Vinnie Tesla (vinnie_tesla) wrote,
Vinnie Tesla

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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.
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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.
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!
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.

OT/ and from feminist_sex


11 years ago

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.
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.


13 years ago


13 years ago

Spared her scorn, my friend?


She's a bigot and an ass.
Somehow, I thought you might not be comforted by that.

Ah, kinky people! So demanding!
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?


13 years ago


13 years ago

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

yup. ew!
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.
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


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago

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?
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.


13 years ago