A case study in how abusive shitstains strawman Consent as a Felt Sense [“On Ethical Domination”]

(Posting anew so this will show up in #rolequeer tagspace.)

theungrumpablegrinch:

Maymay is annoyed with recent rolequeer discussion of domination, so I have a few words to add on the topic.

Let’s say I have a friend and occasional lover; we’ll call him the Scotsman for reasons that may become apparent. One night I ask the Scotsman to fuck my mouth and call me his little slut, because I think that sounds super hot. We have sex in the manner I requested, I spend the night, and in the morning he makes me breakfast. Both of us are happy and feel well-treated.

If we have sex in similar fashion many times, so that it becomes the pattern of our relationship, I’d certainly characterize the Scotsman as dominant. By application of Maymay’s Syllogism, the Scotsman is thus also a rapist, and there is absolutely nothing I can say or feel to change this.

Discussion questions:

  1. “Can ‘dominants are rapists’ admit exceptions, in principle if not in practice?
  2. If you and I have a good-faith disagreement about whether I was raped, which of us can ultimately speak more authoritatively to that question?
  3. X’s are usually Y’s. Does it follow that all X’s are Y’s? Phrase your answer in the form of a consistent set of mathematical axioms.

Look, I know you’re just baiting me, because your blog makes it pretty clear that you’re actually one of Ozy’s shitstain scumbag friends, little more than a smug self-righteous dipshit who has no intention of engaging with any rolequeer ideas in even a remotely respectful way, but you’ve also got the brainpower equivalent of a cockroach when it comes to this stuff, and are unable to compose anything other than strawman arguments. To that end, observe.

The two obvious problems with your premise:

  • You are not capable of defining other people’s identities. If the Scotsman does not identify as dominant, you can not determine from your own experiences whether he is “a Dominant (person)” or not. You can only observe his actions and make a judgement about each of his acts regarding whether you believe they are acts of domination or not. Obviously.
  • If you do not feel raped, you were not raped. This is true regardless of what acts took place, because the defining element of rape is not an utterance but the felt sense of a sexual violation. That is, rape is the experience of sexual violation, not the lack of a “no” nor the presence of a “yes.” If you “feel well-treated” and you do not “feel raped” then you were not raped. Obviously.

That is to say, firstly, you are intentionally conflating identities with actions. We’ve been over this, but you don’t care, because you’re a shitstain. Secondly, you’re treating consent violations as a set of specific things one person can do to another, rather than an experience people can have about any given act with any number of people, including only themselves. We went over this many, many times, too, but you don’t care, because you’re a shitstain.

Now, the answers to the questions:

  1. No. There isn’t a need to “admit exceptions” because there are no exceptions. The logic holds; a Dominant (person) is not the same thing as a dominant act. People are not reducible to the acts they take. Doing that to people is called dehumanization, and it’s a shitty thing to do. Obviously.
  2. You. We are each the authority on our own lived experiences, because only I know whether I felt consenting, and only you know whether you felt consenting. Obviously.
  3. No. See also correlation is not causation. Obviously.

I already know you think you just checkmated the whole idea of rolequeerness and consent as a felt sense, “but, maymay, how can Dominants be rapists if, y’know, #NotAllDoms,” and I’ll just point you back to your first mistaken premise. But you won’t care, because you’re a shitstain.

You either know exactly what I am saying yet still can’t refrain from adding your unneeded two cents worth anyway, or you are so hopelessly stunted by your own emotional cowardice that you don’t actually want to have an honest look at yourself in the context of the world you live in. Because you’re a shitstain. And that’s fine, I’m not trying to convince you of anything; this isn’t even about you.

So why don’t we just cut to the chase, here, Mr. Grinch? Let me tell you what’s going to happen.

I’m going to ask you again to stop talking about or to me or to my friends, to go the fuck away, and get the fuck out of #rolequeer spaces. You are not welcome here, you are not useful here, you are by all my measures less valuable alive than you are dead. But you will not actually go away nor will you change your behavior or begin engaging respectfully or honestly with me or this work. You will instead continue to play games with euphemism and concealment, disingenuously making trite arguments with your smug, self-righteous attitude as you have always done rather than argue any of your points honestly, because you’re a shitstain. You just don’t want things to change.

Meanwhile, I will ignore you as best I can, trudging through all the shit you and your shitstain mob of bullies project everywhere you can, engaging directly only when you provoke people I care about into responding to you, and only long enough to demonstrate your worthlessness. I will continue to make compelling points and ask difficult questions that make many people including you uncomfortable, and you and your friends will continue weakly rebutting them with transparent strawmen and trite projections of your own bigotries stemming from a corrosive superiority complex (a little thing called “privilege”) that you have. Because you’re a shitstain, and shitstains like you don’t want to critically analyze, or change, or even have a conversation about those bigotries. You just want to flag the bare minimum level of polite self-awareness to avoid being punished or judged.

Over time, as has been the case for years now, more and more people will find what I am saying and doing persuasive and useful to integrate into their own lives and for their own purposes. Some of them will challenge me, and I will argue with them, but we will be having an actual conversation, a conversation that will not involve you. After you and I are both long gone, Mr. Ungrumpable Grinch, your contributions will amount to little else than failed attempts to retain the abusive parts of a status quo that no longer exists, and mine will have meaningfully informed a more compassionate reality.

So. I’ll knock over the first domino: Go away, Mr. Grinch. Stop talking about or to me. And stop provoking my friends with derails.

Now, I want to address other rolequeers and folks who are engaging with these ideas honestly: if you see people like Mr. Grinch here, or his ilk, talking about this work, probably best ignore them. If you see people like Mr. Grinch talking to or about me, personally, and you feel like you have the wherewithal to tell them how unwelcome and abusive they are being continually picking fights with me for so many years without end, please do so. (Here’s an effective example of how to do that.) I do very much appreciate this kind of humanizing, personal, and public support.

But, at the same time, please be aware that disingenuous scumbag shitstains like Mr. Grinch will ultimately use your response as a thinly-veiled attempt to drag you and your energy—and thus indirectly me and mine—into another repetitive, circular, draining conversation in which nothing of value is produced. Because that’s their intention; that is exactly what men and Dominants and rapists (and this Mr. The Ungrumpable Grinch) want.

If you have any questions or concerns or any trouble identifying who might be disingenous and who might not be, please feel free to bring your concerns to me privately. I generally have a very broad view of who people are, who they are socially connected to, what they have said in the past, and what their motives tend to be, because I generally collect and maintain quite a bit of information about people who choose to make themselves my work’s explicit adversaries.

Edited to add: Oh, and in case you had any doubts about any of the above, you no longer need to trust my take it. Take Mr. Grinch’s, who just broadcasted his intents to be exactly what I described. Shitstains: still predictable.

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On the Evolution of Slavery: Owning Property is a Relation, not a Right

So I want to share something I’m still working through. I tend not to share potentially inflammatory and early thoughts these days, mostly because of the spectre of the corrupt pop social justice mobsters who pounce on any chance they get to demonize me and my work. But I’m gonna share this anyway, this time, because I think I can meaningfully contribute something to this conversation and because I feel like I have enough support from rolequeers. Thank you. Y’all are awesome. Here goes.

At about 2 AM yesterday, I woke up in a fit. I didn’t feel very well-rested. I think I had some bad dreams, but I don’t remember them now. I checked Twitter and heard that Darren Wilson was not indicted for killing Mike Brown, and that Ferguson was burning.

So I re-read some of the discussions about race and its relationship to BDSM that recently took place here, much of which was curated and archived on rolequeer‘s blog. As I was thinking about it all I found myself needing help keeping the various different arguments in perspective with one another. So I grabbed a digital whiteboard and started making some charts.

At first I made a Venn diagram like the last one I made, but it seemed wrong. I threw that one out. Then I started writing a list of all the kinks that were mentioned in the discussion. That exercise produced the following list:

  • Race play
  • Master/slave relationships
  • Ageplay (Daddy/little girl, big/little, etc.)
  • Student/teacher (erotic “mentor”)
  • Eroticized workplace (boss/secretary)
  • Pet owners (pet play)
  • Ranchers (farm animal play)

Maybe there were some other things mentioned but these were the ones that seemed obviously central to the parts of the conversation I was privy to, to me.

Then I tried sorting this list along a number of different axes, namely “sensations,” “stories” and “felt senses,” as described in my other infographic post: Sensation, Story, and Felt Sense. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to yield any meaningful results either. But then it occurred to me that the items in this list aren’t actually sensations, stories, or felt senses at all. These are just descriptors for different classes of things. That is to say, none of these labels describes a specific thing per se, but rather they are all pointers that point at numerous other specific things that all do relate to each other in a way the label describes.

And when I realized that these were all labels, rather than specific kinks, when I started looking at this list as a taxonomy for taxonomies, then suddenly it became very obvious what these all had in common: slavery.

It might be shocking or even offensive to some to think of classifying a white secretary in a modern day office in the same schema as a Black cotton-picker on a Southern plantation in the 1800’s, or to liken a human child to a household pet, but the fact of the matter is all of those roles share something very meaningful at their core. That is of course not to say that these very different things are in fact the same in every way, or even the same in degree across their similarities. But I am arguing that at least some aspect of the things that they are, despite differences in other qualities and in the degree of the same quality, are in fact the same kind of thing. As I’ve said before, the difference between the quality of a thing and the degree of that thing can be subtle, and this subtlety, when left unexamined, is dangerous.

So let’s examine this more closely. I made a diagram to help. Like all diagrams, this one is somewhat simplified. It’s also intended as a guide for this conversation, not as a bounds to it.

Evolution-of-Slavery-pyramid

The diagram is a pyramid chart. It has five layers. Each layer of the pyramid except the fourth contains only one block. The fourth layer is split into two blocks. The first (earlier/lower) blocks are more foundational concepts that the latter (later/higher) blocks rely on for cultural legitimacy and erotic power.

Evolution of Slavery as observed through its manifestations in contemporary (erotic) contexts

Draft version 1, Nov. 26, 2014 originally from days.maybemaimed.com

  1. Objectification/Ownership
    • property rights, fantasizing about being someone’s “sex toy”
  2. Master/slave relationships
    • people-as-property; North-Atlantic slave trade, Chinese debt peons, early Roman law, and other enslavement of humans
    • use of animals as “beasts of burden”
  3. Ageism/Adultism
    • legal guardianship; children as property of parents,
    • student/teacher or parent/child (incest) play,
    • “committing” the elderly to institutional “homes”
  4. Racism / Speceisism

    • liberal human rights ideals, race play / human exceptionalism, pet play
  5. Employment
    • boss/secretary play,
    • “wage slavery,”
    • employee as “human resource”

Before I go into any depth, I want to point out two obvious “problems” with this diagram, and one arguable problem.

  1. First, this is not intended to be an exhaustive or all-encompassing survey. Obviously.
  2. Second, and more importantly, this is not intended to be about oppression olympics. I am not trying to point out that a given oppression, like ageism, is more or less “bad” than some other given oppression, like racism. Intersecting power relations don’t “cancel each other out,” obviously.
  3. Third, it is arguably politically risky at best and actively racist, speceisist, or both at worst to group racism and speceisism at the same “level” of a pyramid, which is a structure that itself has its own historical connotations of slavery, I should add. That is to say, it is classically racist to lump the enslavement of non-human animals and the enslavement of humans together as if they have the same level of significance; and it is classically speciesist to differentiate strictly between the enslavement of non-human animals and the enslavement of humans, as if they don’t have the same level of significance. Different people will of course prioritize, and thus spend more of their time and energy, focusing on anti-racism than anti-speciesism, or vice versa, at a given time and place. I am not trying to tell you what to do. I am trying to point out that I see a relationship between the dehumanization of humans and the way in which non-human animals are treated because “animals are not people.” Moreover, I observe that the dehumanization of humans and stripping personhood rights from non-human animals are used to justify each other. And, for now, I’m just saying that I think that’s worth examining more closely.

To summarize the above, the layers of the pyramid are intended to describe a given lens or way of thinking about where we learn and why we perpetuate abusive behaviors. To do this, I purposefully mixed institutional memories like anthropological records (such as “early Roman law”) with personal experiences (we were all treated differently because we were young before we were consciously aware that racism existed). This is an obvious flaw in the diagram. Oppression isn’t either/or, nor solely hierarchical. I know that. That’s not the point. Please don’t derail here.

Now, there are several arguments I’m trying to sort out in my own head with the aide of the graph. They are:

  1. Slavery is a relation of dominion; domination draws cultural legitimacy from the notion of property. That is, ownership exists because “property rights” are a privilege certain people have over certain things that other people do not. No matter how well-intentioned this may have once been or still is (see copyright, ala “intellectual property”), I argue that ownership—in all and every aspect of existence—is a fundamentally corrupt and corrupting idea. In fact, “ownership” is not a “right” people have at all. Rather, ownership is a way of (often but not always violently) enforcing a certain relationship that a given person or people has or have to something else, either another person or group of people or a literal object. In other words, “ownership” is actually a sociocultural technology that manages resource scarcity; in a theoretical universe of unlimited resources, ownership becomes meaningless except as a mechanism of social control.
  2. Where “ownership” exists, some variation of “slavery” is the inevitable outcome. The variation may not be what we’re used to thinking about when we hear the word “slavery,” but there is no fundamental difference between a “human resource” and a “slave” except the various referential euphemisms and the overtness of enslavement. A “wage slave” is not a “slave” in the same way that a minor is not a pet, yet the self-determination of both wage slaves and minors is obviously harshly constrained in some strikingly similar ways. In the same way that Dominants Are Rapists, this means that Governments (and Corporations) Are Slavers, and that Bosses (and Teachers and Parents) Are Taskmasters.
  3. With respect to “slavery” as we do often stereotype it today, this lens highlights the fact that many peoples have been enslaved in different circumstances throughout history. For example, in addition to the enslavement of African peoples, many Chinese people were enslaved in the Americas by genocidal whites, typically for railroad construction work.
  4. Slavery is not solely a historical phenomenon. It happens today, in “civilized,” contemporary, modern day societies. You can find it in places like Dubai, wherever political repression rips people from their homes and social relationships, and every time we look at our Apple computers and iPhones. In fact, slavery is even part-and-parcel of the food many of us eat. So there is no need to stereotype or embellish slavery with the trappings of a bygone era, nor to obsessively hyperfocus solely on some forms of slavery (like sex trafficking) to the exclusion of others in order to speak to the abusiveness of slavery in contemporary contexts. If you can only picture one ultra-specific historical period or only one ultra-specific form of coercion when you hear “slavery,” then you do not understand the breadth and scope of the issue and because of this ignorance you will inevitably fail to recognize the true extent of its impact today.

Now, once again, with respect to the third point, I want to be clear that I do not mean to downplay or minimize colorism. Instead, I want to point out that slavery is in fact distinct from racism, but that it is nonetheless deeply informed by and inextricably linked to it given our placement in time and space. At the same time, I am pointing out that ageism and racism are also inextricably linked; just recall slurs like “boy” sometimes still used to refer to Black men, or the reports of recent twelve year-old Tamir Rice’s death at the hands of a police killer being described by white media making him seem older than he is to strip him of his youthful innocence.

Likewise, employment is similarly implicated in all these -isms, too; employment is a form of abuse, and there is no such thing as “ethical employment.” What this means is that classism and slavery are also definitionally interrelated terms. Therefore, any discussion purporting to be “anti-racist” that nevertheless denies or downplays racism’s relationship to classism are themselves racist discussions supporting white supremacy.

The above thought process has brought me to three conclusions so far.

First, that people are almost surely invoking a racist history even when we eroticize ownership in what we think are racially neutral ways (such as pet play or age play) and that white people like me need to be especially mindful of this, and especially if our partners are people of color. This is because when we eroticize ownership we are also by definition eroticizing slavery, and when we are eroticizing slavery we are eroticizing something horrible that is happening all over the world right now, today. In other words, “D/s relationships” are Master/slave relationships.

Second, that people need to internalize why race is not the same thing as racism, and that the former does not exist but the latter is real. “Race” is a made-up thing in the same way that “gender” is a made-up thing. There is no such thing as “man” in the same way there is no such thing as “white.” That is to say, whiteness does not exist as a meaningful individual aspect of identity except insofar as it was created and continues to be used to dominate and oppress—to lord power over—people of “other colors.”

Third, I do not think people need to be people of color to relate to and find compassion for the psychosomatic damage slavery causes, because we do not need to be people of color to be or become slaves. That does not mean the experience of whites is equivalent to the experience of People of Color; slavery is not the same as racism. It means that there are many places we white folks can look towards to find ways that the system of white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, to use the overwrought and flowery terms of the academe, enslaves everyone in various aspects of our own lives. We can and should use these experiences to divest from an identity that supports white supremacy, and to motivate ourselves to acts that undermine structural racism. But this also means that people of color, Black and Brown, African and South American and Asian and Indigenous peoples, are all obviously more keenly aware of how concepts like ownership and property relate to power, as well as what impacts emanate from those interconnections.

And that means “white people” like me should STFU and fucking listen to them when they talk about that. Because we’ve got a lot to learn. And I, for one, am interested in what they are willing to share.

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Some unsolicited advice to dominants [power can not exist in a vacuum]

rolequeer:

rolequeer:

I don’t believe ethical domination is possible. But if I had to give a dominant who absolutely refuses to quit the game one bit of advice about how to make domination less unethical, that one piece of advice would be:

DON’T. DATE. SUBMISSIVES.

Seriously, submissives are people who are willingly vulnerable, who face the world without armour and who have just been taught by the BDSM scene that:

  • their partners are supposed to push their boundaries
  • expressing their needs and desires during play is ‘topping from the bottom’ and therefore wrong.
  • submission is a package deal and enduring things they don’t like it part of being submissive
  • their every thought about being worthless needs to be allowed to be fed and grow stronger because it’s ‘only in the bedroom‘ and that’s totally hot.
  • more shit like this

And their ‘safety net in the scene’ is likely to consist of people who believe the same bullshit, who have a very narrow definition of what constitutes a consent violation and who are very unlikely to openly condemn a rapist.

THESE ARE THE ABSOLUTE LAST PEOPLE YOU SHOULD BE DATING.

You might as well embark on a journey to make less triggering horror movies and recruit your audience from a PTSD clinic. BAD IDEA.

So, ya know. Don’t date submissives.

If you simply must continue to play the game, date a dominant. You’ll still run into a world of trouble but at least you’re dating someone who is used to having power and agency in a relationship, who is likely to give and good and as bad as they get and who is more likely to be believed by their social scene if you do rape them. Not a perfect arrangement but a better one by far.

Sorry if that isn’t the answer you wanted to hear. Sorry if that isn’t going to help you get laid this weekend, but that’t what I’ve got.

maymay said: Have you been getting requests from Dominants who refuse to “quit the game” (who don’t want to drop the Dominant identifier or spend time questioning why they want to dominate people) about this issue? I’m so curious what those questions sound like….

I haven’t. 

I have had a surprising lot of ‘but is it okay if I dominate my partner if…’, questions which sounds a lot like people who really want to ask for permission to uncritically be a dominant. (I guess they know there’s something wrong with that, why else would they go looking for a strangers’ permission?) 

So this is a pattern worth calling out:

  • But is it okay to buy the plastic plates if I also buy the free-range eggs and use a paper shopping bag?
  • But is it okay to fill my car with gas if I also donate to the Wildlife Foundation?
  • But is it okay to eat meat if I also volunteer at a kitten shelter?

Or, closer to home, “is it okay to be a Dominant if I’m a woman, and he’s a man?” And so on.

What holds these beliefs together is the misunderstanding that oppression is a zero-sum game, that a “good” act will “cancel out” a bad act. Sorry, but that’s not how ethics, or power imbalances work. unquietpirate has a great quote about this:

This is the actual, meaningful reason for trying to avoid Oppression Olympics and “Highest Total Oppression Score” calculus. Not because the Arcane Rules of Pop-Social Justice Etiquette require it but because, often, we’re in situations where people have power over us in some ways and we have power over them in others. Those experiences of privilege and oppression interact in complex ways, but they don’t cancel each other out.

If you step on my foot, it is always appropriate for me to respond by saying, “OW. YOU’RE ON MY FOOT.” Especially if my foot has been getting stepped on all day! It’s appropriate for me to expect you to get off my foot and even to apologize. It’s not okay for me to respond by stomping on YOUR foot to make my point. In other words, if you do something misogynistic to me, it’s not cool for me to respond by doing something racist or ableist back.

One thing I’ve observed in the discussions around rolequeer kinks is that a lot of people who previously thought of themselves as Dominant have been rethinking their use of the label, and what all of them seem to have in common is a kind of reluctance in which taking on a Dominant role made them feel safe. As cool-yubari recently observed, abuse culture intentionally confuses people about the differences between things.

For a long time, I’ve asserted that the abuse inherent in BDSM intentionally confuses Submissives about the difference between gratitude and care; I felt grateful for being subjected to the abusive aspects of prior relationships, and I thought that this gratitude I felt towards my Dominant meant that I was being cared for by them. Moreover, if you look closely at the way many other Submissives speak about their Dominants, you’ll see this pattern there, too.

I interpreted Dominant acts as caring acts of a loving partner—it was called “aftercare” so how could it be anything harsh?—and I was grateful for the hurt and harm they caused. But that’s because I was taught, like rolequeer describes, that “submission is a package deal and enduring things they don’t like is part of being submissive,” among other things. That’s a big part of why Dominants Are Rapists.

Similarly, when you hear Dominants say things like “submission is a gift,” what they’re doing is setting people up to think that they (Doms) are grateful to us (Submissives) for allowing them to dominate us. They are creating a situation in which, later on, they literally say, “But you asked for it,” or “Why didn’t you use your safeword?” The framing of “gift” is also pernicious: it turns submission into a thing we’ve “given” to them, a thing that is now theirs, andthis feeds directly into the idea of submitting itself as the act of “consenting.” The idea that “submission is a gift,” one D-types are “grateful” to receive, is a literal metaphorical formalization of treating consent as a permission-acquisition scheme.

That’s messed up.

So here’s my attempt at a corollary for Dominants. But first I want to point out that this may be wrong, given I’ve never self-ID’d Dominant. It’s also not particularly interesting to me given I personally prioritize discussion for Submissives, but it may be helpful/useful/interesting to those of you who are having the “rolequeer topping” conversation, so I’ll toss it out here anyway.

The abuse inherent in BDSM intentionally confuses Dominants about the difference between safety and power. I’m guessing that D-types are taught to believe that having power over others is a way to make themselves feel safer in interactions with them. And I don’t doubt that there’s probably some tiny kernel of truth in that, somewhere. At the very least, it’s arguably “safer” to have sex in which you’re not physically bound than to have sex in which you are. But I think that’s a very narrow definition of “safety,” and I don’t think it’s one that’s particularly useful.

So, two conclusions.

First conclusion: power-over in narrow contexts hurts everyone who lacks power-over in institutional contexts.

What I mean here is that mixing institutional powerlessness with an individual situation of having power over someone is not an uncommon dynamic. In fact, that exact interplay of competing forces in crossed contexts is exactly what created the much-reviled “femdom” stereotype. I’ll quote Amanda Gannon quoting me in her 2011 article, “Femdom and Intimacy and Porn” to make this point:

MayMay’s post about “The BDSM community ghetto, and other cultural problems” is not a new post, but I love it.  Here’s why:

As a result of this cultural influence, most BDSM communities became ghettos for the small group of people who enjoyed the single, narrow interpretation of F/m relationships that are available there, drawing more of the same into the community, and repeating the cycle of exclusion. Meanwhile, dominant women who, for instance, prefer to play tenderly and in hoodies and submissive men who, for instance, enjoy feeling cared for instead of being called names, are left out in the cold.

While it may be reasonable to expect someone for whom most erotic imagery does not offer fulfillment to stop viewing it, it is downright cruel to expect that person to simply live unfulfilled. With few options for satisfying sexual expression, erotic art is a literal lifeline for many people, offering sexual fulfillment at least in fantasy for the things they can not, or feel they should not, actually have in reality.

Reading that makes me want to cry in gratitude and punch something.  I DO want to play tenderly and care for my partners.  Part of my desire to hurt someone is a desire to be close to them.  Part of my interest in inflicting pain is the contrast between pain and gentleness.  To me it’s even more intimate than pleasure.

There is very little pornographic or erotic imagery out there that speaks to that particular desire, that intimacy.  I have to make my own, by writing it for myself, by myself; or by roleplaying and hoping that the other person understands well enough to help me get it right.

I don’t get much real-life experience with it, which makes the lack of porn/erotica that is meaningful to me personally really, really agonizing.  People whose tastes are indulged by images of female dominance as opposed to male submission, or of male dominance, or of female submission, tend to have it easier.

Back on Tumblr, this spawned several relevant conversations.

The takeaway here is that this stereotype doesn’t serve many Dominant women, nor does it serve many Submissive men. The people it primarily serves are, surprise surprise, DOMINANT MEN. They’re the ones making the money off this stereotype. They’re the ones who see masculinity reflected in dominance. Again.

Second conclusion: individual situations of power, in the context of institutional powerlessness, can be more dangerous, not safer, for individuals lacking institutional power.

With respect to “definitions of safety,” I think it’s clear that if you’re having sex with someone you fear, you’re not actually that safe, really.

Sure, maybe you have one kind of power in one tiny, narrow, subsection of your interactions with them. But if the person you’re interacting with has a lot of institutional power over you in other areas—such as, for example, if you are a disabled POC queer trans young woman dominating an older able-bodied white cishet man, just to take this to a logical identity politic extreme—then the small sliver of explicitly sexualized interactions you have with someone like that does not make you safer. It makes you even more unsafe. And that’s even more obvious if you don’t actually know them, or if you don’t actually trust them, if you’re generally afraid of them to such an extent that the only way you can possibly imagine interacting with them sexually is in the bedroom, while they’re bound, without making yourself in any way vulnerable, with the door closed.

That doesn’t look like intimacy to me. That looks like terror. Perhaps the best example of this? Pro-dommes; BDSM sex workers.

This is what I think people are pointing to when they talk about Doms being abused by submissives, and it’s a conversation I’ve hesitated to get too far into because, lacking a whoooole bunch of context, it’s way too much like a conversation about women raping men. Does it happen? YES. But I’m not going to center that conversation unless that is what the conversation is explicitly and intentionally about. I do think that is an important conversation to have, so here’s a start. If anyone wants to spin this off into its own thread, I wanna have that conversation, too.

Anyway, back to the original point: if you’re asking “would it be okay to be dominant if,” and you’re trying to find a way to keep doing what you’re doing without being judged for it, then you’re not going to be welcomed here. Go away.

But if you’re asking things like, “what are some ways I can make use of a Dominant role to help myself understand my relationship to power, to get a grip on why I feel sexually drawn to exert control over people, and to more deeply explore the ways desiring control over people harms my relationships with the people I love?” then I think you will have a lot to talk about with rolequeers like me.

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More on “The Match Percentage Fallacy, or, the influence of rolequeerness on the Predator Alert Tool project”

thebrightobvious:

idlnmclean:

maymay:

It deconstructs reified institutions and intuitions by applied and analytical philosophy.

Very quick, very informal comment: let’s connect the “social justice as melodrama” concept to game theory. My explication probably will be flawed, so feel free to critique it.

Interacting in mainstream society can be thought of as a game. You try to acquire different sorts of attention and status from different people. Being labelled an “abuse victim,” whether by yourself or others, is how you lose. You are thereafter marked as a perpetual poison container; people feel free to keep abusing and shunning you. Being nice, polite, successful, and seemingly “undamaged,” as well as subtly punishing people who can’t do these things, is how you win. Abusiveness thrives in this environment.

The social justice hobbyist game is a coping mechanism for the abuse victims/losers in the mainstream society game. No longer are you a loser for being abused, at least in theory. Instead, being labelled an “abuser,” whether by yourself or others, is how you lose. But being nice, polite, successful, and seemingly “undamaged,” as well as subtly punishing people who can’t do these things, is still how you win. And abusiveness still thrives in this environment. The social justice hobbyist game is still the same type as the mainstream society game; unfortunately, changing how the losers are labelled is enough to allow a lot of people to fool themselves.

The “reduce abusiveness in the universe” game is impossible to win if the universe means “literally everything,” but you can reduce certain types of abusiveness in certain domains of specification.

The answer to the question  ”Am I, have I already been, or will I be abusive or complicit in abuse?” is: yes, you have already fucked up, you are fucking up right now, and you will fuck up in the future. This is already psychologically difficult to accept, and it’s made even more difficult by the way mainstream society trains us to fear suffering, failure, and change. But it can be done. And things like Predator Alert Tool can help with that.

Okay, so the above feels a little messy to me but I accept that it’s clearly a half-baked thought, so to speak, and I have some of my own half-baked thoughts about it, so here goes. My thanks for some of these thoughts go to Meredith L. Patterson, with whom I recently spoke about this topic again.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that what I mean when I talk about “game theory” in the context of “a game theoretic approach to simulating countermeasures to rape culture” can usually be simplified to mean “estimating the likelihood that a given action will make possible future desirable actions and/or prevent future undesirable ones.” Now, there are two key points we have to understand about game theory for this statement to make sense.

  1. Inaction is also an act (or at least, that this is functionally true for as long as we perceive time as linear and unstoppable—obviously if your simulation refutes this premise then we are not really talking about the same thing anymore)
  2. Every act (including inaction) is taken by some actor; that is to say, things don’t “just happen,” they happen as a result of previous actions made by some other actor that ultimately results in another given actor (either oneself or someone else) facing a decision of what to do or not do in a given situation (or “turn” of the game).

The net effect of these premises means that, for every turn, there are three distinct elements that compose “the game.” They are:

  1. the players,
  2. the information available at each turn, and
  3. the moves available at each turn.

This matrix grows more complex the more players are added to the game. In the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma, there are two players, so there are only four total elements. (Two players, the information available, the moves available, so 2 plus 1 plus 1 equals four.) With those constraints, the “best outcome” is not hard to model.

In reality, and when applied to something as enormous and complex as rape culture, then even under unrealistically constrained conditions, the “game” is incredibly hard to model. Moreover, the game theoretic approach to the euphemistic win condition called “avoid the experience of suffering rape” is a distinctly different game than the game theoretic approach needed to model the win condition called “eradicate rape culture.” And that says nothing of the complexity inherent in applying the same model to all areas of abuse, instead of just sexual ones. Rape is endemic and a big problem, but it is actually only one big problem in the set of possible “predatory” consent violations, and it’s not even the most common one.

So that’s a ridiculously crashed crash course on Game Theory.

Now let’s talk about Predator Theory, the sociology behind the assertion that “most rapes are committed by a handful of repeat rapists, with a long (or at least longer) tail of one-time rapists accounting for the rest.” This is also the theory, supported by numerous studies, that refute the prevalence of the “stranger rape” myth.

If we accept that Predator Theory is accurate (and I have not seen any good evidence to suggest that it is not), then we can simplistically model the game theoretic approach to countering rape culture as a game whose outline reads something like:

  • In a given situation (a “turn”),
  • given available information,
  • what actions can the player take (that will affect another player),
  • that will have the most beneficial outcome.

There, again, are the basic tenets of the game theoretic approach. All the Predator Alert Tools are designed to facilitate the above process. The reason each one is slightly different is because the the information it can act on in given situations is also different.

For example, Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid treats “answering an OkCupid Match Question” as “taking an action” in such a game. When a player (an OkCupid user) answers a Match Question, they are sending a signal to other players. Sending a signal is a move. Like all other moves, this kind of move has the effect of possibly making more information and potentially other moves available to other players.

From studies on Predator Theory, we know that Predators (and when I capitalize “Predators” I am always doing so to specifically refer to Predator Theory’s definition of the word in its context) use a variety of tactics to ensure that information about one of their sexual encounters does not reach people with whom they want to target in the future. This behavior has a name: “information siloing.” When information is not available to someone, they can not factor that information into the choices they make about which move is more beneficial (“safer”) for them.

This is why I frame this project by saying, “Predator Alert Tool helps users make more informed choices about what actions they feel they need to take to remain safe while using the service.”

It is important to pause here for a moment and remember that information siloing is not a tactic unique to Predators. Keeping information about our intimate relationships walled off from other people is actually something that many people do for many different reasons, some reasons that I would argue are healthy and others that I would argue are not. unquietpirate wrote a fantastic essay called “Monogamous Cultural Norms Contribute to Protecting Abusers” that describes this better than I could, and I suggest you read it if you have not yet done so. The upshot is that “information siloing” is a behavior, not a sin. Like many other behaviors, the impact it has may be “good” or “bad” depending on numerous other relevant pieces of information that you may or may not have access to at a given time.

Now, Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid highlights the signals players send when they answer OkCupid’s Match Questions to other players in order to de-silo as much information as possible, thereby hoping to expand the set of possible moves a given player (user of PAT-OKC) is aware of and enabling them to analyze the given situation (the decision tree of their “turn”) with the information they received through the tool. This is a fundamentally different approach than the one OkCupid’s “Match Percentage” interface provides, and this is no coincidence.

The “Match Percentage” interface is designed to account for “the best possible outcome” for OkCupid itself, not the best outcome for the OkCupid user. This makes sense when you realize that OkCupid is a company, and they have their own incentives and have defined the win conditions of this complex game very differently than their users (we) have. When asked about this on On The Media, Christian Rudder, OkCupid’s CEO, didn’t even try downplaying this fact.

In other words: OkCupid is a player, and they know this, but they don’t want you to know it, because if you did recognize that fact, then you would also recognize OkCupid’s actions as being moves that are perpetually and by definition in direct competition with your own desired outcomes.

We see this again and again with respect to anti-abuse efforts, most recently on Twitter:

I’ll repeat this again because it’s so important: Anti-abuse Twitter tools must treat Twitter itself as hostile or they. Will. Not. Work.

This is also why I repeatedly describe Predator Alert Tool as a project unfit for a business model: its implementations and goals are antithetical to the addition of a new player in the game. Predator Alert Tool itself is not an actor, it does not act. Business models are formalized declarations of intent to join the game as an actor. Predator Alert Tool has no business model. That’s intentional.

Note also that I very purposefully described PAT-OKC as enabling users “to analyze the given situation…with the information they received *through* the tool,” above.

Okay, now, finally, we can analyze the “social justice hobbyist’s” often hostile reaction to Predator Alert Tool in the same framework. This is where “Social Justice as Melodrama” comes into the equation.

I think you, thebrightobvious, are blisteringly accurate when you say, “The social justice hobbyist game is a coping mechanism for the abuse victims/losers in the mainstream society game.” In point of fact, the narrative social justice warriors near-universally employ is a microcosm of the overarching political rhetoric, not an exception to it. Their mental model of “the game” looks much more like Social Hierarchy Chutes and Ladders, and their interpretation of the win conditions is simplistically mistranslated as “climb the ladders to get to the top, the top is where it’s safe, be careful of the chutes along the way.”

So if you are someone who’s playing Social Hierarchy Chutes and Ladders, and something like Predator Alert Tool comes along that makes no bones about indiscriminately offering other people information about the moves you’ve made (by answering the “Choking” question, for example) then it is very rational to treat Predator Alert Tool as a threat to your ability to climb the social ladder.

This is why I use “social climber” as a pejorative and also why the core definition of rolequeerness includes “refus[ing] to accept cultural capital as a consolation prize for victimization.” Playing a game of Social Hierarchy Chutes and Ladders is also definitionally abusive for exactly the reason idlnmclean outlined earlier:

[In classic games, like Tic-Tac-Toe, Prisoner’s Dilemma, or Chutes and Ladders, e]ither wins and loses come in strict binary relationships or no one wins. However, in that rolequeer games are fundamentally about what classic games you do not play, reluctantly play, or defiantly play, the strategies and games which the rolequeers play implicitly are necessarily non-zero sum allowing many winners to one loser, many losers to one winner, many losers to many winners, many winners to no losers, no winners to many losers, and non-binary games of non-winners and non-losers.

If history is any guide, we have amounted more than enough evidence to strongly suggest that the zero-sum approach to such complex games, that is, the binary relationship of winners and losers, reliably serves to replicate the same game dynamics in different forms across the incarnations of society. If we are to ever be successful in changing the game, rather than merely the details of its various incarnations, then we must consider new approaches not to the rules themselves, but to how those rules can be broken.

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The Match Percentage Fallacy, or, the influence of rolequeerness on the Predator Alert Tool project

So I wrote this thing pushing back against continual attempts by the rape-supporting scum that is the BDSM and Internet social justice warrior cliques to redefine rolequeer as a subset of traditional BDSM practice, and then idlnmclean used it as a jumping off point to describe rolequeerness using a complex of mathematical and sociological language. And at first blush, I think it’s pretty good. It’s dense, so I’ve snipped it down to what struck me most as the strongest parts, but consider reading the whole post if formal mathematical descriptions of intricate topics interest you.

After excerpting their definitions, I want to highlight just a few of the applications of what those definitions mean. That is, I want to highlight how to take these formal definitions out of the realm of theory and apply them to the realm of action (and activism). I’ll be using Predator Alert Tool as a case study, since it’s the most relevant topic du jour.

idlnmclean:

maymay:

I’d like to make a formal contribution to this discourse in philosophy of queer relationship methods, sociological methods, anthropological participatory methods, and formal and applied mathematical theory.

[…]

Choice defined as the ability to realize contradictions within a theory. It is a non-classical in behavior and description. Non-contradictory theories have access only to formal decisions as choice becomes a trivial notion within those formal systems. Refer to deterministic and non-deterministic consistent decision theories and classical computing theory for explicit descriptions; refer to Paola Zizzi’s Lq and Lnq for implicit descriptions of weak choice or non-deterministic decision theory using quantum mechanical interpretations of logical multivalued propositions. Non-weak choice theory is either logically inconsistent or does not have a non-contradictory metasystem; if the metasystem is contradiction tolerant and non-axiomatic then the metasystem has both non-weak choice and non-deterministic decision theories inclusive of non-contradictory decision theories. Equivalent models for non-deterministic non-contradictory descision theories can be formulated in terms of category theory, recursive function theory, and algebraic geometry.

So I am going to repeat myself again in yet more new words. “Rolequeer” describes the way in which some people orient themselves towards the influences of power in their relationships. It is not a kink. It is not a way of doing BDSM. It is not an identity. It is not limited to the bedroom. It is a method of approaching, understanding, and relating to power equity and disparity.

Provides an adequate informal statement to formalize at least one of the assumptions or axioms of the rolequeer game theory. It can be interpreted as the existential instantiation of rolequeer games. See formal game theory for deterministic and non-deterministic, non-contradictory desicison theories. Abe has a complex of relationships with themselves; Bob has a complex of relationships with themselves; Abe and Bob jointly have a complex of relationships with themselves categorically composed from relationships of themselves to each other’s relationship with themselves. This is in general a many to many mapping, but it can reduce to one to one mappings for at least deterministic non-contradictory decision theories. Rolequeer games are at least generally describable as binary relationships of A to B and B to A though rolequeer theory itself rejects binaries in practice, so rolequeer theory is a non-binary theory.

What rolequeerness and BDSM have an in common is that both ideas describe ways some people approach the eroticization of power disparity. Rolequeer sex involves eroticizing disobedience, a rejection of authority, while BDSM is entirely about fetishizing dominance, sexualizing obedience to authoritarian control. That is literally the only thing BDSM and rolequeerness have in common and, as you can see, not only is it a tiny subsection of what rolequeerness describes, it is wholly antithetical to what BDSM describes.

BDSM as it exists is either a strict subtheory or independent of rolequeer theory. As they are antithetical in a non-contradictory sense, they are necessarily independent of each other if they are classically consistent. Rolequeer theory then rejects explicitly classism, so rolequeer theory is at least non-classist and may be both classist and non-classist. IE dialectical. Rolequeer games are at least non-deterministic games and satisfy non-contradictory valid condition for weak choice games between one or more player. A contradiction tolerant rolequeer theory will include both or neither rolequeer theory or BDSM theory.

Power disparities can be formalized by formal notions of class. Rolequeer theory then operates on classes as the domain of discourse, and posits a formally negative method with respect to classes. Intersectional methods of forming and enforcing personal and interpersonal relationships at and beyond class relationships. Rolequeer theory is a second order class game about classes or a non-classic game. As it is specified, rolequeer theory is a method antithetical to class games, so the formal consequence and prediction of rolequeer theory is that joining inequalities with opposition will produce equivalency relationships between the rolequeer players. Principally, this is achieved by using an open property of negation which allows the expression and interaction of rejecting the game to be played or strategies of playing to quit or end the game. In some cases possibly irregardless of the specific consequences of the game ending.

This formally amounts to responding to zero-sum games with a rejection of the offer to be determined in a finite game. This either redefines the proposed game in terms of a non-zero sum game or allows a localized contradiction within the finite system itself. Rolequeering strategies played with binary responses would result in mutually assured destructive strategies in games of competition; e.g. Cat’s game in Tic-tac-toe. Either wins and loses come in strict binary relationships or no one wins. However, in that rolequeer games are fundamentally about what classic games you do not play, reluctantly play, or defiantly play, the strategies and games which the rolequeers play implicitly are necessarily non-zero sum allowing many winners to one loser, many losers to one winner, many losers to many winners, many winners to no losers, no winners to many losers, and non-binary games of non-winners and non-losers.

Valid responses to this will only be responded to if and only if they are critical or negative in a logically analytical or empirically motivated sense.

Okay, so, one of the most obvious applications of this kind of thinking is in the sociocultural design of Predator Alert Tool. In a post I published on my more tech-focused blog, titled “Predator Alert Tool as a game theoretic simulation of countermeasures to rape culture,” I wrote:

In “Strategies Without Frontiers,” one of this week’s BSides LV information/security conference talks, software engineer and co-originator of the language-theoretic approach to computer security Meredith L. Patterson used Predator Alert Tool as an example of “an organic response against predatory [societal] games.” Or, in simpler words, Predator Alert Tool was cited as an example of how we can change our cultural environment from a relatively safe place for (sexual) predation into one that’s actively hostile to sexually predatory behaviors. And we can talk about that process using math, like this:

Normal form of the classic Prisoner's Dilemma game theory problem displays a matrix of outcomes for a given combination of player strategies ("cooperate" or "defect").

That’s why myself and a group of volunteer culture hackers have been blanketing the Internet’s social media websites with numerous different variations of Predator Alert Tool prototypes. We’re dissecting rape culture and using what we learn to devise game theoretic counter-strategies encoded as software tools that help people avoid undesirable outcomes.

That sounds complicated, but it has very humble origins: scale protective mechanisms that already work.

[…]

For the more mathematically minded, Predator Alert Tool can be approached as a reputation system coupled with a societally iterated prisoner’s dilemma. That is to say, it’s a tool designed to help you make dating choices that take into account all the past interactions a given person (like, say, the cutie you’re scoping out on OkCupid) has had. As one oft-targeted woman put it, “PEOPLE CAN SEE WHAT YOU TWEET AROUND HERE and some of us can’t afford to have short memories.”

One of the things that makes Predator Alert Tool so unique is that, contrary to its name, it does not presume to judge the “predatory-ness” of any given person. It simply takes information about the person in question or about other people who have spoken about the first person and presents that information to the user. We have repeated time and again that our intention is not to “think” for you, but rather to “help you make more informed choices about what you feel you need to do to remain safe while using [a given] service.

This approach is meaningfully divergent from the approach of, say, a national sex offenders registry or a “Match Percentage,” both of which are presentations that presume to calculate information opaquely and then present the result to the user. These aren’t systems that offer much if any transparency to how those results were arrived at. That opaqueness itself communicates a kind of surety to the user: “don’t worry, you can trust us.” In the case of a sex offender’s registry, the presumption is that anyone on the list is dangerous (an “offender”). With a Match Percentage, the presumption is that a high score is a compatible match.

Nevertheless, anyone with even a shred of perspective on the absurd farce of a “justice” system that the legal system is or anyone who has ever gone out on what ended up being a bad date with one of their suggested “great matches” has an intuitive sense that something is wrong with these systems. What I assert is that these failures are not design flaws, but intentionally crafted lies. They are carefully engineered sociopolitical manipulations that promise convenience and safety, but actually provide neither. They intentionally communicate a “don’t worry, you can trust us,” message, but leave the question of “trust who to do what?” unanswered by virtue of remaining unasked.

So one of the very first decisions my collaborators and I made when we began coding the various Predator Alert Tools was that we would create interfaces that explicitly challenge this mechanism of information presentation. Rather than, for example, create color-coded threat levels (blue for one concerning answer in the Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid red flag set, for example, yellow for two, and red for three or more), we would simply surface all concerns immediately in the same way and force the user to make a judgement for themselves.

One intentional side effect of this approach is the implicit rejection of the binary of abuser versus abused. Instead of opaquely calculating inputs and then producing an output that judges some people as “predators,” we treat everyone as having the capability to behave in “predatory” ways against everyone else—regardless of past input. Naturally, this makes a lot of people uncomfortable. That, of course, is the point: bluntly, “you might be a rapist if it never occurs to you that rape is something you’re capable of.

In practical logic, this means that “the class of people who might be rapists” is everyone. Likewise, we maintain that “the class of people who might be rape survivors” is also everyone.

To use the language from above, “This formally amounts to responding to zero-sum games with a rejection of the offer to be determined in a finite game.” Or in other words, by rejecting the idea that we can pre-calculate perceptions of dangerousness into a binary distinction between “we should warn at this danger level but no need to warn at this other danger level,” we purposefully break the consistency of user interfaces that were originally designed to lull people into thoughtlessness.

When OkCupid suggests a user with a 90%+ match to someone, and then Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid red-flags them, suddenly OkCupid’s idea of “a 90% match” becomes meaningless. And that’s the entire point. It is meaningless, but it’s trying to convince you it’s a super clever algorithm infinitely more competent in determining your “compatibility” with other people than you are, whatever the fuck that means.

The reason Predator Alert Tool is a volunteer project whose budget is now and has always been $0 is because it is entirely antithetical not just to a given business model, but to the very idea of “business models.” Every company selling anti-rape gimmicks is exploiting and profiting off rape culture. That’s why they’ve been resoundingly ineffective at combating it; despite what they say about combating rape culture, what they are actually doing supports it.

For these reasons, I have always conceived of Predator Alert Tool as a rolequeer project; it takes a rolequeer approach to the question of “who’s a rapist?” Its answer is both classless and creates an intersectional class: “anyone who commits rape.” This is not actually different from a lot of feminist discourse. But to the best of my knowledge, its implementation, that is the impact of its choices, are still, sadly, unique.

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Jian Ghomeshi is irrelevant. What matters instead is continually denying that BDSM is abuse.

fieldofyellowdandelions asked:

Do you have any thoughts on Jian Ghomeshi? I’ve had two conversations in the past week about him. In the first, a friend and I were talking about abuse and consent violations within the BDSM community, the “it’s not BDSM if it’s abuse” mentality and BDSM being a fertilization of abuse. In the second, I found myself bringing up the concept of “Consent as a Felt Sense”. Since these are both things you have spoken to in the past, I was wondering if you have any thoughts.

Yes, I do. But I have very little to say about Jian Ghomeshi specifically because nothing in his case is novel or interesting or new. Instead, I have stuff to say about the systemics behind what’s at play in cases like these.

For those who are unaware of the story, Jian Ghomeshi is a famous Canadian media icon who was recently accused of rape by three women, each approximately 20 years his junior. Ghomeshi responded by saying that, in each case, the sex was part of role play scenarios of a BDSM nature. In other words, Ghomeshi claimed the rape wasn’t “rape rape,” but rather rape play.

I first learned about the story when a friend on Facebook asked me, just as you did, if I had any thoughts about it. Here’s what I said:

I haven’t read anything about this yet but my understanding is that this person is describing their relationship as a BDSM one and therefore he is not a rapist?

Obviously, that sounds like something abusive BDSM’ers would say, probably because it is something abusive BDSM’ers say all the time. I am not at all surprised that would happen and I would expect to see a lot of people who affiliate with the BDSM subculture do whatever they can to distance themselves from him.

However, as BDSM becomes more widely known as a good structural cover for rapists and abusers, you will see more of these stories, not less. You can quote me on that. I’m confident of that prediction.

Now a month later, this is exactly what happened. In lockstep, BDSM’ers, even Ghomeshi’s close friends, were quick to denounce his behavior. Obviously, statements denouncing rape are better than statements supporting rape. But talk is cheap. Here are just a few more names for you to Google along with Jian Ghomeshi’s that have broken headlines recently:

  • John Hauff
  • Bob Bashara
  • Ed Bagley
  • Jim Brown
  • Mark Yu

(Hey, Tumblr, feel free to reblog and add the names of other folks. Let’s show folks just how far this goes.)

And then there are plenty of other incidents for whom laws of various kinds restrict the publication of the assailants’ names. Here’s an example of what those stories often sound like:

Man convicted of raping wife in alleged BDSM scenario gets retrial:

It turns out “no” may not always mean “no” – at least in the world of domination and submission.

That message comes from a surprising corner – the Court of Appeal, which this week ordered a new trial for a Toronto man who was convicted of sexual assault despite arguing that his wife had been a willing partner in dominant-submissive sex and he had assumed her “no” really meant “yes” that night of Feb. 8, 2008.

[…]

“She insisted he knew she meant ‘no’ and that he did not care,” [lower court judge] Quigley said of the man, whose name can’t be published so as not to identify his ex-wife. “The onus was on him to ascertain whether ‘no’ did, in fact, mean ‘no.’”

Ontario’s highest court disagreed[.]

[…]

That night, the husband said his wife lay down with her back to him. “He reached over and grabbed her hair and said in his dominant voice, ‘You want it, don’t you?’ to which the complainant responded, ‘No.’ However, the appellant testified that his wife’s ‘no’ was spoken in her submissive tone, the tone she would take whenever they engaged in role-play. This, to him, indicated consent.”

The trial judge called that “convenient fabrication.”
Instead, Quigley accepted the wife’s version of events: that her husband threw her down on the bed, put his arm over her throat so she could barely breathe and then sexually assaulted her, ignoring her demands that he stop as she sobbed and tried to get out from beneath him.

They separated several months later and despite several attempts, failed to reconcile.

And then there are all the stories that don’t mention BDSM specifically by term but nevertheless have all the trappings of a BDSM scenario, complete with grown men driving getaway cars stark fucking naked save for adult diapers. I. Shit. You. Not. (A TL;DR, courtesy unquietpirate: This couple dressed up as cops, broke into another couple’s house, tasered and handcuffed them, then stabbed tortured them with knives until one of the victims was able to set off an alarm somehow. The attackers fled, were chased by police, and eventually arrested in their car, where the man was discovered to be driving totally naked except for a diaper.)

I’m not trying to point out that these people are rapists. That’s not a judgement for me to make. And I don’t think it’s something for courts to determine, either. I think it’s something for the survivors to judge. Obviously.

What I am trying to point out here is that there is an undeniable pattern in which people (and overwhelmingly Dominant men) use BDSM as a defense against accusations of rape and, moreover, that this defense often legally protects them. Further, so many of the cases where the “but BDSM!” defense does not protect them are so egregious that I find it difficult to believe that what’s actually being prosecuted is rape at all, but rather murder or kidnapping. The rape charges in these cases almost seem incidental, which stops being surprising when you consider that laws against rape were never enacted to protect people from rapists but rather to put Black men in jail.

I think it is at least noteworthy that these articles seem like they get written as though mentioning rape was one of the many crimes committed goes without saying. The popular attitude towards rape seems to be “well if someone’s kidnapping you obviously they’re gonna rape you so watch out for kidnappers!” And it’s that very attitude that enables people who “only commit rape instead of rape and kidnapping, or rape and murder, to continue raping with impunity.

Obviously, impunity of this sort is a problem for people who advocate winning mainstream cultural legitimacy for the BDSM Scene, because it means people who want to justify their desires for or engage in actual acts of non-consensual sex (i.e., rape) are very likely to find fertile, well-protected grounds to do so in their spaces. These are people and acts that mainstream values consistently reject. Everyone, literally everyone, thinks that rejection is warranted. Only BDSM’ers object to that.

But by and large, the reaction of these BDSM assimilationists has not been to combat rape culture. It has been to eroticize it. The people, organizations, and institutions who grab at legal and political powers for the BDSM Scene are not fighting to stop rape. They’re fighting to normalize it.

Time and again, BDSM’ers openly and brazenly silence rape survivors. Time and again, BDSM’ers and others closely affiliated with sadomasochistic subcultures show themselves to be the most vocal opponents of survivor support tools, such as the Predator Alert Tools. Oh sure, BDSM’ers say they are “all about consent and respect and sex-positivty.” But those words, recited ad-nauseum like an invisible script for far longer than the decade in which I have personal experience in that community, are hollow lipservice. Even if the intentions are golden—and I, personally, do not believe they are—the proof is in the pudding.

BDSM as a (successful!) defense for rape is not becoming less common, it is becoming more common.

Hence, the pattern, which I’ve posted about before, when Mark Yu allegations arose, then dwindled, and then were brushed aside by major BDSM commercial outlets:

I observe the same predictable cycle repeat.

  1. Adept public relations grandstanding by VIP Scene’sters who are part of the problem in the first place. (Archived FetLife version.)
  2. The usual community shock—SHOCK!—and outrage. (More of that on FetLife, too, of course.)
  3. Various derailing comments by the piece of shit humans who really, really, really want to support rape, and rapists.
  4. An empty public statement using a lot of English words (made of real letters!) that says absolutely nothing while claiming to address all the important issues but doesn’t actually do a damned thing.
  5. Obsequious groveling by everybody who profits off the fact the BDSM Scene is a place to make some money or get laid thanks to rape culture—even the patently transparent grandstanders—at the feet of Shibaricon [the commercial venue], and a renewed, self-delusional confidence that everything will surely get fixed now.

Congratulations, BDSM’ers. Your culture is a peg below pure scum.

So, to summarize, Jian Ghomeshi doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters instead is all the BDSM Scene’sters decrying his behavior on the basis that it’s somehow different from “all these other GOOD Dominants over here.” That’s a defensive deflection, and a transparently bad one at that. In doing this, they once again fail to meaningfully agitate for rooting out abuse in BDSM communities.

But the fact they continue failing to agitate for change should not be attributed to incompetence. These are not stupid people. These are not poorly resourced people. The people with the most power in the BDSM Scene are typically white, wealthy, straight, men who take on Dominant roles. They are not unable to agitate for change. They are unwilling to.

Furthermore, I am not even arguing that their unwillingness to resist rape culture is rooted in personal moral failings on their part (although obviously I think their claims to a moral high ground are ridiculous). Rather, I am arguing that their unwillingness to resist rape culture is the inevitable result of their refusal to identify the defining element of BDSM: the fetishization of abuse. Instead of facing this reality honestly—a reality I have no moral objection to—they have built supporting institutions whose explicit purpose is the deflection of criticism to save their own reputations (and boners) from critical scrutiny. (I’m looking at you, NCSF).

That they then double-down on these actions in cases like Ghomeshi’s prove that they do not now, nor have they ever, had any intention of honestly addressing where abuse comes from in BDSM communities: it comes from BDSM, because that’s what BDSM is.

I said this two days ago and I’ll say it again: BDSM’ers know there’s something problematic about their orientations towards power, but they don’t care.

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