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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Abuse? Abuse!

At some point, I should actually talk about abuse, if I'm going to bitch about people not talking about abuse. Ugh, responsibility.

Okay. Abuse.

Like I've said, I was involved in an abusive D/s relationship. I'm going to call the abusive fellow Arthur, because when you want a name for an abuser, just ask a Bronte. (Gals, which one are you? I'm an Anne.) My abuse narrative will sound familiar to anyone who's spent time in Fetlife's groups for submissive women. In fact, after typing the whole thing up, I've opted not to include it here, because I think that anyone who actually knows me will be a lot happier if I omit the details. In very brief, the relationship (not a romantic one) was abusive because Arthur was into maintaining control over me by pushing my hard limits and by guilt tripping me if I used a safeword. I walked around feeling completely fucked up for way too long, and when it hit the point that I was sobbing about it every day, I got enough objectivity to realize, "Wait, this is not how this should go. I don't feel good about this at all." Finally, all of the Are You In an Abusive Relationship? pamphlets that had been stored up in my brain since high school got to have their say. "Holy shit," I thought. "This relationship is textbook abusive."

Now, I do not think that Arthur is a bad guy. I think that he was young and troubled, and completely unprepared for the responsibility of having someone give so much control over to him. I think also that he really believed himself to be acting in my best interest. I think this in part because I've heard some of the views that he espoused from other sources as well, all around the kink community here. They go like this:

- What every sub really wants is to be good. If she isn't striving for this, then she isn't a real sub. [Oh, yeah, I'm going to use female pronouns to talk about subs and male pronouns to talk about doms, because that's what I'm talking about right now.]

- "Being good" means having no boundaries whatsoever, so as to be most available to your dom.

- It is the duty of the dom to help his sub achieve ultimate goodness by breaking down her boundaries.

This is the Father Knows Best model of D/s relationships. I know a lot of people who subscribe to it. Shockingly enough, I think it's extremely dangerous. This philosophy of D/s did a great disservice both to Arthur and to me. (Fucking people up isn't one of his kinks.) Like I've said - or at least implied - before, I think that it's important to maintain a clear boundary between what we actually want and believe and what we pretend to want and believe. I wanted to pretend to believe that Arthur knew what was best for me, and I ended up relinquishing so much control to him that I had to behave as if he actually did know what was best for me.

Here's the thing that separates D/s relationships from vanilla ones: one person is explicitly relinquishing power to another person. That makes abuse all the easier to perpetrate and all the harder to identify. That said, why don't we warn people about this as soon as we find out that they are new to the scene? Why is this topic so taboo? I guess it goes back to this fear that if we tell anyone that anything is wrong with BDSM, that he will pull off his fake mustache and reveal himself to be a secret member of the Vanilla Police, here to take us away (haha hoho) for indecent acts. To which I say, grow up. You are not Oscar Wilde. The worse persecution you will probably ever experience because of your naughty proclivities will be at the hands of a partner who thinks that your sadism/masochism/dominance/submissiveness/balloon fetish is kind of icky. Oh please. You have so little to lose from warning people about abuse and so little to gain from shaming me for warning them.

If I had been told that what I was experiencing was abuse, and not just par for the course, I might have gotten out of that situation a lot sooner. I want to tell everyone that, but I don't, for fear of losing the community that I have. Because, like, this shit is heavy. It's not fun to hear about. It's terrible PR. And now I'm a little ashamed for posting this for the benefit of a few people, instead of saying it really publicly, because it should be heard. I don't know. Maybe it's best not to drop the "a-bomb" because that's, like, totally humorless. Maybe it's better just to point out that not everyone that can tie a knot or wield a knife deserves your trust. Maybe you're better off being hyper-vigilant about safewords until you know for sure. Maybe we bottoms have to look out for each other. Just a thought.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What We Talk About When We Talk About Kink

This one's going to be short and ranty. And in list format!

Sometimes I just get so unhappy about the terms people use, and then I have to monologue about them to anyone who will listen (Mina and Miranda, basically). Now I'm going to do that to you, imaginary readers! For your extreme, almost-overwhelming pleasure, I present... A List of Terms That Piss Me Off:

Subby - Or maybe it's with an "ie". If someone self-identifies as a subby/ie, that's fine with me. Anyone who thinks it's cool to use that as a blanket term for submissives, though, hasn't thought about what the word "submissive" means. It does not mean "into humiliation". Plenty of subs are into being demeaned, but even among those, most of us aren't into being demeaned all the time, by anyone who thinks they know anything about BDSM. Demean me - if I ask you to - but respect my sexual identity, please.

Domme - "Dominant" is a gender-neutral word. "Dom" is a gender-neutral abbreviation. The only reason to make the word feminine is that it is abnormal for women to be dominant, which is, even statistically speaking, untrue.

The Lifestyle - Oh come on.

Do not even think for a minute that this is the end of me being angry about terminology! However. I am about to go to a party, where I plan to be happy, which is more fun. Goodnight!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Macho Doms

I've been putting off writing this entry: it is far too big already. I want to write about how doms and subs interact outside of a clearly-negotiated play context - when the lines are blurred, and what people's expectations seem to be. I can tell that this is going to be terrifyingly long, and that I'm not going to explain myself nearly as well as I'd like to.

So I'm going to stall a little longer. I'm going to talk about names. In the proud blogger tradition, I'm using aliases for myself and the people I write about. In the proud nerd tradition, they are, so far, all literary references. Specifically, I have named myself Susan and my roommate Miranda after characters who had problematic relationships to magical worlds. Susan is the unfortunate Pevensie sibling who stops believing in Narnia - and starts showing a little too much interest in stockings and boys - and is thus barred from the Kingdom of Heaven (I mean, of Aslan). Miranda is Prospero's daughter in The Tempest, who gets to be on the receiving end of her father's magic quite often, and who gets to spend some serious quality time with the creature who attempted to rape her. Yes, I thought a lot about this. Yes, I am very pleased with myself.

Of course, I had to come up with a nickname for my ladyfriend as well, and since she's just as critical as either Miranda or myself, I needed one in the same vein. Wendy was the gimme, but Lost Girls has pretty much ruined that one for me. When I asked Miranda, she - without missing a beat - suggested Bella; I value my life too much to use that one. I'm sure there are better ones that I'm not thinking of, but I'm going to go with Mina. (You know who I mean, I know you do.)

Ok. Onward.

I am so tired of doms who posture. I mean when a group of a certain kind of macho dom gets together and has a pissing contest. Not that they're showing off skills, which is cool, or passing around pictures of their rope work, which is also fine (although after a bit it begins to feel like looking at pictures of someone's pet. It's really for their benefit, and you have to love the pictures because they do.) I'm talking about the doms who constantly need to one-up each other with stories about their exploits in kink, and about their own domly prowess in particular. Something like this:

Master Beelzebub: I once left this girl hanging from my ceiling for two hours while my friends and I played Halo in the next room! She totally yelled at me afterward, until I told her what she could do with her mouth! [Heyo!]

Lord Dom-Dom Pop: Yeah, well, this one time my girl was being a brat, so I spilled my drink on the floor and made her lick it up!

(Ok, I should probably have more respect for the monikers that people choose for themselves, but it's too much fun to mock! A friend of mine refers to pushy doms with an inflated sense of their own importance and impressiveness as either Lord Flashpants or Zeus Thunderthighs. It makes me so happy.)

So, I'm bothered by these conversations not just because they are annoying, although they are. It's not just that they always have to happen at a loud volume, designed to attract the largest possible audience, at the expense of the most possible other conversations. I can put up with these posture-fests with only mild irritation as long as they are about scenes that sound like they were designed for everyone's enjoyment. What really bothers me is when I hear a conversation like the one above, wherein the participants are describing doing things to their partner(s) that the partner(s) don't want or like.

Okay, okay, I get that a lot of play is about just that. I personally enjoy being made to do things that I don't enjoy doing. I might enjoy being made to lick up Mina's drink, and I would even be fine with her telling people about it, as long as she didn't tell them that she forced me against my will to do something I didn't want to do.

This is the difference for me. If, during a scene, Mina spills her drink and tells me to lick it up, I tell her no, and she shoves my face into the puddle, that's fine. We are adults who have agreed to play together, agreed to the terms of the play, and agreed to a safe word, should anything go awry. We know that we are participating in a scene about power play: we are pretending that Mina has the right to push me around. We are pretending that I am unable to retaliate, should she do something really cruel. We are pretending that I am not pleased as punch to have a face full of, well, punch. Even if I'm grossed out, humiliated, furious, I am still enjoying myself, because I like to be pushed around. That is, after all, the point. When we do these things, we are playing. This is pretty 101.

It would not be okay if Mina then told a group of people about it, saying "I shoved Susan's face in a puddle of punch. Bitch hated it."

Never mind that Mina and I have an egalitarian relationship outside of the bedroom, and in public she can call my by my name or by the appropriate pronoun. It would be a problem even if we were D/s all the time. It would even be a problem if I wanted her to tell everyone I hated it. This is because she would still be pretending. And in pretending, she would be asking everyone in earshot to pretend along with her.

When Lord Dom-Dom Pop announces that he made his bitch sleep in the doghouse all night, that she hates his guts but she can't do a thing about it, he is asking us to acknowledge his power and his ladyfriend's helplessness and misery. Essentially, he is making us part of the scene, without the prior negotiation, trust, precautions, etc. He is playing with me without my permission. I am absolutely not okay with that.

I'm realizing that a discussion about power dynamics outside of scenes will have to be broken up over several entries, otherwise I'll never post anything and eventually end up with a book. I think I'll wait until I've been doing this for awhile, write a book about my blog, and wait for someone to make a movie about the book about my blog. God, I hate Julie Powell.