I love jazz. Whenever I put on a good Miles Davis album a cigarette magically appears in my hand and my mind travels off into space following the tendrils of notes. Sometimes when the mood is right it is almost as if I’ve left the room entirely and been placed carefully back in my seat when I am suddenly aware of a deafening silence around me. Not everyone is affected by jazz the same way I am. There are people who think it is boring, people who enjoy it occasionally, and then the kind of folks that set up jazz churches. So why is it I got to be that way?
Let’s say that I had a close relative that was an incredible mentor to me. Every time I was charged to his care while my parents went off to do the types of things grownups like to do he would put a 78 on the record player and explain the music to me. He spoke of Barry Sax and side men, he showed me a few tricks of his own on the house instruments, but most of all he taught me to separate a passionate piece of music from a mere recording of sound. Let us say that this changed my life profoundly and that is the reason I love jazz today.
Isn’t that a nice story? Well let’s change that up a little.
Let’s say that I had a close relative who would babysit me when my parents went away. When night would come I would climb into bed only to be followed by this relative who would put on a jazz recording, light a candle, and then molest me while I desperately tried to pretend to be asleep. What if he did that for years until I no longer needed a sitter?
I present this to you because I’m tired of hearing people point to porn performers and BDSMers and say that they must have all been ABUSED and can’t clearly consent to what they’re doing. That they’re all being exploited by patriarchal misogynist men and if they would only read the pleading of radical feminist women they would see that they are broken and change the errors of their ways.
I initially came to feminism under the belief that women were strong. I believe that my gender is incredibly capable of making decisions and the awful actions of others did not mean I had to forfeit my sense of self. There are people in the BDSM community that are survivors of rape, abuse, and incest. There are also people in the community that grew up in wonderful supportive homes. Finally, there are people in the BDSM community that grew up in your run-of-the-mill dysfunctional home that most people had. Rape and abuse may or may not be a reason someone gets into kink, but I don’t really think it matters either way.
I’m confused about where this line of ‘good decision/bad decision’ really is. I tend to go with the notion of ‘your decision’ myself. If abuse really does render someone unable to consent to alternative sex practices, then can we say they are able to consent to any other sex practice? Is there a committee out there that decides for another human being whether they are a survivor or a perpetual victim? I thought that was something that came from within.
Is it ok to look at the person with the first story about how they came to love jazz and think that it’s a wonderful annecdote about intimate familial bonds but then look at the person with a different background and denounce them as sick? Some of the strongest people I know look back and acknowledge that some horrible things happened to them and yet they can’t help but listen and hear a beautiful song that makes them feel happy. I am not the kind of person that wants to take anything away from another person that isn’t hurting anyone else. I would much rather share that moment with them.
It’s not up to me to pick the path anyone else travels. I live and let live. I fight injustice by supporting people as best as I can. Oddly enough, I don’t just sit down at my computer and tell people to kill themselves. I have an adventurous sex life, to be sure. I’ve even run into some really crappy partners from time to time. I take them as lessons. I use what I’ve learned to narrow down what I want and what I don’t want and communicate better with other people. Some of what you would call awful sadistic men are some of the most gentle, kind, and understanding people I’ve ever met in my entire life.
What is so incredibly funny is that I’ve had more damaging words thrown at me by my so-called sisters. The people who take nude, naked, or naughty photos have never told me that I looked like a “soul-less piece of meat” but I have heard that from anti-porn crusaders. The sadistic men I play with also take permission and consent very seriously. When I say I want to do something, they take me at my word. Oddly enough, I feel infinitely safer at a bondage club than I do at your average dance hall. I face more harassment walking down a street in a body-covering pea coat than I do wandering around in pasties and a G-string at a dungeon. If everyone who ever cat-called me, tried to grab me inappropriately, or made me feel threatened had a subscription to Kink.Com then they might actually be mentioned by the AVN’s. At the very least, they would not be laying off 12% of their workers. They make a really easy fall guy because they’re flashy and operate out of a giant dungeon, but misogyny is in the mundane. I don’t know where an inherent hatred of women came from, but it was around before Kink.Com moved into the armory.