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A Coordinated Assault on Women?
April 24, 2012 1:22 AM   Subscribe

In the wake of so many recent controversies over women and their right to safe, affordable health care and the supposed desire of working women to be "put in their place" by aggressive men in the bedroom, Penny Red suggests that "Right now, we are in the middle of a sexual counter-revolution."

Recently Katie Roiphe wrote that the unexpected popularity of 50 Shades of Gray means that for all their advances in the workplace, women secretly want to be spanked and dominated by men. (Many on the internet LOL'd heartily.) Presidential candidate Rick Santorum had no shortage of comments regarding the evils of birth control and how they are "harmful to women." Meanwhile, members of the Catholic hierarchy are freaking out that in the 21st century, safe, affordable birth control is considered by an overwhelming majority to be an essential part of any woman's health care. And oh yeah, let's not forget Republican mouth-piece Rush Limbaugh's sensitivity to feminine issues.

As we move further into the 21st century, are women's rights being left behind?
posted by bardic (201 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent article, so many good sentences:
At no point, however, has anyone implied that men who want to be sexually dominated by women also want to be dominated by them socially and economically....

Fantasies about pretty young white women being controlled, hurt and dominated by men have always been the the part of kink that nobody ever really had a problem with...

In truth, there has never been anything controversial about the fantasy of female submission... The sexual heresies that truly upset the pearl-clutchers of middle America have nothing to do with whips and chains. That’s just faux-outrage, a bit of editorial baiting designed to upset feminists and titillate everyone else who likes to get cross and horny over the idea of dirty little girls tied up with tape.

No, what really gets social conservatives angry still happens not in swanky fetish clubs, but behind the closed doors of abortion clinics. It’s women who want to be able to choose to terminate a pregnancy. Women who want to control their own fertility. Women who want sexual autonomy, which is what any attack on abortion rights is fundamentally about. Women who want to live independently or raise children without the help of men. Women who want sex on its own merit...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


i know that the pearl clutching about femme sub sexual realtionships is code that allows us not to talk about abortion, and that talking about and making sure that woman have access to abortion is much more important than thots on 50 shades of grey, and my thots on 50 shades of grey shouldn't really matter because my sexuality is mostly boyboy and my girlboy sex doesn't really match the demographic anyways, etc...

and all of that said, and it needs to be said, men women sex, where the women bottom, in ways that are phyiscally violent---i know that i am supposed to be cool with it, and i know that it's not up to me to decide, and i know the politics, and i've read my Story of O, and i've talked to enough people who are into it, and i know the games being played and still, it is sex that is close enough to the dominant patriarchy and heteronormative/heterosexism that it makes me feel genuinely uncomfortable, and i don't know how to process it. like it is the sex act that if someone asked me to perform, i would have trouble saying yes, and it is the sex that when it comes up in the smorgsbord, it makes me feel uncomfortable...

i dont know what that means and it is most likely my shit and i feel like i shouldnt say that outloud but, still...
posted by PinkMoose at 1:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sadly, I think there is a sexual counter-revolution, but I think it's symptomatic of a wider problem. It seems to me that in the last 15 years, the conversation has moved away from how we should be treated towards how we should behave.

This isn't a right/left thing either. The right have traditionally been anti-everyone-not-a-white-male, and so, on the right, this area is where the tide can be seen moving in. But on the left, we're seeing an emphasis on group think and monitoring. It doesn't matter where you are politically, you're becoming slowly more authoritarian.

One of the main areas we control ourselves as a group is sexually. The more society tries to enforce it's behaviour, the more we'll see sexual norms being homogenised. What is normal will become a narrower and narrower band. The first things to be demonised will be the things the dominant group has no interest in.

It's the start of a new Victorian age, and the sexual counter-revolution is only part of it.
posted by zoo at 1:59 AM on April 24, 2012 [31 favorites]


like it is the sex act that if someone asked me to perform, i would have trouble saying yes

You have a turn-off. This is an aspect of your sexual identity that is just as legitimate as a turn-on. As with the other aspects, you may have your reasons to avoid expressing this one, but being ashamed of it isn't likely to help you with anything, and confuses the issue.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:00 AM on April 24, 2012 [19 favorites]


The attitudes and actions discussed in this article are bad, bad, bad, and should be resisted mightily, but the "new sexual counter-revolution" meme has been around for a long time. Susan Faludi's Backlash, published just over 20 years ago, documents similar issues, in the same 'this is a unique turning point! Women's basic rights are about to disappear forever!' crisis tone. (Just in case you aren't convinced we're living in an early-1990s time warp, Katie Roiphe was around then too...)

This is not to say that there aren't real threats to women's progress, or to suggest that women shouldn't act to defend themselves....but the idea that the gains feminists have made since the 50s, and the massive changes to society that have resulted from those, are turn-on-a-dime reversible is just not realistic. Yes, bad things are afoot and should be resisted, and women and men need to fight to preserve feminist gains...but it's actually disempowering to adopt an "All is (potentially, immediately) lost!" outlook.
posted by Wylla at 2:25 AM on April 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


Will the sexual counter-revolution be televised?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:34 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jesus, I hate the term "pearl-clutching." It's so fucking sexist and ageist. I wish Ms. Red, with whose general argument I agree strongly, hadn't trotted that one out.

Bella Abzug wore pearls.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:34 AM on April 24, 2012 [30 favorites]


Thank fnck you said that sidhedevil. Although it's a clever and evocative phrase, it's bloody insulting and pisses me right off. Thank you from the bottom of my studded dog collar.
posted by taff at 2:45 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is sad that this is rapidly turning into some kind of ridiculous first world problem and these very same people would be the first to say that the rest of us from burgeoning billion plus nations should control population growth, which if left unchecked would consume the very same resources that we all need for our collective future on this planet.


This is probably the politest thing I could say on this ridiculous trend emerging from that end of the world.
posted by infini at 2:47 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone likes sex and no one likes oppression.

Or something. I'm having trouble tying a neat bow with these threads.
posted by byanyothername at 3:02 AM on April 24, 2012


infini - as far as I know, most anti-contraception activists in the US are opposed to birth control for religious reasons, and are therefore opposed to it across the board. They do not advocate for population control outside the "first world", and in fact tend to believe that there is no such thing as 'overpopulation' - they see it as God's will for everyone to have "as many children as God decides". These are the same people who fought tooth and nail to keep condoms from being distributed for AIDS prevention in the US or Africa, for example.
posted by Wylla at 3:02 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


In terms of backlash being talked about 20 years ago, as a relatively ancient person, I have to say that 20 years isn't such a gulf of time that predicting backlash then makes discussion of same at this point in time seem any less valid. My memory of 20 years ago is that there was shock that the wacky fundamentalist anti-abortion contingent was showing up as actual popular political dogma... and the idea that this would become pretty much the keystone of the "less government" party, and that they would then go after birth control in the new millennium would have seemed like Handmaid's Tale dystopian bizarro stuff. It does seem to me that backlash could have been true then, and also true now, with the current version even bolder and more authoritarian in the face of so much past success.
posted by taz at 3:02 AM on April 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


is this a dumb question, but what can a person do? how does a person go about sticking up for the right to safe/available abortion/contraception, besides just voting?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:06 AM on April 24, 2012


how does a person go about sticking up for the right to safe/available abortion/contraception, besides just voting?

I suspect that all previous attempts at a tasteful "pro-choice" cloisonne tie-tack design have been rejected for obvious reasons.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, this can be a touchy topic... maybe we can all try to restrain our sarcasm impulses just a little bit in pursuit of one of our site unicorns: a post about women's issues that doesn't devolve into angry accusations and Metatalk threads?
posted by taz at 3:16 AM on April 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


Forces of darkness regrouping, and closing in? Well, duh.

Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost

-Leonard Cohen, 1988
posted by Meatbomb at 3:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, this can be a touchy topic... maybe we can all try to restrain our sarcasm impulses just a little bit in pursuit of one of our site unicorns: a post about women's issues that doesn't devolve into angry accusations and Metatalk threads?

erm, was that said with a mod hat on? or have i forgotten again some esoteric detail, like the fact that the "admin" logo only appears in metatalk? that was said as a moderator, right?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:33 AM on April 24, 2012


@shutterbun

i am in no way joking. i don't mean "instead of voting", i mean "above and beyond voting". is there like a central thing, a clearinghouse with e.g. lists of protests to go to, things you can do, etc.

this is spoken from the position of a person who is inexperienced and does not wish to fuck up trying to help with something important
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:36 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Both mod hattish and member hattish; go ahead and start the Metatalk if this is a problem. -- modhat ]
posted by taz at 3:36 AM on April 24, 2012


[no problem at all; i agreed with what you had to say & hoped to highlight the modly status on the off chance that anybody finds the lack of logo uninformative, which i guess in itself is a meta topic, but i'd need to search first whether or not it has been covered already, which it probably has, and besides, i'm way too tired]
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:39 AM on April 24, 2012


This, of course.., if you're in the US, Planned Parenthood is the biggest pro-reproductive rights advocacy organization; you can sign up for action alerts that will keep you posted on rallies, volunteer opportunities, and other ways to get involved.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:47 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


i am in no way joking

I know, and I was in every way joking.

Although you meant an earnest attempt to ask "how can I help?" I interpreted your question as an expression of futility (let's face it: protesting in favor of abortion rights does not exactly conjure up a lot of positive imagery, and passive-aggressive tactics are generally less-than-satisfying in the face of an opposition that includes members who are willing to suicide-bomb you.)

But yeah, there are most definitely organizations you can assist with dollars and/or your time, and I didn't mean to derail your honest question.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:56 AM on April 24, 2012


These are the same people who fought tooth and nail to keep condoms from being distributed for AIDS prevention in the US or Africa, for example.

I am now feeling sick. Excuse me.
posted by infini at 4:03 AM on April 24, 2012


> Susan Faludi's Backlash, published just over 20 years ago, documents similar issues, in the same 'this is a unique turning point! Women's basic rights are about to disappear forever!' crisis tone.

It's been a while since I read Backlash, but didn't she talk about cyclical counter-revolutions as the pattern of feminist progress? Two steps forward, one step back, and so on.

As someone who's not American, I find the anti-contraception rhetoric in US right-wing political spheres to be horrifying and fascinating in equal measures. Surely that can't work, right? Surely most people use contraception and see it as a sensible thing to do so? Surely the Quiverfull no-contraception-ever people are enough in the minority that they aren't going to be a significant political support base, even when all the Duggar children are old enough to vote? Surely even people who can believe that a young single woman buying condoms is a whorish Jezebel don't necessarily want 15 children themselves? So what on earth is it about an anti-contraception stance that would make people want to support it, even when they themselves are pro-contraception in their everyday lives? And yet, weirdly, there's clearly a support base there. It's like there's something so compelling in the idea that contraception is a bad thing that it overrides considerations like that.

I suspect it won't be too long before we're seeing the same rhetoric here too (albeit to a lesser degree, as we've already seen with anti-abortion activism). Anecdata I know, but I've already seen one GP who refused to even discuss contraception with me - even discuss it, as in, I was in there for a migraine/vision problem, she said "Ah, I see you're on Depo-Provera," I asked if that might be relevant, and she cut me off with "Well you'll have to speak to someone else about that because I don't do family planning." Yeah thanks, that's useful.
posted by Catseye at 4:09 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


That GP (and all others like them) should be struck off, Catseye. There's no way they can possibly be doing their job properly, and allowing them to continue to practice as a GP is endangering the health of the women they supposedly 'treat'.

Meanwhile I hope you found a proper GP.
posted by motty at 4:36 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I got the wrong impression about the main link, but it turned out to be nuanced and sex positive. Good catch.
posted by ersatz at 4:45 AM on April 24, 2012


I know several women, young cousins among them, who routinely post links on facebook to these strange sites bemoaning birth control and its horrible effects on women, etc. etc. I won't, for the sake of familial harmony, ever write into the discussion. But it breaks my heart to wonder if some day soon, my cousins will actually need the information or medicine or procedures they so casual spurn now. What if they develop Endometriosis? Or have jobs where a regular schedule makes it substantially easier to work? Or, God forbid, if they or a friend is in a situation where they need to know the facts about the morning after pill, condoms, or abortion?

I don't really care if they insult me indirectly through my use of birth control. I've done the research and frankly, in terms of being functional for a fourth of the month, I am A-OK with my medical choices. But who would lie like that to young kids? Seriously? I worry what else they've been taught, or left in the dark about. I kind of hope they do read 50 Shades of Grey because maybe it will teach them that there are all kinds of love and lives out there. I think in many respects attitudes have changed for the better. Even my own very conservative Catholic relatives have stopped gnashing for the most part over the whole living in sin thing, though perhaps with their own daughters, it will be different. But yikes, the legislative challenges to abortion law, the complete ignorance of science, the still-bizarre idea that contraception isn't health care and pregnancy never has complications....it's not so much the brave new world.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Surely most people use contraception and see it as a sensible thing to do so?

If they have sufficient education about sexual health, reproduction, and contraception, they do. However, many don't.

*sullenly starts humming "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught"*
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sadly, this is simply part-and-parcel to a larger, steady and accelerating backward slide in the US. I fear we are going to have to experience a long period in the dark wilderness before the country, as a whole, comes to its senses.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:21 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If they have sufficient education about sexual health, reproduction, and contraception, they do. However, many don't.

So.. it sounds like its really no different from the challenges posed to maternal health care in rural Africa and South Asia, then, is it?
posted by infini at 5:25 AM on April 24, 2012


"I suspect it won't be too long before we're seeing the same rhetoric here too (albeit to a lesser degree, as we've already seen with anti-abortion activism)."

Catseye - the new Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to set the tone there. The scary thing is that he will wield the power of a true state church, which no leader on the US religious right can have. A lot of the institutional powers American fundamentalists want - control of many of the best-funded state schools, guaranteed seats in government bodies regardless of electoral results, etc. - the C of E already has. So its right wing is free to focus entirely on culture warring should it so desire.
posted by Wylla at 5:26 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wylla, you are quite right and it is a disgrace. The Church of England has a cuddly, "more tea vicar" reputation and quite a lot of reasonable and decent members. However, it really is a bad idea as a matter of principle for any religion to have a controlling interest in government. A thorough church-state separation is the only effective way to achieve protection for minor religions, as well as a truly trustworthy and impartial government. Otherwise, how can citizens ever trust that the government is not tacitly serving the interests of the over-represented religion?

I say that as someone who actually quite likes the Church of England, and the general tone that it has in England - but there are some quite scary Christian evangelicals here, full of self-righteous zealotry, arrogant in their belief that only they really understand and prize "marriage". These people - I have met them, I have attended sermons by them - are horribly dangerous in their narrowness and sexism and spiritual pride. They are a far greater threat to freedom, democracy and culture than anything to do with sex or foreigners. It's quite disturbing, really, if their numbers are beginning to grow.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:42 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this is a counter-revolution in women's rights, I think it's really just one part of the general move to the right in our politics. Aren't we also seeing equivalent counter-revolutions in things like environmentalism, workers rights, education and support for the sciences?

And what people read for porn is a non-issue, imho.
posted by DarkForest at 5:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I won't, for the sake of familial harmony, ever write into the discussion.

I hear you and am in the same situation frequently, but its beginning to irk me.

Were I to post something on Facebook that was unequivocally pro-choice, my same friends and relatives would have no problem replying to me bemoaning baby-killing. They've done it before.

I often wonder if my concern for familiar/friend harmony - which they clearly do not share - is actually coming across as tacit agreement with their reactionary views. That by not saying anything, I'm helping create an environment where they are caught in a perpetual feedback loop where the only sound they hear is that of enthusiastic agreement.

And yet, the one or two times that I have gotten into it with them, I find its me that providing facts, being civil and ultimately backing down while they get all shouty and insulty. Indeed, my views are treated like they're the thing that is causing the disruption in familiar/friend harmony when, in fact, its their unwillingness to hear anything that might challenge their deeply held belief.

This maddening zealotry seems unstoppable in its unlistening ignorance. I can't say something; I can't not say something. Science suggests true believers can't be swayed, even if their belief is incontrovertibly proven false.

The best I can hope for, I think, is that should I speak up, some poor person who hasn't been swayed one way or another will see that their is a choice. Small comfort, but in the absence of my voice, all they're going to hear is "men good/women not as good."
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


I can't quite picture the CofE getting really viciously right-wing, although this is probably because my experience of it is of its more laid-back side (growing up in CofE schools and such, the "more tea vicar" reputation lucien_reeve mentions). It's certainly not the only side it has, and it's cuddled up quite cosily to more right-wing evangelical groups in the past - or, in the case of the African and the Alpha course, actually been the right-wing evangelical groups. There is a lot of damage that could be done by a conservative like Sentamu as Archbishop of Canterbury, especially if the more out-there Tory MPs like Nadine Dorries are already rallying behind him as the upholder of 'traditional values'.

(The GP I saw, incidentally, was a locum who wasn't there next time I visited the practice. I really do wish I'd complained at the time, though, and regret not saying something.)
posted by Catseye at 5:50 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's less a counter revolution and more idiotic screaming as progress rolls forward. Similar things are happening with gay rights.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:53 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I absolutely don't agree that it's healthy and somehow "liberating" to be controlled and physically and verbally humiliated by another person. I would absolutely never try to legislate away anyone's right to do what they enjoy, sexually (with the usual caveats about consenting adults), but I'm sure as hell not going to be shamed into celebrating the play-acting of sexual slavery and degradation as a positive thing. The personal is political. I don't think a woman who happily allows herself to be bound and beaten and choked and spat on and called a whore can or should claim that allowing and even orchestrating her own degradation is some kind of feminist action. It's the opposite. To claim otherwise is deluded.

I can freely admit that I understand the appeal. I've had a pretty adventurous sex life and when I was younger I spent about a year exploring a fairly standard BDSM "scene" in a large city. On a sexual level, I liked it. My body reacted in a pleasurable way. However, I eventually found that reaction problematic, and a symptom of something I needed to work on instead of something I needed to indulge. So I don't indulge it. I have a happy, healthy, enjoyable sex life anyway. If I couldn't enjoy sex without humiliation and degradation (as the degrader or the degraded), I would seek therapy.
posted by Wroksie at 5:58 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, hit post too soon. To tie my little screed in with this article and discussion, I see the results of this acceptance of female sexual subjugation everywhere - I see it with the kids I work with. The girls are all massive pop music fans, and they regularly expressed their admiration for Chris Brown ("I'd let him beat me all he wanted", that sort of thing). I see it among my adult, feminist friends, who admit to engaging in degrading acts with their partners, even if they don't enjoy it - thanks to mainstream porn, slapping and choking are now expected as part of a "normal" sex life. Women are expected to subject their bodies to the sexual desires of men, no matter what they are, and they're expected to ENJOY it. I am not even remotely surprised that this has manifested itself in a rollback of reproductive rights.
posted by Wroksie at 6:03 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think a woman who happily allows herself to be bound and beaten and choked and spat on and called a whore can or should claim that allowing and even orchestrating her own degradation is some kind of feminist action. It's the opposite. To claim otherwise is deluded.

How is a woman acting of her own free will to practice what she wants to practice with the partner of her choosing in a fully consensual situation "the opposite of feminism"? I think you're conflating personal kinks into political arguments, which is off-base. No one would ever seriously claim that a conservative politician who enjoys The Clash is secretly an anarchist. Why would you deny an adult woman the agency to make her own sexual choices by setting down pre-described limits of what is and what is not "feminist action"?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:32 AM on April 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


How is a woman acting of her own free will to practice what she wants to practice with the partner of her choosing in a fully consensual situation "the opposite of feminism"?

I can't see it myself either.
posted by Wolof at 6:43 AM on April 24, 2012


If you read the very second sentence that I wrote, you'll see that I did clearly state that I would not deny anyone the right to engage in whatever sex acts they choose-however, when these acts are performed or discussed in public, I have the right to react. I do not, and will not, accept that anything a woman who calls herself a feminist chooses to do is a feminist act, and I think the idea is ridiculous.
posted by Wroksie at 6:44 AM on April 24, 2012


Women are expected to subject their bodies to the sexual desires of men, no matter what they are, and they're expected to ENJOY it.

Some men expect that. Empty generalizations about what men want or expect are as unhelpful as empty generalizations about what women want or expect.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:45 AM on April 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


I don't think a woman who happily allows herself to be bound and beaten and choked and spat on and called a whore can or should claim that allowing and even orchestrating her own degradation is some kind of feminist action. It's the opposite. To claim otherwise is deluded.

Honestly, I think saying "you are deluded" instead of accepting that someone can be theoretically informed, smart, feminist, and still come to an opposite conclusion is both dismissive and insulting.
posted by Forktine at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


...they see it as God's will for everyone to have "as many children as God decides".

I love this idea that the christian god is all-powerful but can't overcome a condom or hormonal birth control. He made a virgin pregnant so I think that if He really wants my wife to have 15 kids, she'll have fifteen kids birth control or not.
posted by VTX at 6:58 AM on April 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


Current arguments vis a vis the status of women as full adults in modern society breaks down into a simple concept:

VAGINAS
posted by clvrmnky at 6:58 AM on April 24, 2012


If this is the beginning of a new Victorian age, does this mean nifty outfits for everyone?

Trying to find the silver lining...
posted by andreaazure at 7:01 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wroksie: "I see it among my adult, feminist friends, who admit to engaging in degrading acts with their partners, even if they don't enjoy it - thanks to mainstream porn, slapping and choking are now expected as part of a "normal" sex life. Women are expected to subject their bodies to the sexual desires of men, no matter what they are, and they're expected to ENJOY it. I am not even remotely surprised that this has manifested itself in a rollback of reproductive rights."

Whoa, whoa, so, not only has mainstream porn lead to these "degrading" acts being "expected", but this in turn is the reason for a rollback of reproductive rights? Those are some pretty big leaps.

One thing I've disliked about some feminists is that they seem unwilling to completely stay out of people's bedrooms. As with opposition to porn (and, in some cases, sex itself, it seems), when you're starting to echo the opinions of your political opponents, you need to check where you are.

And pretty much all people I know who are into different kinds of kink are progressive, feminist, pro-reproductive rights, etc. Well, except for the Goreans. Those guys are assholes.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:02 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


...they see it as God's will for everyone to have "as many children as God decides".

I love this idea that the christian god is all-powerful but can't overcome a condom or hormonal birth control. He made a virgin pregnant so I think that if He really wants my wife to have 15 kids, she'll have fifteen kids birth control or not.


I also find the whole "god has a plan for everyone's life, so abortion is wrong" argument problematic. What if the purpose of that particular fetus was to be aborted by the woman who got pregnant? That could be god's plan.

If god really is all powerful, either everything that happens is part of its will (not a sparrow falls to the ground, etc), or else humans have a power which is greater than god's, and that is free choice to live their lives. You can't have it both ways.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you read the very second sentence that I wrote, you'll see that I did clearly state that I would not deny anyone the right to engage in whatever sex acts they choose

I read your entire post, thanks, and you pretty much are saying "If a woman likes X Sex Acts then it's not feminist," followed by the idea that any woman who needs these kinks to get off somehow needs therapy, that they're "deluded", and now "ridiculous". Somehow your claims about what is and what is not feminist ring hollow, in light of this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


If this is the beginning of a new Victorian age, does this mean nifty outfits for everyone?

Fscking steampunks ruining it for everyone...
posted by Slothrup at 7:10 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did not say if a woman "likes" a certain sex act that she's not feminist. I said that participating in re-enactments of sexual slavery and violence and degradation is not, in itself, a feminist act, and that the normalisation of these sorts of sex acts in to mainstream pornography and sexual culture is detrimental to women, to feminism, and to society.

And yes, I do absolutely believe that if someone of either gender NEEDS to recreate scenes of violence and degradation to enjoy sex then that person should most definitely seek therapy.
posted by Wroksie at 7:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Slothrup: "If this is the beginning of a new Victorian age, does this mean nifty outfits for everyone?

Fscking steampunks ruining it for everyone...
"

Ah, but perhaps steampunk is to blame for the recent rollback in reproductive rights?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:12 AM on April 24, 2012


You know, I'm beginning to think that the person who implanted my steampunk IUD may not have been a real doctor.
posted by box at 7:18 AM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


The Church of England is a broad old church. Unfortunately, that broadness is its own worse enemy at the moment. Issues like women bishops, gay marriage and abortion are pulling the church apart. This is due to differences between how different countries see the different issues. (African countries = anti, US = Pro, UK still hemming and hawing). There's also an issue with church membership in the UK. The CofE is losing membership in the UK, and this has prompted some in the right of the church to threaten that they'll move to Rome. (i.e. they'll move over to Catholicism.)

Several big names in the CofE think that it'll split at some point. Either the left or the right in the church will probably split off at some point. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that the ascendency of CofE in Africa will mean that the actual church will move to the right and Liberal & American Anglicans will split away from the main party.

John Sentamu (who is tipped to be the next Archbishop) is treading a fine old line here. The rhetoric seems to imply that he's against gay marriage, but I think he's actually just trying to sweep the issue under the carpet until the church isn't in such danger of breaking apart.

This is my reading of it. Gleaned mainly from TV and newspapers. Someone with a bit more knowledge may be able to add some nuance to that.
posted by zoo at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2012


I did not say if a woman "likes" a certain sex act that she's not feminist.

Nor did I say you said that!

the normalisation of these sorts of sex acts in to mainstream pornography and sexual culture is detrimental to women, to feminism, and to society.

I'd say that telling women which sex acts - of their fully informed consensual choosing - are detrimental to them and "society", and that the tolerance of other peoples' kinks should not be "normalized" (which implies they should remain regarded as fringe), sorta runs counter to the whole sexual freedom and feminism thing. But then again it's clear you have some deeply ingrained biases about kink, especially if you're throwing around charges of being delusional and needing psychological help.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


And yes, I do absolutely believe that if someone of either gender NEEDS to recreate scenes of violence and degradation to enjoy sex then that person should most definitely seek therapy.

I think maybe if you are so completely hung up on judging the consensual sex acts enjoyed by informed and willing adults it is perhaps you who needs the therapy.
posted by elizardbits at 7:27 AM on April 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


I don't think a woman who happily allows herself to be bound and beaten and choked and spat on and called a whore can or should claim that allowing and even orchestrating her own degradation is some kind of feminist action. It's the opposite. To claim otherwise is deluded.

The problem isn't that one or some women enjoy this: it's that those opposed to sexual freedom have extrapolated that all women feel this way. That's the anti-feminist viewpoint here. The feminist viewpoint is libertarian about kinks, but does not interpret them as an innate characteristic that all women contain.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:34 AM on April 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


What y'all need is an eyefull of my religion.
posted by infini at 7:35 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, but while a woman choosing which sex acts she wants to enjoy is feminist, a sex act that involves choking/degredation/etc cannot be called a particularly feminist sex act, even tho I'm not sure why sex acts are being ranked by their feminist strengths...I think that was all that was trying to be expressed? /devil's advocate
posted by agregoli at 7:35 AM on April 24, 2012


Ok, but while a woman choosing which sex acts she wants to enjoy is feminist, a sex act that involves choking/degredation/etc cannot be called a particularly feminist sex act, even tho I'm not sure why sex acts are being ranked by their feminist strengths...I think that was all that was trying to be expressed?

Even if that was what was trying to be expressed, it would still be incorrect. In any D/s relationship, there are clearly established boundaries and limits, decided by the sub, therefore the power is ultimately in the hands of the submissive party.

But if you're already deluded, ridiculous, and in need of psychological help, what does all that matter anyway, yeah?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:50 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm sorry but I still don't quite agree with that. I'm cool with whatever people want to do consensually, but that shouldn't preclude talking about WHY people engage in these behaviors, and no, it doesn't have to mean they are sick. But isn't at least part of sexual behavior a reflection of the culture at large?
posted by agregoli at 7:58 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


(If a young woman says, I want to live my life as subservient to men, that's how I think it should be, she is CHOOSING that, and that action is feminist because of her agency of choice. But her living subservient to men isn't feminist.)
posted by agregoli at 8:01 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(But honestly, I am scared I will be eviserated now, and I'm no stranger to these discussions, so please go easy on me)
posted by agregoli at 8:03 AM on April 24, 2012


The whys of sexual behavior and preference are extremely complex, even psychologists and sexologists focusing on paraphilias seem to have very little idea about what the core causes are. There's a lot of theorizing, but not much else.

So I'm sure culture at large is reflected, but since most kinks seem to be largely established at an early age, and not change much after that, kinks we're seeing today reflect society a decade or three ago, not current culture, if anything.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If a young woman says, I want to live my life as subservient to men, that's how I think it should be, she is CHOOSING that, and that action is feminist because of her agency of choice. But her living subservient to men isn't feminist.

I'll have to disagree with you there. We can't take the action out of context like that. A woman choosing, of her own free and informed will, to engage in any sex act is a feminist act; the same act engaged in by force and subjugation would be rape. Simply removing the sex act from the context of motivations tells us very little about how feminist the particular act is.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:04 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


(But honestly, I am scared I will be eviserated now, and I'm no stranger to these discussions, so please go easy on me)

(You're asking in good faith, so there's no reason for anyone not to answer you similarly. Nothing changes without communication, after all.)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2012


@ Joey Michaels: You're exactly right about such discussions. You're not going to convince the person you're arguing with. But if you can be clear and reasonable and present facts, you might convince the teenager who's silently reading along and too scared to comment. Which is no small thing.

@ Zoo: The phrase "the conversation has moved away from how we should be treated towards how we should behave" is devastatingly good. I'm really wigged out by how "inappropriate" has come to be young people's way to say "you mustn't talk about that". I hesitate to call it "authoritarian", but we're definitely in an era where most people, left and right, are more interested in the group's desire not to be disrupted rather than the individual's disruption. Perhaps in reaction to the world of internet commenting, where disruption is so common? Or perhaps it's just a cycle.

And once it becomes accepted that other people have a right to judge your choices, attacks on reproductive rights are inevitable. People don't just have strong feelings on the subject, they have incompatible world-views. If you really think that abortion is an attack on the most vulnerable members of society, defending it as a choice rings pretty hollow. If you believe that social cohesion is more important than individual flourishing (or believe that what is natural holds moral valence), the world-transforming effects of birth control look very negative. And as we see above, if you believe that personal expressions are political speech, people's individual sexual behaviors are subject to the judgement of others.

I've wondered if Dan Savage is right that the only way to retain what rights we have won is a return to federalism, where the blue states have more freedom and the red states have less. That might protect our gains, and eventually establish the competitive advantage of the blue states. But I fear that it won't, that the anti-choice forces will simply establish themselves in their state and then work to undermine freedom in every other, because, again, they cannot leave people alone. They believe that leaving people alone is genuinely wrong.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The phrase "the conversation has moved away from how we should be treated towards how we should behave" is devastatingly good.

Yeah, this. I'm stealing this big time.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:09 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


If they have sufficient education about sexual health, reproduction, and contraception, they do. However, many don't.

So.. it sounds like its really no different from the challenges posed to maternal health care in rural Africa and South Asia, then, is it?

infini, I was going to object that the difference is that those in this country opposed to women's reproductive self-determination are not being subjected to a lie-filled PR campaign by the Catholic Church...

They're the same.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:10 AM on April 24, 2012


I really don't know how much more clearly I can state this - by all means, do what you like. Really. Have. A. Ball. But to do so without considering how you are playing a part in normalising this kind of behaviour is childish and selfish.

We're in a bit of a rarefied place here on Metafilter. In the real world, the vast majority of people don't understand or have experience with "D/s relationships" with "established boundaries and limits". For better are for worse, most people don't think too deeply about that sort of thing. They just watch mainstream porn in which it's normal for a man to force himself in to a woman's mouth until she gags while he calls her names. They just see their favourite pop star lauded as some kind of masculine hero after he beats his girlfriend senseless. Women learn that it's normal to crave submission, to subjugate their desires to the desires of men, that it's a healthy and happy sort of sexuality. That's fine if they enjoy being submissive, but if they don't? And then, over time, this shit leaves the bedroom and women end up having to fight for basic contraception coverage and access to safe abortions and end up living in a society that feels more hostile to women than it has at any time in the last 25 years.

The blind acceptance that BDSM-influenced sex is a perfectly fine, awesome, un-problematic thing that exists without influencing or being influenced by society is idiotic. It needs to be examined and considered. Not every sexual desire that a person has is good. Not everything a woman does or enjoys is good for other women. And, yes, FINDING YOURSELF UNABLE TO ENJOY SEX WITHOUT HUMILIATION, VIOLENCE OR THE THREAT OF VIOLENCE IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNHEALTHY. How on earth is this even arguable?
posted by Wroksie at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I do not hold with "choice feminism", the idea that any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice. We have all been conditioned by the society we live in to react and respond in certain ways to certain cues.

Some of us enjoy sexual play that is problematic in the larger societal context. It is easier to bluster that because we choose it, it is okay that we do it, rather than to examine why we do it, what we get out of it, what our partners get out of it, how we came to be doing it and enjoying it.

This holds for many many things that we do: body hair or lack thereof, makeup or lack thereof, choice in clothes, in shoes, in hairstyles, in how often we laugh at other people's jokes, the kind of jokes we make, whether we work or stay home, whether we have children. Sex is not a free pass - sex is not exempt.

Life is messy. I realize people want clear lines and easy answers, but we are not going to recognize and solve all the myriad effects of being raised in and soaking in a patriarchy in a matter of a couple decades.
posted by flex at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


I hear what you're saying, but I can't help but be unnerved by the idea that play-acting female oppression is a feminist act. I don't think we have to declare it anti-feminist either. I don't know why any consensual sex act needs a feminist or antifeminist designation.
posted by agregoli at 8:16 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The current state of things has finally gotten me to set up a monthly recurring donation to Planned Parenthood. I am in a position where I can financially support people doing things I approve of, and it's high time I started using that tool. I'm not the Koch brothers, but I can do my part.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:20 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The blind acceptance that BDSM-influenced sex is a perfectly fine, awesome, un-problematic thing that exists without influencing or being influenced by society is idiotic. It needs to be examined and considered. Not every sexual desire that a person has is good. Not everything a woman does or enjoys is good for other women. And, yes, FINDING YOURSELF UNABLE TO ENJOY SEX WITHOUT HUMILIATION, VIOLENCE OR THE THREAT OF VIOLENCE IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNHEALTHY. How on earth is this even arguable?

Do you honestly think people in the BDSM community do not examine and consider these things? The key words being used here, over and over, have been "informed consent". If someone who wants to engage in submissive play is clearly psychologically and emotionally damaged, it would of course be wrong to play with that person. People in the community talk eeeendlessly with each other about stuff just like this in order to understand each others' motivations prior to play, and to avoid messing with someone with issues.

As has been pointed out, the anti-feminist aspect of the "normalisation" that you talk about is not that we grow more tolerant of others' kinks; but that the assumption is made that all women secretly want to be subjugated.

I think you really need to dial back the accusatory and insulting hyperbole here. You do not seem to understand the difference between play and reality, or the personal and the political. You think people who need to exercise their kink to get off need psychological help - we get it already, even without the capslock.

I hear what you're saying, but I can't help but be unnerved by the idea that play-acting female oppression is a feminist act. I don't think we have to declare it anti-feminist either. I don't know why any consensual sex act needs a feminist or antifeminist designation.

Perhaps in some respects, but again, all of the boundaries and limits are established by the "submissive" party, with their fully informed consent, so I'm more inclined to say this leans towards feminism than anti-feminism.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:23 AM on April 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


A woman choosing, of her own free and informed will, to engage in any sex act is a feminist act;

Maybe in your feminism, but not in mine. I've never been a fan of choice feminism. It's way too focused on self. It's great that people can be more open about being involved in bdsm and that there is less stigma against them. But actions have consequences outside of their effect on the people involved. Individual choices have ripple effects to wider society. And I really don't see how bdsm does anything but reinforce current sexist and misogynistic attitudes about women and sex. It's not chance that most doms are men and most submissives are women.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:25 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Before anyone else does, nooneyouknow, (and I hate to do this because I agree with every other word you said), I have to correct you - from what I understand, most self-identified submissives are men.
posted by Wroksie at 8:28 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh. One of the most disgusting and pernicious attacks on women is when people tell individual women that their individual life choices that affect no one but themselves (and perhaps their partners) are somehow ruining feminism, seriously.
posted by elizardbits at 8:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [25 favorites]


And I really don't see how bdsm does anything but reinforce current sexist and misogynistic attitudes about women and sex.

Maybe because BDSM is based on informed consent, sexual freedom, sexual tolerance, mutual respect and communication, and endless talktalktalktalktalk to figure out the motivations of a particular individual. If all you're seeing when you look at BDSM is women being subjugated, that might say more about your assumptions than it does your understanding of the community.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:30 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, I should really just save these responses to a .txt file and copy/paste them every time we have this thread. Would sure save a lot of time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:33 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Perhaps in some respects, but again, all of the boundaries and limits are established by the "submissive" party, with their fully informed consent, so I'm more inclined to say this leans towards feminism than anti-feminism.

And what happens when those limits get violated anyway? There was a Metafilter post a while back about how abuse is kind of endemic in the bdsm "scene." It linked to a lot of posts by people (mostly submissive women) who talked about they and their friends all had stories about how their limits and boundaries had been violated (from unwanted touching to rape) and how they felt pressured to not talk about it because they knew that the people in the scene would come down on them and that the perpetrator would be protected. That's not very feminist. Cant' find the Metafilter post, but this blog is doing a series of posts on the issue.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:35 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry to interrupt the BDSM discussion, but I found myself curious about current polling on abortion and found this. It's notable how little of a gender gap there is on the subject (about 2 points, which is within margin of error), while there's a tremendous gap by age and party identification. A good reminder that just saying "Women should be empowered" is not enough of an answer.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:35 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry we're so ignorant then, Marisa.
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on April 24, 2012


Before anyone else does, nooneyouknow, (and I hate to do this because I agree with every other word you said), I have to correct you - from what I understand, most self-identified submissives are men.

Citations are good, since there's no way to know what your level of understanding is.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:37 AM on April 24, 2012


There is no "ruining feminism". Feminists make choices that are not feminist all the time, every day. I don't ruin feminism when I put on a dress or lipstick. I shouldn't have to burn my feminist card because I'm a stay-at-home mother. I can't ever live an uncompromised life and neither can anyone else.

But it's disingenuous to claim that those are feminist choices - they don't advance the cause of women's equality. And they do have an effect - on my partner and my children in particular; as one tiny piece of the aggregate to society as a whole. Humanity is not composed of lone wolves.
posted by flex at 8:37 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


And what happens when those limits get violated anyway?

Uh, then that's a bad thing and the Dom in question is an asshole at best; a rapist at worst. Does date rape mean there's something endemically wrong with dating?

Seriously, it's Groundhog Day around here.

Sorry we're so ignorant then, Marisa.

Was this really necessary? It's better to ask questions than make assumptions. That's the point.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:38 AM on April 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


And what happens when those limits get violated anyway?

That's not the same discussion at all. What MSTPT et al seem to be pointing out is that the sentiments and actions are indeed feminist. The violations are expressly out of the realm of consent, at which point it has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with assault and/or rape.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what on earth is it about an anti-contraception stance that would make people want to support it, even when they themselves are pro-contraception in their everyday lives?

The recent controversies have involved contraceptives funded by government funds and programs. Right wingers in the US are opposed to all government spending on things that THEY wouldn't need or that THEY find objectionable. They pay for their own condoms and pills, and they believe it is immoral for the government to confiscate (tax) their money to pay for condoms for others, especially for those whose sex lives are less virtuous than theirs.

You might then say "But what about the social consequences of ignoring the issue? Won't that lead to more unwanted children, STDs, and broken households?"

The American right wing would become defensive and angry at those questions, as they imply again having to pay for someone else's problems. Who cares about STDs in someone else's house?

The right wing in this country no longer believes in collectively funding solutions to social problems--they've given up on civilization.
posted by General Tonic at 8:47 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


There was a Metafilter post a while back about how abuse is kind of endemic in the bdsm "scene."

I think this might be the post you're referring to.
posted by box at 8:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(and I hate to do this because I agree with every other word you said), I have to correct you - from what I understand, most self-identified submissives are men.

Thanks you. The point I was trying to make is that most women involved in bdsm are submissive?

when people tell individual women that their individual life choices that affect no one but themselves (and perhaps their partners) are somehow ruining feminism,

Yeah, but most choices don't just affect you. If you choose to, say, be a stay at home mom (and if you want to do that, knock yourself out) that affects your children, their friends, your friends, that people at your old job, etc, etc. I want to be clear, no one is obligated to do anything for feminism. It's not women who created sexism and misogyny and I don't think that it will be women who end it. But women do contribute to patriarchy. But I think saying "I choose this and it totally only affects me so don't judge me," is a cop out. I personally engage it all kinds of stuff that's feminist, neutral, and sexist. But I'm not going to be pretend that the stuff I do that's sexist, isn't.

Maybe because BDSM is based on informed consent, sexual freedom, sexual tolerance, mutual respect and communication, and endless talktalktalktalktalk to figure out the motivations of a particular individual.

And I completely believed that until I saw all those posts about rape and the pressure to remain silent about in the bdsm community from people who actually practice bdsm. Here is the post I mentioned before "When Safe Words Are Ignored"
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I should really just save these responses to a .txt file and copy/paste them every time we have this thread. Would sure save a lot of time.

I'm sorry, but if you find these discussions to be unworthy of your participation, you are absolutely free to not participate at all. You haven't managed to come up with anything more than the Standard BDSM Talking Points today, so if that's what would go in your .txt file than please, please don't bother.
posted by Wroksie at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2012


Uh, then that's a bad thing and the Dom in question is an asshole at best; a rapist at worst. Does date rape mean there's something endemically wrong with dating?

I apologize for not being clear. The point I was trying to get at is that bdsm community talks a lot communication and consent and negotiation, but is talk that all it is? Is the bdsm community in actuality no different, when it comes to consent, than the non bdsm community? Like America talks a lot about "equal opportunity" and the american dream, "anyone can succeed if they try hard enough", but that's all bunch a crap. Is the theory the same as practice.

when I see posts like this:

When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into “the BDSM community”, I can’t actually count them. And I never came out about it before, not publicly, for a variety of reasons- I blamed myself for not negotiating enough, or clearly, or for not sticking to my guns, or I didn’t want to be seen as being a drama queen or kicking up a fuss. Plus, the fact is, these things didn’t traumatize me, and I didn’t call it sexual assault or rape, because I felt ok afterwards. There was no trauma, no processing that I needed.

That makes me really angry, because I realized I didn’t feel traumatized because it happened so bloody often that it was just a fact of being a submissive female. WTF, right? I used to see on Alt.com and Bondage.com female submissives talking about predatory behaviour in the BDSM community, and I still see it on CollarMe and Fetlife. I remember being given the stage whisper not to play with this person or that one because they had a history of going too far, something that was often dismissed as “gossip” and kept on the DL to avoid that accusatory label of being overly dramatic. Being in the scene meant learning how to play politics- how to be polite, even good-natured, to people that you kept an eye on.
or this:

One of the things she *wasn’t* interested in was that the play be sexual. Given that “sexual” is a somewhat vague term, I proceeded to ask her if several different acts would or would not be OK. All of them were not. OK. Candidly, I don’t much like doing nonsexual scenes but I figured what the hey. I find her attractive, we seem to have a certain rapport, the scene will probably be “adequately” fun anyway, and who knows what the future might bring, right? So we do the scene, and it’s actually not half bad. (For a non-sexual scene, anyway.) Oh, and no, she couldn’t get loose.

So the scene is finished and she’s getting dressed when I hear her quietly say, almost more to herself than me, “You actually kept the agreement to not be sexual. That was interesting.”
Huh?
I turn to look at her, my jaw hanging open.
“What do you mean?” I ask her.
“You’re the first one who ever did that,” she replies.
HUH???
“Yeah,” she continues, “All of the other men have just gone ahead and had sex with me anyway.”
I cannot believe what I’m hearing.
“What do they say afterwards?”
“Usually something like, Oh, it just happened.”

it makes it hard for me to talk the claim that communication and consent are paramount as the complete truth of what happens in the bdsm community. I sure its true for some people but for others it seems to be not true at all.

posted by nooneyouknow at 9:02 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


There have been 2 posts in this thread so far saying that being a stay-at-home parent of any kind is somehow anti-feminist. I am curious: does this also apply to stay at home fathers, or do these incredibly restrictive rules you are laying down about the 'right' choices in bed, at work, at home, in family structure, etc. only apply to women?

Can someone explain to me how judging and limiting women's choices while leaving all options open for men is feminist?
posted by Wylla at 9:05 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, but most choices don't just affect you.

I am specifically referring to the above comments attacking women's sexual choices and calling these women deluded, insane, &c, tbh. And honestly, if anyone is going to tell me that the sexy sex things I choose to do in the privacy of my own home are somehow affecting all of society then srsly, I do not even know how to deal with the weirdness of this statement.

This is a lot of pressure but don't worry, all of humanity, I will be thinking of YOU - yes, all of you - the next time I get freaky.


I do mostly agree with you in terms of publicly made life choices (which is a weird way to put it but I can't think of anything better) in that these can and do affect other people's perceptions of what is or should be the norm.
posted by elizardbits at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


How does the fact that some men are rapists relate to whether women are somehow violating feminism or the fact that the extreme right wing in the US has finally gotten around to pushing against 'griswold' on the national public stage?
posted by rmd1023 at 9:08 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wylla, I don't think anyone is making rules. I think we're asking for these choices to be considered and thought about instead of automatically saying "my choice is AWESOME because I'm a WOMAN and it's what I WANT". For example, if I decided to leave work to raise a family, it could conceivably make my company less likely to hire a woman to do my job in the future - because she might do the same thing. Or if I made sure to leave my department in excellent shape and to do everything I could to get the right person in to take over where I left off, it might make the company MORE likely to hire a woman in the future for the same job.

If I'm a stay-at-home mom throughout my children's childhoods, it might make my daughter less sure about her career choices, and it might make my son less feminist. Or it might make both of my children more secure and confident. There are a hundred ways these things can go. It needs to be thought about and discussed. That's all.
posted by Wroksie at 9:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


General Tonic: While I think you're basically right, it's important to understand that a lot of people on the right don't refuse to support contraception because they don't believe in public funding of social problems, the oppose it because they think that available contraception is a *bad* solution to social problems. There are a lot of right-wing thinkers who believe that the Pill, and the sexual revolution in general, are directly responsible for teen pregnancy, high rates of unwed motherhood and male abandonment of their children, and the breakdown of family ties. At times, it seems like the fundamental disagreement between left and right is whether the abject state of the American working class is due to the collapse of the family or the collapse of manufacturing. I tend to favor the latter, but it's important not to caricature those who believe the former.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:15 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being a stay-at-home mother comes with the weight of history behind it - it has always been pushed upon women to do and sometimes it is the only thing she is allowed to do. It has been used to justify a host of reasons such as why the government won't subsidize childcare or standardize maternity leave, why men get paid more and I could go on and on.

There is a lot of emphasis I am seeing here on "right/wrong" choices and I want it explicitly clear that the only line I am drawing is "feminist" choices and the flipside of that is not "anti-feminist".

As to sex, we do not put our sexuality in a little box and only open it with the bedroom doors closed. It does affect society, such as the porn we choose to consume to our choice in partners to how we judge others' morality and I could also go on and on.

I do not find that the argument of "we are a collective (country, society, humanity) and should think about the impact on the collective" that most progressives espouse somehow stops at the edges of what we do sexually.
posted by flex at 9:17 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is, I would think the economic implosion of removing a big chunk of working married women from the outside-the-home workforce would probably do more damage to the state of the US than the collapse of manufacturing did. And that implosion would certainly do a lot to bring about a more profound collapse of the family.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:18 AM on April 24, 2012


it makes it hard for me to talk the claim that communication and consent are paramount as the complete truth of what happens in the bdsm community.

If you're going to cherry-pick outliers as evidence to dismiss the whole, I honestly don't know what to tell you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


And I completely believed that until I saw all those posts about rape and the pressure to remain silent about in the bdsm community from people who actually practice bdsm.

This is conflating acts done in private with a community made up of people who have a preference for some of those acts in common. Yes, there is pressure to remain silent about it in the BDSM community. You know what? There's pressure to remain silent about it everywhere. Being into BDSM doesn't automatically make a person enlightened. The community should be welcoming and safe, and right now it isn't. That's a problem, and it should be addressed more vocally. There are some real assholes out there, but it doesn't mean that BDSM - or anything else done between adults giving informed consent - is impossible to do ethically or safely, or that it is not something a feminist can do.

And honestly, I've heard some real horror stories of things done by people in the kink community - things done without informed consent. And stories about the terrible way those things were handled. These things were wrong. They're also only relevant in discussions of that community. They're an indictment of the special interest group, not the special interest.

In this thread, there is also a conflation of an act and a choice to engage in that act. BDSM in and of itself, regardless of the form it takes, is neither inherently feminist nor non-feminist. It just sort of is what it is. Choosing to engage in it because you saw it in porn and you feel it's expected of you is not a feminist act. But a woman who is aware that it's what turns her on, is aware of the implications of it, and decides to explore that part of her sexuality with consenting partners - in relationships in which each party has equal say in what is and isn't okay - is engaging in a feminist act. This would be true if she were choosing to engage in BDSM, or missionary sex, or whatever.

Some of the roles played out in some areas of BDSM do appear to contain echoes of problematic behaviors in society at large. This means that it's the responsibility of anyone kinky to take a good look at their desires and how they fit into the greater picture of their lives, their attitudes, their whatever. This doesn't guarantee that this examination will result in them deciding to stop doing it. And if they decide to keep doing it, it doesn't mean they're failed to examine it closely enough. It doesn't mean they're wrong.

I firmly believe that it's the absolute responsibility of anyone who plays with power dynamics in that way to be able to say with certainty that it stops at the bedroom. It is entirely possible to keep that part of oneself confined to expression between consenting adults in one's relationship, and to leave it in the bedroom when it's time to go out into the world. I know it's possible, because I've seen it. Yes, people who are that self-aware appear to be the minority. That's not endemic to kink.

No one's saying anyone has to be into it. No one's even saying anyone has to approve of it. But at least afford me the intelligence and agency to assume it's possible to be just as smart, to have thought about this just as much, to be just as aware about the impact on society of things done in private, and to have reached different conclusions about what is right and healthy for me. To claim I'm deluded to have done so is, frankly, kind of crappy and patriarchal.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:25 AM on April 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


For example, if I decided to leave work to raise a family, it could conceivably make my company less likely to hire a woman to do my job in the future - because she might do the same thing.

That's called sexism and it's not the fault of women. Of course only women are expected to take blood oaths to their companies lest they Ruin Everything. I mean, the vast majority of sexual harassers and workplace shooters are men but suddenly not wanting to hire women because they're not chained to you forever makes TOTAL SENSE.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:28 AM on April 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


rmd1023. People generally get paid what they need to survive. It doesn't matter if you're both working and you've an average of 1.4 kids or if one of you is working and you've 2.8 kids. Dependent on your socioeconimic position in society, you'll basically get exactly the same standard of living.

In fact, studies (and the numbers are all a bit messy, so you can ignore whatever you need to here) seem to show that the average standard of living has dropped for the majority of Americans in line with the increase in labour.
posted by zoo at 9:30 AM on April 24, 2012


And I refuse to talk about BDSM with anyone who decides based on a whole lot of nothing that women who like certain kinds of sex are psychologically unhealthy.

Actual studies of active BDSMers have found nothing of the sort but don't let that stop you from attempting to degrade and devalue people by calling their mental health into question (which is ableist and offensive in its own right--how is it your business if someone is "psychologically unhealthy" anyway)
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:31 AM on April 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


Looks like someone isn't going to get that unicorn.
posted by zoo at 9:34 AM on April 24, 2012


Oh and finally--I don't agree with a lot of choice feminism. If a woman decides to, say, discriminate against women in hiring, then that is obviously not a feminist act.

HOWEVER, blaming women for the things that politically powerful men do is patently ridiculous and victim-blaming at its finest. "If only you would have normal sex like you're supposed to, sexist men would let us keep birth control!" Ridiculous and complete fucking bullshit. Aim your ire at people who are actually coming up with the laws designed to oppress you. Hell, aim it at record execs or rapists--there's a whole long line of people to blame before you start on women who are having sex that they enjoy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:36 AM on April 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


For those who believe that the BDSM community is more likely to sexually assault a/o rape a submissive woman, than the world at large is: citation? Data?

I've met some pretty messed-up sub women. Seriously messed up. "How Nature Says Do Not Touch" personalities... but of course, predators gravitate toward them. (Known men like that, of course, too, but that's OT at the moment...)

I've also known many, many (F) friends who have been raped or molested, but none of them have ever mentioned it happening during BDSM play (which some of them don't have an interest in anyway, AFAIK).

Based on my small sampling (which is nonetheless a larger sample size than a few thread submitters), sexual assault does not correlate with kink.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


not wanting to hire women because they're not chained to you forever

this is a valid kink okay
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


The thing that I haven't seen addressed with respect to the prevalence of subjugating acts in porn becoming normalized is that those subjugating acts are not "BDSM" in the way that it's understood by the community. I would argue that the fact that porn now increasingly consists of more and more extreme acts that often focuses on denigrating the female participant has very little to do with how accepting mainstream society has become of BDSM and such similar kinks, and much more to do with the commodification of a woman's body and sexuality for the purposes of advertising and pop culture. The message that we see in popular media, over and over, is that it's okay to lust after a woman's body, it's okay to expect her to submit to your sexual desires, that the man can't control himself, and that the woman has no sexual agency.

The reason it's so pernicious for some two-bit "journalist" to extrapolate a preference for BDSM to a gender-wide desire to be controlled and dominated is that it deftly sidesteps the ways in which women's agency is actually being removed from them. It's easy to ignore the ways in which women are more and more reduced to Madonna/Whore archetypes if you say that it's because of these repressed sexual desires that makes it okay to objectify them. It's easy to ignore the open assault on women's rights taking place in Congress if you argue that, based on zero evidence and zero investigative interviewing, women have wanted this all along.

It's been argued that the mainstream doesn't think in nuanced terms about "informed consent" and "boundaries" - that's not an argument against BDSM, that's an argument for better sex education. The mainstream populace didn't think it was possible for a husband to rape his wife, a mere century ago. That doesn't mean forcing yourself on an unwilling partner is anything but sexual assault.

Moreover, the request that women censor their individual behaviour in order to somehow benefit the "movement" is one of those infuriating and frustrating things that minorities have had to deal with since, well, the beginning of time. It implies that a given person isn't a fully actualized individual, but rather a representative token of their entire subgroup. A woman who performs poorly at work can't simply be a bad employee--she's proof that women aren't rational enough to be in the work force. A female student who goes into nursing can't genuinely have a passion for the field--she's proof that women aren't cut out to be doctors.

I'm not saying that individual actions don't have an impact on the collective--obviously any social movement is made up of the decisions and actions that its individuals engage in. But the discussion breaks down when you look at an individual, and only see the movements and labels that they could be representative of. It's easy to condemn people with kinks you don't agree with, but what about a woman who chooses to go into a traditionally female dominated profession like teaching? Is she betraying her movement because she should have striven to become a CEO for a STEM organization instead?
posted by Phire at 9:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


It got buried in the stupid argument about whether consensual sexual practices by informed adults can be called anti-feminist, but I'm interested in this comment:

It's less a counter revolution and more idiotic screaming as progress rolls forward. Similar things are happening with gay rights.

As a woman and also a gay person, I actually think the two situations are quite different. While I agree that nattering assholes are in denial about the inevitable forward movement of gay rights, I think feminism is in the midst of a very real setback that started in the 80s, has waxed and waned a bit since then, and is currently in a seriously scary spot.

What I think is particularly interesting and maybe different about today's anti-feminist/anti-woman trend is how anti-family it is. Public education, family safety net services, and medical services have not been in such peril since the Depression. There is a very real attack not just on women's rights to abortion, family planning, and free speech, but a linked and concurrent attack on children, old people, and the family as an institution. Given mass unemployment, crushing debt and abandonment of social support services, there is no way for most women to adequately care for their families right now. It's actually quite terrifying for the future of our society as a whole.

I think this link is being a bit missed by feminists right now, although there are exceptions - for instance Strong Families.
posted by latkes at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


the young rope-rider: Thanks, I know what sexism is. I also know that, in the long run, it's better to do what I can to ensure my choices help other women, whenever possible. By, for example, planning ahead and leaving my job and department in good shape when I go on maternity leave or leave permanently to stay at home with my family, in order to ensure that my employers can't use me as an excuse not to hire another woman. Or, for another example, ensuring that I, as a (hypothetical) stay-at-home mother, make sure that my children see me as a separate person with my own life and not just a materna-bot. Why did I have to say this again? You could have read it the first time. Maybe feminism is about me-me-me selfishness for you. I won't deny you the right to use the word, but that's not what feminism means to me.

And as for the rest of your comment, there's a difference between enjoying BDSM-inspired sex play and being unable to function sexually without it. If you actually have any evidence that the latter isn't a seriously disordered sort of sexuality, please, I'd love to see it.
posted by Wroksie at 10:10 AM on April 24, 2012


If you're going to cherry-pick outliers as evidence to dismiss the whole, I honestly don't know what to tell you.

How do I know that they are outliers? Because you say so? My formatting got messed up in the earlier comment, but that second comment was from Jay Wiseman's post Are We Men a Punch of Lying Pricks Is he an outlier? How do I know you aren't the outlier? How do you know you aren't?

On the one hand, straight (dominant?) guy saying "No(t a lot of) abuse because of focus on consent" On the other, submissive women and some guys saying "Despite focus on consent, abuse happens. A lot." Given rape culture et al it's much more likely for the latter to be true than former. Rape culture and sexism doesn't just disappear once you enter a dungeon.

Being into BDSM doesn't automatically make a person enlightened.

That's the point I was trying to make. Marisa was saying because bdsm is focused on consent and communication it is really feminist. I disagree with that and was explaining why.

Some of the roles played out in some areas of BDSM do appear to contain echoes of problematic behaviors in society at large. This means that it's the responsibility of anyone kinky to take a good look at their desires and how they fit into the greater picture of their lives, their attitudes, their whatever. This doesn't guarantee that this examination will result in them deciding to stop doing it. And if they decide to keep doing it, it doesn't mean they're failed to examine it closely enough. It doesn't mean they're wrong.

I agree.

But a woman who is aware that it's what turns her on, is aware of the implications of it, and decides to explore that part of her sexuality with consenting partners - in relationships in which each party has equal say in what is and isn't okay - is engaging in a feminist act.

Why is it feminist? I see it more as value neutral. I mean it's good for her, but I kind of think feminist acts should in some way work to improve the situation of other women besides oneself. Not all woman everywhere, but more than just you, even it's just the other women on your block on something.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:16 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


thing you do not understand ≠ mental/emotional/psychological disorder

This is pretty much the same argument used by homophobes to invalidate LGBT people and their relationships.
posted by elizardbits at 10:18 AM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


And as for the rest of your comment, there's a difference between enjoying BDSM-inspired sex play and being unable to function sexually without it. If you actually have any evidence that the latter isn't a seriously disordered sort of sexuality, please, I'd love to see it.

I think if you are going to diagnose mental disorders based on bedroom taste the burden of proof is on you.

In the current version of the DSM (DSM-IV-TR), a paraphilia is not diagnosable as a psychiatric disorder unless it causes distress to the individual or harm to others.[1]

posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:20 AM on April 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


planning ahead and leaving my job and department in good shape when I go on maternity leave or leave permanently to stay at home with my family, in order to ensure that my employers can't use me as an excuse not to hire another woman.

Do you honestly think that there is anything you can do to keep a sexist employer from using it as an excuse anyway? Do you honestly think that when male employers discriminate against women, it's the fault of previous female employees?

...ensuring that I, as a (hypothetical) stay-at-home mother, make sure that my children see me as a separate person with my own life and not just a materna-bot.


Wow - the average stay-at-home mom has no life, doesn't count as a separate person from her spouse (!?) and is raising kids who see women as 'materna-bots??!'

So, again, what exactly do women have to do to meet your approval? And again, which of these choices are only 'hurtful' and worthy of your judgement on behalf of the collective when women make them? Are stay-at-home dads or guys who take paternity leave without meticulous prep also worthy of this level of contempt, or is that reserved for other women?
posted by Wylla at 10:30 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


So being beaten and humiliated (or beating and humiliating someone else) doesn't count as causing harm to others (or oneself)? That's... interesting. It seems fairly self-evident to me that, say, a shoe fetish is much different than a compulsive desire to abuse or to be abused. But that's heading into derail territory, so I guess we can agree to disagree about that.

And I find the conflation of sexual kinks with Lesbian/Gay/Transgender identity to be completely offensive. Seriously, what the fuck?
posted by Wroksie at 10:31 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


‘50 Shades of Grey’ Speed Read: 14 Naughtiest Bits

Regardless of the theme/content, the writing seems horrible.

I've wondered if Dan Savage is right that the only way to retain what rights we have won is a return to federalism, where the blue states have more freedom and the red states have less.

This is essentially what has happened since Roe v. Wade. How many abortion clinics are there in Mississippi or North Dakota. 1? 2? How many hoops do pregnant women have to jump through in Georgia compared to California. It's not working.

That might protect our gains, and eventually establish the competitive advantage of the blue states. But I fear that it won't, that the anti-choice forces will simply establish themselves in their state and then work to undermine freedom in every other, because, again, they cannot leave people alone.

Yeah, that one.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:33 AM on April 24, 2012


Wylla, you're completely misrepresenting what I said in an effort to make your own point. Feel free to try again if you'd actually like to engage in a conversation.
posted by Wroksie at 10:36 AM on April 24, 2012


How do I know that they are outliers? Because you say so?

Tell me: do you apply this strained question-begging to everything? Do you believe, for example, that the numerous reports of date rape mean there is something perverted and pathological about dating? That incidents of food poisoning in various restaurants mean it is categorically dangerous to eat out? Because the leaps of faith towards believing the absolute worst about peoples' motivations, in particular when applied to a community of countless people from all walks of life and backgrounds, seems to indicate you started with an assumption and select evidence to support it, while telling others that the burden of proof is on them to show that they aren't more prone to rape than the general population.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:41 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's the point I was trying to make. Marisa was saying because bdsm is focused on consent and communication it is really feminist. I disagree with that and was explaining why.

Well, keep in mind that Marisa was having this discussion with a person who said that BDSM was inherently anti-feminist. At no point did Marisa say that BDSM is a feminist act; the statement made was that it does not, simply by existing, reinforce sexist power structures.

Like I say, it's important to keep the special interest group separate from the special interest. There are a lot of interesting discussions out there about the way that abuse and sexism are handled in the kink community. My own experience has been that, on the whole, a lot of people in the community are pretty good at communication and establishing consent, and not always so great about overcoming the bystander effect, so shitty, abusive people are occasionally allowed to run wild more than they should. And this sucks, and it's something that's actually being addressed in a lot of places but, like any movement, it's going to take time and effort.

Why is it feminist? I see it more as value neutral. I mean it's good for her, but I kind of think feminist acts should in some way work to improve the situation of other women besides oneself. Not all woman everywhere, but more than just you, even it's just the other women on your block on something.

I don't believe the holy explosion of feminist power cracks the very ground in twain whenever a woman makes this decision or anything, but I believe it is a feminist act when a woman behaves as if she has equally as much right to sexual freedom, satisfaction, agency and happiness (and responsibility) as a man has. That's one of the many ways I define feminism. If it isn't one of yours, then okay. People are different.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:41 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


So being beaten and humiliated (or beating and humiliating someone else) doesn't count as causing harm to others (or oneself)? That's... interesting.

Dude, that's masochism. It's not harm to consensually do something to someone that causes them pleasure unless you are ignoring safety precautions. Pain itself isn't harm in every context, think of all the people who enjoy a really hot pepper.

I guess it can be hard to wrap your mind around if you aren't wired that way, but it's a real thing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes, BDSM isn't feminist or anti-feminist any more than any other sexual kink is. It exists in a context of feminism and anti-feminism, and feminist and anti-feminist people participate in it, and it's used as a rhetorical example by feminist and anti-feminist people (usually the latter lately).

But it wasn't a feminist statement when Algernon Swinburne paid women to whip his ass, and it isn't an anti-feminist statement when my friend J. goes to a munch to find men to whip her ass. Katie Roiphe, on the other hand, can build a big straw man of anti-feminism out of the latter, but that isn't because of J.'s kink; it's because of her boatload of anti-feminist preconceptions.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I salute you, Wroksie. You have real courage.

And I think your comments have been essential in making this one of the best threads about sexuality Metafilter has hosted since I've been here.
posted by jamjam at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I find the conflation of sexual kinks with Lesbian/Gay/Transgender identity to be completely offensive. Seriously, what the fuck?

Transgender has no place there. Homosexuality/Heterosexuality seems to fit in pretty fine though, why is a preference based on gender viewed as more normal/legitimate over any other preference?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:51 AM on April 24, 2012


At no point, however, has anyone implied that men who want to be sexually dominated by women also want to be dominated by them socially and economically....

As the woman in one of these types of relationships, a-fucking-men. This has never once come up other than in a strictly fantasy sense. They can be feminist, they can be all for equality and rah-rah pro-choice, but I've never met a man, regardless of what he likes in the bedroom, who really wishes that women rule the world.
posted by desjardins at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, if everything goes sideways and we really do find ourselves in the midst of a reactionary take down of women's (and it feels REALLY weird to use this word after all those idiot Tea Party photo ops) liberty there's one thing everyone is capable of.

Do what you can for who you can and hope the storm passes quickly.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:04 AM on April 24, 2012


At no point did Marisa say that BDSM is a feminist act; the statement made was that it does not, simply by existing, reinforce sexist power structures.


>>Ok, but while a woman choosing which sex acts she wants to enjoy is feminist, a sex act that involves choking/degredation/etc cannot be called a particularly feminist sex act, even tho I'm not sure why sex acts are being ranked by their feminist strengths...I think that was all that was trying to be expressed?

>Even if that was what was trying to be expressed, it would still be incorrect. In any D/s relationship, there are clearly established boundaries and limits, decided by the sub, therefore the power is ultimately in the hands of the submissive party.

This is where I read him as saying BDSM is feminist.

I don't believe the holy explosion of feminist power cracks the very ground in twain whenever a woman makes this decision or anything, but I believe it is a feminist act when a woman behaves as if she has equally as much right to sexual freedom, satisfaction, agency and happiness (and responsibility) as a man has. That's one of the many ways I define feminism. If it isn't one of yours, then okay. People are different.

Thank you for explanation. I was really asking not making a rhetorical statement.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:04 AM on April 24, 2012


Because the leaps of faith towards believing the absolute worst about peoples' motivations, in particular when applied to a community of countless people from all walks of life and backgrounds, seems to indicate you started with an assumption and select evidence to support it, while telling others that the burden of proof is on them to show that they aren't more prone to rape than the general population.

Let me explain where I am coming from:
1) Over the years, I have read dozens of posts about how BDSM community is so awesome because of the focus on consent and communication.
2) It's then implied or explicitly stated that rape and abuse are less prevalent in BDSM because of the focus on consent and communication
3) I have always given statement 2, the side-eye because BDSM people are raised in the same sexist society as everyone else.
4) Recently, there as was an explosion on BDSM blogs with mostly submissive women but also dominant males and others talking about how abuse was rampant and that people who are abused are pressured to stay silent.
5) This did validate my view that the BDSM community is no better than regular people at policing and stopping sexual assault.
6) There is no number six.
7) So, when people say BDSM is feminist, especially if they say it's feminist because of consent and communication - I do question that given that a) some aspects of bdsm community replicate the problematic sexual politics of the general community, b) dominant females and submissive males seem to be stigmatized in the bdsm community and b) the focus on consent and communication hasn't resulted in a community that policies rape and sexual abuse better than anyone else.
7) To be clear, I don't believe people who participate in BDSM should be ashamed of it or stigmatized.
8) And I don't think that people who practice BDSM are more rape prone than anyone else, but the BDSM community may have a higher rate of sexual predators than the general community resulting in a community that has higher incidences of abuse because of the higher rate of predators and not because of any inherent rapeyness.
9) while telling others that the burden of proof is on them to show that they aren't more prone to rape than the general population. Not others, men. If a bunch of women, from any community, talk about how they are being abused by the males in that community, I will side with the women and, yeah, expect the men to prove that they, as a group, aren't all rapey. But I wouldn't assume that any specific male from that group is a rapey. I'm sorry if that offends you, but I can't not side with women when rape comes up.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


10) They hurt me bad but I don't mind. They hurt me bad; they do it all the time.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:33 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(ignore that; just a violent femmes quote trying to riff off 6) There is no number six ---> "eight eight i forget what eight was for". Not adding anything to the conversation)
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


@zoo

thank you so much for saying this, you have put it exceedingly well

it is heartening to hear another person describe what i'm seeing and great to know that i am not going crazy
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:42 AM on April 24, 2012


Whatever happened to Sex-positive feminism?
posted by luckynerd at 11:50 AM on April 24, 2012


I've never met a man, regardless of what he likes in the bedroom, who really wishes that women rule the world.

I do. I'm all for affirmative action to get more women in political office. (Or do you mean "rule" with an iron fist, or something? If you mean "run," I'm all for it.) I figured lots of men are. No?

The only Democrats I can remember voting for are women (Boxer, Lee), and a big part of that is b/c they are women. To be honest, I do the same thing for ethnic minorities.

Then again, maybe I'm not a "man" after all ...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:14 PM on April 24, 2012


I liked it. My body reacted in a pleasurable way. However, I eventually found that reaction problematic, and a symptom of something I needed to work on instead of something I needed to indulge. So I don't indulge it. I have a happy, healthy, enjoyable sex life anyway. If I couldn't enjoy sex without humiliation and degradation (as the degrader or the degraded), I would seek therapy.

What a horrible patronizing thing to say to another group of humans. Why don't you pray the gay away while you're at it? Seriously that was a mean thing to say. Mean, mean, vile and discriminatory, preached from a high horse at people you have no business saying that to for any other reason than ignorance and fear.

It's not even my primary mode of sexual self expression (kinda secondary) but who are you to outright attack my sexuality as an inappropriate mental illness that needs treatment? Honestly your right next door to flag-and-move-on levels of rudeness.
posted by Phalene at 12:21 PM on April 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


I do. I'm all for affirmative action to get more women in political office.

Likewise. I'm deeply curious to see how it goes. Even if they manage to fuck things up as much as the men have, I think a majority-woman political ruling class would be fascinating and likely shake up all sorts of institutions.

That aside (and the other interesting / agreeable bits in this thread), I must protest:

If I couldn't enjoy sex without ... I would seek therapy

I think you greatly overestimate what therapists can accomplish. They're not magicians. They can rarely even agree on what this stuff means, and have very little demonstrated ability to change it.
posted by ead at 12:32 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If a bunch of women, from any community, talk about how they are being abused by the males in that community, I will side with the women and, yeah, expect the men to prove that they, as a group, aren't all rapey.

But again, this is being selective about what counts as evidence. The numerous women, some of whom are in this very thread, who say that the community is based on informed consent and communication don't seem to count as much as the ones who support your conclusion that the BDSM community has more sexual predators than vanilla folks.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do. I'm all for affirmative action to get more women in political office. (Or do you mean "rule" with an iron fist, or something? If you mean "run," I'm all for it.) I figured lots of men are. No?

Female domination and female representation are two different things. What I meant is that I don't know any man who wants a reversal of what we have now. Would you prefer that women comprise 83% of the US Senate? Or that there were only 18 male CEOs in the Fortune 500? Or that only women could be heads of a major worldwide religion?
posted by desjardins at 12:50 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why Do They Hate Us? The real war on women is in the Middle East.
posted by homunculus at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2012


your conclusion that the BDSM community has more sexual predators than vanilla folks.

I haven't concluded that. It's a possibility, that sexual predators could be attracted to the BDSM scene. But it's a just a theory, until someone does some research. Honestly, I feel like you are arguing with what other people have said to you at other times. I don't think the vast majority of men in BDSM are sexual predators. But I don't think they've escaped the sexism of the society we live in either.

But this really is the core of where I'm coming from the focus on consent and communication hasn't resulted in a community that policies rape and sexual abuse better than anyone else. And this really has nothing to do with the number sexual predators in the bdsm community compared to everywhere else.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But this really is the core of where I'm coming from the focus on consent and communication hasn't resulted in a community that policies rape and sexual abuse better than anyone else.

This may well be the case (we talked about this a lot a few weeks ago). I don't see any evidence that the BDSM community polices rape and sexual assault and abuse worse than any other community, either. Our society as a whole is shitty about that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:02 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


What I don't understand is that if the way that I truly truly enjoy sex is by being submissive or having sex dramatically different than whats considered the norm, how on earth can it be considered feminist or empowering to sublimate that desire? It took me long enough to come out of the closet to myself and admit that this was the stuff that I had always wanted, and now I'm supposed to deny my own sexual pleasure to meet someone else's standards of whats acceptable?
Again?
I don't think so.

There is never a time when I feel more empowered and impressed with myself than after either closing a great business deal, or after being superbly dommed. Society decides one is good and the other bad? Too arbitrary for me to care too much about what society thinks, then.

thing you do not understand ≠ mental/emotional/psychological disorder

A thousand times, this. There is no way that someone who isn't kinky can understand the inner feelings of us kinky people, the only thing that they can do is to take us at our word and believe us when we try to explain it.

It seems fairly self-evident to me that, say, a shoe fetish is much different than a compulsive desire to abuse or to be abused.


Your ignorance is showing.
posted by newpotato at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


"BDSM scene is more likely to attract sexual predators" = "gay scene more likely to attract pedophiles/promiscuous people/people who spread AIDS" = "hip hop culture encourages young black men to be criminals" and all these communities should police themselves because they exist in a vacuum, amirite?

bigotry is bigotry.
posted by desjardins at 1:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


oh, and more on topic to the FPP - every single sub woman I've known - Every Single One, and there have been probably 100 - is strong and opinionated. In the groups I've been in? Some of them are power hungry. In many of their relationships, the guy might do the topping but the woman runs the household.
posted by desjardins at 1:13 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


So true desjardins, and I have heard many submissive women talk about how much responsibility and authority they have in the rest of lives, and how part of what's nice about bottoming is letting that stuff go within the limited/contained context of their BDSM.

(Which is of course different from Roiphe's idea that women secretly want to give up all their power in all contexts!)
posted by latkes at 1:17 PM on April 24, 2012


I don't see any evidence that the BDSM community polices rape and sexual assault and abuse worse than any other community, either.

No, but they claim to police/prevent it more than most other communities.

(Note: I have nothing against BDSM. I don't think participating in it is anti-feminist, though I'm not sure that it is feminist, it's probably neutral. It's okay to be feminist and do things that aren't explicitly feminist. Even to do things that are explicitly anti-feminist though, again, I am not claiming that kinks are anti-feminist.)
posted by jeather at 1:22 PM on April 24, 2012


No, but they claim to police/prevent it more than most other communities.

I'm still confused about this idea! Who has said this?! Is it written somewhere? People in this thread who are part of the BDSM community are not claiming we police or prevent it better than anyone else. Only that we're not worse than anyone else!
posted by latkes at 1:27 PM on April 24, 2012


Well, I'm just glad that a thread about women being oppressed has turned into an argument about whether women are doin' it wrong (it being sex, motherhood, and work-for-pay).
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I haven't concluded that. It's a possibility, that sexual predators could be attracted to the BDSM scene. But it's a just a theory, until someone does some research.

If it's really up in the air to you, then I wonder why you're putting more weight on the opinions that lean more towards one conclusion than another. That's what's confusing me here. On the one hand, you're saying you got nothing against BDSM folks and whatnot, but on the other hand, you shine a spotlight on the anecdotes that support the notion that the BDSM community attracts sexual predators, while not really giving the same weight and consideration to those women among us right here who are saying the opposite.

But this really is the core of where I'm coming from the focus on consent and communication hasn't resulted in a community that policies rape and sexual abuse better than anyone else.

I'm not sure where you're getting this from, but even assuming this is true - and we have no evidence either way - what exactly does this prove? "People into fringe kinks are no more nor less likely to rape than people into vanilla sex"? Groundbreaking!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2012


Or, for another example, ensuring that I, as a (hypothetical) stay-at-home mother, make sure that my children see me as a separate person with my own life and not just a materna-bot.

My mother could be very much described as a 'materna-bot', having chosen to turn away from her own career and hobbies to raise me, and describes her choice as a conscious decision made with clear mind and love. So first: that's a shitty term.

Second: there is nothing wrong nor anti-feminist in choosing to be a mother and to dedicate time and effort to your children, and I find it honestly insulting to suggest that being a mother is somehow robotic and faceless. Is it wrong to be forced into it? Yes. But there is nothing inherently bad about taking care of children - a stay-at-home dad, for example, would probably be lauded for giving up so much for his kids. Frankly, kids should be taught that nothing is wrong with wanting to be a mom, just like there's nothing wrong with wanting to be an astronaut or an actress, or an astronaut-actress who happens to be a mom.

For god's sake, anyone who's had kids probably knows exactly what a hard and exacting job it is, especially when they start turning into little balls of endless snark.

and I think that doubles as the job description for a mefi mod
posted by zennish at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a nutshell, then: I think it's a little dishonest to say the notion that the BDSM attracts sexual predators is "a possibility" and "just a theory, until someone does some research," while at the same time saying the burden of proof is on the men of that community to prove that they aren't more likely to rape, based on the "explosion" of personal stories you've read that support this notion, while ignoring personal stories that contend the opposite. If you're really, truly neutral and unbiased on this subject, you've sure fooled me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


zennish: "especially when they start turning into little balls of endless snark. "

Well, it's your own fault for getting them a MeFi account.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:46 PM on April 24, 2012


while ignoring personal stories that contend the opposite.

I'm not ignoring them, I'm just giving more weight to the other ones. In threads, here and other places on the internet, where women are talking about street harassment or sexism on tech industry or something like that, there will be one or more other women who say "Well, this has never happened to me or my friends, so it doesn't happen/it's not as a bad as the other women say." Feminist people usually don't respond with "Thanks for clearing that up. Clearly those women over there are the exception and this totally isn't a widespread problem. Whew." So, why am I being asked to do that with bdsm community?

If you're really, truly neutral and unbiased on this subject, you've sure fooled me.

I'm not neutral. I never claimed to be that. I have opinions. And since they are opinions and not fact, I try to investigate them to see if they are good or not.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In threads, here and other places on the internet, where women are talking about street harassment or sexism on tech industry or something like that, there will be one or more other women who say "Well, this has never happened to me or my friends, so it doesn't happen/it's not as a bad as the other women say."

.. and there are 10x as many to say "yeah, it's happened to me" ... where are those folks in this thread?

... and if no one in the street harassment threads stood up to say "this doesn't happen to me," would you speak up for them and say "i bet this doesn't happen to a lot of women" with no direct evidence to support that claim?

of course not.

So, why am I being asked to do that with bdsm community?

Because it's a completely different scenario than the example you provide.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:03 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one said this: "so it doesn't happen/it's not as a bad as the other women say."
posted by latkes at 2:08 PM on April 24, 2012


.. and there are 10x as many to say "yeah, it's happened to me" ... where are those folks in this thread?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:03 PM on April 24


Maybe they don't want to out themselves on the internet as people into BDSM.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:12 PM on April 24, 2012


*Maybe they don't want to out themselves on the internet as people into BDSM.*

Yes, but plenty of us did.
posted by Phalene at 2:25 PM on April 24, 2012


I'm not sure where you're getting this from, but even assuming this is true - and we have no evidence either way - what exactly does this prove? "People into fringe kinks are no more nor less likely to rape than people into vanilla sex"? Groundbreaking!

I told you where I got it from and why I was writing about it. Did you read that post where I explicitly laid out my thinking on this? You know, after you accused me of thinking everyone involved in bdsm was a rapist.

.. and there are 10x as many to say "yeah, it's happened to me" ... where are those folks in this thread?

I doubt that Metafilter is a cross section of the bdsm community nor is it the Alpha and Omega of the internet. Look, people on Metafilter are saying one thing. A bunch of people not on Metafilter are saying something else. I have no idea why I should privilege the stories on Metafilter. I linked way up thread to a post on Metafilter where this was discussed that has links to the non Metafilter testimony to abuse in the bdsm community. Feel free to check it out before jumping to anymore conclusions.

So, I don't know if people are being blinded by their interactions with other people who actually do think bdsm communities are filled with nothing but rapey rapists who rape people (I have gone to pains to state I don't think this) or if I am a horribly, horribly, horribly, terribly, crappy writer, but, either way, as this thread has become all 'me against the world', I'm retiring from the field. You now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:41 PM on April 24, 2012


Wroksie, Wylla's comment here seems to be a perfectly on-point response -- not a misrepresentation at all. Could you explain where you think Wylla's got it wrong?
posted by dogrose at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012


It is sad that such an interesting fpp became derailed from almost the very beginning. The first linked article makes some great points about how real women's sexuality is far, far more complex (and interesting) than the crappy reductionist portrayals you see in 50 Shades of Gray and mainstream porn:
Here are some non-standard sexual trends that editors at Newsweek, Glamour and Cosmopolitan are less keen to make headlines out of: poor women fucking. Black women fucking. Queer women fucking. Old women fucking. Fat women fucking, ugly women fucking, bossy, arrogant women fucking. Women who are dominant in bed. Women who like to penetrate men with big pink strap-ons. Women who want multiple sexual partners at once or in succession. Women who just want to go to bed early with a cup of tea, an Anna Span DVD and a spiked dildo the size of an eggplant. Here are some more: sex workers who want to be treated like workers, rather than social pariahs. men who want to get fucked. Men who are gentle and submissive in bed. Men who don’t enjoy penetrative sex. Men for whom sex is an overwhelming emotional experience. I guarantee you that all of these things go on, but any of them might actually destabilise for a second our cultural narrative of sex, gender and power, so none of them are allowed to be ‘trends’.
Instead, I'm reading here about some painfully old-school argument about how women who like kinky sex are deluded, mentally ill, and are anti-feminist? Uh, hello, the 1980s phoned and want their uninformed stereotypes back, thanks!
posted by Forktine at 4:19 PM on April 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


That really drew me in the first piece as well; obviously a huge mystery worth exploring is "what would women's sexuality look like if there were no patriarchy?" but we absolutely could start with exploring what women's sexuality looks like right now outside of the narrow mainstream. A not-insignificant problem I have with both BDSM and porn (in general) is how boring they are. Even with Rule 34, even in an "alternative" branding, sex and sexuality as it's depicted to us is not very broad, not very reflective of the breadth and reality of human experience. It feels too often more about limit-pushing, or reinforcing narrow norms.
posted by flex at 4:40 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it is boring, you're doing it wrong.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:55 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that response will get you a lot of favorites, but it's dismissive and it doesn't further discussion.
posted by flex at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say it's pretty on the mark. It's not supposed to be boring. If it bores you, you haven't found what you're after, you haven't seen a fair enough cross-section, or maybe it's just not for you. That's allowed, too, you know.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:03 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And what happens when those limits get violated anyway?

Oh Jesus Christ, the same damn thing that happens everywhere else a sexual assault or not-quite-sexual-assault occurs. Sometimes there's a criminal conviction, usually it's not handled well because the culture at large is functionally pro-rape in weird ways. Cumulatively, I've dealt with sexual non-consent in the scene and outside the scene and the lesson is not that BDSM is hiding all the rapists, it's that being into kink makes you no different than someone who isn't into kink. I don't favour the above reproach attitude to kink, but the "perfectly harmless" talk is in perfect comparison to the problems that gay men have in reassuring the public the only thing most want with eight year old boys is to clear them off their lawn.

Stop trying to treat BDSM like it's either a rape closet or a safe space. Between the people who think we're actively mentally ill or criminal, and the people who think it's a magic special kingdom, you have exactly what fosters any sub-culture specific awkwardness- if you say "I wasn't comfortable!" you're in terror some idiot will start shrieking that the very vanilla sexual penetration/groping you didn't consent to is not the only problem, it's the spanking, the rope and the dirty talk, and if you use denial (also typical of nerdy places that support sexism, talked to death on metafilter) you create a culture of silence and suppression.
posted by Phalene at 5:10 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Depictions of this stuff do tend to be boring. It's not like you have James Cameron and a billion dollar budget working on making porn so the results are mediocre and lame.

Whatever your tastes are though, there is probably an author out there writing some interesting fiction just for the fun of it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


A not-insignificant problem I have with both BDSM and porn (in general) is how boring they are.

I totally agree, assuming you mean looking at most portrayals of bdsm and porn. (I'd argue that enacting your own private "porn," bdsm or not, is always hot, or at least funny, which is much the same thing.) MrGrimm above linked to a hysterical compendium of the "naughtiest" parts of 50 Shades of Gray -- talk about combining the boringest parts of porn and portrayals of bdsm. Nawt hawt, as we say.

But that's a massive failure of the market (since crap like 50 Shades sells and good stuff doesn't, and crap porn is everywhere while the good stuff takes real effort to find), combined with an artistic failure (it only takes a few minutes of reading online amateur-written erotica to realize how limited most portrayals are), both of which are rewarded handsomely by consumers.

Still, though, that means that both mainstream and slightly non-mainstream porn are crappy, but doesn't tell us anything about how healthy, feminist, or fun deviant sexual practices are to do in private. The first link in the FPP made some smart and interesting points about the enormous disparity between actual sexualities and the boring, limited, and even repellent versions that get foregrounded in the media and in the marketplace.
posted by Forktine at 5:18 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have had the wonderful experience to mentor a few newbies in the scene this year, and BDSM has been anything but boring for them. There's a new guy, mid fifties, and he came into the scene with an interest in some very traditional role play with him as a dom, and no interest in public play or play without sex at the end..he has been really great getting to know people and has thus been welcomed and has experienced lots of play on both sides, and at the monthly local fetish party on Saturday he spent ninety minutes in a big whipping frame with Mistress A. whacking on him with lots of stuff and the usual peanut gallery of snarky people good naturedly egging her on.

I sadly missed the party but I really enjoyed the phone call I had with him today where he expressed wonder and delight at the experience and real pleasure that he could try something new outside of his interests when he first came into the scene. It was really worthwhile jumping in at teachable moments, e.g. helping him learn to evaluate a scene and figure out what he liked and didn't like, and how to advocate for himself and negotiate play effectively. Nothing boring in there.

Lots of the wank fodder on the internet is boring, unless you know what to look for. I find places like reddit's /r/bdsmcommunity and some blogs and tumblrs curated by actual bdsm practitioners are better places to find porn and erotica and are good places to learn about nuances and details that can make bdsm themed content more interesting to you,

Regarding the rest of this thread, I nearly left Metafilter today because of yet more repetition of old essentialist arguments about bdsm. That's my shit, it's an emotional reaction, but it kind of sucks to see something that's pretty core to how I operate in relationships to be reduced to mental illness or reactionary brainwashing. I live in a rural village, I'm alone and isolated enough as it is without my cultural and intellectual home on the Internet othering me so hard as well.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:24 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, I like her. I pretty much am just of the "listening" segment of the audience w/r/t the ostensible subject of this FPP, but I feel very comfortable stepping in to say that I just love reading her because she writes so well. This is a fantastic piece about London that articulates a love for cities as well as anything that I can think of. We now return you to
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:34 PM on April 24, 2012


to get back to what the original link is about: the author links an article in newsweek about how, supposedly, some/all/who knows? women who have active lives outside of the home, in the "traditional" "male sphere", enjoy "traditional" gender roles in sex play; links this article to current projects on the right that could be lumped together as a "war against women". and, the author thoroughly criticizes the article.

this is fine. i agree with her. i don't see a direct connection, but yes, it's all roughly the same school of thought.

after reading the article i was ... tired. her cultural marxist analysis is overworked, and full of assertions presented as facts. the snark also does not help. i'll repeat: i basically agree with her.

another reaction i had was: who cares about newsweek? it's a failing publication. they will be bankrupt in 5 years, and no one reads it unless they're in a dentists office or a pseudo-intelectual homeless person hanging out in a public library. the newsweek article is dumb on many levels, which the author pointed out well, ... but what do you expect from a magazine like this? it's like complaining about a chimpanzee throwing it's own shit: that's what they do naturally, why would you be surprised?

the paragraph where she lists all the other things they could be talking about if they really wanted to talk about women's sexuality is ironically the best. newsweek is failing because people are getting content from blogs like her's. instead of complaining about why a magazine doesn't write about topics she things are important she could write about those topics herself. she has a great venue, her medium is putting newsweek out of business.

... also, in the same vain(sp?) of paradigm breaking the author takes: the "war on women" (eg anti-abortion measures) is really a war on straight people, and since most men are straight, it's a war on men. framing it as the man keeping women down does not capture the whole picture.

but hey, it's easy to take what you learned in an intermediate women's studies class and do the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:35 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But that's a massive failure of the market (since crap like 50 Shades sells and good stuff doesn't, and crap porn is everywhere while the good stuff takes real effort to find), combined with an artistic failure (it only takes a few minutes of reading online amateur-written erotica to realize how limited most portrayals are), both of which are rewarded handsomely by consumers.

If stuff you think is crap is handsomely rewarded by consumers, that's not market failure. The market is providing people what they want---it's not like Fifty Shades had a massive PR campaign that drove it to success despite people's lack of interest, it was a book self-published by an amateur that was so appealing to so many women that it became a hit. The market did exactly what it was supposed to do: reward the person who produced what consumers wanted.

If you don't like it, that's fine---just because lots of people who have some things in common with you like something doesn't mean you have to like it as well. But it's silly to pretend that this is some conspiracy to hide true sexuality from the poor brainwashed masses. The many sorts of fucking that Penny Red is interested in are not interesting to that many readers. If they were, that would be the novel that sold in such massive numbers, despite its total lack of support from the publishing apparatus, that the mainstream had to sit up and take notice. People are telling you quite clearly what kind of fucking they like to read about. As Brecht said, "Perhaps you should dissolve the people and elect another?"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:58 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I meant is that I don't know any man who wants a reversal of what we have now.

You've now met one, at least virtually. The curiosity factor alone would make me want to see that world, to say nothing of the depth of schadenfreude seeing so many butthurt entitled men.
posted by ead at 11:23 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


... also, in the same vain(sp?) of paradigm breaking the author takes: the "war on women" (eg anti-abortion measures) is really a war on straight people, and since most men are straight, it's a war on men. framing it as the man keeping women down does not capture the whole picture.

Lesbians can get pregnant too, as can bisexuals. And this idea that not letting women have abortions is totally a war on straight men, too, is ridiculous. Pregnancy can lead to death for one of the sexes, and it's not males. One of the sexes can become pregnant by rape, and it's not males.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:33 AM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I really went off Penny after reading this article. It sounded a horrid experience, and I really feel for her, but she was advocating somethign along the lines of the argument that to stop rape, girls shouldn't wear short skirts.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on April 25, 2012


Is it possible that "what people want" is massively shaped by "what people are shown" and "what people are surrounded by from their earliest years"? I would absolutely say yes. There's so many examples you could examine - that body hair and "ethnic"/"interracial" depictions are considered niche markets; the higher prevalence of body hair removal or anal sex or a shift in the desirability of slightly larger, more everyday shaped women to hourglass women to very thin women (with or without large breasts) that follow in the wake of general pornographic trends; the reliance on the same tropes over and over, only pushed to further extremes as people get bored with more "vanilla" depictions?

The sorts of fucking Penny Red is talking about is not available why? Because we're conditioned to think it's weird or not sexy? Maybe it threatens our conception of sexuality because it's different than what we're used to? My perception is that most people are quite conservative with their sexuality and I don't mean in the sense of vanilla vs. kink. - I mean in the sense of stepping outside their comfort zones. Perhaps because sexuality is still so tied up in shame, I don't know. But it's clear to me that many people cannot handle examining why they like what they like, or thinking about what might be problematic (which is not to say "wrong) about what they like and to me that is conservative, not opening your mind.

An emphasis on "fun" along with "feminism" makes me leery. In my experience the sort of feminism that people find fun is the kind that makes them comfortable since it doesn't deviate too much from what they want. Women are conditioned to provide what the patriarchy says men want (and enjoy it, or something is wrong with you) and men are conditioned to want women to be a certain way. I think a large part of feminism is becoming aware of these underlying issues, using that awareness to examine their individual and collective results, and thinking about how change could be affected in order to advance equality.
posted by flex at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


If it bores you, you haven't found what you're after, you haven't seen a fair enough cross-section, or maybe it's just not for you. That's allowed, too, you know.

I think it's also fair to say, if it bores you, you might just not be very interested in sex. And that's allowed, too.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:20 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would argue that the fact that porn now increasingly consists of more and more extreme acts that often focuses on denigrating the female participant has very little to do with how accepting mainstream society has become of BDSM and such similar kinks, and much more to do with the commodification of a woman's body and sexuality for the purposes of advertising and pop culture.

I hear that repeated a lot: "porn is getting more and more extreme." I don't buy it, and it seems like a Dworkinesque argument, i.e the end result of any pornography is snuff films. It's similar to the escalation argument with drugs/porn as well. It should be illegal because users will try more and more extreme behavior. I don't think any of that nonsense is supported by evidence.

I look at a lot of pornography, online and in person -- has anyone been in a sex shop with porn videos and magazines lately? A live peep show? I have!

Honestly, I can't say it's much different than it was 15-20 years ago. If I had to pick a trend, I would say that porn has gotten much better (higher quality, more diverse participants, more specialized content) in the past few decades, but I cannot say I have seen 1) any noticeable rise in "gonzo" style porn; 2) any noticeable rise in female subjugation (it was always there, of course).

Justmy2c.

What I meant is that I don't know any man who wants a reversal of what we have now.

You've now met one, at least virtually. The curiosity factor alone would make me want to see that world, to say nothing of the depth of schadenfreude seeing so many butthurt entitled men.


Count me on that train too. I have my own gender issues, but I am certainly a male, and I would love to see these panels be all women at hearings run by all women in a Congress that's 85-90% women.

Fuck yeah, no doubt. I would take that over our current shitstorm in a heartbeat. I would even be willing to give up some personal rights to get there, like say, gun ownership. ;)

back to the main subject ...

Katie Roiphe’s Newsweek cover story reveals Tina Brown’s S&M editing of women writers:

Over a series of bad-faith and gibberish paragraphs, she sets up the reader as a hayseed who is turned on by lite porn because she's never seen how they do it in Berlin or whatever; or—worse still—so unsuccessfully feminine and so outside of the charmed circle of female literary power that she's satisfied by regular guys who don't hit her. Thanks.

Giving another person false and heavily proscribed choices (would you rather be bruised or battered?) is a rhetorical trick used by polemicists all the time. It allows them to propose a third way—their own archcuriosity and cynicism, usually—and then force surrender. "Spanking Goes Mainstream" is quick-and-dirty propaganda, done on deadline at the behest of a harried and opportunistic editor. We're not talking Goebbels here. When done this sloppily, this kind of rhetoric usually inspires defiance. Sure enough, Twitter is alive today with tweets like this one: "Women don't want to be spanked. They just want to spank Katie Roiphe into hushed obscurity."

posted by mrgrimm at 9:35 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


is there something exhausting about the relentless responsibility of a contemporary woman’s life, about the pressure of economic participation, about all that strength and independence and desire and going out into the world?

And as for the Roiphe article itself, I actually have read it a few times now, and I don't think it's that bad.

I can't say if it's true or not, but there's a long running trope, in literature at least, that men with powerful careers like to be sexually submissive. If there's any truth to that correlation, and if more women today are establishing powerful careers, would not there be a correlated rise in women involved in sexual submission?

The incandescent fantasy of being dominated or overcome by a man shows no sign of vanishing with equal pay for equal work, and may in fact gain in intensity and take new, inventive—or in the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, not so inventive—forms.

What I mostly object to, I guess, is that women are assumed to be any different sexually than man. I think the sexual dynamics of power are complicated for both men and women and trying to summarize it into a soundbite format will fail no matter what.

So the ending and overall message fails, but it's not a horrible article. I'm not sure where she says that women secretly want men to run their lives ...

Penny Red suggests that "Right now, we are in the middle of a sexual counter-revolution."

As for Penny Red's critique, I didn't like it so much. Kinda all over the place, and any claims of a "counter-revolution" have to completely ignore any of the advances in sex positivism that the Internet has wrought. or what cupcake1337 said.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:59 AM on April 25, 2012


There is a lot of dismissiveness implied in "you haven't seen enough" or "you just might not be very interested in sex" or "you're doing it wrong" (all those assumptions are quite false, btw). I find that hard to reconcile with professed feminist leanings, the quickness to squelch or belittle criticism of sexuality as portrayed in our culture. Why are you so interested in shutting this line of discussion down?
posted by flex at 10:04 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of dismissiveness implied in "you haven't seen enough" or "you just might not be very interested in sex" or "you're doing it wrong" (all those assumptions are quite false, btw). I find that hard to reconcile with professed feminist leanings, the quickness to squelch or belittle criticism of sexuality as portrayed in our culture. Why are you so interested in shutting this line of discussion down?

You're not being dismissed, at all. Your judgement of porn and BDSM is based on what you've seen. It is then, by all logical conclusions, possible that a) you haven't yet seen something you like, b) have seen some pretty bad representations of BDSM or c) really haven't seen every possible pornographic product or BDSM sex act. That's not dismissal, at all; it's a purely reasonable conclusion to arrive at. I mean, you don't seriously think you've seen ALL there is to see with regard to porn and BDSM, right?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2012


Another possibility that you're just not into porn or BDSM. That's totally cool. No one is going to chide you for that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:38 AM on April 25, 2012


I am making general observations; those responses zero in on me personally and condescend. Am I to be validated that random Internet people are letting me know I'm allowed to feel what they assume I feel? Do you seriously think those responses further discussion? What do you expect me to say to any of those?
posted by flex at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2012


Seriously, flex. Yikes.
posted by agregoli at 10:55 AM on April 25, 2012


I am making general observations; those responses zero in on me personally and condescend. Am I to be validated that random Internet people are letting me know I'm allowed to feel what they assume I feel? Do you seriously think those responses further discussion? What do you expect me to say to any of those?

How would you expect people to respond? You said "A not-insignificant problem I have with both BDSM and porn (in general) is how boring they are." So naturally, some people are going to respond that either you need to see more of it, need to see better stuff, or maybe you aren't into it at all.

Like if I said, "A not-insignificant problem I have with football is how boring it is," I'd expect people would respond that I hadn't seen any truly good games, that I need to see more of it, or maybe I'm not a sports person at all.

The only way you could seriously believe you're being shut down here is if you think your personal tastes for the cross-section of porn and BDSM representations you've seen is somehow an objective fact. I don't think you honestly believe that, which is why I'm confused by your reaction. Personal tastes are going to vary. I don't know what kind of discussion you expect on this subject.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:57 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


How would you expect people to respond? You said "A not-insignificant problem I have with both BDSM and porn (in general) is how boring they are."

Heh. Yeah, as soon as I read that, I started composing my paean to erotica/pornography, but realized, yeah, there's not much to discuss there.

If you don't like the porn you've found (or think it's "boring," whatever):

a) try to find different porn

b) if you've tried a lot and don't like any of it, try making your own; I actually do like all sorts of pornography but I heartily agree that staging scenes of your own with a IRL partner is a lot more fun than watching porn

c) try a different medium; my wife doesn't enjoy photos or videos very much, but she does enjoy pornographic stories; if you don't find any you like or that fit your preferences, write your own (landing page is pretty safe, but overall probably NFSW)

d) maybe you just don't like porn and/or sex that much; it's hard for some people to realize that they are not like everyone else; just as it's hard for someone with a diaper fetish to come to terms with it and practically satiate it, it's hard for someone who maybe doesn't like sex that much to come to terms with that fact (i.e. "all my friends are so into sex; why don't i care?" stress)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:22 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My observation is hardly an uncommon one and was on-topic to both the FPP and the line of discussion begun by Forktine. At least four people managed to engage with the discussion without making it personal. I don't need instruction or a pat on the head and I wasn't asking for either by providing my POV just as everyone else is doing.

Sports are better viewed as hobbies. I don't think your analogy holds. If I made similar observations about images of women in the media (such as the superheroine posters FPP or something on beauty standards), would you expect a similar response? I wouldn't, at least from those claiming to hold a feminist POV.
posted by flex at 11:34 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Why on earth is flex being instructed on how to seek out porn? Not cool.)
posted by agregoli at 11:36 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


from what I understand, most self-identified submissives are men.

...

The point I was trying to make is that most women involved in bdsm are submissive?

From my (fairly limited) experiences with people involved in BDSM, *most* people of both sexes prefer to sub, everyone is looking for a master/mistress, and the switches mostly dom because of that. I guess maybe there are more men interested in topping than women, but the disparity does not seem very large (again, pretty limited experience).

Also, to throw even more anecdata logs onto the fire...

In my considerable experiences meeting kinky people online, I have noticed that while men do tend to be more likely to be submissive overall, women (including both GG and TV/TS) seem to be disproportionately interested in mind control/hypnosis from the hypnotee angle, i.e. being controlled mentally.

And my half-assed analysis from a meager sample of people is that most of those women get off on being used but not abused, i.e. they want to be controlled by someone who is going to make them do what they actually want to do (which may include getting beat up a little.)

There are a smaller percentage who do want to get used *and* abused and usually get off on humiliation or being treated like a "slut" or "whore" (my half-assed analysis there is that they are working out society's fucked-up sexual mores), but I think most of the sexual attraction of mental submission for men and women is that loss of agency--the vulnerability of placing yourself completely in the control of another. I suppose it's similar to how many people appreciate bondage.

I guess my main point, is that most people I've talked to want to retain their personal preferences (i.e. do what they want to do) while maintaining an illusion (or play) of loss of control. Which goes along with my opinion that people's sexual preferences are unique and often unrelated to how else they live their lives.

(Why on earth is flex being instructed on how to seek out porn? Not cool.)

Can you expand?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:39 AM on April 25, 2012


i.e. as MSTPT points out, if I came into a thread related to baseball and said "my big problem with baseball is that it's totally boring," someone is going to explain how it could possibly be made more interesting. How/why is porn different?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:41 AM on April 25, 2012


My observation is hardly an uncommon one and was on-topic to both the FPP and the line of discussion begun by Forktine. At least four people managed to engage with the discussion without making it personal. I don't need instruction or a pat on the head and I wasn't asking for either by providing my POV just as everyone else is doing.

I seriously do not understand why you're taking responses to your matters of personal taste as some sort of dismissive, condescending pat on the head. There is simply little that can be said in response to, "I've seen some porn and BDSM, and it bores me - discuss." It doesn't matter how common or uncommon your tastes are; that's a pretty intractable discussion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:07 PM on April 25, 2012


How would you expect people to respond? You said "A not-insignificant problem I have with both BDSM and porn (in general) is how boring they are." So naturally, some people are going to respond that either you need to see more of it, need to see better stuff, or maybe you aren't into it at all. Like if I said, "A not-insignificant problem I have with football is how boring it is," I'd expect people would respond that I hadn't seen any truly good games, that I need to see more of it, or maybe I'm not a sports person at all.

....While it's true that "some people are going ot respond that you need to see more porn if you say that it's boring," whether or not it is polite of those people to say that may be another matter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


And how polite is it to pretend is though you have seen all the porn and all the depictions of BDSM, touting your own personal tastes as objective fact, and accusing those who suggest trying other avenues - or that it may not even be your thing at all - of being condescending and censoring?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:14 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, all I'm saying is no one is trying to "shut down" flex. They've said they find porn and depictions of BDSM "boring". But instead of taking issue with this blanket opinion-as-fact assertion, people suggested seeing more, seeing different stuff, making one's own, or even the possibility that porn and BDSM just aren't flex's thing. This isn't "impolite" by any stretch, but pretty logical suggestions.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:22 PM on April 25, 2012


[This thread will probably go better if we move on from flex's personal opinions about porn. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:24 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


You got it. Pretty much just repeating myself now anyway.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:25 PM on April 25, 2012


The CounterForce:

Help defend women's rights and pursuit of equality. Join Americans all across the United States on April 28th, 2012, as we come together as one to tell members of Congress in Washington DC and legislators in all 50 states, "Enough is enough!"

UniteWomen.org

"Fun fact: despite all the dirty tweets I send, the one about this march for Women has received the most hate mail"

- Sarah Silverman
posted by mrgrimm at 2:29 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, restless_nomad.
posted by flex at 2:53 PM on April 25, 2012


From The Stranger's Slog, a charming response to a question about the "Reproductive Parity Act" from the WA attorney general.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:06 PM on April 25, 2012


Even with Rule 34, even in an "alternative" branding, sex and sexuality as it's depicted to us is not very broad, not very reflective of the breadth and reality of human experience. It feels too often more about limit-pushing, or reinforcing narrow norms.

Yes! I definitely have to agree with you here, if we are talking about mainstream depictions of sexuality. The most interesting thing I took away from Penny Red's piece is that depictions of female sexual submissiveness, as in 50 Shades of Grey or fashion magazines or whatever, seem to be the only kind of socially-acceptable sexual "deviancy" for women. In other words, there seem to be certain forms of subversion that are tolerated and even condoned by society because they are not really as much of a threat to dominant paradigms as they initially seem to be, and in fact are to some extent aligned with current norms in a roundabout way. Playing out a fantasy of female sexual submission as a kink (complete with whips and chains!) presents itself as "outrageous", but it really isn't that much different from what depictions of what "normal", "natural" female sexuality is supposed to be. Someone donning a Che Guevara t-shirt might think they are being rebellious, but really this kind of rebellion is pretty shallow. That is not to say that women who engage in these kinks are doing it specifically in order to be subversive (that's where my analogy ends here) - obviously the aim is personal pleasure, not usually some overarching political agenda. And that is perfectly fine, and kind of the end goal of sexual behavior anyway. But my point is, if this is presented in the mainstream, over and over again, as the only desirable alternative to "vanilla", it does sort of mask us from other possibilities.

Take the example of female sexual dominance. Unlike female submissiveness, which is considered the natural default that everyone is supposed to like, female sexual dominance is pretty much always depicted as a kinky, niche sort of thing, the kind of thing that is done in the context of fantasy or role-play, rather than simply as a woman's unselfconscious expression of her day-to-day sexual preferences. When women are depicted as dominant in most movies, porn, etc, it is always as caricature - as the whip wielding, leather-clad dominatrix she-wolf - enticing, but essentially an oddity.

Of course, not everyone falls for these narrow depictions, but while it may seem like a no-brainer to most MeFites that Roiphe's Newsweek article is a load of garbage, I know more than a few people who would actually agree whole-heartedly with Roiphe. There are many, many people who think young, thin white women being whipped by men is the sine qua non of sexual naughtiness.

Where I disagree with Penny Red is her assumption that all this is a sign of an on-going counter-revolutionary attack on women. My view is simply that the majority of people lack imagination, always have and always will. I think feminism has sometimes gotten too caught up in utopianism, instead of acknowledging the very real fact that some modes of being will always be more mainstream than others. What specifically counts as mainstream may change from era to era, but no society will ever give equal attention to all modes of existence, sexual or otherwise.
posted by adso at 6:43 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


My view is simply that the majority of people lack imagination, always have and always will.

More than a majority...
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:22 AM on April 26, 2012


The most interesting thing I took away from Penny Red's piece is that depictions of female sexual submissiveness, as in 50 Shades of Grey or fashion magazines or whatever, seem to be the only kind of socially-acceptable sexual "deviancy" for women.

What about lipstick lesbianism? Or is that not even deviant anymore?

BDSM is clearly the biggest "kink" or "fetish" out there, so it's not surprising that sort of media will attract the most users.

I suppose most "shoe fetishes" aren't really deviant nor sexual for woman, but they are certainly acceptable... large breasts? I think some women certainly enjoy having larger breasts and augmentation surgery is certainly socially acceptable (to a point).

...

Giantesses?

...

The thing is that men are more (much more) likely to have "fetishes" or "deviances" than women, for whatever reason.

The most interesting thing I took away from the Newsweek piece is that the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey and its general low quality demonstrate just how badly people want this sort of content.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe feminism is about me-me-me selfishness for you. I won't deny you the right to use the word, but that's not what feminism means to me.

No, feminism for me is about being judged by the content of my character, not the contents of my pelvis. You seem to think that feminism is about telling other women what to do in order to help other women, completely forgetting that it's a rigged game. Men don't care if you're a perfect employee. They'll discriminate if they want to. Neither you, nor I, nor any woman can escape the effects of systemic sexism by being a good little girl and doing what we're told.

I don't see what a SAHM would do to make her children depersonalize her. That sounds like you're repeating the disgustingly misogynistic idea that women are literally at risk of losing their personhood if they bear and care for children. It's nonsense. Women are always people, whether they care for their children or work outside of the home (and notice how you don't suggest that women should work to make sure their children don't see them as worker-bots--only the traditionally female role is the dangerous one--like I said, misogyny).


And as for the rest of your comment, there's a difference between enjoying BDSM-inspired sex play and being unable to function sexually without it. If you actually have any evidence that the latter isn't a seriously disordered sort of sexuality, please, I'd love to see it.

The idea of disorder is largely culturally defined, but to use a common psychological standard for disorder it would only be a disorder if it interfered significantly with their life or caused them serious distress. It doesn't have to do either.

I personally share your distaste for public displays of male dominance and with men who pressure women into participating in unpleasant or humiliating actions that they do not enjoy, but conflating that with women who enjoy and seek out submission, pain, bondage, etc. is wrong. They are completely different politically and personally.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:50 PM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Catholic dioceses, institutions sue over contraception rule

California Catholic bishop: Church getting co-opted by political right
posted by homunculus at 3:22 PM on May 23, 2012


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