The law isn't the law
The latest advertising campaign for Dove Promises bite-sized chocolates poses the question "What's your perfect relationship?" and features a list of more than a hundred wordsâ€”like low-key, playful, inventive, and profound. In each ad, one or two words appear in bold and are marked with a brown square graphic. On the bottom of the page, the motto: "For every relationship, there's Dove." One ad, in CondÃ© Nast Traveler, highlights dominant and submissive. When advertisers take note of a growing sexual minority, and want to market sweets to us, I don't consider it trivial. Not only does it represent the mainstreaming of s/m, but it presents dominance and submission not as the stereotypical whip-toting dominatrix, but as just another kind of relationship. It's a consumer confection, I know, but it's also a little taste of progress.
Sometimes with progress comes hostility, as evidenced by two recent events. Black Rose, a Washington, D.C.-based s/m organization, planned to hold its annual national conference (which attracts thousands) at the Princess Royale hotel in Ocean City, Maryland (in previous years, it has been held elsewhere in the state). The contract had been signed; all the rooms in the hotel were booked. A few weeks ago, when details were leaked to the local media, there was a flood of public opposition as residents claimed the event would tarnish Ocean City's family-oriented image.
Opponents worked every angle to try to run Black Rose out of town. Finally the liquor commission informed the hotel, city officials, and the papers that local laws could be violated during the event, especially those that prohibit erotic touching over clothes in a place with a liquor license, even when no booze is sold or consumed. Faced with pressure from police and local religious organizers ready to picket, Black Rose canceled.
Less than a week later, police chief Nick Congemi of Kenner, Louisiana, wrote a letter to 15 area motels urging them to decline requests to host Fetish in the Fall, a new s/m event scheduled to run in conjunction with N'awlins in November (neworleansinnovember.com), an annual swingers conference. Although he refused to meet with organizers, Congemi called the event "borderline illegal and demeaning to women." The organizers hadn't yet secured a signed contract with their host hotel, and decided to cancel in order to focus on the larger swingers event (first letting the media know their side of the story).
Congemi's personal opinion, which he chose to turn into policy, reflects a fundamental yet typical misunderstanding of s/m. "It is virtually impossible to bind, denigrate, beat and inflict pain on humans in sexual acts, yet honor and respect them in everyday situations," wrote one woman in an editorial about Black Rose in Delaware County's Daily Times; she also likened s/m practitioners to the serial rapist and murderer Ted Bundy. AP reported that Black Rose offered classes on "everything from torture to the various techniques associated with pain-induced sex." What the hell is pain-induced sex? Sadomasochism is a consensual practice that may incorporate power play, bondage, and heavy sensation play but is not equivalent to violence and abuse; while it is often sensual, it may or may not include genital-focused sex. Because there may be pain, punishment, or submission involved, people automatically assume that no one would willingly be subjected to such things. These same ignorant people cannot imagine erotic exchanges outside their comfy norm.
OK, you may not be into S&M, but the fearmongering about it is silly. While it's not my personal taste, anyone who does even cursory research on the subject, they would S&M is very different than people think.
BDSM, in it's mildest form, is simply being restrained, in it's most extreme, may involve body modification, like piercing. But it is clearly consensual. It can only be engaged in with consent. If it isn't, it's a crime.
What bothers me is that people, without doing any investigation, are making assumptions about private sexual behavior. BDSM requires an insane level of trust between two partners. Any time you use any sort of physical punishment, you have to trust your partner without reservation. If someone has you restrained and hanging from a hook, you have to know that person will be in control.
BDSM is the easiest sexual practice to denigrate and depict as perverse, when in reality, it requires the most intimacy and trust possible. Anyone who plays the role of a submissive is doing so willingly. They aren't being degraded or forced.
But what drives me nuts is that local officials are now banning legal activity by consenting adults based on misinformation or their personal biases. You want sexual degeneracy? Don't go to a leather convention. Go to your local bar. On any given night, you can see girls strip, take off their bras and start making out with each other. I can see degenerate sexual behavior in any bar filled with 20-somethings in New York. I've seen things people would not believe. I've seen public sex, all kinds of stuff, things no organized people would tolerate in public, as these conventions are.
If people had ignored this, no one asked for their public support, they would have spent the money generated from these affairs and walk away. Judging them is pointless, especially when their actions were legal. It's nice to judge people from a distance, but that's not how one should make their laws. If people want to swing or have group sex, that's a private matter. Banning them from doing what is legal, because you don't like it, is obnoxious at best and criminal at worse. You don't like BDSM events, stay home. You weren't invited anyway.
posted by Steve @ 8:47:00 PM