Thursday, March 15, 2012

those "Circuits of Sexuality"

SM is a practice of the self, a form of community and belonging, an impetus to consumption and lifestyle, and an eroticization of social inequality.
  -- Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality by Margot Weiss 
As I mentioned in a posting earlier today, I've been engrossed lately in thinking about Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality by Margot Weiss.  I'd like to share some of the quotes that were thought provoking, worthy of discussion, or perhaps parallel to my own way of thinking.

For instance on the topic of Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC) my highlight from Weiss' book was this:
Alison Moore argues that "when we invent these sorts of simplistic slogans to differentiate our behavior from nonconsensual violence, what we end up with is often a set of definitions that do not reflect anyone's way of doing SM." She continues: "For me the whole beauty of SM play is that it doesn't always make sense, that it does take us outside our `safety-zone,' that it is frightening; it taps into the purest essence of sex which is ultimately chaotic, chthonic, exhilarating, exuberant, a dizzying abyss, an electrifying scream ... There is no political slogan to describe this."
It's an interesting observation, because ultimately, individuals who had issues with the SSC slogan came up with a slogan of their own, R.A.C.K. (Risk Aware Consensual Kink.)

I've never been much for slogans, political or sexual, they tend to be organizing tools and rallying points rather than truly valid descriptors of anything.  As observed by Alison Moore, there's no simple slogan or acronym that can describe what happens in a dungeon (or bedroom, playroom, etc.) when there is real power exchange.

What happens, for my senses, is simply sexual magic.  But, that's a loaded term too, as it brings up visions of rituals of paganism or Wicca, rather than what I'm trying to describe.  I'm talking about a primal place in our brain that BDSM unlocks, Terra Incognita was it's label on ancient maps, the unknown and un-mapped lands.

It's my thinking that it is sometimes it good thing that there are regions un-mapped.  Even if others know the terrain like the back of their own hand, having a map-less land, even if it's only in our brain, is an essential part of what we know as the human condition.  Our minds only grow when we explore, when we test ourselves, our boundaries, and even our preconceptions.

With all of that in mind, my own caveats and reservations noted for posterity, here are a little more than a "baker's dozen" different tidbits of thought for your own digestion from Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality by Margot Weiss.
The BDSM community is not the sleazy, underground scene portrayed on crime shows and made-for-TV movies; neither is it simply the transgressive zone of sexual emancipation that I expected to find. Rather, it is a formally organized community with very particular social and educational practices.
The terms SM and BDSM are used interchangeably to denote a diverse community that includes aficionados of bondage, domination/ submission, pain or sensation play, power exchange, leathersex, role-playing, and fetishes. The community embraces a wide range of practices, relationship types, and roles, ranging from the more common (for instance, rope bondage or flogging) to the less so (playing with incest themes or playing at being a pony), yet all of these variations fit under the umbrella term BDSM.
BDSM is of relatively recent (and, many suggest, Internet) coinage. It is an amalgamation of three acronyms: B&D (bondage and discipline), D/s (domination/submission), and SM (sadomasochism). The use of SM (sometimes S/M or S&M) as the inclusive term predates BDSM, but BDSM is fast becoming the acronym of choice, especially in the pansexual community-the mixed BDSM community, made up of practitioners of various gender and sexual orientations. Leather, on the other hand, is used most often in gay and, in some cases, lesbian SM communities to describe an SM community that includes leather fetishism and motorcycle clubs.
As the sociologists Thomas Weinberg and G. W. Levi Kamel write, contrary to mainstream perception, "much S & M involves very little pain. Rather, many sadomasochists prefer acts such as verbal humiliation or abuse, cross-dressing, being tied up (bondage), mild spankings where no severe discomfort is involved, and the like. Often, it is the notion of being helpless and subject to the will of another that is sexually titillating ... At the very core of sadomasochism is not pain but the idea of control-dominance and submission"
If you are talking to the press about BDSM, "try to get the reporter to write SM, not S&M-that evokes the old stereotypes and we are trying to get around that. S&M stands for sadism & masochism while SM stands for sadomasochism; inherent in the word is the mutual necessity for both as well as the consent involved."2 In this logic, S&M deemphasizes the relationality of SM power exchange
Theorists after Krafft-Ebing have debated whether sado-masochism ought to be considered a single desire or drive, or separated into two, many practitioners feel that SM brings the S and the M together, eliminating the slash.
How do we read the political effects of such scenes-of selling black bodies at a pretend slave auction in front of an almost exclusively white audience?
BDSM sexuality-indeed, all sexuality-is a social relation, linking subjects (individuals, desires, and embodiments) to socioeconomics (social hierarchies, communities, and relations of inequality). In the technology-driven, purportedly liberated Bay Area, SM practitioners find a community where sex is seen as a skill, an accomplishment, and an array of sometimes-rigid techniques. It is somewhat ironic, then, that for many practitioners as well as social theorists, SM practice is imagined to transgress, or lie outside of, social relations and social norms.
This creates the deep irony of a community organized around explicit codes of conduct and techniques, but whose very rules enable community members to imagine themselves, and their sex, as free from social regulations. By elaborating their own rules and regulations, BDSM communities simultaneously distance themselves from both a purportedly silent, "vanilla" (non-BDSM) sexuality and broader US social relations and regulatory norms.
Some people call BDSM "graduate school sex.
BDSM is a form of social belonging facilitated-even produced-by contemporary US capitalism, especially consumerism and commodity exchange.
Thomas Weinberg's provocative suggestion that a large SM subculture will develop in a society that has an unequal power distribution, that has enough affluence for the development of leisure and recreational activities, and that values imagination and creativity.
Imagining a split between a public, social world of "real" power and a private, individualized world of freely chosen fantasy can bolster the belief that SM scenes with race and gender have nothing at all to do with sexism or racism in the "real world." This refusal obscures the way that SM scenes like the incest scene are cultural performances that work by drawing on shared and meaningful social hierarchies of age, family, race, and gender.
Almost all of the practitioners I spoke with had invested between $1,500 and $3,000 in their toy collections, wardrobes, and, in some cases, play spaces. Commodities like bondage gear, sounds, and vibrators produce community; in this way, SM communities are not oppositional to, but rather complicit with, transformations in capitalism, particularly the consolidation of what is variously called late, flexible, informational, or advanced capitalism.

1 comment:

  1. It is very much magic that occurs when the power exchange is present...and that is completely without much pain in our case. RACK does seem a little more of an explanation to that thing we do (Or in our case did). Since many would find the level of play we (mouse) enjoyed to be not really safe or maybe not sane. LOL

    The labels are more or less to explain it to newbies and outsiders.



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