Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rapism in Action: An example of how men who desire to "consensually" and selfishly exploit and abuse women sexually, without legal or social consequence


[image is from here]

TRIGGER WARNING on all that follows, for graphically, if not with many details, describing sexual exploitation and violence against women presented by men to one another as "consensual sex", and how men allow this, among friends, to continue uninterrupted and unchallenged.

If you pay attention, it gets pretty clear pretty quickly how rapism works in a male supremacist society.

I define "rapism" as a political ideology, systematised and institutionalised to the point of being seen as natural and inevitable. It is naturalised to the point that rape and other forms of gross sexual exploitation and abuse are taken and fully accepted by men as "a given" in male dominated societies. Rapism also includes how men support one another, in various ways, to be sexual exploiters and sexual abusers of girls and women. Rapism also includes an uncritical use of and promotion of the use of industry pornography made by white heteromale supremacist pimps. Rapism makes female subordination sexy, and in societies that are soaked in rapist values, men learn that abusing women is sex. Men may or may not engage in abusive sex with women, but they understand abusive sex to be normal, not extreme, not unusual, and certainly not a political matter or an ethical one. The Urban Dictionary defines "rapism"  far more narrowly and apolitically.

Here's the latest story.

Last night, for hours and hours, I spoke with two people. One person is a woman whose heritage is American Indian, Sephardic Jewish, and white French Christian. The other is her husband, whose heritage includes U.S. white Christian, and Sephardic Jewish. He is one of the only two males I engage with person to person. I only know him because my friend met, went out with, and married him. I like him. He's a funny, smart, silly person. The three of us generally get along very well.

Part of last night's conversation was about two male friends of his, who are not from the area in which he and his partner now live. They are U.S. men, though.

I'll call the husband "Matt".

Matt told us about two of his few male friends, in the context of how one's sexuality, how it is expressed, can inversely indicate how empowered and in control of his life he feels generally.

I've heard this theory before, and the most common form of it, not told by Matt, btw, is as follows:

Some white powerful men, because they spend so much of their work lives "in charge" and in positions of authority, like to visit women in systems of prostitution, and pay them to "humiliate" or "degrade" or otherwise dominate them sexually, as such men define and experience "sex". (For more on that, read Sheila Jeffreys' The Idea of Prostitution, for a superb analysis and discussion of how prostitution, as a male supremacist form of sexual dominance by men against women, shapes what "sex" is for many people outside that system of racist/misogynistic/classist oppression.)

Matt told us about one middle class man who is very in charge of his life, to an alarming degree. He demands, from friends, that things go "his way" and has a fit if they don't abide by his decisions about how they should spend time with him. He decides where they'll go out to eat, for example, and at what time and in whose vehicle. And if his plans change, and, say, he decides at the last minute he'd like to leave a half hour later than he once planned, he expects his friends to just go along with that and not put up any fuss or objections. To me, he sounds like an extraordinarily self-centered prick. Let's call the prick, "Jon".

Jon has heterosexual tastes that involve him being abused by women who are older than he is. He likes it when women take the domineering "role". He likes being ordered about, given instructions as to what he can and cannot do. He likes being hit in the face when he achieves orgasm, for example.

The second friend of Matt is, according to Matt, "just the opposite". Let's call this friend "Al". Al's life has not gone well. He's privileged in many ways, but can't seem to get his life on track with work, relationships, etc. He's a regular pornography consumer and is into pornography of women in bondage. He has a mild level of physical disability. In his twenties he suffered a stroke and one of his arms is almost entirely paralysed. The hand at the end of that arm is curled and he cannot use it in the way he can his other hand and arm. He is now in his early 30s.

His sexual life consists of finding "girlfriends" or "dates" who are female, and teenagers. Or maybe as old as in their early twenties. He will only have sex with these women if he can completely restrain them, using typical sexual bondage gear. He seeks out such women. Some women, he says, want this, and those are the only women he wants to be with sexually. So when they meet he restrains them so their range of motion is severely limited, and so their agency to leave the scene is taken away completely. They do this consensually, according to Al. As part of his sex play (ahem), he smacks the young women in the face and calls them derogatory names. In fact, he cannot achieve orgasm unless he is doing this: unless he is being sexual with a young woman who is completely restrained, in bondage to him.

Matt didn't tell me either of these stories with any great alarm. He was simply making the point that men often want (in the bedroom) what they don't get outside of the bedroom.

I called him out on this. I noted that, first of all, Jon is always in control, including when he sets up sexual situations where he is being "dominated"--precisely in the ways that he wants. Nothing ever happens that he doesn't orchestrate or want to have happen. He's never "powerless" or without agency, including when he's being "sexually dominated".

I also asked if any of the men in the other guy's life (Al's) have called him out on being a batterer and rapist. I might not have used those terms last night. I might have said "on him physically abusing and sexually abusing women". He said no. That includes him, Matt. Matt knows this is what he does, is a friend of Al's, and has never questioned Al's right to "consensually" abuse women physically and sexually.

And Matt has very mixed feelings about what he calls "radical feminism". His mother, apparently, went through a period of being heavily into "radical feminism in the extreme". Matt also feels that is mother, who Matt's partner and I both know, is and has always been very domineering of his father.

I said in my experience your mother is one of the least empowered women I know. Matt's spouse agreed, and she has spoken to his mom at great length about many things--more than he has, in fact. She knows his mother far better than he does. He has "an idea" about his mother as domineering that is, in fact, not true. His dad does exactly what he wants to do all the time. He works out of the home in a job he has chosen. He does other activities outside the home that do not involve his spouse AT ALL. They also don't tend to discuss much unless through yelling. Matt sees this dynamic as his mother being domineering.

I asked him "So what does "radical feminism in the extreme" mean? What books did your mother read, or which "radical feminists" was she into. He only had one name. There was only one woman whose books his mom read from a lot. Matt asked me, "Have you ever heard of a feminist named 'Camille Paglia'"? I said yes, and most women I know don't even consider her a feminist, but rather an antifeminist, and certainly not at all "radical". He asked "What are her politics?" I said "Libertarian": she's a classic U.S. libertarian in believing "anything goes" as long as individuals want it to happen and that the State should not get in the way of whatever people want to do.

I asked Matt how he felt about Al sexually and physically abusing women. He said he feels it is really messed up, and that Al's whole life is really messed up. I said "You realise he gets to do this to women because no men in his life who care about him are challenging him to not do it, right?" He sort of realised this, once I said it. But it didn't occur to him that he ought to have a role in challenging Al's abusive, if "consensual" sexual behavior.

I said I've known women who want to be abused during sex, or who find pornography in which women are being humiliated and degraded "arousing", and that virtually without exception, ALL those women were either raised in severely emotionally distrurbing and dysfunctional families, were sexually abused as girls, or who learned about sex by finding and consuming their father's pornography.

My friend, btw, is not into being abused-as-sex, and Matt isn't into abusing women-as-sex.

So, in conclusion, men protect, defend, or stay silent in the face of men who abuse women. This is how the abuse continues. It also continues because pornography and sexual violence against girls sets girls up to think being degraded and abused is "sex". Men who want to dominate women sexually find girls and women who "want to be dominated". Men who want to be dominated sexually by women find women who are into that scene.

I asked Matt has it ever occurred to either of those men, assuming they care about women at all, to inquire, before sex, about WHY those women want or need to be in or out of control during sex? He said it doesn't occur to them to ask.

I said, "How self-serving and ethically convenient for them" to not care at all about those women, but instead to just use them and abuse them as they wish. Matt told me "You'd have to get into a long email exchange with Al before he'd even begin to see what's messed up about how he thinks about and treat women." I wondered why it hasn't occurred to Matt to be "That Man" who engaged him in just such discussion, and puts their friendship on the line if Al refuses. I plan to ask him that the next time I see or speak with him. And I plan to say, "If you don't call him out on his abusive behavior towards women being harmful to women and girls, then our friendship is on the line." And I'm going to ask for the rapist dude's contact info so I can report him to the police for sexual battery and rape.

These are "normal young white heterosexual men". All of them.

So you see, boys, it's usually and normally men who equate sex and rape while controlling women's bodies and behavior. And if radical feminists and profeminists notice this and critique it as WRONG, we are called man-haters so that you don't have to deal directly with one another's misogyny. How convenient for you.

23 comments:

berryblade said...

Interesting article/rant/essay.

I try to have as little contact with males as possible these days (I find it just makes my PTSD go crazy) but I was over-hearing a conversation that a couple of teenage boys were having on a bus the other day and lo and behold, it sounded.... JUST LIKE THIS.

It makes me sick. I called them out on their bullshit and *I* was the one who got kicked off the bus. Not the jerk-offs who were making my journey triggering and unsafe. Fucking typical

C Brown said...

Way to pretend that an anti-BDSM post is really an anti-rape post. As someone who has been both the dominant and the submissive with either sex, I can tell you that I damn sure did give full consent when I was the sub. If your concern is really consent, then the conversation should have been about things like safe words and about trusting your partner/not violating their trust, not about pretending that women (and men) can't be into a wide variety of sexual practices. You take away the agency of these women when you assume that all women who enjoy BDSM are somehow mentally deviant and incapable of consent. Somehow you could get that a guy could enter a sub position by choice, but you can't grant sub women the same agency. WE get to say when WE consent, not you. Treating sex workers and women who like BDSM as too fucking incompentant to decide to consent or not is treating us like children, not like adults who have our own sexual agency.

Julian Real said...

Hi berryblade,

Thank you for sharing your experience of this same sort of rapism among males. I know there are at least a hundred thousand stories like this that happen every damn day.

I'm sorry you had to be both triggered by their fucked up behavior AND were kicked off the bus for calling their sorry asses out on being verbally sexually abusive to you. If possible, take their picture if you have a cell phone with camera, and post it to holla back, or let's start another website, internationally, for documenting, with words and photos, the males who speak like this about women and girls.

To all MALE readers: In my view, males of any age speaking publicly about liking to abuse women sexually, and describing how you like to do that, is being pro-rape. Speaking this way is one form of sexual violence against women and girls who are upset or triggered by hearing you, or who are led to believe that your desires ought to be their own.

If any woman or girl you don't know can hear what you are saying that is pro-sexual violence, that means you are choosing to potentially trigger rape and other sexual abuse survivors, whether you want to take responsibility for that or not. You are choosing to put it out there that girls and women should expect to encounter assholes like you--that what you want, that is fucked up, ought to be what girls and women want.

As with women in systems of pornography and prostitution, you cannot know WHICH women are survivors of WHAT, and that goes for the general population of women outside those systems of misogynistic/racist/classist harm too.

So boys,

Stop triggering girls and women, and stop traumatising girls and women. Stop abusing women, "consensually" or not. Stop doing it because you realise that abusing women is wrong, is harmful, and participates in larger processes of men oppressing women.

Know that anything that happens sexually that seems consensual to you, or that IS consensual, can STILL BE ABUSIVE and HARMFUL. And if you choose to harm girls or women, for whatever reasons and with whatever excuses and entitlements firmly in place, you ought to have the shit beaten out of you by a group of women or men. You ought to be made to stop, if you can't choose to stop.

Julian Real said...

Hello C Brown,

I'm just wondering if this is Charles, from A Feral Scholar. Is that who you are? And are you a woman, a trans person, or a man? Are you white or of color?

Regardless, I'll reply to what you say below...

Way to pretend that an anti-BDSM post is really an anti-rape post.

If you want to frame it up that way, go right ahead. I stand by what I say: that men using "consent" as the reason it is ok to be sexually violent to women is FUCKED UP, misogynistic, and racist as hell.

If you want to defend such behavior, you're being very politically correct. And I'm not at all surprised.

I expect most men (and I have no idea what gender you are) don't want their entitlements to abuse other people tampered with, or even called out or challenged. But that's what I'm doing--calling out men's bullshit behaviors.

As someone who has been both the dominant and the submissive with either sex,

You're probably not Charles Brown from F.S. then, as he was a hardcore heterosexual who couldn't help but tell folks how much women loved his "good loving". It was gross. (Why do heterosexual men have to push all that in the faces of queer people? Can't they just keep it to themselves?!)

Julian Real said...

I can tell you that I damn sure did give full consent when I was the sub.

So you gave full consent to being mistreated. What do you want from me, applause? Sorry, wrong theatre.

If your concern is really consent,

It isn't. Consent isn't a meaningful concept to me for determining whether oppressive harm is happening, because we are all conditioned in a WHMS system to desire and eroticise sexual violence, especially of the misogynistic, homophobic, and racist varieties.

My white middle class gay friend used to eroticise sexual violence against him. He'd travel to places where men would abuse him verbally, and otherwise. It was never "not abuse", according to him. It was also never not a result of internalised gay self-hatred and being a survivor and learning his core value was in being sexually available to men who regarded him as a sex-thing to be used and abused. He'll tell you that himself. And he consented to all of it. So fucking what? Now he's happily in a loving relationship with a non-abusive man. And I'm happy for him. Delighted, actually.

If you'd read the post you'd know that I don't give a damn whether there is or isn't consent, if the issue is determining what is oppressive and abusive interpersonally.

People consent to be in psychologically and emotionally abusive and neglectful relationships all the damn time. So what? That makes the abuse "good"?!

If you'd read anything else on this blog, you'd know where I stand on this. You don't get to promote bdsm here without being harshly criticised, so please know that. I don't support women being abused, however that happens. And I'll call out anyone who makes the case that abusing women is just fine.

then the conversation should have been about things like safe words and about trusting your partner/not violating their trust,

Given that my post is not about consent, I guess we can move right along...

not about pretending that women (and men) can't be into a wide variety of sexual practices.

Where the hell did you conclude that? Please quote me. I fully accept that people are into a wide variety of sexual practices, almost all of them tied, in some ways, to what WHMS teaches boys and men about what "sex" is and is for.

Every woman I know has to contend with that, accept it, reject it, negotiate around it or in it, and also show men--if she's with men that way--what she likes sexually and convince him to not be so goddamned selfish as to only do what he wants to do.

Julian Real said...

You take away the agency of these women when you assume that all women who enjoy BDSM are somehow mentally deviant and incapable of consent.

I do nothing of the kind. Again, QUOTE ME. Where do I say that, exactly?

U.S. women--which is where the women live discussed in this post--have agency in WHM supremacist societies, but not the freedom to live outside a WHM supremacist society. Where do I say women don't have agency or are mentally deviant?

Somehow you could get that a guy could enter a sub position by choice, but you can't grant sub women the same agency.

The issue here isn't what women do, it's what men do to women. And if men sexually abuse women, consensually or not, I'm gonna call it out as fucked up male behavior... because it is. Any abusive behavior is fucked up, by definition.

WE get to say when WE consent, not you.

I fully accept that women consent to all manner of sexual experiences, exploitive ones, abusive ones, non-exploitive ones, non-abusive ones, etc. Again, I'm not talking about consent, YOU are.

Treating sex workers and women who like BDSM as too fucking incompentant to decide to consent or not is treating us like children, not like adults who have our own sexual agency.

I don't do that. You're assuming I do, and I welcome you to quote the passages where I am doing that.

Women working in systems of prostitution or other economic environments of male exploitation and objectification of women can decide exactly what they want to do and not to, I hope.

I hope that women in those systems are all genuinely free to decide what they will and won't do, such as, say, using a condom if a man is going to penetrate them. I hope they can ALWAYS choose whether or not that happens, no matter how much men pay women to not use a condom.

I feel precisely the same way about women who are NOT inside systems of male supremacist sexual exploitation and oppressive violence--to women as a class, not necessarily the experience of each individual woman. I sure believe each woman ought to name her own experiences, and also be open to interrogating why we like what we do, why we do what we do, and be willing to know as much as we can about how systems of oppression regulate and constrict human behavior and possibilities.

When you want to respond to what I actually say, I'll consider posting that comment. I let this one through just to point out that so far, you're not--as I read it anyway.

JENNIFER DREW said...

Thank you for this post Julian because the methods men use to rape and sexually abuse women are complex and all too commonly such men claim 'but she consented' or 'she said she liked it.'

So too with men who pay women to sexually dominate them, the one with power and agency is still the man never the woman because it is the man who tells the woman exactly what he wishes to be done sexually to him.

Sheila Jeffreys in her book Anticlimax critiques how and why so many women learn as girls what supposedly passes for female sexual expression but is in fact propaganda which is male-centered and all about men dominating and controlling women and their sexuality.

Male and female sexuality is never constant it is always socially constructed and maintained by and for men. 'Consent' is a word I don't believe applies to women because in heterosexual relationships the woman has to trust the man will actually listen and respect her wishes/feelings. All too commonly men do not but still claim 'she consented or she didn't say no.'

So 'consent' becomes non-consent because women and men are not equal. Fine, if one woman is able to enact her agency but we are all affected/controlled by social and economic forces - which are predominantly male-centered and male-defined.

As you rightly say we are bombarded with pornography claiming 'women love to be dominated, abused, raped, etc. etc by men because women like it.' This is not human sexual interaction but it certainly is male domination, male control and male humiliation of another person usually female. One huge difference is men get to decide whether or not to pay a woman to sexually dominate them whereas women are routinely subjected to male sexual violence. Except it is never 'male violence' because men claim 'she consented' or 'she likes it rough.'

Julian Real said...

Thank you, Jennifer.

It is really discouraging, disgusting, and not at all surprising that men are so damned callous, so self-centered, so unwilling to critique their own socially constructed sexuality, instead defending it as "mine", when men's sexual behavior so harms women, in so many ways.

I will be posting here an update on calling out both this man I know, and whether or not he'll call out the man/men he knows who are into abuse-as-sex, "consensually". It's about time the general male population understood and were responsible about the fact that "consent" is a term without meaning or merit. I also plan to speak with a 17 year old white heteromale about this whole matter, as his sexuality has been so informed (or is that deformed?) by male peers and industry pornography.

C Brown said...

"I said I've known women who want to be abused during sex, or who find pornography in which women are being humiliated and degraded "arousing", and that virtually without exception, ALL those women were either raised in severely emotionally distrurbing and dysfunctional families, were sexually abused as girls, or who learned about sex by finding and consuming their father's pornography." Consider how you would read this paragraph if you replaced the first part with the term queer and it will be clear that this is a statement of deviance.

"So you gave full consent to being mistreated. " When you give full and free consent, it is not mistreatment or abuse. I do not know anyone who gives full consent to abuse and I have worked with domestic abuse victims. As a sub, if I decided to stop it, all I had to do was say one word, and I think that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship will tell you that their desire to have something stop is not met when they vocalize it. If I use my safe word and my partner does not stop, it becomes rape and abuse, just as when a woman having vanilla sex tells her partner to stop (the functional equivalent of a safe word) and he does not, it becomes rape and abuse. Just as it would be a horrible, terrible thing for a man to put his penis in me without consent, but nice with consent, being tied up/spanked/ slapped etc is horrible without consent but nice (for people who enjoy that sort of thing) with consent.

"Consent isn't a meaningful concept to me for determining whether oppressive harm is happening" Wow, that's rape culture 101. If you don't think my consent to sexual activity is meaningful in determining whether something is harmful, then what does that say about rape without other physical violence? The difference between rape and consensual sex is CONSENT. Also, a consensual relationship need not be a positive relationship, but, it does not follow from that that all people who like certain sex acts can't have positive relationship. I'm sure that some people into BDSM have very negative relationships, I'm also sure that some have very positive relationships.

Also, sex should not be seen as something that 'men do to women', but something that people do together. The notion that women are not sexual actors, but are sexual objects, plays a big part in rape culture as well. When I choose to have sex with a man, he is not doing something to me, he is doing something with me.

"I sure believe each woman ought to name her own experiences" I can and I do, so do many women in BDSM and we don't name them rape or abuse and you don't get to dictate to us what our feelings about our experiences should be. "be willing to know as much as we can about how systems of oppression regulate and constrict human behavior and possibilities" Like constricting and regulating what I have the right to consent to, by saying that consensual activity that I do not consider abuse to my self, is abuse to me whether I like it or not.
Gendered power inbalance takes place in hetero vanilla sex as well, do you then want to say that all hetero sex is rape (which is what Jennifer seems to think)? "Except it is never 'male violence' because men claim 'she consented' or 'she likes it rough.'" No, I am telling you that I consented and like it rough. Failure to get consent is a problem across the board, it is not unique to BDSM. In fact, I have never had the kind of thourough, explicit discussions about exactly what activities would happen, safe words, etc. with vanilla sex that I have had with BDSM. Consent is too often assumed instead of obtained, but when you are tying someone up and hitting them, consent is never assumed, instead you have made damned sure before hand and during (safe words/signals) that it is there.

C Brown said...

As to the side note about who I am, I am not the blogger you are thinking about, nor am I familiar with him. I am queer and my gender is kind of on the fence (I use genderqueer sometimes and woman sometimes) but I am female bodied and am read socially as female. As to race, I consider myself a white person of Native American descent (my grandmother was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation). As far as class goes, I have lived below the poverty level almost the entirity of my life.

Julian Real said...

Hi again C Brown.

This'll likely be the last exchange I have with you here. I'm not into debating the merits or morality of bdsm. That's not what this blog is for.

I will say that I knew of an incest survivor--I heard her speak once, I didn't know her personally. She was a white lesbian woman in her forties or so, who only felt safe during bdsm because there was a structure, and there were safe words. And I got how that structure, and those rules, are not there at all in most non-bdsm sex. And so I understood and could empathise with her need to have sex happen in a way that feels safe to her. That has boundaries that are established and (hopefully) honored and respected.

And that does little to convince me that bdsm sex is somehow better than non-bdsm sex, in the context of white male supremacy. If it is what, among "the offerings of patriarchy" feels safest to her, then if she wants to be sexually active, that's likely what she'll chose to do. I'm not here to tell her what she should and shouldn't do. I am only saying that I could understand the decisions she made, based on alternatives that were terrifying to her.

For me, the problem is patriarchal liberalism and libertarianism, which makes it appear socially good for people to do things that harm people as a class. But we get to think that our actions only impact those around us. That's a belief in libertarianism: "If I like it and want to do it, that makes it good". And I'm no libertarian.

What's "good" to me, in my view which is largely informed by radical feminists, of color and white, is what is good for women as a class. How does the promotion and protection of heterosexual marriage, marital rape law, a pornography industry that is increasingly vicious and degrading to women as a class, how does all that and more--like corporate capitalism and white supremacy--make our world a "good" place to live. And, more importantly, perhaps, who has to suffer "unconsensually" for us to believe we have free will and can give full consent to stuff that is fed to us the way corn is fed to cows and chickens. If the chickens and cows eat the corn, are they doing so "consensually"? What if we back up and ask: "What are cows meant to eat? How about chickens?" Guess what? They aren't meant to eat corn at all and never were. They are fed corn because that's what the U.S. has in abundance, in surplus.

Samia said...

I have a few thoughts on this one.

1) Very disappointed in and hurt by this post, because I usually enjoy this blog very much
2) I'm definitely getting the vibe of another white man telling me what is and is not abuse, what is good for me, showing me "the Truth," etc., which is actually triggering for me as a survivor of abuse
3) I feel yet again like my opinion and consent does not matter to a man, which makes me wonder what some people think rape actually is, and how this somewhat paternalistic post qualifies as "pro-feminist"
4) I am definitely feeling C Brown in this comment thread
5) As a womanist, I feel like some allies definitely cross a line into speaking FOR us instead of hearing our many voices and paying attention to women's differing experiences and situations

Julian Real said...

"I said I've known women who want to be abused during sex, or who find pornography in which women are being humiliated and degraded "arousing", and that virtually without exception, ALL those women were either raised in severely emotionally distrurbing and dysfunctional families, were sexually abused as girls, or who learned about sex by finding and consuming their father's pornography." Consider how you would read this paragraph if you replaced the first part with the term queer and it will be clear that this is a statement of deviance.

Ok. I just did. I feel exactly the same way about it. I stand by every word of it.

"So you gave full consent to being mistreated. " When you give full and free consent, it is not mistreatment or abuse. I do not know anyone who gives full consent to abuse and I have worked with domestic abuse victims.

I strongly and vehemently disagree with you. You've got your beliefs, I've got mine. And yours won't be posted here any more, unless you stop proselytising and promoting bdsm here.

As a sub, if I decided to stop it, all I had to do was say one word, and I think that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship will tell you that their desire to have something stop is not met when they vocalize it. If I use my safe word and my partner does not stop, it becomes rape and abuse, just as when a woman having vanilla sex tells her partner to stop (the functional equivalent of a safe word) and he does not, it becomes rape and abuse. Just as it would be a horrible, terrible thing for a man to put his penis in me without consent, but nice with consent, being tied up/spanked/ slapped etc is horrible without consent but nice (for people who enjoy that sort of thing) with consent.

That's a meaningful distinction, I guess. Is it better that my gay friend "chose" to go to bars where he'd be urinated on, as opposed to, say, being dragged into a room against his will and being urinated on? Yes, I guess the first is less traumatic than the second. And that doesn't make the first "choice" a good one for him. And he'll tell you that now.

"Consent isn't a meaningful concept to me for determining whether oppressive harm is happening" Wow, that's rape culture 101. If you don't think my consent to sexual activity is meaningful in determining whether something is harmful, then what does that say about rape without other physical violence?

For one thing, it says that's how a hell of a lot of rape happens. Without overt force.

The difference between rape and consensual sex is CONSENT.

Not necessarily. If I am dissociated, and consent to do something that is sexually assaultive to me, and afterwards I return to my body and feel the pain of it, the degradation of it, the humiliation of it, what is that? What happened to me? Of course our fucked up legal system basically needs to see knife wounds in the nun's back for the male supremacist "criminal" justice system to even contemplate whether someone was "really" raped or not. And, as you well know, we consent to do all kinds of things that we realise later were not in our best interests, that were harmful to us, and that are sometimes abusive to us as well. Like when women are able to get away from an abuser, and look back and realise: "Holy shit. He'd started manipulating me and controlling me from the start!" Because she was with him consentually at the start, does that make his behavior early on "not harmful" to her?

Julian Real said...

Also, a consensual relationship need not be a positive relationship, but, it does not follow from that that all people who like certain sex acts can't have positive relationship.

If a behavior is abusive, it's abusive. That's what I'm saying. And consent doesn't make it unabusive. And I'm not telling you what, that you do, is or is not abusive. That's your call.

But when someone in my life presents the injuries, and says "I think I consented to do this", I'm not going to caringly respond, "Well, if you consented, then those aren't injuries."

Do most of us know all of what we're getting into when entering a sexual encounter. Not in my experience. There's some hope that things will go "good" but that's never a given, even with safe words, from what I hear from friends who have been into smbd. And why do folks into smbd always portray "the safe word" code as "effective"? We know it doesn't work all the time. We know that, once restrained, one has limited agency in what happens to them. We know that sadism, as a trait or a sexual practice, can equal not being sympathetic or caring of another person.

I'm sure that some people into BDSM have very negative relationships, I'm also sure that some have very positive relationships.

No doubt. And that's not my point. My point is that when an act is abusive, it's abusive. That's it. That can happen in a wonderful relationship or a shitty one.

Also, sex should not be seen as something that 'men do to women', but something that people do together.

The problem isn't how "I see sex". That's not a social problem. Rape is a social problem. Battery, as you well know, is a social problem. And if from what I can see, "men do to women" stuff that degrades and otherwise harms women's humanity, then that's just naming reality, not be being delusional or speaking "with an agenda".

Let's face it, we live in a society that thinks all manner of exploitation is socially good. We live in a society that requires poverty, racism, and sexism, as well as heterosexism, to even function. Does me articulating that make society worse? Does me saying that put more women at risk of being harmed by men? (Or more men at risk of being harmed by men?) The harm happens, whether I exist or not. Regardless of what I write here. How I express a point of view doesn't have any significant impact on the world. Every rape does. Every rape that is known about socially adds to many women feeling terrified, afraid, concerned, and upset. That's not "my perspective". That's reality. Rapism is operating in the actual world of human relationships and commerce. And, as one can see a thousand times a day, if noticing: men don't do shit to stop it. That's reality.

Julian Real said...

The notion that women are not sexual actors, but are sexual objects, plays a big part in rape culture as well. When I choose to have sex with a man, he is not doing something to me, he is doing something with me.


Politically speaking, if he's slapping you, he's doing something to you. If you're kissing him, that may or may not be something you are mutually doing. Because you both decide to engage in an evening or night of bdsm with a man, that doesn't mean he no longer has power and agency to act, to do things to you, to be "an actor" who engages with you in ways that, in fact, require him to do things TO you, even if your experience is that he's doing them with you.

I hear you saying that if you and he are in agreement about what's happening, it's a shared experience between the two of you, not just him acting out a scene on you and you acting out "with" him.

"I sure believe each woman ought to name her own experiences" I can and I do, so do many women in BDSM and we don't name them rape or abuse and you don't get to dictate to us what our feelings about our experiences should be.

It sounds like you think someone dictating to others is "not good". Especially a man dictating to women. I agree. But "dictating" implies some level of power over you, a position of dominance, a capacity to limit your behavior through what I say here, on this blog.

YOU have to willfully come HERE to read anything I write. Right? So how am I dictating anything to you? If you come here consensually, then nothing harmful or damaging or wrong is happening, if I'm understanding your ethic properly.

"be willing to know as much as we can about how systems of oppression regulate and constrict human behavior and possibilities" Like constricting and regulating what I have the right to consent to, by saying that consensual activity that I do not consider abuse to my self, is abuse to me whether I like it or not.

Do you get how messed up that is? I state a point of view here. I state my perspective on things. You're not being held captive in some room with my voice blaring non-stop, right? You don't even have to come here, right? So how, exactly, am I constricting and regulating YOU? I have no power over you at all, unless you come here and choose to feel controlled by my words, right? Isn't that how this works? I didn't invite you, in case you didn't notice. You came here of your own accord. You can see yourself to the door and never read anything I write again, and then I cannot have any capacity at all to "constrict and regulate" you, right? Stop twisting what I'm doing here to be about ME controlling YOU. I don't know who the hell you are. You could be a sixty year old white man, for all I know. What you're doing here is arguing against what I say here, against positions I take, HERE, on my blog. So you're imposing yourself in my space by posting a comment. I'm not imposing anything on you. If you don't appreciate what is written here, there's a really simple solution: don't read it.

Julian Real said...

Gendered power inbalance takes place in hetero vanilla sex as well,

Yes. And I don't think you'll ever hear me deny that.

do you then want to say that all hetero sex is rape (which is what Jennifer seems to think)?

Jennifer can speak for herself.

If I want to say something here, clearly I have the wherewithall to say it. Do I say "all hetero sex is rape" here? No, not in one place do I say that. So stop distorting my words, and Jennifer's for that matter.

If you don't understand what either of us is talking about, don't assume what we're saying, ok? Don't make shit up. Don't promulgate antifeminist lies here. As I've said, if you continue to do anything like that, your next comments won't get posted.

"Except it is never 'male violence' because men claim 'she consented' or 'she likes it rough.'" No, I am telling you that I consented and like it rough.

As I said, so what? I don't know you and my post is about people I know, or their friends. So guess what? I'm wasn't addressing you in that post. I don't know you at all and have nothing whatsoever to say about what YOU do and don't do. Leave me alone if you don't like what you read her. Stop bugging me with your pro-bdsm banter. I'm not welcoming it. Can you respect that boundary? My safe word is this: "I don't want to hear you speak about how good bdsm is for you". I'm not into eroticising power imbalances within or outside the realm of sexual experience. Power imbalance doesn't turn me on. And I don't welcome comments here from people who ARE turned on by it, unless it is to self-critique. Clearly you're not posting comments here to do that. So leave me alone. You don't have my consent to post comments here if they are intended to "make the case" for how good bdsm can be. I hope that's clear.

Failure to get consent is a problem across the board, it is not unique to BDSM.

That's what this blog's posts has been saying for a long, long time. That's not news to me. I don't discuss bdsm here, if you've noticed. Except because of your comments. I don't even have a post label "bdsm". So as soon as you stop posting comments about it, or as soon as I ban your comments, the conversation about bdsm ends here.

In fact, I have never had the kind of thourough, explicit discussions about exactly what activities would happen, safe words, etc. with vanilla sex that I have had with BDSM.

I've heard that many times. And just because people talk a lot before they do something, that doesn't make it "better" necessarily. There are many ways of communicating after all, and much of what people say is a lie.

Consent is too often assumed instead of obtained, but when you are tying someone up and hitting them, consent is never assumed,

I am never tying anyone up and hitting them, first of all. Second, you can only speak to your experience and those of people you know very well. Because every queer person I know knows damn well that "Safe words" don't always work, and dissociation happens, and all kinds of other stuff too that ends up being traumatic, within the realm of bdsm sex, and beyond it.

instead you have made damned sure before hand and during (safe words/signals) that it is there.

No, I haven't. Because I don't engage in any form of sexual activity with others. And I do believe you are living in denial if you think "agreeing on safe words" works to make people sexually, physically, and emotionally safe. I think it's better to have safe words than not to, but having them doesn't make abusive behavior non-abusive.

Consent doesn't make abuse not happen.

Julian Real said...

Hi Samia,

I am realising, after reading and taking in your comments, your feelings, how very triggered by what C Brown is saying I am. If I had known she was a woman from the start... which her name here clearly does not reveal, I never would have posted her comment to begin with.

And as a gay man and as a survivor of sexual abuse that happened "consensually", I find her comments as a heterosexual woman not just problematic for me, but supportive of oppressions this blog exists to challenge, not give voice and credibility to.

I'm not supportive of or an advocate of power imbalances in relationships, sexual or not. Power imbalances exist, and hurt and harm happens without intent. Your comment brought that home clearly to me.

So it was my mistake to even post her first comment, and for doing that I apologise. I have terms by which people can post here. I've not been respecting them, which means I've not been respecting myself and other people who come here with an expectation that a man will be treating women with respect.

I am feeling now how deeply upset I am by what she has written that I have approved.

And I will not post anything further of hers. She has many other blogs at which she may, if she wishes, state her beliefs and preferences.

I'm sorry you've found my behavior in this post triggering and controlling of you, and I can see why you are feeling that way. I'm sorry you are feeling the ways that you described but that's not quite good enough, in my book--to just feel sorrow. I've got to understand what was going on, and make sure it isn't likely to happen again.

In retrospect, I made a grave error in posting her views here. They are not welcome here. I fucked up. I hurt myself and you.

It won't happen again soon, I hope. Fingers crossed that I remember what my own rules and regs are here, because if I don't respect them, I'm realising now that a serious consequence is that you won't feel respected or safe here.

If you want to process anything else that is not about the subject C Brown raised, I welcome you to do so, Samia. And, again, I apologise for my behavior here, which I feel has had an aggressive tone, or a tone of disregard for C Brown. And that could be triggering to many women, for so many reasons.

I deeply appreciate you writing to me what you were/are feeling and it WILL have an impact here on my behavior. Thank you.

Samia said...

Julian, I am so sorry to hear that you, too, have a history of abuse. It is always difficult to approach this subject matter, and we are all touched differently by it, which is why it is extremely important to be attentive to each other.

I found your contributions (and assumptions about/treatment of C Brown) problematic, perhaps primarily because my abuse happened at the hands of white men who took advantage of our effed up racial hierarchy to make me feel like a little brown nobody. But looking at the broader picture, it has always been white men in our U.S. society who get to decide what Truth is and whether or not women and/or people of colour are being mistreated according to *their* standards. I perceived an extension of this trope here.

I found much to agree with in her comments, but if you found C Brown's contributions personally triggering, then yes, perhaps you should not allow her to keep posting here, because this is your space and your emotional wellbeing is absolutely a priority. However, if this is the case, then it would benefit your readers for you to take some time out and process your feelings before deciding your next course of action. Thank you for letting me post here, and for your response.

Julian Real said...

First, to C Brown.

I wish you a happy and healthy life. And Lorde knows I have little to no idea what that looks like!! lol

So please know that I don't feel anything negative for you at all. I get triggered by some of the content, when it involves restraint and such. So that's my stuff and I own that. And I don't wish to have material here on this blog that is triggering to me, if not also others.

As it is, my tone and language with you was triggering to someone here, and I deeply regret that. I also hope you were not hurt by it.

Thanks for clarifying about who you are. I appreciate that. I have, at times, also identified as genderqueer, so that's something we have in common. I also commend you on standing up for your views, your feelings, and your own desires. More power to you.

I'm sorry to learn that you've been living below the poverty level, even though I know you're part of a global majority with that being the case. But I don't wish poverty on anyone. Both sides of my family were born poor. So I know from them what it was like. And from friends of mine who are currently living below the poverty line.

Anyway, I wanted to conclude our exchange in a warmer manner. Now that I'm not triggered, I just want to say that I appreciate your challenges, even though I found them to be a bit more than challenging. I wish I'd been better able to track my own level of triggeredness before responding to you, because you got partial response and partial reaction.

I apologise for taking a "whiteboy knows best" tone, and regret anything I've written that comes across that way, knowing full well I'm capable of doing it any day of the year.

But you don't deserve that kind of sexist boy-talk. No one does. So I hope we can leave things on a more congenial note, agreeing to disagree about some stuff, but also in agreement about some things too. I personally always cringe, as a queer person, when queers practicing bdsm gets raised as the quintessential form of oppressive sex because I always feel like queer sex, in whatever forms, gets targeted in ways that het/straight sex doesn't, out of lesbophobia and homophobia.

I hope you continue to enjoy your life in whatever ways bring you delight and keep you safe. I'm not your judge or jury. And thanks for reminding me of that. : )

Julian Real said...

Dear Samia,

Thank you so much for your reply. And thank you so much for alerting me to how my language was making you feel--to what I was doing that led you to feel that way. I really want you to feel safe here, and to not be triggered by my behavior or my words.

Julian, I am so sorry to hear that you, too, have a history of abuse. It is always difficult to approach this subject matter, and we are all touched differently by it, which is why it is extremely important to be attentive to each other.

I think that is really beautifully put. It makes me feel sad to read it, actually. Because it is such a struggle for so many people, just to get through a day without being triggered. And I do accept, honestly, that for some people, sex that is well-scripted and has safe words is far more "safe" than sex that does not. And probably part of why I have been triggered so much during sex, in that distant past when I had sex, was due to lack of structure, lack of agreements about what would proceed from what, etc. Well, that and a desire to not be so dissociated from my body.

I found your contributions (and assumptions about/treatment of C Brown) problematic, perhaps primarily because my abuse happened at the hands of white men who took advantage of our effed up racial hierarchy to make me feel like a little brown nobody.

Thank you for sharing that. It is painful to read. I have known other women who have experienced this dynamic with white men, and Lorde knows I don't want to be among those white men who make any woman of color feel that way: like nobody, like you are not respected as a full human being, like you don't deserve to be treated ALWAYS with dignity and respect. How completely awful that anyone would do things to try and make you feel like lesser than anyone else.

But looking at the broader picture, it has always been white men in our U.S. society who get to decide what Truth is and whether or not women and/or people of colour are being mistreated according to *their* standards. I perceived an extension of this trope here.

Yes. I hear you very clearly. It is a great danger, a ever-present danger, I think, when any white man speaks (including myself of course). And the conclusion isn't for white men to shut up entirely--although perhaps we all should, at least once in a while!!! I do think white men speak in ways that often reinforce this idea that we know Truth, and can name it for other people. I know that's false... that white men can only speak for ourselves, and even then often not so well, as to be both race and gender privileged is often to not know much about oneself. I've learned that from many, many women of many colors. And James Baldwin has noted that about what it is to be white.

Julian Real said...

So my hope for white men is that we own what we do, that we are socially responsible and caringly responsive in our speech to women of color, given the atrocious history of white men silencing women of color in so many dreadful ways. And, regardless of that history, just because we ought to treat human beings humanely.

I seek to be responsible here with my speech, and to not use it to dominate people individually or in group settings. And beyond that, to be mindful of my tone and attitude, and of all the power that is carried by the white male voice, regardless of what it is saying.

I found much to agree with in her comments, but if you found C Brown's contributions personally triggering, then yes, perhaps you should not allow her to keep posting here, because this is your space and your emotional wellbeing is absolutely a priority.

I get easily triggered when people talk about sex that involves power imbalances as a good thing. But of course that is the case--that such sex is experienced pleasurably and consensually by many people. And women that do ought not be shamed for doing so, at all, by any man. That's what I believe. And it's for me to live up to that belief, in practice. And if that is true for you, that is not for me to judge or in any way shame you for. It would be my shame and self-judgment that would be projected onto you in a very awful way if I did anything of the sort. And it would be abusive to you, I believe, for me to harshly judge anything you do to attend to your own needs and wants.

That's partly why I don't generally discuss bdsm here. Because I really do believe any woman's ways of being sexual are or ought to be hers, not interrupted by male wishes to have her life be different than she wants it to be.

And I have known feminists and profeminists who, while professing great disdain for things like bdsm and pornography, were privately practicing it or accessing it.

So I make no assumptions about who is and who isn't into pornography, for example, or bdsm, or anything else.

I don't view people into bdsm as "not like me". Especially if they are queer. Or if they are women. I am very triggered by what straight men do, because straight men have done so much to harm me in the past.

What triggers me most is hearing about men who want to hurt women for their own sexual pleasure. That is too much for me. Even to write that out triggers me.

I realise now that it's while I didn't know C Brown's gender that I got most triggered. And it took too long for that to settle down, or, rather, as you suggest:

However, if this is the case, then it would benefit your readers for you to take some time out and process your feelings before deciding your next course of action.

Thank you for that counsel. I agree. I've had a long talk with a very good friend of mine about that too. It never hurts to be reminded to take time out to process feelings. And it's such a troubling thing about being triggered: that it often comes with this desire to either flee, fight, or freeze. I got into a battling mode with C Brown, which is completely inappropriate and utterly non-profeminist.

Thank you for letting me post here, and for your response.

Samia, thank you, for your heart, for the wonderful ways that you express your feelings, and for supporting C Brown here; for not standing by and witnessing a man mistreat a woman without speaking your truth to it.

You are most welcome here. There are just some things I can't post, because of how it impacts me and because of some women I hold myself directly accountable to, the women closest to me.

I find you to have been (and be) an example of how to engage here with dignity and compassion, and I will take in that lesson and be changed by it for the better.

And I'm so sorry you were abused. I feel so sad about that. And also very grateful that you are here.

Kookaburra said...

Hi Julian, I'm here from the Soc Images blog where you posted this link. This seems a very provocative post! But I agree with every word, and I am a dominant female in the local BDSM scene. That dynamic is the ONLY way I can enjoy a man's amorous company, because the outside world is fucked up, that putting a thin veneer of control into my hands is the only way I can relax to some degree. And I've never been specifically abused or targeted, like so many women and men who are into BDSM.

It drives me absolutely spare how BDSM gets a pass from "feminists" to not be analyzed, and how defensive its practitioners are against ever having to look deeper into themselves and their true motivations.

Julian Real said...

Welcome Kookaburra,

And thanks for your comment.

I am a dominant female in the local BDSM scene. That dynamic is the ONLY way I can enjoy a man's amorous company, because the outside world is fucked up, that putting a thin veneer of control into my hands is the only way I can relax to some degree. And I've never been specifically abused or targeted, like so many women and men who are into BDSM.

I soooo hear you on that. And am SO glad you haven't been abused or targeted. And I've heard from other women similarly: that to be in the dom position is what allows for any degree of safety, etc. I'd love to discuss that more with you off-line, if you'd welcome that. You can send a comment here and write "NOT FOR POSTING PUBLICLY" and include your email address, and I'll email back. Only if that would be in any way a good thing for you.

It drives me absolutely spare how BDSM gets a pass from "feminists" to not be analyzed, and how defensive its practitioners are against ever having to look deeper into themselves and their true motivations.

Yeah, I'm for examining EVERYTHING, so there's no reason for me to stop when it comes to what is termed BDSM. I tend to critique dominant cultural forms of sex WAY more, however, and how pimps and pornographers regulate what folks even think of as "sex".

Hell, if I'm gonna examine my own sexual desires to just hug and hold someone, unplayed out, I'm sure gonna have something to say about men slapping women! But it's not for me to tell women how to engage in sex, that's for sure!

I keep my critique on the fellas, who make up so many excuses for abusing women, there aren't numbers high enough to count them.