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I sometimes drop into the [livejournal.com profile] feminist community, trying to decide if I want to join it or not. Recently they had a huge discussion over there of BDSM -- the usual go-round of whether or not it's sexist for women to bottom to men, whether or not the sexuality of kinky people is politically incorrect, etc. Something said in this comment made me annoyed:


It is not anti-sex to wonder if ALL sex can possibly be good sex. I'm not being bigoted here; I like being dominated by my partner. It could just be that that's what I like. It could ALSO be that for some reason society's conditioning about women's place has made it into my bedroom. I think WHENEVER violence is being used, even if it's consensual, we have to question it. Maybe the answer we come up with is that it's totally fine, that it's individual preference, whatever. I just think that it would make things so much easier if we could at least agree that it's ok to look at the ways society affects our sexuality and to understand that very often our personal decisions about sex are influenced by society and can in some instances influence society.


Why is it that people think SM involves violence?

True, SM sex can get out of hand. In that way, it's just like vanilla sex. A fucked up person can start out making love and end up hurting or killing their partner. It's not the way they were having sex that's to blame, it's the fact that they were fucked up. Also true, SM relationships can involve emotional and physical abuse. Well, so can relationships between Quakers, or between Jainists. It's not the philosophy that makes a relationship abusive, it's the fact that the people in it are human beings, and human beings can be incredibly cruel to the people they love.

All that being said, I think SM is one of the most completely nonviolent activities humans engage in.

When someone stabs another person, that's violent. But when a doctor cuts another person's body open, that's nonviolent: it's medicine. Yes, it looks like violence, which is why many people, including myself, find it hard to watch documentaries of surgery, or scenes in movies that depict surgery (and why movie depictions of surgery are usually far more bloodless than the real thing). Likewise, falling on a sharp object which impales you is violent. But getting a body piercing is not violent, even though it involves being impaled by a sharp needle. Attacking someone with a razor is violent, but scarification is not. We know that there's a difference between unwanted physical injury and injuries that are wanted.

Prisoners of the American military whose feet get stomped on are the victims of violent torture. People who choose to wear high heels because they think it looks sexy may suffer just as much pain, and in the long term their feet may be just as damaged. We know there's a difference between unwelcome pain, and pain which we choose to inflict on ourselves because we see the benefit as worth the cost.

Rape is violent. Movies that depict rape are depicting violence. But what happens between the actors who create depictions of rape is not violence, and even if the depiction was done in one take, rational people don't accuse the actors of committing a violent act. Because rational people know the difference between real violence and pretend violence.

SM may pretend to be violent, but it actually isn't, because the injuries that happen in it are wanted and asked for, and the pain inflicted by it is chosen.
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We watched Alexander the other evening. An excellent movie. Not perfect, but certainly worth seeing. [livejournal.com profile] morgan_dhu was trying to figure out why it had gotten so much bad press, and looked up some of the reviews from when it came out in theatres. And the reason turns out to be that while most American reviewers said they were OK with Alexander being portrayed as bisexual-on-the-gay-side, they had a big problem with him being so emotional. Men can fuck other men, it seems, but they can't cry, or be vulnerable. That's not manly, and God forbid that a great conquerer like Alexander should fail to be MANLY.

Never mind that having Alexander weep and show emotion is historically accurate (Plutarch did, after all, say "Alexander cried when he heard Anaxarchus talk about the infinite number of worlds in the universe. One of Alexander's friends asked him what was the matter, and he replied: 'There are so many worlds, and I have not yet conquered even one.'"). Never mind that the concept of masculinity=non-emotional is a product of the Victorian era, and prior to that men could weep and show their emotions without shame or stigma. Colin Farrell portrayed Alexander as a human being, instead of as a stick-up-the-butt he-man. There's nothing wrong with that, and the sooner the halfwits who review movies realize that, the better.

All of which reminded me of a very enraging moment on the "So you think you can dance" reality/talent show that [livejournal.com profile] morgan_dhu has been watching lately. In the show's first episode, they aired footage from their initial cattle call auditions in New York and I forget what other cities. One of the male dancers, Anthony Bryant, was obviously extremely talented, but also quite femme (yes, straight men can be femmes, but that's a topic for another day). Halfway through his solo audition, he took out the sort of ribbon that rhythmic gymnasts use and danced with it. Nigel Lythgoe, the head producer/judge, let Anthony go on to the choreography and pairs half of the audition, but first he gave him a tongue lashing for bringing out the ribbon. He was looking for strong, masculine dancers, he explained, and "the thing with the ribbon" wasn't masculine. Then, after the second half of Anthony's audition, (which we were never actually shown more than two or three seconds of), Nigel told Anthony he'd been eliminated because he wasn't masculine enough in the pairs, and launched into another tongue lashing, telling him that if he was a man he ought to know how to act manly.

Now we all know that the whole point of these reality-talent shows is ritual public humiliation, in which the TV audience vicariously enjoys watching the hosts use cruel and emotionally sadistic methods to manipulate the emotions of the contestants. The ultimate money shot is getting a contestant to break down and cry on camera (can you tell I don't like these sorts of shows?). So the fact that Nigel was a total asshole toward Anthony, when the other judges all seemed to like him, is hardly worth commenting on. And we all know that since this is an American TV show, airing on the Fox network no less, there's no way that the producers are going to let anyone who seems gay get past the initial cattle call, so the fact that they booted Anthony is likewise not noteworthy. But this is a dance show in which they had to end up with an equal number of males and female finalists. There's no doubt Nigel dismissed quite a few talented dancers because they were too obviously gay, and none of those men were subjected to humiliation on national TV. Probably because it wouldn't have been PC. But Anthony, who is straight (search in the page for "my younger brother Anthony"), gets singled out for a televised hectoring lecture on being a man. Why is that?

Well, because while it's slowly becoming not quite completely cool to insult people for being queer, it's still totally acceptable to attack a man for not being masculine enough. So, contrary to the opinions on the above linked page, this was not a case of Nigel's or the studio's homophobia. It was a case of femme-phobia. In the urban, sophisticated parts of 21st century American culture, gay men are OK, as long as they are discreet and don't remind us about the whole two penises thing. But effeminacy is ULTIMATE EVIL.

Well, I have some news for those halfwit movie reviewers, and for assholes like Nigel. There's nothing wrong with men to expressing the full range of human feelings. There's nothing wrong with men acting femme. To the contrary, there's something deeply wrong, sick, and twisted in claiming that men should hide their emotions, always keep a stiff upper lip and a square jaw, and never act feminine. That attitude is the source of more evil in the world than I can keep track of, and the more movies there are that show Alexander the great ovecome with emotion, and the more young men take up rhythmic gymnastics because they like twirling colorful ribbons around in pretty patterns, the better off we are.

Edited to add: I found a partial transcript of Nigel's berating of Anthony.

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