Lasting Marks is a short documentary on the infamous Operation Spanner case, in which gay men in 1980s Britain were arrested and tried for consensual sadomasochism. I should point out that the documentary is mostly scans of newspaper articles and legal documents, with a voiceover interview with one of the accused.
Last week, a US federal district court ruled (PDF) that there is no constitutional right to engage in BDSM.
The Atlantic has an article on how the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to remove BDSM from the Diagnostic and Sexual Manual. (Another for the “I should have written that” file.)
It’s an interesting development that actual kinky people have directly and successfully worked with medical authorities to depathologize kink. It took a long time before LGBT people could have the organization to do the same.
Khan, Ummni. Vicarious Kinks: S/m in the Socio-Legal Imaginary. Toronto Univ. of Toronto Press, 2014.
Remember “Two Girls One Cup“? This video clip of two women appearing to eat feces out of a cup went viral a few years ago. I happened to be at a vanilla party where everybody wanted to take their turn seeing the clip, with the kind of horrified fascination usually seen in children poking a dead mouse. The clip went viral powered by that kind of attraction/repulsion experience, exposing it to an audience orders of magnitude larger than the probably tiny audience of corporophagia fetishists it was originally made for. Disgust is a powerful force in human experience, perhaps more powerful than desire.
Jamie Dornan, who played Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey film, was less than flattering in his view of the kink scene, as he told Elle UK:
He visits a sex-dungeon of course. “I went there, they offered me a beer, and they did…whatever they were into. I saw a dominant with one of his two submissives,” he says.
There was plenty of kink… and plenty laughter. “I was like: ‘Come on guys I know I’m not paying for this but I am expecting a show.’ It was an interesting evening. Then going back to my wife and newborn baby afterwards… I had a long shower before touching either of them.”
Not only did Dornan treat this as an exhibition for his pleasure, he evinced disgust afterwards, especially in the context of not touching his wife or child, as if he was contaminated. (Probably some of the people he observed had their own spouses and children. Did they take a long shower before touching them?)
Even people who are on the side of kinky people still need to express their disgust of BDSM. Law professor Alan Young, who defended Ontario pro-dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, wrote in his book:
Despite my championing of the S/M cause, I always had a bit of sadness when I thought about some of the characters inhabiting this sub-terranean world. It’s somewhat pathetic that someone has to dress up as Louis XV or as an infant in a soiled diaper and yell “Vive la France” or whimper “Mommy, don’t hurt me too bad” in order to get a sexual buzz. I find this sad because I still believe that vanilla sex is one of the most magnificent and oceanic experiences available in life’s repertoire. Who needs the costumes and the humiliation? Well, I guess some people do. [Pg. 278-279, quoting Young’s 2003 book, pg. 97]
Young uses words like “sadness” or “pathetic” to describe BDSM, while his own sex life is “magnificent and oceanic”. It’s not enough to say that he feels no attraction to BDSM, he has to denigrate it and valorize his own vanilla sexuality.
Both Dornan and Young described their reaction to BDSM as one of visceral disgust, and in so doing re-state their attachment to the normative values of heterosexual family and vanilla sexuality.
Baatz, Simon. For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago. HarperCollins, 2008 Amazon
I wish there were more case studies to examine in this field. It’s rare to find a documented sadomasochistic relationship in the pre-modern era; I shudder to think how easily the Munby-Cullwick papers could have been lost. Sometimes one must make do with what one can find. In this case, there’s the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb who probably would have been remembered as eccentrics if they hadn’t kidnapped and murdered a teenage boy, basically just to prove they could.
After their capture for the murder, the two men were thoroughly examined by physicians, neurologists and psychiatrists, who couldn’t agree on a diagnosis. Eventually they were found competent to stand trial. Their examinations and testimonies revealed both had vivid fantasy lives.
While the fifteen-minutes of this story have apparently passed, I want to bring up an editorial post on Canadian alternative news site Rabble.ca about the RCMP case: Private fantasy, public reality: The RCMP, BDSM and violence against women, by Meghan Murphy.
How could a man who so clearly enjoys degrading women fairly assess a case that is explicitly about violence against women, about dehumanizing women, and that played out as it did (in that the disappearances of women from the Downtown Eastside were ignored by the police for years) because the women who were going missing were viewed as worthless?
Apparently, you can get arrested for writing slash in China.
Police in central China have arrested 32 young women, including a 17-year-old, who allegedly wrote gay fiction for a pornographic site.
According to the Shanghai Daily, police said the site provided nearly 80,000 gay stories to a database of 600,000 registered members.
Most writers said they were paid less than 100 yuan (US$15.23) for each short fiction and some hadn’t received money yet. One writer, Long Juan, said she took the job out of “curiosity” because gay novels were quite popular online.
I assume this was some kind of pay-to-download business. Were there any men involved in this operation, or was it a by-women, for-women operation? Thus is “gay” an apt description, or is more like slash or yaoi?
Pandora Blake’s LJ has a list of cases of people prosecuted over the UK’s new “extreme pornography” law.
This suggests that our fears about the consequences of the extreme porn legislation are being borne out. It’s no longer about protecting the people involved in making the images, but about policing our fantasies. Never mind that no causal connection can be demonstrated between viewing pornography and sexual violent crime (in fact it’s arguable that access to pornography helps prevent violent crime by giving people with socially ‘unacceptable’ desires an outlet for their fantasies), nor that it is perfectly possible to create ethical images of violent acts using consenting actors. Under this way of thinking, even illustrations and cartoons are too dangerous. This isn’t about regulating the porn industry, it’s about personal taste masquerading as morality. The prosecution in this case explicitly uses the Victorian concept of the “decency of society” as an excuse for censorship.
The United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit has made a decision about the Glenn Marcus case:
For the reasons set forth below, we affirm Marcus’s forced labor conviction and vacate his sex trafficking conviction. The case is remanded to the district court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Most of the decision involves various legal points that I only vaguely follow (the closest I’ve ever had to legal training is watching lots of Law & Order reruns), but I noted that the court says on several occasions that Marcus’ relationship with Jodi “became nonconsensual”, meaning that it was consensual at some point. This means that the court is judging the Marcus-Jodi relationship in terms of the consent or lack thereof between them, rather than looking at the particular activities they performed.
Via Clarisse Thorn’s blog, the murder (manslaughter, according to the courts) of Steven Morris by his submissive’s estranged husband, John R. Moore III.
Thorn’s analysis of this case suggests that this is a variation of the gay panic defense, which would explain why Moore got manslaughter instead of homicide. Thus, when the media and the general public look at this tragic affair, they look for a person with whom to identify. Morris? Nope, he’s an adulterer and a BDSM dominant; doesn’t make a good victim, and he’s dead besides. Laurie, Moore’s wife and Morris’ lover? Nope, she’s an adulterer and a BDSM who met Morris via collarme.com; must be either crazy or a slut, and therefore not a good victim either. That leaves Moore, even though he shot a guy, violating his wife’s protection order in the process. He’ll have to do for the audience’s sympathy. There’s a marked failure of empathy in the coverage, without any quotes from Laurie Morris, who’s been through a horrible experience even before the shooting. (Presumably there’s a reason she had protection order against her husband.)
As a side note, I notice that Moore is a Blackwater defense contractor who had spent time in Afghanistan. This dovetails with the news item that David Grisham, the leader of the Texan Christian organization Repent Amarillo, is an armed security guard at Pantex, a company that works with nuclear material disposals and high explosives. Grisham’s organization drove the Route 66 swinger club (with some BDSM elements) out of business, by noting down license plates in an adjacent parking lot to the club and notifying family members and employers.
These are the men we should fear: not the Islamic terrorist, not the big black guy on the street. Fear the middle class white guy with the military-industrial complex job who keeps his gun and his Bible in the same bedside drawer, who loses it when his control over the world begins to crumble, when anything disrupts his view of how the family should be. Both Moore and Grisham reacted violently to perceived threats against the family and sexual normality. There’s only going to be more of that in the future: more visible gays, poly people, kinky people, trans people. How will men like Moore and Grisham react?