notfuckingcishet:

I was very disappointed today to pick up a reader on queer sexuality, skipping quickly to the chapter on kink, to find yet another article that accepted uncritically the theory that BDSM is a parody of oppression.

For those of you unfarmiliar with the theory, this is the idea that BDSM parodies real oppression with the intention of disrupting and ridiculing those forms of oppression, robbing them of their cultural power and presenting consentual alternatives based on desire. Sounds attractive, right? But it is just a theory, and I’m getting pretty tired of seeing it repeated over and over in theoretical queer work without any attention to the actual practice of BDSM.

Because a parody is subversive, it is a form of protest, it is message against something and it is part of a larger narrative against that thing. Meaning that if BDSM was a parody, we’d see a lot more BDSM’ers talking about and caring about the existence if oppression in the world. The opposite is true.

If BDSM ‘rape-play’ was a parody of rape culture, we’d see a strong political willingness to fight rape culture and a low level of consent violations within BDSM communities. The opposite is true.

If BDSM with a male dom and female or feminized sub was a parody of sexist oppression, we’d see a lot of the dominant men who tie up submissive girls also being feminists. The opposite is true.

If BDSM ‘boss-secretary’ play was a parody of economic oppression, we’d see a strong resistence against the commercialisation of BDSM culture by capitalism. The opposite is true.

Again and again, the opposite of what you’d expect from the ‘BDSM as parody’ theory is true. BDSM scenes have higher levels of consent violations and sexist than non-BDSM spaces. BDSM is extremely commercialised and there is very little resistance to that. The BDSM community is the most unpolitical of all ‘sexually deviant’ communities.

My idea: If a theory is not supported at all by the evidence of reality, it’s time to ditch the theory. BDSM is not a parody of real world oppression, it is a homage.

BDSM is not a parody of real world oppression, it is a homage.

Boom. This is notfuckingcishet‘s second *drop the mic* post in as many weeks. (I refer to the first as, “Consent. It’s Not Just For Sex.”) Serious props.

It is important to note that “BDSM” (a 90’s term of the Internet age) is a relatively recent mutation of what was once called S&M (a term associated with the gay leather subculture dating back to the time of the World Wars). The difference between these two things are mostly academic and niche at this point but the historical context matters. BDSM is a heteropatriarchal appropriation of what may have once actually been subversive, queer resistance to oppression culture. But those days are long, long gone; abuse mutates much faster than academics acknowledge and too fast for mainstream culture to even recognize it as abuse.

Today, the idea that “BDSM is parody” is the rhetorical corollary to the No True Scotsman fallacy that “BDSM is not abuse.” Together, these two ideas form the core of a harmful false dichotomy that states undesirable violative experiences do not happen in BDSM (because BDSM is a consensual parody), but rather only in abusive relationships (because “BDSM is not abuse”). In our key essay, titled “You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense,” unquietpirate and I described it like this:

In the sex-positive and BDSM scenes, a “performative violence” model is more common; it claims that if you appear to be choosing violation, it must not actually be violation. In other words, what might look like rape or violence is actually something else entirely, because you’ve given permission for it.

What that “something else entirely” actually is, though, is what notfuckingcishet just nailed: homage to oppression.

That being said, the above should not be taken to mean that kinky sex is necessarily BDSM, nor should we think that having kinky sex can not be a parody of oppression. This is because “kinky sex” is actually a larger umbrella than BDSM, rather than the other way around. In other words, “BDSM” is kinky sex for rape apologists.

In her own earlier and equally key essay, “This One’s For The Invisible Girl,” unquietpirate described how and why fetishizing oppression, thereby turning it into a parody of itself, can have liberatory results, but only if that’s the act’s actual intent. I quote:

to fetishize is “to be excessively or irrationally devoted to” something. When we devote ourselves irrationally and excessively to something, we decontextualize it. Decontextualization strips something of its support structures and makes it easy to manipulate. By erotically glorifying violence, we also trivialize it. We take it away from its massive structural foundation and imbue it with a devotional excess of ourselves. We reduce it to a skeleton of itself. We weaken it.

BDSM takes every kind of sociocultural deprivation and interpersonal destruction you can imagine, and plenty that you can’t, and turns them into “play”. By transmuting violence into intimacy, BDSM can weaken oppression culture. But only if it’s done with that intention. Otherwise, it’s especially good at re-inscribing oppression culture. BDSM play is big deal technomagic. It is scary. It can hurt you — actually hurt you — and the people you love.

But take note that what she termed “BDSM” in some but not all instances here is what we now more precisely term the BDSM Scene-State. This idea of a “Scene-State” encompasses both the idea of BDSM-as-subcultural-institution (the subculture for whom perhaps Christian Grey is the most famous pop culture coverboy du jour), as well as the larger interplay of power roles handed down to individuals in the inherently coercive contexts of employment, forced gendering, compulsory monogamy, and upbringing in which non-consent is the defining element. In other words, what can weaken oppression culture is not something you can do merely by pledging allegiance to the flag of one subcultural institution or another.

We can not weaken oppression culture by religiously and dogmatically and uncritically adhering to any particular doctrine, especially the BDSM Scene’s. But we can learn to do it, and practice actually doing it, “by transmuting violence into intimacy.” Such as, to take only one of a multitude of examples, by eroticizing disobedience to authority in our personal, kinky ass, mothah fuckin’ sex lives.

BDSM is a product of oppression, not an escape from it. That is why, for instance, you will hear Islamophobic men endlessly drawling on about how they “want a harem.” That is why the penises of men who adamantly affirm that they are absolutely not aroused by incest will still get hard as they nevertheless insist you call them “Daddy.” That is why BDSM would not even be A Thing if it were not for the systemic oppression of rape culture.

BDSM exists because rape culture exists. Without rape culture, BDSM can not survive. That’s why BDSM’ers, in their relentless, borg-like quest to become The Most Assimilated Gainfully Employed Master/slave Sadomasochistic Couple Next Door continue and will inevitably end up supporting all the oppressions that make our lives harder and more painful and more full of suffering. They’re not trying to end rape culture; they’re trying to eroticize it. That’s also why they’re fighting so damn hard against rolequeerness; we’re trying to de-eroticize coercion (that means rape) and re-eroticize compassion (that means empathy).

So. One way to think about it is like this: What is kinky sex? Well, let’s just say all hickeys are bruises but not all bruises are hickeys. Get the drift?

TL;DR: BDSM must die. Kill it with rolequeerness.

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