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"The reason bondage isn't trivial is that trust isn't trivial."
January 24, 2013 11:26 PM   Subscribe

Years before E.L James brought BDSM to a bookstore near you, Nurse Jones wrote The List and posted it to alt.sex.bondage. Funny, touching, truthful and arousing for those so inclined The List changed lives, not the least being Nurse Jones herself.

It was the early 90s when 'M' & 'J' made their agreement. Part of the deal was that 'M' write about her experiences and then find someone to post them to that new fangled 'news net'.
If I tell you it's a true story, you'll think, "Yeah, sure, right. Where have I heard that before." But it is. So there. If I tell you my top "made" me write it, you'll say, "that's how they all start," but he did. It was kind of a bargain that we made, J and I, before I even knew the news net existed.

Before I knew a lot of things.
Beloved by many for her boldness, vulnerability and writing style, Nurse Jones & The List gathered many reverent fans and a review (caution, broken links on page).

Fourteen years after first posting The List, Nurse Jones responded to the review.

More posts by Nurse Jones (scroll down the alphabetical list).
posted by Kerasia (29 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Note: the first link above is to The List on one-page in a vertical half-wall of text. The last link also has The List but in separate chapters.
posted by Kerasia at 11:43 PM on January 24, 2013


I was coming of sexual age around the time the internet was beginning to flourish across college campuses, in the days of IRC, Usenet, archie, gopher, and "experimental www servers", and it was so incredible to serendipitously find a vast online community that put names and terms to the power-exchange play that I'd long wondered about. Usenet was just under my radar and I got to it too late, but this looks like it should fit right in well with all my warm feelings about the internet and bondage communities in general from the time period. Glad to see this bit of net.history linked here.
posted by scrowdid at 1:33 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Difficult to read because it's filled with gender stereotypes.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:05 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Difficult to read because it's filled with Christianity.
posted by Mezentian at 3:11 AM on January 25, 2013


Difficult to read because it's filled with gender stereotypes.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:05 AM on January 25 [+] [!] [quote]


Difficult to read because it's filled with Christianity.
posted by Mezentian at 3:11 AM on January 25 [+] [!] [quote


Mixing pleasure & pain is the main point. Why should it be "easy" to read?
posted by chavenet at 3:38 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Difficult to read because it's filled with gender stereotypes.

Not accidentally either: it appears to be trying to justify patriarchy via evolutionary psychology, e.g.,
"J says that scientists and nonscientists alike put too much instinctive faith in the principle of parity. It is such a fundamental assumption that it misleads us despite the fact that there is no reason that the M/F relationship can't be asymmetrical in many ways. In fact, there are sound evolutionary reasons for males of most species to be more promiscuous than the females. (Reread Robert Wright's 'The Moral Animal' if you need to be convinced.) And yet we have such faith in the idea of parity that we can feel comfortable demanding that a promiscuous woman be treated like a promiscuous man. But the reality is, she won't be. She's a slut, and he's a "player". She sleeps around, he's experienced. Evolution is under no obligation to be fair. It doesn't care about parity when it finds ways to increase fitness. Learning this practical reality gives me insight I never had before. It's pointless to rail against its unfairness. To do otherwise is to apply legalistic or moralistic principles to an evolutionary situation in which parity doesn't apply."
posted by titus-g at 3:39 AM on January 25, 2013


Difficult to read because it's filled with Christianity.

"forest goddess"? "earth-mother-god"? I think you might be familiar with an extremely different form of Christianity than I am.
posted by XMLicious at 4:38 AM on January 25, 2013


Yeah, she is totally sold on some dumb ev-psych ("sociobio," she calls it). So many ughs.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:42 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


That "men are inherently superior" thing is a major trope in (straight) BDSM writing online. There's a gender-reversed version, too, that shows up in stuff written by submissive straight men, though you see less of that.

I get the impression that there are some people who actually believe that stuff, and others who just adopt it as a sort of lazy genre convention — the kink equivalent of "housewives are all hot, lonely and undersexed" and/or "delivery boys are all hot, horny and up for anything."

But yeah, it's still frustrating to read.
posted by and so but then, we at 5:02 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


"delivery boys are all hot, horny and up for anything."

If we broaden this to "18-22yo males" and "almost all" then why yes.
posted by jaduncan at 5:12 AM on January 25, 2013


Touchingly honest emotional disclosures aren't always fair or correct. One of the first things I had to learn about socializing with (other) kinky people is that you have no reason to share even the most basic life principles in common and second of all a fair number of them want what they do to be True and Real and for their particular slice of kinky activities to be a window onto something deeper.

Pronouncements include:

1) The motions of our hierarchical society is simply D/s writ large onto the soul of humanity.
2) Whatever our gender combination and number of participants is the ideal because women are wise/weak and men are impulsively aggressive/natural leaders. Also monogamy is or isn't possible.
3) We are more enlightened and diversity friendly.

It gets a touch more complicated when you also have people who are turned on by particular thought patterns but express themselves in evo-psych babble or pagan emotional fuzzies. On a massive online website like fetlife you can find groups with provocative names like "Repeal women's rights!" but the actual contents is women getting off telling people "I truly believe I am a moron!" and people sharing their fantasy for a world that was structured as a M+/f+ orgy.

Submissive women apparently agonize a lot about being good feminists, and some of them go "aw fuck it!" and retreat into rejecting what they feel is a hostile philosophy, while feminists like me grit their teeth and mutter "the personal choice of a woman" like it was a sanity saving mantra.

Race play is another place that causes a lot of "what the fuck?!" moments. Especially for mixed phenotype couples who are tired of people chirpily deciding the fact that one participants has more melanin is a fetish with implied context triggered fetishes like large genitalia or southern plantation roleplay.
posted by Phalene at 5:16 AM on January 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


The early 1990's were an unbelievably hostile time for BDSM. The few feminists who were trying to roll back the anti-porn / anti-sex workings of Dworkin and MacKinnon were advancing their case largely on rejection of the violent and exploitative imagery which the anti-porn activists had freely conflated with both BDSM and vanilla porn to advance their case.

Similarly the gay community was striving for legitimacy and didn't want their brand tarnished by a bunch of freaks wearing leather and carrying handcuffs and whips.

There was very little information of any type available which approached BDSM in even a neutral, much less potentially positive way. So if you were a young person convinced that exploring these feelings was something you needed to do, there was little else to turn to but the then popular ev-psych and New Age movements, both of which were willing to tell you that powerful feelings were there for a reason and worth exploring.

If Nurse Jones changed lives, this is the reason she changed lives. Hers was one of the first voices on that new internet thingy who dared to speak of BDSM as something worth serious exploration, thrilling and joyful and worth the risks. I'm sure that for many people hers was the first voice they ever encountered who dared to counsel that their powerful desires did not make them freaks or outcasts.

Nurse Jones is a product of her times and her writings (and resulting beliefs) need to be understood from that perspective. It's easy to look back after nearly two decades of deep conversation and cringe at her naivete, but without people like her those two decades of deep conversation could never have happened.
posted by localroger at 6:13 AM on January 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


"forest goddess"? "earth-mother-god"? I think you might be familiar with an extremely different form of Christianity than I am.

I'm talking about the iiNet/response website.

Also: insert Inner Goddess/50 Shades joke here.
Also, also: Mr Charles Fucking Dance reading 50 Shades. Because a Lannister always gets his kinky fuckery on.

The early 1990's were an unbelievably hostile time for BDSM.

I don't know about you, but from my perspective the 1990s was the beginning of the end for hostile times for BDSM folk, in many respects. I'd let others who were in the scene correct me, but it was when the BDSM crowd came out and started to take over spaces that previously had not been BDSM spaces, and established more public places like the Torture Garden.

Similarly the gay community was striving for legitimacy and didn't want their brand tarnished by a bunch of freaks wearing leather and carrying handcuffs and whips.

Well, that was a total fail for them.
posted by Mezentian at 6:25 AM on January 25, 2013


Mezentian, the impression I got -- and it's a distant impression -- is that the early 1990's were in fact when some groups began to coalesce, originally mostly gays who had been inspired but then rejected by their own movement, and later more inclusively. Those groups were mostly in places like San Francisco and New York City, though; if you lived anywhere else or you didn't happen to stumble upon the then nascent networks, it was still a very lonely time to have certain desires.
posted by localroger at 7:16 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Race play is another place that causes a lot of "what the fuck?!" moments.

I didn't think the internet could confuzzle me.
Race play? That was/is a thing? I shouldn't be surprised, and yet here we are. This is like seeing tubgirl for the first time in terms of shock value.

LocalRoger, as a straight non-American, I saw BDSM colonise my "safe spaces" in the 1990s, so there is a Castro-wide gulf between my experiences and other places. I tried to avoid BDSM spaces though. Not my scene.

it was still a very lonely time to have certain desires.

That is not my experience. But I remember the blood-drinking blip. I'd call it a phase but it lasted a summer or two. I suspect there are ebbs and flows.

Also, nice Ska reference.
posted by Mezentian at 8:47 AM on January 25, 2013


as a straight non-American

Ah I keep forgetting these TCP packets can cross the ocean. Yes it went down quite differently elsewhere, particularly in Europe. In the US there was a really toxic cross-fertilization between the anti-sex feminists and the anti-sex puritans who hated each others' guts outside of their shared hatred of porn which lingered for many years.
posted by localroger at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah I keep forgetting these TCP packets can cross the ocean.

Technically, they cross under the ocean.

In the US there was a really toxic cross-fertilization between the anti-sex feminists and the anti-sex puritans who hated each others' guts outside of their shared hatred of porn which lingered for many years.

That is the most brilliant idea for a reality TV series EVER.
posted by Mezentian at 9:10 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nurse Jones is a product of her times and her writings (and resulting beliefs) need to be understood from that perspective. It's easy to look back after nearly two decades of deep conversation and cringe at her naivete, but without people like her those two decades of deep conversation could never have happened.

Um, I was talking about her comments 14 years later.

Dunno what she was into back in the 90's (I'm not reading her thing, too busy, not super interested), but her more recent comments are all dumb ev-psych/convenient/sexist/regressive gender roles and idiotic social Darwinism.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:46 PM on January 25, 2013


Um, I was talking about her comments 14 years later.

I was talking about what created her. Once created we tend not to change all that much absent some spectacular intervention. She is a product of her time and to expect her to be politically correct by 2013 standards is just absurd.
posted by localroger at 9:34 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and just for kicks:

I'm not reading her thing, too busy, not super interested

Then maybe you should leave the commenting to those of us who have bothered. Just a suggestion. You might have missed, oh, a few years of setup or something.
posted by localroger at 9:45 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read the later interview and commented on that. I made no comment about her earlier writing. Come off it.

As for your previous comment:

I'm also a product of her time. You excused her beliefs as "naivete" but um the general trend is for people's naivete to fade as they age, being replaced by some ratio of wisdom, dogma, and cynicism.

She still believes that dumb ev psych stuff, so being naive is not extenuating. She's either stunted (thus remaining naive; thus worthy of criticism) or the problem can't be blamed on naivete at all.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:26 AM on January 26, 2013


(And "just for kicks": are you really taking the position that we get a pass for outdated beliefs? That my 60-something parents wouldn't be worthy of criticism if, say, they still thought segregation was a good call?)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:32 AM on January 26, 2013


Well if your parents still thought segregation was a good call in this day and age I would be less interested in criticizing them for it than, should there be an accessible way, in finding out what powerful experiences formed such a now-unusual mindset.
posted by localroger at 5:40 AM on January 26, 2013


Oh, to put it better: When you skip the whole story, read nothing but the last chapter, and declare the story unworthy of consideration based on that, it's kind of hard to have much respect for your opinion.
posted by localroger at 7:01 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to call shenanigans, localroger, on the 'product of her time'. Nurse Jones and I are extremely similar in age, and my response to ev psych was 'Oh, that's total bullshit'. Her list of 'love needs' of men and women, for example, are patently ridiculous, because not all men want the same thing and not all women want it either. Those 'love needs' are a cultural construction, and shorthand for what a society wishes to mold its men and women into. My huband has no desire to be my 'knight in shining armor' -- he kindly leaves my rescue up to me.

As for 'women are inherently sub and men are inherently dom', neither anecdote nor research bear this out. What little research does exist doesn't agree (Cross and Matheson, Beslow et al, etc) as to whether dom and sub are equal as likely to exist in males and female or if women are slightly more likely to be sub, but the later studies seem to be leaning towards an equal or close to equal percentage of men and women to be dom.
posted by Concolora at 11:08 AM on January 26, 2013


I'm also a product of her time. You excused her beliefs as "naivete" but um the general trend is for people's naivete to fade as they age, being replaced by some ratio of wisdom, dogma, and cynicism.

I am a product of her time, too, and I don't see her as naive. I also hope I don't come to replace my beliefs with any ratio that includes dogma as its base.

She still believes that dumb ev psych stuff, so being naive is not extenuating. She's either stunted (thus remaining naive; thus worthy of criticism) or the problem can't be blamed on naivete at all.

Actually, she criticizes a lot of the "dumb ev psych stuff", but explains how portions of various theories helped her to recognize and understand dynamic forces that were shaping her own life. I think that incorporating theology that pertains to your life while discarding that which does not resonate with you is actually what most of us do as we age and (hopefully) mature.

I found her explanation of how her personal beliefs evolved as she came to a deeper and more intimate understanding of most significant relationship in her life scintillating, and I don't really understand why you're so...contemptuous of her.

Yeah, contempt is the right word. And I don't really get where that's coming from.

After all, I don't see Nurse Jones arguing for anyone else to come to the same revelations she did, not having lived the same life she has. It's not like she is trying to legislate morality.

Nor do I see her dismissing anyone else's philosophies with simple, sweeping dismissive statements based on nothing more than a stereotypical generalization of her beliefs, i.e. "dum ev psych stuff".

Given that, I'm having trouble understanding why your "dum ev psych stuff" snark, made after skimming through her very detailed and (to me) illuminating instrospective, is totally more mature than her perspective.
posted by misha at 11:27 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Concolora: Her list of 'love needs' of men and women, for example, are patently ridiculous, because not all men want the same thing and not all women want it either.

It's not her list! That's Gray's, from Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus, and she makes a point of saying she finds it simplistic and reductionist.

Either there's a lot of projecting going on, or else I'm missing stuff.

and so but then, we, where does she say men are superior and women inferior? I read nothing like that.

And Concolora, I'm also not sure where this is coming from: 'women are inherently sub and men are inherently dom'. You put it in quotes, but doing a search and find for that phrase in the Nurse Jones response turns up nothing for me. Which link are you quoting there?
posted by misha at 11:50 AM on January 26, 2013


The thing is, NJ is not an activist. She came to her own realization in a time when there was very little information, she used the tools that were available to come to a place that felt right to her, and she hasn't been prosyletizing that that is a place anyone else should be; even the fact that her writings were written down and published was part of the "list" game. She hasn't been part of the ongoing conversation about consent and origins; she got to a place where she was content and is still there today.

She isn't prosyletizing her position, nor does she believe herself that what worked for her will work for everyone. It's a very personal journey informed by the tools available to her in 1991, many of whose flaws she recognizes. You want "dumb ev-psych stuff" consider that she was working her list about the same time John Norman was writing the first few Gor novels and Robert H. Rimmer was sittting on top of the bestseller lists.
posted by localroger at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


>When you skip the whole story, read nothing but the last chapter, and declare the story unworthy of consideration based on that

See, though, I didn't do that. I declared nothing about the rest of her story. I didn't read it--not because I dismissed it but because I'm fucking busy. I commented only on the part I read, which is one of the links in the post.

>I don't really understand why you're so...contemptuous of her.

Yeah, contempt is the right word. And I don't really get where that's coming from.


No, not the right word. I feel no contempt for her--if anything I feel sympathy for someone who's been through so much and settled into such a wrongheaded view of gender and relationships. (note that I'm NOT referring to her B/D lifestyle, only her ev psych beliefs!)

Honestly, though, I don't have any particular emotional feelings toward her at all. Some of her beliefs are just dumb, like some of yours, like some of mine.

>I also hope I don't come to replace my beliefs with any ratio that includes dogma as its base.

Of course, as do I. Those are the three options, though, to varying degrees and admixtures.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:39 PM on January 26, 2013


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