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Discrimination

(Note: In the text version below, I summarize what I said in the video. It is not a transscript.)

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Have you ever enjoyed a movie that made you cry? Have you ever screamed in a roller-coaster, and then wanted to go there again? Well, people often enjoy things that might not seem very enjoyable. For example, some people enjoy being controlled, humiliated or whipped… but only if it’s done by the right person, in the right way and in the right context. This is often called “BDSM”.

As I’m writing this, my twitterfeed and other newssources has exploded with outrage over a Daily Beast and Jezebel text called “Spanking for Jesus”. This text attacks a subculture called “Christian Domestic Discipline”. However, their primary evidence turned out to be fake. So this subculture may or may not even exist.

BDSM need to be gender neutral, and neutral to religion: Pushing or manipulating someone into doing BDSM very easily become abusive or otherwise destructive, and it is therefore not okay. If you ever feel that you *must* be dominant or submissive because of your gender or religion, there’s a big risk that you will push yourself or others into situations where at least one of you get hurt.

The daily Beast and Jezebel article could have been about this. It wasn’t. It was a load of paraphobia – prejudice and bigotry against sexual minorities, in this case sadomasochists. Sensationalism designed to take people who enjoy getting spanked and make them look crazy.

Both articles put their emphasis on a couple called Chelsea and Clint. Daily Beast attacks them on a personal level, while Jezebel attack a book they have written and self-published online. Both articles are trying to convince the entire world that this couple are evil crazy Christians. However, the book doesn’t support these claims at all.

In spite of being presented by Jezebel as the primary evidence for these two individuals (and by guilt by association, anyone else who might like spanking) being “fucked up”, the book doesn’t even mention gender or religion. It instead puts emphasis on consent, that you shouldn’t get into any of that kind of stuff unless you really want to.

After following the link from Jezebel, I have now read much of the book. Skimmed the rest, and searched for a lot of keywords. As far as I can tell, the book is equally useful for gay couples as for straight couples. It is equally useful for heterosexual couples who want the woman to have the dominant role as it is for couples who want the man to have that role. And it is equally useful for atheists as it is for Christians. There is nothing in that book that suggests that a christian woman ought to be submissive, or any oppressive bullshit like that. And I didn’t see anything like that on their site either.

Are Chelsea and Clint even Christians? I don’t know, I don’t care. It should be okay for Christian couples to enjoy domination dynamics, if they are into that sort of thing. What should NOT be okay is to pressure or manipulate anyone to participate. It is not okay to send the message that men and women SHOULD be dominant and submissive, respectively. These articles attack Chelsea and Clint without any evidence that they have spread any such message – on the contrary, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

What Chelsea and Clint are talking about is “Domestic Discipline”. Not “Christian Domestic Discipline”. Jezebel points to a yahoo group that looks rather creepy, at least the way Jezebel present it – it should however be noted that the most damaging part of the presentation is not part of the actual quote, but instead added by Jezebel. And that they don’t even claim that Chelsea and Clint are members: They merely imply this by context.

The Domestic Discipline Chelsea and Clint present in their book seem to be what most people would call a specific form of BDSM. They claim that it is not BDSM, and that is true in the sense that it is not those other things that ALSO are BDSM. Domestic Discipline is about domination dynamics in long-term relationships. Not about games in the bedroom or about playing around with strangers. They seem to think that the concept of BDSM is limited to such games. Which in some local subcultures may very well be the case, although it’s not true in general.

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Hi there. Today I’m going to talk about an important and long overdue issue. A social institution that is outdated, archaic, and barbaric. I’m talking about “conscription”, also known as “the draft”. The very idea that if you belong to a country, then your life and death belongs to whatever ruler that country might have at the moment.

If “Der Fuhrer” says that it is your “duty” to massacre “der untermench”, then it “is” your duty to massacre whatever people this leader consider to be inferior. No, I’m not exaggerating here. Conscription is not about defending democracy. It is about defending the nation, which means to defend whatever ruler the nation may have at the moment.

I’m not just invoking Godwin’s Law here: I think that the nazi reich is a very good example. Indeed, all those people who fought for Hitler and his Reich in the second world war… they were never really forgiven by history. They were considered evil. However, the people who refused to fight for Hitler wasn’t forgiven either. They were condemned for dodging the draft, condemned for refusing to do their duty to Germany as a country.

Of course, this is not entirely true. They were eventually forgiven. Officially. They got this huge official recognition that yes, it was okay to refuse to fight for Hitler. Except that almost all of them were already dead when they got this recognition. This happened in 2009. How many of them do you think were still alive?

The basic system is still in place in many places in the world. And this is not okay. Conscription need to die.

It is outdated. Warfare doesn’t work that way anymore. First of all, we don’t have mass armies like we had in the world wars. And second, war shouldn’t be about defending nations and their national interests. It should be about defending people, defending democracy. Most wars in the last fifty years have been internal wars, inside countries,civil wars. And that’s probably the way it’s going to continue. I mean, “going around invading willy-nilly”… those who do that these days at least pretend thatthey have the lokal population’s best interests at hearts.

Colonialism is dead, and rightly so. At least it has to masquerade itself if it’s going to have any chance to get accepted. So, conscription is outdated. And it is barbaric to declare that you have a right to decide that another person will die, and worse yet decide that you have a right to force another person to kill people. That is not okay by any modern standard. This old barbaric system really need to die.

There’s also a gender aspect to this. Pretty much all countries that have conscription in one form or another have it against men only. In contemporary society, I think this is a huge insult to men as a gender, and a huge oppression to men as a gender.

It wasn’t always like that, because conscription was a part of a larger package. Where men, yes, were supposed to die and kill… but this was considered cool. It was considered heroic. These men got a lot of status for this. And they were given some little power, especially over women, as their consolation prize. The patriarchs got to rule the world, and the little man got to rule over his little woman. In his own private little kingdom of family. But these structures are dying, and the men aren’t really getting anything back. And they shouldn’t. These old systems are pretty much worthless. And…

When you argue against conscription, take a moment to think.
What are you really arguing?
Are you in favor of human rights for all?
Or, are you in favor of equality for the sake of equality?
Or, are you for a return to the old barbaric system with hegemonic masculinity, where men are supposed to be killers and die and get all sorts of credit for that?

I’m arguing for universal human rights. And I’m arguing against all forms of conscription.
When it comes to equality, yes, in that particular sense it would be a solution to make the draft gender neutral. And yes, this would solve one of the problems with conscription. But it wouldn’t solve the main problem.

In the current form, conscription tells humanity that men as a gender deserve to die and they are expected to kill. Making the draft gender neutral would only be to say that humans, regardless of gender, deserve to die and are expected to kill whenever given order.

…And this whole thing with “only following orders”! Before 1945, this was a matter of honor and loyalty. But after 1945, the phrase “I was only following orders”: it’s not cool anymore, is it? And it shouldn’t be. So, drop the draft. Go for universal human rights, and don’t try to turn the clock back. Don’t go for any of that archaic bullshit: The old male gender role should die entirely. And it is dying, there’s only a few little remnants of it left. And those remnants need to be swept away.

We need to consider all human beings as human beings, period. Categorization into gender and race and so on need to be minimized. There are a few situations where we need to consider gender or race or whatever. When it comes to race, we have the very simple example of how much sunscren you are supposed to have when you go out in the open. But to divide people by race or gender when it comes to human rights… fuck that shit. Equal rights for everybody.

You can oppose conscription for the sake of humans as such. Or you can oppose it for the sake of men. If you are a man, and want to stand up for men, if you want to stand up for your own gender and be against conscription for that reason… That’s great. Go ahead. But keep your priorities straight. Say to yourself and others: “I have a right to decide whether or not I will risk my life, and for what I will risk my life. And I have a right to decide whether or not I’m going to kill other people, and for what I’m going to kill other people.”

This is a really basic thing to say. And of course, it doesn’t actually give you any right to kill anybody else. Bur the right to not kill other people, we can surely agree upon. Then in what cases it’s okay to actually kill other people… Whether or not it’s actually okay to follow orders and kill people… That’s an entirely different subject. Personally, I do think that there are legitimate police forces and military forces. And it’s okay to choose to be part of such a struggle for democracy and peace and upholding the peace in that sense of the word peace. And so on, but that’s another discussion.

If you want to stand up for men like this: Please, make it about that as a man, as a human being, you have these rights. The rights to choose whether or not and for what to get into an armed struggle. That you have a right to not be drafted into whatever the rulers think is a good idea at the time. And as such, you need to target the institutions that uphold this injustice. Target the government, target those organizations or whatever that are in favor of conscription. Don’t go around with any bullshit, targeting for example feminism over this. Because that is so much bullshit.

I mean, if your goal is to return to the bad old days, if you want men to be slaves to kill and be killed for the kyriarchy or whatever… and want them to get something in return for that… then it’s reasonable to target feminism over that. Because feminism is pretty much eroding away this whole idea about “the male warrior, blah blah blah”.

Make sure that you know what you are fighting for, and why. And do fight for universal human rights, not hegemonic masculinity.

That’s all I have to say for now.
Live long and prosper.

In 2009, I was asked to write a series of articles at the blog More Inches. This series is about the argument made my radical feminist Melissa Farley as she condemns the sexual minority often referred to as sadomasochists or BDSM:ers. As I now republish this series on my own blog, I keep the division into three parts. These are Totalitarian Categorism in Radical Feminism, The Strawman Sadomasochist and Sadomasochism versus Radical Feminist dogma.

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If Farley had openly accused sadomasochists of not conforming to the dogmas of her particular brand of radical feminism, then she had been correct. But this is not what she is doing. Instead, she’s exploiting mainstream society’s contempt for BDSM in an attempt to establish her very special discourse as if it was a objective reality or consensus viewpoint. She’s establishing a world view where society itself is “sadomasochistic” and where her own brand of radicalism is the ONLY valid resistance against mainstream society. Lets take a look at the remaining four points.

2. Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.

Good relationships, sadomasochistic and vanilla (conventional/mainstream) alike, are based on love and trust. Of course, there are also bad relationships. There are also sexual relations that are based on mutual lust rather then love. Such a relationship can still be mutual and non-abusive if it contains enough trust and respect.

Farley’s examples are not even examples, merely shallow propaganda. David Koresh was a destructive religious cult leader, not a sadomasochist. Of course HIS kind of dominance was bad – and so was his heterosexuality and masculinity. If he is being to be used as an example of sadomasochism being bad on a general level, then he can just as well be used as an example of heterosexuality being bad on a general level, or of men being bad on a general level. Then again, there are radical feminists who would agree with that kind of argument.

Farley also uses some sexual fantasies as examples. And indeed, these particular fantasies certainly do not seem loving. Then again, they are fantasies. The love and trust is not about the fantasies themselves, but about how they are handled. Also, there are a lot of sadomasochistic fantasies that are very much about love, and many heterosexual and homosexual fantasies that have nothing to do with love.

4. Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”

Regardless of her sexuality, a victim of abuse is a victim period, not a masochist. She may or may not ALSO be a masochist, but this is entirely beside the point. By the definitions that sadomasochists typically use, abuse (sadistic or otherwise) is not sadomasochistic. The word sadomasochism include the word masochism, and this word implies that the person on the receiving end is there as a masochist, not as a victim.

Thus, BDSM and sadomasochistic sex can never be abusive, but only in the same way as vanilla lovemaking can never be abusive: If it turns abusive, then it is no longer lovemaking.

Of course, there are many sexual relations – vanilla and BDSM alike – that have started out consensual, but later turned abusive. This is a real problem, but it doesn’t men that all sadists (in the BDSM sense of the word) are abusers, and it does not mean that all heterosexual men are abusers either.

Furthermore, there are people who have died from vanilla lovemaking, so of course there are also people who have died from consensual BDSM play. Heart attacks are a common cause in both cases, but when it comes to advanced forms of BDSM there is also the issue of people being inexperienced and lacking proper safety education. Just as with mainstream sexuality, porn is NOT a good teacher for how to do it in real life. Even in its advanced forms, BDSM can be LESS dangerous then vanilla sex – but only if people know what they are doing.

Deeper in her argument, Farley practically claims that it is impossible to consent to BDSM – that the masochist is a brainwashed victim who does not know what she really want or an addict unable to say no. While a convenient excuse to disqualify the experiences of women who don’t share Farley’s dogma, it is simply not true for masochists in general, regardless of gender. (Farley’s argument seem to assume that the submissive is always female and the dominant is always male.) Of course there are individual masochists and victims of manipulative sadists who fit this stereotype, just like there are destructive vanilla relationships that contain addiction or cultlike tendencies.

6. Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”

Mainstream society is most definitely not sadomasochistic in any definition of “sadomasochism” that EITHER the sadomasochists themselves OR the mainstream society would agree with. Farley is taking theoretical constructs of radical feminism for objective reality here.

10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

Seen from a non-totalitarian perspective, this statement contains an obvious truth. Although sadomasochism, just like homosexuality, is becoming more and more accepted, it is still far from mainstream.

To deny this, one must reduce reality to two groups. On one side, the one and only true resistance (in this case radical feminists) and on the other side the evil conspiracy and all its minions, including all resistances that do not conform to the orthodoxy of the one and only true resistance.

Of course, this only covers the matter of dissent. Far from all dissent is constructive, progressive or transgressive in any good sense of any such word. If one can reasonably consider BDSM and sadomasochism to be good things depends on your point of view.

In BDSM, dominance and submission is optional and not based on gender. One can be dominant, submissive, both or neither, regardless of whether one is a man, woman, intersexual or a gender-undefined queer-person. Being a dominant doesn’t give you any right to dominate someone who doesn’t want to be dominated by you or in a way that he doesn’t want to be dominated. Being a submissive gives you a right to chose who to submit to, when, how and to what extent.

From a queer-feminist perspective, this is very liberating and a useful tool in the struggle for freedom and diversity. From most other feminist perspective, it is neutral: Neither a good thing and a help, nor a bad thing and a threat.

From a totalitarian conservative or radical feminist perspective however, it is inherently evil. It is, by definition, a lie – Or at least a contradiction in terms. One core belief shared by patriarchal conservatism and radical feminism is that men are, by definition, dominant/oppressive, while women are, again by definition, submissive/oppressed. While the conservatives consider it good and the radical feminists consider it evil, both sides agree that That’s Just The Way It Is. Thus, the dominant women and submissive men of BDSM must be explained away for their worldview to remain intact. And an all-out attack is always the easiest defense.

In 2009, I was asked to write a series of articles at the blog More Inches. This series is about the argument made my radical feminist Melissa Farley as she condemns the sexual minority often referred to as sadomasochists or BDSM:ers. As I now republish this series on my own blog, I keep the division into three parts. These are Totalitarian Categorism in Radical Feminism, The Strawman Sadomasochist and Sadomasochism versus Radical Feminist dogma.

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To some extent, all ten points listed in part one are to some extent a “Strawman Political” version of sadomasochists. In this part I will focus on six points where this “Strawman sadomasochist” is the main problem, while the next part will instead deal with the four points where the main problem is radical feminist dogmatism.

1. Pain is pleasure; humiliation is enjoyable; bondage is liberation.

For some people, the RIGHT kind of pain in the right degree and context can indeed be enjoyable. Same thing goes for humiliation and for being tied up with ropes – which is what the word “bondage” refers to in a BDSM context. (BDSM stands for sadomasochistic sexual practices: Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism.)

During my decades of experience with the BDSM scene, I have *never* encountered a person who claims that all pain is enjoyable. However, I have often encountered this stereotype among people who are prejudiced against sadomasochists and their BDSM practices.

It is also worth noticing that this first point of Farley’s is homage to the novel 1984 and the propaganda of the evil regime in that novel: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” The problem here is not the homage itself, but that she attributes it to the sadomasochists. The strawman sadomasochist she is “exposing” have more in common with the villains of children’s comic books, standing on mountaintops shouting “Muahaha, I’m EVIL!” to the raging thunderstorm, then it has in common with actual people. I assume that Farley has made up the ten points herself, incorrectly presenting her prejudice against sadomasochists as if it was the actual opinions of actual sadomasochists. If the list actually do come from someone who claim to be a sadomasochist, and Farley has not twisted the words or ripped them out of context, then Farley has indeed been extremely lucky with finding a source that is easy to mock.

3. Sadomasochism is not racist and anti Semitic even though we “act” like slave owners and enslaved Africans, Nazis and persecuted Jews.

Most sadomasochists do NOT play such games, and the small minority that do play them have them as role-playing games, not as expressions of actual opinions. If someone wears a Soviet uniform to one masquerade or fetish party, a Nazi uniform to the next and a American army uniform to the third, it means that she thinks the uniforms look cool – not that she have militaristic opinions but are confused about her loyalties. Furthermore, uniforms worn at parties are almost always officer uniforms. Someone who truly respects a certain army is unlikely to pretend to have officer status in it without having earned the rank for real.

5. Sadomasochism is only about sex. It doesn’t extend into the rest of the relationship.

The implied message here is much different from the literal message. When sadomasochists talk about limiting their BDSM to scenes or having it as a part of everyday life, they are talking about consensual expressions on the terms of everyone involved.

However, Farley implies that sadomasochism is inherently abusive: That an extension into the rest of the relationship would automatically be an abusive extension.

While manipulative individuals can certainly use “BDSM” as their excuse to be a jerk, this is no better then the “because I’m a man”/”because I’m a woman” excuse, and it does not say anything about BDSM as such.

Furthermore, the dichotomy is false. It is not either “only about sex” or “extends into the relationship”. Instead, it is either “limited to sessions” or “extends into the relationship”. The “limited to sessions” variant doesn’t have to be all about sex, it can also be an expression of affection, love, or similar.

7. Lesbians “into sadomasochism” are feminists, devoted to women, and a women-only lesbian community. Lesbian pornography is “by women, for women.”

This statement is often true, assuming that one defines lesbian as a woman who is only attracted to women. However, many radical feminists have quite different definitions of lesbianism, so that they include heterosexual women who chose celibacy for moral/political reasons and only share their lives with each other, but exclude many actual lesbians on the ground of not being radical feminists.

Farley argues that certain individual sadomasochists are bisexual rather then homosexual, and this might very well be true. However, there are also female sadomasochists who are exclusively attracted to women.

8. Since lesbians are superior to men, we can “play” with sadomasochism in a liberating way that heterosexuals can not.

Does this argument even exist at all, or is it squarely Farley’s own construct?
The opinion that lesbians are superior to heterosexuals is sometimes attributed to (and in some cases expressed by) radical feminists, but this is the only time I have ever seen this opinion attributed to sadomasochists.

Some feminist sadomasochists do worry about that heterosexual sadomasochistic couples with male dominant and female submissive might reinforce misogynous gender roles. This worry is often not extended to same-sex couples and heterosexual couples with female dominant and male submissive. However this is about cultural/structural pressure, and has nothing to do with superiority.

9. Reenacting abuse heals abuse. Sadomasochism heals emotional wounds from childhood sexual assault.

Again with the generalization, that “sadomasochism” must be either salvation for all or damnation for all. In reality, to most people, it is neither.

Among sadomasochists, a huge majority have NOT been victims of childhood sexual abuse. Thus, in most cases, sadomasochism has potential neither for opening old wounds nor for healing them.

As for the minority who DO have traumas, well: If a certain individual have a certain trauma, then that’s one more thing to be careful about. Sadomasochism can be used in destructive/selfdestructive ways, and that needs to be avoided. However, that doesn’t mean that if a person have some bad memories then that person is automatically selfdestructive or unreliable.

Does Farley’s strawman sadomasochist, who believes that reliving sexual abuse is always a good idea, exist at all? Probably not, and hopefully not. Surely sadomasochists in general can agree that reliving abuse is not for everyone. But let us rephrase into something more nuanced.

“Reenacting abuse in a controlled setting can sometimes help healing the wounds abuse, if done in a non-destructive way where the ‘victim’ doesn’t actually have to take more then she’s comfortable with. Such sadomasochistic play can sometimes heal emotional wounds from sexual assault if done right AND the persons involved are right for it.”

On this issue, there are at least two sides. On one side, those who agree. This side can point out that using heights, spiders et cetera in controlled settings has proven very effective for curing acrophobia, arachnophobia and similar phobias. On the other side, those who believe that such treatment should be left in the hands of neutral trained professionals. Not attempted by friends, much less lovers, and especially not in a sexualized setting.

Even in its more nuanced forms, the idea of using BDSM as a way to heal old wounds remain a controversial issue within the BDSM subculture.

In conclusion, what Farley’s article really shows is that sadomasochists are subjected to prejudice and misrepresentation. The article is one good example, among many.

In 2009, I was asked to write a series of articles at the blog More Inches. This series is about the argument made my radical feminist Melissa Farley as she condemns the sexual minority often referred to as sadomasochists or BDSM:ers. As I now republish this series on my own blog, I keep the division into three parts. These are Totalitarian Categorism in Radical Feminism, The Strawman Sadomasochist and Sadomasochism versus Radical Feminist dogma.

***

It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this metaphor is very true for totalitarian branches of radical feminism. Tough everyone divides things and people into categories, it is all too easy to make the categories into prisons instead of tools. This is the point at which categorization turns into what I call categorism: When categorization by skin color or ethnicity turns into racism, where categorization by gender turns into sexism or transphobia, where categorization by sexual orientations turns into homophobia, heterophobia or paraphobia.

Feminism focuses on the categorization of people into men and women, and on the oppression of the second category. At best, this focus is liberating by fighting oppression and by making oppression visible. At worst, however, feminism can be misused to lock people into narrow categories of what it means to have a certain gender or sexuality. And thus, certain branches of radical feminism are infamous for prejudice against gender identity minorities (notably transsexuals, for example with Raymond’s book The Transsexual Empire) and against all sexualities that do not fit their narrow normative orthodoxy.

Such orthodoxy can be relatively harmless when it is very far from what the mainstream believes. If a debater claims in the name of feminism that all heterosexual women are brainwashed victims of male rapists, then the debater is unlikely to accomplish anything other then giving antifeminists an opportunity to ridicule feminism as such. But if the same debater instead claims that all masochists are brainwashed victims of sadistic rapists, then the debater has a chance to cause real harm to real masochists since this sexual minority is already viewed with mistrust and prejudice by many in the mainstream.

One good example is Farley’s “The Ten Lies of Sadomasochism”. In this text, the author makes the claim that there are ten claims that sadomasochists usually make about themselves. She also claims that these ten statements are lies, and that she has successfully exposed them as such.

Three things are wrong about this statement. First of all, her list is highly questionable. Some claims are twisted into generalizations, others are outright outrageous. It is obvious that it is the list of a radical feminist who want to portray sadomasochism in a bad light, not a list that the sadomasochist subculture would agree on. Thus, her whole argument is based on a “Strawman Political”. (See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawmanPolitical )

Second, not only does she use heavily ideological definitions of what certain words mean, but she also pretends that sadomasochists agree with her definitions of these words.

Third, she generalizes in ways that very consistently imply the word “all” without using the word itself. She talks about how all sadomasochists are, without ever using the word “all”, taking for granted that all sadomasochists form one coherent group. This kind of generalization is a hallmark of categorism.

The ten so-called lies are:

1. Pain is pleasure; humiliation is enjoyable; bondage is liberation.
2. Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.
3. Sadomasochism is not racist and anti Semitic even though we “act” like slave owners and enslaved Africans, Nazis and persecuted Jews.
4. Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”
5. Sadomasochism is only about sex. It doesn’t extend into the rest of the relationship.
6. Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”
7. Lesbians “into sadomasochism” are feminists, devoted to women, and a women-only lesbian community. Lesbian pornography is “by women, for women.”
8. Since lesbians are superior to men, we can “play” with sadomasochism in a liberating way that heterosexuals can not.
9. Reenacting abuse heals abuse. Sadomasochism heals emotional wounds from childhood sexual assault.
10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

In the next two parts we will take a closer look at each of these claims. I have divided this into two chapters: The Strawman Sadomasochist and Sadomasochism Versus Radical Feminist Dogma.

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Hi there. Different countries has different cultures. But what does that really mean? Well, from a Human Rights perspective, each country belong to the citizens of that country. And each culture belong to the members of that culture. It is not the other way around!

People are not property. They do not belong to their families or religions or nation-states or cultures or whatever. They don’t belong to them in that sense.

Lets say that a person wants to consider himself private property of his lover or his religion or his culture or whatever. Of course we should respect that. He is free to consider himself that way, now and for as long as he wants to. But when and if he want to change the nature of his relationship, or end it, he has that right too. We have no right to lock him into some kind of bondage. Freedom is absolute.

How we view culture can be categorized in several different ways. The perhaps most common distinction is between universalism and relativism. I’m not so fond of this distinction: In my experience, most views on culture have universialist AND relativist elements to them. So I’m going to make another distinction here. One between what I call Cultural Skepticism, Cultural Apologism, and Cultural Chauvinism.

Like all other categorizations, this is of course an oversimplification. And you can’t always squeeze a persons views on culture into one of these three categories. But I still think that the distinction is useful.

Cultural Skepticism
is the idea that we are all human and we all have culture. Our humanity is universal, and our cultures are relative. Being human is something we are, while having culture is something that we have. We don’t need to be slaves to our cultures, and we can’t expect anyone else to be slaves to any culture either. “They” don’t belong to their cultural history or whatever any more than “we” do. And this distinction into “us” and “them” is pure fiction anyway. We may categorize the world that way, bu it doesn’t really work that way. All human beings are real, an their levels of independence from each other is quite variable.

Cultures are fluid. They are always changing and being renegotiated, no matter how eternal and unchanging they may pretend to be. We need to be careful with cultures. We need to think carefully about what elements of them we embrace or accept or distance ourselves from.

This is true for all humans. And it’s true for all cultures: The cultures that each of us grow up in, come in contact with later, or only see from a distance. Cultures are not monoliths. They are complex, and with the various parts of the cultures we need to think about on who’s terms this is being defined. And at who’s expense.

There’s a lot of great things in cultures, but there’s a lot of really problematic stuff as well. And we need to help each other to improve our cultures. To get rid of the destructive stuff, and to improve the good stuff. Over to…

Cultural apologism an cultural chauvinism
These two are quite similar to each other, if you view them from the point of view that I have just described. Both of them treat cultures as if they were monolithic wholes. People get divided into different kinds of creatures. “The Muslim” or “The Arab” or “The Hindu” or “The Asian” or whatever is sen as something entirely different from “The Westerner” or just “us”. We don’t reall like to think of “us” and “them”, we like to think of “normal people” and “those other people” who are not us, but we don’t want to call “us” “us” because then it’s so obvious that the division is into us and them. Lots of 1984 bullshit going on there.

So, anyway, the basic idea with cultural apologism and cultural chauvinism is that we divide people into us and them, where them are not like us – and they don’t have rights like us! Not like human beings who are allowed to be individuals with their own personal needs and viewpoints and desires and so on. They are treated as being property of some culture or subculture or religion or whatever. We would never accept that one of us get treated like that. White people are individuals. Of course we are! But so are people who aren’t white… and we should accept that. We should see that. We should see our fellow human beings as the fellow human beings they are, not as some part of some borg collective of some kind.

The difference between apologism and chauvinism is that the first consider itself to be open-minded and tolerant and all those kinds of nice things, while the chauvinists are more open with the division into us and them- and want to protect “us” from “them”.

For example, both the apologist and the chauvinist may say that it is in “The Muslims” nature (or culture or whatever euphemism they want to use at the moment) to beat “his” women and bash gay people. Maybe even murder them. And of course bash or murder atheists.

By taking such a position, the apologists and chauvinists deny Muslim women, gay Muslims, secular Muslims and ex-Muslims not only their rights to life, dignity and liberty, but also their equal right to their own Islamic cultural heritage. They have at least as much right to that heritage s the people who oppress them in the name of Islam. However, the apologists and the chauvinists will go about it a little bit differently from each other. It’s in the fine print.

The apologist will “respect Muslims”, or rather “respect Islam”, by respecting oppression against women, gay people secularists et cetera in the name of Islam. They will accept this, as long as the victims are not white. Oh, excuse me. Of course I meant, “as long as the victims are not persons who have an Muslim cultural background”. Of course, that’s pretty much the same thing in many cases, but that’s very convenient for what’s actually racism… but a rather polite racism.

This politeness may seem nice. But how reasonable is it? If we accept the premise, if we accept that certain people have a right to be beaten, to be raped or to be murdered. Or that certain people have a right to commit such crimes. Why would we respect those certain people? Why would we want them to be citizens in our country? Why would we want to have anything to do with them at all?

Well, that is the conclusion that the chauvinists are ending up with. And they are on the rise now. Racism… I don’t think it ever really left Europe. It seems to be on the rise now, with right-wing fascists getting into parliaments here and there. That is really awful. But they are simply answering the questions that people have been asking.

We have been asking the wrong questions. We have had this culture of culture apologism, where we reserve human rights and dignity and individuality and so on to white people and Europeans and western people, whatever you want to call it. Christians, secular post-Christians, whatever you want to use as your excuse.

Racism went underground for a while, took this polite little form where it was supposedly respectful. And now it’s throwing of that facade, and rearing its ugly head more openly again. This apologism and this chauvinism, they are so much the same thing in many ways. But yes, there are big practical political differences between them.

For starters, chauvinists want to close the borders and throw people out of the country. Apologists and the skeptics do not. There’s also a big difference in who and what you can criticize, while still sticking to one of these three view-points.

As a cultural skeptic, you cannot treat a culture as a monolith. You can neither accept nor condemn any culture as a whole. Including your own culture. You can accept good things in a culture, embrace them too. And you can condemn bad things. You should keep looking and analyzing and thinking about things. However, you can’t use that very simple and convenient method of simply comparing another culture to your own and decide that the other culture is better the more like your own culture it is and worse the less like your own culture it is. You have to try to be, well, not objective, I don’t think that’s possible, but AS objective as possible. You have to look into how things actually affect people. Look to science and people’s experiences. Not just to stereotypes, norms about how things are supposed to be. Or some shit like that.

It’s a bit hard, but it’s well worth it. If we actually want to make this world a better place, we can’t just run around like… whatever.

As a cultural apologist, you cannot criticize anything done in the name of culture or religion. Unless that culture is western culture, or the religion is a western brand of Christian religion. However, when it comes to all other continents and all other religions, you can criticize anyone who criticize them or what to change them or leave them. Not only western people who criticize bad things in non-western cultures, but you can also criticize anyone who want to change their own situation.

And with criticize, I do mean condemn. Sadly, I have of about several cases of women who have fled from Iran to Sweden and then been accused of so-called “Islamophobia” whenthey criticize the theocratic government of Iran.

By the way, that kind of phenomenon is one of the main reasons why I think that categorism against Muslims should be called antimuslimism, not islamophobia. It must be about protectingthe human rights of people who happens to be Muslims. Not about protectingthe religion of Islam, for example against Muslims who don’t obey the religious authorities.

Anyway. As a cultural apologetic: When a white woman demands freedom from oppression imposed on her in the name of Christianity, you can applaud her. But when a brown woman demands the same right, the same freedom from oppression imposed on her in the name of Christianity or Islam, you can pretty much call her a racial… eh, a CULTURAL traitor. Race-traitor, culture-traitor, whatever.

You can dictate that individual freedom is only for western people, and you can condemn her for “trying to be western”.

As a chauvinist, on the other hand, you can’t use that particular excuse to condemn this woman. You can still condemn her, of course, but you will have to condemn her for not trying enough to be western, not being western enough, not condemning her own heritage, not letting go of her own heritage. Never mind that you cling on to your own cultural heritage and encourage others including her to cling to that particular heritage. Never mind that western history is just as full of oppression and bullshit as all other histories of the world.

Oh, and you can also condemn anyone who isn’t a neo-fascist nationalist. Just remember to update your vocabulary a little bit. You can keep calling white people “race traitor”, just remember to not use the word race. Because these days it’s all about culture. So call it “cultural marxism” instead.

By the way, real cultural marxism is a rather interesting school of study. Not one of my favorites, it’s not something I’m into, but it’s not all that problematic. You have to distinguish between cultural marxism as an actual academic discipline and cultural marxism as a generic slur that doesn’t mean anything beyond “oh, you’re not a nazi so therefore you are a bad person”.

That definition of cultural marxism is total bullshit, but it’s getting rather wide-spread these days.

All in all, I found it darkly amusing how the neo-fascists and other cultural chauvinists refuse to see how much they owe to the cultural apologists. Instead they believe, or pretend to believe, that they are some bold counter-movement against the very activists and academics who paved the way for them by making people believe that “culture” is something that other people have. Something that make them different, something that make them not deserve the same rights that we have, and something that make them not accountable for their actions. In other words, something that make them inferior and worthy of scorn.

We need to solve this problem by abandoning cultural chauvinism and apologetism in favor of cultural skepticism or similar.

One final word. Please understand that the three perspectives I have been talking about are not different kinds of people, but merely different ways of viewing culture. I do think that people with these views mean well, most of the time. The apologists want to safeguard against colonialism, and the chauvinists want to save our civilization from a perceived threat. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Well, that’s all I have to say for today.
Live Long and Prosper

****

Hi there. Sometimes I play an online game. And this is just a little break from whatever I am doing… but it can also turn out to be a fascinating social experiment. This happened to me a little while ago, and it wasn’t intended, it just happened.

In this game you log in and click a button to join a randomized group of people to kill monsters together. Waiting in line can take between one and twenty minutes normally, and clearing this dungeon or instance as it’s called usually take between ten and twenty minutes. It depends.

I play several different characters in this game. Every character has a race, a class, a gender, a level, a name, and a few other factors. The by far most important is the class. One of these characters I play is a human priest. And she got discriminated for a while. What happened was that people started kicking her from groups.

You see, these groups of people consist of five players: Five real human beings. And if some of them are not happy with one of them, then they have the power to kick this person out. And this is a good thing in itself. But it’s supposed to work like if someone is rude to the others, do hate-speech or whatever, or don’t do their share of the work, then that person should get kicked out. I mean, if they don’t do any damage to the monsters, or if they endanger the group by doing stupid stuff or something like that. But my priest got kicked out for no good reason.

First of all, it wasn’t about me. Because my other characters didn’t get kicked out. If it was me that people didn’t like, this would happen to all my characters. But it only happened to the priest. And she did do her part: She didn’t endanger her group by pulling random monsters, and she did do quite a bit of damage to them, so it wasn’t that either. It wasn’t something strange about her name or the way she was dressed, or anything like that. So while it was annoying at first, this also was very interesting to me. I was curious, like, why are these people kicking my character?

As it turned out, my priest was subjected to two different facets of categorism. It was prejudice and normativity. And people did this based on two factors: Her gender and her so-called specialization.

You see, when a priest signs up for joining a group, she can sign up either as one of the damage-dealers, or as the healer who hs the responsibility to keep everybody alive. I signed up as a damage-dealer because I wanted to relax. I didn’t want to have responsibility for other player’s health at the time. And people who are holy or dicipline priests of the light usually signup as healers, while dark shadowpriests sign up as damage-dealers.

Dicipline priests are entirely capable of being damage-dealers. They are not among the best, but they can be quite good. In the last group that kicked me, I was doing 20% of the damage, and a few days later I played as my mage… And the dicipline priest in that group did 30% of the groups total damage. So, yeah, no problem there. But people don’t expect it! And people don’t expect women to do damage. They expect women to take the back seat and just support the others while THEY have fun.

Of course, female players are not usually considered to be female. On the contrary, people assume that a female character is played by a male player. However, it really depends. Because we also have this stereotype that a male player is better than a female player. And this can lead to the really odd situation that if a female character is played in a “good” way… that is, either objectively good or simply conform to people’s expectations, then she is assumed to be played by a male player. But if she plays “badly”, as in actually badly OR in a way that people don’t expect and therefore assume to be bad… then they assume that she is some… “bimbo” or something like that. A real life woman who is bad at playing games.

People get kicked from groups for not doing damage or for pulling the wrong monsters. My character didn’t do that, but she got kicked for it anyway, because of prejudice. People didn’t bother to check the damage meters, they simply assumed that she wasn’t doing any damage – because she was dicipline, and because she was female.

She didn’t pull any wrong monsters, but people assumed that she would do that and kicked her preemptively because they didn’t want a bad player – a bimbo – in their group. Here we have the prejudice. We also had normativity, a matter of how things are “supposed to be”. According to some people, it is WRONG to be a damage-dealer as dicipline. Not because it doesn’t work, but because “it is not how things are intended to be”.

Blizzard, the company who made World of Warcraft, has not made any rule that you can’t be a damage-dealer as dicipline. On the contrary, it’s their very system that allow you to sign up as either a damage-dealer or a healer. But people have their vision of how the world is supposed to be. This is very much like religious fundamentalism, where people think that everything must be in a certain way – everyone who doesn’t conform to their stereotypes are wrong… because… well… just because! That’s the way things are supposed to be.

It’s much more reasonable to think like that in a computer game than it is in real life. The world of Warcraft IS an intelligently designed world. The world DOES operate in rather simple patterns: And my friend who argued that it’s “insulting” to play as a damage-dealing discipline priest because you could do more damage as shadow, she does have a point.

Lets make a comparison between categorizations in World of Warcraft and categorizations in real life. For example, lets take what kind of priest you are in world of warcraft and what kind of gender you are in real life.

The first difference is that real life is so much more diverse. When people think in stereotypes, they are pretty much wrong. People say that men are stronger than women, for example, this does have a point: The AVERAGE maie-identified person is physically stronger than the average female-identified person. But this is a matter of statistics. Categorical gender differences, that’s quite a problematic issue. On the other hand, different kinds of priests: Well, what bonuses they have and what spells they have, those are very objective.

The other bigger difference, much larger than the first, is that it is so very easy to change who you are in world of warcraft. A few mouseclicks here, a few mouseclicks there, and you are someone completely different. You can switch between different characters, and you can reinvent your current character in many different ways. It’s much less to ask someone to change themselves.

Lets say that gender in real life means a plus 10% bonus to physical strength and endurance. If you could just walk through a portal and change you gender, then I’m sure some people would demand that if you are going to work as a firefighter or whatever then you much switch gender to male to get that extra 10% bonus. I don’t think I would agree with that demand, but I could understand it. It would be quite different from making the rather common demand that only men should be allowed to be firefighters or whatever.

In the case of my priest in the game, the solution was rather simple. I could keep playing the way I liked: As a damage-dealing discipline priest. I simply added a little welcoming message that I clicked every time I joined a group. Explaining that my damage might make some healing as a side effect, and that I mention this simply so that it won’t confuse anyone. This was a polite way of saying that if you think I don’t do enough damage, check the damage meter instead of assuming things.

It worked quite fine. As long as I didn’t bring up the subject again, people would just shut up and go about their business. If I did bring it up, it could become quite heated arguments sometimes, with people being angry with me for playing the role I did. Not for how I played it, but that I played it at all. Quite interesting.

The thing became so much more interesting and so much less annoying because of the circumstances I have explained. This is scientific experiment circumstances really, where we have cut away all other factors – and on top of everything made randomized groups. Really good way of exploring prejudice and normativity.

But there’s another side of that coin. The reason this wasn’t such a problem for me was because of these factors. It was so random, and I could compare with my other characters, so I didn’t have to take anything personally – and I could just relog whenever I got bored with the situation.

Now, think of a person in real life. When people have prejudice or normativity againt women, or people of color, or gay people, or whatever, we have the same situation. That we meet random people all the time in real life. When ONE person slam a door in your face or give you a dirty look, that’s not even discrimination, that’s just one person bring rude. But when it happens over and over and over because some prejudices are shared within the society, it becomes a problem. A huge problem. Imagine having that problem every single facking day.

If you don’t have that problem, you can use this as a though experiment to think about how it feels. And if you have that problem by one categorization, you need to understand that this is not about your particular categorization. It’s about people having prejudice or normativity based on one categorization – and it’s the same thing when it happens to people from another category.

I mentioned specifically three categories: Women, people of color and gay people. So, what about men, heterosexuals and white people? Well, in western society in m opinion, we have much less prejudice against these categories. They are normative in themselves. Yes, it does happen that people get treated specially in a bad way because of one of thee three categories. Bu it doesn’t happen all the time, like it happens to the three categories I mentioned first.

I’m talking about western culture here. When I lived in Indonesia, I was always seen as somethig peculiar and exotic and all that kind of stuff because I was white. That was an interesting experience. And it wasn’t a problem for me, for two reasons. One was that it wasn’t a category that people despised so much, it was not that people thought that I was stupid or incompetent because of my skin-color. I was just odd and different and so on.

The other reason, maybe bigger than the first, was that I would go back to Sweden eventually.

Oh yeah, we have a third reason too: I was already adult. It’s much harder growing up being different than coming as an adult to a situation where you are different. This is just an example. Everybody is normative in many situations, and everybody is outsider and odd and different in many situations. But this is something we need to think about, and we humans need to care for each other. Go beyond our prejudices and try to dismantle unnecessary normativity.

We will never be entirely free from normativity or prejudice; our brains need those ways of thinking, the are shortcuts that make things easier. And that’s okay, when it doesn’t happen at people’s expense. But we have to be careful with it.

In the end, I stopped playing my priest. Not because I had to, but because I couldn’t relax playing her. It wasn’t fun, knowing that people would hold it against you if you did any mistakes – hold it against you in ways they wouldn’t do if you played a more mainstream character.

I have that option, that very simple option, of switching to another kind of character. In real life, people don’t have that option. They are who they are. We can’t just click a button to change our gender or sexual orientation or our education history or anything like that. We are who we are, and yes, we do change a bit over time, we do have a bit of influence over how we change, but it’s not like snapping your fingers.

We need to understand that all three layers of reality are real. Physical reality outside of people. Social reality between people. And psychological reality within people. Each of us has our own thoughts and feelings, and these needs to be respected. And we make our own choices. But these choices affect each other beyond what the individual individual do.

Some people seem to think that either individuals exists or social structures exists. But the truth is that we have both. The problems that my priest encountered was individuals making minor individual decisions. But the problem was that these individual decisions were part of a social structure.

I don’t think that it ever happened that the same person kicked my priest out twice. It was different people every time. But this only made it worse. So when we interact with other people, we need to consider ourselves as individuals, and we need to consider the other person as an individual. But we also need to consider the many social structures that we are part of. How our actions become a part of these structures. How they can help or hurt people, in context.

That’s all I have to say for now.
Live long, and prosper.