Okay so we’ve been talking about pain and suffering and how it figures into decisions about self-presentation. And we touched in the comments on the necessity of making a distinction between pain that seems to serve to further suffering and pain in service to pleasure, such as exercising. But we’ve kind of skirted around pain in the service of sexual pleasure.
Partly I’m sure we avoid it because it’s hard to talk about such personal things as what brings us sexual pleasure in front of the whole world. And partially because, if there’s any discussion guaranteed to devolve into a giant ‘you suck as a feminist’ clusterfuck, it’s when we talk about where pain and sex overlap.
I think you can see it in discussions about rape, in which feminists are often quick to point out how rape is not about sex, but about power and control. Even though, to say that requires such an enormous leap of logic as to be almost dishonest. Clearly, rape is about sex AND power and control. I mean, it’s not as if rapists accidently, without reason choose to use their penises or other phallic objects to assault us.
But I believe it’s easier to talk about nonconsensual sex in terms of pain and power and control than it is to talk about pain in service to sexual pleasure.
Which means I’m not even sure where to start this conversation.
I firmly believe that nothing should be off limits to feminist interrogation, but I also believe that what people find erotic is complex and the motivations are not always clear. On the other hand (are we up to a third hand?) people don’t find things erotic in a vacuum and so what they find erotic can be illuminating.
Here are questions I have. Why are feminists so uncomfortable with talking abut non-vanilla sex practices? When we do talk about such sex practices, why do we so quickly devolve into fights about what’s acceptable and what’s not? But if we’re interested in power structures and how power dynamics work, why are we not more open to folks who think a lot about how power dynamics work?
Is it far fetched or even fair to ask what submissives have to teach us about what women have at stake in traditional gender roles? Or what doms have to teach us about the roles we expect men to fill?
I guess that some feminists are weirded out by how so much BSDM play revolves around adapting and tweaking current power relations* to the point where they go from normal to erotic. I wonder if we see taking sexual pleasure in current power relations as an endorsement of them. But we’re arguing that wearing lipstick or a skirt can be fun and pleasurable, even if they’re expected of us, can’t the same be said for sex? And isn’t there something to be said for taking something and viewing it as a performance… a type of play… in order to show it for the artifice it is?
I mean, if I could actually talk the Wayward Boy Scout into putting on a dress and letting me watch him scrub my tub, would any of you find that to be particularly anti-feminist?
*I learned that there are men out there who want to be made to dress like maids and made to do typically feminine chores around the house. If this is you, email me right now, damn it!