Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nina Hartley's Defense Against the Blog War

There have been a lot of responses to Nine Deuce's hate campaign against BDSM, porn, and anybody who has that as part of their sexuality. Renegade Evolution, Trinity, Anthony Kennerson, and a number of other have been all over smacking back her hate for a few weeks now. Natalia Antonova had a particularly spot-on response the other day over on her blog. And I think, finally, there's getting to be a general sense, even among those that were more willing to give ND the benefit of the doubt, that ND isn't just some clever girl with a few strong opinions, but a Fred Phelps-level hate addict and bigot.

Apparently Nina Hartley also had some choice words about Il Deuce, posted over at BDSM performer Claire Adams LiveJournal blog about a week ago. I think Nina's response deserves some wider airplay, so I'm reposting it here:

Nine Deuce says my husband should commit suicide. Why? Because he’s a heterosexual dominant man. As for submissives well, we should all spend our lives alone and frustrated because we’re so sick and broke, we’ll inevitably seek out abusers with whom to mate and convince ourselves we love them. Of course, she denies “telling other people how to live their sex lives,” but I defy any objective reader to check out her flavor-of-the-month “radical feminist” (or neo-con feminist as I prefer to think of it) Internet blog. The faction of twenty-something resurgent second-wavers to which she belongs has found a new pinata to bash: BDSM. And the kind of BDSM involving dominant men and submissive women is where they find the poison candy they’re looking for.

A recent series of particularly inflammatory posts over at Nine Deuce’s pop-stand reveals so much about the prejudice she and her friends preach toward the likes of us, it’s too ugly to ignore. They’re all about button pushing, and knowing that going in, you don’t have to consent to having your buttons pushed.

Each starts out with some “observations” from the author, who offers up some regurgitated Dworkin-era stuff about the “problematic” nature of any woman’s consent to engage in acts of sexual submission within the context of a patriarchal culture. This she spices up with witty observations like these: “If exploring your “dark side” entails wanking to women being tortured, it might be best to leave it unexplored. Or kill yourself.” It’s not that she wants to tell any of us what to do with our lives, of course. Then there are the trenchant summations, couched in a hip, mocking tone worthy of the locker room at a particularly catty middle-school: “The way I see it, if you think you’re punk for getting off on reenacting the kinds of abuses that real women and children in this world suffer on a daily basis (and thus mocking their suffering), you can go fuck yourself.” Oh, am I cherry-picking these comments and leaving out all the brilliant analysis that justifies them? Allow some of her comment-thread cyber-cafe revolutionary pals to bring you up to speed. “...we as women must be aware that BDSM relationships always involve manipulation from those involved. I don’t understand how a woman can lower herself like that, reducing herself to a thing, says one in response to a perfectly civil dissenting post from a self-described submissive woman. “These women harm feminism more than any pathetic gorean man.” Um, the Gor thing, so eighties, but then so is the rest of this bullshit.

Try this on for size and see if it fits you or anyone you know: “I can’t believe the levels that people will go to justify hurting other people. It is really sick and insane. This is not what feminism is fighting for- your right to “choose” which man beats you and gets off on it. Y’all may think your man “loves” you or respects you, but no decent man would hurt his partner. End of story.”

Well, maybe not quite the end of the story. The juiciest parts are reserved for dominant men: “I’d like to hear just one of these male sadists stand up and say, “Yes I like torturing women, I get off on it. I like to hurt them - it sexually excites me” because surprisingly enough despite their so-called dominance, they spend their time hiding behind submissives who have to keep repeating the mantra to anyone who will listen,“’I chose it.” Choice and consent? No such thing for women under the almighty patriarchy, which means that our right to choose to have an abortion or to deny consent to a rapist is essentially as meaningless as our right to honor our own sexual orientations. They’re not really our own, but implanted in our brains by an evil, male-dominated society, kinda like something out of a pod-people movie. “This “choice” argument was created by anti-feminists who wanted to claim that every choice a woman makes is a feminist choice which is clearly ridiculous. It’s an anti-feminist concept not a feminist concept,” we’re told. So the sex that turns us on is sick and the men who “groom” us “to think we like it,” well, “I really want to drive ice picks into this guy and the douchebag in post 1’s brains,” one of these enlightened humanists exclaims. “They’re all monsters!” according to another. And when a self-described dominant guy actually takes the bait and tries to explain himself, he gets this: “Have you ever had a relationship where you didn’t beat up your female partner?”

Of course, when a few daring sub-gals show up to defend the men they love, they’re only doing it because they’ve been brainwashed: “BDSM is not kinky. It’s A-B-U-S-E. Physical and psychological abuse. Not hip, not edgy, not fun, not kinky. ABUSE!” Gee, thanks for the heads-up on that.

And of course, all submissive women are really doing is embracing the patriarchal norm, so it’s not like they face any prejudice for it, if you don’t count the constant need for secrecy to avoid losing jobs, friends, child custody, security clearances or any of the other lovely rewards that mainstream society bestows upon women who declare their submissive kink openly, or have it leaked by someone who hates them.

It goes on and on like that, and not just in one nasty spot on the Internet. I can list off a dozen blogs where BDSM is getting a good thrashing from neo-con feminists at this very moment. Clearly, bashing kinksters has become quite the rage, literally.

Fortunately, it’s not a one-sided conversation. A couple of brave female bloggers step up to all this spewed bile with their waders on. I have no hesitation about using their screen names, because I think they should be proud of their calm and clarity of thought in the face of this onslaught of invective. The wonderful Renegade Evolution braces these bullies straight up: “Do you actually think that after telling these women "Wow, you are fucked up, sick, in denial, stuck with a monster of a partner, and pathetic!" that they are going to turn around and go "Why thank you! You are so right! Thanks for that wisdom, I am totally going to reform now and start having the kind of sex and relationships you would approve of!" I mean, that would make total sense now, wouldn't it? Perhaps in some strange, twisted, alternate reality, but no, this is the really real world.”

And pondering the foaming-at-the-mouth viciousness displayed by women toward other women for betraying our entire gender by refusing to hide in the leather closet, the coolly brilliant Trinity offers the most disturbingly spot-on explanation: “I honestly think some of these folks think it's good that we think of suicide.

I don't think anyone in here is actually saying "Go kill yourself" and meaning it.But I do think that people are saying the world would be safer and sparklier and better if we were not in it. They wouldn't hand us the guns or the pills -- most people aren't that cruel -- but as long as our despair is not directly their doing, they don't care. They don't see us as fully human.”

If we speak for ourselves, we’re just doing our master’s bidding and he’s hiding behind us. If and when male Doms accept an invitation to share their opinions, they’re harangued off the boards for being abusive, slimy assholes. This crowd.has a ready-made response for anything we say. If these people wore white sheets, we’d know to stay away from their hateful trash-talk but they stalk the world looking like you and me.

If I could do anything for my sister submissives it would be to encourage you to hold their heads high and look anyone in the eye who tries to belittle them or their choices and tell him or her politely to go fuck themselves. Every woman has a right to decide the who, where when and what of her sexual expression irrespective of the 'implications' others project onto them for it. Consent isn’t just a defense for some kind of pathology a deux. it’s not just the absence of “no.” It’s a continually renewing process of the very “examination” these nasties are always telling us we need to make of what they consider our evil sensibilities. It’s the process by which we bond with like-minded others through relationships built on trust, as opposed to mutual suspicion and hostility. Consent, and our ability to give or withhold it, is the very thing for which women have fought so long and at such cost, and we have no more cause to surrender it to the rad-fem politburo than we have to the murderous fanatics of Operation Rescue. Arguments against the centrality of consent to the way we live are lives will always run counter to the best interests of all women, kinky or not.

As women and as kinksters we struggle daily for the right to live our lives according to the dictates of our consciences and we can’t let these shame-mongers push us back. We are who we are and the reasons are none of anyone else’s damned business.

My husband is not going to kill himself because on some mean-spirited bloviator’s say-so and I’m not going to stop speaking out on behalf of other submissive women because she thinks I shouldn’t. Go have the kind of sex you and your partner desire. You have no need to defend who you are and how you love to those who deny your humanity.


  1. Nice to read this here. A slightly fuller and more polished version will appear in Nina's Sub-Space column in the July, 2009 issue of Taboo, the magzine I edit. This issue will go on sale in mid-May.

    Obviously, as we do about most (but by no means all) things, we agree on what Nina says regarding this topic. And before any of the usual suspects show up to make the usual charges, Nina speaks entirely for herself and not at my bidding or that of anyone else, male or female. All I did was show her the relevant posts and she took it from there.

    One of the many pleasures of our marriage is that neither of us needs the other to do the talking.

  2. The otherwise sympathetic poster, Mauser, commented critically about Nina's use of the term "neo-con".

    There may be a few wingnuts who use the term as a way to bash Jews, but the term was originated by Peter Steinfels, editor of Commonweal magazine, way back in the late 1970s, to describe frustrated ex-Trotskyists, many of whom (but not all) were Jewish, who reconciled with the dominant foreign policy of the US establishment.

    What's important to understand here is that they accepted the term Steinfels bestowed on them. Since the 1970s, some Gentiles have been attracted to this ideology (most notably, Dick Cheney).

    Most of the radfems are not leftists, so Nina is not dressing them up as something they're not. Laura Lederer, for example, was a Bush appointee - she of the anthology, "Take Back the Night!". Most importantly, Andrea Dworkin supported the Iraq war and went so far as to participate in a celebratory dinner with David Frum, Maggie Gallagher and Christopher Hitchens.

    And as far as the few radfems who even claim to be leftist, let's just say that reasonable sex-positive folks differ over what to make of them. They (i.e. Jensen, Dines, Goff) claim to be opposed to the war in Iraq and say, the demonization of the Serbs in the 1990s, but refuse to openly criticize Dworkin (who supported the war) or MacKinnon (who demonized the Serbs).

    On the crucial matters of the day, therefore, the "radical feminists" are in the same camp as the neo-conservatives, so Nina's labeling is appropriate.

  3. "There may be a few wingnuts who use the term as a way to bash Jews, but the term was originated by Peter Steinfels, editor of Commonweal magazine, way back in the late 1970s, to describe frustrated ex-Trotskyists, many of whom (but not all) were Jewish, who reconciled with the dominant foreign policy of the US establishment. "

    Oh, I'm well aware of this usage – the Neocon = Trotskyist = Jew conspiracy theory that's been bandied about by an odd axis of paleo-conservatives and neo-Stalinists that make up part of the anti-globalization movement. In fact, I've had that one thrown at me by these types when I had the temerity to say something bad about Hamas.

    But I think the term is more applicable, generally, to people from the political Left who have ended up on the Right. Often their political positions are rather distinct in some ways from the Old Right, and they can be described as a school of thought in their own right. One can use "neocon" this way without resorting to conspiracy theory.

    The thing is, there are a number of big-name radfems that more or less openly aligned themselves with Neocons, especially when it became obvious that the Bush administration was going to take a hard line on the sex industry. Michael Horowitz (no relation to that other neocon, David Horowitz), Laura Lederer, and Donna Hughes, in fact, were instrumental in forging the feminist/neocon alliance around this issue.

    The book "Freeing God's Children" by Allen Hertzke (readable, in part, here), a book that's actually sympathetic with the "abolitionist" perspective mind you, goes into great detail about this, actually, and this article also discusses the alliance.

    However, in my experience, the base level radfems, like ND and the rest of the internet radfem attack brigade, are pretty clueless about a lot of this. They take any mention of these links as simply slander, a position that's based in both ignorance and in the kind of knee-jerk defensiveness typical of any group of fundamentalists.

    Where I see ND and the like as the "neocons" of sexual politics is that rhetorically they repackage what are, in fact, some very socially conservative (hell, downright reactionary) positions as being progressive to the point of "more radical than thou". In fact, that position of always coming across like they're critiquing from the Left is a long-standing "talking point" with these people, and one they've had some success with. Call them out on how reactionary they're ideas are, and you're likely to be accused of name-calling and being knee-jerk, a gambit that actually gets some sympathy among more moderate feminists. (Since, to be fair, I think a lot of women have experiences of cynically being put down as "prudes" or "repressed" just because they weren't into something some guy wanted from them.) On the other hand, letting them stake out that position of being so terribly progressive and radical is to grant them far too much.

  4. Thank you, Sheldon, for calling out Mauser on his attempt to tar Nina, who is proudly Jewish as am I as anti-semitic just because she used the term "neo-con" in a broadly symbolic way to describe rad-fem extremists who claim leftest affiliations while engaged in rightist activities.

    Your examples of the cozy relationships, denied furiouslly by both sides, between rad-fem and right-wing ideologies and acitivism are excellent, and there are other connections even more sinister.

    Melissa Farley's acceptance of direct funding from the Bush administration for her so-called "research" on legal prostituion in Nevada comes to mind. The deafening silence of rad-fem talking heads concerning the Bush gang's linking of AIDS funding in foreign countries to abstinence-only education programs and crackdowns on legal sex work is another.

    Then there's Lina Sidrys Nealon's attempts to reduce all forms of human trafficking to the sex trade and advocacy for "the Swedish Solution," in line with Bush doctrine, through her public comments with Ambassador Swanee Hunt lauding Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, whose members include our friends at Stop Porn Culture, TPoP producers Open Lens Media, Captive daughters and such famously progressive organizations as The Salvation Army, which fought in court for the right to discriminate against gay people.

    Nealon and Hunt also praise the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women, a group whose name suggests something far more laudable than closer examination reveals. In fact, this organization lobbies against legalization of sex work anywhere in the world, in keeping with the Bush administration's requirement that all countries receiving U.S. aid for HIV prevention and treatment must adopt "The Anti-Prostitution Pledge," which specifies that recipient countries must promise that no funds "may be used to promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution" or "implement any program through any organization that has not stated in either a grant application, a grant agreement, or both, that it does not promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution."

    This language was drafted by Republican Representative Chris Smith, a stalwart Bush ally best known as one of the fiercest anti-abortion crusaders on Capitol Hill.

    Time and again, we find direct links between radfem activists and organizations and right-wing counterparts who oppose the most basic rights and protections for women based on ultra-conservative ideology.

    And yet such links continue to be ferociously denied by the rad-fems in question.

    Calling them neo-cons is not only appropriate, it's among the more polite descriptions that could be attached to these reactionaries posing as progressives.

  5. Brava, Nina. Simply...Brava.

    Request permission to repost this to the SmackChron, with full credit given??


  6. Incidentally....Claire Adams just posted at her LJ blog a comment response that she sent to ND's blog that, I assume, is still stuck in the mod queue there. (Hello?? Caroline??)


  7. @Ernest: "such famously progressive organizations as The Salvation Army, which fought in court for the right to discriminate against gay people."

    And who kick out their own officers when they decide to marry outside the flock.

    "The deafening silence of rad-fem talking heads concerning the Bush gang's linking of AIDS funding in foreign countries to abstinence-only education programs and crackdowns on legal sex work is another."

    It's amazing how that is never brought up or in the rare cases it is, gets labeled as "irrelevant".

  8. Anthony,

    No problem. Post away. Nina wrote it to be read.

    And in short order, a whole lot of people will be reading it in a rater infamous magazine.

  9. Much obliged, Ernest.

    (That is you hiding behind Anonymous, is it???)


  10. Yep. That's me. Forgot to log in.

  11. It was rather interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.