Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kaelah's Corner (Jul 2012):
Black or White

(Classical M/F discipline.
Picture courtesy of Girls Boarding School.)

Tim the Tum always asks a very interesting question in his interviews with kinky models, producers or bloggers: Perhaps I've been lucky in the people I've interacted with, but it seems to me that most spankos are particularly intelligent and polite; what do you think about this? 

When I started out in the kinky community and only knew a handful of blogs, I had the impression that there was some truth to that observation. But now that my perspective has widened, I have to admit that, for me, the answer to Tim's question is no, I don't think that this observation is correct. I don't consider the average kinkster to be more intelligent, more polite, more open-minded or less prejudiced than the average person in the society that kinky person lives in.

In my view, the spanking and BDSM community is simply a portion of society as a whole and therefore reflects society's behaviour and attitudes. And quite frankly, in my experience, quite many people have very narrow black-and-white opinions. Which often leads to them not being able to understand and therefore often being scared by everything that is outside what they consider "the norm". I think that this isn't any different in the kinky community, either. And from the discussions I have been involved in, I would say that "the norm" in the spanking community often means M/F spanking in a DD relationship, since that seems to be the biggest group in our community.

This thought came up again last weekend when I read Bonnie's question for her Spanko Brunch: Among spanking bloggers, F/M enthusiasts are greatly outnumbered by M/F blogs. Why is this? The question instantly whirled up lots of emotions since the answers that spontaneously popped up in my mind all had to do with predefined roles and prejudices. I've already talked about some of the aspects here on the blog. But still I'm going to post my complete comment so that you can get the whole picture. Here is what I wrote:

I believe there are several reasons why there are less F/M blogs than M/F blogs. First of all, I don't think that there are fewer men who want to be on the receiving end of a spanking than women.
(A woman spanking a man - and they are even having fun!
Picture courtesy of Dreams Of Spanking.)

But in my opinion, x/M is much less acceptable than x/F in most societies (especially in the more traditional ones like in some states of the US, where many blogs come from) and in our community as well. One reason for that is the belief in traditional gender roles which makes only women on the receiving end okay since they are supposedly the delicate ones who need guidance and a strong shoulder to cry on. Quite frankly, a view that totally freaks me out, but which I have come across several times in discussions. Some people simply state that M/F is the only "natural" and therefore legitimate constellation.

A second aspect which, unfortunately, is also still common in our world and in our community is homophobia. When it comes to spanking, that also affects F/M because some men refuse to look at nude or bare bottomed men and therefore fight for the prohibition of x/M stuff on forums and the like. I was just recently involved in such a discussion. Luckily, as Ana already said, the community has become a bit more open-minded, and so the forum owner decided that everyone was welcome as long as x/M stuff, being in the minority, was labeled accordingly.

Another problem I have observed is that men who enjoy being spanked take the huge risk of being seen as unmanly. I discussed that topic, which is connected to the issue of traditional gender roles, in a recent post. I actually think that there are quite many people who feel uncomfortable with the thought of a man handing over control to a woman for a spanking, no matter how playful said spanking might be. The idea that a man might show stronger emotions during a spanking, let alone cry, seems to be even more disturbing for some people. In my opinion, there are many women among those who have these kinds of prejudices as well. Consequently, it seems that there is a considerable number of men who like to play on both ends, but don't tell anyone because some female bottoms (and maybe some male tops as well) wouldn't see them as "real" tops any more. Maybe we would have more mixed M/F and F/M blogs, too, if that weren't the case.

Yet another issue is that, in my experience, people often have only black and white views and don't distinguish properly between different ways of doing things. So, being a bottom equals being a sub, being submissive equals being weak, being into spanking equals having a DD or D/s relationship and wanting to get spanked equals the desire to cry and to let go of control. For someone like me, a switch who doesn't believe in traditional gender roles, who doesn't identify as a submissive (even though I often play as a bottom), who loves watching M/M spankings, who doesn't do any real-life punishments and who uses spankings for sexual pleasure, relaxation or empowerment, this makes feeling at home in our community already rather difficult at times. I think for male bottoms who are into non-DD spanking, our community must be even less inviting. There aren't many good F/M clips and pictures which could attract their attention (but tons of M/F stuff), most of the existing F/M blogs are about DD only (so, they have a bigger support group at least, which lovers of other forms of F/M spanking don't have) and men who admit that they enjoy being spanked take the risk of having to face the kind of prejudices which I pointed out above. So, why should male bottoms who are into non-DD spankings feel like they belong in our community and like it is worth to invest lots of time into writing an elaborate F/M blog?

Maybe another aspect is that men are generally less likely to write a blog about their private spanking exploits than women, anyway. But, what about female tops then? Maybe there are indeed slightly less female tops than male ones. But I think that F/M blogs written by female tops are also rarer because female tops also face the risk of having to deal with prejudices, especially if they and their fantasies aren't of the strict wife / mother / auntie or the mean mistress kind, which seem to be the most common and accepted roles for a female top in the spanking and the BDSM community.

(F/F spanking - also possible without an erotic component?
Picture courtesy of Punished Brats.)

My analysis was supported by Loki Darksong and Bogey from Our Bottoms Burn who brought up similar arguments. Another comment that gave me thought-fodder was written by Ana who is spanked in a disciplinary context by a female friend and disciplinarian. Amongst other things she wrote:

Because a lot of blogs associate spankings with sex and heterosexual traditional gender roles generally don't support female dominance, there can be a twofold backlash against non-M/F blogs. One is the idea that by fate or divine right that a man spanks and a woman is spanked. This implies that a woman is not capable of spanking. Thankfully not on my blog, but I have heard comments from male spankers saying that it was "unnatural" for a woman to spank. Also, because most blogs associate spanking with sex, then F/F and M/M get confused with a different kind of sexuality. [...] Very thankfully, the above bigotry has not been part of my blogging experience. Things have changed quite a bit since I started out. But I still get comments from really nice people who still talk about my "husband" spanking me or referring to D as "he" or "him." Or they just don't get the dynamic because it falls outside of the familiar.

What Ana wrote is another example of the kinds of black-and-white views which are, in my view, all too common among kinksters. For some, female tops simply don't exist at all. For many others, F/F is okay as a sexy show for men to look at, but in private between two women who neither have an erotic relationship nor live together? For some people, that seems to be unthinkable.

Switches are another example. As I discussed in detail in this post, there are several prejudices against switches and many people believe than one must be either exclusively a top or exclusively a bottom. I have even come across one person who stated that switches were greedy people who didn't want to choose a side. On the other hand, some also have prejudices against people who don't want to switch. So, lots of black-and-white thinking there, too. And I guess I don't have to get started on M/M spankings and our community's stance on them, do I?

(Gosh - a guy being spanked by another guy!
Picture courtesy of Spanking Central.)

Before anybody gets me wrong, I definitely don't have anything against lively discussions of different points of view, nor do I think that kink or kinky relationships are sacrosanct and above criticism. As some of you might remember, I have written about aspects of kinky attitudes and relationships which struck me as potentially unhealthy, and I'm planning to do that again in the near future. What I am talking about here are simple black-and-white views, though, which aren't based on arguments and open discussions but on gut-feeling and unquestioned beliefs only. Those kinds of views that usually can't be changed in any discussion, either, because they are considered indisputable truths by those who believe in them.

I have had the pleasure to talk to and to meet very friendly, intelligent and open-minded people in the kinky community. But in my estimate, they are just about the same percentage as friendly, intelligent and open-minded people in our world as a whole. I don't expect to find any less prejudice in the kinky community than in the world at large anymore, and I don't expect to find less black-and-white thinking. That makes me sad at times, but then I think the best thing to do is to write posts and comments that might show others that different kinksters indeed enjoy very different things, and that while some of them might be totally unlike one's own personal preferences, there is nothing wrong with that and it isn't a threat to anyone. Getting people to not fight against each other and let others live the way they want to live, as long as their way of living doesn't violate the freedom or well-being of others, might be as good as it can ever realistically get. And apart from that, I simply stay with the people amongst whom I feel comfortable and happy.


Ludwig said...

Years ago when I came into the Scene, naive as I was, I believed that kinky people are more tolerant and open-minded than the general, non-kinky population. Because people who are into BDSM are often the victims of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, I thought, they themselves would obviously be - had to be! - very sensitised to such issues, and they would be trying very hard not to be prejudiced and judgmental.

It did not take very long for that illusion to go down like a lead balloon. The BDSM community is no worse than the general population in terms of intelligence, tolerance, enlightened vs. unenlightened views, but it certainly is no better, either. As it turns out, it is pretty much the same. You have people who are friendly, open-minded, who have very enlightened, thoughtful views. And you have rude people, ignorance, sexism, homophobia, the "My way is the only right way!" brigade when it comes to what one likes, and no small number of folks who insist (without argument) that anyone who is into hard canings and cane welts is mentally ill.

I have come to believe that people in the BDSM community are no different from the general population at all, except for being into BDSM. Apart from the unusual sexual fetish, there is nothing that they have in common, nothing that noticeably sets them apart from society. So, within the BDSM community, you have an almost perfect cross section, or mirror image, of society, with all its good sides and bad.

Erica said...

Some spankos are intelligent and polite, yes. Just like any other group, we have our shining examples. MOST are? Hmmm. Just have four words to that: "Correspondence Hall of Shame." ;-)

Lea said...

I agree with you that the kink scene is just a microcosm of society as a whole. So within that, you'll find the very intelligent, the less than intelligent, the open minded, the "one true way" folks, etc. I've come across many great friends through the spanking scene and read many interesting and thought provoking discussions. But I don't know everyone.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating Kaelah, and I agree with much of what you say about normalitry and gender roles casting a particular shadow: I beg to differ with one thing, however.

I suspect that the BDSM community is more articulate and indeed more accepting than society at large. The reason that I say this is that not only is it a broad church - many tastes interests and activities fall under the umbrella: this must lead to an understanding that if something is not my bag, then I am not going necessarily to say it is wrong.

The second point is that kinksters are more thoughtful than many communities. There are web communities for all interests; dog training, photography; fishing; football. I am sure that many of these people may be kinky too, but they will have thought more about the nature of their kink and their feelings than about the philosophy of football. I think that this reflectiveness and struggle to understand what lies behind the interest is a particular feature of the excellence of many of the discussions.

Finally, I think that the very vulnerability and intimacy involved makes (most) kinky people more respectful of others: because we can hurt one another physically and spiritually the stakes are higher. As Heinlein put it, an armed society is a polite society. If you are rude about my soccer team or my dog you are not necessarily attacking the very core of my being. Perhaps I overstate the case, maybe we are not more tolerant than the majority of folk, perhaps we are just more supportive and less tolerant of intolerance...

Ludwig said...

@ Anonymous: Only in the last month or two, I have seen a couple of discussions on major spanking forums where people declared that spankos who are into vivid cane welts "should seek psychiatric help", where hard BDSM was equated with murder, cannibalism and paedophilia, and where some members called for M/M pictures (and stories) to be banned from the forum because "that's gay, and it's beyond the pale".

No, I don't see any reason to believe that the BDSM community is any more articulate, accepting, thoughtful or respectful than the vanilla world. That's a nice thought to have, but it has no basis in fact from what I have seen.

There are thoughtful, respectful blogs that attract a thoughtful, respectful readership, such as Pandora Blake, Indy and others. Hopefully, this one as well (Kaelah and I are trying our best). However, as soon as you go to sites and forums that are bigger and have more mainstream spanko appeal (plenty of M/F pictures, personal ads etc.), you will frequently find idiotic comments like the ones quoted above.

Maybe your personal experiences are vastly different, but mine have lead me to conclude that the BDSM community is pretty much as enlightened / unenlightened as society in general - no more, no less.

Val said...

Statistics theory tells us that the distribution of personality types should be the same as in any other subgroups of the greater human society.
Identifying yourself as belonging to a specific group, the natural tendency is to wish that your group was brighter, smarter, prettier, and generally superior to the "other."
Sadly we find that statistics are true - how many more times do w ehave to hear others lecturing that "my kink is better than your kink" and, for example, that either purple cane welts are a sign of mental illness and those liking that should be locked up, or any mild playful spanking is totally perverted, what are you doing bringing out your foreplay for all to see?! And anything in between.
So no, my empirical observation tells me that we are no more special than the next door folks, I am not aware of any statistics to actually support this position with numbers. Even within this blog's pages, perhaps at the top of the most balanced and thoughtful, well done such spaces that I am aware of, occasionally we see commenters bringing that type of contribution which we'd rather see elsewhere, if at all.
It occurs to me that we can say we are no different from anyone else, are we? ;-) (I suspect that my next door neighbors are into kink.)

Ana said...

I said this before, but I'll say it again. Your comment ROCKED. It was such a pleasant surprise to go to the brunch comments and see someone not only pick up on what I was saying but to take it even further. You said a lot of things that I was thinking but didn't say because my niche in this blogging community is usually to point out: Hey, women can spank, too. I was very glad that you came along and added all of the other parts.

I think that in a particular subset of bloggers (at least the ones I have gotten to know) that there is a level of support and reserving of judgment that I have not found anywhere else. I think it's that these people are very special, but I also think it's because they work so very hard on their relationships with significant others via ttwd.

I am glad you re-posted your comments here. Once I finally get myself in gear, I am going to repost my comments with a link to your post because this is a very much needed part of the discussion.

Kaelah said...

@ Erica:
Oh yes, your Correspondence Hall of Shame is indeed a great example which shows that some kinksters aren't exactly very polite or bright (but, thanks to your comments, they are at least unintentionally funny). ;-)

@ Lea:
You are absolutely right, there are many nice people and great discussions in the kinky community as well. One just has to no where to look for them. :-)

@ Anonymous:
I absolutely get your arguments and they were the reason why I at first expected kinky people to be more open-minded than the average person as well. But, as Ludwig explained, a look at some of the bigger forums shows a different picture. There surely are kinky people who think a lot about what it means to be different from the mainstream and about the open-mindedness one should learn from that. But it seems to me that others are even more intolerant than the average person when it comes to forms of kink that are different from their own preferences. I guess that this might have something to do with the fact that a) some people generally don't have the ability to distinguish between moral questions and matters of personal taste and b) some people also have issues with their own kink and therefore feel threatened by everything that doesn't lie strictly within their own comfort zone.

In the short time which has passed after I had published this post, I have come across three new discussions that all show the kind of narrow-mindedness I was talking about. The first one was a thread on a mainly M/F forum, in which a new reader wrote about his consensual sexual F/M fantasies and asked whether others had similar fantasies or whether he was weird. Instead of reassuring this fellow kinkster that everything is okay with him, several commenters bashed him. Then, Secret Spanko wrote a post about breast spanking. He wrote: "I recently have started reading a lot at thespankinglibrary.org again, and there's a forum there where people discuss stories. Someone recently asked about a story involving breast spanking. This simple request was met with three pages of (extreme paraphrasing here) 'ewww... that's BDSMy... not my thing! that's not even spanking...go somewhere else.'" A typical example of the "spanking is okay, BDSM is creepy" statements which also pop up frequently in our community. And, last but not least, an anonymous commenter criticised one of the models on Pandora's site Dreams of Spanking as being too big, claiming that no one wanted to see that. Another example for both rudeness and the typical "everyone has the same preferences as I have and I can speak for the majority" approach.

So, another three examples in just a few days (and on the limited number of sites I am looking at). That's why I don't think that kinky people are any more open-minded than the average person.

@ Val:
I absolutely agree with you. Your comment also reminded me of a funny scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian! It's the scene in which Brian tries to get rid of all the people who follow him because they think that he is the Messiah. He tells them: "You are all individuals!" And the group answers in unison: "We are all individuals!" He continues: "You are all different from each other!" Again, all: "We are all different from each other!" And only one guy says: "I am not." ;-)

@ Ana:
Thank you for your kind comment! I found your comment in the original thread very inspiring and I am looking forward to reading your post about the topic. :-)

Rich Person said...

@Ludwig, you cited examples from discussions on major spanking forums, but I think the difference is that the BDSM community is more intolerant of those kinds of outbursts. Besides, who's to say these people were even really members of "the community"?

There could also be some evolution in the community. In the SF Bay Area, the "BDSM" community grew out of a segment of the gay community. There was prejudice between the parts of that community. Was it okay for lesbians and gay men to have a common community? Well, that question has been answered, and the answer is a definitive "yes", along with adding in straight members, as well.

Is everyone on that page, yet? No, of course not, but I think that's the future.

Kaelah said...

@ Rich Person:
As you can see from the further examples which I listed in my reply to Anonymous, this happens not only on big forums. And I have to say that more often than not, I didn't have the impression that the community is extremely intolerant of those kinds of outbursts. Quite the contrary, once someone has started to utter non-PC opinions, there are often lots of „Me too.“ sheep coming out of the shadows. Their comments often start with „I am not prejudiced...“ or „My opinion is not as extreme as the original commenter's view...“, only to be followed by „...but ...“ and a comment that shows that they basically agree with the original commenter. As for the community – I consider everyone who is interested in BDSM and reads or looks at kinky sites part of the (at least online) kinky community. Maybe people who practise BDSM are a bit more tolerant, but frankly I don't really think so. That's why I can't share your optimistic point of view about the BDSM community. But of course that's no reason to give up hope! :-)

Mark said...

When I first started getting into kink, I also believed that my fellow pervs were more insightful and accepting than other people. As the years have gone by, I've come to the same conclusion as you do. We are not.

I also don't think it's an innocent illusion. Recent discussions have shown how, in many kinky communities, abusive tops have been allowed to get away with nonconsensual acts for years without being challenged. Often these abusers are 'pillars of the community' and those who do more than whisper about their behaviour are leaned on to keep quiet. In short, the classic self-protecting behaviour of a community which values its own reputation above protection of the weakest members.

This sort of situation can only be avoided if we have the humility to admit (as, for example, Catholic bishops did not) that we are as prone to the dark sides of humanity as any other group. Only when we face that unpleasant truth do we have the possibility to rise above the mistakes of the past.

Ludwig said...

@ Mark: I have heard of a few tops who are rude and domineering in conversation - Kaelah recently wrote a post about this. However, I have never heard of a top who commits actual abuse and is protected by the community in doing so. If there are such cases, then that is deeply disturbing, and a damning testament for the regional BDSM community where this took place.

Do you mind letting me know which "recent discussions" you are referring to, exactly, so that I can read them and get more insight into this?

Kaelah said...

@ Mark:
Thank you very much for your comment! Are you referring to these discussions: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/29/real_abuse_in_bdsm/ and http://purrversatility.blogspot.com/2012/02/safeward-blog-carnival-2-part-3-porn.html? I absolutely agree with you that abuse in kinky communities should be openly discussed and the victims should be taken seriously and not told to shut up. I can understand that discussing these things can be scary because kink is often still related to mental problems in the mainstream media and kinksters don't want to feed that (in my opinion false) view. But this isn't a valid excuse for letting anyone get away with abuse. In my view, there aren't any more abusive people among kinksters than in society as a whole. But I think that kinky communities also attract people who aren't into erotic kink but want to abuse the trust and the consensual games that we play to impose non-consensual acts on others. In my opinion it is therefore very important that kinky communities don't give abusers a chance to disguise themselves as trustworthy kinky tops.