The headline for the story in the NY Times about the killings yesterday was changed from “4 Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach” to “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach & Into Center of Mideast Strife”. Some people on Twitter have decided to help the Times adjust headlines for historical events. A few of my favorites:
- “Blacks drawn to public streets and into center of stop and frisk.”
- “Africans drawn to sugar and cotton plantations, and into decades of bondage and slavery”
- “New Yorkers Drawn to Towers, and Into Center of Mideast Conflict”
- “Jews Drawn to Camps, and Into Center of European Conflict”
- “Africans Drawn to Shore, and Into Center of Atlantic Travel”
Prude - a woman who won’t fuck you
Dyke - a woman who won’t fuck you because you have a penis
Slut - a woman who fucks other people and not you
Tease - a woman who won’t fuck you even though she smiled at you
Feminist - a woman who won’t fuck you because she has, like, thoughts and stuff
Bitch - a woman who treats you the same as you treat women
Radical feminists often argue that BDSM practice is about degrading, humiliating, violating and torturing women. It is patriarchal violence against women—whether it occurs in your bedroom, on your computer screen, or is simulated during your lunchtime book reading.
We do not blame women who participate in it, but we will analyze it through a feminist lens.
BDSM is the legitimization of domestic violence against women. Case in point: The Feminist and the Cowboy. Author Alisa Valdes wrote an erotic semi-autobiographical book about a dominant lover who violently f’ked her under the guise of consensual “play”. After her book was released, Vales wrote a blog post detailing the real life abuse that the “cowboy” inflicted on her. Though the abuse was framed as consensual in her book, her real life experience with the cowboy involved being raped, verbally abused, threatened, and abandoned once he discovered her pregnancy.
Similarly, during a recent BDSM play abuse session, abuser Steven Lock strangled a woman he had recently met on a dating site with a rope, chained her to his bed, lashed her 14 times, f’kd her, and then left her chained. She had to call a friend to help her escape, but Lock was cleared of all abuse charges once he claimed the assault had been “consensual”.
BDSM occurs in the context of patriarchal rape culture, where women always “deserve” the rape, violence, abuse and death that men dish out to them, and women who object to this treatment are called names, and dismissed out-of-hand.
One of the names we are called is “sex negative”, which as many of us know, is actually a code word for “frigid” where “frigid”, as many feminists know, is actually a pejorative referring to our refusal to please men. Radical feminists embrace our refusal to give a f’k about what men want, so we are happy to be considered prude if it means liberation for women.
We are also told that we are “slut shaming” when we object to BDSM, even though we know that no woman is a slut, and no woman is to blame for the ways that men abuse her.
We are told that we are “not respecting the agency” of women who “choose” to engage in BDSM when recognize that playing a submissive role in sexual situations is likely born out of Societal Stockholm Syndrome. We never, however, blame the women who participate in the practice– our blame sits squarely on the shoulders of men who dominate women.
In so blaming, we are told that we are “kink shaming” the men who like to beat and sexually torture women for fun. A good example of one such man is Snowdrop Explodes who was invited as a “BDSM expert” to talk about BDSM and abuse on the site Womanist Musings. It was revealed that this so-called “expert” had in the past blogged without apology about his plan to rape and murder a woman in his local park. These are the types of men we are “kink shaming”.
Women who suffer abuse from BDSM are often blamed for having not “said the safe word” when they express discomfort about the abuse they received, which is clearly a case of blaming the victim.
Often women who report on the abuse they experience are silenced, as Vales was when her agent forced her to take down her confessional blog post, or as her new boyfriend does by thanking the cowboy for “taming her”.
Radical feminist are infuriated by this normalization of male abuse of women. (Just this morning I saw a copy of 50 Shades of Gray for 30% off at the local grocery store ferchrissakes). But there is one objection sometimes brought up when discussing BDSM that I haven’t yet addressed. That objection is: What about the submissive men in BDSM? They consent to violent beatings and humiliation too, so how can you say BDSM is strictly violence against women?”
Firstly I’ll point out the fairly obvious: violence, humiliation, and abuse against any person is dehumanizing and wrong.
Leaving this point aside, however, I’ll note that the majority of BDSM occurs in a male-dominant/female submissive context.
In preparation for her documentary The Price of Pleasure, Chung Sun studied 50 of the 275 most popular pornographic films as noted by best-selling and most-rented list reported by Adult Video News. In the films, men being spanked constituted less than 3% of the total spankings that occurred onscreen. In fact,
“most of the targets of physical aggression were women, who usually responded with expressions of pleasure (encouragement, sexual moans, etc) or with no change at all in facial expression or interruption of action.” (quoted from Big Porn, Inc, page 172-173)
So we know that male recipients of aggression constituted less than 3% of the on-screen spankings tallied in the study. The fact that the vast majority of recipients of violence on screen in the most rented videos tells us something about BDSM. It tells us that BDSM is an instrument of violence, and the target of that violence is women.
Obviously, the small number of male submissives will never be able to “even out” the harms inflicted against women in BDSM. It is never okay for women to be abused by men.
Radical feminists know that patriarchal society is set up with a sex-based hierarchy, and that hierarchy is perpetuated using gender. Masculinity is the gender males are socialized into, and it consists in valuing domination, power, invasion, and taking-up-space. Femininity is the gender females are socialized into and consists in submission, powerlessness, having no boundaries, and taking-up-as-little-space-as-possible. As Lierre Keith puts it, “Gender is who gets to be human, and who gets hurt”.
In the context of life as a man in the dominator class, a small percentage of men may wish to “try on” what they perceive to be a feminized role during sexual interactions. They may find themselves turned on by imagining what it might be like to be sexually terrorized. They may get a boner from temporarily adopting the submissive—aka feminine—role. These submissive roles are often explicitly feminized, and submissive men are often referenced as “sissies”– a word used to humiliate men by implying that they bear some resemblance to their much-despised counterpart: woman.
But radical feminists know that “trying on” a submissive role is the action of a supremely privileged individual, who, as a part of his Sunday-Funday-f’k-fest, wants to “spice it up” by having his nipples tweaked. But he can always put away his ball gag and join the world of men and masculinity. We women, however, cannot escape the day-to-day sexual terrorism that he vacations in, because it is our lives.
The existence of male submissives in BDSM practice does nothing to excuse, nullify, or disprove the fact that BDSM is violence against women. We know that liberated sexuality does not follow the patriarchal model of dominance and submission, and that BDSM is the normalization of domestic violence.