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Due process? Hello..hello? Is this thing on? I need to hear again how our present system of justice is serving the needs of all people in society…

Things are not okay. The status quo is currently unacceptable and must be changed.

The RCC is corrupt.  Let’s acknowledge this, and then move to right the situation.  Neil MacDonald over at the CBC take a swipe at the papacy, but for all his erudite comments and justifications – one has to ask the question – ‘are they really necessary?’  As in, there is almost no moral ambiguity here, this is an ethical slam dunk.  The RCC ruling structure is rotten and needs to be jettisoned into space, the sooner, the better.

It is an unreal situation like Americans and their tragically farcical gun control debate.  One would reasonably think that the wholesale slaughter of innocents that is happening at a fairly regular interval in the US would lead to the sanction one of the primary tools that people use to enact mass murder.  Not rocket science.

In the same way, child buggery, has been a very catholic thing for decades if not centuries.  No ethical pining needed here folks – the catholic church’s superstructure needs to go away.  Not rocket science.

What these examples are a grim testimony to are the resilience of codified hierarchical structures/beliefs in society.  There is no tame liberal way of dealing with these problems, they must be torn from society root and branch, and that requires that people stand up and demand justice in society and be willing to raise hell until their demands are met.

But hey, talk of revolutionary action aside, Neil does a great job and poking the evil with a stick (enjoy?):


“The same goes elsewhere. Revelations of horrors in all the above-mentioned Western countries (here in Canada, there was documented abuse in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where the church’s Mount Cashel orphanage was operated as sort of a prison for child sex slaves) resulted in dismissals of some church officials, some lawsuits and a handful of criminal convictions, but not much more than that.

Each time, the Pope or one of his high subalterns would lament human frailty, and drone on about the sacred duty to protect the most vulnerable, while privately fighting to thwart civil suits or conspiring to keep facts from investigating authorities.

Pope Francis, who enjoys the most saintly reputation of any recent pope (except for John Paul II, who was actually made a saint, despite all the ugly revelations on his watch) released an open letter to the world’s Catholics after the Pennsylvania revelations, basically repeating the company line: gosh, sorry, that was terrible, we must do better, God bless you all, go in peace.

Noting first that “most of these cases belong to the past,” (don’t all cases belong to the past?) the Pope banged on for 2,000 words about feeling the pain of the vulnerable, and the necessity of ensuring it doesn’t happen again (and again and again and again), but his central theme was expressed right off the top in a line from Corinthians: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”

Yes. Of course. Let’s compare the spiritual suffering the Pope claims the revelations have caused him to that of a child being sodomized by an adult stalker in a clerical collar, a monster the boy probably doesn’t think he’s even allowed to complain about.

The right thing for the Pope to do would be to waive his sovereign privilege (he is a sitting head of state), and invite criminal authorities to freely and fully access church records worldwide, and drain the holy swamp. He might also consider at this stage ordaining women, because women are God’s creatures too, perfectly able to spiritually guide the faithful, and, umm, don’t tend to rape children.

But the privileged old men who run the church aren’t going to allow any of that. They’re a bit like gun control opponents, opposing an obvious solution on doctrinaire grounds.

There actually have been a few attempts to use the RICO statute against priests, notably in Cleveland, but jurors did not convict.

When former Oklahoma governor and former federal prosecutor Frank Keating, a practicing Catholic, compared the church’s obsession with secrecy to the Mafia’s, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles demanded his ouster from a church board examining clerical abuse. Keating resigned from the panel.

Mahony, who covered up sexual abuse by priests in California, according to church records, retired peacefully at age 75. Only after a court order compelled the Los Angeles archdiocese to open its files on abuse was Mahony gently rebuked by the church

Pope Francis condemned priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up by the Catholic Church, in a public letter. In addition to demanding accountability, Francis begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse. 2:11

By any secular standard, the Catholic Church is a corrupt organization. It in fact sets the standard for impunity.

Cardinal Bernard Law, who presided over the coverup of the church’s famous Boston sex abuse scandals, was plucked and brought to Rome by Pope John Paul II, where he resided until he died at the Vatican, beyond the reach of American prosecutors.

Earlier this year, after Bishop Juan Barros of Chile was accused of covering up clerical abuse, Pope Francis denounced the accusers’ “calumny.” When it turned out that there was merit to the accusations, and that the Vatican had been informed of the problem, Francis claimed he’d been misinformed. A few weeks later, all 34 of Chile’s bishops tendered their resignations. Francis eventually accepted three of them.

And now, Catholic activist Susan Reynolds has gathered thousands of signatures on a letter demanding the resignation of all American bishops. It would be the right thing to do, but at a guess, the very notion amuses America’s bishopry, comfortable in their armour of piety.”

My undergraduate University days were nothing like what is routinely described as the ‘University Experience’.  It was a much more utilitarian experience – go to class, take notes, and then rinse and repeat the next day.  Add review said notes and study as test time rolled around.  The social aspect of University was pretty much all but lost on me at the time as the group of friends I had at the time did not attend.  In hindsight, not having friends doing the same thing made focusing on my studies much more difficult and it extended my stay at the lovely U by a few years.   Lessons learned and what not.

So, my Uni days were, to oversimplify, just highschool but harder.  My real learning started or at least the path to intellectual maturity started after I earned my degree.  It also helped that my partner was smart af and pushed me to become more rigorous in developing and defending my thoughts and arguments.  So when I read this essay I could understand what they where saying, but couldn’t really relate to what was being said of the state of university/college campuses regarding the moral/social development of their students.

For me, finding my moral and ethical centre was quite independent of the educational process, such as it was, during my tenure at the U.  Granted, of course, I was being exposed to and learning about topics that would, in the future, inform my ethical-self and boundaries, but nothing on the level which seems to happen in the US college scene.  So then while reading this quote intrigued me:

   “It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. “

What?  Isn’t inside the classroom where the great arguments and debates should happen?  I mean, it is in the university that you can hash out and grapple with the big problems with the help of professors and the knowledge that they bring and provide of the big thinkers that have grappled with these questions in the past.  The university is where you can make mistakes and get nuanced feedback that will sharpen your intellectual faculties and better equip you to lead the examine life, right?

(It’s funny – none of this really happened for me – sit in class, get taught stuff, regurgitate stuff – was the order of the day).  But yeah, in the formal sense, if you’re not going to university to grapple with the right and wrong questions, then why go?  Getting a degree for job is nice and stuff, but attending higher education is supposed to be more than that.

Here is an excerpt from Wellmen’s take on the the state of the university experience in the US:


“The transformation of American colleges and universities into corporate concerns is particularly evident in the maze of offices, departments and agencies that manage the moral lives of students. When they appeal to administrators with demands that speakers not be invited, that particular policies be implemented, or that certain individuals be institutionally sanctioned, students are doing what our institutions have formed them to do. They are following procedure, appealing to the institution to manage moral problems, and relying on the administrators who oversee the system. A student who experiences discrimination or harassment is taught to file complaints by submitting a written statement; the office then determines if the complaint potentially has merit; the office conducts an investigation and produces a report; an executive accepts or rejects the report; and then the office ‘notifies’ the parties of the ‘outcome’. 

These bureaucratic processes transmute moral injury, desire and imagination into an object that flows through depersonalised, opaque procedures that produce an ‘outcome’. Questions of character, duty, moral insight, reconciliation, community, ethos or justice have at most a limited role. US colleges and universities speak to the national argot of individual rights, institutional affiliation and complaint that dominate American capitalism. They have few moral resources from which to draw any alternative moral language and imagination. 

The extracurricular system of moral management requires an ever-expanding array of ‘resources’ – counselling centres, legal services, deans of student life. Teams of devoted professionals work to help students hold their lives together. The people who support and oversee these extracurricular systems of moral management do so almost entirely apart from any coherent curricular project. 

It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. They are, instead, matters for their extracurricular lives in dorms, fraternities or sororities and student activity groups, most of which are managed by professional staff. “

It seems less of an organic process, and more of a ritualized ‘thing ya do’ to start making the bucks in society.  It seems like such a waste that we have strict qualifications to get and to graduate, but at the same time that we’re not challenging people, making them stretch and reform their assumptions about the world.  Where else can we have the space to do such important life work?

Why do people commit evil?  How does one get from being an ordinary citizen to someone who oversees the genocide of their neighbours?   What are the psychological states that premeditate acts of violence on the personal and societal level?  Noga Arikha is a historian who has looked into the research on how we foment and propagate evil institutions and evil acts.


“This is what the neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried at the University of California, Los Angeles did with his article ‘Syndrome E’ (1997) in The Lancet. A syndrome is a group of biological symptoms that together constitute a clinical picture. And E stands for evil. With Syndrome E, Fried identified a cluster of 10 neuropsychological symptoms that are often present when evil acts are committed – when, as he puts it, ‘groups of previously nonviolent individuals’ turn ‘into repetitive killers of defenceless members of society’. The 10 neuropsychological symptoms are:

1. Repetition: the aggression is repeated compulsively.
2. Obsessive ideation: the perpetrators are obsessed with ideas that justify their aggression and underlie missions of ethnic cleansing, for instance that all Westerners, or all Muslims, or all Jews, or all Tutsis are evil.
3. Perseveration: circumstances have no impact on the perpetrator’s behaviour, who perseveres even if the action is self-destructive.
4. Diminished affective reactivity: the perpetrator has no emotional affect.
5. Hyperarousal: the elation experienced by the perpetrator is a high induced by repetition, and a function of the number of victims.
6. Intact language, memory and problem-solving skills: the syndrome has no impact on higher cognitive abilities.
7. Rapid habituation: the perpetrator becomes desensitised to the violence.
8. Compartmentalisation: the violence can take place in parallel to an ordinary, affectionate family life.
9. Environmental dependency: the context, especially identification with a group and obedience to an authority, determines what actions are possible.
10. Group contagion: belonging to the group enables the action, each member mapping his behaviour on the other. Fried’s assumption was that all these ways of behaving had underlying neurophysiological causes that were worth investigating.Note that the syndrome applies to those previously normal individuals who become able to kill. It excludes the wartime, sanctioned killing by and of military recruits that leads many soldiers to return home (if they ever do) with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); recognised psychopathologies such as sociopathic personality disorder that can lead someone to shoot schoolchildren; and crimes of passion or the sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain. When Hannah Arendt coined her expression ‘the banality of evil’ in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), she meant that the people responsible for actions that led to mass murder can be ordinary, obeying orders for banal reasons, such as not losing their jobs. The very notion of ordinariness was tested by social psychologists. In 1971, the prison experiment by the psychologist Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University played with this notion that ‘ordinary students’ could turn into abusive mock ‘prison guards’ – though it was largely unfounded, given evidence of flaws in the never-replicated experiment. Still, those afflicted with Syndrome E are indeed ordinary insofar as that they are not affected by any evident psychopathology. The historian Christopher Browning wrote of equally ‘ordinary men’ in the 1992 book of that name (referenced by Fried) who became Nazi soldiers. The soldier who killed my grandfather was very probably an ordinary man too.

Today, biology is a powerful explanatory force for much human behaviour, though it alone cannot account for horror. Much as the neurosciences are an exciting new tool for human self-understanding, they will not explain away our brutishness. Causal accounts of the destruction that humans inflict on each other are best provided by political history – not science, nor metaphysics. The past century alone is heavy with atrocities of unfathomable scale, albeit fathomable political genesis.”

I pondered the conclusions of this essay and am reminded of the work “Ordinary Men” by (also referenced in the essay) by Christopher R. Browning that describes the psychological and sociological contagions that bring out the evil that exists in all of us.  I’m struck by, even as I write, the tendency to pathologize evil as if it were disease that somehow takes root and manifests itself on ‘good people’.  This socially sanctioned frame, looking at the literature, is shockingly incorrect as the data points to the fact that we all possess the capacity to commit heinous acts of violence, even genocide, if the conditions are right.

Arikha states that “empathy is rarely universal” and that “Family belonging and social belonging are separate. When they meet, as happened in Bosnia and Rwanda when families turned on each other, the group identity prevails”.   Chilling statements such as these implode the ideas we carry around about common human decency and common human morality and empathy.  The story we tell ourselves, about ourselves, is bullshite and these bullshit assumptions are what we run ‘civilized’ society on.  I think this false narrative allows people to be repeated shocked and horrified when tales of wanton bloodshed and genocide hit the news – it is seen as a huge deviation from the norm.  Yet, if we look at humans, it isn’t a particular large leap from our observable behaviours.

We – ‘the good guys’ – ran a government sanctioned torture program.  Oh, certainly we had our legal pretzelese to mask and make torture palatable for the general public. Never the less, dodgy legal justifications do not nullify the social and psychological ramifications of one’s nation endorsing the institutional infliction of pain on others.  I think we are still seeing the negative effects of the torture revelations running through our western societies .

Essay’s like Arikha’s make me contemplate how much projection we engage in as a society to protect ourselves from the rather brutish reality of our societal and geo-poltical existence.

(*edited for early morning writing)


The parochial attitude of North Americans is quite disturbing, and unjustified.  We have unparalleled access to information and news from across the globe and by this feature alone we should be attuned to the plight of others and the injustice in the world.   Yet, most of us are not.  As long as shit happens ‘over there’ whether it be across an ocean, or the local river the daily pattern of our lives does not change.

Only when our routines are disrupted and our comfort zones threatened do we awake from our slumber.  In our defence, there really isn’t another way to go about one’s life as the amount of horror in the world is a completely paralyzing notion and can only be examined at arms length if one wishes to remain sane.


I think the balance between our safe cocoons and concern for the situations others needs to be reordered.  The slow-fast human catastrophe that is Syria highlights exactly what I’m talking about.  

“A chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held stronghold near Syria’s capital, Damascus, has killed at least 70 people and affected hundreds, rescue workers have told Al Jazeera.

The White Helmets, a group of rescuers operating in opposition-held areas in Syria, said on Saturday that most of the fatalities were women and children.

“Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds are still suffocating,” Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera, adding that the death toll was expected to rise as many people were in critical condition.

Al-Saleh said that chlorine gas and an unidentified but stronger gas were dropped on Douma.”

We sit complicit while the Assad regime gasses its own people in their efforts to ‘stabilize’ their country.

“We are currently dealing with more than 1,000 cases of people struggling to breathe after the chlorine barrel bomb was dropped on the city. The number of dead will probably rise even further.”

The Douma Media Centre, a pro-opposition group, posted images on social media of people being treated by medics, and of what appeared to be dead bodies, including many women and children.

Rescue workers also posted videos of people appearing to show symptoms consistent with a gas attack. Some appeared to have white foam around their mouths and noses.

Symptoms of a chlorine attack include coughing, dyspnea, intensive irritation of the mucous membrane and difficulty in breathing.”

Being a civilian is Syria isn’t such a welcoming proposition.  Chemical warfare is an agreed upon ‘no-go’ for most of the nations of the world.  There is a treaty and everything.

“The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an arms control treaty that outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. The full name of the treaty is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction and it is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organization based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The treaty entered into force in 1997.”

This image released early Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets, shows a rescue worker carrying a child following an alleged chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. White Helmets via AP

Yet this happens.  And most of NA placidly accepts this.  Maybe some tsk-tisking and/or a lament on how horrible the gassing of civilians is.  But then, most of us just scroll onward past this tragedy that has been disconnected from our consciousness.

What is missing, at least in part, is the feeling of responsibility (not to mention the empathy of what it must be like trying to survive during a civil war) of our part in their ordeal.

Joseph Massad on Al Jazeera said the term was “part of a US strategy of controlling [the movement’s] aims and goals” and directing it towards western-style liberal democracy.[17] When Arab Spring protests in some countries were followed by electoral success for Islamist parties, some American pundits coined the terms “Islamist Spring”[20] and “Islamist Winter”.

Also this from The Atlantic:

“Egyptian military officials wagered, rightly, that they could get away with what became, according to Human Rights Watch, the worst mass killing in modern Egyptian history—as well as one of the worst single-day mass killings in recent decades anywhere in the world.

America’s relative silence was no accident. To offer a strong, coherent response to the killings would have required a strategy, which would have required more, not less, involvement. This, however, would have been at cross-purposes with the entire thrust of the administration’s policy. Obama was engaged in a concerted effort to reduce its footprint in the Middle East. The phrase “leading from behind” quickly became a pejorative for Obama’s foreign-policy doctrine, but it captured a very real shift in America’s posture. The foreign-policy analysts Nina Hachigian and David Shorr called it the “Responsibility Doctrine,” a strategy of “prodding other influential nations … to help shoulder the burdens of fostering a stable, peaceful world order.” In pursuing this strategy in the Middle East, the United States left a power vacuum—and a proxy struggle. During Morsi’s year-long tenure, Qatar became the single largest foreign donor to Egypt, at over $5 billion (with Turkey contributing another $2 billion). Just days after the military moved against Morsi, it was Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait that pledged a massive $12 billion to the new military-appointed government.

 The United States, along with the conservative Gulf monarchies and many others, also viewed Islamist parties with considerable suspicion.”
   Being a world power, only when convenient, isn’t being a world power.  Behaving only to protect the national interest places us squarely in the realm of realpolitik and the (a)moral compass associated with that mode of thinking.  Syria lies on the border of two spheres of influence.  The Russian empire and the American Empire.  Arguably, Russia has greater influence, not least of all because of geographical proximity, on Syria and the maintenance of the current regime is in their national self interest.  Thus the frisson between the American tacit support for the revolution (toward a US friendly regime) and the Russian support for the status quo and continuation within their own sphere of self-interest are the only realpolitik concerns on the table.  The humanitarian disaster resulting from this friction between empires is but a footnote and not really mainstream news worthy – at least not past the ratings ‘bump’ procured for showing disconnected images of human suffering.
    A non-corporate real media would be all over the context of the situation portraying the real cost in human misery of what happens when spheres of influence collide and how little the ‘national interest’ cares about people dying ‘over there’.  Yet with all our glitzy internet power and googleplexes of information at our fingertips has this sort of contextual analysis even been hinted at in North American mainstream media?


   Not really.
   Compare how the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera frame the article (also the sources on which this piece is based).  A telling difference,  the focus on the ‘facts’ versus the human angle that the Al-Jazeera piece.  I think we need more of the second variety as we need to inspire empathy and the common human nature that binds us all together, so we can work toward a more peaceable future.
   (Unlikely as it may be.)

  Wow, I found this piece languishing in my my drafts section.  A critical analysis of how BDSM and rape culture intersect and how unsurprisingly it is a bad deal for women and good one for men.

BDSM is NOTHING to do with rape culture though? It’s completely and utterly different…


There are detailed explanations for why that’s not true. Explanations that include studies that reveal the high rates of rape and abuse in the BDSM community. In other words, kink culture is a rape culture.

Just search these anti-BDSM, kink culture, and kink critical tags for more resources and information.

On top of that I’m going to publish this post (unlike my privately sent rushed responses to the 5 short consecutive messages that you sent me which were more expressive of my annoyance-tinged displeasure with your misunderstanding of Feminism and your repeated insistence that there’s absolutely nothing abusive about practicing a sexual or “kinky” ((that makes it sound quite innocuous, doesn’t it?)) Bondage, Domination, Sadist, masochist or Bondage, Dominant, slave/submissive, Master lifestyle, that “consent” is all that matters – that analysis and criticism of what factors into consent and what is being consented to be damned, that as a sub you’re the one with the power in a BDSM scene, or a sequence of BDSM scenes, or an extensive BDSM lifestyle, or Total-Power-Exchange, and the use of generic pro-BDSM sexually liberal slogans (e.g.: “BDSM IS NOT ABUSE!”). You shared something personal with me that I cannot answer to (I can only offer emotional support by way of more private messaging) but I can publicly answer to the pro-BDSM arguments you, and many who share your sexual politics, put forward to those, such as myself, who you say are “giving Feminism a bad name” (to paraphrase one of the statements you’ve made towards me).

The following is by C.K Egbert at FeministCurrent:

C.K. Egbert is a current graduate student in the Philosophy Department at Northwestern University. Her research focuses on feminism and equality.

Note: This post as well as the links and resources contained in this post may contain graphic descriptions of violence against women.

Inspired by Meghan’s post on burlesque and the work of feminists and commentators on this site, I’ve outlined responses, in three parts, to the most common objections presented when feminists critique BDSM. My intention is not necessarily to convince BDSM supporters or practitioners to change their beliefs or behaviour (because I don’t believe most will), but rather to help articulate why these objections are problematic/illogical. Another useful post addressing BDSM can be found here, for your reference.

Throughout this post, I refer to the submissive as “she” — both as a reflection of the actual sexual gender dynamics under patriarchy and because I am concerned with how BDSM affects women in particular. It is not because I think that all “submissives” in BDSM are women, and it is not because I think sexual submission or masochism is an inherent or natural feature of female sexuality.

“You shouldn’t judge others for their sexual preferences. You are kink-shaming. This is just like homophobia. You are a prude, pearl-clutching, moralizing, etc.”

This group of objections has the same origin: the presupposition that insofar as an activity or institution involves “sex” it must be immune from critique. Feminists are accused of “shaming” whenever they attempt to analyze or critique any (male-oriented) sexual attitude, preference, or behavior, and thus “shaming” is employed to shut down critical thinking by painting critique as harmful. This perceived harm is considered by sex positivists as more important than the actual harm that occurs to women because of those attitudes, preferences, and behaviors.

If we were to take seriously the presupposition behind these objections, namely, that we can never judge or apply moral standards to sexual behaviors, we could never criticize sexual behaviors at all. In fact, using “consent” as a justification for any and all sexual practices and behaviours is a form of “moralizing” because consent is used to determine what is rightful versus wrongful behavior (even though consent is insufficient). Thus, objections to critiques of BDSM cannot be said to be against “moralizing” per se — this presupposes that whatever norms or “morals” the sex-positivists endorse are the “right” ones whereas all other norms or “morals” are paternalistic or oppressive.

The analogy to homophobia is a false equivalence. Since some conservative, homophobic segments of society are known to criticize sexual behaviors, the claim is that anyone who critiques any form of sexuality or sexual practice is necessarily a conservative (this is also often attached to other kinds of sexist and ageist name-calling, for example, “pearl-clutching prudes”). With homophobia, the perceived harm is that one is not having sexual relations with the “right” type of person (and that the patriarchal, heterosexist family/social order will be disrupted). With BDSM, the harm is the presence of violence, coercion, and reinforcing sexual subordination.

“BDSM is subversive”

The sex-positivist idea is that in doing something (seemingly) taboo, one “subverts” patriarchy by challenging our social norms. However, the effectiveness of subversion depends on what norm one subverts. What “norm” is really being challenged by BDSM?

By definition, BDSM eroticizes inequality, domination, pain, and abuse; thus it doesn’t challenge any patriarchal norms. Patriarchy exists because men enjoy hurting and dominating women. Men have carefully constructed our social and legal institutions in order to promote and ensure men’s ability to violate, abuse, and subjugate women. The norm is men hurting women during sex, coercing women into sex, dominating women during sex, and having non-mutual sex. BDSM says the same thing about sexuality as patriarchy: hurting women is sexy. It merely dresses it up in fancy leather outfits and increases the level of acceptable sexualized violence from the “norm” (e.g., painful or unwanted intercourse, compulsory intercourse) to more extreme (sexualized torture, mutilation).

The only norm that is being “subverted” by BDSM is the “norm” against abuse and torture — but that should be a “norm” feminists want to promote.

“What about lesbians/female dominants?”

Some might argue that BDSM is “subversive” because it (sometimes) places women in the “dominant” position. However, feminism’s goal has never been to reverse roles of domination and subordination, but rather to eliminate power inequalities and violence in sexual relations altogether.

Lesbians, gays, and female dominants can also internalize heterosexist and misogynist norms, just like anyone else. An incident of a woman abusing a man doesn’t change the gender dynamics of violence or sexual assault any more than an incident wherein a minor abuses their parent indicates child abuse does not exist.

In reality, BDSM is rather traditional in its gender dynamics — submissiveness is still associated with females and denigrated in males, and “submissives” often continue to be treated as subordinates outside of the “scene.”

“You need to educate yourself about it first. You aren’t in the ‘scene’ therefore you cannot judge what we do.”

I’m calling this the “mystical experience” class of objections: they presume the ignorance of the objector and also assert that there is something about BDSM that cannot be understood without actually engaging in the practice. In some cases, “you can’t know” is a legitimate objection. For example, a woman or a non-white person can claim special knowledge of what it is like to be oppressed. But this is not the case in with regard to BDSM; the argument is comparable to saying that childfree people cannot make claims about what constitutes child abuse.

Another flaw is that there’s no way to differentiate the “mystical experience” from Stockholm Syndrome and trauma bonding. Human beings adapt to make their experiences tolerable, and enthusiastically supporting the conditions of their abuse (or not seeing it as abuse) is a common survival strategy. In fact, many of the self-described psychological elements of BDSM mirror that of survivors of severe abuse: forming a positive self-concept around enduring torture and “craving” abuse; the perpetrator gaining the victim’s trust and normalizing the abuse; victims going into a trance-like state (or disassociating) during the abuse; feeling bonded to the abuser (trauma-bonding); and the abuser “rewarding” the victim by demonstrations of kindness or comforting the victim after engaging in cruelty in order to further bond the victim to the abuser. The latter is actually formally integrated into BDSM practice as “aftercare.”

In fact, pro-BDSM writers even acknowledge that the cycle of violence and trauma-bonding doesn’t look much different from what they choose to consider “abusive” relationships — the distinguishing element, though, is always the ethereal and magical “consent.” This should not surprise us, as the practice of BDSM consists [of] the same acts of violence.

“That’s not real BDSM”

This is known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy — in order to differentiate oneself from an undesirable behavior of group members, one claims that they are not “really” members of the group (in the same way that men proclaim that “real” men don’t rape in an attempt to preclude recognition that sexual violence is a gendered crime).

But what did they do wrong? Let’s take the case of the University of Illinois student who assaulted a young woman, afterwards claiming he was merely enacting Fifty Shades of Gray. Did BDSM supporters believe it was wrong that he enjoyed hurting her? No, that’s exactly what BDSM promotes. Was it that they felt it was wrong that the victim was harmed and traumatized? No again.

The only thing that went “wrong” in this encounter, according to the BDSM community, was that they didn’t follow the proper protocols — she should have “agreed” to her abuse and had a “safe word.” The sex-positivists spend their time either condoning or promoting men’s desire to hurt women and then act surprised … when men hurt women.

Part 2.

“BDSM is not really abuse.”

BDSM proponents promote the illusion of fantasy using Orwellian-style language manipulation. They discuss the eroticization of slavery and abuse as a “kink” (and presented in opposition to the derogatorily-termed “vanilla” sexuality); torture methods are described as “play” (e.g., suffocation becomes “breath play,” etc.); actual abuse is described as a “scene” (invoking the idea of a performance); and the more extreme or dangerous practices are described as “heavy” or “advanced” (as though the more torture involved, the more “skilled” at sex one happens to be).

But while fantasy stays in your head; this actually happens in real life, to real people. There is actual infliction of pain, actual infliction of injury and torture, actual control and domination of another human being. There is nothing about BDSM that is fake, and BDSM proponents acknowledge that a lot of what occurs in abusive relationships also occurs in BDSM, including “head games.”

In order to side-step reality, BDSM advocates will instead claim that nothing counts as abuse as long as it is “consensual.” There are two problems with this: the first is that BDSM practitioners do not eroticize consent. They eroticize pain, injury, harm, domination, coercion, and control. The second is that the mere presence of rules does not mean that there is no violence or subordination; with the exception of war or anarchy, men’s violence against women has always been regulated by certain norms (e.g., men can rape their wives or girlfriends or daughters, but not the “property” of another male). Similarly, consent in BDSM is used to legitimate and regulate violence, not eliminate it. There’s a reason “she was asking for it” is used to exculpate men from accusations of sexual violence: it exculpates men by virtue of their “good intentions” and encourages women to blame themselves for the trauma they experience at the hands of men (because, after all, they “consented”).

Let’s presuppose that we live in the world the BDSM people would like, where the “physical details really only matter in the contexts of safety [sic]…and consent…” There are several problems with the idea that we should divorce harm from wrong. The first is that there is no longer any way to conceptualize bodily integrity (including the harm of pain or suffering); consent by itself cannot differentiate between the harm of rape and the harm of a stolen pencil. Any attempt at putting limits on the violence, or adding in additional constraints, will be merely arbitrary and ad hoc.

As a result, there are no limits to the abuse men can inflict upon women (even to the point of murdering women through sexualized torture, as happened in the Cindy Gladue case). It will be even more difficult for women to prove assault or abuse (in addition to the inherent problems with proving non-consent) because it will be presumed that a woman could have consented to anything.

This also gaslights women into a double-bind. Actual harms become unthinkable and unspeakable through the rhetoric of consent, rendering them invisible and thus impossible to redress. The only harm that is recognized is when the woman herself sees it as a harm, and yet she is being told every day of her life (through pornography, socialization, and through our social responses to violence) that she deserves to be hurt, used, and violated. This is especially pernicious given that women already minimize and deny their experiences of abuse. I have a not-so-sneaking suspicion that pro-BDSM people would like to see all legal protections against assault eliminated, which would ensure that women are never shown that any form of male violence is abnormal, wrong, or abusive.

We already know how “fantasy” plays out in real life. Many men would be willing to rape using physical force or intimidation, if they think they could get away with it (if we include emotional coercion, bullying, pressuring, and manipulation, no doubt the numbers would be much higher). Thanks to increasingly violent pornography and the mainstreaming of BDSM, men are coercing women into more painful, dangerous, and violent sex acts.

“The submissive has the real power because she can say no.”

This objection is actually simply another version of the old misogynist trope that women have “power” over men by denying men sex. Besides the fact that this is obviously false (men coercing women and girls into sex is the norm, not the exception) women have to say “no” because they are already in a position of vulnerability — of needing to defend themselves — against male aggression.

The person who is vulnerable and powerless is the one who is tied up and being beaten. The one who is in power is the person who is doing the beating. There is no “real power” because the dominant can always choose to ignore the “no” (and they often do), and putting the responsibility on the submissive to actively resist her assault is merely victim-blaming.

“But BDSM has such great standards of consent!”

Ongoing and affirmative consent involves explicit expression or active participation throughout the entire encounter. Affirmative consent means that there is no coercion, pressuring, or manipulation, and that both partners are emotionally and physically able to communicate (including their desire to stop, if that happens). Importantly, affirmative consent helps us understand non-abusive sex as sex that is wanted and not simply endured. But this is not the standard of consent used in BDSM relationships. Consent in BDSM instead appears to be based on the idea of contract agreement and lack of active resistance.

First, affirmative and ongoing consent is precluded by the practice itself of dominating or controlling another person. One cannot consent to what happens unless one actually has input in the moment as to what happens, and thus there is no ongoing consent when one person is controlling the encounter and determining what happens. Consent before the sex acts merely establishes limits; it does not in itself constitute consent any more than claiming that I enjoy a certain sex act means that I consent to that sex act. Nor does BDSM practices preclude, or even condemn, various forms of coercion and manipulation. In one blog post, a male BDSM practitioner related the story of a woman who was raped with a knife. The author described the rapist’s grooming behavior (subjecting his victim to other forms of penetration and lying about what he was doing) thusly: “It’s not a bad way, this sort of mind game, to move towards opening up a limit.” [emphasis mine]. Respecting a boundary is to take the boundary as an absolute limitation on behavior; not something to be pushed, or worn down, or (euphemisms again!) “opened up.” The author condones the grooming because the victim “didn’t say no,” in spite of the fact that the victim was uncomfortable with the perpetrator’s behavior. Insofar as they condone grooming, manipulation, and coercion to violate boundaries (and this author apparently does), BDSM practitioners cannot claim that they respect consent.

On the same blog, this author dismisses unwanted torture and assault, as well as resulting permanent trauma, as “shit happens” (which sounds disturbingly like the oft-cited dismissal that various forms of sexual violence or abuse are simply “bad sex”). Some of this, he claims, is due to “miscommunication” and the fact that a “good top” is not going to do simply what has been explicitly discussed. A very flimsy excuse — if there is the slightest ambiguity about whether a partner is uncomfortable with a sexual activity, one can always ask.

This leads to another problem. A submissive may be in such a state of fear, pain, or disassociation she is unable to give or withdraw consent: “Lots of bottoms, especially subs, are not really in a state of mind mid-scene to advocate for themselves… Some folks just can’t use safe words at all because they can’t access them in scene: they have to negotiate up front and then trust.” But if there is no consent if someone is in such a state of pain, fear, or disassociation — or for any reason feels unsafe expressing her feelings — that she cannot withdraw consent or communicate (certainly no one could claim that someone in such a state is actively giving consent). Deliberately putting someone into a state where she may be unable to consent is predatory behavior, just like getting someone drunk so that she cannot resist or make informed decisions.

If we consider the pro-BDSM stance on abuse victims (claiming that it is good and empowering for women who feel that they deserve to be abused to continue to be subjected to violence in BDSM), social norms, and economic coercion, the picture of consent promoted is even flimsier. For example, the selfsame blogger quoted above supports the rights of men to torture a woman who is desperate for money in order to avoid losing custody of her children.

“There are abusive people everywhere.”

Certainly men everywhere are abusive, but it so happens that BDSM — in spite of all the propaganda about it — is rife with abuse. As many as one in three “kinksters” report an assault (or, as they would call it, “consent violation”) and the BDSM community has its own share of problems with shaming victims and protecting abusers.

It’s clear that the lines BDSM advocates try to draw between “kink” and abuse, oppression, and violence against women, are not are firm as they say.

This is the second of a three-part series. Read part one here.

Part 3.

“What about aftercare?”

The mere fact of aftercare should clue people into the abusiveness of BDSM when a BDSM encounter leaves someone emotionally distressed, unable to communicate, or in need of “processing.” Processing is something one does with a traumatic experience, not a pleasurable sexual encounter.

Aftercare, in this context, is used as a means of reassuring the submissive it wasn’t “really” abuse. It is a form of gaslighting — an attempt to claim that what actually happened (deliberate infliction and enjoyment of the submissive’s suffering) did not “really” happen. It is also a common technique practiced by abusers to engage in “rewards” of affection after abuse, in order to further confuse and maintain a bond with the victim. It is not a surprise, then, that aftercare involves the same sort of brainwashing tactics that abusers typically employ.

“It involves a lot of trust”

It is hard to understand why someone would think this is a justification. Women trust men who hurt them all the time. In fact, one of the main ways that abusers get access to their victims is precisely by exploiting a position of power or a position of trust — this is one of the many reasons why most sexual predators are friends, teachers, coaches, pastors, or family members. Having someone’s trust is not the same as being trustworthy.

It should at least be counterintuitive that a dominant — a person who wants to abuse and enjoys causing the submissive pain and degradation — could ever care for the person that they want to abuse. But it isn’t for most people; precisely because the perversion of patriarchalism teaches women that “love” is about being hurt and abused.

“It’s not like it’s a 24/7 relationship”

Except, of course, when it is … And when one partner is given license to control and possibly psychologically or physically abuse his partner (once again, affirmative consent is stunningly absent). If you are wondering how this is different than a domestic violence relationship, it isn’t. Domestic violence is about control. The mere fact that the submissive “agrees” means nothing; women agree to stay with and even protect their abusers all the time and often feel they deserve the abuse they receive.

Even in a non-24/7 relationship, the only difference is the duration of the abuse. And that isn’t terribly different from domestic violence relationships either. Many abusers are not always abusive or always controlling. Putting arbitrary limits on the duration and place of the abuse does not thereby mean that women are no longer being abused. At best, it demonstrates to women that no matter how successful they may become in the pubic realm, no matter how “equal” the relationship appears in other spheres, there is always a realm where she is nothing more than an object to be used and hurt by a man.

“People do all sorts of risky things because they like it. We consent to painful things all the time (like tetanus shots). People like pain because of endorphins.”

This class of objections is a red herring mixed with some false analogy. The false analogy comes with “other painful things” — with the exception of tetanus shots, this involves things that we do to ourselves and that don’t involve a sexual context. In the case of the tetanus shot, the doctor is presumably poking the needle in your arm as a matter of medical treatment, not because the doctor enjoys making her patients suffer.

The fact that someone “enjoys” it is not, in itself, a justification for making violence permissible. People could easily get their adrenalin and endorphin rushes through other activities; if they really wanted to be in pain, there are plenty of ways to self-harm. What differentiates BDSM is that it does involve, and is used to justify, interpersonal and sexualized violence.

“You assume that women who like it are brainwashed/broken. You are saying submissive women do not exist. I’ve always felt this way since I was a child, therefore it cannot be because of social influences.”

These objections are predicated on the idea that being submissive or masochistic is an “authentic” desire for women. The claim to an existential crisis is an easy way to justify one’s perspective and to side-step critique.

The problem is, of course, that this relies upon the hubris that we exist in a social vacuum and are completely unaffected by social influences (even though socialization and exposure to rape culture occurs from the day we are born) and the fallacy that becomes [since] something exists it must therefore be justified. Neither of those assumptions are true. But in the end, whether it is an “authentic” desire misses the point; the point, instead, is whether violence against women is acceptable.

“Women like it and feminism is about CHOICES. You are taking away women’s agency!”

Feminists called themselves “women liberationists,” not “women libertarians.” And, as Meghan Murphy has said, “just because you like it doesn’t make it feminist.”

The fact is that if men did not want to hurt women, it wouldn’t matter whether women enjoyed subjugation or not; sexualized abuse requires the participation of a minimum of two people. When people say, “But what if women like to be hurt? They have a right to do what they want,” what they are actually saying is, “But men enjoy hurting women! They have the right to hurt women!” (Doesn’t sound so feminist anymore, does it?)

This is a clever reversal that obscures the real issue by “disappearing the male.” The issue never has been about what women choose but about how men choose to treat women. Even if we were to effectively outlaw violence tomorrow, it wouldn’t impact women’s agency at all; they would be free to do the same things that they did before. It would merely affect men’s ability to engage in violence against women. Masochistic women couldn’t even claim a harm, since no one is entitled to demand that anyone else participate in their sexual practices or desires (whatever they may be). However, and importantly, feminists do believe that women are entitled to freedom from violence.

“If you don’t like it, don’t do it”

It might be hard for sexual neoliberals to understand, but I actually care about what happens to people other than myself. But I also have to live with men who enjoy making women suffer in the most horrendous ways possible, and with the knowledge that my pain, suffering, and degradation is something which society condones and glorifies. And in a society that does not acknowledge or validate women’s humanity, it is no wonder that women have a hard time seeing themselves as human beings worthy of respect.

My Challenge to the BDSM and Sex-Positivists

So here’s my challenge to the BDSM advocates (adapted from a comment on a previous blog post):

  1. How would you teach women that they are owed bodily integrity, freedom from violence, and mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s normal for sex to be degrading, painful, and non-mutual?
  2. How do you expect to prosecute and prevent domestic violence when you promote controlling relationships, sexualized abuse, and psychological and physical abuse as part of “healthy” relationships?
  3. How would you teach men to respect women and want to engage in mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it is sexy to hurt, dominate, and coerce women?
  4. How do you expect to teach men about affirmative consent when BDSM practices themselves do not embody affirmative consent — including situations where consent is physically impossible?
  5. How would you prevent emotional and social coercion into these practices?

I haven’t heard a satisfactory answer to these concerns, and I don’t think that there are any, because to really eliminate sexual violence we need to change the way men treat women. In the sex-positivist vision of society, nothing changes from the old patriarchal order. Women (and girls) are still bought and sold like commodities. Women and girls are groomed into non-mutual, uncomfortable, or painful sex by pornography and socialization; girls are still told they are mere objects to be used and hurt by men; men inflict violent, painful, or degrading sex upon women. The difference is that women are told that these institutions are acceptable because of “choice.”

But this is not a satisfactory conclusion for any feminist. Because when we say we are working for sexual liberation, we should mean it.

This is the third of a three-part series. Read part one and two here.

There are also issues of pervasive whiteness in the BDSM community/ kink culture.

“The [BDSM] scene in San Francisco, at least the pansexual scene, is almost entirely white, which was surprising to me given the demographics of the Bay Area, and that was something that most of the white people that I interviewed didn’t seem to notice. It wasn’t until [the BDSM organization] Society of Janus did a panel presentation on race in the scene that the people I was interviewing said, “Oh yeah, I guess the scene really is white, that’s so strange.”

The people of color I talked to felt marginalized by the scene’s normative whiteness. It wasn’t so much that white people doing S/M were overtly racist or didn’t want to play with people of color, it was that the scene itself had a normative, assumptive whiteness at its center, so that people of color doing S/M experience themselves as marginal to that community.

Most people that I talked to didn’t see S/M slavery play as having anything to do with historical slavery in the United States — but none of the people of color I talked to thought that this was the case. I talked to an African-American woman in the scene who’s well-known for doing race play and she said, “You know, I don’t think these white people ever think about handcuffs and whipping and the slave auction as connected to histories of slavery, but I can’t help but think about that when I play.” — BDSM: It’s less transgressive than you think, So says the author of a new book on white, middle-class kinksters in the San Francisco Bay Area,  Tracy Clark-Flory

[Content warning for detailed black slavery reenactment]

“A young African-American woman walked onstage, led by a white man holding a leash attached to a collar around her neck. “As he spoke, he yanked up her dress to display her shaved genitals, and he then turned her around,” writes anthropologist Margot Weiss. “Still holding her dress above her waist, he smacked her ass so hard she pitched forward; the leash attached to the collar around her neck stopped her fall.”

Then the bidding began.

This scene from a BDSM “slave auction” — before a predominantly white audience – makes for one of the most viscerally challenging passages in “Techniques of Pleasure,” Weiss’ book-length investigation of San Francisco’s kink community, although there are other examples, ranging from father-daughter incest to Nazi guard-prisoner scenarios. These encounters aren’t described in much detail — instead, they’re used as passing evidence of the depths of politically incorrect play that she observed, or heard about, during the three years spent observing this world.

Most kinksters see such “scenes” as standing apart from racism, sexism and all manner of ugliness that happens in the real world — but Weiss does not. “The fantasy of the scene as a safe space of private desire justifies and reinforces certain social inequalities,” she argues. The truth, she says, is that S/M “depends for its erotic power on precisely these real-world relations, within which it is given form and content.”

That said, Weiss objects to the idea that this sort of sexual make-believe is “the same as the violence that it mimes,” as some BDSM critics argue. Instead, Weiss looks at how particular scenes, whether it’s a slave auction or make-believe child abuse, affect the people participating, watching or (here’s looking at you) reading about it.

She also zeroes in on the contradictions of kink: “On the one hand, SM is figured as outlaw: as transgressive of normative sexual values,” Weiss writes. “On the other hand, SM is dependent on social norms: practitioners draw on social hierarchies to produce SM scenes.” The mostly-white, mostly-middle-class community is itself an example of real-world social inequality: “These [sexual] experiments are more possible and more accessible to those with class, race and gender privilege: heterosexual men playing with sexism, white bodies at a charity slave auction, professional information technology (IT) workers with several rooms filled with custom-made bondage toys.” ” —  BDSM: It’s less transgressive than you think, So says the author of a new book on white, middle-class kinksters in the San Francisco Bay Area,  Tracy Clark-Flory

The majority of kinksters (i.e.: BDSM practitioners) are white. Try to make logical connections between having white privilege and feeling comfortable fetishizing human slavery. This is not a coincidence.

The majority of BDSM Dominants are male. Try to make logical connections between having male privilege and male socialization (which encourages men to use their bodies to dominate, intimidate, control, and inflict violence) and them feeling comfortable in a controlling, abusive, dominant sexual “role”. This is not a coincidence.

There’s also this study which revealed that 71% of heterosexual males are in the Dominant role when practicing BDSM:

A study looking at message board posts found 71% of heterosexual males but only 11% of heterosexual females and 12% of homosexual males prefer a dominant role when engaging in sexual bondage. (Ernulf, 1995.)

Ernulf, K. E., & Innala, S. M. (1995). Sexual bondage: a review and unobtrusive investigation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 24(6).


I think, perhaps, the American public – so disassociated with what democracy actually is – has already begun the labourious task of wallpapering over the elephant in the room.

Is there a more obvious example of how undemocratic a supposedly democratic national is (hmm..18 years of being at war racking up trillions of dollars of war debt that will cripple their future *and* creating more terror and instability in the world)?

The current system will remain until change is forced on the powers that be.

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