“Cliff Pervocracy” wants you to know that BDSM is feminist.

A while ago I published a response to a bad attempt at defending BDSM by someone who may or may not be named Clarisse Thorn. Here’s an analysis of another attempted defense of BDSM, and this time the name of the author is definitely fictional.

“Cliff Pervocracy” (who’s surprised that abusers hide their real names?), author of a blog delightfully called The Pervocracy (a government led by BDSM abusers and rapists, presumably), wants you to know that feminism and BDSM are completely compatible.

In the real world, feminism and BDSM are not compatible at all. Feminism fights against Violence Against Women, BDSMers are for Violence Against Women (as long as it’s “consensual”!). Feminism fights against the gender hierarchy, BDSMers support the reproduction of all hierarchies, including the gender hierarchy, as “edgy” and “sexy.” Feminism supports examining how our sexual practices are impacted by social indoctrination, and BDSMers scream like banshees if you even bring into a conversation the shadow of doing such an examination.

So how does “Cliff” answer to this? Well, his first answer is to just ignore the issue:

My usual flippant answer–which also happens to be my most emotionally honest–is that it’s like asking how I can be a feminist and keep guinea pigs. What do my hobbies have to do with anything? Kink is just a fun activity that involves a different part of my personality

So already his “emotionally honest” position is revealed: “Cliff” gives so little shit about abusing women that he thinks this is an issue on the level of having guinea pigs. At least he’s honest about his woman-hatred.

And who else calls their sexuality a “hobby”? BDSM cultists usually take their sexuality very, very seriously. Perhaps “Cliff” hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid yet. But let’s continue…

A deeper answer is that it’s pleasurable for everyone involved. The things I think of as feministically troubling are things that harm someone.

You heard it here folks, BDSM is “pleasurable for everyone involved.” Everyone? Really? Including the 30% of BDSMers in the United States who have been violated? Including all the subs who suffer from the PTSD phenomenon that BDSM cultists euphemistically call “sub drop”? Including all the people in BDSM who re-create their past abuse or rape in a vain attempt to “deal with it”? Is this dudebro for real?

Look, I understand the desire to bury your head in the sand and ignore the sins of other people in your interest group. We all do it to some extent. But to be part of a community which uses violence as recreation (whether “consensual” or not) and pretend that it can’t possibly have any consequences to anyone is just laughable.

So “Cliff” fails miserably at justifying BDSM. How does he fare at addressing anti-BDSM arguments?

For one thing, a whole lot of those arguments could apply to plain ol’ sex. It can be used as a weapon of, and an excuse for, horrific abuse? People are sometimes unintentionally harmed doing it? It’s horrible when done nonconsensually? There are some really awful people who are into it? A lot of the narratives around it are sexist, hetero/cisnormative, body-policing, and glamorize unsafe and questionably consensual activities? The industries that sell media and services related to it are often nightmarishly exploitative? I don’t want to deny or minimize the fact that all these things happen in BDSM. I just don’t think it’s any worse in kink than in sex.

This is a logical fallacy of tu quoque: he’s trying to claim that sex is just as bad as BDSM, therefore BDSM can’t be bad. “Cliff” doesn’t seem to realize that all he’s done is point out how abusive BDSM is.

Besides that, “Cliff” is deliberately understating the abusive nature of BDSM. BDSM is not “an excuse for” abuse, it is abuse. BDSM is not “unintentional harm,” the harm is very much intentional: that’s the whole point of it! BDSM is horrible whether done “nonconsensually” or not, because there is no consideration for consent in BDSM apart from symbolic gestures which do not, and cannot, indicate consent. BDSM does not just have “awful people” in it, it is the perfect environment to attract awful people who want to groom and subjugate victims. BDSM does not just have some sexist or heteronormative nerratives, it has narratives of (amongst other things) incest, rape, slavery and genocide.

In all of these ways, BDSM is definitely worse than sex. This is not to say that “plain ol’ sex” cannot lead to abuse, harm, and so on. Obviously “Cliff” is assuming that we’re all sex-positive in order for his argument to work: as I am not sex-positive (see: sex-negativity), it makes no sense to me at all. I already think sex is not a great thing, and therefore equating BDSM to sex only confirms what I already believe. Yes, I agree that BDSM at least as bad as sex!

Not realizing his complete failure, “Cliff” keeps going:

Actually, I’ll go a little further than that. While “kink is always consensual!” is facile white-washing, on average kinksters are more aware than the general population of what consent is and why it matters. We talk about it a lot more, and we (at least try to) socially normalize the idea of negotiating it.

I’ve already commented on this on my entry about Clarisse Thorn’s rationalizations: this is complete doublespeak which ignores the facts about harm I’ve already cited. The BDSM cult mentality is a violent mentality and it is one which assuages its anxiety about consent by performing rituals which have nothing to do with consent.

Conflating consent with liberation is the business of those who do not know that oppression cannot operate without it.
Rachel Moran

But equally importantly, “Cliff” involves the specter of “negotiating” consent. Although he doesn’t expand on that, it should be a huge red flag. Sex and consent are not things to be “negotiated.”

I think it’s important to talk about the negotiation model of sex, because it not only lies at the core of the pretense that “BDSM is all about consent,” but it also underlies other anti-feminist worldviews. For example, the “sex work” concept, which is anti-prostituted women and pro-VAW, relies heavily on it: it assumes that prostituted women have to negotiate sexual encounters with their johns, and that anything that goes against such negotiations is therefore undesirable. Likewise, many men (including MRAs) believe that sex is a process of negotiation, and that men who “pay the price” are entitled to sex.

What all these frameworks, including BDSM, have in common is that they replace actual consent with a list of codified gestures or rituals which are supposed to represent a transaction (see: transactional model of sex) that supposedly secures consent. And they then turn around and argue that concern with these symbolic gestures or rituals represent concern for consent.

But these gestures or rituals are completely arbitrary and have nothing to do with consent. The BDSMer’s belief in contracts and “safe words” as tokens of consent is no more valid than the MRA’s belief in paying for dinner as a token of consent or the liberal’s belief in exchanges of money as consent in “sex work.” And none of these are any more valid than the statist belief that paying taxes signals consent to the laws or State authority, or the Christian apologist’s belief that committing “sins” means you consent to being thrown into Hell.

But in the case of BDSM, I think we can narrow it down some more. Who else is obsessed with contracts, formal or informal, as signals of consent? Free market fanatics. And BDSMers’ logic seems to mirror market logic on consent issues: their complete refusal to look at the context of actions, their reduction of ethics to subjective feelings, and the contradictory belief that a system of inequality can engender consensual actions (I’ve discussed these points against voluntaryism in this entry).

Leftists are very well aware that contracts and the possibility of leaving do not nullify the abuse inherent in capitalism. They have no qualms arguing against corporate hierarchy, profits, wage inequality, lack of workplace safety measures, and so on. And yet many leftists turn around, use the exact same argument in favor of BDSM, and don’t realize they’re contradicting the very foundation of their political positions. This tells me that the BDSM cult mentality is extremely dangerous, in that, unlike most cult mentalities, it is easily able to penetrate society and pollute people’s minds, even the minds of people who would oppose it otherwise.

I also think a lot of “BDSM is sexist” arguments wouldn’t long survive an encounter with a female dominant or a male submissive.

I think this point goes back to the BDSM cult propaganda line that all opposition is merely misguided and misinformed about what they’re “really about.” If only they knew there are female doms, they would change their mind!

But no, this blatantly obvious (and widely publicized) fact has not escaped our attention somehow. The existence of female doms does not prove that BDSM is not sexist any more than females raping males proves that feminism is wrong about rape being a tool of gender oppression.

Like all radical positions, radical feminist analysis looks at institutions, not individuals. BDSM as an institution is sexist, amongst a lot of other things, because it puts a stamp of approval on abusive sexual behavior that is, by and large, used by men against women. Does that mean all men in BDSM are abusive and all women in BDSM are victims? No, clearly not. Just like how women can internalize misogyny and turn against themselves or other women, women can be doms and men can be subs, but that doesn’t prove anything about the institution itself.

In this answer there is also a whiff of the repugnant sex-positive dogma that women want to be abused because they take part in an abusive institution. No, the fact that there are women doms does not mean it’s okay to abuse women.

And finally, our ending:

How can I be a feminist and do BDSM? Because I trust women to know their own desires. Because BDSM does not stand apart from the world at large, and if we have to live in this world anyway, we might as well do what we love. Because I love and respect my body, my mind, and my potential as a human being–and all three are going “hell yeah, I totally want this.”

You can’t have a defense of BDSM without some doublespeak, and this is another good example of it. We are seriously supposed to believe that a person who supports an institution in which human beings are abused, tortured and raped also loves and respects his body and mind.

This conclusion also echoes the bizarre anti-feminist sentiment that feminists really deep down hate women, because they fight against women’s “choices,” “agency” or desires. But no one on my side of the divide is blaming women for being in BDSM, or arguing against any individual woman’s desires. That’s completely missing the point, and demonstrates that “Cliff” does not know what feminism is.

Feminism does not exist to validate every woman’s “choices,” “agency” or desires. Feminism exists to criticize the context in which we live and how that social context guides our personal decisions and personal desires. “Trusting women to know their own desires” in a context where people’s desires, men and women alike, are constantly being manipulated through indoctrination and the media (including, notably, pornography, which is similar to BDSM in that they both reproduce violence against women) is not sound reasoning or feminist analysis.

This naive view of desire is in line with the ethical subjectivism of BDSM. If the individual lived in a vacuum and was not influenced by society in any way, then we’d have some kind of a case for stating that whatever the individual feels is valid, including about their own sexuality. But this is not how reality works. If society was totally egalitarian and power relations were purely imaginary, then one could perhaps make some kind of case that BDSM is not abuse. But this is not how reality works.

As I said in my rebuttal to Clarissa Thorn, I welcome anyone to give me URLs to similar attempts at rebuttals. These are the only two I’ve found without having to actually read BDSM blogs, which is really not something I want to get into. So unless you know of any others, this is probably the last analysis I’m going to do for now.

13 thoughts on ““Cliff Pervocracy” wants you to know that BDSM is feminist.

  1. Miep March 6, 2015 at 20:28 Reply

    Francois, I surely hope *you* have some kind of uplifting hobby, something like cultivating roses, that works to counteract wading through such filth. I guess somebody’s gotta do it.

    • Francois Tremblay March 7, 2015 at 01:15 Reply

      Like I said, I don’t intend to read any BDSM blogs. I just did some Google searches to find those two entries. Don’t worry about my mental state. :)

  2. Brian L March 6, 2015 at 20:48 Reply

    In a perverse way, I’m surprised the state doesn’t outright condone BDSM, considering the similarities of being oppressed and humiliated, whilst supposedly ‘feeling freer’ for the experience. :/ But then, as I’m learning, that would make the similarities too obvious…

    • Miep March 6, 2015 at 20:51 Reply

      They have transgenderism for that.

  3. Ashley February 10, 2016 at 02:38 Reply

    Context matters, which is also why BDSM can be feminist. If you would look into Cliff’s blog a little further, you would read all of his excellent and female-positive posts about feminism. You would also learn that he has plenty of experience navigating the world of the systemic societal brainwashing that encourages people to think of women as objects. You clearly have your own views about the intersection of sex and feminism, and that’s fine. But you don’t speak for all women in this world. Reading Cliff’s blog posts about BDSM and feminism helped me learn a lot about my own brainwashing by the male-dominated society. Cliff is one of the people who helped me feel strong saying that my past experiences were rape and that I without a doubt deserve better. (And I am talking about a situation that had nothing to do with BDSM, by the way). Feminists should stop attacking other feminists. Dictating how people should go about feeling about/ implementing feminist reforms is no better than men dictating how women should act or feel.

    • Francois Tremblay February 10, 2016 at 03:18 Reply

      You seem to be confused. I am not a feminist. And he sure as hell is not a feminist. So this is not an attack of one feminist against another. This is an attack of a guy who is against BDSM on a guy who is for BDSM.

      I don’t speak for all women. I don’t speak for any women. I only speak for myself. Don’t be so fucking melodramatic.

      If you think this issue has anything to do with feminism, then you are truly far lost. I hope some day you’ll be able to paddle your way back. And yes, I realize the irony of tagging the entry radical feminism. Feminists have a lot to say about BDSM, but BDSM itself is not a feminist issue. Not hurting women should be an issue of basic human decency, that belongs to all of us. One thing that is true, however, is that any pro-BDSM person cannot, by definition, be a feminist.

  4. EgregiousCharles April 3, 2016 at 16:48 Reply

    This is the attack of a guy who is against BDSM on a submissive transmasculine person who spent most of his life as a woman and has forgotten more about the experience of BDSM subs than you’ll ever know. He apparently “abuses” from his powerful position tied up with things stuffed in his vagina. Funny how “abusers” hide their true names, huh. I used to follow him when he was a her and I was interested in feminism, before I realized the left is utterly without compassion or pity on anyone who is genuinely different not just demographically different. Great reminder why I left.

    • Francois Tremblay April 4, 2016 at 00:55 Reply

      Ooookay. I’m not following your “reasoning” here. Being a sub does not mean you’re immune from saying abusive things, and many abusive and evil things ARE said in this entry I criticize. What are you, some liberal identity-worshipping scum? What does this person being a sub or a dom have to do with the ethical status of what they’re saying? Get a life…

      • sellmaeth August 23, 2016 at 03:53 Reply

        I wouldn’t have outed her, but as it already has been done, yep, Cliff is a woman.
        As we can see from her transition to first non-binary, then transman, she has a lot of internalized misogyny, and I agree that her brand of “feminism” is a very sex-pozzy, libfem one that radfem do not consider feminism, but this makes you, in fact, a man telling a woman how to do feminism.

        On the other hand, Cliff wants to be treated like a man, so should be delighted that men call her out on her misogynist attitudes like they would another man. Probably.

        • Francois Tremblay August 23, 2016 at 04:33 Reply

          I guess I was confused by the “his vagina” comment.

          I think being pro-BDSM and pro-feminism are contradictory positions. I don’t see how that’s escapable. I don’t care how anyone wants to “do feminism,” but if they’re publically holding contradictory positions, am I not justified in calling that out?

          Likewise, I don’t care if anyone wants to be a Christian, but if they argue that atheism entails the absence of moral norms, I’m going to argue strenuously against that. I’ve also tried to tell people how to “do Christianity,” and that got me a pile of shite from armchair theologians and whatnot, but I think that’s a different thing. You can refute existing Christian apologetics without telling people how to “do Christianity.”

          A feminist can practice BDSM as much as they want, and it’s none of anyone’s business, but if they start making public ethical statements about it, I think they should expect to be criticized. And I welcome women criticizing what I write about these issues as well.

  5. […] just have to shake my head at this abysmally stupid comment posted on my entry against Cliff Pervocracy’s advocacy of […]

  6. […] previously analyzed some articles written to justify BDSM (here and here). I have been told that these are not the best arguments available out there, and that I […]

  7. […] that there’s no contradiction between BDSM and feminism. I’ve debunked one such attempt in this entry. I won’t repeat myself here: if you’re interested in my arguments about that, read that […]

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