Friday, September 04, 2009

BDSM and the problem of evil: Darkness is relative

(updated for afterthoughts)

If
BDSM echoes real world acts of evil and abusive relationships, then how do good people - or people who think of themselves as good - manage to live with essentially evil fantasies?

Well, mostly they probably don't. They reframe morality to fit their fantasies, or try to crush their own psyche to fit their morality.

But, those of us who do - the kinksters practical and mental - seem to have several coping strategies.
  • Fantasy Acceptor: e.g. "Rape me in a car park (since it's only a game)."
  • Fantasy Distancers: e.g. "I'm a Celtic slave and she's a Roman Widow (so we know it's only a game)."
  • Experiential Acceptors: e.g. "I enjoy doing this. What of it?"
  • Experiential Distancer: "This isn't sadistic punishment, it's a ritual of trust etc etc. (Evil? Moi?)"
  • BDSM Acceptors: e.g. "Men/Women deserve to rule over women/men. (I'm not kinky, I'm righteous.)"
  • BDSM Distancer: e.g. "I'm into BDSM. This is what BDSM folks do. (Our power relations are nothing to do with the real world.)"
These are all effective approaches for consenting adults getting off on playing with whips and chains. They are, however, not entirely compatible - I'll get to that. There's another more general problem. For example...

I'm a Fantasy Distancer. I'm happy - these days - to embrace the evil inherent in my fantasies. I imagine and play out (consensually) non-consensual scenarios. However, I shy away from anything that brings me bumping back to reality. So I cheerfully imagine being a Roman slave, but not a prisoner of the SS.

For a Brit like me, slavery is not even a folk memory, but I've seen French villages where, during the war,... well, you know. So the SS are not on the menu, despite the cool uniforms. Sorry Tom of Finland. Conversely, there are cultures and sub-cultures where slavery is a much rawer wound. Talk of owning other humans is abhorent, but posing around in Nazi-style caps is OK because - hey - it was all a long time ago in a country far far away.

So darkness is relative to culture. A bad enough cultural mismatch can be enough to override any coping strategy, and that is a practical problem to bear in mind when playing with others.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and enlightening article, thank you.

The fallacy in your logic lies in your opening premise. "Good People". No such thing.

Giles English said...

I think the goodness of people is self evident. However, the argument would work just as well for "people who think of themselves as good". Have updated accordingly.

Susan's Pet said...

A belated response to Anonymous: There are people who are relatively good. If you don't rile them too much, they will do good. Piss them off enough, and they will kill you. I tend to be that way. The word "good", even with its proper dictionary definition, is relative. Yet, I don't have to equivocate when I say that Mother Teresa was good people. I have heard of and known good people.

Giles English said...

Anon's comment was a sort of sophamore misdirection anyway--here's an idea, let's chip away at the author's choice of wording to show how clever we are.

But thanks :)

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