Ms Whiplash Is Back!

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Blogging, Feminism, Gender Violence, Identity
Tags: , , , , ,

This article in Salon, focusing on rape in the ‘BDSM community’ really got on my nerves. I am going to write a proper post on it but first I thought I’d put it here. If any of you have any observations or thoughts then leave a comment and I can incorporate your ideas into the piece.

On first glance my main issues with the article are:

a) It assumes ‘rape’ is by men of women which demonises men as potential rapists

b) it is heteronormative

c) There are no men’s voices, no quotes from men

d) It is white and middle class – the ‘BDSM community’ does not include everyone who does S and M sex

e) It is all about articulate women lecturing people (men) not having a dialogue.

I return as usual to Mark Simpson and his concept of the feminist as ‘Ms Whiplash’:

‘Masochism’ is one of the inventions of late nineteenth century sexology in the Gothic shape of Baron Dr Richard Von Kraft-Ebing. It was only ever intended to apply to men; women were ‘naturally’ masochistic, so pleasure in pain on their part was not ‘perverse’ and therefore not a problem to be explained or pathologised. This was part of a shift in gender roles in the West in the Nineteenth Century which was concerned with, we are told, institutionalising women’s subjugation. As Phillips points out, ‘Dante’s ordeal in the Inferno to be reunited with Beatrice, to John Donne’s love poetry, sacrificial masculine love has been a crucial theme, only in this century has what for many centuries seemed the natural, desirable form of male love been redefined as effeminate perversity, masochism.’

Phillips believes that this reformulation of male identity that excluded masochism made masculinity ‘blatantly misogynisitc, emotionally inept and homophobic’. She also believes that it was this new masculinity which led in part to the ‘corrective’ of feminism. Ironically, the exclusion of masochism from the male psyche has produced a public scenario of their punishment and chastisement by women which continues today. The feminist is Ms Whiplash.’

For a slightly critical but fascinating take on the feminist as ‘ms whiplash’ check out Jay Generally’s series (6 posts) on The Dominatrix:

  1. Jonathan says:

    Actually I didn’t pick up on any of your issues while reading the piece.

    It didn’t matter to me that there weren’t any men speaking (though it might have been more interesting if there had been), because S/M isn’t necessarily a gendered sexuality; i.e. a dangerous Dom could just as easily be female as male. Having that already in mind, I wasn’t affected by heteronormative concerns either.

    I simply read it from the point of view of submissives whose boundaries were being violated — and that’s a great big no-no. Safety and consent are paramount in S/M. If you can’t rely on that as a sub, then you can’t play.

  2. I agree with your observations.

    Some thoughts I had:
    – At an elementary level, it plays on the social anxieties that some non-practitioners have BDSM contains in that it has no clear boundaries. I think the concerns Mayhem had after she was raped is a general experience many feel, regardless of whether they practice BDSM.
    – Article in-itself doesn’t have a good view of BDSM, referring to ‘players’…what about those that choose BDSM as a sexuality, or daily practice?
    – Stryker talks from a very difference experience, where I don’t doubt she’s had clients that have abused their position of dominance to rape. And, I don’t disagree that this is a possible problem.
    – Stryker’s arguments appear confused. I think her concern is more so that people don’t educate themselves well enough in terms of safewords. Her own under confidence by not having a safeword because she thought it would make her a bad submissive, is a question of education.
    – Places current and future practitioners in an at-risk discourse before they’ve began.

    Also, as of this week, Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a piece in the Washington Post about the CDC’s study on sexual violence in the US. In their report they claimed over 1.3million women were raped in 2010. Sommers questions the methodology of the survey, as well as the liberal feminist ideologies of ‘rape culture’ that have possibly influenced the CDC.

  3. redpesto says:

    a) It assumes ‘rape’ is by men of women which demonises men as potential rapists

    One part of the article is about the violating of safewords, which could lead to (indecent) assault rather than rape, depending on what the alleged perpetrator did.

    b) it is heteronormative

    See (a). I wouldn’t be surprised if the violation of safewords, let alone sexual assault or rape, takes place within same-sex BDSM, but then we’re talking a minority within a minority.

    c) There are no men’s voices, no quotes from men

    Either Clark-Flory didn’t interview any, or the men (wisely?) kept schtum. And if they were men who had been assaulted or raped, they’d face the same problems getting a hearing as both women and – more specifically – men do in the world outside the dungeon/playroom

    d) It is white and middle class – the ‘BDSM community’ does not include everyone who does S and M sex

    This article from Salon suggests that, sadly, the white and middle classness may be all too true, even in San Francisco. In any case, the intersection between race and BDSM is a whole other can of worms.

    e) It is all about articulate women lecturing people (men) not having a dialogue.

    QRG, part of your critique of feminism is based on this very observation.

    Back in the day, there was a lesbian feminist assumption that same-sex (female) BDSM was okay because there were no nasty men involved (as if other differences magically disappeared). There’s been a long-running issue regarding male heterosexual dominants (and submissives) as a ‘problem’. I’m no longer surprised that sexual politics (in all its forms) doesn’t end at the dungeon door.

    PS: Tops aren’t mindreaders, and even they may need to safeword.

    • HI redpesto good points.

      when I say BDSM is presented as white middle class, I know that is what the ‘scene’ is. But S and M sexuality is in my view, universal so there will be lots of people doing it who dont read saloN!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s