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If it's consensual, can it ever be wrong?
May 18, 2013 11:58 AM   Subscribe

The panda gangbang took place deep in the basement of the Kink armory, where rivulets of the long-suffocated Mission Creek still trace a path between moisture-eaten columns, and the air hangs heavy with a stony dampness. Emily Witt explores the experiences and motivations of participants in acts of extreme pornography. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic considers "Is some sex wrong even among consenting adults?" [Language NSFW, possible trigger warnings, as descriptions and language are graphic]
posted by MoonOrb (207 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are good.
posted by box at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2013


Panda bears cannot consent so...

all the men were dressed as panda bears.

Oh, okay, carry on.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:18 PM on May 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


Is there a certain class of porn consumer to whom the industry should not pander?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:19 PM on May 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


The original article is interesting for the description of the gangbang, though drags on waay too long afterwards with the usual pseudophilsophical claptrap, while the whole discussion about consent and whether or not some sex acts are so gross we should ban them, consent or not, is not adding anything new.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:19 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hope the title is Skeets Shoots and Leaves
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:21 PM on May 18, 2013 [135 favorites]


all the men were dressed as panda bears.

All I really wanted to know here was wtf a "panda gangbang" is.

I was especially worried that it was some kind of insane racial euphemism.

I also considered that it had something to do with Furry culture.

But I was afraid to click the link and find out.

So, thanks for this.

I might still google "panda gangbang" because I hate life.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 PM on May 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


The Kink family of websites should include in their "You must be 18" warnings something to the effect of "You're really going to hate yourself after you watch this."
posted by Etrigan at 12:29 PM on May 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was especially worried that it was some kind of insane racial euphemism.

Yes, that had me worried too.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:30 PM on May 18, 2013


People are just fucking ridiculous. We are a surreal species.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:32 PM on May 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


If it's consensual, can it ever be wrong?

Well, this is sorta why the phrase "informed consent" exists.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:37 PM on May 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


The panda bears approached her from behind. They waved their horrible paws and sniffed inquisitively. One stood over her nibbling at a frond of bamboo. Another gently stroked her hair.

The short paragraph that follows ranks among the most disturbing porn prose I've ever read, and I get most of my porn from teeniefics whose authors had researched sex online for maybe five minutes.
posted by fatehunter at 12:38 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was especially worried that it was some kind of insane racial euphemism.

1: Right, so we get a really large white guy, right? And then we have two very very tiny black woman sit on his head, and get two more black women to wrap themselves around his shoulders and pelvis, respectively.

2: And then?

1: What, there has to be an "and then"?
posted by 1adam12 at 12:39 PM on May 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


First link: woman writing about women having consensual sex.

Second link: men men men men men ...
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


My generation doesn't treat consent as a lodestar merely because consent permits pleasurable sexual activity that more traditional sexual codes would prohibit. The ethos of consent is regarded as a lodestar because its embrace is widely seen as an incredible improvement over much of human history; and because instances when the culture of consent is rejected are superlatively horrific. The average 30-something San Franciscan has had multiple friends confide to them about being raped, and multiple friends confide about participating in consensual BDSM. Only the former routinely plays out as extreme trauma that devastates the teller for decades. Little wonder that consent is treated as the preeminent ethos even by many who suspect that transgressive sex like what Witt describes is ultimately unwise or even immoral.

This, a thousand times. Even those of us troubled by porn and porn culture--without condemning it-- can agree with this wholeheartedly.
posted by jokeefe at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2013 [39 favorites]


New York's hottest nightclub is MetaFilter. This place has everything. The Blue. The Green. A panda gangbang.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2013 [76 favorites]


The right to consent should be seen like free speech - part of the foundation of a free society and something to be defended and strengthened and never taken away, but which people willingly can and sometimes do use to stupid / neurotic / immoral / unhealthy / societally damaging ends.
posted by crayz at 12:50 PM on May 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


I didn’t say anything, but here’s what I thought: there was no great truth about the human condition that I would discover through celibacy.

Quoted for truth.
posted by localroger at 12:51 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


New York's hottest nightclub is MetaFilter. This place has everything. The Blue. The Green. A panda gangbang.

Nah, panda gangbang left after a massive flameout in MetaTalk a few years ago.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:52 PM on May 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


As something to view, the kink described in the article is not to my taste. But neither was the lingering shot of a woman choking on her own vomit in "Breaking Bad," or the gore and violence in any number of gangster films, westerns, war movies etc. And that stuff wins awards.

As for consent, movie studios have a bad record stretching back 100 years, pushing actors to do things they really shouldn't. Stuntment have been killed on camera. Actors have been pumped full of painkillers to keep productions on schedule, then dumped when they got addicted. If some people consent to perform kinky stuff in front of a camera, let them do what they want with their own bodies.
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:54 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


The right to consent should be seen like free speech - part of the foundation of a free society and something to be defended and strengthened and never taken away, but which people willingly can and sometimes do use to stupid / neurotic / immoral / unhealthy / societally damaging ends.

I'm down with this idea if it means that violating consent is a federal crime.
posted by emptythought at 12:55 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, to me there is a lot of kink that can be completely healthy when practiced between people who know and care about each other and are riding the same wavelength, but which becomes absolutely repulsive when it's commodified, in this case into a job paying "$1,100 and $1,300, plus bonuses for extra sex acts with cameo performers who can show a clean bill of health". Ick. Just ick.
posted by crayz at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Google Image Search for panda gangbang.

look, just admit you're kind of curious
posted by ryanrs at 12:57 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


no i won't and you can't make me
posted by elizardbits at 1:00 PM on May 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I didn’t say anything, but here’s what I thought: there was no great truth about the human condition that I would discover through celibacy.

Quoted for truth.


Quoted for respectful, but strong, disagreement.
posted by jokeefe at 1:01 PM on May 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


best thing from the panda gangbang image search
posted by idiopath at 1:04 PM on May 18, 2013 [22 favorites]


This is really hilarious. It's like the scene in Moneyball where the old school scouts are confronted with the new statistics-based approach. They not only can't get that it works at all, they are absolutely flummoxed to find that it works better than what they do.

Kink is doing to sex what the statisticians, engineers, and computer sim guys did to sport. They are separating it from old superstitions and exploring the limits of what is possible. The human body is stronger and more flexible and capable of more interesting flights of sensation than generally known.

Sex isn't love and love isn't sex. They're two different and mostly unrelated things that, like peanut butter and chocolate, go great together but also have an independent existence.

BTW did anyone find the "San Franciscoan" tone of both these articles a little off, as if only people from San Francisco can be sufficiently pervy to warrant notice? OTOH I am really looking forward to my return to SF later this year as this time I will definitely be taking the Armory Tour.
posted by localroger at 1:04 PM on May 18, 2013 [26 favorites]


Elizardbits you are missing out on elephants painted like pandas. How can you not click?
posted by ryanrs at 1:06 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


As he sees it, their behavior is uncivilized. If you claim otherwise, he argues, "you have reduced the content of civilization to a single element: consent."

Of course it's uncivilized, that's the whole point.

I would argue that he is the one tying civilization and consent inextricably together. In fact consent is a much broader and important concept.

Civilization is a nice place to live but we're not constrained to it. Judging people for stepping out is weak sauce.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:06 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


best thing from the panda gangbang image search

I seriously thought that headline was some sort of "exquisite corpse" from a 1920s Paris salon. Then I thought, "why would the Daily Mail print that?"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like Xclamation's comment at the end of the well written piece by Friedersdorf.
posted by peacay at 1:08 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a "New York writer goes to San Francisco" bingo card? From that first article I got posted by psoas at 1:12 PM on May 18, 2013 [85 favorites]


I made the mistake of driving past the armory with my parents in the car. They were visiting from out of town.

Mom: "That's an interesting building."
Me: "Yeah, it used to be the armory."
Mom: "Oh? What is it now?"

Later.

Dad: "How do they make any money making porn?"
Me: "They are... innovative. DON'T google it."
posted by poe at 1:13 PM on May 18, 2013 [32 favorites]


Also, to me there is a lot of kink that can be completely healthy when practiced between people who know and care about each other and are riding the same wavelength, but which becomes absolutely repulsive when it's commodified

Yeah, but that's the case with everything in late capitalism. Getting your beloved a charming present for a special day is sweet, getting it because it's Valentine's Day, somewhat nauseating.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:13 PM on May 18, 2013 [22 favorites]


My main concern when reading the description of the shoot was the psychological impact it would have on viewers since many people seem to fail to really get that media of that sort is not "real life." I mean, women routinely struggle with self esteem issues because they don't look like the images on billboards and magazine covers that inundate our brains daily with concepts of what we "should" look like. Most people seem to pretty obviously miss that even models and actresses don't really look like that. It is art, not reality and not a realistic self image to shoot for as a personal goal.

But the article indicates they do a debriefing interview that is included with the film. That makes me much more comfortable with these films existing, even though I am not likely to watch them. (Mostly because I don't consume much porn. It just doesn't float my boat.) I think the debriefing might even make these films less harmful than most other porn because of this detail destroying the tendency to want to act out such a scene "in real life" and thus without the constraints used to make the porn industry viable/relatively safe (safe compared to sleeping around caually with strangers, which they aren't doing even though the films might depict something like that).

I know when I had a string of online relationships where we discussed our sexual fantasies, I was super hung up about details like mentioning condoms. I was very concerned that if I let these men say whatever they wanted, unrelated to practical reality, meeting them in person could be downright dangerous because of the unrealistic expectations that could foster. I got extremely uncomfortable with fantasies which left out inconvenient details of reality like concern about disease and pregnancy. I know those details are a buzzkill, but a bigger buzzkill in life is waking up one day and learning you have AIDS or something.
posted by Michele in California at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, if someone wants to complain about the commodification of human feelings, I think we have a much bigger beef against Ed Bernays than against Insex or Kink.
posted by localroger at 1:23 PM on May 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Or any day of the week on CNN.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Michele in CA, there is a very large backstory to this that the OP articles don't convey. The sea change in S&M porn that ended up where the OP is didn't start with Kink, it started with a company called Insex, founded by a guy named Brent Scott aka "P.D." The story of Insex is told in the amazing documentary Graphic Sexual Horror. Long story short after about a decade of thumbing their noses at all conventions, Insex got shut down because the government very extralegally used the PATRIOT act (as they had sworn up and down they would never, ever do) to go after Insex's credit card providers claiming that "porn was funding terrorism" to make it impossible for them to process payments, and Scott shut the site down.

Kink exists because Peter Acworth went to some of the banks who were at least willing to talk and negotiated a deal by which the banks would stand by him and agree that he wasn't a "terrorist" if he would observe certain limits. The entry and exit interviews are part of that agreement. If you hunt around you can find their model agreement and it's very long and detailed, specifying exactly under what conditions the shoot has to be terminated.

Before Insex, there was a ground level of censorship in the print S&M porn industry established by a memo by a guy whose name I can't remember and my Google-Fu is failing to find, but basically it was a list of limits designed to limit the number of shipments seized by podunk sheriffs trying to make names for themselves and lawsuits in inaccessible venues as a result. This guideline included a total ban on penetration in combination with bondage, whether by genitals or devices. What made Insex succeed is that Brent Scott totally ignored those limits -- indeed, he totally ignored the limits that are observed now -- and just did whatever the fuck he wanted, and the printed products censoring themselves couldn't compete.

Incidentally, Brent Scott now works for Kink and I suppose follows their negotiated guidelines. I have seen a video he co-dommed with Princess Donna.

P.S. Funny side story: Kink has the San Francisco Armory because of George Lucas. Yeah, Star Wars George Lucas. It was a blight on the landscape and white elephant for many years, far too expensive to bring up to code to make into condos and zoned for nothing else useful. Any attempt to rezone the armory was opposed by an army of powerful local politicians. Lucas innocently asked for zoning to permit use as a movie studio so he could shoot some of the FX for the original Star Wars there, and everyone found this inoffensive enough that they let it pass. Then one day Peter Acworth realized that a porn site is, essentially, a movie studio, aaaaand...
posted by localroger at 1:37 PM on May 18, 2013 [86 favorites]


localroger: Graphic Sexual Horror has been discussed here previously.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Martin, thanks for the previously. I had not seen it here on the blue. On review I see the Armory repurposing also has a previously here.
posted by localroger at 1:45 PM on May 18, 2013


Is there a certain class of porn consumer to whom the industry should not pander?

Pander bears?

(Sorry.)
posted by brundlefly at 1:46 PM on May 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


If you find these articles interesting, then I would highly recommend the reddit interview with the founder and CEO of kink.com.

It is among the best AMA(ask me anythings) I have read and he was extremely candid. The most surprising part of the interview were the amount of people thanking him for his contributions in removing much of the stigma of the scene.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Lack of consent makes it wrong, presence of consent doesn't make it good, or beautiful, or healthy or...
posted by Segundus at 1:48 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


presence of consent doesn't make it good, or beautiful, or healthy or...

Or anyone's business but the people who have consented to take part in the activity. I mentioned earlier "informed consent". This means that saying "yes" isn't very meaningful if the person doesn't really understand what they're getting into, won't have the agency to back out if they change their mind, are so psychologically screwed up that they are actively seeking to be abused/abused others, and so on. Now, when a lot of people say "consent" they mean "informed consent", but the distinction is important. If one or more people are engaging in something with informed consent, it doesn't matter one bit what other people consider good, beautiful or healthy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:55 PM on May 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


Okay, but.... Pandas? A species that can't manage to reproduce and manages to fuck only marginally more often? Shouldn't the fetish object either be a species that never fornicates purely for pleasure or one that does so exclusively?
posted by phearlez at 2:05 PM on May 18, 2013


Sex with a panda would be amazing, as you'd finally have something you want to cuddle afterwards.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:08 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


But that's what makes it so taboo! The pandas are doing shit you'd never expect them to!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:08 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow pscho-A that AMA truly is amazing.
posted by localroger at 2:11 PM on May 18, 2013


I remember reading Conor Friedersdorf's article when it went up a few days ago; as is typical of his essays, it's quite well-written and well-considered.

For my part, while I like the article, I think Mr Friedersdorf kind of dodged the issue. Yes, consent is a lodestar to our generation – and yes, this is unreservedly a good thing. Consent is important. Enthusiastic consent is a fine centerpoint and standard for a new conception of sexuality, and I am happy and pleased that we're taking it as a guiding light now in sexual relationships. And moreover I agree that this is a fine thing precisely because it opens the field of sexual diversity and successfully frames a world where all sorts of people with all sorts of desires can indulge and enjoy themselves and connect in the sacred trust that is sexual congress.

However: I do believe that there is such a thing as sex between consensual adults that is wrong. This is a difficult thing to say, because I know it's not easy to think about and I know it complicates an already-difficult subject. But – well, I want to say first that I take "wrong" to simply mean "damaging" in some way or another; I don't have some grand, abstract idea of morality, I just thing morality means making sure nobody gets hurt. I want to say furthermore that I'm not just talking about commodification, although I can see how commodification can be unhealthy and unhelpful in sexual contexts.

I really mean that I think that there can be private, consensual sex, behind closed doors, between consenting adults, that is damaging to one or both of those adults.

There are a number of reasons for this. The main thing is this: because we are not omniscient, I think it's quite possible for us to consent to things that end up hurting us. New things are just that – new things – and we can't know with certainty beforehand that they'll be good or bad for us, no matter how much we might try to make predictions and prepare ourselves. And my experience is that, even if we've conquered shame, even if we've accepted ourselves and our desires, there are still going to be times when we wish we hadn't slept with a certain person. In short: consent is not enough to keep us from getting hurt.

I know that can be a little scary, because it casts us into a world where sex can be unpredictable and we have to trust our partners to give us more than just a healthy respect for consensual boundaries. But I can't avoid the suspicion that this is how our souls really work; St Thomas Aquinas says that faith is a necessity for human life, and I think it is very much a necessity in sex. People like to say that sex and love are not the same thing, but I think this binds them together: ultimately sex needs love, in the sense that we have to be able to trust our partners to love. Even if they don't specifically love us, we have to be able to trust that they have enough love for themselves and for humankind to treat us with respect and endeavor not to harm us.

(And I guess it should be said, as a caveat, that "harm" is not a simple thing, either, unfortunately. It doesn't mean not being bruised, and it doesn't mean no marks are left. It means something much deeper than that. And I appreciate how difficult it can sometimes be to know whether one's soul has been harmed or not.)

Segundus: “presence of consent doesn't make it good, or beautiful, or healthy or...”

Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: “Or anyone's business but the people who have consented to take part in the activity. I mentioned earlier 'informed consent'. This means that saying "yes" isn't very meaningful if the person doesn't really understand what they're getting into, won't have the agency to back out if they change their mind, are so psychologically screwed up that they are actively seeking to be abused/abused others, and so on. Now, when a lot of people say 'consent' they mean 'informed consent', but the distinction is important. If one or more people are engaging in something with informed consent, it doesn't matter one bit what other people consider good, beautiful or healthy.”

I don't see any meaningful distinction between "informed consent" and "consent." Or – maybe to put it more cogently – I don't think there's any easy way for a human being to know the difference in the moment when they're giving consent. Sure, it's a useful skill worth inculcating, but it cannot be expected or demanded that everyone who says "yes" to a sexual act knows precisely what they're saying "yes" to. If that were the case, nobody would ever do anything for the first time.
posted by koeselitz at 2:14 PM on May 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't see any meaningful distinction between "informed consent" and "consent." Or – maybe to put it more cogently – I don't think there's any easy way for a human being to know the difference in the moment when they're giving consent. Sure, it's a useful skill worth inculcating, but it cannot be expected or demanded that everyone who says "yes" to a sexual act knows precisely what they're saying "yes" to. If that were the case, nobody would ever do anything for the first time.

I don't remember saying someone should totally and fully know what they're getting into. But they should know enough to have a reasonably clear idea, to be able to back out, to not have their involvement clouded by past trauma and so forth. The difference between "informed consent" and "consent" is that the former takes these into account; the latter will settle for just a "yes".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've read both articles, this entire thread, and even that article about elephants painted like pandas, and I still don't know what lodestar means.

Seriously I can almost always get these things from context clues...
posted by telegraph at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's the star the ancient sailors sailed by.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:19 PM on May 18, 2013


Polaris, in other words.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:19 PM on May 18, 2013


As opposed to lodestone, the stone you navigate by because it always points north.
posted by localroger at 2:20 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "I just thing morality means making sure nobody gets hurt."

By that standard, the most immoral act would be having a child (creating a whole lifetime of hurt that would not otherwise exist).
posted by idiopath at 2:20 PM on May 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


I really mean that I think that there can be private, consensual sex, behind closed doors, between consenting adults, that is damaging to one or both of those adults.

You may think so, but you need to make a case for this that's more than just asserting that this is the case and more interesting than something you can get into shit you in hindsight weren't ready for.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:21 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shit, I didn't even know what a "coregasm" was.
posted by Ber at 2:22 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, it's obvious that sometimes consentual sex can hurt you, in the same way that any interaction with other people might hurt you. But that's not what's meant here.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:22 PM on May 18, 2013


By that standard, the most immoral act would be having a child

I've known one person who seriously argued this; not sure if he still does.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:23 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: “I mean, it's obvious that sometimes consentual sex can hurt you, in the same way that any interaction with other people might hurt you. But that's not what's meant here.”

Okay, I guess I completely misunderstood what was meant here, despite reading both articles. What exactly is the difference that I'm missing?
posted by koeselitz at 2:24 PM on May 18, 2013


The discussion of consent vs informed consent made me think of this remark I made long, long ago in another galaxy:

FWIW: I decided to become celibate after the third moron in a row failed to comprehend the statement that "A condom is a necessity even if pregnancy is not a concern". I don't have an STD. I have a compromised immune system and was extremely ill, with one or more antibiotic resistant infections. Doctors never identified the infection(s) in question. I concluded that no amount of explaining was going to convey to anyone my belief that they were at risk of exposure to infection (doctors chalk it all up to my genes, so other people go with that mental model and assume that although I can get sick from them, they are somehow magically at zero risk from me) and it would be best to just not go there until I was healthier. (I also concluded they were acting with callous disregard for my welfare, a very big red flag in my book, but that's not really relevant to my point.)

So while I agree with some of your points, I really don't think a card or test will address the issue. For one thing, if someone asked me to produce my card (or latest test results), to me that would just scream "This is just a hook-up. You are nothing but a sex object to me." At which point, if I did the traditional dating thing, I imagine I would get up and leave the table. For another, different people have different levels of understanding of what the risks are. So I would question what it means for their partners to be "aware of the risk". Do you just give them notice of your state of health or do you have a larger obligation than that to ensure they REALLY get it? Just giving men notice of my state of health struck me as wholly insufficient. They blithely climbed into bed with me anyway (and without a condom), apparently oblivious to the potential implications of sleeping with someone who was deathly ill with something doctors did not know how to effectively treat (or even really identify).
posted by Michele in California at 2:25 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


They're talking about specific sex acts being always harmful, consent or not.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:26 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a certain class of porn consumer to whom the industry should not pander?

I have to agree with this. People should be legally free to do whatever consenting thing they want. But I'm not so sure they should be allowed to film it and sell it. Its kind of like the difference between escort services and streetwalking. The former can exist and nobody would ever know about it who wasn't looking for it. The latter, not so much.

Society as a whole has a limited right to declare certain things to be not be visible to the public. I'm not sure this falls in that category, but it certainly exists somewhere near the line.

And yes, the word consent seems to have the presumption of informed built in. Uninformed consent is not consent.
posted by gjc at 2:26 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The difference between "informed consent" and "consent" is that the former takes these into account; the latter will settle for just a "yes".

I like the refusal to call anything but informed consent by the name of consent, and the use of "assent" for everything else.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:29 PM on May 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Officer, I fought them off, look for the one with the black eye. I feel so, so uncomfortable joking about this.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:29 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


How much information is necessary before consent is informed?
posted by koeselitz at 2:31 PM on May 18, 2013


(I should say that I really, really don't want to pick apart informed consent. Thinking about it now, it seems really useful, and it seems to serve what I was talking about: that a partner can't just wait for consent, they have to demonstrably have their partner's best interests in mind. I guess maybe that's what "informed consent" means. But I still think it's worth delving into what limits there are there.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:35 PM on May 18, 2013


How much information is necessary before consent is informed?

Different amounts for different people and different situations unfortunately, which in practice is going to mean a lot of bored people sitting through the extreme kink version of an airplane safety lecture.

I think the problem is there are always edge cases that can be posited where informed consent (as opposed to consent) is difficult to obtain, but if we limit our choices in life based on that we could err in the direction of tyranny of the majority, or even worse everything that the majority is willing to discuss in a public forum regardless of their private predilections.

Personally I'm way more squicked out by the idea of people getting paid for sex acts than I am any of the fetishes to which kink.com caters. I also think that is the trickiest area when it comes to consent.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:48 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


koeselitz
How much information is necessary before consent is informed?

According to my university and any other university that receives federal funding, exactly this much.

(half-hamburger)
posted by yeolcoatl at 2:48 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


BrotherCaine: “Personally I'm way more squicked out by the idea of people getting paid for sex acts than I am any of the fetishes to which kink.com caters. I also think that is the trickiest area when it comes to consent.”

I agree. The trouble for me is that economic necessity can almost be equivalent to coercion sometimes, and the lines there get pretty blurred.
posted by koeselitz at 2:50 PM on May 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


psoas: Is there a "New York writer goes to San Francisco" bingo card?

This.
posted by hwestiii at 2:53 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The whole consent issue is kind of a libertarian paradise argument. The thing is, you go under for someone because you trust them, and you earn trust by demonstrating that you are trustworthy. There's no shortcut. A contract will never do the job. You have to trust and earn trust, and that's hard in both directions.

In his AMA Acworth mentions "we can tell if the model isn't having a good time." That's a fundamental thing to be sensitive to if you're playing dom. It really doesn't matter what forms someone has signed or interviews she's done, she could get a muscle cramp or get genuinely sick or have really misunderestimated her limits, and you have to realize the scene is paused or over when something like that happens. If you are not sensitive to such things contracts won't ever cover it all, and if you are sensitive contracts aren't necessary.

My wife cannot have a safe word. This is her own conclusion. She cannot separate the part of herself that gets afraid from the part that wants the fun sufficiently to not use the safe word. So she relies on trust that I can read her body and tell whether she is really having fun. At times that has been a bit tricky. She enjoys some things that I find a bit over the top. But when she is free to do so and she asks for more, at a point when I'm wondering if more would be safe, I think about it carefully and if I decide more is probably going to heal I give her what she wants.

This whole shit is way more complicated and powerful than most people imagine.
posted by localroger at 2:57 PM on May 18, 2013 [33 favorites]


Real pandas (going by the failure of the famous pair at the National Zoo to reproduce) would break off for lack of interest and start munching bamboo.
posted by bad grammar at 2:59 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


All depends how you define “wrong”, doesn't it?

There was a messy case in England over a decade ago where someone was injured in a kink session, and needed hospital treatment. Despite the patient's fervent assertions that the acts and results were consensual, the case went ahead based on (vaguely remembered details) of habeus corpus, the inability to contract out of law, and/or practising surgery without a licence.

But that was long ago and in a different country.
posted by A Friend of Dug [sock] at 2:59 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are several issues here that need to be addressed.

First, Catholics have lost whatever moral high ground they claim to have by sexually abusing minors and then covering it up. There are potentially two reasons for this. One is the simple fact that the scandals could hurt the church and priests didn't want that. Second, the thinking within the Church seems to be that sinning is bad but as long as you repent and you really really mean it then God will forgive you and everything is honkey dorey again. Which is nauseating. It allows for the rubber stamping of all sorts of crimes after the fact, including trampling on consent. Finally it is intellectually dishonest to attribute to a God, whose existence we cannot prove, the authority over what is and is not allowed, most especially when we have consent, the existence of which is undeniable.

Second, note what the Atlantic author claims are things that informed consent does not cover in terms of morality in sexuality. They are: spreading HIV, cheating on your partner, incest, cutting off (consentingly) someone's arm during intercourse, or conceiving of an unwanted child. If a little thought were exercised, it should be evident that (barring the case of the arm and incest), each of these is violating consent. Increasing chances of HIV violates the rights of those who might contract the disease, cheating on a partner is violating the terms of consent, and conceiving of an unwanted child is violating the future consent of the child to be loved. When cutting off ones arm we are (potentially) violating the consent of our future self in wanting our arm. But who is to second guess what our future self would want better than our present selves? The Church? The State? And as far as incest goes, as long as the brother and sister are above the age of consent and do not conceive (a child who cannot consent to genetic damage) this too is above reproach (even if I think it's icky). In short the author has shown no real claims against consent being the only narrative for which we can judge the rightness of an action, other than its beauty, which varies too much between parties to be of use in a heterogenous democratic society.

Third, consent here is obvious. Informed consent is a nonissue. All parties in a Kink show know what they are getting into and can back out at any time by saying "red", or, if gagged, by shaking their head and going "nuh huh". If they cry, the domme will check in on them to make sure they are ok and if they want to continue or stop the scene. They are asked before what they don't want to happen and what is ok to happen in an interview and they are asked afterward how the shoot went and what they did and did not like. You can go inside and tour the Armory (as I have, it is fun and well worth it) as it is open to the public and they are forthright and open about what they do and do not do. Further, it is not difficult to know before hand what is going to happen and whether you would like it or not. This is not rocket science. "We are going to have 4 guys in panda outfits perform a gang bang with you as the star" is not difficult to understand and I defy anyone to tell me how it is. You might regret being in a gang bang. Your future feelings may be hard to determine in this case (unlike the example of having your arm sawn off). However, to say that someone is not really consenting is to deny them agency and the right to do with themselves as they wish. This is morally wrong. Full stop. The person who is the highest authority on our internal thoughts and feelings is ourselves.

So yeah. These articles all boil down to a whinging "I think it's icky". These people needed to be pointed at and criticized at every opportunity lest they be taken seriously. There is nothing forcing anyone to watch this if they don't want to. This is a gang bang with blokes dressed as pandas. Truly, the end of Western Civilization as we know it.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:13 PM on May 18, 2013 [29 favorites]


I don't see much of a difference between "[kink] is squicky and therefore there's got to be something morally wrong with it" and "gay sex is morally wrong BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO ... and also it's squicky." I have not seen any coherent arguments about why "extreme" kink is wrong other than "it must be because ewww, who would do that?" I mean, what kind of guy would let another guy put his dick in his asshole? EXIT ONLY AMIRITE!

Then again, I am a fish in water and not one word of the article even raised my eyebrow.
posted by desjardins at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


localroger: "In his AMA Acworth mentions "we can tell if the model isn't having a good time." That's a fundamental thing to be sensitive to if you're playing dom."

I think it was somewhere, perhaps on the blue, a quote about... was it bullies?... having some form of empathy. They know *just* the right buttons to push to hurt someone. It's a negative form of empathy, but it is a form of empathy nonetheless.

The same thing happens here. Someone who gets off on sadism (the good kind that respects proper consensual limits, of course), at least, the ones who know how to do it best, probably have that intuition.

I've been in a relationship with a person who was traumatized/has PTSD and I had to take the active role in recognizing they were dissociating. I should phrase that differently, it wasn't so much an "active" role as just plain old sensitivity and empathy. This is different in the sense that it's not S&M but plain old vanilla sex... But despite the differences I can see how having that sort of empathy can really be beneficial in such settings.

The sad thing is that there are times when people abuse this and I've heard tales of people involved in the kink scene about predators who do end up raping victims, and that's a terrible violation of trust, both of the victims individually and collectively as a community, because the conventions of trust and consent are so vital at these edges...

At the same time, it should be vital to any location in the social sphere and it's the fact that we don't seem to get this that leads to a seemingly more laissez-faire attitude. The article with the religious dudes QQing (sorry, I stopped scanning after the second person was on about tradition and religion and all that)... It's the same sort of mindset with the war on drugs... Ban ban ban, don't discuss, don't engage, if it's evil or dirty, pretend it doesn't exist, and if we see that it does we must shut it down. Invalidating the important lessons to be learned from it, preventing discussion of the issue (beyond "good/bad" (I use bad in the sense that it's childish and simplistic to do so like "why did the bad men attack us on 9/11"))... It's like the attacks on harm reduction that work towards limiting the problematic aspects of drug usage, keeping people informed and knowledgeable about the situations they choose to be in. By denying that this side of humanity exists, be removing any sort of applicability of consent, you force a shutting down of discussion of the limits, and the edge cases, and the issue of consent itself, reinforcing a larger social rape culture.
posted by symbioid at 3:18 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I found Witt's article maddeningly narcissistic even by the standards of writing about sex in The Atlantic. I wanted to shake her and yell "The experiences of the participants are so much more interesting to me than your experiences as an observer, why don't you write about them instead?!?" And that was even before she got onto the thread of "This grosses me out, so it can't possibly be moral."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:20 PM on May 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


It's a philosophically messy area. Your volition, the thing you "consent" with, is compromised. In my view the fact that you consider the idea positively of doing something harmful to yourself, that you think you "deserve it" or something, is evidence of some level of psychological damage. I feel compelled, by my own models of volition, to ask "why would you do that?" and "because it feels good" is to me a deeply insufficient answer.

As a self-betterment idealist (which includes some "self-improvement" as stereotypically exercised, although is not limited to that), I have a fundamental belief that the more optimal response to the discovery of damage in oneself is to heal the damage, not indulge it. Self-degradation, "consensually" as it may be, strikes me as akin to cultivating cancer, or indulging addiction.

PTSD is traditionally thought of as aversive, the consequence of some horrible trauma that thereafter causes extreme and inappropriate negative associations with stimuli that reminds the sufferer of the traumatic event. I wonder if there is a positive form of it, where a pleasurable response becomes associated with inappropriate elements of some event, because that event was so overwhelmingly pleasurable?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:29 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"This grosses me out, so it can't possibly be moral."

Great summary. Coaching the distaste for BDSM in "end of civilization" language just gives the prudishness a veneer of intellectualism. It's as useless as Alan Bloom freaking out over Mick Jagger's wrists 30 years ago or conservatives screeching about box turtles last decade. Yes there are people who are wired to like this. They deserve to be happy and as open as they want to be and to see clean, legal, healthy expressions of their desires enacted by people who choose to make a living off of it. If you don't like it, don't watch it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:35 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Your volition, the thing you "consent" with, is compromised. In my view the fact that you consider the idea positively of doing something harmful to yourself, that you think you "deserve it" or something, is evidence of some level of psychological damage. I feel compelled, by my own models of volition, to ask "why would you do that?" and "because it feels good" is to me a deeply insufficient answer.

Your morals are not other people's morals. Deal with that however you like.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


As a self-betterment idealist (which includes some "self-improvement" as stereotypically exercised, although is not limited to that), I have a fundamental belief that the more optimal response to the discovery of damage in oneself is to heal the damage, not indulge it. Self-degradation, "consensually" as it may be, strikes me as akin to cultivating cancer, or indulging addiction.

Do you have some evidence that taking pleasure in degradation/pain is linked to traumatic experience and it's not that some people are just wired that way? Or that indulging this taste would lead to long term harm as present in addiction or cancer? "Because it feels good" being insufficient seems to be based on those assumptions which are not self-evident.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:37 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Civilization is a nice place to live but we're not constrained to it. Judging people for stepping out is weak sauce."

That's kinda how Civilization is defined; otherwise it's Anarchy, n'est pas?
posted by NiteMayr at 3:38 PM on May 18, 2013


Arguments from "Normally" sexualized people about how damaged deviants are and how if they just went to therapy they could fuck one spouse soft and regular like god intended are identical in my mind to those saying that transsexuals are the result of abuse and those who want to be a different gender don't know what they REALLY want because they are crazy. The latter is much more like bigotry, but the former is still really silly, especially when so many totally boring middle class married folks like to be tied up spit on and fisted in private too. It's not just perforated tribal Burning Man bigamists participating in and viewing the kinds of stuff depicted in this article--many many successful, married, monogamous couples get down with the kink, just not unanonymously in public. And really, they always have. So like, how's your armageddon, I guess?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:53 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "Your morals are not other people's morals. Deal with that however you like."

Everything else aside, how can I possibly call them "morals" unless I assume they apply to everyone else? The alternative is a world where murder is the morality of the murderer and therefore we non-murderers can have nothing to say about it.

"Arguments from 'Normally' sexualized people about how damaged deviants are and how if they just went to therapy they could fuck one spouse soft and regular like god intended..."

When someone makes an argument like that in this thread, I will stand by you in denouncing it. But that clearly hasn't happened yet.
posted by koeselitz at 3:56 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a philosophically messy area.

Not really.

Your volition, the thing you "consent" with, is compromised.

A person's reasoning is not faulty if you would not make the same choices yourself. Rather it shows a lack of imagination and empathy on your part.

In my view the fact that you consider the idea positively of doing something harmful to yourself,

While BDSM can be physically harmful in the short term, you seem to be asserting without evidence that people are acting against their best wishes, the implication being you are a better judge of this than they are.

that you think you "deserve it" or something, is evidence of some level of psychological damage.

I don't even know where this is coming from. This seems to be a bold and unfounded statement linking BDSM practices to an imagined guilt, none of which seems to be supported by evidence whatsoever.

I feel compelled, by my own models of volition, to ask "why would you do that?" and "because it feels good" is to me a deeply insufficient answer.

Why do we do anything? Because we will it to be so. Is all of our actions in life then "deeply insufficient"?


As a self-betterment idealist (which includes some "self-improvement" as stereotypically exercised, although is not limited to that), I have a fundamental belief that the more optimal response to the discovery of damage in oneself is to heal the damage, not indulge it. Self-degradation, "consensually" as it may be, strikes me as akin to cultivating cancer, or indulging addiction.


How is your personal philosophy better than any other by any objective measure? Further, how is BDSM practice damaging (other than superficially) and how does the practice of BDSM prevent one from "self-improvement"? What is self-degradation as you define it? To me, self-degradation would be to not exercise sexuality and love. Does that make chastity self-degrading on an objective level? Or is that just, like, my opinion man?


PTSD is traditionally thought of as aversive, the consequence of some horrible trauma that thereafter causes extreme and inappropriate negative associations with stimuli that reminds the sufferer of the traumatic event. I wonder if there is a positive form of it, where a pleasurable response becomes associated with inappropriate elements of some event, because that event was so overwhelmingly pleasurable?


Wonder no more! There are tons of articles on this subject, but I picked the first to come up on google scholar with 26 citations (meaning its an important and correct study). You can also look up the Kinsey studies or similar, which have looked at this sort of thing for years.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18331257

Demographic and psychosocial features of participants in bondage and discipline, "sadomasochism" or dominance and submission (BDSM): data from a national survey.

RESULTS:....they were no more likely to have been coerced into sexual activity, and were not significantly more likely to be unhappy or anxious-indeed, men who had engaged in BDSM scored significantly lower on a scale of psychological distress than other men. Engagement in BDSM was not significantly related to any sexual difficulties.

CONCLUSION:Our findings support the idea that BDSM is simply a sexual interest or subculture attractive to a minority, and for most participants not a pathological symptom of past abuse or difficulty with "normal" sex.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:00 PM on May 18, 2013 [28 favorites]


Over the years I've come to understand that sexualizing things that make (or once made) you uncomfortable or nervous or anxious is perfectly normal and can even be therapeutic. It's up there with using humor. It's a real shame we make people who aren't bothering anyone else feel guilty or self-conscious about it.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:00 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


which in practice is going to mean a lot of bored people sitting through the extreme kink version of an airplane safety lecture.

Oh wow, that is the most apt description of that conversation I have ever heard.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:02 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Koeslitz I was responding more to the article than this thread but this is close to that sentiment: "In my view the fact that you consider the idea positively of doing something harmful to yourself, that you think you "deserve it" or something, is evidence of some level of psychological damage. I feel compelled, by my own models of volition, to ask "why would you do that?" and "because it feels good" is to me a deeply insufficient answer."


RE: "how can I possibly call them "morals" unless I assume they apply to everyone else?"


They can apply to anyone you want them to, but everyone on earth won't share them no matter what you say. Laws exist to embrace the totality of morals of all citizens, and thankfully we live in a place where on the whole our laws allow us the liberty to do what we want to each-other with the limit of consent. If you think people shouldn't be allowed to consent to some things that you find amoral, cool. Good luck with that. But those who are enjoying themselves doing it don't have to care.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:09 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


CONCLUSION:Our findings support the idea that BDSM is simply a sexual interest or subculture attractive to a minority, and for most participants not a pathological symptom of past abuse or difficulty with "normal" sex.

Bears repeating. I get so, so tired of the endless speculations of people with tastes different from my own who straight-up refuse to take my word for it when I explain that no, I did not experience some kind of trauma that fucked me up psychologically and made me enjoy kink. It was trying it and thinking "oh wow - this is what I've been missing" that did it. I'm not speaking for everyone in the scene of course but hey, there's research done on the subject, too.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


One of the distinctions that should probably be made in this discussion about consent being enough is that between private sex and porn. What I'm thinking off is the sort of sex play that involves simulated non-consentual sex, everything from pretend rape to the ever popular anal surprise. YOu could make the case that this sort of porn should not be available, because it may encourage people to, well, do it themselves as well as because simulation may not be different enough to distinguish from actual non-consentual sex.

(A former co-worker had the most depressing job in the world: checking porn cds for signs the models were under age or drugged.)

That sort of porn also squicks me far more than any bdsm, if I'm honest.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


For a bunch of reasons, i broke up with a boy who was fucking me this year--i liked heavy scenes, homophobic language, physical violence, work on the edge of consent, genuine physical violence, but because he was so heavily involved in a community that ritualised the rubric of consent, that what i really wanted, he could not acheive; but what i really wanted was the kids who kicked the shit out of me when i was 17 to fuck me afterwards, and that nostalgia will never happen.

i think in these (long) conversaitons about consent, about rape, about kink, about bdsm--the small problems, the failures of expectation, the shift between fantasy and reality, the angst and ennui, the history that never quite repeats itself, the trauma that one hopes will be transformed into erotic capital, but has turned into a currency lost to inflation.

the panda orgy (and colby keller's eerie remake of boys in the sand, now with rabbit masks) are ways of processing these lacunae--panda thru camp; keller thru nostalgia, but eventually the nature of traumatic discourses will have to address the small fractures rather than the larger gaps.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Everything else aside, how can I possibly call them "morals" unless I assume they apply to everyone else? The alternative is a world where murder is the morality of the murderer and therefore we non-murderers can have nothing to say about it.

You were *this close* to Godwinning the thread. Nice try.

You can't possibly be equating consensual kinky sex to murder, can you? Murder is immoral because it causes irrevocable harm to another and it is by definition nonconsensual.

Kinky sex is immoral because .... why? If neither participant agrees they were harmed, who are you to say they were? I've done some shit I regret, but it wasn't because the sex was kinky, and it wasn't because it was nonconsensual, it was because I'd chosen my partner poorly. Are badly-considered decisions immoral? Or just regrettable?

Following this a little further - the girl who gets tipsy on her first date, takes the guy home to have vanilla, missionary sex, but then regrets it in the morning - is that immoral? Certainly to a lot of religious folks, but their morality should not apply universally no matter how much they might like it to. That's how we end up with stupid birth control laws, after all.
posted by desjardins at 4:28 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am aware that what I think is "just what I think". It is not necessary for me to qualify every single expressed opinion with an explicit statement that it is my opinion and my experience and blah, blah, blah. This would become extremely hard to read.

It would be good, although it appears to be very difficult, to have an actual discussion on this topic without provoking reflexive responses of "oh, that's just your opinion" from folks with different opinions, as though (a) that were in any way news to me, and (b) it's somehow relevant or constitutes a counterargument to any point I make.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:28 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine: a lot of bored people sitting through the extreme kink version of an airplane safety lecture.

This is somewhet true, though like airplane safety lectures, responsible kinksters recognize the importance of making sure everyone is on the same page. Every party I've attended has included some list of rules (often several pages) outlining as clearly as possible what is acceptable, what is not, and what to do if you think something is happening that shouldn't. We all sign on the dotted line each time, as that keeps us in sync.


A Friend of Dug: Despite the patient's fervent assertions that the acts and results were consensual, the case went ahead based on (vaguely remembered details) of habeus corpus, the inability to contract out of law, and/or practising surgery without a licence.

But that was long ago and in a different country.


If you'd like something more recent and closer to home (assuming "home" here is in the US), there's Paddleboro, which happened in 2000 in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The courts later found that "consent is not a defense to assault." (My kinky lawyer friends howl over that particular one, each one trying to goad the others into bringing a suit based on martial arts practice or surgery.)
posted by fader at 4:28 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a very honest and serious question that maybe somebody could answer for me:

What is the difference between

1) A woman who consents to her partner beating her as an act of punishment, as she is sexually aroused by the act and feels that she deserves the punishment.

2) A woman in an abusive relationship who will not leave her partner because she finds him attractive and feels that she deserves the punishment?
posted by Avenger at 4:30 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


YOu could make the case that this sort of porn should not be available, because it may encourage people to, well, do it themselves as well as because simulation may not be different enough to distinguish from actual non-consentual sex.

Great, let's also ban all the video games and movies and TV shows that show violent crime. I've probably seen hundreds of them yet I have never felt encouraged to assault or murder anyone.
posted by desjardins at 4:32 PM on May 18, 2013


aeschenkarnos: It would be good, although it appears to be very difficult, to have an actual discussion on this topic without provoking reflexive responses of "oh, that's just your opinion" from folks with different opinions, as though (a) that were in any way news to me, and (b) it's somehow relevant or constitutes a counterargument to any point I make.

When you make a claim that people participating in BDSM activities are psychologically damaged without any attempt to back that up, it's not so much an argument as it is just your opinion. Complaining that other people think your opinion is invalid, particularly when they site studies and literature, doesn't do much to move the discussion past the fact that you think BDSM is icky.
posted by fader at 4:33 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


It would be good, although it appears to be very difficult, to have an actual discussion on this topic without provoking reflexive responses of "oh, that's just your opinion" from folks with different opinions, as though (a) that were in any way news to me, and (b) it's somehow relevant or constitutes a counterargument to any point I make.

I think the relevance in this discussion pertains to whether or not Person A's morality applies equally to all people everywhere; it's to point out that their personal preferences might have little bearing on what other people enjoy.

I have a very honest and serious question that maybe somebody could answer for me:

What is the difference between


The former is a personal kink for sexual gratification and the latter a learned helplessness resulting from long-term abuse.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:33 PM on May 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Avenger: I think the odds are super high that the abused woman is being seriously and progressively harmed, both physically and in other ways. The woman pursuing kink is probably not being harmed in those ways.

Abusive men typically try to cut their woman off socially, financially and practically from any hope of escape.
posted by Michele in California at 4:35 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It would be good, although it appears to be very difficult, to have an actual discussion on this topic without provoking reflexive responses of "oh, that's just your opinion" from folks with different opinions, as though (a) that were in any way news to me, and (b) it's somehow relevant or constitutes a counterargument to any point I make.

You made statements that equate BDSM with PTSD in the "I'm just asking questions" vein. You insinuated that people who consent to BDSM activities couldn't have really because they were incapable of consent. You can have opinions all you want but you're factually wrong on many of the statements you made, and, moreover, the statements you made were insulting. Less "I think the sky is green" more "I think black people are intellectually inferior" (not that I, or that I think that you, think that - just as an example).
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:35 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Avenger: The difference is that the woman in a loving healthy relationship is happy because she's in a loving healthy relationship while the other woman is unhappy and terrified all the time. Can't you just accept that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to her own happiness? Or whatever maybe she's not, maybe the BDSM relationship sucks, but I promise that it doesn't have anything to do with the sex.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:41 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


desjardins: "You can't possibly be equating consensual kinky sex to murder, can you?"

Good goddamn, no. Did you read what I wrote? I said everything else aside. Typically this phrase is intended to denote that the argument that follows isn't attempting to draw parallels except in one very precise respect.

Nice try.
posted by koeselitz at 4:43 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It wasn't that clear man. I really thought you were equating the two. Can you restate your point?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:45 PM on May 18, 2013


Oh dammit, now it's at the point where people I mostly agree with are making completely stupid arguments and I'm depressed. Dude, there is a difference between nonconsensual and immoral, even if one largely encompasses the other. Some people we rule incapable of giving informed consent. Some things involve no real consenting party or direct harm, but are nonetheless immoral (i.e. racist rallies on private land). I understand that consent is important, but it isn't everything.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:45 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: “Can you restate your point?”

aeschenkarnos wasn't talking about morality. You probably didn't mean to talk about morality either, since it isn't coherent the way you were talking about it.
posted by koeselitz at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2013


Can't you just accept that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to her own happiness?

I can accept that, but there are many millions of women out there who are in abusive relationships and who apparently consent to the abuse, as they either feel that they deserve it or that the consequences of ending the abuse would be worse.

Does society have a right to intervene in abuse that the victim has apparently acquiesced to? Is it still abuse if the woman refuses to leave, or refuses to say "no"?
posted by Avenger at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm out.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:51 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah I don't really know that much about domestic abuse but I'd guess most women who are being abused in real life instead of your hypothetical bear no resemblance to women who enjoy being hurt during sex in happy relationships. But I'll leave that to someone with more insight to refute further, possibly a woman in one of those relationships who might be insulted by the comparison?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:56 PM on May 18, 2013


I can't imagine how a healthy sane person could consent to vanilla procreative heterosexual sex. I mean pregnancy is no joke, why impose that on yourself! It is clearly a sign of delusion and mental illness that one would indulge in vanilla hetero sex, and I don't think anyone who would engage in such a thing is capable of true consent.
posted by idiopath at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: people with lives as disorderly as mine, made worse by the outdated blue jeans they wore.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans, it is consent itself that I question. Pun intended, you are fetishizing consent, as though it were some magical thing that makes any activity okay and harmless, devoid of consequences, so long as it has been "consented to".

Consent is something that belongs in the "trolley problem" class of moral concepts. In the trolley problem, we must decide whether to kill one to save five. This problem is normally presented as a thing unto itself, free of context. But those six people got onto the trolley tracks somehow, and whatever decision we make with the switch, the trolley will continue on and its driver and passengers, and the surviving people on the tracks, will continue also.

Consent to some degrading sexual act (where obviously the degradation is necessary to evoke a thrill, because otherwise why would you bother to include it) is given because of prior experiences. It has to be. The person lived a life prior and will live a life after. The opportunity to give that consent came up because of prior decisions.

Now, some have asserted here that that life need not contain negative or abusive personal experiences, in order to have a desire to be degraded, and I must take that at face value; it is their own assertion of their own experience.

I suppose this is the fundamental question of it. Consider some degrading sexual act that you want to do or have done to you. Pissing on someone while calling them a slut, for example. All who are aware of this, whether as observers or participants, consider the act to be degrading. This is orthogonal to whether or not they think that you should do it, or whether anyone should do it, or whether they personally should do it. The first question here is if the act is, or is not, degrading, and I think, although obviously I am open to converse discussion, that all who are aware of it, and socialized in a culture where mainstream opinion is overwhelming that it is degrading, would consider it degrading.

So the fundamental question is, if it is degrading to be pissed on and called a slut, and if we can accept a commonality on what "degrading" even means, is the desire to be degraded inherently a healthy or unhealthy desire, and from what experiences in life does it originate?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Avenger: “Does society have a right to intervene in abuse that the victim has apparently acquiesced to? Is it still abuse if the woman refuses to leave, or refuses to say ‘no’?”

Legally? That is to say: by force? No. Society doesn't have a right to intervene forcibly – forcing the couple apart, forcing them to change their minds, etc. Society might have a right to arrest the abuser if he or she commits a crime that is actionable, but society can't police abuse on a fine-grain level, if only because such policing would rapidly take on a dimension that is not sustainable.

Sad as it may be, sometimes people really have to choose to ask for help in certain circumstances before we can help them. This is generally true of drug abusers, and it's also true of those who are in abusive relationships. We can set legal limits, but legal limits can never be perfect, and to some degree this will always be down to human volition.

desjardins: “Following this a little further - the girl who gets tipsy on her first date, takes the guy home to have vanilla, missionary sex, but then regrets it in the morning - is that immoral? Certainly to a lot of religious folks, but their morality should not apply universally no matter how much they might like it to. That's how we end up with stupid birth control laws, after all.”

I guess I'll try to say it more clearly. It seems like people here are arguing that consensual sex can never be harmful to anyone ever. I find that dubious. That's all. I think it's possible for a shame-free person to wake up in the morning and regret that they slept with person X or did kinky thing Y. That doesn't mean that we need laws against anything or some kind of sex police to arrest boys like me who like a few strange things sometimes. What it does mean is that the dialectical ethics of having a happy, healthy sex life are more complicated than just "make sure there's consent and everyone will be happy."
posted by koeselitz at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah I don't really know that much about domestic abuse but I'd guess most women who are being abused in real life instead of your hypothetical bear no resemblance to women who enjoy being hurt during sex in happy relationships.

How do we define "happy" relationships? Those are relationships where everyone claims to be happy? Where everyone is self-evidently happy? Is that even possible?

But I'll leave that to someone with more insight to refute further, possibly a woman in one of those relationships who might be insulted by the comparison?

Hold on, hold on. I'm not asking anybody to refute anything or to get insulted. I'm trying to discern the differences in a relationship where a woman consents to physical harm, and a relationship where a woman consents to .... physical harm for sexual or other gratification? I'm trying to figure out how they're different. You seem to be implying that the differences are self-evident and I am a bad person for even asking these questions.
posted by Avenger at 5:07 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


aeschenkarnos wasn't talking about morality. You probably didn't mean to talk about morality either, since it isn't coherent the way you were talking about it.

Sorry if I was incoherent! I've forgotten most of my philosophical definitions due to years of legal self-abuse. aeschenkarnos sounded like he was saying that he finds BDSM "wrong" because people who are damaged by abuse can't really consent with the clear mind of the undamaged. That seems like a moral judgement to me, in the everyday usage of the word, where people have a personal code by which they judge what is right and what is wrong. My counterargument is that his standard of judging other people's choices seem to be based on his personal preferences rather than on a standard that allows other people to have different preferences that are equally healthy, and that he should consider just believing those people when they say they like pain and move on with his life.

So the conversation has moved on now but I guess I should say I agree that plenty of consensual shit can be bad for you. But the shit described in this article isn't it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:11 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see an interesting parallel in this discussion of informed consent and assisted suicide. Even when this is deemed legal (say, in Oregon), there is a legal framework for a doctor to work with. The state has determined that there is a pathway for someone to provide consent, and for licensed individuals to determine whether the consent is truly informed and desired.

In Oregon, two doctors are required to sign off. Only then can a drug be prescribed to the individual.

Why the double-checking? Because we know that people don't always make good decisions for themselves. People will irrevocably harm themselves if given the chance, and the people of Oregon have decided to take legal steps to keep that from happening. If you're insane, you can't give consent. And doctors are empowered to determine if you're in your right mind.

So, here we have Kink.com, which is rolling its own on informed consent, no licensing or third parties involved. Indeed, they're commercializing informed consent. And if consent is not given, it could clearly be argued that irrevocable, psychological and physiological abuse has happened. This is dangerous territory for everyone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:12 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


You seem to be implying that the differences are self-evident and I am a bad person for even asking these questions.

I'm not going to call you a bad person (that's $300 extra) but I do think your question is insulting both to women who were abused and to women who like kink. Sorry!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


NiteMayr: "That's kinda how Civilization is defined; otherwise it's Anarchy, n'est pas?"

That you think "civilization" and "anarchy" are opposites merely shows you don't understand either.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans, it is consent itself that I question. Pun intended, you are fetishizing consent, as though it were some magical thing that makes any activity okay and harmless, devoid of consequences, so long as it has been "consented to".

I consider consent one of the only ways of objectively coming to a moral conclusion about peoples' choices. There does not seem to be any other standard which is better.

Consent is something that belongs in the "trolley problem" class of moral concepts. In the trolley problem, we must decide whether to kill one to save five. This problem is normally presented as a thing unto itself, free of context. But those six people got onto the trolley tracks somehow, and whatever decision we make with the switch, the trolley will continue on and its driver and passengers, and the surviving people on the tracks, will continue also.


Not really. In the trolley problem I must kill either one or five, in either case I am violating the consent of individuals. Is one persons' consent greater than another? How would I know? What does this have to do with the issue of whether one person consents to sex or not?

Not to derail (haha) the argument, but it is my opinion that at some point the consent of many individuals outweighs the needs of the few. I would rather kill explicitly 1 than let 1000 die implicitly for example. But I agree, at that point we enter into a matter of personal taste.

Now, some have asserted here that that life need not contain negative or abusive personal experiences, in order to have a desire to be degraded, and I must take that at face value; it is their own assertion of their own experience.

No, see you're wrong. I gave you a link to a peer reviewed paper that said that most people who participated in BDSM are psychologically healthy. This isn't your personal opinion as opposed to another personal opinion you happen to disagree with. This is you denying, and continuing to deny, objective truth (as objective as it is possible to be these days).

I suppose this is the fundamental question of it. Consider some degrading sexual act that you want to do or have done to you. Pissing on someone while calling them a slut, for example. All who are aware of this, whether as observers or participants, consider the act to be degrading. This is orthogonal to whether or not they think that you should do it, or whether anyone should do it, or whether they personally should do it. The first question here is if the act is, or is not, degrading, and I think, although obviously I am open to converse discussion, that all who are aware of it, and socialized in a culture where mainstream opinion is overwhelming that it is degrading, would consider it degrading.

There are two types of degradation that we seem to be confusing. One is the degradation of play acting or degradation in the scene. Sure, many aspects of BDSM are degrading for the submissive in this respect. But you go further and say that this is degrading to the individual as himself and causes him to be less of a person in toto. I fundamentally disagree.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: “So the conversation has moved on now but I guess I should say I agree that plenty of consensual shit can be bad for you. But the shit described in this article isn't it.”

Yeah, if anybody was incoherent here it's more likely that it was me. I think we mostly agree on this. I would only add that I think this is different for different people; I know plenty of people who would be totally traumatized by the shit described in this article, and I also know plenty of people who would be bored by it. It all depends on what you're bringing to the table, and sex involves the risk of discovering that there are things you don't like or aren't suited to. Maybe the important thing being said here is that there's no gold standard of consensual things that are bad for everybody, even if I have an idea of certain things that most people probably aren't suited to; and since there's no gold standard, of course there's no flat moral fiat that says "X consensual activity is moral, Y consensual activity is immoral."
posted by koeselitz at 5:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hold on, hold on. I'm not asking anybody to refute anything or to get insulted. I'm trying to discern the differences in a relationship where a woman consents to physical harm, and a relationship where a woman consents to .... physical harm for sexual or other gratification?

Consider the differences in how your two hypothetical women (can I suggest you just say people?) might express that consent, and why there might be a difference. I posit that it's because your hypothetical abused person is consenting to the relationship, and not to the abuse at all.
posted by clavicle at 5:17 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out how they're different.

In one case the desire is for pleasure and in the other case the desire is for behavior modification. The deployment of violence for behavior modification in family situations has a long, bad, documented history of serious harm. I am not aware of such a widespread history for the consensual pleasure seeking activities.

from what experiences in life does it originate?

Based on what I've picked up over the years the desire for various sexual thrills derives from one having the life experience of thinking about material related to the kink and then noticing a funny feeling in the genitals.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:18 PM on May 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


So the fundamental question is, if it is degrading to be pissed on and called a slut, and if we can accept a commonality on what "degrading" even means, is the desire to be degraded inherently a healthy or unhealthy desire, and from what experiences in life does it originate?

Or, it's healthy for some people and not for others, and the experiences are so variable as to be meaningless. My guess is that it's in some component genetic, in reaction to a wide range of triggering environments, most of which are not child abuse. If it doesn't harm anyone, why do you care if some people like (pretending) to be degraded?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


the important thing being said here is that there's no gold standard of consensual things that are bad for everybody, even if I have an idea of certain things that most people probably aren't suited to; and since there's no gold standard, of course there's no flat moral fiat that says "X consensual activity is moral, Y consensual activity is immoral."

Turns out we agreed all along! Time for whiskeys.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:20 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've realized that I'm not being completely honest here, and I will acknowledge Potomac Avenue's point, in that I have been intellectualizing and suppressing an emotional motivation, and it has been useful to have the experience of realizing this, so thank you to him/her.

I fear and hate sadists, and a major problem that I have with BDSM is that to me, rightly or wrongly, BDSM appears to encourage and enable sadism. My personal experience with sadism has been negative and traumatic, and obviously unconsensual. I won't go into the details, but it has left me with a strong desire to brutalize and punish those who inflict pain for their own pleasure, especially on the helpless and the weak. (No, it doesn't give me a funny feeling in the genitals; it's more the adrenal fight/flight - hair standing on end, snarl, that sort of thing. Testicular retraction, if it matters.)

So yes, BDSM does trigger me, because it looks similar to torture, animal abuse, that kind of thing. Obviously those who are into it believe it to be different, and if everyone involved agrees that they are consenting then fair enough, but I wonder whether in the heart of the sadist, it is a difference of kind or a difference of degree.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:25 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Masochists do not enjoy stubbing their toe. People who like to be slapped and called names during sex will not enjoy being slapped and called names by a stranger in a grocery store. These are context-specific practices. The vast majority of kinksters have no desire to experience pain or domination anywhere but within a very narrow set of circumstances, generally with people they know and trust, and the forms they desire these things to take are usually very specific. There is often planning and negotiation involved. "I want you to do these things to me and call me this, but I don't like being hit here."

I think some of you are just going to have to take our word for it that there are sane, healthy people who enjoy these things, and that your average BDSM scene is absolutely trivial to discern from real violence or abuse.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:26 PM on May 18, 2013 [37 favorites]


dephlogisticated, that is an excellent, coherent and concise explanation. Thank you.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:30 PM on May 18, 2013


I'm sorry to hear that aeschenkarnos. I think there's a very real difference between those who like BDSM and those Machiavellian bastards that walk over other people. Those people suck.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:30 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


1) A woman who consents to her partner beating her as an act of punishment, as she is sexually aroused by the act and feels that she deserves the punishment.

2) A woman in an abusive relationship who will not leave her partner because she finds him attractive and feels that she deserves the punishment?


In the latter, the woman does not have real control over the situation. The abuser treats her as he pleases. She has no recourse or "out". Abusers emotionally abuse and manipulate their victims, and they frequently control their finances as well. There is the very real possibility that she will be seriously injured or murdered if she tries to leave, or even just defy his authority. Women who stay in these relationships may do so because they literally, concretely, justifiably fear for their safety, feel that they are worthless in all respects, feel that there is no one to turn to, think that this is the normal way a relationship works, etc.

In the former, the couple has agreed to such an arrangement, and this agreement can be modified at any time. In a healthy relationship, there is no serious risk of murder. The vast majority of people in that universe are actually quite excellent at compartmentalizing the various parts of their lives.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see an interesting parallel in this discussion of informed consent and assisted suicide.

What. You understand that suicide is permanent, right? So double- or triple-checking is a good idea. Getting fisted by a guy in a panda suit is not in the same ballpark. At what point on the scale do we stop needing to make really really sure that people are really, really sure about decisions they say they are freely making? Are you sure you want to drink coffee this late at night? It will keep you up and you have to work early in the morning!
posted by desjardins at 5:38 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


aeschenkarnos that sucks and I'm sorry to hear that. Sadism is a weird word that people use in this world with a lot of baggage, which includes just being an asshole as well as the sexual kind. Some people that are into the sexy kind are also ALSO huge assholes. That double-sucks. But as dephlogisticated points out really well, most sadists would never be mean to anyone on purpose. If anything, they can sometimes be better than many straight people in relationships at knowing when they are being cruel.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish Forktine was still here he would know what to say. :C
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


There was a messy case in England over a decade ago where someone was injured in a kink session, and needed hospital treatment. Despite the patient's fervent assertions that the acts and results were consensual, the case went ahead based on (vaguely remembered details) of habeus corpus, the inability to contract out of law, and/or practising surgery without a licence.

Operation Spanner
posted by Artw at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would like to stake out some ground here and say that (IMHO) what is being filmed in this story is not BDSM. I'm not sure what it is, and I'd just as soon not come in contact with it because it deeply disturbs me, but it is not the BDSM community I have known. The Public Disgrace stuff, and pretty much all extreme porn of that variety, makes me twitchy and slightly nauseated.

That said; because I don't want to watch it, and I find it extremely disturbing that there is an audience large enough to make it a profit center, doesn't mean it shouldn't be made, if the actors doing it are autonomous individuals using full agency to make a decision to do it.

Still, I have to admit, I wish I weren't going to have to protect my kid from this type of porn, ya know? I'd have been fine with him discovering penthouse or whatever, but man, I really don't want my kid to ever think it's ok to treat another human like that.
posted by dejah420 at 6:07 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Getting fisted by a guy in a panda suit is not in the same ballpark.

Violent rape is arguably the second-worst crime we can think of, if we go by criminal sentencing guidelines. We occasionally put people away for life, just as we do for murder. So, yeah, I see parallels in a discussion about consent.

Maybe you're the one that shouldn't have too much coffee, huh? ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:09 PM on May 18, 2013


Who's talking about violent rape? All the pornographic acts mentioned in the article, including the panda gangbang, were specifically said to be consensual. What would it take to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that the participants are actually consenting? Two psychiatrists?
posted by desjardins at 6:19 PM on May 18, 2013


Here's a quickie article on negotiated consent for BDSM beginners that seems relevant to the discussion. (Meant to add it to my comment, but my edit timer ran out. )
posted by dejah420 at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2013


Pfft, everyone knows a straw man cannot give consent. If only he had a brain, then maybe he could remember the safeword.
posted by Coaticass at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


all the men were dressed as panda bears.

Huh I thought the porn I saw with a dude in a panda costume and a White Stripes soundtrack was a one-off.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:35 PM on May 18, 2013


I'm not sure why, but Penthouse seems more consistently misogynistic and dehumanizing to me than kink.com.Maybe because the first seems to have the degradation of women as a constant subtext, and the latter seems to go to some pains to contextualize it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:48 PM on May 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


aeschenkarnos : Obviously those who are into it believe it to be different, and if everyone involved agrees that they are consenting then fair enough, but I wonder whether in the heart of the sadist, it is a difference of kind or a difference of degree.

I read an article some time ago by a sadist guy struggling with those sorts of issues. As I remember he was the victim of a break-in of some kind, and punched the intruder, hard. The memory of inflicting that violence was a turn on for him later, because of the real intent to harm a non-consenting individual that he was able to let flow in that moment. For the same reasons, he had guilt about eroticizing the experience.

That's not exactly what you're getting at here, but I think the key here is that responsible sadists may still derive pleasure from non-consensual violence, but make the choice to channel that desire into other forms. Repression of sexual urges hasn't worked out so well historically, so I think we're better off in a world where consensual outlets exist for those who would be responsible about their sadism. Those who are not interested in those outlets or who would use them as cover for non-consensual ends are the ones who need reform and watching out for.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:35 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I buy the genetic argument except in a very indirect "raising probabilities" type of way, if only because people's sexual predilections are so diverse and specific, but I do think that sexual preferences are shaped very early on in development, before we are really sexual beings. Importantly though, I don't think this has to be because of some kind of serious trauma. Even totally normal childhoods are full of normal fears, fascinations, anxieties, attractions, repulsions, etc., and I think those often end up wiring some neurons together early on that get linked up with the sexual response during the rush of hormones that is puberty. Probably there's another round of associations that get stuck together during adolescence, too, when all of these systems are just coming online.

(Or at least, this is my submission to Journal of Unfounded and Probably Unfalsifiable Hypotheses)
posted by en forme de poire at 7:35 PM on May 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Discussions like this about porn, sex, sex workers, etc. always leave me conflicted. On one hand I'm all about freedom. People should be free to do whatever they want, including crazy kinky sex of any kind. On the other hand, it always makes me think of a routine by Chris Rock:

“Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I’m talking to my daughter, I’m looking at her, I’m pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole. I mean they don’t grade fathers but if your daughter is a stripper you fucked up!”

Stripper, porn star, sex worker. Somewhere along the line, I'm guessing someone fucked up.
posted by freakazoid at 7:36 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to discern the differences in a relationship where a woman consents to (x), and a relationship where a woman consents to .... (x) for sexual or other gratification?

She isn't really consenting in the first scenario, at least by the broader understanding of informed consent. She is pressured, scared, helpless or otherwise stuck in a situation where she continues to allow something to happen. But in the second situation she freely and willfully takes part in something.

Note that it doesn't matter what (x) is - bdsm, or just vanilla sex, or anything else, and you have the same scenario. What you're asking is the difference in consent between a woman who stays in an abusive relationship and one who is in a happy relationship.

I think what you are really having trouble understanding is how someone could freely and willfully consent to pain, but plenty of people love feeling things that are "intense" in some way or other. Think about how many people enjoy exercising or competing. Or watching horror films or tearjerkers. It is actually pretty common to seek out experiences other than just pleasure and comfort in general, so no surprise it extends to sexual relations.
posted by mdn at 7:47 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is probably the only thread where I can link the hilarious Ninja Turtles pizza bukkake video.

I feel like its problematic to sexulize sexual violence, like Kink.com does. But people are going to fantasize about it anyway, so they might as well make money off it. It's no worse than Princess Leia's slave bikini.

If sex is 'wrong' or 'degrading' than its because its a bodily act. And in that case all consensual sex is equally bad or good. The details don't matter.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:54 PM on May 18, 2013


I know plenty of people who would be totally traumatized by the shit described in this article, and I also know plenty of people who would be bored by it.

Yeah, but that applies to the new Iron Man movie or a trip to Starbucks.

Still, I have to admit, I wish I weren't going to have to protect my kid from this type of porn, ya know? I'd have been fine with him discovering penthouse or whatever, but man, I really don't want my kid to ever think it's ok to treat another human like that.

Or shoot a guy in the head, or blow up a building, but that stuff is all over the place.

Pissing on someone while calling them a slut, for example. All who are aware of this, whether as observers or participants, consider the act to be degrading.

I’m going to say no. Many people want to do it for that exact reason, but many wouldn’t consider it degrading.

I think it’s just really hard for people to wrap their heads around the idea that something that triggers strong negative feelings in them would not have the same effect on someone else. I think one of the most horrible, degrading things I can think of would to be on a reality TV show, yet I know people who wanted to do it voluntarily. I had to look at them differently after learning that.
posted by bongo_x at 8:08 PM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Avenger: In most actually abusive relationships, the woman has done everything in her power to make him stop and/or to leave and can neither stop him nor escape. It usually starts with a shove or slap and gradually escalates. Over time, she is increasingly cut off from friends, family, ability to make her own money, etc while being beaten more severely. By the time most women recognize it as abuse, it has already spun way out of control. Abusers routinely threaten violence or murder of her children or other relatives if she tries to leave. Typically, she has tried counseling, support groups, legal separation, etc ad nauseum.

I am not part of the kink scene. But the degree to which willing consent seems to be emphasized by bdsm communities/participants seems to exceed the level of consent involved in your "average" heterosexual relationship, not fall short of it.

Does that help?
posted by Michele in California at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2013


5 Ways to Make Sure That Your Porn is Ethically Feminist
posted by Artw at 9:28 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sexual squeamishness does women no favours - The opinions in this article are NSFW. Or breakfast. Or anywhere - that's the problem. Women aren't supposed to be filthy.
posted by Artw at 9:31 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Avenger, I am a man, stronger than my partner and financially secure so I could leave at any time. Yet I have voluntarily entered into a consensual power-exchange relationship with her. Sometimes I have bruises from our play. Am I being abused?
posted by false flag at 9:37 PM on May 18, 2013


Donna
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I imagine kinksters feel like justifying their fetishes over and over to the vanilla crowd is as frustrating as trying to pound a square peg into a round... "NO IT ISN'T, DON'T YOU GET IT?" said the sadist angrily.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:49 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]



Stripper, porn star, sex worker. Somewhere along the line, I'm guessing someone fucked up.


Totally. A huge number of people fucked up by stigmatizing certain kinds of sexual expression, and you're one of them.
posted by chrchr at 10:39 PM on May 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


Consider some degrading sexual act that you want to do or have done to you. Pissing on someone while calling them a slut, for example. All who are aware of this, whether as observers or participants, consider the act to be degrading.

In my opinion, if you like taking on pain and shame, and you swim in them enough, you become sort of existentialist about it. What I mean is you begin to see pain and shame as autonomic bodily responses to outside stimuli with no inherent meaning in and of themselves. The only meaning is what we give them. Judging pain/shame is like judging your pupils response to changing lighting conditions or your ear drums reacting to sound waves.

It's not like the vanilla world is a stranger to autonomic reactions, since it has mastered things like producing laughter, sadness and fear. And fear and sadness are expressly bad things most of the time, but we have whole genres of movies that exists to induce the two reactions. But the difference is those are considered normal to seek out and purposefully inducing shame/pain is not because it is certainly not everyone's flavor.

I guess what I'm saying is that I just have a radically different viewpoint on degradation.
posted by john-a-dreams at 10:46 PM on May 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty prudish by modern standards but growing up on the Internet I never realized Kink.com's videos were extreme or unusual in any way. If there's to be disgust at porn it makes sense to be disgusted at it as an industry, not one example of it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:57 AM on May 19, 2013


By that standard, the most immoral act would be having a child

I've known one person who seriously argued this; not sure if he still does.


I do. Having a child means creating a being who will suffer and die. It's tantamount to murder.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:03 AM on May 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The question remains. Are some kinds of sex degrading or immoral even if they're consensual? Unlike many conservatives, I don't particularly trust my disgust instinct.
It's really unfortunate that the specific example is so clouded by disgust in that case. This is a more interesting question that people are giving it credit for. This is a more interesting question, even, than Friedersdorf seems to realize.

Friedersdorf (and most of the people commenting in this thread) seem to see consent as a very black-and-white kind of thing. I'm not sure how much experience they have working at the edges of consent. For most people, those edges aren't realized until their children approach 18 (or whatever age their particular culture assigns). For me, I'm familiar with those edges primarily from dealing with mentally ill people and making decisions about whether I have the right to physically restrain them or give them drugs against their will.

The interesting thing about these edges are how blurry they are. For me, dealing with the edge cases made every case feel like an edge case. There is no hard line between the consent a ten year old can give and the consent someone sixty can give. There is nobody fully sane, and nobody fully crazy. That doesn't mean there's no difference-- it just means there's no hard edge. Consent changes continuously.

For someone denied the right to consent, it is always insulting. Denial of that right is what paternalism is. However, that doesn't mean that it's never correct to deny the right to consent. And of course, this continuous character of the ability to consent confuses things even worse.

Plenty of people writing have recognized that money affects the ability to consent-- so long as one needs money to live, can any relationship involving payment ever be completely free of coercion? But money isn't the only thing that works that way.

This is exactly why it's so important to many people to establish whether porn actors and prostitutes are drug addicts, whether they were sexually abused as children, etc-- we're trying to establish their ability to grant consent.
posted by nathan v at 1:13 AM on May 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


What an interesting subject.

I think a lot of people in this conversation who compare this issue to murder and suicide are doing it because they're trying to strip the over-confusing aspect of sex away from what they perceive to be a wider moral issue. I'm not convinced that this is a useful thing to do. The whole issue of sex and sexual attraction seems so embedded into these themes of kinkiness, morality and consent that I'd be tempted to put them in a case all of their own.

I think as well, that we're too eager to make people who are attracted to the BDSM lifestyle de-facto experts on consent. So (for example), if they haven't got an answer to absolutely everything, we consider that an utter failing. My suspicion is that there are perverts who have given this a huge amount of thought, but for the most part, people are just turned on by certain things, and they then try and fit and their own moralities into the same space as those things. This is going to fail on occasion, and we shouldn't be too judgemental when it does.

Of course - If we were to be just talking about consent, and we were stripping sex out of it, then I'd probably introduce the subject of boxing. Because here's something that is painful, barbaric, angry and happens within a highly structured consent based environment. There are plenty of calls to ban boxing, and most of these are from the sort of people who would be pro-BDSM. (And vice versa. Your archetypal 1950's father with a military background and a suburban lawn is going to want you with both your gloves and your trousers up.)

To use the parlance of this conversation, I'm sexually very "vanilla". I'm happy to talk about it, but the idea of any kind of violence in the bedroom makes me feel a bit sick, a bit distressed. I'm not judging the informed choices of others, but some of the stuff that turns you on makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. If there's space in this conversation for people to express one kind of visceral reaction, then there must be space for other visceral reactions too.
posted by zoo at 1:27 AM on May 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems like people here are arguing that consensual sex can never be harmful to anyone ever

I don't think so; everybody who has had an active sex life will know that sometimes you have bad sex for one reason or another, which can have an impact on the rest of your life. But in the context of the original post, people were talking about not sex in general, but whether or not certain sexual acts or situations could ever be consentual and pushing back against that.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:33 AM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


which in practice is going to mean a lot of bored people sitting through the extreme kink version of an airplane safety lecture.

Please take a minute to locate the nearest dildo, keeping in mind that it may be in your behind sorryyyyy
posted by en forme de poire at 1:33 AM on May 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I read such discussions with interest, but they always seem to polarize into the libertarian paradise versus the "it's just wrong" discussion. I don't think it's wrong, and I know a lot of people who participate, but it sure as heck isn't a libertarian paradise. Many of the people here talk about being a responsible partner and about paying attention to signals and signs. I respect your respect, honestly, but I've known so many savage, sociopathic, selfish jerks (and I teach middle school) and so many people who go along for the ride because they believe the jerks, and so many drug-affected self-destructive people looking for community of any kind, that I don't think it's all that tidy. But then I could say that about book clubs, or department meetings. People in groups are rarely all playing by the rules, and people do get seriously hurt.

Plus I've lived long enough to watch various sexual revolutions wash up on the beach, deposit flotsam and jetsam, and roll back down.
posted by Peach at 4:05 AM on May 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


But then I could say that about book clubs, or department meetings. People in groups are rarely all playing by the rules, and people do get seriously hurt.

But that's the thing, and that's why the "well, it just seems icky" crowd have nary a leg to stand on. The commonality between jerks is that they are jerks. There are kinky jerks, just are also jerks who make love in the missionary position in committed, monogamous relationships, just as there are also jerks who never have sex at all.

Likewise, there are people who engage in unhealthy, self-destructive behavior. Sometimes, that behavior that is considered to be inherently outside the bounds of what society deems to be in good taste (e.g. a porn actor who has serious unaddressed substance and mental health issues). At other times, that behavior is not considered to be inherently outside the bounds of what society deems to be in good taste (e.g. a person in an emotionally abusive relationship, with a soul-draining job, precarious finances, and socially masked chemical dependency).

Incidentally, it's also funny thinking about contractualism as it applies to sexy-sex stuff. I guarantee you that those porn contracts have been better considered and more carefully examined than most contracts of a technically more lasting nature. If you're signing up to do a porn shoot or whatever, then you are going to be very engaged in the discussion as to what you and will not allow to happen to your naughty bits. As part of the contractual negotiations, you will also always be offered several ways to "tap out" of whatever's going on. Yes, there will always be people who will enter into these contracts in bad faith, but these people are sexual predators, and they exist in the normal world as well - once again, the commonality between jerks is that they are jerks.

Contrast this with the seriousness that many people approach their contracts regarding their finances, and how many of these contracts may be effectively one-sided and irrevocable.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:28 AM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


So panda gangbangs are ok on Metafilter, but Plushie Schwartz gets deleted?

Mefi mods are unfair to bears!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:43 AM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


zoo: I'm happy to talk about it, but the idea of any kind of violence in the bedroom makes me feel a bit sick, a bit distressed. I'm not judging the informed choices of others, but some of the stuff that turns you on makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. If there's space in this conversation for people to express one kind of visceral reaction, then there must be space for other visceral reactions too.

This happens to kinky people too. :) I've been at parties where I've had to leave the room and go somewhere else for a while because I couldn't handle seeing the scene that was going on at the time. Despite knowing everyone involved and thinking them to be wonderful, responsible people, I wasn't able to watch what they were doing without being upset. I wandered back in later when they were cuddling and calming down and I was happier for it.

Kink isn't a switch with just 'on' and 'off' settings -- there are definitely things that people do that squick me. (And I've done scenes that have had other people leave the room too... different strokes for different folks.)
posted by fader at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


>> which in practice is going to mean a lot of bored people sitting through the extreme kink version of an airplane safety lecture.
> Please take a minute to locate the nearest dildo, keeping in mind that it may be in your behind sorryyyyy

Great, that's just great. I'm never going to be able to listen to the emergency evacuation(!) instructions without giggling ever again.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:38 AM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


What is the difference between (1) A woman who consents to her partner beating her as an act of punishment, as she is sexually aroused by the act and feels that she deserves the punishment? and (2) A woman in an abusive relationship who will not leave her partner because she finds him attractive and feels that she deserves the punishment?

As a woman who likes BDSM and who was in an abusive relationship with a guy that I thought was really attractive (which, by the way, is not why I stayed for three years) this is something I've struggled with and tried to figure out.

I think this is what it boils down to: during sex, I am entirely present. The person I am having sex with is doing those things to me because I genuinely like those things (and to be honest, my appetite for that kind of sex has definitely diminished since leaving my abuser, although I really liked it before I met him). When I am having sex with someone who isn't abusing me out of the bedroom, he's doing those things with me, not to me. We're doing them together.

My abuse seemed random. We were not doing it together. I would be washing dishes and then he'd be towering over me screaming because I was taking too long to wash a pan. I went out on one evening - the first time in three years that I left the house in the evening to be with people that were not him - and when I came home he was so ready for a fight (spoiler alert: he got what he wanted, as always). That's actually when I finally left. I had no friends, I couldn't do my job, I weighed under 90 pounds, and I was utterly miserable all of the time when I was with him.

I didn't consent to the abuse, even though I consented to being smacked around a bit between the sheets. There's a world of difference between wanting to be dominated during sex with another adult and having your entire existence chipped away from you.
posted by sockermom at 10:08 AM on May 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


The thing about pain, and fear, and having control taken away from you -- these aren't weird fringe desires that only a tiny subset of people have. I would say that the vast majority of people enjoy those things very much under the right circumstances. Otherwise we wouldn't have roller coasters and thrill rides and horror movies. Even pain! Everybody* has had the experience where they grin with satisfaction feeling the soreness of their muscles after a hard workout, or can't keep their tongue out of the sore spot in their mouth, or gleefully pick a scab. The difference between that and getting flogged is one of scope, not of kind. IMHO.

*virtually everybody
posted by KathrynT at 12:13 PM on May 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


And yeah, the difference between an abusive relationship and a 24/7 kink or TPE relationship is that the latter can safely end at any time. If an abused partner voices a desire for the abuse to stop, the abuser usually steps it up to make them change their mind; if a kink partner voices a desire for the kink to stop, that request is usually met with respect. Even if the relationship can't continue without the kink, it will end safely and considerately. That's a really big difference.
posted by KathrynT at 12:16 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Echoing KathrynT on the roller coasters -- I think there is a VERY EXACT parallel between roller coasters and masochistic sex. Except that roller coasters don't come with a safe word -- in fact, part of their whole schtick is that once started they can't be stopped. We put kids on roller coasters but freak right the fuck out about the idea that anybody, ever, anywhere, might have had a sex-pain Reeses Cup.
posted by localroger at 7:28 PM on May 19, 2013


I am pretty vanilla and not into bdsm. I loathe roller coasters. Bu I am okay with sex pain Reese's Cups and don't quite grok the freak out reactions.

But I spent years in therapy telling men of the cloth about being molested as a kid. So I have a high tolerance for talking about sex and shame and pain and yadda. It did not get a rise out of me to read the description of the porn shoot.

I think for a lot of people, their sexuality is a largely unexamined iceberg and they don't want to know that 90% of this mountain is under the surface, much less what it consists of. I suspect that is the real source of many of the freakouts. When I comment on that type stuff, it tends to get hugely negative reactions from all kinds of people. I generally try to be more circumspect these days.

To extend your Reese's Cup analogy: Some folks are allergic to peanuts and I don't want to be the person that causes them to be rushed to the ER because of getting a whiff of peanut butter.
posted by Michele in California at 7:49 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, Brent Scott now works for Kink and I suppose follows their negotiated guidelines. I have seen a video he co-dommed with Princess Donna.

kink dot com has hired this vile creep? And do they allow him on set? Wow...

Does anyone ask about the hypocrisy of that decision in the Reddit AMA? I can't be bothered reading the whole thing, but I'd be interested in any exchange around that particular topic.
posted by Chuckles at 8:35 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The other day I read this nice little synopsis of a certain aspect of pro-cycling: Jafferau climb reveals the madness and bravery of the Giro d'Italia. Considered making an FPP of it actually.

See, part of what cycling fans hold as a truly great accomplishment is enduring the intense torture of a really hard day, and maybe even coming through that with a win. I certainly do it.
posted by Chuckles at 8:57 PM on May 19, 2013


kink dot com has hired this vile creep?

No argument that PD is a vile creep, but he's a vile creep who had over 130,000 people sending him sixty bucks a month. If I was Peter Acworth I'd have hired him too. And, as I suspect Kink does, keep him on a fairly short leash.
posted by localroger at 5:46 AM on May 20, 2013


kink dot com has hired this vile creep? And do they allow him on set? Wow...

Uggh if anyone is still reading this thread, that link says just about everything you need to know about this situation, which I think could be summarized as: Brent Scott is a sociopath who is exploiting, manipulating, and emotionally and physically abusing and at times raping his performers.

So, there's an example of how "consent" can be wrong.
posted by crayz at 11:22 AM on May 22, 2013


So, there's an example of how "consent" can be wrong.

I don't think that review is particularly fair to the documentary, which I think does a very honest job of portraying the dark side of Insex, including people who were involved at the time expressing on camera how toxic the money was to important issues of consent and safety. A good 15 minutes is spent just on whether consent is real if you're only consenting because you fear losing an income source you can never replace.

Kink's model agreement explicitly prohibits most of the bullshit that PD got away with because he was a loose cannon at the helm of Insex. I can see why Acworth hired him; a lot of people like his artistic vision, enough that Insex grossed nearly $100,000,000 in its last year with no promotion or advertising at all. But I think there is no way Acworth would dare risking his relationship with the credit card providers by letting him run loose. He might still be a sociopathic asshole on his own time but nowadays if the girl starts crying, the scene comes to a stop. Says so in the contract.
posted by localroger at 11:46 AM on May 22, 2013


A good 15 minutes is spent just on whether consent is real if you're only consenting because you fear losing an income source you can never replace.

The same could perhaps be asked about marriage. Sexual relationships typically involve some sort of material or financial impact on a person's life. It is nearly impossible to entirely exclude those impacts. If it is enough money, people sometimes do things they would not "ordinarily" do. That can also be said of other jobs.

Not dismissing it as a concern. Just noting that it is hardly unique to porn.
posted by Michele in California at 12:18 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, I have a little time and two people have now brought it up, so I am going to explain exactly how bad that UnSexyFeminist article is. It isn't just misunderstanding or coming from an unappreciative place; it is a complete misrepresentation of the film.

I am just going to take one bullet point, because it's one of the worst looking, and point out that the rest of her bullet points are subject to a similar deconstruction:
Around the thirteen minute mark, a male Insex handler named Cyd Black (now an employee at Kink.com) shows appreciation for how “realistic” the photos at Insex are. The appeal here isn’t BDSM, necessarily - it’s the fantasy that everyday women have been abducted and abused.
This expresses a complete misunderstanding of how fantasies work and a misrepresentation of exactly what Cyd Black said. When Black elaborates, to paraphrase, that there were times he wondered if this guy was really kidnapping women -- it's a bit nervously, and in a tone that makes it clear he didn't ever really believe that, and would probably have been horrified to learn it was the case.

Fantasies are not politically correct and they benefit from exactness of representation, but also from the knowledge that the representations are made in a safe and consensual way. It is that Insex was achieving exactness of representation to push Black's buttons while obviously doing it in a professional context that Black was admiring. To suggest that he was hoping Insex was really a kidnap-rape factory is slander.
Around the 25 minute mark, the same man remarks that he was dating one of the models. He mentions that she did not actually enjoy BDSM, but that because she was an addict and needed money to feed her addiction, she would do anything in front of a camera. Black does not seem to see a problem with this.
Maybe she needs to watch the movie a third time, because she obviously missed the part where Spacegirl was dating Cyd Black, who was most certainly not paying her Insex scale wages to play with him. It's not that Spacegirl "didn't enjoy" S&M, it's that she was willing to go further on set than she would in private. The blogger has completely twisted Black's words here, making both his actions and the model's situation sound much worse than they really were. (She also forgot the part where Black explicitly states that Brent Scott didn't know Spacegirl was a junkie and so did not have an opportunity to decide whether feeding her habit was right, a factoid which doesn't advance her hatchet job.)

There is further discussion with other models about going further on camera, with some of it being driven not by the money but by social pressure, exhibitionism, and the camera. It's a very complex situation, which was obviously at times joyful for some people and obviously at times exploitative for others. This blog does nobody any favors by excerpting the worst bits, twisting them to make them seem even worse than they are, and acting as if everyone was cool with this distorted caricature she's created.

Anyway, there are many other mitigating elements she conveniently chooses to not notice in her cherry picking expedition. The impression I left the film with is that if Brent Scott was a monster, he was monstrous because he was like a little child who had found a source of great power. The model he had the affair with, 101, relates her parents' astonishment at his immaturity. The whole situation became monstrous because of the money and the lack of supervision of its god-child founder, who was prone to tantrums and nonsexually abusing his nonsexual employees (Black relates being trapped at the Farm for weeks without warning, knowing like the models who used a safe word he might be blacklisted from further work if he left the shoot to go home).

Oh, and I said just one point but have some lagniappe:
The same actress mentions that Scott doesn’t want women to get off on being caned, that he wants the actresses to be genuinely afraid and to think “why are you doing this, you sadistic bastard.”
("The actress" is Princess Donna, from the OP.) What the blogger conveniently left out here is the words look like because Donna was talking about the acting and "emoting" that Scott wanted to see, and the fact that Donna was laughing and mimicking a high pitched heroine in distress tone as she delivered the "you sadistic bastard" line.

Also she totally forgets Black saying "That's the money shot," to a video of a model who is clearly blissed out in the aftermath, having enjoyed it.

So, no, the blog post does not tell you what you need to know about that vile creep. The actual documentary is damning enough without being a one-sided hatchet job.
posted by localroger at 5:02 PM on May 22, 2013


Ugh, just past the edit window, it was Brent Scott who made the "money shot" comment.
posted by localroger at 5:08 PM on May 22, 2013


The blog post was selected because it confirmed that Brent Scott was the fucked up scum bag responsible for a particularly reprehensible video that was linked in a comment here on MetaFilter a couple of years ago. I couldn't care less about its accuracy or objectivity.

kink dot com hiring this guy probably can't be justified in any objective sense, but I'd like to hear what they have to say on the matter anyway. Certainly it needs a lot better justification than money.

Choosing not to address it is like Rob Ford choosing not to deny smoking crack.
posted by Chuckles at 9:10 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I couldn't care less about its accuracy or objectivity.

Thank you for making your position clear.
posted by localroger at 5:11 AM on May 23, 2013


You completely misunderstand. It was a convenient google hit on a very inconvenient search subject. It confirmed the single simple point that I needed it to. On that point it was accurate. Accurate and damning.
posted by Chuckles at 11:18 AM on May 23, 2013


No you were quite clear and I totally understand. You do not care that your reference is full of lies and misrepresentations and you don't even feel the need to defend or distance yourself from those lies and misrepresentations because it made the point you wanted. Got it. That will make it much easier to ignore you in future discussions.
posted by localroger at 6:48 PM on May 23, 2013


Oh, and on reflection: I've been on computer discussion boards since roughly 1988. I've seen a lot of shit that bothered me. I've quit several times in disgust. But in all those years I can't recall anyone ever claiming not to care about the accuracy of the sources they used. That is a level of chutzpah that just blows me away. I find your comment here far more shocking than anything Brent Scott ever did. He at least cared how it looks.
posted by localroger at 6:55 PM on May 23, 2013


So the point I was trying to get at (now possible because I've finally found the video)...

The excerpt linked at the end of this comment is about (and contains) a Brent Scott scene, right? How does a site that claims to value consent justify hiring this person.

When I first saw a kink dot com product I thought the intro and outro interviews were fascinating, and I wanted to believe them. I even wondered if they might be less exploitative than vanilla porn. When the novelty wore off I became skeptical, of course, but I still wondered. Learning that they have hired the Insex guy pretty much blows any question of the reality right out of the water though, doesn't it. I mean sure, I'm willing to listen to their justification if they care to give one, but it had better be something special.
posted by Chuckles at 10:43 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well Chuckles, if you had actually watched Graphic Sexual Horror instead of just reading a carefully crafted hit piece about it, you'd see that entire scene was embedded within quite a bit of context exploring how and why it happened. Taking it out of context and calling it typical is typical of the whole attitude of that awful USF post. Nobody argues that Scott did a lot of things he shouldn't have done, including himself, but the reason that clip was included in GSH is that it wasn't typical and quite a bit of consideration was given to the forces that made it happen.

The short answer to your question is that nothing like that is likely to happen at Kink because they have rules enforced by people other than Brent Scott. At Insex Scott was making it up as he went along and while he doesn't admit as much as some people would like, he admits to several ways in which he crossed lines because there was nothing to check him. His primary and central concern was what the product he was creating looked like to his members. Pretty much the central third of the film is about how that went wrong in various ways. If you think the safe word clip was bad you should see the busted water tank, which could have easily killed someone.

Anyway it's not hard to find that clip or verify what it is because last time I looked it was hosted at the graphicsexualhorror.com site itself, making it rather unnecessary to link to a mess of lies and distortions to verify that it's Scott in the scene. A person with half an ounce of curiosity could have quickly found that out since the hit piece does at least accurately name the film and Google leads straight to their website.
posted by localroger at 5:43 AM on May 24, 2013


Okay, a couple of brief things: for one thing, localroger, I'm not entirely sure what you mean when you call that Unsexy Feminist piece "a carefully crafted hit piece." It doesn't seem to be insulting the Graphic Sexual Horror documentary at all - in fact, it takes the documentary as entirely trustworthy, and pretty much just summarizes its contents. It says at the beginning that the documentary isn't "fun," but I gather most people would probably agree, and anyway it doesn't sound like it was even intended to be "fun." If that essay is a "hit piece" on anything, it's a hit piece on Brent Scott.

And to be frank I kind of agree with Chuckles here. I've only watched that clip, but in it at least two people are violated apparently without consent or at the very least with extremely limited or compromised consent. And yeah, I don't think this should be allowed. I think it should be prosecuted in a court of law. That would cause a chilling effect, discouraging commercial producers of this kind of pornography from continuing, making it very difficult for them to go on, and driving those who enjoy these kinds of scenes to do so in private. That is what I think should happen. Private things are private things, but when consent is violated in public view the law has an obligation to step in.
posted by koeselitz at 6:42 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem to be insulting the Graphic Sexual Horror documentary at all

Oh it's not insulting, it's merely full of lies and misrepresentations. If you don't understand what I'm saying I suggest you re-read my earlier comment where I deconstruct the first excerpt. The whole thing is equally disingenuous. It is most certainly not summarizing the actual documentary.

Now that I've taken the time to review the film again the extent of the lies is much clearer -- really a field of propaganda that could only have been laid out with such great precision by someone who had recently seen the film and consciously decided to subvert it. I have bookmarked that blog with a flag so that I will never make the mistake of taking a word it publishes seriously should I ever run across another link to it. That kind of lying isn't just accidentally using the wrong word a few times. It's carefully planned to push your buttons.

I've only watched that clip

Well at $20 or so the cost of the actual DVD seems really cheap to me to keep from making a totall jackass of yourself on the internet.

As for the scene in question, it was a live feed with thousands of people watching in real time and Brent Scott is indeed a narcissistic hothead and perfectionist who was concerned more than anything with how it was going over to the home audience. And it horrified a lot of the people who were there watching it in real time, including the documentarians, when he pressed the situation the way he did. But it was included in the documentary precisely because it was an outlier. It was something that shouldn't have happened, and something that shouldn't have been able to happen but did.

As to Chuckles' putative question of how Kink could possibly hire this vile creep, Peter Acworth himself at least indirectly addresses this in the documentary. So instead of asking loaded rhetorical questions one could without much difficulty get an actual answer with minimal reading between scenes.

The forces that encouraged and allowed Scott to get out of control at Insex are not present at Kink. The final third of the film explains why Acworth in particular is going to be very serious about that. So by giving him a camera Scott's fans get to see more of his output, his models are safer because he's not running things without supervision, and of course money gets made to help remodel Acworth's castle. Meanwhile Kink doesn't seem to do live feeds at all, and I'm sure this is one of the reasons for that.
posted by localroger at 7:27 PM on May 24, 2013


I don't know - the slapping scene was bad. The woman who felt she was being raped, and who was apparently being prevented from using her safeword (there was tape over her mouth) might have been worse. Maybe that gets contextualized in the documentary; I don't know.

Sorry, friend, but even if it were free I would not watch that documentary. Watching that clip was tough enough, and I kind of regret it - so if there's even thirty more seconds similar to that brief clip I don't need to subject myself to anything else for purely intellectual reasons. Honestly I'm taking your word for it that Kink.com is totally cool or whatever, fine. I do want to believe that's the case, and I trust your point of view generally here. I'm tempted to pursue a line of reasoning that says that, because it happened even just once, this one man in particular should be jailed and excluded from this business for life, but I'm not sure we entirely disagree on that point anyway. I get the feeling you're more concerned that the current Kink.com is being maligned as evil or violatory of consent, but since I'm not really equipped to discuss the current material Kink.com produces (or even the documentary here) I don't know that there's a lot to say.
posted by koeselitz at 1:31 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm tempted to pursue a line of reasoning that says that, because it happened even just once, this one man in particular should be jailed and excluded from this business for life, but I'm not sure we entirely disagree on that point anyway.

Brent Scott crossed a number of lines in the course of running Insex, but nothing he ever did was as evil as this suggestion. Everyone who worked with him knew he was a hothead, which is one of the interesting takeaways from the documentary.

The woman who said "it was kind of like being raped" went back for more money. The woman in the awful slapping scene went back and paid for her college education. The slapping scene was so awful mainly because she was afraid she wouldn't be able to do that if she stood her ground on her safe word. A major point is that people came to Insex because of their interest in S&M, but in important ways it became something other than S&M because of the money.

I'm sorry you feel that way about the film. The slapping scene is by far the worst, and while one could argue that including it was a mistake because it makes the whole thing so easy to vilify it's a signature of the film's honesty that it is there to be confronted. There is much more that is both revelatory and, at times, uplifting. Insex was about exploring extremes and while that can be dangerous it was also in many cases a good and even joyful thing.

What I am concerned about ultimately is the vilification of my sexuality. When your fetish demands that you put on the costume of a monster it's very easy for people who get squicked by what you do to say that you are a monster and start calling for your head on a pike. I watched this completely take over and subvert the entire feminist movement in the 1980's so that my wife actually stopped donating to organizations she'd been supporting since she was a teenager.

I recognize what that USF blogger is up to all too well and I have vowed to always call out such shenanegans. There is real evil in the world that is hurting people who didn't sign a contract and aren't being paid thousands of dollars for their bother. Your concern would be better directed in their direction.
posted by localroger at 5:18 AM on May 25, 2013


The woman who said "it was kind of like being raped" went back for more money. The woman in the awful slapping scene went back and paid for her college education.

This is a really offensive line of argument.
posted by crayz at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a really offensive line of argument.

It is not a "line of argument." It is what actually happened. The model who made the rape comment also says in the documentary that she was never that interested in S&M but did it for the money.

What is not apparent in the slapping video if you haven't seen the rest of the movie is that the model could have ended the scene, full stop. The reason she didn't is that she wanted to work at Insex again. Had she not cared about working for Scott in the future she could have simply gone "uh, uh, uh" again and been out of there. But everyone knew Scott would never hire her again if she did that.
posted by localroger at 3:55 PM on May 25, 2013


It is not a "line of argument." It is what actually happened.

My power company cut down a bunch of limbs on the maple tree in my backyard this week to make sure they didn't fall down on the power lines.

What? That's not germane, you say? No, it isn't. So why did I bring it up? For no reason whatsoever.

You, on the other hand, seem to be making a point when you bring up "They went back and did it again." That's a line of argument.

What is not apparent in the slapping video if you haven't seen the rest of the movie is that the model could have ended the scene, full stop. The reason she didn't is that she wanted to work at Insex again.

Wanting to work at Insex because it paid more because not everyone would work there might just be indicative that working there was shitty. You're in the victim-blaming territory of "If people don't want to be victims of domestic violence, why do they keep going back to their abusers?" here, you know.
posted by Etrigan at 5:41 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wanting to work at Insex because it paid more because not everyone would work there might just be indicative that working there was shitty.

Well it certainly wasn't for everyone. IIRC the going rate for a live feed (what the "slap scene" model was doing) at that point was four thousand dollars. A major theme of the documentary is that the money fucked everything up. And, to get back on topic, Peter Acworth of Kink seems to have paid a lot of attention to the lessons of how that worked. He is on air for quite a few minutes in Graphic Sexual Horror. And it is very clear that he is intent on learning from rather than repeating Brent Scott's mistakes.

Kink has a feature called The Training Of O ("TTOO") which is a four-day marathon for the models involved. I have read that it is a very popular thing among the models because for four days work they get $8,000. Think about people working at burger joints and lube shops to pay their tuition and tell me what a normal person would be willing to do to earn that kind of money that fast, totally legally and without strings.

Being the person with that wad of money in your hand, hiring the models, is a kind of power that I don't find sexually appealing but certainly exists and Brent Scott let it get the better of him. I think Acworth is much shrewder about this and that's why Kink's model contract is twelve pages long. Brent Scott was making it up as he went along; at Kink it's all planned in advance and it's Scott who will be out on his ass if he violates the terms.

And that's why I think Acworth was willing to hire Scott, which question was the original basis for this derail. It is truly amazing what you can learn when you actually go to the source rather than relying on an excerpt marked up by someone hostile to the content they're marking up.

Anyway, you cannot wave thousands of dollars in front of a college student for a weekend's work and not expect it to have a profound effect. That's not on the student, it's on the person waving the money to be responsible about how things are managed. Scott failed it on that score. But he's not doing that at Kink.

To be clear, the slapping scene could not happen at all at Kink. It happened because the model wanted her limits respected, which Scott had failed to do, but she also wanted to come back and work again. As Kink is managing things the question of working again would not have been an issue. She would have used her safe word without reservation and either picked up the scene or come back on a different occasion. Which is, of course, how Scott should have handled it. But in those days he was the boss and he was more concerned with real-time customer perception. Today, he's just an employee himself.
posted by localroger at 6:23 PM on May 25, 2013


Wanting to work at Insex because it paid more because not everyone would work there might just be indicative that working there was shitty.

Well it certainly wasn't for everyone.


Find me a workplace that you can't say that about. We shouldn't ignore people's transgressions just because they don't transgress against everyone. To paraphrase Jon Stewart, "What about all the people Brent Scott didn't abuse?" isn't really an excuse.
posted by Etrigan at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan, the girl in the horrible looking slapping clip was only put out of countenance because she was worried that she wouldn't be able to come back. Now maybe that was money or maybe it was pervosity; both were in play at Insex. But it remains a solid fact that nobody ever got abused by Brent Scott who didn't agree to be abused -- WATCH THE MOTHERFUCKING DOCUMENTARY the models all had to read their contracts on camera to verify their understanding. Nobody went to Insex expecting ponies and unicorns and pixie dust. It was an industrial themed torture shop and nobody got in without being made very, very clear about what it was. So Jon Stewart notwithstanding, normal perceptions of what could be considered contractor relations were not quite normal in that environment.
posted by localroger at 6:54 PM on May 25, 2013


Hey, you know that thing up there where you said you no longer need to take someone's opinion into account? "WATCH THE MOTHERFUCKING DOCUMENTARY" was that point for me.

*plonk*
posted by Etrigan at 7:04 PM on May 25, 2013


Nice. With that note I believe we can all agree the discussion is over.
posted by localroger at 7:13 PM on May 25, 2013


localroger: "It is not a 'line of argument.' It is what actually happened. The model who made the rape comment also says in the documentary that she was never that interested in S&M but did it for the money."

I don't really agree with what crayz said, but I think I understand where that was kind of going. The thing with it, I think, is that people often use the reasoning that "she stayed with the guy afterwards" to claim it wasn't rape, even though that doesn't have much to do with the rape question.

I'm pretty much certain you're not making that (disturbingly common) argument at all. You're not arguing that non-consensual sex isn't rape. You're arguing that someone can be interested in this kind of play and engage in it without being raped or being a rapist. (I think - please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

"What is not apparent in the slapping video if you haven't seen the rest of the movie is that the model could have ended the scene, full stop. The reason she didn't is that she wanted to work at Insex again. Had she not cared about working for Scott in the future she could have simply gone 'uh, uh, uh' again and been out of there. But everyone knew Scott would never hire her again if she did that."

Yes, this pretty clearly explicates what is most disturbing about it to me. People shouldn't feel compelled to keep going because they're afraid of being excluded. I get that the woman in the scene likes this kind of play generally, but the fact that she's worried that using her safeword will destroy her opportunity to explore it there (or to earn money there - that's the other big concern I have) is worrisome. But, as we've said, I think that's pretty much just down to the fact that Brett is pretty sleazy and is not honoring core concerns of the whole deal, like consent, during this particular shoot.

"What I am concerned about ultimately is the vilification of my sexuality. When your fetish demands that you put on the costume of a monster it's very easy for people who get squicked by what you do to say that you are a monster and start calling for your head on a pike."

This is a really good brief statement of what I feel like you're saying in this thread. And I totally get it - I agree that vilification of a particular type of sexuality is a thing to be avoided, and I understand that, in all realms of sexuality, people often tend to recoil irrationally in the face of things they personally might not want to indulge in. I do think this is a complicated and difficult case, because it really is fair (I think) to say that consent is a bright line that society at large has to draw, and the relationship some sexualities have with consent is complicated enough that those things are very difficult to do properly in public view (like on the Internet in porn.) That, I think, is tough to sort out. Because it sounds like, at least at Insex, part of the draw of this kind of play was getting very close to the consent line - and the line ended up getting crossed, at least once anyway. I appreciate that Kink sounds like they do things differently, and safeguards are much more prominent there, but people will always feel wary about it simply because dancing around the line of consent really does seem to be a big part of this type of play.

But I should say that, since it's not my thing, I may be totally wrong to characterize it that way; and I also should point out again that don't think the Insex situation is necessarily inevitable. Of course people can make this work safely and in a way that still safeguards the good of the participants.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyway, you cannot wave thousands of dollars in front of a college student for a weekend's work physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and not expect it to have a profound effect.

Etrigan, the girl in the horrible looking slapping clip

Surely it wasn't the way it "looked" that made her wish to stop the work abuse. It was the pain that she wanted stopped.

Please stop sugar-coating the issue. Commercialization of this "product" of nonconsensual violence, pain, and rape is a moral hazard.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 PM on May 25, 2013


I agree that vilification of a particular type of sexuality is a thing to be avoided

It's not about what consenting private couples do. It's about doing it as an entertainment business.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on May 25, 2013


I tend to agree on that last point, fff; even though I don't deny that this scene of sexuality might be able to exist in a healthy way, I have a hard time believing it can be viable as for-profit entertainment. And the thing is: when sexual abuse happens, and there's proof that sexual abuse has happened, in the form of a publicly-released video of the actual non-consensual sexual abuse happening, we're well into the territory where society is supposed to step in and do something about it. I think that has to be done with caution, with care, respecting the privacy of the people involved wherever possible and preserving a sense that people are allowed to do whatever they want to do as long as they're consenting adults in private. But, yes: this is a bright line society has to draw.
posted by koeselitz at 11:43 PM on May 25, 2013


koeselitz, I will step back into this just once to clarify that nobody -- absolutely NOBODY -- thinks that what Scott did in that live feed should have happened. This post-conversation started with Chuckles asking, based on having seen that clip pulled out of context and held up in a vacuum as Exhibit A, "How could Peter Acworth hire this vile creep?"

The clip was in fact excerpted from a larger work which contains answers to that question. The incident happened for reasons and those reasons can be addressed. If you look at the contract Kink uses -- it's online -- it's carefully crafted to make sure a situation like that can never arise. If Chuckles' question is a genuine question and not a rhetorical device designed to shut down thought and smash the conversation, it has a straightforward answer.

FFF: Surely it wasn't the way it "looked" that made her wish to stop the work abuse. It was the pain that she wanted stopped.

She did not want the pain to stop. She had signed up for pain. She wanted one specific thing, not to be slapped on the face, which was a pre-agreed hard limit. Scott stupidly forgot that it was a specific thing for her, and fucked up hard when she tried to call him on it.

Scott was more interested in preserving the appearance of the scene than reassuring the model that he knew he'd made a mistake and wouldn't do it again. He could have smoothed it over in a matter of moments but it would have looked like capitulation.

It's the money again. Instead of thinking of the girl he was thinking of the thousands of people who were paying him for a vicarious experience that wasn't supposed to include "oops I fucked up."

At Kink, however, the scene would stop. The contract is unambiguous on that. That scene is probably one reason some of the terms are in that contract. And that is the answer to Chuckles' original question, which is the reason we are here. Fin.
posted by localroger at 6:33 AM on May 26, 2013


What is not apparent in the slapping video if you haven't seen the rest of the movie is that the model could have ended the scene, full stop. The reason she didn't is that she wanted to work at Insex again. Had she not cared about working for Scott in the future she could have simply gone "uh, uh, uh" again and been out of there. But everyone knew Scott would never hire her again if she did that.

Then she couldn't really consent or enforce her own limits. If Scott was serious about consent and respecting his actors' limits, her telling him to stop slapping should not have consequences for future employment. Because what you're sketching is the same as companies allowing you to join a union, as long as you don't mind being fired.

It's also of course a part of a lot of sexual assault and rape cases that the victim goes along not because they're threatened with bodily harm right now, but with the consequences of refusing for their career, as we've seen in the UK with the Jimmy Saville abuse cases, as quite a number of seventies BBC stars turned out to have abused female fans and staff.

Even if there are adequate safety measures in place at Kink to make sure this sort of "mistake" could not happen there, the fact they hired somebody who already made these mistakes is a warning sign that maybe these consent issues are not so important if enough money is at stake...
posted by MartinWisse at 7:02 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


And that is the answer to Chuckles' original question, which is the reason we are here. Fin.

Pro cyclists have contracts that enforce zero tolerance for doping too, how has that been working? They don't just need a contract, they need real enforcement, and they need the appearance of strong adherence to the principal espoused. I can't believe you haven't thought about that.

If kink is doing anything more than the pre and post interview, and a contract you can download, let us know. Has kink admitted to any transgressions by actors lately? Have they penalized any? Have they fired any?

On the surface, the fact that they hired this guy appears to say they don't mind being associated with his past.
posted by Chuckles at 1:06 PM on May 26, 2013


If kink is doing anything more than the pre and post interview, and a contract you can download, let us know.

You might try reading the OP, which is quite detailed about how Kink handles their TOS. You did read the OP, right?

On the surface, the fact that they hired this guy appears to say they don't mind being associated with his past.

Every single thing regarding S&M has a surface which is meant to look horrible. It's easy to see Brent Scott as a monster because he spent ten years portraying himself as one with as much verismilitude as the technology allowed. I don't think he's a monster; I think he's an immature person who should not be in a position of leadership and who got in way over his head doing something he's not good at.

I'm sure Kink is quite proud to be associated with Brent Scott's past, considering that overall he is considered one of the greatest artists of his medium ever to ply the trade. If we had to burn everything ever created by a horrible person whose skill at interpersonal relationships was suspect we wouldn't have Picassos or iPhones.

In the documentary Peter makes it very clear how important it is to keep to the new rules, because his business's lifeline is very thin. If there is a singular difference between Brent Scott and Peter Acworth it's that Scott saw himself as an artist first, while Acworth as CEO of Kink sees himself as a businessman. Jeopardizing the agreement he has with the credit card processors would be business suicide on a multimillion dollar scale. Oh I am very, very sure that those contract terms are enforced, particularly when Brent Scott is filming. It's in Kink's interest to create things that look that they came from Insex, but very much not to repeat Insex's behind the scenes mistakes.
posted by localroger at 1:43 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kinky people have better mental health.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on May 30, 2013


Lack of consent makes it wrong, presence of consent doesn't make it good, or beautiful, or healthy or...

I don't ask you to find my sex life beautiful, I simply ask you to accept I'm going to do it, and trust my judgement as an adult- the alternative is never having physically enjoyable sex for me.
posted by Phalene at 5:26 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Related and I do not believe it has been previously posted:
We call it dick drunk
posted by Michele in California at 7:25 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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