Dial ‘M’ for Murder: Has The Metrosexual Killed S and M?

Posted: October 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

PART ONE: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BITCHY JONES

We all know the metrosexual now, familiar stalker of our shopping malls and beaches, stealer of our hair-care products and looker in mirrors. He  is attractive, fit and tanned. But could he also be a cold-blooded murderer? Are the rumours that he is really Patrick Bateman true after all?

‘Kink’s broken. I hate it. I don’t really want to play. Something inside me does, but that something is trapped inside the meat of me that hates all this fucking pornified, PVC clad, patriarchy eroticising bullshit that stifles everything and anything good that kink could ever be. It is the enemy of any kind of creative artistic freedom and that’s a sad, sad thing, because it could be the opposite of that’.

Bitchy Jones has left the building. The above quote is one of the last things Bitchy wrote on her much-loved and well-respected blog, back in 2009. Being someone who is always late to the party, it was one of the first things I read by the inimitable Ms Jones. And it has stuck with me ever since, like a stubborn bit of spunk I can’t get out of my hair.

The tone of Bitchy’s scathing swansong to her adventures in S and M, echoes throughout an old piece I re-read recently by Mark Simpson, on masochism. His article was ostensibly reviewing a 1990s book by a woman masochist, Anita Phillips, called ‘In defence of Masochism’.  But Simpson, some might say rather sadistically, also used his essay to put the boot in to modern masochism, and S and M in general. After arguing convincingly that masochism is not aimed at sacrificing your own pleasure for someone else’s but is rather just another form of pleasure-seeking, Simpson went on to criticise Philips for elevating masochism over other, less melodramatic expressions of our sexuality:

‘We are told that masochists are ‘imaginative risk-takers’ and that ‘real eroticism’ requires a certain ‘shattering of the self’. In other words, masochists are on a higher sexual plane to those poor souls who don’t want to get whipped, trussed up and locked in a cupboard for three days. Apparently, ‘the shattering quality of sex needs to be diluted for those who cannot fully handle it…. {and they} make a kind of civic virtue from their own necessity to retreat from the challenge of a full-blooded encounter.’

But those of us who prefer our sex weak and thin, with the gore and entrails strained out are not necessarily lily-livered. Perhaps most people refuse to indulge their masochist leanings any further than a spot of slightly embarrassed spanking or coy nipple tweaking because they have better things to do with their time than trying to ‘discover their limits’ remaking Hellraiser’.

This deathwish for masochism, expressed by Mark ‘Who’s The Daddy (of the Metrosexual)?’ Simpson, coupled with Bitchy’s desertion from the kink ranks,  got me to wonder, if we are not remaking Hellraiser in our bedrooms, what are we doing with our time instead? Are we raising hell elsewhere? Is S and M dead, and is it the metrosexual himself that has got blood on his perfectly manicured hands?

Let’s consider the evidence.

Our (metrosexual) culture is full of the celebration of physical masochism: No Pain, No Gain is a metro mantra. Fitness routines, gym culture, sports, even personal grooming are full of the idea you have to suffer physically for your body beautiful. Women and men are slaves to the beauty myth now, competing for who can be the most masochistic and narcissistic in their search for physical perfection. Which is more impressive, a Brazilian or a sack and back? A leg wax or a chest wax?  Bitchy herself, instead of posting links of subby boys being flogged for our sadistic delectation, gave us a youtube clip of Ashton Kutcher   getting waxed. Ow! Stop! No! Don’t stop till I am smooth as a baby’s bottom! Even the scarily succinct chant of ‘GTL’ coined and embodied by Jersey Shore’s The Situation, alludes to a certain amount of hard labour in the name of physical perfection: the daily repetitive routine of gym, tanning, laundry, is not really a leisure pursuit, more of a punishing regime.

So it is possible that people have had quite enough self-flagellation before they even go on a date, to want any more physical pain during sex. All our masochistic urges are channelled into our own self-caring routines, and not geared towards suffering at the hands of others.

Apart from the modern metrosexual being spent from beating himself/herself up in the name of beauty, is it also the case that visually, the metrosexual appropriation of all things ‘sexy’ has killed our desire for something a bit more edgy? Bitchy Jones in her Dear John letter to kink, complained about ‘all this fucking pornified, PVC clad, patriarchy eroticising bullshit that stifles everything and anything good that kink could ever be’. Anne Summers,   James Bond, Lady Gaga, Fashion, advertising  are all dripping with imagery that once upon a time, we would have had to search long and hard to find, in dusty book shops and dodgy video arcades. A glossy, waxwork, post-modern version of sado-masochistic pornography is rammed down our throats in a non-consensual manner every day. Why would we go and seek it out when we finally close the door on the sex-obsessed outside world and try to maintain some kind of sex life for ourselves? Or if we are still interested in searching for or creating more interesting S and M images and scenarios than what we see in the mainstream, we may find they are considered to be  Extreme Pornography and are  illegal anyway.

The photo I featured at the head of this article is a case in point. It is part of a spread for German Cosmo magazine, by a fashion photographer. See how glazed and plastic those bodies look, how sterile their environment is (it could even be a mortuary). The man looks like ‘GTL’ is his full-time occupation. Notice that neither model seems to have, or be interested in exerting any real power over the other. The woman is on all fours, bound, her face almost lodged against the man’s genitals (if he has any: he looks remarkably smooth to me). The man is teasing her in his tantalising pose, but there is no eye contact, no tension. They are very much models, mannequins. Bitchy Jones is suggesting that this sanitised, ‘pornified, PVC clad’ version of S and M is being emulated in the clubs, playrooms and bedrooms of practising S and M’ers aswell. And it doesn’t turn her on. There is most definitely a ‘metropolitan’ ‘pornified’ kinky Scene in cities like London and Manchester, where young, fashionable, well-dressed perverts meet and show-off. Their nights are all about seeing and being  ’scene’.  Often their evenings are themed, with complex dress codes based on 1920s salons, or Characters from True Blood, or Favourite Freudian Theories. Frankly, I would rather stay home in my PJs and read The Story of ‘O’, occasionally hitting myself with a spatula if I get the urge.

I had one particularly odd run-in with this ‘pornified PVC-clad’ version of S and M. It wasn’t wholly negative at all. But I am a masochist so never trust my version of events. I met a man who was very into bondage, and making his own BDSM equipment. Under his steady hand I found myself trying all sorts of things that had never crossed my mind before, such as arm-binders, posture collars, thigh-high red PVC stiletto boots, ballet boots, suspensions. The thing I noticed most was that all his inspiration and all his reference points, seemed to be from quite mainstream S and M porn. His laptop was full of folders of glossy images of pretty women in various submissive poses, bound, ball-gagged, contorted. And whenever we tried something new, his main interest seemed to be in photographing it. Not dominating me, or hurting me or even pleasuring me, but photographing the evidence to add to his collection. Once we went on holiday to France and it was snowing, and he took me out in the car into the woods. I thought something might happen, but nothing did. And afterwards he said he’d been planning to tether me to a tree, chained and bound in the snow, but he’d forgotten his camera. Click.  Metrosexuality’s obsession with looking, and creating sexualised visual images, killed my masochistic desires dead.

Bitchy Jones uses the ‘P’ word in her critique of this phenomenon. I don’t think I have written the word ‘patriarchy’ down in a long while. But I will consider what she might have meant by it. Despite the long strut forwards of the male metrosexual, gender roles within hetero S and M are still incredibly based around images of women’s submission and women’s stylised feminininty and objectification. The mainstreaming of ‘S and M’ porn has only served to emphasise that. The photo at the top of this piece is typical in that it shows a woman bound, tethered, on her hands and knees,  a man stood over her in a dominant position.  The difference between that ‘pornified’ S and M image though, and Bitchy Jones’ and other women in S and M’s lived experience, is that somehow, male metrosexuality doesn’t seem to have had quite the same effect on the men of hetero kinkland as it has on those we see in the rest of our culture. If the men in our lives looked like that model in the photo, I don’t think we’d be complaining quite so much about the relentless barrage of images of cutesy subby-wubby women, bowing before the Male Dominant Patriarch.

‘How come submissive men aren’t the best looking bunch of fucking men in the fucking universe? demanded Bitchy J, not long before she abandoned kink altogether.
And I don’t just mean how come this isn’t true for my pathetic cheap frills in my otherwise pretty pointless window of wakey-wakey-consciousness. And look, what I am talking about here is not submissive men being pulled from an above-average gene pool – I am talking about them taking care of themselves for the hottery. What I mean is why don’t submissive men dedicate themselves to looking hot? Like, a lot. What could be more submissive than that? (And, don’t tell, but if you are really into humiliating feminisation, the tyranny of looking sexiliciously buffgasmic 24/7 is far more like what the submissive state of womenhood actually is than walking around knock-kneed in shoes you got off the internet, you woman-hating fucking twatburger)’

What Bitchy is asking, then, is why aren’t the submissive men she meets, who claim to want to please and serve her every whim, more metrosexual in their own presentation and sense of what it is to be an attractive man? Why aren’t Ronaldo lookalikeys and Ashton Kutcher wannabees placing their newly waxed torsos beneath Bitchy’s raised stiletto clad feet? Well it could be that the self-interested, self-loving metrosexual might be more inclined to take a dominant role in hetero-kink, and get women to please him and attend to his needs: of which he has an increasingly long list. But in my experience and from what I have heard of other submissive women’s, the dominant men in kinkland are even less appealing then their ‘submissive’ counterparts. Male doms are renowned for being leather waist-coat-clad, sweaty, overweight, jeans-wearing neanderthals. That is a massively sweeping stereotype, but we all know that when it comes to sex, the stereotypes are often based largely in truth. Or if they aren’t quite so cliched, the men I have met have definitely not been typical metrosexual buff boys. Some male doms are obviously fetishists, but they don’t so much fetishise their own body beautiful, or even the feminine submissives they claim as their objects of desire. A lot of tops seem to be good old-fashioned Freudian object-fetishists. They have large collections of watches, or always wear three-piece suits w ith cufflinks, or, the commonest fetish of them all, they project all their potential ‘metrosexuality’ into the love and care for their real objects of desire, their toy collection. The modern dominant man may be a shabby shambles but his box of tricks is full of the most pristine, well-built well-groomed articles you could hope to lay your hands on (or have laid onto your hands, arse, tits…).

The metrosexual murderer could be at work here. Metrosexual narcissism fits in better in many ways with gay sexuality  than straight, because, as Mark Simpson has observed, gay men can be their own love-object and mirror image. Gay men ‘can become the thing which turns them on’. This does sound satisfying on a narcissistic level, but not necessarily a recipe for fulfilling unequal power dynamics. Straight men who are metrosexual seem to be rejecting traditional models of being either dominant or submissive either. They are happy if there is a mirror nearby, either literally or in the form of an appreciative admiring audience (do you like my shirt? can you tell I have been working out? do you think these shoes go with these jeans?’).  In defence of his metrosexual boi, and with reference to feminism’s creation of strong, self-sufficient women such as the characters of Sex In The City, M Simpson actually makes a strong case for the prosecution:

‘If women aren’t going to be women for men, and instead want to please themselves, then why should men be men for women anymore? If women aren’t going to stick around and be beautiful and sensual on your behalf, why as a non-gay male should you renounce these things in your own person anymore? Especially since no one is going to buy your underwear for you now – or wash it. Metrosexuality, in both its female and male incarnations, is a necessarily self-ish post-feminism’.

In other words, metrosexuality, in its promotion of the self-sufficient narcissist (a role model for both men and women), could indeed have caused the death of the mutually (dis)satisfying tug of war of sado-masochistic relationships between men and women. I think, if Mr Simpson were to meet Ms Jones, an encounter I would very much like to witness, he might tell her that she can’t have her feminist, dominatrix cake and eat it. If she wants power, in real terms, in society, she might have to concede a little bit of control in her boudoir. But if he did say that I would advise him to be ready to duck, or run, because La Jones might not value his observations. And she would definitely be armed.

Bitchy is an angry domme. She is angry that in this metrosexual world full of beautiful women and men, the ‘submissive men’ she does meet do not embody her ideal version of manhood at all. Writing a satire of a typical male submissive’s internet profile, she alludes to a different version of male identity altogether:

‘All I want is to please and serve and suffer and what the fuck ever and then, if there is a pic (mostly there isn’t a pic, but…) the pic will be, like, oh god here is me in a cheap pointless wig and a cheap pointy rubber bra – what a dumb slut, I am?’

It could be that the metrosexual has indeed murdered the male submissive.  But, maybe generously for a murderer you might say,  has left in his place, some emos, some goths, some geeks, some transvestites, some men who can’t or don’t want to live up to the demands of metrosexual masculinity, but who may want to play around with, and impose on women, their own fantasies of  ’feminine’ identities instead. Forced feminisation  has long since been a theme in Femdom F/m play. And gender-bending can be incredibly hot- Bowie,  James Maker, Phil Oakey: I wouldn’t kick any of them out of bed, and I doubt Bitchy would either. But I think she is lamenting the fact that before a ‘submissive’ male has even asked her to tell him what kinds of things she expects from a man, he is there, dressed in drag, expecting her to fit in with his fantasy. He has got the hang of the gender fluidity aspect of metrosexuality, just not the physically fit, aesthetically conforming side. On the other side of the zombie S and M coin, dominant men, leather waistcoats, beer bellies, M and S jeans and all, are still making macho exacting demands on how submissive women should dress, speak, look, and act. These men have grasped the selfishness inherent in metrosexual masculinity, but not its more attractive blurring of gender roles.

Like Bitchy, the failings of contemporary kinky men have sent me into an apopleptic Stiletto Rage all of my own. ‘Women submissives have to fit into this cliched stereotype of femininity in order to fulfil their need to be submissive’ I have been known to wail.  ‘It makes me angry to be forced into a role I have been resisting all my life’ I have cried.  ‘Why can’t men think of other ways to objectify women apart from the ways they are already objectified in society?’ I have demanded, starting to sound not unlike Mistress Bitchy myself (are women never satisfied with men? might be another pertinent question, but that is one that I shall leave hanging…) Also like Bitchy, my frustrations with the men I have met in hetero Kinkland,  have made me completely rethink my own interest in searching for S and M sexual experiences with men at all.

I think I am a bit more generous to ‘men’ than Bitchy sounds, both the metrosexual variety and the not-so-metrosexual. But I do believe that in our current ‘egalitarian’ metrosexual narcissistic culture, when it comes to heterosexual kink, at least, the expectations on women to fit quite traditional gendered stereotypes remain. This is in part because, out there in the wider ‘heterosexual’ world, where power dynamics are not overtly articulated and negotiated, the expectation is still that women are ‘submissive’ sexually, and men ‘dominant’, at the very basic level of sexual difference, of ‘passive’ and ‘active’ sexual partners. In some ways, it could be argued, the growing self-sufficiency of women socio-economically, and even an increase in assertiveness sexually that characterises women’s ‘metrosexuality’, has led to a ‘backlash’, a visual culture whereby images of women are more ‘aggressively submissive’. And that backlash seems particularly apparent in this ‘pornified PVC clad’ version of modern-day kink that Bitchy hates so much, where everyone is an object. Metrosexual men may be objectified visually, and have different social roles, but they can still fall back on ‘traditional’ models of the alpha male. Metrosexual role models such as Beckham, Ronaldo, Daniel Craig, still retain some vestiges of good-old fashioned ‘machismo’. Whereas the objectification of women falls back on more passive and submissive images of femininity. Cheryl Cole, Keira Knightley,  are not portrayed as  ’dominant’ characters, definitely not sexually.

We are all expected to be Patrick Batemans now, twenty four seven. But Patrick, despite his sculpted good looks, and his aura of  potential violence and psychological intensity, actually turns out to be quite boring in the sack. He is too busy checking himself out in the ceiling mirror, or counting the calories he’s burning whilst fucking, to actually notice the women he fucks, let alone their complex set of sado-masochistic desires. It is those men who can’t, or won’t take on the sociopathic, narcissistic and oh so physically pleasing metrosexual role: the freaks, the thugs, the sissys, the throw-backs, the casualties of beautiful metrosexual conformity, who seem to be haunting the graveyard that was once S and M sexuality, like a scene from  Shaun Of The Dead. I am tempted to throw my blindfold in the ring, and agree with Bitchy’s statement that ‘kink is broken’. I may be a pervert, but I am not a necrophiliac, and I don’t want to be flogged by a dead horse.

Are Bitchy and I just being bitter? Are we just upset that Mr Bateman doesn’t want to play our game, or that nobody asks us to the parties with the hip, young, good-looking metropolitan perverts? Are we being nostalgic about a world that never really existed anyway, except in the imaginations of The Marquis De Sade and Anais Nin? Should we accept the – rather harsh it must be said – words of Mark ’It’s Not My Fault’ Simpson himself, and concede that ‘Sado-masochism, when all’s said and done, is a bit of a con and should be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act’? I can almost hear his evil laugh as he delivers his statement in court. S and M may well be a con, your honour, but I believe it is also the victim of homicide. And the killer is still on the loose.

Bitchy Jones is nowhere to be seen. Mr Simpson is denying all responsibility for this crime. I am left alone in my stilettos and corset, scared to turn round,  in case I pull a ligament,  and in case when I do, I am faced with the shiny, designer knife of the metrosexual murderer, pointing straight at my heart…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Comments
  1. …this is a bit long, I know. Believe me it could have been a lot longer…

    and in part two there will be blood.

  2. P.s. I didn’t set out for this to be an ‘enculage’ of either Mr Simpson or Ms Jones, in the Deleuzian sense… ;)

  3. Mark says:

    I don’t think I’ve tried taking it a la Deleuze. Maybe I should.

    I blame Patrick Bateman for everything. Which is perhaps a tad convenient, but he enjoys the attention.

    Oh, and his mirror wasn’t on the ceiling, as I recall from the film version – but alongside his bed. All the better to cop a look at his pumped torso as he was busy murdering sex.

    • I dont think Deleuzian enculage requires the consent of the receiver.

      ‘Deleuze once famously described his method of interpreting philosophers as “buggery (enculage)”, as sneaking behind an author and producing an offspring which is recognizably his, yet also monstrous and different’

      But Mr Simpson and Mr Bateman have some things in common. They both seem to absorb or deflect any form of ‘critique’ from behind, no matter how sneaky their interpreters are.

  4. I don’t know who Patrick Bateman or Mark Simpson are. Or what “Deleuzian” means.

    But I’ve read Bitchy Jones end to end. I found her to be entertaining and thoguht-provoking, and I thoroughly disagreed with her on many, many points. I for one am not sure there IS something wrong with kink. I LOATHED the way she blamed pro-dommes for everything she thought was wrong with kink. And I hated the way she bitched about being expected to fit a stereotype…and then bitched twice as much that submissive men didn’t fit the masculine stereotype she wanted them to. How is that fair?

    Your ruminations on the subject are also thought-provoking. I too have noted the phenomenon of the the male dom whose kink is all about showing off his toy collection. I distrust the idea that one’s play has to be “extreme” to count as “real” kink. I wonder, is it SUCH a problem that kink parties are not filled with beautiful twenty-somethings? As a fat 40 year old who has gained a few scars over the years I sure hope not!

    • I have really re-assessed my views on Bitchy Jones since I wrote this piece. I am a lot more critical now, e.g. of her idea of pro-dommes being the cause of so many problems in kink.

      It’s not a problem at all that kink parties arent filled with beautiful 20 somethings but there is an idea that the ‘scene’ at its most hip and kinky, is.

      You probably are better off not knowing who Patrick Bateman or Mark simpson are. Or what Deleuzian means!

  5. […] able to identify as feminist anymore. Sex is of course universal, and universally complex. My own sexuality and sexual politics have shifted over time. One of the reasons feminism and I parted company, is the […]

  6. […] är såklart något universellt, och komplext. Min egen sexualitet och sexualpolitik har skiftat med tiden. En av anledningarna till att jag och feminismen gick […]

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