Tag Archives: Melissa Farley

The Lies about the Ten Lies-part 3

We have Zxenu Cronstrom Beskow onboard as our guestblogger. He examines the radical feminist claims abut ‘lies’ told by BDSMers.

The first part
Second part

Part 3: “Sadomasochism versus Radical Feminist dogma”

If Farley had openly accused sadomasochists of not conforming to the dogmas of her particular brand of radical feminism, then she had been correct. But this is not what she is doing. Instead, she’s exploiting mainstream society’s contempt for BDSM in an attempt to establish her very special discourse as if it was a objective reality or consensus viewpoint. She’s establishing a world view where society itself is “sadomasochistic” and where her own brand of radicalism is the ONLY valid resistance against mainstream society. Lets take a look at the remaining four points.

2. Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.

Good relationships, sadomasochistic and vanilla (conventional/mainstream) alike, are based on love and trust. Of course, there are also bad relationships. There are also sexual relations that are based on mutual lust rather then love. Such a relationship can still be mutual and non-abusive if it contains enough trust and respect.

Farley’s examples are not even examples, merely shallow propaganda. David Koresh was a destructive religious cult leader, not a sadomasochist. Of course HIS kind of dominance was bad – and so was his heterosexuality and masculinity. If he is being to be used as an example of sadomasochism being bad on a general level, then he can just as well be used as an example of heterosexuality being bad on a general level, or of men being bad on a general level. Then again, there are radical feminists who would agree with that kind of argument.

Farley also uses some sexual fantasies as examples. And indeed, these particular fantasies certainly do not seem loving. Then again, they are fantasies. The love and trust is not about the fantasies themselves, but about how they are handled. Also, there are a lot of sadomasochistic fantasies that are very much about love, and many heterosexual and homosexual fantasies that have nothing to do with love.

4. Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”

Regardless of her sexuality, a victim of abuse is a victim period, not a masochist. She may or may not ALSO be a masochist, but this is entirely beside the point. By the definitions that sadomasochists typically use, abuse (sadistic or otherwise) is not sadomasochistic. The word sadomasochism include the word masochism, and this word implies that the person on the receiving end is there as a masochist, not as a victim.

Thus, BDSM and sadomasochistic sex can never be abusive, but only in the same way as vanilla lovemaking can never be abusive: If it turns abusive, then it is no longer lovemaking.

Of course, there are many sexual relations – vanilla and BDSM alike – that have started out consensual, but later turned abusive. This is a real problem, but it doesn’t men that all sadists (in the BDSM sense of the word) are abusers, and it does not mean that all heterosexual men are abusers either.

Furthermore, there are people who have died from vanilla lovemaking, so of course there are also people who have died from consensual BDSM play. Heart attacks are a common cause in both cases, but when it comes to advanced forms of BDSM there is also the issue of people being inexperienced and lacking proper safety education. Just as with mainstream sexuality, porn is NOT a good teacher for how to do it in real life. Even in its advanced forms, BDSM can be LESS dangerous then vanilla sex – but only if people know what they are doing.

Deeper in her argument, Farley practically claims that it is impossible to consent to BDSM – that the masochist is a brainwashed victim who does not know what she really want or an addict unable to say no. While a convenient excuse to disqualify the experiences of women who don’t share Farley’s dogma, it is simply not true for masochists in general, regardless of gender. (Farley’s argument seem to assume that the submissive is always female and the dominant is always male.) Of course there are individual masochists and victims of manipulative sadists who fit this stereotype, just like there are destructive vanilla relationships that contain addiction or cultlike tendencies.

6. Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”

Mainstream society is most definitely not sadomasochistic in any definition of “sadomasochism” that EITHER the sadomasochists themselves OR the mainstream society would agree with. Farley is taking theoretical constructs of radical feminism for objective reality here.

10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

Seen from a non-totalitarian perspective, this statement contains an obvious truth. Although sadomasochism, just like homosexuality, is becoming more and more accepted, it is still far from mainstream.

To deny this, one must reduce reality to two groups. On one side, the one and only true resistance (in this case radical feminists) and on the other side the evil conspiracy and all its minions, including all resistances that do not conform to the orthodoxy of the one and only true resistance.

Of course, this only covers the matter of dissent. Far from all dissent is constructive, progressive or transgressive in any good sense of any such word. If one can reasonably consider BDSM and sadomasochism to be good things depends on your point of view.

In BDSM, dominance and submission is optional and not based on gender. One can be dominant, submissive, both or neither, regardless of whether one is a man, woman, intersexual or a gender-undefined queer-person. Being a dominant doesn’t give you any right to dominate someone who doesn’t want to be dominated by you or in a way that he doesn’t want to be dominated. Being a submissive gives you a right to chose who to submit to, when, how and to what extent.

From a queer-feminist perspective, this is very liberating and a useful tool in the struggle for freedom and diversity. From most other feminist perspective, it is neutral: Neither a good thing and a help, nor a bad thing and a threat.

From a totalitarian conservative or radical feminist perspective however, it is inherently evil. It is, by definition, a lie – Or at least a contradiction in terms. One core belief shared by patriarchal conservatism and radical feminism is that men are, by definition, dominant/oppressive, while women are, again by definition, submissive/oppressed. While the conservatives consider it good and the radical feminists consider it evil, both sides agree that That’s Just The Way It Is. Thus, the dominant women and submissive men of BDSM must be explained away for their worldview to remain intact. And an all-out attack is always the easiest defense.

By Xzenu Cronström Beskow

The author is a  queerfeminist veteran, active both in struggles against sexual abuse and  for the rights of sexual minorities. Xzenu has  academic degrees in psychology and sexology.


The Lies about the Lies, part 2

First part by Xzenu Cronström Beskow can be found here.

To recap, the ten lies that Melissa Farley claims to uncover, are:

  1. 1. Pain is pleasure; humiliation is enjoyable; bondage is liberation.
    2. Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.
    3. Sadomasochism is not racist and anti Semitic even though we “act” like slave owners and enslaved Africans, Nazis and persecuted Jews.
    4. Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”
    5. Sadomasochism is only about sex. It doesn’t extend into the rest of the relationship.
    6. Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”
    7. Lesbians “into sadomasochism” are feminists, devoted to women, and a women-only lesbian community. Lesbian pornography is “by women, for women.”
    8. Since lesbians are superior to men, we can “play” with sadomasochism in a liberating way that heterosexuals can not.
    9. Re-enacting abuse heals abuse. Sadomasochism heals emotional wounds from childhood sexual assault.
    10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

Part 2: The Strawman Sadomasochist
To some extent, all ten points listed in part one are to some extent a “Strawman Political” version of sadomasochists. In this part I will focus on six points where this “Strawman sadomasochist” is the main problem, while the next part will instead deal with the four points where the main problem is radical feminist dogmatism.

1. Pain is pleasure; humiliation is enjoyable; bondage is liberation.

For some people, the RIGHT kind of pain in the right degree and context can indeed be enjoyable. Same thing goes for humiliation and for being tied up with ropes – which is what the word “bondage” refers to in a BDSM context. (BDSM stands for sadomasochistic sexual practices: Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism.)

During my decades of experience with the BDSM scene, I have *never* encountered a person who claims that all pain is enjoyable. However, I have often encountered this stereotype among people who are prejudiced against sadomasochists and their BDSM practices.

It is also worth noticing that this first point of Farley’s is homage to the novel 1984 and the propaganda of the evil regime in that novel: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” The problem here is not the homage itself, but that she attributes it to the sadomasochists. The strawman sadomasochist she is “exposing” have more in common with the villains of children’s comic books, standing on mountaintops shouting “Muahaha, I’m EVIL!” to the raging thunderstorm, then it has in common with actual people. I assume that Farley has made up the ten points herself, incorrectly presenting her prejudice against sadomasochists as if it was the actual opinions of actual sadomasochists. If the list actually do come from someone who claim to be a sadomasochist, and Farley has not twisted the words or ripped them out of context, then Farley has indeed been extremely lucky with finding a source that is easy to mock. Continue reading


The Lies about the Ten Lies, by Guestblogger

Ve: When I first read Melissa Farleys piece ‘Ten Lies about Sadomasochism’ I wanted to respond.  I did not know how, but kept the text in the back of my head.

Then, time went by, and I did not give a proper response. Instead, a couple of weeks ago I saw the text was mentioned in a discussiongroup. Closely following, I realised a fellow sex-positive activist who is also an acquaintance of mine was saying all that I never managed to express when it came to Farley’s badly informed rants.

So here, we proudly present our first guestblogger; here is Xzenu Beskow and the first part out of 3, with an examination of the claims made by Melissa Farley.

Part 1: Totalitarian categorism in Radical Feminism

It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this metaphor is very true for totalitarian branches of radical feminism. Tough everyone divides things and people into categories, it is all too easy to make the categories into prisons instead of tools. This is the point at which categorization turns into what I call categorism: When categorization by skin color or ethnicity turns into racism, where categorization by gender turns into sexism or transphobia, where categorization by sexual orientations turns into homophobia, heterophobia or paraphobia.

Feminism focuses on the categorization of people into men and women, and on the oppression of the second category. At best, this focus is liberating by fighting oppression and by making oppression visible. At worst, however, feminism can be misused to lock people into narrow categories of what it means to have a certain gender or sexuality. And thus, certain branches of radical feminism are infamous for prejudice against gender identity minorities (notably transsexuals, for example with Raymond’s book The Transsexual Empire) and against all sexualities that do not fit their narrow normative orthodoxy.

Such orthodoxy can be relatively harmless when it is very far from what the mainstream believes. If a debater claims in the name of feminism that all heterosexual women are brainwashed victims of male rapists, then the debater is unlikely to accomplish anything other then giving antifeminists an opportunity to ridicule feminism as such. But if the same debater instead claims that all masochists are brainwashed victims of sadistic rapists, then the debater has a chance to cause real harm to real masochists since this sexual minority is already viewed with mistrust and prejudice by many in the mainstream.

One good example is Farley’s “The Ten Lies of Sadomasochism”. In this text, the author makes the claim that there are ten claims that sadomasochists usually make about themselves. She also claims that these ten statements are lies, and that she has successfully exposed them as such.

Three things are wrong about this statement. First of all, her list is highly questionable. Some claims are twisted into generalizations, others are outright outrageous. It is obvious that it is the list of a radical feminist who want to portray sadomasochism in a bad light, not a list that the sadomasochist subculture would agree on. Thus, her whole argument is based on a “Strawman Political”. (See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawmanPolitical )

Second, not only does she use heavily ideological definitions of what certain words mean, but she also pretends that sadomasochists agree with her definitions of these words.

Third, she generalizes in ways that very consistently imply the word “all” without using the word itself. She talks about how all sadomasochists are, without ever using the word “all”, taking for granted that all sadomasochists form one coherent group. This kind of generalization is a hallmark of categorism.

The ten so-called lies are:

1. Pain is pleasure; humiliation is enjoyable; bondage is liberation.
2. Sadomasochism is love and trust, not domination and annihilation.
3. Sadomasochism is not racist and anti Semitic even though we “act” like slave owners and enslaved Africans, Nazis and persecuted Jews.
4. Sadomasochism is consensual; no one gets hurt if they don’t want to get hurt. No one has died from sadomasochistic “scenes.”
5. Sadomasochism is only about sex. It doesn’t extend into the rest of the relationship.
6. Sadomasochistic pornography has no relationship to the sadomasochistic society we live in. “If it feels good, go with it.” “We create our own sexuality.”
7. Lesbians “into sadomasochism” are feminists, devoted to women, and a women-only lesbian community. Lesbian pornography is “by women, for women.”
8. Since lesbians are superior to men, we can “play” with sadomasochism in a liberating way that heterosexuals can not.
9. Reenacting abuse heals abuse. Sadomasochism heals emotional wounds from childhood sexual assault.
10. Sadomasochism is political dissent. It is progressive and even “transgressive” in that it breaks the rules of the dominant sexual ideology.

In the next two parts we will take a closer look at each of these claims. I have divided this into two chapters: The Strawman Sadomasochist and Sadomasochism Versus Radical Feminist Dogma.

To be continued

By Xzenu Cronström Beskow

The author is a  queerfeminist veteran, active both in struggles against sexual abuse and  for the rights of sexual minorities. Xzenu got  academic degrees in psychology and sexology.