Kink shaming in the “me too” movement

Photo le 30-05-2018 à 11.47.jpgobs: I am not a conservative white male so I am allowed to write this.

There needs to be a serious discussion about kink shaming in the “me too” movement.  The “movement” (led by no-one and supported by an unknown number of people, a large number of people if we go by social media, but then again a lot of people supported Hillary Clinton on social media) has already been criticized for taking accusation as fact, and for publicly shaming the accused perpetrator without the burden of truth. Dozens of men have had their careers destroyed and have been humiliated by the media and by individual human beings who have nothing to do with either party, solely on the basis of accusations. The “me too” movement shifts the burden of truth from the accuser to the accused, as if this were feminist when it actually just goes against the idea of a fair justice system. Now, there is no doubt that in some of these cases, certainly in Harvey Weinstein’s, actual illegal acts were committed, and the man will be going to trial. In many others, it seems to just have to do with a bad personality. There have been calls to boycott director Brett Ratner because he is accused of having said the words “you should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay” years ago, thus “outing” a lesbian star. Big deal. Some people are assholes, doesn’t mean they should be fired from their jobs. Otherwise the unemployment rate would skyrocket, and what good would it be to live in a morally adept society if all the assholes are panhandling?

In addition to these underlying problematics, “me too” also presents the issue of kink shaming. Kink shaming is the public shaming of someone for sexual preferences that do not align with the mainstream. It comes in the form of ratting out a politician for having a secret gay relationship (which is as disgraceful in American politics as is sexual assault), or of television shows that have the tendency to portray bondage as “freaky”, and is relegated to the cringy characters on the show while the protagonists engage in vanilla sex. Sexuality is weird and there are people who enjoy exploring the possibilities of power dynamics. Some people are submissive, some dominants, some switches. The reason I need to explain this is because right now, we are having some “me too” people saying idiocies such as:

“You cannot be a champion of women when you are hitting them and choking them in bed, and saying to them, ‘You’re a fucking whore.’ ”

Excuse me lady, I’ve hit and choked women in bed and called them fucking whores, and that doesn’t make me any less of a feminist. 

This statement was made by one of the accusers of Eric Schneiderman, the now former New York attorney general who had the bad habit of slapping his dates without asking for their consent. Okay, that’s definitely a kink. People need to know that spontaneity is okay –until someone tells you to stop. In the New Yorker’s call-out article, it is explicitly stated that once women told him they weren’t into that, he stopped. One story is of a date gone wrong, where he and a lawyer were making out, he slapped her, she screamed at him, and then the date was over. The man obviously lacked tact. Which in itself, is no crime. It just makes him a very awkward person, not very nice to date. But if he never forced himself upon anyone, what’s the problem? I’ve been slapped way too hard by people who were just really bad at BDSM: I told them to stop, then they did, and that was that. On my part, once I choked a girl spontaneously during sex, and I thought she was into it, but she later told me it was really bad. It was a genuine misunderstanding and had simply misread her. Then the next day she asked me to do it again. In any case: spontaneity is part of life. 

I think of such experiences when I read lines such as “He choke[d] me, and I kept staring at his face hoping he would see that I was afraid and [that he] would stop… I couldn’t say anything” (from the accusation of T.J.Miller). If you do not enjoy something sexually and stare at someone’s face hoping they will notice, you will have many unpleasant sexual experiences. Kinky people are not to blame.

There is a double standard for kink. If someone were having simple vanilla sex and said “I kept staring at his face hoping he would see that I was afraid”, people would not take that seriously. Choking, however, is seen as a abnormal sexual activity and thus would require and extra layer of consent. Yet if we conceptually see all forms of sexual desire as socially constructed —no position is not inherently more “normal” than the other— than someone shouldn’t have to ask for permission to, say, bite during sex than they should to stroke someone’s leg. I must repeat: once the partner says they do not enjoy something, be it biting or tickling, it is best to stop. But kinky activities are no more obliged to be stopped than ones seen as “normal”.

Misunderstandings happen, and sometimes individuals project their own desires onto another person. Anyone who thinks they have a clean slate in terms of sex life, without having ever made any partner feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, either has the most boring sex life in the world or just isn’t aware of all the microactions they committed that might  have hurt someone. And since not everyone is vocal when they are hurt, how can you always know?

“People aren’t usually prosecuted for it, but, in the state of New York, slapping is assault when it results in pain or physical injury.”

When reading the New Yorker story, it emerges the Schneiderman had a serial pattern of abuse. It was his personal life. He is a terrible person, not a criminal. His relationship with his girlfriends should have nothing to do with his employment. It is an all-American tradition to shame public figures for their sex lives, the “me too” movement is certainly not revolutionary in that regard.

Woody Allen has been attacked for marrying his adopted daughter: they were two consenting adults! There are actors accused of groping men in gay clubs: if that were a crime, half of the clientèle of gay bars would be behind bars, groping each other in prison kink. Louis C. K. masturbated in front of consenting adults (even though they said ‘yes’ when they actually meant ‘no’): he is publicly shamed not for the harassment, but because masturbating in front of (seemingly consenting) dressed people is considered to be weird by American social standards. As Seinfeld stated in an interview when asked about Louis: “these behaviors themselves don’t even make sense sexually. I don’t even understand why they would do that.” That’s it: “me too” people don’t understand deviant forms of sexuality.

These behaviors themselves don’t even make sense sexually. I don’t even understand why they would do that.

And there is the crux of the matter. Half of the “me too” people don’t know anything about sex other than the missionary position. They think of sex as a tidy Victorian arrangement, in which the male asks his lady if he may or may not do certain things, and everyone must be equally happy in the end or someone was doing something terribly wrong. These people remind me of the fascist nuns in The Handmaid’s Tale. In the show, gay people are called “gender traitors”, and every aspect of sexuality is highly regulated. For the “me too” movement, women who voice deviant opinions are the new “gender traitors”.  When French feminists signed a letter against the movement, rather than be open to multiple facets of sexuality, “me too” people denounced them as enablers. It’s not actually feminism if you have to stifle other women’s voices.

Kink easily becomes sexual misconduct in the American media because Americans are as freaked out by kink as they were by homosexuality 50 years ago. What we are experiencing now is no sexual revolution, it is just the age-old tradition of controlling sexuality as a form of social control. Sodomy was historically criminalized then decriminalized; will “me too” lead to the criminalization of unequal power relations in sex? In no way will this be a feminist dictatorship: what better way to control people than make them think they have power? While harassment continues in the work place and on the street, states fail to prosecute rapists, the media serves up dozens of asshole celebrities, since they’re so easy to find, and publicly shames them as a form of entertainment. The rule of morality serves as a way to please the masses into thinking there is social justice while control creeps into ever their lives ever so intimately. All this means is that no-one can be spontaneously kinky without fear, and I will be forced to have to listen to fake feminist guys say things like “is it okay if I do this? because I’m a feminist, and I really care about the me too movement, and I want to make sure you’re comfortable”. These kinds of conversations are not only total turn-offs as they are irritatingly patronizing. I can say no myself, thank you very much. 

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