Filia Dolorosa: A Radical Lesbian Feminist Reading of Charlotte Roche’s ‘Wetlands’ (Harper Collins, London 2009)

For the first time since I have this blog, I feel the need to give a content warning. This review of a “feminist” novel is graphic and contains outright nauseating bits. I found myself walking the tightrope of any radical feminist writer: How to precisely name patriarchal horrors without using horrifically patriarchal language? I quoted parts of the book directly, since no description seemed effective enough to convey the horror sold as feminism that is this book.

So I put the rest under the cut – please proceed with caution. Continue reading

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Sacred Kink IV: Overachievers of Patriarchy

Imagine a woman. She has had a traumatic childhood, but by the time of her marriage to a divorced (but childless) man in a powerful position, she has come to grips with her past. She has an extraordinarily good education, she is a vegan, earns her own money all throughout the marriage and always remained economically independent.

She knew from childhood on she had a deep orientation toward masochism, and found her marriage a great opportunity to explore this. She and her husband (with pre-existing experience of that kind of thing) live in a 24/7 relationship. They experiment with her dressing in a special manner involving metal rings, pain play, orgasm control and submissiveness expressed through housework.

The marriage goes sour when the woman realises that her husband is isolating her from her family. She immediately pulls out and goes to live in an all-women collective, taking her adoptive daughter with her.

Who is she? Her life is not too different from a San Francisco hetero kinkster, ca. 2016. Elements of her life, and probably even the great outlay, ring utterly familiar.

 

It is the life story of Saint Radegund, Thuringian princess, Merovingian queen and nun, born around 520-525 AD and died 587 AD. We know more about her life than of many other women of the period because there are two Latin biographies about her, written by Fortunatus and Baudovinia who both knew her personally.

Radegund was spoils of war and was captured by the Merovingian king Chlotar I when she was slightly older than six. She was raised well and married him in adulthood. She received such a good education her biographer Fortunatus calls her erudita litteris (educated about the letters), took on a vegan diet for religious reasons, and received plenty of tributes and gifts, which made her economically independent.

She knew from childhood on she had a deep craving for martyrdom, but had difficulties to achieve this: In her lifetime, Christians were not longer prosecuted. So she came up with the idea to use her marriage to martyr herself. This also explains why she didn’t try to escape earlier. Her marital suffering was her ticket to sainthood. She wore a rough tunic with iron rings around her arms which could be tightened to inflict pain. She put two pieces of heatened bronze against “two places of her body” (for whatever that means – breasts?), tightens the rings on her arms and burns herself deliberately with a basin full of embers. She avoids her husband’s bed, not because she is traumatised, but explicitly to deny herself any sexual pleasure. She does housework, i. e. work usually done by female slaves like cleaning the toilets or nursing lepers (which she sexualises by kissing them), just as dismissive of her appropriating and mocking the suffering of other women for her own gain as modern sadomasochists are.

She arranged herself so well in this submissive marriage her biographers don’t have one, conclusive theory why she finally left with her daughter to found a women’s religious community. Fortunatus favours the family isolation theory: After having killed her family in her childhood, Chlotar went and killed her last surviving brother. Baudovinia, a nun at her convent, favours her general wish to live as a nun. However, Radegund showed what liberal feminists like to call “agency” both in her submission to Chlotar and in her submission to god.

I could have played the same game with several other saints. Another example would be the relationhip of Elizabeth of Thuringia with her Konrad of Marburg dom, which we know about because of her hagiographer Caesarius of Heisterbach and Konrad’s doings as an inquisitor. Their relationship is even a clearer case of sadomasochism: It includes both the ritualistic performance element and shows the submissive act violent against other women in the spirit of her dom (e. g. Elizabeth whipping a beggar woman who falls asleep at the hospital instead of praying).

 

Elizabeth like Radegund and many other female saints had a problem: Their pursuit of saintliness clashed with more practical forms of patriarchy. Many of their (male) family members and even clergy would have liked it better if they had taken on the traditionally female role of mother and wife and were not at all happy with them aspiring sainthood.

This has been interpreted by liberal feminist writers as a form of “empowerment”, because of course it has. It is a general liberal misconception that everything women do to anger random men automatically must be feminist, as if patriarchal religious obedience was somehow a feminist thing in and by itself.

One of the first authors to fall into that trap was Ralph Bell in his book Holy Anorexia (Chicago, London 1985). He draws parallels between the harsh fasting regimes of medieval female saints and modern-day girls with anorexia, and interprets both (aspiring saintliness/anorexia) as quasi-feminist attempts to negotiate patriarchy. He is somewhat wary how effective either is, but ultimately he does proclaim saints and anorexic girls find something like their personal empowerment.

I don’t agree with this hypothesis for many reasons: He fills all gaps in his argument with Freudian conjecture, meaning he just invents stuff these long-dead women could have thought or felt; he blows the fasting aspect out of proportion in order to force an analogy with anorexia nervosa where there is none; and, ultimately, he[i] doesn’t seem to realise that all the “empowerment” female saints find is a collaboration with patriarchy in the highest order.

Nonetheless, his book gives access to the life stories of medieval saints which are not so easy to come by. Thinking about these women also helped me to untwist why female masochists think of themselves as “feminist” and put them into a cultural context that is way bigger and more influential than “gender studies departments” could ever be.

The medieval saints like girls with “thin-making” eating disorders react to the patriarchal circumstances they grew up in a way that sometimes angers the more straightforward, traditional males around them. Medieval and early modern women should be pious, but not too pious. Girls in the 1980s (or today) should be thin, but not too thin. By overdoing piousness and thinness, they still do EXACTLY what patriarchy wants of them, and while there are critics, on a closer look, other patriarchal males will give them lots of praise.

The same is true for modern female submissives and masochists. Saints or sadomasochists, they take one aspect of the perfect patriarchal woman and drive it to the logical conclusion.

By this they probably annoy males around them, but ultimately they always have the back-up of other males, and for sure always of the invisible male of patriarchy, the Christian god.

One example of that is Saint Veronica Giuliani (born in 1660 as Orsola Giuliani in Mercatello-sul-Metauro in central Italy). Her confessors give her orders and sometimes have qualms about her commitment to suffering: ″[Among ″innumerable″ obediences – remark by R. Bell] one was that she should remove herself to a dark cell in the infirmary and stay there until I ordered her to leave, and on her knees to lick with her own tongue the entire pavement, and then also to lick, standing on her feet, the walls of the cell [readers who have not tried this should consider the added difficulty, as Father Crivelli did, of reaching the bottom of the wall while on one’s feet – remark by R. Bell], and to consider herself unworthy of staying in it. She followed my orders with such relish and contentment that she even swallowed the spiderwebs, and the spiders themselves, gathering them up with her tongue as she licked the walls… I told her this was too much, that my intention was not to make her swallow the spiders and their webs, that in fact it displeased me that she had done so because she could have harmed herself. And she answered that I had done well, done her a great favor, and she stayed two months or more in that cell without ever leaving except to come to prayer or other communal functions of the monastery, until I finally ordered her to return to her usual cell. Sister Boscaini adds the innocently revealing details that Father Crivelli was ″well aware of the delicacy″ of Veronica, that the cell had no window or other light source, and that on other previous occasions he had ordered Veronica to clean various public rooms of the convent with her tongue. Then she directly contradicts the Jesuit and says that it was he who ordered Veronica to swallow anything that ″stuck″ to her tongue and afterward, as a further experiment in patriarchal discipline, chastised her for having done so. It was he who left her in the black cell although he knew full well that every night there she was harshly beaten by demons who tried to get her to disobey and flee. Even in later years when she was abbess, Father Crivelli gave Veronica lessons in humility by ordering the lowliest tertiary in the convent to command her to clean out the chicken coop, and on many occasions he had the other nuns ostracize Veronica by making her get on her knees outside of the choir, ″like an excommunicant.” Another of Veronica’s many confessors, Canon Carsidoni, commanded her to go to the kitchen and throw herself in the fire. This he did only so that he could have firsthand experience of the virtue of obedience in the good sister, and once he realized that she was fully ready to do so, he had her called back and castigated her for trying to carry out an irrational order. Father Bald’ Antonio, who it may be recalled had helped with the investigation of binge-eating devils who took Veronica’s form, must have decided that a little more humility would be good for Veronica’s spiritual growth. He ordered Abbess Ceoli, who at that time was a novice, to command Sister Veronica to get on her knees and then to kick her in the mouth. Florida had not choice but to obey under pain of sin; she tried to kick only very gently but some invisible hand made her use full force and Veronica humbly received a grossly swollen lip with blood spurting forth.”[ii]

Saint Veronica does not emancipate herself or empower herself. She is utterly submissive to another male, i. e. her god. To go above and beyond male clerics’ orders doesn’t mean she strives for feminist liberation; it just means the men are not patriarchal enough for her taste.

Other saints manage to connect their aspirations for heavenly patriarchy with fulfilling a “useful” role in earthly patriarchy: Margaret of Cortona (born around 1247 near Lake Trasimeno) worked as a midwife. Midwifery is a fundamental part of perpetuating hetero sex and patriarchy. Midwives are in a position of power over other women. A Catholic midwife is an emissary of a woman-hating god.

I know the ″natural birth movement″ and several brands of feminists view giving birth as an act of female power. But in fact a woman giving birth is – despite all the romanticism about motherhood – in mortal danger and in the most powerless position ever since she was an infant herself. A labouring woman is vulnerable to all kinds of attacks: Humans, animals, and germs. And even in the best circumstances of health, medicine, knowledge, comfort, nourishment etc, there is still a chance that a woman giving birth will not survive or be permanently disabled. They say that midwives are better than male doctors or obstetricians, but when midwives are male-identified and patriarchal like Margaret of Cortona, they may as well be men.

Also, the very act of giving birth and the roles of mother and midwife are made use of in the sadomasochist community. It is yet another act of mocking women’s experiences, but it also reveals that there is power involved in the relationship between woman and midwife – or else it couldn’t be turned into a caricature in the first place.

Some female saints blantantly sexualise their suffering, bridging the gap to modern day female sadomasochists. Francesca Bussa was born 1384 in Rome and was married off at thirteen. She simultaneously fulfilled the roles of wife and saint: ″Cheerfully, she agreed to wear gowns befitting her noble station and in all other ways to fulfill her socially and legally defined duties. At the age of sixteen she gave birth to a son, Battista, and within five years to two other children, Evangelist and Agnes. Yet simultaneously she led a life of fierce self-punishment. From the age of fourteen onward, Francesca at all times wore a hairshirt under her silken dresses and regularly she scourged herself by fastening a tight iron band around her hips and another fitted with sharp metal studs that dug into her flesh. In her separate bedroom she flagellated herself until the blood ran. To guarantee that she would be chaste in spirit even while fulfilling her duty to allow her husband access to her body, she anticipated their sexual encounters by heating three-ounce portions of wax or pork fat and excoriating her vulva with molten droppings.”[iii]

She may call it saintly, but all this might as well be read as sadomasochistic foreplay.

Modern female submissives similar to her also find it possible to hold a “regular” patriarchal role while submitting more and more sexually, i. e. tolerating more and more abuse in the name of sexual liberation. The backlash they claim to receive for their sexual choices is largely in their own minds. There may be some men telling them they do patriarchy wrong, but I would have to see this with my own eyes before I believe it happens.

The “shame” female sexual submissives claim to receive in particular online has not inherently to do with sadomasochism, but with the fact that they are women. I have seen women getting terrorised for posting about needlecrafts and sharing pictures of baby ducks. Female sexual submissives will always find males in comment sections who bravely defend women’s choice to serve them.

And why wouldn’t it be like this. Sadomasochism is no aberration of mainstream society, but build right into it. “Vanilla” sex and sadomasochism do lie on a continuum, and actual sadomasochistic practices take aspects of the surrounding culture and exaggerate them. No school girl fetish without school uniforms, after all.

 

Women are given educations that have their adult compliance with patriarchy in mind. For the most part, it is not explicitly meant to submit them to patriarchal rule (although it happens), but the mechanism still works nicely: Still women are heterosexual, still women do the most housework, still women are supposed to compromise in their careers, development and hobbies, still women are Stay-at-home-mothers, still women rely on their husband’s willingness to support them in old age, still women oppress Lesbians etc.

Of course the education of girls towards patriarchy will have a sexual outcome, too.

And just to be clear, I’m not even talking primarily about the very rigid education of religious fundamentalists à la Duggars or FLDS here. An utterly normal, middle-class, liberal, suburban education is enough to instill sexual masochism in girls.

People have always connected the liking of sadomasochism with childhood abuse[iv]. I gave a quote like this in Sacred Kink II already, and I could give many more. From Rousseau attributing his fetish to a childhood punishment to the Marquis de Sade being flogged in his Jesuit school, for many writers the connection was so clear that it was a trope in fiction and non-fiction at the time.

French theologian Jacques Boileau in his Historia Flagellantium (Paris, 1700) makes a strong case against the flogging of monks in monasteries, arguing it was sexually arousing to them. Doctors and artists of the time argued against the flogging and caning of children in schools and at home, which they claimed would instill a masochistic orientation in them and interfere with their sense of decency and shame[v].

Violence as a tool of child-raising is common in the United States today. No-longer Republican candidate for presidency Ted Cruz dragged his two young daughters into his campaign. He found it funny and socially acceptable to suggest Hillary Rodham Clinton should be “spanked[vi]” the way he by his own admission beat his daughters[vii].

When later on in the campaign videos showed his daughters running away from him dodging hugs or desperately trying to avoid being kissed by him, people were charmed and treated it largely as a good show of funny, naive children innocently undermining their father’s campaign – or on the other hand as an offense punishable by (more) beating.

In context, though, we see two little girls who grow up with the experience that the person who has absolute power and control over every aspect of their lives – when and what to eat, when to go to bed and when to rise, where to spend time, where to live, what to do, when to go to school or do work etc – is the person who hits and kisses them.

How many girls are raised in a similar manner, experiencing both violence and physical affection from one and the same person, being controlled and made to love the controller?

Religious fundamentalists use violence very deliberately to break girls. I quoted Cynthia Jeub’s blog in Sacred Kink II already. She offers an insight of how effective the trauma of abuse in the name of “education” puts girls and women into patriarchy’s line: “I started to enjoy housework after my last spanking, at age eleven. I was fighting with my mom about chores again, and she called my dad’s office. He was a web designer for Focus on the Family. I was afraid of talking to him on the phone, so I hid. I was told I’d be spanked with a belt, and I was terrified. Now, again, I didn’t make these connections at the time – but now I know that the threat of a belt was a trigger for me because my older sister was beaten with a belt years earlier. It was the first and only time the belt was used on me. I cried, and what I hated about spankings was that I always had trouble catching my breath after I started crying. That moment of fighting to breathe was agony, worse than the initial pain of the spanking itself. Within a week, I decided I loved housework. I took pride in doing it well. I did my chores on time, then I was allowed to disappear and read. I couldn’t read comic books anymore, so I read more chapter books. As I grew into my teen years, I learned to bury my emotions and put on a smile. By the time I was an adult, I had mastered the art of self-deception.”

Many girls don’t experience this level of physical abuse. And yet, even the most liberal education of girls is a meticulous breaking-down of their physical boundaries, starting with the limitation of physical movement in toddlerhood and ending with mandatory gynecological exams when they approach adulthood.

The experiences of Cynthia Jeub and Catherine and Caroline Cruz are not happening in a vacuum. Extremist Christians in the US have come up with a philosophy, a material culture and a whole pseudo-science affiliated with a business and publishing empire around hitting children[viii], with their “manuals” not being different at all from kinksters’.

These fundamentalists are on the extreme end of a child-raising culture that still considers hitting with the open hand on a child’s buttocks an appropriate “punishment” for “transgressions”. “Grounding”, denial of food, yelling, the assumption of children’s inborn wickedness (“terrible twos”), they are all symptoms of an inherently violent punishment-reward model of child-raising also used by liberal parents. Like sadomasochism, violence against children is on a spectrum. Being “educated” like this is the gateway leading from religious imprinting to a vulnerability for masochism.

Hitting children teaches them to use violence: “Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and University of Michigan looked at 75 studies involving more than 150,000 children over 50 years. They found that children who were spanked were more likely to defy their parents. Family discussions about discipline can often leave a house divided. “We talk to them, we try to figure out this is what we need to do and this is what we should do. We don’t do the whole spanking thing,” said Jennifer Jarvis. She says just talking about it is enough to bring her daughter to tears. “I’m not even mad or angry and look, she’s about to cry,” she said. Other families believe it can be an effective punishment technique. With seven kids, Carolyn Tevis’ mother was often alone and outnumbered. “She would always say ‘wait till your daddy gets home.’ That’s how we were raised. And my dad did spank us. But not abuse us,” she said. Now, a five-decade study published in the Journal of Family Psychology reveals spanking doesn’t make kids behave better right away, and it often leads to worse behavior in the long run. Researchers also found children who are spanked are more likely to be aggressive and antisocial. But many parents we spoke to like Ericka Sexton disagree, saying a little tough love teaches some valuable life lessons. “I think we need more spankings because they did better. Kids respected elders back then, now it’s a little bit different,” she said. Researchers did point out that the effectiveness of spanking ultimately depends on the individual child.”

A culture in which many adults thanks to their Christian socialisation can’t meaningfully see a difference between genuine respect and violence-instilled compliance to the whims of a parental tyrant is inherently sadomasochistic. Every single swat, smack or spanking (or however else such parents attempt to sanitise their violence) leaves a trace in a child’s brain. The question is not if it “works”. It still is morally wrong. Just as ‘consent’ does not negotiate the inherent ethical wrongness of sadism, the effectiveness of violence does not justify it. This should be the baseline of human interaction. Violence may work, but it is (outside legitimate self-defense) always incompatible with human dignity. The first sentence of the UN resolution of human rights is “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. It does not say “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, except those brats who respond in a desired way to being beaten, so carry on.”

The idea that some or all children are suited to be raised with pain and humiliation is deeply rooted in Christian ideas of childhood and human nature. It is not just based on the single bible line about the spared rod and the spoiled child. The very image of frail, sinful humanness needing salvation through punishment and redemption is basic to it.

Liberal parents may not be aware of it themselves, but if they take it as a given that children “need” to be punished to become proper adults, they buy into this religiously-based mindset and instill it in their children. The 90% of parents in the study quoted below who admit to have hit their toddler children(!) have laid out the groundwork for yet another generation vulnerable to sadomasochism: “Researchers have uncovered another damaging consequence of spanking: risky sexual behaviors, or even sexual deviancy, when the child grows up. “This adds one more harmful side effect to spanking,” said Murray Straus, a spanking expert who was expected to present the findings of four studies at the American Psychological Association’s Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships in Bethesda, Md., on Thursday. “I think that it’s pretty powerful,” said Elizabeth Gershoff, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. “It’s across several studies and across different forms of either risky or deviant sexual behavior.” Straus, who was the author of all four studies, hopes the findings will raise awareness among child development experts. “My hope is to convince my colleagues that they ought to put this in their textbooks,” said Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham. “It’s amazing. Something experienced by all American kids gets an average of half a page in child development textbooks, and not a single one comes to the conclusion that parents should never spank.” (…) A meta-analysis of spanking studies conducted by Gershoff found 93 percent agreement among studies that spanking can lead to such problems as delinquent and anti-social behavior in childhood along with aggression, criminal and anti-social behavior and spousal or child abuse as an adult. “There’s probably nothing else in child development that has 93 percent agreement in results,” Straus said. Five percent of people who have never been spanked hit their partners, versus 25 percent of those who were spanked frequently. However, some 90 percent of U.S. parents spank toddlers, according to Straus. The review being presented at the meeting are the first to look at the relationship of spanking to sexual behavior. They found that spanking and other corporal punishment is associated with an increased probability of verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex; risky sex such as premarital sex without using a condom; and masochistic sex such as spanking during sex. There is a “dose response” at work here. “The more parents spank, the higher the probability of harmful side effects,” Straus noted. Of course, there’s a similar dose response for smokers. But if someone reaches the age of 65 without developing lung cancer, it doesn’t mean that smoking isn’t harmful. It means the person was one of the lucky ones. It’s the same with spanking, Straus said. “If a person says, ‘I was spanked, and I don’t have any interest in bondage and discipline sex, that’s correct, but it’s not because spanking is OK, it’s because they’re one of the lucky ones.” And spanking a child once may be like picking up that first cigarette. “The trouble is, if you have a 2-year-old, you pretty soon decide you can’t avoid it. The recidivism rate for whatever ‘crime’ you correct a 2-year-old for is about 50 percent in two hours.””

In the scope of patriarchal society, beaten boys subsequently are encouraged to become beaters themselves, whereas beaten girls are supposed to “take it” and “handle it”: Boys externalise, girls sexualise. It is no accident that even outside sadomasochism women address their lovers or johns as ‘daddy’. Kinksters themselves make memes like this, with the slogan “remember those boys at school who hit you because they liked you? nothings changed – we just call that kinky now.”

Kinksters often claim that they as a group are not more traumatised than a non-kinky control group and therefore any connection between mental injuries and sadomasochism is invalid. (Except of course when sadomasochists try to sell their pastime as a tool for HEALING abuse, then the connection of course is okay. But woe betide the feminist who calls out this contradiction!)

In this they are half true. The utter prevalence of violence against children based on a Christianity-influenced model of childhood and child-raising makes it hard to isolate trauma in life stories in the first place. Women are traumatised in such subtle ways they never connect the dots of their submissiveness and their seemingly “normal” upbringing shot through with sadomasochistic power play.

That being said, being traumatised does not absolve of responsibility. Neither self-sexualisation nor the sexualisation of others (e. g. through ‘age play’ sexualising childhood rape) are a valid coping mechanism. Just like having been abused does not justify becoming an abuser, it does not justify to promote abuse to others.

Female kinksters need to understand they are behaving in the most stereotypical feminine way possible and that male kinksters are using them as cheap props against other women: ″It surprises me and greatly saddens me how genuinely angry some women can be at men they don’t even know because of one (or some) who hurt them. I mean, I’m not saying they don’t have a right to be mad because they do. I get it. But there comes a point when you have to stop letting the anger control you. There comes a time when you have to stop being a victim and be a survivor. Or at the very least be angry at the right people. I’m literally about to start weeping because my heart is breaking for these women.  –  A survivor happily engaged to a Dom.”

Sadomasochistic relationships are utterly normal in a patriarchal sense, and just because women delude  themselves into the belief that their particular relationship is different doesn’t make it true: “I’ve called myself a feminist since childhood, but even as a young girl, what most turned me on was thinking about serving somebody else. I Dream of Jeannie was erotic to me; there was this bubbly, pretty girl who was joyfully in service to this man. Two years ago I reconnected with a former lover. We’d had a wonderful sex life, which included rough sex, but had never called it D/s (Dominant/submissive). We were living a few states away from each other and e-mailing, and his dirty talk took on a dominant tone. He said, “I want you to come into the room and stand over here and do what I tell you.” It was like a light bulb going off for me. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t speak for several hours afterward. I thought: That’s exactly what I want. (…) However, we didn’t think of what we were doing as D/s, because our ideas about it were stereotypical. Fifty Shades portrays the dominant as a damaged but powerful man who uses BDSM as an outlet for his rage, and the submissive as a naive pushover swept away by the dominant’s money and status. But in our relationship, we are equal partners in all things except our erotic life. I’m an opinionated, successful woman who juggles a lot of responsibilities and relishes the relief of being obedient and cared for by my Dom. And he’s a guy who, while also successful, feels shy in the world, and wishes he felt more confident in the rest of his life; his role with me is a place where he feels that. Our D/s relationship is a chance to switch up our regular personalities, not manifest them. Soon after that, he said, “Maybe you could call me Daddy as a term of endearment.” I wasn’t sure about it, but decided to try it and instantly [it clicked]. He started calling me “babygirl.” I didn’t think it was D/s because there’s a lot of tenderness and coddling and mutual spoiling. We have rules we’ve made by agreement. I shave every other day. I put breakfast out for him every morning. My mouth has to touch his penis every morning before we leave bed; it doesn’t have to be extended, but there has to be contact. I have to figure out how I’m doing my hair and makeup. That rule is for me, not for him. I feel better if I take the time to put a little effort in. He opens all doors and carries all heavy things. If we’re in an airport and he goes to get my luggage while I just stand there, inside my mind, I’m thinking, We are doing something so kinky in public right now. (…) My parents had high expectations of me and were pretty critical; they weren’t warm and fuzzy. I’ve always been strong and independent, but I’ve craved coddling—not all the time, but in moments. It’s an enormous relief to get that in my relationship. For example, I get stressed out about packing for work trips. He’ll have me try on different outfits and write them all down and tell me which ones look good and get the suitcase from the attic. That calms me down and makes me feel like somebody else is in control. Maybe that sounds non-erotic, but it’s very erotic for me to feel vulnerable and open to letting somebody else do things for me.”

Another very sophisticated analysis of feminism and female submissiveness: “But being submissive is only one facet of the person I am – and not even the most important. I’m a 33-year-old girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, journalist, Scrabble fiend, caffeine addict and dozens of other things besides. And, despite what you might have read to the contrary, my sexual urges don’t overshadow every other aspect of my personality and life. I’m also, and this might be a tougher sell in some quarters, a feminist. So why do I submit? The first thing to say is that I’m not broken. I grew up in a nice middle-class home in the home counties. There’s no deep-seated trauma in my past or anything missing in my formative years that has exacerbated my love of being degraded. I have no daddy issues, there was no angst in my home life and my childhood was – happily for me, but probably not that excitingly for anyone else – a loving one. I don’t use drugs or drink to excess and have no medical issues, psychological or physical, that more ill-informed people might point to as an explanation for my urges. I just enjoy it, OK?”

I believe her assertion. This assurance to not be “broken” (not like one of these disgusting traumatised weaklings) is the very point: This woman was educated in a normal, patriarchal way. Her love for sadomasochism is a side-effect of this normal patriarchal education. (That being said, she could have known better than to give in to the patriarchal pressure; I don’t argue for the “Stockholm syndrome model” of victimhood.)

Women who are compliant with and therefore moderately successful in patriarchy and meet the criteria for a liberal, superficial, hollow, lick-spittle kind of “strength” are also not immune to jump headfirst into the trap patriarchy laid out for them. This woman is a “successful business woman who runs a company that employs 40 people, mostly women. A single mum that has raised two beautiful men. Own my own home, am financially independent, smart, undertaking post graduate study in psychology at university, own property. I have won business awards, been held up as an example of a successful modern woman, and lauded as a role model to younger women.” She is the perfect poster child for a patriarchal woman. Successful in a patriarchal, capitalist context, pouring her emotional energy into mothering sons, and sexually submissive.

But for all her privileges she still is a member of the oppressed sex class. Men will grant small freedoms to women like her, but male (sexual) violence, the ultimate control tool of patriarchy, still hangs over her head. No matter how high a woman climbs up in the hierarchy of the oppressed, she still is a target.

Hillary Rodham Clinton with all her power still is showered with nasty abuse, like from a radio host who called her to be shot in the vagina. It also doesn’t mean shit that Ted Cruz is a man of colour when he calls for her to be hit. It always has been this way. Near a temple for the ancient Egyptian queen Hatshepsut in Thebes a cave graffito shows her being fucked from behind. The drawing most likely was made by a worker on the temple site, a man with much less social standing than a queen who had a literal claim to divinity. In patriarchy, a goddess is a fuckhole like any other, just more pricey. Sarah Palin – for all her evil stupidity – had Martin Bashir, a man of colour, say someone should shit into her mouth. No amount of social privilege can release women from being part of the oppressed class which is kept under control by the means of sexual violence.

Using whatever little privileges a woman has to consent to sexual submission is a betrayal of fundamental human dignity, and for sure of other women.

 

Female saints are living proof for what Christianity as a patriarchal religion has to say about women. Their fasting, purging and cleansing rituals of self-punishment tell men that women are indeed vessels of sin, and unless they are harshly subjugated and made to suffer, they remain dirty and sinful. Their submissiveness needs management, since there is a fine line between a female saint and a heretic; a female just by herself is not capable to walk the line. They are driven by heterosexual desire that needs to be violently curbed; the image of women as asexual is an invention of the 19th century and was only assumed for a small minority of middle- and upper-class women in the first place[ix]. For medieval and early modern thinkers, women were literally the dirty sluts of today’s pornographers, the whores who needed to be punished. The Malleus Maleficarum is best proof of it.

Female sexual submissives today in the same way give evidence to men that women really are submissive. Each one of them calling herself “feminist” drives the betrayal even further: She proves to men that feminists are masochistic and deep down crave a man raping and abusing them. All women calling their choice to be submissive “feminist” eagerly assert the assumptions patriarchy makes about women.

Not only keep they patriarchy going by undermining actual feminist work, their egoistical concern about their orgasms and the privileges men give them for their obedience has very tangible, real-life consequences.

Their choice to be submissive collaborates with patriarchal “justice” systems by mudding the waters even more. From law enforcement to courts, women reporting male sexual violence are not believed by default. And even if they are believed enough to have an investigation starting, half of it is devoted to prove the bitch has made it up. This is so prevalent that women often recant in crystal-clear cases because they can’t bear the mistreatment of the “justice” system any longer[x].

The basic assumption with all other crimes is that a) if the victim really made it up, they should be checked for mental illness (we just had a case here where a man faked two burglaries and he was promptly seen by a psychologist), and b) that the victim who tells the truth did not want it by default. Report a mugging or a burglary, nobody will question you right away.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are treated differently. Women who are victims of such crimes have to prove immediately that they really didn’t want it. Liberal feminists are the first to point this out. But the culture of “women want it” is fed (among other things) by the claims of female masochists: Maybe she did like it rough. Maybe she did want him to choke her. Maybe it was really just an accident he killed her during sex she consented to.

Men can ignore women saying no and be acquitted, because it all was a “miscommunication” that left him unable to realise she meant it. Men can deliberately parade their tied up girlfriend around third parties for shock value while being “romantic” on Valentine’s day and think that is acceptable social behaviour. Men can abuse women horribly, and internet commenters will brush it off as ‘consensual SM game’. Men can literally rape a woman to death and still be let go, because she could have wanted it; that there is a re-investigation is solely owed to the fact that she was drunk and high. Had they raped a sober woman until she bled to death from vaginal injuries the “forensic pathologist who examined Norma said (…) “were more severe than those which occur in even precipitous childbirth””, they would have got away.

Every Story of O a woman writes, every post defending sadomasochism a woman reblogs, every copy of a romance novel a woman buys, every porn film a woman watches, every whiplash a woman demands adds to men’s belief women really want it.

Consent is really not the issue. Every time a woman and in particular a self-proclaimed feminist says that consent, choice and agency are making sadomasochism okay for her to practice, she consents to, chooses and gives agency to the idea that women are masochistic. Every single rapist who claims his victim consented, has all these women testifying in his favour, whether they want it or not. As long as they want sadomasochism, they stand with the rapist who wants it, too.

 

When women submit, they do it as members of the oppressed class. When men submit, they do it as oppressors. No matter how individual women and men try to spin it for themselves and their little lives, in the big picture of patriarchy they are part of a sex class that is either being oppressed or doing the oppressing. Everything they do relates to this.

Women often are gaslighted into accepting their submission as a powerful choice: “The most powerful position is on your knees”.  Guess where the slogan is from? It could be a sadomasochistic blog banner, but in fact it is a billboard from a Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It was going around the internet as a funny meme: look how stupid these church people are, not seeing their own pun! It is amazing that liberals can see how stupid this is in a religious context, but they still seriously believe it in a sexual context. A woman on her knees, is always just that: A woman on her knees. For her to have actual power, she would need it in real life, and that is not the case.

Male sexual submission on the other hand indeed comes from a position of power, which is why they can adopt the language of submission and afford the temporary suspension of it. For them, submission is naturally limited and not real, since they return to a state of power seamlessly.

The single-biggest archetype of male submission is Jesus, and he is also the prime example for it. His suffering is utterly limited: It only lasts for three days, there are worse things to go through[xi], and after that, he is going to reign as god for eternity. (The female archetype is Mary, and she got archetype status solely through her submission. Believers transferred aspects of the old goddess on her and she always served as a goddess substitute for those looking for a more gender(!)-balanced spirituality, but to do this, they needed an already powerful image as a basis. Mary was made so powerful by the church only because of her submission, and theologians are very clear her main ability is interceding = begging god to interfere on behalf of humans. God likes to answer to prayers offered through his mom if she asks him nicely. If Mary refused this second-class status, she would be Queen of Heaven no more, but walk alongside Lilith and all the other disobedient, punished women of the Abrahamic tradition.)

The way to play-act submission for males is to take on the features of oppressed groups. Women are the biggest oppressed group under patriarchy. They also with very few wonderful exceptions in the Dyke community are more or less compliant with femininity, the visual marker of oppression. When males want to pass themselves off as submissive for religious or sexual purposes, all they need to do is take on this visual marker.

And do they ever. When Christianity was invented in the first few centuries AD, theologians took the pagan human-god relationship and drove it further. Of course a Roman woman is not on equal footing with her Juno, but she is not totally submissive to her either. People in antiquity prayed standing with their arms lifted rather than with hands folded and on their knees in the position of a shackled slave.

Christian theology widened the distance between the supernatural and humans not only by pushing god further up to heaven, but also by pushing humans further down into the dust. The male Christian believer was an oppressor, but towards god he attempted to be submissive. Theologians and believers did just what I said above: They took metaphors from the oppressive society they lived in. To express their particular ascetic and submissive qualities, they compared themselves to women, children, eunuchs and slaves.

This had also roots in the Jewish tradition which envisioned the community of believers as the “bride” of god. It surely helped that the Latin and Greek terms for ‘soul’, anima and psychē, are feminine nouns, as historian Mathew Kuefler points out[xii].

Early Christian authors envisioned themselves in a “feminine” role towards god/Jesus: ″Paulinus of Nola [epist. 41, 1 – 2, my remark] expressed the wish that, like the virgin who ″awaits the arrival of the bridegroom,″ his ″mind may be fruitful for God″ and that his ″spirit be virgin, despoiled by no attractions to this world and remaining unstained by any vice.” Augustine [Conf. 1, 13, 21; 4, 4, 9; 4, 15, 26, my remark] regretted not waiting for ″the bridegroom of my soul″ when he abandoned the Christian God and faith of his mother and lapsed into heresy. ″I used to lie at Jesus’ feet; I bathed them with my tears, I wiped them with my hair,″ Jerome [epist. 22, 7, my remark] wrote, comparing himself to the repentant prostitute of the Gospel story already identified in late antiquity as Mary Magdalene. ″I do not blush at my unhappiness,″ he added (again, using the verb erubescere to describe the embarrassment of humiliation). (…) When Jerome pictured himself lying at the feet of Jesus, he implied not only an intimate posture but also a submissive one. Given the connection between gender and authority, in fact, the language of masculine dominance and feminine submission was never far removed from marital imagery in the minds of Christian writers. It still seems odd that Christian men would be willing to describe themselves in such an unmanly manner. But this problem has been explored in a brilliant work on authority in the thought of Augustine, in an argument that can be expanded beyond his writings. The argument is as follows: The Christian god, as the personification of moral perfection, also represented ultimate masculine authority, according to the gendered standards of virtus. The relationship of all human beings to that divine and manly perfection was already, therefore, from a subordinate position, a feminine position in the eyes of contemporaries. But it was precisely this subordinate posture that paradoxically permitted Augustine to wield moral authority over others.”[xiii]

(I wonder who the feminist was this analysis was stolen from. Mathew Kuefler quotes another male scholar who made this argument in 1993[xiv], but this is a nugget of genuine feminist historical analysis in what otherwise is a slew of gender twaddle. I don’t believe a moment either man came up with it by himself originally. Should they have, they stood on the shoulders of the countless uncredited feminists who did the basic analysis of “gender” as a tool of oppression decades before 1993. But I digress and I’m also very sorry about all this theological bullshit. I go somewhere with it, I promise.)

Kuefler then goes on to quote a bit from the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo, telling the story of Augustine’s mother Monica[xv]. As a good Christian woman, she submits not only to god, but also to her husband. By this she got to feel morally justified to give patronising advice to other women.

The husband Monica so morally submitted to is a pagan and a “sexual sinner”, whom Monica only after much effort managed to convert. This is interesting, because it once more shows what I wrote above about female saints. They may be surrounded by imperfect males, but this reality is overridden by their submission to the idealised male of patriarchy. Nuns submit to god or priests, married women like Monica to the idealised idea of a Christian husband, and female subs to the “ideal dom”. A real male is replaced by a fantasy male who does patriarchy right.

Augustine uses his mother’s character to model his own submission to god onto her, once more adopting femininity as the easy way to convey humility and humiliation: “Monica’s subservient posture before her husband was the impetus for her aggressive stance in not of the other women of her town. It was precisely because she was so servile toward her husband, in other words, that she had the moral authority to act in such a domineering way toward the other wives. She represented herself as a moral ideal in her own marital relationship, and that gave her the right to instruct the others in how they might live up to her same ideal. In his own life, Augustine repeated this relationship and played the feminine role of the submissive wife towards God (recall his mention of God as “the bridegroom of his soul”). But being God’s bride was a role that also allowed him to take on the masculine role of domineering authority in his dealings with everyone else, telling them how to act and reminding them what they should believe.”[xvi]

To leave aside the question if we can believe him one single word about her, Augustine used his mother as a rhetorical device and a morally uplifting example for women. Had he not done so, Monica could have submitted to the point of letting herself being killed and we wouldn’t even know it. She is dust in the wind, and we only know about her because males threw her into women’s eyes for centuries (e. g. priests telling battered wives to be more submissive, giving her and Rita of Cascia as laudable examples).

Same with Radegund and the medieval saints. One word by her husband to have her killed, and she never would have made it to convent founder.  Of many Merovingian queens we don’t even know the names. One word by a spiritual authority, and Radegund and the medieval nuns would have been labelled as heretics and erased. One word by a male, and all their fake personal empowerment and fake spiritual authority would have gone poof.

On the other hand, male Christian saints due to their real-life male authority could use fake submission to exert real-life dominance. A female saint’s attempts to find real-life power through submission ended in the very moment patriarchal males around her were fed up with it.

This is the fundamental paradox of male asceticism and submission: “I’m so humble, I’m closer to god than anyone else”. The pride of a male submissive how much humiliation and submission he can take is not paradoxical if it is analysed in a feminist way. Male submissives get their religious or sexual wishes fulfilled only because they have real life power. This ascetic arrogance is proof-positive that male submission is an aberrant outgrowth of male power[xvii].

The religious playing at being submissive by males is nothing that was left behind in late antiquity. It is also not specific to Catholicism. It is alive and well with fundamentalist Christians of today.

These are my transcripts of a radio discussion between Christopher Hitchens and Baptist pastor Paul Edwards. Paul Edwards literally calls himself a slave: “I readily admit that I’m a slave. I’m a slave of the lord Jesus Christ…” [Interjection Christopher Hitchens] “… yeah, well, it’s, it’s a bondage that comes as a as a direct result of my relationship with this eternal god who intervened in human history in the person of his son who himself became a slave according to the [? epistle of Paul ?] Philippians 2: he was in the form of a servant, made in the likeness of man, and so I’m happy to readily identify with my saviour in that regard.” (4:09 following)

Later on, Christopher Hitchens expresses his disgust over this and suggests to the pastor to join an SM club. The pastor is appalled and invokes his right to choose to be a slave: “So, voluntary slavery, if I want to willingly give myself to the lord Jesus Christ, [you say – my addition for clarity] that I can’t do that…” (9:24 following)

This is the male sub paradox right there. Ability to choose submission, identification with the master, ascetic arrogance.

In Sacred Kink II I mentioned Chris Kyle. His SEAL training has the same effect: When SEALs embrace the torture and the submission, they are rewarded with enough privilege, social status and authority that he could lie to have murdered American citizens during hurricane Katrina without getting into trouble.

I too mentioned that sadomasochism has roots in the ideals of medieval chivalry. It is one of its forerunners both in form and content: A blend of violence and Christianity and a social code solely for the upper classes.

Knights for the most part didn’t live up to the ideals put forward to them in literature and theology, but still the ideology of knighthood was so persuasive it still influences storytelling and art. A knight was a very special kind of warrior. Not every man in arms, not even every man who could afford horses and armour was a knight. Many very experienced soldiers died in old age and as squires.

A knight had to be made[xviii]. He had to be made by the king in a special religious ceremony, after he was singled out for some particular achievement or political reasons. This act puts him into a submissive position, which is given away by the very term: While other European languages identify knights by the fact that they fight on horseback (German Ritter = “rider”, Spanish caballero, Italian cavaliere, or French chevalier, which of course is the source of the English terms ‘cavalier’ and ‘chivalry’), English emphasises the serving aspect. ‘Knight’ comes from the same root as the modern German word ‘Knecht’, male farmhand.

A knight is a servant to king and god. While he is at it, he also platonically, but clearly romantically submits to a high-born lady he serves with abandon and (sometimes) poetry. Ulrich of Liechtenstein, the knight Heath Ledger’s character takes his alias from in A Knight’s Tale, describes in his epos Vrouwen dienest  how he drank his mistress’ washing water.

This submissive ideal is embedded in a medieval reality of legal disenfranchisment for the overwhelming majority of people and an epidemic of perfectly legal marital violence. Real knights were brutal warriors, and even the “perfect” knights of courtly literature otherwise busy to save damsels in distress, kill with impunity and beat and rape women if the plot allows for it.

Knights too embodied the male sub paradox. Like a “sexually dominant woman” in a sadomasochistic context, the lady he adores has no real power at all. They are the highest proof of male power: Only when power is available in excess, it can be relinquished and taken back ad lib. No woman under patriarchy is able to do that.

 

This piece began with the story of a woman. I want to end it with the story of a woman.

Her name is Miriam Weeks, but she is better known as Belle Knox . After having been outed as a porn performer by fratboys at her university (Duke), she has become something of a media phenomenon. She also calls herself submissive and acts in sadomasochistic porn.

Before her porn career and going to university, Miriam Weeks was a troubled teenager who harmed herself with a broken mirror: ““When I was like in eighth grade, I cut myself,” Knox explains in the documentary. “I had like a hand mirror and I punched it, and I took one of the shards and I wrote the word ‘fat’ into my thigh, so it would always remind me when I looked in the mirror, that I was fat.” Given her very Catholic upbringing, this is not a real suprise; neither is her memory of having felt masochistic in childhood: “Ever since I was a child, I’ve had some masochistic tendencies.”

It makes me wonder, when the little girl she once was desired to be locked up in a dog cage, how often in her short life has she prayed or heard prayed “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed”? How does it compute for her today that she was raised by the belief that her unworthy self was redeemed by the body of Christ shoved into her mouth and that – of all sadomasochistic sex acts – she today specialises in “rough blow-jobs”? If orgasms and choice are what makes the latter feminist, why are liberal feminists looking down on conservative women who feel bliss when they are on their knees and have a priest put the body of Christ into them? Isn’t that the same thing?

Miriam Weeks for sure still uses a language of sin and shame tell-tale of her upbringing: “To be a feminist is not to say that everything “submissive” should be rejected. It is simply to say that you should not feel pressure to adhere to canonized ideas of gender. People attack feminism by saying a feminist who enjoys submission — even degradation — in the bedroom is upholding patriarchy, but if she likes “dominance” then she is trying to be like a man. But the greatest sin I seem to have committed of all in this entire scandal, is that I have admitted to enjoying rough sex. Why? Because I am supposed to keep it a secret shrouded in shame.”[xix]

A Sicilian proverb says “A sin half hidden is a sin half forgiven”. As someone deeply steeped in Catholicism and surrounded by people grappling with their own Christian upbringing, I sure know this logic. It is almost painful to see how Miriam Weeks employs the very same logic to feminism. I don’t agree her appearing in porn is a “sin”. The very concept of sin is worthless, and for sure for feminist ethics.

But to claim feminists would want her to just hide her doings rather than think through the patriarchal background of sexual submission and her own role in collaborating in patriarchy’s slander about women’s masochism, that’s just nonsense. Radical feminists don’t suggest women should play-act as feminists and then go home and serve males, but just not talk about it. That is about the last thing we want.

This particular blend of guilt, sin, shame and blasphemy is nothing particular to Miriam Weeks as a person.

Melina, one of the young women in this story about prostitutes in London came from a very Catholic background and under the guise of sex-positivity perpetuates the old madonna/whore bullshit: “‘This is my story. I’m not speaking as a representative of the industry.’ ‘When I was younger and growing up in Portugal, I was slut-shamed because my sexuality has always been a big part of me. But in London I feel liberated. When I got here, I worked crazy hours in restaurants and pubs. I wanted to go out with my friends, so I decided to do webcam work. I thought that I was alone. People don’t talk about sex work – it’s just not a conversation you have. I started escorting because it was something that I was extremely curious about, but it was also because I needed more human interaction. The first time I did it, I was very scared and confused. People tell you that being a prostitute is a bad thing and I grew up in a very Catholic family, so my morals were conflicted. But I still really wanted to do it! Afterwards I was even more confused because I didn’t really feel bad about it. (…) I don’t understand the motivation behind the criminalisation of sex work. It feels childish, like a “yuk” thing. It’s a religious hangover: women have to be good and perfect and mothers and saints, so we can’t be dirty or sexual beings.” (Mothers ARE sexual – they have children to prove it, after all! Also, if she is demanding the right to be “dirty”, she is the last person to accuse someone else of religious hangovers.)

The Story of O was written by a French writer, Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage for her Sade-obsessed older male lover in 1954. I have mentioned before that both Sade and Sacher-Masoch were immersed in Catholic tradition, and so was Anne Desclos. France may have given the world the idea of laïcité, but by the 1950s, the Catholic-fascist Vichy regime was not too long over. France has called herself the ‘Eldest Daughter of the Church‘ through the ages (note: Herself). A taste for blasphemy and in particular sexualised blasphemy seems to be a common reaction in people trying to free themselves of the shackles of Christianity. Sade himself incorporated blasphemic acts into his writings and into the acts of violence he committed against poor women like Rose Keller. This tells me that he never really made it into atheism[xx]. If sexualising a host or a crucifix can give him a thrill, he still believes in a residual power of these objects. To a true atheist defiling a host is like defiling a cracker. It probably can be done with cheese coming out of a spray can, but hardly with sex.

Miriam Weeks seems to have gone beyond the stage of blasphemy as she puts feminism and feminists into the position of the judging and moralising institution.

Still, she was (is?) majoring in sociology and women’s studies, something she incorporated into the porn scenes she was appearing in. That a feminist gets mistreated is obviously meant to heighten the watchers’ enjoyment. Men for sure like a revenge fantasy.

Miriam Weeks by her trademark “rough blowjob porn” symbolically rejects her feminism and her voice. She can call her choice to do submissive porn feminist all she wants, ultimately it still means a ritual submission to patriarchy: “I may be a feminist, but I still submit to men, not like these man-haters over there!” She chose to change from one oppressive system – the Catholic church – into another one – sexual submission – , and there is almost no difference.

After going public in the media, Miriam Weeks was hit with hate and derision. This of course immediately was called slut-shaming.

And yet, very much like women choosing saintly submission over the bog-standard submission of motherhood, Miriam Weeks rejected one extreme form of patriarchal womanhood for another. Her male fans sure appreciate her giving them the opportunity to masturbate to the humiliation of feminists. Liberal feminists praise her to high heavens. And to top this all off, she even has converted to libertarianism, which is one of the most male-centric, anti-social ideologies there is. Yet another source of male approvement, and in tune with her general lack of empathy and solidarity with other women. She is not only feeding men’s belief in female masochism akin to female saints feeding men’s believe in female sacred submission. She also took her alias Belle Knox from Amanda Knox[xxi], who by all means has been slandered as a sexual deviant enough. Choosing her name as her porn name, Miriam Weeks stands with the sexist media and against another woman.

And with this, I’m back where all this started from: Miriam Weeks, and with her all women who choose sexual submission, they are overachievers of patriarchy. A couple of hundred years ago, they would have made fantastic saints.

 

[i] The guy who wrote the epilogue to the book mentions something like that in passing, but of course lacks analysis. ″There is an ironic aspect to the gender conflict portrayed in Holy Anorexia. On the one hand the saintly women struggled desperately to free themselves of the shackles of male authority. Yet, in doing so, they may have unwittingly colluded with the very forces they were attempting to bypass.” (William N. Davis, in: Ralph Bell, Holy Anorexia,  1985, p. 185, epilogue) This isn’t ironic. It is the very point of the argument both Bell and Davis miss. Of course they do.

[ii] Bell 1985, p. 77/78

[iii] Bell 1985, p. 137

[iv] Authors of the past didn’t call it abuse, of course.

[v] Jean-Claude Bologne, Histoire de la pudeur, Paris, 1999

[vi] Does anyone remember the use of “spanking” as a metaphor directed against women in a political arena in earlier campaigns? Why is there a upsurge of the idea that women could be beaten? Why do not only conservatives make such suggestions and memes, but also pseudo-leftist Bernie Sanders supporters (who wouldn’t know socialism when it knocked them over and jumped up and down on them)? It is almost like there was something in the mass media suggesting women want to be beaten…

[vii] Again, zero shame. For comparison, a few years ago a conservative newspaper journalist here in my country admitted that he sometimes pulled his toddler off-balance to physically intimitate him (not “even” hit him). He received a huge backlash, was fired from his columnist job and kicked off a big national debate in social media about the negative outcome of violent child-raising. One of the most famous political newscasters also came out as a beaten child and wrote a heart-breaking open letter how the “spankings” he received at the hands of his father still affected him decades and a high-privilege job later. Saying you hit your children would be complete political suicide here. It of course happens and many people will turn their head the other way when they witness it, but at least the general society will not allow justifications for it, let alone bragging.

[viii] Luckily, they are met at least with some resistance in Europe. All European states signed and ratified (unlike the US) the UN Resolution on the Rights of the Child, and at least five of them have explicitly forbidden each and every form of childbeating: Sweden (1979), Finland (1984), Denmark (1986), Norway (1987) and Austria (1989). Child abuse happens, of course, but at least in theory it is seen as just that, not education. Also, there are no exceptions for religious fundamentalists. The police raided an evangelical  cult in Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt and took the children to stop the biblically approved hitting with rods a few years ago. (Besides: The German word for ‘rod’ is ‘Rute’, which also used to be a slang word for penis.) The cult reacted with accusations of genocide (!) and ultimately pulled out of Germany alltogether.

[ix] So much for “sex positivists”. Their idea of women being forced into asexuality by patriarchy, which has to be overcome by fucking men, is hooked on a very small part of history. The Victorian “angel in the house” was a tiny minority even then.

[x] The same is by the way true for prostitution activists. Them banging on about “choice” just leads to men ignoring the violence perpetrated against prostitutes: “Hey, she chose it. She knew what she was getting into. If she can’t stand the heat, why doesn’t she just get out of the kitchen?” Female kinksters do the exact same thing for all of us.

[xi] I owe this thought to comedian Julia Sweeney who in her program Letting Go Of God tells the story of her journey into atheism. She compares Jesus’ suffering at the cross with the suffering of someone slowly and painfully succumbing to cancer, and I have to agree: Even in times of morphine, a crucifixion seems merciful compared to this.

[xii] Mathew Kuefler, The Manly Eunuch, Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity, Chicago, London 2001, p. 137ff.

[xiii] Kuefler 2001, p. 139ff

[xiv] Kuefler 2001, p. 139/140. He bases his analysis on William Connolly, The Augustinian Imperative: A Reflection on the Politics of Morality, Modernity and Political Thought, London 1993.

[xv] Aug. Conf. 9, 9, 19: “Chapter IX.—He Describes the Praiseworthy Habits of His Mother; Her Kindness Towards Her Husband and Her Sons. 19. Being thus modestly and soberly trained, and rather made subject by Thee to her parents, than by her parents to Thee, when she had arrived at a marriageable age, she was given to a husband whom she served as her lord. And she busied herself to gain him to Thee, preaching Thee unto him by her behaviour; by which Thou madest her fair, and reverently amiable, and admirable unto her husband. For she so bore the wronging of her bed as never to have any dissension with her husband on account of it. For she waited for Thy mercy upon him, that by believing in Thee he might become chaste. And besides this, as he was earnest in friendship, so was he violent in anger; but she had learned that an angry husband should not be resisted, neither in deed, nor even in word. But so soon as he was grown calm and tranquil, and she saw a fitting moment, she would give him a reason for her conduct, should he have been excited without cause. In short, while many matrons, whose husbands were more gentle, carried the marks of blows on their dishonoured faces, and would in private conversation blame the lives of their husbands, she would blame their tongues, monishing them gravely, as if in jest: “That from the hour they heard what are called the matrimonial tablets read to them, they should think of them as instruments whereby they were made servants; so, being always mindful of their condition, they ought not to set themselves in opposition to their lords.” And when they, knowing what a furious husband she endured, marvelled that it had never been reported, nor appeared by any indication, that Patricius had beaten his wife, or that there had been any domestic strife between them, even for a day, and asked her in confidence the reason of this, she taught them her rule, which I have mentioned above. They who observed it experienced the wisdom of it, and rejoiced; those who observed it not were kept in subjection, and suffered.” Sorry about the old-timey translation, I didn’t want to waste my time on doing it myself.

[xvi] Kuefler 2001, p. 140

[xvii] To add just a little more theological bullshit, this time overlapping with pop culture: In Disney’s 1996 movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame the main antagonist is the judge Frollo, who is both a bigot and sexually obsessed with female protagonist Esmeralda. (Very appropriate for a children’s movie.) He expresses this obsession in the song Hellfire, in which he describes himself like this: “I am a righteous man/Of my virtue I am justly proud/ (…) You know I’m so much purer than/The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd”. This is the male sub paradox in a nutshell, emphasised by the fact that the lyrics of Hellfire are interlaced with the Latin Confiteor conveying utter submissiveness to god’s will. To also illustrate how deep Christian indoctrination runs: When I heard the song for the first time as an adult, finally understanding the English lyrics, I automatically thought at the lines above “Pride is a sin”. And I try to rid myself of the indoctrination for almost twenty years now!

[xviii] Yes, I know this is a mafia term. I don’t see a difference between feudalism and the mob. A feudal regime is essentially one big protection money racket. It just has a king instead of merely a kingpin.

[xix] This quote also shows that Miriam Weeks has read proper feminist analysis, but didn’t understand it. It is not feminists who claim that “dominant women want to be like men”. Dominant women mimick male power not because they want to be men, but because in patriarchy, male power is the only thing available to mimick. Also, it is not feminists who assume women are masochistic by nature, but patriarchy. Feminists say to masochistic women they need to stop playing into this, not that they have to overcome that inborn orientation or something. Women need to stop being good little submissives precisely because gender is bullshit.

[xx] This man, French noble and a cardinal, no less, had no qualms to confess in his autobiography that he had a “soul which, seen in relation to the universe, maybe  is as far removed from the church as possible” (Michel Pernot ed., Cardinal de Retz, Mémoires, Paris 2003, p. 17, translation mine). It was completely possible to be a French aristocrat, an outspoken atheist and still not get locked up – and he died decades before Sade was even born. Sade makes for a lousy atheist martyr, no matter how you look at it.

[xxi] I was hesitant to include the Wikipedia link. Not only was Amanda Knox’ case bungled from the beginning by the Italian “justice” system, she also after a smear campaign of predominantly British tabloids has become the victim of an online witchcraze painting her as a sociopath, a pervert, a satanist, a junkie, a racist and a rapist. The best part of online information about the murder of Meredith Kercher is worthless and riddled with lies, slander and misinformation. It is one of the most drastic miscarriages of “justice” ever, and it is very poor taste to piggy-back on this tragic story. As for the ‘Belle’ part of Belle Knox, Miriam Weeks has connected this both to ‘Belle de jour’ (can’t say whether she means the old movie or the pimp shill Brooke Magnanti) and to Belle from The Beauty and the Beast. The latter once more shows how a perfectly average patriarchal girlhood with Disney movies is enough to mentally prime girls for sadomasochism and prostitution: Belle is literally pimped out to the Beast by her father, and nobody seems to be concerned about this.

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Sacred Kink III: Forgive Me Father, For I Have Sinned

Compared to the two posts before and the next and last one, this will be a bit shorter. There is a reason for that, or rather, two.

Radical-leaning feminists tend to argue we should put the analytical focus on why men choose to do sadomasochism. On a purely practical level, I would agree: A woman whose boyfriend or husband gets off from simulating rape with her should by all means think about him, not about her own feelings of pleasure. Focus on him, and then get out.

On an analytical level, dominants are not nearly as interesting to think about as submissives. Wanting to be powerful, strong and in control is nothing that requires immediate explanation in a world where power means freedom. Wanting to be powerless on the other hand is against our basic survival instincts, and for women, wanting to be powerless, even temporarily, is the opposite of what feminism means at its core – or it at least should be.

The second reason lies in male nature. Even perfectly average men are sadistic and only know sadistic power. If they turn to sadism in the bedroom (and the majority of dominants are male), they only act in extension of their personalities and as enforcers of patriarchy. Men rape, and if they don’t get to rape, they at least try to play-act rape, blurring[i] the boundaries if possible.

It is not just that the majority of dominants are male. Sexual dominance is also modelled on sadistic male power, and female dominants are merely derivative of it. They sometimes go so far to reject the female ‘domme’ for the male ‘dom’, which is evidence that in their own eyes the female address alone is enough to signal subservience even in dominance. (Some medieval troubadours did the same in their songs and poetry when they addressed high-born ladies as ‘mylords’ to be extra “respectful”. I also have been told that in the older Star Trek series female officers were called ‘sir’, but I don’t know if that’s true.)

The characters women dominants play in sadomasochistic scenes are often aberrations of male roles of power or mimicking them (e. g. female dominants with a Nazi persona, “queens”, “ladies”). Some make use of an intrafemale hierarchy established by males (e. g. “mommy doms”). Some are the male perversion of specifically female roles (e. g. pornified “goddesses”), and, as far as “Lesbian” relationships are concerned, they act in token torturer roles (e. g. prison guard).

What people do in the privacy of their bedroom is not just what people do in the privacy of their bedroom. It has to be seen in the bigger context of patriarchal society. Kinksters claim their doings in the bedroom can shine from inside out to enlighten patriarchy, but after decades of sadomasochism it is safe to say that this didn’t work. In the contrary, sadomasochism has become one of the most effective blinding tools, maintaining patriarchal power structures even in Lesbian bedrooms.

 

Sexually dominant women are still members of the oppressed sex class under patriarchy. Sexual dominance for them is an illusion, a literal fantasy, a distraction of real-life oppression; the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

Some female collaborators with male supremacy make it into positions of male-defined and male-centered power, but even these women get sexualised and degraded by men. Female cops get dominatrix jokes and harassment regularly, and female politicians are anything but safe from sexualisation (see for example the sexual comments Christopher Hitchens made about Margaret Thatcher whom he offered his buttocks to hit).

On the other hand, men use the seemingly “submissive” role to harass women. Not just feminists, but occasionally also the sadomasochistic women they want to be “dominated” by. Male trannies are not hindered by their demure laydeeselves to lash out viciously at anyone who tells them no. The internet is awash with male fetish bloggers fantasising about being controlled, humiliated and physically harmed  by feminists, and they often try to intrude actual feminist discussions.

Ultimately, men are not actually afraid of female dominants. Their thrill is not in any way similar to the terror rapists and male abusers have managed to instill in women as a group.

And why would it, since female dominants by definition cater to male demands and coddle male feelings. Professional dominatrix Margaret Corvid in an article in The New Statesman shows the utmost understanding for today’s male confusion and sexual frustration that leads them directly into the arms of the abuser and rapists’ lobby that is the “men’s rights movement”: “As feminism has rightfully laid bare the systematic subjugation of women in all parts of society, and male privilege has become an international watchword, it has also shown us how patriarchy defines and limits the lives of men. A man is expected to be a breadwinner with a stable job, earning enough to support a family in an ideal of upwards mobility that no longer really exists for most of us. He is expected to present as masculine in appearance, taste, and habits. He is expected to be confident, outgoing and sociable, and to know how to fight. A man is socialised to desire a specific type of woman, to marry, to father children, and to provide them with a better life and prospects than he himself has enjoyed. He is expected to be entirely heterosexual, and entirely monogamous. And, although society grants him far more leeway in regards to sexuality than it does a woman, a man is expected to be virile, sexually active, and uncomplicated in his tastes. He is allowed to penetrate, but not to be penetrated; to control, but not to surrender; to enjoy the grace, sensuality, and sex appeal of a woman, but never to wish to express these traits himself. In some ways, today’s society demands from its men the same standards as it expected in the 1950s, but today’s men are vastly less likely to achieve the stability and security of that era. Globalisation has taken away most of the well-paid work that does not require advanced education, and the decimation of union power, permanent austerity, and women’s advances in the workplace have made the old-fashioned nuclear family model unsustainable for men and women alike. And men are, of course, raised with a tremendous, and all-encompassing, sense of male superiority, which is constantly reinforced; but this is challenged more and more as women gain rights and social advancement. In this situation, many men have begun to feel a profound sense of confusion and anxiety. And for some of these men, that anxiety has turned to anger.”

Of course it is “moralist feminists” and radical feminism who are ultimately to blame, and if women just willingly provided sex to the poor dears, patriarchy would end immediately: “As feminists, we rightfully put the interests of women first, and we are sceptical of ostensibly feminist arguments that appeal to men’s interests. Solidarity should motivate the privileged in their struggle for change, not self interest; to make an analogy, it would be offensive and misguided to ask the black leaders of the Ferguson movement against police violence to tout the benefits of anti-racism to white people. Likewise, feminists should not be obliged to sell feminism to angry men. But I would offer another analogy: when we combat fascism, it behooves us to offer an alternative to those that fascists would recruit. We may not be able to reach the most hateful misogynists, but feminists must directly attack the false ideology of men’s rights. We must offer a real answer for men consumed by anxiety, and especially those who feel a sense of sexual frustration. Today, feminism is engulfed in a fiery debate about gender and sexuality. Intersectional feminists have embraced the trans, sex worker, and sexual liberation movements, opposed by supporters of an older radical feminist tradition, who would exclude them. I am firmly in the intersectional camp. When I took up sex work, I was filled with a moralist shame, but intersectional feminists taught me to have pride in my work, and in my identity. Whether we are baristas, escorts, or lawyers, women find that we are required to provide intimate labour of the body and mind. Where radical feminism would call me a traitor to my gender for serving men’s needs, intersectional feminism would emphasise what sex workers have in common with all the workers of the world; a complex structure of interwoven consents and coercions. Learning about intersectional feminism changed my life, and brought me back into politics.  It has done the same for thousands of other gender and sexual outlaws who felt excluded by the feminist identity, and we should support it for its own sake.  But we must also end the debate between moralists and libertines in our ranks for an essential strategic reason.  If feminists do not abandon their moralism, men’s rights activists and their growing penumbra of supporters will continue to paint us all with the same brush.  They will continue to distort our views, telling their audience that we are all moralists, and channeling the frustration of men towards their hateful ends.  And, for millions of boys growing up, misogyny will continue to make more sense than feminism. (…) It is feminism that offers men the chance at a sexually fulfilling life. When rape culture is extinguished, when patriarchy subsides, all genders can realise their full sexual expression in safety. Even now, what feminism asks of men – that they be conscious of their privilege and respect the agency of women – can lead them to truly satisfying intimate relationships. One of the greatest tragedies of the men’s rights movement is that, in the end, its lessons serve only to drive men further away from what they yearn for. Pick up artist techniques and aggrieved entitlement are unlikely to help men achieve the goal of intimacy, but feminist values can teach them the skills to communicate with respect. And on a deeper level, a broader understanding of the real causes for male anxiety can offer hope to men who feel dispossessed, and the solace of knowing that it is not their fault.  But we cannot make this argument clear to men until we dispense with the archaic remnants of moralism in our feminism. Our feminism must wholly embrace the cause of sexual freedom for all genders, and make it widely known. It must have room for trans people, for sexual libertines, for kinksters, for sex workers, and for those men who, like my clients, want to redefine what it means to be a man. For men, a true feminism offers liberation and sexual fulfillment, through the very process of coming to a fuller understanding of their privileges, and burdens, under patriarchy.  And feminists must make this known, because the liberation of male sexuality will undermine one of patriarchy’s principal foundations. Only then can feminism harness male anxiety; and instead of turning it to anger, we can turn it to solidarity and hope.”

To sum this all up: Us pesky radical feminists and “moralists” should just shut the fuck up so she can serve men in peace. I don’t quite know what is “dominant” about Margaret Corvid. I have seldom seen such a degree of collaboration and submission before. And the sad truth is, nothing of that will help her. Men will still hate her just because she is female, no matter how deeply she bows to them.

Males also feel entitled to female dominants’ services, and exactly to their own terms. A few years ago a female dominant in Austria got into legal hot water after one of her submissives had gone to the police: Rather than catering to his fetish, she had used him and others like him as free farm labourers and had made them pay for building work at her house. These men felt by all means comfortable enough to run to the state authorities in the very moment this “dominant female” didn’t act to their satisfaction and took the power thing too seriously in real life. A German dominatrix recently wrote a book complaining about the bad manners of johns these days. It strikes me as naive to believe that the rhetoric of “power” around prostitution and in particular around the role of a “dominant female” should have an outcome on the mentality of johns. They feel so entitled to women’s bodies, they dehumanise us to such a degree, why would they be respectful? Because they like to play-act respect for an hour to get off?

Female dominants sometimes claim that fetishes without much or any sexual contact at all are the ultimate proof for their real-life power: “I don’t have to do anything and they still give me money!”

There are fetishes like female dominants taking money from their submissives’ bank accounts, or men coming to dungeons just to clean there, so-called ‘houseboys’[ii]. This latter example illustrates well why all this sexual make-believe is nothing but a distraction from the reality of oppression.

Cleaning is still very much “women’s work”, which is the reason why it is fetishised and coded as submissive in the first place. Statistically, it is likely the female dominants working in that dungeon go home and have to do the majority of housework and childcare. They couldn’t very well ask a ‘houseboy’ to come to her own home to do her actual work, because this would be massively dangerous and interfere with their husbands’ sexual dominion.

A female dominant’s power is not real. The praise, fear and sexualised respect she receives during a scene is not actually for her, but the domme persona in the male’s head. She is just the stand-in, no matter how much she gaslights herself into the belief that the measly financial and social privileges she gains are actually her liberation. She is not more liberated than any other woman serving a man.

 

Sadomasochism like religion preserves the material culture and the ideologies of the past, filling largely the same role and with the same effects. On the first glance, sadomasochism just seems to lack a god.

I have mentioned before that sadomasochism is male-dominated and white-dominated. Honest kinksters admit as much: ““One reason I enjoy being a domme,” said Ms. Evie, “is because it feels more feminist, but really it can turn sexist very quickly. I know it’s not really feminist.” Most men, she said, have very sexualized fantasies of what a female domme should be: “Men want to be pegged,” she told me. “Tons of them are dying for it. They will pretend they like you just to get pegged and then treat you like a sex robot with no feelings.” And domination in the service of a submissive man, however appealingly misandrist, isn’t really feminism. (…)  As well as patriarchal structures that both problematize and characterize BDSM, its overwhelming whiteness is an unspoken element of the kink community—and that’s not even including topics like race play, which can be incredibly divisive. “Despite being a woman of color and how many of my friends who are active kinksters are racialized folks, kink is still really white, especially in bigger scenes,” Sofia told me. This means kinksters of color have to navigate the same biases they do in vanilla life, compounded by the complication that the BDSM community considers itself progressive because it exists outside “normative” communities. “The guise of being alternative is supposed to simply be enough,” said Sofia. But it’s not, and BDSM can actually be incredibly regressive. “Most organized kink communities are inaccessible for a lot of people based on economics alone,” added Xan West. The cost of parties and gear (like bondage equipment, rigs, restraints, and various impact-play toys, for example) make BDSM a typically middle-class hobby with financial demands. “And when you also include access around disability and trans exclusion, not to mention folks that simply don’t feel welcome or are constantly targeted by harassment and exoticization, there are even more folks who cannot access kink communities.” The BDSM community isn’t always equipped to deal with conversations surrounding race, ability, or access, but some of its members are working to change that.”

It also is hetero-dominated: By statistics alone the majority of sadomasochists is hetero. Gay and Lesbian kinksters also do their darndest to mimick them and distort their relationships accordingly.

Sadomasochism is the execution of power the way white males have always done. Where is the difference between a marriage only decades ago and a 24/7 sadomasochistic relationship? Where is the difference between a “dom” and a husband who held absolute economical (control over her property and income), sexual (lack of marital rape laws, ‘one flesh’ theology) and physical control (right to chastise, right to deny her medical treatment, default right over the children, last say over the family’s residence) over a wife? The very word ‘husband’ means ‘master of the house’, and other languages are not better. Where is the difference between the right to chastise wife, servants and children and sadomasochistic “impact play”?

The white, het, male sadist is the archetype of the dominant, because white het male sadists for millennia were the ones in power. God himself was imagined as white, Jewish tradition be damned, as far as Christians were concerned.

God for sure was het and male, and so were his priests. The gay men who sought cover in seminaries and monasteries over the centuries used the fact that celibacy was always assumed to be hetero celibacy. (The same is of course true for Lesbian nuns.)

The dominant of sadomasochism is a modern priest and often a stand-in for god. That a heterosexual relationship can be paralleled to the relationship between a believer and god is nothing new. The Song of Songs gets interpreted this way in Judaism and Christianity, the ‘beloved’ being either the people of Israel or the Christian church. Jesus as the ‘bridegroom’ is a central motif of early Christian literature, and it got developped into intricate detail in the centuries to come. From medieval nuns imagining Jesus’ foreskin as their wedding ring and religious experiences described and pictured as orgasmic to Sister Act swapping “my guy” for “my god” without any hiccup, the quasi-heterosexuality of the Christian faith is really obvious. Traditionalist Christians also enforce this in real families: The husband is not just the master of the house, but God’s direct representative  (see Sacred Kink II).

In a sadomasochistic relationship, the male or quasi-male dominant’s god-like status is even more nuanced.

Sadomasochism is physically dangerous to potentially lethal. People do die in scenes if the dominant is either homicidal or neglectful. A big part of the actual thrill for submissives is the very fact that they could die. The dominant is literally given power over life and death, and rewarded with submission and adoration.

For a submissive to cast away her survival instinct and fear requires the assumption of perfection about the dominant: In a sadomasochistic scene the sadist male is idealised. Human weakness and frailty, personal flaws and incompetence disturb the image of dominance and have no place in a scene. The actual human male is granted god-like trust by the submissive who allows bondage, “breath play” and other physically dangerous things to be done to her.

Sadomasochism also requires the assumption of moral perfection. The dominant is given (temporarily absolute) power, and beyond that the benefit of doubt that he is not going to misuse it. This assumption of moral perfection is so strong that the doings of a dominant who does misuse it, is defined away as “not real BDSM”. The ideal trumps reality inside the quasi-religious thinking of sadomasochism.

This is mirrored in the language kinksters describe their relationships with:

sacred4

I have seen the same phrases to describe the relationship of a true believer with their god more than once.

The problem with all this is that it doesn’t matter whether or not dominants are “perfect” within the sadomasochistic paradigm. No matter what, they are the enforcers of an oppressive system. Their choice for dominance is by its very nature unethical. The reenactment of sexual violence trivialises real violence, and covers up oppression with orgasms.

A female “dominant” making this choice makes a deal with the devil, i. e. the oppressors, hoping for relief and personal privilege. A male making this choice is fundamentally lacking: Lacking basic empathy, political awareness for his own role of privilege and oppression in patriarchy and an instinctual aversion against violence.

Why do liberal feminists put their trust in such people? Why the naive trust in the ethics of someone who likes to inflict pain? They don’t just limit this kind of trust on sexual dominants; many of them even extend it on paedophiles whom they trust to be celibate despite the example of “celibate” clergy unable to abstain even under the threat of hellfire and damnation?

A kinkster is not necessarily a paedophile (although plenty of them are), but the underlying question is the same: Why do liberals believe so firmly in the goodness of heart in the oppressors?

And why do they trust themselves to the oppressors’ care? What do the oppressors offer except orgasms, which could be had by other means as well?

 

It isn’t just an etymological accident that ‘Dom’ is a title for Catholic monks, mostly used in England, Portugal and France and best known by the name of a champagne, Dom Pérignon.

Priests – protestant pastors maybe even more so, since they can’t fall back on a church hierarchy and better put on a good show – just like sexual dominants perform rituals. They are active agents in ceremonies and scenes, and the parallels between priestly and sexually dominant actions sometimes even become clear in language: Kinksters just don’t ‘do’ sadomasochism, they often say they ‘partake’ of it. In older literature, but also the occasional tumblr blog I’ve seen, people use ‘to administer’ a spanking/beating/punishment/whatever rather than ‘give’ or ‘carry out’.

The active and leading role of dominants is sometimes pointed out towards feminist critics of sadomasochism, spinning sexual sadism into a service towards the submissive. The Wikipedia article on Sheila Jeffreys includes a critique of her stance on sadomasochism by the author Atara Stein: “One author involved in sadomasochism cites Jeffreys’ views in this book as an example of the “simplistic and dualistic thinking” among anti-sadomasochism campaigners, when she describes sadomasochism as “male supremacist”, a re-enactment of heterosexual male dominance and women’s oppression, which glorifies violence and uses women’s bodies as a sex aid, and as anti-lesbian and fascistic. The author points out that Jeffreys ignores that some heterosexual women may enjoy sex, and that ‘tops‘ may be women who work hard to give their ‘bottoms‘ pleasure, rather than the passive recipients of sex in the way she describes.[10]

This begs the question what kind of ‘work’ is being carried out by dominants, Lesbian or not?

On the first glance of course the “production” of orgasms, but reading Atara Stein’s anthology chapter[iii] this criticism is taken from and which is available through Google books, it becomes clear she too uses religious language:

Purifying screenshot

The “work” goes beyond just the sexual.

Rather like in religion where a priest’s words (at least in Catholic doctrine) turn a cracker into Jesus’ actual flesh or command god’s support onto people he blesses, in sadomasochism language is considered to be magic. A few words  “I consent to that/she consented to that” completely erase all moral responsibility and ethical problems – it is not a particular act that is ethically wrong in and by itself, but not to ask beforehand if someone is maybe not okay with it.

Sexual dominants are the ones who dole out “punishment” for transgressions, thus being given the power to define “sin” and absolution. They offer relief, cleansing and purification, and in ‘aftercare’ enact a “state of grace” that by its nature has to be only temporary, or the role of the sexual dominant would disappear: If confession or public testimony cleansed of all past and future sins wholesale, Christian clergy would put themselves out of work. If the orgasms, subspace and all mental and physical relief experienced by sadomasochists were permanent, dominants would be out of business, too.

Sadomasochists attempt to hollow out reality: They rename a physical and physiological act to obscure it, and then have it sanctified by the dominant and lifted into the abstract: Beating is called ‘impact play’ or ‘spanking’, and when the dominant ad-ministers it, the act of bruising flesh, damaging nerves, ripping blood vessels and traumatising the brain turns into a ‘narrative’, a ‘discourse’.

 

Logically, the solutions for oppression and violence sadomasochism offers are also in the abstract sphere. The promise of liberation in sadomasochism is utterly abstract itself. There are no tangible plans and explanations on how the mechanism of liberation is going to work, just a lot of idealistic hopes and wishes for a future where the oppressors, mellowed out by orgasms, suddenly start to be nice. They might as well hope for the better afterlife.

Submission to the priestly rite of sadomasochism will not make liberation come any faster than heaven on earth is furthered by a cloistered nun who fasts and prays.

I already showed that the supposed “feminist liberation” of a female sexual dominant isn’t real. Neither is a sexual dominant of colour doing anything to end racism. A black, male dominant doesn’t do anything to help black women, men and children. He mimicks the oppressor class, probably to share in their privileges, but that doesn’t give him liberation – or any other black person facing homicidal cops, systemic racism, deliberately installed poverty and so on.

A female dominant of colour staging a sadomasochistic photoshoot at the place where she was raped by a fratboy is not ending sexism. The rapist was expelled (at least something), but obviously not punished harshly. He probably wasn’t even disowned by his own people, if we look at cases like this. Her posing in fishnets for the internet makes her wanking material, and having her male friends pose with her does nothing to keep other women safe or end sexism and racism against women of colour.

She is also not the first female “dominant” of colour. In fact, the protagonist of Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs gets handed over by his “mistress” to three African women. Their race and sex, i. e. the factors that mark black women as oppressed in real-life, are meant to heighten the self-chosen “humiliation” of the master who “submits” to them. The less status and privilege the “sexual dominant” has, the deeper the “debasement” of the submissive – and the greater the real-life power of the submissive over the “dominant”. It does not get any more racist and sexist than this.

If “sexual domination” comes from a place of societal oppression, it may sell a quasi-religious promise of relief (although it more often is just a consumerist pay-off in orgasms). Ultimately, it will blow out meaninglessly.

On the other hand, if the sexual dominant is a member of the oppressor class himself, his priestly doings are not meaningless. What such a male does he does with all the cultural force of oppression behind him. It is the real-life power that turns sadomasochism’s religious make-believe into a tangible reality.

This shows up in sharp detail in this story here, which I will quote almost in full, because brings up all the worst aspects of sadomasochism: “The OkCupid message Mollena Williams received in December 2013 was, in some ways, standard. It was complimentary: “Wow — your profile is great.” It was confident: “I am an artist, very successful (probably member of the top 10 or 20 in my genre in the world).” It was polite, signing off with “warm wishes.” But something was a bit out of the ordinary, speaking to its author’s interest in domination and submission. The central desire? “I would like to tame you.” The writer was Georg Friedrich Haas, whose powerfully emotional, politically charged music and explorations of microtonality make him one of the world’s leading composers. His work had brought widespread acclaim, but his personal life was troubled, with three failed marriages in his wake, when he met Ms. Williams, a writer and sex educator who specializes in alternative lifestyles. Shortly after he messaged her, the two began a relationship and were married last fall. […] The Austrian-born Mr. Haas, 62, a music professor at Columbia University since 2013, has recently been increasingly open about the unusual nature of his marriage, which he says has dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook. He will be the subject of a two-concert American Immersion series on Wednesday and Friday presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum, which includes the American premiere of his “I can’t breathe,” a dirgelike solo trumpet memorial to Eric Garner. In a joint appearance with his wife, who now goes by Mollena Williams-Haas, late last year at the Playground sexuality conference in Toronto, then in an interview this month in the online music magazine VAN, he has “come out,” as he put it, as the dominant figure in a dominant-submissive power dynamic. Mr. Haas has chosen to speak up, both because Ms. Williams-Haas’s sexual interests are widely known (her blog, The Perverted Negress, is not shy about kink and bondage) and because he hopes to embolden younger people, particularly composers, not to smother untraditional urges, as he did. The fundamental feature of their relationship is not obviously sexual, Mr. Haas and Ms. Williams-Haas, 46, said in an interview at their airy apartment near Columbia, with expansive views of the Hudson River. “It’s not caning,” he said. “It’s the fact that I need someone who is with me when I work.” Their marriage can seem, in this regard, distinctly old-fashioned, and not in a Marquis de Sade way. While the terms they negotiated at the start of their relationship do not prevent her from pursuing her own professional and personal life, Ms. Williams-Haas devotes much of her time to supporting the work of a man — “Herr Meister,” she has nicknamed him — for whom a “good day” is one in which he composes for 14 or 15 hours. “She makes my life as comfortable as possible,” Mr. Haas said. Ms. Williams-Haas, who described the situation as feminist because it is her choice, said, “I find intense fulfillment in being able to serve in this way.” She conceded the discomfort many may feel with a black woman willingly submitting to a white man. “It’s a struggle to say, ‘This is genuinely who I am,’” she said. But she added, “To say I can’t play my personal psychodrama out just because I’m black, that’s racist.” Mr. Haas said that he felt liberated after what he described as a lifetime’s and three divorces’ worth of suppressing what he once considered “devilish” desires. The change has altered his music in ways both quantifiable and more ineffable. He said that his productivity had roughly doubled since meeting Ms. Williams-Haas, which will delight his fans. […] Mr. Haas contrasted the effect on his style to the struggles of Schubert and Tchaikovsky with homosexuality. “What you perceive is not the fact that they desired men,” he said, “but the sadness about the impossibility to make love a reality. And I think that has been part of my music. The fundamental pessimism. You never will get what you want because it’s not possible to get it. That is how my life has changed so intensely.” His move to New York several years ago to take the position at Columbia seemed to open up new personal possibilities. “The most important step,” he said, “was to accept, yes, I want to be dominant. Yes, I love to play with pain.” These are matters he had long considered, even if unconsciously, in his music, he said. His exacting, virtuosic style gives a whiff of the dominant-submissive to the composer-performer relationship. The same can hold true for the composer-audience relationship, particularly in works like Mr. Haas’s third string quartet, “In iij. Noct,” 50 minutes performed entirely in the dark. The JACK Quartet will play it on Wednesday at the Austrian Cultural Forum. “The submissive person who is willingly giving over his or her agency can be getting precisely what he or she wants,” Kevin McFarland, the JACK’s cellist, said in a telephone interview. “In the darkness there’s a sub space that the audience can enter.” Esteemed not just as a composer but also as a teacher, Mr. Haas worried, partly joking, that his disclosures might give some pause to potential students. “I’m teaching privately; that means my students are alone with a pervert and three microtonally tuned pianos,” he said with a laugh. “But I never had the sense that this was a problem, and my sexuality is not a part of my teaching.” […]  His wife compared him to the great blues singers, whose pain gained meaning in the act of expressing it. “Now,” she said, “he’s sharing the pain.””

I wonder what the family of Eric Garner has to say about this type of “support” by a white man who gets off on being “Herr Meister”[iv] to a black woman. I don’t understand, how is this not racist? I also don’t understand Mollena Williams-Haas who removes herself from any political analysis, calls her “fulfillment” through “serving” her “personal psychodrama” and falls back on the old choosy choice paradigm of pseudo-feminism.

But it is not my place to tell her what to do, so I’ll focus[v] on one line that may not even stand out so much at first glance: “The Austrian-born Mr. Haas, 62, a music professor at Columbia University since 2013, has recently been increasingly open about the unusual nature of his marriage, which he says has dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook.”

This marriage is anything, but not unusual. It is utterly common that men in academia have wives who devote their whole lives to support their husbands’careers. Sometimes these wives pop up in the acknowledgments of a book (“… and, finally, to my dear wife without whom I wouldn’t have been able to focus on topic X, Y or Z, who graciously proof-read the first drafts and has given me valuable input…”), but for the most part, their service is just taken for granted. A wife to fulfil any emotional, sexual and professional need, to keep the household going and the “great man” unbothered by the trivial questions of day-to-day living so he can focus on being a genius, that’s the most norm-adhering thing imaginable. That “great men” often are sexually violent and exploitative to women of colour goes without saying.

Their marriage doesn’t “seem” old-fashioned. It completely is. Mr Haas’ urges are not “non-traditional”, they are completely traditional in any sense of the word. He found a woman to reenact with him the oppressive structures of Western patriarchy to an absurd degree: His marriage is patriarchy incarnated, and just because they try to pass it off as modern, individualistic, choice-based and sexy doesn’t negotiate this at all.

For someone like him, who is an oppressor in virtually all regards – white, male, hetero, old, sexually dominant, educated, upper-class – the sexual make-believe of sadomasochism is an extension of the political power he possesses in real-life. That he gets a benevolent New York Times article and away with mistreating a black woman (with her consent) while co-opting oppressed people’s suffering rather than being driven off campus by enraged students and faculty is a direct outcome of his political power.

His power is real. All the fantastic feminist benefits Ms Williams-Haas should receive are not.

 

By this, maybe sadomasochists are half-right. A sexual dominant with real-life power has the ability to purify. He cleanses women with a longing for liberation by parasitising feminism. He brings them back into submission to patriarchy, forgiving them the sin of feminism, for as long as they sexually serve him, and sells this to them with the promise of heaven on earth.

 

[i] While the article is insightful that it is completely impossible to fix men who rape, the re-classifying of sexual violence against women and children as a ‘paraphilia’ akin to a shoe fetish rather than the logical expression of patriarchy makes light of the everyday terrorism men commit against women. This casual medicalisation enforces the wrong binary of “good men” versus “sick rapist monsters” feminist activists have fought so hard to get rid of. Rapists are not monsters, they are normal men. All older psychological research agreed on this, because that’s what any and all testing proved: Take any convicted rapist (not to mention those who never have been convicted but admit they had/would rape if the circumstances were right or rapists of prostitutes), run any psychological test, and you will find a normal, average man. To declare rape a ‘paraphilia’ resolves this unwanted situation. It is an invented disease where there is none beyond patriarchy.

[ii] Melissa Gira Grant, Playing the Whore, The Work of Sex Work, London 2014, p. 85. So to read this book was good for something after all.

[iii] Atara Stein, “‘Without Contraries Is No Progression’: S/M, Bi-nary Thinking, and the Lesbian Purity Test”, in: Dawn Atkins, Lesbian Sex Scandals, 1998,  p. 53.

[iv] While “Meister” (master) is a common address for male dominants in the German-speaking countries, I find it particularly disgusting that an Austrian would let anyone call himself that, let alone a woman of colour. Probably because he is a composer, I find it impossible to shake the association with Paul Celan’s Todesfuge, a poem about the nazi extermination camps. Its most quoted line is “Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland”: Death is a master from Germany.

[v] I could also write about the invalid comparison of sadomasochism and homosexuality or point out that once more, sadomasochists have zero sense of boundaries, forcing musicians, audience and piano students into a submissive position (plus a dig at the possible prudishness of anyone not comfortable with being taught by a “pervert” – fucking smug piece of shit.) But this is not the main line of argument, so I just leave it at this endnote. Any comments on it are of course welcome!

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Sacred Kink II: Rebels Without A Cause

When I stumbled over sadomasochism in my late teens, I felt like everybody was getting something I didn’t. Why did they choose a Marquis as a symbol of the huddled masses? Why was whipping people associated with freedom for these people? Why did sadomasochists try to make themselves out as an oppressed minority and “the cool kids” simultaneously?

It was like an inside joke, and I was determined to get behind it. I mean, it was there. When I came out as a Lesbian, one of the first books I read about being a Lesbian had a long section in it about how to do sadomasochism (and another one mocking separatism). Our local women’s and Lesbians’ café held sadomasochistic workshops. And I was a leftist. By sheer association I figured I should be okay with it.

I went to university, and of course sadomasochism was there, too. Again, student organisations held workshops, leftist groups had their own kinky sub-organisations, and everyone else seemed to find the most profound insights into the human condition in violent wanking material.

I read and read and read, I discussed and discussed and discussed. I got perspectives of kinksters who were arguing from a homosexual viewpoint (“We are all kinky, because we are not het!”), from an atheist viewpoint (“The Marquis de Sade was prosecuted because he was an out atheist, therefore doing SM is by definition the most atheist kind of sex, not like this vanilla Christian stuff!”), from a leftist viewpoint (“Oppressed people have their sexuality othered, and so do we! We are basically the same as black women during slavery in the US!”), from an artistic viewpoint (“Have you seen The Night Porter?”), or from a philosophical viewpoint (“Nietzsche!”).

During my undergraduate years I lived in my blue collar family’s overcrowded, noisy flat in the housing project I grew up in. I also started to bring my newly-found knowledge home. Wanted to know what my folks had to say about the stuff I heard at university.

When I brought up sadomasochism to them, they laughed about it. They of course had heard about it all their lives, seen it on TV, and they all found it silly. The ridiculous pastime of “the better people”, as they still call members of the middle and upper classes with a hint of irony. Where I come from, we make a sharp distinction between having real problems and whining. Sadomasochists were whiners.

 

And not just whiners. Stuck-up wannabes who try to piggyback oppressed people’s strive to feel better about themselves.

I’m not saying there are no blue collar people in sadomasochism. I see upwardly mobile working class folks participate in all kinds of middle-class rituals to belong: They play golf, they get into wine and cheese, they wear pink polo shirts with popped collars. Still, white and middle-class, that’s what kinksters are for the most part. Continental Europe in the 1980s and 1990s (the time I got my first research material from) or the US in the 2010s, it’s always the same: White and middle-class, white and middle-class, white and middle-class, with the occasional person of colour or Jewish person or poor person used as a figurehead.

And why wouldn’t it be like this. Sadomasochistic practices pre-date Christianity, but sadomasochism as a distinct ideology and behaviour grew out of the frivolities of the Christian upper classes of Europe.

It is right there in their own words. ‘Dom’ comes from the Latin dominus (from domus, house), signifying the head of the household, the owner of slaves. ‘Sub’ is Latin, too. It literally means just ‘under’ and is used to create verbs and nouns: It is the Latin verb submittere that is basic to modern English’s ‘submissive’.

Other terms are not even classical Latin at all, but rather mimicking it to sound authoritative: ‘Dominatrix’ for example is correct in a grammatical sense, but is not classical Latin and attested first in the 16th century. ‘Dominatrix’ or its male form “dominator” (which I personally have rarely read before) are not needed for classical Latin. It already has domina (which is what many Germans use for female dominants). I also take it that ‘dominatrix’ is somewhat of an outsider term to kinksters and indicates a prostitute.

The word I see used for “real” female dominants is ‘domme’, which is not just fake Latin, but also fake French[i]. French used to be the conversational language for royal courts and aristocracy all over Europe, so it is not really a suprise to see kinksters trying to associate with it. Of course  their love for the Marquis de Sade has to do with it as well, and they probably even try to invoke and piggy-back the Lesbian term femme/Fem (coined by Anne Lister[ii]).

French with its feudal origins or Latin, they are a dead-giveaway that it were the educated middle and upper classes who shaped sadomasochism. Latin, this language of slave-holding imperialists taken over by the church, to this day is the sine qua non of proper higher education in Europe. (See what I did there? Ruling class language.)

No working class person would have come up with that shit. It weren’t poor people or people of colour, enslaved and deprived of their right to education who walked around and thought, “hm, how about we play whipping and use Latin words while we are doing it”. Sadomasochists forced poor people and people of colour into allyship with them just like they forced Lesbians.

 

Sadomasochism as a fetish system really appears in the limelight from the 17th century onwards. It probably is much older and definitely rooted in institutions like medieval monasteries, the ideology of chivalry and early modern court culture. But with the 17th century, we get an explosion of source material after printing, publishing and circulating of books got significantly easier.

″At just the same time that the sadistic motivation of flogging by schoolmasters was being analysed and exposed, the psychological opposite, the stimulus to masochism in some boys, was also first brought to public attention. In his play The Virtuoso of 1678, Thomas Shadwell portrayed an elderly man who in a moment of sexual excitement asks his mistress: ‘Where are the instruments of our pleasure?’ When she produces a couple of birch rods, he explains ‘Was so used to it at Westminster School I couldn’t ever leave it off since…. Do not spare thy pains: I love castigation mightily.’ (Plate 34.) James Cleland included a mutual whipping episode in Fanny Hill in 1748, while Hogarth’s print in 1732 of a whore’s room in A Harlot’s Progress showed a bundle of birch rods hanging on the wall over the bed. ‘Le vice Anglais’ was well established by the eighteenth century, apparently among both sexes.”[iii]

The Marquis de Sade wrote his texts and sexually assaulted women in the 18th century, but he was not the only “great man” of the time to dabble in sadomasochism.

The château of Villers-Cotterêts near Paris was used by Louis XV and his court for sadomasochistic orgies, so-called ″Adam and Eve nights″. They not just included general nudity (hence the name), but also bondage and flagellation. For this, the court exploited not only women and men in prostitution, but also local inhabitants[iv]. In Great Britain, men of the nobility organised Hellfire Clubs, once again exploiting prostitutes.

This is also what the Marquis de Sade’s biography comes down to: The aristocrat exploiting local poor people. Rose Keller, whom he held hostage and raped, the young women he poisoned in Marseille and the young women lured to work and be raped at his castle Lacoste were dirt-poor and legally and socially powerless.  On the other hand, the Marquis de Sade was a member of the noblesse d’épée, the oldest and snobbiest part of the French aristocracy which traced their origins back to knights and conquerors. He looked down on his own wife, because her family “merely” belonged to the noblesse de robe, elevated to nobility by the king for their faithful service in administration as recently as a few decades or centuries ago. Some poor people around him were complicit (e. g. his valet and partner in crime Latour; the woman who threw her own teenaged daughter in with him to rape when he was imprisoned). He pissed off his peers with his lack of discretion, but there is no doubt whatsoever this man was as upper-crust as they come, and simultaneously nothing special in his tastes.

Rose Keller was not out expressing her sexuality and looking for a dom. She was lured with the promise of work, kept by force, escaped by her own courage and was paid off by the Marquis’ mother-in-law to keep her mouth shut. Some biographers of the Marquis downplay her ordeal to a mild inconvenience. Some paint her as a treacherous, greedy prostitute who bailed out on him. Some paint her as the one who really exercises power in the ″relationship″ because his family had to cough up hush money. She is a perfect example for a woman raped and scorned by sadomasochists.

A middle-class example for an 18th century sadomasochist is the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was an all-around piece of shit. He got into an exploitative relationship with dirt-poor and illiterate Thérèse Levasseur – who, together with her mother – was more or less a live-in servant to him. They had five children, all of whom he forced her to abandon at an orphanage. He refused to take a pension from the king, although this would have brought economical safety to Thérèse, her mother and any children they would have had in the future. He wrote a lot of shit about people of colour and women and some of his digusting ideas about the female nature we still have to deal with: The breastfeeding mafia today is rooted deeply in Rousseau’s biologically essentialist drivel.

He also had the habit to expose his buttocks to random women on the street, hoping to aggravate them enough to hit him. He himself ascribed this fetish of his to the beatings he got in childhood.

This got interpreted as “queerness”, by a female scholar, nonetheless: “This study explores the way that Rousseau’s Confessions disrupts the binary of sexual difference via Rousseau’s sexualization of and identification with the bottom. I argue that Rousseau’s exhibition of his bottom to groups of women is key for understanding a queer structure of sexuality that begins with the famous spanking episode. Ultimately, Rousseau’s queer bottom aligns him with the feminine sex while simultaneously differentiating him from the typical structures that would fix sexual or gender difference.”[v]

What it really was, of course, is sexual harassment of – presumably – working-class women (not many upper-class ladies out and about on the streets on their own two feet at the time).

 

Sadomasochism is literally the master ideology. It was invented by the master class, using the tools of oppression, as a frivolous little game in an environment already saturated with violence. How transgressing is a good whipping when there are whippings all over the place? Let’s take a look at the 17th and 18th century: Parents and caretakers whip children, husbands their wives, teachers the pupils, masters their servants, legal authorities whip criminals, abbots and abbesses whip monks and nuns, captains their sailors, officers their soldiers, humans whip animals. There may have been some lucky people who never were whipped, but it’d be impossible to find someone who never witnessed a whipping. It was as common as street dirt, an everyday life experience. And of course it was the man who wielded the whip (literally) who wrote the glorifying myth around it.

‘Masochism’ derives from the 19th century author Leopold of Sacher-Masoch. He was an Austrian nobleman, and – like the Marquis de Sade who was raised by his abbot uncle, had aunts who were nuns and attended four years of Jesuit school where he was flogged – in his childhood and youth deeply influenced by Catholicism. His novella Venus in Furs is a fictionalised account of his own life.

It wasn’t the slaves, but the slave-holders of the British and the French empires who kept alive and traded the memory, right up to the “intellectuals” in the 20th and 21st century. These “intellectuals” have tried to argue that the import of sadomasochism into oppressed groups means liberation or a raise in status for members of the oppressed groups: “Lesbians have claimed S&M, previously seen as the privileged space of the powerful, to transform the suffering experienced as a result of social powerlessness into pleasure.”[vi]

What really happened was aggressive marketing towards Lesbians and outright invasion of Lesbian spaces by kinksters. Lesbians falling for their tricks were like blue collar people thinking they will be allowed in the club if they just know how to pronounce foie gras. If they didn’t obediently turn het eventually, they at least took over patriarchy’s dirty work: Hurting women. That for they got crumbs of privilege, but it didn’t do shit to end “suffering experienced as a result of social powerlessness”. Yelling “But I do SM!” does not stop an attacker. Men still rape and kill Lesbians, and many women side with them.

 

The deep roots in Christianity I proclaim on the first glance seem counter-intuitive. Sadomasochism has aligned itself with liberalism and (pseudo-)leftism and there are big overlaps between neopagan and sadomasochistic communities both in practice and in ideology.

What’s more, there are indeed pre-Christian examples for sadomasochism we know about, like a lady named Sati at the court of Amenhotep III, whose nickname was ‘Lady Whiplash’ (ḫʻr). Greek and Roman authors wrote about slaves being used in a sadomasochistic way, e. g. Martial’s epigram V, 46 about an enslaved boy[vii] named Diadumenus: “As I dislike all kisses, except those which I have secured with a struggle, and as your anger, Diadumenus, pleases me more than your face, I often flog you that I may often have to solicit you. The result is, that you neither fear me nor love me.”

Note the two levels here: The slavery here is social and legal reality, and additionally play-acted in the sadomasochistic violence the child is forced to join in. What discerns this from a straightforward rape is the additional mind-rape, i. e. the performance/reenactment aspect.

In another epigram Martial goes so far as to call Diadumenus “cruel”, once more forcing him to play out a sadomasochistic fantasy on top of an actual reality: “The perfume, which is exhaled by the apple bitten by a young damsel; by the zephyr that passes over the saffron-fields of Corycia; by the vine, when it flowers white with its first clusters; by grass just cropped by the sheep; by the myrtle; by the Arabian spice-gatherer; by amber rubbed with the hand; by the fire pale with eastern frankincense; by the turf lightly sprinkled with summer showers; by the chaplet resting loosely on locks dripping with nard: all this fragrance, cruel Diadumenus, is combined in your kisses. What would it not be, were you to grant them without grudging?”

The motif of women being used as beasts of burden to pull wagons can be traced from ancient Indian and Roman texts right through the middle ages up to modern ‘pony play’. Even the so-called Song of Songs compares the female “beloved” to a mare pulling the pharao’s carriage[viii].

From the incestuous, paedophiliac and warmongering 18th dynasty in Egypt that peaked in the theocratic dictatorship of daughter- and sister-raping monotheist Akhenaten to religious texts from the Rigveda to the Pentateuch, the aggressive father-god is the common denominator. Martial wrote under the eyes of Jupiter Capitolinus. Christianity owes both its brutal conquering nature and its central philosophical tenets to the Roman empire.

Some sadomasochists consciously try to create “pagan“-flavoured rituals: “Julie told us one story of a “ritual” she and her partner planned out ahead of time. They had a longstanding agreement that whenever she wore an all-black dress around him, he was allowed to destroy it. The “how” was left up to him. Later, at a Pagan altar party (more on that in a moment), she says that he… “… threw me down on an altar and ripped my dress apart … It felt like he was ripping ME to shreds. It was just my dress, but it felt like he was ripping me, offering ME as a sacrifice … and I think he slapped me around a lot too while he did it … the thing that sticks out in my mind is just the way I felt blissfully helpless. A lot of people I interviewed talked about how it’s almost religious to give up control.””

According to antique writers Tryphiodorus, Quintus Smyrnaeus  and Lycrophon, when Troy fell, Cassandra the Seer was raped by Ajax the Lesser inside the Athena temple, on the altar, while she was clinging to the goddess with both arms. The sight was cursed onto her by Apollo, who spat into her mouth as she fought off his attempt to rape her.

Again a god, and another play-acting of what happened in reality through millennia: Women being raped by males who give a shit about altars. This is what these “pagan” sadomasochists probably tried to invoke, but what they are actually doing is try to stick it to the (Christian) Man. They grew up after centuries of Christian mental hegemony, were socialised in a Christian society, and their altar is essentially a Christian one. They play at being pagan like they play at being oppressed for their hobby. Having sex on altars is something teenaged satanists – or bored French aristocrats of the 17th century[ix] – do, and for the exact same reason: the blasphemous thrill. They pervert pagan piety by reenacting one of the myths central to Judaism and Christianity, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac.

Such a Christian foundation can also be found in sadomasochistic practices in non-Christian countries. A BBC article on sadomasochism in urban India sheds light on this: “In an apartment in a middle-class neighbourhood in the Indian capital, Delhi, a group of men and women have met to talk openly about their love for BDSM activities. Talking about bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism and masochism is an absolute taboo in India, a country well known for its conservative attitudes to sex. But here, the conversation is candid.  The participants are members of the The Kinky Collective, a small group of heterosexual and transgender people, trying to connect to other Indians active and open about their BDSM preferences on various online communities and social networking websites. (…) Transgender activist Sara, a member of the group, says it has a “dual purpose”. “We want to spread awareness among people who carry preconceived notions on BDSM, but we also want to educate people joining this lifestyle about its own rules and principles. For example, consent is critical and the dominant [partner] has to always be very responsible for the submissive and take care of his/her safety.” Calcutta-based Joy Willingly says most members of the collective were slow in opening up about their BDSM lifestyle, but as they came in contact with other people, they realised that some support, organised initiative and conversations were needed urgently. “We found out that there was a lot of hostility, once these people came out, even their friends wouldn’t understand and distanced themselves, so we are now trying to give a sense of community, that there are others who feel this way, and that it’s fine.” Almost a year into their work, the group, which has grown now to 15 members, has presented papers and held discussions with students of mental health, women and gay activists and participated in human rights and law conferences.”

This imported specific “BDSM” culture does tie into older local woman-hating traditions like sadomasochistic practices in the Kama Sutra, but could only take hold due to the imperialist force of Western (and therefore Christian-based) cultural hegemony. If there was any need to prove that sadomasochism and the trans cult involved in its promotion are imperialist, here it is.

And, eventually, the article once more shows who is doing stuff like this: a middle class with money, time and trust in Western scientific concepts (or else they wouldn’t have turned to a sexologist[x] for advice): “India’s well-known sexologist, Dr Narayana Reddy, disagrees. He says in the last 20 years, at least 1% of his patients came with complaints about their partner’s demand for a BDSM lifestyle. They were between 30 and 50 years old and were middle class, Mr Reddy says.  They spoke about acts ranging from being burnt by cigarette butts and severely bitten by their partners. They were also pricked with needles, tied up in chains and put on a dog’s leash and “humiliated” in front of others.”If this kind of bondage, domination and sadomasochism is the only means by which a person gets aroused, then I would term it as sexually problematic behaviour,” says Dr Reddy.”Initially, someone might try it for its novelty, but with time that can run off and it can leave deep scars, both physically and emotionally.” Many in India were surprised that Fifty Shades of Grey – a trilogy about a steamy romance between a businessman and a student which contains scenes of sadomasochism – sold so well in the country. Sandhya Mulchandani, who has researched many historical Indian texts on erotica like Kamasutra and written books exploring Indian writings on sexuality, says: “Unlike modern times, our historical texts were not judgmental. I don’t find any specific writing on BDSM, but the spirit was to acknowledge the many shades of human behaviour and ask them to be accepted for what they are.” Despite this legacy, Indians are still prudish.”

Liberal feminists and kinksters will readily claim that Indian women’s “prudishness” – as mentioned in the article – is owed to the lingering influence of British law, as they do for example in the prostitution debate or homosexuality[xi], thus by inference siding themselves with the oppressed.

Even if it were true that Indian women’s claim to dignity and liberation were somehow a false, prudish consciousness implanted by the colonisers (as if!), the strive to replace this alledged British heritage with yet another violent, Western, middle-class ideology is just as imperialist. It is also happening  right now rather than decades ago and, ultimately, it takes away any and all authority of white, Western liberal feminists and kinksters to call feminist opponents of sadomasochism racist.

 

To trace back sadomasochism into Christianity is also counter-intuitive because it is not just the middle class who is engaged in it, but the educated middle-class. Academics are vastly overrepresented in the community and many colleges and universities have their own respective clubs.

Such people tend to maintain a distance from traditional practices of the faith they were culturally imprinted by. Conservatives tend to cling to the structure of their faith as instruments of oppression, but most liberals display a less obvious form of this imprinting. They are also often unaware of how their seemingly liberal actions and opinions are still influenced by the faith they were brought up in.

Sadomasochism is one such outlet for a Christian imprinting, and one that serves two specific purposes: One, it allows liberals to experience feelings that the less sophisticated unwashed masses have to get from their silly little superstitions, while they are able to feel superior. Second, it allows them to keep liberal face while promoting patriarchal and racist violence just like any teabagger and Trumpist does. They think they ironise, subvert or transgress it, but ultimately, they just promote the status quo (see Sacred Kink I).

Their specific form of sexualised and ironised Christianity desperately needs the Other to grind against. Kinksters often fancy themselves as rogues against a puritan society, as transgressive rebels who are daring enough to tear down the mask of hypocrisy and explore our deepest darkest nature. In other words, they always need someone, anyone, to be against: Free-thinkers against small-minded people; liberals against bigots; enlightened aristocrats against the church.

The problem is that the religious bigots don’t make good opponents anymore.

Religious fundamentalists are focusing on homosexuality, pre-marital sex plus the assorted topics of contraception and abortion and even divorce (Communion for couples in second marriages, yay or nay?). When asked directly, some will condemn sadomasochism, but it falls just under the big umbrella of general fornication. They don’t really care about the whole thing enough to make the extra effort to be against it.

Also, in Europe with its secular tradition, the vast majority of people don’t give a damn about what priests say about sex. In my country, about two thirds of all people are Roman Catholic, and about three quarters are Christian in general.

Only about 5% of these 75% attend their church regularly. And even those who do fulfill the minimal requirement of church attendance, they do not adhere to (Catholic) teachings when it comes to sexuality. They use contraception and abortion, they have sex before marriage, they get divorced and remarry and when asked, they will be among the first to admit how ″the church″ (= the institution) does so many things wrong in this area. Among them – ironically – are many who will be found in grass roots church organisations to further liberal values.

The type of conservative Christian with many children and strong ties to the teachings is a fringe phenomenon here. Politically overrepresented, yes, terrorising women and children, yes, well-connected in business and politics, yes, but still essentially fringe. For the pride parade around here, they muster maybe fifty protesters they have to scrape together in the whole country. This year they don’t even bother.

They are just not fun to be up against anymore, and the cultural influence leading to sadomasochistic behaviour is almost sub-liminal.

So, feminists are the easier target. This also is many feminists’ own damn fault. The ones who invited the kinksters into our movement, the ″sex positivists″, they paved the way for us being attacked by people desperately defending the right to whip women and wanting us to do the same.

Sadomasochistic behaviour has gone mainstream. Turn on the TV. Sadomasochism everywhere. Practices that would have been considered obscene and deviant in the 1970s and were used in serial killer trials to prove the killer’s deep sexual disturbance (e. g. watching lots of porn, anal sex, shaved genitalia) now make up the ‘Tips to spice up your love life’ section in perfectly average newspapers, right next to the recipes for the holiday season. Fifty Shades of Grey has been dubbed ‘mommy porn’ for the sheer dowdiness of it. Sadomasochists like to condemn these books for what they call inaccurate representation of their ″lifestyle″, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the ingredients are all there: The terminology, the tools, the tropes. Heck, there is a Simpsons episode now where Homer gets Marge a full SM equipment.

And nobody gives  a damn. There are no religious loonies protesting The Simpsons for this episode specifically. There has been some response to Fifty Shades of Grey in evangelical-fundamentalist circles (e. g. the movie Old Fashioned), but nothing like the breathless Fox News idiots against gay marriage or the Orlando mass murder.

 

Sadomasochism, like religion, also heavily relies on performance, visibility and group experiences, proven by their dungeons, play parties, munches, fetlife.com, Folsom street fair and the careful set-up of scenes in general. Kinksters are explicitly proud of how their public display of sexuality is so much more progressive and sophisticated than the boring vanilla couple stuff done in – ew – beds. Not a big difference to religious services, prayer groups, church-based hobby groups, public blessings and processions, and not a big difference to the sense of mission religious people tend to display.

I’m not the first to recognise parallels between religious and sadomasochistic group experiences.

German theologian and gay activist David Berger wrote about the strange fact that it is the most traditional forms of conservative Catholicism that draw some gay men into priesthood: “The reasons given here for the attractiveness of the traditional liturgy to homosexual men may seem a little far-fetched on the first glance. On a second glance, however, it shows that both worlds indeed have something in common. In the Tridentine Mass we encounter symbols and rituals that people today no longer perceive as elements of a religious aesthetic, for instance the kissing of a saint’s clothing or body parts, which on the other hand play still a big role in homosexual eroticism, in particular in the fetish sub-culture. Here it is not the Holy Father’s foot that is being kissed, but the leather boot of the “master”, and both rituals have to be interpreted as a sign of submission out of free will.”[xii]

The parallels are not just limited to the material sphere[xiii]. Like the promises of redemption and salvation in the Hereafter, the promises of societal change through sexual transgression and subversiveness in sadomasochism are immaterial. Only the most knuckleheaded kinksters claims that a smack with a paddle somehow keeps an abuser from hurting a woman[xiv]. If tomorrow everyone started to have sadomasochistic sex, the world would not change. It would put a whip into every male’s hand and across every female’s back. That’s it.

Also, like in Christianity, suffering is considered to be useful – for the sufferer themselves who experiences release, but also as a principle. The right to suffer for the greater sexual, societal or religious good is vehemently defended by kinksters and Christians alike.

They also share a sense of martyrdom combined with a rebel rhetoric.  The likes of Bill O’Reilly (not to mention European bishops and right-wingers) frequently claim that Christianity is under attack and one step away from being prosecuted. In the same breath they declare themselves rebellious against the dictatorship of political correctness and worthy grandsons of the American revolution. Kinksters tend to do the same. They claim oppression and rebeldom, and neither is real. In a world full of injustice and violence it is not rebellious to orgasm over make-believe injustice and violence.

 

How exactly this is supposed to work in detail is not readily obvious for the onlooker or even liberal and feminist kinksters themselves. They have build up an elaborate theoretical framework to justify why sadomasochism is so very transgressive and compatible with their political leanings. Texts by Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and countless other academics lay down the basics, and are utterly inaccessible to people without college education.

There is a slew of books, articles and blogs in which the authors try to reconciliate their feminism and their interest in social justice with their personal sadomasochistic tendencies, and it is easy to see why. It is so blatantly obvious that these do not go together. A feminist submitting to a man is just as absurd as the idea of a black abolitionist in the 19th century seeking sexual domination by a white man. The solution is to core out feminism.

Sometimes it is pure shock value that is being used to muddy the waters. Raven Kaldera is a “pagan” example for someone who fancies herself to be transgressive: “Over the past 30 years Raven Kaldera has shat all over pretty much every boundary going. And this endless transgression has never got in the way of Raven looking anything less than amazing; like a Viking Biker, with a leather jacket and animal skin draped over his shoulders. Raven’s a chilled out guy. He worships Norse gods by sticking his boyfriend’s fist in his arse and then at sunset goes home to his wife of 19 years. His boyfriend used to be a woman, his wife used to be a man, and Raven himself used to be a woman – but that’s semantics. Born an intersexual, Raven was raised as a girl at the behest of doctors who figured that if they told Raven he was a girl enough, he’d eventually believe it. Turns out that was bollocks and after gender reassignment 20 or so years later, Raven’s been creating an identity of his own design ever since.  Depending on the circles you mix in, there are many roles you may identify Raven from. You could know him as one of the world’s prominent voices on paganism and BDSM; or an enthusiastic authority on polyamorous relationships. He’s a celebrated writer of transsexual pornography and an author and essayist on topics like vampirism and shamanism. Or he may be your abuse counsellor.” (Click through the link for more infos on her women-hating, cultural appropriation and sexualised violence. I won’t put the drivel here.)

Stripped from all the posing, this interview comes down to a woman (who has given birth to a daughter, so, yes, woman) who is fucked in the ass, probably takes money for sexual services, perpetuates the lie of women as the submissive, to-be-raped sex and collaborates with a religiously-backed, sexually violent male supremacy. Groundbreaking.

It needs extreme self-gaslighting to induce this double-speak of the mind: If consented to, slavery is freedom. If consented to, pain is pleasure. If consented to, submission is liberation. As if it were not actually slavery, or pain, or submission that are the problem, but a lack of consent. As if there was a right to be enslaved, in pain and submissive.

On the other hand, it needs no mental gymnastics, academic obscurantism or elaborate sociology-and psychology-laden justifications for sadomasochism when it comes to  political conservatives, conservative believers and the enforcers of patriarchy. Sadomasochism allows them to sexualise their ideologies and ideologise their sexuality.

The only “mistake” from sadomasochists’ point of view they tend to make is that they are not so keen on consent or at least assume that consent is a given in marriage. Then again, kinksters talk more about consent than they care about it. Both the dramatically higher rates of rape compared to the general population and the coercion of normal partners into sadomasochism[xv] are a feature of the community, not a bug.

 

It is almost ridiculously easy to find examples for outright MRAs dabbling in sadomasochism. The subreddit r/breakfeminazis containing  sadomasochistic images and texts about feminists being raped used to be moderated by a man who also moderates r/TumblrInAction, which dedicates itself to whining about bloggers who are too progressive for their taste. An MRA associated with Gamer Gate also moderates a subreddit with pornographic pictures of (only women’s) prolapsed rectums[xvi].

Female MRA (more like unhinged neo-nazi) Janet Bloomfield in a blog about the benefits of wife-battering casually mentions her own sadomasochistic relationship: “Let me preface this column by saying my husband has never hit me in any context that wasn’t erotic and consensual.” If there were any inherent progressiveness in sadomasochism, the likes of Janet Bloomfield would hate it on sight.

Sadomasochism, the most extreme right-wing conservatism, woman-hating and plain old violence don’t just go together swimmingly, they are inextricably and naturally linked.

Members of law enforcement and military with their own violent, woman- and Lesbian-hating culture practice sadomasochism without any cognitive dissonance whatsoever.

One of the investigators in the Robert Pickton case engaged in sadomasochistic practices and posed for pictures that leaked from fetlife to the media: “The photos discovered of Brown on fetlife.com included, for example, images of him holding a knife to a woman’s throat, another where he is binding a woman’s hands and feet, another where his boot is placed on the back of a woman who was wrapped in saran wrap. The photos posted by news sources online are much more tame, the reports say, than others they saw that were deemed too violent to be made available to the public.”

“American Sniper” Chris Kyle in his autobiography[xvii] describes his SEAL training with clear sadomasochistic overtones. He delights in the descriptions of psychological and physical torture inflicted on him and his comrades, and makes clear over and over again that he and the others chose and enjoyed this sort of training. He does not only take pride in his ability to cope with all the torture and pain, he craves the pain and glorifies his submission.

In the book, Chris Kyle introduces the reader to a SEAL named Marc Lee. He came to the Navy from the seminary, which he left because he couldn’t handle other seminarists’ hypocritical behaviour. Both military and seminary are built on submission and the ideology of servitude. This man in essence left one monastery for the other. God’s servants were not submissive enough for his taste, so he tried the United States’ servants.

When joining the SEALs, Marc Lee of course was hazed. Chris Kyle’s book can be read as one big record of men torturing each other. Instructors and COs torture trainees. Trainees torture each other. Longer serving SEALs torture newly appointed SEALs. Unit members torture each other along the lines of informal hierarchies. Stronger men torture weaker men. To rise from tortured to torturer requires the ability to not only to take the torture, but embrace it with a grin.

Chris Kyle over and over writes about SEALs who choke each other into unconsciousness for the fun of it, plainly completely unaware each such incident causes brain damage. This they have in common with kinksters who fantasise about ″safe choking”.

When Marc Lee tells his ″brothers in arms″ he has never been choked unconscious before, Chris Kyle calls him a virgin and the men take turns to choke him. I can’t decide whether Kyle is aware that he is describing a make-believe gang rape or not.

It doesn’t really matter, anyways. The ultimate point is that the enforcers of patriarchy practice sadomasochism with impunity, and this alone should disqualify it for feminists.

 

And then there are the religious kinksters.

All the Sade-worshipping, polyamory and pseudo-pagan bullshit glosses over the fact that there are not just some confused Christians who stumbled into sadomasochism by accident, but that the whole idea of Christian sexuality is inherently sadomasochistic.

Radical (Lesbian) Feminists as the only feminists explicitly and consciously questioning heterosexuality get often called ‘puritans’. Even women who merely question certain aspects of heterosexuality like prostitution, pornography or sadomasochism get accused of being brainwashed by the United States’ foundational puritanism.

All the more ironical is it that the Puritans didn’t have any problem with heterosexuality at all. They saw sex in marriage as a duty. Spouses didn’t get to decide whether they wanted or not, because god had decided they had to fuck: “Marital love must be sexual, so that both marital partners can give themselves fully to each other with joy and exuberance in a healthy relationship marked by fidelity. Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin established this aspect of marriage by abandoning the medieval Roman Catholic attitudes that marriage was inferior to celibacy, that all sexual contact between marital partners was a necessary evil to propagate the human race, and that a procreative act that involved passion was inherently sinful. This negative view was rooted in the ancient church and based on the writings of such notables as Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome, all of whom believed that, even within marriage, intercourse necessarily involved sin. This attitude toward marital intimacy, which dominated the church for more than ten centuries, inevitably led to the glorification of virginity and celibacy. By the fifth century, clerics were prohibited from marrying. Two classes of Christians emerged: the “religious” (i.e., the spiritual clergy), which included monks and nuns who vowed to abstain from all sexual activity, and the “profane” (i.e., the secular laity), who, being unable to rise to the noble heights of virginity or celibacy, were conceded the right to marry. Puritan preachers taught that the Roman Catholic view was unbiblical, even satanic. They cited Paul, who said that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1–3). Even the Puritan definitions of marriage implied the conjugal act. For example, Perkins defines marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh.” In contrast with Desiderius Erasmus, who taught that ideal marriage abstained from sexual intercourse, Cotton said in a wedding sermon that those who call for marital abstinence follow the dictates of a blind mind and not those of the Holy Spirit, who says that it is not good that man should be alone. The Puritans viewed sex within marriage as a gift of God and as an essential, enjoyable part of marriage. Gouge says that husbands and wives should cohabit “with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully.” “They do err,” adds Perkins, “who hold that the secret coming together of man and wife cannot be without sin unless it be done for the procreation of children.” Perkins goes on to say that marital sex is a “due debt” or “due benevolence” (1 Cor. 7:3) that a couple owes to one another. That must be shown, he says, “with a singular and entire affection one towards another” in three ways: “First, by the right and lawful use of their bodies or of the marriage bed.” Such physical intimacy by “holy usage” should be “a holy and undefiled action (Heb. 13:4)… sanctified by the word and prayer (1 Tim. 4:3–4).” The fruits of God-honoring, enjoyable sex in marriage are the blessing of children, “the preservation of the body in cleanness,” and the reflection of marriage as a type of the Christ-church relationship. Second, married couples must “cherish one another” intimately (Eph. 5:29) rather than having sex in an impersonal way as an adulterer with a prostitute. Third, a couple should be intimate “by an holy kind of rejoicing and solacing themselves each with [the] other in a mutual declaration of the signs and tokens of love and kindness (Prov. 5:18–19; Songs 1:1; Gen. 26:8; Isa. 62:7).” In this context, Perkins particularly mentions kissing.”

This jab at Roman Catholic doctrine is more political than based in a historical reality. The small pockets of celibacy Catholicism carved out were never meant for the mass of the faithful and the far-flung ideas of marital sexuality as sinful were also something theologians prattled on about and didn’t actually concern believers in their everyday lives. (In particular not in the Middle Ages, which were significantly less pious than Europe after the backlash against protestantism.)

The idea of the body being used in a “right” way is firmly Catholic, and it is the same church fathers Puritans condemn who came up with the idea that husbands can do sex wrong by treating their wives like prostitutes (or rather, they stole it from Stoic philosophy, but that’s another topic.) Tertullian is also not the best example for a Catholic writer, since he borders to the “heretic” sometimes. He expected the world to end any day now, which coloured his ideas about celibacy. Later church fathers are not really comparable.

Celibacy for poor women was completely unattainable, and even for many rich ones: Jerome for example drove into asceticism the upper-crustiest of upper-crust Roman ladies, and there are countless stories of late antique and Medieval wannabe holy virgins who were married off by their powerful families against their pious will. Many convents demanded sizable dowries before women could join, and were little more than storages for superfluous upper-class women who without the blink of an eye would have been taken from the convents to be married off if needed.

Also, convents and monasteries kept alive the ancient medical tradition of how unfucked women suffer damage to their bodies (hysteria). According to this medical philosophy, married sexuality was the only appropriate balancing force for the female organism in and by itself. Breeding was always the number one thing a good Catholic woman should do, and Catholics are among the loudest opponents of laws against marital rape under the theology of ‘one flesh’ to this day. If I’m not mistaken, there even has been an encyclical some time after Vatican II that said pretty much the same as this Puritan page does, so, zero excuses for Catholic wives.

The page I took the quote from is not exceptional at all, and this view of marital sexuality can be found even in evangelical circles. When the Duggars wax poetically about their wonderful sex life, that’s not the abnormality liberal internet commenters treat it as. They are virulently, enthusiastically pro-hetero-fucking.

 

That kinksters and liberal feminists ever came to view Christianity as the biggest anti-sex institution women (allegedly) suffer under was always beyond me. They may not like the particular rules and regulations set up by the church(es), but motherhood as the central role of religious women inevitably means fucking. So does the principle of woman as man’s helpmeet: A wife is the only one who can keep a man from straying and therefore from sin. Her willingness to fuck is his ticket to heaven.

If it were differently, Christian lawmakers would be totally fine with IVF. If they really just wanted women to be mothers rather than to be fucked, they’d see no problem with women breeding without sex. But they do.

This article on a conservative-Catholic website is particularly telling. It goes into the phenomenon of virgin/celibate/non-fucked women getting pregnant via IVF. The author condemns these women by reproducing pseudo-scientific arguments: “At least four major clinics told the newspaper that they had helped virgins to become pregnant. Child psychotherapist Dilys Daws said the fact that virgin women were resorting to IVF “suggests someone who is not emotionally mature enough to be close to someone else – and that matters when it comes to bringing up a child. It implies the woman has a fear of having a close physical relationship with someone else, in which case the baby will not be brought up with that love.” Fertility specialists had different observations about the IVF virgins. One said that: “In some cultures it is the stigma associated with childlessness which causes some women to head for fertility treatment rather than counselling for psychosexual issues.” Another’s explanation was “fear of sex. Most of them don’t have a fertility issue – it’s more a psychological problem”. Another observed that “Some wish to save sexual intercourse for a special relationship. They feel they have not found the right partner to share sex with, but they know they want a baby now.””

When it comes to pathologising non-het, non-sexual women, the medical establishment, conservative Christianity, liberal feminism and sadomasochism get all nice and cosy together. The exact rules as to how may vary, but being sexual with males in a male-dominated environment is not negotiable for any of them.

 

It is not just that Christianity and other religions want women to be fucked. They also want them to like it, or else.

This may be even more counter-intuitive. Proponents of the  so-called sexual revolution, sex-positive pseudo-feminists and sadomasochists have always made out Christianity as the biggest enemy of female sexual enjoyment. Reality also shows that religious males rape without the blink of an eye. After all, here is always lube and a pillow over her face for their convenience.

And yet, the gold standard of submission is joyful submission. The original template for this is the virgin Mary. After she is told by the angel that she is pregnant and she declared herself a servant of god, she goes and meets Elizabeth. They  celebrate their god-willed pregnancies, thus setting the tone for the joyful subjugation of Christian women in the centuries to come[xviii].

 

Logically, Christian wives today promote this type of happy, cheerful submission for not just themselves, but all women. Like female kinksters, they even go so far to call submission an “empowering” concept: “Do “submissive” women have more powerful relationships? (…) Gabby Reece made her name as a successful and powerful volleyball player. She fell in love with and then married fellow athlete, surfer Laird Hamilton. But Reece said their commonalities started to drive them apart. “We’re both strong-willed, opinionated, bossy– you know, pretty outspoken,” Reece said. “So when you have two very strong personalities, it can be challenging. But let’s face it; cohabitation in general is a dance.” Their dance, Reece said in her 2013 autobiography, almost ended in divorce. So she made a shift: strong-willed at work, less so at home. “To be truly feminine,” she said in her book, “means being soft, receptive, and — look out, here it comes — submissive.” “I started to learn, ‘Well, you know, maybe if I leave some of that “alphaness” outside and leave that for the world and then maybe develop and cultivate this other female side,'” Reece said. “It brought out also a very positive side of my husband that made things better.” Another woman, Candance Cameron-Bure, got her big break when she was just 11 years old. At 20, she married hockey player Val Bure and left acting to raise a family. It was her home life that would thrust her back into the spotlight, when she also used the word “submissive” in a book about her life. “I use this word because I was quoting the bible. The word just got taken out of context,” Cameron-Bure said. “My husband takes his role seriously as the leader, a leader of our family and I take the role seriously as the nurturer of our family” She said one isn’t more important than the other, but that they’re complimentary. “I’m not talking about submissive in an oppressed way. That’s not the definition of it,” Cameron-Bure said. (…) Both Cameron-Bure and Reece said using a word like submissive, might just help push women forward. “I would not be an author, an actress, a producer, a mother of three, a career woman if I was a weak or oppressed woman,” Cameron-Bure said. “There’s nothing weak about me and my marriage.””

The more fundamentalist an enviroment, the stronger this line of argument becomes. Libby Anne, author of the interesting (if liberal) blog Love, Joy, Feminism wrote a post on an article about wifely submission from the 1990s, quoting it extensively. The article goes on and on how submission is strength, how submission is power, how submission is a conscious choice: “Let me begin with a few simple statements about the nature of submission: Only a strong person can be submissive. Submissiveness is not timidity, it is not servility, it is not subservience, it is not docility, it is not degrading, it is not a sign of weakness. Submission is a sign of strength, not of weakness and a greater degree of submission requires a greater degree of strength of personal character. Submission is an act of the will — it is the result of a choice, a decision.  The act of submission can only come from a choice that a person makes.  Submission cannot be enforced upon a person.  Either a person submits of their own free will or they do not submit at all.  Submission is a gift that one person chooses to give to another person.  By contrast oppression is the act of extracting something from a person against their will.  Submission and oppression are, therefore, opposite qualities of a relationship and not even remotely similar. (…) Those people who look down on submission as if it were something demeaning, degrading or humiliating are merely showing that they have no understanding of what submission is and that they are quite ignorant of its power. (…) A submissive wife is one who makes a choice not to resist her husband’s will.  That is not to say that she cannot disagree with him or that she cannot express an opinion. Indeed the submissive wife is, by definition, a strong woman and will usually therefore have her own opinions and these may often be different to the opinions of her husband. (…) Now I would like to briefly reiterate and expand upon some misconceptions about a submissive person. Misconception: A submissive person is weak. This is very wrong.  In fact a very weak person cannot submit.  Only a very strong person can submit fully.  Remember, submission is a gift that must be given freely.  It is impossible to force a person to submit because that is a contradiction in terms.  A weak person can be manipulated and forced to obey but then that is no longer submission but oppression. Misconception: A submissive person has no control.  Actually nobody is every fully in control of their own lives because nobody can control all of their circumstances.  Submission is an act of the will; a submissive person makes a positive choice to submit to another person.  Consequently a submissive person has at least as much in control as any other person, possibly more since many people never make definite positive choices but merely drift from one excuse to another.  Misconception: Submission is degrading.  In fact submission is a very beautiful and enormously valuable gift that only a strong person can give.  Nobody is degraded by giving, or wanting to give, beautiful and valuable gifts to another person.  Submission is a gift that benefits the giver even if the receiver is incapable of treating the gift and the giver with the appropriate respect and care.  Misconception: A submissive person is abused.  Well, it is true that a submissive person could be abused by a stupid person who does not appreciate the value of the gift.  However, anybody can be abused, submissive or not, so this irrelevant.”

This could have been written by a “submissive feminist” just as well. There is absolutely no difference to female kinksters who try to pass off their cowardice as a powerful, progressive choice. There isn’t even a consent issue. If a Christian wife chooses submission, she does exactly the same as a “submissive feminist”. Both ignore the power structure of patriarchy for their own selfish choice, and their arguments are virtually indistinguishable.

 

Libby Anne also gives further insight on how Christian wives are not just expected to submit, but also to like it. Her blog is a good starting point to explore a whole world of Christian women’s blogs brimming with all that ‘submission is joy and power’ bullshit and tips on how to be sexually available all the time.

One almost random example I picked is from a blog called littlemisswife.com. In the post ‘How to satisfy your man’s need for sex when you’re not in the mood’, blog author Kay Svela gives instructions on how to submit to one’s husband properly: “What to do when you want to satisfy your partner sexually but your body just ain’t in the mood?   Here are  4 quick tips to help you out! 1) TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM: Yes, that is right, take one for the team. Just get for a second that your overall commitment in your partnership is to contribute to your partner’s life and overall happiness.  Sex is just a small part of that happiness. Have you ever seen him get home late from work and although he is tired he takes out the garbage for you?  Or, maybe he spends time with you and some of your old friends from high school he doesn’t really enjoy. Same thing here.  He is taking one for the team to make you happy. So, strap on those hooker heels honey and give him a show! Who knows, you may even end up getting in the mood too. 2) MAKE HIM A DEAL: Ever heard the saying: “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”?  Well, it works. He wants sex and you want the bathroom to get painted….hmmm….sound like a good swap?! Sounds a little business like but sometimes that is what you need to satisfy both parties.  A good deal leaves both parties feeling like they have one the lottery. Bottom line: it takes something for you to make him feel good when your body just won’t go there so make it worth your efforts. 3) COMMUNICATE: If you are not in the mood it might be a lack of communication in what you need sexually from your partner.  As relationships evolves, sexual relationships evolve too so it is important to be on top of letting your partner know what you need. Or, if it is a case of your body weighing you down (ie. its that time of the month, you are pregnant or have just given birth etc.)  be in communication with your partner.  Share with your partner why you are not in the mood and when you will be able to be with him.  Let him know it is not about him so he is not left thinking: “she does not want me anymore”, “my wife is prude”, “am I not sexy?”, “I have no clue what to do!” – men actually think this, believe it or not! 4) GRANT HIM HIS PERSONAL SEXUAL FREEDOM: Everyone has the right over their own body and he should have the right to take care of business if need be.  Believe it or not, many women ban their men from porn and/or masturbation.  Just because it may not be a female form of arousal (for some women) doesn’t mean you have to ban your man from this mode of sexual self expression.  Women tend to make it personal if they catch their man checking out a porno or masturbating (“I’m not good enough?”, “He likes that more than he likes me”?) Ladies, he is just horny and he wants to relieve himself!”

Note how this falls in line neatly with all the porn-sick liberal ‘Improve your marriage’ advice out there, complete with porn, hooker heels, a  prostitution model of heterosexuality and a dig at “prudish wives”.

 

Another example is Texan state representative Jonathan Stickland. He goes by ‘Stick’ online and weighed in on a man’s bitter complaint on a fantasy football forum that his wife wouldn’t do a particular sex act with him. This bright spark of a husband calls it ‘reverse cowboy’, but what he is talking about is actually called the ‘reverse cowgirl’ position. Jonathan Stickland, law-abiding citizen that he is, helpfully tells him he cannot rape his own wife: ″Rape is non existent in marriage, take what you want my friend! ~ STICK″

To leave aside that Texas boasts a representative who doesn’t feel the need to stick (sorry) to the law – the husband’s complaint is the important part here. This man does not wish for his wife to submit to ‘missionary in the dark, through a hole in the nightgown’, the sex act ″sex-positivists″ like to invoke as the very essence of oppressed female sexuality.

No, what the husband wants his wife to submit to could be lifted directly from a progressive sex advice blog, including sadomasochistic overtones: ″After seeing several blurbs here and there about reverse cowboy, I started thinking. My wife has never done this pleasure to me after 10 years of marriage. I confronted her about it, and that didn’t go over real well. She has to be in the ″mood″ to be on top. Now, I want her to throw in the reverse ride with these sexy high heel black boots.”

Throw on porny clothing, let the woman get on top, the classical sex-pozzie recipe to solve any inconvenience of hetero life. Only this time, it is wished for by the type of male who complains about his ol’ ball and chain in a fantasy football forum and gets endorsed by a bible thumper.

 

The sadomasochistic overtones become the main melody in Christian “marriage advisor” Larry Solomon’s praise of ″fear and dread″ as instruments to deal with one’s wife. On the other hand he wants that wife to be an enthusiastic partner: ″No – she sees that in order to get ‘some’ of her wants met she must FIRST reverence her husband outside the bedroom and she must ravish him inside the bedroom and this becomes the pattern of her behavior toward her husband, He explained. ”If either the reverence or ravishing goes down, he pulls back on these other things so she understands the correlation.””

His usage of ‘ravish’ in this context is interesting. Not only is it biblical, sadomasochists also occasionally use ‘ravishment’ to avoid the term ‘rape’ (for the lily-livered souls too bashful to use ‘rape play’ or ‘con-non-con’, I suppose). Combined with his tit-for-tat approach to Christian marriage (Wife is eager to please sexually = wife gets nice things in return), biblical-gender role approving Mr Solomon is awfully close to liberal feminist approaches to sex and prostitution both in terminology and thinking.

Larry Solomon has written several other posts on this topic. He calls a wife’s refusal of sex ″sexual immorality“.  It doesn’t get clearer than that. Christian Marriage = hetero sex, and women better like it. I utterly fail to see how this can be misconstrued as ″Christians want women to be asexual″ or “Christians want women not to enjoy sex”.

Conservative males are control-freakish about it, but the same holds true for kinksters. Their rationalisations are different –  ‘mental health’ or ‘sexual liberation’ rather than ‘biblical gender roles’ as the standard to sexually aspire to – and their language – instead of ‘marital duty’ they have ‘maintenance sex‘ and ‘good, giving, and game‘ – but from the outside, I honestly see no difference in substance.

In case you wondered about the mental health bit, kinksters do claim their hobby helps with mental health not just – but also – after rape. They advocate shit like “spanking therapy” and I have seen with my own eyes someone suggest it could be good for one’s physical health too:

Secretary comment

(This is a screenshot from Secretary , which in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey was brought up by countless internet commenters as a “SM movie done right”.)

 

All this comes together in explicitly Christian forms of sadomasochism.

Organised in groups like christiandomesticdisciplineDOTcom, takeninhandDOTcom or the respective group on fetlifeDOTcom[xix], this particular sub-branch of sadomasochism operates under the assumption that men are heads of the household by biblical authority, who have the authority to punish their wives for “disobedience”, “rule-breaking” or “attitude problems”. Punishments can include “time-outs”, writing lines, humiliation or – for the most part – beatings[xx]. Some practise what they call ‘maintenance spanking’, which essentially means that the women get beaten regularly and without a “reason” to remind them of their submissive role.

Articles on Daily Beast, Jezebel and Rawstory brought this form of sadomasochism to the attention of liberal feminists in 2013, and it immediately was met with disgust and criticism. This criticism hinges on two things:

First of all, liberal feminists and kinksters perceive sadomasochism and sadomasochistic pleasure as “theirs”. Christians practising it interrupts the narrative of sadomasochism as progressive. They don’t see that the bible takes both them and Christians directly into sadomasochism, albeit in different ways; Christians get into it directly, kinksters take the long way home. Second, they think Christian sadomasochists are doing it wrong. They don’t have much choice if they want to maintain the first point’s cognitive dissonance.

They criticise that they draw children into the “lifestyle” while “regular” kinksters on fetlife can outright fantasise(?) about raping their daughters under the protection of the liberal choice paradigm. They are willing to accept that the “dominant” males in the scenario are disturbed women-haters, whereas regular “doms” are not to be questioned. They are even willing to admit that there are many women for whom Christian domestic discipline led to a negative outcome on their lives and mental health, while female victims of “regular” sadomasochism are commonly silenced (“If you are not an active community member, your opinion is invalid”), ridiculed (“vanilla prude couldn’t handle it”), blamed (“Why didn’t you use the safe word?”) and brushed off (“one bad experience”). The choice narrative goes out of the window the very moment Christians use it.

Christian domestic discipline rips the pseudo-progressive mask off sadomasochism’s reactionary face. It is the logical conclusion of sadomasochism, coming back full circle to where sadomasochism started out: A Christian pastime.

 

Even the trans cult has understood this to some degree. Not only do they cuddle up with astonishingly welcoming clergy to the point of trying to trans Jesus, some of them also have set their minds on invading religious spaces, enabled by Christian therapists aligning with the trans cult to further their own gender ideology.

This man has built his whole mock-female persona around his idea of a “devout Catholic woman” with a badly hidden fetish for schoolgirls[xxi]. It is so very telling he calls himself “Dominican”. The Dominicans, the ‘order of preachers’, were the executive agents of the inquisition, hunting heretics and spreading the faith by force.

Another example is “Tara” Hewitt who fancies himself so very Catholic he is “pro-life”, and simultaneously got thrown out of the conservative party for not being able to keep his yap shut about his sadomasochistic ‘pet play’ and swinging (! ) habit.

Many liberal feminists have difficulties to wrap their head around Bruce Jenner being so conservative that he endorsed Ted Cruz and has spoken out against gay marriage. But what is easier to mimick for a male with a sissification fetish than a “devout religious woman”? They already do them the favour to call themselves submissive and engage in sadomasochistic practices.

 

There are people who grew up in a fundamentalist environment who came to a similar conclusion as I did in regard of their upbringing. Blogger Cynthia Jeub in a heart-breaking, yet brilliant series  of posts recalls her childhood and at some point explicitly compares her mother’s behaviour to sadomasochism: “One evening, when I was exhausted from arguing with her, I collapsed on the couch. She sat next to me and stroked my head, and told me I could trust her, and that she loved me, and that she hoped I’d get better, and said how she thinks I’m an awesome person. It was like being cuddled after a nonconsensual BDSM session, as I told a friend a few days later. Had I not read a post on tumblr criticizing the lack of consent in Fifty Shades of Grey, I would not have recognized what my mom was doing that night.”

Even some kinksters themselves draw vague parallels between their own doings and Christianity.

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Still, they don’t ever make the last, decisive analytical step, not even those who are literally using Judeo-Christian principles of faith, such as “scape-goating” lifted directly from the bible[xxii]: “In reality, kinky people value creativity a hell of a lot more than having a wall full of pristine tools: “… the most interesting ritual I’ve ever attended involved a person with hooks in her chest, walking with them as she was carrying this heavy log behind her attached via wires, dragging them in the dirt while people come up to the log and yell everything they’re angry about, all the things that make them upset, and they take turns kicking the log as it’s being dragged. The idea is the log and the person are taking over the group’s pain, and at the end of the ritual, the person gets freed from their burden and the log gets burned.” (…) “… someone volunteered to be a sacrificial animal. We actually stalked him in the woods, caught him with rope, dragged him back into a room and took turns beating him with floggers. I’m not sure what his own personal demons were, but it was clear it made a real difference in his life.” (…)  “I didn’t participate directly in hurting this guy at all. I helped hunt him down. But I would say that what I got from it was largely as a witness — through his experiences, this powerful feeling of self-transformation.””

I’m not trying to be “blasphemous” just because. I just don’t see the difference between this and the bible, and kinksters shouldn’t, either.

[i] French does have actual terms derived from domina: Madame and mademoiselle. Madame of course is used by sadomasochists as well. Mademoiselle comes from late Latin domicella = little domina, and originally was only used for unmarried upper-class women. It was then attributed to all unmarried women of all ages, and kicked to the kerb by second-wave feminists who refused to be classified by whether they were owned by a male or not. No French woman or girl would be addressed as ‘domme’, however.

[ii] This quote is from Rictor Norton’s essay ‘Anne Lister, The first modern Lesbian’: “Marianna was initially ashamed to be seen in public with Anne because the latter’s masculine appearance was remarked upon by others. They are a butch/femme couple. A woman friend told Anne that Marianna is ‘”plus femme que moi” [more womanly than me]. I have the figure & nature of a man. Have not beauty but agreeable features tho’ not those of a woman. I joked, pretended to be shocked.’ Many people suspected things and talked about Anne’s masculinity, but she and Marianna withstood it: ‘For if we once got together the world might say what it pleased. She should never mind. . . . She shrank from having the thing surmised now, but declared that if we were once fairly together, she should not care about it. I might tell our connection to all the world if I pleased.'” While Rictor Norton is very outspoken against the nonsense that is queer theory and makes accessible the above quote, I don’t agree with most of his work on Lesbians, women and sadomasochism.

[iii] Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500 – 1800, London 1977, p. 440

[iv] See Tom Reiss, The Black Count. Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Christo, New York 2012, prologue part II.

[v] Angela N. Hunter, Rousseau’s Queer Bottom, Sexual Difference in the Confessions (FLS, Volume XXXIV, 2007; link)

[vi] Sophie Phoca, Rebecca Wright, Introducing Postfeminism, Cambridge, New York, 1999, p. 84. “Postfeminism” is the useless and conceited word vomit of over-privileged French and American academics sucking up to males like Freud, Lacan, Sade, Derrida and Foucault.

[vii] That Diadumenus is a slave (rather than a Roman citizen) and a young boy (rather than an adult lover) is the only possible conclusion from the epigram’s content. A pre-pubescent slave boy is the ONLY male person an adult Roman male like Martial was allowed to penetrate without having to fear legal repercussions and social death.

[viii] Adalbert Podlech, Sex, Erotik, Liebe, Vol. 2, Munich 2007, p. 223

[ix] For example the Abbé Guibourg who celebrated black masses for the court of Louis XIV (see Uwe Schultz, Der Herrscher von Versailles, Ludwig XIV und seine Zeit, Munich 2006, p. 175/176)

[x] Sexology itself is an area of radical feminist critique and a tool to subjugate women.

[xi] Ancient India is often construed as a sex-positive wonderland by liberal feminists. The realities of women and children are of no concern to them, apparently.

[xii] David Berger, Der heilige Schein, Als schwuler Theologe in der katholischen Kirche, Berlin 2012, p. 39: ″Die Gründe, die hier für die Anziehungskraft der traditionellen Liturgie auf Homosexuelle genannt wurden, mögen auf den ersten Blick ein wenig weit hergeholt erscheinen. Bei genauerem Hinsehen zeigt sich aber, dass beide Welten durchaus etwas verbindet. So begegnen uns in der tridentinischen Messe Zeichen und Rituale, die den Menschen heute als Elemente einer religösen Ästhetik kaum mehr präsent sind, zum Beispiel das Küssen von Wäsche- oder Körperteilen eines Heiligen, dafür aber in der homosexuellen Erotik, besonders in der Fetischszene, nach wie vor eine große Rolle spielen. Hier ist es dann eben nicht der Fuß des Heiligen Vaters, der geküsst wird, sondern der Lederstiefel des ″Meisters″, wobei beide Rituale als Zeichen freiwilliger Unterwerfung zu deuten sind.” The English translation of this passage is my own.

[xiii] Although the actual Christian torture does lend itself easily to a pornographic re-interpretation: From this and this it is not very far to thisthis, this, this and even this. (Warning – pictures are pornographic.)

[xiv] Although I did see internet commenters ask (naively?) why Ariel Castro didn’t just join a BDSM group rather than to kidnap Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.

[xv] See Sacred Kink I.

[xvi] See these two articles for references.

[xvii] Chris Kyle, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U. S. Military History, USA, 2012

[xviii] Luke 1, 39ff

[xix] I deliberately didn’t include working links. Google the stuff yourself.

[xx] They call it ‘spanking’. I won’t. As a side note, traditionalist parents do all that to their children and get praise and legal protection for this kind of abuse. I’ll go into that in Sacred Kink IV.

[xxi] At this point, I’m used to have my womanhood appropriated, my Lesbianism invaded, but to have my Catholic girlhood in an all-female convent school fetishised is immensely strange.

[xxii] There are other cultures who also practised some kind of “scape-goating “, but Westerners are way more likely to act on the biblical archetype than on what they read on some cuneiform tablet.

Posted in Radical Feminism, sadomasochism | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Sacred Kink I: Questions

Years ago I got the idea that sadomasochism was a secularised form of Christianity. The parallels are just too striking to overlook. I let the idea sit for a bit to straighten out my arguments, wrote bits and pieces of it and tossed them out again. And then I read Mary Daly.

Secular  S and M

In christendom as well as in postchristian secular society, the words/expressions of female spirit are raped, twisted, tortured, dismembered. (…) Whereas the christian cross glorified suffering as a means to purification and ultimate joy in the “Afterlife,” the contemporary secular sadomasochistic gospel proclaims that female suffering is joy. “[i]

When I came across this, I was devastated. Here one of the most widely read feminists nonchalantly mentioned in passing what I had been pondering for years. I put my work aside. But re-reading Gyn/ecology, I decided to get back to what I have written and go from there.  First, I want to do a little more accessible, practical and straight-foward analysis myself. Second, I don’t agree with Mary Daly’s conclusion: “My point here is not that the sadosymbolism of christianity is the unique source for worldwide S and M. Sadomasochism is the style and basic content of patriarchy’s structures, including those antecedent to and outside christianity. Rather, christianity, with its torture cross symbolism, has been one expression of this basic pattern . I am contending, however, that within Western culture this symbolism has provided legitimation and impetus for subsequent refinements/coarsenings of sadomasochism.”[ii]

 

I do believe Christianity and sadomasochism are growing out of the same underlying soil of patriarchy. But I also think that sadomasochism is a specific offshoot of Christianity. Christianity and sadomasochism are not two seperate branches of the same tree, sadomasochism is a twig growing from the branch of Christianity.

Sadomasochism is transferable and gets transferred to other cultural spaces, as Mary Daly says. Non-Western societies have their own cultural forms of sadomasochism and female oppression. Yet, sadomasochism as a distinct culture with its own vocabulary, organisations etc, which kinksters themselves call “BDSM”, did specifically grow out of the sexist, imperialist, rich Christian West (Europe and United States), to cater to the needs of sexist, imperialist, rich, male Christian Westerners.

This sexist, imperialist, rich Christian West still exists. We don’t live in a “postchristian secular society”. Christianity still is shot through the very fabric of our lives, whether we are individually aware of it or not. Sadomasochism is a way for Westerners to go along with their Christian imprinting, yet spares them the cognitive dissonance of uniting liberal values and traditional faith. It is a stage of Christianity tailored to fulfil the needs of males  (and those who suck up to them) from the liberal upper classes, a class-specific way to ensure the ongoing subjugation of women.

 

Before I really get into the thick of analysis in the following posts Sacred Kink II, III and IV, I also want to get something out of the way. Namely, the stupid and boring questions Radical Feminists inevitably get asked over and over again when they write about sadomasochism.

Here are my positions, and don’t bother me with this shit in your comments.

 

″It is called BDSM, stupid!”

I call it sadomasochism rather than BDSM for the same reason why I won’t call males in dresses women. Oppressed groups have no obligation whatsoever to follow the language rules made by the oppressors.

 

″What about male subs and female doms?”

The vast majority of dominants is male. Female dominants are constantly under pressure to be switches or eventually go submissive, and at “best”, they mimick male power. Submissive men get a kick out of being treated like women under patriarchy: Penetrated, humiliated, sissified etc.  After a scene is ended, a submissive male can go and live his privileged life in patriarchy. Women don’t ever get that.

 

″What about Lesbian and gay BDSM?”

Lesbian and gay sadomasochists glorify and perpetuate the very same patriarchy that makes their life a living hell. Our Lesbian community was invaded by kinksters and ″sex positivists″ as part of the backlash against feminism. Lesbian practitioners of sadomasochism harm our community and other women deeply by eroticising power difference and inflicting mental and physical harm on other women.

 

“It is all about trust!”

I’ll let Marina Abramović deal with this one:

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If the submissive has everything to lose (up to and including her life), it is not ‘all about trust’. It is all about HER trust.

 

“It is so much deeper than normal relationships! BDSM is safer than vanilla sex because kinky people are so much more aware of boundaries, limits etc!”

“Vanilla” (as if there were such a thing in heterosexuality) and sadomasochistic sex are on a continuum. As a vigilant Lesbian even the most “vanilla” missionary sex freaks me out. Flat on your back, held down by a man’s deadweight, easy to be choked or gutted like a trout, no, thanks. Het sex has been thoroughly romanticised to make it easier to accept (e. g. a happy bride being led down the aisle by her loving and choked-up father versus the transactional history of marriage). This for many women has led to their warning systems to be disabled. Boring missionary needs just as much “trust” as bondage does. Women have just been gaslighted out of perceiving that.

Even kinksters themselves admit that rape and violations are rife in the community.

 

″In reality, the sub has all the power! The dom has to work really hard for their pleasure!”

When Radical Feminists talk about female submissives, sadomasochists claim it is really the subs who have the power. When Radical Feminists talk about male submissives, it all of a sudden is the female dominants who have the power. Sadomasochists can’t have it both ways.

 

“My boyfriend doesn’t even like to dominate me, he just does it because I want him to!”

If that’s true, you are scum. Teaching a male to mistreat women is the lowest of the low. A woman who urges a man into sadomasochism teaches a man women like to be abused. This is anti-woman betrayal of the highest order.

 

″But consent! But choices! But empowerment!”

Consent is no miracle cure to determine right or wrong. People consent to participate in “reality” TV shows that make money off their humiliation. People consent to be sold into slavery to pay for debts. People consent to be killed and eaten. People are free to make choices, alright. So let’s focus on choices men make who get off on injuring and humiliating women.

If we assume that there are women who consent freely – it can never be justified or even feminist to promote abuse, not even by the recipients. Many beaten children grow up to defend the parents’ right to beat with the argument it was for their own good and that they benefitted from the discipline. Still does not justify beating.

Consenting to one’s abuse is harmful and it is a fundamental betrayal to other abuse victims.

 

″Some people are born submissive! They have the need to serve and submit at their deepest core!”

American plantation owners were genuinely convinced they were doing their slaves a favour by allowing them to live by the needs of their subservient nature. It isn’t random that among many post-war Southern narratives that of the ‘faithful servant who begs on his knees to remain master’s property’ is about the most common. I have read articles written by  members of the Abrahamitic Three and followers of Hinduism peddling the claim that deep down, women crave to be beaten by their husbands and children crave to be beaten by their parents. Kinksters may (and that’s a big MAY) not have such clear identifiers for the submissive-born as sex and skin colour (although I have seen the claim of  ‘all women are submissive inside’ and we all know about ″race play″). It still doesn’t make their position any more worthwhile. Nobody is born to be a slave. If you think that, you are not transgressive. You are the concrete that held exploitation and patriarchy in place over millennia.

 

″Who made you the police of what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom?”

Sadomasochism doesn’t stay in the bedroom.  Kinksters won’t shut up about it. It encroaches all kinds of media, books, art, fashion, education, music, advertisement  –  it is everywhere. It has encroached even the legal system. You can be beaten to bloody pulp by a rapist and there still will be the assumption that you actually wanted it because ″maybe she just liked rough sex/ all women have rape fantasies/ BDSM game gone wrong″. That at this point the victim has to prove that she did not like it rather than the perpetrator that she did, is a sad state of affairs. By this, the law inherently puts the importance of orgasms over the interest to physical and mental safety. The right to an unencumbered sex life seems to be of more value than the right to safety and health of women. When did this happen, and why? Why is the state more invested in protecting male orgasms than female people? (We know why.)

Additionally, the bedroom is not a sacred space untouched by society and patriarchy. “Two consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom” is probably the most bourgeois phrase I’ve ever heard. It is on a level with “My home is my castle” in cross stitch embroidery. And not the ironic kind.

(Seriously, I grew up in a housing project with cardboard walls. I know more of my ex-neighbours’ sex life schedule than I ever wanted. So much for ‘privacy’.)

 

″All you know about BDSM is from Fifty Shades of Grey!”

I have thought about sadomasochism long before these books were written. I for the longest time didn’t understand the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, because the basic plot and character formula are very standard for romance novels and the actual sadomasochism in the text is quite mild (full disclosure: I’ve read excerpts, not the full books). Seen in a wider context of “romance”/”erotica” written for/by women, the Fifty Shades of Grey novels are neither the first nor the most explicit to deal with sadomasochism. What sets them apart from the steady stream of explicitly or implictly sadomasochistic romance/erotica novels sold since literally decades is the incredibly aggressive marketing. Never before have I seen any book being marketed as aggressively as this one. Not even Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight or GRR Martin’s bullshit come anywhere close. Fifty Shades of Grey is a triumph of marketing first and foremost and it has more to do with capitalism than sex or female nature. The text itself to me offers no new insights or particular reasons to bring up in a Radical Feminist analysis. I really don’t give a shit about it.

 

″It’s all a fantasy! What about movie deaths, boxing matches or spicy food? Do you think people really die in movies/it should be forbidden to consensually beat each other up for sports?”

Putting spices in your food does not inherently tie into the submissive state of females (although the circumstances spices are grown are well worth a closer look. Would there be nutmeg in our food if not for the East India Trading Company?). The superficial tingle of jalapeño is not at all comparable to the eroticisation of oppression sadomasochism promotes – or even the physical and mental outcome of sadomasochism on those practising it. Bloodsports specifically intended to injure, maim and kill ARE forbidden, which is why we don’t have gladiatorial games anymore and animal fighting is considered a crime in most places. Boxing or other martial arts are not inherently intended to maintain the oppressed status of one class over the other.

As for the movies argument – people may get hurt when filming movies, but there are endless precautions that this exactly does not happen. The very existence of stuntpeople who make a living of show-dying without actually dying is proof to that. An actually dead stunt person is a tragedy, because real pain is not supposed to happen. Unlike sadomasochism, which deals out real pain. A movie smack across the face is camera angle make-believe with a sound layered over it in post production. A sadomasochistic smack across the face is real and virtually indistinguishable from an ″domestic″ violence smack across the face. The comparison between the elaborate make-believe of a movie and the reality of sadomasochism is invalid.

 

“Why shouldn’t people be allowed to put themselves at risk sexually if they are allowed in non-sexual situations (e. g. by the consumption of alcohol, by doing bungee jumping, etc)? It’s about the thrill!”

It’s true that alcohol, bungee-jumping and sadomasochism are liked by humans because of the physiological reaction we get through them. Bungee-jumping and sadomasochism in particular can very well be compared, since their effect relies on two things: The body’s own reaction to an external stimulus and the usage of safety devices to avoid actual damage. Bungee-jumping gives an addictive rush of adrenaline and other hormones because for a tiny moment, our brain thinks it is going to die. We know there is a rope fixed to our ankles, and we know we are not going to die. But our amygdala doesn’t give a shit. Sadomasochism does just the same: The brain’s rational side (aware of safe words, consent, negotiations etc) is overran by the hormones that pain, restraint, dread etc cause to be poured out. This hellbrew of hormones is what leads to a confusion of pain and pleasure, to the brain falling into “subspace” and to the “subdrop” after the scene. Description of sub experiences resemble descriptions of trauma so closely because the brain reacts with the same outpour of the very same chemicals.

Some kinksters seem to be able to negotiate this stress better than others. Still this reckless gambling with the mental health of submissives is inherently unethical. For many women the scene leads to posttraumatic stress. They drop out of it and therefore never make it into the mental health assessments done inside the scene, rendering any such studies useless. Not that kinksters care. Ironically, liberal feminists are very much aware that rational choice does not negotiate the biological impact of trauma in other circumstances: Christian fundamentalist wives build their whole identity around the theology of ‘one flesh’ that makes marital rape impossible by definition. And yet, when they are raped by their husbands, they still experience trauma like any other victim. Liberal feminists have no trouble seeing that, when they are not blinded by their own bias.

 

“You think women are too weak and stupid to make sexual decisions for themselves! You are sexist and have a saviour complex!”

Exposing oppressive systems is not a declaration of personal weakness of oppressed people inside the systems. It is a question of solidarity among women and other oppressed groups. We either succeed as a group or we lose as a group, and statements like this only serve as a tool to break up our solidarity and splinter our common force.

 

“It is a way to heal from abuse! Survivors benefit from it!”

Compulsion to repeat a trauma is a symptom of PTSD, not of healing. It is literally training your brain to recall the trauma over and over, which is why experts are pushing to stop “debriefing” for soldiers or first responders. Also, not every coping mechanism bringing short-term relief (until you need the next fix) is a good thing. Alcohol, drugs and self-harm are all ways to deal with pain, and that’s exactly the category where sadomasochism belongs as well. Self-harm by proxy (let someone else do the hurting for you/hurting someone else to externalise pain) is still self-harm. Additionally, all the sadistic males are not traumatised at all. They are just male. If nothing else, cutting off their victim supply and exposing them should be a feminist goal.

 

″BDSM is subversive!”

Open a history book. Or today’s newspaper. As far back as our written sources reach, the vast majority of societies was and is build on hierarchies, dominance/submission, oppression and exploitation. It is radical to imagine a society free of all this. A place of peace for everyone. Sexualising the power does nothing to subvert it. It just makes power and violence more digestible and appealing. When people look at a whip, they should feel uncomfortable and think about slavery and violence. To conflate a whip with sexual pleasure erases the pain and hides away violence. Yet it does nothing to end the pain and the violence themselves.

 

″You are a right-wing kinkshamer!”

As for right-wing, right-wingers operate under the assumption that submissiveness is a good thing. They fill libraries with books about how females should be submissives to males and everyone should be submissive to their respective deity. There is also an overlap between right-wingers and kinksters: Even if we leave the Goreans aside (although, why would we, them being an established part of the SM scene for decades?), there are the folks of Taken in Hand and Christian Domestic Discipline.

Regarding kink-shaming: Damn well I think that people should be ashamed if their sexual practices are exploitative, disrespectful to victims of violence, demeaning to women as a class and individually dangerous. I’m a Lesbian. People give me shit for that all the time. Yet, it wouldn’t occur to me to counter that with a whiny ″Don’t shame me!” because I know that there is nothing shameful in loving a woman. That kinksters are so sensitive about shaming tells me they know very well themselves they are scum.

 

″Women today are so secure in their feminism/strength they can admit they like to be dominated!”

And do they ever.

There is nothing radical in that, and nothing new. When the Story of O hit, this kind of statement was everywhere. When women marched to obtain the vote, anti-feminist women would swear up and down that as strong women they didn’t need the vote since they were queens in their own home already. Romance novels and movies to this day use the trope of the strong heroine who ultimately romantically submits when she’s too tired of the fight. I think it was Balzac who wrote that a housewife is a slave who has to be sat on a throne (in order to be dociled). The line ″You are so strong, you can afford to be submissive/weak″ is really nothing new and always directed at women.

 

″You just had one bad experience! This or that particular thing is not real BDSM! Safe, sane, consensual! Risk-aware consensual kink!”

There is no universally agreed line to seperate ″real BDSM″ from ″fake BDSM″ or indeed what is ″safe″. This line shifts constantly, depending on who is making this argument, their personal limits and their intentions. This renders a discussion impossible.

As the case of James Deen  shows, even the praised pillar of sadomasochistic ethics ceases to be a proponent of “real BDSM”  the very moment he gets embarrassing to the community’s image. The man went to bed a praised pro-feminist dom, and woke up a True Scotsman No More.

 

″In a perfect world, there’d be no power differences. But our world is not perfect and can never be, so we might as well deal with power differences by making a sexual game out of them!”

So, making yourself comfortable in an unjust system is now a valid technique? That’s what people in dictatorships do. Keep your head down, look out for your own interests, snatch some extra cake at the führer’s birthday. Hey, in a perfect world political dictatorship wouldn’t exist. But this world is not perfect and can never be, so we might as well deal with the dictatorship by drawing advantages out of it. Very ethical, that.

 

″What’s the harm for non-kinksters? Just don’t do it! What business of yours is that all, anyway?”

Sometimes I wish I could go on a separatist Lesbian island and never have anything to do with men and het women ever again. But since this island doesn’t exist and I am forced to get by in a system benefitting men and their collaborators, everything men and their collaborators do is my damn business. I can’t walk on the street without seeing a poster for a student clubbing with a woman having a ball-gag in her mouth (true story). I can’t open the newspaper without being informed yet another rapist has been acquitted in doubt because maybe the victim wanted it rough. I can’t stay out of sadomasochists’ business because they don’t stay out of mine.

 

“Don’t knock it before you try it! Don’t yuck someone’s yum! Ignorant bitch! Do it before you criticise!”

Just because someone likes to do something, it must not necessarily be ethically right.

In any way, to realise “X is not good for me and others” does not require to have X tested on someone’s actual body. Fracking is not good. I don’t to need personally have drunk poisoned water to be allowed to have this opinion. In sexual matters this rule is even stronger: I don’t need to have been abused to be against paedophilia. I don’t personally need to have tested the ability of animals to consent to come to the conclusion bestiality is wrong. And I for sure don’t have to submit to a SM lifestyle to be able to talk about it. To suggest otherwise betrays a fundamental lack of the sense for boundaries, contrary to the SM community’s claim to be the most boundary-conscious people of all.

 

“Kinksters are oppressed! Vanilla privilege! We lose our jobs and children when we are outed!”

The overwhelming majority of sadomasochists are white and middle class according to themselves:

Bienvenu white Bienvenu middle class1 Bienvenu middle class2

(Screenshots from  the pdf of Robert Bienvenu, Ph.D, H. Jack McGeorge, Trevor Jacques, The General Psychological Health of SM Practitioners (2002 Annual Meeting, Society for Scientific Study of Sexuality, Montréal, Canada). If you want the pdf, let me know and I’ll send it.)

The kink scene grew out of upper class pastimes (e. g. Hellfire clubs or higher-end brothels catering to rich johns). Donatien de Sade and Leopold of Sacher-Masoch were European nobility. Also, one needs a certain amount of time and financial means to pour into this silly hobby and its toys, munches, dungeons and parties. As a working-class Lesbian I really have a hard time to imagine anything more bourgeois than sadomasochists.

And yes, anyone who likes to bring up their sexual practices in a work place should be fired[iii], and every kinkster should have their children taken away. Sadomasochistic parents do not provide a safe environment for children. They are teaching children to sexualise violence and lie to themselves if they think children don’t figure out their lifestyle. Unfortunately, kinksters’ oppression is all in their minds and children (and co-workers) are not generally considered worthy of protection by the law and society.

 

“You are virtue-signalling!”

Yes, because women telling men they are not entitled to women’s bodies are totally patriarchy’s darlings. It is definitely Radical Lesbian Feminists who are serving dicks here.

 

“All your arguments are just making me kinkier! Tonight my boyfriend is going to do X, Y and Z to me and it is your fault! I like to have done to me/do the things X, Y and Z. I need to tell you about that in detail and then ask you what you think about it.”

Such an excellent grasp of other people’s boundaries kinksters have. Silly vanilla me stands in awe.

 

[i] Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology, The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Boston 1978, p. 93/94

[ii] Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology, The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Boston 1978, p. 96

[iii] Don’t you dare compare this to ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’. Lesbians and gay men unable to talk about how they took their lovers on camping trip last weekend is not the same as detailing sexual practices. Lesbian and gay rights are about love. “Kink rights” are about fucking.

Posted in Radical Feminism, sadomasochism | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Being Made A Whore: A Radical Lesbian Feminist Reading of Melissa Gira Grant’s ‘Playing the Whore’ (Verso, London 2014)

                                                                                                                             Niemand hat das Recht zu gehorchen.

                                                                                                                             Nobody has the right to obey.

                                                                                                                                                             (Hannah Arendt)

 

My library has a section for feminism. It carries little to no truly radical literature, but it is quite useful for to see what’s going on in liberal feminism these days.

The last book I picked up and want to write about now is Melissa Gira Grant’s ‘Playing the Whore, The Work of Sex Work’ (Verso, London 2014). Before I get into it, I just want to add that this is the first post of what I hope will become the series ‘Radical Readings’. I want to write about books I read from a Radical Lesbian Feminist perspective. ‘Radical Readings’ will not be academical, formally coherent[i] or have an overarching content-based logic regarding the books I pick: Whatever I find in the library, whatever I like to write about.

So, ‘Playing the Whore’.

This is Melissa Gira Grant’s biography from her website: ″I’m a writer and journalist covering sexual politics, technology, and human rights. My book, Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Verso, 2014) challenges the myths about selling sex and those who make them. My reporting and commentary has appeared in The Nation, The New York Times, VICE, Wired, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Dissent, among other publications. My other books include Take This Book: A History of the People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street, in 2011 through my own media label Glass Houses, and Coming & Crying (Glass Houses, 2010), an anthology of true stories about sex (co-edited with Meaghan O’Connell). I speak regularly to audiences worldwide at institutions such as Duke University, the New School, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the Open Society Foundations, Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, and the UC Berkeley Labor Center, and at events including South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW), re:publica (Berlin), NEXT (Copenhagen), and the International AIDS Conference. I co-organize the podcast series Nostalgia for the Net. My story “Before Departure,” a collaboration with photographer Fette Sans and published by Abe’s Penny, was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art Library in 2013 and by the Brooklyn Art Museum in 2014 for their permanent collections. In addition to working as a writer and journalist, I’m proud to have been a member of the Exotic Dancers’ Union (SEIU Local 790), a staff member at St. James Infirmary (the only occupational health and safety clinic in the United States run for and by sex workers), and worked to advance gender justice with the Third Wave Foundation.”

For simplicity’s sake, I also take the general description of ‘Playing the Whore’ from there: ″The sex industry is an endless source of prurient drama for the mainstream media. Recent years have seen a panic over “online red-light districts,” which supposedly seduce vulnerable young women into a life of degradation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s live tweeting of a Cambodian brothel raid. The current trend for writing about and describing actual experiences of sex work fuels a culture obsessed with the behavior of sex workers. Rarely do these fearful dispatches come from sex workers themselves, and they never seem to deviate from the position that sex workers must be rescued from their condition, and the industry simply abolished — a position common among feminists and conservatives alike. In Playing the Whore, journalist Melissa Gira Grant turns these pieties on their head, arguing for an overhaul in the way we think about sex work. Based on ten years of writing and reporting on the sex trade, and grounded in her experience as an organizer, advocate, and former sex worker, Playing the Whore dismantles pervasive myths about sex work, criticizes both conditions within the sex industry and its criminalization, and argues that separating sex work from the “legitimate” economy only harms those who perform sexual labor. Sex workers’ demands, too long relegated to the margins, take center stage: sex work is work, and sex workers’ rights are human rights.”

This description clarifies what ‘Playing the Whore’ is not: It is not a How-to guide and it is not a memoir. Melissa Gira Grant explicitly states so and describes her denial to go into her own life circumstances as an act of resistance (p. 34).

I find this sentiment reasonable and logical. ‘Playing the Whore’ is not a book about Melissa Gira Grant. It is not even a book about women in prostitution. It is a book about women, full stop.

It explores the position of women in society and ways to improve said position. It offers a vision for the future of ″sex work″, feminism, female labour and female financial and social empowerment.

And this is the reason I need to take the exact opposite stance.

I need to write about myself.

*

The girl is twelve.  This year, summer came within a single day. She went to school in a knit pullover and changed into cut-offs the moment she came home. She also meets her friends to go out for ice cream in the afternoon.

She carries a small yellow wallet strung up on a neon-orange shoelace around her neck. With a textile marker she has drawn ice cream cones on it. It is her favourite wallet, even though it is so small she has to crumple the bills up to make them fit inside. As she hands over one such crumpled bill to the ice cream seller, he finds a second bill folded into it.

He keeps both in his hand and starts to talk to the girl. She can tell that she is being scolded, but doesn’t understand why. She must have done something wrong.

And then his voice changes and he gets friendly again. ″Do you want another one of these? I’ll give you one.”

The girl doesn’t understand. Why would he give her money?

Her mother tells her he wanted to fuck her.

*

I’m not a prostitute nor have I ever been. I’m a Radical Lesbian Feminist. I have a phD.

To ″sex worker″ activists, these three things automatically make everything I have to say invalid, I know. I’m the epitome of someone ″speaking over sex workers″.

This is a very common accusation against abolitionists, in particular of the radical feminist kind. It is based on the assumption that women who are not in prostitution are privileged compared to those who are. Women in prostitution tend to be poor, therefore abolitionists have to be rich.

Thing is, I’m not, and I never was.

I come from working-class stock. Neither of my parents graduated highschool. They are pensioners now, and both their pensions are below the poverty line. That I graduated school, made it to university and even through a doctorate makes me part of the whopping 5% of annual graduates in my country whose parents are not academically educated themselves.

Also, my degree has proven to be worthless for employment. I even have difficulties to get unskilled jobs like the ones I did during my undergraduate years, because I’m overeducated. I have been told by the job agency and potential employers that I had actually better chances to be hired, had I not finished my degree.

My family members who told me that graduating highschool was already too much of an education are gloating. They were right all along. My family members who hoped university was going to catapult me out of poverty forever are silently disappointed.

I feel guilty to have let them down. I’m horrified to be a burden. Of course I am. This is what being working class means. I stand in the supermarket and feel guilty I took the frozen peas instead of the canned ones, for goodness’ sake.

I’m not middle-class. I have not grown up in the knowledge to always be right. I was not praised for mediocrity. I have never known financial security. I never was the protected little princess all white girls supposedly are in the minds of anti-feminists. When I overstepped my class boundaries, there were always middle-class people to knock me right back.

I don’t bring this all up to whine. I’m perfectly fine with where I’m coming from. All I want for myself and the women I love is a secure life, not the ice box of a middle-class family or the psychopathic egotism of middle-class work values.

But I need to hammer home that my feminist opinions are not opinions from privilege, but opinions from oppression. I’ve never made more than minimum wage in my life, and now I struggle to find someone willing to pay me even that.

 

In this piece, I’m not going to argue about how I think the Nordic Model is the best solution to deal with prostitution for now. Exited women make a good argument for it, and I listen to them.

I also won’t discuss the tired old trafficking vs. choice question. Prostitution lobbyists tend to prettify the grey area of financial coercion (e. g. by claiming prostitution can realistically help women out of poverty) and belittle or define away  trafficking (e. g. ″trafficking is rape, not sex work, therefore nothing to talk about in the context of sex work[ii]″). Abolitionists tend to focus almost entirely on trafficking and financial coercion, some going so far to deny there are women who do choose to be prostitutes. I believe there are women who choose, but as a radical feminist I obviously don’t think that every choice women make is inherently feminist and should be supported by feminists.

I’m also not going to debate my usage of the terms ‘prostitute’ or ‘prostitution’. I use these as umbrella terms, because I have not yet heard any convincing argument from either side of the debate as to why they are unsuitable. Whenever it is necessary to make a clear distinction between force and choice, I’ll use ‘prostituted girls and women’ for victims of trafficking/coercion and ‘″sex workers″’ (with distancing quotes) for women who choose.

And lastly, I’m absolutely not going to take any blame for right-wing and police violence against women in prostitution. I fear and hate the police just like the people from my housing project and my dyke friends do. I fear and hate the influence of religious fascists on politics and our daily lives.

Don’t you dare to throw me in with them.

 

Although, Melissa Gira Grant does just that. In ‘Playing the Whore’, any feminist who criticises prostitution by definition is a privileged, middle-class woman. Critical feminists make a living from taking away ″sex worker’s″ jobs: ″Opponents, from the European Women’s Lobby to reactionary feminist bloggers, like to claim that sex workers insist it is ″a job like any other,″ but sex workers do not make this claim – unless by this anti-sex work activists agree with sex workers that the condition under which sexual services are offered can be as unstable and undesirable as those cutting cuticles, giving colonics, or diapering someone else’s babies. But that’s not what sex work opponents are referring to when they snap back with a phrase such as ″a job like any other.” When they say ″jobs″ they don’t mean those informal service jobs, but their more elevated labor administering social projects, conducting research, and lobbying. Rescuing sex workers is good work for them. (…) Opponents even take our jobs when we win.” (p. 56)

Where is my good salary, dammit?

These privileged women are also chock-full of class arrogance: ″The message of anti-sex work feminists is, It’s the women working against sex work who are the real hard workers, shattering glass ceilings and elevating womanhood, while the tramps loll about down below.” (p. 57)

Here’s the thing – I am one of these tramps. I’m also familiar with these low-paid service jobs. It is my kind of job, and my people’s kind of job. Dirty, underpaid, back-breaking, mind-numbing and all around shitty. But they are still not as bad as prostitution. When I got bossed around by a businessman with wads of cash in his suit pockets who felt the need to put the security person into their place before starting a hard work day, I could tell myself that at least he was going to be gone a few minutes later and I didn’t have to let him fuck me to pay my rent in time. Being European rather than US-American, I didn’t even have to smile at him. When my baby-diapering ex was let go by the family she worked for without a warning and was replaced by a Chinese au-pair overnight, she at least didn’t have to suck the baby’s father’s dick to fullfil her pre-negotiated contract. When my underaged disabled sister was exploited as a dishwasher in a hospital kitchen – classified as an ″intern″, so her pay was symbolic and her legal protection non-existent – , she could resign rather than jerk off the chef in order to pay room fee in a brothel.

If a shitty service job includes invasions of the body, it’s not time to for (actual, not paid-for-by-the-pimps-and-bosses) unionising. It’s time for the police. Yes, yes, I know, ″carceral feminism″ (p. 10), how dare I etc. But honestly, let the pigs sort out the rich, so that they are good for something after all. (Also, the police all of a sudden is not so bad anymore when ″sex worker″ activists imagine a legalised wonderland where the police is defending their interests, is it?)

The quote goes on: ″As political theorist Kathi Weeks notes, to call a woman a tramp is to judge the value of a woman’s sexuality and labour. Tramps, she writes in The Problem with Work, are ″potentially dangerous figures that could, unless successfully othered, call into question the supposedly indisputable benefits of work″ – and home and family, and women’s commitment to all of it. When sex workers are ″rescued″ by anti-sex work reformers, they  are being disciplined, set back into their right role as good women.” (p. 57)

Note that Melissa Gira Grant is the one who brought up the word tramp. Not me, not other feminists. This straw woman attacking is typical for the whole book. It is even more drastic in the German translation of ‘Playing the Whore’ by Georg Felix Harsch. For ‘tramp’ he uses ‘Unterschichtsschlampe’, literally ‘lower class slut’. (Melissa Gira Grant, Hure spielen, Die Arbeit der Sexarbeit, Edition Nautilus, Hamburg 2014, p. 92). Gee, thanks for that, Mr Harsch.

Also, it requires a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to accuse feminists to be guardians of the patriarchal family and arbiters of prim womanhood – in particular since prostitution is an inevitable requirement of patriarchy. Prostitutes are not the opposite of married mothers, they are complimentary to them. Marriage/motherhood and prostitution are both institutions to serve the patriarchal male.

Melissa Gira Grant in this context also quotes the work of anthropologist Dr Laura Agustín: ″The rescue industry, as anthropologist Laura Agustín terms such efforts, derives value from the production of awareness: It gives the producers jobs, the effectiveness of which is measured by a subjective accounting of how much they are being talked about.” (p. 37)

Laura Agustín is probably among the last people an actual feminist should base her analysis on. Commenting on Sarah Ditum’s review of ‘Playing the Whore’ on Feminist Current, the user Donkey Skin has provided very interesting and sourced background informations on Laura Agustín’s work: ″(…) It’s bizarre that Dean would come on here spouting Marxist theory to justify the sex industry, and then refer us to Laura Agustin, who is an ultra-libertarian and free-market absolutist. Agustin thinks that no labour conditions under capitalism should be criticised, as this fails to recognise that workers and especially migrants are active subjects who make rational choices about their work and conditions. She also thinks it should be legal for adults to buy and sell children for sex:

“Most activists are eager to condemn and exclude ‘children’ from their demands, but childhood means different things to different people and in different places. And younger people who make their own decisions need to be respected. This is why blanket declarations against some activities based on age are questionable.”

http://www.lauraagustin.com/en…

She claims that women who are imprisoned in brothels, forced to have sex with dozens of men a day and moved around the country by traffickers may ‘prefer this situation’:

“The relationship involving women who live inside sex establishments and rarely leave until they are moved to another place without being consulted receives the media’s usual attention, it being taken for granted that this represents a total loss of freedom. In many cases, however, migrant workers prefer this situation, for any number of reasons: if they don’t leave the premises they don’t spend money; if they don’t have working papers, they feel safer inside in a controlled sitution; if someone else does the work of finding new venues and making arrangements, they don’t have to do it; or having come on a three-month tourist visa they want to spend as much time as possible making money.”

http://www.lauraagustin.com/wp…

And she’s compared the situation of such women, and indeed all non-documented people who are trapped in bogus debt-bondage to traffickers, to that of people with student loans.

“The point isn’t that debt is all good or all bad but that it exists everywhere, and its bondage is often seen as lamentable, yes, but as acceptable – something people are meant to struggle to pay off as part of normal life.”

http://www.lauraagustin.com/ci…

And hey, even slavery can’t be considered wholly bad according to Agustin:

“Finally forced to recognize that slavery could sometimes represent ‘a better life’ (p. 199), he is nonetheless blind to the possibility that people in bad situations may be able to exploit them and is obviously ignorant of slavery studies far evolved from abolitionist reductionism. Slave narratives, slave archaeology, ethnobiology, and historical research all have illuminated social systems in which slaves were not wholly passive nor owners unidimensionally crushing. Coping, resisting, manipulating, strategizing, and creating culture form part of slaves’ lives.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/20…

You may choose to align yourself with such views, Dean, but no genuine feminist – or for that matter Marxist – would.”[iii]

For Melissa Gira Grant, unpaid, exploited working-class radical feminists simply don’t seem to exist. This sentiment is nothing new: ″Recalling those years just before Stonewall and not long before prostitutes’ rights became a national issue too, author and activist Amber Hollibaugh writes in her essay collection My Dangerous Desires: I was a United Farm Workers organizer. I belonged to two communes, snuck desperate men trying to escape the Vietnam War across the Canadian border, marched in protest against the Vietnam War in cities all over the country, laid in front of Black Panther offices late at night to keep police from firing inside, and got my first tear gas mask at eighteen to use in the street riots that I regularly joined. Then, late at night, I did sex work. Prostitution made it possible for me to afford an existence most middle-class and upper-middle-class radicals I knew assumed was inherently theirs by right.” (p. 118)

I don’t have much use for middle-class people, but it still makes more sense to funnel daddy’s money into radical activism than to suck the oppressors’ dicks.

This also totally erases all the working-class Butches and dykes who gave us Lesbian separatism. My dear friend Bev Jo and all the other brilliant, dirt-poor Lesbians fighting for our liberation, they survived, thrived and build community without serving the oppressors.

And so do today’s working-class radical feminists.

 

*

The girl is fourteen. She spends every free minute outdoors and thinks joining the scouts would be neat.

In her country, there is no separation by sex in scouting. She gets sorted into a group of twelve- and thirteen year old boys. For her age she is very childish and wouldn’t be comfortable with the older teenagers, even if this means she is the only girl in her group. The girl is a firebrand and a tomboy. She’ll deal.

The boys mistreat her savagely. Nonetheless, she is not allowed to quit. She is send to summer camp with them.

One boy in particular picks on her. He keeps calling her a whore who sucks dicks at the railway station for the price of two Snickers bars.

That’s at least better than one of her friend’s brothers. He says she did it for 50 cents.

*

 

Faulty class analysis is just one of the many things wrong with Melissa Gira Grant’s reasoning. She for example completely forgoes any analysis of pimping. Pimps just don’t play a role in the book. Melissa Gira Grant occasionally mentions them, but most of the time she just lies and classifies them as laudable ″sex worker″ activists, e. g. Margo St. James (e. g. p. 22; 111ff). This alone should disqualify the whole book.

It would also be easier for me to take her arguments seriously if she didn’t come up with completely overblown demands: ″We should, in fact, refuse to debate. Sex work itself and, inseperable from it, the lives of sex workers are not up for debate – or they shouldn’t be. I don’t imagine that those in the antiprostitution camp who favor these kinds of debates actually believe that they are weighing the humanity, the value of the people who do sex work. (This assumes, of course that there is a coherent antiprostitution camp, but for the sake of argument, let’s limit it to the antiprostitution feminists and their allies loosely congregated in the secular left.)″ (p. 36)

As a recovering European Catholic, I’m sick about this US-American dogma of ″Don’t judge!” Not to judge has nothing to do with feminism, and everything with Christian cultural residue, liberal academia and individualistic therapeutism. Also, who is Melissa Gira Grant to declare what feminists are allowed to debate? And why this melodrama? ″The lives of sex workers″, as if it were the abolitionists who are raping, torturing and killing prostitutes rather than johns, pimps and random males?! (But who is going to bite the hand that feeds them.)

Other lines of arguments are wildly inconsistent. The book starts with the despicable doings of a man who films police raids against brothels and arrests of women accused of prostitution. He then puts these videos on the internet for public consumption. Melissa Gira Grant is silent about what is going on in said brothels, and instead focuses on how these videos ″turn″ women into prostitutes: ″No evidence will be weighed before the arrest video is published. Even if she was not one before, in the eyes of the viewer and in the memory of search engines, this woman is now a prostitute.” (p. 4)

I agree with her that what this man and the police force enabling him do is wrong. But at the same time, all throughout ‘Playing the Whore’, Melissa Gira Grant goes on and on about the ads with pictures ″sex workers″ (allegedly) put on the internet themselves (e. g. p. 21; p. 61), and how videos shot of police raids put on the internet help to document police brutality (p. 6). Are women in these videos not prostitutes forever, then? Are their glamour shots and selfies magically forgotten by search engines?

Generally Melissa Gira Grant is the queen of straw woman fighting, leaving things out deliberately and reductio ad absurdum. We had her selective silence on pimping already, and she also leaves out radical feminists when she speaks of critics of the SlutWalk phenomenon (p. 77ff).

Radical feminists are also her favourite targets for straw woman attacks: ″It is telling that many feminists who wish to abolish all forms of sex work, like the Transsexual Empire author Janice Raymond and author of The Industrial Vagina Sheila Jeffreys, refuse to accept that trans women are women. They appear to believe that those engaged in sex work are not yet capable of being real women.” (p. 19/20) Radical feminists don’t accept that trans women are women because THEY ARE NOT WOMEN. A male is a male is a male, no matter how many dresses, heels and make-up he wears, how many hormones he gobbles down and how surgically mutilated he is. It doesn’t matter at all what he is doing while in woman-face. Neither Janice Raymond nor Sheila Jeffrey nor any other radical feminist think that being a ″sex worker″ is what disqualifies males for femaleness. Radical feminists argue it is their damn biology and socialisation, and Melissa Gira Grant knows that perfectly well. She ist too educated not to.

She also accuses feminists of condoning and inciting rape of prostitutes: ″When anti-sex work activists claim that all sex work is rape, they don’t just ignore the labor; they excuse the actual rape of sex workers. If men can do whatever they want when they buy sex, the rape of sex workers, of those who are thought to have no consent to give anyway, isn’t understood by opponents as an aberration but as somehow intrinsic and inevitable.” (p. 91)

Yes, we all know feminists just gloat about women being raped and johns take so much heed of what feminists think that they will dole out their abuse accordingly.

Another target of Melissa Gira Grant’s absurd get-an-inch-take-a-mile argumentation style is Ariel Levy, the author of Female Chauvinist Pigs. Or rather, a yellow, fragrant, easily inflammable image of Ariel Levy. In Female Chauvinist Pigs, Levy criticises the omnipresence of thongs, ridiculous, pointless and porny underwear. Melissa Gira Grant subsequently claims Levy wanted thongs to be forbidden (bullshit), Levy implied the thong and patriarchy are one and the same (bullshit) and Levy viewed a thong as ″sex workers’ whole selves″ (p. 97, and bullshit).

And to finally go all the way down the absurdity waterslide, she also claims several times in the book (e. g. p. 133) that abolitionists wouldn’t see ″sex workers″ as women.

On the danger to be repetitive and boring: Bullshit.

 

*

The girl is eighteen. It is winter. Snow is falling. It is evening. All bundled up, she is walking home, shoving through the grey slush. She is wearing her mother’s winterboots. They are sturdy, flat and warm. In her mind the girl plays she is a snow plough to distract herself from her fear of the dark.

She stops as a man asks for the time. She digs her wrist watch from the layers of ski gloves, pullover and padded coat and tells him. The man asks her how much.

It is almost Christmas. A week before Easter, she has been raped. She flips out at the man, and one moment later feels guilty. She makes him angry, he makes the next woman pay.

*

 

Prostitutes are women, and this is the sole reason why I read ‘Playing the Whore’ in the first place. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t bother to waste a single thought on them. But I do, because they aren’t ″just″ women: They are women just like me.

All the more I’m disgusted about how low Melissa Gira Grant stoops in the pursuit of her argument. I expected her to peddle the old trope of how calling someone – ″sex workers″ in this case – a victim is just as objectifying and bad as, you know, actually objectifying and victimising them (p. 90). No surprise there.

But I did not see coming she would mock rape victims and turn feminists into johns:

″The late seventies and early eighties were the heyday of Women Against Pornography (WAP) – a backlash, in many ways, to the increased visibility of sex workers in the women’s movement. Just a few years after the National Organization for Women invited her to present a slide show on women and masturbation in 1973, artist and sex educator Betty Dodson participated in one of WAP’s group meetings in New York; she later wrote that it was impossible to imagine the NOW slide show happening in the climate produced by WAP. At the WAP event, woman after woman went to the podium and recounted stories of how porn had injured her. ″Each speaker’s words and tears were firing up the room into a unified rage,″ Dodson writes in her essay ″Porn Wars″ in The Feminist Porn Book. Rather than egalitarian consciousness-raising, the sharing of stories took on an air of sentimental performance. ″An attractive blonde in her mid-thirties stood at the mic″, writes Dodson. ″With her rage barely controlled, she described her childhood sexual abuse,″ which involved her father using what the woman called “disgusting, filthy pictures″ and her being made to perfom an ″unnatural act.” Dodson remembers, ″The whole room was emotionally whipped up into a rage with their own private images of child rape, while at the same time, reveling in the awfulness of it.” If this is how porn’s relationship to women is understood, how is any woman who dissents – let alone one who has modeled for pictures – supposed to speak for herself without speaking against the violation of this child? How are you to say that the description of the child’s violation by a woman on a stage mimes a pornographic revelation? How is this group of women’s consumption of the evil of pornography in a group exhibition all that different from the men seated in a Times Square theater having their own communal experience of porn? There is a sameness here to the communal release of feeling, the shaking of the body whether consumed by sobs or ejaculations: This is what film theorist Linda Williams saw in her analysis of porn films and ″weepies″ – chick flicks. To be in these rooms of women raging against pornography is to give in to the hawker’s sidewalk promise of ″hardcore″ relief.” (p. 87/88)

I have no words at the sheer viciousness of this ″argument″. I could take this bit apart sentence by sentence, starting with the postmodern silliness that things which look faintly similar are one and the same; I really would care to know if Laura William and Melissa Gira Grant assume that a robin, Mary Poppins, the Space Shuttle and a pteranodon are the same because they all can fly.

But I won’t. The utter evilness of this passage speaks for itself.

Melissa Gira Grant earlier on employed a similar logic in the context of ″sex workers’″ ads in tabloids, and in particular, online. In times of Craigslist, she is definitely true that we are flooded with advertisement for prostitutes in the internet. She is also right (duh) that these ads are glamourous and intented to sell the customers a fancy illusion.

She still is not right that these ads are necessarily designed, put up and controlled by the prostitutes themselves, and she absolutely is not right with this: ″This all means that when we consider people who don’t engage in commercial sex, who are most commonly known as the general public, they are far less likely to ever meet a sex worker in the physical world and are more likely than ever before to learn everything they know about sex work from marketing copy written for sex workers’ customers. In the age of the online red-light district, everyone’s been made a john.” (p. 73/74)

In my country, brothels are legal. There are huge public billboards for them. The first thing people arriving at our capital’s airport are seeing is a huge ad for the biggest brothel in town. Every major newspaper has a section with ads for phone sex and escorts, often with pictures. It has been this way as far back as I can remember.

Just recently I walked down my own street and passed by the taxis based there – one of which had a huge ad for a brothel in one of our neighbouring countries plastered all over its side[iv].

Some time ago, a local brothel owner drove that ad-on-car thing even further: He had minivans plastered with pictures of naked women and his establishment’s name and left them in the central part of town as mobile and illegal billboards. He pays the parking violation fee from the tip jar and gets prime ad space in one of the most touristically frequented places of Europe. (When I told a friend about this, it sounded familiar to her, so he probably didn’t invent that.)

So, no, Ms. Gira Grant. I’m not a john.

I’m the victim of sexual harrassment by pimps.

Their public and online ads don’t just give men the info where to call or drop by if they are looking for prostitutes. It is not just men who see these pictures and ads. It’s women too, and we see ourselves in the women in the ad.

The naked woman on the minivan, she is like me and I am like her, and her pimp signals that we are both for sale.

 

*

The woman is twenty-three. She is backpacking through France with her best friend. They have little money, so they only eat one warm meal a day. They call it linner.

This day, they crave rice pudding, but they don’t have rice. It also is Sunday, so the regular stores are all closed. They happen to have delay in Bordeaux, though, and figure there might be an open store near the railway station. So they go looking and find a little corner shop open on Sundays.

Her friend’s French is better than hers, so the friend goes inside, while the woman stays outside to guard their backpacks. She stands with her back to the deserted street and enjoys the sun.

The only other human out and about is a man who stops next to her and says something in French. At first, she doesn’t understand, and then she refuses to understand. As her friend comes from the store, she asks if she is aware the man offered her money. The woman nods and wonders how many backpackers are stranding around here.

She is dirty. Her short hair is greasy, her oversized black shirt from the men’s section full of sand, her cargopants have grass stains and her toes in her chunky outdoor sandals are grubby.

″Never mind.”says her friend. ″Even my aunt got approached once, and she is a Catholic sister.”

*

Despite her assurance that sex workers need ″solidarity – not support″ (p. 130), Melissa Gira Grant constantly blames feminists for being unkind and unsupportive. She claims feminists insult and harass prostitutes (e. g. p. 16 during a protest march through San Francisco in 1978[v]) and care too little about ″sex workers’″ well-being in general.

This is particularly rich coming from someone who not only insults victims of child sexual abuse and misrepresents feminists’ work, but also lacks the most basic feminist analysis. She thinks the sexualisation of women’s bodies plays no role in the oppression of women (p. 83ff)  and male sexual desire shouldn’t be criticised: ″Male desire is held up as a problem to be solved, and ending men’s ″demand″ for ″buying″ women is a social project to be taken up by producing alternatives for men – such as jail – and scant alternatives for sex workers – such as other forms of employment.” (p. 42/43)

I have no idea why ″demand″ is in quotes here – does she suggest it doesn’t exist? With this passage, Melissa Gira Grant also steers awfully far into MRA rhetoric. Usually its the ″men’s rights″ crybabies who howl about feminists demonising male sexuality[vi].

According to her, feminists also don’t care enough about female victims of male violence who are pro-prostitution. She brings up teacher Melissa Petro who lost her position after she disclosed her past as a prostitute in an article arguing prostitutes’ Craigslist ads should remain legal (p. 81). I don’t have to condone harmful actions by women just because they are women. She chose to expose herself. She chose to support the online objectification of women. I don’t have to support someone who does the wrong thing just because she is female. I don’t support Carly Fiorina and her abortion lies either. Why would I condone someone who supports prostitution if it is my feminist opinion prostitution is harmful for all of us? Why would I stand with a woman who doesn’t stand with me?

The second example for feminists allegedly failing victims is different, though. Melissa Gira Grant accuses feminists not to be interested in the victims of the so-called Long Island Serial killer (p. 81/82).

From the 1990s onwards, up to seventeen people (mostly young prostituted women, but also a female toddler and a young man in women’s clothes) have been killed by an unknown male on Long Island. Their remains washed up on the beach, were found dumped somewhere or buried along Gilgo Beach. Some of the women have been dismembered. Some of the young women (and the baby girl and the male) are still unidentified.

On the danger of having my interest in this case labelled as ″pornographic″[vii] by Melissa Gira Grant’s logic: There isn’t a week I go without thinking of these women. And yet, realistically, I can’t do shit to help find their killer.

The only thing I can do is not stand by when ″sex worker″ activists use these women to further their anti-feminist and anti-female crusade. These women – so far as they are identified – were not college graduates with huge public speaking space and the back-up of big organisations like Melissa Gira Grant. They faced addiction, potential homelessness and actual poverty. I can’t keep my mouth shut when privileged ″sex worker″ activists want to normalise that women in situations like this should go and sexually service their own oppressors.

But that’s exactly what ‘Playing the Whore’ tries to do, and one of the tactics used in it is to blame feminists for the doings of male killers.

It’s not feminists who built the aggressively capitalist society that the US are. They do not uphold a legal system that allows landlords to evict children. They are not the ones who want a state without any social security net worth its name. They are not the ones who want a society so cold and hostile that people are literally not missed by anyone when they vanish.

They are not part of the police force that is unwilling or unable to investigate properly.

They don’t use these women’s stories as a quarry for sensationalist, women-hating plotlines on TV shows like Law & Order: SVU.

They are not waging a ″war on drugs″ that denies addicted women respect and free, accessible, state-of-the-art medical care.

Shannan Gilbert’s boyfriend who hit her so hard in the face she had a titanium plate in her jaw is not a feminist. It’s not feminists who pimped out the Jane Does nick-named ″Cherries″ andPeaches″ for their fruit tattoos (and I dare anyone to take me for a fool and claim these were matching friendship tattoos or accidentally similar rather than pimp markings).

Feminists did not abandon Shannan Gilbert the night she died, unlike her driver Michael Pak who couldn’t be bothered to get out of his car and run after her once she got off the road.

Feminists are not the ones who order human beings to their gated community to serve them, like Joseph Brewer did.

Feminists are not the ones who insert themselves into the investigation, bother Shannan Gilbert’s mother and muddy the waters like Dr Peter Hackett did (if that’s all he did).

Feminists are not the ones who lure, rape, strangle, dismember and discard women. They don’t torture a victim’s sister with graphic phone calls. They don’t kill toddlers.

It’s men who are the problem. Male entitlement is driving all this. Male entitlement to an anti-social society that favours their aggression and psychopathy. Male entitlement to economic dominance. Male entitlement to use women’s oppression for their own sexual release. Male entitlement to live far away from the unwashed masses in a gated community and yet to be able to order poor women in like boxes of take-away food. (For anyone howling I’m dehumanising Shannan Gilbert with this – I describe how Joseph Brewer saw her, not how I see her.)

Melissa Gira Grant says that prostitutes do not ″sell their body″ and prostitution is not ″paid rape″. She describes what prostitutes offer with a term coined by the sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein: ‘Bound intimacy’ (p. 94).

But the problem is that male entitlement does not know any bounds.

This morning I read an article on my hometown’s hospice. One of the interviewed nurses recalled how a man on his deathbed told her ″In the next life, you will be my wife″. Men can literally be dying and still feel entitled to the service of every female around them.

Males are the ones who think that at any given point, somewhere out there, there is a woman whose service they are entitled to. Joseph Brewer surely did. All these other men who paid for ‘bound intimacy’ with the young women killed on Long Island surely did. The killer most definitely did.

If any of these men got to read ‘Playing the Whore’, they would feel vindicated and strengthened in their belief. Not exactly a way to end patriarchy.

 

*

The woman is twenty-six. She is an administrator in an atheist forum and does networking meetings for her country’s second-biggest atheist organisation. She is an out Lesbian, a feminist and eighty percent of her time online she has to keep the men of her own party in check. They are quick to point out religious sexism and homophobia, and entirely unwilling to see their own.

But she has things in common with these men, too. One of them shares her interest in classical antiquity and like her, he used to work in security. One day he tells her she could make real money as a dominatrix. Whipping gives good upper-body strength, too. She really should consider it, her being a poor student and everything.

A few months later, the woman meets a new member of the organisation in a café. He is astonished that she looks like a Lesbian and likes to laugh. When she asks him what he expected, he tells her he always imagined her with her hair scraped back into a bun. ″Strict, you know.″he says with a wink. ″Maybe with a cane.”

*

In the worldview of ″sex worker″ activists, abolitionists and radical feminists are not just all rich and white. They are also all straight and probably married[viii].

Lesbians like me are either ignored, vilified as SWERFs, TERFs or ″radicals″[ix] or forced under the queer umbrella and subsequently into community with ″sex worker″ activists.

This is for example achieved by claiming that ‘the prostitute’ and ‘the homosexual’ are constructs of Victorian society in order to control non-marital sexuality (p. 15). As an historian, I of course have heard this argument multiple times before reading ‘Playing the Whore’. I’m thoroughly familiar with the theoretical background of it. But I’m also in the position to say that historians have come to a more complex view since the argument has been brought up first.

Another way to force allyship is to equal prostitution with publicly visible forms of predominantly gay culture. AIDS activist and author Sarah Schulman in her book The Gentrification of the Mind coined the term ‘sexual gentrification’ for the process of moving gay sex into the private, middle-class sphere. Melissa Gira Grant uses this concept to claim the same for prostitution which allegedly is rendered invisible in the public space and driven onto the internet (p. 44).

Lesbian and gay[x] expressions of sexuality have always been significantly different and radical Lesbians in particular always made a point of NOT performing sexually for the public eye. As porn-soaked as our world is, NOT performing sexually for the public is indeed the only radical thing for Lesbians to do.

Demanding more public visibility of ″sex work″ is the complete opposite.

And it’s not like Melissa Gira Grant’s claim about a lack of public visibility of prostitution is actually correct. Time Square, her example for this so-called ‘sexual gentrification’ may no longer be a pornographic hellhole (although, isn’t it?), but the world does not consist of Time Square alone. The internet also is not some private hidden place. It is just as public as Time Square or the taxi stand in front of my house. And she has no right whatsoever to hijack gay culture or any changes in it for her means.

Which brings me to the tedious topic of the -T in the LGBTQAAIWTF letter soup. ‘Playing the Whore’ follows the cult line to a T (pun intended). Melissa Gira Grant repeats the lie of Ray ″Sylvia″ Rivera and ″Marsha″ P. Johnson kicking off the Stonewall rebellion rather than black Butch Stormé DeLavarie. And why wouldn’t she, since Ray ″Sylvia″ Rivera and other males in dresses like ″Janet″ Mock (who compared underaged prostitution for ″trans teens″ to the Underground Railroad) are just as passionate ″sex work″ activists as she is: ″″The transgender community was silenced because of a radical lesbian named Jean O’Leary[xi],″ Sylvia Rivera recalled, who felt that the transgender community was offensive to women because we liked to wear makeup and we liked to wear miniskirts. Excuse me! It goes with the business that we’re in at the time! No we do not. We don’t want to be out there sucking dick and getting fucked in the ass. But that’s the only alternative that we have to survive because the laws do not give us the right to go and get a job the way we feel comfortable. I do not want to go to work looking in like a man when I know I am not a man.” (p 117)

For someone ″silenced″ he is really awfully loud, and for someone who really doesn’t like to prostitute himself he was quite persistent in his activism. (Also, if he is so sure to be a woman inside, he would also ″be a woman″ while wearing men’s clothes.)

As far as ″not conforming to gender roles″ goes, Butch Lesbians then and now are their wonderful selves without sucking dick. They are living proof that these males choose their fetish over everything else rather than actually struggling to survive.

I have nothing in common with males in dresses whatsoever, and their interests are directly harmful to mine.  As a Lesbian, I’m also not an automatic ally to female prostitutes.

But with them, I at least have something in common. We are women and men treat us accordingly.

 

*

The woman is thirty. She has graduated right into unemployment and has her first appointment at the job agency. She put on the most professional clothes her closet yields. Even ironed her trousers and shirt. She still can only hope the case worker doesn’t hate dykes. The morning cold bites her ears. She had her hair cut only days before.

Next to the job agency there is a funeral home. And next to that, a huge sex shop. A man looks into the shop’s window front, at the mannequins decked out in latex and lace. As the woman passes him by, he turns around and grins. ″Need a job?”he asks.

*

Melissa Gira Grant doesn’t have to say much about women being approached by wannabe-johns. She doesn’t have to, because she has a whole chapter on what she calls the ‘whore stigma’.

″Sex workers, along with many people who do not do sex work, are exposed to whore stigma for breaking with, or being perceived to have broken with, what Jill Nagle calls ″compulsory virtue.” It’s a riff on Adrienne Rich’s ″compulsory heterosexuality,″ with which lesbians are made invisible.” (p. 76).

As little as I agree with Adrienne Rich’s concept of compulsory heterosexuality, I’ve  really had it with Lesbians’ work being stolen to justify sexual service to males. Also, I fundamentally disgree both that it needs some kind of behaviour to draw ‘whore stigma’ and that ‘whore stigma’ is the biggest problem in the debate in the first place.

Whenever I’m approached by wannabe-johns on the street, they don’t perceive me as ″having broken with ″compulsory virtue″″ or some shit like that. I dress like a dyke. I buy my stuff in the men’s section, and all my clothes are loose and comfortable and covering (if for nothing else but to cut down on sun screen). There is a group of Little Sisters of Jesus around the corner, and one of them dresses just like me.

I’m a separatist. I don’t have any male friends at all. I don’t talk to males unless it can’t be avoided. The only penises I’ve ever seen were the one of the man who raped me and those of the flashers no woman seems to be able to avoid in a big city. If anything, I get blamed to be a prudish, sexually inhibited spinster who has nothing to offer in a debate about male sexuality.

The only reason why I get approached is because I’m female and I’m there.

I don’t give a damn about ‘whore stigma’.

I’m a Radical Lesbian Feminist who even refuses token submission to males: ″Oh, I love men, just not sexually!” You won’t hear that from me. I hate men.

I’m already stigmatised. The moment I consciously rejected to play along with patriarchy I have fallen from grace, to stay with Melissa Gira Grant’s religious terminology. Being called a whore (or mistaken for a Little Sister of Jesus, for that matter) would actually mean a rise in my status within patriarchy, because at least then I’d be serving males as a good little het woman.

It’s not spelt out in ‘Playing the Whore’, but women angry about being approached by wannabe-johns are often called ‘whorephobic’ by liberal feminists – it’s not shameful to be a prostitute, after all, so why would a woman feel offended if she was mistaken for one? (Never mind that liberal feminists are simultaneously obsessed with cat-calling being the worst oppression of all.)

If a rise in my patriarchal status were the outcome, why would I be angry? Why am I not taking it as a compliment?

Melissa Gira Grant knows why.

″As controlled by customer demand as sex workers are supposed to be, anti-sex work reformers carry on far more about customers than sex workers do, insisting that they and their sexual demands are all-powerful. Sex workers are made helpless before them, their consent and critical thinking apparently eroded by their attire. The advocates won’t say we were asking for it, but they still claim to know better than we do. Is it out of fear that they might someday have to do the same, to cross the hard line they imagine divides them from the ″other″ woman?” (p. 100)

Finally, the mask has fallen. What a nice little rape fantasy Melissa Gira Grant has going on here: ″that they might someday have to do the same″. Last time I checked, ″have to do sex work″ was rape even to ″sex worker″ activists[xii]. (Also, why don’t we ask raped women just how totally not ″all-powerful″ the ″sexual demands″ of rapists were? A prostitute’s, a woman’s No is just as good as the willingness of the man to back off or her own ability to kill him.)

Of course I’m afraid. I’m scared shitless.

But I’m not afraid of Melissa Gira Grant. I’m not afraid about women starting to behave like ″sex workers″ in droves, as she insinuates is feminists’ worst nightmare (p. 97). I’m not afraid of women in prostitution. I’m not ″whorephobic″. I’m absolutely not afraid of the women I pass by in the streets sometimes. I’m not afraid of women at all.

What I’m afraid of is to have to let a male touch me ever again. I’m afraid that the social normalisation of prostitution will lead to more social and probably even legal[xiii] pressure to let males touch me. I’m afraid to be a tramp in a world where writers and publishers like Melissa Gira Grant declare tramps ought to be okay with being a whore. I’m afraid to be a woman in a world where activists like Melissa Gira Grant have a lot of concern about the police assuming every male in a dress could be a whore, but have no concern whatsoever that their activism strengthens men’s belief that every actual woman is a whore.

I can’t stop pimps harrassing me with their advertisement. I can’t stop men approaching me, implying that I’m a whore, that my mouth and my vagina are there for their random penises just because I’m female and I happen to be there. My age, my fatness, my hairiness, my dykeness, nothing stops them.

This means, I will be damned if I stand by silently and watch ″sex worker activists″ press-gang me into their dystopia of selling ″bound intimacy″ and sexual service to males.

For anyone who is disturbed about my usage of ‘sexual service’ all throughout this post:

It is not me who came up with the term. I take this right from the horse’s mouth, namely from the introduction of the German translation of ‘Playing the Whore’. It was written by Mithu M. Sanyal, who brags about an award she was given by Annie Sprinkle and suggests Melissa Gira Grant should get one too. The name of this award is ‘Aphrodite Award – for sexual service in the community’ (Melissa Gira Grant, Hure spielen, Die Arbeit der Sexarbeit, Edition Nautilus, Hamburg 2014, p. 19). I think Annie Sprinkle has enough pro-prostitution credibility that I can take her own award’s ironic name and bring it back into the not at all ironic reality where it belongs. ″Sex work″ is sexual service to the oppressor class of patriarchy.

I am a working-class Lesbian, and while I want each and every single woman to be safe and have a secure life, I can’t accept a ″sex worker″ has any interests  in common with me. I also won’t accept that ″sex workers″ are somehow more oppressed than I am. They are het or act het, if they are not outright men in dresses. If they have the choice to be ″sex workers″, they also have the choice not to be. As Lesbians we don’t owe them condonement.

I want a future for women free of service to males. A future for women free of patriarchy. A future where feminism is actual feminism and not an elaborate scheme to justify the status-quo and re-brand women’s oppression as empowerment. And I don’t want any woman being made into a whore ever again.

 

 

 

[i] This is a monster post and future reviews will definitely be more stream-lined.

[ii] This argument can be found in the introduction of the German translation of ‘Playing the Whore’. It’s written by Mithu M. Sanyal and one big exercise in belittling, denying and defining away trafficking: ″Doch erzwungene Prostitution ist auch nach deutschem Prostitutionsgesetz illegal, da damit nur die freiwillige Prostitution legalisiert wurde. Und erzwungener Sex – mit oder ohne Bezahlung – ist sowieso keine Prostitution, sondern Vergewaltigung. Worüber wird also hier gesprochen?” (Melissa Gira Grant, Hure spielen, Die Arbeit der Sexarbeit, Edition Nautilus, Hamburg 2014, p. 17/18) For anyone who reads German this introduction is worth a read. Not only because it is almost ridiculously typical for the pro-prostitution lobby, but also because it illustrates very nicely how deeply naive the pro-prostitution lobby is arguing. I’m not entirely sure if Mithu M. Sanyal believes her more blue-eyed assertions herself; such as the implication of her quoted bit that there is a practical difference between forced and chosen prostitution, as if they were not happening under the same roof, controlled by the same pimps and paid for by the same johns. Or her claim that during the football world cup 2006 in Germany there were only five cases of trafficking, just because only five were successfully prosecuted. Or Melissa Gira Grant’s denial that ″sex worker organisations″ are paid by pimps. Of course they are. Some pro-prostitution lobbyists may be naive enough to believe their own claims; at least they seem to think we are.

[iii] If you are Donkey Skin and want me to remove this quote for some reason, let me know!

[iv] In the meantime, German police has raided one of these brothels advertised on the taxi and found that it was controlled by the Hell’s Angels who “delivered” the brothel with prostituted women (if necessary by force). Six of the brothels female “housekeepers” acting as enforcers of the “house rules” are now being charged with pimping and the owner is being accused of tax fraud. One more case proving that legalisation does nothing to stop trafficking and protect women.

[v] It is obvious they are desperate when they dig up stuff that happened decades ago; or didn’t happen, because I really should like to hear the view of the accused feminists in this. I know how the trans cult lies about Radical Lesbian Feminists having been violent towards males in dresses in the 1970s. It may very well be that the ″sex worker″ activists lie too.

[vi] On the other hand, Betty Dodson who was quoted above has criticised The Vagina Monologues for having an anti-male bias (of all things). It seems the trans cult, the sex-positivity crowd and MRAs have more in common than they care to admit.

[vii] Melissa Gira Grant is quick to label every effort to end trafficking and prostitution as “pornographic”. In a Guardian article (full of lies, distortions and factual mistakes, but I don’t have the space here to take it apart) in the she mentions a “quasi-pornographic” billboard she saw in Louisiana: “Using such images in service of ending “sexual exploitation” may seem contradictory, as the girls photographed are presented in what would otherwise seem to be a quasi-pornographic setting. A billboard I passed by last August on the interstate in Louisiana showed a girl who looked sweaty and wide-eyed – only, with the words “‘NOT FOR SALE: END HUMAN TRAFFICKING” stamped in red over her face.” Do me the favour and click through the link. It is vile. The picture does not look at all how she describes it (no sweat, no wide eyes, and the script is next to the woman, not “stamped on her face”). It also is not at all pornographic. Not a bit. It just doesn’t fit into Melissa Gira Grant’s worldview, and therefore it must be bad. It reminds me of racists claiming that the true racists are the anti-racism activists “playing the race card all the time”.

[viii] Although Melissa Gira Grant also brings up examples of housewives protesting and organising with prostitutes, such as during the occupation of the church Saint-Nizier in Lyon (France) in 1975. She repeatedly remarks how unlikely it is that housewives are standing with prostitutes, but to me as a Lesbian it is almost too trivial to say: Of course they do, they both are collaborators of patriarchy. And in case you doubt that, here is a quote from a leaflet from the Saint-Nizier protest Melissa Gira Grant chose to include in ‘Playing the Whore’: ″We, like they, are in the situation of prostitutes, in that, forced to marry, we are obliged to sell ourselves body and soul to our lord and master in order to survive and have a respectable place in society.” (p. 114) Nobody was forced to marry or obliged to sell their body and soul to males in France in 1975. Plenty of unmarried het women, and centuries of Lesbians surviving on their own expose this lie immediately. Pimp and ″sex worker″ activist Margo St. James even back in the 1970s tried to force Lesbians into allyship with her lot: ″As Margo St. James recalled in an interview (also from Carol Leigh’s archives), before she founded COYOTE in early 1973, there was WHO – Whores, Housewives, and Others. Others meant lesbians, ″but it wasn’t being said out loud yet, even in liberal bohemian circles.” Lies and bullshit.

[ix] SW/TERF is an acronym for Sex Worker/Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It is a slur aimed at women and Lesbians, and factually nonsense: An ideology welcoming males in dresses to womanhood and calling sexual service to the oppressors an empowering choice is neither radical nor feminist. As for the accusation of radicalism, see the Ray ″Sylvia″ Rivera quote from p. 117.

[x] Still not a justification for Alice Klein from NOW to claim Canada’s johns are about to become the new ″fags″. Het men not getting access to prostitutes are neither oppressed, nor are they prosecuted, cast out or killed for their orientation. ″Faggot″ is literally a bundle of sticks used to start a fire in a a stove – or on a pyre. Gay men were and are put to death for loving men. To claim oppression for het men because they probably no longer won’t be legally entitled to “seeking and hopefully finding an uncomplicated and pleasurable way to satisfy their sexual hunger″ is disgusting beyond words.

[xi] According to her Wikipedia page, Jean O’Leary since then has recanted her position towards the trans cult and sided with them. But of course no submission is ever enough for the cult to let transgressions of Lesbians be forgotten.

[xii] Although not necessarily, as phrases like this prove quite nicely, taken from a sex worker’s blog concerned about ‘whorephobia’: ″I became a sex worker because I had absolutely no other choice that involved survival.” A choice that is “Do X or else, death″ is not choice, not anymore than ″Do X or else I’ll shoot you″.

[xiii] Such legal pressure did occur after the legalisation of prostitution in Germany: ″In 2009, the Bundessozialgericht ruled that the German job agencies are not required to find prostitutes for open positions in brothels. The court rejected the complaint of a brothel owner who had argued that the law of 2002 had turned prostitution into a job like any other; the judges ruled that the law had been passed to protect the employees, not to further the business.” That – for now – German women cannot by the threat of losing their benefits ordered to work in brothels, they only owe to the ‘whore stigma’. If prostitution really was accepted by the majority of people as a service job among other service jobs, there would be no good reason whatsoever for judges to rule in favour of women refusing such jobs. So much also for Melissa Gira Grant’s assertion only anti-sex work activists used ″job like any other″ (p. 56) Pimps do it, too.

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Men Are Not Broken

Looking back on my posts so far, I realise I have written a lot about how liberal feminists are failing other women, and relatively little about the root cause of the miserable state the planet is in: Men.

There is a reason for that. Men are utterly unimportant to me. There is nothing to be expected from them.Writing about what anti-feminist women and men should do is pointless. Anti-feminist women make choices I can only view with disgust and contempt; a sentiment that without a doubt is mutual. And men? Men can’t change.

Their fundamental set-up is faulty. When a man does horrible things to girls and women, he is doing what his very nature commands him to do. Men can’t be reformed, they can’t be reasoned with, and they can’t be fixed. They are not broken.Their lack of intelligence, depth and human emotion is built-in. Even ″matriarchal″ societies suffer from men’s inbuilt shortcomings.

Men are biologically brittle. Their Y chromosome is a joke, and their rates of life expectancy, disease, injury, addiction, education failure etc are evidence for their fundamentally faulty design. They can manage to somehow keep the upper hand as long as they manipulate the stakes against women. But even the most timid changes towards some sort of fairness (never mind liberation) make women outrun men in no time. Boys and men are not failing at school and university because these places all of a sudden have become matriarchal habitates, as certain anti-feminists suggest. They fail because as a group they are less intelligent than women. Boys and men excel only when they get to manipulate the testing method: They create IQ tests to favour white Western males, they give each other Nobel prizes and trump this as ″proof″ for their intelligence. IQ tests and Nobel prizes are tightly monitored instruments. But schools and unis exist all over the world, with millions of teachers and billions of students. Schools and unis are not controlled by a relatively small gate-keeping elite like the Nobel prize committees or the opinion leaders in the field of psychology who have the power to declare one test valid and to disregard another. Schools and unis can’t be controlled as tightly, and so boys and men are failing in them. I wonder how badly they’d fare if the schools were indeed female-centered.

Even the most intelligent of men are still incredibly dense. Talk to science phDs or techies. I had to do with this demographic more than I ever wanted, and their sheer ignorance often took my breath away. Context, history, depth, complexity, ambiguity and beauty are completely lost to them. It is like talking to vaguely human-like machines. I suspect that this is the reason why so many men are drawn to machines, instruction manuals and lifeless things.

At this point men usually come up with the last two arguments for their existence: Physical strength and sperm. They argue that they are needed for the hard work (or, according to delusional anti-feminists, ″exploited″ to do the hard work) and that without them ″mankind″ will die out.

But reality shows that all this male strength and sperm is completely wasteful and unnecessary. If tomorrow all men fell down and were dead, the biggest problem would be the stink. Sperm banks would enable the surviving women to bring just enough men into the world to stock up the banks again. There would be far less people on earth, but they would live in peace.

As for strength, nobody needs to be able to lift hundreds of kilograms. It is just not necessary. Make smaller loads and go the way twice. Or build a tackle. There is no industry – including the notorious mining industry which regularly is brought up in such discussions – impossible to function with exclusively female workers. In the very moment men step back or vanish from the picture, women do fine for themselves. Mining, metal work, construction work, fishing, hunting, making timber, finance, business, women simply don’t need men. The truth is, that men are actively keeping women from learning ″male″ skills and from working in ″male″ professions. By this they secure their financial dominance and keep women dependant on them.

And if that doesn’t help, they use violence.
Men are violent and predatory by nature. Even little boys and very old men are violent. Ask the family of Jamie Bulger (1). Other boys may not kill random toddlers, but they terrorise girls or torture animals. A male toddler squashing ants or dragging around the family dog by the tail isn’t even perceived as violent by most people. A boy hitting, insulting, bullying and harrassing his sister is not perceived as violent – siblings quarrel, that’s just how things are, and boys will be boys.

As for old men, not even physical weakness stops them from attacking girls and women. There is a reason why the phrase ″dirty old man″ exists. With the onset of the general mental decay so typical for aging men, their self-control slips and they start to make mistakes. Every ″dirty old man″ used to be a dirty young man who just was quick-witted enough to cover up his crimes, and every dirty young man is a grown up violent boychild.

Last year, there were two men prowling my neighbourhood and bashing in women’s heads from behind. One of them was 21 years old and used a crowbar in order to steal money and phones. The other one was 89 (!) years old and used a wooden meat hammer. His reasoning? He married a woman from Thailand 30 years his junior. When he abused her, she divorced him and moved back to Thailand. This made him so angry that he sneaked up on random women and hit them in the head with the meat hammer he specifically bought for this task.

No amount of oppression, weakness or illness keeps men from being violent and predatory.

Logically, men adore death. They bring death. They like death. They like dead things.
Men see women as things, as useable goods, as animated corpses. Some don’t even bother with ‘animated’. Men admit openly in the media that they prefer pornography over sex, as if the women raped on the screen weren’t real. Men work hard to develop realistic sex robots or wife robots (2). Men literally will rape dead women.

Egyptian pharaos and other historical ruling men developped intricate cults around their dead bodies, going so far as to sacrifice not only animals but humans to serve their dead carcasses in the afterlife. Modern dictators have themselves embalmed or at least their wives: Tomás Eloy Martinez wrote a whole novel on the mummy of Evita Péron and takes great delight in describing the necrophiliac interactions of living men with the dead woman (3). Historical and modern ″anatomists″ have gone far beyond scientific interest with killing, collecting, disembowelling and mummifying bodies. Gunther von Hagens does not offer any new scientific insights on the human body. He just enjoys to play with dead bodies. So did Ed Gein or the Russian man currently in the news who dug up the bodies of little girls to make them into dolls (4). So did Ted Bundy who raped the dead bodies of his victims and put make-up on them. So did Carl Tanzler who was obsessed with the actress Elena Milagro de Hoyos he treated for tuberculosis until her death. She rejected him while she was alive. So he stole, preserved and violated her body, which he kept until he died. He didn’t give a damn whether her body was alive or dead. (Don’t google him.)

Boys too young for sex will do the same with animals, like the Dutch teen who recently made it into the news by turning his dead pet rat into a helicopter. He was supported in this brave endeavour by two adult engineers: http://gawker.com/teen-turns-dead-pet-rat-into-memorial-helicopter-1633038513

Artists will try to make women as corpse-like as possible, make us un-persons, faceless meat, and will be praised for it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/10/paul-kooiker_n_5953494.html
This fotographer’s glorified form of crime scene fotography of a faceless fat woman is not exactly new. Picasso gets praised for doing the same thing in paint: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/L/L02/L02971_9.jpg
This woman may have a rudimentary face, but still is a slab of meat. Nonetheless this picture made it into the Guardian’s rating of ‘The top 10 female nudes in art’ (5) by Jonathan Jones, who describes this pornographic shit as: ″Picasso imagines his lover as a welcoming cloud of pinkness, a constellation of curves, in this ecstatic painting. The woman, here, is a part of nature, reduced to the status of objects in a still life, to be enjoyed by the male artist. Yet his love, possessive as it is, cannot be doubted. Picasso puts his own sexuality into every pigment of this opulent painting. If his vision of the nude is utterly proprietorial, it is also absolutely honest.” (What an original idea. Woman as ″welcoming pink cloud… constellation of curves… part of nature″. Not in millennia this revolutionary thought has occurred to anyone if not for Picasso.)

Male movie and TV producers offer us endless stories about decaying zombies and fascinating serial killers, following a tradition already present in the writings of the Marquis de Sade who considered a cold-blooded, utterly pointless murder the highest art. Slasher movies gained broad influence when the backlash against feminism hit – men are invited to identify with the killer and women are threatened with what will happen to them if they get too uppity.

Men are usually very much aware that they are scum. Their delusions of grandeur and the demands towards women to cater to them are a reaction to this deep inner awareness of their inferiority. Occasionally men even will admit that they are scum.
Commenters on this article did it: http://valleywag.gawker.com/peter-thiel-admits-the-paypal-mafia-built-bombs-in-hi-1632734435
Look how many commenters casually point out that it is normal for teenage boys to build bombs just for the fun of it.

Comedian Louis C. K. did it: http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/30/04/9b/30049b5e9b976ba7dc2d1442db1411fb.jpg
″A woman saying yes to a date with a man is literally insane, and ill-advised, and the whole species’ existence counts on them doing it. I don’t know how women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there’s no greater threat to women than men. We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women, we’re the worst thing that ever happens to them. (…) But woman still go out with men! ‘Yeah, I’ll go out with you, alone, at night’ What are you, nuts? ‘Hi, where are we going?’ To your death, statistically. If you’re a guy, try to imagine that you could only date a half-bear, half-lion, like ‘Ugh, I hope this one’s nice’.”
He is a rich white male. He can say such things and people will laugh and agree. If a radical feminist says something like this, she will be ridiculed. And liberal feminists will accuse her of victim-blaming and sexism against men. How dehumanising, calling them animals! Stupid bitch!
The evidence for male love for death and destruction is overwhelming. But it would be wrong to assume that this is the end of the argument, that we just have to accept men’s natural dangerousness and adjust to it.

This we do anyway: taking self defense classes, keeping separate bank accounts when married, telling girls not to go with strange men. This is something even the most right-wing women do, however illogical and ineffective their precautions often seem. This is nothing particularly feminist. To – literally or metaphorically – carry a weapon in a world of predators is the bare minimum, not radical. (Many right-wing women carry literal weapons, something radical women should take in consideration for themselves as well.)

But unlike right-wing women and collaborators who simply accept male behaviour or at best demand cosmetical, individual change, Radical Feminists dig deeper. Beside the overwhelming evidence for male dangerousness we also find overwhelming evidence that men actually control their dangerousness when it suits them.

The picture of the man who just can’t help his nature is peddled by patriarchal apologists: The poor man was nagged and mocked by his shrew of a wife and couldn’t take it anymore. The poor man only follows his evolutionary instinct and raped her to assert his dominance. The poor man is the victim of political oppression, he just had to attack women to cope with his feeling of powerlessness. But women’s experiences make it very clear that men are highly selective towards whom they are ″losing control″.

Abusive men don’t attack their nagging and mocking male bosses with their fists. They don’t ambush their male boss on the toilet and rape him to get back at him. When they are oppressed and exploited, they don’t kick the boss from one corner of his office to the other. When their favourite team loses, they are not seeking out the quarterback to use him as a punching bag for their frustration. In a crowded train, they are not driven by some evolutionary instinct to go for the throat of their fellow male who enters their personal space or bares his teeth to them.

Men also are perfectly able to dose their violence. Male violence against women and children follows an escalating cyclic pattern. The escalation is a conscious strategy: How much will she be able to take? How far can I go? How many of my depraved fantasies can I make come true? (We observe the same deliberate escalation in sadomasochism. It is embraced there as ‘slave training’.)

Men are planning their crimes and they are able to cover them. Losing control is adverse to both. Someone who loses control does not build an air-tight terror regime in his own home, by and by cutting off his wife’s and children’s means of refuge and lowering the bar of ″reasons″ for his violent outbursts. Someone who loses control does not take upon him the logistics of building torture chambers or digging up graves. Someone who loses control does not buy a new hammer before he goes out again and again to prey on women.

Men can control themselves just fine. They make the active choice to act on the impulses their faulty nature gives them.

So, where does that leave us?

Right-wing women openly collaborate to secure their individual position. If they are just compliant enough, they think they will be allowed to sit at the men’s table. If they are just submissive enough, they will be taken care of and be rewarded.

Many liberal feminists de facto do the same in a more hidden manner, while they are touting an empty ideology of equality. For them, maleness by and itself has worth. Therefore, to them, males can be potential allies, partners, lovers, teachers, people worthy of shaping society. They can even be women. If only they were a bit more friendly, a bit more peaceful, a bit more loving, a bit more loyal, a bit more equality-oriented.
This is nothing new. Contrary to anti-feminist propaganda, ever since feminism came into being – even more so, ever since women started to take action against their miserable situation, pre-dating organised feminism – an overwhelming majority of women preferred the equality approach, the liberal approach. Suffragettes argued that mothers were bringing voters into the world and thusly should be able to vote (6). ‘Bread and Roses’, one of the old songs coming out of the leftist women’s movement, includes the lines ″As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men; for they are women’s children, and we mother them again″ (7). Second-wave ″women’s libbers″ won out over their radical counterparts, enabling the backlash, sex positivism and the modern mantra of ″I choose my choice!”. Modern third/fourth-wavers with their love of sexual submission, trannies and He-For-She bring this sucking up to men to a logical conclusion.

Many women do this deliberately. They are sell-outs or anti-feminists making use of a liberal feminist mien to gain something from it. TV show creators like Shonda Rhimes or Lena Dunham make good money by catering to a certain urban, slightly feminist, female audience.

Other women are too much invested in the personal privilege they obtain for being compliant to patriarchy: They get to call themselves feminist, without having to change their personal lifestyle or to risk income, while they can keep any convenient patriarchal mind blankie, from religion to sadomasochism. A sizeable portion of these women explicitly doesn’t want to be any more radical. They want to have the privilege AND the sisterhood, without seeing the fundamental contradiction between the two.

But some of them are just not aware of what they are doing. This is an impression I got in the last years. There are plenty of campaigns on Twitter and in the blogosphere (like e. g. #Yesallwomen or Project Unbreakable) documenting the horrors women experience under patriarchy. The thousands of testimonies show two things: Women are reliable, sharp and precise observers of their own lives – and many women are somehow unable to draw radical and long-term conclusions from their experiences.

Instead, they are desperately begging men to be nicer to them because they want to be able to love them. Many liberal feminist suggestions aim in this direction, e. g. trying to make men not use pejorative language. As if a man who does not call them a bitch, a cunt, a whore or a dyke to their faces was somehow rendered incapable of thinking these things in his mind. (Personally, I prefer to be called names, because I instantly know whom never to turn my back to.) On the other hand, liberal women try to achieve their goals by appealing to men’s interests, e. g. when they declare that a ″liberated″ feminist is better in bed that those other prudes. Their approach is to be inclusive, as if the oppressed class could make the oppressors relinquish their power by being nice.

These women are actually the ones I expect to do better. Women as a group are not stupid or naive or even close-minded. There is a reason why women are to be found at the forefront of every social cause imaginable. Women as a class – unlike the patriarchal lie of the ‘conservative woman’ proclaims – tend to be more open to new things and ideas than men. They are deeper thinkers than men, capable of understanding the ma-trix rather than the mechanics.

Women have to WANT to think, though. Hoping and wishing and begging is not enough.
The only realistic way for us to shape freedom for girls and women is seperatism. We as women need to put other women – any other woman – above everyone else. Men do that. Men can hate each others’ guts, but they will always close ranks towards women. It is time women do the same. This is the only way for women to make a better future: Stop catering to men in any way. Don’t make them lunch. Don’t listen to their problems. Don’t pick up their dirty coffee cups at work. Don’t have male friends. Give up male family. Don’t have children. Don’t talk to men at all if you are not forced to. Don’t live with them. Don’t sleep with them. Don’t step aside on the street. Don’t take gifts from them. Don’t interact with them online. Don’t imagine the ″perfect″ man. Het women do that and when they don’t find any man living up to their ideals, they come to the conclusion that all men are scum while still clinging to their mental image of the perfect man. But the truth is, even the ideal man still is scum.

Start with a small change, e. g. not talking to the creepy neighbour anymore, and work your way. You will realise, the less interaction you have with men, the easier you’ll breathe. This also doesn’t make you more vulnerable. Think about the statistics. We are most likely to be attacked and/or raped by men we know: Family members, boyfriends and husbands, friends, acquaintances. Random attacks by strangers do happen, but they are nowhere as likely as becoming the victim of a man we already know. Living with a man, spending time with men, this is what endangers women most. We have been told the opposite, so this seems counter-intuitive. But it is a fact that the biggest threat to a woman, statistically speaking, is the man whom she thinks of as her protector.

Put women above everything else. Live alone or build separatist communities. Show solidarity. Look for hobbies done in female-only groups. Find the beauty in every woman. Stay away from men and their empty promises.

This is what I do. Cutting one man after the other out of my life. Prioritising Lesbians and women and girls. And I will keep writing about how liberal feminism hurts all of us, because for liberal feminists I still have hope. Not much hope, admittedly, but still hope.
(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Bulger
(2) http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/profile-in-male-privilege-martine-rothblatt
(3) ‘Santa Evita’, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom%C3%A1s_Eloy_Mart%C3%ADnez
(4) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2807572/Pictured-Inside-house-horrors-Russian-historian-held-birthday-parties-150-little-girls-dug-graves-mummified.html
(5) http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/apr/15/top-10-female-nudes-art
(6) http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-rhXM91NxUSw/T5CSjZxvwAI/AAAAAAAAAAs/Z8g0l3pPk1c/s1600/suffrage1.jpg
(7) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_Roses

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