Jun 202007

Salon’s Broadsheet blog has an interesting theory on the reactionary images of helpless, out of control women that seem to be filling the media these days. Instead of a regressive sign, this may actually be a sign of how much their status has changed.

Naomi Wolf … has an interesting take on why women take on the role of shrinking violet. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Wolf addresses Hollywood’s helplessness narrative, …

…this is where Wolf’s argument is most daring: “Yes, it gives many of us the thrill of feeling morally superior,” she says. “But it’s also a way to tap into a yearning for regression and irresponsibility — even a fantasy of not being so competent, of letting it all go to pieces and having someone else clean up the mess — that millions of us generally have to suppress as we make our way successfully through the daily checklist and get it all done.”

The overworked BDSM cliche is the male executive who pays a pro dominatrix huge amounts of money to be beaten and infantilized. Critics say that the executive’s submission to the prodom has nothing to do with changing power structures in the real world. If the real world and the kink world have no relationship, and male submission is a vacation, then doesn’t it follow that women of responsibility and authority would want the same kind of vacation?

I’ve started on Louse J Kaplan’s Female Perversions from 1991, which takes direct aim at the old “do women have fetishes?” question. Kaplan isn’t really interested in consensual BDSM, and focuses instead on the clinical definition of fetishism and perversion, something that is compulsive and fixed.

Kaplan says that “the perverse strategy” is a way of escaping the strictures of gender. Men get aroused by, say, infantilism or transvestism, because they want to act in a non-masculine way; the arousal is actually to decoy or divert attention of the fetishist and/or observers away the desired behavior by expressing sexual performance.

This is the inverse of Michael J Bader’s theory of sexual fantasies in his book Arousal. Bader says the fetish allays anxiety to make arousal possible. Kaplan says the arousal allays anxiety to make the fetish possible. I’m divided on which I think is true; maybe it’s a chicken-or-egg thing.

Kaplan says women have perversions that allow them to escape the strictures of their gender (e.g. being nice, clean, caring, etc.) while being camouflaged by other things. Maybe by observing female celebrity basket-cases, women vicariously experience being greedy, callous, self-indulgent, irresponsible, etc.

Addendum: This seems every apt to the discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey.

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