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Fri, Apr. 13th, 2007, 09:40 pm

Not Why But How

As I mentioned, I dropped by the Scarleteen message board last week.

Scarleteen originated as a spin-off of Scarlet Letters, a rather well-regarded online erotic/literary magazine. Founder Heather Corinna wanted to make a non-judgemental sex information and advice site for teenagers. Federal abstinence-only sex education rules mean that such material is appallingly rare. Scarlet Letters eventually rolled to what appears to be a permanent stop, but Scarleteen has soldiered on, providing a safe, supportive environment, welcoming to all genders and gender expressions, and all orientations. I've been an enthusiastic supporter of its goals and its methods.

After last Monday's post, I found a thread I wasn't so happy with.

You know what? I'm not gonna try to summarize it. Lengthy paraphrase won't really accomplish much here except obscuring subtleties. Go have a look for yourself and form your own opinions.

UPDATE: The thread in question has been removed. If anyone has a backup somewhere, I'd dearly love to lay my hands on it.



You're back? Okay.

Exorcising Incorrect Kink


So, what I think I saw was Sophie X saying "Do these desires make me a bad person?' and Heather replying, 'well, technically, it is possible to have such desires and not be a bad person."

And how is she to tell whether she is? Vigorous self-scrutiny: "Does it feel to you like you've got some woman-hatred you maybe need to deal with or not? Are these feelings issues for you outside of pronography, ever?"

Heather seems to be implying that there are fetishes that are constituted acceptably and unacceptably. Please imagine that girl--scared, conflicted, anxious--trying to do what Heather has told her to. Trying to tease apart whether her kinky desires are a product of a misogynist society, or of some other, nobler origin. Can you imagine her absolving herself? Concluding that these lusts, about which she is already so frightened, are clean?

And if she decides that Heather's right, that she has the Wrong Kind of dominant fantasies? What does Heather think she should do about it? I suspect that she thinks that, when exposed to the light, such urges will shriver and die like vampires. After all, the alternative I can think of is that she feels that they should just be suppressed, buried under mounds of the self-loathing that Sophie X is already starting to show.

On the Origin of Spankos



So Sophie is supposed to scrutinize the roots of her kinks. I've read a lot of people doing that over the years, and the more of it I see, the less impressed I am with the results.

I'll take spanking as a useful f'rinstance. Read a spanking-fetish forum for a while and you'll find these assertions*:


"I developed a spanking fetish as a result of being spanked as a child"

"I developed a spanking fetish as a result of never being spanked as a child"

"Despite hating my spankings as a child, I eventually developed a spanking fetish"

"Despite never having been spanked as a child, I eventually developed a spanking fetish."


This is what students of formal logic call a causal clusterfuck**

If our sexual tastes do indeed have points of origin, those points are such intricate and mysterious webs of early and momentary fears, sensations, and desires as to be completely inexpressible.

Luckily, I think that, in addition to being irreducibly mysterious, these points of origin are also not very important or interesting. All that matters is how they are acted on. If you fulfill your desires with compassion and ethical care, where those desires come from is perfectly irrelevant. With our desires, what matters is not why but how.

Death of A Thread


I posted my own response, rather timidly, in a rush of emotion after reading Heather's replies. The next comment is from a board administrator, reprimanding me for making my comments in public rather than in e-mail. I was surprised, since I thought open discussion was encouraged there. I was even more surprised to see that the thread had been locked, prevent further replies from non-adminstrators. As requested, I responded by e-mail instead, asking why the board had been locked. That was nine days ago.

Heather on BDSM



I looked around a little further and found this post of Heather's from 2004. In it, she explains:

I also have to say that in my long tenure as a sexually active person in many communities, and as someone who's worked pro in sexuality for years now, I have yet to ever, ever meet even one female submissive who either really had her head on straight, who didn't seem to be acting out some dysfunctional roles or who didn't, years later, come to realize that what she was doing was very much not to her benefit.***


That makes me angry. To my eye, she has just insulted my girlfriend, several of my lovers, and many of my good friends, belittling their judgment, pathologizing their desires, and placing her assessment of their mental fitness above their own.

Now, my inner devil's advocate is saying.Vinnie, chill. That's her personal experience. Isn't it okay for her to describe her own personal experience?

No, it's not just her personal experience. When the owner and moderator of an advice board for the frightened and confused gives her personal experience, it's no more personal than when the president of Harvard stands behind a podium and just "offers some hypotheses" about the intellectual inferiority of women.

And I can assure you, having read a decent bit of Heather's writing, that if one of the kids on the messageboard shared his personal experience of the mental unfitness of the members of some particular sexual orientation or ethnic group, Heather would not be dispensing pats on the back to that writer.




So it's context that makes all of this so depressing. If...I dunno...the Boston Globe, say, had a sex advice forum, and I found all this writing there, I'd be vaguely relieved that it was so tolerant. It's finding this in what I thought was a haven of acceptance and sex-positivity that's painful.

* all example quotes made up off the top of my head


**No they don't.


*** She adds chirpily that "that that has not been my experience with male submissives." So, fierceawakening, you can be spared her scorn. So long as you don't date any women.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:06 am (UTC)
laurenpburka

Think of Scarletteen as incremental, yet insufficient, progress towards a future of sexual freedom in a world where people oppose vaccinating against cervical cancer because it takes away some of the god-given punishments that people deserve for having sex.

And tell all the kiddies to read Savage Love or something, which is another incremental improvement, but insufficient because Dan Savage isn't really sure that bisexuals exist.

Or start your own board.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

Dan Savage isn't really sure that bisexuals exist.
Neither is the damn New York Times. Fuckers.

Dan is also kinda depressing on fat issues.

Or start your own board.

Hey kids! Step on up to Mr. Sketchy's Teen Haven! He'll answer all your tricky little questions about sex!

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
laurenpburka

Mr. Savage has gone on record to say that he got into the advice business after a childhood reading all the antediluvian 'Dear Abby' stuff in which homosexuality was roundly condemned, constantly. He gives good advice, but he also wants to entertain the readers and snark off at silly straight people.

Most of what looks like anti-fat issues is actual anti-bad-dress-decisions by fat people. And after a paricularly ugly round of mail, he said he was sorry he brought the whole thing up. I've never felt particularly oppressed by Dan Savage in the fat department. Otoh, I don't think I look hot with love handles poking out of my clothing.

When so few people are positive about sex at all, it can really sting when they aren't positive enough.

Wed, Apr. 22nd, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
rkt: OT/ and from feminist_sex

not to derail from the original, but savage is also horrible on issues of trans folk, and black folk, and bi folk.. probably several others i'm forgetting. he's really not all that.

and policing other people's dress decisions, especially when one is focusing that policing on fat people, is not cool. (being sorry he brought the whole thing up is not the same as being sorry.)

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)
mme_louise

I have yet to ever, ever meet even one female submissive who either really had her head on straight, who didn't seem to be acting out some dysfunctional roles or who didn't, years later, come to realize that what she was doing was very much not to her benefit.

Maybe that's 'cause those of us with our "head[s] on straight" don't spend our time trying to snuggle up to self-righteous prigs like Heather Corinna.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

I hope you're posting that from a warm bed with a hot drink, O Louise With A Cold.

Her remark reminds me of when you see some straights say stuff like "every homosexual man I've ever met has been a flaming queen."

No, every flaming queen you've ever met has been a flaming queen. Heather knows about the relationship drama of those who've let their relationship drama spill all over Heather Corinna. Some people manage to have kinky sex and not tell all their acquaintances about it.

Mon, Apr. 16th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
mme_louise

Some people manage to have kinky sex and not tell all their acquaintances about it.
Though after a day like today, this might prove difficult. Good thing that my co-workers all have tomorrow off.

Tue, Apr. 17th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

gringringringringrin

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
fierceawakening

Spared her scorn, my friend?

Hardly.

She's a bigot and an ass.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

Somehow, I thought you might not be comforted by that.

Ah, kinky people! So demanding!

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

The conversation between you in the follow-up seems very respectful. Were you making an effort to be polite, or has your opinion of her dropped since then?

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
fierceawakening

I find things like this:

http://trinityva.livejournal.com/397423.html?thread=1698159#t1698159

REALLY REALLY demeaning, hidden in a layer of "oh, look, I didn't call you *bad* so it's all right."

She also claimed on her blog that the discussion on mine was "ugly" without having the guts to say so to my/our faces:

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/hcorinna/121505/#348510

No, I have no love for her.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:34 pm (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

Various snarks ocur to me about that comment of hers in your journal, such as:

"It isn't that she says there's anything wrong with you, it's just that she's so very, very, very impressed with her own superiority."

and

"While saying, on your advice site, that BDSM is inherently oppressive and emotionally damaging isn't telling anyone what to do in a precise grammatical way, that strikes me as a whole lot of hair-splitting."

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 05:22 am (UTC)
stateofwonder

I'm always a bit perplexed with this discussion of discovering our "authentic" desires -- as if we could divorce ourselves from our past and culture and find some inner core self that all the rest is built upon. It makes me a bit uncomfortable because it implies that there is a "natural" form of sexual expression somewhere deep inside that has become obscured and warped by woman-hatred and porn.

I don't know, a lot of the language in this discussion bothers me.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 07:26 am (UTC)
laurenpburka

Seems kind of familiar. Kind of like... Plato. Y'know, you start out lusting for a person, then realize that you really love god, or something.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
fierceawakening

there is a "natural" form of sexual expression somewhere deep inside that has become obscured and warped by woman-hatred and porn.


yup. ew!

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 08:34 am (UTC)
bart_calendar

The thing is that those people are very young and that strikes me as simply an immature reaction.

Also, people who are young and new to sex should probably avoid hand on neck stuff until they are really comfortable with themselves and their limits because you can really, really fuck up badly with choking.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

Bart, I can't tell if you missed all my points or are just ignoring them.

Heather Corinna is not very young. She is 35. and refers to herself as an 'educator.'

There's a world of difference between telling someone that being turned on by porn with choking in it doesn't make you a bad person, and encouraging you to go out and choke someone. The riskiness of the practice doesn't do anything to justify Heather's scolding tone

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
bart_calendar

To be honest I responded at 7:30 this morning and went straight from the thread on the site to the comment section and missed the stuff behind the LJ-Cut.

My bad.

The scolding tone is ridiulous. When I read it this morning I assumed the heather girl was about 18 - based on her writing and her advice.

I mostly object to her basic assumption that girls don't want to be called sluts during sex. My experience is that one of the most tried and true ways to get a girl to orgasm is to talk way dirty and tell her she's a slut when you fuck her - as long as you cuddle her afterwards.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC)
fierceawakening

Um, I hope you're not advocating trying that on anyone because many women like it. I've been known to get close to violent with people who treat me as if I'm submissive because so many other women are.

Sun, Apr. 15th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
bart_calendar

Oh, I'm not.

I must be being unclear.

Lots of women are into that, lot's aren't.

As a primarily male submissive it's not really my thing, but I'm happy to do it when it's clear it's what a girl wants and then hopefully she'll eventually tell me my cock is to small or spank my ass or something in return.

Sun, Apr. 15th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
fierceawakening

Good. I just needed to make sure you didn't mean it that way, one because your comment read to me like you were sharing some conspiratorial secret about women. But it's notoriously hard to understand people's tone in conversations like this.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
najalaise

I find it extremely offensive when anyone questions the ability of large groups of people to make choices and to consent, and I think that's exactly what Heather Corinna is doing here. I think that the ability to consent is only missing in a few cases: children; some severely mentally handicapped people; some very insane people; possibly some people impaired with drugs or alcohol (though this last is iffy, because I do think they're fully responsible for other actions, such as driving, as long as they were willingly drinking-or-whatnot).

To claim that someone does not truly have the ability to consent, and to say that we cannot rely on them to accurately represent their internal states, goes a long way toward taking away their personhood. Further, she says that because of differing social environments and the big bad patriarchy, women in general cannot be healthily submissive but men in general can. How depressing! On one hand people should discover their "authentic desires" (as if people have some core self which is not affected by other people or the outside world, and yet this core self has sexual feelings towards people. Creepy.) and on the other hand, it is utterly impossible to overcome your environment enough to truly consent to power exchange play.

When do we start saying that all heterosexual sex is rape on the grounds that women can't possibly consent to something with so many ties to The Patriarchy and the historic oppression of women?

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
vinnie_tesla

I think you will not see Heather say that because Heather has had pleasurable and fulfilling heterosex. Remember Procrustes--what I enjoy is what's good for everybody; what you enjoy is the product of your brainwashing by a sick society.

Sat, Apr. 14th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
najalaise

Yep. And to return to a theme- what I find aesthetically unappealing is unhealthy and immoral.