Critiquing a critique of BDSM

As some of you might know, I have an interest in the emerging anarchist tendency known as “post-civilization” (related to, but distinct from, anarcho-primitivism). I was visiting one of the post-civilization websites, Yggdrasil Zine Distro, when I found a “critique of BDSM”, call Liberating Ourselves in the Boudoir. They state that they hope it will spark discussion in the radical community, so let me kick it off.

Near the start, they say they feel “beaten down by being constantly bombarded by people’s stories of ‘kinky’ sexual conquest”. Now, if there’s anything that should stick out at you, it’s the violent terminology used in reference to mere discussion of BDSM: “beaten down”, “bombarded”, “sexual conquest”. This has rather propagandistic undertones, and casts the author as a victim.

They later say “like-minded  adults can do whatever they want in private” and say that BDSM is “to borrow a term from Derrick Jensen-a toxic mimic of healthy adult human sexuality”. This is blatantly ageist and marginalizing language. They also claim that BDSM is a symptom of civilization, without any source.

They also claim that the leather subculture is intensely patriarchal and exclusively queer male. I have two words in response: Pat Califia. Pat has written extensively about queer female leather culture, and is hardly obscure. I recommend they do the research next time they attempt to critique something.
They use the faulty phrase “consenting adults”, as well. They then ask if BDSM is truly consensual and give Armin Meiwes as an example of something allegedly consensual that isn’t liberating or good. Let me define consent (something they never did): an act is consensual when all involved parties are not coerced through force or deception, understand the nature of an act and wish to participate in it. Thus, BDSM can be consensual. Armin Meiwes’ case is special, since it involved a grisly sort of assisted suicide: it cannot be held up as some standard for all BDSM practices, or even a comparison.

They quote a feminist claiming that BDSM encapsulates patriarchy. This implies that patriarchy can be consensual, and thus backfires as an argument.

They claim as evidence that BDSM is a product of civilization the lack of anthropological evidence for BDSM in modern day hunter gatherer societies. This fails for a couple of reasons: one is because modern-day and Stone Age people are different, civilization or not civilization; the other is because as Isaac Asimov said, “absence of proof is not proof of absence”.
They also claim that just like Christianity, BDSM glorifies submission, authority, and punishment. This is not true, since BDSM is merely a simulation of these things, in a consensual setting.

They give the example of someone who likes to be punched in the face during sex as evidence that BDSM is wrong. This is a clear example of begging the question, it becomes invalid if consensual face-punching isn’t first accepted as wrong.

They also give the example of someone who likes to be silenced, and who likes cutting, strangling and child rape fantasies. While this is dangerous, and shocking to most people, it’s not necessarily “wrong”, and no argument is given that it is. They also claim that “all of her romantic relationships are with older, overbearing, dominant men who keep her in mental slavery and emotional dependency to their abuse”-the use of the term “abuse” is another example of begging the question.

They also talk about wealthy, white men on Craigslist wanting to be “punished”. While this is pyschologically interesting, it presents no argument against BDSM qua BDSM.

They also claim that BDSM is money-driven, because of all the BDSM-related things for sale. This can be applied to anything: sex in general, Warhammer 40k, fishing, you name it. Furthermore, just because a lot of things related to something are for sale doesn’t mean it’s about money. They also equate money and capitalism.

They mention the fact that many BDSM devices (whips, chains, etc.) are related to, or have functioned as devices of actual oppression and slavery. However, that’s not much of a point. “Queer” is used as an insult, that doesn’t mean that “queer” as a self-descriptor is insulting.

They claim that radicals and queers are into BDSM as some kind of internalization of the abuse they’ve suffered… without any justification. They also conflate BDSM with actual hierarchy and violence.

They mention the use of terms like “safe, sane and consensual” and “risk aware consensual kink” and point out that euphemisms and justifications using nice words such as freedom, democracy etc are used by states and the like- a guilt by association fallacy. They also use the ageist phrase “healthy adult decision making” (emphasis mine).

They claim that the term “vanilla” is insulting, when it often isn’t intended that way at all. They also seem to think that it’s a matter purely of BDSM, when, for instance, a foot fetish wouldn’t be seen as “vanilla” even if no BDSM is involved. They also say that some pro-BDSM people shout them down or censor them for criticizing them. Neither of these things says anything about BDSM itself. They also claim that they received “linguistic violence and hostility” in response to their zine, i.e. “violent language, sarcasm, threats, polemics”, and use this as evidence that BDSM is innately authoritarian. Non sequitur: non-authoritarian people can still be angry. They also point out that non-consensual BDSM has been inflicted upon people, including themselves, because the other partner wasn’t aware of boundaries. This is horrible, but doesn’t prove anything about BDSM itself-it happens with non-BDSM activities as well, and that doesn’t make those activities authoritarian.
They also admit that the original version of their zine contained sarcasm and hatred… which kind of causes the backfire of their argument about such things being authoritarian.

While well-meaning, “Liberating Ourselves in the Boudoir” is both fallacious and could easily lead to the marginalization of kinky people, in spite of the authors’ best intentions.

Advertisements

About vaguelyhumanoid

Here you can see the assorted musings of a philosophically-inclined, theoretically eclectic anarchist. My blog: a grab bag of hopefully interesting rants, raves, and various other things.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Critiquing a critique of BDSM

  1. Margaret says:

    I don’t believe you conflate the two, but I just want to iterate that post-civilization and anti-BDSM are entirely unrelated and that the author of that piece is absolutely not speaking for post-civilization theory or theorists in general.

    Blegh, honestly it was all very embarrassing to see that piece of second-wave feminist bullshit mired with “anti-civilization” critique.

    • I realize that.

      I am so embarrassed by that pamphlet that I’m not going to print any of their zines, because someone might look at their website and see that. This is disappointing, since they have some really good stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s