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.