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Posts Tagged ‘facepalm’

I recently did something I should have done ages ago, which is turn on Google alerts and make it tell me whenever certain key words or phrases are mentioned in the news. Doing this for “BDSM” has garnered some interesting results, not the least of which is a continuation of the trend that Bitchy has noticed of a rift between professional dominatrices (as she likes to say) and more ordinary folks doing kink. Her main beef was that the professionals seem to be creating the world of female dominance as it is seen by most people, and it is a world that she reviles. But another question is arising from my own reading: a question of elitism, of experience versus education, and the potential de-fanging of kink.

The story starts with Lera Gavin, a young dominatrix in Miami who writes a column called “Ask a Domme.” In an August 11 article called How to Enjoy Extreme Smothering Without Fatally Suffocating Your Boyfriend, she advises a man who would like for his girlfriend to try smothering with him to “con her” if she doesn’t agree at first:

You also said you’re unsure how to approach your girlfriend. There are two ways you can handle this matter: You can ask her or con her. If she says no to your request, don’t frown, just trick her into it. But start easy. You want her to be relaxed. The best way to get a woman into smothering is by worshipping her body, especially her ass.

So next time you see your beloved chickadee naked, compliment her gorgeous bottom. Most women go gaga for praise. Call her a goddess and then ask if you can admire her hot ass. She won’t be able to say no.

No question, this is phenomenally bad advice. Not just because breathplay can be extremely dangerous and should only be done with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved, but because dude, consent! Trick her into it? “She won’t be able to say no”? Welcome to rape culture; here’s your complementary beer bong.

Theresa Ikard of Carnal Nation responded to this moron with some dismay. The angle she took, however, struck me as a bit oblique.

Her piece is titled Why It’s Important for Dommes to Go to Dominatrix School, and while it briefly addresses the consent and safety issues, in larger part I think it misses the point and comes off as condescending. In pertinent part:

BDSM is way more a mental game than a physical one. What I mean is that “hard skills” like flogging, caning, cock and ball torture, rope bondage, etc. are easier to learn than the “soft skills” like communication, awareness and responsibility for interpersonal dynamics, and respect for the power of their craft…

The only way to master these skills is to be educated properly and practice consistently. Just like a young therapist or doctor in training, a fresh Domme needs mentoring and feedback. The author of this article has a bio online in the form of a feature article and I gather from what she has written that her training to become a Domme centered primarily around financially driven motives. Now, don’t get me wrong: the business end of sex work training is essential, but is hardly sufficient knowledge or motivation in itself and it certainly does not foster development in either soft skills or hard skills.

Now granted. Lera Gavin is 21 years old, and in said feature article she says things like, “The mistress explained the client was a sad, older man still mourning his recently deceased wife. I knew it was a difficult time for him and that seeing a mistress was a way for him to cope with pain and loss. Of course, I put all of that out of my head. Sensitivity isn’t part of the job.” [emphasis mine] I would no sooner put myself in her hands than I would let my dog use the stove.

But suggesting that because this woman has for some reason been given an column in which to propogate bad kink advice that she should have gone to “dominatrix school” is a little off the mark. Suggesting, too, that experience as a pro domme does not foster the skills needed to be a good dominatrix is simple madness. When I was going into the business, I trained by reading books, throwing whips at willing stunt bottoms, playing with people I liked and watching others play. I barely knew anything when I had my first paying client except for how not to actually damage him. I was lucky to have some natural ability in the “soft skills” and a background in theatre and in healing, but I had to learn nearly everything on the job – how to use my voice and what words to choose, how to read a client’s reactions, how to establish rhythm and pace for maximum effect, and once, how to get a guy out of standing bondage when he’s fainted.

What’s wrong with this whip-wielding youngster is not that she didn’t go to dominatrix school – nor even that she didn’t receive mentoring. She seems to have had an older domme as a boss and guide; mentoring is no guarantee, especially in the less populated parts of the country. What’s wrong is that she never learned that the first rule of kink is consent, and without it, there can be no ethical BDSM play, or in fact sex play of any kind. What’s wrong is that she doesn’t seem to have learned that actually, sensitivity is 95% of the job; whipping and tying and torturing and having your feet worshipped is the rest.

She responded to Ms. Ikard’s article with a vicious and infantile rant full of ad hominem venom in which she calls Ikard “some humorless lipstick feminist,” refers to Carnal Nation as “an obscure online magazine about ‘sexuality,'” and derides the opinion of “a lowly bottom,” as if submissives were allowed no dignity or opinions even when they leave the dungeon. (She makes a further fool of herself by fluttering “Midori who?” when someone mentions Midori in the comments. At least do your homework.) Then she tries to back away from the criticism by suggesting that her column is meant to be humorous and the advice shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Yet later in the article she does raise an interesting point. “The true art of BDSM is all about power, fear, and suffering,” she writes, adding:

Scary? Well, it’s supposed to be. No professional dominatrix wants to seriously harm a client, but if you don’t see at least a hint of real fear in your submissive’s eyes, you’re not doing your job right. In a way, old school feminists were right, S&M does eroticize power and violence, and all the PC jargon such as “sex positive,” “personal empowerment,” and “energy exchange” are just a way of avoiding this inconvenient truth.

Don’t get me wrong; I still think she’s mostly talking out of the wrong end of her corset. Claiming that sex-positivity is simply PC jargon is wildly ignorant, and BDSM play isn’t always about fear. But what are we doing, exactly, when we seek to take the teeth out of kink by making it a subject of academic study? How are we bullshitting ourselves and our clients when we claim to be healers, priestesses or therapists rather than sex workers? I specifically took up training as a type of therapist and began seeing clients in a counseling capacity because I felt that the work I was doing was not healing work but bandaging work.

BDSM is dark – it has its ugly sides and its deranged desires. These things need to be acknowledged, not just because they are true but because our desire is so intimately linked to our freedom. Read Pat Califia’s introduction to Macho Sluts sometime, if you want an excellent breakdown of this topic, but the point is: we want what we want, and sometimes, it’s not pretty.

None of this, of course, removes from Ms. Gavin the responsibility to stop telling people to do nonconsensual BDSM with their partners. Like it or not, she is something of an authority, even at her age and level of experience, by virtue of having such a strong interest in this work and having a column in which to share her supposed expertise. Part of her ongoing education, hopefully, will be recognizing that she has a responsibility for the community she represents, and that passing off her column as humor after the fact is buck-passing of the cheapest sort.

Meanwhile, I look forward to the continuing marriage of intellect and heat that seems to be churning over at Carnal; pieces like this one on a potential parents-of-kinky-kids support group, and this thoughtful piece by Clarisse Thorn give me all kinds of hope.

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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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So, after my advice the other day, I found this New York Times article, about how Google has begun a ban on advertising for cougar dating sites.

Cougars, for those of you who have been asleep, are older women who want to date younger men. Sites like Cougar Life promise to set up older, sexy, successful women with young hot studs. Google has decided that the whole concept isn’t “family-friendly,” and therefore is no longer allowing advertising from such sites on its content network – including sites like Ask.com, YoutTube and MySpace.

The kicker? Sugar daddy sites are still fine.

Mind you, I’m not all that thrilled with either concept – at least not as they are peddled by such dating sites. I’m not against May-December romances in either direction, but the commodification and objectification aspects bug me.

Nonetheless, this is flat-out discrimination. Cougar Life boasts that it “pairs women in their prime with younger men and ends the double standard!” The very language stating that such sites aren’t “family-friendly” brings bile to my mouth: it suggests pretty strongly that older men who cheat and have affairs with younger women are fine, but we mustn’t promote the idea that older women – who might even be MILFs! – might do the same thing. What about the CHILDREN??

Google has been on thin ice for a while when it comes to its motto of not being evil, but this sort of tears it for me. When Google starts trotting out the “family values” crap and applying different standards of “adult content” to women than they do to men, I start to become very afraid about how freaking huge Google is, and how much it owns.

Incidentally, though we know Facebook is evil, too, it should be noted that they’re still allowing the cougars to mate over there.

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I was listening to my local NPR station in the car the other day and was overcome with sadness when I heard this short news story: Ray Gosling, a longtime BBC presenter, confessed on-air to killing his lover more than 20 years ago – smothering him with a pillow when the pain from AIDS had become too much. The lovers had an agreement, and the assisted suicide was a total success – until now. Gosling has been arrested and is undergoing questioning.

What killed me was the audio NPR took from this video, of Gosling’s confession:

I found myself deeply touched by his confession, and I’m deeply sad both that our current society does not allow for this kind of mercy killing, and that he confessed it this way, on air – and at a time when there’s no way to prove what really happened. I’m terribly afraid that this will wind up with him going to jail for a long, long time.

In media news surrounding the issue, I’m not at all surprised that that homophobes and conservative Christians are jumping all over this. But I’m more disappointed that Vanity Fair is treating it like a light gossip piece with all the cynicism that implies.

Here’s a somewhat longer piece in which Gosling talks about it afterwards.

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There must be more I can do to advance the cause of healthy feminist kink, but, as Trinity knows, it’s impossible to ignore the incredible vitriol and anti-kink rhetoric coming from radical feminists like Nine Deuce. I never go to those pages on my own, but I’ve gotten back to the blogrolls lately, and there have been more links to that space on Let Them Eat… It becomes impossible to ignore after a while, like a train wreck you can’t look away from. It’s relatively easy for me to ignore the insane right wing – not because I don’t think they have influence: they have a terrible amount of influence in this country. But they’re big and they’re a constant target of their polar opposites on the left as well as of reasonable people throughout the land, and I don’t feel much of a personal responsibility to battle them on a daily basis.

Feminists, though…well, they’re supposed to be on my side, right? I’m a woman, I’m a feminist, I see and experience oppression under the same patriarchal systems of power that they do, yes? Yet it seems to be the job of these particular wingnuts to invalidate kinky women’s experiences, undermine our sense of agency, silence us and rail against any type of education that might give us some other perspective than “BDSM is bad. Reallllly baaaaad.”

We know all this. I know all this. And it may be a sign of my own masochism that I keep feeling the need to dip my toes into these discussions and wait for them to get torn off by crocodiles. It’s probably long since time for me to quit it, since I’m increasingly surrounded by 8- and 9-toed peers who keep braving the waters as well.

But as anyone who knows me well knows, if you want me to shut up and leave you alone, there is one damn thing you don’t do. And that’s attack people I care about.

The short version: Orlando dives into the soup, like he does. (I think his toes are still intact, but his whole body’s poked full of holes.) After getting his left brain chewed on for offering facts and studies by women who’d rather he shut up if he can’t provide personal experience, then getting the other cheek slapped for daring to provide the “anecdotal evidence” that their own arguments so often rest on, and other bits of his head ripped off every time he tries to understand and be civil, he finally responds from a place of hurt and exhaustion having spent most of the previous week in the hospital caretaking his wife, who has aggressive cancer. He pours out his soul and implores these people he still considers intellectual peers and reasonable people to have compassion for the real human beings we’re talking about when we talk about this subject.

And they accuse him of using his wife’s cancer as a manipulative ploy to score points on the Internet.

Now, I don’t know Orlando in real life, though I came close to doing so and hope to meet him and his Murre – may she be whole and healthy and strong again – before long. But his voice is one I respect mightily and am wholly moved by regularly, and I’ve come to have a serious affection for him and for Murre both by extension and by direct contact.

In some ways, I have a purer affection for them both than I might if I knew them, as I still know them only as they present themselves online, and not as who they truly are, warts and all. I daresay many of us have similar online relationships, and are similarly protective of them.

And so I just want to give a shout-out to the blogosphere at large and say this:

Do not. Fuck. With people I care about.

To Polly, Nine Deuce, Joan Kelly (a “passive-aggressive liar with a martyr complex”?? Really??), Laurelin, and the rest of you who jumped in to kick someone already in pain in the guts: how dare you. This is not some troll trying to get you in a twist by jumping in with stupid counter-arguments. This is a thoughtful, careful, real human being who is doing his best to give you the respect he somehow continues to assume you deserve even as he is in disagreement with you. This is someone who consistently, throughout the time I’ve been reading him, has made an honest attempt to engage you in discourse and given you ample opportunity to get to know him. And when in his frustration and exhaustion he finally stops beating his head against the brick walls of your own anger and pain and shows you his throat, you don’t hesitate to step up and slit it.

You cruel, twisted fucks. And you dare to say that what consensual kinksters do is evil.

Fuck you. Fuck you right in the ear, until you learn how to think a bit better about who deserves your compassion.

(Sorry, Orlando. I had to.)

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Following the hubbub around the misogynist remarks made by Rob at The Oh Team on This Week in Kink, a friend and former co-worker of mine made this for me. I feel loved.

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I’ve been behind on my current events, in particular reading the sex blogs I generally frequent, since my move. But I’m starting to catch up, so let the outrage begin.

Exactly one month ago, Maymay posted about a This Week in Kink podcast in which the following statement appeared:

I firmly and strongly believe that it is a woman’s role to be submissive to a man. I believe that submission in men is taught at conception because as soon as women realize that they’re pregnant, they start planning that child’s fucking future and quite often that the mother is definitely the beginning of the emasculation. That said, I think that women in the past couple of hundred years have gotten entirely too high on their own power and eventually need to be slapped in the fucking head and put in their place.

I’ve been sitting on this for a while because it’s hard for me to think of much else to say besides “Wow. Just fucking wow. Like, seriously?”

Being blinded by rage makes rational argument difficult. Must be the estrogen.

What troubles me most is not that someone said something like this; there will always be assholes and idiots who espouse this kind of garbage, whether it is about women, African-Americans, queers, or submissive men. But it disturbs me greatly that in the BDSM world, where we’re meant to be playing with power, subverting some traditional norms and amplifying others to erotic effect, there are people who still truly believe this kind of outright nonsense. Even worse, that someone with such opinions is such a strong voice in the community.

I love some male tops very much, and as I’ve made quite clear on this blog, I’m a switch. (And this kind of shit is one of the reasons why switches are some of my favorite people to play with.) But I’m disgusted by the tendency in a certain type of male dom to believe that they are simply bringing back the good old days by making women subservient the way God intended. Aren’t we supposed to be progressive? Isn’t the point of alternative sexuality to explore, well, alternatives??

And get a load of the comments over there. Don’t get my started on the whole “I have a right to my opinion and you have the right to yours” crap. Free speech is free speech, and this fuckwad has the right to say whatever he likes, just as I do. But to hide behind free speech, to say that you will “fight to the death” next to me to defend my right to have an opinion, too, when in the same breath you’re saying that I’m a second-class human being, is completely disingenuous. It wasn’t so long ago that women didn’t have the right to an opinion – whether in matters of state or in the home. You can’t have it both ways, asshole.

Does this homunculus mongoloid even understand what he is saying? “That’s cute that you have opinions – here, let me help you have them, even though they’re so clearly wrong – you’ll need me to help enforce your rights, since you’re less than human.” What fun.

It burns my ass, too, that this guy started Fetlife. I was just starting to enjoy myself over there a little bit.

EDIT: It actually wasn’t John, who runs the podcast, who made the comments, it was Rob, who is a DJ on some adult radio thing called The Oh Team. (From the page, I gather that he has “twelve years’ experience as a full-time Master.” Ooooohh, my panties are moist.)

Much more of this, and I’ll be as bitter and angry as people seem to think darling Maymay is. Nice job, kink community.

Huh. Guess I still can’t say much more than “what the fuck.”

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