Archive for March 6th, 2016

Major Ranty Thing

March 6, 2016

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Technically speaking, this would normally be the Liner Notes for February, but I think that’s going to wait for just a tiny bit because I have, in the parlance of the rap community, some stone-cold truths to drop on y’all about kink. About your kink, probably, although hopefully you’re going to hear this and in the end say, “Yes, he’s talking about me!” and not “No, he can’t be talking about me!”


So one of the big rules in the kink community is, “No kink shaming.” Basically, you don’t go out there and tell someone what they’re doing is perverse and sick and wrong and fucked up, even if it is disturbing to you on a personal level, because we all have an understanding that we are each and every one of us turned on by something that society feels is taboo (or at least taboo to get turned on by) and that if we start judging one another’s kinks, the whole thing is going to collapse in an orgy of recriminations and loathing. (This is not the good kind of orgy.) So we say, “No kink shaming!” and try to pretend that’s the end of it.


But it’s really not. Because BDSM and D/s is, as I said last week, essentially performative–that is to say, we are constructing an identity for ourselves as top or bottom when we act in scene, and performing our role in the scene as that identity. This is fine when your scene is a private scene; when you’re in the bedroom with your play partner(s), and you are performing a scene that involves some very intense humiliation play, you are performing only to each other and the only people you have to give aftercare to is that play partner. (And just because I’m defining everything today, aftercare is the time you take after a scene to reconstruct your identity outside of scene, to remind yourself that your relationship is an essentially loving one, and to reconnect with your partner as an individual. It usually involves lots of cuddling and talking.)


But if you’re in public, and especially if you’re on the Internet, then being performative gets kind of complex. Because you’re not just acting out your role for you, you’re acting it out to others–perhaps millions of others, if you post about it online. These people aren’t your play partners, but they’re nonetheless involved with your play. This is especially important to remember when doing humiliation play, because…okay, look. Here’s where those stone-cold truths come in.


Because a lot of BDSM and D/s, especially humiliation play, intersects with a thing called “toxic masculinity”. And again, it’s Explain It All Day here, so I’ll give a capsule explanation of toxic masculinity before reminding you that Google is your friend. Basically, toxic masculinity is the set of unattainable expectations placed on men regarding their gender role in society, expectations about the way a “real man” should act and think and believe and behave and treat others. (Arguably, there’s a “toxic femininity” as well, but given that so much of the role expected of women by society is to be a passive receptacle for men’s expectations, I think it’s probably safe to lump the two together. Especially because MRAs have co-opted “toxic femininity” as a term meaning “anything a woman does that I don’t like”.)


I’m sure if you think long enough, you can come up with many of these, but here’s a few that will be relevant. Men are always emotionally distant, and only express themselves through anger. Men are never caregivers, domestically or emotionally. Men are expected to have a magnetic charisma that makes women not just interested but desperate to have sex with them, and it is a failure on their part if they can’t convince a woman to have sex on their terms. Men never, under any circumstances, express an interest in things that are traditionally feminine, and they never ever ever express sexual interest in another man. Men never allow a woman to tell them what to do. You get the idea. They’re all bullshit, but more importantly they’re all unachievable. Buying into them sets men up to feel like they are failures as men because they can’t stop themselves from feeling sad, or because some days they want a hug, or because they respect consent, or because they’re bisexual. That’s why it’s called “toxic”–because this shit will poison you from the inside if you let it.


And guess what–BDSM and D/s have a lot of overlap with toxic masculinity. Sometimes it’s an ironic overlap; since kink is performative (see? It’s all coming together!) doing a scene allows people to play out a role that society has tried to force them into, in order to figure out what about it is attractive and what about it is repellent. Doing a scene between a man and a woman where the man acts “alpha” and the woman lets herself be called a whore, a bitch, a slut, et cetera, allows the two of them to work out their ambivalence about sexual urges that they are taught are both mandatory and shameful. Then when they come out of scene, they can reconnect as people and leave that behind. Likewise, a “sissification” scene may be cathartic for a bisexual man who needs to confront the anger society projects onto him so that he can realize afterwards that he is still loved. But even though the participants know it’s ironic, that overlap is always there. It’s inescapable with humiliation play, even though most participants know how their partner really feels about them.


(Not that I’m letting all the humiliation kinks off the hook. Sometimes, it’s not ironic at all–there are plenty of sexual predators out there who’ve figured out that they can degrade women in the kink community and play innocent when they push it too far. These people are fuckers and should be forcibly tattooed with the Mark of Cain so that everyone knows that playing with them is a Capital M Mistake. But I digress.)


The point is, when you have a lot of people doing an essentially performative activity in a public space that is designed to ironically enact toxic codes of behavior, there’s an unintended side effect–a large audience of people who are already getting hit with toxic masculinity tropes in day to day life come into the kink community and get them shouted even louder and harder in their general direction. I noticed it on Tumblr as soon as I started following more than a dozen people–my feed was full of men asserting their dominance, women embracing bimbification and subservience, and the trans community only existing as a fetish object for sissification. All the tropes of toxic masculinity, blasted at full volume, 24/7.


Now, I don’t blame any of these people for talking about their fetishes, or for loving them. I really do get it, no kink shaming. But the thing is, humiliation play by definition shames everyone who practices their kink in a loving and joyous fashion. It says, “You’re a guy who wants to suck cock? What a sissy faggot! You’re a guy who wants to be submissive? What a beta cuck! You’re a woman who wants to submit on her own terms? Shut up, cum dumpster whore! You’re a trans woman? No you’re not, you’re just a guy with a limp dick! You’re a trans man? Um…sorry, there’s no place for you in any of our kinks, you might as well be invisible.” And if those words sound ugly and nasty and mean to you and you’re shocked that I said them, I understand. But they’re quotes. And they make it hard for people to feel like they can express their kink any other way. They feel isolated when they say, “No, my Master loves me and is constantly telling me that, even in scene,” because everyone else is out there talking about their steely-eyed ’50 Shades of Grey’ fantasy top.


So I want to see people signal boosting. I want to see everyone who believes that kink can really be a deeply satisfying, loving experience that’s nothing to be ashamed of to post it, everywhere they can. (In the kink community. I mean, don’t go on Daily Kos with this stuff or anything.) It’s the only way to remind people that while humiliation play may be a loud kink, it’s by no means the narrative you have to conform to.


And yes, if your kink is humiliation play, I want you to remember that when you are in a public space, you are around people who did not consent to be humiliated by you. And if they didn’t consent, you don’t get to treat them like they’re in your scene. I won’t tell you that your kink has to be taboo even in a community of the taboo, but try to keep that in mind before you post.