jump to navigation

Sadism Unmasked September 24, 2006

Posted by angryscientist in Feminism, Uncategorized.
trackback

Well, well, some sadists were suckered into responding to a lure, and now scream bloody murder about their fantasies seeing the light of day. I have no sympathy for men who take pleasure in hurting women, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to hear, in this one thread, why a man feels that way. Bear in mind in this court of public opinion, what you say will be used against you. I am angry that a brave woman would receive combative comments for blogging about this. It is not news to me, nor to women, that many men feel this way, but usually it is expressed in private or pornography, personal fantasies not exposed to harsh light. I have a different point of view on women, in general, and also as related to my lust. There is nothing better for a man than the passion of a woman in love, in my book. This appears not to be anywhere in the book of such men. How common sadistic ideas on male lust are as opposed to mine, I could not say, but such attitudes are accepted as a normal part of male sexuality. Some men prefer to get women wildly passionate, as opposed to linking their sexuality to subordination in any sense, not merely extremes such as submission to cruelty. Other men may not know about the wild side of women, but just want sex, not to hurt a woman physically. Psychically is another story; few men have unlearned enough of their cultural conditioning to see women as inferiors to avoid hurting a woman in that sense.

The twisting of consent in the S/M scene is a huge can of worms. This helps men justify their lust for cruelly abusing women. This is what I would like to discuss. How do you justify this form of lust, men? I would also like to discuss why a woman would seek such abuse. I think such women need help, not abuse. This blog is loosely protected by snagging certain words or phrases for moderation, also a spam filter, so no need to try again if you don’t see your post.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. Corneilius - September 26, 2006

Hi Angryscientist, I read your comments on womenspaces’s blog.
As someone who has spent the last few years trying to discuss this very issue with sadist’s I can only wish you luck. In my experience they will even take exception to being described as sadists. They use a wide range of language (BDSM, S&M, D/s, even kinky) to conceal what it is they are really about.

Next you will find that you are wrong. Wrong to ‘judge’ them, wrong to categorise them, wrong to hold any opinion that is critical of them.

Then you will find that they are right, but you just don’t get it yet. You don’t ‘understand’ you are ‘narrow minded’ you are ‘judgemental’.
Finally if they are not able to convert you, they will shun you.

Sadism has its own milieu where sadists and the people they abuse interact. This milieu is very closed; they do not like uncomprehending outsiders stumbling onto their turf unless they are candidates for recruitment. It’s in this atmosphere that the sadistic creed festers. Because there is no outside influence, no one to shine the harsh light of criticism onto the activities, they develop dogma.
Don’t get me wrong I am not excusing them they are still abusive sadists, but in an open community they would soon realise there is something wrong with them. In this closed society because they only discuss sadism with other sadist’s, their attitudes worsen, and their belief in their own superiority (which I believe is heightened in a sadist already) spirals out of control. This belief in the justness of the cause mirrors a fundamentalist religion with its intolerance of opposition, and its need to evangelise.

It’s a bit like trying to get conspiracy theorists to understand that the world is not full of secret societies intent on overthrowing government, and setting up a new world order. You can bombard sadists with facts and reasoned argument but in the end they just don’t get that abusing another person to satisfy their own lust is actually very sick.

Anyhow that’s my opinion, I wish you luck, and I hope you do not mind if I follow your experiment to see what the sadists have to say for themselves, and can I just say that you are right, there is no more wonderful thing than to be passionately loved by another person.

2. angryscientist - September 26, 2006

Hi Corneilius. I have no idea if anyone will take up my challenge. Nobody showed up to defend rape, but that was no surprise. For awhile nobody showed up to defend Camp Trans, but that sure changed in a hurry. I think it is worthwhile to issue such challenges even if they go unanswered. Rapists and sadists know who they are, even if they are unwilling to face their sickness. If they are unwilling to defend themselves against challenge, I think that is very telling of the weakness of their position.

Anyway, I do not mind at all if you follow this experiment, or jump in. I think you know more about this subject than I do. Also, I should apologize for the way I phrased my remark about love. I think it fell into the trap of heteronormativity. Though I have some awareness of the traps of male conditioning, I am not immune to them, as was kindly pointed out to me in the thread on womensspace.

3. Corneilius - September 27, 2006

Hi Angryscientist

After I replied to your comment yesterday I went on to read your discussion with Stacy M. I recognised pretty much the same arguments I have encountered with sadism i.e. narrow minded/ judgmental/ intolerance of any other opinion blah blah blah. All the key words are there.
I was wondering if this language and argument is symptomatic of specific campaigning groups; transgendered women and sadistic abusers are particular niche campaigns that have found a constituency since the advent of the internet, and are trying to overturn some core principles that society holds. Similar to scientology or the other new religious movements.
I have never heard of the festival that is causing so much controversy, but I am sure that women will be able to sort it out for themselves.
One thought that I had which amused me. Stacy said she is a transgendered lesbian, which means she was once a he. I wonder how many men would sacrifice their ‘knackers’ just for the chance to sleep with a lesbian, or several lesbians for that matter. I am to attached to mine, but I think I know testosterone-fuelled men who would jump at the chance.

I am not a trained scientist but I enjoy employing science’s tool of scepticism. I am also interested in bits of psychology, specifically the motivations and tools used by cults to recruit and control adherents, and bogus psychotherapies.

4. angryscientist - September 28, 2006

Stacy’s last comment sounded like a goodbye, but who knows. Probably thought my last question was more of the same going around in circles. Some transwomen seem to enjoy that kind of thing, especially those haunting the Michfest board. Funny you should mention cults and fundamentalism as comparable to sadist and transgender theory. I have theories about belief systems that lead me to a similar conclusion, though I think some people snagged by fundamentalist religions or cults are naive, as opposed to true believers, so they can develop an independent mind, question the dogma, and eventually wake up and renounce that life. This is probably especially true of people who grow up not knowing anything else. That dynamic might also apply to masochists, but I think something else is going on in the minds of sadists and transpeople.

Straight male sexual fantasies about lesbians are commonplace. Whether that is enough to drive transwomen to such drastic measures I couldn’t say. I would think there must be more to it, but I am not in their shoes, despite discomfiture with cultural models of maleness from early childhood. I find some things about being male to like, just not being like typical males.

I hope women will be able to defend Michfest. Despite my argument about freedom of assembly, a concert might not enjoy that protection if it comes to a lawsuit. To me it is a matter of principle to respect women’s boundaries, but under the law as it stands, that might not be enforceable. I can’t think of any other reason that Lorraine was allowed to buy a ticket. It may not be a matter of simple lust, but I do think those determined to ruin Michfest greatly enjoy all the pain they are causing for women, knowing full well those women would not consent to their presence.

Consent is supposed to mean something, but some rapists seem to see no problem with obtaining consent by trickery, wearing down resistance, or taking advantage of a power imbalance. I think sadism depends on a peculiar facet of our sick culture, that some people learn to enjoy slavishness, or getting roughed up. I know a little about things like brainwashing and the Stockholm syndrome, techniques of convincing people to act against their best interests, and I also know women are conditioned to serve men regardless of how badly men treat them. Still, to enjoy masochism boggles my mind. There is no way a masochist can give informed consent, no more than a woman terrified or browbeaten into submission to rape, or a person committing suicide. These are instances of consent due to lack of apparent alternatives, the antithesis of informed consent.

5. nexyjo - September 30, 2006

“I wonder how many men would sacrifice their ‘knackers’ just for the chance to sleep with a lesbian, or several lesbians for that matter.”

i’m curious why you would assume that a man would go through transition simply to have sex with lesbians. or is it that all men are driven soley by their sexual desires?

6. angryscientist - September 30, 2006

Hi Nexyjo. I’m not sure why Corneilius thinks this is likely, but there is a difference between wondering and assuming. No, not all men are driven solely by lust. I don’t know if any men are driven solely by lust, except perhaps as to how they relate to women. Even so, male lust gets twisted by so many factors prevalent in this culture, it is hard to determine what, if anything, is driven solely by sexual desires.

For instance, a man’s desire to dominate a woman perverts his lust, but in my eyes, that desire need not have anything to do with pure lust. In many if not most men, those desires get twisted together to such an extent, it is hard to separate them, but male lust can exist and flourish without any desire to dominate.

Maybe Corneilius will stop by and answer you. Needless to say, I can’t speak for him.

7. nexyjo - September 30, 2006

thank you for your insight, angryscientist. yes, i’d agree that wondering and assuming are different. i’d also suggest that because of the way corneilius framed his question, he is using the two terms interchangably. perhaps he will stop by and clear that up for me.

8. Corneilius - October 2, 2006

I cant reply to nexyjo without getting a blogger account, so with your permission Angryscientist I will reply here

In response to your Question, I made a joke about certain men who go to extreme lengths to full fill their fantasies.
I am sure you are aware of people who are like this; I call them DRH (d**k rules head). I am not talking about all men, just certain types of men. My joke implied that some extreme heterosexual men would undergo castration, and dress like a woman, to full fill a fantasy of sleeping with a lesbian.

I thought it was amusing anyhow.

Hope that answers your query

9. nexyjo - October 3, 2006

yes, it does corneilius. thank you.

i would like to add however, that in all my experience interacting in the trans community, that i’ve never met even one person who “would sacrifice their ‘knackers’ just for the chance to sleep with a lesbian”. so i didn’t find the joke very funny. i hope you’re not offended.

10. Pete - March 14, 2008

Dear Irate believer in Knowledge,
I do not trust my mind; if I know anything: it is that I have a boundless capacity for self-deception.

Already inundated in preconceptions; in the depths of my sub-conscious: I make assumptions in my wondering. My mind is not clear, for Wondering without presupposition.

I would be interested to read your reckoning of female sadism. For example; there a many women, who as professional dominaxtrices; exploit male masochism.

11. angryscientist - March 24, 2008

I have no idea what the above comment is supposed to mean. I’m not even sure if it’s supposed to be some kind of joke. Regardless, Pete, I’m not interested in discussing female sadism. It’s too rare, and drawing analogies to male sadism wouldn’t make any sense. Also, I have no way of relating to what would make a woman sadistic or a male masochistic. All that is alien to me. I don’t enjoy being cruel, or being on the receiving end.

12. Mark - April 20, 2008

So you admit your trying to make write about something that is alien to you. That tends to be unreliable. And your willingness to ingore female sadism further weakens your argument.
But, some of the things you say are relevent.
How do I justifisy my lust to abuse other? I don’t think its a problem, as long as I don’t act on them, or if sadist live out their needs on masochists. I also don’t think such woman need clinical help. They have higher freshholds of pain and find the sensation exilerating. Being a masochist aswell I can understand this. the emotional side is harder to explain, but it amounts to the same thing.

Having said that, I can’t pretend that sadism isn’t a more dangerous “hobby” than other sexuals practises. And sadist can be the worst people in society, but not inheratantly. I dont believe your article is going to do much other than have “normal” woman agtrying with you and sadists angry at you.

13. suomynonA - May 2, 2008

womenspace is a radical feminist and I’m not at all surprised people complained about her blog. It is blatantly sexist and outright offensive.

First of all, not all men and in fact most men are not sadists. I would even go so far as to say most sadists are not at all abusive, hateful, and blatant attention whores like the [178] men who responded to the ad on craigslist.

Second of all, some people are into weird shit. Things that the majority of people (men AND women) do not find attractive or even find unusual or wrong. Homosexuality, Foot Fetish, the list goes on. These are things most people agree at the very least are unusual or odd. But that doesn’t mean they deserve to be ostricized, pointed out, ridiculed or harassed any more than any other person.

That’s not to say that the men that responded to that ad should not have been noticed, but that is an entirely different issue. Those men show a severe case of sadism, some of them even talking about making the women bleed or causing critical physical damage to the woman. That does not represent all sadists. I can safely say that many sadists have very small cases, for instance an affinity for biting or spanking the female during sex. Most men have a desire to be the dominant one during sex in some way (excluding masochists and men attracted to being dominated in some way, though I would say that is a minority), even if that means being on top during sex. It is not only unfair to group all sadists together with the men who responded to the ad (many sadists would be sickened by causing severe physical or mental damage to their partner and are only interested in milder forms) and also to group all men together with sadists.

Also, some of the men mentioned punishing the female if she did not please them. Most sadists do not desire a nonconsentual relationship or a relationship where the girl does not enjoy the pain being inflicted on her (Sadism & Masochism), nor are they necessarily sadistic, dominating, sexist, or perverted outside of their sex life.

14. angryscientist - May 2, 2008

Merriam-Webster defines sadism:

1: a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others (as on a love object) — compare masochism
2 a: delight in cruelty b: excessive cruelty

Who’s grouping all men together with sadists? Did you read my post? Mr. backwards Anonymous, you seem to be defining words in an unusual fashion, from sexist to sadist. Obviously there are degrees of sadism, ranging from sadistic murderers and rapists to garden variety men who enjoy inflicting relatively minor pain or humiliation on women. Who’s saying otherwise? The principle, however, is as you say, the common phenomenon of men being dominant over women. I say, that principle is in itself destructive to women and unhealthy for men. A woman who enjoys that is getting off on her own degradation. This is analogous to the Stockholm Syndrome, to my way of thinking.

Womensspace is blatantly sexist and outright offensive? Funny, I rather enjoy reading that blog. I guess that makes me sexist as well? It’s a peculiar, but common, twist on logic, how sexist men twist words around to project their disease on those who suffer from it.

15. Anonymous Sadist - May 5, 2008

You may not be grouping all men with sadists, but you are certainly grouping all sadists with men.

You do realise that there are plenty of female sadists in the world too, yes? And male masochists, yes?

Speaking of masochists, it may be odd for you to learn that there are in fact plenty of women (and yes, MEN) who would love nothing more than to be tied up and spanked. So why are you not ranting about these “sick pervertions” in these “broken women’s” minds?

Because your justification for this would most likely be considered sexist itself.

BDSM is the outcome of simple, everyday sexual fetishes. Contrary to popular belief, sadism does NOT mean going around raping and assaulting others, and I find it laughable that you believe this. It is the mutual concented sexual act between two or more people, that is all. You have no business telling these people what their lusts should be.

16. angryscientist - May 5, 2008

There’s nothing simple about BDSM. It’s so twisted up with this sick culture, there’s no untangling it. I said above I’m not interested in discussing female sadism, because it’s too rare and too different from male sadism. I’d rather not call female masochism perverted, because that blames the victim. Women have been always been expected to endure pain. Not so long ago, the idea of females enjoying sex was considered scandalous or totally besides the point of sex, which was all about male pleasure. In some cultures, this still holds; in some cultures, women are sexually mutilated to ensure sex is painful for them. To these cultures, this is the outcome of simple, everyday customs and morality. Does that make it right?

17. Anonymous Sadist - May 6, 2008

You’re very right, cultures that demand women take pain is, mutilate genitals and generally be on many different levels. But I don’t think it is a strong analogy to compare a fetish to nutcases in those slightly more extreme countries.

Sadism doesn’t mean chauvinism, rape and sexism. As a male sadist myself, I cannot deny that I enjoy the idea of dominating, tying up and generally being “above” my women when engaging in sexual acts. In fact, I am in a relationship at the moment with a woman who absolutely cherishes the idea of being the M. It is 100% consentual, 100% loving and, we both agree, fun.

Because the thing is, from my experience, any sadist or masochist I have met still has a grip on reality – most realise their fantasies and sexuality is chauvinistic and sexist, but the most important thing is that they know it is irrational and has no place in society. They ravage (or be ravaged) with great pleasure, and both sides are all the merrier. And once this is over, I have never known anybody who indulges in BDSM to take this sexuality into the real world. Heck, I respect women far more than men, and around half of my friends are women anyway, of which I enjoy strong friendships with.

And, ultimately, in the bedroom, there is still respect and love going on. If I were to ever come into a relationship with a woman who would absolutely refuse to take part in such sex, than I would 100% respect that and give her a more tender approach.

In fact, a golden rule among all BDSM fetishists is the safety word: The moment this word is uttered, everything stops, ropes are undone, embraces released.

We are safe people 😉

Yes, you’re probably right in saying that BDSM is a complicated mindset, but then, isn’t all sexuality?

I find it odd that you think female sadists are rare, though: I think there are more in the world than you think 🙂

And yes, you’re right – there is nothing wrong with a woman being a masochist. Ultimately, it is (and if it isn’t, then she should recognise that it isn’t) her fetish and sexuality. I would never consider a female masochist broken: after all, masochism and rape fantasies are very very common – in both sexes!

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,921829,00.html?promoid=googlep
http://uk.askmen.com/love/vanessa/27_love_secrets.html

(I know, askmen.co.uk could be considered a bias source, but read around – you will find large amounts of evidence of ladies and gentlemen who would love nothing more than to be tied up – or do the tying!)

Justification? It’s consentual 😉

18. angryscientist - May 6, 2008

I didn’t imply there’s nothing wrong with female masochism, merely that I don’t blame women for it. It’s far more than a fetish, which is why I compared it to the Stockholm Syndrome. Women have written books about female masochism. These were serious books, not porn. Social conditioning convincing women pain is their lot is far from harmless; it’s a major part of how men have gotten away with dominating the world for so long.

I don’t know enough about the BDSM scene to know how common your experience is, as opposed to the inspiration of this post. You describe it as if it’s all playacting and nobody gets hurt. That may be true in many cases, but if it’s all playacting and no actual cruelty is involved, why call it sadism? What does that have to do with the definition? Surely you realize there are lots of men who really do get off on hurting women. Isn’t that why gonzo porn is so popular?

19. Jen - November 19, 2008

“We are safe people”
Anonymous,
I beg to differ with this statement. Though in it’s mildest form, I think that BDSM could be safe and fun. In the very mildest form, I am not sure that the behavior can be classified as true BDSM as much as it is just fun and sex play.

In addition to the obvious consequences of bdsm; degradation of women, the possibility of physical harm while engaging in this behavior, there is another very serious consequence that has little to no consideration. That consequence has to do with the emotional harm, the “rape of the soul” so to speak that occurs within a women not familiar with this sexual behavior (also referred to as “vanilla” ) that enters a relationship with a sadistic male who attempts to convert her without her knowledge.

This type of man makes every effort to get to know the woman’s heart and soul. While she falls in love, he uses the information that he gains from her to manipulate her into his little bdsm world. Sometimes the manipulation works and the woman may find herself doing things that she never dreamed she would do all for the sake of “love”. She thinks that it is all about love. In the end she is saddened to learn that she is with a man incapable of love. She sacrificed herself to help him achieve his cheap, shallow thrills that he resorts to because he is incapable of true emotional feeling during normal sexual behavior.

If the manipulation doesn’t work, the woman may find after time, maybe,8 months, 2 years even 10 years down the road that she was nothing more in her man’s life than the “front girl” for his BDSM life. She may learn that she was lied to the entire time and that the love she thought she had never existed. Her world will come crashing down on her as she realizes that she has wasted years of her life on a stranger, a fantasy of a man created by a narcissistic, empty shell of a human being that was unable to love or feel. She will discover that her health was put at risk while he was out having unprotected sex with strangers or groups of strangers at that.

She will likely experience post-traumatic stress disorder and will lose out on more years of her life as she tries to make sense of the whole experience and “get over” the man that really only existed by his own fantasy. She will wonder how she could possibly trust or love again.

The hard core sadists, BDSM’rs that practice this as a life style are for the most part mentally disordered and dangerous to those that they look to have relationships with. Women should be warned about these kind of men and the emotional damage that they create. They do not care how they hurt women because they have no empathy. They are only concerned for themselves and thier own cheap thrills. They move from relationship to relationship because they bore easily and have no capability to bond or form deep meaningful relationships.

I know what I am talking about. I was a sadists “front woman” for 3 years. I loved the fantasy of the man with all my heart and soul and in the end he walked away with both. I am forever changed. I do believe that there is real evil surrounding this sexual practice. It is for people who feel nothing and are dead inside. It is for the walking dead.

20. Gorgias - November 22, 2008

As a male submissive, I’ll simply state that my defense of sadists is that I exist. The BDSM sexual practices that my partner and I engage in have been enjoyable and have brought us closer as a couple. If the sadist is happy, and the masochist is happy… what’s the problem? As long as people like me exist, sadists won’t be immoral if they confine their sadism to certain channels.

21. Gorgias - November 22, 2008

Further, I would like to say that autonomy is a bedrock of Western Civlization, and something that should be respected in all people. I know damn well what I’m doing when I consent to be tied up and beaten. I don’t need your paternal concern for my health. And I find incredibly offensive that you think you know what’s best for me more than I do. How would you like it if I insisted, with no evidence, merely a priori based on the decisions you were making, that you were insane, that your consent was meaningless, that you weren’t in your right mind?

The most degrading thing I’ve ever been subjected to has not been being led around on a leash, nor drinking piss, nor anything that I’ve done for sexual gratification with my Master. It’s been the pathological insistence by many people that I do not even know that my autonomy is suspect, my consent meaningless, and my faculty of judgment hopelessly compromised.

I think about all the nonconsensual sadism I’ve been opposed to. Ruthlessly cruel social abuse in middle school. Braggarts who win a game and rub it in my face. Practical jokesters. Hell, I think about my own sadism: while I attempt to purge it from myself, I’m not immune to the pleasures of mocking others, of laughing with a bit of schadenfreude. And I guarantee, neither are you.

And I wonder why in the world everyone’s gaze is drawn to Socrates. When the abuse I suffered as a child, which caused me no end of psychological problems, is dismissed as boys being boys, while consensual sexual acts I’ve engaged with my Master, which have uplifted me spiritually, drawn me closer to him emotionally, and been extremely gratifying physically, are derided as the archevil in human affairs.

If I ever doubt my own virtue, I know this much: I REFUSE to believe that that is Socrates. The man who performed the most sterling moral action I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing; my lover, my Master- he is not some corrupted deviant, not the high priest of a “cult of violence,” not driven to the archevil of human affairs by an impurity in his soul! Whatever one can say of me, I know this- Socrates is good at his core. He has too consistently proven his goodness for me to believe anything else.

22. angryscientist - November 22, 2008

So telling. There’s nothing good about mastery of one human being over another. You may think you are fulfilled by it; that’s your problem. It doesn’t make you insane, but it does illustrate the endless human capacity for self-delusion. You can refuse to believe whatever you like. Some people still refuse to believe in evolution. I don’t have much respect for beliefs in things that are not directly experienced or provable. I’m a scientist and truth-seeker, so I only believe what I have to believe. You can believe this relationship makes you happy, but do you really believe that’s the only kind of relationship that could make you happy?

I don’t mock people for fun. I occasionally mock people who make me angry. I’ve been subjected to enough mockery to find it distasteful, but sometimes it’s an effective way to make a point.

23. Gorgias - November 22, 2008

I’ll start with an axiom, namely that all subjective experiences are equally valid, and that the “human capacity for self-delusion” is meaningless in the face of subjective personal experiences (though certainly not in the face of objective facts, as you bring up about evolution). What affects a person is what is experienced, and on that score, self-deception is impossible.

“I don’t have much respect for beliefs in things that are not directly experienced or provable. ”

So why are you relying on anything other than what the practitioners of BDSM are telling you? You have essentially two sources of information about it- you have your own intuitions and biases, and you have the testimony of others. Direct empirical evidence for yourself of these experiences is impossible. But surely you can agree that in a scientific mindset, the testimony of others who have engaged in these activities is more reliable than previously formed hypotheses? Would you not trust someone who had performed an experiment and reported to you over what your own preconceptions of what the experiment would produce?

Given that, why won’t you accept the bulk of testimony on the subject of BDSM by its practitioners, who almost uniformly report positive experiences?

“There’s nothing good about mastery of one human being over another”

Do you recognize no nobility in the virtue of self-sacrifice? No arete in the discipline of self-control and mastery a submissive must go under to accept the directives of a dominant? No excellence in the virtue of obedience? Whether a Christian or not, do you not find admirable the example of Jesus, suffering that others might benefit, of his own free will?

Do you see no value to the realms of ecstasy the submissive and dominant are transported to in the throes passion? No goodness in the shared conspiracy to subvert the ordinary, the small reminders of dominance and submission that take a practitioner out of the mundane and into the sublime?

Do you see no excellence in the assuming of responsibility of the dominant, his or her imperative to guide the submissive to be all that he or she can be? Is there no room for a caring, loving relationship in a non-egalitarian framework? Is the love of parents compromised by their position of authority, are the monastic monks’ vow of obedience in vain?

This is the soul I have been given; these are the virtues I can exercise; this is my telos. When I’m here, I’m home.

I live for the moment where, at the edge of my limits, safeword on the tip of my tongue, I keep going, because damnit, this is who I am, this is what he wants, this is what I want, and I look up in his eyes, see the love on his face, and know that I’m where I need to be.

I cannot even begin to explain how one craves the lash as a kiss, how an ultimate expression of love can be to hurt. I do know that I pity you, for your life is impoverished by lack of such experiences.

24. angryscientist - November 22, 2008

Oh, spare me your pity. Your blog is well named. If my life were impoverished, I think I’d know it, and that wouldn’t be the reason why.

What is experienced affects a person, true, but that’s filtered through one’s perception, which is where the self-delusion kicks in. Subjective experiences might be equally valid, but the interpretations aren’t. Your testimony is applicable to your interpretation of your experience, but that’s as far as it goes. Why is your testimony more valid than Jen’s? Evolution isn’t an objective fact, anyway; it’s a theory. There happens to be a great deal of evidence to support that theory, but theories are made to be superseded by better theories, as virtually every scientific theory has been. Your experience isn’t comparable to a scientific experiment, because by definition, it can’t be validated by an outsider or disinterested party.

Self-sacrifice, self-control, and self-discipline aren’t comparable to submission. You seem to misconstrue what I meant by mastery. Was that intentional? You seem to have a good command of English, so I wonder. Why is obedience a virtue? It’s a necessary evil in some circumstances, but what’s virtuous about conforming to something one wouldn’t ordinarily want to do anyway? The only virtue comes into play when one feels inclined to do something that hurts somebody else, and in that case, controlling oneself in conformance to ethical standards of behavior is a virtue. As far as I’m concerned, the less authority parents and teachers wield, the better. Who benefited from Jesus suffering? It’s said he died for our sins, but what does that really mean? Who benefits from a monk’s vow of obedience? We can see how much that meant to those pedophilic priests.

Besides, how can you say you are suffering or sacrificing, if by the lights of your perception what others would perceive as pain and humiliation is your road to ecstasy? What’s out of the ordinary about dominance and submission? BDSM is just the extreme expression of hierarchy for its own sake, which is the bedrock of most civilizations, to their great detriment. That kind of power is almost impossible to avoid abusing.

25. Jen - November 23, 2008

Gorgias,
If BDSM is so acceptable and to be held in such high esteem then why, despite the “uniformly positive experiences” among BDSM practitioners has the whole practice of BDSM been driven underground? Why is there a “secret network” of people with code words that enable practitioners to find and trust each other? Why is there such a high level need for “trust”? The only other groups that I know of that need an undeground network are based in violence, predjudice or shame. Which one of these or perhaps all of these do the BDSM’rs fit into?

Why would a man spend one year convincing a woman, that she is involved in an intimate, mutually exclusive relationship based on “love” when all the while unbeknownst to her she is being groomed for her role either in BDSM or as the “front girl” to protect the double life of the sadist? If it were so aceptable then why would the sadist need to have a double life? Why would he need to use another human being for his own gain?

When the topic of BDSM is subtly brought up by the sadist to his prospective BDSM partner, why would he feel the need to deny and cover up the fact that this is what he is involved in when asked point blank the question? The prospective partner is expected to make herself vulnerable as in any honest relationship by revealing herself, her fantasies, desires and all she has kept so near and dear to her heart, saved for a special trusted someone with the expectation that the honesty and sharing is mutual.

If the sadist were not ashamed of his behavior and did not think something was wrong with it, the sadist would naturally share his desire for BDSM at the time when personal disclosures regarding sexual preferences were being shared. The sadist mirrors his prospective partner, telling her that he is into everything she is. She believes because of this that she has met her true “soul mate”.

The sadist essentially performs emotional rape on his potential BDSM partner, the victim. She has essentially provided full consent for this stranger to enter her soul, thinking that she has the full disclosures from the sadist. Little does she know that she is being exploited and if she does not fit the bill, will thrown away without a clue as to why. The sadist, being so practiced in his manipulations and covert behavior banks on the idea that he will somehow convice the woman that she is being rejected for something she said or did. Perhaps she’s not attractive enough, but he never banks on her finding out that she was selected for possible membership into this evil “cult”.

When the woman is smart enough to put two and tow together, the sadist turns into the biggest weenie in existence. He runs away, sometimes moves away, never to be seen again. If he is able to be found, he is utterly unrecognizeable since having been discovered he has been reduced to a shameful shell of a human that was once a covert bully.

So, you tell me why, Gorgias, a sadists behavior would need to be described as above if S&M were even in the slightest realm acceptable?
Jen

26. Gorgias - November 24, 2008

“If my life were impoverished, I think I’d know it, and that wouldn’t be the reason why.”

“It doesn’t make you insane, but it does illustrate the endless human capacity for self-delusion”

If my life were impoverished by lack of an egalitarian normal relationship, don’t you think that I’d know it? Conversely, if there is an endless human capacity for self-delusion, how can you know that you yourself are truly happy? I know a great many polyamorous people who think that heterosexuality and monogamy are delusions, that everyone would be happier if they embraced their bisexual nature and had as many partners as they pleased, viewing this as the most natural configuration for humanity. They’re as wrong as you are: everyone has different things that will fulfill them. But once you begin to deny individual experiences, once you deny the fundamental dignity upon which all other dignity and rights rest, namely upon a person’s autonomy, their right to make decisions for themselves unhindered, you have opened the door for the greatest of tyrannies. Nor indeed does it require any compulsion for this autonomy to be undermined. You can say that I am making a wrong decision, you can try to persuade me otherwise. But suggesting that my judging faculty is in disrepair leads to a very slippery slope.

“Subjective experiences might be equally valid, but the interpretations aren’t”

Fair enough, but I would suggest that the only interpretation of an action that matters is those directly affected by the action. I’m not sure if there is an objective interpretation of the BDSM experience- but I do know that for the bulk of the people involved in the lifestyle, that interpretation is a positive one. They’re the ones who it’s affecting, and that interpretation is the alpha and the omega of what actually determines the affect of their experiences.

“Why is your testimony more valid than Jen’s?”

Because that guy was an asshole. I don’t pretend that everyone in the BDSM community are nice people, though it would be my contention that there are no more abusive people there than there are in any other walk of life. Anyone who seriously attempts to get a formerly vanilla person into the lifestyle isn’t going about it very well. It’s wonderful for those who were born to it, but in those for whom Kushiel’s fire is but an ember, it is best left alone. In any case, if your criterion for an acceptable relationship paradigm is no instances of abuse whatsoever, you’d become a hermit. How many women have been “front women” for gay men who desperately wanted a family or were too intimidated to come out of the closet, and so pursued secretive gay relationships on the side? How many heterosexual men and women cheat on their spouses? The problem with Jen’s relationship is not BDSM qua BDSM, it’s the simple fact of dishonesty and cheating on your spouse, which will ruin any sort of relationship. Her generalization to all dominants is offensive and runs against the core value of individualism upon which western civilization is based. We do not hold people of the group responsible for the wrongs of those done by other individuals in the group. And if you took the time to meet some of these dominants, you’d find them to be no more or nice than any other people. In fact, I’d imagine you already have, though you wouldn’t know who they are. Ultimately Jen’s claim fails because it’s faulty generalization.

I’m not saying that any BDSM relationship is healthy, I’m saying BDSM qua BDSM is not unhealthy. BDSM + abuse = bad. BDSM + mistrust = bad. BDSM + cheating on your partner = bad. No shit. BDSM + 0 = just fine.

“Self-sacrifice, self-control, and self-discipline aren’t comparable to submission”

You are right that they is not submission itself, but all three are important virtues a submissive needs to have to make a power exchange relationship work. One will need to sacrifice oneself for one’s partner, one will need the self-control and self-discipline to obey an order when it is difficult. It’s not a path many can take, obviously, but I’ve found this type of relationship very useful for imparting those virtues. At the very least, knowing that you will be disappointing your lover (and may face some punishment to boot) if you don’t deny yourself X thing is quite a good incentive develop temperance.

“The only virtue comes into play when one feels inclined to do something that hurts somebody else, and in that case, controlling oneself in conformance to ethical standards of behavior is a virtue”

I disagree- as a virtue ethicist, I believe that there are important character traits that are good divorced from what actions or results they engender. Your earlier comments led me to believe that you were of this school as well, since you seemed to base it upon a dislike of those traits.

Truth be told, the utilitarian defense is much easier to pull off than the virtue ethics version. I am going to start with the axiom that moral standards of behavior are those that make for human happiness- if you disagree, please formulate your definition so I can better respond to it. The first point in favor of the happiness that BDSM gives is that some people do in fact tend to choose to do it, and continue doing it in the absence of any compulsion (such as the addiction that drug addicts tend to go under, which is the obvious rebuttal to this point). People tend to seek their own happiness, though I do admit that they can be wrong about the best way to do so. In the second place, I submit the vast majority of testimony of people involved in this lifestyle that this is, at the very least, a road to sexual fulfillment (perhaps not the most noble of aims, but an important component of living a good life in my opinion), and in many cases, emotionally bonding and spiritually uplifting.

I would also like to ask why exactly you consider abuse in this situation. Is it the element of physical pain? But people undergo physical pain on par or greater than those that many masochists do voluntarily. I’ve done much painful in the bedroom (though I am perhaps not as masochistic as some), but my nipple piercing and colonoscopy definitely were more painful. And it’s absolutely absurd to imply that I was being abused by either of them, since I asked for both operations, and was pursuing a greater good in achieving them, which is precisely analogous to my relationship. Is it the element of hierarchy? But civilization is often based upon hierarchy, and it is absurd to imply that my boss is abusing me merely by being my boss. It is impossible to abuse the consenting.

Your last paragraph I should have a response to eventually, but I’ve rambled on enough and really need to be returning to my work right now.

27. angryscientist - November 24, 2008

Gorgias, it’s interesting how you spin some things and ignore others trying to make your case. Egalitarian relationships are not normal, statistically speaking. Men are always complaining about being emasculated by feminism, but polls show men are far more likely to consider their relationships egalitarian than women. It’s all in the perception. Lawrence Summers, to be No. 2 on Obama’s economic team, got into some hot water for claiming men are naturally better at math than women. That’s his perception, based on how he interprets his experience, but it only shows his bias, reflecting poorly on his own judging facility. Yeah, questioning people’s ability to judge their own experience is a slippery slope, but people are notoriously poor at seeing things straight. Should I not criticize Summers, or Obama for picking him for such a high position? Summers was also instrumental in facilitating the deregulation leading to this tangled mess now threatening the world with another Great Depression.

That’s a bit off topic, but if you think I’m some threat to your autonomy because I’m questioning your judgment, that’s really a stretch. I also question what you mean by consent. Consent is sometimes obtained through trickery. You really think it’s impossible to abuse the consenting? How about whores? They consent, theoretically, out of desperation, which protects them from abuse not at all. I’m saying any unnecessary exercise of authority is abusive, by definition. Why is hierarchy so firmly entrenched in most civilizations? Who benefits?

My statement about virtue that you found objectionable was directed at your portrayal of obedience as a virtue, not virtues in general. I don’t know what you mean by abuse, saying basically that a relationship without any abuse can’t exist. If you define getting angry as abusive, maybe so. Sure, anger can become abusive, but it isn’t necessarily so, and shouldn’t have to get to that point. You get off on being abused. Most abused people don’t, regardless of whether the abuse arose in the course of something they consented to. I object to sadism and masochism because of their associations. It might appear to be harmless sex play to you, but I do have some experience with sadism, and it’s no picnic. I have a close friend whose experiences with the medical establishment make Sicko look like a picnic. She has severe spinal injuries that are literally slowly torturing her to death, but the insurance company doesn’t want to pay for another operation that might get her out of the unrelenting pain, or anything else for that matter. The system thinks it’s fine and dandy to drug her so she can’t feel anything, while she’s had to fight tooth and nail for crumbs. That, to me, is sadism at work. What Laurie Jessop and her son went through is sadism at work. In both cases, no doubt the authorities would say they were just doing what was appropriate. If your fun is just harmless sex play, maybe you ought to choose a description for it other than sadomasochism.

28. Gorgias - November 25, 2008

Alright, so the vanilla world isn’t all happy rosebud egaliatarian relationships, but I think we can agree that a BDSM relationship is going to be considerably more inegaliatarian than most.

“Yeah, questioning people’s ability to judge their own experience is a slippery slope, but people are notoriously poor at seeing things straight. Should I not criticize Summers, or Obama for picking him for such a high position?”

I don’t believe the situations are comparable. In the case of Sumners, there is an objective reality outside his perceptions: he may be right or wrong about the fact that women are worse at math than men. In the case of what’s going on within a submissive’s head, the subjective reality and objective reality coincide. There is no way for the submissive to be unaware of his or her mental condition at that time.

“You really think it’s impossible to abuse the consenting?”

You’re right, and I should have clarified. I do feel that informed consent is critical, but I don’t believe that a person’s nature, cognitive faculty, or judgment can impair informed consent. Lacking the capacity for informed consent once one is of age can only come about due to external factors rather than internal ones- ignorance or being outright lied to as to the facts of the situation, etc. But the judging faculty is inviolable. I could be said to not have informed consent if my Master didn’t inform me how dangerous one of our activities would be. But I can’t be said to lack informed consent because of my submissive nature.

“I’m saying any unnecessary exercise of authority is abusive, by definition. Who benefits?”

That’s… a very sweeping claim. Before going into it, I’d like to ask what you mean by “unnecessary.” Is it necessary when someone is benefited by the authority being exercised? Is there some large threshold for harm beyond which exercise of authority is acceptable, but not until?

As for who benefits… well, I do.

“:I don’t know what you mean by abuse, saying basically that a relationship without any abuse can’t exist”

That’s not what I meant at all, and if I was unclear, I apologize. My general point is that abusive situations occur in both BDSM and vanilla relationships, and just as it’s unfair to generalize people at the battered women’s shelters to heterosexuality, it’s unfair to tar all kinksters with Jen’s brush.

“It might appear to be harmless sex play to you, but I do have some experience with sadism, and it’s no picnic”

You’re making the equivocation, not me. There’s a reason why I work with the ACLU to get Guantanamo closed. I’ve not been waterboarded, but I know damn well how shitty what I do in the bedroom would become in the absence of safewords. It’s hard to communicate, but that realm is sacred to me- what I do there in ecstasy with my Master makes it special. The fact that people would do similar things with such repugnant results is mortifying to me. Rape:your sexuality::Guantanamo:mine.

Moreover, the subjective experience of a submissive iis so different from someone undergoing torture in Guantanamo, I consider it unwarranted equivocation to even make them the same thing. In my book, they share a completely different ontology, and deserve a completely different word, much as sex and rape deserve it. Which, you seem to have understood quite well.

“If your fun is just harmless sex play, maybe you ought to choose a description for it other than sadomasochism.”

I’m with you 100%. If I could wave a wand and get the BDSM community friggin organized so we stop getting fired from our jobs (24% according to the NCSF, http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=162102), the first thing I’d do is get rid of the words sadism and masochism. They evoke Saddam Hussein and rape squads, not consenting adults having the time of their lives. I’d prefer “lypiphile”- pain lover in Greek. But I’m stuck with the terms I’ve got, and people are likely to just go “huh?” when I call someone a lypiphile, so I use these compromised terms when talking with other people.

29. angryscientist - November 25, 2008

I don’t have time to answer this now, but I’m curious, are you going to answer Jen, or just dismiss her as overgeneralizing? That’s an awfully convenient way to dismiss what she’s trying to say, which isn’t as simplistic as you’re making it out to be.

I explained what I meant by necessary authority when I tried to explain why obedience isn’t a virtue. I am making a sweeping statement, intentionally. I think hierarchy and authority are vastly overrated, and much exercise of authority is considered necessary which really isn’t. The drug war is a good example. Later…

30. Gorgias - November 25, 2008

My apologies; I actually missed Jen’s earlier response. For her narrative about sadists… I can’t help but be reminded of this PSA from the 50s.

“f BDSM is so acceptable and to be held in such high esteem then why, despite the “uniformly positive experiences” among BDSM practitioners has the whole practice of BDSM been driven underground?”

Why were homosexuals driven underground until very recently? We’re underground because of people like you, because people continue to fire us from our jobs and take away our kids when they find out what we do in our bedrooms, because people with small minds can’t fathom why someone who enjoys pain in a sexual context, giving or receiving, can be a moral person.

“If it were so aceptable then why would the sadist need to have a double life?”

Because people don’t understand our sexuality. Look, that guy was an asshole, and he should’ve found a nice submissive girl to settle with- lord knows there’s plenty around. But your argument here seems to boil down to, “well, the majority of people view it as unacceptable, therefore it’s unacceptable” Nuh-uh. Lypiphiles are fine with the way they are, but as long as that NCSF statistic remains, it’s best for us to remain closeted.

“f the sadist were not ashamed of his behavior and did not think something was wrong with it, the sadist would naturally share his desire for BDSM at the time when personal disclosures regarding sexual preferences were being shared.”

In the first place, the sadist might not be ashamed of it in himself, but worried about how others react. I have a lot of gay friends who are completely comfortable with their sexuality, but still not out to their family or co-workers because they’re worried how they’d react. Lack of shame does not imply complete disclosure if you’re a pragmatic person.

In the second place, even if the sadist was ashamed… so what? There are a lot of homosexuals still struggling with feelings of shame from their sexual urges, but it doesn’t mean homosexuality qua homosexuality is shameful, merely that we have an insufficiently sex-positive culture to allow those feelings to flourish in the absence of shame for some people.

“So, you tell me why, Gorgias, a sadists behavior would need to be described as above if S&M were even in the slightest realm acceptable?”

An again, we get to the overgeneralization. Do you not think I can pull dozens of stories of heterosexual couples being similarly dishonest and cheating on each other? Do you not think I could make facile generalizations as you have in order to condemn the lot of you?

31. angryscientist - November 26, 2008

Gorgias, I think you overgeneralize a bit yourself. I don’t know much about the BDSM scene, but I do know something. I have acquaintances who dabble in it, and I knew one dominatrix rather well. At the time, she was the meanest, nastiest woman I’d ever met, especially when she was drunk, which was most of the time. I’m sure you could write her off as just another asshole, no more representative than the guy who tricked Jen. I just wonder why I should believe that, or your dismissive interpretation of her comment. That dominatrix didn’t try to trick me, not really, though she did pretend she didn’t enjoy being a dominatrix, had only done it for money and was sick of it. Her behavior made me question that. I was trying to help her out, so I put up with a lot of crap trying to reach her and pull her out of her misery. It was a hopeless quest, so I gave up.

I think you don’t want to understand that there might be legitimate reasons why people object to the concepts you embrace. This doesn’t justify firings; that’s discrimination, and I object to discrimination in all its forms. However, the idea of one person being the master of another is anathema to me. That’s called slavery, generally, though you turn it into a spiritual quest. Another variety is called marriage, generally, at least in the traditional variety, where the wife is supposed to obey the husband. I have some respect for some forms of spirituality, if they are centered on self-knowledge, as opposed to blind faith, or hedonism. Blind happiness is not a virtue I respect. I call myself Angry Scientist partly because I’m not too keen on what’s going on in the world.

I’m curious, if you’d be so ready to ditch the terminology of your crowd, why you think it hasn’t happened. Isn’t it possible many, if not most, sadists like the term? Isn’t it possible it fits, at least some of them?. It sure seems to fit the respondents to the sting that prompted this blog entry. I don’t think either Jen or I are implying sadists are all alike; that’s you jumping to conclusions. Is the analogy to torture so farfetched? You must know, drawing analogies is not the same as saying things are the same. The analogy is weak because the masochist has found some way to believe the torture feels good, sublime, spiritual, whatever, totally opposite the normal reaction to torture. I just wonder how different the perspective of the sadistic torturer is from the sadistic lover. There’s no consent to torture, but isn’t the hallmark of the sadist the enjoyment of cruelty? Are you saying it isn’t cruelty because the masochist doesn’t experience it as such? Or is it a loving cruelty?

You say, “there is no way for the submissive to be unaware of his or her mental condition at that time.” You say, “the judging faculty is inviolable.” What’s that based on? There’s a huge difference between being aware of one’s mental condition and perceiving it clearly. Human knowledge of objective reality is really quite limited. Perception and interpretation have a nasty habit of getting in the way. Virtually everything people learn to believe clouds their perception. You learned to believe pain is sublime. There’s nothing objective about that; your belief creates your perception.

The pain reaction has a survival purpose, to alert the organism to do something about what’s causing the pain. Pain can teach great lessons, but making pain sexual is a huge can of worms. You may think it’s part of your nature, but you may not realize how sexuality used to be viewed when women were property. Women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex. Those who enjoyed it too much got their clitoris chopped off. In some cultures women are still property, and in some cultures women are still mutilated to ensure sex is a painful duty, not something they’d seek out for pleasure. Humiliating and hurting women is extremely popular in pornography. You may not like being linked to this association, but these sick artifacts of male-dominated civilization define what sadism means to most people. You may not like the term, but your crowd isn’t so squeamish about it. Why is that?

By the way, your use of vanilla is insulting. I suppose you know that, and don’t care. Small minds? Anyone who questions your spiritual superiority must have a small mind, is that it?

32. gorgias - November 26, 2008

You have simply stated that “obedience is a necessary evil in some circumstances,” and that
“all unnecessary exercises of authority are abusive.”

I want to know what a necessary exercise of authority is. Can it be necessary if one gains a considerable good by exercising it? Can any good justify authority, or does it need to be a certain magnitude of good before it outweighs the evils of authority? Is having a boss over me to make for a more productive work environment abusive? If not, what is the line? Or is there some criteria you’re using for unnecessary here other than good accrued to a person? I submit to you that my situation falls under necessary exercises of authority; it is certainly necessary for me to lead a completely fulfilling life and be satisfied sexually.

“I’m curious, if you’d be so ready to ditch the terminology of your crowd, why you think it hasn’t happened.”

Because we don’t want to sound like pretentious pedants. If the vast majority of history professors are not chauvanistic, why don’t they abandon that etymologically compromised word in favor of “herstory?” Is the failure of “homophile” to replace “homosexual” an indication that homosexuals are in fact merely concerned with sex, and not with love? Are dour self-identified “gay” people really actually quite cheerful underneath their exterior, unbeknownst even to themselves?

We use the language we’re given, even if it’s not perfect. Most people don’t think about the origins or connotations of the words they use outside their initial context.

A perfect example of which would be my use of vanilla. Suffice it to say that I mean it not at all disparagingly, and think normative sex can be quite as good as my kind of sex (yes, I’ll admit that, “I pity you” line was more rhetorical flourish and sophistry than genuine conviction). I don’t think that its etymology necessarily implies inferiority (I happen to like vanilla ice cream and vanilla fudge better than the alternatives), but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that I used it unthinkingly because that’s the way I’ve heard it used in everyday conversation with my peers, and did not consider its effects on an audience not familiar with my lexicon. So too with sadism.

“I just wonder how different the perspective of the sadistic torturer is from the sadistic lover. There’s no consent to torture, but isn’t the hallmark of the sadist the enjoyment of cruelty? Are you saying it isn’t cruelty because the masochist doesn’t experience it as such? Or is it a loving cruelty?”

Now we’re getting somewhere. I submit to you that there is a difference between “harm” and “hurt.” This is a distinction that does not have to be made often, but it is also not a distinction that is only applicable to the life of the lypiphile. For example, a medical procedure can simultaneously hurt, but actually be the opposite of harming a person. Hurt is done usually in pursuit of a higher good, and above all, is not necessarily injurious to a person’s happiness; harm is by definition something that makes a person less happy.

It has been my experience that most dominant lypiphiles enjoy causing hurt but recoil at the idea of harming their partners. The point is that a fetish for inflicting physical pain, or even emotional pain that constitutes “hurt” can exist separately from one that enjoys harming others.

“Are you saying it isn’t cruelty because the masochist doesn’t experience it as such?”

Yeah, that’s basically it. I think we can agree that the active lypiphile (sadist in the common parlance, as distinguished from dominant) isn’t getting his or her pleasure from the simple mechanical motions of inflicting pain. Were it so, we could give them a dummy to whip or pour hot wax over, and that would be that. Even the sadist (term used very consciously here to evoke Saddam et al) needs to have an appreciation of the subjective experience of his or her victim to enjoy it, and likewise, the active lypiphile needs an appreciation of the experience of the passive lypiphile (masochist in common parlance) to derive his or her pleasure. The active lypiphile’s pleasure depends upon the passive lypiphile’s experience. We’ve already shown that the passive lypiphile’s experience is different from that of the victim of the sadist. Therefore, the sadist and the active lypiphile will take pleasure in different places, and their pleasure will likely to be of a different type.

(while we’re on the subject of inadequate language, can someone PLEASE invent a third person neuter pronoun? “He or she” and “His or her” is getting tiresome.)

(Also, this lypiphile terminology is getting quite unwieldy. I’ll need to iron out the kinks before I have a prayer of getting the rest of the community to sign onto it)

“You learned to believe pain is sublime. There’s nothing objective about that; your belief creates your perception.”

Is it possible that pain is neither objectively good nor objectively bad? My assertion would simply be that pain has different effects upon people, and the vast majority dislike, while a minority take to it in certain circumstances (I think even the greatest of lypiphiles dislike stubbing their toe).

As to my small mind comment, I admit that it was ill-considered and made in haste, and retract it. I hope that we can keep the conversation civil- or, at least as civil where one side believes that the other is incapable of informed consent and is suffering under a delusion similar to the stockholm syndrome, while the other is convinced that the first is threatening his personal dignity.

33. jessica - November 26, 2008

“there is no way for the submissive to be unaware of his or her mental condition at that time.”
Gorgias,
That statement seems to me to be a bit naive and somewhat lacking in the responsibility that we all have to look out for our own best interest and safety. Do you really believe that your “master” really cares about your best interest? You mentioned your history of abuse. Often people who have been abused look to seek approval and love that they did not get in thier formative years. Also, it is thought that children who are abused often as adults associate pain with pleasure. Those 2 combinations are what sets a person up for co-dependency and masochistic behavior. Some people who are masochistic look to work through thier childhood abuse by pleasing thier master. They think that if they can only get love and approval from thier master it will give them the sense of well being that has been lacking and will fill up that empty space left by the lack of love. It takes alot of deep introspective work to understand this about ourselves. It is that awareness that is so essential. It is only when a person has that awareness that they are truly making informed decisions for themselves. Likely, if you got down to the bottom of your abusive childhood, you would no longer desire to be in the demeaning position of a masochist. What is really sad is that sadist functions mentally from the complete opposite pole. They often too have been abused. The abuse has affected them differently, in that it has taken away thier ability to love, trust and feel. Many of them have very deep rooted feelings of insecurity. They are people that need to dominate, control and put others in an inferior position to feel and to bolster thier seriously lacking self esteem. They have no capacity for love. They only seek passion and lust. This is what they associate with love. They do not have the capacity for long term, committed relationships. The psycho-social dynamics between the two are what make the situation especially sad for the masochist. The masochist thinks that he or she is in ecstacy with a person that values the experiences as much as he or she does. The sadist values the experience for the moment that he is experiencing the pleasure of control/dominance that is being produced by the pain he is causing or the scenario that he is in charge of. He does not feel love, committment or bonding with the masochist. In fact, he gets off not just on the physical pain that he is able to inflict on the masochist but also the psychological pain that he causes when he begin to triangle with another masochist. He gets off on the hurt that he causes. Many of sadists are malignant narcissists, sociopaths and sex addicts. There are many very screwed up, disordered people that involve themselves in the BDSM world. That is why people lose thier jobs. It is not so much because sexual preferences as much as it is all the other traits that they display to the world. A sadist chooses not to participate in vanilla sex because they are lacking. They do not feel love and therefore are bored very easily. They are good for maybe 2 months in the vanilla sex arena. This is why they have to turn to BDSM. They do have needs that are based out of love. There needs are based soley on ego needs. What I have said here does not apply to the lighter forms of BDSM that to me are just considered an adjunct to vanilla sex to spice things up. I am referring to people who live the “lifestyle” and have no interest in vanilla sex.
Jen

34. TrinityVA - November 26, 2008

AngryScientist,

Before I say anything else, I’d like to ask you this: You seem to be suggesting that female sadists are totally beside the point, but wanting to know what it is that makes some men have the fantasies they do.

Would you, or would you not, then, be interested in hearing about how I see my own involvement, or am I beside the point because I’m not a man? Personally, I don’t think my fantasies or activities are all that different from the men I know who have similar fantasies and do similar things, so I’d think I could answer your questions too, but you seem to think the mere fact of my being female makes everything… different? Irrelevant?

Personally, I tend to think that discussions that say “Men who have or wield sexual power matter; women who have or wield it are odd plot points” are a bit… off. It seems to me to replicate something very patriarchal: as a woman, you have no power, so you are not worth talking to or thinking about.

But if you feel that my situation or my psyche is so different from a man’s that my saying anything is silly, let me know and I’ll leave you to your discussion. 🙂

35. SnowdropExplodes - November 26, 2008

I am utterly unashamed to identify as Dominant (in the BDSM sense) and a sadist. I take sexual pleasure in causing pain and suffering.

I am also a masochist – I take sexual pleasure in receiving pain.

Masochism, at least, has a real physiological explanation that is understood by members of the kink community who are interested in such things.

Physiologically, it is a combination of adrenaline (the same thrill that we get from watching a scary movie or riding a roller-coaster – where we stimulate the feeling of being under threat while actually being perfectly safe), and the endorphins released when the body experiences physical stress (for another example of how this works, consider the phenomenon of “Runner’s High”). Because of the doctrine of “safe, sane and consensual” conduct, BDSM presents a setting in which those phenomena can be appreciated without putting oneself at risk. The suggestion that it has anything to do with Stockholm Syndrome is extremely offensive to many of the people you think you’re standing up for, and is also completely false.

As a sadist, I do not know where my orientation originates. I do know that it overrides my gender-choice of partner orientation (I get turned on regardless of whether my partner is male or female, as long as I can inflict pain on them). I was recently asked the same question on my NSFW/possibly triggering blog, and this is the answer I gave:

“The best analysis I have is that it comes down to the fact that a lot of my kink revolves around extreme emotions, and works in terms of the mind rather than the body of my partner. So concepts and ideas that involve desperation, fear, pain, helplessness, terror, humiliation, anxiety, denial, and so on, are right alongside lust, passion, need, tenderness and warmth for me as erotic responses in a partner.”

Apologies if this is getting long, but I also want to respnd to a few of the comments above:

“This helps men justify their lust for cruelly abusing women. This is what I would like to discuss. How do you justify this form of lust, men? I would also like to discuss why a woman would seek such abuse. I think such women need help, not abuse.”

I do not abuse anyone. I physically stimulate them with both pain and pleasure, which results in an unusually high amount of the latter. As I explained above, my lust is for the heightened stimulation of my partner’s mind and senses. It is NOT a lust for abusing.

“So telling. There’s nothing good about mastery of one human being over another. You may think you are fulfilled by it; that’s your problem”

“A ship can only have one captain”. In appropriate circumstances, not only is there something good about it, it is essential! In BDSM, it is not essential, but then, in BDSM, the terms “Master/slave” have very specific meanings that are not directly analogous to the meanings in the rest of the world, but which are used as the best that the English language has to offer. “Rabbi” would almost be an appropriate term, if it weren’t for the fact that this term is nowadays used specifically for a religious office.

” I don’t have much respect for beliefs in things that are not directly experienced or provable. I’m a scientist and truth-seeker, so I only believe what I have to believe.”

See above re: the physiological element of masochism; see also the very happy and joyous relationships of many long-term BDSM couples. You have to believe, based on this evidence, that sadomasochism is not as you describe it.

“You can believe this relationship makes you happy, but do you really believe that’s the only kind of relationship that could make you happy?”

For me, personally, yes. For me, personally, a relationship without sadism and masochism is a relationship without feeling or connection – I would feel as though I was being shut out all the time. That others DON’T feel this way, I perfectly understand and accept. That intimacy for them comes via other routes, I have no problem accepting. I can’t imagine how those feel to those people, but that doesn’t stop me accepting that they are real, and it certainly doesn’t lead me to call vanilla folks self-delusional about their love.

“By the way, your use of vanilla is insulting. I suppose you know that, and don’t care.”

Or perhaps it’s more like the privileged being unhappy that the unprivileged have a name for the privileged group, rather than letting the privileged group self-define as “normal”? If you think “vanilla” stands for “bland”, then you couldn’t be more wrong – as someone who likes to cook, I know that vanilla is a very powerful, sweet and sensuous flavouring, but it is sold as the “standard” flavouring of ice cream or of cake – all the term “vanilla” designates is that non-kinky sexuality is the most common sexuality (a slightly false analogy, since in fact chocolate ice cream is more popular than vanilla, but vanilla is still viewed as the “normal” flavour).

This is no different from gay folks coining the term “straight”, or trans folks coining the term “cisgendered”, as a way to refer to those unlike themselves.

Jen: “So, you tell me why, Gorgias, a sadists behavior would need to be described as above if S&M were even in the slightest realm acceptable?”

First up, I’ve never seen any of that happen, and I don’t recognise it as a part of the kinky community in which I’ve been involved for the past 5 years (although I do accept that it *can* happen – it’s just that I personally have never witnessed such a thing, and it certainly isn’t the norm); secondly, what I *have* seen several times has been Submissive masochist women trying to persuade their vanilla boyfriends/husbands to become Dominant men and to deliver the pain that these women crave. Sometimes it works (my current girlfriend’s last partner was one such experiment, and succeeded, except that they broke up when he wouldn’t go far enough for her); other times it doesn’t work, and some other way for her to get her sexual gratification has to be found.

Gorgias: “I think we can agree that a BDSM relationship is going to be considerably more inegaliatarian than most.”

Actually, I disagree. Even though my current girlfriend and I are enjoying what we call a “Master/slave” relationship, we are still equals within the relationship: it is just that the “division of labour” is unorthodox, but it is according to the demands of “from each as according to hir ability, to each as according to hir need”. We are equal in dignity and standing and importance. Relationship counsellor Al Turtle has the following to say about BDSM relationships and how they differ from a lot of vanilla relationships: “As a counselor several times I have run into members of this community, and found them to be usually more informed about healthy relationship skills than the general public. What I found is that these people seek to participate in relationships of ‘mutual informed consent’, where both parties have agreed, sometimes in contract, to a division of responsibility between an enactor or decision maker and a follower/an obedient one/an aider… a ‘Friend/Friend relationship with a Leader/Follower dynamic.'”

I hope that this has given you some food for thought, and clarified why sadism and masochism are not sicknesses or perversions, but simply different.

36. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - November 26, 2008

So, an interesting question for the peanut gallery: If we are to make the claim that all forms of BDSM destroy the possibility of informed, honest consent, how far do we push the line down?

Because so far as I can tell, there is no distinct border between BDSM and non-BDSM activity. Indeed, one can almost make a claim that there is a continuum between these two categories. I am sure that plenty of people have enjoyed light spanking during sex without considering it a BDSM activity, and that many men wear cockrings without considering it at all kinky, and I’m sure that a lot of people think, say, anal-play of all stripes is a BDSM activity, or that even yelling at your partner to do something in the throes of passion is BDSM, yet I suspect that these would be heavily contested, depending on your audience.

And even if we just focus the argument down to submission, there’s a whole range of submissive actions that can result. Simply not having much of a preference for sex, so letting your partner take the lead in sexual activity can be construed as submission, as could a person who insists on being the bottom at every juncture. Some people may be submissive only in regards to specific behaviours, and be egalitarian in all other measures, or even dominant in some other areas. I, for example, am submissive to my boyfriend, but often egalitarian at my workplace, and have been dominant in other relationships (I identify as a “switch” in this case – I feel I have the capacity to be both submissive and dominant). But of course, even in the case of my boyfriend, It’s not like I have no control of my life – I am more than capable of putting my foot down and saying “No, I do not want this”, and I have at many junctures stated that I am not capable of a particular behaviour at that point.

In this case, one has to ask that if submissive behaviour eliminates consent, than does any behaviour do it? Or is only perfectly submissive behaviour across all contexts inherantly unconsensual? If this is the case, then I think you would be hard-pressed to find that individual – pretty much every sub I’m aware of is not that submissive under all contexts.

Or is it a continuum of consensuality, as it is a continuum of submission? Does that even make sense? I’ve always thought that it’s either you’re consenting, freely and honestly, or you aren’t. There’s no “half-consent” in my books.

Just some questions…

37. Renegade Evolution - November 26, 2008

“How about whores? They consent, theoretically, out of desperation, which protects them from abuse not at all.”

Hello. A whore here, a non-desperate one even who actually consents and occasionally engages in BDSM-as a switch-, but is far more into sex along the “gonzo” lines…and, really, they are not the same things. Why in cases when I am on the bottom do I enjoy it? Well…I for the most part do not trust people, but I do like really rough sex, so when I find someone that I trust enough to engage in that with, it is quite special. Physically, I have a very high pain tolerance and absolutely enjoy the rush, plus I do not think people are all sweetness and light and political correctness all the time and when in the daily working world we generally have to do our best to put the sweet, light, politically correct face forward, sometimes it is very cathartic to let the more base and not so pretty side have some airtime in the realm of sex. When being dominant, yes, I rather like the power trip, but I also like getting my partner off in a way that is special and personal to them, a way that might not be so easy to find. I don’t think there is anything shameful in that at all.

And as others here have said, yes, some utter assholes do use the cover of BDSM to be assholes-but that is not a unique situation to BDSM.

And the constant assertions that people who are not into conventionally accepted modes of sexuality are somehow messed up or deluded are incredibly patronizing, annoying, and endlessly over used. To me, once a week missionary position with the lights off and under the covers sounds like a living Hell, but if that is what someone else enjoys, I am in no position to tell them they are messed up or deluded for enjoying it- after all, all humans are wired differently, thus, they will enjoy different things sexually, and the reasons go far beyond they must have been abused, or are insane, messed up or deluded.

38. TrinityVA - November 26, 2008

Angry,

I’ve responded to you at my journal. If you’d like, please let me know and I’ll copy responses here as well. I’m fine with doing either.

T

39. SnowdropExplodes - November 26, 2008

jessica/Jen:

…Some people who are masochistic look to work through thier childhood abuse by pleasing thier master…What is really sad is that sadist functions mentally from the complete opposite pole. They often too have been abused. The abuse has affected them differently, in that it has taken away thier ability to love, trust and feel.”

You’ve typed a great deal, and it is the most wonderful theory, drawing in all kinds of phrases from self-help and therapy books to make something that looks magnificent.

However, just as Aristotle drew together “common sense” interpretations of the world to creat his description of the cosmos, and yet managed to be wrong on just about every count (he thought the Sun rotated around the Earth, he thought that heavy things fall faster than light things, he thought everything was composed of just four elements – the fundamental particles like quarks and electrons number far more than that), you too have managed to be wrong on just about every point.

While I will concede that some BDSM folks use the BDSM relationship to work through past traumas (indeed, my last girlfriend was among that number), this operates in a way that is quite similar to some respected counselling techniques, because it provides an environment that is controlled and safe, in which those past experiences can be re-examined and processed in a healthier manner. For example, my last girlfriend was a lifetime victim since childhood and throughout most of her adult life. When she met me, she was indeed, “seeking approval and love” through debasing herself – the thing is, it was her prior abusive partner to whom she went for that. When she met me, she was escaping from that way of life. For the full story, read my safe-for-work blog post about it (posted with her permission). the short version is that she now has freedom and autonomy, and the strength to say “no” rather than let abusive types trample all over her (which is what happened before she met me). I say with great pride that I helped her achieve that, through the medium of a BDSM relationship! She doesn’t need me or anyone else any more.

However, my current girlfriend has no such history, and simply does not fit your theory at all – she is one of those who “corrupted a ‘nilla” in order to get her kicks.

Then on the other side of the coin you say, “The abuse has affected them differently, in that it has taken away thier ability to love, trust and feel. Many of them have very deep rooted feelings of insecurity. They are people that need to dominate, control and put others in an inferior position to feel and to bolster thier seriously lacking self esteem. They have no capacity for love. They only seek passion and lust. This is what they associate with love. They do not have the capacity for long term, committed relationships.”

If I could show you the number of times my heart has been broken, and the scars it has left, you could not make such claims. If anything, I trust too easily, and love too easily! I will tell you this – it was only when I regained my self-respect and self-value that I was able to express my sadist-dominant sexuality properly; when I lacked those qualities, I could not make determinations for myself, let alone for another human being! You think a sadist-dominant person is taking something from their partner, but I tell you truthfully, it is not so. The effort I put into giving of my all to my partner, to please her, this is a large part of what gives me joy to be a sadist-dominant.

Some of the most sensitive and caring folks I know happen to be sadists. It is common to hear kinky folks refute the arguments you’ve repeated here by pointing out that a sadist must have empathy with hir partner because how else can they appreciate, and thereby enjoy, the suffering they cause?

As for “they do not have the capacity for long-term relationships”, I recently heard of a couple who were in their seventies, having been together for decades, finally having to give up their sadomasochistic lifestyle because arthritis was finally preventing the Top from wielding the whip effectively (and yes, his partner was very disappointed by this!) BDSM Dom/sub or Master/slave relationships often have a huge dollop of romantic involvement and commitment at their very heart, and it is often said that a collaring ceremony is in many ways more binding for both partners than any other – including marriage. For those who are “orientationally” sadist/dominant, a BDSM relationship is the very epitome of a long-term committed relationship – iand where this is not so, it is common practice to make this clear at the very start of a relationship.

There are many very screwed up, disordered people that involve themselves in the BDSM world.

Absolutely true. Sadly, there are a lot of even more screwed up, disordered folks who choose to involve themselves in vanilla sex. It would appear, when you go wandering around the internet, that there are a VAST number of extremely screwed up, disordered folks who involve themselves in the blogging/online world, too. Somehow we do not judge the internet solely by such people’s behaviour, nor do we judge any group by the casualties of life within that group.

Kinky folks, both Top and Bottom, are as fair a cross-section of society as any other, and are more well-balanced than a lot of examples from within the bell-curve of vanilla relationships.

40. angryscientist - November 26, 2008

Wow, a bunch of comments on one day. I haven’t had one of those since I challenged Anonymous (My Troll Invasion). Interesting to get so much sudden activity on a blog entry over two years old.

I visited TrinityVA’s blog, only to find her comment reposted there, speculating I’d censored it, and she thinks I’m female, making me wonder how on earth she came to that conclusion. Be that as it may, this entry was about male sadists and female masochists, since the sting I blogged about was a fake female masochist seeking a male sadist. This doesn’t make a female sadist’s perspective irrelevant, just different. It’s not a question of who matters, but it is a different power dynamic.

Gorgias, the best example of what I view as necessary authority is law enforcement. Some laws are necessary, since people can’t be trusted to act ethically. Outside of that, as I said, I view authority and hierarchy in general as highly overrated. The saying a ship can only have one captain is a prime example. Who says? It’s a common belief, but that doesn’t make it true. I don’t believe it’s necessary for your fulfillment. You’re a young man. This is all pretty new to you.

Who says the vast majority of history professors aren’t chauvinistic? I haven’t been to college since a lot longer than you’ve been alive, but has there been a takeover of history departments by feminists? I know men’s rights activists claim that, like right wingers claim colleges have been taken over by liberals, but it’d be news to me. Herstory is supposed to refer to women’s story anyway. Male is the default, the standard of normality in language and most of social science. Your explanation of why the BDSM crowd is content with that language doesn’t make any sense to me. If I’m understanding you correctly, the way you use those terms is so far off the conventional meaning, you might as well be speaking another language. Some of the new commenters don’t seem to have any problem with it.

Your distinction between hurt and harm makes sense, but I wonder if the guys who responded to that Craigslist ad respect that distinction. Maybe that was all bombast trying to impress the advertiser, but that’s hard for me to believe.

SnowdropExplodes was using some gender-neutral pronouns I recognize. I prefer the conjugations of one, but that can get a bit unwieldy. I’m most familiar with sadomasochism in the context of abusive relationships, while it appears the BDSM community takes pains to avoid abuse, so what the commenters are calling sadomasochism isn’t necessarily like my understanding of the term, or the impression I got from the respondents to the sting. Obviously there’s a wide spectrum of kinky sexuality. I still wonder why, if BDSM has nothing to do with abuse, why stick with that terminology? Sadism and masochism have a long lurid history, and it’s all about abuse. Lypiphilism may seem awkward or pedantic, but I think if you people want to be understood as different from dominant abusers and submissive battered women, you need a different terminology. Those words have very definite meanings to most people, and those meanings seem repulsive even to lypiphiles. It begs the question, why should people believe BDSM has nothing to do with abuse when its practitioners embrace the terminology of abuse? Is the distinction real, or sophistry? Is the distinction between being submissive and subordinated real, or sophistry? The slaveowners of this country believed slavery was best for their subjects, whom they valued highly, but that was all in the eye of the beholder. The slaves knew better. What’s the point of using the terminology of such a horrendous institution to denote consensual kinky sexuality? What’s in it for you to use these terms, if their conventional meanings are so far from applicable?

I agree with Lee Davis-Thalbourne that there is no such thing as half-consent, but free honest consent can be obtained by trickery or naivete. The question isn’t whether the consent is free or honest, but whether it is fully informed and obtained in the absence of any fear or pressure. This is where the alleged consent of prostitutes falls apart. Very few prostitutes would be in that business if there was no fear or pressure. They don’t do it for fun, for the most part. The fear or pressure can also be internalized. I think that might be what Jen is trying to get at, that some inner torment from childhood might be driving the linkage of sexual pleasure with pain, vitiating informed consent. Do women in cultures that don’t recognize them as full citizens give informed consent to be subordinated? It might seem so, but I don’t see that as informed consent, because she has no idea it could be otherwise. If a submissive believes that’s the only way to be happy, is that informed consent, or consent to the best of one’s knowledge? Consent is a tricky concept when dealing with people, because people are quite capable of being fooled into believing things that aren’t true.

41. Renegade Evolution - November 26, 2008

I got here via Trinity…she and I both blog on the topic of BDSM/Kink fairly often.

I think I might be the only female who leans towards the masochistic side commenting at the moment though. I read the sting articles as well, and no, I don’t think a lot of what those men were talking about is stuff most women, even most masochistic women, would enjoy…I also think a lot of it was a bunch of talk by men hiding behind their computer screens writing stuff out that they would never actually do-and the invite was pretty provocative in its own right.

But WRT to why any woman would enjoy pain, or being roughed up a bit or degradation in sex? The reasons for that are many and diverse and depend a lot on the woman…but I don’t for a second think it is always about being a victim, or reliving past abuse, or being deluded or what not. In some cases, sure, it might very well be…in others, not so much at all.

42. angryscientist - November 26, 2008

These comments are out of order. I wrote the above before noticing the previous three.

Renegade Evolution, there is no human being on the planet not subject to some kind of delusion. This is part of the human condition, as is the ambiguity of language. I agree the reasons why people enjoy different things sexually are complicated, but I suspect even you don’t enjoy being abused. What does “conventionally accepted modes of sexuality” mean to you? I don’t have any more respect for “convention” than you do, but I’d suspect that’s for vastly different reasons.

TrinityVA, I only responded on your journal because you said some silly things you didn’t repeat here. If you don’t mind, I’d rather keep it here.

43. Renegade Evolution - November 26, 2008

Angry Scientist: No worries, comment misplacement happens. And true, all people have some delusions, yet, however, it seems to me it is the kinky folk are the ones most accused of suffering from them and the ones most accused of not having examined why they like what they like hard enough, even though a great many of them have examined those desires a whole lot…and still have them. When one is slapped with the big fat “Messed Up” tag, they tend to wonder and examine why.

Conventionally accepted modes is a nicer way of saying “not kinky” or “vanilla”.

As for abuse…no, I don’t enjoy ACTUAL abuse, but I suspect my ideas on what consititutes abuse are pretty far off from your own…which in my book is fine, people should decide for and set those standards for themselves IMHO. I know what I like, and yep, I’ve examined, and still like it. I rather feel people should have the kind of sex they enjoy with consenting folk who also enjoy that kind of sex…even if other people don’t like it.

44. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - November 26, 2008

Umm, I should mention a few things:

1) I have accepted sex for money. Noone ever cooerced me into doing so, nor was there any pressure on their behalf .These were people I had met over the internet a total of once, who had propositioned me online – the decision to accept that money was mine and mine alone, they simply could not have coerced me into it as there was no way for them to have done so (what were they going to do? Find my house and threaten me? Unlikely). Just so people are square, I’m male, so take that how you will. Now, I do not accept sex for money now, for a multitude of reasons (one big was that I was sexually assaulted a couple of years back, which took a big sledghammer to my ability to have casual sex of any stripe), but I do not regret the times that I did.

Thing is, I have had sex without my consent, and I have accepted money for sex, and I can tell you that there is absolutely no commonalities to these actions. To say that there is a commonality is frankly offensive and insulting. When I accepted sex for money, there was a very implicit consent. I was happy to do what he asked for sex, and he was happy to exchange money for the purpose. Hell, it’s still a fantasy of mine to be a prostitute, though I know my emotions could never take it anymore. Whereas when I was raped, there was no consent, at all.

2) I met my boyfriend and was quite good friends with him before we went out. He was quite open about his BDSM proclivities, and I was actually quite curious about BDSM, having experimented previously on lighter levels. To say that I was at all pressured to submit to him is, well, ridiculous – I was quite happy to play with BDSM with him as my Dominant, because I felt quite happy in that role sexually. We are not typically Dom/Sub outside of the bedroom – We maintain our autonomy, and our relationship is treated as an equal and egalitarian one – even if I occaisionally use my Bedroom-sub status to make him decide things for me on occaision!

3) I think it should be obvious that the only person who can tell you if they consented is the person involved. Yes, they may consent to false pretenses, but that doesn’t change the fact that they consented. They may withdraw their consent at a later date if it turns out that, in fact, they had been lied to in order to gain their consent, but you still can’t decide someone’s consent for them. Consent is only the individuals to give or deny. It’s that simple.

45. Renegade Evolution - November 26, 2008

“Consent is only the individuals to give or deny. It’s that simple.”

::Cheers!::: Exactly!

46. angryscientist - November 27, 2008

Lee Davis-Thalbourne, why did you take the money for sex? It appears Renegade Evolution considers it her business, which she enjoys, but I’m not getting that impression from you. Did you need the money? If you did it just for fun, why take money?

Consent will never be a simple matter as long as rapists claim the woman consented, so her accusation was a lie, it wasn’t rape. It will never be a simple matter as long as men buy sex from desperate women who need the money and call it consensual. As long as men have power over women, consent to sex will be a huge can of worms.

47. Jen - November 27, 2008

“Consent is only the individuals to give or deny. It’s that simple.”

In simplistic terms, Renegade, you are right. It is then up to the judgement and conscience of the other party to come to a realization that the consent they are getting is not from a place of solid footing. That is where empathy and concern for the other person comes in. From what I have observed, BDSM practitioners for the most part possess very shallow emotions and have little ability to assess whether the consent they are getting is be received from a person that may be emotionally suffering. Furthermore, there is little to no concern for that.

Snowdrop, thank you for responding to my questions in such a thorough and thoughtful way. I realize that it must be frustrating to have so many negative feelings expressed about a lifestyle that you seem to so much enjoy. Obviously my horrible experience has clouded my vision quite a bit. It has been my quest to try to understand the lifestyle and process what happened to me. I have done quite a bit of research. Everything that I find about S&M in literature links it to deviance, sex addiction and psychological disorders. In it’s milder forms, there seems to be some acceptance.

From all the information I have gathered I could almost understand that the role playing and mild forms of pain (spanking etc) could be fun as long as there is an equal balance between partners and there is a switch of roles, each getting to play the dominant one at one point or another. I guess this wouldn’t be called anything more than sex play. This would be an adjunct to the depth of love, caring and deep friendship that develops over time between lovers in a vanilla relationship. That is the only way that I could see it working for me.

From what I have read and observed that depth of love and deep friendship does not develop in the BDSM world. I am sure that there are always exceptions, like was mentioned previously, but they are truly exceptions. It seems to me that once all the scenes have been played out, the partners are all used up, this necesitates a need to find new ones. I am not sure if both partners feel that way or just one. This to me is what seperates the “vanilla” world from the BDSM world. I think that BDSM serves it’s purpose in preventing people from having to know each other in a truly intimate way. This is why people get into it. They either can’t or won’t do intimacy.

“The effort I put into giving of my all to my partner, to please her, this is a large part of what gives me joy to be a sadist-dominant.”

Rengade, this all sounds great and wonderful. BTW, I am truly sorry for your past hurts. It seems to be part of the whole sex and relationship game regardless of what type of sexual practice you are into. I do want to make this point though. Your statement above is a reflection of your need for dominance and control. When you do not fully please your partner, your ego is not getting the gratification that it needs. When you are rejected by your partner, it is ego on the line, not the loss of a “love”. It can’t be love because your role playing and whatever else is involved prevents the advent of true intimacy and love. I would venture a guess that many BDSM couples hardly even know each other. How could you possibly truly love when you have no clue who a person really is on a deeper level. You may know thier pain thresholds but do you know them? Do you understand thier feelings about life and how they arrived at those feelings? Do you really know where they have been and where they need to go to grow and thrive as people? Do you care?

That is the advantage that us vanilla people have. We get intimate and we bond. That is why we stay in relationships and don’t continue to go through a series of partners. I realize that there are vanilla people that do go through partners often, but I don’t think that they start out believing that that is what will happen. I think the BDSM’rs know that there relationship has a shelf life. It is all about the individuals pleasure and ego gratification and has nothing to do with the “feelings” of the partners. To me it is all a game. It is nothing more than cheap entertainment for shallow people. I am sorry to be so blunt and “judgemental” as many in the “lifestyle” would refer to me as. My “judgements” have come from research and expereience not from ignorance. I would love it if someone could help me see the virtue in it. I don’t like thinking negatively about anything. In fact, if I could see the positives, perhaps, I could forgive my ex-boyfriend not only for myself but also for him. Maybe I could be his friend someday. Today, I don’t think that is possible.
Jen

48. Jen - November 27, 2008

I am sorry, Snowdrop, I mentioned “Renegades” name when I mean to say yours in the 5th paragraph.
Jen

49. TrinityVA - November 27, 2008

AS,

I suspected you might not be approving comments because:

1. you got the topic from Heart at Women’s Space, who has an acknowledged and long-standing policy of deleting comments she feels are anti-woman
2. you commented over at Heart’s that you posted this with a motive, to “catch” sadists, in ways that are “crafty and unfair”, wanting to “shred” us — the impression I get is that you hoped we would say something repugnant or stupid, so that you could laugh/enjoy “shredding us” with “a scientist’s relentless logic.” (Hmm, apparently enjoying cruelty is not solely our province?) Looking at the posts, I mainly see lucidly argued points and discussion, which I don’t think would give you the joy of “shredding” that you appear to be looking for.
3. Several people told me yesterday that my comment wasn’t up, and suspected that you had a comment policy similar to Heart’s.

I suspected you were female because most of Heart’s commentariat is women.

I got here via a comment at another blog, where someone mentioned this thread yesterday and asked for other BDSM folks to weigh in. I decided to help this person. I didn’t know until I got here that the post was old, and I don’t know why this person chose to comment on such an old post either.

As far as my story, as I said you can find it at my blog, here (and as I said I’ll c&p it here if you like.)

As far as “new words,” some people do want new words. “BDSM” itself was, as I understand it, coined as an alternative to “sadomasochism,” a word which

1. referred to a supposed mental illness, and
2. takes its name from the Marquis de Sade, who was at best a shady con man and at worst a murderer (depends which biographies you read how evil he actually was.)

So yeah, the “new words” thing is already going on.

For me, I think of (and use) the words “sadist” and “masochist” like the word “dyke” — originally a very nasty insult, but now a word people are proud to claim. “Sadomasochist” is what most people call someone like me, and I can’t control their opinions of people like me, so I just use that word.

50. TrinityVA - November 27, 2008

er, and suspected = and I suspected. I’m not sure if they did too.

51. violacious - November 27, 2008

LIFE is a big can of worms.

Lee Davis-Thalbourne made an excellent point in acknowledging that power exchange takes place constantly and to a large degree without its participants’ conscious volition in normal life situations like family, workplace or institutional dynamics.

BDSM, practiced thoughtfully, simply puts consent and communication on the table in relation to very basic human actions, so that one’s decision to assume a particular point on the power spectrum can be/has to be more consciously determined. It’s not that there’s always more at stake, it’s that what’s at stake has to become visible. Some people, like myself – a female, feminist submissive, find this choice liberating.

This post has become a lengthy and engaging forum with responses from some very articulate folks. Thanks very much; the discussion is worthwhile.

violet white

52. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - November 27, 2008

Why did I take the money? Because he was offering it, and I was 18 at the time and had no job. I wasn’t starving, or paying rent, because I was living with my parents, but my pocket money was equal to AU$20 at the time, not a lot to do, well, anything. Also, the idea of being paid for sex was, in itself, sexually arousing for me, and a common fantasy for me at the time, because it fed into a great deal of my submissive fantasies (And Ren, yes, I know that sex workers are not typically submissive, but fantasies are fantasies…)

Yes, I could have had sex and not accepted the money (and he was quite attractive, so I probably would have if he’d just propositioned me at a sauna somewhere), but that seems a bit disingenuous, considering the whole point of our two arranged meetings was for him to pay me to have sex. If he had wanted to have sex with me for free, I can only assume that he would have asked that of me (lord knows I had enough free offers on that site, so it wouldn’t have been unusual). I can only speculate that he enjoyed the idea of offering money to young gay boys to have sex with him, which was great for me, because I enjoyed the idea of men offering money to have sex with me.

“Consent will never be a simple matter as long as rapists claim the woman consented, so her accusation was a lie, it wasn’t rape. It will never be a simple matter as long as men buy sex from desperate women who need the money and call it consensual. As long as men have power over women, consent to sex will be a huge can of worms.”

I still don’t see that it has to be. Again, Consent is an individual trait, something that cannot be decided for the individual. Yes, legally, consent can be contested, but that does not change the actual act of consent. By making the claim that people can be wrong in their own judgement of consent in the second case, you open the door for the first case to happen.

Consent is a different beast to desire, and I think that it’s important to separate the two. I can consent to an action I don’t necessarily desire, and that I wouldn’t necessarily do under other circumnstances, but this does not cheapen that consent. I remain a consenting adult, even if I am uncomfortable in what I’m doing.

A simple example, during my teenage years, I went to a lot of gay lounges and saunas, and had sex with a lot of men. Looking back, I wasn’t always comfortable with what I was doing, and I have quite a few regrets about who and what I let happen to me. But those regrets are not a withdrawal of my consent. During each event, I quite explicitly consented to those actions, even if later I wasn’t so comfortable with how they turned out. They had a completely different emotional signature than the time I was raped. No event in my teenage years had nearly the effect that my rape did. Period.

Don’t try to complexify consent by taking it out of the hands of individuals, because that shuts down their voice. Giving any possibility for people to doubt a person’s consent removes their power and sexual autonomy.

53. Ve - November 27, 2008

Hi there.

Found my way here through the excellent SMFeminist blog and had some thoughts.

I am perceived as a bio-woman (does not necessarily indentify myself with that). If categories are needed, I am also a nonstraight (sexually identified as queer) to some extent identified as genderqueer, queerfeminist, kinky (regarding fetishes), and a switch when it comes to activities regarding power exchange/ BDSM/lyphilism, what ever one might call it. Will return to the question of language in a bit. Me being a switch means that I enjoy the feeling of pain aswell as inflicting pain on others.

I can directly admit that I always been one of those who hate pain. Gone to incredible lenght to avoid it, even as in evolving an extreme phobia regarding knifes, sharp objects out of context and seeing wounds getting inflicted. Panic-attacks, fainting, everything can happen.

But I have also been an adrenalinejunkie, someone who did not understand why I could not reach other people sexually, not only when it came to gender (took a lot of time before I came out) but also a high sex drive that never seemed to get filled. I was not happy in bed, I was not happy in life and my skin could crawl after the longing of feeling something very intense. I got annoyed when someone touched me ‘vaguely’. As if it was more there, that I could not reach.

It took me some time to realise that when I eroticise pain, when it is a part of a stimuli that I enjoy. The sensations are mixed, but it is, always, at least for me, in a sexual context. I do not need heterocentric ideas about intercourse for that matter either, sometimes I just want to get the rush and the thrill. A thrill that leaves me whith something that can very much be described as the same feeling that one can feel as a massive orgasm.

As a ‘sadist’ I get off on the thought of the other ones pleasure in the pain I inflict on them. Some people think the words ‘compassionate’ and ‘sadist’ is mutually exclusive, I don’t. I also love being allowed to excercise my curiousity, explore what whole societies sees as ‘dark’ sides to the human mind, in a setting where all involved have agreed upon how and why, and especially, what not.
It is a play. I laugh when being the ‘top’, some claim it makes me look slightly like the mad professor. I smile because it makes me smile seeing someone else getting the pleasure that I can give. That I am allowed to give. When being ‘on the bottom’, I feed on what is given to me, and that feeding is something that I then give back. That cycle is not about abuse. It is about sharing.

I do not have the link to the investigation from an Australian Uni with me now, but will provide a link if there is any interest. They asked approx 3000 australians about their sexlives, and expected different results than what they got, regarding people who engaged in activities such as BDSM. People who did that actually did not have more bad experiences in their early life or adult life. A significant larger number actually was claiming they where happier and felt better in day to day life. I do not know what the researchers classified as BDSM, nor what they did compare to, but that is contradicting a lot with what has been said so far.
Since even Sweden (which cannot be claimed to be behind regarding equality work and ‘state feminism’) has now decided to not include sadomasochists, fetishists, some types of crossdressers and more in the diagnostic manual for psychiatry, there is hope 🙂

And yes, I am a feminist.

All the best

Ve

54. figleaf - November 27, 2008

“I just wonder why I should believe that, or your dismissive interpretation of her comment. That dominatrix didn’t try to trick me, not really, though she did pretend she didn’t enjoy being a dominatrix, had only done it for money and was sick of it.”

Hi Angryscientist. Ok, this is starting to make more sense now. It sounds a lot like your friend was a sex worker, a “dominatrix” not a BDSM dominant. Not that some professional dominatrixes aren’t dominant in their own lives, but as with any work their actual *job* is to submit to their *customers’* interests not their own. Which, when you think about it, probably isn’t the best work situation for someone who’s real arousal comes from *not* serving someone else.

“Merriam-Webster defines sadism:
1: a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others (as on a love object) — compare masochism
2 a: delight in cruelty b: excessive cruelty”

This makes sense too. If you conflate all three definitions. Otherwise maybe not so much. Consider, for instance, that because of the third definition (2b) many laypersons believe all scientists are sadists because some scientists uses lab animals, sometimes killing hundreds of mice a day with their bare hands (ok, it’s just a thumb-and-forefinger technique and it’s pretty quick and presumably painless, but it’s still “bare hands.”) But it would be beyond irresponsible and verging on ignorance or stupidity to argue that all scientists are sadists, especially *sexual* sadists.

So. Based on actually hanging around (peripherally) with real, actual, non-commercial BDSM types I’ve noticed the genders (and orientations, and body types) are way more randomly distributed than in the general gendered population.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of genuine abusers who sometimes masquerade as BDSM sadists or dominants — abusers are *everywhere* — but in many cities, anyway, the “BDSM community” is a *real community* and so users and abusers, like other sorts of social parasites in all close-knit communities, tend to get filtered and/or educated out.

Finally, Angryscientist, I’m not trying to change your mind about your positions — you seem *very* set in your beliefs. But it might help explain why some (but not all) of your commenters are themselves intransigent.

figleaf

55. Renegade Evolution - November 28, 2008

LTD- oh, sex workers come in ALL types, including submissive!

56. angryscientist - November 28, 2008

I’ll have more to say tomorrow, maybe, but I did read the entry at that link of yours, Trinity, yesterday, when I responded and found several other comments. That link is a subtree of the full thread, which now has 13 comments. Whether your story is relevant is your call, but I must say, I’m not Heart. I’m not like Heart. I happen to appreciate her blog, for my own reasons. If I shredded in obvious ways, would I be crafty? I’m investigating the matter of people excusing inflicting pain on people. You can’t take this out of the context of the culture, which glorifies cruelty as macho, patriotic, kicking ass, showing that woman who’s boss, whatever. It’s been mainstreamed. I think the truth shreds you, you have no real answers to me or Jen. I think you’re a bunch of experts in sophistry, twisting language to make your theories work. I’m a hard scientist. I don’t respect much of what requires faith or twisting language to believe. At least there’s some recognition there’s a problem with the language. Some words aren’t worth reclaiming.

By the way, isn’t a dictionary supposed to include all meanings of a word, not meant to be conflated, as the word has different meanings in different contexts? Leaving aside the question of when is cruelty not excessive, which I’d have to say means at least when it isn’t a man beating up on a woman, or exploiting her acceptance of pain as a normal part of a relationship. That was conventional wisdom until feminism shed too much light on it.

Consent to sex has to be given, not bought, to mean anything. If a woman were teaching men about how to make love, maybe then it would make sense that they should pay her. I don’t buy the legal argument’s applicability to sex. Sex is supposed to mean something besides a commodity for sale.

BTW, Trinity, if you want to argue about HIV, you’re welcome to, on my thread, though there’ll be another soon, about the new evidence. The skeptics keep complaining nobody will debate them. Dr. Gallo will be in court soon, contesting evidence the original study by his assistant was completely rewritten, proving Gallo a total fraud. There’s a damn good reason he didn’t get the Nobel Prize.

57. Renegade Evolution - November 28, 2008

daaamn, and I thought i was harsh. Okay, science, not my strongest suit, I’m a history person, but I’ll give it a go…

I like pain. Mine and that of other people who like pain. I’ve been an athlete all my life, suffered severe injury, and for whatever reason, my pain tolerence is HIGH…thus, for me to feel anything, much less anything that computes as a pleasureable/ makes me feel sexually hyped thing…it’s got to be at least mildly harsh physically. I mean, I go running in 110 degree heat with no effort or bother, and a lot of folk would consider that torture.

And I don’t really see folk dismissing Jen, her ex sounds like real prize winner of an asshole- had one of those myself- but I don’t think you can judge any cross section of humanity by one person, or even a handful of them really. I mean, I know ONE couple into a full time 24/7 BDSM relationship….but she’s the dominant- in all ways. I don’t necessarily get it, but it seems to really work for them (married for 14 years).

Universal assumptions are a killer, because there is no such thing as a universal “fact” for everyone…I mean, you say consent cannot be bought, I disagree…I have sex in front of a camera all the time for money, I consent to do it, of my own free will and without force or being coerced and not out of economic need of lack of other options….do I, the person doing it, get to decide if my consent is real enough or not? I mean I really don’t think anyone else has the right to decide that for me, or anyone else really.

58. TrinityVA - November 28, 2008

AS —

Clearly you’re not actually interested in what motivates people, and only interested in mocking us and feeling smug.

As I mention above, I don’t see why someone so fascinated by “shredding” doesn’t understand sadism. Maybe a mirror would help you.

Bye now.

59. SnowdropExplodes - November 28, 2008

Replying again to Jen:

It has been my quest to try to understand the lifestyle and process what happened to me. I have done quite a bit of research. Everything that I find about S&M in literature links it to deviance, sex addiction and psychological disorders.

That is a problem with the literature rather than with consensual S&M. Most of the literature deals only with the criminal or addicted aspects of S&M, and not with the healthy relationships that are common. It is like judging what people who drive cars are like by only reading a traffic cop’s arrest sheet!

From what I have read and observed that depth of love and deep friendship does not develop in the BDSM world.

I cannot refute your observations, but all I can say is that I have observed the opposite – that friendship and deep love are pandemic in the BDSM world!

It seems to me that once all the scenes have been played out, the partners are all used up, this necesitates a need to find new ones. I am not sure if both partners feel that way or just one. This to me is what seperates the “vanilla” world from the BDSM world. I think that BDSM serves it’s purpose in preventing people from having to know each other in a truly intimate way. This is why people get into it. They either can’t or won’t do intimacy.

This is exactly opposite to what people like Trinity and me describe – for us, BDSM is the very epitome of achieving intimacy. It involves a bonding on a level so deep that partners’ bodies and minds seem symbiotically linked. But then, for people like me who identify as “orientationally” BDSM, it is impossible to break it up into “scenes” that are “played out” – it is a scarlet thread that runs right the way through our being, and our lives – on some level, every part of existence becomes a part of the BDSM relationship, and S&M play is just one aspect of that.

“The effort I put into giving of my all to my partner, to please her, this is a large part of what gives me joy to be a sadist-dominant.”

Snowdrop, this all sounds great and wonderful … Your statement above is a reflection of your need for dominance and control. When you do not fully please your partner, your ego is not getting the gratification that it needs.

This is the classic refutation of altruism, as argued in the philosophy of ethics and morality! How if I frame it thus: “when I do not fully please my partner, I am unhappy because she has not been fulfilled”? Strange as it may sound, I put the effort in because I want to see her happy! I don’t deny that there can be an ego buzz in seeing a carefully-laid plan come to fruition, but that is not why I do it (if it were, there are plenty of other ways to get that sort of buzz).

When you are rejected by your partner, it is ego on the line, not the loss of a “love”.

Please don’t try to tell me what I am feeling, when you have only a few words on a computer screen to go on. With my last partner, we broke up because we agreed at the start of the relationship that because of the age difference (she’s 18 years my senior!) it was never a realistic long-term prospect. We did love one another, and that is why it hurt to split up; I still love her, and I believe her when she says she still loves me, and that is why we remain very close friends today. But it was time for her to move on and find someone with whom she could enjoy a long-term relationship, so we split up.

It can’t be love because your role playing and whatever else is involved prevents the advent of true intimacy and love. I would venture a guess that many BDSM couples hardly even know each other. How could you possibly truly love when you have no clue who a person really is on a deeper level.

You say that as though there is never any contact outside of the roleplaying. Do you know how long it takes to get to trust someone enough that you’ll let them tie you up? Do you know how much you seek their true character to know that you will be safe in their hands? You say that I have control issues, and it’s true, I do – and yet, I surrender myself sometimes into the control of another, and allow myself to be helpless in their hands. How could I do that if I did not feel I knew them outside of the roleplaying?

Do you understand thier feelings about life and how they arrived at those feelings? Do you really know where they have been and where they need to go to grow and thrive as people? Do you care?

Absolutely I do. With my current partner, these are topics that have formed a lot of the early conversations we have had. Finding out what makes a partner tick, what her ambitions are, what her opportunities and barriers are, to me these are intrinsically a part of my role as a Dominant, to help her and be a point of discipline if that is what she needs, or to provide encouragement from the sidelines if that is more appropriate.

That is the advantage that us vanilla people have. We get intimate and we bond.

This is where we differ – you see, from my perspective, I cannot see the intimacy in what vanilla folks do – I can’t see the bonding in it. I am forced to accept their word for it that this is what happens, but to me it looks cold and reserved and empty. To me, intimacy and bonding comes from the vulnerability of bondage, the immediacy of a sharply delivered blow to the backside, the intense connection of minds when each is focussed on the other, one to obey the other to direct. It is physical, it is mental, it is spiritual. It can feel as though I am in her mind as though it is my own, and how much more intimate can you get than that? A BDSM Top is focussed in that way entirely upon hir partner – how different it is from the abuser, whose only thought is for hirself! That is sometimes expressed as the crucial distinction between “abuser” and “BDSMer”

BDSM is not for everyone, and for some people it really is just play, a little spice for their sex life. For others, like me, there is no way to separate it from our very being, and for us, intimacy and bonding and love are all wrapped up and intermingled with BDSM, and one without the other is like a monochrome version of life.

I don’t know anything much about your ex-boyfriend, or what he wanted, or if he deserves your forgiveness. I don’t know if he would even recognise what I’ve had to say here, or why he did what he did. I have only spoken from my own life, and from what I have seen in the BDSM community of which I am a part.

60. SnowdropExplodes - November 28, 2008

I’m investigating the matter of people excusing inflicting pain on people.

Do you have the same attitudes towards tattoo artists, I wonder? After all, they inflict pain on people. How about sportspersons who play contact sports? What about dentists?

You can’t take this out of the context of the culture, which glorifies cruelty as macho, patriotic, kicking ass, showing that woman who’s boss, whatever.

Oddly, those are attitudes that I don’t see in BDSM circles very often – and when I do, I tend to see other members of the BDSM community calling people out over it.

I think the truth shreds you, you have no real answers to me or Jen.

Define “real answers”, please. I believe that with my responses to Jen, I have in fact answered you both in detail, with precision, and with reference to clearly observed phenomena. I have reported clearly on what I have observed and experienced, and while my language may have a touch of the poetic to it, I believe that I have approached the questions in a scientific manner.

I’m a hard scientist. I don’t respect much of what requires faith or twisting language to believe.

I find this statement curious, because the rest of your comment is full of exactly these types of things. For example:

…the question of when is cruelty not excessive, which I’d have to say means at least when it isn’t a man beating up on a woman, or exploiting her acceptance of pain as a normal part of a relationship.

This is an example of twisting language (if it’s intended as a reference to BDSM). You make reference to the problem of domestic violence, and how it often went unchecked and unpunished; but such phenomena are not related to the world of sexual pleasure obtained from mutual informed consent, that we find in BDSM.

Consent to sex has to be given, not bought, to mean anything.

This is a statement based entirely upon your own faith. It requires faith to believe it. I happen to believe that neither you, nor anyone else, are competent to tell another person when their consent is or is not meaningful.

I am trained as a scientist, and as a philosopher. I have explained to you the science of how masochism works on a physiological level, and you seem to have ignored it; or else you think that “for the purposes of giving pleasure” is not in fact a good reason for doing something?

61. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - November 28, 2008

“Consent to sex has to be given, not bought, to mean anything.”

I agree to this statement, but not in the same way you do. I wrote a big post about consent yesterday on my blog, and I received a comment this morning that I think nicely encapsulates my views on consent:

“Well, if I understand Lee’s point, it’s that consent is a state of mind rather than anything communicated. The words “I consent”, shorn of their performative meaning, become akin to “I’m hungry” — reporting an internal state for the benefit of others.

At that point, coercion doesn’t affect consent at all, just makes it more difficult to figure out whether it’s there or not. In the extreme, the person applying the coercion will end up with no information about consent at all, and is reduced to guessing (or, you know, not caring and going ahead anyway).”

Thus, you are technically correct – one cannot “buy” away a lack of consent. But I think that it is possible that external factors can modify the probability that a person will consent to an action. I would not consent to my house being burned down, but I might consent if the arsonist offered me $1m to let me do it. I’m not sure I buy the notion that sex “must” be different. Even if we take it out of the realm of commodity, people have different motivations for sex, and different things will make a person more or less likely to want to have sex with someone. I would not have sex with a random stranger, but if that random stranger took me on a few dates, let me get to know them, let me get a feeling of trust around them, I might indeed have sex with them. But I know people who would have sex with random strangers happily – it’s part of the way they get to know someone is to share intimacy.

External factors cannot deny or grant our consent to actions, sexual or otherwise, because consent is an internal state. But external factors can modify the likelihood that person could consent. And, most importantly, we have to trust each person’s report of consent at their word. To deny that someone can give consent to an action “because no sane person would consent to that” is such a dangerous road to travel – to go that way, to push that perspective to it’s logical conclusion, is to remove responsibility of actions from, well, everyone (after all, people have varying levels of restraint, and allowing the “sanity test” to determine the possibility of consent to an action allows us to put any action in the unconsentable box). If I cannot trust my partner to be able to give their own consent, how am I to avoid harming them? I cannot trust their consent, thus I have no information on how they wish me to treat them!

62. angryscientist - November 29, 2008

Sorry for being such a part time blogger. None of you understand crafty. I use words very deliberately and precisely and in ways one wouldn’t expect, unless one pays careful attention to the context. For instance, Renegade Evolution misquoted my statement that consent to sex has to be given, not bought, to mean anything. Does your consent mean anything to you, besides dollar bills? I never said consent can’t be bought, only that bought consent means nothing, reducing sex to the status of a commodity, which is your business somehow you found a way to enjoy. How usual is that, by the way? Aren’t you the exception to the rule?

Obviously everybody is different. Everybody twists language to make their theories work. I’m asking people to be aware of that, so their theories can get better and their language less twisted. It’s a flaw of human nature to perceive things through the filter of their experience and beliefs, which means their descriptions may only make sense to them, or those close or related to them. After I warn people right off their words will be used against them, I don’t expect them to expect me to be friendly. However, I have appreciation for sincere attempts to communicate, which implies some respectability no matter how strongly I may disagree. I don’t have much respect for our President, old or new, either. You’re in illustrious company that way, if you feel insulted by my lack of MUCH respect. I don’t extend that lightly.

I’m not making intended references. I’m making explicit references. If they don’t apply to you, don’t assume I mean they do. I’m saying your language has something in common with really ugly phenomena, but nobody tells me why you use it. BDSM and sadomasochism are a little removed. Maybe I should call people into that stuff whipped and whippers.

Mocking? Me? Oh you nailed me Trinity. I do mock people, but not for fun. It isn’t pleasant. That’s one thing people who jump to conclusions never get about me. I do it to make a point. It can be quite effective, so I’m not above using it, but it isn’t fun. It usually means I’m pretty angry. I don’t make points to be cruel. I make points for its own sake, because I think there is a universal truth to things, but humans can’t express it directly, so we do the best we can with language, music, all the forms of expression.

I have errands to run. Thanks for an enlightening discussion. Sorry for being insufficiently clearly unfriendly. I’ll clear up some other confusions about what I said later.

63. Jen - November 29, 2008

Snowdrop,
Thank your for responding to my thoughts, ideas and questions. I will admit that I am very confused. If I had not had the experience that I had, I would not have ever had a reason to research this topic. I would not even to this day know what BDSM is. I guess it is always nice to be enlightened, but I will tell you, it has been at quite a price.

When I was in my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I loved him more than I had ever loved any man. We had alot of fun together and I trusted him completely. I thought that he was the kindest man I had ever met. How could I have been so wrong? Is it possible that maybe I wasn’t, completely?

From your description, Snowdrop, it sounds to me like it is possible that some people in the BDSM lifesyle are just simply wired differently, similarly to the differences between gays and heterosexuals. I realize that that is not proven, but, it is something I believe. I don’t know that we can really know anything for sure. I do think that they are making new discoveries all the time with regard to brain chemistry, structure and the association with personality, which I believe includes sexuality.

So let’s say that it is all in the wiring, so to speak. What is it like for a person who wired this way? How has it felt in terms of fitting into society? Is it hard to find partners? Has there ever been a time that you tried to deny that part of yourself? If so, what happened when you did?

Is it possible for a person who has lived this lifestyle to fool themselves for awhile into thinking that they could be happy in the vanilla lifestyle with the right partner? Given that it is not mainstream, do you ever feel isolated and wish that you were not sexually inclined in this way? Do people in the BDSM lifestyle view it as very risky to reveal thier sexual orientation? Why would a person in that lifestyle go for someone not in the life? Are there alot of people that try to have it both ways? I have a million questions, but I will leave it at these. I would be greatful for answers to anyone or all of them.

I realize that my stance has seemed very judgemental up to this point. That has been mostly my anger talking. I think that I have needed to be angry. I vasilate beween anger and sadness. It is so sad to me that a person that I thought I was so close could not reveal to me who they really were. I think that it is so sad that a person would feel the need to hide thier true self for so long from a someone with whom they spent so much time (3 years). Is it possible that that was all part of the game? Does a sadistic person enjoy living on the edge of being caught? Is that any part of the BDSM life? Sooooo confusing!
Jen

64. Ve - November 29, 2008

Jen & Scientist:
It is wonderful that you cannot seem to be able to answer on anything I wrote.Is the whole ‘switch’ (both top and bottom, dominant and submissive not) something that you don’t want to get closer? What do you have to say about my consent? About my feelings? Are they not the same, can you tell me more about what I feel, and how persons around me act and feel? How do you know all this?
The difference between all of the things you have written and most of the things written is that I would never ever claim to know what some people are feeling, or how their relationships are missing that or this. Pointing towards structures yes, but not claim someone loves someone else less…

I fully acknowledge the culture in which we live in. I don’t think any part of our world is as disconnected sphere. But I believe that by examine, play with and ‘stage’ (wrong word, but cannot find any better for now) settings that challenge the notions of power and pain, we can get so much further than just shout something about persons who are engaged in any kind of powerplay are tricked, fooled, coerced, coercing, or agents of a patriarchal culture.

65. mirai - November 29, 2008

While I don’t feel that I’m up to taking part in this discussion (English is not my native tongue and the generally high level of language at display here kinda scares me off), I want to at least share my views on the terminology. BDSM to my knowledge stands for “Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism”. And by all means, doesn’t this cover just about every action one can engage in during BDSM-play? While the BDSM opponents (I don’t dare to speak of radical feminists – oops, looks like I did) as well as the lifestylers struggling to eliminate the negative reputation of BDSM may have issues with at least the sadism part, one cannot help but notice that it is only one of the 6 words forming the term in question. For now I want to concentrate on this word, dodging the issue of whether liking to be tied up, used, beaten, humiliated etc. is a “disease” or not. Previous posters have given enough reasons for why I think that generally speaking it is not, not at all actually. I happen to be such a person myself. That being said, I think the issue with the word “sadism” is that by definition, it means nothing more than “finding pleasure in physically and/or mentally hurting another person” (the “sexual perversion” thing found in many sources is just applying values, which should be a no-go in any dictionary or encyclopaedia). Anti-BDSM theorists add the conotation of “finding pleasure in harming another person” to this. They cannot really be blamed for that, since it is quite a natural interpretation for humans to make. Naturally it has become the interpretation that is most common. Those “sadists” engaged in BDSM on the other hand usually (see, I’m excluding the assholes) do NOT want to harm their partners, let alone enjoying it. They enjoy doing all those things that have been mentioned by the doms who posted here for all those reasons that have been mentioned by the doms who posted here. So is the term “sadist” misleading? Definitely yes, sadly. But should it be replaced? I’m inclined to say no. It’s true, the term carries a huge load of negativity due to all those added interpretations. But I believe by always using sadism in conjunction with masochism, sadomasochism so to speak, most problems can be avoided. Many doms also like to be submissive from time to time anyway, and it IS the term that was coined to describe this kind of sexuality. Call me old-fashioned (though in fact I’m quite young), but this is the very reason why I don’t want to give up the term. After all, using it to describe what the dominant BDSMers are is not wrong by the definition of the word. Personally I like the term BDSM. As I already mentioned, it covers all activities one usually engages in during play, and also touches upon some of the psychological and spiritual aspects (dominance, submission).

Anyone who wants to describe people who physically and/or mentally harm other people for enjoyment, be it through abduction or tricking consent out of insecure people, and then brings up the term S&M, is at fault – not the people that are using S&M to describe their sexuality as it has been presented by the posters here. He/she could not be blamed had he/she just used “sadist”. Would he/she use BDSM he/she would be even more at fault, since BDSM also covers people who, for example, just like to be tied up (note the “bondage” in BDSM) but don’t want to have anything to do with giving or recieving pain.

I will however give credit to you, angryscientist, for actually realizing that those you seeked to “shed” in the course of this debate are actually not the majority of those who describe themselves as being into BDSM (the rest being those who use it as a disguise). But I must insist that it is you who is using the term incorrectly, not “us”.

66. Renegade Evolution - November 30, 2008

“None of you understand crafty. I use words very deliberately and precisely and in ways one wouldn’t expect, unless one pays careful attention to the context. For instance, Renegade Evolution misquoted my statement that consent to sex has to be given, not bought, to mean anything. Does your consent mean anything to you, besides dollar bills? I never said consent can’t be bought, only that bought consent means nothing, reducing sex to the status of a commodity, which is your business somehow you found a way to enjoy. How usual is that, by the way? Aren’t you the exception to the rule?”

You make the immediate mistake of thinking you are smarter than I am. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. However, “Crafty” does not translate well in type or without knowing you…I took your statement as your actual mode on it because that is how it read. I don’t know you or your attempts to be “Crafty”. However, who gets to judge my consent, me or you? Direct and non-crafty question, right there.

Now, I personally think WE ARE ALL, in the eyes of someone ELSE, commodities. We can agrue that point until the end of time, and I will still, via my own education and degrees, think I am correct i’d wager. And i did not need to look for a reason (is that more being crafty?) to enjoy my job, I chose it over a great many things, even a few that paid more. As for me being the exception?

Well, that IS interesting. Most street prostitutes would like out. Brothels, a strange and almost even split, porn performers of all type, generally in by choice, strippers, an even split….how do I know this? Well, my OTHER job is sex worker outreach and activism. Now, go to your grocery store, or gas station, or favorite eatery and ask how many of them would rather be doing something else…the numbers will be similar.

And I am not being crafty, in the least. I find it useless and dishonest.

And I’ve been nothing but polite.

67. angryscientist - November 30, 2008

So, Renegade Evolution, do you think prostitution would be even less enjoyable if, for instance, they could get training for a job they would enjoy? This is my point, the vast majority see no realistic alternative, so they resign themselves to turning their sexuality into a commodity. That’s sacrificing a lot more than selling one’s talents in the workplace. You may see it as equivalent; that’s a stretch. You judge your consent, but I get to judge the implications. Isn’t the life of most prostitutes torture? Isn’t that relevant to this question of consent, twisting of which makes it seem so legit for the johns? Besides, I think your numbers are overly optimistic. You’re not the only one collecting stories. Sometimes crafty means nothing besides subtle, but sometimes it’s more mysterious. I think it’s a safe assumption that nobody understands what I mean by it. That’s got nothing to do with relative intelligence. Part of me is an open book, but another part isn’t. I deliberately made it mysterious because it is mysterious. Life is mysterious and far beyond our comprehension. This is one reason I object to objectifying sex. It’s supposed to mean something, even if it’s just for fun. Maybe I’m just too idealistic to understand somebody like you.

As Mirai noted, none of you are like or defending the people I wanted to shred. It’s like you’re rushing in to assure me they aren’t representative. I hope that’s true. I still don’t get this attachment to defending sadism or cruelty in any form. Nobody owns those terms or can override what they evoke in most people. There are laws against cruelty to animals. It sounds to me people who play with pain have a pain fetish, hence the whipper and whipped metaphor. Where’s the sadism or cruelty? I don’t get it. I’m missing something. What’s the connection? Are you making words of hell on earth into a game?

68. Renegade Evolution - November 30, 2008

I would agree that most people involved in street level prostitution want out and would do something else if they could do so, or earn a living wage doing so…gee, I even actually actively do something to help with that. However, street level work is not all of prostitution, and once you move away from street level work, the want to leave and the options available to the people involved also expand. Sure, no, I am not the only one who studies these things or looks into them or works with organizations that deal in this sort of thing…but I do just that, and not, I’m do not think I am being optomistic. I am basing my ideas off of what I’ve seen and heard from the people involved in prostitution. Further more, when it comes to non-paid people involved in BDSM…the consent of prostitutes really has little to do with the matter-nor does our different views on objectification.

As for defending sadism and cruelty- you know what? I find people endlessly questioning the consent or ability to consent, and the assumptions made about those who engage in whatever the unliked activity in the bedroom to be “cruel”.

69. SnowdropExplodes - November 30, 2008

Snowdrop,
Thank your for responding to my thoughts, ideas and questions.

You’re most welcome, Jen. I have responded more fully to the latest batch of questions on my blog, here. I’ve done this because some of the answers are very personal to me and I guess I feel the need to control the comments because I am quite sensitive and could be hurt!

From your description, Snowdrop, it sounds to me like it is possible that some people in the BDSM lifesyle are just simply wired differently, similarly to the differences between gays and heterosexuals. I realize that that is not proven, but, it is something I believe.

While I don’t think this is the case for all BDSMers, I certainly think there are some who, going by their reported sexual development, must have something more fundamental to their orientation – that is, they must be simply “wired differently”.

Has there ever been a time that you tried to deny that part of yourself? If so, what happened when you did?

Yes, there have. It had a very bad effect on my overall mental health, and now that I have the support of a sympathetic community (both online and r/l) I am glad not to feel the same pressure to do so any more.

Do people in the BDSM lifestyle view it as very risky to reveal thier sexual orientation?

It can cost people their jobs. In some countries or jursidictions, it can cost them their liberty and get them sent to prison. In some places, it can lead to them being labelled “sex offenders”, and treated the same as paedophiles – with all the witch-hunt implications that carries.

Why would a person in that lifestyle go for someone not in the life?

Well, sometimes you just fall in love with someone head over heels, and only later find out that they aren’t as kinky as you. How individual people deal with that situation depends on so many things about them, and the person they fell in love with.

I would be greatful for answers to anyone or all of them.

You’re welcome to all the answers I can give (although maybe if you post them as comments on my blog, it will be easier for me to reply)

I realize that my stance has seemed very judgemental up to this point. That has been mostly my anger talking. I think that I have needed to be angry.

Thank you for listening, and being willing to accept my answers. It is always a pleasure to answer when that happens.

70. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - November 30, 2008

AS, as a brief note, I’m curious as to how my experience connects into the rest of your theories on bought sexuality. I neither considered it a business transaction, nor did I consider it a terrible burden. In my case, it was an honest encounter with an honest individual (and he was much more honest than many of the men I freely gave my sex to), that I enjoyed immensely and that we both walked away from feeling satisfied with the exchange. It’s true that I don’t go out and repeat the experience for other reasons, but I certainly did not feel it was a negative exchange.Hell, I’d say it was a far more positive experience than the many other sexual encounters I had as a teenager.

71. TrinityVA - November 30, 2008

“From your description, Snowdrop, it sounds to me like it is possible that some people in the BDSM lifesyle are just simply wired differently, similarly to the differences between gays and heterosexuals. I realize that that is not proven, but, it is something I believe.”

Jen,

I had left this discussion, but it sounds like you actually do want to know what some of us in this discussion believe for the purposes of something other than mocking, so I returned to answer you.

That for some people (but not all), BDSM is a matter of sexual orientation, has always been my opinion. As I mentioned in various places, my attraction to domination and power existed even though I believed very strongly that the feelings I was having were improper for a woman to have. I certainly do not feel, in my own case, that they came from being trained by patriarchy to fulfill men’s needs, or that they came from needing excitement rather than intimacy.

For me, I experience them like I experience my bisexuality: just the way I work, sexually. Sexual intimacy without some mild degree of power dynamic in it — and most of the time, it’s mild — just isn’t as satisfying to me as sex that includes some degree of surrender and control. Sometimes it’s just not exciting, but usually it just doesn’t feel as intimate to me.

(I also believe that some people who like SM don’t see it as orientational, and I don’t have any problem with this. I just think for some of us it is, and I get tired of people trying to explain that away with theories about personal trauma or adrenaline-junkie high-chasing.)

When a guy submits to me, he’s letting go of a defensive, masculine facade that, in other situations, is always there, pulling us apart, making sex mechanical, about bodies and friction rather than mental connection. And that… doesn’t feel intimate to me.

I certainly believe non-kinky people when they say their sex is intimate and loving but, like Snowdrop, I have difficulty feeling the same way. If, say, you wanted to date me, and because of your past experience said you weren’t comfortable with BDSM as part of that, I’d probably just move on. I have no interest in tricking someone into doing things that they don’t like, or have had bad experiences with in the past.

As far as it being difficult to find partners, I’m not sure if the answer to that is yes or no, as I’ve never been not kinky. 🙂 I have found, like most people I know, that I’ve had a few long-term relationships, some relationships that didn’t work, and some casual friendships that included sex. I’m currently with someone I’ve been seeing for something like a year now, and we get along very well.

As far as fooling themselves, yes, I think that’s actually fairly common. I know a few people who marry and then divorce because they’ve been trying to suppress part of themselves and when they finally come clean, their partners are Not Happy About It. I think the sort of stigma around BDSM that is common — including in certain feminist circles — makes it difficult for a lot of people to find partners, accept themselves, etc.

That’s why this post, and its intention to “trap” people that many of us initially assumed were the regular old rank and file of the BDSM community, got such a response. Many of us are very tired of this sort of stereotyping, where people like the responders to Fortuny’s ad are mentioned alongside the SM community and the supposed “twisting of consent” within it.

Some of us run into it when we’re first dealing with these feelings, take away the idea that we are abusers or patriarchs (or, if we’re bottoms, that we must be totally damaged from trauma or culture) and spend a lot of time thinking we’re broken when we discover we can’t change our feelings.

Because very often, the idea in the heads of those propagating these stereotypes is very different from our lived experience. Sometimes it’s people like you who actually have horror stories in your pasts thinking we’re all the same, which is one thing… but fairly frequently it’s people who believe as they do because some theory about gender or society tells them what must motivate us, and that really bothers us, because for many of us that doesn’t resonate with any of our experiences.

And often when we say so, people respond with “Ah, well, you just don’t know they theory” or “You’re only being defensive.” Which is extremely dismissive.

I hope this helps you… and if you want to continue talking to me, please do email me at trinityva at yahoo do]t com.

72. mirai - November 30, 2008

We defend it because it is part of what we enjoy. “Cruelty” in a way does play a role, as does “abuse”. I’m paraphrasing these words because like it has been stated many times BDSM isn’t about beating a women (or a man for that matter) to a pulp with or without consent of the victim and getting off on it. But it isn’t just physically enjoying pain and/or enjoying to inflict pain on a partner who likes it either. Cruelty and abuse can be part of the fantasy being played out, so it’s not sufficient to speak of “whipper and whipped”. It IS really hard to explain to someone who doesn’t already understand on an emotional level. Making words of hell on earth into a game? Perhaps that’s what it is, if you eliminate the negative conotation. Submissives fantasize about being “abused”, “tortured” and/or living a life as someone else’s sexual property, while dominants or “sadists” fantasize about “abusing” or sexually own someone (two such individuals finding each other can indeed result in deep and longlasting loving relationships). BDSM play can get pretty nasty, but even then it’s still within the realm of safe, sane and consensual if it wants to be called BDSM. It takes place in a controlled environment, so thinking of it as game that plays around with otherwise “evil” concepts is not that far off. The issue here is that you cannot relate at all to the thought of actually enjoying something like that. You are absolutely entitled to this. After all you don’t have these feelings, and coming from the feminist side of things you condemn them. It’s naturally for you to ask why we are so attached to defending cruelty and sadism, when we could just say we like BDSM but have nothing to do with rapists and criminals (which is TRUE – just making sure I’m not mistaken here). But cruelty and abuse are things that are part of the fantasy for many BDSMers (let me emphasize it again: including submissives). You could say we condemn cruelty and abuse in general but reserve the right to exercise it in our private lifes. So where is the difference? Damn, I know where the difference is, but I lack any means to express what I’m thinking. This doesn’t even have anything to do with me not being a native English speaker, I couldn’t even explain it in my own language. It’s an emotional and spiritual thing. Perhaps others are capable to give a comprehensible and comprehensive explaination from “our” point of view that covers everything, but until that happens, you just have to take my/our word on it. There IS a difference, but abandoning sadism and cruelty as concepts just doesn’t work for us. Well, maybe cruelty can be substituted with a word that fits better, I wouldn’t mind that, but I have no idea what word that would be.

I’m sorry if I sound confusing or if it sometimes looks as if I’m contradicting myself. It IS a hard thing to explain, especially when you’re so emotionally attached to it. In actuality BDSM is not all that confusing, just very diverse and complex. In fact I have a pretty clear understanding of why I hold this way of life so close to my heart. I wish for nothing more than that people who oppose it finally see “the difference”. Taking words like sadism, sexual slavery, torture, abuse and whatever away from BDSM semantically, just because it’s consensual and not threatening to the life or mental well-being of it’s practitioners, is, however, not the way to acquire this understanding.

73. mirai - November 30, 2008

Hmm, looks like there were a few comments before I did my first post that were still awaiting moderation at the time. I’d like to address some of the things Jen asked:

So let’s say that it is all in the wiring, so to speak. What is it like for a person who wired this way? How has it felt in terms of fitting into society? Is it hard to find partners? Has there ever been a time that you tried to deny that part of yourself? If so, what happened when you did?

While I like to believe that it’s not all in the wiring, this might be wishfull thinking. But I at least believe that it’s possible for totally vanilla people to understand it emotionally. But let’s suppose kinkyness is coded in our genes, and let’s also suppose that it is not a defect. Knowing a bit about biology I can then safely say that given these assumptions are true, there are bound to be many recombined genotypes that carry the phenotype “kinky”, even if we suppose that half of all involved genes are recessive (which is reasonable). And in fact, the population of BDSM enjoying people is not as marginal as many may think. There were even studies that came to the conclusion that about 50% of all women and men have a potential interest in BDSM. Unfortunatly, the study in question showed some serious flaws when it was revisioned. But almost all researchers now agree that being tied up is one of the most common fantasies among both genders (note that bondage is already part of BDSM) So if you like being tied up, it is not at all impossible to find a partner who doesn’t mind giving it a try, and chances are he/she will find it an enjoyable addition to their sex lifes. Of course the amount of potential partners decreases the more “hardcore” your desires get. But if one person is struggling to find a partner, there will always be the other person that is struggling to find such a partner as well. With bondage and BDSM in general becoming more and more close to mainstream in most places of the world, getting pointed in the right direction (hurray for the internet) should not be a problem. I have personally not yet found the right partner, but me just being busy with university is a huge part of the reason for that. I am certain that I will find someone to share this passion with as life is moving on, though. I also have never felt that fitting into society is a problem for me. For some reason, while discovering the wonders of BDSM, I have developed great appreciation and care for other human beings. For example I used to feel uncomfortable in crowded public transportation, but now I even enjoy it. Always watching my surroundings and being considerate of others as soon as they get near me (like thinking ahead of someone who I noticed wants to exit at the next station but will likely be facing difficulties due to overcrowding, and then positioning myself in a way that will make it easier for them to reach the door) is something I started doing when I first noticed that I gained quite a level of understanding of why I like BDSM. Don’t ask me how that worked, I don’t know it myself. I do have a few thoughts on it, but long post is already getting too long. I should also add that I’m part of a rather large peer group, and I recently discovered that one of my closest friends happens to share similar interests in BDSM.
You might already see my point, I feel totaly comfortable with this part of me. Thus I have never felt the need to revisit my feelings regarding BDSM, let alone denying them.

Is it possible for a person who has lived this lifestyle to fool themselves for awhile into thinking that they could be happy in the vanilla lifestyle with the right partner?

I have no personal experiences of this kind, but I’ve heard that it does indeed happen. But as I said, I see no reason to deny this part of me.

Given that it is not mainstream, do you ever feel isolated and wish that you were not sexually inclined in this way?

No. Firstly, I already pointed out that it isn’t that far from mainstream anymore. The transition from hardcore BDSM to mildly kink-flavoured vanilla sex is a long but fluent one. I know that there are millions of people out there sharing this interest of mine, so I would not feel lonely even if I was indeed alone.

Do people in the BDSM lifestyle view it as very risky to reveal thier sexual orientation?

There are other posters around here who can answer this way better than I can, given my not-so-old age and limited experience. But I think it mainly depends on the country. I can assure you that in Japan openly admitting that you are into BDSM will likely result in a “so what?”. Indicative of this is, among other things, that kinbaku (art of erotic rope-bondage) is also commonly recognized as an art by the general public, as it is the continuation of older martial-arts that would have otherwise been lost by now. BDSM themed illustrations are also quite common in popular culture over there. On the other hand we have countries like the UK where you are likely to lose your job if your company gets even the slightest hint that something about your sex life is “not normal”. This doesn’t apply to companies that are doing business in the field, of course.

Why would a person in that lifestyle go for someone not in the life? Are there alot of people that try to have it both ways?

Again, I’m not the one who can give an in-depth answer to that. But I guess the reasons are diverse and it can be everything from really deep love to being an abusive asshole (sadly). Presumably the latter is what happened to you. I’m all the more happy that you are willing to be open minded again and hear us out.

Please forgive me for any typos and spelling errors this time, I’m a bit in a hurry right now and don’t have the time to double check my post, since it has become so long again…

74. Gorgias - November 30, 2008

“I still don’t get this attachment to defending sadism or cruelty in any form. Nobody owns those terms or can override what they evoke in most people.”

The truth of the matter is, when I hear “sadist, “especially in the terms of a Craiglist ad, I’m more inclined to think of my Master than Saddam Hussein. I dislike the term, but the fact remains that that’s what most people call people like my Master. I understand that sadist has gotten a whole lot of detritus built up around it, but the fact remains that it was initially used to describe pretty much what we do- inflicting pain for the purpose of sexual gratification. I think that’s all the more reason to abandon it, since it was the reprehensible psychological community that thinks we need to be cured creating the term- but I also recognize that it’s what most observers would describe my Master as. So when you call out sadists to defend their behavior, I was under the assumption that you meant my Master.

“How has it felt in terms of fitting into society? ”

Well, let’s say puberty wasn’t fun and games for me. My generation was the first to grow up with the internet in our bedrooms as we hit puberty, and for me, this lead to lots of pornography viewing once I realized that it was on there. The standard feminist narrative would have one viewing more and more violent pornography until one ended up with the whips and chains, but I dove straight in: it wasn’t a gradual build-up, but pretty much the only kind of porn I was interested in from the get-go. I can recall at this time feeling pretty guilty about my sexuality, though it would have almost certainly been much worse had I been a dominant. Throughout high school, I kept my desires to myself, though I also didn’t date anyone. I just hoped to gain the age of majority so I could join some of the BDSM personals websites (the existence of a non-intimidating physical BDSM community was as yet unknown to me).

When I was a junior, a couple of people I had over for a sleepover at that time (I won’t call them friends anymore, for what they did to me) found my porn stash on my computer, and spread the contents of such around the school. For my part, I claimed that I had come out of the closet as bisexual to them, but that they found no porn on my computer, and denied that I was into BDSM and surprisingly, it seemed to work. I find it ironic that my Master is in an opposite situation: his co-workers know about me, but know me as “Jamie.” He’s mostly comfortable with being out of the closet about being a dominant, but not about being bisexual. Different social circles, I suppose.

I know it will never happen, but I still hope that we will eventually be teaching about lypiphilia in sex ed classes in school. Getting your ideas about how a BDSM relationship should proceed through porn is a bad, bad, bad idea. There are far too many who have no inkling of this lifestyle beyond the fantasy, and get hurt in the process. I definitely could have ended up this way, but I thankfully did not, and for that I thank my Master. And, lemme tell you, it would have been fantastic if someone had taken me aside and told me I wasn’t categorically corrupted for having these kinds of feelings.

You spend your sexually formative years thinking that you’re a deviant and corrupted, and well, it’s a revelation when you meet someone that says, “this thing at the core of your being, it’s not an impurity of the soul, it’s not an incurable disease, it’s wonderful, and together, we’re going to explore it.” This too I think increases the vulnerability of young people in the lifestyle (particularly submissives, but dominants are far from safe), and add to that the age disparities that are common in my experience (me being a 19 year old with a 41 year old dom isn’t uncommon, at least in my neck of the woods), and you’ve got a triple threat of risk factors. A lot of which education and greater social acceptance would solve.

Personally, I don’t go to very great lengths to hide it, and wear my collar around campus. It’s a signal to myself that what I do there isn’t shameful, and doesn’t need to be hidden. If anyone asks about it, I typically tell them that my boyfriend gave it to me- most people get the gist at that point, and I’ve no desire to offend the senses of the particularly prudish around here by going into more detail.

“Is it hard to find partners?”

In larger cities, the situation is better. I live in a modestly sized metropolitan area, and while it’s not big enough to house a community, there’s a larger city an hour’s drive away that is. There’s still not a whole of people, though, so I unfortunately only get to see my partner when I’m home for christmas, summer, and the like.

“it is possible that some people in the BDSM lifesyle are just simply wired differently, similarly to the differences between gays and heterosexuals”

I’m agnostic on the whole inborn thing, but as a bisexual submissive, I’ve never felt that either of those descriptors was up for debate, and in every case, my subjective experience of the two conditions has been identical.

“Given that it is not mainstream, do you ever feel isolated and wish that you were not sexually inclined in this way? ”

I wish that it was accepted, but I also think that my early experiences were useful. Character building I suppose, but examining who I was, why I liked things so different from my peers, and what it said about me made me a more thoughtful person growing up. I think I can trace my love of philosophy to this question.

I also can’t fathom having frankly as fun and rewarding experience with vanilla sex only. I mean, I’ve had normative sex before, I enjoy it, and I’m pretty sure my experience isn’t very far from the experiences of everyone else that indulges in it. And nothing I’ve experienced there compares to the intimacy and power of BDSM. Vanilla sex is fun; BDSM sex is a spiritual experience, and growing in my capacity as a submissive has been my foremost outlet for pursuing virtue in a world that only seems to require prudence.

Not to say that normative people are doing it wrong, or anything. I’m sure they’re quite happy with their sex lives.

“Do people in the BDSM lifestyle view it as very risky to reveal thier sexual orientation? ”

With the NCSF statistics above (look through my posts for the link; it basically reports 24% have lost their jobs and 3% have lost their kids over their BDSM orientation), we really should. As I say, I don’t take pains to hide it, but then, at the current moment, I’m a student and pretty unlikely to expelled for such behavior. I’m personally a stubborn guy who won’t be cowed into hiding who I am, but I certainly won’t think less of those whose virtue of prudence outstrips their virtue of honesty.

“Why would a person in that lifestyle go for someone not in the life? ”

Same reason a lot of gay people would, I expect- guilt about their sexuality, desire for a normal life, desire for a family (a BDSM relationship doesn’t preclude kids, but it does have its own challenges), or the simple fact that finding a partner who is compatible on all dimensions, sexuality included, is difficult enough when you’re not limiting your dating pool to the .3% that share your oddball sexual orientation.

” realize that my stance has seemed very judgemental up to this point. That has been mostly my anger talking. I think that I have needed to be angry”

You certainly have the right to be angry, and if in your anger you have misidentified your targets, well, I can’t really blame you for that.

“Is it possible that that was all part of the game? Does a sadistic person enjoy living on the edge of being caught? ”

There are a lot of weird turn-ons in the lifestyle, so it’s certainly possible. I’ll say for my part that it’s not part of my sexuality in the slightest, that I’ve never heard of such a fetish (excitement from having your parents or whatever in the next room that might hear, sure, but not the kind of large scale deception you’re talking about) and that, were it to be part of any person’s sexuality, I’d put money on 10-to-1 odds that that person wasn’t a dominant.

75. TrinityVA - November 30, 2008

Also, this:

“Does a sadistic person enjoy living on the edge of being caught? Is that any part of the BDSM life?”

Not for me. I felt that I was being dishonest and hiding something that might frighten people who didn’t understand why I wanted to do scary things. I spent a lot of my life *not* dating and not seeking dates because I didn’t want to upset people.

This is why I do not date non-kinky people. If one wanted to date me, I’d tell them sooner than later that I’m unusual, so the person could accept or reject me as they saw fit.

76. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 1, 2008

Some answers for Jen’s questions:

Q: Is it hard to find partners?

It can be — though it was much harder when BDSM was more underground and there weren’t places where people with these interests could safely come together.

Q: Has there ever been a time that you tried to deny that part of yourself? If so, what happened when you did?

I tried it for a few hours in my adolescence, realized I wasn’t fooling myself, and stopped. Others report the same sorts of stresses from trying to deny that part of themselves that LGBTs report feeling.

Q: Is it possible for a person who has lived this lifestyle to fool themselves for awhile into thinking that they could be happy in the vanilla lifestyle with the right partner?

It’s not only possible, it’s not unusual. There are plenty of people who live well into their 40s or 50s before they figure out this is what they’ve been wanting to do. Once again, the phenomenon is observed amongst other sexual minorities such as LGBTs as well.

Q: Given that it is not mainstream, do you ever feel isolated and wish that you were not sexually inclined in this way?

I am fortunate enough to have grown up in NYC and lived most of my life in places and times where it was relatively simple to find others of a like mind. I have known many who lived in more conservative places and felt — and feel — very isolated indeed. The Internet has done much to mitigate this isolation.

I am aware of a number of people who wish they were differently inclined, and struggle with that.

Q: Do people in the BDSM lifestyle view it as very risky to reveal thier sexual orientation?

Very risky indeed. BDSMers have lost reputation, jobs, spouses, children, and friends. It is only recently that merely being interested in BDSM was classified as a mental illness, meaning that we were risk of a loss of freedom as well.

Q: Why would a person in that lifestyle go for someone not in the life?

I have no idea. I know of many people who didn’t discover their interest in BDSM until well after they had found someone and married them. As recently as the ’80s, a common discussion in BDSM literature addressed the topic of how to come out to one’s spouse; and how to handle it if they simply weren’t interested.

77. angryscientist - December 1, 2008

Submissives fantasize about being “abused”, “tortured” and/or living a life as someone else’s sexual property, while dominants or “sadists” fantasize about “abusing” or sexually own someone

Mirai, this is interesting, and relevant to my concerns. For a great many women, the life you’re describing here is no fantasy. It’s a trap which they’ve learned to accept as normal. In some cases, that’s part of the culture, and in others, it’s called battered women’s syndrome. Yeah, people with uncompromised agency can turn it into a game, but talk about playing with fire. It’s just hard for me to believe people can play with such concepts, with such pernicious hooks into our subconscious minds, without getting burned. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but I’m skeptical. I think Gorgias is getting burned, despite his claims he’s having the time of his life. Maybe so, but at that age I was pretty naive myself.

Lee Davis-Thalbourne, my theories about bought sexuality aren’t relevant to you, because that was never your life, more like an isolated incident. It might be relevant that you weren’t exactly flush with cash at the time, but since you’d fantasized about such an encounter, your experience is rather anomalous.

As for defending sadism and cruelty- you know what? I find people endlessly questioning the consent or ability to consent, and the assumptions made about those who engage in whatever the unliked activity in the bedroom to be “cruel”.

Renegade Evolution, is that “cruelty” really comparable to the life of an average prostitute, which grounds that questioning you call cruel? I notice you didn’t bother to contest my description, except to say you have some company as far as considering it a worthwhile way to make a living. I’m not questioning that–high-class prostitutes have a great deal more agency than streetwalkers–but I still think you’re the exception that proves the rule.

78. TrinityVA - December 1, 2008

“The standard feminist narrative would have one viewing more and more violent pornography until one ended up with the whips and chains, but I dove straight in: it wasn’t a gradual build-up, but pretty much the only kind of porn I was interested in from the get-go.”

I was never one for porn, really, until a partner showed it to me and I went “Oh, *that’s* what people say is so degrading to women? Odd, these humans. That’s a bit silly, but fun. Oh, and she has a nice butt…!”

But as far as sexuality in general goes, yeah, this is me too. I never really was interested in vanilla anything, so the whole “needing more stimulation and eventually getting to ‘torture’ because all else becomes So Dull after years of libertinage” never rang true to me at all. So-called “vanilla” sex just didn’t make sense in my head. It seemed really cold and impersonal, like people trying to caress one another while wearing space suits.

I guess to me it seems odd that someone would want to be intimate with and close to someone, but only want to share “safe” kinds of pleasure so as to avoid pain. I’d feel like I didn’t really know someone if I always, for the duration of an entire relationship, stuck to things that were never psychically and physically challenging. I know others don’t feel this way, but for me… I want a partner, not a pet bunny.

Interestingly enough, it was only after doing BDSM that I discovered “vanilla” sex could also be enjoyable. I don’t like it as much, no, but I think the reason why I discovered it’s also nice is because I’d already been accepted as I was.

79. Gorgias - December 2, 2008

“I think Gorgias is getting burned, despite his claims he’s having the time of his life. Maybe so, but at that age I was pretty naive myself.”

I don’t want to sound defensive, and I’m honestly curious: what makes you feel that way? Is it simply my age, or something about the posts I’ve made prior?

80. angryscientist - December 2, 2008

Trinity, I’ve never heard of or encountered an intimate relationship that was never psychically challenging. Do you think psychic pain is avoidable in a relationship? A pet bunny? How condescending and silly can you get?

Gorgias, call it a hunch. It’s not your age. That just makes you naive. I know quite a bit about how humans trick themselves.

81. TrinityVA - December 2, 2008

AS,

Fair enough. I don’t think anyone’s relationships are devoid of hardship, difficulty, etc. And I’m definitely aware that my proclivities are odd.

All that I meant by that statement was that to me, given that being close to someone involves sharing all the bittersweet stuff of life, I’ve never quite understood why people think playing with pain or power in bed is especially creepy. For me it’s like… well, intimate sex is in part about knowing and exploring someone, but they have a big sign up saying “Not this.” I can respect that sign and move on, but I’ve never quite understood why people think it’s strange that I wonder why it’s there if someone already seems to want to be intimate with me in the first place.

82. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 2, 2008

How about we put the science back into this?

AS, your hypothses appear to be:

A:”Men who are sadists, tops, and dominants operate according to a completely different dynamic than women who are sadists, tops, and dominants; requiring the twi groups to be discussed separately.”

B:”Men who are sadists, tops, and dominants can only hold such desires out of misogynist motivations, and none other.”

C:”People who are masochists, bottoms, and submissives can only hold such desires for pathological reasons; and should seek therapy to find a ‘cure’ for that pathology. Such desires cannot occur or exist in a non-pathological state.”

Some questions:
1) Would you agree these are accurate paraphrasings of your hypotheses?

2) Can you describe your criteria for falsifying each of these hypothes?

3) What is your hypothesis to explain men who are sadists, tops, and/or dominants, but do not include women in their sexual universe because they’re gay?

4) Homophobic analysis of homosexuality has long maintained that gay men are gay for misogynist reasons. How do you prevent your hypothesis from falling into the same trap?

5) Feminist analysis described the inappropriate use of therapy as a tool for social control in the cases of women who were not deemed to be as submissive, as masochistic, or who did not otherwise conform to the prevailing model of femininity at the time. Given this problematic history, and particularly as a man, how do you ensure that you do not fall into psychology’s historic trap of trying to force women to conform to your beliefs rather than supporting their own agency and empowerment?

83. mirai - December 2, 2008

Mirai, this is interesting, and relevant to my concerns. For a great many women, the life you’re describing here is no fantasy. It’s a trap which they’ve learned to accept as normal. In some cases, that’s part of the culture, and in others, it’s called battered women’s syndrome.

You sure are right about that. And part of my problem with feminism is why not concentrate all the effort that is being put into fighting BDSM on liberating the women that are trapped in such a situation instead? Women in islamistic countries don’t get to decide, nobody asks them if they want to be born into such a society. I’m aware there are other cultures where woman are reduced to mindless birthing machines that are property of their family, not being anti-islam here, was just the first example that sprung to mind. I did get to decide, however, so did millions of other women. There might be cases where social conditioning has indeed influenced the sexual behaviour of women, but I’m sure that is not the case with any of the female posters here, and 90%+ of every other BDSM practitioners. About half of all submissives are male anyway. I can at least assure you that I was never surpressed, or forced into any role. Sexual orientation is likely to have biological reasons, after all. That being said, I can’t blame you for not undestanding how we can play with such concepts. I wish I could give you insight on this, but it appears to be outside of my possibilites.

Also, quoting my lines out of context like this, they sure seem rather extreme. Maybe I haven’t been objective enough and put in too much of my own views (yeah, I like it rough). Commitment, obedience, self-sacrifice and passion, those virtues Gorgias already talked about, also play an important role in BDSM for both the submissive and dominant sides. Please note that you don’t have to agree on how virtuous each of these acutally are. At least I think one cannot think of them as part of those pernicious hooks in our mind you proclaimed. Remember that there are not only female submissives and male dominants…

84. angryscientist - December 2, 2008

Trinity, given your proclivities, I’d agree it’s strange that people who want to be intimate with you would think it’s strange you wonder why they have that sign up. Maybe they’re trying to reform you, which is obviously not what you want.

Dan Holzman-Tweed, I partially agree with hypothesis A, but not the others, so your questions are not particularly relevant. I don’t say everybody is different to be facile or trendy. I believe that, and that those differences can go far beyond what many people can imagine. People all have different reasons for believing and liking things. My primary point is more about language and principle than pathology. I’m suspicious of these attempts to reclaim sadism and cruelty. I can sort of understand turning them into a game, but I think those who play with fire may not even realize when they’re getting burned.

The idea that I’m trying to force women to conform to my beliefs is laughable. I’m observing how expectations of female masochism have been used against women from time immemorial. This makes me suspicious of the idea that a woman allowing a man to dominate or inflict pain on her, even as a game, is doing anything to empower herself. It might be fun, or a means of defiance of traditional expectations by turning them into a game, but it’s a dangerous game, and I wonder if these women should be so trusting. If a man gets mad and out of control, suddenly it’s no longer a game.

Your ideas of my hypotheses and your questions are amusing, in a way. I think the entire culture is pathological, especially in these United States. Some of that is the pervasive sexism, some is the reckless arrogance of science for hire, and some is the mentality of empire. This is the context in which I see sadism and cruelty. As I said, they’ve been mainstreamed. Many people may not notice their influence unless it’s in their face, as when confronted with BDSM or Abu Ghraib; then they act shocked. Sexism is in itself sadistic and cruel. There’s no escaping these facets of the culture. I could see how my scorn could be called cruel. It isn’t meant that way, but it could come across that way. I see nothing but trouble coming from the mainstreaming of sadism and cruelty. Playing with that kind of fire can be fun, sure, but the stuff of hell on earth shouldn’t be underestimated or taken lightly. Fun isn’t always innocuous or without consequences, which can be extremely subtle and easily missed or denied. Traditionally, there’s nothing fun, subversive, or empowering for women in female masochism, but it has been a convenient means of training women to accept male dominance. These are all matters of principle to me, not pathology. BDSM tries to put different meanings and purposes on all these concepts. People can try whatever they want, but they shouldn’t expect to play with fire and never get burned.

85. TrinityVA - December 2, 2008

“but I think those who play with fire may not even realize when they’re getting burned.”

This doesn’t really make sense to me, AS. Maybe it’s just a poor choice of metaphor, but, y’know: Fire Hot.

Burns Pretty Darned Obvious.

It’s that, I think, that makes this difficult for some of us to swallow. People who don’t have the same kinds of personal experience with this stuff come along and go “You’re getting burned!” or “You’re harming your partner and don’t realize it!”

And we go “Yeah, I don’t see it — this is all consensual and negotiated.” And opponents go “Yeah, but the harms are just not obvious, except that WE can see them!”

It all strikes me as just a little too pat.

86. angryscientist - December 2, 2008

Trinity, if this stuff were all straightforward and easily understood, I might agree with you, but it isn’t. People are really skillful at not seeing things. People are smarter than the proverbial frog slowly boiled to death, never realizing the danger, but not all burns are obvious, and not all fires are hot. Women under the spell of battered women’s syndrome don’t realize their predicament; they believe things will get better, or they did something to make the guy mad. I’m not saying this is the same as consensual masochism, whatever that means in the context of this culture, but it does show how people can fool themselves into believing their self-sacrifice is noble. Some forms of self-sacrifice are noble, but others just play into the hands of abusers.

87. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 3, 2008

Which part of Hypothesis A do you agree with? What dynamic(s) do you believe is in play for all the arrangements that aren’t male-dominant/female-submissive? The question of how you would go about falsifying the portion in which you do believe remains relevant.

If you reject Hypothesis B, then you acknowledge that men who are sadists, tops, or dominants can have these interests for reasons that have nothing to do with misogyny. Given that admission, what’s the problem?

If you reject Hypothesis C, then what sort of “help” are you referring to when you say “I think such women need help”?

88. mirai - December 3, 2008

Hmm, I don’t know what to add to this debate anymore. I understand your concerns, but I totally disagree. Sadism and masochism will never be that mainstream. And I just don’t see the dangers of a new patriarchic world order emerging from what some people do in their bedrooms, if this is what you’re getting at, even if BDSM was fully accepted by society someday (will probably never happen). The dangers of falling into the hands of an abuser is there, no doubt about that. But this is why communities exist for this lifestyle. You can be fooled by a “nice” guy regardless of your sexual orientation, right?

You’re basically saying that these concepts should not be played with because of their implications for society. This I just cannot accept, as it would mean that I’m not allowed to enjoy my sex life. But I have no way to prove to you that I am not fooling myself, that my views of how society should be equal for all human beings are in fact NOT getting distorted by my sexual fantasies. I guess I can only leave it at that.

89. Jen - December 3, 2008

Thank you Snowdrop, Trinity VA, Mirai, Gorgia’s and Dan for sharing your feelings and experiences as they relate to the questions that I asked. I think that like anything else that is different or not mainstream in our society, there is a large room for interpretation. Often thoughts and ideas are formed with very little attempt to get to the truth via research and or by talking to the people who are affected.

Often times it’s just easier to rely on how the subject is portrayed in the media or through what little experience may come our way, often just by what we hear through other people who likely have pre-formed ideas. If someone is not interested in getting involved in BDSM, what reason would they have to research the subject? It would seem to me that keeping BDSM in a dramatic, terrifying light would serve it’s own purpose, given that people enjoy drama, especially the kind that involves sex, violence and danger.

After reading what people had to say in response to my questions, I sense that your BDSM means as much to you as my vanilla (when I’m not being tricked) means to me. I don’t like it when someone implies that my “vanilla sex” is boring or has anything to say about it at all. Who is anyone to determine for someone else what thier experience is? My experience is my experience and unless you are me you cannot know it.

It blows my mind that something that is of the ultimate excitement to me could be considered boring or anything else but pleasureable. I have observed that the BDSM group which seems tightly knit to me has a tendency to put us vanilla folks down. It feels to me like the BDSM’rs view themselves when together as somewhat elite, having found the real ecstacy, leaving us “boring” vanilla guys and girls in the dust or sitting by the side of the road with our vanilla ice cream cones.

I will admit that there is a part of me that has found some of what I have read to be a bit exciting also. I think the role playing could be alot of fun and some experimentation with power and pain could even be a bit interesting. The problem is, I don’t think that is all there is to it. I think BDSM crosses the line all too often into sexual deviancy leading to disease, sex addiction and serious emotional problems. Sex addiction is a big reason, I believe that people get into BDSM in the first place. I suppose it is hard to know what comes first the emotional problems and sex addiction or the BDSM. It is my understanding, and please correct me if I am wrong, that in addition to the pain and humiliation inflicted on an individual, there are usually group sexual activities involved in BDSM that are made up of partners that either do or don’t know each other well. It is my personal belief that group sex is morally wrong and cannot possibly be good for the long term emotional well being of anyone. This, I believe is what the secrecy of BDSM is all about.

Just like I don’t want my vanilla sexual experience judged, it is not my place or my desire to judge anyone elses regardless of whether I agree with it or not. I will admit that when I read about the extreme things that people can do in the lifestyle, it makes cringe. it also makes me feel very concerned for the people involved mostly for the people who maybe are younger and are making decisions to get involved in the lifestyle without knowing themselves and understanding the emotional long term impact that this could have.

If people understand themselves and have been someone introspective, gaining information and understanding of how thier past has affected thier present including the choices they make in thier sexual lives, then it is more likely that people will make responsible choices with regard to the kind of sex they are consenting to. I do believe from what you have all said that it is very possible to have a BDSM life that is satisfying, thrilling in it’s own way and responsible (minus the group sex), leading to a deep intimacy if that is where you choose to go. I think a little vanilla sex thrown into the mix would probably help that but hey, how would I know, I haven’t been where you are.

It is the line that gets crossed that has driven BDSM underground in my opinion. Who is to say what that line is. Is it when someone drinks piss or is it when other couples are introduced into the mix. That, to me is the problem. There is no BDSM manual that I am aware of. I know there are books, but no manuals. To me it would seem more equilized and less likely that one person is essentially being abused if in all the relationships the partners switched.

Ultimately though, the question remains for me, where does the line get drawn, with or without consent? It is human nature to want to continue to take a situation that feels like ecstasy to the next level. From what I have read there is a certain tolerance that develops which creates a need to continue to escalate sexual behavior. It’s no wonder that us vanilla cone lovers seem so boring! Where is the line?
Jen

90. angryscientist - December 3, 2008

Dan, I agree that the dynamics are different between female and male dominants, but not completely different. Different enough for me to draw a stark distinction, but there are similarities, obviously. What, are you saying there’s no difference? If this weren’t a thoroughly sexist world, that might be possible. The dominant male and submissive female is the traditional arrangement. Different combinations have a better chance to escape the influence of the traditional dynamic, being unconventional to begin with.

As for hypothesis B, your conclusion doesn’t follow. Dominance is a construct intimately related to misogyny, but it’s possible to separate them in some cases. I’m saying some men who like to dominate as a game aren’t primarily motivated by sexism; the connection is weak, possibly even nonexistent, though it’s really hard, if not impossible, for a man to eradicate all traces of sexism. In the context of this culture, there’s hardly anything that has nothing to do with sexism. It’s a bedrock principle, slowly being uprooted by feminists, while many men feel really threatened by that uprooting. I have a problem with men abusing women, even if the women think they enjoy it. If there’s no abuse, there’s no problem, though drawing the line is more complicated than surface consent.

My statement that such women need help was in reference to women seeking to be cruelly abused by such sadists as were caught by the sting. As I’ve observed, this is on the extreme side, and nobody has come here recently to defend those guys. Therapy is only one way such women could be helped. A support network is another. Reading some feminist books is another. Whether a woman needs help, and what form that help would take, is not a simple matter. If a woman feels strong, confident, self-sufficient, she probably doesn’t need psychological help, regardless of what kinds of games she likes to play. I just wonder how common that is among submissive women.

Mirai, maybe sadism and masochism as you define them aren’t mainstream, but most people don’t define those in terms of a game. Blatant forms aren’t mainstream, but subtle forms are omnipresent. I could call factory feedlots a form of sadism, but most people don’t care what happens to farm animals. Mankind has arrogated a privilege to dominate over Nature, with disastrous consequences. Female masochism and male cruelty are as mainstream as apple pie. What’s unusual is women actively seeking out male cruelty for pleasure, as opposed to passively accepting it as normal, expected, par for the course.

91. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 3, 2008

@Jenn:

The reason we came up with the word “Vanilla” to describe non-BDSM sex is that the analogy works very well: Vanilla is the second most popular flavor of ice cream in the world, having recently been displaced by chocolate. Barring allergy, pretty much everyone will have vanilla as a part of their diet. In my kitchen, there is a bottle of vodka with a vanilla bean steeping in it, vanilla yogurt, and vanilla beans. Some people just accept it as a sort of “background flavor,” others pay attention to it and appreciate it’s complexity and subtlety.

On the other hand, some people simply don’t care for it. There are other flavors they prefer. They find vanilla a boring flavor. That doesn’t mean that vanilla is boring in some objective sense — objective taste is an oxymoron in this context — it simply means that personal tastes vary widely. Someone who says, “I don’t care for vanilla, I like rocky road better” in no way invalidates your appreciation of vanilla. In exactly the same way, someone who says “I don’t care for vanilla sex, I like BDSM better” — or even a group of people who all agree that they prefer BDSM to vanilla sex for a variety of reasons ddoes not invalidate your appreciation of vanilla sex.

I am leery of the term “sexual deviancy.” Given that the history of the term is nothing more than “sex not favored by the powers that be,” and has included at one time or another literally everything that isn’t heterosexual missionary position vanilla sex between spouses with the lights out, you’re going to have to make the case that there’s anything wrong with sexual deviancy. After all, if you like to give or receive, say, oral sex, you’re a sexual deviant too.

The methods of preventing transmission of disease through BDSM activities has been well understood for decades id is widely and vigorously taught.

“Sex addiction” is another term very much like “sexual deviency,” in that I’ve never heard a diagnostic criteria for the alleged condition that didn’t boil down to “having types of sex of which the speaker disapproves.” Can you unpack that, please?

What emotional damage do you believe arises from BDSM, and what is your basis for the assertion? If the specific types of damage also occur in vanilla contexts, please explain why you single out BDSM as problematic on that basis.

BDSM can occur as a part of group sex, but it does not have to. I do not accept your assertion about the morality of group sex, and counter with with my own assertion that group sex is every bit as moral as any other form of consensual sexual act between adults. Likewise, there is nothing inherently irresponsible about group sex.

BDSM was not driven underground because it crossed a line. BDSM was driven underground along with lots of other things because therre was a long period of time in which all sexual activity, were made illegal. Things like contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc.

What do you mean by “a manual” that SM 101; The Loving Dominant; Screw The Roses, Just Send Me The Thorns; and all those other books don’t fit the bill?

If in all the relationships the partners switched, it would be a disaster when people were performing the roles they didn’t find fulfilling. To think that would make it seem less abusive is only to say that you fundamentally don’t understand the dynamics or interests involved. Both partners switching is only a desirable state of affairs when both partners switch.

If you intend to draw this “line” anywhere but at the point of consent, I think you’re going to have your work cut out for you justifying it.

You say “It is human nature to want to continue to take a situation that feels like ecstasy to the next level.” Do you find that describes your feelings around vanilla sexuality? Are you developing “a certain tolerance” leading to a need to “escalate sexual behavior?” If not, you’re refutation of the assertion. I haven’t noticed any dissatisfaction on my part with the ecstacy I’m feeling, so I guess I’m refutation as well.

92. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - December 4, 2008

““Sex addiction” is another term very much like “sexual deviency,” in that I’ve never heard a diagnostic criteria for the alleged condition that didn’t boil down to “having types of sex of which the speaker disapproves.” Can you unpack that, please?”

Oh, I’m happy to tackle that one. Sexual addiction is a compulsion or obsession with sex or sex-related activities that is beyond the person’s capacity to resist, and that which directly impacts the capacity for the person to live a fulfilling life as they define a fulfilling life. It’s quite real (although probably over-diagnosed by many), although the question as to whether it’s an “addiction” or a “compulsion” is a valid one (although not overly relevant – in either case, the behaviour is beyond the person’s will to resist). It is not, however, a diagnosis that anyone should imprint on anyone else without serious cause – not everyone who has lots of sex is suffering a compulsion to do it.

93. Gorgias - December 4, 2008

I was asked by my therapist a few weeks ago (yeah, I visit a therapist, more for integrating this whole thing with my overall identity and dealing with the prejudice of an outside world. I’m not seeking a cure) why, when I pride myself on acting prudently in all cases and never take unnecessary risks, I find myself engaged in a risky lifestyle. I always dislike hearing this, because it’s very clear evidence that the person in question is using a gut emotional reaction and hasn’t taken the time to rationally assess the risks involved. Seriously, between AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, and the emotional risks that every relationship is fraught with, you think my biggest problem is a few welts? The high schooler who plays a game of football (lots of injuries, after all) and then has sex with his girlfriend has a more dangerous Friday night than I do with my Master. Such thinking is indicative of a healthy/unhealthy dichotomy in thinking that I do not feel corresponds with objective reality: that this thing is unhealthy in some way, therefore it goes along with and engenders this other thing that is also unhealthy. It’s the foremost reason why AIDS continues to be branded a gay disease despite the fact that it’s infecting pretty much everyone now.

This type of thinking is usually quite prevalent in the feminists that are opposed to BDSM, and I can’t think of any other plausible justification for Jen’s bringing “disease” into the discussion. Unless by disease she means that sadomasochism in itself is a disease, anyone who took a moment to step back and rationally consider the situation would at once realize that BDSM is probably the least likely type of sexuality to engender disease, inasmuch as it is possible to be sexually fulfilled without swapping fluids.

In any case, whether or not the majority of BDSMers are into group sex is irrelevent. If you think group sex is a problem, fine (I haven’t engaged in it myself but I have no problems with it), but your problem is with group sex and not BDSM.

“This, I believe is what the secrecy of BDSM is all about.”

You’re looking in the wrong places for the reason for BDSM’s secrecy. Was homosexuality driven underground because many of them had many sexual partners, because they engaged in many even more “deviant” forms of sexuality? No, it was underground because of the intolerance of the outside world, and now that that intolerance is disappearing, the need for their secrecy has also vanished. If you want to see why BDSM is underground, look no further than this thread. The bigotry of the populace makes it impossible. In other words, you’re blaming the victim.

The same old chestnuts were very often leveled at the homosexual community, too. There we heard the complaint that they were seeking novelty at the expense of intimacy, that the lifestyle engendered disease, that people who weren’t satisfied with normative sex must be addicts, and would continue seeking sexual highs in ever more dangerous territory. We heard that they were emotionally damaged, having too overbearing a mother or too distant a father; and in short, all of these arguments depending on an othering of the homosexual; so too with the BDSMers.

Of course, this is gut instinct, with nary an objective psychological survey to be found, about the othering of either homosexuality or of lypiphiles. Thankfully, where the illumination of the scientific method is applied, these fallacies are revealed for what they are, and we find that homosexuals and lypiphiles are no more likely to be unhappy, sexually abused, psychologically diseased, or emotionally unhinged than anyone else. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24237715-26103,00.html

94. Jen - December 4, 2008

Dan,

“or even a group of people who all agree that they prefer BDSM to vanilla sex for a variety of reasons ddoes not invalidate your appreciation of vanilla sex.”

Your right. I think I am a little sensitive in that area. When the ex-BF took off to go back to his BDSM life, I felt like I was back in high school being rejected by a friend who chose the “cool” group over me. I suppose it left me feeling like I wasn’t exciting or “hip” enough. I guess I was really projecting my own feelings without knowing it.

From what I was able to find, sexual deviancy was not as simple as in your description. It encompassed a wide range of sexual behaviors that were outside the norm, including paraphilias, fetishes, masochism, sadism and extended as far out as rape. Included was discussion that sexual deviancy is a result of sexual and or psychological disorders. This is what I was thinking when I referred to the term sexual deviancy.

“Sex addiction” is another term very much like “sexual deviency,” in that I’ve never heard a diagnostic criteria for the alleged condition that didn’t boil down to “having types of sex of which the speaker disapproves.” Can you unpack that, please?

Most people don’t realize this but sex addiction is very real and is no different in terms of how it progresses from any other addiction. Believe it or not, sex addiction is all about the rush of endorphins and opiates ( that exist at the endorphin receptor sites) that get released into the central nevous system during orgasm which leads to euphoria. The addiction behaves very much like an opiate addiction. A person develops tolerance and needs to increase thier sexual behavior over time to get the same effect. As the tolerance increases, the addict engages in riskier behavior. If the addict attempts to stop his/her behavior, he experiences withdrawal symptoms much the same way as a narcotic addict would. It is a very difficult addiction to treat mostly because of the issues of shame felt by the addict. Most sex addicts don’t seek treatment. The sex addict goes through cycles which involve obsession about sexual behavior, acting out, shame, remorse and guilt. Sex addiction is progressive and if untreated leads to loss of family, friends and can lead to death and destruction. It is extremely sad and becoming more prevalant because the internet provides instant sexual availability.

“BDSM can occur as a part of group sex, but it does not have to. I do not accept your assertion about the morality of group sex, and counter with with my own assertion that group sex is every bit as moral as any other form of consensual sexual act between adults. Likewise, there is nothing inherently irresponsible about group sex.”

People have different morals and values. The thought of it makes me cringe. People who participate in group sex are lacking boundaries that are usual and customary in our society. Boundary issues are known to be characeristic of most personality disorders. I did not say that people who participate in group sex are irresponsible, although I am sure there is plenty of room for that. I said that people who understand themselves can be counted on to make responsible choices thereby making consent more solid.

If in all the relationships the partners switched, it would be a disaster when people were performing the roles they didn’t find fulfilling. To think that would make it seem less abusive is only to say that you fundamentally don’t understand the dynamics or interests involved.

Yes your, right, probably wouldn’t work for the reasons you described. Seemed good at the time.

You say “It is human nature to want to continue to take a situation that feels like ecstasy to the next level.” Do you find that describes your feelings around vanilla sexuality? Are you developing “a certain tolerance” leading to a need to “escalate sexual behavior?” If not, you’re refutation of the assertion. I haven’t noticed any dissatisfaction on my part with the ecstacy I’m feeling, so I guess I’m refutation as well.

I think that the focus of BDSM is about dominance, control, acting out scenes, inflicting and or receiving pain and humiliation. I see it as being about achieving a certain state of mind. It would seem to me that if that is the goal, people in the life would always be looking for the optimal thrill or state of ecstacy which is achieved through fantasy. The partners may be fooling themselves into believing that they are somehow acting in the interest of the other person but when one person is controlling another, it would seem that the interest would be self serving on both the part of the dom and the sub. I don’t see the intimacy or the partnership. The sole focus is on the “experience” which is so different for both partners. What are they sharing? It seems to me that they are meeting thier own needs which just happens to compliment the needs of the other given thier BDSM inclination. When the focus is on the “experience”, it would stand to reason to me that the behaviors would escalate over time. I would imagine you wouldn’t want to go backwards. Vanilla sex is about the the willingness of both partners to be honest enough to reveal who they really are both mentally and sexually and to trust that it is safe to do so. It is just as much about intimacy as it is the sexual act. It is about expressing love and bonding (the ideal version). I guess to a person that has little capability for intimacy, empathy and love, the vanilla life would seem very boring if not unbearable.

95. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 4, 2008

“This is what I was thinking when I referred to the term sexual deviancy”

And what I wrote about the problematic nature of the term “sexual deviancy” stands. Homosexuality was a diagnosable mental disorder until 1973. Paraphelias, sadism, masochism, and more were diagnosable mental disorder until 1980. In 1851, Drapetomania[1] was a diagnosable mental disorder. As recently as the 1940s, women who didn’t quietly accept the subordinate role patriarchy assigned them were diagnosed with Hysteria. The fact is that mental illness diagnoses have a long, sad history of being used as a means of social control independantly of any bona fide mental health issue.

“People who participate in group sex are lacking boundaries that are usual and customary in our society.”

Incorrect. People who participate in group sex have different boundaries than are usual and customary in our society. That fact that something is usual and customary does not make it exclusive, or even better than minority choices.

“I did not say that people who participate in group sex are irresponsible”

You wrote, “I do believe from what you have all said that it is very possible to have a BDSM life that is satisfying, thrilling in it’s own way and responsible (minus the group sex)…”

I do not see a way to interpret the caveat “minus the group sex” as a modifier to “responsible” in any other way than an assertion on your part that group sex is irresponsible.

“I think that the focus of BDSM is about dominance, control, acting out scenes, inflicting and or receiving pain and humiliation.”

That is a very narrow view of the focus of BDSM. BDSM has many different foci for many different people, and those foci can and do shift from time to time, scene to scene, etc.

“What are they sharing?”

They are sharing a bunch of things. For one, they’re sharing an interaction. As with other instances in this discussion, you’re looking at it from outside the interaction and without a desire to participate in that interaction. From my perspective as a switch, whipping someone or being whipped; tying someone up or being tied by them; serving someone or being served by them is as intimate an exchange as having sex with them. When you consider all the ways that sex can be utterly devoid of meaning[2], it is not hard to think of examples BDSM sex that is more intimate than examples of vanilla sex.

Nor does BDSM have to revolve around fantasy — nor is vanilla sex divorced from fantasy. If I’m whipping someone, we can choose to make it a part of a fantasy; but we don’t have to. I can just be someone whipping someone because I get turned on whipping them, they get turned on being whipped, and we like to do things that turn one another on because we love each other!

“Vanilla sex is about the the willingness of both partners to be honest enough to reveal who they really are both mentally and sexually and to trust that it is safe to do so.”

So is BDSM. I really am someone who mentally and sexually enjoys playing with interpersonal power to generate sexual energy just as I find it useful to play with electron energy states to generate electrical power.[3] One of the largest sources of intimacy between my wife and I is that I am honest enough to reveal that to her and can trust that it is safe to do so; and that she is honest enough to reveal herself to me and can trust that it is safe to do so. When we do BDSM together, we are expressing our love for one another and bonding.

People who find vanilla sex boring do not find it so because they lack a capability for intimacy, empathy, and love; they do so because vanilla sex does not communicate intimacy, empathy, and love to them any more than getting whipped would communicate intimacy, empathy, and love to you.

[1] A “mental disorder” that made black slaves want to escape slavery.

[2] “meeting thier own needs which just happens to compliment the needs of the other given” sounds like a perfect description of a completely vanilla one-night stand.

[3] I guess you can tell I’ve a bachelor’s in Physics.

96. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 4, 2008

@AS: “the dynamics are different between female and male dominants, but not completely different.”

We’re trying to arrive at a testable hypothesis here, please be specific: What differences do you assert there are between female-dominant and male-dominant heterosexual relationships?

“What, are you saying there’s no difference?”

Saying there’s no difference is merely the null hypothesis. What I’m trying to do here is nail down your hypothesis explicitly and precisely so that we can test it and see if it holds water.

“The dominant male and submissive female is the traditional arrangement.”

That is a very shallow analysis of the traditional arrangement. The traditional arrangement assigns dominant and submissive roles. As soon as you’re explicitly negotiating and consenting to those roles, especially if you’re defining the limits of those roles, you have parted ways with the traditional model.

“Dominance is a construct intimately related to misogyny, but it’s possible to separate them in some cases.”

I’m trying to find a way that this can arise from premises other than the syllogistic fallacy “Misogyny is related to dominance, BDSM is related to dominance, therefore BDSM is misogynist” and not having much luck.

If there’s hardly anything that has nothing to do with sexism, then men into BDSM have no challenge not faced by men into vanilla sex.
If you acknowledge that it’ possible for “some” men to dominate without that dominance being motivated by misogyny, why do you not treat those men and men whose dominance is motivated by misogyny as separate cases?

“I have a problem with men abusing women, even if the
women think they enjoy it. If there’s no abuse, there’s no problem, though drawing the line is more complicated than surface consent.”

Then it sure is a good thing that we aren’t doing BDSM based on surface consent, but based on explicit discussion, negotiation, and informed consent.

I respectfully suggest, however, that it is problematic for you to refer to women as “thinking” they enjoy it, as if you are in a position to doubt their self-reporting, as it usurps their agency.

“If a woman feels strong, confident, self-sufficient, she probably doesn’t need psychological help, regardless of what kinds of games she likes to play. I just wonder how common that is among submissive women.”

(By way of reference, I read this sentence to my wife, she asked me to pass along that she finds your attitude in the above quote condescending and misogynist.)

Have you considered researching that topic? There’s no shortage of submissive women writing about their lives and their sexual interests If not, why not? (Hint: I’ve probably interacted with more submissive women than you, and I’ve noted quite a few who seem strong, confident, and self-sufficient.)

97. Gorgias - December 5, 2008

“Vanilla sex is about the the willingness of both partners to be honest enough to reveal who they really are both mentally and sexually and to trust that it is safe to do so. It is just as much about intimacy as it is the sexual act. It is about expressing love and bonding (the ideal version)”

Why don’t you think BDSM sex can be about this also? ( I say can, because certainly it does not always: but vanilla sex too can take the form of one night stands, or any number of forms that don’t live up to that lofty ideal).

98. angryscientist - December 5, 2008

Dan, you have a way of twisting things to fit into your perspective. I don’t know whether to be pissed off or laugh. If human relations were strictly logical, abuse would be impossible. Obviously human relations are full of illogic and misperceptions. I doubt everyone’s self-reporting, even my own. That has nothing to do with usurping anyone’s agency. Nobody has perfect clarity of vision, particularly not about sex.

Your wife objects to my statement because she is misinterpreting it out of context. I don’t use submissive the way you or she does. To me, a strong, confident, self-sufficient woman is the antithesis of a submissive woman. Because you turn it into a game, it’s possible to escape that. Submission for fun by conscious choice isn’t the same as submission in the usual sense. It’s related, but distinct. You don’t understand, I’m making distinctions you refuse to recognize. By my definition, abuse is only possible to enjoy if one is brainwashed. Otherwise, it’s something other than abuse. Some women in pornography think they enjoy the abuse, until they burn out on it. Culture brainwashes everyone, but women get the short end of the stick, learning to accept abuse as their lot, whereas men learn to fight back.

The difference between male and female dominants is the difference between male and female. One sex wields most power in this world, and it isn’t the female sex. A female dominant is by definition atypical. This has implications. This is why I keep saying nobody can escape the context of this culture. One can defy it, but not escape it. I agree that making roles into a game is different from the traditional model, in which those roles are assumed natural, normal, to be enforced in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Are you puzzled about my relating dominance and misogyny, or saying it’s possible to separate them in some cases? The dominated isn’t always a woman, obviously. I did make a distinction between dominance as a game and traditional models of relationships. I guess the distinction I drew doesn’t satisfy you.

If there’s hardly anything that has nothing to do with sexism, then men into BDSM have no challenge not faced by men into vanilla sex.

That’s almost true, but I’d say they face different variations on those challenges, and have different ways of dealing with, or denying, those challenges.

99. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 5, 2008

“I don’t use submissive the way you or she does.”

Presumably, then, you’re not using the word “dominance” the way that she — or nearly all other BDSMers — do, either. If that’s the case, then nothing you are saying has any relevance to BDSM because you’re not talking about what we’re talking about. For example, your assertion “A female dominant is by definition atypical” may be true in a vanilla context, but trivially refuted in a BDSM context with even a trivial examination of the number and variety of female-dominant individuals and subcultures within BDSM.

If you want to relate the terms I use and the terms you use, I suggest the following distinctions for the sake of clarity: What I talk about is consensual sadism, masochism, dominance, and consensual . What you talk about is clinical sadism, clinical masochism, nonconsensual dominance and nonconsensual submission. I use the term “clinical” for some and “nonconsensual” for others because the DSM-IVR recognizes[1] a diagnosable condition called “sadism” with an element of diagnosis that the patient ignores consent; and a diagnosable condition called “masochism” with an element of diagnosis[2] that the patient feels significant distress over those feelings — or that acting on those feelings compulsively to the degree that their life is unmanageable. There is no diagnosis of “dominant” or “submissive,” however, so I draw the distinction at consent. Given your admission that “making roles into a game is different from the traditional model,” I think you will agree with the validity of the distinction.

We agree that clinical sadism, by definition nonconsensual, is abusive. You seem to be asserting that consensual sadism is also abusive — though I maybe sufficiently confused by your crossing contexts to have misunderstood you. If that is your position, it’s an assertion that needs support to stand.

As a clear statement of position, I assert that if one person explicitly states “I want X;” another person says “I want X, too;” and they agree to do X together; that X is not an abusive act in that instance. Someone deciding afterwards that they no longer want X, or that they had bad reasons for wanting X and will stop doing X even if they do want it, does not retroactively transform X into an abusive act.

[1] Correctly, in my opinion
[2] Also a separate element of diagnosis for clinical sadism

100. Jen - December 5, 2008

Dan and all who have been conversing in favor of BDSM. I just want to say again, that what I have expressed are just my impressions mixed in with information that I have read to become more educated on the topic. Despite the fact that my “impressions” are not exactly favorable, I really am not trying to insult anyone. I am just trying to be honest, with the hope that in doing so, I will learn through your feedback that my impressions are wrong or I may feel that they are correct, in which case they will become solid views. You are obviously the experts. I am just an outsider who has had a brush with the BDSM world which I am trying to understand. I do want to thank you for being open and accepting of my thoughts. I really appreciate your responses and I respect them. Just needed to get that off my chest. I am not the kind of person that enjoys insulting anyone or any group of people. Please also, don’t take what I say like I am arguing with you. I feel like I need to say what I need to say until I have nothing left. At that point, I will hopefully have a better grip on my feelings as they relate to the experience I had and will walk away with a view feeling satisfied that I thoroughly explored the topic. Thanks again!
Jen

101. angryscientist - December 5, 2008

If that’s the case, then nothing you are saying has any relevance to BDSM because you’re not talking about what we’re talking about.

I can only hope that’s true. I have my doubts. None of the recent commenters strike me as similar to those who prompted this blog entry, more like my acquaintances dabbling in BDSM. In my terms, consensual sadism is a contradiction in terms. I still don’t understand the attraction to the term, or what you really mean by it. Of course there’s no diagnosis of dominant or submissive, because those are considered normal for males and females, respectively. The common term for a woman seen as too assertive is bitch, which got thrown around plenty at both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. I’ve got plenty of issues with both of them, but being too assertive isn’t one of them.

This goes to why I said men outside this realm have different ways of dealing with sexism. A man like me defies what’s considered normal by destroying the hold gender roles have over me. I don’t play with them, I reject them utterly, as arbitrary, capricious, and designed for the benefit of males at the expense of females. Most men outside the BDSM realm accept the norms, or don’t bother to think about them, or think women have achieved enough equality, or too much, or that women should be equal, but…. There’s lots of variations in the ways men evade the issues. Inside the BDSM realm, men have different ways of subverting the norms, if they choose to. I think some men who call themselves sadists think they are subverting the norm, but they’re really expressing an extreme variation on the norm. Those are the guys who really concern me, and make me feel they deserve shredding. I can understand why most people in the realm want to disassociate from those guys, since they give the whole scene a bad name. I just wonder if it’s a bigger problem than you want to admit. Abuse of women is surely a bigger problem than most heterosexual men care to admit. One issue I still have is that by including sadism in your realm, you give those guys cover. Another is that some sadists have sneaky ways of obtaining consent. My impression is that this is what happened to Jen.

102. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 5, 2008

“None of the recent commenters strike me as similar to those who prompted this blog entry”

I believe we began by pointing out to you — and to 9/2 — that Craig’s List is not exactly a popular hangout spot for BDSMers. It would not surprise me if the people who think of Craig’s List as a place to find submissive women think so because they’ve managed to get themselves shunned from all the places where actual BDSM people hang out; or because they realize that people sufficiently versed with BDSM to seek it within our own communities wouldn’t put up with their crap. All that said, per her request I’m witholding full analysis of 9/2’s experiment and it’s results until she’s published all the data and experimental description — which she’s indicated she’ll do in parts 4 and 5.

“In my terms, consensual sadism is a contradiction in terms.”

I get that. My point is that this is a shortcoming in your terms because your terms preclude discussion of the phenomenon you seek to discuss.

“I just wonder if it’s a bigger problem than you want to admit. Abuse of women is surely a bigger problem than most heterosexual men care to admit.”

I think abuse of women is a pretty big problem. What I dispute is the idea that it’s a bigger problem amongst BDSMers than amongst the Vanilla world; or that BDSM is abuse per se.

There certainly is a segment of people within the BDSM world who see BDSM as a way to reinforce patriarchy. Trinity has referred to “Christian BDSM,” which maintains that any sort of kink is OK as long as it is between a married heterosexual couple in which the husband is dominant. There’s “Gor,” in which people try to model their lives as much as legally permissable on a set of books in which the author undertakes to demonstrate the natural inevitability of male dominance by describing a world in which that social order is maintained through the active intervention of space aliens. Of course, there’s also no shortage of gynosupremacists — including the “One World Kingdom” which represents itself as a quasi-soverign state in Poland wherein a social order of dominant women over submissive men is maintained.

When I look at these groups, I see the triumphs of feminism at work — the most patriarchal of these patriarchs is very up front and explicit about what they want and very clear that they are talking about doing these things only with people who explicitly consent. (By way of contrast, the books talk about how the Gorean Manly thing to do is go about kidnapping women and enslaving them, relying on the author’s contention that the women will be happier afterwards.) They are careful to acknowledge that other people have other ways that are just as valid as their own because when they try to assert that dominant women really want to be slaves and that submissive men are unmasculine the howling laughter shrinks their wee willies to a nub; and in their heart of heart of hearts they know that trying to physically prove either assertion will quickly result in their hospitalization or death as circumstances warrant.

50 years ago, these views were the unquestioned and unquestionable norm throughout society. Today they’re a punchline, a set of minor fringe groups within a fringe group.

And these guys are still a notch or twa above the people looking for BDSM love on Craig’s List.

One issue I still have is that by including sadism in your realm, you give those guys cover. Another is that some sadists have sneaky ways of obtaining consent. My impression is that this is what happened to Jen.

It is not at all clear to me that Jen’s ex obtained consent from her at all. Within BDSM circles, the behavior she describes is not tolerated and someone who has “sneaky ways” of obtaining consent rather than explicit ways of obtaining informed consent gets a reputation and shunned. Jen’s isolation from a BDSM community likely slowed this process in her ex’s case. Let alone someone who, to your point, is clinically rather than consensually sadistic.

103. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 5, 2008

@Jen: It’s all good. These thoughts are in your mind, if you don’t get them out look at them and decide what to do with them, all that will happen is that they will stay in your mind. I figure you’re going through a process of raising your consciousness around these issues, and that’s always a bumpy ride. It would also not surprise me if there was a huge emotional content as well because it’s no stretch to figure that talking about this loser ex of yours would bring them up.

I want to be clear that if said loser ex did something other than directly and explicitly say, “I”m into BDSM, I like doing X, Y, and Z. Are you interested in trying them?” then he behaved unethically by my lights and those of pretty much every BDSMer I know. Sneaking behind someone’s back to have a BDSM affair with someone else is not regarded as acceptable behavior. (All three parties expressly and directly agreeing that this is a desirable arrangement is a different matter entirely.) We hold honesty and integrity as very important qualities to have and embody.

104. angryscientist - December 5, 2008

A shortcoming in my terms? The BDSM world is insular, with its own vocabulary, which I’m trying to pin down. I think sadism as I define it is a lot more commonplace than sadism as you define it. You didn’t answer my question, anyway, as to what consensual sadism means to you, or what’s its appeal. Why redefine a word with such heavily negative connotations? How do you expect the average person to accept what you mean by the word, since they aren’t familiar with what that is? There’s also the issue of sadistic pornography convincing young impressionable men that women should like that kind of abuse.

105. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 6, 2008

@AS: “I think sadism as I define it is a lot more commonplace than sadism as you define it.”

The fact remains that my terminology permits discussion of and distinguishing between both what I’m talking about and what you’re talking about, and yours does not. “Consensual sadism” means to me the enjoyment of causing painful sensation (hence, sadism) to a partner who explicitly and specifically desires and consents to receive it (hence, consensual.)

I do not believe I am redefining either word. The common understanding of sadism has always been the enjoyment of causing pain. What I am doing is drawing a distinction between types of sadism, in this case between the consensual sort and the sort that is a diagnosable mental illness.

“How do you expect the average person to accept what you mean by the word, since they aren’t familiar with what that is?”

There are lots of words in our language that formerly had one understanding and now have another. For example, identifying as a Witch used to be understood as a statement that one practices Satanism rather than Wicca, as is now more commonly understood. “That’s mighty Christian of you” and “That’s mighty white of you” used to be commonly understood as compliments, but no more. I expect the average person to accept what I mean by the term by becoming educated, which is why so many BDSM organizations put so much energy into educating the public.

Given our difficulties around the term “sadism,” I’m not sure what you are talking about when you refer to “sadistic pornography.” By your definition, it wouldn’t surprise me if you see the term as redundant. That said, BDSM porn is to BDSM as vanilla porn is to vanilla sex. Specifically, that neither is a particularly good source for education — unless one is defining “pornography” so broadly as to include anything that discusses BDSM at all.

106. angryscientist - December 6, 2008

I think what you’re calling consensual sadism is a pain fetish. Is that term too vanilla for you? Good luck educating the public on that score. There’s the element of cruelty usually associated with sadism. What you’re describing isn’t meant to be cruel, as an outsider would define cruel, so though your definition may be technically accurate, I think pain fetish is more likely to be understood, and more precise. There are plenty of people who still use witch pejoratively, so I’m dubious if that’s a good example of the evolution of language. Language does evolve, but I’m still not getting the point of making the word sadism socially respectable. Do you not see potential hazards in that? In an ideal world, it should be possible to educate people not to confuse these forms of sadism, but this isn’t an ideal world. The people you’re trying to shun aren’t going to give up the word to you. In other words, your efforts to educate people can easily backfire by giving cover to the traitorous sadists, even though that isn’t the intention. You know the saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I meant by sadistic pornography sexualized images of violence against women. I think there are milder forms of pornography which are merely degrading, i.e. psychically violent, but that’s a lot harder to pin down.

By the way, who’s 9/2? Would that be Nine Deuce? I’m not familiar with that experiment you mention. I really am too busy to be more than a part-time blogger. This blog hasn’t seen so much activity in a long time.

107. Gorgias - December 6, 2008

“Why redefine a word with such heavily negative connotations? ”

Due respect, I think you’re the one redefining the terms.

Sadomasochism was what the psychological establishment decided to call our kind of sex. Any other definition was extrapolation by people who insufficiently understood the difference between harm and hurt, and the realities of BDSM practices.

That said, I continue to support the term “lypiphilia” for the above reasons, firstly that “sadomasochism” has been tainted beyond recovery and continued use is not politically expedient, and secondly, that I do not want to use the term that the psychological profession used to make a fundamental aspect of my identity into a sickness.

Some people stubbornly stick to their definition of words, though.

“I do not believe I am redefining either word. The common understanding of sadism has always been the enjoyment of causing pain. What I am doing is drawing a distinction between types of sadism, in this case between the consensual sort and the sort that is a diagnosable mental illness.”

I prefer to liken it to the distinction between sex and rape. Is rape sex? Well, yeah, I suppose I’d have to own to that. But we’d never in context say that a rapist was having sex with his victim. I think the experiences are so fundamentally different that they have a different ontology, and deserve a different term so as to prevent others from falling into the same intellectual error that AS and many others have fallen into in equviocating the two.

108. Gorgias - December 6, 2008

I should also say that in the end, AS and Dan more or less agree, they just don’t want to use the same terminology. AS says “pain fetish” (fetish has a slightly derogatory connotation, and has the niggling pedant’s objection that it was used in the psychological community, at least at first, to denote something that HAD to be present for a person to achieve sexual gratification, which isn’t the case for all lypiphiles or even the majority of them. I continue to prefer lypiphile, but it’s loads better than sadist), Dan says “consensual sadism.” AS says “sadism” Dan says “nonconsensual sadism.” You guys are both making the important distinction between the two, and are talking about the same concepts. You just want to use different terms for them. For my part, I’d prefer the politically expedient move and eject sadism, which has acquired so much flotsam and jetsam about it in 150 years of abuse by the public to the point where it has acquired many meanings other than what I do in the bedroom

109. angryscientist - December 6, 2008

Rape is not sex, Gorgias. It’s not even close. Rape is inherently an act of brutal violence, meant as such, even if there’s no actual physical violence, only a threat or some other form of duress. Rapists when caught will often claim the act was consensual sex, but that’s just them trying to beat the rap. Even if they believe they were just having sex, something inside them knows better. It’s not just a qualitative or ontological difference. The only similarity is a purely mechanistic one.

By the way, using words as commonly understood is not equivocation, even if that meaning isn’t technically accurate, which I’d dispute. You’re in the minority. You don’t own the word sadism, no matter how fervently you believe it’s the majority who doesn’t understand it.

110. Gorgias - December 6, 2008

“The only similarity is a purely mechanistic one.”

Yeah, that was what I was trying to get at with the analogy. In the literal sense, perhaps rape is sex if we define sex merely as penetration or something similar, and sadism is lypiphilia if we define both as deriving pleasure from the pain of others. But outside the pedant’s mind, they don’t have much in common with each other

111. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 6, 2008

Gorgias: My experience is that “political expediency” is a break-even tactic and losing strategy at best. In another context, people asked me why I use the term “Witch” with all it’s thousands of years of negative connotations, when using the term “Wiccan” doesn’t have that history. What several of my coreligionists have found is that if they concede the definition of “Witch” and use “Wiccan,” the term “Wiccan” starts getting those connotations heaped upon it and then they’re told to concede that word and call themselves something even less offensive like “Earth worshipper.” Those who do that find that the connotations move to that term, and the fact is that the people heaping the connotations aren’t going after the word, but the concept behind the word; and they won’t stop until we are either calling ourselves “Christian” or draw a line and say “You are misusing the word, and it is you, not us, who shall have to adjust to a more accurate meaning.” Therefore, we may as well draw that line now rather than set a bad precedent we’re going to have to fight against later.

I guarantee you that if “lypiphile” comes into widespread usage, soon after we’ll see the anti-BDSM crowd talking about the horrors of lypiphilia, because the fact is this isn’t a confusion over terminology, this is about the concepts behind them.

112. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 6, 2008

@AS: “Good luck educating the public on that score.”

Thanks! So far, it’s going pretty well.

“In an ideal world, it should be possible to educate people not to confuse these forms of sadism, but this isn’t an ideal world.”

My experience is different. Generally, I find that the only people who have difficulty understanding the difference are the people who have an agenda that involves delegitimizing BDSM.

“The people you’re trying to shun aren’t going to give up the word to you. In other words, your efforts to educate people can easily backfire by giving cover to the traitorous sadists, even though that isn’t the intention.”

That’s like saying you should come up with a new term for sexual intercourse, abandoning all previous terms for it, because rapists claim that what they do is sex and the physical acts resemble one another.

“I meant by sadistic pornography sexualized images of violence against women.”

To confirm my understanding of your definition: “sadistic pornogrpahy” excludes pornography that depicts male submissive, bottoming, or masochistic activity? Does it include or exclude depictions of female masochism that is clearly consensual? If I correctly understand your definition, what point about it are you trying to make? All you said about it was that it exists.

9/2 is Nine-Deuce. Her experiment was the Craig’s List posting that inspired your post.

113. angryscientist - December 7, 2008

Dan, your analogies between sadism and other phenomena are a curious wordplay I might explore more later. I didn’t define sadistic pornography, I referenced it. I think my reference was clear enough. As to analogies with other forms of cruelty, those are different matters that may or may not relate. I think you oversimplify and overlook things that matter. My point in referencing sadistic pornography is that it is a huge problem pouring gasoline on a epidemic of screwed up men abusing women. Why would you want to be associated with that, stuck with the task of disabusing people of the notion that sadism hurts people?

I don’t think your analogy to sex works because it’s less common to accept the rapist interpretation of rape than to think the fiends who answered that sting represent sadism. I think that confusion is far more common than confusion between rape and sex, at least among women. Men, I’m not so sure about, but I doubt many of them would acknowledge it if they did think rape is like sex, because what they think of as rape may not include what a woman thinks of as rape, such as raping a woman too drunk to resist, or changed her mind too late. So these rapists can still believe rape is a horrible thing nothing like sex, because what they did wasn’t rape, according to them. All that is too say, you’ve got a bigger problem clearing up confusion about sadism than there is confusion about rape, at least among women. Among men, it’s a major problem, one reason one of the initial entries down at the bottom of the blog is all about Rape.

By the way, who were you referring to with that agenda? Me? Friends of mine, maybe? If I’m trying to delegitimize anything, it’s sadism, not a pain fetish, though I think that’s among the more dangerous fetishes in the wide variety of kinks out there. I actually found your analogies offensive. Why are you so attached to that word sadism? I’m not attached to the word sex, though I don’t like the twisting of consent that goes on around it. There are better ways of describing sex, but I’m not an erotica writer. I think there are better ways of describing whipping than calling it sadism. Both terms are likely to be confused by the uninformed public, but sadism is asking for it, while whipping is less likely to raise hackles. It’s been more mainstreamed, like a fetish. Sadism the concept has been mainstreamed, but not the word. Are you saying the average person understands sadism the way you do? Before or after someone like you explains it?

114. TrinityVA - December 7, 2008

Hello again all. I’ve been gone for the weekend.

I don’t have much more to say, but here’s a little:

Jen: I don’t at all mind anything you’ve said. I completely understand that you’re working through some tough stuff with someone who didn’t respect you. I also understand how rejected you must feel — I do think that some people in the BDSM scene do hold themselves up as more enlightened or more interesting than “vanilla” folks. I think that’s silly. While I personally feel limited and closed off when I don’t have the option of doing SM, that’s about me, not about everyone everywhere.

But I do feel a little bit judged when I read you saying that there isn’t intimacy in SM. For me, there is. I don’t know how to explain what’s intimate about it to someone who thinks it isn’t, or who has had bad experiences with it in the past that weren’t. What I can say is that for me, SM activities are about knowing someone is feeling things really intensely. And I don’t think that’s just about physical pleasure to me. It’s also about knowing they trust me enough to let out all their feelings, to let me take them on a journey through their feelings. Personally, I don’t see how that isn’t intimate, though I certainly see how it could be uncomfortable and scary to someone who doesn’t like or want to experience it.

Everyone else, wrt the terminology discussion: I use the word “sadist” sometimes because I quite honestly don’t care about political expediency. I really don’t get the impression that people who fear what I do will accept me and sing Kumbaya if I say “I am sexually attracted to people who have pain fetishes.” Yes, that removes the ambiguity, but what exactly does that get me?

If people are bothered by me because of their politics, I don’t want them for friends anyway. As I’ve said many times elsewhere, politics to me is not and should not be about words, or even about theory disconnected from experience.

It’s about taking action in the real world to improve the social status of the oppressed.

115. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 7, 2008

@AS: “I didn’t define sadistic pornography, I referenced it. I think my reference was clear enough.”

Your reference was sufficiently unclear to me that I needed your definition. Voltaire was onto something when he spoke about the importance of defining one’s terms.

You seem to think that if only we called BDSM something other than BDSM, used words other than the ones that we have been using; people would suddenly be OK with what we do. History does not bear you out. Homophobes didn’t suddenly become OK with homosexuality when the term “gay” came into use; “Wiccan” doesn’t please fundamentalists because it left the word “Witch” behind, and people who have a problem with sadism as a consensual activity between adults will not suddenly think it’s OK because we call it a “pain fetish” or even “whipping.” The problem isn’t the words, it’s the beliefs. I’m not willing to concede the word sadism to you because the problem isn’t the word, it’s your notion of what the word means.

“I don’t think your analogy to sex works because it’s less common to accept the rapist interpretation of rape than to think the fiends who answered that sting represent sadism.”

Actually, you’re making my case for me. If it is less common to accept the rapist interpretation of rape, it is because feminists spent decades educating people about what rape actually is and isn’t. Similarly, it’s less common to accept the idea that homosexuals molest boys to create ore homosexuals because there’s been decades of education around that stereotype as well. Educating, dispelling myths, and calling out people who perpetuate them works. Coming up with different terms just makes people think you’re hiding something.

“By the way, who were you referring to with that agenda? Me? Friends of mine, maybe?”

If I’d meant you, I’d have said so. I don’t know who your friends are. I am referring to people who identify themselves as anti-BDSM. Nine Deuce would be one, the various authors who contributed to against sadomasochism would be others.

Are you saying the average person understands sadism the way you do? Before or after someone like you explains it?

Every year, more people seem to understand consensual sadism as a consensual activity. Of the declining number who do not, fewer go on not comprehending the difference once someone like me explains it than find themselves unable to put together the concepts “consent” and “sadism.”

116. Jen - December 8, 2008

“But I do feel a little bit judged when I read you saying that there isn’t intimacy in SM. For me, there is.”
Trinity,
I am sorry if I have made you feel judged in this way. The things I have said are really ideas that I am throwing out because I don’t have a totally formulated opinion one way or another. I suppose I am leaning in one direction which is obvious, but, if points are made that tell me that I am missing out, then who knows….. Even if I decided that I was missing out on something, I think that thr bitterness and sadness related to my ex would prevent me from persuing anything. I just wish he had been honest with me because then maybe we could have explored together and I would not be left after the fact trying to understand what the lifestyle he left me for is all about. I think he was into group sex. He knew that that was one place I could never go. I don’t believe in sharing.

The group sex thing just wigs me out. This is where I question the feelings of love, committment and intimacy that you all say exists within the BDSM world. I cannot imagine watching someone that I love have sex with another woman. I would be very hurt if the man I loved wanted me to have sex with someone else. If your having sex with multiple people than what makes anyone more special than anyone else? Is there not jealousy among the group? It would seem to me that people would have to be awfully cold and unfeeling to participate in this and not develop feelings for others or get confused about your primary relationship. This is what I eluded to earlier when I mentioned that this lifestyle leads to emotional problems. It would seem to me that it would make it very hard to maintain a long lasting relationship since there is access and opportunity on all levels to others in the life. I think that if I were in the life and had a partner that I loved and wanted to keep, I would feel alot of pressure and competition from all the other group sex ladies that may have better bodies than me or be better in some way sexually than me. I can’t imagine being able to develop any trust in my relationship knowing that any given time my partner could be involved with others in a sexual way. Who can live like that? Who is that secure? What am not understanding?

117. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 8, 2008

@Jen:

The book The Ethical Slut may address some of your questions about group sex through it’s discussion of polyamory. It will likely not show you how you might conceptualize and experience group sex differently — there’s no reason you should conceptualize or experience it differently; but may help you see how other people do conceptualize and experience it differently.

From my own perspective, the notion that someone is “more special than anyone else” is alien — everyone is special in their own ways, and no person is a substitute for another person. Similarly, my nephew and niece are both special people, but neither’s specialness is at the expense of the other. It’s not a zero-sum game.

Some people are react to seeing — or even just knowing — that their partner isn’t monogamous with jealousy; others do not. Some who do examine the emotion to try to determine why they feel jealous; of those, some conclude the feeling is misplaced and it abates, others do not.

“It would seem to me that people would have to be awfully cold and unfeeling to participate in this and not develop feelings for others or get confused about your primary relationship.”

To someone with your emotional landscape, that makes sense. People who are polyamorous have a fundamentally different emotional landscape, such that we are quite capable of engaging with more than one person in a warm and feeling manner. Some people have primary relationships and they work out what that means and how to maintain it; others find the concept of a “primary relationship” meaningless.

As to longevity of relationshps, I know polyamorous families that have been together for decades.

Coming back to BDSM, there is no requirement that one have group sex to do BDSM — the two are orthogonal. There are plenty of people who do BDSM who are strictly monogamous, who set that as an explicit boundary up front as part of all the rest of the negotiation and discussion that takes place. Likelwise, there are plenty of people who are polyamorous — or who even just like group sex — that have no interest in BDSM whatsoever.

“I can’t imagine being able to develop any trust in my relationship knowing that any given time my partner could be involved with others in a sexual way. Who can live like that?”

I don’t think many people work that way — if my wife or I are going to be having sex with someone else, we know about it because we’ve discussed it beforehand. Assuming, of course, that we’re not both present for it.

“Who is that secure?”

There are plenty of ways in which I’m not terribly secure. In my wife, I am that secure.

“What am not understanding?”

I think that the only thing you’re missing is that the domain of healthy emotional landscapes is large enough to contain people who can look at one another and not understand in any sense except a purely intellectual one that they’re both healthy.

118. angryscientist - December 8, 2008

Dan, I can understand why you don’t want to concede the word sadism, but your responses don’t answer my concerns about it. I can only conclude those aren’t concerns you share. That’s understandable as well, but it reinforces those concerns. I think we’re at an impasse. When it gets to the point that people are throwing around wildly stretched analogies and can’t see why they’re stretched after I attempt to explain my problems with them, I start to feel the discussion is pointless. I don’t live in your world, and you seem indifferent to what your vocabulary usage evokes in me, basically saying that’s my problem, since I’m misusing the vocabulary. It’s as though you’re saying if I’m bothered by the language, I should find another word for nonconsensual sadism. Maybe you can understand why that makes me feel you people do have something to hide. That, and the curious argument that abuse isn’t any bigger a problem in your world than outside. That may be true, but considering how big a problem it is outside, it doesn’t get your world off the hook. Maybe that argument works on an average guy who doesn’t think heterosexual abuse is much of a problem, but I’m not an average guy.

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether the average person thinks a pain fetish is as objectionable as sadism. I don’t think that’s true at all. There’s a wide range of kinks you include under sadism. I think the average person thinks of the most extreme forms of cruelty as sadism, which wouldn’t necessarily come to mind for a reference to a pain fetish, or to the milder forms like spanking or whipping. Your experience may be different, but such experiences are anecdotal and easily contradicted. I don’t get why you bring up fundamentalist rigidity when it seems you’re most irked by feminist disapprobation. Do you think fundamentalists and feminists are coming from the same place regarding BDSM? That’s a common charge leveled by defenders of pornography.

119. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 8, 2008

@AS: The only concern I understand you to have about the word “sadism” is that someone might think that someone doing it nonconsensually will be viewed as doing it consensually. I believe this risk is mitigated by explicitly distinguishing between consensual and nonconsensual sadism. Moreover, I believe that you aggravate that risk by continuing to refuse to distinguish between them.

“I don’t live in your world, and you seem indifferent to what your vocabulary usage evokes in me, basically saying that’s my problem, since I’m misusing the vocabulary. It’s as though you’re saying if I’m bothered by the language, I should find another word for nonconsensual sadism.”

You’re half right: I regard the fact that you are bothered by the word “sadism” because you use it in a way that doesn’t distinguish between consensual and nonconsensual activity as your problem. I regard the fact that you are bothered by the idea of using the word sadism in the phrase “consensual sadism” as your problem. I’m not saying you should find another term for nonconsensual sadism, I’m saying that you should start using the term “nonconsensual sadism.”

“…curious argument that abuse isn’t any bigger a problem in your world than outside. That may be true, but considering how big a problem it is outside, it doesn’t get your world off the hook. Maybe that argument works on an average guy who doesn’t think heterosexual abuse is much of a problem, but I’m not an average guy.”

If you refer back to message #102, you will see that my complete quote is “I think abuse of women is a pretty big problem. What I dispute is the idea that it’s a bigger problem amongst BDSMers than amongst the Vanilla world; or that BDSM is abuse per se.”

I’m not sure how you can have possibly read that to imply that I don’t think abuse is a big problem, or that we’re off the hook when it comes to abuse; rather than it being the very same hook you’re on.

“I don’t get why you bring up fundamentalist rigidity when it seems you’re most irked by feminist disapprobation.”

I’ve just reviewed the thread, and the only place I see where I’ve used the word “fundamentalist” at all is to discuss why I don’t think abandoning the word “Witch” in favor of “Wiccan” in order to avoid offending fundamentalists is a good idea. I haven’t used the term “fundamentalist rigidity” at all, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about here.

120. angryscientist - December 8, 2008

No, Dan, you aggravate me by continually refusing to recognize the distinctions I am making, as well as the issues I raise which you discount or ignore. I think I’ve made my concerns very clear, despite your efforts to obfuscate and deny them. I have one more question that will probably seem totally unrelated or off the wall. Are you a determinist?

121. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 8, 2008

@AS: “Are you a determinist?”

You are correct, it does strike me as unrelated. No matter. My BA is in Physics, and uncertainty is a empirically confirmed phenomenon. I can’t think of a definition of determinism that would include me.

122. Jen - December 9, 2008

Dan,
Are most people that are into group sex bi-sexual? It would seem to me that a person would amost have to be, given that it is a group activity made up of men and women. Also, do some people that are really gay “hide” in this lifestyle. In other words, do they use it as means to have contact with the same sex when to seek out this contact in any other way would be unacceptable to themselves? Does the “life” cause a person to become confused about thier sexual preferences?
Jen

123. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - December 9, 2008

“Are most people that are into group sex bi-sexual? It would seem to me that a person would amost have to be, given that it is a group activity made up of men and women.”

No, not really. Plenty of straight people are into group sex as well – they simply limit their activities within group sex situations to interactions with the opposite sex.

In fact, I hear from many people that male gay sex is quite rare at mixed-gender sex parties. Female gay sex? Happens all the time, but gay male sex tends to be a rarity, probably due to general male homophobia. Dykes are hot, Faggots are icky, and all that.

“Also, do some people that are really gay “hide” in this lifestyle. In other words, do they use it as means to have contact with the same sex when to seek out this contact in any other way would be unacceptable to themselves?”

Probably. I have not personally seen people like this, but I am sure they exist somewhere. When homosexuality is seen something that must be hidden, people need to find some outlet for their desires. For some, sure, I’d bet the group sex scenarios are such an outlet, but considering the statement above, I’d bet that closeted gay men in particular probably don’t use mixed-gender group sex as such.

“Does the “life” cause a person to become confused about thier sexual preferences?”

Usually there has to be something there to begin with to get confused, but again, I am sure that there are plenty of straight people who get into group sex and discover they’re not quite as straight as they thought, but there are also people who get into group sex and discover they are just as straight as they thought they were (and conversely, I’m certain there are people who were sure they were bisexual and discovered that, actually, no they’re straight. Happens in all ways and combinations).

124. Dan Holzman-Tweed - December 9, 2008

Jen,

“Are most people that are into group sex bi-sexual?”

Not that I have noticed. Bisexuals are as diverse in their preferences for or against monogamy as any other population I’ve seen.

“It would seem to me that a person would amost have to be, given that it is a group activity made up of men and women.”

The latter assertion isn’t necessarily true: N people (where N > 2) can be in a polyamorous relationship wherein the sexual arrangements are such that only 2 of them are having sex at a time. If more than 2 are present for sex, mechanics are such that it’s entirely possible for many things to occur without a heterosexual walking away with cause to question their orientation.

“Also, do some people that are really gay ‘hide’ in this lifestyle. In other words, do they use it as means to have contact with the same sex when to seek out this contact in any other way would be unacceptable to themselves?”

If we’re talking about nonmonogamous lifestyles rather than BDSM here, I hasten to point out that there is no single “lifestyle” — “swinging” is not the same thing as “polyamory,” for example. In either case, I’ve never heard of or met a gay man or Lesbian who used either to engage in same-sex activity while preserving a closeted identity. I don’t see how it would work to hide their orientation — particuarly from themselves, as heterosexual men tend to be very sensitive about being touched by other men in ways that might be thought of as homoerotic.

“Does the ‘life’ cause a person to become confused about thier sexual preferences?”

I’ve seen people question their sexual preferences and orientation[1] based on what they’ve seen or done in monogamous and nonmonogamous situations. I’ve also seen people answer those questions one way or another in the same context. Based on the development of my own understanding of my sexual orientation from heterosexual to bisexual, I wouldn’t describe that as causing confusion, but resolving it. That is to say, I was confused when I thought I was heterosexual, discovering and acknowledging that I like guys too dismissed that confusion.

[1] For example: “I like cunnilingus” is a preference; “I’m Bisexual” is an orientation.

125. TrinityVA - December 11, 2008

“The group sex thing just wigs me out. This is where I question the feelings of love, committment and intimacy that you all say exists within the BDSM world. I cannot imagine watching someone that I love have sex with another woman. I would be very hurt if the man I loved wanted me to have sex with someone else. If your having sex with multiple people than what makes anyone more special than anyone else? Is there not jealousy among the group?”

Jen,

I couldn’t tell you, as I don’t have group sex. 🙂 I do go to play parties, though, where people do BDSM activity in front of others that generally doesn’t include sex. The vast majority of the time, the only person I do anything with is my partner, who I’ve been seeing for a little over a year now. Sometimes we do things with friends, too, but it’s rare.

I don’t feel that that makes my relationship with my partner less intimate or less serious. But I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone who wants monogamy to a stricter degree than I do. I think different people look at intimacy differently, and for some people exclusivity is very important, for some it’s less important, and for others it doesn’t work for them at all.

I certainly don’t mean that I think you should try BDSM — it’s pretty clear that you don’t want to, and that on top of that, doing so would bring back bad memories. There’s no reason to do something you don’t want to do in the interests of “having an open mind” or whatever. Having an open mind is about being willing to listen to others respectfully, and you’re doing very well at that IMO. 🙂

If your ex-boyfriend pressured you to try group sex, that’s gross. Things like that should happen with everyone’s eager consent, not based on manipulation or pressure. There’s NOTHING wrong with you for having a boundary and saying so.

As far as the pressure goes, I understand why that would worry you, as well. I don’t think there’s a woman on the planet that doesn’t have insecurities about her attractiveness. (I blame ad companies.) But for me personally, when I went to my first play party, I saw people with lots of different body types, of different ages, etc. My experience wasn’t one of glitz and glamor, and it actually helped me feel less weird about my body, rather than made me feel that people would like me less.

126. TrinityVA - December 11, 2008

Also, Jen, while a big part of why things like public play parties and demos exist is certainly about consensual exhibitionism and voyeurism for people who enjoy those things, I think another part of why they are common in the BDSM subculture is simply because people need to learn how to do things.

While SM done conscientiously is not particularly risky, most people don’t come into the community knowing good technique. (“Safe sex” in health class doesn’t cover bondage or whipping.) A place where people can see others is a place where people can learn from others.

You’ve gotta learn what you’re doing somewhere. Sure, you can learn by experimentation at home — but if you’re, say, not experienced with rope, will you (generic you) think to know that using constricting knots on your lover can cut off circulation? Will you know that tying someone up with silk scarves is actually a bad idea because knots in them tend to tighten, or will you simply think it seems sensual and run with it?

Maybe you will, and maybe you’ll have no idea — and unwittingly run risks that you could easily have avoided if others saw it and politely interrupted.

Semi-public parties are a place where experienced people who know when someone is doing something reckless or unsafe can intervene to protect someone.

127. angryscientist - December 27, 2008

I declared this discussion at an impasse because I raised several issues which were not resolved to my satisfaction. This isn’t to say anybody is obligated to resolve my issues, but I felt I was wasting my time trying to get answers to issues such as these:

The twisting of consent in the S/M scene is a huge can of worms.

I was told the problem is my misuse of language, that BDSM is all about consent.

The principle (of sadism) is… the common phenomenon of men being dominant over women. I say, that principle is in itself destructive to women and unhealthy for men. A woman who enjoys that is getting off on her own degradation. This is analogous to the Stockholm Syndrome, to my way of thinking.

This was found very offensive, and reflects my conflation of consensual and nonconsensual sadomasochism, I was told. I’m aware there is a difference, but remain skeptical of attempts to deny any link.

I didn’t imply there’s nothing wrong with female masochism, merely that I don’t blame women for it. It’s far more than a fetish, which is why I compared it to the Stockholm Syndrome. Women have written books about female masochism. These were serious books, not porn. Social conditioning convincing women pain is their lot is far from harmless; it’s a major part of how men have gotten away with dominating the world for so long.

…if it’s all playacting and no actual cruelty is involved, why call it sadism? What does that have to do with the definition? Surely you realize there are lots of men who really do get off on hurting women. Isn’t that why gonzo porn is so popular?

Those were from comments I made to respondents before the wave brought in by Gorgias a month ago, determined to defend BDSM on an entry prompted by the notorious Craigslist exposure of ardent sadists eager to torture the advertiser, over two years ago.

There’s nothing good about mastery of one human being over another.

Again, supposedly if people like playing those roles, I’m supposed to believe there’s no problem.

Subjective experiences might be equally valid, but the interpretations aren’t.

This in response to being told I have to believe in the testimony of the subjective experience.

What’s out of the ordinary about dominance and submission? BDSM is just the extreme expression of hierarchy for its own sake, which is the bedrock of most civilizations, to their great detriment. That kind of power is almost impossible to avoid abusing.

I was told I was missing the point and misusing my terms.

…the idea of one person being the master of another is anathema to me. That’s called slavery, generally, though you turn it into a spiritual quest. Another variety is called marriage, generally, at least in the traditional variety, where the wife is supposed to obey the husband.

…There’s a huge difference between being aware of one’s mental condition and perceiving it clearly. Human knowledge of objective reality is really quite limited. Perception and interpretation have a nasty habit of getting in the way. Virtually everything people learn to believe clouds their perception. You learned to believe pain is sublime. There’s nothing objective about that; your belief creates your perception.

The pain reaction has a survival purpose, to alert the organism to do something about what’s causing the pain. Pain can teach great lessons, but making pain sexual is a huge can of worms. You may think it’s part of your nature, but you may not realize how sexuality used to be viewed when women were property. Women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex. Those who enjoyed it too much got their clitoris chopped off. In some cultures women are still property, and in some cultures women are still mutilated to ensure sex is a painful duty, not something they’d seek out for pleasure. Humiliating and hurting women is extremely popular in pornography. You may not like being linked to this association, but these sick artifacts of male-dominated civilization define what sadism means to most people. You may not like the term, but your crowd isn’t so squeamish about it. Why is that?

Apparently that, combined with allegations from Jen based on her own experiences with a sadist, brought in the rest of the crowd, determined to explode the associations I was making, and explain why these issues are to be taken as made irrelevant by negotiated consent and safewords.

It begs the question, why should people believe BDSM has nothing to do with abuse when its practitioners embrace the terminology of abuse? Is the distinction real, or sophistry? Is the distinction between being submissive and subordinated real, or sophistry? The slaveowners of this country believed slavery was best for their subjects, whom they valued highly, but that was all in the eye of the beholder. The slaves knew better. What’s the point of using the terminology of such a horrendous institution to denote consensual kinky sexuality? What’s in it for you to use these terms, if their conventional meanings are so far from applicable?

There were attempts to answer this, but none alleviated my concerns.

Consent will never be a simple matter as long as rapists claim the woman consented, so her accusation was a lie, it wasn’t rape. It will never be a simple matter as long as men buy sex from desperate women who need the money and call it consensual. As long as men have power over women, consent to sex will be a huge can of worms.

I was told this is inapplicable to BDSM, because it’s all about consent.

I’m investigating the matter of people excusing inflicting pain on people. You can’t take this out of the context of the culture, which glorifies cruelty as macho, patriotic, kicking ass, showing that woman who’s boss, whatever. It’s been mainstreamed. I think the truth shreds you, you have no real answers to me or Jen. I think you’re a bunch of experts in sophistry, twisting language to make your theories work. I’m a hard scientist. I don’t respect much of what requires faith or twisting language to believe. At least there’s some recognition there’s a problem with the language. Some words aren’t worth reclaiming.

This got roundly denied and turned back on me, as if I’m the one twisting language.

You judge your consent, but I get to judge the implications. Isn’t the life of most prostitutes torture? Isn’t that relevant to this question of consent, twisting of which makes it seem so legit for the johns?

This was to respond to an aggrieved Renegade Evolution, miffed that I questioned her consent.

For a great many women, the life you’re describing here is no fantasy. It’s a trap which they’ve learned to accept as normal. In some cases, that’s part of the culture, and in others, it’s called battered women’s syndrome. Yeah, people with uncompromised agency can turn it into a game, but talk about playing with fire. It’s just hard for me to believe people can play with such concepts, with such pernicious hooks into our subconscious minds, without getting burned. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but I’m skeptical.

That was in response to a rosy description of submissive fantasies.

I’m suspicious of these attempts to reclaim sadism and cruelty. I can sort of understand turning them into a game, but I think those who play with fire may not even realize when they’re getting burned.

The idea that I’m trying to force women to conform to my beliefs is laughable. I’m observing how expectations of female masochism have been used against women from time immemorial. This makes me suspicious of the idea that a woman allowing a man to dominate or inflict pain on her, even as a game, is doing anything to empower herself. It might be fun, or a means of defiance of traditional expectations by turning them into a game, but it’s a dangerous game, and I wonder if these women should be so trusting. If a man gets mad and out of control, suddenly it’s no longer a game.

I think the entire culture is pathological, especially in these United States. Some of that is the pervasive sexism, some is the reckless arrogance of science for hire, and some is the mentality of empire. This is the context in which I see sadism and cruelty. As I said, they’ve been mainstreamed. Many people may not notice their influence unless it’s in their face, as when confronted with BDSM or Abu Ghraib; then they act shocked. Sexism is in itself sadistic and cruel. There’s no escaping these facets of the culture. I could see how my scorn could be called cruel. It isn’t meant that way, but it could come across that way. I see nothing but trouble coming from the mainstreaming of sadism and cruelty. Playing with that kind of fire can be fun, sure, but the stuff of hell on earth shouldn’t be underestimated or taken lightly. Fun isn’t always innocuous or without consequences, which can be extremely subtle and easily missed or denied. Traditionally, there’s nothing fun, subversive, or empowering for women in female masochism, but it has been a convenient means of training women to accept male dominance.

I was told my fire metaphor is stretched and inappropriate.

I’m still not getting the point of making the word sadism socially respectable. Do you not see potential hazards in that? In an ideal world, it should be possible to educate people not to confuse these forms of sadism, but this isn’t an ideal world. The people you’re trying to shun aren’t going to give up the word to you. In other words, your efforts to educate people can easily backfire by giving cover to the traitorous sadists, even though that isn’t the intention. You know the saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It’s all a problem of education, I’m told.

My point in referencing sadistic pornography is that it is a huge problem pouring gasoline on a epidemic of screwed up men abusing women. Why would you want to be associated with that, stuck with the task of disabusing people of the notion that sadism hurts people?

Not their problem, I’m told; people need to learn to use the language properly.

I think we’re at an impasse. When it gets to the point that people are throwing around wildly stretched analogies and can’t see why they’re stretched after I attempt to explain my problems with them, I start to feel the discussion is pointless. I don’t live in your world, and you seem indifferent to what your vocabulary usage evokes in me, basically saying that’s my problem, since I’m misusing the vocabulary. It’s as though you’re saying if I’m bothered by the language, I should find another word for nonconsensual sadism. Maybe you can understand why that makes me feel you people do have something to hide.

No, it’s my problem if I persist in misusing the language. I gave up. I made my case. I feel my concerns were evaded if not dismissed outright. This is their right, but it’s my right to note my impressions of how my concerns were not answered.

128. Clarence - December 28, 2008

I read the whole damn thread and still aren’t clear as to what your concerns WERE unless it be some weird triangulation of all bdsm sexual experiences with StockHolm Syndrome. And by the way, scientist guy-why don’t you be more explicit and stop your smears about “something to hide”? Why don’t you go into the BDSM world “undercover” so to speak and do a proper experiment? I feel people tried to answer you as best they could. You had nothing except nagging suspicions and radical feminism.

129. Lee Davis-Thalbourne - December 30, 2008

“I was told the problem is my misuse of language, that BDSM is all about consent.”

To me, and all those I have talked to in the community, this seems to be my experience. We’re aware that what we do can be extremely dangerous, that external observers would consider what we do absolutely terrible, and that most people look at what we do with extreme distaste, and in some cases extreme antipathy. We also know that even within the BDSM community, noone’s into everything – we all have our own kinks. Also, and here’s the big thing, most of us want to be able to participate in the things we do without horrendous repercussions, both social and legal.

As such, the vast majority of the BDSM community take consent very seriously. There’s too much at stake for us not to. It’s really as simple as that. Because we know most people wouldn’t consent to what we do, we make very sure that the people we interact with are consenting.

Now, I’ll be frank here, this isn’t a universal – There are those outside the communities, those who are asshats, those who are genuinely psychopathic, who do not share our concern for consent. Understandably, we don’t interact with them if we can at all avoid it, and we try very hard to convince others in our community not to interact with them either. It’s as much a safety thing as anything else.

This was found very offensive, and reflects my conflation of consensual and nonconsensual sadomasochism, I was told. I’m aware there is a difference, but remain skeptical of attempts to deny any link.

A link between consensual and non-consensual sadomasochism? That seems… a strange link to make. Like, f’rex, saying there’s a link between consensual and non-consensual sexual intercourse. I guess, in the sense that mechanically they are the same, there is a link, but in the sense of the experience itself? I cannot envision such a link. Much as how consensual sex and rape are two very, very different experiences, consensual BDSM and torture are also very much worlds apart in the experience. This seems common sense to me, and I’d like some information on, exactly, what you consider the link to be.

It begs the question, why should people believe BDSM has nothing to do with abuse when its practitioners embrace the terminology of abuse? Is the distinction real, or sophistry? Is the distinction between being submissive and subordinated real, or sophistry? The slaveowners of this country believed slavery was best for their subjects, whom they valued highly, but that was all in the eye of the beholder. The slaves knew better. What’s the point of using the terminology of such a horrendous institution to denote consensual kinky sexuality? What’s in it for you to use these terms, if their conventional meanings are so far from applicable?

Well, among other things, what other words do we have? Seriously, answer me this! This terminology has been used for countless years, over many generations of BDSM practitioners, and has become, for better or worse, common parlance, and to construct an entirely new vocabulary to move everything away from the terminology of abuse, would probably take at least 3-4 generations, although I’m sure there are people who are making the attempt as we speak.

And you’re right – when the slaves were called another name, they still knew they were slaves. So, how, exactly, would the inverse not be true? Someone who is called a slave, but knows they are free?

I think you have actually answered this question yourself, but I’ll express it again in better terms – The words we use are not set in meaning, and we use them as we wish, for exactly the purposes we desire. Yes, we appropriate the terminology from fairly terrible things, but that doesn’t mean that we participate in those terrible things. We use those names because what we do, from the outside, might look like that which we label. Those within the community know the difference between what we do and the terrible things they are named after. As long as these differences are known and separated, what is the harm in using the terminology?

What’s out of the ordinary about dominance and submission? BDSM is just the extreme expression of hierarchy for its own sake, which is the bedrock of most civilizations, to their great detriment. That kind of power is almost impossible to avoid abusing.

And yet, we try very hard not to. From my perspective, being a switch-sub in a relationship with a dom, We keep a powerful distinction between play and reality. Yeah, sure, things leak through, but never seriously. And the fact that we have this distinction actually makes it easier for us to police our actions – we are committed to, as much as is possible, maintaining equal roles between the two of us, like any relationship should. Because we play with power dynamics, we have better ability to identify them when they emerge outside the relationship.

I suspect that you believe that we don’t have a full understanding of what we do, or at the very least believe that since in normal relationships, power dynamics are often invisible, that of course you’ll have difficulties seeing them anywhere else. But if all members of a relationship are already aware of the power biases within the relationship, wouldn’t that actually make it easier to police those biases? This seems fairly common-sense to me, but admittedly, my perspective is quite different than yours.

You judge your consent, but I get to judge the implications. Isn’t the life of most prostitutes torture? Isn’t that relevant to this question of consent, twisting of which makes it seem so legit for the johns?

I’m not quite sure that it is. I mean, sure, in a social context there are often factors which make it difficult for an honest communication of consent to occur, but this doesn’t change the fact that consent is still a personal feature. The fact that some people consent to torture does not in any way change anyone else’s consent to the same act. If people have difficulties communicating their consent, this is a terrible thing, but not something that is really anyone else’s problem but the person. Definitely, we should be trying to educate women as hard as possible to take full control of their own consent, but I struggle to determine why people consenting to things that other people would not consent to damages the consent of anyone else. It’s their consent, after all!

For a great many women, the life you’re describing here is no fantasy. It’s a trap which they’ve learned to accept as normal. In some cases, that’s part of the culture, and in others, it’s called battered women’s syndrome. Yeah, people with uncompromised agency can turn it into a game, but talk about playing with fire. It’s just hard for me to believe people can play with such concepts, with such pernicious hooks into our subconscious minds, without getting burned. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but I’m skeptical.

I would point out the BDSM pretty much requires two people to tango. Both people have to consent to any BDSM intruding into their lives. The Dom gets to safeword just as the Sub gets to.

There’s also the point that consent-wise, I think that BDSMers are a step ahead, considering that most non-BDSM couple don’t even think about consent at all. For most people, If a woman makes out, she’ll put out, if she consents once, she always consents, if she consents to one thing, she consents to everything. The BDSM community tries to foster a very different attitude – that consent is per act, that consent can change from moment to moment, that consent is not transferable. I think that there is a great deal that non-BDSMers could learn about consent from the BDSM community (if not from individual BDSMers). It could be considered a dangerous game, but then, I’d point out that at least we know we’re in the game. Issues of consent and abuse come up in every relationship. Every one. And yet, few people think about it at all. Even if we don’t get it right all the time, we have an awareness of the issue, and I’d like to think that’s at least a goodly step in the right direction. It’s not just us that plays with fire. Every relationship plays this game, and it frightens me how few people don’t have even a cursory understanding of these issues.

I’m suspicious of these attempts to reclaim sadism and cruelty. I can sort of understand turning them into a game, but I think those who play with fire may not even realize when they’re getting burned.

I would be more concerned if people considered the game to be real life. I think if that condition holds, the fire metaphor holds. If one holds BDSM as an external to the rest of their lives, and try to maintain that distinction, then you always have the fire in your view. Sure, you still have to make sure that all the flammables stay away from the fire, but as long as you’re keeping a good watch on that fire, you at least have a better idea of when it’s burning you than if you make the claim that you never have BDSM in your life and that everything you do is perfectly normal. The second statement stops you from questioning yourself, stops you even thinking of the fire. I think in that situation, you are far more likely to burn yourself without knowing it.

My point in referencing sadistic pornography is that it is a huge problem pouring gasoline on a epidemic of screwed up men abusing women. Why would you want to be associated with that, stuck with the task of disabusing people of the notion that sadism hurts people?

I still question the impact of violent pornography on the general male populace. I hold the position that screwed up pornography is only going to cause violence and pain in those already predisposed to it, but I understand that this is not a common or acceptable stance in the feminist sphere.

But to answer the question specifically, I don’t associate myself with torture porn. Even before I stopped watching porn, torture porn caused a terrible sensation inside me. When I see a BDSM scene, I need to know that everyone involved is happy in the scene. Screaming often causes serious bad vibes in me (This is probably a side-effect of my rape). What I do is not that torture. My torture is quite different, and I won’t apologize for using a common word in my jargon.

I don’t live in your world, and you seem indifferent to what your vocabulary usage evokes in me, basically saying that’s my problem, since I’m misusing the vocabulary. It’s as though you’re saying if I’m bothered by the language, I should find another word for nonconsensual sadism. Maybe you can understand why that makes me feel you people do have something to hide.

I’m not indifferent to your reaction to our vocabulary, hell, I’m a sociolinguist and I know quite well that our vocabulary can affect others in a way that doesn’t affect us. I just, well, wonder why we can’t both use the same language. I mean, what we use is basically a jargon, a technical language for specific concepts. Now, this language is, unfortunately, steeped in language describing acts that are quite terrible, and that, outside our community, have meanings rather contrary to what we use it for. But it’s our language, our terminology – why should we change it? I mean, some people here are rather strongly attached to their definitions of their language, as is generally the case for all users of all languages – it’s something of a truism that everyone considers their use of language to be the correct use.

And I think what is problematic for everyone involved here is that both sides are adamant that their language be used to host the debate, when the choice of language is actually likely to be a deciding factor in who wins. If you insist that sadism actually means the enjoyment of suffering, then when we discuss sadism, we can’t really try to make any other claim, can we? And the same goes for if we insist that sadism is actually the enjoyment of inflicting pain, regardless of suffering. I think this debate was always going to come down to semantics, because the entire point of the debate is on definitions of words (pretty much the definition of semantics, in the technical sense). And noone here is willing to budge.

I think it would probably have helped the debate if we understood that there were, in fact, two jargons being used here, and worked to make sure that we knew which jargon was being used in which context.

130. Pete Moss - September 11, 2010

I am a switch. A sado-masochist. Masochists get VICARIOUS pleasure. Few people would get pleasure giving oral sex if their partner did not enjoy it. Giving oral sex is not in and of itself an enjoyable act. The pleasure partners get from it is VICARIOUS, EMAPTHIC pleasure, feeling the pleasure you are giving your partner, feeling that you are able to turn-on your partner and give your partner sexual pleasure. There is no difference between flogging a sub, and biting and sratching during sex. The release of endorphins during sex is a result of an activity that is mildly painful like running. The brain has the ability to eroticize pain, and get pleasure from it. Some males and females can get pleasure from being raped. Primal, animalstic sex is all about aggression and dominance. Evolution has programmed female mammals to get aroused by male sexual aggression, physical aggression and dominance. Mammalian males are more dominant, sexually aggressive, and more physically aggressive than female due to the male hormone testosterone. Females are programmed by evolution to be sexually attracted to high testosterone, macho males, who exhibit secondary sex characteristics to a high degree. This is part of Paul McClean’s Triune theory of the brain, which is also called evolutionary psychology. The reason I understand what females feel is I am a low testosterone male. I am attracted to the female version of the dominant male. I desire strong women to take me by force, physically overcome me, force me to have sex, brutally rape me anally with a strap-on, and force me to submit to their superior strength and desires. My sexual pleasure comes from pleasing such a female. Likewise, masochistic females get pleasure from serving their partners. Submissive, masochistic females are only submissive and masochistic with their high testosterone, cruel, sadistic masters who turn them on. When these males inflict pain them,they experience this pain as sexual pleasure. They do not get turned on by being submissive to any male or allowing any male to flog them. Submissive, masochstic females are normally very dominant with most males. It is only high testosterone dominant males who turn them on, to whom they are willing to surrender their bodies. There are many more submissive females than there are dominant sadists. Many submissive masochistic females are survivors of sexual abuse and incest. It is well known that first sexual experiences often imprint themselves on their participants. So a female who was raped as a virgin can often only get sexually aroused and experience orgasm from a male who is playing the role of a rapist and who is over-powering her and forcing her to have sex. Submissive, masochstic females have a very high sex drive. They orgasm more intensely than females who are just into vanillia sex. They get more pleasure from sex during their lives. Couples into vanillia sex gradually lose interest in sex after a few years. The lives of couples into BDSM are centered around sex. Household chores, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, fixing things around the house all become part of foreplay. Shopping for food becomes foreplay. Every aspect of life provides sexual tittilation. Females who are survivors often suffer depression early in life, but if they get into bdsm they often have happier more fullfilling lives than females in vanillia relationships. Their lovers never stop getting turned on by them even when they are no longer physically attractive. Physical attraction plays a less critical role in BDSM relationships than it does in vanillia relationships. If you no longer find your partner physically attractive, you lose interest in her sexually. But the BDSM dynamic makes physical appearance much less important. There is masochistic pleasure in submitting to a partner that is ugly. And sexual sadists can get just as much sexual satisfaction releasing their sexual sadism on an ugly female than on one that is beautiful. Less attractive females find they are in greater demand, they they are sexually more attractive to a sexual sadist than to vanillia males. Most people like to feel their partners are sexually attracted to them, that they can turn on their sexual partners, etc. The truth is masochistic submissives hold the real power in bdsm relationships because they are free to leave anytime. Intelligent masters know if they don’t fulfill the secret sexual cravings of their submissve masochists, they won’t have them for long. It is the sexually sadistic dominant top that is really serving the sexual needs of his masochstic sub, not vice versa. This is a way over-simplifeid explanation of BDSM. I wish I had more time.

131. Pete Moss - September 11, 2010

There is a big difference between sadism and sexual sadism. This difference is recognized by the DSM-IV-TR. I am one of the most compassionate, caring, empathic, loving, kind, understanding, patient, atlrustic, self-sacraficing humans alive. I ***NEVER*** get angry, lose my temper or raise my voice at people I care about. I have complete control over my impulses. I am also a sexual sadist. Just because someone fantasizes about robbing a bank, killing their bosss or blowing upr their business does not mean they are going to do it. If a sexual sadist violated the trust of his masochistic sub, it most likely would just happen one time, because she would be gone. The sexual sadist realizes he is filling his sub’s sexual needs. Gay submissive males are masochists. Nobody really gets pleasure getting fucked in the ass. The pleasure obtained is the vicarious pleasure given. When a masochist can’t give pleasure by allowing a sadist to take pleasure from their bodies they get sexually frustrated. In many cases, masochism is sadism turned inwards. Many masochists get pleasure watching males and females sexually, sadistically tortured. Their own inhibitions or lack of a finding a willing partner prevents them from expressing their sexually sadistic urges. They get vicarious pleasure watching a sexual sadist getting pleasure doing to them, what they would really like to do to a member of the opposite sex. Sexual sadists don’t get pleasure hurting others in a non-sexual manner. They don’t get pleasure from hurting other people’s feelings. They get pleasure from forcing others to experience sexual pleasure. A lot of people have difficulty experiencing sexual pleasure because they feel conflicted about sex. Their neo-pallium finds sex embarrassing, animalistic, primitive, crude, nasty, degrading, and disgusting. For the neopallium to not get squiked by sex, many people need to be tied up and forced to experience it. Otherwise they are too sexually repressed to enjoy it. That is one reason people drink alcohol. Alcohol targets and anestitizes the neopallium. Submissive masochists all have limits and safe words. They also have words that mean “go slower.” There is a difference between inflicting erotic pain that is pleasureable and real pain that is real pain. Tooth pain is hard to eroticize. But practioners of religion are taught to love God no matter what afflictions God delivers upon them. The Biblical God is the ultimate sadist, and those that pracitice Christianity and Judaism are taught to be masochists. They are taught to take the trials, tribulations, and afflictions they have in life and accept them lovingly. Martyrdom and self-sacrafice can be considered the ultimate, submissive masochistic act. When females are in labor giving birth to a child they can diminish that pain and turn part of it into pleasure by eroticizing that experience, by imagining their partner forced them to experience that pain, and their job is to lovingly accept it, to suffer that pain for the pleasure of their partner. When a female imagines her partner getting pleasure from her pussy being painfully forced open, she can flood her brain with endorphins which conteract the actual pain of childbirth.

132. Pete Moss - September 11, 2010

Why is biting, sractching, tickling, hair pulling not seen as sexually sadistic acts. I see no difference between these acts and a light flogging, a light spanking, rough sexual intercourse. The female brain was designed for rough sexual intercourse. If the sexual intercourse is rough enough the female will experience orgasm. The fact is many females experience orgasm when they are raped. Many females never experienced orgasm until they were roughly raped. These females feel guilty about this. They believe their bodies betrayed them. But soon they are on a quest to find a male who can fuck them as hard and as rough as their rapist. These women can be CEOs of their own company or very tough women in their day job. What is amazing is how much most Americans don’t know about their own sexuality. We live in a society that is very Victorian and Puritanical.

133. Pete Moss - September 12, 2010

One last thing. A large number of gay females engage in bdsm. Finally, females into bdsm look forward to it, they live for it, it is the only thing that gets their engine going. They don’t seek out sexual sadists because they want pain. They seek sadists out because sexual pain gives them intense pleasure, it allows them to go into subspace where they are outside their body experiencing sexual Nirvana. Their brain is flooded with endorphins so they don’t really feel the bull whip lashing their skin. Why do you think some females have a compulstion to have sex with a horse, or a man hung like a horse. Females can find the pain of forceful, rough, brutal penetration exhilirating. Like I wrote earlier, evolution easily explains this. Such females were likely to have offspring more likely to survive and preproduce in a cruel world where the only law is the law of the jungle.

134. angryscientist - September 13, 2010

The reason I understand what females feel is I am a low testosterone male.

You’re a funny guy, Pete. You understand what women feel? I think the vast majority of them would heartily disagree, but since I’m also a man, I wouldn’t presume to say I know that for sure. Why do you think you have an inside angle into women’s feelings? Lack of testosterone? Submissive gay men and transwomen also like to claim they understand what women feel. They don’t. You make me laugh. You sound like the garden variety sexist porn fiend to me, with your rationalizations of women enjoying rape and sex as rough as rape. Some women may “enjoy” that, but you really think that’s a good thing? But hell, what do I know, as you said on that other thread, I’m “also one of the most bigoted, ignorant human beings I have ever encountered.” You must think I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, and besides anyone who criticizes Israel or BDSM must be bigoted and ignorant, right? Your ignorance and scorn of egalitarian sexuality staggers the imagination.

135. Pete Moss - October 20, 2010

The fact is I am a male “switch.” That means I am both a sadist and a masochist, dominant and submissive. I get pleasure from giving pleasure. If a female gets pleasure from tying me up up, flogging me, burtally raping me with a strap-on dildo, slapping me, and making me her bitch, that turns me on, and I vicariously experience the pleasure she experiences. If she gets nothing out of it, all I experience is excruciating pain. My pleasure comes from surrendering my body to her to use for her pleasure. I also get pleasure from giving females erotic pain that turns her on. I get no pleasure from hitting females or causing them pain that cannot be turned into pleasure. Masochists have the ability to turn some types of pain into sexual pleasure. For example, squeezing and tugging on a nipple is a form of erotic pain that can be turned into pleasure. Drilling a tooth causes a type of pain that is not easy to eroticize. Using an oversized dildo can increase sexual pleasure. Control, domination, power, pain can all have a strong sexual component. “Egaltarian sexuality” what does that mean. BDSM is commonly practiced by gay females, where one is the butch dominant sadist, and the other is femme submissive masochist. Most females see males who are taller, stronger, more intelligent, wealthier, and more dominant than they are. They want the male to be the one making most of the decisions.

136. Pete Moss - October 20, 2010

You are a stupid, ignorant, angry guy, angry scientist. You haven’t a clue as to human sexuality.

137. angryscientist - October 20, 2010

Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Moss, but my intelligence quotient is quite high, in some areas well into genius territory, others not quite there, so officially I’m in the gifted range. Not that I place much stock in IQ tests. What does it say about you to say I’m stupid and have no clue about sexuality because I don’t agree with you? Do you actually not comprehend what egalitarian sexuality means? Talk about ignorance! Is it your opinion that a relationship between equals is illusory or impossible?

I may be lacking in the type of experience that turns you on, but it appears the reverse is also true. You also have no clue about what “most women” want, at least outside your narrow little world. I suppose you think feminism is stupid and ignorant as well? Or maybe just unrealistic? I won’t stoop to your level and call you stupid, but your argument is, at best, foolish.

Control, domination, power, pain can all have a strong sexual component.

Duh. Do you think that’s healthy, or a symptom of a culture that glorifies all those things? Suppose none of them were valued? Would people be better or worse off? Would there be more war, hatred, rape, trashing of the environment, and other forms of violence, or less?

138. Pete Moss - October 22, 2010

“People who claim to have a high IQ are losers.” –Stephen Hawking

People with a high IQ are just as prone to possess foolish beliefs than people with a normal IQ. Some of the stupidest people in the world have very high IQs. I equate intlligence with perceptiveness. I would call someone with a high IQ, but minimally perceptive as being “stupid.”

“Do you actually not comprehend what egalitarian sexuality means?”

“Egalitarian sexuality” is an ambiguous expression. It can mean lots of things. Rather than make my own best assumetion what you mean, then attack that assumption, I have given you the chance to explain what you mean.

“Is it your opinion that a relationship between equals is illusory or impossible?”

Are you asking if homosexual relationships are possible? Even in homosexual relationships there is a top and a bottom, a butch and a fem.

Women are not attracted to equals, to men who are the same as they are. Even gay women say: “Opposites attract.”

Males and females are not equals. Males have a penis, females do not. It really surprises me that you didn’t know this. I suggest you restudy mammalian anatomy and mammalian psychology.

I was always taught that men and women were equal. I started life looking for a female interested in having an equal relationship. It didn’t take me long before I realized that despite what females say, they were not looking for an equal. Please find me one female who does not seek a male taller than she is. In general females are attracted to males who are stronger, taller, wealthier, and more intelligent than they are. Females seek a male that who lead when they dance. Females seek strong, tough males who will protect them and their children. Most females want a partner who are strong enough to over-power them. Most females are attracted to powerful, dominant, high testosterone, alpha males with high status. Females who are not attracted to wealth are attracted to muscles and machismo, and vice versa. Relationships take place between opposites that compliment each other, not genderless, asexual equals. Most females want a male who will take charge. A boat with two captains makes little progress. The same is true for a kitchen with two chefs. A platypus is a duck made by a committee of equals. There is a reason countries don’t have two equal presidents, armies don’t have two equal generals leading them, and corporations are run by one CEO, not two equal CEOs. Females like to feel that the male who makes love to them is able to conquer them. A high percentage of females fantasize about being ravished and raped, over-powered, and taken against their will. The sex drive in humans still has a strong primal, mammalian component guided by evolution.

egalitarian sexuality means? Talk about ignorance! Is it your opinion that a relationship between equals is illusory or impossible?

“I suppose you think feminism is stupid?”

You are so behind the times, having been brain-washed by feminists of the 60’s and 70’s. Today’s feminists embrace BDSM and S&M, they sing the praises of dominant, alpha males.

“Do you think that’s healthy, or a symptom of a culture that glorifies all those things [control, domination, power, pain]?”

I think it is foolish to deny the truth. If you are turned on by controlling and dominating your partner, and your partner is turned on by being controlled and dominated or vice versa, I see no point in denying the truth, in repressiong your sexuality.

I think it is unhealthy to stifle and repress your primal animalistic sexulity. The key to is find a way to channel it so finds a constructive outlet, not a destructive one. It is money and nuclear energy. Money can be used for constructive and destructive purposes. Nuclear energy can be used for constructive and destructive purposes. The same is true for primal, animalistic sex.

“Do you think that’s healthy, or a symptom of a culture that glorifies all those things?”

This is really a different question. Humans have three brains: an archipallium, a paleomammallian, and a neopallium. The archipallium is Pan, Silenus, Dionysus, Bacchus, John Belushi, and Ares.

The Paleomammalian is Eros, Aphroditie, Eros, the Dali Lama, Gandhi, Mother Teressa, Steve Irwin, Henry Thoreau,

The neopallium is Athena, Apollo, Prometheus, Descartes, Bertrand Russell,

“Suppose none of them were valued? Would people be better or worse off?”

You are asking if mankind would be better off without an archipallium?

I believe in balance. I say there is proper time and place for the expression of all aspects of the human psyche.

What happens when an individual or society is ruled by the archipallium, you get John Belushi, a Viking relgion, Sparta.

What happens when you get an individual ruled by the paleomammalian brain, you get Don Quixote, a starry-eyed romantic love devoid of sexual passion, devoid of intellectual curiosity.

What happens when you get an individual ruled by the neopallium, you can get a Bertrand Russell, but you can also get a Bobby Fisher. You can get a Tinman, a creature with a brain but no heart and no sexuality.

“Would people be better or worse off? Would there be more war, hatred, rape, trashing of the environment, and other forms of violence, or less?”

This is a false dichotomy. You have given me two wrong choices to choose from. What is important is balance and knowing the right time and place for each human trait.

139. Pete Moss - October 22, 2010

How many men would appreciate flowers as a birthday present? Men and women are not equal.

http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/5-sources-of-assumptions-and-stereotypes-about-sm/

http://sm-feminist.blogspot.com/

140. Pete Moss - October 22, 2010
141. Pete Moss - October 22, 2010

Kink 101 – The F-Word: Contemporary UK Feminism – The F-Word

BDSM and Feminism: An Insider’s View

Sex-positive feminism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia This included feminist BDSM practitioners (notably Samois)

Feminism and submissive desires « Feminist Philosophers

When the mainstream appropriation of BDSM models is successfully critiqued, dismantled and corrected, a woman can then feel safe to desire to be demeaned, bound, gagged and “forced” into sex by her lover. In turn, feminists would feel safe accepting that desire, because it would be clear consensual submission. Because “she was asking for it” would finally be true.

BDSM And Feminism: “Stop Telling Me What I’m Supposed To Like, D*mn It.”

http://jezebel.com/5666107/bdsm-and-feminism-stop-telling-me-what-im-supposed-to-like-dmn-it#ixzz137fTKwst

Well, the background story is that around 2005 or so, I was engaging in a lot of light BDSM play with my boyfriend at the time who had an extremely dominant personality. I’d dabbled in spanking play with guys in the past, but this time, the relationship itself had a dominant/ submissive aspect. I felt pretty ashamed and conflicted about that, because I identify as a feminist and being dominated seemed like something I wasn’t supposed to like. So, I started Googling search terms like “dominant and submissive relationships” and eventually found whole communities of women online who are in what are called “domestic discipline” relationships (sometimes called “Christian domestic discipline,” too, but definitely not all of the people who practice DD are Christians.) In DD relationships, there’s a lot of spanking punishment in the relationships, as well as spanking play during sex. A lot of women in DD relationships write blogs and I found this so fascinating that I pitched an article about it for “Bitch” magazine. I interviewed women in DD relationships who identified as feminists, including women who were pursuing graduate degrees in women’s studies, and their self-assuredness and confidence really made me feel less insecure about my own enjoyment of spanking. My article “Slap Happy” was published in Bitch in spring 2007, I believe. About a year or two later, I felt comfortable writing about my own interest in spanking play during sex for The Frisky.

I just assume spanking sex play will always be misunderstood by some people. I especially think some feminists can be doctrinaire: “X is always bad for women,” “women do this because of X,” “men do this because of X.” I read a lot of pooh-poohing online of sex acts depicted in movies or TV that are really arousing for me. For example, when clips of Casey Affleck spanking Jessica Alba in “The Killer Inside Me” were released, some women were disgusted because his character is an abuser and a murderer. I just thought, “This is only a movie and it’s a really hot sex scene!”

When it comes to women and sexuality, there’s a lot of nuances you can’t ignore and I think some feminists do so at their detriment. I wrote the spanking essay for The Frisky partially to figure it out for myself, partially to let other women who felt the same way know they were not alone, and partially to tell those other feminists, ‘Stop telling me what I’m supposed to like, damn it.’

As for my place in the larger feminist community, I have been writing about feminist issues for about eight years now: feminism and media criticism, feminism and sex, feminism and politics, feminism and my personal life, and so on. The spanking essay was just one piece of thousands I’ve written in my life (I’ve written over 2,200 posts for The Frisky alone). I would never want to be pigeonholed as if writing about spanking or BDSM is the only thing I have to contribute – it’s not. It just happens to be the most salacious. I would imagine Daphne Merkin, who wrote a piece for The New Yorker about how she loves spanking sex play, probably feels the same way.

Why would you say that you had so much trouble reconciling your feminism with your interest in being spanked? What about your early understanding of feminism made you believe that seeking out something you found pleasurable was in so much conflict with feminism?

It was not necessarily the act of spanking that I found difficult to reconcile, it was enjoying dominant relationships. I grew up seeing characters on TV and in movies getting spanked in a playful and sexual way (“I Love Lucy,” for example) and the act itself didn’t seem taboo so much as embarrassing. But wanted to be dominated by a man? Now that was taboo for a feminist. I knew intellectually that our feminist ancestors fought for us to be equals to our partners. I felt embarrassed that my grandmothers or great-grandmothers did not have the right to vote, keep a bank account in their own name, or own property, and may have been literally forced to be a maid/chef/mommy for their men. Playing around with domination and submission – being bossed around, being ordered to perform sex acts, being spanking or restrained, being verbally talked down to – all seemed antithetical to feminism by its basic definition. Around 2005, when I had my first dabblings in a dominant/submissive relationship, I found myself always wondering, “Is it OK for me to like this? How can I be a good feminist and still like a man taking charge outside the bedroom? ”

But again, it comes back to what happens in the bedroom and what happens in real life. I can enjoy things in the context of sex or flirting that I don’t want to happen in my day-to-day life. Once I felt secure in that knowledge, several years later, I was able to have a dominant/submissive relationship with a guy and it honestly resulted in some of the most erotic, sexually satisfying experiences of my life. To quote from my piece on The Frisky about it:

As part of our “play,” I would ask him permission to do lots of things. I told him about all the kinds of bras and panties in my drawers and each morning he’d tell me which ones to wear, which I would send him in a photo. I would ask him how to dress each morning. I would ask him if I could watch a movie or if I had to work on writing a freelance article more. If I “disobeyed” him during this sexy-talk “play,” he would tell me over the phone or over IM how he would “punish” me.

But it was the sexual domination that was most amazing to me. Even though we physically had not been intimate with each other yet because of his girlfriend, we had phone sex with each other frequently where he’d verbally explain to me how he was going to spank me. And much of our IM chats and emails were dirty talk about future spanking “punishments” to come: He would promise I’d be spanked 10 times for this or that infraction. He’d also tell me whether he was going to spank me with his hands or with his paddle. And, of course, we would talk dirty at length about having intercourse. Through all of this, he wanted me to call him “sir.”
One common critique of women that engage in consensual BDSM play is that they are acting out patriarchal fantasies, rather than engaging in acts that legitimately bring them pleasure. Another is that women engage in such play because they are coerced, or because they are “taught” that such things are sexy because they or their partners saw it in porn. How would you respond to that?

Ugh, I hate this question.

Fact: Spanking play is a sexual fetish.

Fact: Fulfilling that fetish with men I trust legitimately gives me pleasure.

Fact: To that end, spanking play is no different from other fetishes like cross-dressing or golden showers.

Yes, the fact spanking play involves being physically hit by your partner(s). I know as well as anyone else about your culture’s problem of violence against women. But I can choose to put my trust in men and do things in the bedroom which would be inappropriate in the outside world. The phrase people use in the BDSM world is “safe, sane and consensual” and for me, spanking play is all of those things. The bedroom is a special place to ask out fantasies, not to adhere to political correctness.

The argument that women who enjoy BDSM are “taught” they should be submissive in bed is insulting to me as a feminist: I’m not a little girl who needs other people to tell me what’s best for me. I choose to trust the men I “play” with.” I know what kind of pornography and erotica turns me on. I know what kind of touch turns me on. I know what kind of words and tone of voice turn me on. In fact, there’s sort of a joke in BDSM that submissives are actually the dominant ones because they have ultimate control (like with a safe word). As far as spanking play goes, I’ve always been the ones telling men to do this to me, to do it harder, to do it softer, and when to stop. I guess you could argue that I’ve been brainwashed into being kinky, but that would be a reach.

And this should be obvious but it’s worth saying: a real physically or emotionally abusive relationship is not “safe, sane and consensual.”

You have said, on Twitter [and, I think in your writing, but please correct me] that you have a long-term (male) partner. Would you characterize your relationship as pretty equal, in and/or out of the bedroom? Do you feel that your interest in this play affects the equality of your relationship outside (or inside) the bedroom?

Yes, I’m in a long term relationship with a male partner, who I hope will be my life partner. Our relationship is really as egalitarian as we both know how to make it be in every aspect of our lives. I don’t know if this is because we don’t have a dominant/submissive relationship, but I’d like to think if I ever wanted to have that with him, we would be still be equals. We split chores evenly, contribute evenly to the rent and household expenses, etc. My sexual pecadilloes as far as spanking play are actually a really small part of our relationship as a whole and I can’t say they have any bearing on our relationship.

142. Pete Moss - October 22, 2010

texted him as soon as I woke up.

“What do you want me to wear today?”

I brushed my teeth and washed my face while I waited for him to text me back.

“White button-down shirt. Tuck it in. Your jeans. Flats. Put your hair in a ponytail. Send me a photo.”

I dressed as instructed, then stood before the wall-length mirror in my apartment’s hallway. Smiling into the mirror, I snapped a photo on my iPhone and sent it to Ben*.

Thirty seconds later, a text message: “Very nice.” Then I knew I could leave for work.

Ben was not abusive. I was not being hurt, nor was I unhappy. We were in a dominant/submissive relationship — or playing at one, anyway — and following his orders got me unbelievably, unbelievably turned on.

I have written before about all my drama with Ben: He cheated on his girlfriend, Rachel, with me; he lied about going on a break with her for me; I was so upset when I found out he lied that I emailed her and told her he’d been cheating, etc. But I haven’t been totally forthcoming about the nature of our relationship. Ben and I weren’t just friends who became attracted to each other; we were both extremely, extremely interested in exploring sexual roles as a dom (him) and a sub (me).

Ben cheated on his girlfriend with me, I can now clearly see, because he has strong, natural impulses to dominate a woman in bed and his girlfriend, Rachel, wouldn’t let him. When we were just close friends, Ben would gripe to me about how he and Rachel rarely had sex. As time passed, Ben and I talked frequently over IM or over the phone and flirted with each other more and more. It’s not exactly a secret that I have a fetish about being spanked and at some point — clearly crossing the line of what was appropriate for a guy with a girlfriend and his cute single friend to be discussing — Ben told me he loved spanking women. He loved it. He loved all types of light, sexual domination play — tying women up, using his paddle, hair-pulling — and his girlfriend, Rachel, wasn’t into any of that. And when it came to outside-of-bed stuff, Ben described Rachel as resisting his natural inclination towards leadership. She didn’t particularly like him being protective towards her and he said they bickered constantly.

So, you can see why I saw an “in” here.

I should be clear, though: Ben wasn’t the first guy I’d come across who professed a liking for domination play. Not by far! My first serious high school boyfriend is actually the one who flipped the pervert switch, making me realize that getting spanked turned me on. My boyfriends freshman and sophomore year of college both spanked me. And this other guy I dated in college actually took me to a “spanking club” in New York City where he rented a paddle and spanked me in public.

Then I dated Jason* after college and, through my relationship with him, I learned that it wasn’t just spanking that turned me on, it was dominance. Jason was over 6-feet-tall, strong and sturdily built. He had a naturally dominant personality. He could be fearless and decisive. He could be a leader. He could be stern and take charge when he needed to. He was protective. And he spanked me and dominated me in bed all the time, of course. But outside of bed, which was starting to feel like catnip in this new, weird way, I always felt “safe” with him because of the way he took charge.

It didn’t work out with Jason for other reasons, but he left me with 100 questions: I’m a feminist. Why do I like this so much? Isn’t this wrong? How can I be a good feminist and still like a man taking charge outside the bedroom? It was 2006 around this time, so, of course, I spent a lot of time on Google looking for the answers. By searching terms like “spanking” and “domination,” I discovered many, many women online who wrote blogs sharing the same desires I held. They had college degrees, jobs, made their own money, etc., but they were sexually attracted to men who dominated them both inside the bedroom and outside. (Some of these women are in what’s called “domestic discipline” arrangements, which have a lot of Christian influences and would take a long time to explain—Google it for more info.) I studied these women for over a year and published an article called “Slap Happy” in the feminist/pop culture magazine Bitch about them. (“Slap Happy” cannot be found online, but writer Amanda Marcotte at the feminist blog Pandagon wrote about it here. And my article was included on the syllabus for a Rutgers University Human Sexuality class!)

I can’t explain to you how all-consumingly liberating it felt to know it wasn’t just me who wanted this. This is something hundreds of other women and men love, I thought. This is a part of me and my sexuality that I can be honest about. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be dominated by a man all the time like these women; though the idea of domination “play” some of the time, like Jason and I had engaged in, aroused me more than I had ever felt before.

So, back to Ben: when he revealed to me that he got off from being dominant, I felt like I’d found the golden ticket. We not only shared the same kink but the same intensity for it? Ben wanted dominance and submission “play,” all the time? Seriously? Where had he been all my life?

But because Ben was still dating Rachel (his girlfriend of four or five years, I think), we didn’t do anything about this for a long time. We flirted for months and months, occasionally talking about our mutual love of spanking and domination, but in the one very intense month after he said he wanted to break up with Rachel to be with me, domination and submission “play” consumed us. First musing about it. Then doing it over IM, email, phone and text message.

Much of the non-sexual domination “play” with Ben was just a shift of our regular friendship: We’d talk about the stuff we’d usually talk about, but he would take a more dominant role, sternly issuing instructions. For example, I had a co-worker who was experiencing some difficulties and being the naturally hyper-anxious person that I am, I’d fret all the time about the fate of her job. “Don’t worry about her; it’s not your responsibility. Worry about yourself,” he would say. And I would follow his instructions.

But there was the more obvious domination “play” component: As part of our “play,” I would ask him permission to do lots of things. I told him about all the kinds of bras and panties in my drawers and each morning he’d tell me which ones to wear, which I would send him in a photo. I would ask him how to dress each morning. I would ask him if I could watch a movie or if I had to work on writing a freelance article more. If I “disobeyed” him during this sexy-talk “play,” he would tell me over the phone or over IM how he would “punish” me.

But it was the sexual domination that was most amazing to me. Even though we physically had not been intimate with each other yet because of his girlfriend, we had phone sex with each other frequently where he’d verbally explain to me how he was going to spank me. And much of our IM chats and emails were dirty talk about future spanking “punishments” to come: He would promise I’d be spanked 10 times for this or that infraction. He’d also tell me whether he was going to spank me with his hands or with his paddle. And, of course, we would talk dirty at length about having intercourse. Through all of this, he wanted me to call him “sir.”

Basically, Ben was one kinky motherf**ker.

For the first few weeks, I was horny constantly. And I mean constantly. Never before in my life have I experienced such weeks-long periods of horniness! One weekend, I could not handle the horniness anymore and slept with two different guys and made out with a third. (None of them were Ben, of course, because he was still technically “with” his girlfriend.) And trust me: I’d never done that before! I really felt like my sexuality had awakened and been released, roaring from the gate.

I think all the buildup actually raised my expectations too much, because the one and only time Ben and I were physically intimate with each other, it was a bit of a disappointment. Oh yes, he was sexually dominant: He instructed me to strip, to crawl on the floor and fellate him, and he spanked me with the paddle he kept in his closet. But something about him seemed skittish, like he was not giving 100 percent. I remember thinking, Where’s the guy who is a marvelous dirty talker? The deflation could have been because Ben was cheating on Rachel with me; however, I got the sense that Ben liked talking about dom/sub more than actually doing it.

I never got to that find out: A week or so later, everything with Ben crashed and burned. It was messy, it was bad, and it was a horrible time in my life. It’s not necessarily worth repeating and if you must, you can read about it here.

My spectacular crash-and-burn at a dom/sub relationship, even though it was messy, was educational in ways I never could have imagined. I now see that what Ben and I had was not a romance and we had no foundation to sustain a relationship beyond sex. That was just a disaster waiting to happen. But I also realize now that Ben and I didn’t know what we were doing and we did not have the foundation of trust that a dom/sub relationship needs. Not “should have,” but “needs.” With no exceptions. I gave Ben trust that he had not earned yet. When he would instruct me to stop worrying about my co-worker, I would listen, but really Ben had done nothing to prove he was worthy of this trust. In fact, if anything, he was negatively trustworthy for not having ended his relationship with Rachel yet. It was my fault for trusting a man who was not trustworthy and I take full responsibility for that.

I also learned that when it comes to sex, sometimes people do like talking about stuff more than they like doing it. They think they want it. They say they want it. But — and this is where needing to be able to trust someone’s word comes in — they’re afraid to fully experience what all their sexual impulses are telling them. Maybe it’s because it’s scary to them. Maybe it’s because it’s so taboo. I don’t really know: I just know that Ben turned out to be that person while I was not.

I’m glad I have nothing whatsoever to do with Ben anymore, of course. But I am kind of bummed my first foray into a dom/sub relationship didn’t work out; I really would have loved it. Now, I’m in a loving, committed relationship with the man I am going to marry and we have a happy sex life, but he does not share the same desire for dom/sub “play” that I have. But these days, given how I had such a negative experience with domination the first time, I’m not eager to repeat it.

143. angryscientist - October 22, 2010

Are you having fun littering my blog, Pete? You bore me. Your arguments are nothing new to me; I’ve been through all this kind of stuff with the other commenters, many of whom were just as sure I was a bigoted ignoramus.

I happen to know a fair bit about the branch of feminism you think isn’t behind the times. There is a battle for the soul of feminism going on. If you’re curious what I mean, you might want to check out some of the entries about pornography and prostitution at the Ms. Magazine blog. I think many of these “sex-positive” feminists have no idea how clever humans are at deluding themselves, especially in a sick culture that rewards that. But to say “they sing the praises of dominant, alpha males” I think is a real stretch. Even for feminists who think the old wave is a bunch of prudish humorless sex-negative losers, that’s a stretch. The meaning of feminism hasn’t been totally lost on them, in other words. Nobody has brainwashed me. I’m well aware of cultural illusions and how they can affect people.

Your idea of balance is standard trope serving to justify the status quo. Do you think the way this world is run makes sense? I guess you do, since for example, you think nuclear power has a constructive use. If that were the only option available, I might agree with you, but the fact is there are many options for generating electricity, and nuclear energy is right near the top of examples of reckless uses of technology. It’s just a cover for the nuclear weapons industry. We don’t need nuclear power or bombs. Both are prime examples of human delusion and self-destructive behavior being promoted by those who derive power and money from them.

Anyway, these stories you’re posting don’t prove anything besides that there are women who agree with you. So what? They aren’t the majority. I don’t think they’re even close to the majority. You can believe whatever you want. Believing something never makes it true. It only makes it appear true to the believers.

144. Pete Moss - December 21, 2010

“The gulf between men and women is terrific,” Bertrand Russell told Lady Ottoline Morrell in 1913. “I suppose they never understand each other and I think where sex attraction is absent there is a natural antipathy. Most people have a sort of sex-patriotism, which makes them instinctively stand by their own sex.” There are many parallels between class- and sexconsciousness. To name only three: similar preconditions (largely urban and industrial) exist for the emergence of both; each aspires to all inclusiveness, and therefore aims ultimately to cut across the other; and the sharpness of each alignment is blurred by a minority which neglects short term self-interest by refusing to identify politically with its own kind. This third parallel is the focus of attention here, for in the conflict of interest between the sexes Russell displayed a “false consciousness” analogous to the response of the bourgeois Marxist or proletarian conservative in the class war; that is to say, he aimed-in his political, intellectual and personal life-to moderate and even eliminate a potential polarization of society. Such apparently altruistic minorities are of special interest, not simply because their altruism demands explanation, but because their minority situation enriches their opportunities for perceiving significant social tendencies. It is surprising that a recent study of male feminists fails to analyze the complexities of their situation, or even to mention Russell’s presence in their midst.

The male-hating man is also likely to be a self-hating Jew, and an American hating American. Whereas most people love themselves, their family and their nation, the angry, self-hating person is filled with guilt and and shame. He hates himself. Because he hates himself, he hates his family, his nation, his religion, even his own gender. Clerance Thomas, Michael Jackson, Bobby Fisher and the Angry Scientist are perfect examples of the self-hating individual. The Angry Scientist is really a closet masochist who would join a KKK nor neo-Nazi S&M group if he could. Like many abused victims, the Angry Scientist suffers from Stockholm syndrome. Like so may abused children he identifies with his abuser.

145. angryscientist - December 21, 2010

You’re making a lot of unwarranted assumptions, asshole. I assure you your assessment couldn’t be farther from the truth. Are you implying women have abused me? Is this how narrow your worldview is, that you believe that’s the only possible explanation for how I feel? You’re sick, man. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Just to give you a clue how clueless you are, I, like most males of my generation, was mildly abused by my father. The principles of child rearing in those days required fathers to be disciplinarian. So by your theory, I should identify with him. I don’t, but I don’t hate him, or other males, or myself, or Jews, either. So much for your theory. There are some men I respect. If you read more of this blog, it’d be obvious I have great respect for Gary Null, for instance. What would stop me from joining a KKK or neo-Nazi group, if I wanted to? Nothing, but I have no identification with those groups, or any other group based on bigotry. But I guess you think feminism is based on bigotry? I’m an iconoclast, a radical, a truth-seeker, a fierce individualist who really doesn’t identity with anybody. I don’t need to. I’m as independent as they come.

146. Pete Moss - September 21, 2011

http://fayekane.blogspot.com/?zx=83541996b198c4ab

FAYE KANE’S
ASTRONOMY / PHYSICS FUCK SITE
And Church of the Latter-Day Zarathustra

Helping my timid, frightened geek brothers remember WTF they are since 2004

“We put the ASS back in Asperger’s!”

…Without the other!

——————————————————————————–

The Latter-Day Zarathustra
__ They call me the psycho, active, psychoactive, hyperbolic, hypergolic, St. Vitus’ dancin’, pull down her pants and low class, kiss my ass, unemployed, overjoyed, masterpiece-makin’, masturbatin’, window ledge over-the-edge, screwy, chiral, downward-spiral, ass upended, fair-weather-friended, ‘puter freq girl geek. Yes, yes, I’ll talk about being naked and whipped. I’d much rather talk about the signature of the interval metric in special relativity, but I’d rather BE naked and whipped! Remembering that for an intelligent animal (you), both thinking AND “being” are critically important, and they should keep the hell out of each other’s way is what this blog is about. It was inspired by a religious-like revelation when I was tied to a bench naked and tortured HARD for almost three days. I went from shy and nervous to a smartypants smartass in three days. I answer ALL emails (eventually). KneeCheeseZarathustra@gmail.com. And no matter what, always remember: You can’t spell ANALYZE without ANAL!

R U looking for my illustrated, ultimate Ed Bagley Missouri sex-slave case news and updates page? (updated Aug 23)

147. angryscientist - September 21, 2011

Well, smartass, you’ve outdone yourself. I have nothing else to say to that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: