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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 01:52 pm (UTC)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.