I’m just into the introduction of the first book I’m reading in the sex project: Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality by Marvin Ellison. I’ve been reminded of a difference of opinion I know I’ll have with a later book I’m rereading, and that I’ll apparently have with this book as well.
Many ethical frameworks that strive to be body-positive, liberating for all and egalitarian and nonviolent in nature (all characteristics I value) make the claim at some point that the eroticizing of domination and submission is part of the problem. I appreciate and value the issue that I think they’re trying to get at: namely, that the system of oppression within which we are all immersed seeks to wrap itself around our deepest well of power – our erotic nature – and distort that power in order to control us, shape our lives and maintain a toxic grip. It’s a primary way that the system perpetuates itself.
However, rather than naming BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sado-masochism all in erotic contexts) as a reflection of the problem, as every published author that I’ve come across has done, I propose something very different instead. I have found in my own life that BDSM can be a dynamic tool for examining power and agency in our lives. BDSM, rather than only being a reflection of pathologies of power, can be an avenue to wholeness, nonviolence and egalitarian relationships. I am certain I will write more about this.
I look forward to seeing how these ideas unfold in my reading.