like, why is it so laughable and absurd that people whose experiences with, say, sexism, might also be keen on including racism and/or transphobia and/or ableism, etc, whenever they talk about it because, for them, all those factors have a dramatic influence on how sexism manifests in their lives and the kinds of struggles and challenges it imposes on them
words like “intersectionality” and “kyriarchy” provide an easy verbal shorthand for such experiences
you cannot demand that someone generalize their lived experience so that it’s more comfortable and familiar for you, which is exactly what you’re doing when you shit on people for wanting to name and be conscious of all they face on a day-to-day basis. and that’s not even mentioning the arrogance inherent in presuming that your preferred terms and concepts are just inherently inclusive of everyone’s experiences! you seriously cannot run around saying “no no no those are useless words, that’s just patriarchy and that’s just misogyny and you’re a twit if you insinuate otherwise, because if you had a good reason for doing so, I would already know about it.”
I’m all for legitimate critiques of the terminology we use, but ffs those are pretty sparse and obtuse when I do see them, which is definitely less often than I see people rolling their eyes without explanation or acknowledgment that there may be something going on behind those word choices that is beyond them
and yeah, I really do think it has a lot to do with white arrogance and the idea of who gets to define words, their worth and their value, and I swear to god if I see anyone trying to talk about what’s going on re: the latina tag in terms of sexism without also discussing the equally important roles of racism and xenophobia, I will find you and puke all over you
When we talk about abusive relationships, we often talk about rape and sexual coercion. While these are certainly important topics, I think it’s equally important to discuss how consensual and seemingly mutually pleasurable sex can be used to manipulate one’s partner. That is a dynamic I am personally familiar with, and one that does not generate enough discussion in forums like Tumblr.
A typical pattern can be described like this:
1. The abusive partner and the victim initiate a consensual sexual relationship. At this point, the abuser is extremely attentive to their partner’s desires; they focus lavish attention on their partner, work hard to find what their partners enjoy most, and are quick to check themselves if they get a negative reaction. They will spend a lot of time discussing sex with their partners, obtaining and memorizing intimate information and (initially) putting it to use to pleasure their partner. At this point, the victim may find the abuser overly attentive or surprisingly interested in pleasuring them, but, as this all results in positive experiences, any misgivings are easily dismissed.
2. The abuser gradually becomes less attentive to their partner’s desires. At this point, the partner may feel as if they have been “greedy”, and has no problem with reciprocation, perhaps suspecting that they have selfishly ignored the abuser’s needs in favor of their own. The victim may be more open than usual in trying new things, both because the abuser has up to now treated them very well and because of the aforementioned need to reciprocate. The abuser is still attentive to the victim’s needs, and will continue to balance that against the gradual introduction of sexual acts that prioritize their own desires.
3. The abuser begins to withdraw affection outside sexual contexts. They will reduce the amount of attention they pay to their partners; casual conversation will diminish, and nonsexual acts of affection will dwindle. They may become cold and even hostile. During and after sex, however, they readily offer physical affection and conversation. As a result, the victim becomes increasingly concerned with being sexually desirable and pleasing to the abuser, and will prioritize the abuser’s pleasure at the expense of their own. They may attribute the abuser’s behavior to stress or anxiety. Society does, after all, romanticize such “brooding” behavior, especially in men. The victim may feel as though they have a responsibility to restore the abuser to good spirits, even if that means increasingly surrendering control of their sex life. Their self-concept may become hypersexualized, while they simultaneously lose a sense of their other, non-sexual qualities.
4. Full withdrawal. The abuser abruptly stops having sex with the victim, and rebuffs any attempt by the victim to initiate physical contact. The victim will become increasingly anxious and depressed. They may feel unattractive, or worry that they appear desperate or sexually voracious. The abuser may begin actively chastising the victim for being overly dependent on sex. At no point do they attempt to explain their behavior or reassure the victim that it has nothing to do with them. If they do permit sexual contact at this time, they will remain very cold, offer no affection and make no attempt to reciprocate. At this point, the victim may begin to wonder if they have anything to offer their partner besides sex; the abrupt and unexplained cessation of sexual activity can be emotionally devastating, especially in combination with emotional, verbal or physical abuse.
5. Reconciliation. Just as abruptly as they cut the victim off, the abuser will reinitiate sexual activity. The victim may feel excessively grateful, and is extraordinarily vulnerable to being manipulated into acts they may not truly be in the mood for. The victim is at this point so desperate for positive feedback from the abuser that they will endure sex that brings them minimal pleasure; they are focused on appeasing the abuser and alleviating the stress imposed by the dynamic. Gratification comes from the abuser’s positive reactions, not their own physical satisfation. The abuser is therefore free to ignore the victim’s needs and only reciprocate as much as necessary to keep the cycle alive.
Within kink communities, it’s really not hard to find dynamics that mimic this cycle exactly. The abusive partner will exploit BDSM rhetoric that normalizes abrupt withdrawal of affection, pushing “limits”, and creating a dependent submissive partner whose primary interest is not fully realized physical pleasure, but mental and/or emotional gratification that will only be offered to them if they obey the abuser’s ostensibly consensual rules. The fact remains that, in any relationship where sex is the primary if not sole vehicle for demonstrating affection towards and validating one’s partner, the potential for abuse to occur is extremely high, and very few observers will notice anything is amiss, since the victim appears so very invested in sexual contact (in some cases even more invested than the abuser). BDSM makes this worse by reifying that as an ideal and natural behavior of the submissive partner; pleasure at physical sensation becomes confounded with basic desires for affection and recognition as a worthwhile human being. It is an astonishingly common phenomenon that unfortunately is often silenced, because questioning it would require questioning common assertions that consent (enthusiastic consent, at that!) is all that is necessary in order to characterize a sexual relationship as healthy.
I’ve got a lot of thoughts about kink and feminism that I hope to expand upon once work calms down, but let me start with this: I am extremely leery of any community that cannot stop talking about how they’re all about CONSENT and TRUST. That seems counterintuitive, but the reality is this; the more people around you spouting stuff about how “consent is sexy!” and “ultimate trust is transcendent!” and “True BDSM is about consent!”, the harder it is to not consent and pretend you completely trust your partners. Because not consenting would be unsexy. It would be unevolved, primitive, the opposite of transcendent. It would mean that, should you find yourself uncomfortable and lacking trust and feeling guilty about not consenting, you have failed . Have you noticed how BDSM practitioners vastly prefer talking about “limits” (i.e., things to be pushed) vs. boundaries (i.e., preexisting, non-negotiable restrictions)? Or how victim-blaming within kink communities often involves asserting that the victim didn’t understand their limits?
Consent and trust cannot be guaranteed in any interaction. When they are presented as inherent qualities of a community, it sets off alarms, because I know that that is a community that values surrendering trust and giving consent over being trustworthy and not taking consent for granted. When I hear elaborate descriptions about the WONDER and the BEAUTY of ULTIMATE TRUST, I wonder why no one is simply talking about the joy of pleasuring a partner and taking every precaution to ensure they are not hurt, even if that means abandoning theatrics or ruining a scene or stopping without hearing a safeword. Why they cannot talk about their partners as ordinary human beings without resorting to titles and roles and constantly reemphasizing sexual power dynamics. When I hear someone assert that “true” BDSM never results in abuse or rape, I wonder why they’re so eager to discredit and disavow victims who say otherwise. “You must have been doing it wrong” is not a statement that gains my confidence; it implies that you do not trust my judgment, and if you don’t trust my judgment, how can I trust you to respect my boundaries and assertions?
Between the BDSM tumblrites whining about how the bottom is obligated to speak up in order to prevent rape, and the people arguing that porn is all good fun and can be reblogged endlessly without further thought, it’s probably a damn good idea to get really hardcore about taking some goddamn ownership of your ability to sexually exploit people.
I remember a tumblr I user to follow that regularly posted nudes. One day, they posted an image of someone who looked very, very young. I would personally not have guessed her to be much older than 14. It was not overtly pornographic, but it most certainly was not an artistic nude, either. The people who ran the blog got some angry asks about that image, and dismissed it all with comments about how some grown women just look really young, okay, and someone submitted it to them and they clearly state that contributors should only submit images of people over 18, so they’re totally not responsible anyway, and that apparently included engaging in any critical thought before posting. I stopped following them after that, but it continues to bother me that I did not protest more.
I know the old, tired arguments - “women who look really young are sexual beings too, and we can’t deny them representation!” (I would argue that there’s still some fairly obvious differences between a grown woman who happens to have small breasts and narrow hips and someone in the early stages of puberty, but that’s beyond the point.) It’s laziness. If you cannot personally confirm that the person in the image is in fact an adult, what is so fucking hard about refusing to repost it? What is so fucking hard about accepting that, hey, I know a lot of ostensibly hilarious porn is created under exploitative conditions with the intent of humiliating the women involved, so if don’t know the background to a given image, I shouldn’t just shrug and hope that the people depicted don’t mind being used as a joke? What is so hard about accepting that your personal kink is not so sacred that you can’t let legitimate critique of how it enables rape and abuse go by without freaking out about how you’re being oppressed?
Rape culture has benefited enormously by appropriating concepts like body positivity and kink positivity and sex positivity and using them as way to shut down criticism. Every time I write something like this, I have to fight the urge to describe what a sex-loving, kinky girl I am, because I know that critiquing this shit will lead to attacks on my own sexuality. We are terrified of being mistaken for prudes, because to be a prude is to be judged as naive, backwards and broken, and is also viewed an invitation for sexual aggression. What is the major reason give for demonizing the entirety of second-wave feminism, after all? Those uptight old bitches hated sex! There’s a lot of critique of the second wave on Tumblr that includes throwaway references to transphobia in the movement, but this is seldom followed up with any nuanced critiques or understanding of transphobia today. Contrast that with the eagerness of many self-described feminists to assure us that they’re not ugly, hairy, lesbian misandrists who hate porn and sexy pictures. The first rule of internet feminism is to make sure no one besides certain right wing caricatures hates you.
Ending rape culture is not possible if we refuse to do things, or stop doing things, that may get us labeled as oversensitive, sex negative, or slut-shaming by people who have a vested interest in ignoring possible exploitation of others. This does not mean that one should engage in attacking or silencing sex workers or sexually active people; the goal is ultimately ensuring the safety of vulnerable parties. This may require you to feel uncomfortable about things you have uncritically accepted as sexually attractive. It may require you to stop supporting people and blogs that you otherwise like. It may require you to step back and question whether what you are doing is actually harmless fun and not abusive. It’s not fun. You’ll get a lot of shit for it. However, taking responsibility for resisting these little exploitations, even the ambiguous ones, is a huge part of fighting rape culture and restoring power to those who have been abused by it. There is no benefit in fighting for your right to passively consume the exploitation of others.
The responses to this doofus picture compel me to post about the concept of feminists hating men. Within those notes, there are a number of comments about how real feminists don’t hate men, or how everything on the left is okay except hating men, or how the picture is wrong because it doesn’t acknowledge that men can feminists too (and therefore, presumably, are not worthy of hate).
I often say that I hate men. It’s false in the sense that there are men I love and care for dearly. Men as a group, however, antagonize me, and I do hate a lot of what falls under masculinity and manhood. When women say they hate men, it is not a simple statement. Women hate men because they are abused by men, because they are raped by men, because they are marginalized by men, because they are murdered by men, because they must live their lives constantly being judged by men. Moreover, it is male-dominated society that teaches us that all of this can be avoided by becoming submissive to men, by being nice and quiet, by letting them into our spaces, by giving them access to our bodies, by making ourselves attractive, by giving due consideration to their opinions no matter what they are. It is exhausting and overwhelming. I do not blame any woman who reacts with hatred, because such reactions are often the product of years of exhaustion. No woman is rewarded for airing her hatred of men. She only invites more judgment upon herself.
Many women reject the idea of hating men as valid for two reasons; one, because the patriarchy itself tells us only ugly, hopeless dykes do that (and they have taught us that being an ugly dyke is a horrible thing), and two, because we fear it is like hatred of women. Consider, however, why men hate women. They hate women for not being sexually available. They hate women for not being attractive to them, or inaccessible to them if they are. They hate women for not dressing the way they would have them dress. They hate women for being smarter or more successful than them. They hate women who have authority over them. They hate women who challenge them. They hate women who have no intentions of yielding to them. They hate women who have no interest in men. They hate women for not handing over full control of their bodies and minds. They are conditioned to do this from childhood. It is socialized behavior that is regularly rewarded. It is not the product of suffering, and it is not comparable.
Finally, I would add that I do not believe men can be feminists. Men can most assuredly be loving and considerate supporters of women who challenge misogyny and sexism. However, allowing them to assume the title of feminist is dangerous. It places any woman who challenges or disagrees with them in the absurd position of looking anti-woman. It allows them to air their opinions side-by-side with women, and asserts that their opinions on sexism and the needs of women are just as valid. It also undermines a very important factor critical to the success of women; i.e., it deprives them of a space in which they can fumble and grow without the judgment of, or competition from, men. Men who truly understand sexism understand the need not to interfere, and recognize that they will never fully understand what it is to be the target of it. Feminist ends cannot be achieved if men are not willing to surrender space, power and their egos. A man who is truly acting out of love for women accepts this, and does not require a special title or recognition to maintain his commitment.
In short: stop having kneejerk reactions to women who openly and unreservedly air their anger about how they and the women they love have suffered at the hands of men, because what the hell do you think sexism is, when you get right down to it? Consider why your first reaction is one that works to appease and protect the feelings of men, rather than recognizing the validity and origin of some women’s emotions and reactions.
So here’s my view: kink is not, in fact, sacred, and it’s dangerous to imply that we must refrain from critiquing or saying anything negative about it.
I’ve written about this before re: BDSM and my own kink for sexual submission/masochism. As a woman, I recognize that there is no fucking way I can ever disentangle this from sexism, because I grew up in a misogynistic culture that glorifies violence against women, and it will likely still be one when I die. This is not going to stop me from engaging in things I find enjoyable, but I do believe that I have responsibility to both entertain feminist critique of those acts and understand that the cultural context I live in means that other women might be very uncomfortable with what I do, for reasons other than oppressive killjoy vanilla prudery.
There is a valid place for the expression “your kink is not my kink”. It is important to have tolerance for acts outside the line of standard heteronormatively-defined sex. “Kink” is defined against a cultural norm, and quite a bit of what falls under that big umbrella involves queer sex and women enjoying sex on their own terms, rejecting culturally imposed ideas about who we should fuck and how, or if any actual fucking is required at all. With that said, no kink exists separate from larger society. Quite a bit of kink still revolves around defining who or what is to be objectified and who does the objectifying. There is no fetish, no kink, that is not informed by the cultural baggage we have all accumulated, and those who have power in “vanilla” society still have that power when they define their kinks. That power is still just as effective at abusing, exploiting, and harming others.
The problem with using the concept of “kink-shaming” to ward off any criticism of any goddamn thing people jack off to is that it ignores this power. A man who has fantasies about raping unconscious women is a man who lives in a patriarchal society where that sort of thing happens all the time, even if he has never actually tried it. Someone who draws sexual images of children draws in a society where child molestation is very common and very underreported, and it is absurd to expect anyone to shut their mouth if they see that same individual being left alone with kids. Rapists enjoy violent porn, even if nonviolent people do too. It’s abhorrent to tell a rape victim she’s “kink shaming” if someone’s love of simulated rape porn disturbs her. When someone’s kink reflects real-world, nonconsensual violence, there is absolutely nothing wrong with people reacting negatively. There is a fuckton wrong with attempting to silence them by accusing them of shaming people who want to impose their celebration of rape and violence on others. That is intolerable. The idea that the feelings of the one who revels in rape and violence come before those who have been or may be raped and assaulted is at the very heart of rape culture. No one is obligated to tolerate manifestations of rape culture, whether it translates into actual acts or not.
Long story short, I’ve got no issues with anything that occurs between consenting adult humans, or between consenting adult humans and inanimate objects, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be told that I must entertain any discussion that centers around someone getting off on victimizing people or animals. That ain’t just kink, that’s the patriarchy.
I always think it’s worthwhile to point out how effectively women are socialized to view male partners as Certificates of Achievement in the Art of Womanhood. Men are raised to believe that female companionship is their birthright. Hence, a man rejected by a woman he is attracted to will likely complain about what a stupid, ungrateful bitch she is for turning him down, whereas a woman is likely to ruminate on how ugly, awkward, selfish, unsexy, fat or unfeminine she is. Both attitudes hinge on the notion that male attention is something women should be grateful for. Women who complain to their friends about their partners leaving messes around the house are very likely to be told that they should look at the big picture (you’ve got a man, be grateful!) and count their blessings (your silly feelings place you at risk of losing your prize!). Rarely if ever are women told that the men worth having relationships with are the men who listen to them respectfully, discuss items of contention without resentment or hostility, give their opinions honest thought and consideration, and then follow up by making reasonable changes in their behavior as necessary. Such sensitivity risks getting a man labeled as effeminate or pussywhipped - i.e., a man that women should find unattractive. It benefits the patriarchy to portray men and women as so fundamentally different, so incapable of interaction as equals, that all women can hope for is tolerance and inexplicable affection, strung along with the cheap promise that he might change, if you can make him love you enough. This amounts to nothing less than grooming girls and women for a lifetime of subservience in a culture that normalizes abusive, manipulative, and exploitative behavior.
Long story short, there is no amount of physical attractiveness or personal charisma that makes unexpectedly sitting in cold piss puddles when you go to take a shit worthwhile. Demand better.
*While it’s a bit outside the scope of this post, it’s always worth noting that this same dynamic often reproduces itself in homosexual relationships, if only for the sheer lack of alternative models of masculinity. It’s just as inexcusable there.