This is rape culture –

 

I’ve sat with this for the last day. I wanted to write an emotive, reactive piece, full of as may expletives I could fit into one blog post. But I decided to sit with this and come at it from another position. Angry, yes, frustrated and pissed that I even should write this, you bet! So exceptionally frustrated that I made the decision last night to not write anything at all.

But after giving myself some time to sit with, and really think about what I wanted to say, what I really needed to put to paper I realised that this deserved more from me than silence. Silence caused by a fear of being labelled nothing more than “hysterical feminist nagging”.

I have never hidden the place of feminism in my writing. I am a feminist who writes about female sexuality and submission. I try to use this platform to bring an alternative position to some of the more dominant framing of both female sexuality and submission; because I think it’s needed and important to those of us who live this. If we only get to see or participate in one version of all of this; then how can we evolve our sense of self to a place it’s most safe within? If the only way that I am allowed to write about any of this is from a place which positions privilege of and obedience to those with power than doesn’t that rule most of us out of both conversation and change?

If I can’t write in a way that makes people uncomfortable and, yes, challenges those who have done wrong to see their choices as illegitimate within BDSM, then I have no reason to keep on writing! For me, as an ardent and unapologetic feminist, I am all about challenging the status quo. About recognising that the way things are, and have been, are so deeply saturated in patriarchy that women have little safety and legitimacy; especially when it comes to our sexual autonomy, choices and voices.

I write because I believe my voice is important and legitimate. I believe my words are needed. And if my words can empower one woman to feel safe enough to explore her sexuality and surrender, or let one victim of sexual violence feel like they are heard and believed then I’m going to keep going.

Even if some would characterise what I write as interfering!

This has all been prompted by the appearance before the courts of “the wolf” (from here on in only referred to as this man) and the allegations of bullying made. Allegations may not be the right words here. I’m not sure if they are exactly that; but they were repeated in the media overnight, and so I am going to go with allegations made. Yesterday it was implied there is an organised attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill when it comes to the acquisitions of sexual assault being investigated and before the courts. This man, genuinely believes that he is the victim of an orchestrated campaign against him. One that is being undertaken by any of us that comment about him in any way; and I can only assume is a continuance of the one that was happening before he was arrested.

If I believed for a moment that this man felt bullied I would completely disengage with what I’m doing. I’m not calling him a liar, or saying that his lawyer stood before the Bench yesterday and made a false claim. I just don’t believe that what he’s experiencing is bullying; so much as it is the seismic shift of power being taken away from him!

And power is the key theme here. Power over others to extract what you believe that you are entitled to; be in submission, sex, social platform or silence. Silence begotten through the accusations of bullying, and positioning him as the victim. You see, the second men like this lose power, they become the victim. Because they no longer wield the authority to control that becomes the oppressed! Pretty pathetic huh?

The connections between this bullying claim and his manifesto are so obvious to me. See, he was saw himself as an almost puppet master; not just of women – his victims and otherwise, but of the outsiders too. Those of us questioning is writing. Laughing at his predictable prose and poses and supporting those who were posting pieces against him.

One of the most telling pieces he published was a piece called “The exquisite blondes”. The title itself tells you a lot about his need to objectify in order to find connection. For me it was a particular paragraph that really cemented who this man believes, and even now still believes, about himself. He writes …

“I’d been thinking about almost nothing else for a week. I’d been with multiple girls before and yes, the thought of that alone is enough to (literally) keep me up at night but there was far more two this, another level of adventure that had me completely enthralled. I played the scenarios over and over in my head. I could expect complete compliance from both of them, I held the paintbrush and they were my canvas. How corny is that? But how hot is it too?

He held the paintbrush. He, and he alone was the one on active control over everything. His image, the caricature of “the wolf”, his audience and the stories permitted about him. And, like he wrote, he expected complete compliance (how many times can we say this COMPLIANCE IS NOT CONSENT) and, unfortunately, he got it.

Until one woman stood up and said no more! Until she went to the police and made the initial complaint, that lead to the initial investigation, his arrest and multiple charges being laid. An ongoing investigation with the potential of more changes being laid.

The moment Miss X went to the police was the moment that the paintbrush fell out of his hands and his imagined, compelled blind and complete compliance of those around him began to fracture.

Bullying or a smear campaign by the media and those, like me, who write about this, have nothing to do with him being where he is today. The relationship of victim 2 (full disclosure here, if this is who I think it is I have no respect nor time for this man. I think he’s sexual ethics are just as atrocious as this man’s) has now if of no concern to the facts of the (alleged) act of sexual violence perpetrated against her. It is his choices, his absolute lack of regard for the law and for the autonomy and wellbeing of those that, genuinely, loved him, trusted him and wanted to be with him, that see him and his smug face plastered across the Sydney media, and his ass hauled before the courts.

Likewise, and more importantly, it is neither those of us who are discussing this nor the bullying that he is claiming, that is empowering women to step forward and talk about him; to the police or others.

How one can even begin to rationalise that it is through bullying that women venture into the vacuum that is the legal justice system is beyond me! This idea that it is only because of bullying towards him that another woman has stepped forward is, quite simply and nothing more than rape culture!

For those unaware of the concept of rape culture let me explain what I mean by it.

Rape culture are all the dysfunctional, erroneous and compounding ideas, the social norms and sanctions, the language of the media, legal arguments, attitudes and statements of politicians and the public that combine to not only frame the way that sexual violence is perpetrated upon the female body but to constrain the way women are allowed to speak about, and demand redress for their own experiences of sexual violence.

Let me put what was said in context. This case in no longer about two women who were victimised by the sexual choices of this man. This is no longer about victims seeking out the courts to get justice for the crime/s perpetrated upon their bodies. For victims to access legally entitled redress from a man who chose to ignore their agency and violate their right to make informed, reactive decision about their bodies and sexual labour.

No.

This is about a conspiracy.

This is about a man. And another man.

This is about one man orchestrating a vendetta against another and using an allegation of sexual violence to bully the other.

This is about a perpetrator of sexual violence using the courts and the media to discredit and silence the victim. She cannot possibly be believed because she is lying; and she is lying because her boyfriend is bullying the accussed!

Look up the statistics! Listen to the reasons why women are reluctant to come forward with accounts of sexual violence.

Now take every vile word, attitude and deed that creates rape culture and add to it, that women are now the pawns in an orchestrated bullying campaign for male supremacy in BDSM.

He “claims he has been the victim of an “online bullying campaign”, leading to an extra charge of sexual assault being laid against him”. Yep this man believes, once again, that he is the victim here!

Sound familiar to anyone else?

You see, the second his lawyer stood up yesterday and said the “B” word he not only began his campaign against the second victim, but he began his platform to curate and control the parameters of discussion allowed about this.

This is about, one last desperate attempt, to take back some control over the story that he is the lead villain in. One last pathetic attempt at rebranding himself as a victim as opposed to the perpetrator of sexual violence against women.

This is nothing more than rape culture!

 

 

 

 

Can I allow my body nurture and reward while being submissive?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the things that I ask of my body. Life, like I’m sure it is for many of you, is hectic at the moment; it’s the middle of winter, we’re on a deployment cycle, parenting a teenager, I’m in my last 2 months of collage & I’m working on establishing my own private practice. It’s like I’m jumping from busy to busy; with little in the middle to nurture and reward my body for all the things I’m asking it to do right now.

And I’ve started to notice a similar pattern in what I’m asking of my body sexually too. I ask it to settle into the intentional and very directed distress that is kink and beyond a shower and sleep I don’t do very much to nurture and reward it for the immense pleasure it affords me (and my husband).

Is it even acceptable to see your body as being deserving of nurture and reward? It’s seems so like the over used idea of ‘me time” (something I’ll admit I do indulge in) and yet so unlike the common theme of “after care” in kink spaces, it’s indulgent – like me time, but not something that I’ve ever thought about negotiating within my dynamic. On the one hand, I feel like this is something that I need to start doing – after all I’m choosing to engage with the intense sexual behaviours that we use, those which I know distress, through bruises and marks as well as exhaustion and mental “fog” while, almost immediately asking my body to perform normally and without hesitation those things I need to be adulting (as my teenager would say). But on the other I feel that this would add another layer to the erroneous idea that submission cannot coexist seamlessly alongside everything else that makes up the whole of my life. That I’d be somehow buying into the narrative that one must clearly divide their “kink” self from their “normal self.

But I think my apprehension towards this comes from one of the most prolific problems that I have with the way we depict surrender and submission. The idea that we are, inherently and by virtue of some personality architype, altruistic. Selflessly giving of our bodies and our sexual labour; without need of return or recompense. I have many “shame stories” that frame the way I experience myself and my body and I think that this “not enough because I need reward for my surrender” would be in my top three! I feel, somewhat, less than, simply because I cannot and will not abdicate my need to feel as if the surrender I offer him and the ways that I allow my body to be used in our erotic space are worth more than a pat on the head and a “good girl” and more than the just knowing that he is satisfied.

I wonder what it would be like to raise this at the submissive munch I often attend. I’m picturing the faces of those regulars; the ones who are seen as the knowledge base of submission, and I’m wondering how they would react to the idea of nurturing and rewarding their bodies for what they ask of it. And I’m not seeing anything I like! And that doesn’t surprise me.

I exist within a community that, seem to me, to have little time for anything that doesn’t foster strength in submission. It feels like anything or anyone who meanders into thoughts that force them to question the choices and needs will soon be brought back into line. That the status quo and the kumbaya singing must be preserved; at the expense of the individual; be it something self-centred as this or something with wider ramifications like speaking of the sexual violence you have experienced. The slightest hint of weakness and you are cast aside, with your ability to “play with the big kids” debated and judgment soon rendered. See, to be, confidently and consciously within the submissive space may be seen and sold as an empowered step by some, but the truth seems to be it is something quite different.

Are our bodies deserving of reward and nurture; considering what it is that we are asking of it?

Can we still claim entitlement to play with the big kids if we recognise that our bodies might need more than the satisfaction of knowing that he got what he wanted?

And are we allowed to admit that we might not all be the submissive superhero’ capable of all sorts of kink indulgences without corrupting the submission is strength message?

Why the man I married isn’t my soulmate, but the man who nearly destroyed me is.

Soulmate; it sounds just so perfect doesn’t it? This ideal mirror of us. They just see you and, as if by some magical instinct brought from some other realm, they know you, understand you and get everything about you. The chemistry is hot and powerful. They shake you up, make you think about the world in ways you’d never thought of before. Your soulmate reaches down to the very core of who you are, and brings you into lessons you needed to learn and, will often, drag us out of the storm clouds and into the other side of the rainbow.

I’ve felt that once in my life. He was someone who I thought was my happily ever after. People would tell us all the time that we were just made for each other, that our chemistry was perfect and we just made each other. And for a while; it really was all of that and more. That was until real life smacked us square in the face. Where you have to come up for oxygen and start being a little more reactive to the world that still existed outside of our little nest.

For a while I was able to convince myself that the flattery and the attention, the packed lunches with sweet little notes and the orgasms were enough to see me through. That all he was doing was protecting me from the world and making everything okay again.

What happened between us, the facts, they’re not important. It’s the story around the what that matters when we’re talking about soulmates.

Because the connection and the chemistry they weren’t enough. And when we needed more, when we need to find the real enough to get through life, the facade fell apart. Fast. Almost as fast as the chemistry and the connection jumped up did it all jump off.

And both the jumping up and the jumping off happened in ways that, even now more than a decade later, I still can’t explain.

But my husband, this imperfect, sometimes infuriating man, I can tell you every detail about us. From the first words in his first email. I can describe the literal “foot pop” the first time he kissed me. And I can tell you the exact moment I knew that I’d fallen in love with this man. I can explain exactly how I came to choose him as the man I wanted to spend my happily ever after with.

There was never a moment like with my soulmate. Never anything more than that chemistry filled love that swept me away from life into a turbulent and overwhelming existence.

What I have, and what I think is the difference between a soulmate and a partner, is safety. Not just a physical or sexual safety ( I had that with the soulmate too) but a deeper, dare I say it a more spiritual safety. I have this vulnerability; coming from within the both of us, that brings out the best of us. We can be two very flawed individuals, but the relationship we have, I don’t know? It’s like it nurtures and holds the both of us, so that we can come together in the way that we do.

I was never d/s with my soulmate; I can’t say that I even knew what any of this was! But I’m starting to learn; and this is obviously quite contrary from the dominant narrative of d/s, that it’s not the d/s that fosters this intensity of partnership we’ve created. Rather what we have, in terms of our dynamic, comes alongside the partnership we build. Whereas my soulmate was gorgeous chaos and licentious lust; It really was so superficial! I’m grateful that I had him as my soulmate. He and our relationship really broke me as a woman, and so it is, in part (I’ve had some beautiful therapeutic spaces created in which I was able to challenge, craft and comfort myself into who I am today) something which I’ve learned through. A means to an end.

But my partnership, my dynamic, my marriage; it’s not a means to an end. More the means and the end.

It’s the means of cultivation and reflection. Of learning and being, and it’s the end. The reason for choosing him. He is my safety.

And maybe that’s the thing with our soulmates. I’m not saying that our partners cannot be our soulmates, but maybe our soulmates; that person, in my case, or those people who are lucky enough to find multiple soulmates in life, are here for us to use as a step into the person we’re needing to be and needing to be with.

I think of my soulmate often. Wondering where he is in his life. Who he is now compared to the man I walked away from. We have a mutual friend and I often find myself hovering over a Facebook message wanting to casually mention his name. He is a part of me, for better or worse. He is my history and has a place within me. But that’s all he is, and I think that is all he ever was meant to be. Something which, when I got through my brokenness, just sits in some small corner of my psyche reminding me of what was and how amazing, needed and safe what is really is for me.

Like Anastasia.

When I first stepped into the world of feminism; from what was a very antifeminist stance, I was stunned by the sense of community that I had entered. Women who were not only encouraged to find their own tribe and their own voice, but who had a responsibility to listen to those who, for so many reason, experienced the world in a way they never would. To form; from near or far, a deep sense of solidarity with each other no matter how different our, inequitable, oppressive experience of the world were. We had each other’s back and made decisions, especially in regards to the words we chose to speak about each other, that would let others know we’ve got this.

Of course this utopian nirvana I thought I had found has lost its shine over the last decade. Feminism is imperfect, complicated, diverse and sometimes down and out infuriating. But it is, and will always be, the one choice I will always make. To not only be a feminist but to deliberately use my space in this world to smash the status quo. 

But, to me, the almost universal premise that brings feminism from the world of theory and academia and into the ways that women, right here right now, make and experience their bodies in this patriarchal world is the curiosity and respect for each other’s voice. And right at the heart of this idea (or is that ideal) is that no other person, feminist or not, is not in any position to tell women what they should or shouldn’t do. While this new vouge feminism centred in choice is deeply problematic; choice, not just the ability but the permission to, engage or disengage with the world in informed ways, has to mean something.

One of the things I’m learning about being a submissive woman, is that I now exist in this cultural paradox. Within BDSM, when a woman tells her story and she says that her experiences of submission are negative, that she has been harmed. That she is living with trauma. She is called a liar. She is shamed. She is blamed. Outside of BDSM, when a woman tells her story and she says that her experiences of submission are positive, that she feels safe, that she is experiencing pleasure. She is called a liar. She is shamed. She is blamed.

It doesn’t matter what we are saying; our voice is ignored, ridiculed and rejected.

I’m not arrogant enough to tell women what they should be doing. So it was no surprise that Caitlin Roper’s latest account of her angst surrounding the newest Fifty Shades release was something that I was going to find hard to read. To me it is deeply paternalistic, her words and those like her are founded in the genuine belief that they know what is best. Rejecting the experiences of women who genuinely enjoy the franchise and intentionally subjugating the dozens if not hundreds of reasons why they are going to see the movie.

So when I see women like Caitlin Roper jumping from the clichéd volley of platitudes usually directed at the franchise (I’m surprised that the condescending mummy porn portrayal wasn’t front and centre in her piece) into the position that tells the readers of the Sydney Morning Herald that “these are the services where women like Anastasia end up” I have to stop and really think hard about what the overall intention of this piece was.

Did Caitlin want to add something to the numerous conversations about the structural and cultural barriers to women freely engaging with frontline services? Was she writing this because she has a genuine concern for women “like Anastasia” and a desire to make sure that we too have access to relevant interventions and services?

Call me sceptical, but I’m going to say it’s a sure bet that neither of these were part of the reason why she wrote this piece. Nor why the Sydney Morning Herald chose to take it to publication.

Because the reality is that women like Caitlin Roper have little to no concern about women like me. The women that they choose to cast as presumptive victims while choosing to ignore our voices and our stories. Women like me, who are safe in our intimate spaces even though the behaviours, language, attitudes and community commonly associated with BDSM and dominance and submission are at the core of our relationships. While people will jump to read the narratives of our sexploits when it is all about the whips and chains and orgasms; it’s getting harder and harder to get others to actually take the time to sit down, shut up and listen to us. Well they have no reason to right?

For all of the pieces about “women like Anastasia” I have not yet encountered one which actively seeks out what we need in frontline services; especially with regard to mental health care. And from the hour or so of searching on the website of those organisations behind this campaign, I can safely assume that not one of them has any dedicated service or counsellor informed about or directed to meeting the needs of submissive women.

But beyond “these services” that she has so carefully promoted in her piece not actually being services that would be responsive to who I am and what I would need if in fact I did ever need to access their services; I want to question the dominant narrative of her piece.

There are lots of things wrong with the character of Christian Grey. He is materialistic and status driven. He believes that his philanthropic endeavours account for the business choices he makes. He has acquired so many unhealthy and dysfunctional approaches to and behaviours within both his relationships with women and in his sex life (it’s interesting that, of all the pieces written about his behaviours not one piece has tried to explore the correlation between child abuse and the attachment disorder that Christian so clearly has). He has unresolved trauma. And most importantly connected to BDSM his sexual identity has stalled in its infancy stage, the only way he can feel safe engaging with sex in a mutually satisfying way is my having a signed piece of paper kept in the bedside table; or wherever a billionaire would keep his important documents. Christian Grey also embodies a lot of the fragile yet toxic masculinity that has created the realm of the pickup artist; and, unfortunately, has begun to infect BDSM. It’s egocentric, entitled and dangerous for women, because, amongst other problems it schedules women as passive in their own bodies and as characters that men create through their own sexual prowess. So I am not defending the character that is Christian Grey. And let’s be honest he and the world that he commands is one walking, talking product placement.

Christian is not the absolute everything of FSOG. And while he clearly exhibits problematic behaviours he is a fictional character that is a cluster of everything unlikable and unacceptable. And women are allowed to like him.

And this, as far as I’m concerned, brings to a head the idea that the franchise is glamourising intimate partner violence.

Finding something alluring about a fictional character; even one as dysfunctional as Christian Grey. Finding points of reference in fiction that you connect to, that resemble the story of your own sexual realities. Does not, in anyway, negate the way you perceive intimate partner violence! And to consider the audience of Fifty Shades Darker as ignorant about the realities of intimate partner violence., is quite arrogant!

And that is just not how I choose to approach the millions of women, throughout the world who have gone and will go and see Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. I see them, as I see myself as women entitled to make their own decisions regarding how they spend their disposable incomes. But more than that, I am not so isolated from the community of women who either enjoy the Fifty Shades franchise or who choose to bring behaviours commonly associated with dominance and submission into their erotic space, to see these women as ignorant about the realities of intimate partner violence. We see the same news headlines as you. We read the same reports that tell us the attitudes regarding women, violence and sexual behaviours is repulsive. We know that intimate partner violence kills at least 1 woman a week in Australia and costs our economy billions of dollars in lost wages, first responders, health care and our legal system We see the same shallow and pathetic attempts at awareness, band aid solutions, funding cuts and inadequate structural and institutional action as every other woman. We see the casual and often inadequate ways that the media engage with the complexity of gendered violence. We understand that domestic and family violence has, over generations, has been relegated to behind closed doors, assigned to the too hard or not our problem basket. We may enjoy a movie that some see as problematic, be we, as individuals and a collective group of women are neither the cause of intimate partner violence not blatantly ignorant of it.

I think that there is a lot wrong with infantilising women’s consumer choices. The women who are seeing this movie found something interesting to see; and dare I say it something that turned them on. I know I did! And I will unapologetically, defend the right for a woman to watch a movie and, when well informed by complete understanding, motivated by mutual satisfaction and framed by affirmative consent, defend the choice to be “like Anastasia” in her boudoir. 

So while I have to agree with her proposition that we (although I have no doubt that her “we” does not include women like myself) need to begin to really interrogate the way that intimate partner violence is discussed and represented I will not be actively supporting anything that intentionally creates and us and them divide. As a woman “like Anastasia” I will let other women just like her make their own choices about what they watch at the cinema and how they come to understand what intimate partner violence is.

And if that contribution to creating a better understanding of women’s experiences of intimate partner violence involves actively boycotting one book/movie franchise than, by all means, actively boycott Fifty Shades Darker; and in a years’ time when Fifty Shades Freed is released, make the same choice. But the choice to watch the movie is no more or less a choice.

But please, understand the services and the political/social ideology that you are really supporting. Spend 5 minutes Googling the individuals and organisations behind it and where exactly your money will go. Because, as a feminist, I unequivocally stand behind the idea that it is only through education; both as a social institution and self-driven, that women will be able to make the best choices for themselves.

I’m not asking you to change your opinions about the FSOG franchise; love it, hate it, it’s your decision. But what I am asking of you is that, before advocating for a particular campaign or position, you choose to understand the realities of those women “like Anastasia”. The women like me, like dozens of friends of mine – women and men alike. To stop and listen to our voices and our stories.

Being able to write and to write well is a privilege. Being given a public platform is an entitlement. Those who are gifted this public space are entitled to their own words and their own agendas. But doesn’t someone with this privilege have a responsibility to, at least consider, their potential audience? The Sydney Morning Herald is not some niche blog or sub forum. It is a mainstream media platform, and one that has a diverse audience; an audience that includes women “like Anastasia”.

Shades of sidelining inconvenient voices

The last few weeks have had me thinking about the release of Fifty Shades Darker. I had originally decided to ignore the pseudo outrage, the paternalistic narratives and the absolute infantilising of women doing nothing more than enjoying a movie. It infuriates me, and to be brutally honest, I have internalised a lot of the shame thrown at women who actually enjoy the franchise. I have found myself questioning my connection to the storylines, my contribution to some of the conversations around the movie and whether or not I am actually eligible to call myself a submissive woman when I’m clearly crossing a boundary that is intended to reject those like me from the words submissive and woman.

But this release is a bit different for me. Not that the positions of those who intentionally choose to negate the enjoyment, the community and the permission to explore their bodies that this has given us has changed. The articles written and the boycott advocated for are still connected to vile anti woman, pro censorship, sex negative advocacy. Who reject all forms of female sexual agency and couldn’t engage with a critical interrogation of BDSM and pop culture without resorting to policing the choices women make.

But this time around, as a submissive woman, I am encountering a huge blind stop in the conversations around FSD. Maybe I just didn’t notice it in 2015. I was relatively new to my curiosity about sex outside of my own body. What I’m noticing is a deliberate move away from the voices of women who are both the intended audience and consumers of this movie.

Maybe the movie and the controversy surrounding its release isn’t enough to warrant the media saturation it held 2 years ago. And so there are less words afforded to ‘the real submissive lives’ of ordinary women. But I have to wonder where, in all of these words being written by so called women activists calling for boycotts and attention to the glamorisation of harmful behaviours are the words by women, like me. Women who are going to watch this movie. Women who enjoyed watching the first movie. And women who will go and watch and enjoy the third movie. Where are our voices?

I can warrant a guess!

We are sidelined, intentionally so, because we choose, through our consumer choices and our sexual behaviours to exist between two worlds. See, as a woman who owns the submissive space within her marriage I am expected to play by the rules. And yet I don’t. I don’t play by the rules that say I should trash a story that I actually enjoy. A character that I can recognise a lot of myself in. And I do want to add a dissenting voice beyond that which is expected of me. But at the same time I am expected to be the victim. The victim of domestic violence, of a culture that has conditioned me to believe my sexual desires are real. And of a culture that would have me believe that I am unable to make informed decisions.

Because, from what I’ve read about myself, I am all of the above. I am not a 30 something woman who can decide whether or not I want to go and see a particular move. I am not a woman who can understand that there is a difference between fiction on screen and the reality in my bedroom. I am not a woman who is able to gain genuine enjoyment from a movie and genuine pleasure from kinky fuckery.

Go see the movie.

Don’t go see the movie.

Write a piece telling your audience how awful the storyline is, how inaccurate the portrayal of dominance and submission is to you.

Write a piece telling your audience how you feel about the character development, the direction Christian and Ana’s relationship is taking or how much you hate the idea of women saving their man from themselves.

Write a piece about how dysfunctional Christian is in his relationships – no please, someone really write a piece about how Christian exhibits all the common traits of an attachment disorder associated with childhood abuse. And how his attachment to Mrs Robertson and his succession of short term relationships were no more than a consequence of his childhood. Because we need more conversations about how childhood abuse does affect our ability to form effective intimate relationships; especially in men!

Write a piece to inform women wanting to take their fiction from fantasy to their boudoir how to make the best and most informed decisions for them.

Write a piece exploring the diversity of sexual behaviours that human beings engage with, and how to ensure that these behaviours are to healthiest for your readers.

But do not, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, write a piece that actively dissuades women from seeking out pop culture or intimate relationships that they tell you they want and enjoy.

But at the same time. Don’t choose to ridicule, minimise or ignore voices like mine. Women’s voices that are discussing their interactions with the franchise. Discussing how the franchise has allowed them to open up their sexual selves in ways they never would have dreamed of doing. Discussing how they experience the culture around the franchise; good and bad.

The spectrum of desire amongst women is as vast as it is diverse. The spectrum of voices amongst women is just as vast and just as diverse. Our sexual behaviours and our choice of movie, should not be used as ‘clickbait’ to prop up a worrying political and social agenda, carried out by those who are repulsed by the idea of genuine female sexual autonomy. Nor should not be used by those who seek to contain the idioms and cultural norms of BDSM to one that, effectively removes any hint of active sexual desire and safety for submissive women.

But more importantly, or voices and our sexual behaviours should not be sidelined because they are inconvenient, or because they are not conforming to your rules.

Because when you sideline women’s voices, even those of us who are inconvenient, dissenting, angry, and laden with shame, you are choosing to engage with pseudo outrage, paternalistic narratives and the absolute infantilising of women – all because some of us are going to go and watch a 118-minute chick flick!

 

 

Pleasure and not practice.

There seems to be a growing trend, or maybe I’ve just not noticed it before, which revolves around the idea of sex being something that needs to be practiced. It’s like there is this objective goal – squirting, multiple orgasm, larger toys, longer penetration, in which the sole focus of our sexual experiences revolve around perfecting their objectives.

While I’m all for goal setting and navigating our relationships in particular directions. I’m finding it really hard to get my head around this idea of practicing. We practice the piano. We practice baking macarons. We practice parallel parking. We just don’t need to practice sex. Gaining a better understanding of our bodies and those of our partners and figuring out what comes next for us in the bedroom, is one thing. But using our erotic spaces; masturbation or sex, as a space within which we practice until we obtain an imagined sexual perfection – I can’t wrap my head around the idea. Or where the motivation for this come from.

Sex is not an experience measured in results. Now, I’m sorry if this dints some male ego (okay not really sorry). Sex is, well should be, about us creating physical intimacy that allows us to form connection and explore sensations and pleasure. PLEASURE NOT BLOODY PRACTICE!

What exactly are we supposed to be practicing? And where are women getting their ideas of what to practice? I’m asking because I had an interestingly frustrating conversation with a couple of women who, while telling me that practice is necessary, became, seemingly mortified when I suggested that they grab a printout of what a vagina looks like, a mirror, and for them to start exploring their own bodies. How is it uncomfortable for a woman to explore her own body but it’s assumed normal to use your body to practice until sexually perfect?

And what happens when this perfect doesn’t eventuate? What happens to her self-esteem and her confidence in herself as a capable sexual being? What happens when a woman practices and practices – let’s say masturbating so that she can squirt, and this never happens? Where does she take her body next, if she has failed? If her body just can’t do it.

There is a lot about the common narratives weaved about the female body and sex that needs to be changed. Positioning the male body as the sexual normal and seeing the female body as deviating from that norm, has to be number one. But maybe number two has to be destroying this idea that perfection, be it some sexual behaviour or body experience, as being the reason we have sex or masturbate.

Why can women not fuck for pleasure! Why must our cultural obsession with perfection and achieving the next best thing infest our sex lives? Is this what sexual liberation for us really is? Practicing sex until our bodies perform on command, recite the perfected recital to the applause of our sexual partners?

 

Remember why I started this journey.

I’m going to update and rename my “about” page  with this piece.

I started the other normal because I was frustrated. Frustrated and fed up of the ways in which we were allocated space to talk about sex. More specifically the ways in which we talk about female sexuality.

The other normal intends to build a space for positive and passionate representation and exploration of female sexuality, desire, pleasure, experience and need. I wanted to create a new platform to talk about sex. One that centres the female body, pleasure and needs. To explore and understand the complexity of female sexuality. Not only to better understand the needs and experiences of female sexuality but to encourage new, more radical approaches to female sexuality it order to create meaningful change.

I want to create a space within which we can come to a better understanding of our sexual behaviours. Behaviours that are a complex interplay of internal and external factors. I am not a biological essentialist. While I understand that genetics, biology, hormones and drives are key to all of our behaviours, I see human sexuality as infinitely plastic, centred in our emotions, behaviours, desires and relationships, rather than eternally fixed, biologically determined and unchangeable. I see our sexual selves created within relationship but best understood in the complex social and cultural forms and organisations.

I believe wholeheartedly that by combining who (we are as individuals) with what (the environments we live within) we can gain a better understanding of why of our sex lives. And I believe it is the why rather than the who or how of our sexual experiences that are crucial to any gaining any genuine and significant change to the way we, as females, experience sex.

In particular, I wanted to explore the ways in which the concept of submission within women’s sexual identity is thought of and discussed. I am a sexually submissive woman in a satisfying relationship with my husband. More and more I was encountering the same messages: that submissive as a sexual identity of women can be one of two things perfection or dysfunction. Neither of which is representative of me or my experiences. And I soon came to realise that, at least for me, these narrow and black and while assumptions are limiting and dangerous.

I started the other normal as a project to add another voice to the social conversations about sex, kink and feminism. The other normal is all about challenging the dominant understanding of what it is to be a woman who identifies as submissive while respecting the diversity of human sexual identity and performance. While I make no apologies for my words and approach to sex, I am, at least I generally strive to be, mindful and respective of the nuances within our sexual experiences.

With the mainstreaming and increasing fashionableness of all things out of the ordinary and kinky we have been given an opportunity to have very some real and needed conversations about women’s sexuality. To really understand the complexity and diversity of need and experience and yet, once again, it seems as if we are still stuck in the same perfection/dysfunction good/bad/ right/wrong for/against dichotomy and going nowhere anytime soon; and this is nowhere more obvious that in conversation about submission and domination.

There are many questions about the authenticity and the permissibility of the submissive sexual identity. These questions and assumptions are valid but, in my opinion, lack the answers necessary to add something constructive to the wider conversation about sex and sexual identity. Women who are coming into submission are doing so from varying life circumstances and are doing so for many reasons. Submissive women are not a homogenised group that are clearly identifiable; nor is the concept of submission one that is easy to provide objective and critical analysis of. The dominant representations of submissive women are more often than not imagined through what is now being called the ‘male gaze’; that is a representation that is obtained through the perspective of the heterosexual male. Even in porn (erotica) written for women by women the objectification of the submissive woman by her creator is still that which is written by the heteronormative assumptions of what a woman needs to be to be sexually pleasing for men; not her man, but heterosexual men in general.

The other normal wants to move away from this dominant representation and look deeper into this idea that; within the context of her sexual/intimate relationship women can and do see themselves as submissive to their partners dominance in a way that is not oppressive or damaging – to herself or the wider concept of women’s sexuality. To focus on the importance of normalisation and validation of sexual behaviours by actively removing the pathology of genuine and mutually satisfying kink and replacing it with expectation. The expectation of great sex. Isn’t that why we have sex

The other normal is just as it says; things that may be considered ‘the other’ but is merely a drop in the ocean that is the fluidity of sexual identity and performance. Different but normal.

But beyond this I needed a place to explore how consent fits into the idea of kink. I am a passionate advocate for consent and make no apologies for this. I will not acknowledge ‘grey areas’ or concede that consent isn’t necessary at the core of all sexual encounters; even the most kinky of them.

 

 

 

 

Social media, power, influence and consequence.

I’m not at all sadden by the arrest of a 41-year-old Sydney man on multiple aggravated sexual assault charges. This man and those like him, embody everything that I despise and everything that frightens me about kink. His attitudes to consent and mutuality make me nauseous and his recounts and fantasies makes my clitoris want to flee my body. (His constant and maybe even deliberate misrepresentation of a “rape fantasy” to sell what it is that gets his dick hard infuriates me. Fortunately, there is some fantastic research out about what exactly a rape fantasy is and how women use the imagery and language associated with the fantasy to create deeply satisfying sexual encounters.) I’m not afraid of men like this but I am afraid of the culture that men like this create for women like me. Women for whom submission lies at the heart of our sexuality. Women who need intense physical stimuli to become aroused. Women who use emotionally and socially laden language to communicate with our intimate partners. Women like me who are forced to create a choreographed dance around illusion and innuendo created by men like this. Women who are the ones who are hurt.

But the thing that frightens me the most about this culture, from which these social media platform “Fetlebrity” are created and are catapulted into extraordinary reputation and influence within the kink community, isn’t that it exists. But that they exist within absolute assent of us all. Yes, this includes myself. Blind obedience. It’s something I lived with in my decades of existing within the Catholic Church. It is something that is instilled into us through fear of being ostracised from community and identity that has meaning for us. It is something that exists because we are conditioned to accept the way that is because it always has been. Blind obedience exists because we are so desperate for connection and belonging that we feel entitled to gloss over that which is uncomfortable.

It is this obedience to what is, this fear of being ostracised and this desperate need for connection and belonging that is destroying what is for so many of us genuine and safe experiences within our intimate relationships.

If blind obedience didn’t exist in kink men like Mr M wouldn’t be able to attain so much power and influence.

The unchecked power of toxic social media fame is becoming more and more of a problem. Most Aussies would remember the infamous Belle Gibson, the so called wellness blogger who was able to spin such elaborate stories around herself that she was afforded immense power over some of the most vulnerable people and to create business relationships with some of the biggest names. Belle built up her reputation over years, as it seems Mr M did. Belle created her online self in a way that provided references and reputation, as it seems Mr M did. Social media fame seems to cause this impenetrable bubble that protects celebrities from question and accountability; until there is considerable harm. Considerable enough to be believed that is. Those who do question and offer up the other side of the story are routinely shamed and shunned. Sidelined for the hype, glamour and inclusiveness. See, these social media stars are fantastic marketers! They understand their target audiences better than most of us understand ourselves. They create self brands and platforms from their authentic voice, but they grow it through their audiences. Ohhh they know how to use disclaimers and “I’m not an expert” tags like the best of us. They sell themselves the way that the latest, must have, beauty products are sold. Always with the fine print written in a way that is intentionally obscured by the glitz and promises of what is being sold.

Social media personalities; of which this man certainly falls, are influential. They use the intimacy that their social media voice enables them to create, what is, for their unsuspecting audience, real relationships. And maybe they are. Maybe I just too cynical to believe that one man can form and maintain genuinely authentic and consensual sexual relationships with women based on his social media fame. Or that one woman can create genuine connections with those suffering deliberating illnesses like Belle Gibson did. These relationships seem to be based on the conventional formats of communication. I speak you listen, and maybe they are just as real as the conversations I have with those off the computer screen.

Maybe the stories and antidotes that Mr M posted on Fetlife were enough for some women to engage in genuinely healthy intimate relationships. Hey, for all I know his writings were all the information necessary for some to have made an informed choice? Who am I to declare their relationships invalid?

I want to dismiss him and the one like him that will come next, and then the one after that, then the next and the next one, as simply narcissistic, power hungry psychopaths who manipulated the power of the social media celebrity to his advantage. It would make things so simple to cast him off as “evil” and “bad”. And in a way he is. He and he alone is responsible for the choices he made on the night of the 21st of August 2015 because he chose to do something that is deemed “bad”.

But can we just, simplistically, assign him a label; say that of narcissist and move on? Is it really that simple to label his behaviour as clinically pathological?

I don’t think so. Have I seen evidence of narcissistic tendencies within his writings and interactions? Yes. But I am not, nor are most of us, in possession of the skill necessary to clinically analyse and diagnose his behaviour, using the DSM. It would be easy, and in all honesty it would be so much more comforting to be able to sit here with confidence and dismiss him as just another sick, pathological perpetrator of male violence against women! Rendering his choices as the consequence of a pathological personality disorder would enable me to “tut-tut” and “see I told you so” while sitting on my feminist high-horse. Without ever having to spend a second in reflective thought about what this means for me. Label him, crediting his choices to narcissism really would let me and you off the hook.

Narcissism is a word that I’ve found creeping more and more into kink online spaces, it seems to be the go to defence of behaviour – ‘ohhh he’s a narcissist what do you expect”? Except to categorise and minimise his behaviour as mere narcissism removes a whole other variable in, not so much this one case specifically (keeping in mind that the full extent of his actions that are being interrogate by the law are still not known) but the overall culture within which this occurred

But that wouldn’t bring us anywhere near identifying let alone understanding the root cause. Let me make this clear, understanding this in the context of the environment it occurred in does not, in any way, diminish the severity of his choices. Nor does it try to create any distance between him and the consequences of his choices. This man chose to act in the way that he did on the 21st of August 2015. No one but he holds any responsibility for what he did. But understanding the social and cultural context within which he was allowed to become to guy now outed in the media as an accused rapist can, potentially, enlighten us to what comes next. Not for him, fuck him, he can do the maximum sentence and then some for all I care. But for the rest of us. He has been, forever, connected to our community, to this website and the Sydney scene. We are, thanks to his choices, connected to him, to this, as long as we associate ourselves with the site and the scene.

Brene Brown wrote that:

“Labelling the problem in a way that makes it all about who people are rather than the choices they’re making let’s all of us off the hook. Too bad. That’s who I am.  I’m a huge believer in the holding of people accountable for their behaviours, so I’m not talking about ‘blaming the system’ here. I’m talking about understanding the root cause so we can address the problems”. (p.22)

                   Brene Brown. Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

Brene is known for her Ted talk on the Power of vulnerability, and it is amazing! But in her book Daring greatly she takes the idea of vulnerability and moves it into the realm of our behaviours within our environments. Like she says in the above quote it’s not about blaming the system (although as a feminist I cannot extract our subjective lived experiences from the totality of patriarchal power) but it’s about exploring our environments in a way that allows us to go beyond simplistic diagnoses. Like narcissism.

Brene goes on to talk about our fear of ordinary. That we always need to be looking for the next best thing. She writes about how we are all so vulnerable to the messages that sell us the drive to be extraordinary. And what could be more extraordinary that not having consensual sex? What could distance us from those mere muggles of the world than playing hard and to the edge? We don’t want to feel small, ordinary, inadequate right? Especially in our sex lives! We don’t want to be seen as kink light! That would be embarrassing wouldn’t it? I know I feel the need to justify myself and my unwavering commitment to just doing what I need as opposed to flying on the edge of kink. I can’t be the only one?  We need to feel like we are more than just keeping up with the Jones’s, we need to feel like we are surpassing them and living the most extraordinary that we can.

He sold us the lie that he is extraordinary and will bring those worthy into that realm.  That he didn’t need to meet the same relationship standards as the rest of us because he is something unlike the rest of us because he is not like us. He can take one look at you and know exactly what it is that you want. He could make you beg to be a part of his pack and belong to him so that alone becomes the only focus of your choices and reactions. Simply because he is something that you cannot get anywhere else. It, the stepping outside of your own moral compass and disregarding that “gut feeling” becomes your new normal. Simply because you belong to something the rest of us never could. You, out of the hundreds of women who like, love, gush and fawn all over his words, fantasies and his exposes of his sexual adventures, you are the one he is paying attention to right now. You are worth it so what you ignore, put up with and condone is worth it.

I understand how.

His idealised narratives spun around the position and importance of consent aren’t that new. They aren’t actually that different from most of the commentary and advice I’ve seen across most of the PUA crowd.

The idea that “the alpha” embodies the full spectrum of sexual prowess and is able to, with little effort seduce his prey into debaucherously James Bond style, glorious masculine fucking. He recreated it, we brought it.

I understand how.

What girl hasn’t dreamed of the prince upon the white horse, galloping in and just knowing that his true loves kiss will eradicate the spell and lead us to living happily ever after? We are spoon fed this fantasy, this dream of the perfect prince coming into our lives and just knowing everything about us and knowing what to do with us.

Again he recreated it, we brought it.

I understand how.

So where to now?

How can we reposition the social media celebrity, their influence and power in our space?

How can we use what has happened to this victim and to any other to try and minimise it from occurring again? Because to disconnect the power of the social media celebrity from this would be disingenuous. He sold us his snake oil and we offered him up the platform to do so! Ohhh we mocked him and his pathetic prose and grandiose sense of self. But most of us, including myself, didn’t have the balls to stand up and do any more. Ohhh I went to the police with what I knew, but I chose to come back into his space, knowing how he used it. Watching the next part unfold, concluding in this last instalment of “the wolf files”.

We are a product of our culture. We’ve all liked and commented on, watched, read and written ourselves products like his. I have. I’m guilty of participating in this culture that enabled him to believe that his choices were right.

So don’t we all now have a responsibility to challenge our own conceptualisations of kink? To question the messages that K&P, porn, erotica and our own social media usage, are selling us. New and old alike.

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know how to reconcile the need for social media with the overwhelming influence and personality it creates. Maybe there isn’t an answer. Maybe the way that social media catapults ordinary into these positions of power and influence is just something that we are going to have to learn to live with. That people are going to get hurt, women are going to get raped.

But I have to believe that there is something to do next.

 

 

 

The Wolf has been arrested. So where to from here?

Dear Sydney,
We’ve woken up to the news this morning that the fellow amongst us formally known as “The Wolf” has, finally been put into his cage. Beyond his most ardent followers, most of us have taken a moment to stop and breath. Could this be the tipping point for us? Could this be the one arrest that breaks open the fragile façade of consent that has enveloped the community. The cover that hides the true darkness that we know exists but need to deny because it will force some serious introspection about what it is we do?
It’s safe to say that I am not the biggest fan of the way consent is conceptualised within kink. I find the cheap words vile and the calmness that surrounds the absolute cognitive dissidence nauseating. Victim blaming quickly followed by the paternalistic defence that proudly proclaims the need to do, while systematically refusing to acknowledge that those that do are responsible for their choices that fulfils their needs. Intentional blindness and blind obedience.  A cultural refusal to acknowledge the difference between the fantasy in our minds and the experiences we choose.
I’ll admit I gave the air one serious high five when I read my news alert this morning. I’m not at all upset that this man, who one report stated is “understood to have legendary status amongst Sydney’s online BDSM community according to a police source” is now on strict bail until his court appearance in December.
But I am preparing for that overwhelming devastation that will come once his fan gaggle collects themselves and begins their militant campaign of support. Anyone else convinced that will be using a few of the suppositions and tactics of camp Trump 2016, but instead of “locker room banter” it will be “BDSM”? I know it will come. You know it will. Because that is how kink works! I’ve seen it before. I saw it with his (alleged) child victim. I’ve seen it with other victims regardless of whether or not kink is apart of their assault.
But there is something else that I do know.
This is front page media news! Print, digital, radio, morning TV, women’s media. It is going to go “viral” so to speak. And thank-freaking- god!
This perpetrator saturated Fetlife with his recounts of his actions. He wrote books about them. His cheer squad wrote passionate defences of him and outlined his behaviour towards them. All of which now creates the peripheral framework for this case. He put it out there, the police will now use it.
Our community chose to enable this by becoming passive enablers. And yes, I consider myself as being a part of this! How many times have I encountered something which I knew needed addressing but was so fatigued from trying so many times before and just closed the tab on my computer? I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only feminist who feels this fatigue. Who feels so overwhelmed that they check out and go binge watch Outlander and pretend, for a few hours that this shit doesn’t happen!
I live in Sydney! This fucking animal preyed (okay I’ll add another allegedly here) on a child the same age as my daughter and has been accused of another rape, with police urging other victims to come forward! So yeah, this one is a bit closer to home for me. I took what I knew to the police in January and have sat here ever since waiting for this. Waiting for the police to knock on his door. Hoping with crossed fingers that, one day soon, he will be forced to account for his choices.

I just didn’t know there are more victims! I should have known, his patterns of behaviour, his addiction to the feedback loop he’s created through social media, the sloppy yet aggressive way he has created this animalistic caricature of himself and his, dare I say it, pathological posse of female devotees. They all come together to create an individual who sees himself in the third person. As someone not like you and I. Someone who has given himself permission and who acts within the validation of outsiders. Who can disconnect from the humanness of himself and others. I’m not going to label this, but anyone with the slightest understanding of the psychosocial components that created this will know what he is!
I read one commenter, in a vain hope I’m assuming, invalidating his arrest by claiming that this is nothing more than the police showing their bias towards kink. Let’s get this one out of the way. This was KINGS CROSS, the alternative mecca of the Southern Hemisphere. The most popular Kink club Hellfire is located within the Kings Cross police area. They are not some country cop shop, but inner city, community engaged and diversity – including sexuality aware officers.
It’s not about the aesthetics. it’s not about what this looks like, how “violent” ones actions may seem to an outsider. Although objective perceptions of BDSM will form a part of any jury’s considerations if the case proceeds to trial. What matters, right now, is that his victims subjective experience of her interaction with him meet her and now the law’s, measure of sexual assault. What matters right now are HIS choices. HIS actions. What HE understood (Mens Rea). What HE did (Actus reus).
Because let’s remember his whole MO is to render his victims passive in order to conquer them by his “alpha” superiority. We’ve all read his writings. We know how he chooses to present himself. He’s the absolute alpha who can drag women into his assumed nirvana bliss whenever, however he decides. And this. This attitude. These choices. THIS is what has landed the puppy in the dog house! It is what he did to her, as opposed to what they did together. The moment he chose to step outside the mutuality of the interaction and into his idealisation of himself; that, is when he crossed the line from kink to sexual assault causing actual bodily harm.
And here’s what I know:
The police have created a “Fact Sheet” within which they have created a narrative of events based on the known circumstances of the offence (sexual assault) and the aggravating factors (actual bodily harm). That is that on the 21st of August at (an undisclosed) Kings Cross hotel Liam Murphy, 41 raped X, aged 21, twice and attempted to rape her once.
These are the known facts as they are right now. Due process, right up until a verdict is handed down (as far as I understand it) allows for these charges to be negotiated between the DPP and the defence. These charges can be changed.
I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve spent years researching and writing about consent and the law in NSW. I’m not an “expert”, the law is complicated and there is a reason that lawyers get paid the amount they do! Interpreting and creating argument is something that I wouldn’t know how to competently do. But I am confident enough in my understanding about these few points to put it here.
Sexual assault comes from the nonexistence of consent. It is deliberately removing personal agency. Consent in my State, so the State within which this case exists, is present within a sexual interaction when a person “freely and voluntarily agrees to the sexual intercourse” {NSW Crimes Act 1900 – SECT 61HA].
Actual (as in actual bodily harm) – doesn’t actually have a definition within the Statute. But there are “typical” examples of injury caused (through unlawful actions of another). These range from scratches and bruises through to psychological harm.
Common law however has found McIntyre v R (2009) that injury… “[N]eed not be permanent, but must be more than merely transient or trifling — it is something less than “grievous bodily harm”, which requires really serious physical injury, and “wounding”, which requires breaking of the skin”
Actual bodily harm uses ordinary meaning, that is an injury is assumed to interfere with the health and comfort of the victim. He may have done the exact same thing to a dozen other women, who found her overall experiences of his actions pleasurable. But this woman found them to have a negative effect, she has deemed them something that has caused her to have interfered with her overall health, wellbeing and comfort.
The other thing I want to mention is “recklessness”. R v Bloomfield (1998), Blackwell v R (2011) the prosecution has to prove that the accused intentionally and recklessly assaulted the victim AND as a CONSEQUENCE of that actual bodily harm was a result.
I’m not going any further into the legal aspects of this case. Luckily for me the Downing Centre Court is about 500 meters from where I am so I can attend the hearing on the 6th of December. But I will state this –
It is all too common (and I would be pretty certain that this will apply here as well) within both answers to accusation put to an accused and as a formulated defence within trials for the accused to admit sexual activity but assert that there was consent. So the question is can or should the existence of BDSM (as a prescribed social acronym depicting particular non-heteronormative sexual behaviours) be enough to definitively argue that consent exists and that the accessed actions were in fact lawful and not the intentional infliction of harm?
As the statutory and common law interpretation of what consent varies considerably across jurisdictions, there is insignificant consistency to create a common language to define precisely what is and isn’t within the boundaries of proscribed and approved behaviours. There is way too much geographical and so jurisdictional variation to lay any claim to BDSM being an absolute defence to the harm created through ones actions.

 
There is no doubt that BDSM adds additional complexity to what is already a multidimensional and difficult experience of victims. When you consider that BDSM has, until recently remained on the peripheral of mainstream sexual understanding, can we really assume that those invested in what they do will supplant what has been accepted as consent for what is consent in the rest of the world?
There is, outside of BDSM, plenty of criticism “grey area” if you like, surrounding the line between consent/agreement and mere compliance. Sex and rape. Interpretation of behaviours and understanding the wants of others.  If this line is blurred within case of sexual assault that seem straight forward, then the complexity must be exacerbated by adding elements of BDSM to the context of the crime. So, no the existence of BDSM cannot, as far as I’m concerned, defend ones understanding of harm and the occurrence of harm caused by our choices/actions!
No matter how kinky you might think you are, no matter how much you’re showcased on K&P and if you’ve reached the peak of Fetlebrity status you live in the real world! The real world that, the last time I checked, does not have an asterisk in the Statue enabling those of us who fuck a tad differently to our neighbours to act outside the law!
Because I am SICK & TIRED of men like this using BDSM as a justification for their criminal choices! BDSM, for me and for a lot of us, is a healthy and safe sexual manifestation. Something that allows us to explore our bodies and our relationships in ways that work the best for us. BDSM is not a get out of gaol free card. BDSM does not excuse you from your choices any more than religion excuses a man who chooses to shoot an abortion clinic.
So where to from here –
We need to reframe BDSM and fast! We need to exclude men like Murphy from our communities and distance ourselves from their choices! We need to make consent central to everything and focus on the actions and the intentions of those that do before we start interrogating those who are having it don’t to.
BDSM is not violence and it is not assault! It is a means of playing with sensation, language and behaviours in order to gain sexual and relationship satisfaction. THAT IS IT! You can kinkwash it all you like but the bottom line is that BDSM is not a means of causing harm to another. BDSM is not “illegal”. Causing harm to another person is illegal. Using behaviours and props, language and imagery commonly assumed to be BDSM within our intimate relationships is NOT illegal. Choosing to sexually assault someone where there is harm experienced by your victim is illegal.
Look, I get the need to be transgressive and to be seen as extraordinary! Brene Brown explains our culturally ingrained fear of being considered ordinary really well. She explains in Daring Greatly that it is our fear of ordinary that creates this new surge in narcissism (– it’s a must read!) I get that, for some, sex and relationships are the only stage within which they can become more than just another shmuck. BDSM allows us a platform in which “othering” ourselves and creating something more is hero worshiped.
Being motivated by your shame-induced fear of ordinary (seriously you HAVE to read Brene) might make you a Fetlebrity. But it won’t make you immune from the consequences of your choices.
And it’s these choices that need to be the catalyst for the next step.
We need to start asking questions like
“What made you think your choices were okay?”
“How did you know that what you did was exactly what they were asking for?”
“When you chose to do X how certain were you that you were doing what was asked of you?”
We need to start focusing our attention onto the actions and choices of those who are choosing to use BDSM as a mirror from which they deflect their responsibilities. Those who think that they can do as they please, those who are validated by others and those who are enabled by websites and businesses to continue unchecked.

Men like Murphy do not “do” kink, they use kink as a defence. And that, no matter how much you word game it cannot be okay!

Yours sincerely
Someone who is pissed!
 

My consent is not what makes his choices okay!

I’m not here to write passionate arguments defending BDSM. The socially constructed acronym used to umbrella an innumerable number of experiences doesn’t need my few words to argue on its behalf. I don’t feel the need to defend anything that I do nor do I feel the need to explain away the absolute bullshit that others claim as kink that I encounter almost daily. Those who demonise or glamourise BDSM typically lump all and everything into their explorations and conclusions and will never be persuaded by anything that I could say.

But I did try once or twice.

I’ve written a few times here that I started this as a means of adding to the conversations that we have about sex. Something that I’m passionate about. But there’s something that came before this decision. An ‘incident’ so to speak, that made me understand that there is often something missing from the way that we perceive and talk about sex.

And I guess as many other “ah ha” moments, this one began on Facebook. I’d just started connecting with the community of sex writers on social media, I was confident enough to add my 2 cents but not yet sure of my place. I’d managed to toe the party line for a few months, although I had already seen a number of things that confronted and confused me and some that really did offend me. But I’d let them go, choosing to maintain a polite silence rather than question or ask others to question their position.

This one post was on a woman’s page who is a feminist, has been writing for a number of years and has a few hundred followers. She contributes regularly to ‘sex positive’ online publications. She is articulate in her words, she not only writes about sex objectively but she candidly brings her sex life into her space with descriptions, antidotes and pictures. Nothing about her is, really noteworthy, and I’m not going to name her here. We have very different ways of using our own spaces but this is neither here nor there. It just is.

One morning she posted a meme, it was one of those artistically styled black and white ‘tumblr’ posts, with words over the top of the picture. From what I remember it was a typical male dominant, female submissive caricature. The words were simple ‘the difference between kink and abuse is consent’. There were a hundred or so comments all in gushing agreement with the statement and rephrasing it in various ways. Almost all of them were contextualising the statement in a male dominant female submissive relationship and were all assigning consent to her not him. She is the one who gives consent, this was a matter of fact statement. There was this constant theme (and it was/is not only on this one Facebook meme where this occurs, it seems to be quite typical way that consent is positioned in kink) that what she did justifies what he does.

I didn’t get it, I still don’t. How is it that what I do absolves the person I’m having sex with from their choices?

I asked just this. I asked about how intention fits into this, his intentions not mine. I asked what would happen if we began positioning intention rather than consent as the thing, well one of them because there are numerous factors that come together to distinguish my relationship from those where one half of the couple is the victim of domestic violence? I wondered what would happen if, when something goes wrong, we examine the intentions of those who do (allegedly do) harm to others. 

It’s something that I’d been thinking about for a while. And genuinely believed that this was the appropriate time and place to have asked what, for me was a pretty straight forward question.

Boy! Was I wrong!

I was shamed and ridiculed. Not one comment offered me a reason for why my question was wrong. In fact, no one actually directly answered my question or challenged my position that his intention should be more of a concern that my agreement or actions. What did happen were individuals dismissing someone who chose to cross a defined line. Consent is the all and everything. And while I am the first to position the importance of consent I am not prepared to use something that is of such legal and cultural significant to continually justify and defend the actions of those who intend to do harm.

That’s not to say that accidents don’t happen. They’ve happened here and will probably happen again. Nor am I talking about things that are directly asked for, negotiated and that are for the mutual benefit of both partners. But what does not happen here is him intending to hurt, coerce or manipulate me. His intention, going into everything that we do, is to create and facilitate mutually beneficial physical interactions.

 

His intentions matters. And while my consent matters, they are two very different elements of our relationship. His intention most certainly influences what I consent to and my consent frames what he intends to do. But what he ultimately does comes from his intentions not from my consent.

Positioning his actions as a direct consequence of my consent renders his decision making process and his accountability almost invisible. As if what comes after my agreement (consent) is void, inconsequential. When in fact he and he alone creates the decisions that manifest in his actions.

We can also bring this into efforts to dismantle rape culture. If, instead of centring the consent of the victim as the core element of distinguishing rape from sex, we then are able to actively interrogate the actions of the accused based solely on what they chose to do. What did they intend? What we the mental process that he went through in his mind to assess the entirety of the situation and judge his next action as being right? When he did whatever it is that he is accused of what was his aim? Did he intend to contribute to a mutually agreed upon sexual interaction, something that would create mutual satisfaction – however that plays out. Or did he intend to take what he thought was his, intestinally rejecting part or the entirely of what was agreed?

Does this give us an exceptionally objective measure enabling us to clearly differentiate between sex and rape or BDSM and abuse? No. the complexity of the crime is such that one element is not (or should not) be the crux of a prosecution. However, focusing on intention and examining the decision making process used by an accused to lead him to believe what he was doing was the right thing would dramatically shit the currency that victim blaming has in rape. If it is more about him than her blaming her can’t be so central to a defence can it?

Reflecting back on the way the idea was responded to in my social media interaction mentioned previously still doesn’t make any sense. Here I was being ‘blacklisted’ and blocked, prohibited from commenting all because I wanted to take the responsibility for someone else’s choices away from me and put it squarely on them. Because I want consent to reflect the ability for me to be able to form a sex life that works for me not as something that defends the actions of him.

So let me ask, why is it that my voluntary agreement is the only this that distinguished BDSM from intimate partner violence?