The title of this blog could easily be S/M vs. Feminism since there has been so much aggro between the two. I find that ironic since, for me, the very concept of S/M Liberation was inspired by earlier liberation movements. Blacks were followed by women and then gays. Why not s/m people? In this spirit, I invited T Grace Atkinson to speak at a meeting of The Eulenspiegel Society. She is the only speaker to demand an honorarium. Everyone else spoke for free. But for her $15, Atkinson denied any kinship between our movement and feminism. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that a woman who has called sexual intercourse, itself, oppressive should say, “I do not know any feminist worthy of that name who, if forced to choose between freedom and sex, would choose sex. She’d choose freedom every time.” One has to wonder what kind of “freedom” requires renunciation of sex. It does remind me of the Christian insistence that “homosexuals” refrain from sexual gratification if they can only enjoy gay sex.
That was my first brush with anti-s/m feminism but it was to be far from my last. In California, I came out as a lesbian and hooked up with the s/m liberation groups that existed at that time, The Society of Janus, and Cardea. The former was for all s/m affectionados while the latter was for women only. Out of Cardea, SAMOIS was born, the world’s first lesbian-feminist s/m liberation group. I joined Samois and soon found how much hostility we attracted from the women who’s self-designated mission in life was to liberate women. Of particular notice was WAVPAM (Women Against Violence in Pornography and the Media). Despite their title, this organization was against all pornography, not just the violent kind. By starting Samois, we had thrown down a gauntlet of sorts. We were invading the very stronghold of what these women considered the Woman’s Movement.
Groups like WAVPAM contended that s/m was the quintessence of male-female relationships in this oppressive, male-supremacist society. We were the very thing they were sworn to defeat. How could women even think of being part of it? At one of their conferences which we invaded, we heard ourselves declared “mentally ill.” The irony was palpable considering lesbians had recently been described as “mentally ill” and only rehabilitated by fervent activism. Why couldn’t they see we were following in their footsteps?
Pat Califia and Gayle Rubin are both published writers who have had an impact on the public’s awareness that there really is a lesbian s/m existence. Samois collectively published Coming to Power, a collection of writings of members, and What Color is Your Handkerchief. Gayle Rubin wrote, Deviations and Traffic as well as essays. Pat Califia has written more books than I can list, both fiction and non-fiction. My favorite is Doc and Fluff.
The more it changes, the more it stays the same. A fan of the Twilight trilogy wrote some fan-fiction with an s/m slant. Her books are also a trilogy called Fifty Shades of Grey. The first two of these have been made into movies and given the full Hollywood treatment. Oddly, the s/m community hasn’t taken kindly to this work. I think that is snobbish of them, maybe old-timers looking down on the newbies. But this work has also drawn down the hostility of the modern political crowd. I just found a blog that has given a lot of attention to the “fact” that “This book should come with a warning label, dangerous, toxic, for your health, do not leave in reach of children—EVER.” Ah, the children! Someone once said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. But protection of children is at least as popular with those who would control other people’s personal choices. From the fundies who want to outlaw abortion to “save innocent lives” to censors of adult entertainment, these people seem to believe they have a vested interest, even an ownership of children that gives them the right to play tyrant.
When I was a lot younger, s/m was considered something perverted, indecent and shameful. One couldn’t find anything that catered to it except in the sleaziest parts of town. Since then, it has come out of the closet and is now respectable enough to be discussed and featured in mainstream as naughty but titillating. At least that’s how the mainstream now views it. But the hard-core politicos, true to their puritanical nature, still find it heinous. They confuse s/m with domestic violence and other forms of unconsensual violence. A friend of mine once quipped that Leftists tend to be prudes and Rightists tend to be perverts. Well, there were enough stories about Hitler. Can’t we have the perversion without the fascism?
- Against Sadomasochism, A Radical Feminist Analysis
- Is Anti-Sex a Step Backwards for Women’s Rights? by Jerry Barnett
- Women Against Violence in Pornography and the Media.
- Feminist sex wars. Wikipedia
- Thinking Sex: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality by Gayle Rubin.
- Books by Pat Califia.
- Fifty Shades of Abuse blogspot
- Fifty Shades of Abuse: E.L. James “GREY” Sexually perverted filth & gutter trash
- Truth about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Fox News
- National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
- The Traffic in Women. Gayle Rubin manages to be anti-capitalist and pro-s/m at the same time. It can be done.