Skip to content

Kinky Sex for Social Justice

December 27, 2009

Originally published October 2007.

Only rock stars actually have sex.

We all know this.  You know this, and I know this, and everyone you fuck knows this, and everyone I fuck knows this, and everyone they fuck, and everyone those people fuck—they all know this.  While it’s a sweet deception to think that we ourselves do actually, sometimes, have sex, it doesn’t hold up, and in the dank back rooms of our brains where truth stays like a dildo in your mother’s sock drawer, we all know that still, despite our best efforts, only the rock stars are having sex.

Before you have sex, sex is a rumor—this magical, unattainable, ultimate secret; the edge of the map; “here there be dragons.”  It seems certain that only Mick Jagger ever actually has it.  It is such a huge thing that surely only rock stars really do it.

And then you actually have sex.

Two things happen, most commonly simultaneously: you expect to be transformed, and you realize that you, in fact, have not been.  Becoming sexually active usually makes people calmer, more socially pleasant and more physically attractive, but I seriously expected that I would look in the mirror and Madonna would look right back at me.  Of course, she didn’t.  Supposedly, at that moment, the logical thing would be that you realize that it isn’t only rock stars who have sex.

But, of course, that’s not at all what happens.  Instead, you feel like you must not really have had sex.  And even as you become continuously sexually active, and sex becomes part of normal activity, it still feels like sex is something other people, people cooler than you, are doing.  They have sex.  You don’t really have sex.

While the main reason for sex can be figured as a biological imperative or as a pleasure principle (but either way means oh holy fuck that feels so fucking good fuck), perhaps the next most prevalent reason for having sex is that we’re all trying to be rock stars.  No-one likes to admit they want to be cool, because doing so instantly makes you uncool, but of course, just like being loved, it’s what everyone wants.  We wish we were rock stars, and most of us can’t play the guitar or bass or drums and definitely can’t sing and therefore started, sometime after high school, pretending that the desire to be an adult had replaced the desire to be cool, which is always as utterly meretricious a sentiment as that voiced by the dipshit cowards who say that sex is overrated.  Every single person reading this has had the experience of, after sex, feeling for a fleeting instant triumphant because the gap between who you are and who Mick Jagger is has at last closed.  Then you fall asleep or take a shower and you’re just a person, with arms, and knees, a digestive tract and a bank account, and you don’t really have sex.

This is the exact same way that falling in love feels precisely the same as getting famous, because everyone in America wants to be famous, but most people let the idea go when they first fall in love and realize that this feels exactly the way they always imagined it would when they got famous.  We have sex because it feels, or because we hope it will make us feel, as though we’ve finally become a rock star.

If rock stars are the only people who really have sex, it follows that our sexual archetypes are handed down to us by rock stars.  Sexual deviance starts with what we witness in this kind of celebrity, and so rock and roll, unavoidably a theatre of personality, requires anyone who becomes successful to posit through their performed identity the latest concept of rebel sexual persona.

The sexual rebel was defined over the second half of the last century in a development from one rock star to the next.  Rock and roll is a game of one-upsmanship, and the material of the game is sexual deviance.  Elvis was scandalously revolutionary for the simple fact that he was sexual, in an era when sex itself was deviance.  Bob Dylan was heinously unattractive and yet still a sex god (please note: I am in no way putting down Bob Dylan—Dylan circa 1965 is way up at the top of the Fuck List, with Byron and Camille), creating an ideal that still endures today of the boy who you want desperately to fuck precisely because he’s an asshole who wants nothing to do with you.  Mick Jagger actualized the male sexual fantasy of self to a preposterous degree, and was revolutionary because he didn’t flinch from the completion of that fantasy: lesser, mortal men might bandy about the idea “I wish I could just fuck every hot girl I see;” Mick Jagger fucked every hot girl he saw.  Mick Jagger defied anyone who qualified identity with the mundane: of course you can’t always be high, always be drunk, always be fucking; even rock stars must just be boring like you and me when they’re at home.  Mick Jagger closed the gap between superhero and human individual.  He was always high, always drunk, always fucking, always a rock star.  Bowie accepted the challenge of this sublime ridiculousness and, with Ziggy Stardust, created a persona who, it seemed certain, must end the game once and for all, knocking the board and the pieces off the table.  Ziggy Stardust was a semester’s survey course of deviance: a pansexual nymphomaniac hermaphroditic artificial messianic suicidal space alien.  What the fuck could anyone do to one-up that?

What came after that, in fact, what one-upped Ziggy Stardust, was a loser too depressed to masturbate, too scared to fuck and often too shy to even play concerts—an individual who manages to top my Fuck List despite the fact that he doesn’t like women, or sex, or even people really much at all:

Yup—Morrissey.  That is, Steven Patrick Morrissey, lead singer of the Smiths.

Bowie took deviance to its absolute zenith.  Glam rock grew popular in an era when England defined the sexual outlaw in pop culture through reacting, a hundred years later, against Victorian morals like the high school Good-Kid-Teacher’s-Pet getting to college and going insane at Freshman Orientation’s first kegger.  Bowie and the generation he created were so stridently deviant that deviance became an obligation.

Ten years after Bowie got down on his knees onstage and mimed fellatio on Mick Ronson’s guitar, what the hell was going to shock anyone?  When everything is permitted, how can anything still have weight?

But Morrissey proved that everything was not, in fact, permitted.  Not yet, anyway.  He didn’t perform any of the expected roles of the sexual deviant and, by refusing to do so, exposed sexual deviance itself as an outmoded pose and obligation, made his audience aware of their own expectations of the sexual rock star, and demonstrated that a rock star’s public sexuality did, in fact, still have the capacity to make his audience nervous when it didn’t follow the rules, even if the rules now dictated deviance and perversion.

Morrissey (for the purposes of this essay, assume I am always talking about Smiths-era Morrissey) wasn’t gay or bisexual.  He wasn’t straight either.  He was celibate.  And he wasn’t celibate for some noble, spiritual reason.  He was celibate because he just didn’t like sex.  In interviews he said he’d never tell people that they shouldn’t have sex, but that he’d tried it and, personally, didn’t like it.  Rock stars such as Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger and Bowie made criminal vulgarity de rigeur for the rock star.  Morrissey called himself “criminally vulgar,” but only in terms of shyness, possibly the quality most antithetical to the rock-star sexual rebel.  Morrissey relocated the love that dare not speak its name: loneliness.  Staying home, masturbating, and feeling really, really sad about masturbating.  What was more challenging, more terrifying, than the absolute unknown embodied by Dionysian space alien messiah Ziggy?  “I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does,” that’s what.  What was terrifying, and therefore compelling, about Morrissey was that he made public the things everyone feels and keeps desperately private—and not only made them public, but made himself a rock star out of them.  It was the ultimate possible breaking of taboo.

Anyway, my ardent Morrissey fangirling is a nice lead-in parable for my point about feminism and revolutionary sexuality.  Many, many, many feminist sociopolitical writers write about sex.  The “sexual revolution” has been rhetorical currency since the 1960s, and feminists have sought to liberate themselves from oppressive sexual roles since the first bra was burned.  And rightly so.  There’s a reason rock stars deal in sex: sex is the center, the ultimate subtext, of pretty much everything.  Of course, a great number of the feminists who themselves use sex as their main political and intellectual attention-getting device would disagree with me there.  But that’s part of what I’ll be taking on in this essay, with Morrissey as my central metaphor.

Today the idea of a “liberating” female sexuality has already passed through enough dialectical one-upsmanship that it seems as pointless as deviance did back when Ziggy crashed and burned:

—We’re supposed to be asexual defeminized man-haters.

—No, no, we’re supposed to be free-love happily promiscuous.

—No, that’s not it, we’re supposed to be Samantha-Jones (yes, I watched the show and so did you, shut up), “having-sex-like-a-man,” powerfully promiscuous in a way that loudly demonstrates men to be disposable.

—All this promiscuity is disempowering and pandering to the patriarchy!  We should return to modesty!

—Porn is liberating!

—Porn is a debasement of women by the patriarchy!

—No, seriously, porn is liberating.

—Whatever, porn is capitalist and the capitalist economy only benefits men!

—BDSM is anti-feminist.

—BDSM is liberating, but only if you’re dominatrix.

—But only if you’re not a professional dominatrix because sex work is pandering to the patriarchy.

—Fuck you, sex work is female empowerment and should be legalized!

—No, fuck you, all sex work is anti-feminist.

—Seriously, ladies, none of you have ever been sex workers, have you?  Sex work is work.  Men do it too, and the second word of the phrase is way more relevant to the political issue at hand…

—Shut up, I was trying to talk four bullet points back and you wouldn’t let me!  BDSM is violent and violence is always an oppression of women and–

—But what if two lesbians have BDSM sex?

—Shut up!

And on and on and on and on.  If this was Madison Square Garden or Royal Albert Hall, each of these women would have a guitar and a hairdo and a set list and her own brand of acolytes running after their limos screaming, and starting ill-advised fashion trends.  In this figuration of feminism as the arena of rock and roll, I would like to propose a theory of sexual liberation that functions as opposition to both camps (anti-promiscuity and pro-promiscuity, to be insanely reductive for a moment) in the same way Morrissey redefined deviance when it seemed deviance was cashed out.  I believe my theory to parallel Morrissey’s getting at deviance from normalcy and uncoolness, because I am going to say that the most powerful sexual role, the best possible vehicle for female defiance of sexual oppression and for female empowerment through sexuality, is located in female submission and masochism.

Academic feminists cull from sexual submission, BDSM (Bondage, Dominance and Sado-Masochism, the sexual subculture more popularly known just as S&M [Sadism & Masochism], and sometimes as “fetish” or “kink” sexuality), and the rise of BDSM-influenced images and trends in popular culture, the idea that violence against women is being popularized, media-tized, marketed and permitted by these trends and images.  The complaints against BDSM usually arrive in the same breath as do the complaints against porn.

And here, once again, what feminism is doing is denying to women precisely that which would make them powerful, the male distaff of which is always what makes men powerful.

I stated in my last essay that men are more easily able to be culturally powerful because they are taught that arrogance is a good thing, whereas women are taught the opposite by feminism and so take for granted female dispossession in relation to male entitlement.  At best, women assume that we have to fight at every moment against oppression, and at worst we defeat ourselves by deciding that any achievement will be denied to us by overwhelming cultural misogyny, the presence of which we assume whether or not there’s proof of it.  Sex and sexual politics function in much the same way.

While men assume that both their sexual desire and their sexual enjoyment make them powerful, while they assume that their sexuality motivates and justifies their entitlement and sociopolitical dominance, women are taught, both by the left and the right, that their sexual desire and sexual enjoyment will disempower them and make them subject to men.  In order to be powerful, we begin to think, it is necessary to deny both our desiring and our desirability, and if we fail to do so, and do in fact therefore have sex with a man and, worse, if we actually like it, it makes us hopelessly weak, subjugated whores.

To be fair, this opinion is held by a majority of the male population.  Academic feminism is really only responding to an existing male opinion.  However, in attempting to combat this opinion, all they’ve done is internalize it, aligning themselves not against the men who perceive sexual women in this way, but right next to these men, in the same lineup, on the same team.

Once again, it’s feminism’s blatant capitulation to male cultural dominance, poorly covered up with man-hating rhetoric.  I am going to propose a brilliant solution, because that’s what I do when I’m not posing for pictures in corsets or being handcuffed and beaten up with canes.  My strategy for frustrating both feminism and misogyny’s figurations of female heterosexual sexuality will sound similar to beliefs held by many famous professional dominatrixes and, at times, my girl Camille.  Those beliefs concern the idea of instituting a female supremacy in which women dominate men sexually in precisely the manner in which men have assumed sexual dominance for centuries, and so turning the power roles on their heads.

But that’s not what I’m proposing.  I do want to turn power roles on their heads but, perhaps unexpectedly enough, I don’t believe that the outward performance of female sexual dominance will have much effect in that regard.  Perhaps the only reason that I do not merely reiterate the idea of a female supremacist state governed by spike-heeled, latex-clad, Wanda von Dunajew clones is that I’m not primarily dominant, and therefore couldn’t be Queen of such a state.  But more than that, I think even such a proposal, while it seems to be the most radically opposite thing possible from anti-sex feminism, is in fact propagating the exact same problematic anti-sex and anti-femininity ideas as those it seeks to oppose.  While I greatly admire and at times practice female sexual dominance, in terms of sexual politics I think it is far less useful for female empowerment than it would appear to be, sort of in the way that the SAT answer choice that seems totally obvious and easy is usually wrong.

This is because intractably submissive men are actually often the biggest misogynists around: their worship of dominant women is the only way they can indulge deviant sexual desires while keeping their virgin/whore complexes intact.  The dominant woman and the puritan virgin are in fact quite similar.  They are both impenetrable fortresses of untouchable femininity; the woman-as-what-you-can’t-ever-have.  The danger of actuality, of real possession, of the sex act and what follows in all its sticky complexities—which we never resolve because it’s no part of the stories of pursuit and courtship on which men and women alike are raised; stories that end with a fade-to-black on the way to the bedroom—is conveniently never reached, and the man can remain in a safe, comfortable state of unfulfilled torment.

Our culture has no idea what to do with happiness or with the getting of what one wants.  Out of Puritan (since most Christian religion is the biggest tease-and-denial scene around, especially Calvinism) roots has sprung an obese and greedy modern America, never content to stay still in the having, but always needing to want something else, the next thing beyond your hand’s reach.  What we get, what we have gotten is reviled, and for this reason, women who want to have sex are told by conservative men and feminist women that they simply must resign themselves to their partners’ being disgusted by them.  If we choose to have sex because, for fuck’s sake, sex is fun, we cease to be a challenge and so become (we’re told) effectively worthless.  Male cultural dominance is blatantly asserted in this sexual pattern simply by the fact that the man is the one who can tire of the woman.  The woman is gotten—the man pursues and, once getting the woman, gets to be sick of her; or, in the more popular faux-sensitive contemporary liberal version, gets to be really, really tormented about the fact that he’s now sick of her.  Napoleon knew that once a country is conquered, you move on the next unconquered country.  The dominatrix appears to turn this roleplay on its head, but in fact does no such thing.  She merely permanently stalls the process at the second-to-last step, still in the wanting but never the having, so that the man never loses interest.  Even the sex act, in the most extreme male-submissive fantasies, lacks climax or satisfaction.  In this way the dominatrix is exactly the same as the girl who keeps waiting one more date to actually fuck whoever she’s dating, in the certainty that she can only keep his interest as long as she keeps him frustrated.  One of these women would be called “tease” in a worshipful tone, and the other in a derogatory tone, but the meanings are effectively synonymous.

The “Return to Modesty” crap preached by some academic feminists a few years back was, whether or not it knew it, nothing but a big, slow, striptease on a raised platform behind a glass screen.  It’s exactly what men want, specific as a mail-order bride.  Sexual refusal isn’t liberating.  It not only denies women the pleasure by which men define themselves and their masculine power, but reinforces that power by giving men more to pursue and a more difficult pursuit.  Sexual refusal is as comforting to the patriarchy as a well-baked pie and a gingham apron.  Sexual refusal scares the patriarchy about as much as a blow-up doll in a nurse outfit.  Actually, I’ll take a blow-up doll in a nurse outfit as my second-in-command over a woman who hates sex “because sex is a form of oppression” any day.   That’s exactly what men expect from you!  It’s what they make fun of, and the expectation by which they sexually empower themselves and that allows them to continue to figure gender as an unabated war!  If you honestly don’t want to have sex, for any one of a zillion rational reasons, including those upheld by Morrissey at the height of his career, then you absolutely shouldn’t have sex and that decision is beyond sociopolitical feminism, and more important than it too.  But if you think refusing yourself pleasure and big hard cock when you in fact want big hard cock is a feminist statement, if you think you have to be ashamed of your heterosexual sex fantasies because they’re antithetical to your feminism, grow the fuck up and get laid.

The dominatrix in contemporary culture is the equivalent of Ziggy Stardust: checking every box of recognizable deviance, performatively, gorgeously, brilliantly, with great skill, taking the sexual outlaw to the farthest reaches of the most obvious. The submissive female is like Morrissey in answer to Bowie: one-upping expected, embodied, obvious deviance by doing precisely the opposite.  She therefore demonstrates how deviance itself has in fact become an obligation.  What is truly sexually rebellious is to perform the simple, unsightly humanity which everyone uses the poses of deviance to attempt to cover.  A woman kneeling and begging to be hurt is as dangerously easy to identify with as Morrissey admitting his “shyness” to be the only thing about him “that is criminally vulgar.”

What feminists always point out about heterosexual sex is that it is inherently demeaning to women, and you might be surprised to hear that I pretty much agree with them.  Men are, in general, naturally physically stronger and more aggressive than women.  Women do get hurt, both emotionally and physically, more easily than men.  Heterosexual sex, in its most basic facts and logistics, is a dynamic in which the woman is submissive and the man dominant.  The woman is penetrated; she makes an offer and the man takes it.  Even in sex where the woman is on top and controls the rhythm, speed, etc., of the encounter, she still opens her body up to a man who invades it.  The normative language for sex, dating back centuries, is extraordinarily violent when examined or considered for more than two seconds.  Women “give it up,” “lose” their virginity, “get fucked.”  The traditional, expected use of the verb “fuck” as it refers to the female sexual experience, is a synonym, colloquially, for losing, getting hurt, or being taken advantage of.  The verbs for the female role in the sex act are almost without exception synonyms for “to lose.”  The traditional courtship process, however truncated, perverted, or submerged it may be in contemporary urban culture, is one in which the man is aggressor and the woman eventually gives in to his insistent aggression (nowhere is this more apparent than the romantic comedy, in which the actions of male stalkers are pictured as the definition of romance, a convention brilliantly and chillingly critiqued in Rebecca Gilman’s play Boy Gets Girl).  Violence is absolutely inherent in all sexual and romantic interaction.

Traditional feminism therefore names heterosexual sex an anti-feminist act.  A blowjob is an unforgivable surrender to patriarchal dominance.  Sex-positive feminism attempts to counter or disprove that assertion, but I’m not going to do that, because that’s silly.  Of course, if you see every man as metonymic for the patriarchy, a blowjob is a woman surrendering to the patriarchy.  It’s a blowjob!  She’s getting on her goddamn knees and sucking cock!  Don’t try to tell me there’s not an inherent, violent power dynamic there. Come on.

A feminist I know once remarked, after examining a friend’s collection of sex toys, which includes, among other things, a vibrating dildo in the shape of a gun, “It’s so sad how our culture conflates violence and sex.”

Conflates?!  Right, because violence isn’t inherent in sex.  Because the sexual act isn’t a necessary expression of violence.  Because violence isn’t inherent in human evolution, in biology, in the fucking basic animal facts of us.  Academically enabled assholes put the word “culture” on anything they don’t like.  Facts that inconvenience them or with which they disagree become the fault of culture, just like fat girls blame “the media” for people not wanting to fuck them because they’re fat, when it’s simple aesthetics to prefer a well-proportioned and toned body, but anyone who wants to be lazy about taking care of him or herself now can easily shunt responsibility onto “the media,” and anyone dissatisfied with the basic facts of science or psychology can blame it on “the influence of culture.”  This is such bullshit.  Sex is always primary because it is not dictated by culture.  Our desires don’t come from movies or runways or cereal advertisements.  These things decorate, and are incorporated into, our desires, but sexual desire grows like hair, glands, and genitals, just as the desire to be masculine or to be feminine or a less binary manifestation of gender choice is only informed, given shape and translation by available culture as all desire and emotion is given shape by circumstance.  Culture didn’t make up violence.  Culture didn’t invent sex.  If sex and violence sell movie tickets and beauty products, it’s with good reason.  Since sex and violence are two of the most inherent aspects of human nature and human desire; of course they’re everywhere in culture, in “the media.”  They were there first and they’ll still be there when the specifics of culture aren’t even remembered.  I challenge you to find me a culture, any culture, especially any historically important or dominant culture, that was not defined by images and rituals of sex and violence.

Culture proceeds from biology.  Sex is a violent physical action, the athletic entering of one body into another, the primal rhythm of desperation.  Sex isn’t nice.  Sex is never, ever, ever polite.  Manners and etiquette exist solely to disguise the fact that at every moment we are all trying to fuck one another, so that civilized society is possible and we’re not just the lawless Dionysian blood-orgy toward which some part of every single person’s self urges him or her.  Sex is a mercy for a culture in which we are asked to memorize and enact etiquette, to please and to tailor reactions, to be polite and to lie.  People go through stupid small talk and stupid dates and stupid social hoops in order to get one another into bed because they know that it’s precisely that nagging, empty social performance that sex negates.  Most people’s day-to-day is a struggle to be appropriate.   There is no possible way for sex to be appropriate, and therefore no way for it to be non-violent.

Violence is inherent in human interaction, in our history, ancestry, evolution and genetics.  Violence is ugly and destructive and is obviously not at all nice, but is also absolutely unavoidable.  We can no more escape it than we can escape sexual desire, though the Christian Right and Feminist Left, laughably, would tell us we can silence both to dim, polite murmurs.  Bullshit.  Like desire, violence is indulged, is given an outlet one way or another, because trying to live in culture, in human interactions, without violence is like trying to put on a pair of jeans three sizes too small and thinking they will just make your body smaller by constricting it rather than, of course, making excess flesh bulge out in unseemly, unconquerable eruptions.  The anti-sex forces on either side of the political spectrum aren’t actually changing America—they are only giving America a giant muffin-top.

And since trying to get rid of violence, or of sex, by blaming either one or both on culture, or media, or that moustache-twirling villain the patriarchy, is pointless and just makes you look stupid and obvious the way that too-small jeans will just make you look fat, we come right back neatly to why my title links Kinky Sex with Social Justice through a convenient preposition.

Traditional feminism is absolutely wrong in casting this natural power dynamic as something negative, something to be avoided, or something that does not advance feminism.  In my last essay I proposed that, rather than trying to hide our femininity in order to gain power in a male-dominated world, women should be as performatively, decoratively feminine as possible, actualizing what is naturally, overwhelmingly powerful in women.  Rather than attempting to imitate the specifics of masculinity that go with male entitlement (dressing like a guy, etc.), women should co-opt that entitlement and attach it to extreme femininity.

I think the same thing goes for sex.  Rather than becoming stridently anti-sex, women should embrace the inherent meaning and unavoidable performance of naturally feminine sexuality and make it that which empowers them, in the exact same way men have done with the masculine specifics of sex.  And therefore, it is both necessary and logical to see sexual submission as the most empowering and defiant possible sexual role for women.   And that, once again, is going to relate back to Morrissey, and don’t roll your eyes at me, because you know you love it, and if you try for a second to tell me that you’ve never reacted to something upsetting by listening to the Smiths on repeat, I am just going to laugh at you.

The greatest taboo is to admit our universal human nature.  Taboo is commonly thought to be simply a performance of the non-normative or unnatural.  In fact, taboo often has more to do with admitting basic human nature and desire.  The performance of these things is deviant not because they’re unnatural or unknown, but because they are usually, consciously, kept silent, and in deviance are given voice.  It’s not wanting things that most people don’t want, but rather admitting things that most people don’t admit.   Morrissey was more deviant than Bowie because he admitted, as no-one had before been willing to, that rock stars are, beneath the performance, the same loser afraid of sex and people and everything else that you are, “human and… need[ing] to be loved, just like everybody else.”

Sadomasochism is deviant not because it’s something no-one’s thought of, and not because it has nothing to do with normative sexual behavior and desire.  It’s deviant because it enacts the subtext of all sexual desire and encounters.  It makes the inherent violence that most people try to avoid blatant, and thereby forces you to deal with it.

Feminists and traditionalists argue that anyone who exercises violent desires in such a blatant way must be giving themselves permission to violence and cruelty and therefore must have irresponsible sex and abusive personal relationships.  In my experience, precisely the opposite is true.

Sadomasochism acts as a purgation of the violence inherent in us and our sexual desires.  It forces awareness of this unavoidable violence, thereby allowing the individual to consciously direct it, and so to take power over it rather than being controlled by it.  Obviously, I’ve met some total irresponsible unsafe assholes involved in BDSM.  Assholes, as you may have already figured out through your own life experience, are simply like roaches in New York City.  You’re never going to eradicate them, and there is no single community or demographic that does not posses some assholes.  The trick is to locate those communities and demographics not entirely made up of assholes, and that’s unfortunately quite difficult.  But, requisite assholes (and the requisite endless obnoxious scenesters in BDSM acknowledged but no further dignified with mention in this essay—you know who I’m talking about; let’s all dismiss them now with a dismissive wave of our hand:  Ready?  Ok!  Good.  Onward) notwithstanding, the experiences I have had having kinky sex have in general been in fact more responsible, more aware, and just plain better—and not only because, well, duh, I got it how I like it—than my experiences having normative sex.

Normative sex is, well, normative.  It’s rather simple if you don’t think about it too much, and that’s the thing—it gives you permission not to think about it too much, because there’s a set routine and that routine is culturally sanctioned with the mantle of “normativity.”  This kind of sex allows for partners to barely notice each other; to ignore, disregard or simply miss out on their partner’s desires, needs and limits. For instance, all sex should have safewords, but so far only BDSM does.  Incidents occur over and over in which one person is absolutely uncomfortable and the other never notices, or claims not to have, because normative sex allows you to disconnect in precisely that manner, and because, being normal and supposedly not dangerous, it has never needed to develop that kind of indicator.

But all sex is incredibly dangerous.  Besides the fact that sex is unavoidably emotionally fraught even if it’s a one-night stand or a drunken something-or-other in the bathroom of a bar with someone you just met and will never see again, it’s a physically invasive act involving the most delicate and important parts of the human body and necessitating actions that almost always cause at least one person, if not both, to lose a great deal of physical and mental control.  Yes, BDSM involves more dangerous tools, and is more blatantly possibly harmful, and when pain is asked for and injury desired the line between “awesome!” and “hospital!” gets much, much thinner.  Certainly, it’s more dangerous to hit someone with a metal cane  than it is to fuck someone, but that’s only a matter of degrees, and evens out pretty damn quickly when you mention that getting hit with a metal cane while tied to a chair hurts like fuck, but can’t give you any debilitating diseases, unlike normative sex, which, by the way, can also hurt like fuck and hurt a fuckload more than the metal cane, if you don’t communicate with your partner.

BDSM, however, forces you to communicate.  Obviously, there are degrees of safety, and some people play much, much more safely than others, but people involved in BDSM are in general used to their desires being out of the ordinary and therefore necessitating discussion and negotiation, and because they have had to seek out other people interested in non-normative things, have generally done their research and find discussion of sex to be just as expected and permitted as sex itself.

Want to hear the worst thing ever?  You totally do.  Before I was a high-and-mighty indolent genius being fed peeled grapes and fanned with the finest palm fronds in the land by an army of beautiful and sexually available minions while writing glorious rhetoric to save the world, I worked briefly as a receptionist at a gynecologist’s office.  One day a woman suddenly ran out of the examination room and fled the office in a huff, without paying.  Asking the doctor later what had happened, I learned that the doctor had asked the woman the standard questions in a gynecologist’s office:  How many sexual partners have you had?  Have your partners been male, female, or both?  Are you currently sexually active?  Do you have oral sex?  Vaginal sex?  Anal sex?  Do you practice safer sex?  Do you enjoy sex?  The women had stormed out because, she said, these totally standard questions were invasive and offensive and she had never been asked anything like this before.

I asked if she had been very young and/or a virgin?  No, she was 35 and married.  I asked if she was severely religious, and had married her husband at a young age when she was a virgin, and only ever had sex with him, and only for procreative purposes?  No, she had had 36 sexual partners prior to her husband.

At that point I just started yelling.  Some of my yelling concerned how talking about sex has somehow become more taboo, less permitted, dirtier and more frightening, in our culture, than actually having sex itself.  I understand that it’s scary to discuss your sexual needs and wants and past experiences openly with a partner, but I refuse to believe that it’s scarier, or even in the same scary ballpark, as having a cock up your ass.  For some reason, through the cloak of social normativity thrown over any sex that doesn’t blatantly involve codified sadomasochism, it’s become fine to do all sorts of dangerous, potentially life-threatening, and physically intimate things, but not to talk about them, and if you’re wondering, by the way, why HPV is a fucking epidemic and healthcare won’t even cover the Gardasil shot (that’s the HPV vaccination.  Hi!  Are you a woman under 26?  Go get vaccinated.  Now.  Go. You can finish the essay when you come back) for women over 26 because it’s just assumed that anyone over 26 in an urban area already has some form of it, and also, at the same time, why no one understands how treatable this disease is, look no further.  Because, in our relentlessly stab-yourself-in-the-eye Puritan culture, it’s fine to have sex in any way you like and pretend it has no consequences, as long as you don’t talk about it.

So the first reason that BDSM is in fact generally more socially responsible is that kink necessitates that sex and open dialogue go hand-in hand.  The second is the idea of purgation.

If feminism didn’t already hate me for my shoes and my lingerie, it’d hate me for all my rape fantasies.  Of course, my rape fantasies have everything to do with my arrogance and extreme female power, but to be fair, I understand why it’s easy at first not to see it that way.  Of all the fucked-up shit I like, this one is possibly the most offensive to the second-wave feminists, sitting over there at their table across the cafeteria, whispering about how my shoes are demeaning, my dress is slutty, and my boyfriend doesn’t love me.  Feminism of the MacKinnon/Dworkin stripe likes to wear the word rape the way a stripper wears a feather boa.  It’s their trump card, all that sexual violence against women, see, sex is evil and so are men and so is society.  From this point of view, what’s worse than a rape fantasy?  Doesn’t that irresponsibly trivialize the real violence perpetrated numerous times every day against real women?  Doesn’t it make positive, and therefore permit, the atrocity of rape?  Isn’t the word itself weighty and dangerous and how can I just throw it around like this, mixed in there with the dildos and the condoms and the harness and the vibes and the lube and oh hey, here’s the concept of rape, let’s play with this?  Isn’t this action on the part of safe and privileged women a great part of what keeps sex crime from being taken seriously and enforced against in our society?

And I would say to all of that:  I know you are but what am I?

The feminist establishment tosses the word “rape” around in a cavalier manner that quite frankly horrifies me.  Enabled by out-of-control Dworkin acolytes, women now can use the word “rape” to describe any situation that they find annoying or at all insulting.  Any woman who compares being stared at on the street, being verbally sexually propositioned, being told she is attractive by a man whom she does not find attractive, or any of the other you-name-it mundane sexual occurrences that traditional feminism has said are “just like being raped” or are “a form of rape,” to actual rape, should be made to listen to 24 unabated hours of recorded testimonies from actual rape victims, or perhaps to read a novel’s worth of pages of police reports on the condition of bodies at the scene of a crime involving rape.  Sexual violence is a crime so horrific that it defies linguistic description.  Being catcalled is a slightly annoying fact of life.  Sometimes sex is good, sometimes it isn’t, but I don’t care how mad you are at your boyfriend, if you didn’t actively, verbally and physically, try to stop him, then don’t fucking compare sex that falls short of your emotional ideal to the kind of violent assault women, and men too, all-too-commonly experience.  Feminism that thinks it is making people take rape seriously by making the word ubiquitious is doing quite the opposite.  I’m actually ashamed of the amount of times I’ve used the word in this paragraph; I want to preserve its power by keeping it taboo.  I would like the concept to have as extreme a power to shock as the noun “cunt” might have had fifty years ago, and part of the way I do that is by my extreme sexual response to a fantasy situation invoking the word.  Giving women a language for what’s happened to them is one thing; turning us into the-gender-that-cried-wolf is another thing altogether, and could not be more detrimental to actual victims.  The acting-out of rape fantasies, occurring in a sexually consensual situation and therefore having absolutely nothing to do with actual rape is a far, far, far less dangerous activity than giving women the permission—or is it obligation?—to describe any unsatisfactory or insulting interaction with a heterosexual man as “rape.”

Most women I know have rape fantasies.  And most men I know have fantasies about fighting a war against zombies.  Men participate in activities such as paintball to simulate, act out, and purge their war fantasies (and they make elaborate strategies and plans about the zombies, though that desire is never purged because, as every man I know tells me, the zombies are real, and they are coming).  Men going to play paintball doesn’t demean the reality of war, and takes no weight from the undesired, horrifying circumstances of actual combat.  It does, however, give those fantasies a healthy, enjoyable forum in which to be acted out so that the impulse for violence doesn’t fester and grow beyond the control of the individual.  The same is true for rape fantasies.  Playing out a fantasy forces you to understand the boundary between what is fantasy and what is reality.  It forces you to acknowledge something dark and potentially harmful in yourself, and seek a positive location for its enacting.

To take this point yet further, such fantasies also act directly against the reality of sexual violence.  A rape fantasy is precisely the opposite of an actual rape because it is something the woman desires and requests from her partner(s) (on the topic of that suggestive little parenthetical “s” there: somebody once, probably in an argument about the Western Anglo-centric literary canon of which I am such a staunch supporter, told me that I was permitting a “relentless patriarchal gangbang”…  I didn’t manage to stop myself from responding with “Oh pick me! Pick me!”).  A woman who desires, articulates, and acts out a rape fantasy turns the actuality of sexual violence on its head.  By making something so negative into a positive sexual experience, she takes ownership of male violence toward women and gives to that violence, that oppression, overwhelming female agency.  The whole point of male violence against women is that it seeks to silence women, to punish us for daring to be sexual, for having desires of our own, and to crush those desires completely so that the woman functions only as a perfect puppet of male desire.  But when a woman in a consensual sexual relationship asks a man to do all of that to her as a sexual fantasy, as a means for her to have the greatest possible sexual enjoyment, she perfectly saps all power from the male aggressor.  The male aggressor becomes a toy, or tool, of the woman, his aggression existing for her pleasure, and therefore completely subject to her power.

This powerful reversal causes sex, as it so often does and as so few people realize or can admit, to function as social satire and sociopolitical critique.  Satire is a medium that exposes something truthful through exaggerated mockery.  Female sexual submission in a codified BDSM context satirizes traditional roles—the obedient, abused, infantilized woman entirely without agency or voice; the domineering, violent, abusive, selfish man-of-the-house—and makes those roles powerless by subjecting them to exposure and mockery.  As the enactment of exaggerated traditional roles in BDSM is precisely the kind of sexual behavior to which people unironically living those roles would most object, the fact that the exact same behavior functions as sexual deviance in a fantasy context exposes the artificial and purposefully blind nature of the abusively traditional heterosexual relationship.  Rape fantasies and all related roleplays raise awareness of the problems feminism would say they encourage, and combat those problems by means of purgation, female empowerment, and mockery.

Though this is not to say that kinky sex, specifically female/male rape and abuse fantasies, are the only kind of sex that is liberating, no more than Morrissey’s celibate pose was the only sexual persona that could be liberating in his time or afterwards.  Rather, the point is that female sexual submission, so easily dismissed as sociopolitically offensive in a feminist context, and equally easy to see as unresolvable with the kind of feminism I espouse, exemplifies necessary qualities of revolutionary, socially responsible sex.  The sexual revolution, as I previously stated, has been written to death, but everyone still wants it.  Everyone of our X, Y, or Whatever-the-Fuck Generation envies the imaginary ’60s with all sex all the time, envies the sex that Mick Jagger is having, right now, that’s better and more real than any sex you’ll ever have, and envies the idea of “sexual revolution,” which we all feel disempowered from enacting because surely it is taking place somewhere else, in some large, wood-floored, high-up room filled with feathers and drugs, pink champagne and the fantastic legs of people you’ll never even be cool enough to meet.  Deviance for the wrong reason is deviance that seeks to jump the train of competition, to quell the insecurity generated by our own constant comparisons to these imaginary people, by attempted accumulation of points, rating each act or encounter on a scale of one to a hundred, 1 for holding hands and 100 for an orgy with Mick Jagger and Madonna and that guy who wouldn’t ever look at you in high school.

Real deviance, however, has deeper roots.  Real deviance is understanding that all sex is inherently dangerous, and inherently liberating, and that that liberation, that revolutionary potential, can be accessed if you approach any kind of sex as deviant.  Rather than proposing here that only kinky sex is revolutionary, I’m proposing that all sex should be considered, and approached as, kinky.  Kinky sex is vigilantly having only, and exactly, the sex you want, the sex about which you, specifically you, fantasize, and refusing to let either traditional Conservatives or bullshit liberal feminists tell you that your choices are socially irresponsible. Part of the heroism of people deeply involved in the BDSM scene comes from the fact that they draw personal and political oppression, in many forms, on all sides, for their desires, and yet continue to enact those desires and to be public and honest about the fact that they do so.  Maybe sexual freedom was dead of overexposure after Bowie, but sexual truth—sexual honesty—is still terrifying enough to everyone that surely it must be revolutionary.

No comments yet

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: