Tag Archives: disapproving glares

Submission, power, and sexism (and the importance of letting go)

26 Feb

A great post by one of my favorite BDSM fiction writers, Annabel Joseph (and seriously, if you’re looking for some good M/f erotic writing with great characters, look no further), recently got me thinking again about why submissives get such a bad rap in our (and by that I mean US/North American) culture. Because, really, submissives get no respect. You see it all the time: the word “submissive” is said with a sneer or a pitying shrug – it’s understood as a synonym for “subserviant” or weak, and it’s assumed that the person is acting that way because they are either oppressed (they have no choice but to be submissive), lazy (they’d rather let someone else do all the work) or stupid/ignorant (poor girl, no one ever told her about feminism!).

I really think it comes down to two things: power and sexism.

First, sexism: submission is seen as a feminine trait in our culture. Saying this gets into touchy areas. So please not that I am not saying that submission is inherently feminine, or women are inherently submissive – just that submissiveness is a trait that is assumed by culture to be feminine. And our culture does not value feminine traits or behaviors as much as masculine traits or behaviors. You can see this in the wage gap: traditional “blue collar” jobs like plumbing and auto repair are paid much better than “pink collar” jobs like child care. This is a case where you can see how the literal value of “feminine” traits are less than those of “masculine” ones.

So is it any surprise that submissiveness would be devalued, sneered at, pitied? Of course, this makes it sting all the more when that disdain comes from a fellow feminist. But of course, feminism is never going to be totally separate from the culture that made it, so these subtle ideas about value creep in.

It can be particularly insidiuous, too, because most modern third-wave (or are we now on the fourth wave?) feminists will not explicitly shun consensual BDSM play. If directly challenged, most will say “well, of course you have the right to do whatever you want with your partner, go on with your bad self!” And they will mean it! I think most feminists I know would agree that consensual BDSM is just fine.

But once you get outside the realm of once-in-a-while-for-some-spice dominance and submission, things get hairier, and I think that’s where power comes in. It seems like, whenever I discuss relationships with my friends, it always comes down to power. It’s good to have it, and bad to not.

Which, again, is a reflection of our larger culture. We value the “winners” – the ones who beat everyone else, shout the loudest, make the most money. The measure of success is how much power you have – so no wonder those who would give up power willingly to someone else are disdained.

You even see the devaluing of submissives and submission in the BDSM community. There’s been a lot of good stuff written about this subject, but one of the best is this essay about domism. And one phenomenon that always amused me is how submissives – on fetlife, in blogs, in real life – will trip over themselves to insist that they are not submissive in their day-to-day lives. And really, with that sort of cultural baggage, can you blame them? I’ve been guilty of it myself.

One thing I recently realized was that I came to accept my own submissiveness around the same time that my career started really taking off, after literally years of struggle, false starts and frustration. At the time, I thought it was because I was feeling more successful and confident that I was able to indulge my submissive side. And I think that was part of it.

But the ironic thing is that my career only really started taking off when I relaxed about it. Someday I hope to write more about this process, but it’s a long story and this blog post is already getting long enough as it is. Let’s just say that, after years of perfectionism and holding myself to impossible standards, I finally had a breakthrough moment where I had to accept my “imperfections.”

That was when things in my career started to fall into place, and when I started to accept my submissiveness. And I think part of the problem was that I had so internalized all those cultural messages about submission – that it meant I was weak, that no smart, feminist man would ever respect a woman who wanted to submit. But once I was finally able to accept that I was never going to be this ideal self I had in mind – and that that ideal self was kind of a bullshit, no fun, obnoxious person anyway! – I was able to think more clearly about what I actually wanted, and open up to the idea of living out my fantasies.

So I’m just going to say this straight out: if you are a feminist, please stop dismissing or otherwise shaming people who choose to be submissive. Because when you do so, you are reinforcing sexist, patriarchal ideas, and that is not cool.

I am not “broken” – and neither are you

28 Dec

Over the last few days, I’ve gotten dragged into an internet conversation about the “health” of kinky sex. I’m always loathe to get into these debates, because it’s a little bit like answering the question “when did you stop beating your wife” – once the discussion has gone there, you’ve already lost.

To be honest, I’m still always shocked when I come across people who believe kink is inherently unhealthy/degrading/antifeminist/otherwise fucked up, but I guess I shouldn’t be, because that’s how I used to feel on some level.

So I guess it bears saying: there is nothing inherently unhealthy about BDSM activities. And there is nothing inherently unhealthy about people who are into BDSM. It doesn’t mean we had some sort of trauma in our childhoods (of course, if a kinkster does have childhood trauma, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be into BDSM, either). It doesn’t mean we have some sort of mental illness or other pathology.

And I’m not just saying that, either! The research that has been done on this topic backs me up. The excellent blog Kink Research Overviews has a great roundup of research regarding kink and correlation with psychological disorders – and basically finds no evidence. The literature review I linked in my post on rape fantasies also shows that there is no evidence for a correlation.

But you know what? I’m not happy simply pointing out that I’m not “broken.” Because it’s not just that my sexuality doesn’t hurt me – it actually makes my life better! So much of my life has improved since I decided to accept my sexuality. Obviously, my sex life has improved – but so has my career, my health and my relationships.

So, no, I am not broken, and neither are you. Anyone who says differently is, frankly, ignorant.

Rape Fantasies

10 Sep

This post is about erotic rape fantasies. Although real rape is not discussed other than in passing, I’m putting this below the fold for those who prefer not to read about sexual assault.

Continue reading

With sex educators like these ….

2 Aug

When I wrote my epic-length post about my crush on James Deen, I talked about the one thing that makes me a bit uncomfortable about showering him with adulation, his participation in Brazzer’s Porn Star Punishment series. Well, it turns out he’s officially stopped working with them, which is great. As I said in my post, I find “punishment” scenarios hot (I am kinky, after all!) but I felt that series really crossed the line into slut-shaming, rapeyness, and non-consensual objectification.

So I was prepared to be open-minded when I came across this post criticizing “punishment porn”  that someone posted in the Submissive Women group on fetlife. Then I read this:

Sure, some of us like a little smack on the bum sometimes. But find me a woman who enjoys having a man’s *meat* forcibly shoved into her mouth to the point of gagging and I’ll show you one who is nothing but a figment of a disturbed man’s twisted imagination.

Here all this time I thought I was a sentient being, even a complex person with thoughts and desires all my own, but it turns out that all this time I’ve only been “a figment of a disturbed man’s twisted imagination.” Well, I guess it’s better to know now. All that time spent getting degrees, paying bills, working at my career – all that time, I could have been servicing the man who dreamt me up! What a waste!

And then there was this, from “sex educator” Jamye Waxman:

Of course if two people generally love being punished, beaten, whatever, who am I to stop it? But I ask this: If you love it, why? That’s what I want to know.

Well, first, I’m a bit baffled that someone who works as a sex educator and whose bio lists her as having worked for Babeland (the famously woman-friendly, sex-positive sex shop), being president of a group called Feminists for Free Expression, and having produced porn herself has no idea why someone might enjoy being “punished, beaten, whatever.” It frankly seems disingenuous and a thinly-disguised way of saying “ew, gross, how could someone want that?”

But Jamye, if you actually want to know the answer to that question, there are lots of places to learn that answer. The blogroll on the right side of this page is a good place to start. You could read one of the many, many books about BDSM sexuality. You could, I don’t know, actually talk to some of the people you’re mocking, and ask them, and then actually listen to their answers. I’m guessing from your bio that you actually know many such people.

I’m even happy to talk anytime and tell you why I like it, if you are actually interested in listening. But I will tell you right now that it’s not because there’s something wrong with me or how I was raised.

It’s one thing to be all “OMG, gross” when you’re talking with your friends, but when you’re being interviewed and you’re calling yourself a sex educator, that kind of shaming language is unprofessional, to say the least.

She goes on to say this:

“I can’t say what is sexy and arousing for every individual, but I do see sex as something pleasure based with a limited infusion of pain, and even that pain should be pleasurable,” says Waxman. “As someone who was spanked loads as a child, I don’t get off on being smacked around and honestly find it degrading. I’m curious if there’s a lot of this porn where she’s doing the slapping, but even when I have seen women emasculating men, it doesn’t work for me. Sex is a balance, and there’s no balance when someone takes away your power by such a jarring jolt of force. I prefer loving and sensual to this type of brute force. I got into the industry to make more of the types of erotica that I’d watch and learn from.”

Again, I’m baffled that this is coming from a “sex educator.” Jamye, you are absolutely right that you can’t say what’s sexy for other people. It’s great that you know what you’re into – ” sex as something pleasure based with a limited infusion of pain, and even that pain should be pleasurable” – but do you honestly not understand that others might actually find things pleasurable that you do not?

Some of us actually enjoy having our “power taken away by a jarring jolt of force” (in the context of a consensual, mutually satisfying sexual relationship built on trust). Some of us dream about it. And of course it’s ok that you don’t get off on being slapped or seeing other people get slapped – that’s your right.  As a sex educator, you of all people should understand that sexuality is incredibly diverse and that the healthy, satisfying ways people can express their sexuality are endless.

It’s one thing to have a problem with a certain kind of porn. I agree with a lot of the feminist critiques of mainstream porn. But when you start mocking, belittling and even erasing women with different sexual interests than yours – well, that’s just not right. And when you do so while calling yourself an educator? Completely inexcusable.