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Archive for July 15th, 2010

I’m still seeing clients here and there, if I meet someone I like and feel that the fantasy is something I can fulfill with integrity and a sense of fun. Plus, the money’s good. What can ya do.

The type of client I seem to keep coming back to is spankos. Not because spanking fantasies are particularly un-problematic to me; if anything, I often find the types of activities that spankos seek somewhat disturbing. But in the interest of being non-judgmental and promoting the sexual health of all individuals, I think I probably keep coming back to it because it’s problematic for me, and the problem inherent is one that is not the fault of the spankos themselves, nor even of the professionals they sometimes visit in order to indulge their fantasies. It’s a tweak I have about the rhetoric that often forms around the spanking roleplay.

The sexy idea of “I’ve been baaaad and need to be punished” is probably as old as time; the kinking of punishment into pleasure isn’t what troubles me (much, more on that later), though it’s not really what I go in for personally. Professionally, though, I’ve often found it to be a hoot to play the strict aunt or headmistress or Victorian lady doling out paddlings and canings to irrepressible “young boys.” It’s a chance to do some acting, to stretch my roleplay capacities and hone my quick responses, and often, it’s hilarious.

But what bugs me is what many of these men are wanting to be punished for. Sometimes it’s sassing an elder, sometimes it’s violating someone’s privacy, usually a girl or woman and usually involving a panty drawer or curtains carelessly left open of a summer evening. But more often than anything else, they want to be punished for masturbating.

As a staunch supporter of masturbation (stand tall and salute!), I find this a troubling trend. I think that the healthy habit of pleasuring yourself is the first step of exploring and loving your body, getting to know what you like, and being able to share a healthy sexuality with others. Granted, there are all kinds of things that people fantasize about and enact that would be horribly unhealthy in “real life,” things that they wouldn’t want to happen: rape fantasies are an excellent example, and many people fantasize about being kept as slaves in a cage in someone’s basement, but would hate it were it to really happen, even in an erotic context.

But the fetish for being spanked as a response to natural pubescent impulses troubles me because a lot of the time, it stems from true experience – an experience in which a child was punished for trying to know himself. This fantasy has the tendency to expand, too, into talk about the need for a strong female authority to control men’s wild sexual urges – which in turn recapitulates an irresponsible and misogynist narrative about how men are just beasts who can’t control themselves, and women are the moral, moderating influences who must rein them in, lest they go out and rape every woman they meet. (See also: maybe the way to prevent rape is not to stop women from wearing short skirts and drinking alcohol, but for men to STOP RAPING WOMEN.)

One of my favorite longstanding clients enacts multiple versions of this fantasy with me, and given our relationship and our lunches post-factum, I often have discussed this problem with him. Over time, his detailed fantasy letters began to shift: it wasn’t masturbation he was being punished for, but inappropriate, non-consensual attention to women, or being a cocky, misogynist 17-year-old asshole (one of his more entertaining incarnations), or the classic: going into a female classmate’s room and stealing panties from her drawer. We developed a story over several visits which wound up with the young man masturbating under the caring supervision of a slightly older female intern, which I thought was strangely sweet. In earlier versions of the fantasy, the boy’s ongoing discipline and recidivism ultimately ends in castration. In a later version, over lunch one day, he told me that he imagined that young man finally settling down with one of the imaginary young women we wove into our scenarios, having a healthy, female-led relationship with her. My sessions with him, to a certain extent, mirrored my own attitudes about my work – and, I like to think, began to heal that boy inside him.

I still have trouble with some of these punitive scenarios: for myself, in kink, punishment is a bad thing, so much so that it’s something I don’t really play with as a bottom. Punishment, as in the real world, is something to be avoided. For spankos and some others, the punishment is the kink, is the pleasure. There’s no teasing and denial, no finishing themselves off afterwards. It’s chastisement, smart-mouthing, face-slapping, and butt-reddening with fast, hard strokes meant to cause real pain. It’s something that I don’t fully grok, as it’s not about the pain being transformed into pleasure, or the pain being endured as part of a trial by fire, or even the pain as atonement, though I’m sure that’s part of it. And unlike a lot of kinky activity in the more leather side of the scene, it almost always seems to stem from childhood. As with foot fetishists, it’s something they knew about early and have sought for much of their lives (or began to kink on later in life).

As with the sessions with my old client, with this new client I chose to punish him for looking in his little neighbor girl’s window while she was dressing, rather than for masturbating. I always have this strange need to punish for something I feel is just, rather than for something I want to encourage. I just can’t reinforce that idea that masturbation is bad and sexuality is immoral and wrong – even in the context of a session that’s clearly sexual for the person receiving it!

There is, of course, the possibility, as with some kink, that enacting these scenarios is in part about re-framing and healing the wound. But I just never hear about that from spankos. It just always seems like a somewhat compulsive, likely ultimately harmless, and usually pretty playful thing that got kinked for them at an early age. And probably there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m always bemused by my own reactions to these things.

What are your thoughts?

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Last night’s Diane Rehm Show was a panel discussion on France’s recently passed ban of the veil and the burqa. It included the voice of Asra Nomani, a journalist and American Muslim whose heritage stems from a strict Indian sect who forced women to veil their faces. She herself was raised a modern woman by her mother, whose own mother-in-law literally tore the veil from her face and thus began her liberation.

Nomani’s story is touching, and I can’t say I support the wearing of the veil or the burqa, though I don’t claim to fully understand the nuances of the practice. But more to the point: regardless of what I think of it, I cannot support the idea of state-mandated or -forbidden religious practices, no matter how oppressive we on the outside may believe they are to the women in question. As another panelist asked, what’s next? Is the state going to go into Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods and stop Hasidic women from shaving their heads?

Why am I writing about this here? Well, I couldn’t help but think of those well-meaning – but usually ultimately vitriolic – feminists who believe that all women who choose to be engaged in BDSM are simply brainwashed by the men they are with, and by extension, by the patriarchy. According to these folk, there is no way a woman could actually desire, or consent to, sexual submission or erotic pain. She is just the unwitting victim of a larger society that promotes and reinforces the supremacy of men and violence against women.

French Muslim women who wear the burqa – only a couple thousand in all, incidentally – couldn’t possibly be doing so because they want to as part of their personal religious beliefs. It must be and can only be an expression of the most radical political elements of Islam, which are seeking to oppress their women and will not stop until every Muslim woman is veiled and locked in the house. A sad story, to be sure – but unfortunately, it’s simply not the case. And even if it were – that is no call for a state to step in and punish the victims by forbidding them from appearing in public in the only mode of dress they know to be correct. Way to isolate, punish the victim, and further radicalize Islam. Thanks, France!

I was listening to Maymay’s podcast, Kink on Tap – and I’m several episodes behind, mind you – but it was the one where one of the panelists was discussing how Rhode Island was re-criminalizing prostitution. In that story, it was explained how the best way to stop the supposed horrible human trafficking that is going on is to punish prostitutes who are caught with hefty fines and even prison. This was so the heavy penalties could be used as a bargaining chip to get these women to testify against their awful human-trafficking pimps.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?

On going to Kink on Tap’s site, I found that naturally, Maymay got to this ahead of me. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has seen this connection. When are people going to stop trying to protect women by removing their freedoms and questioning their agency?

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