Sunday, 15 December 2013

BDSM Can Weaken Oppression Culture By Transmuting Violence Into Intimacy


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According to The Free Dictionary, 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.

Here’s the thing. Mainstream culture thinks BDSM is all about whips and paddles. Personally, I’ve never been particularly interested in all the techno-toys that keep BDSM the province of a financially-resourced middle-class. They strike me (no stupid pun intended), for the most part, as useful to people who are connoisseurs of physical sensation. That’s a legitimate thing to be a connoisseur of; in fact, it sounds really nice. But it’s something that has never meant much to me. For a number of reasons, I’m incredibly disconnected from my body most of the time. To me, one physical feeling — be it pain, pleasure, heat, cold, pressure, whatever — is very much like another. They’re sort of interesting, but they’re significant to me only insofar as they’re a means to an end — in sex, as a means to the end of emotional intimacy or psychological self-discovery of some kind.

What BDSM — as an activity; not as a Scene, culture, community or any other institution — is best at is being a means to the end of political consciousness, a laboratory for working with our own somatic relationships to oppression culture. It’s also a huge privilege that the ways I’ve been wounded by oppression culture are shallow enough that it’s safe for me to explore them like this. (“Slavery,” for example, is a drastically less loaded and triggering concept for me than it might be for someone whose family members were actually slaves.)

Here’s the part that I expect to upset people most, and I don’t even know for sure that it’s true, but it’s at least an idea worth exploring: If I play with oppression in my sex, if I consciously learn what it feels like in my body, then it becomes easier for me to see and feel oppression working surreptitiously in the world. If I fetishize authority, actual authorities become less intimidating. (Huh. No wonder that one of the most submissively-identified people I know is also one of the most hardcore anti-authoritarians I’ve ever met.) If I empower myself to choose non-consent, the possibility of actual rape — which is something that has happened to me and very well might happen to me again because that’s the world that we live in — becomes a less powerful epistemic threat. BDSM helps us learn how to distinguish between discomfort and danger.

That is, unless we pretend that’s not what’s happening. Unless we pretend that, when we engage in BDSM play, we’re not hurting each other.

Either we acknowledge that, when we fetishize oppression culture, we’re actually doing something pretty fucked up as a way to resist/survive/understand something even more fucked up that’s being done to us against our will — and we choose to do that -intentionally- and -work- with it — or we lose all the revolutionary value that BDSM might otherwise give us to hack our own subconscious programming in ways that help us fight the System’s hold over us. Then it becomes just another fun thing to do on a Saturday night in the kyriarchy. “Fun”, as long as we keep our eyes squeezed shut tight and avoid ever actually seeing each others’ pain.

What’s interesting to me about BDSM — what makes BDSM awesome — isn’t how much physical pain I can cause or take. I’m interested in inegalitarian intimacies, and any physical sensations that might facilitate them, as a politicopsychological technology for fighting systemic oppression.

A politicopsychological technology for fighting systemic oppression,” huh? I’m sure that sounds dry as fuck (that one was intended) to anyone for whom BDSM is about orgasms. And I’m gonna say something here that’s not very “revolutionary”: That’s fine. People have different priorities. It’s okay to be a fan of problematic things — like violent sex — and it’s even okay to be a fan of them without having a critical consciousness about how they’re problematic.

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Source: Bloggity Blog Blog Blog…

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No Suture! Art, Music, Gender & Random Topic Snippet-logs, Since 2005 …

No Suture!                         Art, Music, Gender & Random Topic Snippet-logs, Since 2005 …