist someone with words to the point that they can't ever say no.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:53 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now that I think about it, out of the (probably) 100-200 kinky people I've known, I only remember one abusive situation. The guy also non-sexually abused his mother, so I can't say that it was specifically related to BDSM. The only other situation I can think of is a dominant female who consensually tied up a guy in his basement and then robbed his house with the help of her boyfriend. Also, there was a bar fight at a BDSM gathering. The robbers and the bar fight participants were immediately drummed out of the local community; the mother-abuser was not part of it to begin with.

I've known some assholes, for sure, including an ex who cheated on me, but that's certainly not exclusive to BDSM. Out of the hundreds of vanilla people I've known, I can recount many, many examples of abuse, both physical and sexual.
posted by desjardins at 10:57 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins yeh... my current potentially cheating soon-to-be-ex boyfriend is a vanilla relationship (though we're both into kink, its not a bdsm relationship because i don't trust him)
posted by myShanon at 11:02 AM on December 27, 2011


I think it's likely that reducing the desire to combine sex and violence is good

Maybe. I don't know. More generally, would society be better if we didn't enjoy play/fictional versions of Bad Things? When I read HP Lovecraft, or watch Hot Fuzz (combining laughter with violence, the good with the bad), or play GTA, should I be worrying about the implications of what I'm doing?

Maybe those things, innocent in themselves, really are a reflection of a sick society. If that's the case, we need to work on healing society's sickness, not obscuring the manifestations of it. If in a better society such desires fall away, so be it, but let's not imagine that we'd make society better by suppressing the manifestations of its problems (if that is indeed what they are).
posted by howfar at 11:06 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]



I don't understand saying that a guy is bad for saying "Anal rape is hot" but if he said, "Imagining real anal rape is hot" If you're imagining it, it's still in your imagination even if you are imagining it as hypothetically real?

I know a lot of tragically sadistic people who are really torn up about it and genuinely I feel compassion for this state. So what should a person who feels turned on by the idea of real sexual harm do with themselves? Are they truly not candidates for the BDSM community if they went to therapy and tried to understand what the urges were rooted in?

Is there an equivalent of submissives who are not elligable for the BDSM community because they are turned on by imagined situations of "real" sexual harm? I.e. when they imagine it they are really pretending it's real?

desjardins--- I know you are exasperated with me in this thread, but I think the BDSM community has gotten so many things right about meaningful consent, informed consent and enthusiastic consent. In my head I was just thinking "Hey this guy is a shit head, but let's discuss how we view arousal over sex and violence and depictions of sexual harm because maybe it's worth discussing without immediately defending violent porn, or violence in sexual connotations of movies and media."

So to be specific I totally disagree with Hamilton's framework:
"But it didn’t have a way of recognising where personal freedoms crossed the boundaries of the perverse."
This is ridiculous. Perverse means nothing. Taboo is irrelevant other than where taboos arise for the well being of the self and others. This is the only context where taboos have meaning and they often defeat their own purpose by increasing the allure of that which they forbid. Many taboos do correlate with behaviors that do in fact cause harm to the self and others most often in the time and place in which they came into favor. In general, they become archaic and need to be re-evaluated.

"There is a dark and dangerous side to sex. The left refuses to recognise it. Or some set it aside by thinking that only bad people, like rapists, do bad things with sex."
UH? This is hard to pick apart but ok, sexual urges can have darkness entwined within them. I do not think that people who have sexual urges that merge with the darker side of the spectrum are inherintly bad even if they are turned on by the idea of "real" harm. I think it likely this happens for more people than admit it, and I think more compassion and awareness and support for people facing this will better help them be ok with identifying their own urges and seeking professional support with it so they can find a way to ensure they interact in beneficial ways with others and with themselves.

"I worry enormously that there are 14 year old, 12 year old, ten year old boys who are exposed to that sort of stuff. Bestiality, multiple penetrations, rape sites, you name it. The dominant theme is the brutalisation of women."
Despite that Hamilton is obviously a prude, I worry about this too. Our sex education is not good enough to help kids process what getting turned on by rape scenes means. It's kind of a big deal that we help young people figure out how to process that rape is hot concept to a lot of people. In porn you aren't watching "fake" rape. You're watching a simulation of real rape, meaning it's meant in your mind to let you be turned on by real rape without having it be real rape. While many people assume this is fantasy and not reality, assuming that all people watching these scenes are capable of processing what their arousal over these scenes mean is a huge assumption.

"Even five year olds are now reported to be acting out scenes they could only have witnessed in porn videos or websites."
Oh come now, when I was five I took every movie I watched ever, added forced orgasm to the bad guy scene and there you go, masturbation fodder! Princess Bride? NOT TO 50!!!! AAaaah! Kids can be kinky. They find ways. Jeeze.

"Let’s say it: sex and violence don't belong together and there's something perverse about wanting to play out violent fantasies in the sexual act."
Sex got mixed with violence long before the media mixed sex with violence. Is it potentially a dangerous combination? Well I think it can be. I think we need to think pretty damn hard about it.
posted by xarnop at 11:21 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alright, let me unpick this point by point.

I completely support people making their own informed decisions about what they like. I care what we decide is ok for instigating partners to do because as a person with tonic immobility to sexual advances I physically shut down and can't move and disappear from reality and have a host of fear responses and panic attacks to situations where a man has managed to get alone with me.

Then that means you're not giving consent. And that means your situation is not what we are talking about.

So no I'm not trying to generalize statements to other people's bedrooms, but when people say, "So long as you get consent it's ok" the statement AS IS, is extremely problematic and especially when backed up with "Anything else is failing to respect women's autonomy!"

See, HERE is where we are having the disconnect, I think. You say "I'm not trying to generalize statements to other people's bedrooms," but you're doing the opposite -- you are SPECIFYING statements to other people's bedrooms.

You have had really shitty experiences when it came to people taking advantage of your fear response. It is perfectly valid for you to have had that reaction.

What ISN'T okay, though, is that it sounds like you are thinking that "well, if it happened to me, it must be happening a lot more often." And you don't know that. You are perfectly right that if I were to try to have sex with you, and your response was something like "uh...sure,", that for me to go ahead and have sex with you would be wrong.

But you are not seeing that we're not even talking about that kind of situation. We're talking about a situation like: I am having sex with someone -- let's call him Sid -- and I let slip that he spanked me. You ask me, "are you sure you're okay with that?" And I say "oh, yeah, totally!" If I say to you that I am totally okay with Sid spanking me, then you need to take me at my word. What you may not know is that it sounds like you think that you have the right to try to talk me out of letting Sid spank me.

I realize and empathize with how you were taken advantage of by your former partners; however, what you are not realizing is that that is the exception. There are moral codes, but the existence of moral codes doesn't prevent people from transgressing them. What happened to you wasn't an example of "what the kink community is like," it's an example of xarnop getting taken advantage of by a douche-nozzle." And it is honestly wrong of that douchenozzle to have taken advantage of you. But that douchenozzle taking advantage of you is very different from "how consent works."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Saying that consent is the universal dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior isn't very informative if you're going to define all problematic consent situations as non-consensual.

I'm doing nothing of the sort. I'm assuming that our discussion of consent is limited to the behaviour of people who are legally allowed to consent to sex in the first place -- be it vanilla or kinky or anywhere in between. If you want to have a discussion about what the age of consent should be, that's fine -- but I don't think that's what we're talking about here.

The idea of "informed consent" is not insurance against making bad decisions. If we are over the age of consent and unimpaired, then we have the freedom to exercise our judgment, and we have to live with the consequences.

Even granting the legal concept of consent though, in my first comment I brought up a specific example that you ignored: amoral sadists who seek out weak-willed people who are bad at risk assessment and get one of them in a relationship. I can't imagine a legal mechanism for determining when this is happening, but sometimes it happens, and I consider it immoral. Do you?


Of course
I consider predatory behaviour immoral. But what does that have to do with which specific bedroom activities we are willing to allow in the context of a consensual BDSM relationship? Do you think that BDSM lends itself to predatory behaviour more readily than non-kinky sex?
posted by Crane Shot at 11:26 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


in my first comment I brought up a specific example that you ignored: amoral sadists who seek out weak-willed people who are bad at risk assessment and get one of them in a relationship. I can't imagine a legal mechanism for determining when this is happening, but sometimes it happens, and I consider it immoral. Do you?

Yes.

But what we are objecting to is your taking the further step and implying that that sort of situation happens a lot. It doesn't. We are also saying that if you meet a couple, and they let slip that "we sometimes do a little bondage in the bedroom," and you ask "oh, goodness, are you really okay with that?" and they say, "yeah, sure, we both like it," then it's not fair for you to think "well, one of them must be lying about it."

In short -- it sounds like you have been talking about a very SPECIFIC situation, which is different from the situation WE are all talking about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on December 27, 2011


I'm the other guy.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:35 AM on December 27, 2011


Of course I consider predatory behaviour immoral. But what does that have to do with which specific bedroom activities we are willing to allow in the context of a consensual BDSM relationship?

Oh, I hadn't gotten that far. Rather than attacking Clive's conclusions I was attacking an early part of his argument: the idea that "whatever you do with consent is your business" is a way of avoiding dealing with genuinely problematic relationships.

I "attacked" the premise by agreeing with it and then using it to make a different argument entirely. The idea was to show how little his premises have to do with his conclusion.

This is how I think all the time. I'm sorry.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:38 AM on December 27, 2011


Anyway, weren't you trying to argue that it doesn't make sense to regulate on the basis of specific physical activities? You say we should only regulate consent. I pretty much agree to that, but I think there are some additional wrinkles about what kinds of consent are good enough.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:44 AM on December 27, 2011


as a person with tonic immobility to sexual advances I physically shut down and can't move and disappear from reality and have a host of fear responses and panic attacks to situations where a man has managed to get alone with me.

I am sorry that this happens to you and that you've had experiences which have led to this reaction. But I think maybe we are arriving at the basis of the problem here:

When you say "consent," what you mean is "agreement."

When I (and at least a couple other people here) say "consent," what we mean is "informed consent," and what I mean by that is what I specified earlier:

In a functional kink relationship, everyone involved is an adult giving informed consent and is under no duress; they may choose to play roles which contain an imbalance of power but they are only roles, and at the core of it there is no imbalance of power. Any party can withdraw consent at any time and there is no threat of repercussions if they do. They are aware of whatever potential risks may be involved in what they do - that is the definition of informed consent.

If you are making decisions in a fear state then you are not negotiating as equals. If the other person in the room is aware that you're having a panic reaction and does not stop what's going on to make sure you're okay then you are under duress and are not being given the freedom to withdraw consent. If the man is not aware that you're having this reaction and/or has not been told ahead of time then there is no informed consent to speak of.

All of the situations you've described contain elements of duress, at the very least, and/or an unequal balance in the power dynamic. You are not negotiating as equals.

when people say, "So long as you get consent it's ok" the statement AS IS, is extremely problematic

I have defined precisely what I mean by consent. Would you please do the same? I ask because you keep insisting that anyone has said this, at all, but in fact no one has. I'd like to understand the disconnect here.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:45 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, it seems like there was apparently a freudian slip earlier in which one participant substituted 'submission' for 'consent.'

This, to me, says a lot about how this conversation has gone.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:50 AM on December 27, 2011


But what we are objecting to is your taking the further step and implying that that sort of situation happens a lot. It doesn't.

How do you know? I mean, are you basing this off anything other than your personal experience? Some men will swear that women don't get harassed on the street, because they don't see it.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:54 AM on December 27, 2011


>But what we are objecting to is your taking the further step and implying that that sort of situation happens a lot. It doesn't.

How do you know? I mean, are you basing this off anything other than your personal experience?


It's not my personal experience -- I'm not into BDSM - but it is the experience of the people I know who are in that community. And the experience of people in here saying "if we say we like it fine, that means we like it fine."

Some men will swear that women don't get harassed on the street, because they don't see it.

And yet there are plenty of women who then come in and say "oh, but I do." In this instance, we have had ONE person who said "someone took advantage of me" and a lot of other people saying "no one took advantage of ME, though".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on December 27, 2011


I seriously doubt anyone commenting in this thread has anything other than personal anecdotes as data. The available research is paltry and methodologically weak to the point of being curious-but-uninformative.

Can the BDSM pile-on accept that there is a qualitative difference between "what skilled BDSM people do, on their own, in safe spaces where power is regularly double-checked" and "what gets socially normalized through porn and kink-derived fashion and attitudes, for the majority of the population who might find themselves acting out a sexual script without detailed pre-encounter consent negotiations"?

I keep seeing xarnop talking about the latter and not being heard. Like, that "kinky stuff found on the internet" is doubling for "sex ed" these days, and it's not being produced by the nice people who brought us "our bodies, ourselves".
posted by ead at 12:08 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I keep seeing xarnop talking about the latter and not being heard.

No, what you're seeing is xarnop talking about a specific situation and not hearing US say "but we're not talking about that situation."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyway, weren't you trying to argue that it doesn't make sense to regulate on the basis of specific physical activities? You say we should only regulate consent. I pretty much agree to that, but I think there are some additional wrinkles about what kinds of consent are good enough.

Look, it's very easy for me to sit here and decide what's "OK" and "not-OK" based on which activities squick me out personally. The point I was making is that we can't apply that standard when deciding what we as a society will tolerate for everyone else. How could that possibly work? Whose criteria of "OK-ness" would we adopt? So it seems to me that the only meaningful test we can use is whether informed consent was given by all parties. If so, then our work is done -- at least as far as the law should be concerned.

We allow people to make poor decisions about their bodies all the time. If we know someone who wants to have tragically disfiguring cosmetic surgery, we can try to talk them out of it. But in the end, it's their choice to make. Whether it's BDSM, bungee jumping, or team sports, we can all choose to engage in behaviours that others might find too risky. The important thing is to have a clear head and know what you're getting into, and what the risks are. And then you make an informed choice.
posted by Crane Shot at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2011


"what gets socially normalized through porn and kink-derived fashion and attitudes"

The abusive treatment, objectification and subjugation of women, you mean? These are not kink derived things, these are the horrors of patriarchy. There is (and always has been) plenty of unpleasant, sexually damaging porn, but that has nothing to do with whether it is "kinky" or not. I would never argue that this excuses awful BDSM porn, just that awfulness of that porn is in its misogyny, not its kink.
posted by howfar at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, that. I refuse to watch vanilla porn, it creeps me out.

This is the same discussion I've had here about polyamory though, where no one can possibly consent to it, and it's tired. Maybe we can move on from making this thread about one person/one person's opinion.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:24 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


"but we're not talking about that situation"

Someone has to be the first to flinch in a game of chicken! So long as both "sides" of this conversation insist that it be about their own topic, y'all will keep talking past one another.

awfulness of that porn is in its misogyny, not its kink.

Truest words in this thread, I think.
posted by ead at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2011


what gets socially normalized through porn and kink-derived fashion and attitudes

Things do not get socially normalized through porn or kink. Things appear in porn because people have an interest in them. The fantasy that the porn industry is some super-powerful arbitrator of popular taste was claptrap when Dworkin and MacKinnon tried to make it fly in the 80's and it's claptrap today.

If someone is fundamentally a violent asshole who doesn't care if they hurt someone, porn isn't the reason and it's not going to make that tendency worse. (It might in some cases provide such people with an outlet for their urges that doesn't involve actually breaking laws, but the antiporn whacks don't like that idea.)

People know the difference between fantasy and reality. That people have much more extreme fantasies than what they would actually like to do has been well documented all the way back to My Secret Garden. People know that movies are acted, that the stories are pretend and the actors are really safe and are not in real danger. But they create images that can actualize fantasies that otherwise would not be safe to enjoy.

The subjugation of women was institutionalized in an era when porn was a rare novelty. The women's movement flourished in a society where John Holmes and Marilyn Chambers were becoming improbably well known.
posted by localroger at 12:26 PM on December 27, 2011


Someone has to be the first to flinch in a game of chicken! So long as both "sides" of this conversation insist that it be about their own topic, y'all will keep talking past one another.

*head in hands* Okay. Here's how the conversation has been going.

Sid: This article is saying that the Left doesn't criticize BDSM!

Hank: I know! That's silly -- responsible BDSM "dom/slave" relationships are pretend!

Xarnop: But what if they aren't? Because sometimes they aren't.

Sid: We know, but we're talking about the responsible BDSM relationships where there's mutual consent.

Xarnop: But sometimes they aren't mutually consenting!

Hank: We....know. But we're not talking about the ones where people don't consent.

Xarnop: It's wrong when people aren't mutually consenting!

Sid: we know. We agree it's wrong when people aren't mutually consenting. We're talking about whether it's right to be critical of the ones that ARE.

Xarnop: But sometimes they aren't! You must think it's okay when they aren't!

Sid: No, we're not. We all agree that forced consent is wrong. But this article is about why we don't criticize the ones where there IS mutual consent.

Xarnop: But I didn't consent! Are you saying that I should have sucked it up?

Hank: Of course not. We're only talking about why we don't criticize the people who say "look, we're okay with this."


....Because that's what the article was about. I'm wondering if someone should have just said RTFA earlier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


claptrap when Dworkin and MacKinnon tried to make it fly in the 80's

No. Curiously, they lost that case at the level of the supreme court specifically because porn could be seen as speech-that-influences-behavior. That, see, is a category of culture that is constitutionally protected in the US. They got a real catch-22. To demonstrate the need for the law, they had to demonstrate plausible causality. But having demonstrated that, porn enters the category of speech, and the was is struck as unconstitutional. Strange legal story.

The subjugation of women was institutionalized in an era when porn was a rare novelty

Absolutely no argument here. I think the more particular question is whether, say, sex was quite as commonly assumed, in that bygone era, to involve your partner gagging for a while before being double-penetrated. Web sites such as makelovenotporn.com exist for a reason. It appears that porn and popular practice are at least in some sort of feedback relationship with one another.

I agree causality is not simple.
posted by ead at 12:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because that's what the article was about. I'm wondering if someone should have just said RTFA earlier

The article (which I agree, is not good writing) mentions quite a number of things; the choice quote about consent at the FPP was only one part of it. I wonder if you read it too! It talks about monogamy, jealousy, cultural vs. personal burdens of child-raising, cultural norms about sex, pornography, and one absurd paragraph at the bottom concerning consent and violence. Written by someone who, I agree, definitely has never met any actual BDSM people so is talking out his ass.
posted by ead at 12:42 PM on December 27, 2011


Alright. You win. People should be saved from themselves when it comes to expressing their sexuality.

In fact, we should all have sex in front of each other so people can jump in if it looks like someone's getting hurt. Wait -- someone accidentally kneed me in the armpit once, maybe I shouldn't have sex at all.

It's the only way to be sure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on December 27, 2011


People should be saved from themselves when it comes to expressing their sexuality.

I never said that nor do I believe it. Talk in bad faith is not worth continuing. Bowing out.
posted by ead at 1:00 PM on December 27, 2011


The question I have for the people who find consensual BDSM troubling because of its perceived similarity to real-world violence and abuse is: what, exactly, should we do about it? Do people who are into that sort of thing need to be "cured"? Re-educated? What?
posted by Crane Shot at 1:05 PM on December 27, 2011


Actually, there's something that I think a lot of the pro-kink people in this argument are taking as obvious that maybe needs to be explicitly stated, and I'll state it right here:

Relationships in which consent is manufactured through coercion, manipulation, or aggression rather than freely obtained definitely exist, and they are toxic and no-good. That kind of behavior deserves our strong social condemnation, and we need to do people -- all people young and old, male and female and all other genders, gay, straight, kinky, vanilla, what have you -- we need to do ALL people the favor of making it clear that respect and compassion are as important in a relationship as desire and chemistry, and that feelings of arousal and affection do not negate feelings of discomfort and fear. You can totally love someone and be totally turned on by them and yet still not be treated well by them, and that's an unfortunately common situation. It's not a problem unique to the BDSM community by any means, though; in fact, my anecdotal experience suggests that it occurs less frequently within that community than in the world-at-large. But it definitely exists and it is definitely bad.
posted by KathrynT at 1:07 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


It might also be worth noting that vanilla porn has a problem which BDSM porn does not, which is that BDSM porn has a natural story arc. Ordinary sex does too but it's much more less visual and dramatic. (Some of the new alt format porn tries to portray the whole process starting with seduction; the main problem is that it reduces the amount of actual sex and requires actors that can actually act.) So mainstream porn makers have a strong incentive to present extremes to grab the attention of the viewer.

I really don't think there's a wave of ordinary people deciding sex isn't worth it if it doesn't involve deep-throat oral and rough anal, just as there was never a wave of people using 2 foot long pencils because stage pencils are that size. As for influencing attitudes, I'm much more bothered by the authoritarian dick-sucking of mainstream crap like Law & Order than the mock abuse introduced to add drama to a vanilla porn scene.

(And on a similar line, dear BDSM porn makers, could you please stop gagging women with contraptions that make them drool uncontrollably? That is really more gross than erotic. Just sayin'. PD made a lot of great images but that was not one of them.)
posted by localroger at 3:42 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This entire essay simply declares things without providing any basis

I just listened to a RAWilson talk in which he said ~ A lot of people don't know the difference between an assertion and an argument.

Related: reality tunnel is probably even more apparent in sexuality discussions than religious ones. My take: as long as noone gets hurt.
posted by Twang at 3:52 PM on December 27, 2011


Look, the real dark secret of BDSM is that quite often it's practised by the same people you meet at sf conventions or real ale fests and like them, they can bore for Britain about their chosen hobby.

Otherwise this thread has been completely derailed because one person is trying to process some undeniably traumatic experiences by trolling BDSMers, which is not going to help much.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Look, the real dark secret of BDSM is that quite often it's practised by the same people you meet at sf conventions or real ale fests and like them, they can bore for Britain about their chosen hobby.

Possibly the truest thing said so far. :)
posted by desjardins at 5:44 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the more particular question is whether, say, sex was quite as commonly assumed, in that bygone era, to involve your partner gagging for a while before being double-penetrated.

Is that something that's commonly assumed now?
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


How tiresome. By singling out porn that he considers extreme, he gets to titillate AND be self-righteous at the same time. Meanwhile, "typical" sexual dynamics (by the most broadly-agreeable definition) provide plenty of fodder for Mr. Hamilton's concerns, but I guess he's didn't want to be coherent enough to sell that book.

He apparently naively believes that the internet invented BDSM porn, is under the delusion that conservative sexual ethics aimed to control the male libido (succinctly debunked upthread by emjaybee), then bats around a comically wishy-washy understanding of sexism featuring conflicted nostalgia for "Playboy" as archetypal porn. (And I think he's using "gonzo" wrong?)
posted by desuetude at 7:34 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


A firm distinction should be drawn between erotica, which is the depiction of healthy, vigorous explicit sex between two equal people, on the one hand, and extreme and violent pornography which is characterized by the degradation of one party or the depiction of perverse practices. I don't think we should shy away from the fact that some things are perverse. As Slavoj Zizek observed: perversion is not subversion.

Of course people always pick on the practices that are in the grey area, which we can have an argument over. But the fact that there's a grey area should not blind us to the fact that there's a very big black area. We shouldn't be afraid of commenting on the black area just because some questions are not so easily answered.


Wait, wait, what? On re-read, I'm getting dizzy unpacking the opening sentences of Part 2.

1. Entertainment for the purpose of invoking prurient thoughts is either "erotica" or "extreme and violent pornography."
2. This can be definitively, objectively determined.
3. Using intrinsically subjective criteria (healthy, vigorous, explicit, sex, equal, degradation, depiction, perverse)
4. And guided by a few random limitations as givens ("erotica" is limited to two people, "degradation" is a binary concept)
5. Don't get distracted by any rhetorical advantage of that switch from passive to active voice. Now, where was...erm, were we? We! Yes! Onward!
6. The firm distinction between "erotica" and "extreme and violent pornography" contains an acknowledged gray area.
7. Discussion concerning anything in the gray area is just being argumentative.
8. There's a clear line between the gray area and the black area.
9. Look, I don't care what you people think "gray area" means. STFU.
10. Those who do not condemn the obvious, clearly-understood yet enormous black area are acting out of fear.
11. If all else fails, it is useful to note that "some questions are not so easily answered." (Presumably the easily-answered questions have been clearly covered by now, so don't use this as an excuse to go soft in the head, you sicko.)
posted by desuetude at 7:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


This thread has someone earnestly warning us about the threat of "consensual slavery". Unbelievably, the discussion matched the quality of the article.
posted by spaltavian at 7:49 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unbelievably, the discussion matched the quality of the article.

And yet you still manage to further lower the bar.
posted by howfar at 8:19 PM on December 27, 2011


I think this is proof that the original article is a master troll of the old school. The kind who sets everyone online frothing with one choice statement and lets the arguments of others do the actual work.
posted by Phalene at 8:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. I think that article is a more literal troll. He made a load of asinine statements, and hooked us only with his kink one. We could've just as easily wasted our time debating his idiotic views on religion, for example.
posted by howfar at 8:40 PM on December 27, 2011


We could've just as easily wasted our time debating his idiotic views on religion, for example.

Shame we wasted that golden opportunity. I mean, it couldn't have gone worse than this discussion did, right?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:09 PM on December 27, 2011


There's a formalized vocabulary that is similar to legal terms of art (for example, informed consent) that many BDSM folk believe is standard equipment for having the most fun/loving playtime... right?

In a world of widespread anchoring and Overton windows, there is something refreshing and comforting about a group of people who actually try to communicate clearly with each other... even if they have to resort to quasi-judicial cant to do it. I came to this thread knowing nothing concrete about BDSM, but I'm leaving it with a firm belief that good BDSM folk don't play mind games with each other unless they're the kind of mind games where everyone wins.

FWIW, I found this discussion and many of the people and concepts involved fascinating. (I didn't RTFA, and enough people in this thread have provided evidence to convince me it's a waste of my time.)
posted by infinitewindow at 9:12 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hell, in the end it's just discussion. Goes in different directions and different people take what they can from it. If this is your biggest waste of time this week, you lead a remarkably productive life.
posted by howfar at 10:15 PM on December 27, 2011


I find the way this thread went troubling myself and I'm trying to pick out where I could have done better at not derailing the discussion. I think my original statements were ok in themselves despite they might be minority opionions or thought responses to the original article-- I think where I went wrong was deeply wanting to resolve the fact that people felt I should not have expressed my different than usually take on direction the conversation could go and attempting to share my history and the reasons for my perspectives in attempts to resolve the lack of understanding between myself and many others. I apologize for the amount of thread and derailing that resulted from that and in the future I will try to make my statements more brief and if others disagree or find my statements problematic, leave it at that and not derail the conversation with attempts at resolution.

I wish you all peace and I'm sorry if I took this conversation to a completely different place the general community here wanted it to go.
posted by xarnop at 9:31 AM on December 28, 2011


resolve the fact that people felt I should not have expressed my different than usually take on direction the conversation could go

I honestly think that NO ONE felt you should not have expressed your take on the situation, they were just perplexed because you seemed to be inconsistent about what you DO believe.

You seemed to be saying that consent is not enough, and then chastising others who disagreed with you, by saying that some people consent under duress. I think. BUT then you ALSO agreed that the BDSM community in general goes beyond just consent (which I agree with--"safe, sane and consensual" to me implies coercion and manipulation is not acceptable), but that you didn't think anyone could honestly enjoy being in a BDSM-style sexual relationship, and brought in some very strange unrelated situations, like prostitution, to demonstrate, I guess, that BDSM is...a bad thing?

It seems to me that you have been damaged, badly, by someone who was abusive and manipulative, and are extrapolating from that, but that you haven't really come to terms with what happened to you yet yourself. And that's perfectly okay, because healing is something you do at your own pace, in your own way.

But your abusive past-whether it has made you shun all but vanilla relationships, feel guilty or ashamed about your own kinks, assume the worst in from prospective sexual partners, or feel the need to protect your loved ones from similar abuses, is not at all what anyone is debating here.

What we take issue with is the idea that there is a "right" or "only" way to enjoy consensual sex, and anyone who does not subscribe to that is perverse, damaged or morally reprehensible and worthy of scorn or even legal action against them because of their sexual activities.

Personally, I don't want anyone judging me for what I want to do (or want done to me) sexually. I feel perfectly capable of giving consent or withholding it as need be, I DON'T have an abusive past, and if I want to deep-throat my partner, get my ass spanked with a hairbrush or hang from the rafters by my freakin' toes while masturbating to reruns of South Park, I'm going to do it and I don't feel the least bit guilty about that. Please do NOT try to save me from myself, okay?
posted by misha at 1:16 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


"but that you didn't think anyone could honestly enjoy being in a BDSM-style sexual relationship"
I never said that at all. I apologize I came across that way. I think someone else might have said that in this thread and got combined with what I was saying?

I DO still think that even with communication and enthusiastic consent, there are ethical dilemmas with why people want to participate in certain things. Like for example, even it's all adults who decide to get female genital mutilation, if there is cultural pressure on exoticising and romanticising the experience and enhances the worth of the person to the culture, then that sort of factors into the why they want to participate.

So yeah, consent is always comlicated and I'll never agree that it's not. That doesn't mean I don't think people should do whatever they want in their relationship, I'm just saying I think that the reasons people consent to speficic things are complicated and not always in their better interest. I'm not saying that about BDSM but all things in life and I don't see why BDSM would be any different. Like all things in life, we are free to legally do anything within the law, and I believe in compassion for everyone throughout their journeys no matter what choices they are making or whether those choices turn out to be awesome or not so great.

I just will never agree that even with enthusiastic consent or ongoing communication that turns consent into something simple. LEGALLY, I think it does, so maybe that's what you're hoping from me?
posted by xarnop at 2:50 PM on December 28, 2011


I just will never agree that even with enthusiastic consent or ongoing communication that turns consent into something simple. LEGALLY, I think it does, so maybe that's what you're hoping from me?

No, consent is not simple. No one is arguing that it is or should be. There are some pretty strict guidelines in the BDSM community regarding consent, in fact, which go beyond someone simply wanting to play.

In my experience - and you can take this for what it's worth - a responsible Dom/me engages in a screening process with a potential partner. They might ask other Dom/mes the sub has played with for their thoughts on this person. They might combine this with asking some pointed and personal questions of the sub. There are safewords, there are rules about playing sober, and most of all - perhaps most important of all - there's the fact that a good Dom/me will have the agency and perception to realize when playing with this particular person would be a poor idea, due to the sub's unresolved emotional issues.

Several people have brought these points up, and more, but the bottom line is the BDSM community is ardently self-policing and full of cautious, responsible people because we are ethical human beings who - having to keep our sexual tastes in the shadows - understand full well the importance of true sexual freedom. For this reason - and also because we're not, you know, monsters - you will be hard pressed to find a community where the multi-faceted nature of consent is more cherished and more understood.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:00 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


xarnop, that is the clearest comment you've made.
posted by desjardins at 3:03 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yet you still manage to further lower the bar.

I don't see how. Unless you too don't understand how "consensual slavery" is oxymoronic.
posted by spaltavian at 9:56 PM on December 28, 2011


xarnop has explained, better than I did, why the statement "anything done between consenting adults is OK" and others like it are problematic. The senses of the words "consent" and "OK" are very ambiguous; you might believe that only well-considered consent counts as such, not just consent by a person capable of considering it; you might say "OK" to mean "legally permissible" or "ethically acceptable".
posted by LogicalDash at 9:19 AM on December 29, 2011


(And that's why I [and xarnop?] thought that people were saying that all consensual situations are ethically simple and not problematic.)
posted by LogicalDash at 9:22 AM on December 29, 2011


I don't see how.

Evidently.
posted by howfar at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2011


Dash, nobody in this thread has said that all consensual situations are ethically simple. That's why the BDSM community talks and talks and talks so much about it. Several people tried to explain this to xarnop, who insisted on bringing in situations like prostitution and indentured servitude which actually are clearly and easily differentiated by power contexts, and xarnop seemed incapable of understanding that. And we got upset because this is exactly the kind of trash argument that was vigorously pursued back in the 1980's to argue that BDSM and, by a similar nonsense extension all pornography, should be illegal.
posted by localroger at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2011


To consent to something is to make a decision to do that thing. It goes without saying that not every decision that everyone makes is going to be a good one. Sometimes people will foolishly choose to do things that aren't problematic in and of themselves, but might not be a good idea just then. Or they'll choose to do things that almost all of us agree are a bad idea. Some of my friends smoke cigarettes. I wish they wouldn't, but it's their decision.

The thing that some people seem to have a hard time grasping is that just because some BDSM activities involve things that we normally avoid in the real world, such as pain and helplessness, does not mean that the people who practice them are any more likely to be making a bad choice. Maybe if we took loaded words like "pain" out of the equation and substituted something like "intense sensation", it wouldn't seem as scary or baffling to those who aren't wired to enjoy that kind of play.

Maybe this thread would have gone better if the original article hadn't been such a poorly-written travesty. I'm not even sure what action "the left" (whatever that means these days) is supposed to do about all this... start an anti-kink movement of some kind, lobby for legislation, or just kind of have a moral panic about it? I guess we've established that BDSM grosses a lot of people out -- which is their right, of course.

It reminds me of a billboard I saw years ago: "You have the right to say NO to drugs". Well, unless I also have the right to say "yes", that's not much of a right.
posted by Crane Shot at 5:32 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dash, nobody in this thread has said that all consensual situations are ethically simple.

Dude, semantics aren't simple either. I'll accept that no one intended to communicate that all consensual situations are ethically simple, but I'll make no apologies for reading "I would say that consent should be the dividing line between which practices we tolerate and which we don't" and interpreting that to mean that we should take no action to discourage such practices; it's a common meaning of "tolerance". If relationship support groups (vanilla or kink) want to exclude people who they feel are engaged in abusive behavior (when that's not what the group is about), lots of people would find that intolerant--I would--but I don't really mind that kind of intolerance, savvy?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:58 PM on December 29, 2011


Has anyone here said that we should tolerate abusive behaviour? Which specific practices do you want to discourage?
posted by Crane Shot at 7:41 PM on December 29, 2011


At this point I am just trying to suggest different ways of presenting the topic so that we can have a better conversation in the future.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:21 PM on December 29, 2011


Dash, in the comment you linked I don't think Crane Shot is implying that drawing the line at consent is "ethically simple." Rather, it was the end conclusion after quite a bit of thought as to the implications and logistics of various alternatives.
posted by localroger at 5:33 AM on December 30, 2011


I say again: I believe you, AND Crane Shot did a poor job of communicating that process, in my judgment.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:45 AM on December 30, 2011


Dash, that might have been because we were all busy fielding trivially obvious counterexamples that weren't even on the spectrum of consent like human trafficking and indentured servitude. We never even got real close to edge cases like, can you consent to be ordered to do something like get a tattoo? And what little was said about that was on the order of yeah, if you don't have the freedom to make bad decisions you're not free and if you can be free to walk into a tattoo shop of your own free will, surely you can be free to offer someone else the decision on your behalf. But it was kind of hard to see those few posts in all the shouting about BDSM being on a slippery slope to your boss at work owning you.
posted by localroger at 3:12 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eh, to me... Consent IS ethically simple. If *I* ask someone to do something to me, whether it is a hug or a flogging, it is because I want it to be done. If someone asks me if I'd be willing to let them do something, and I say yes, it is because I either enjoy said activity or am interested in experiencing something new.

Just because I identify as submissive doesn't mean I'm a pushover, or a doormat, or that I don't stand up for my right to have my own opinion and choose what is and isn't okay when it comes to my own body, health, mental and emotional safety.

I think that some who are trying to make this more complicated than "No, really, I said YES" are assuming that the submissive or receptive partner in these situations is not given a real choice, or caves even though they may not really want something.

Just as with anything else, there is room for abuse and manipulation... but as I've said before, I've seen more abuse, manipulation, and ugly relationships in "vanilla" than kink. It can happen anywhere, with anyone, and just because its not your bag doesn't mean its not okay for me. Hell, I know a Pastor who beats his wife.... BECAUSE SHE GETS OFF ON IT!

You are welcome and encouraged to judge for yourself, what you will and will not do, are and are not okay with... but try to interfere and tell me that what I enjoy is not allowed and fireworks are going to happen. You have no right, or responsibility, to police what goes on in my bedroom.
posted by myShanon at 5:53 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Upon a lot of reflection, I can kind of see the point that (I think) xarnop is making. Here's an analogous situation (again, going off of what I think she meant): You're having a party, to which you invite a friend who is diabetic. You see the friend reaching for a piece of sugary cake, and you say, are you sure you want that after you ended up in the hospital last week with diabetic shock? If the friend says yes, then you have to let them make that decision, but it was compassionate to look out for them in the first place. Some situations are more clear cut - if your friend wants to drive drunk, it's compassionate to take away their decision by taking away their keys.

Anyway, I think xarnop is saying that sometimes people make bad decisions that are counter to their well-being, and it behooves us to look out for them and make sure they're educated about what they're really getting into. I'm sure all or most of the people in this thread are diligent about that, and that's why we're getting defensive, as if we're being accused of being uncaring assholes. But perhaps we can reframe xarnop's concern as an exhortation to be mindful of other people who may not be as concerned about their partners decision-making abilities. People come into our community all the time, and as much as the general community embraces "enthusiastic consent," it's on us to make sure new people are getting that message.

It's like "rape culture" - a lot of people have no idea what that means or how they are participating in it, but one-on-one education makes a huge difference, in my experience.
posted by desjardins at 6:29 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have no right, or responsibility, to police what goes on in my bedroom.

I agree with that. I also think that ethics involves a great deal more than "policing," whether that means getting the police to ruin your fun, or ruining it myself.

When I think that a particular consensual activity is harmful to either or both people involved, I feel obliged to at least say as much, and make sure they understand my concerns. Informed consent means only that all involved share information with one another; if a third party has information that they need, information that might in fact change their decision, that doesn't enter into the question of whether informed consent was given. Still, they should get that information. I consider that an ethical obligation.

(Example: I hear that a friend wants to find out what it's like to get pepper spray in the face, and they've already got a can of the stuff. I feel obliged to tell them that the spray is really very bad for your lungs, and if possible provide a citation.)

On a broader scale, I want to encourage people to be knowledgeable about the risks they take, including the ethics thereof, and that requires conversations like this thread here. There is really no way to talk about ethics without judging some activity or other to be unethical. If you don't get down to brass tacks, nobody will really know what you're talking about, although it might look that way, since you'll be communicating so vaguely that everyone will be able to assume you mean whatever they want you to mean. It doesn't mean I'll do anything to them. Observing that a person is doing a thing that I find ethically objectionable doesn't always require me to do anything about it; if it did, ethics would be a pretty specialized tool, because it could only apply to things I happen to be capable of at the moment.

There's also the question of influence. desjardins brings up a special case of this: if you are concerned about enthusiastic consent, then even if you can't ethically force people to obey whatever standards of consent you adhere to, you can make them more likely to. First you make clear what standards you approve of; then, as a new arrival to your scene adheres to those standards well or poorly, you express approval or disapproval. That might in principle advance to the point of ostracizing them for sufficiently abusive behavior that's too ambiguous to be "rape" exactly. Most of the time, though, influence is expressed by first gaining the respect of the person you mean to influence, and then judging them at an appropriate moment, when you think they're receptive.

The same procedure works with questions of safety. You can't make anyone use a safeword; you can't stop the new guy who doesn't think he has limits from volunteering to be waterboarded. But you should probably try. Not with force, I think, unless you're sufficiently convinced that it would cripple him and you're willing to take responsibility for insulting, demeaning, and possibly traumatizing him. There are cases where I'd be willing to do that, but they are rare, and I would not go so far as to say that everyone should do so when I personally find it appropriate. I only mean to say that when you think a person is involved in something unethical, you should try to stop them, using methods that are ethical. Mostly, this means communicating; most likely, that communication will involve judgment.

Judging others is not an evil thing to do. It must be done sparingly, or you become Holier Than Thou. It must be done with care, or you will hurt a lot of feelings needlessly. And it generally shouldn't be done with force (whether physical or social, eg. ostracism), because when you use force, you get collateral damage. Even so, to put judgment off-limits is to declare ethics an entirely private matter. I find it unacceptable to make ethics so small.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:22 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess the most obvious example of when consent is unethical is suicide.

I happen to believe that people should be able to decide when to die, but most of the time it's not a well-reasoned decision. Most suicides occur in fits of "passion," for lack of a better term--depressive ideation is a difficult concept to grok, even for people who have experienced it.

If I saw that a friend was about to kill themself I'd stop them, physically if necessary. But if they decided to deal with their misery by getting laid, or having a drink, I wouldn't have a problem with that.

Suicide and sex both demand consent. So if I'm to believe that a person who can consent to anything can consent to everything, then it's inconsistent of me to say that a suicidal person can't consent to suicide, but can consent to sex.

Instead I believe that they can consent to both, but it's morally correct to stop them from killing themselves, because otherwise they will be dead.

Such extreme situations are rare. This example isn't good for much beyond establishing that there exist cases where consent doesn't make an act moral.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2012


A lot of things demand consent. Which things do you make your opinion/concerns known about?

Say you have two friends, a couple, who've always seemed happy together. One of them gets a job in another state, and so they're going to have to move. Do you approach the non-new-job-having person to see if they're *really* okay with the move, even if they've been expressing happiness and anticipation about it? I mean, do you ask them if they've truly given their consent?

I agree that putting "ethics" (in quotes because I think a lot of us mean slightly different things by it) entirely in the private realm is not good. But everyone is going to have that public/private line drawn in a different place.
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, sure. Why wouldn't I ask? I assume they haven't gone to any great lengths to discourage such a conversation.

Admittedly, whether I'd actually do so is subject to externalities like whether I think a heart-to-heart conversation like that would be taken as I mean it, or as an invasion; in the latter case I'm responsible for being invasive even if I didn't mean it, and I've got to decide whether that's worth it to me. Also an ethical choice. A rather small one.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:57 AM on January 3, 2012


Do you approach the non-new-job-having person to see if they're *really* okay with the move, even if they've been expressing happiness and anticipation about it? I mean, do you ask them if they've truly given their consent?

Sure. People asked me this when my husband and I moved states and I appreciated their concern. There's a difference between asking if they're okay with it, and telling someone they shouldn't move or that their partner is wrong to ask them to move. "Moving is a big step, do you think you're ready? how is the job market there?" is different than "I can't believe that jerk asked you to move when you don't have a job, you should DTMFA."
posted by desjardins at 10:01 AM on January 3, 2012


See, I would be kind of weirded out to be approached like that. I mean, if the check-in is something like "Wow, moving blows, how are you doing? How will you live without [foodthing that isn't available in new city]?", then yeah, okay - this seems very normal to me. But if a close friend (or not even very close) came to me with a kind of "I think maybe partner pushed you into this," attitude, that would feel very invasive and presumptuous to me, and I'd probably feel both offended and insulted.

To be clear, I don't think it's *always* off-limits to check in with someone who's maybe making a decision or big change that might be detrimental to them, but it's also a line that's different for everyone, and very context-sensitive.
posted by rtha at 11:21 AM on January 3, 2012


I don't really see how
"Wow, moving blows, how are you doing? How will you live without [foodthing that isn't available in new city]?",
is qualitatively different from:
"Moving is a big step, do you think you're ready? how is the job market there?"
Neither mentions the partner being pushy, but leaves the door open for that conversation if the person so wishes. I suppose food is a less anxiety-provoking topic than jobs, but other than that, the tone seems the same to me.
posted by desjardins at 12:19 PM on January 3, 2012


and that's why we're getting defensive, as if we're being accused of being uncaring assholes.

People were being defensive because they were literally accused of such.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on January 3, 2012


desjardins - I guess the distinction I'm trying to make (and so far is apparently staying in my head, and not making it to the screen) is between the kind of thing you get from someone who wants to let you know that they understand moving is stressful and scary and you can totally whine to them if you want, and the kind of check-in you'd get from someone who is *concerned* that you're somehow being coerced into the move. The first one is okay by me and is part of the friend contract; the second one seems presumptuous and possibly insulting.
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on January 3, 2012


You can't make anyone use a safeword; you can't stop the new guy who doesn't think he has limits from volunteering to be waterboarded. But you should probably try.

And you can rest assured that these conversations do happen in BDSM. This is so basic that it's unbelievable it even needs pointing out. Even a carny will tell you to keep your arms inside the Tilt-A-Whirl.

This is why one of the first things I discuss with a potential sub is her limits. Not only to know what line not to cross, but what activities might approach that line to an uncomfortable degree (although the tension created in pushing boundaries can be a great deal of fun), and to recognize when someone might not be ready for something, or might not be aware of the dangers, which is a fundamental part of any activity involving risk.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can't make anyone use a safeword; you can't stop the new guy who doesn't think he has limits from volunteering to be waterboarded. But you should probably try.

I can't force them to use safewords at home, but the group I'm involved with does have a non negotiable rule that safewords are required (green, yellow, red) and must be respected in public dungeons and play parties. If "RED" is used and the top does not immediately stop, a "DM" will step in and force the scene to stop and make sure the bottom is okay.

Also, in my local group, we educate our newer members about "RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink" as well as "SSC: Safe Sane Consensual" because some of what we do IS risky, and is NOT sane... we also find experiended, trustworthy individuals to hold demos and discussions about activities, as well as one-on-one time to make sure that people are properly educated before trying somethign particularly scary. (for instance, there's a weekly rope artist meeting where folk are encouraged to attend even if its just to watch and ask questions)

Within the "Scene" we can be very vocal about what we, as a group, believe and encourage so far as behavior, but no... you can't enforce those "ethics" on individuals in their daily or home life.
posted by myShanon at 6:31 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


and I put "ethics" in quotes because I believe that it is in tis way just as individualized and personal as morals, in that each person interprets ethical situations from their own perspective, and neither ethics nor morals apply universally to everyone.
posted by myShanon at 6:36 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is so basic that it's unbelievable it even needs pointing out.

If you are going to talk about BDSM with people who do not, and have no interest in practicing BDSM, you must not assume that what's basic to you is basic to them.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:36 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, what's basic to me is that when one human being approaches another asking to participate in a potentially dangerous activity, that the other human being will inform the other of the risks. That's what I consider basic human courtesy.

Some of the comments that have come forth in this thread have amazed me. As if the burden of proof is on us to demonstrate that we have compassion and ethics, just like everyone else.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:07 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it faintly disturbing that you assume that everyone has compassion and ethics.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:37 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The vast majority of people have compassion and ethics. The vast majority of people will also have very personal lines of where and how those compassion and ethics come into play, and those lines will not always be the same as someone else's. The vast majority of people will also assume that their kind of compassion/ethics are universal, which is how we end up having discussions like this one.
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I pretty much agree with rtha. I tend to think of compassion and ethics as skills, which are learned; they are motivated by emotions such as love and companionship, which can be trained but not actually taught. The emotions are effectively universal, the skills are not.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:11 AM on January 4, 2012


I find it faintly disturbing that you assume that everyone has compassion and ethics.

I find it faintly annoying that you'd respond like this. Did I say everyone? No, I did not. I was talking about the people who've been very patiently responding to you in this thread. I don't see why we need to prove to you that we're equipped with the capacity to consider that maybe we ought to warn someone of the dangers of risky activity.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:34 PM on January 4, 2012


Alright, I see you latched onto the "just like everyone else" bit, and extrapolated that to mean I literally believe everyone has the same ethics and compassion. I guess it was my mistake to assume that this wouldn't become an exercise in hair-splitting and wordplay, and that there could be some honest communication here. So since everything needs to be spelled out, I'll just say my main point was that in a community where sexual freedom is of paramount importance, issues of consent are equally as important, and painstaking measures are taken to ensure that consent is absolute.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2012


"Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere…Most people mistake their sexual preferences for a universal system that will or should work for everyone." (pdf)
posted by Crane Shot at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2012


I don't see why we need to prove to you that we're equipped with the capacity to consider that maybe we ought to warn someone of the dangers of risky activity.

I was never really asking anyone to prove anything about themselves; I was talking about principles. Specifically, the idea in the original article that consent alone does not make an act moral. I agree with that principle and disagree with just about everything about where he took it. A lot of people seemed to disagree with me on that front, so I supported my position, and in your case that meant I ended up arguing for practices that you consider really basic.

It's not about you.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:44 AM on January 5, 2012


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