Bondage and A Movie: Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been noted as one of the most egregiously profane and violently pornographic feature films ever made.

It is indeed very profane and deeply violent. It is not a fun or pleasant film. It is, however, steeped in political relevance, which only becomes more significant with each passing day.

The Supreme Court, in its decision on obscenity, instituted the “slaps” test. Speech that is highly graphic and offensive in nature may be considered obscene, unless it has serious literary, artistic, political or scientific merit. If you have ever wondered how a work of violent pornography could have political merit, well, this is your answer.

As always, I viewed this film with my trusted submissive at my side, and for once, the film actually held my interest. I may have neglected my poor sissy somewhat, but I have wanted to see this infamous movie for quite some time. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was impressed at how prescient the film actually is. Other reviewers have reduced it to its graphic content, but miss a lot of the symbolism. Perhaps they find the extremity of it too off-putting. As someone who enjoys certain acts of perversion, perhaps I found it more palatable.

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Movies are always better with a restrained sissy.

If you are not already aware, the film focuses on a band of WWII-era fascists of the Axis powers taking over a town in Italy. There are four men who lead the group, but they have armed soldiers and other accomplices. They select a group of young men and women from their victims and take them to a villa, where they torture and degrade them in every possible way before ultimately murdering them. Continue reading

Regarding Children

Content note: This post directly addresses the issue of violence against children and youth, and its place in the larger context of the role of children in society.

BDSM is an adult activity. It requires adult judgment and skills. It is both illegal and unethical to involve people under 18 in sexual communities organized for adults. In some cases, 21 is the standard, because of the presence of alcohol. Serving alcohol to underage people can be just the excuse needed to shut a club down, so it’s for the preservation of the group.

However, people who don’t respect the boundary of legal age are everywhere. They target people who are not yet adults because they are less experienced, and therefore more vulnerable. There is always a power differential in this type of situation. Dating someone who doesn’t have the legal ability to make decisions for themselves, in addition to limited or no income, and often, no transportation, means that they are easier to manipulate and control.

Abuse against preadolescent children is even more heinous. The idea that this is purely a function of deviance in individuals is a dangerous one, I think. It’s a crime of convenience. The people who harm young children are most often the people closest to them. Yes, some people get close to children on purpose, but there are also plenty of parents and close relatives who abuse their own children. One of the most common perpetrators of child abuse is the romantic partner of a single parent. This is not about an innate interest, it is about who is nearby and vulnerable.

Part of the problem is that we, as a society, see children as objects and possessions. We routinely disregard the autonomy of children, and subject them to unfair and unpleasant treatment. It is often necessary for parents and children to do things they dislike, for their health and safety, but many things are simply because adults are lazy and don’t care.

Objectifying children is a parallel of the way we treat women. Women are frequently treated in paternalistic ways, not allowed to make their own decisions, and abused for the pleasure, profit and convenience of others.

Parents who treat their children like possessions are one reflection of this social norm. “Nobody can tell me how to raise my child” presumes not only that belonging to a community has no place in parenting, but also that the child has no say in what happens to them.

The idea of children as familial assets goes back to agrarian societies. In a farm-based economy, children were free labor, and having many would help to ensure that the family farm would survive into the future.

In an industrial society, children are also routinely exploited for labor, but where this practice is prohibited, children become an expense rather than an asset. Now, many people feel that because they must pay to provide for the child, they own the child and can do whatever they please with them. Most parents have no wish to harm their child, but for those who have no compunction about harming others, the child is a convenient target.

Children who are intersex or transgender are particularly at risk. When a child is born with physical characteristics that do not conform to binary sex and gender, many parents still subject that child to unnecessary surgery to make them conform. The damage done by this practice is long-lasting and deeply scarring, both physically and emotionally. Likewise, children know their gender, and many parents refuse to accept this and force them to conform to the gender they were assigned.

Whenever we disregard the feelings and wishes of children for no reason but our own convenience or entertainment, we put them at risk. I remember being required to do things that made me very uncomfortable, such as dancing with the ring bearer at a wedding, or accompanying my mother to unfamiliar places, full of adults I did not know, many of whom were drinking and using drugs. Girls, especially, are often required to display heteronormative socialization at a young age, to the extent of being paired with older male relatives for acts of faux heterosexuality, or enduring the inappropriate interest of older men without complaint.

Sexuality involving children is deeply taboo, on one hand, and yet, children are expected to conform to expectations of sex and gender, and are even pressured to display signs of future heterosexuality. Teasing kids about their “girlfriends” or “boyfriends,” for instance, is a very common practice that imposes adult perceptions. They pretty much universally hate it, and object strongly, and still adults persist in this creepy and inappropriate practice.

The right of children to say “no” to anything not necessary for their healthy, safe development supersedes the rights of parents – if not legally, then ethically. If we can’t agree on that, then we can’t be so surprised when abuse is so prevalent.

Bondage and a Movie – Irreversible

For my follow up to watching the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad fake BDSM movie, I wanted to blog about watching a better movie with kink in it. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to access any of the films I wanted through streaming services.

So we watched “Irreversible”, directed by Gaspar Noe.

If you’re not familiar with this film, this is the one with the infamous rape scene in the red tunnel. Its other claims to fame are the insane opening shot – extremely long with constantly shifting camera angles, designed to make the viewer feel disoriented – and its reverse chronology, a technique used to better effect in Memento and Pulp Fiction.

I was, again, assisted, and somewhat distracted, by my submissive. Trying to pay attention to a serious movie with subtitles while my delightful sub is tied up next to me was a serious challenge, and I’m afraid I lost track somewhat during the last half hour or so.

To be quite honest, although I found it cinematically impressive in many ways, and I’m sure it was highly influential and shocking at the time it was released, I didn’t get a lot out of the film. The opening shot is, in fact, very disorienting and difficult to watch, but also powerful, in the way that it mirrors the character’s descent into rage. Because of the reverse chronology, we’re also confused and lost.
The rape scene is indeed incredibly realistic and plausible, and as a result, it is nakedly violent and not at all sexy. I admit freely, that like many other women (and men), I have what you could call “rape fantasies.” In contrast to all of the many ways western culture soft-peddles sexual violence to us in a way that makes it seem romantic and alluring, Irreversible makes it look as horrifying and ugly as it is. That the rapist is, we are led to believe, a bisexual sadist, however, places the blame for sexual violence with “those people.” The reaction of our protagonist, then, which we can only consider in retrospect, becomes an act of vengeance not for his beloved, but for “normal people.” It doesn’t help that, in his downward spiral of revenge, he engages in a great deal of casual racism and transphobia.

The back third of the movie doesn’t really add anything of value. Instead of placing the violence of the rest of the movie against a backdrop of peace and happiness, I saw a lot of pretentious blather and obnoxious public behavior. If the point Noe was going for was to demonstrate how Marcus didn’t really deserve Alex and couldn’t retroactively justify his existence by trying to murder her rapist, well, then I’d say he succeeded. I didn’t quite understand why Alex and Marcus were spending the evening with her former lover, either. That just seems awkward to me. And even before the violence starts, it’s not like they were getting along that well.

Ultimately, I felt like Irreversible was the kind of foreign film that would have been received entirely differently in the U.S. if it had been filmed in English. Had it been directed by, say, Tarantino or Verhoeven, it would have been considered a minor entry in either’s ouvre – a particularly nasty and unfunny one at that.

As the plot worked its way backward, I was drawn to the more tangible and personally satisfying entertainment of teasing my dear sweet sissy. We recently entered into a training collar arrangement, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Far from the bleak nihilism of the film, our relationship has warmth and affection as well as more intense sensations.

I intend to continue our Bondage and a Movie project. In the future, we’ll be watching movies that have some kinky content, and hopefully, something interesting to say about sex and intimacy.

Evangelism

When I was in high school, I found religion.

It was, perhaps, the most mundane, mild-mannered religion possible – Presbyterianism. My family had never been religious at all. The most we ever did was set up a creche at Christmas and say grace at holiday dinners. I never went to Sunday school and was never taken to church by my family. As I figured out later, this was due to my grandmother’s history. She had been Episcopalian, and when she divorced her alcoholic, violently abusive husband in the 60s, the church was not happy about it.

So, why the sudden interest in Jesus? Simple. There was a boy. I was 15, and he was the charismatic hotshot in speech and debate class. And he went to church. As it turned out, the same church as a friend of mine. So, off I went to youth group.

I never did get anywhere with the boy, but I did get religion. I had a conversion experience and everything. I was hooked by the hope, faith and charity. Over time, my zeal faded, but I retain a fondness for the J-man. I lean more towards Unitarian Universalism these days, being the intellectual elite that I am.

I really liked the high school church youth group. We did charity work, and we sang songs, and we had fun together.

Sometimes, we played a game called Evangelism. If you’ve ever played Sharks and Minnows, or something similiar, you know the premise. Everyone stands on one side of the field and runs across, while the “shark”, or in this case, the evangelist, stands in the middle. In Sharks and Minnows you get people by tagging them. In Evangelism, you pick them up off the ground and say, “Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you!”

The guys ususally took this as an opportunity to get in full-on wrestling matches, while the girls would feign outrage and put their hands up. “Oh no! Don’t pick me up!”

Well, most of the girls. My friend and I opted instead for wrestling. When someone tried to pick us up, we struggled and resisted. We scraped and clawed, and did everything short of throwing punches.

I didn’t find it arousing, exactly, but I can’t say it wasn’t a visceral thrill. Being forcibly picked up for Jesus was the closest thing I had to rough sex, and I liked it.

I’ve never really been able to replicate the all-out, intense experience of force and resistance of Evangelism. That kind of suspension of disbelief in BDSM is hard to come by. No one wants to do injury. And we rarely play in a field or on a gym floor, where we could have the luxury of space and a soft landing underneath. In a dungeon or large play party, it can be really disruptive to others.

Playing at being forced to do things we want to do is a central theme in kink, but the raw physical expression of that dynamic is rare. I didn’t just want the boys to pick me up. I wanted them to subdue me. I still like that idea. I don’t know if I could physically subdue someone else, but then, maybe that’s why we don’t do it that ofen. There are other ways of suspending the reality and living in the fantasy, if only for a little while.

Whoever loves the least controls the relationship

This is an old adage that I’ve heard many times, and I think it’s true. I’ve been in relationships where I was not loved as much as I loved the other person, and I felt myself to be at their mercy. Not in a good way, either, but in a terrible, desperate way. My great regret is not leaving this type of relationship sooner.

It should be said, though, that being unable to return someone’s love is also painful. Knowing that I could not give them what they wanted was terribly sad. Again, though, it was hard to leave.

We want to be wanted and needed. We want to be loved. And that desire makes us dependent on those whose love we desire the most.

For me, and many others, the desire to submit, or more specifically, the desire to be dominated, is an extension of that need. When a dominant person makes the effort to take us, make us, or “force” us, that makes us feel wanted and needed. Many submissives talk about feeling dependent on their dominant, it’s true. But think about the fantasy scenario.

If submissives imagine themselves being “forced,” being made to do things that, in reality, they actually want to do, does that not imply that the dominant wants it more than the submissive? And if the dominant wants it more than the submissive, then who is in control?

Submission contains within it an expression of need – a need to be wanted and needed. I suspect that for many, this grows out of a history of not having one’s needs met, or a history of feeling unwanted and unloved. That desire for the irresistable, forceful, and even violent desire of a dominant creates something a paradox.

In fact, perhaps the neediness in a submissive craves not the control of a dominant, but the satisfaction of knowing that the dominant needs the submissive.

Dominants project an image, often, of callous indifference. That emotional distance can be helpful in creating the atmosphere and the dynamic that is pleasing to both parties. But when we compare it to non-consensual analogs of BDSM play, we see individuals who victimize others not out of a sense of security, but of insecurity. Predators lash out at victims in an attempt to acquire what they feel they lack, and what they feel they deserve but are unfairly deprived of. Aggressors attack because they feel powerless.

Some might say that this signals the difference between the “fake” aggressor and the “real” dominant. I find this distinction to be meaningless. Aggressors and bad dominants don’t care about the consent or well-being of their victims, while good dominants do. That is the material difference. This does not imply that good dominants are acting out of a feeling of security. I’d wager that there are plenty of considerate, ethical dominants who feel all kinds of insecurity, about a wide variety of things, including their dominance. The difference is that they choose to address that insecurity in ways that do not involve violating consent.

Dominants have needs, wants, limits, and feelings, contrary to popular belief. And submissives can be indifferent and callous as well as dominants. I believe that sometimes, hidden within the appearance of powerlessness, lies a deeper need to feel in control by manipulating the desire of others.

The Woman Botherer

The Woman Botherer is a species of internet creature that exhibits a set of behaviors considered obnoxious by other members of the internet ecosystem.

The Woman Botherer appears to lack a carbon-based anatomy, except for occasional sightings of an erect (or semi-erect) penis, which may or may not be stolen from other creatures.

Common signs that a Woman Botherer is near include incoherent text messages, questions of a sexual nature, and rambling attempts at conversation with no apparent point. Examples include:

“hey”

“what r u wearing?”

“what would you do to me if I was there?”

Requests for clarification will often provoke a defensive maneuver in the Woman Botherer. As this creature is unable to state a clear goal or purpose, asking for one will render it inert. Refusing to answer its questions or responding in the negative may elicit an aggressive response. However, some Woman Botherers seem to take satisfaction in receiving an aggressive response from its target.

The Woman Botherer seems attracted to displays of femininity, however, it is not especially selective. It has been known to approach women, men in feminine clothing, illustrations, fictional characters, and occasionally, potted plants.

If you spot a Woman Botherer in the wild, you may choose to ignore it or chase it off with loud noises. Attempting to understand its objective is futile, and will lead to wasted time and confusion.

In Search of the Real

[Note: This originally appeared on my Fetlife page. If you are a member of Fetlife, you can view it here.]

What is a fake internet person? Of what does this phenomenon consist? Is it merely a collection of electronic signals, a phantasm arranged specifically to entice, confound, and ultimately disappoint, signifying nothing?

Or is it the inevitable result of the structures that have risen up through the crowd-based magic of social media platforms?

Social media platforms such as Fetlife, where sexuality is very much on display and part of the fabric, are generating a specific form of sexual economy. At one end are the opportunists, using social media and related platforms to spin the electronic glow of sexual possibility into income. These sirens display the same types of images one has come to expect from the millions of adult websites that already exist. The difference is the potential for intimate interaction with one specific woman rather than an unresponsive visual representation. The interjection of this type of sexual entrepreneurship into social media makes the fundamentally economic basis of electronic “friendship” more obvious.

After all, if the service is free, the service is not the product. The USER is the product. The user’s information, presence and desires are what the platform seeks to manipulate to generate revenue. The platform is simply a device to conglomerate users in one place.

Into this situation we add the ubiquity of media phenomena such as 50 Shades of Grey and the almost constant barrage of appeals to straight male desire. More people are aware of kink than ever before. And many are curious.

But in the absence of a sustained and accessible dialogue about how to go about sexual relationships in this context, and a lack of awareness of tried and true methods for improving safety, a great many people sit behind screens and flail about with no result. Continue reading