Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The aftermath.

First off, I must thank everyone for their support following my last entry. I was pretty shaken up and angry when I wrote it, and with your help (and, admittedly, some well-timed social reconciliation with my best friend) I'm able to look at it as a negative experience, but one that won't define me. Roland, I promise not let it ruin my entire Spanish experience, although I suppose it will inform it from this point forward. I also appreciate those who shared their own experiences either through comments or blogs. Once again, you all are a sort of safety net that it's wonderful to know I have.

And now on to the aftermath. Which, for me, is almost always an intellectual thing. (I'm also back in classes and recharging my brain for academia, which hopefully means posts will lean more that direction for the next few months until I shut off my brain again for winter break.) As of late, I have been struggling, mentally and morally (which isn't quite the right word but will have to suffice) with my interest in BDSM. I suppose for the most part they are standard questions. How can I be a rape survivor who enjoys and indeed desires very aggressive, dominating and violent sex? Can I be a feminist and still desire the same? At the same time, how can I advocate for sexual freedom of choice and practice and equality and still hold internal issues that don't allow me to fully accept my own identity? How will I know where my limits really are, and how far am I willing to go to explore those limits? And even, once I find them, how do I interpret them and integrate them into my life, sexual or otherwise?

I was most concerned with the first several, and generally figured that the latter are more experience-based and would eventually be established. As for those first, more theoretical questions? Well, I wasn't so sure how I'd get those answered. In the midst of re-reading Gayle Rubin's call for a radical sexual politics and being assaulted, I think I found the answer.

The difference between "good sex" (as Rubin refers to it, a la right or condonable sex and sexuality) and "bad sex" (obviously, the opposite, or unacceptable, amoral sex) is the question of consent. It has nothing to do with specific behavior or acts being acceptable and others being categorically wrong. It isn't wrong to hit someone if they've consented to being hit (without coercion, of course... all this should be read with a filter of "fully-informed and willful consent"). By the same token, it is wrong to touch someone, even gently, if they haven't given you express consent.

Before people jump on me about the term "express consent," no, I don't think that necessarily means that every time you want to hug a friend, you need to ask if it's all right to do so. Although that might not be such a terrible idea. I know, for example, that my dear Essin' Em has been rightfully called "the queen of consent," and indeed, she does ask before she gives hugs. And consequently, I've never felt that she's invaded my personal space. I can't say the same about others, even those I consider friends. Sometimes you don't want to be touched, don't want to be talked to, don't want to be involved. Rather, what I mean by express consent is that the person must make it clear that they want whatever is being done to them (I'm writing this from the perspective of a sub, but consent goes both ways, of course). Any question about consent needs to be clarified. Beforehand. Or during. It is never, ever an excuse to say "Oh, but I thought you wanted that..."

And as Merlin mentioned this in his comment on my assault entry, consent can also be revoked at any time. I know this is an issue discussed regularly in the BDSM community (and rightly so). I believe several other communities and indeed, most people would do well to give more thought and attention to the idea of consent and its...fluidity. I have spoken with vanilla, straight friends who tell me that they experimented with something new sexually and decided they didn't like it (way to be GGG, though!), but their partner assumed that since they had consented once, he or she automatically had access to this behavior. Uhm, no.

I suppose all of this isn't especially news to anyone, but the idea to me was somewhat novel that consent is what delineates the good from the bad. I'm content with the idea that there is no bad sex, other than that which doesn't involve equal and free consent of all those involved. (The issue of who, precisely, is capable of giving consent is another concern and entry all together.) The idea that it isn't wrong for me to like to be tied up, hit, talked down to and fucked hard with a partner (or partners) who I trust and have consented to being with, is an incredibly freeing sensation. At the same time, it allows me to know that that doesn't by any means that I should have enjoyed those men who were groping me in the street last weekend, although they may have exerted much less force than some partners I've been with. Indeed, in other situations, I've been quite proud to wear bruises as a marker of time well-spent. But that doesn't mean I have to enjoy any and all behavior that resembles that which I do sometimes enjoy in the bedroom (or dungeon, or or or...). And I believe this allows me to, for the most part, reconcile my liberal, pro-equality and sexual freedom and feminist views with my actual life practices.

It's still a work in progress, but I can gladly say that something positive and affirming came out of this negative and discouraging situation.

And I'm already working on HNT ideas. I can finally upload photos from my digital camera. Huzzah.


marianne said...

I think you have a wonderful grasp of the issues, actually. Especially the "doesn't mean that" statements. We have the right to accept different behaviours in different contexts from different people, without feeling that we are being inconsistent or hypocritical at all.

Merlin said...

I think you have it right. Rough sex, even to the point of being abusive, is acceptable to the extent you make a conscious decision to accept it. But that happens only if your partner(s) understand(s) that, when you tell them "no more," you mean it, and they respect you enough to stop. In the end, everything must be based on respect and love, and the people you are with must honor your wishes, just as you must do for them.

Again, my thoughts go out to you, and I hope you never again experience anything like that.

Roland Hulme said...

You know, I could have sworn I'd left a comment, but then maybe I didn't because I'm getting old and feeble minded!

I think what I intended to write was along the lines of: If you want to surrender yourself to somebody else's control, who's rough and dominant and degrading, that's fine because YOU decided to consent to that.

The brain is the biggest sexual organ and teasing that with sexy concepts of power, control, domination, submission etc. is highly erotic.

What those obnoxious strangers did was inexcusable - they touched you and sexually assaulted you, without caring about whether you'd consent (or feel violated.) That's just disgusting and not even in the same ballpark as any consensual sexual activity (no matter how rough.)

Leanne said...

I'm glad to hear you're feeling alright - and yes I was a little surprised in your last post when you had defined what you considered 'assault' because I felt like that what you experienced was almost inarguably assault; unwanted sexual contact.

Thanks for the add btw =)

Amalthea said...

Yay! This is a lovely post, and I am so incredibly both relieved and proud to see that you took something like that and turned it so the silver lining is what is touching you now. <3.