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.