The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Sub Editing

Relaxing after a weekend the massiveness of which cannot be over-estimated, I was watching some of the SlutWalk coverage. More specifically, I was watching my Beloved Megan being interviewed on OneNews, and I happened to catch the article after that – a bit of panic-mongering over images in a magazine which, apparently, my children might have seen. OMG, not my children! So, photos of naked women, tied up. Dreadful.

Let me make it clear that I’m not disagreeing with the censor’s decision. They have guidelines and they enforce them. The definition of objectionable material contains the following:

- acts of torture, the infliction of serious physical harm or acts of significant cruelty

- sexual violence or sexual coercion, or violence or coercion in association with sexual conduct

- sexual or physical conduct of a degrading or dehumanising or demeaning nature

- physical conduct in which sexual satisfaction is derived from inflicting or suffering cruelty or pain

I find that last one interesting – it’s bad to portray someone gaining sexual satisfaction from receiving pain. It can only be listed as a separate point from the things already covered because it is considered that the pleasure makes it worse.

No. What upset me about the article were the words of Catherine Delahunty.

 I see very passive young women being tied up like animals, and that actually does send out quite sinister messages.

Yes. I shouted at the television. I may have used the ‘fuck’ word.

Thing is, Catherine, you know what I find demeaning? What you just said. See, I don’t think for a second it occured to you that female subs would hear you say that, and be upset about it. I mean, we’re not real people, right? And our sexual appetites don’t really exist, they’re just invented for the pleasure of men.

Yeah. I was never invented just for the pleasure of men.

I like being tied up. I find it sexual satisfying. There are other things I like more, but I’m pretty sure you’d find those passive and sinister as well. I tell you what I don’t look like, and that’s an animal. (I mean, seriously, wtf? What kind of animal would you be binding like that?) When I’m expressing my sexuality, which yeah, is passive, I’m not less than human. I’m not to be pitied. I’m not an animal.* When I’m bound, I’m proud and I’m strong and I’m beautiful – even when I scream and I weep and I beg. I deserve to have my sexuality portrayed, just like anyone else.

I’m lucky in a way, because I’ve fought the long, sordid, guilty battle of self-acceptance. I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel the way I do, to stop fighting my own desires. I’ve been privileged enough to help others do the same. I’ve written, trying to bring understanding to the Vanilla, but mostly in the hope that other people will feel better about themselves, because I remember what it’s like to loathe my deepest pleasures.

The Doms, male and female, without whom that pleasure wouldn’t be possible? They’ve never hurt me as much as casual, thoughtless degradation of remarks like Catherine’s. And I’m pretty sure she’s not going to stroke me down, undress me and put me to bed and hold me while the singing in my skin dies away.

That my desires are wrong, that I don’t exist – those are the “sinister messages”.

 

*Alright, yes, this is open to dispute.

19 responses to “Sub Editing

  1. tallulahspankhead June 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you.

    It must be nice to live in a world where what you see in a picture is the *default moral truth*. Because I see nothing sinister, except the fact that the girls don’t look like they’re having any fun. (though, I suppose, I have only briefly looked at them.)

    Because when someone ties me up (sigh, it’s been too long) I am never lying there passively. I’m writhing, or struggling, or…whatever. I don’t just lie there.

    And yeah, having my sexuality portratyed as sinister – not new, but not that much fun, either. And I doubt any of the people who have had the pleasure would think it so.

    • Emma June 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      The thing with “they don’t look like they’re having fun” is those obscenity guidelines. If they did, the magazine might have been banned instead of rated R18. And there was one shot in the montage of a woman with her head raised looking challenging, but it was very brief. They would have been cherry-picking what they showed, though.

      • tallulahspankhead June 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

        Wait, so, they can show women being passively tied up, but not enjoying it or fighting against it? Oh, we have much bigger problems than the odd Green MP.

        • Emma June 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

          That’s what

          “physical conduct in which sexual satisfaction is derived from inflicting or suffering cruelty or pain”

          is there for, to make BDSM porn more bannable than other porn. Note “phyiscal conduct”, so it doesn’t have to be actual sex. When I linked to that spreadsheet of banned publications way back at PA, almost all the porn on that list appeared (from the titles) to be BDSM porn.

        • Moz June 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

          Actually, it’s the odd Green MP’s who are likely to challenge this sort of thing. The normal ones, Green or otherwise, are more than likely not bothered by it.

          • Moz June 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

            Bah, no edit option. “the situation” BTW, being the censorship not the pictures. I suspect the RtHonMs Delahunty is being talked to on the issue.

            FWIW, I’m not comfortable with that style of subbing but I deal with it by not exposing myself to it. FFS, if you don’t like it don’t look at it. And yes, I know the whole issue is that people might not expect to see it. So what? I don’t expect people to see realistic explosions of blood during prime viewing time but I’m regularly disappointed.

  2. Hugh June 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Cute title.

    I’ve found the use of the term “subby” or “sub” in the newspaper industry to refer to sub-editors to be quite jarring, in the past.

    And, yes, agree with your post. It’s this kind of thing that puts me off the Greens, 2bh.

    • Emma June 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      The comment thread on that PA column I linked to is full of “subbing” puns.

      I do actually expect better of the Greens in general. More than any other party they’re supportive of my rights as bisexual, so why not as a sub? (Though they still need to put their private members bill where their mouth is on same-sex marriage.)

      • Hugh June 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

        Perhaps it’s just Catherine Delahunty being an idiot rather than the party as a whole but she actually has a fairly long history of sex-negative comments. I attended a debate on feminism and pornography at Victoria in 2009 where she was one of the panelists in the anti-pornography group and she didn’t acquit herself very well, in my view.

  3. tallulahspankhead June 29, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    So…..any porn I might like, basically? Thank fuck for the internet, for a start.

    I was talking to someone last night about this article (t/w for sexual assualt), and saying that while it was fascinating and brave and remarkable, it had me a little worried. Because there’s always that thing that submissive women (and men, I guess) just haven’t adequately recovered from some childhood trauma. That we’re kinky because we are fucked up.

    I don’t like to analyse why I like what I like, mainly because why should I? But I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with anything bad that has happened to me.

    • Moz June 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      A response to that that I quite like is “yes, and I deal with it this way. Should I not be allowed to have sex at all if this is the only way I can get off?”. It doesn’t diminish the pain for the “broken” (cough) people, while also not claiming that every single sub/masochist/whatever is broken.

      I wonder how many of these people can’t handle thinking about BDSM because of some childhood trauma? I know this one affects me, which is one reason I don’t like seeing passive subs – it’s triggering *for me*.

      • tallulahspankhead June 30, 2011 at 1:25 pm

        Well, yes, I _could_. I just resent having to. Why should I have to defend my sexuality?

        • Moz July 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

          You don’t have to. But in my experience a lot of the “but why” questions come from people who are actually trying to fix me, and they won’t give up just because I don’t want to be fixed. So concise answers in a range from “very polite” to “thermonuclear” are handy to have prepared.

          I generally settle for scaring them or alienating them (I’d rather have someone who tries to avoid me than someone who constantly pesters me to change something I don’t want to change. I realise the social sanctions on women who do this are generally more severe). On the other hand, I’m quite transparent and my “gosh you’re an idiot” look is apparently quite discouraging.

          Dragging it back a little:
          I don’t like to analyse why I like what I like, mainly because why should I?

          I find that interesting. I spend a fair bit of time wondering why I like what I like, because I want to know. Often I can’t do anything about what I like, but it’s interesting to know. Some people find it disconcerting that I will try/have tried a lot of quite odd things even though I’m pretty much straightedge vanilla (and people laugh at me when I say that).

          • Emma July 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

            I am the same, analysing why I like what I like. Partly this is because I find myself endlessly fascinating, partly it’s because of a natural tendency to over-analyse things, what Russell calls my “ability to codify”. I just like theorising, and sex is no different. But. That’s self-analysis. The only pleasure in other people trying to parse my behaviour is the hilarity of how wrong they get it.

          • Hugh July 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm

            Sure, self-analysis can be a fun hobby, but I wouldn’t have much confidence in the results.

            And outside of self-analysis, saying “Oh X only likes Y because of Z identifiable event”, that can actually be used to erase or delegitimise X’s identity as somebody who is into Y, particularly if Z is an event that’s not positive.

  4. Jackie Clark June 30, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I give you big love, Emma. For your honesty, for your going to a place that I, and I am sure other women, often think about but rarely talk about.

  5. Max Rose June 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks for the post, Emma. It was your PA post that really made me re-evaluate my formerly conflicted attitude to BDSM. I’d always been attracted to and intrigued by it in some ways, though without it being one of my “deepest pleasures” as it was for you, but couldn’t shake my feelings that images of dominated women were either coerced, put on for the cameras or the twisted desires of damaged women. Your writing helped me realise otherwise, and some recent encounters with strong, sexy women who are proud of their sub identity has helped me explore the pleasures of being a dom.

    I still wouldn’t say that I’m naturally a dom: I just play one in bed … and a few other places. I don’t have any overwhelming desire to hurt women, but I do have an overwhelming desire to give my lovers pleasure, and having now witnessed the intense pleasure that BDSM can bring I have to say I’m a convert. Images such as those Richard Kern ones make more sense now that I’m starting to understand BDSM identities in a more personal way, and I’m beginning to realise the range of kinks that are not only valid sexualities but rich vehicles for exploring both the extreme expressions of stereotypical sexual roles and their radical subversions.

    I’m still very dubious about the presentation of certain practices in mainstream porn. In porn that’s specifically for the BDSM market, face slapping and verbal abuse reads as the fulfilment of the sub’s desires; but in a mainstream clip it looks disturbingly like misogynist revenge fantasy. Perhaps to Delahunty it all looks like the latter, and some of that stuff might indeed feed or validate some men’s hatred or disdain for women. Is it possible to make that sort of distinction? There is a convention in some kink-oriented porn: after a lot of what I still find to be challenging passages of pain, humiliation and domination, the performers gather together for what appears to be a genuine discussion of how they enjoyed the experience. I don’t imagine that we need to tack those things on to all BDSM images, or add cheesy disclaimers, but for all my growing respect and understanding of a sub’s desire to be dominated, I’d hate to think that any man would grow up thinking that all women want to be sexually controlled and hurt.

    The phrase that moved me most in your piece was “to stroke me down, undress me and put me to bed and hold me while the singing in my skin dies away.” It resonates with some of my personal experience, and it illustrates beautifully how domination goes hand in (leather) glove with tenderness. One thing that has (ahem) struck me in my increasingly kinky sexual experiences is just how much power a sub has in the encounter. Maybe I’m not a natural dom, since for me it’s not about being a master or using someone: it’s about fulfilling my lover’s needs, and that’s incredibly hot. I guess I’m curious about the other side as well, but when it comes down to it, I’m not sure I’m strong enough to be a sub.

    • Emma June 30, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      The phrase that moved me most in your piece was “to stroke me down, undress me and put me to bed and hold me while the singing in my skin dies away.” It resonates with some of my personal experience, and it illustrates beautifully how domination goes hand in (leather) glove with tenderness.

      I think the importance of aftercare is a facet that isn’t widely recognised by strangers to BDSM, and it was one of the things that I really wanted to get across in that PA column, that the Dom role is a caring one. Because when I come down I’m in an intensely… vulnerable and intimate place. I need to feel safe and cared about. Not loved, but like the other person gives a damn about me as a person.

      Maybe I’m not a natural dom, since for me it’s not about being a master or using someone: it’s about fulfilling my lover’s needs, and that’s incredibly hot.

      It’s important from my perspective as well that my Dom/me is getting something out of it for hirself. I have tried “I’m just doing this for you” and it just doesn’t work. The great thing about having complementary tastes is that where your arousal is increasing the arousal of your partner(s) which is increasing your arousal… which works in a non-BDSM context too, of course. But particularly if I don’t have much scope or freedom of movement, I do need to feel that my partner is getting something visceral out of the whole experience.

      There is a convention in some kink-oriented porn: after a lot of what I still find to be challenging passages of pain, humiliation and domination, the performers gather together for what appears to be a genuine discussion of how they enjoyed the experience.

      I like this, I think it humanises the performers. I’ve seen anti-porn feminists say it makes it worse, because of course those subs are lying.

      • Moz July 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

        The aftercare and porn “after-interview” are really key IME. And it makes a real difference to me having them in the porn. I find it interesting that there are some really harsh critics of the porn in the BDSM communities, on the basis that it shows that the pornographer is trying, but since it’s not a perfect solution it must be destroyed.

        Also, thank you for the “you can’t predict” comments.

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