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Not that I needed a refresher, but... - Elf M. Sternberg
elfs
elfs
Not that I needed a refresher, but...
ABC News (with Peter Jennings!) has decided that BDSM is so mainstream these days that it's no longer an "Oooh, look at those kinky people" kind of thing to report about. Instead, they've given us a how-to primer to finding all things leathery. It's lightweight but, really, isn't this the kind of thing we were all reading 15 years ago in SandMutopia Garden?

They only give one paragraph to a detractor, and they quote, well, acquaintances and friends of mine. Huzzah! Oh, and ABC quietly reminds us that "floggers and whips take some mastering, according to experts." Well, DUH.

It's a shame they quoted SSC, though.

Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: Nine Inch Nails, Down In It

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Comments
acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 10th, 2005 08:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Um... from someone not into the scene, but trying to understand it... why is it a shame that they quoted SSC?
From: zillah975 Date: May 10th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mm. I was wondering that too. I know a lot of people have trouble with SSC because the definitions of safe and sane (and even consensual) can be rather subjective, fluid, and personal, but it seems to me like a very good way to indicate to nervous non-pervs that BDSM is different from abuse or non-consensual violence. If the network would do a nice little mini-series on the topic, or a season-long series, and could really delve deeply into it, I could definitely see addressing that, but for what it sounds like they were trying to do, I'm rather glad they did mention it. When my sister first started talking to me about it I was very nervous that she was getting involved in this stuff (I was in my early 20s then), but when she got to the part about SSC, I started listening to what she was telling me instead of to my own fears and assumptions.
elfs From: elfs Date: May 10th, 2005 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always been uncomfortable with SSC. It seems to me to be no more than cheerleading, a public relations effort to convince those who aren't in the community that "whatever it is that we do," we're not a danger to others. I suppose that's a fine thing to relate, but I don't believe that SSC is the right way to go about it.

After all, nobody thinks that mountain climbing is safe or sane. People die climbing mountains every year, and when someone says "I'm gonna take Rainier barefoot and blindfolded!" the response is usually along the lines of a well-deserved, "Dude, you're nuts." Yet we accord the people who climb mountains the right to decide for themselves the risks they want to take and the rewards due them if they succeed. We tell ourselves that the thrill of risk-taking and the reward of succeeding are worth the endeavor, and so we give everyone a significant degree of autonomy and liberty to make those decisions.

SSC implies that there are concrete and objective standards to "safety" and "sanity" that someone, somewhere, is writing down and someone else, somewhere, is measuring up.

I'm quite sure that every mountain climbing class goes over safety with fanatical rigor, and I'm quite sure that no mountain climbers wants to get killed as a result of his hobby. I'm satisfied that most of the BDSM classes I've attended as student or teacher have scrupulously covered safety and care issues.

But I would rather leave it up to the individuals in a relationship to define for themselves the risks they want to take. When I started taking BDSM lectures, I immediately recognized the huge disconnect between the "We're Safe, Sane, and Consensual!" literature and the actual lecturers, whose real goal was to teach only one of those: how to get what you want out of a relationship. Everything else was assumed to fall under the rubric of "humanity", and if you didn't get that at the beginning, no amount of cheerleading was going to help.



velvet_wood From: velvet_wood Date: May 10th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Total agreement.

A term that's becoming popular that I find way preferable is RACK--Risk Aware Consensual Kink. Safe and sane are simply too subjective. And there's something...condescending about it, too. Why should anyone have the right to tell me I can't do what I want because it's not 'safe'. Lots of things aren't safe, and people do them every day. But 'risk aware', yeah, I can go for that. As long as you're aware of the possible consequences of your actions, and as long as they don't affect anyone who's not consenting to be affected, then anything goes, IMO.

Velvet
acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 10th, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the "safe and sane" part is intended to satisfy that part of the public that demands warning labels on hot take-out coffee and 9 PM curfews for everyone under 18 - the notion that all citizens must be protected from all dangers, whether they want to be or not. Even though they don't practice BDSM, it horrifies them that there are people who do stuff that hurts, but maybe they'll be able to accept it better if they know it's being done "safely"... whatever that means.

I do think it's important to emphasize the consensual aspects as much as possible, though. The average person is going to have enough trouble differentiating between acting out fantasies of rape and torture, and actual rape and torture; knowing that the person who appears to be a victim is undergoing it because they want to should defuse a lot of the righteous indignation about it. (I still don't grok it on a gut level myself, but as long as everyone involved is doing whatever they're doing of their own free will, I have no objections.)

mothball_07 From: mothball_07 Date: May 10th, 2005 08:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
it horrifies them that there are people who do stuff that hurts, but maybe they'll be able to accept it better if they know it's being done "safely"

And THAT is part of what horrifies *me*. :) Life happens. A woman here just got hit in the chest and killed by a falling rock while motorcycling. What are the odds? But people are already complaining about the falling rock risk...

Come on folks. Life is messy. Babies are born amid blood and pain and danger. The sanitized idea that we should be able to avoid these things under all conditions is a serious problem IMO, and the idea that those who want to explore life while we're here have to package that in a way to make those who are afraid more comfortable is dangerous IMO.

As soon as you say "It's ok to be queer because we're really just like you", you have to draw a line and disenfranchise everyone who ISN'T "just like them except gender."

As soon as you say "SSC makes BDSM ok", you're also saying that BDSM that doesn't meet someone's definition of SSC *isn't* ok. Our society doesn't deal well with ambiguity, so that will become formulaic...

I don't *want* their endorsement at the expense of my self-determination.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 10th, 2005 11:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think the intended message is "It's ok to be queer because we're really just like you"; I think the message is supposed to be "What we do may look scary and weird to you, but it's all right because we make sure nobody really gets hurt - it's all just good clean dirty fun." But some people might feel that this trivializes their self-definition. (And I believe that much of the media attention to BDSM certainly does trivialize it, portraying it as little more than a fad for leather fashions accessorized with spiked dog-collars.)

I agree with you that everything has some element of risk, and life is supposed to be messy and chaotic and dangerous sometimes. But there are always going to be fearful people who want some bureaucratic Mommy and Daddy to make sure there are no sharp edges they could hurt themselves on. As I said, the take-out cup now has to say "DANGER! DO NOT POUR SCALDING HOT COFFEE INTO YOUR CROTCH!", or it's grounds for a lawsuit. (And a printer I once bought included in the instruction manual, "WARNING! Never immerse your LaserJet Printer in water or any other liquid. Do not expose your LaserJet Printer to open flames.") Pfui.

mothball_07 From: mothball_07 Date: May 10th, 2005 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think the intended message is "It's ok to be queer because we're really just like you"

Sorry.. I wasn't very clear. I'm queer too, and in the queer community there are large groups who intend exactly that. They tend not to be tolerant of BDSM, poly, or sometimes even "obviously queer" people, for that matter! In fact, I've had *very* negative reactions from some queers (including a counselor) to these other aspects of me because *THESE* things are sick and unnatural. Unlike being queer which is just like hets, but for the gender. Seriously.

I was expressing concern that the bdsm community could go the same way. That if we get too caught up in proving we're not scary to the fearful folks (love your characterization, btw), that we could find ourselves with an ever greater criticism of "edge players" where that would become increasingly defined by "what might freak society out".
acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 11th, 2005 03:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Why, oh, why, do so many people seem to want desperately to say "Oh, we're okay, we're really just like you, with one teensy little difference - not like those awful, icky people over there!"? I swear, being exclusionary is the most revolting perversion I can think of!

I'm mostly heterosexual, mostly monogamous, and mostly vanilla, in my personal habits, but I have no problems with anyone else's orientations or choices. But a gay male friend of mine got furious with me when I expressed admiration for the symbolism of the rainbow flag and Pride Rings. I thought that the rainbow was supposed to be inclusionary, symbolizing all races and colors, all ethnicities, and all forms of sexuality and sexual expression. But he grew frothing mad at the thought of "straight people co-opting our symbols, just to assuage their liberal guilt". (So I wear my Vulcan IDIC symbol instead.)

So the queers don't want to have anything to do with the polyamorists or the BDSM folks, and the dykes don't want to have anything to do with the "lipstick lesbians" and the bisexual women, and mild-BDSM doesn't want to be seen with extreme-BDSM, and the polys don't like the monogamists, and the monogamous straight people just wish they'd all go away... *sigh*... "Why can't we all just get along?"

slfisher From: slfisher Date: May 10th, 2005 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
My guess is that ol' Pete's a perv himself and now with the way things are for him, he's saying what the hell and doing stories on things that interest him.
arconius From: arconius Date: May 10th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fitting, somehow, that the URL includes a directory called "PainManagement". :)
kavri From: kavri Date: May 10th, 2005 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I recently read (but unfortunately don't remember where, I think it might have been a Dan Savage column) that "BDSM is the new Oral Sex".... and I thought it was a great comment. Besides the fun/pun on the fashionistas 'the new Black', it is so accurate. At one time, Oral Sex was considered risque, but something that became more mainstream. Now its completely vanilla. Hell, some kids are as casual about oral sex as there predecessors were about kissing. I'm constantly amused at how 'mainstream' BDSM is becoming. Imagine, Peter Jennings no less!
From: mozerkus Date: July 6th, 2005 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
mmmmmmm...........
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