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An Anarchist-Feminist Perspective Against BDSM

  • by Usul of the Blackfoot

Introductory Thoughts I understand as I begin writing this zine that I’m going to piss off a lot of folks; people don’t like to hear opinions that contradict or oppose their behaviours. Besides that, I know all too well from personal experience that I’m in the minority on this one. And this subject matter (unsurprisingly) seems to evoke a rare and aggressive vehemence in people- particularly radicals- that other realms of conversation do not.

I chose to write this zine because I’m tired of being persecuted for not having interest in BDSM and all it entails. I’m writing this because I’m exhausted by the near-ubiquity of positive thoughts and words on the matter, I’m tired of being constantly bombarded by people’s stories of “kinky” sexual conquest. I’m absolutely sick of being in info shops and houses designated “safe spaces” (those apparently devoted to abolishing oppressive speech and action and making everyone feel safe and comfortable), and being regaled by a never ending supply of bondage stories, domination fantasies.

I’m writing this because, to be upfront, I think the various behaviours encouraged by BDSM are fucked up and oppressive, and I just can’t understand how so many anarchists and feminists I meet tout these acts as “hot,” and even worse, as “liberating.” And I’m writing this because I think, no, I know there are many others out there who also find the actions and mindsets of BDSM unpalatable, but are too afraid to speak up because it’s accepted (at least in radical circles) as a given and wonderful aspect of human sexuality. Everybody does it, something must be wrong with me. I want these men, women, and others to be able to speak up without fear of reprisal or rejection, just as I hope to be able to.

I want to lay out some things about myself, so those who read this who don’t know me can understand better where I’m coming from. I also want to avoid speculation about my person instead of contemplation of the ideas presented herein.

I’m male bodied and I identify as male. I’m 25. My ancestry is mostly Scottish and Native American (Cherokee, or Aniyvwiya), with a sprinkling of French. As far as civilized family units go, mine was poor but functional and loving growing up, and my childhood- compared to many I’ve witnessed- was fucking sweet. I am a green anarchist and a feminist. I hate civilization and look forward to its downfall, but I am not a primitivist. I’ve never been raped (in terms of full-on, un-consensual intercourse- I know this isn’t the only definition of rape, it’s just the one I choose to use), but I have been molested on several occasions (as in wandering hands, forcefulness, and unwelcome advances after clearly saying “no”). This includes being propositioned by one of my high school teachers to engage in BDSM with a friend and fellow student. I enjoy the emotional and sexual company of men and women, and, though I’ve never yet been with such a person, I’m attracted to people who don’t identify as either. I enjoy emotional intimacy and asexual relationships as much as I enjoy sex.

It might seem odd to state such things outright, but I want to be very honest and straightforward throughout this zine. It is not my intention to attack those who are into BDSM. Too often, conversations from which all involved should benefit are instead battlefields in which all parties are trying to “win.” I have no desire to win this discussion. I also understand that like-minded adults can do whatever they want in private, and I don’t intend to tell anyone what they can and can’t do.

But I’m not going easy on the subject. I do intend to attack BDSM itself, as a set of behaviours, as a set of ideas and attitudes, as a civilized tradition, as a reflection of oppression, patriarchy, and violence, and, to borrow a term from Derrick Jensen, as a toxic mimic of healthy adult human sexuality.

Defining BDSM

BDSM is a complex acronym embodying a number of words and practices. Extracted completely this includes bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, and masochism. Quite a mouthful. Let’s look at each of these individually, just to make clear what we’re talking about.

Bondage is a the act of being bound (or binding others, in the case of those in “dominant” roles), usually, though not always, for sexual pleasure. It is also sometimes known as vincilagnia, from the Latin meaning “the lust to be bound with chains.” The practice of bondage involves an expansive arsenal of paraphernalia, including chains, ropes, collars, gags and bits (like those used on horses), handcuffs, straitjackets, leather and latex clothes specifically designed for bondage, thumb cuffs, St. Andrew’s crosses (large, xshaped racks), slings, tape, and a number of other devices.

Discipline is pretty self-explanatory. It usually involves a “dom,” or dominant party, disciplining a “sub,” or submissive party. This can come in the form of commands, bondage, whipping, hot wax, physical blows, humiliation (such as licking the soles of the dominant party’s shoes, or demeaning the submissive verbally), and so on. Domination and submission are equally self-defining.

Domination is the act of dominating, submission the act of submitting. In a sexual context, this can include a variety of behavior, but is generally characterized by two polarized roles: “dom,” or dominant, and “sub,” or submissive. Dominant people sometimes also use the term “top,” while submissives occasionally use the word “bottom” in place of dom and sub. “Switch” describes those who alternate between roles.

Sadism is the act of inflicting pain, torment, or humiliation upon another to achieve sexual gratification. Masochism, quite similarly, is the act of receiving pain, torment, or humiliation to gain pleasure. Because they so often go together, these terms are collectively known as sadomasochism. The term sadism was inspired by the life and writings of Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade. The term is well-deserved, as the Marquis lived a life of extremely abusive, violent, painful sexuality, and was on more than one occasion imprisoned by the austere French authorities for his actions. Masochism is derived from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who wrote many works including the 1869 novel Venus in Furs. SacherMasoch was also a socialist, philosemite (an opponent of discrimination against Jews), and, in his later years, a feminist. Seems BDSM has been common in radical circles for quite a long time…

A Brief History of BDSM

The origins of BDSM are not definitively agreed upon. The Cult of Orthia, one of the most important religions of ancient Sparta (one of the most violent, slave-driven, dominant, militaristic societies of all time), performed ritual flagellation called diamastigosis- on a regular basis. The Tomba della Fustigazione, or Flogging Grave, is an Etruscan burial site in Tarquinia dating to the sixth century BCE that depicts quite graphically the whipping of a woman by two men with whom she’s having sex. The writings of the Roman authors Juvenal and Petronius both contain references to flagellation for pleasure.

Many Roman rituals have also contributed to the origins of BDSM. One of the most notable characteristics of the Roman holiday Saturnalia was the exchanging of roles- the exchanging of power- between master and slave. Perhaps even more obvious is the Roman holiday Lupercalia, during which sacrifices were made, thongs cut from the hides of the victims, and young men, dressed in the hides of the sacrificed animals, chased women through the streets whipping them to ensure fertility and to ease the pain of childbirth. Though it is not nearly as blatant a mingling of violence, death, dominance, and sexuality, Lupercalia’s tradition of flagellation lives on in certain Christian Easter Monday whippings.

Of course, flagellation is by no means an exclusively Roman or pagan phenomenon. In the tumultuous European medieval era, Christian flagellants practiced the “mortification of flesh” that has come to illustrate their way of life. Although sexuality is absent in the rituals of Christian flagellants, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, a life of mental bondage and vassalage to God, body hatred, physical discipline (flagellants were called disciplinati in Italian), and public humiliation are omnipresent. The practice of ritual Christian flagellation is much less common today than it was in the middle ages, but the legacy of Christian BDSM lives on in our society. Ritual flagellation is also present in several forms of Islam, and ritual whipping (for women) and spanking (for men) is present in Taoist temples.

More recently, in the Western world, there is an abundance of literature and artwork containing references to or full depictions of BDSM-related activities from the mid-1700s onward. Such prurient literature culminated, of course, in the writings of the previously mentioned Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.

Many years after the writings of de Sade and Sacher-Masoch, BDSM finds influences in the gay male leather subculture, particularly in the U.S.. The leather movement, now sometimes called “Old Guard Leather,” is one of the most potent influences on the attitudes and actions of modern BDSM, and its origins are perhaps the most patriarchal.

Leather culture came about in the period just following World War II, as soldiers returned home from the European and Pacific theatres. These soldiers became addicted to a life surrounded and defined by men, traditional “masculinity,” enforced structure and hierarchy, dominance and submission, discipline, extreme violence, servitude, and an atmosphere or command and obedience. Upon returning home, this morphed into a gay (that is, queer male, and only queer male) subculture involving all of the same traits. This subculture is arguably the most influential element in the formation of modern BDSM.

Thoughts and Arguments Against

BDSM As I mentioned before, I fully understand that in any society whether it be, say, a terrifyingly powerful police state like the Western world at present, or a fictional, yet to be achieved anarchist paradise some of us are working toward- two (or more) consenting adults can do whatever they want in private. But, as with all other behaviours and ideas, just because folks have (or should have, in the case of sexual legislation in Statist societies) the right to do something doesn’t mean I have to like it or think it’s good and wonderful and liberating.

And I don’t think BDSM is good and wonderful and liberating, no matter how many people insist that it is. I also don’t think for half a second that just because it’s consensual, it’s good and healthy. Pretty much every time I’ve had a discussion about this topic in person, people are quick to dismiss any rejection or questioning of BDSM with, “It’s consensual!” I wonder if these people know the horrifying and vomit inducing story of Armin Meiwes and his victim Bernd Brandes, who consented to being fucked, and killed, and eaten. Good job, civilization; well done, patriarchy.

No, whether it is consensual or not, I see BDSM as oppressive, patriarchal in every sense of the word, and as a poisonous charade of healthy, mutually beneficial love and sex. It’s difficult for me to understand how other people feel differently.

I found a post some time ago on the feminist blog Angry For a Reason that I can’t resist using to open this critique. User Twisty writes:

“Like it or lump it, BDSM is patriarchy, the whole patriarchy, and nothing’ but the patriarchy, in a black latex nutshell. It is, I unwaveringly assert according to the Honor Code of the Blaming Spinsters, the eroticization of a vastly horrific social order that has, over the millennia, generated the suffering of untold millions, and against which I am sworn to vituperate.

BDSM’s got it all: sex, power, rape, pain, dominance, submission, the false pretext of freedom [emphasis added], delusions of superiority, sublimation of the orgasm at all costs, women who think it liberates them [emphasis added again], a conservative orthodoxy, compulsory conformity, absurd, exaggerated gender roles, and a silly dress code. It is profoundly anti-feminist… anti-individual, and unattractive.”

The conversation that follows is what I’d like to see a lot more of in anarchist and feminist circles. It can be viewed in full at http://angryforareason.blogspot.com/2006/02/asalways.html.

Most of the traits Twisty lists can also be applied to Civilization, and aptly so. BDSM is in every way tied to and a product of Civilization. There are few, if any, anthropological indications that the behaviours and mental atmospheres encouraged by BDSM existed in societies before the world was poisoned by pandemic civilization. Considering the nature of civilized societies, it’s not really surprising that BDSM is as common as it is.

During the last six thousand years as civilization has conquered and destroyed, its many defining characteristics have remained unchanged. A quick glance at any fallen or contemporary civilized society reveals that they all depend on and benefit from slavery, violence, subjugation, mental and physical torture, imaginary guises of freedom and superiority, self-destruction and personal sacrifice of those not in power, domination and humiliation of those not in power, strict gender roles, compulsion in so many ways, power structures and established hierarchies ruling over every aspect of life, and discipline and punishment for rule-breakers. Sound familiar?

Throughout his works, anti-civ author Derrick Jensen frequently alludes to oppressed peoples fetishizing and glorifying their own suffering in religious beliefs that reinforce the socio-political structures keeping them down. Many African slaves, for example, adopted Christianity, which teaches: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ (Ephesians 6:5-7)” and “If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah, 1:19).” It might have uplifted the spirits of impoverished and beaten slaves, but adopting the religion of white Westerners didn’t do a bit of fucking good in terms of stopping slavery. It, in fact, reinforced and strengthened slavery.

BDSM is the same. As Twisty said, it is qualified in part by the “false pretext of freedom.” It glorifies and eroticizes slavery and submissiveness, authority and subjugation, embarrassment and punishment, and promises “heaven” in the form of pleasure and release for its followers. Many who practice BDSM insist that it sets them free, but, like Christian dogma to slavery, how is BDSM stopping or even challenging the social and political institutions that keep us all imprisoned?

Twisty lists “women who think it liberates them” as one of the defining points of BDSM. I would extend this to men, trans folks, and genderless/genderqueer people, ending with people who think it liberates them. I certainly know many such people, and I’m sure you do too.

All of the friends and acquaintances I’ve known who are into BDSM are victims of one or more of the previously listed symptoms of civilized life/patriarchy/oppression, &c.. It’s entirely subjective, of course, because there are countless others who enjoy BDSM whom I don’t know. However, it’s these close relationships and the critical thinking I’ve applied to them that really made me begin to doubt BDSM as a natural part of human sexuality.

One friend, a privileged white male, likes being bound, whipped, spanked, humiliated, lambasted, and punched in the face- like, actually punched in the face- during sex. Another friend loves being bound and silenced, she likes playing the role of a little girl being raped by an older man, she enjoys being strangled and cut during sex, and all of her relationships are with older, overbearing dominant men who keep her in mental slavery and emotional dependency to their abuse. A third friend loves being tied up and talked down to, spanked and told he’s bad.

I could go on and on, but with each and every one of the folks I know who enjoy such things, the reasons are blatant. A repressed childhood of Catholic school and abusive male figures, being told as a young girl that masturbation is poison and you’ll go to hell if god catches you doing it, a lifetime of gender confusion, the feeling of being held down and choked by the conditions of growing up, seeking retribution for one’s patriarchal bullshit instead of seeking solutions and making amends: all of these things, and other forms of psychophysical repression, manifest themselves in the pursuits and behaviours of BDSM.

I think most of the people who view BDSM as liberating don’t realize that the power of these various oppressive institutions we’ve been discussing is actually reinforced by BDSM, as it also relies on and encourages the exchange of power. What this essentially means is that those who practice BDSM recognize that there is a power structure, really many overlapping hierarchies, in our society. However, instead of battling these structures and actively seeking their annihilation, people fetishize exchanging power briefly in hopes of getting off. More often than not, those most interested in exchanging power are those in power. A quick glance at Craigslist or any other website advertising erotic “services” shows that there is an endless supply of wealthy (powerful) white (powerful) men (powerful) who can’t wait for the next dominatrix to come along and sell them some punishment for being “bad little boys.” These fuckers are fully aware how awful their lives and actions are, maybe they’re even aware how puerile and held back they are mentally, and they’re totally willing to exchange their blood money for the hot commodity of poor powerless people to discipline them.

Surely, helping these rotten bastards get off in exchange for money only cements the idea in their head that they own the world, that they own all the people in it, and that they can buy whatever that want, even remonstration and punishment for their misdeeds.

This brings up an entirely different aspect of BDSM that disgusts me; that is, the consumerism and capitalism driving it and profiting from it. You name it, BDSM is all about buying and selling it: toys, props, absurd costumes, sex acts, professional domination, overpriced conventions and fetish balls, porn, porn, porn. I’m sure there are folks out there who make all their own BDSM gear, but even so, BDSM is undeniably money-driven, money-making, money-oriented. Probably because in our society money is the same as power, and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

The assorted miscellany available for BDSM “play” is pretty telling itself. Many of these “toys” are overt in their relationship to the multifarious onslaught of oppression. Hell, even calling these implements toys (when they are clearly made for less-than-playful means) demonstrates the kind of sophistry that must go on in the minds of folks who see BDSM as a freeing force. Bits and whips, to take two examples, have been used to drive animal slavery (including humans) for as long as domestication has existed. Among certain practitioners of BDSM chains and shackles- serious, heavy, transport-to-the-New-World shackles- are used as restraints. Does this even need discussing? And among others handcuffs, thumb cuffs, ankle cuffs, and straitjackets predominate bedroom activities. These are the same devices used by those who “protect and serve” the dominant culture and its insane policies and practices by arresting, imprisoning. and enslaving those on lower rungs of the hierarchy. Of course, some people toss out the props and get straight to the point by donning the costumes of cops, businessmen, doctors, slave masters, and soldiers.

In the face of all of these arguments to the contrary, people who participate in BDSM still claim that it is liberating. If it’s not liberating them from patriarchy, capitalism, fucked up childhoods, slavery, gender roles, groupthink, or the dark shadow cast by nation states (which it absolutely isn’t on all accounts), what the hell exactly is it liberating them from?

Radicals and, to a much greater degree, queer folks are two of the most vilified, persecuted groups of people in the world at present. I suspect, then, that due to constant abuse and due to constantly paying attention to just how abusive this world is, many queer and radical (and radical queer) individuals don’t know how to express love and sexuality any other way than through violence and abuse.

In every city and small town I’ve been to that hosts an anarchist community, there are ongoing projects aimed at mental healing, mediating conflicts between people, healing our bodies from the poison of industrial society, and groups to help survivors of rape. And yet, there are no discussion groups aimed at rooting out the patriarchy, violence, and desire to lord over others in our sex lives. There is only positive affirmation- “ooh babys!” and “hell yeahs!”- toward a system of false freedom and continued constraint.

And there’s a lot of rhetoric, too. People have invented a whole slew of sophisticated, gentle vocabulary to soften the image of BDSM. These include SSC- safe, sane, and consensual- and RACK- risk aware consensual kink. But these clever titles completely ignore the historical roots and modern linkages of BDSM to just about all the tremendously bad crap in the world. Sex involving BDSM can be as consensual, aware of risk, safe, and sane as possible, but it’s still patriarchy, it’s still domination, it’s still slavery. And those who consent to slavery, domination, and patriarchy are helping these things thrive just as much as the slavers, dominators, and patriarchs. Doesn’t sound very safe or sane to me.

It’s exactly this kind of language and attitude that makes BDSM a toxic mimic of healthy love and sex. Clever lingo disguising horrors underneath the surface is a technique as old as the oppressive forces who use it. Military officials insist that Our Glorious Empire’s wars abroad are liberating people.

Liberals demand angrily that voting is responsible and will free us if only we’ll all vote the right way. The hordes of religious zealots here and elsewhere insist that obedience, worship, prostration, loyalty, and the complete revocation of personal choice and responsibility will bring us eternal happiness. When disaster strikes the Empire, our political leaders tell us to go shopping- that’ll make everything alright. Instead of allowing and helping our kids to educate themselves, we send them to schools where their heads are filled with garbage and propaganda, because it’s the responsible decision, the choice that will make them free people in a free country.

These examples all imitate actual responsibility and healthy adult decision making. Instead of allowing all people their autonomy, we conquer, err, liberate them and make their choices for them. Instead of abolishing all governments and governing ourselves, we continue to rely on Statist governments to make decisions for us; we continue voting to convince ourselves we have a voice, that we have responsibility. Instead of freeing our minds, taking action when action is called for, and seeking to attain our own happiness, now, in the real world, we trust in god to take care of us, make decisions for us, guide our lives. Rather than removing ourselves entirely from capitalist economies and making all of our own necessities, we make the most responsible, freedom-loving choices when we go shopping. When our kids could be learning naturally as children do, we send them to government schools in hopes that they’ll get good jobs.

We’ve all seen through this obvious bullshit, we’re all fighting hard against such clouded, insane doublethink and the systems that bring it about. And yet, many still think BDSM will free them. As long as we practice capturing, binding, enslaving, silencing, flogging, torturing, dominating, submitting, berating, humiliating, and otherwise abusing one another, we’re all free and liberated and happy. As long as we imitate the social and political structures destroying our lives and minds and bodies and the world, we’re free of those things. Yeah, right.

I think it’s time we all started thinking a little more critically about our sexual behaviours and attitudes. I think it’s time we anarchists, we feminists start discussing which sexual behaviours are good and liberating and which aren’t, instead of just accepting BDSM as an inseparable aspect of human sexuality, as a universal presence inf social spaces, as a given interest we must all have. I assert it’s time for us all to engage in truly safe, sane, consensual sex and asexual relationships; it’s time for us all to be aware of the risks of imitating and engaging in oppressive behaviours under the guise of freedom and pleasure. Maybe then, we can all heal that much more from this society’s mistreatment and insanity.

Anti-Copyright 2009

Usul of the Blackfoot. Please reprint, republish, & redistribute.

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Sex-pozzies and their “feminist porn”

This article is shared from: https://purplesagefem.wordpress.com/

A piece of anti-feminist propaganda published in the Guardian recently preaches that yes, feminists can have rape fantasies! And it’s all subversive and revolutionary when we do, of course.

The title of the article is Spanking, caning and consent play: how feminist porn frees women from shame.

The main gist of this article is that women just intrinsically want to fantasize about rape, and create porn that depicts rape, and they are ashamed of this because of the shaming coming from repressed, anti-sex prudes.

This shit is not new. Sex-pozzie “feminism” has been around for decades as a backlash against radical feminism. The sex-pozzies don’t like when feminists talk about serious topics like rape, incest, pornography, prostitution, and sexual slavery, and they prefer to turn the conversation back to their fun sexytimes. Because they are really fun people who just want to have a good time and they’re not like those ugly, man-hating feminists.

The article begins thusly:

“Can a feminist have rape fantasies?

According to feminist pornography producer Pandora Blake, who runs the fetish porn site Dreams of Spanking and frequently portrays fantasies of “non-consent”, the answer is a no-brainer. “Absolutely.”

The general consensus in the feminist porn movement is that no fantasy, no matter how anti-feminist the subject matter appears to be, is off limits. To tell a woman what she is and is not allowed to be turned on by is just about as anti-feminist as it gets.

“Removing shame from hardcore BDSM desire and rape play and age play and all of the kinky taboos that women just have not been allowed to like ever, that’s the kind of stuff that really draws me into the feminist porn movement,” says Courtney Trouble, the producer behind Trouble Productions and a past Feminist Porn Conference keynote speaker.”

Where to even get started with this “feminist porn” business? The people quoted in this article are suggesting that “feminist porn” can have just as much abusive content as regular porn—they say that nothing is off-limits, including hardcore BDSM and rape. So what is the difference then, between what they’re creating and the rest of the misogynist porn industry?

The “feminist pornographers” explain that in their porn, performers are allowed to cut the scene if they are uncomfortable with something, they talk about consent first, fat people are allowed, and only people who are kinky in real life do kink scenes, so that no vanilla prudes will be made uncomfortable. So basically the only difference between “feminist porn” and regular porn is that no one is outright being raped, and there is more variety in body type. Everything else is the same though—the eroticization of dominance and submission and the portrayal of oppression as sexy is left intact. The same message is being sent to the viewer: the sexual abuse of women is sexy.

When it comes down to it, the main difference between “feminist porn” and regular porn is that in “feminist porn” it’s women volunteering for their own degradation, instead of men enforcing it on them. How revolutionary! But this is what third wave sex-pozzie “feminism” is. It’s when women take over doing the hard work of oppressing women so that men can relax and just enjoy the show. Women volunteer to be oppressed instead of being helpless victims of oppression. Because if we volunteer for our oppression, it isn’t oppressing us anymore. You can fight a revolution without changing the material conditions of women’s lives—you simply rebrand what’s happening to you as something else and voilà—oppression gone!

Liberal feminism

Back in 2008, Twisty Faster wrote about a “feminist” burlesque show that was a lot like this, in the sense that it was about how it’s a “feminist” act for women to volunteer to be objectified. She wrote one of the best blog titles I’ve ever seen:

“Pornulation empowerfulizes us, say humorous ironic hotties”

Fucking genius.This is a great piece of hers, however short, and it contains these gems, which are applicable to the current “feminist porn” article.

“How is fun-feminism different from regular feminism? Not at all, except that it’s antifeminist. It’s when you capitulate to, participate in, embrace, and openly promote rape culture in exchange for approval, claiming that it empowerfulizes you.”

And…

“The idea that women’s public sexuality can so precisely mirror traditional male fantasy while simultaneously existing in a kind of pro-woman, I-do-it-for-myself alternate universe is the cornerstone of funfeminist “thought.” The flaw in this reasoning is that all women must participate in patriarchy regardless of what they say motivates their participation; patriarchy is the dominant culture, and there is no opting out. Which means there is no opting in, either. Do it for me, do it for you, whatever; the primary beneficiaries of women’s participation — willing or unwilling, ironic or sincere — in patriarchy, are men.”

Even funfeminists should be able to realize, if they bothered to think about it, that when you promote the idea that rape is sexy, the people who benefit from that are rapists.

One of the interviewees, Blake, presents her desire for kink as a naturally-occurring trait that she discovered while growing up, and that she had to work through her shame around it in order to become her kinky self. I call bullshit on that. The idea that a woman’s inborn sexual desires perfectly resemble the oppression that men subject us to is actually a misogynist idea that men have been using against us for centuries. Men have always claimed that women naturally want to submit to men, and that we want to be controlled, used, and abused, because this justifies women’s oppression. MRAs are still saying this today. (Notice that sex-pozzies and MRAs agree on a lot of things?) Of course, if you bring this up to a kinkster, you’ll be dismissed, name-called, and booted out. That’s because they don’t want to think about the social context of their desires or the political implications of what they’re doing. That would totally kill their buzz, and their buzz is way more important to them than liberating the female sex class from oppression.

“What’s hot about spanking is the fear of it, the anxiety and anticipation of what’s coming,” Blake says.

Well I must be a vanilla shitlord, because I don’t believe that anxiety and fear are a part of a healthy sex life. I think that what people should feel during sex are love, joy, arousal, fun, excitement, climax, and release, not fear or pain.

“Feminists routinely fight for sexual agency – a woman’s right to make decisions about her own sexuality, including when and with whom to have sex, and when, if ever, to get pregnant. Feminists traditionally rebel against the forces that would hem in these rights: the puritanical voices that say that a woman who enjoys sex is a slut, that would restrict access to contraceptives, that claim that dressing provocatively is inviting rape.”

Real feminists, not the fun kind, realize that fighting for women’s sexual agency means making material changes in the world that allow women to say no, because when you don’t have the option of saying ‘no,’ your ‘yes’ is meaningless. For example, when feminists fought for the right to divorce, the right to work for our own wages, and the right to access birth control and abortion, those changes all made it easier for women to control when and how and with whom we have sex or get pregnant. By controlling our own lives and not being dependent on a husband we are free to make our own sexual and reproductive decisions. But when funfeminists talk about “fighting for women’s sexual agency” they actually mean celebrating middle-class women’s choices to participate in the exact patriarchal institutions that deny agency to countless women who are less fortunate than they are. Creating your own pornography is only fun for middle-class women. Women who have no real choices and are desperate for money and find that their only option is the sex industry find it a lot less fun.

Funfeminists vaguely understand that there is something wrong with mainstream porn, but because their understanding is very limited, they don’t have any useful solutions.

“Certainly there are things in mainstream porn that I think are stereotypical, or repetitive, boring, or even offensive,” Taormino told me, “but the answer is not to shut down porn. The answer is to make more porn.”

I’m going to use an analogy here that comes from Gail Dines. People call her “anti-sex” because she opposes the porn industry. As she explains, that would be like calling someone “anti-food” because they criticized the fast food industry. The problem with the porn industry is not that a few movies are bad, it’s that the industry as a whole harms women as a group. It’s an industry that profits from male power and sexualizes women’s submission, it teaches that rape is sexy, it grooms entire generations into accepting abusive behavior, it reduces women to a collection of holes to fuck instead of whole human beings. The answer to this industry is not to set up one porn studio that makes so-called “ethical porn.” That would be like trying to counteract the negative effects of capitalism by opening one ethically-run business. That one ethically-run business does absolutely nothing to negate the fact that unethical business practices are institutionalized worldwide and harming most of the world’s people. And by the way, when your porn studio produces rape scenes, “age play,” and hardcore BDSM, then it’s already unethical, even if your actors talk about consent before they shoot the scene.

Let’s talk about what “age play” is. This is a euphemism for acting out the sexual abuse of an underage person. We are even given an example of it in the article:

“like a schoolgirl who knows she’s going to get a caning after school and can’t think about anything else and she’s asking her friends how bad it’s going to be, if it’s going to hurt.”

It should be obvious to anyone that this is the sexualization of child abuse.

“Removing shame from hardcore BDSM desire and rape play and age play and all of the kinky taboos that women just have not been allowed to like ever, that’s the kind of stuff that really draws me into the feminist porn movement,” says Courtney Trouble.

So this “feminist” thinks that removing shame from the eroticization of things like rape and child sexual abuse is a part of the “feminist porn movement.” I disagree. If you are fantasizing about hurting a woman or a child you SHOULD be ashamed. And as for women who fantasize about being on the receiving end of abuse, they have a responsibility to realize that this is not some sort of innate “kink” to celebrate having, it’s a response to being treated in an abusive way and being taught to sexualize that abuse. It’s not necessary to be ashamed if you have internalized harmful messages from your culture, but it’s necessary to realize they are harmful and to avoid defending and promoting them.

“In a world where porn is the de facto sex education for any teenager with an internet connection, socially responsible producers have to think not only about what will get people off, but what people will learn.”

This sentence coming from someone who thinks that “rape play,” “age play” and “hardcore BDSM” are okay? Are these the things that they want teenagers to learn? That’s absolutely frightening.

I will never call these people sex-positive, because they are actually positive toward abuse, not sex. They are as far from being feminists as the average MRA, and they are not fighting a social justice movement. Women already have the right to be abused. What we need is the right to be free from abuse. Only the radical feminists are fighting for that.

P.S.—The mainstream media loves publishing these sorts of articles. That’s because part of the backlash against feminism is a sort of fake version of feminism that gets promoted by people who have an interest in the continuation of capitalism and patriarchy. They promote a neo-liberal version of feminism that is all about women being “empowered” by making consumer choices, and women participating in patriarchy while rebranding it as their “agency” in a deliberate strategy to kill the feminist movement. There is no better explanation of this phenomenon than Gail Dines’ lecture Neo-Liberalism and the Defanging of Feminism. Neo-liberalism has also killed the Left, because it has turned us away from class analysis and toward pointless wanking over “identities.” Anyone wanting to learn about feminism should avoid the mainstream media altogether and just read either Feminist Current, print books by feminists, or anonymous blogs by feminists. Not the fun kind.

This article is shared from: https://purplesagefem.wordpress.com/

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Suzzan Blac discusses her life, trauma and extraordinary art

BY NMN

This is an edited transcript of the first part of Suzzan Blac’s talk at the ‘An evening with Suzzan Blac’ webinar we held in July 2021 and the related discussion with Ygerne Price-Davies. The transcript of the second part of the talk, which was about her research into pornography, is in a separate article. You can watch the recording of the whole talk on YouTube.

Introduction

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, sexual assaults, numerous rapes and sex trafficking.

This had been my life. My normal. So normal, that I didn’t even realise that I had been abused and been a victim for the majority of my childhood. I only began to acknowledge and understand this in my mid-twenties. I finally sought counselling when I was thirty-three years old.

Recovery was extremely traumatic and it took me more than twenty years to overcome the worst of it. One of the reasons it took so long to recover, was the victim blaming that many people inflicted upon me. In my experience, victim blaming is as painful and distressing as the abuse itself.

Between 2000 and 2004, in order to try and help myself, I decided to paint my story of abuse to help me process my pain, anger and trauma. I began by drawing subconscious doodles whilst watching TV, as I knew that these drawings had to come from deep inside of me and not my thoughts. I then turned the drawings into realistic paintings that depicted ‘me the victim’ and ‘the perpetrators’.

I was sometimes shocked by what I had painted, but I knew that they were my true feelings. I painted forty images over four years and I hid them away for over a decade, because they were for me alone, and not meant for anyone to see, especially knowing that I would be condemned if I showed them.

In 2011, I decided to put them online. I had other works out there, but I knew that ‘silence impairs the victims and empowers the perpetrators’. So I had to speak out by using my art, and although I had many people make hurtful comments, I had hundreds of survivors thanking me for giving them a voice.

I have also been training police and social workers in child sexual abuse (CSA), child sexual exploitation (CSE) and victim blaming since 2014.

I also paint about sexual objectification, sexual conditioning, pornography, prostitution and misogyny.

I am motivated by my pain, anger, injustice and indignation surrounding violence against women and girls (VAWG) and victim blaming.

I’m now going to show you twenty-four of my works with a very brief description of each one.

1. The trusted uncle

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The trusted uncle’. Oil on canvas.
The trusted uncle

This painting depicts my mother’s brother, who sexually abused me as a baby. I painted it like a ‘Happy family portrait’ to convey the lies and cover-ups of family members who knew that it was happening. It also conveys the horrific fact that babies are sexually abused and raped, especially since the invention of the internet and mobile phone cameras. I was actually told that ‘I was sick’ for painting this image.

2. One of mother’s boyfriends

Blac, Suzzan. ‘One of mother’s boyfriends’. Oil on canvas.
One of mother’s boyfriends

This painting depicts one of my mother’s boyfriends who sexually abused me from when I six to when I was eight years old. He was also extremely violent, and in this image I watched in horror as he beat my mother to a pulp. No child should ever have to witness such violence.

3. You’re such a good girl

Blac, Suzzan. ‘You’re such a good girl’. Oil on canvas.
You’re such a good girl

This was the first time that anyone had ever called me a ‘good girl’. He also told me that it was all my fault, because I was so ‘pretty’. Here, I am trying to express what sexual abuse was doing to me internally, whilst I remained frozen and detached throughout the abuse.

4. She likes it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘She likes it’. Oil on canvas.
She likes it

This image depicts the first-time my mother’s boyfriend sexually abused me in front of my mother, whilst she was at her dressing table. She turned around and asked why he was doing that, to which he replied, ‘Because she likes it’.

He laughed and said, ‘What’s the matter love, you jealous? There’s plenty to go around’.

I searched her face for a reaction, but all she did was ‘tut’ and resumed putting on her make-up. I knew then that it was not going to stop, that it was okay and was to become my ‘normal’.

5. Playtime

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Playtime’. Oil on canvas.
Playtime

This image depicts my childhood – although at the time, I didn’t feel like a child. I felt like an ‘Entity’ that existed, merely to survive every day, every hour, every minute. He destroyed my childhood and he destroyed my innocence. Still to this day, I get very emotional when I watch small children innocently play, because he took that from me and put me in the darkest of places.

After many years of sexual abuse from others, including those I had trusted, even a teacher, I became a teenager on a path of self-destruction. These next paintings depict the devastating consequences of my years of abuse.

6. Embracing death

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Embracing death’. Oil on canvas.
Embracing death

By the age of fourteen, I was regularly drinking, taking drugs, partying, being highly promiscuous and self-harming. I was called a slag, slut and a whore, and yes, I was.

One night, as I lay on the piss-flooded floor of a night club toilet, I felt like I was home. I was disgusting, vile and filthy and this is where I belonged. I was so intoxicated, that I thought I was going to die, and I embraced the thought, because I hated my life, I hated humans, and I hated myself.

7. Demonic whispers

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Demonic whispers’. Oil on canvas.
Demonic whispers

This painting depicts the time that I was sex trafficked when I was sixteen years old. This is a portrait of the man who threatened, hurt and (alongside others) repeatedly raped me. I had been taken to London under the pretence of ‘modelling’.

Locked inside a once former Victorian hotel with many other girls and women, we were forced into pornography and prostitution. This was a whole new level of abuse, terror and trauma, one that will always stay with me.

8. Tell me you love it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Tell me you love it’. Oil on canvas.
Tell me you love it

On the first night that this man abducted me, he led me to a room, told me to take off my clothes and viciously raped me. Whilst raping me, he forced me to repeatedly tell him that ‘I loved it’.

9. I’ve killed bitches before

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I’ve killed bitches before’. Oil on canvas.
I’ve killed bitches before

After raping me, he told me to get dressed, and as I did so – he grabbed me by my throat, shoved me against a wall and as he stuck a large knife underneath my rib-cage, he seethed into my ear, ‘I’ve killed bitches that misbehave before, so you need to think about that.’

My only thoughts were, ‘I’m only 16 and this is how I die’.

While I was still shaking in absolute terror, he withdrew the knife and laughed at me, saying, ‘You should see your face.’

This was pure sadism. I could never speak about how this affected me.

There are no words, and that’s why I had to express myself through my paintings.

10. Pornographic meat

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Pornographic meat’. Oil on canvas.
Pornographic meat

On the second day, along with other girls, I was forced into making pornography in a large room full of men. I had to completely detach; I became a ‘dead actress’, a ‘fleshed robot’ that obeyed their every command in absolute fear.

The other girls and I did not speak or even make eye contact. We were first made to watch films of the worst kind of pornography, including bestiality, sadism and child abuse. One man joked that he was going to get the popcorn.

When they began filming me, one of the men asked for ‘Butcher shots’ and I immediately turned inside out. I cried for me and I cried for the other girls, because we were no longer human beings, we were pieces of meat inside an abattoir.

11. Shut up and take it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Shut up and take it’. Oil on canvas.
Shut up and take it

This image depicts one of the traffickers taking me back home. In a train toilet, he violently raped me – three times between London and Birmingham. As I whimpered, he shushed me, covered my mouth and told me, ‘This was part of the deal, so shut up and take it’.

He drove me back to my flat, asking many questions about my boyfriend and family. He then told me that I would be seeing him again soon.

12. The end of everything

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The end of everything’. Oil on canvas.
The end of everything

After I got home, I never told a soul about what had happened to me. I was still traumatised and knew that it was all my fault. I also was being terrorised by one of the traffickers. So I had to internalise all of that pain and fear.

After a while I deteriorated both mentally and physically. I cut all of my hair off, because I didn’t want to be pretty anymore. My weight dropped to six stone, I developed intestinal worms, severe cystitis, boils, chancres and weeping eczema that turned septic.

One night, I sat naked in the shower tray, and poured a bottle of red food colouring all over me. Rocking and crying that ‘I needed to die’.

13. The epitome of sorrow is to die alone

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The epitome of sorrow is to die alone’. Oil on canvas.
The epitome of sorrow is to die alone

This painting depicts one of my suicide attempts. I had taken all of my clothes off and laid down on my 9th floor balcony, one winters evening, after failing to jump off. I was hoping to die of hypothermia. As my face stuck to the icy concrete floor, hot tears ran down my freezing face as I thought how awfully sad it was to have to die alone.

I woke up at dawn. I slowly walked into my lounge which was like walking into a furnace and saw my reflection in a mirror. It was surreal, I looked like a wax model covered in blue and green veins. I just curled up into my bed, so sad that I wasn’t dead.

14. No one asked me why

Blac, Suzzan. ‘No one asked me why’. Oil on canvas.
No one asked me why

This image depicts the time I had my stomach pumped in a hospital after taking an overdose. After hostile staff discharged me, and as I walked away from the hospital, I began to cry – because not one person in there had asked me why I had done this to myself.

It was then I knew that even doctors and nurses never gave a shit about me, they didn’t care if I died, they just did their job.

15. I am a piece of shit

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I am a piece of shit’. Oil on canvas.
I am a piece of shit

This painting depicts how others made me feel, whenever I disclosed what had happened to me. I was condemned, isolated, abandoned and judged. Not believed, made to feel guilty, ashamed and that much of it was my own fault.

This is how many people make victims and survivors of sexual abuse feel. If someone says that they were robbed, mugged or beat-up, there is sympathy and empathy, but not if you are a victim of sexual abuse, you are literally treated like a piece of shit.

16. I’m fine thank you

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I’m fine thank you’. Oil on canvas.
I’m fine thank you

I painted this self-portrait to show how it felt, to constantly hide myself by wearing a mask for self-protection and social acceptance. People made me feel like an ‘outcast’. If I spoke out about the crimes committed against me as a child, I would be met with a wall of silence, made to feel uncomfortable, defective and dysfunctional.

No survivor of sexual abuse should have to hide their pain, anxiety and distress, in the fear of being re-victimised. No human being should ever have to feel what I have painted here.

Now I want to show you some of my other works, ones that I painted years after my story of abuse.

17. Your suffering is real

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Your suffering is real’. Oil on canvas.
Your suffering is real

I painted this image of myself to express and convey how severe, continuous sexual traumas impact your mental health, your body and your very soul.

Sexual violence is unlike any other kind of violence. It’s blackness creeps inside your every vein and permeates every organ until you emotionally shut down and are no longer the human being that you once were. Unable to speak of the horrors, you outwardly smile – whilst hiding the truth that you are internally destroyed.

18. The prostitutor

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The prostitutor’. Oil on canvas.
The prostitutor

This image represents the men who prey on vulnerable girls and women. They are the pimps and pornographers who target ‘bent but not broken girls’ in order to profit from their bodies. They are men on the streets, men online, sex traffickers, husbands, boyfriends and fathers.

The majority of these girls and women are victims of previous sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence, who have mental health issues and are often alcohol and drug dependant.

19. Let me entertain you

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Let me entertain you’. Oil on canvas.
Let me entertain you

This image depicts the sexual and physical violence now commonplace in mainstream pornography. Women are being humiliated, degraded, hog-tied, raped, punched, kicked, suffocated with plastic bags, strangled, tortured and even hanged.

This isn’t about sex; these are crimes committed against women. These videos are the stuff of serial killer fantasies. In fact, the only thing that they don’t do to women in mainstream pornography is kill them.

20. What women want

Blac, Suzzan. ‘What women want’. Oil on canvas.
What women want

Which brings me to this painting, which depicts a young boy watching this kind of sexual violence on his mobile phone.

For the first time in history, boys are viewing this horrific and hateful misogyny and violence against women, which has become so normalised that boys are completely desensitised. Many use pornography on their phones to sexually harass, intimidate and exert power over girls. Pornography alters and influences sexual behaviours and reinforces misogyny in young, malleable minds. This is why the government needs to implement age-verification now.

21. Blue Hair

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Blue hair’. Oil on canvas.
Blue Hair

This painting is one of a set of six images, named Abasement of dolls that depict issues that affect women and girls, such as sexual conditioning, sexual objectification and sexual exploitation. 

Right from birth, baby girls are objectified and conditioned with bows, ribbons, lace and frilly nappy pants. Toddlers wear sassy clothes, jewellery, heels and painted nails. Many little girls are only given ‘girly toys’: housework sets, make-up and hairstyle sets, etc. Girls are taught that only being attractive and pretty are valued, and this often stays with them.

Many teenage girls and women resort to extreme diets, Botox and cosmetic surgeries, because they don’t match up to the high standards of beauty.

22. Blonde girls

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Blonde girls’. Oil on canvas.
Blonde girls

Again, this is about the sexual objectification of little girls, in the media, film, dance studios and even by their own parents – for example, entering them into horrific ‘beauty pageants’ such as ‘toddlers and tiaras’ or buying Playboy merchandise for them. Incidentally, Playboy merchandise was sold to girls as young as eight in the high street.

23. Black Hair

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Black Hair’. Oil on canvas.
Black Hair

This painting depicts the young women who enter the porn industry, many because of mental health issues, oppressed religious backgrounds, suitcase pimps and coercive boyfriends. These are eighteen-year-olds – they are still kids! – who enter a world of grown adult men who love ‘fresh meat’.

Many pornographers make them appear even younger and then have them ‘punished’ and ‘destroyed’.

Many of these young women leave after a short period of time after being so traumatised, a trauma that continues, because their videos remain online indefinitely for all to see.

24. The life giver

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The life giver’. Oil on canvas.
The life giver

This painting represents sexism and misogyny. I portray a history of derogatory and sexist terms used to silence, erase, hurt, subordinate, humiliate, degrade, hate and punish women.

My point is that no one is morally or legally allowed to make racist, homophobic or transphobic slurs as they are deemed ‘hate crimes’ but you can call women anything you want, because misogyny is not deemed a hate crime.


The discussion

Ygerne: I just wanted to say thank you so much to Suzzan for such a powerful and moving talk. I personally find your work really significant. It’s very hard hitting and often can be quite disturbing, but I think that the depiction of such extreme experience and psychological trauma is pivotal because speaking with a lot of women who have experienced sexualized violence and sexism more widely that sharing stories especially in creative ways enables us to overcome misogyny together. So thank you for sharing your story with us.

Suzzan: You’re welcome.

Ygerne: In the past I’ve heard you say that understanding complex PTSD helped your recovery. Would you like to talk a bit more about that and how it’s helped you?

Suzzan: Absolutely. Recovery can take so long and it wasn’t until literally about five years ago that someone explained to me the concept of complex PTSD. I’m now 61 and I wish that someone had told me earlier in my life. That’s why it’s so important to talk about this.

Going through my teenage years and adult life, no matter how many times counsellors and therapists would say to me, it wasn’t your fault… I don’t mean just as a child, I mean as a teenager and a young woman because a couple of years after I was sex trafficked, I actually went back into pornography and prostitution. No matter how many times they said it wasn’t my fault, I still knew it was my fault. So I still had the shame, self-blame, the guilt, everything was still there, it remained.

And you can’t ever recover whilst you have those intense feelings inside of you. Then a few years ago I learned about complex PTSD which is different from ordinary PTSD. Ordinary PTSD occurs after a one-time event, say being held up at gunpoint. That actually happened to a friend of mine in Birmingham. Or like a serious car crash or something like that and afterwards you develop PTSD.

But, with complex PTSD you are traumatised over a long period of time, especially from childhood and the teenage years as in my case, as in many other women’s cases. You are constantly, repeatedly traumatised over years. For me it was every day or every other day for all those years.

Each time that you are traumatised you internalise that trauma and become detached – especially in sexual violence. Each time someone abuses you, you become detached and as in my case, completely detached, all through those years.

And so, you never really feel what’s happening to you, you never really feel that pain. All through my teenage and early adult years I was self-abusing because what you don’t ever want to do is feel that pain. So, you keep abusing yourself, in whatever way, drink, drugs, putting yourself in certain situations, like I did.

I would put myself into dangerous situations because I wanted to keep being abused or abusing myself so I would never have to feel it because it was too enormous. The enormity of it was too much – unlike someone who is suffering from PTSD from a one-time event – they can talk about it. If you were mugged or robbed or attacked physically, you can tell people. But, with sexual violence, you can’t. So that compounds it and you have all these extra symptoms because you cannot talk about it.

Once I understood that, I could understand that it was not my fault. In the end I understood completely why I carried on abusing myself. I wanted to relay that to other people because it took so long for me to understand it.

Ygerne: You mentioned victim blaming and how that made it so much harder for you.

Suzzan: Exactly! You don’t get victim blamed if you are mugged. They don’t say, you shouldn’t have worn that jewellery or you shouldn’t have carried money with you. Nobody says that.

But, if you are raped, especially young girls, around 14 and upwards, it’s what was she wearing? How much was she drinking? And they don’t ask such questions to elderly ladies who are raped.

There’s so much victim blaming of young women and it compounds the recovery. That’s another reason you don’t want to talk about it because people are really cruel. In my book I talk about the many times that I suffered victim blaming. This is something we need to address; we need to address this because it is only young girls and women who are targeted, nobody else.

Ygerne: It’s re-traumatising all over again and it comes from this hatred for women, doesn’t it?

Suzzan: Absolutely. Misogyny plays a large part in all of this.

Ygerne: OK, so we’ve had a question that came through from the audience. She says: are you married to a man and if so, how were you able to trust him or anyone? How were you able to move past the hatred of people?

Suzzan: I never wanted to have a relationship when I was a young woman. I never trusted anybody. How could I? So, I would just go out with someone and you know, whatever. I never wanted to get close to anybody or have anyone close to me.

And I never wanted children, either. I’ve been asked quite a few times by people whether it was because I was worried I would abuse them. And I would say no it wasn’t that. It was because I didn’t want to bring them into this evil world.

But I met my children’s father and I found myself getting close to him and I didn’t want to. I don’t think I’ve ever really trusted him and I had good reason not to. We ended up going through hell.

I even went to the women’s hospital because, like I said before, I thought I was mentally ill. At that time I didn’t know that I had been abused. People find that hard to believe, but I thought I was just a looney. That’s what I thought. That I was a looney who took drugs, drank, and had a good time and hated the world. I thought I was mental. We went through quite a difficult period.

I was on the pill from when I was 13 years old, and I went to the doctor because I had severe migraines. He told me to come off the pill and as soon as I did, I got pregnant, which was a big shock. And that’s a whole other story – of how an abused person feels when they have a child.

We did divorce years later. And I’ve only had one relationship since then. I haven’t had one now since 2017. I’d rather just not.

It not just relationships that I find hard, it’s friendships, it’s work colleagues. Because, being abused affects every aspect of your life. Say something comes up in a work situation – for example, Mother’s Day and you’re asked about your mother. I would often say that she’s dead. She’s not, but I would say she was. I couldn’t talk about her because I stopped seeing her when I was in my early 30’s and I’ve never seen her since and I don’t want to see her.

So, it’s things like that, things that come up all the time. It’s very difficult. So, I would rather be alone, I’d rather just write and go for walks and just be by myself these days, with my cat, I love my cat. And, of course, I’ve got my two beautiful grownup children and a granddaughter. And I’m happy with that, but it’s been very difficult to trust. It’s hard to trust people.

Ygerne: That’s understandable.

Suzzan: It is, because I’ve even been abused by doctors – when I was in my early 20s. I went to a place for help to get into work. One of the lecturers started abusing me there and I went to the on-site doctor and he closed the blinds and started abusing me too. So, all my life, up to a certain point – after having children and counselling, everything changed. But, before I had children, I was constantly, constantly abused.

And as I said, you just detach.

I didn’t know I had an inkling about being abused when I was in my mid to late 20s. Having my daughter was the catalyst to my recovery because I understood at that moment when she was born what it should be… How the protection and love that you have for a child, for a baby, for your baby, was so intense and everything kind of changed from that moment.

Ygerne: That’s a moment of hope.

Suzzan: Oh, absolutely. But it was so hard because even when I had children I had so many difficult times and even when I was in therapy. When I was 33, I’d had my second child, my son and suddenly social workers got involved because they knew I was in therapy for my own abuse and I had a lot of abuse from them. It just went on and on. It was absolutely awful, never ending.

Ygerne: It was the blaming again, wasn’t it?

Suzzan: Instant victim blaming, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I know things have improved, but they’re not good enough, especially when it comes to young women.

Ygerne: There’s definitely a long way to go. We have to keep fighting.

Suzzan: We do, absolutely. And all of us can impart the knowledge and understanding to younger women that I didn’t get, and that’s why I do what I do.

Ygerne: Thank you Suzzan. Thank you so much, it’s been amazing to have you.

Suzzan: You’re welcome. And thank you to everybody who watched. I wouldn’t say it’s been fun, but this stuff needs to be out there and women, especially younger women, need to understand more from us older ones.


The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac: book cover

If you want to see more of Suzzan’s paintings, you can go onto her art website.

She has also written a book about her life called ‘The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac’ which is available on Amazon.

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The second part of Suzzan’s talk, which is about her research into pornography, is available here.

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Adult Film Industry and Human Rights Violations

Adult Film Industry and Human Rights Violations

There have been numerous reports of human rights abuse in the adult film industry. The
inappropriate and rash themes such as ‘bondage’ and ‘sex slaves’ shown in the adult-movies
have affected the lives of its actors and its viewers. Women are portrayed as enjoying forced-sex
and enjoying being whipped, choked and beaten which indirectly promotes and normalizes rape
culture. Various Human Rights treaties have conferred upon the mankind, various fundamental
rights, which are inalienable.

It is certain that the adult film industry has devastated its actors and has become a hub of trafficking. This article gets into the details of how the adult film industry has directly violated the human rights of its actors. The article further includes case laws and confessions from female porn actors who have acted in such movies. Other major issues i.e. child-pornography and human trafficking have also been dealt with.

By Jasmine Siddiqui, a 4th year student currently enrolled in B.A. LL.B (H) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Introduction

The adult film industry is considered as one of the biggest industries in the world. Porn is watched in almost every second house. It is a pre-conceived notion in our society that the industry is one that of leisure and fun. It appears to be all gold and glitter but the reality is far away from this.

The world of adult films is humiliating and the lives of its workers are dull and shady. The industry has portrayed ‘bondage’ as if it were right and common. The portraying of women as sex slaves and whipping them on their private parts are some of the main themes of pornographic videos. Many people love passionate sex but bondage and slave sex is not a form of passionate sex. It is sheer violence and inhumane behavior towards the porn performer and further promoting cruelty and torture among its viewers.

It is reported from time to time by various human rights organisations how women are forced to be part of the porn industry and are coerced to be slaves or servants of influential clients. The porn actors’ human rights are violated due to violent and humiliating pornographic acts which they are often forced to perform. Trafficking, child abuse, non-consensual sex and fake contracts are some of the other human rights violations.

Apart from the actors, the viewers are also highly affected by such content. They get exposed to such uncommon and unacceptable sexual behavior that they often desire to have same type of sex with their partners. They imitate the actors and start turning hostile towards their partners which results in increased sexual crimes/assault cases toward women.

Many porn websites purchase homemade porn videos and allow their upload on their portal. This tends to men capturing their intimating scenes with their partners, mostly with hidden cameras which they later sell in return for a good price from porn websites.

Trafficking In Adult Film Industry Is Unreported But Not Uncommon

The viewers of adult videos believe that the porn stars are performing in such videos by their will. They defend pornography by saying that if porn stars didn’t enjoy what they were doing then they would have quit the industry. This may not be the case every time. Trafficking and porn industry may seem unrelated but the reality is far opposite.

Article 3 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children defines Trafficking as, “Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of
the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking which involves trafficking of women and children for the purpose of commercial sex or sexual exploitation. The term “commercial sex act” is defined as “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” [1] The term ‘sex trafficking’ is not particularly defined in the UN conventions but a Parliamentary Act of the United States defines it.

According to The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) sex trafficking is defined as “Recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual through the means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex”.

Sex traffickers target victims through false promises. The adult film industry includes escort services, brothels, clubs and fake massage parlors. The International Labor Organization asserts that there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. According to a report by International Human Rights NGO based in Japan, there have been numerous cases in which Japanese women were coerced to appear in adult pornographic videos.

Very recently in 2016, young women were contracted to be models or actress but later they were forced to do pornographic videos. The porn companies make them sign the contract and later coerce them of penalty or other similar threats. They are forced to perform sex scenes and later their videos and pictures are circulated among adult cinemas and internet. The report further claims that many derogatory roles are assigned to the porn actress which includes the role of being a slave or debt bondage. In many cases, it has been revealed that young innocent actresses who are new to the industry gets duped by an agent under the pretence that she is assigned a simple role but in reality she is forced to do ‘rough sex.’

The Case Of United States V. Bagley 

In the American case of United States v. Bagley, a husband and his wife were accused of trafficking a minor. The victim ran away from a foster home at the age of 16 years and was taken into their home by a married couple. They treated the victim as their property and forced her to sign a contract to be their sex slave. She was made to forcefully dance at clubs. They not only beat her but also whipped, flogged, choked, caned, skewered, drowned, mutilated, hung and caged her. She was tattooed on her arm with a Chinese character for “slave.” She was electrocuted and suffered cardiac arrest for which she was hospitalized at the age of 23.

In yet another case of the Netherlands, four people were found guilty of kidnapping asylum seekers from North America and forcing them to take part in pornography. The victims were taped and recorded while forced to have sex with men and animals. One of the victims escaped and reported the local police. This depicts the hidden reality of organized human trafficking of women especially of women coming from vulnerable places.

Adult Film Industry Promotes Rape Culture & Sexual Exploitation

More and more porn stars are now coming up to speak about the terrifying reality of the adult film industry. Female porn stars have reported that they have to shoot films which contain brutal acts. One porn star was reported saying, “I agreed to do the scene, thinking it was less beating and only a punch in the head. He had worn his solid gold ring the entire time and continued to punch me with it. I actually stopped the scene while it was being filmed because I was in too much pain.” [4] Abuse and sexual violence are that common in the porn industry.

The adult film industry through its abusive and pervasive videos promotes gender stereotypes. Pornography changes the way the world sees women. There is nothing like love and affection in the porn videos and women are depicted as sexual objects with insatiable sexual desires who are always ready to please men. Pornography has made the outer body only criteria for judging women.

Women are expected to have perfect body figures just as the appealing body figures of the female porn stars. Porn websites contain male domination and female submission videos as if these are the expected roles. The viewers of ‘bondage’ and ‘rough sex’ porn videos often start lacking empathy for women. Their behavior towards women turns dominating and sexually imposing.

A study consisting of data from seven countries found that effects of pornography include increase in verbal and physical aggression. [5] Another study found that males aged 14 to 19 who viewed pornography have more often sexually harassed a female peer. [6] Many women have reported that their partners turn aggressive during sex and perform rough sex without even asking for the other partner’s consent. Though sex is a person’s choice and many couples enjoy unnatural sex; including oral and anal sex but this becomes a matter of fear and concern when the male partner starts enjoying to see her female partner in pain, crying and begging for his mercy. These brutal sexual acts leave women in fear. Choking, gagging, spitting are among some humilities usually done by their male partners.

The question is how and why young people find it alright to be abusive with their partners? The answer is ‘Porn’. Usually young children grow up watching porn. Sex-education is not common in most of the countries like India. The adult videos websites are flooded with submissive sex videos that it becomes the new normal for these young adolescents. It is an accepted fact that pornography has a higher impact on adolescents. They tend to believe that women are designated to be sexually exploited by men.

A report from November 2019 surveyed some British women which found that a third of them below the age of forty have been victims of choking, slapping, gagging or spitting during sex. 20% of these women said they were left frightened by the incidents. [7] Yet another study by Debby Herbenick who is a sex researcher found out that nearly a quarter of adult women in the US have reported unwanted choking during sex. [8]

Top 50 popular pornographic videos were analysed and it was found that 88% of scenes contained physical violence, 49% contained verbal aggression, 87% of aggressive acts were against women, and 95% were neutral expressions. [9]

Not only physical violence but verbal abuse has also become an intensive part of the adult film industry. Women are often called with names like “bitches”. They are portrayed and used as sexual objects. Such occurrences have affected the dignity of women in real life also. There is an increase in the performance of rough sex between real life couples where women are considered as mere sexual objects. These occurrences have direct correlation to the extreme violence and verbal abuse typified in pornography. [10]

There is a fine line between pleasure and pain but through these pornographic videos the porn websites are depicting that inflicting pain upon women is a pleasurable and fun activity; for both men and women. The BDSM category videos promote rape, sexual abuse, cruel and inhumane behavior. While shooting such videos, the porn stars go through highly painful experience. They are not even allowed to leave the shoot in between. This is nothing but rape. If we go by the definition of rape, penetration of penis or any other object into the sexual parts or mouth of a woman without her will and consent amounts to rape.

In a survey conducted, the interviewer did not even mention about pornography yet out of 193 cases of rape, 24% rapists mentioned that they were stimulated by pornographic materials including videos and writings. These rapists insisted that the victims enjoyed rape and extreme violence. [11] Another study by FBI researchers concluded that out of 36 serial killers 29 were attracted to violent and rough sex pornography which they tried to do with their female partners and ended up killing them. [12]

In March 2020, Pornhub was accused for profiting from rape and abusive videos. An online petition was circulated against Pornhub for facilitating sexual trafficking and for weak protection policies. In a reported incident, a couple’s intimating video was stolen from her mobile phone and later sold to Pornhub. She got trending in top five ‘soft porn’ videos category until it was removed after few days. [13] In yet another incident, a 15 year old girl was raped and her videos were later uploaded on Pornhub and other porn websites.

Porn sites are also accused of giving a platform to ‘revenge porn’. A revenge porn victim felt extremely embarrassed when she found out that her intimating videos with her ex-boyfriend had been uploaded on Pornhub which crossed 600,000 views. [14] This is how giant adult websites such as Pornhub and YouPorn are promoting non-consensual sex and are profiting from this.

The Case Of Adult Film Actress, Linda Lovelace

Linda Lovelace, a former porn actress revealed her experience in porn industry. Many books and movies have been written and filmed depicting her life story. Her autobiography titled ‘Ordeal’ reveals that she was forced into the porn industry. She shared that her first shoot in the adult industry included gang rape by five men. Her husband forced her into prostitution and private porn and he threatened to shoot her from his pistol if she did not cooperate. She wrote, “They treated me like a plastic doll. They were playing musical chairs with my body parts. I engaged in sex acts for pornography against my will and consent in order to save my life and my families’ lives.”

Child Pornography Flourishes In A World With No Borders

In legal language, a child is a person below the age of 18 years. In recent times, child pornography is on the rise due to easy accessibility on internet. In 1996, World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children defined commercial sexual exploitation of children as “sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons.”

It includes prostitution of children, child pornography, and child sex tourism. Further, if a child enters into sexual activity in return of money, food, shelter or any other necessity then also it comes under the purview of commercial sexual exploitation. Cases where sexual abuse are not reported by the family members due to benefits derived by the family members from the perpetrator also amount to commercial sexual exploitation. The production, promotion and distribution of child pornography, child sex tourism and use of children in public or private sex shows are also within its ambit. This broad definition is acknowledged by the International Labor Organisation in its 2015 report.

According to the UN Special Report on the Sale of Children and Child Prostitution, it is estimated there are around three quarters of a million people on the internet searching for child pornography videos. The report also claimed that child pornography has now turned into a billion dollar business. More than one-third producers of child-pornography are the child’s family members and more than a third people who are guilty of possession of such pornography live with the children.

In a 2015 report by Pornhub, India holds third position in the list of most porn watching countries while USA and UK bagged the top positions respectively and Indian viewers are more interested in ‘teen porn’ [15] despite the fact that India has very strict laws against child pornography. According to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, child pornography includes “any representation of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.”

According to Section 67B of the information technology Act, child pornography is illegal and any person browsing for child pornography videos can be punished with five years of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 1 million. India has also accepted the Convention on the Rights of Child on 11th December, 1992. In 2012, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, was enacted. Its aim was to protect the children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography. Article 39(f) of the Indian Constitution provides for the State to secure children against exploitation.

The Optional Protocol to the (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, The Council of European Convention on Cybercrime and The Council of European Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse are three effective International treaties to combat sexual exploitation and abuse of children. These three contain provisions for providing punishment to the perpetrators.

Pornography Affects The Dignity Of Women

Pornography violates porn actor’s human rights by affecting their dignity and constituting forced labor and trafficking. All human beings have equal and similar human rights. As per Article 1 of the UDHR, humans are born free and as per Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the dignity of every human must be respected and protected. Not all, but many porn actors are humiliated and made to perform sexual acts without their consent. This is disrespect towards their dignity.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives every human the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights state that “no one shall be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. It is evident from previously mentioned case studies, that the porn industry treats women in an inhumane way. They take advantage of poor and vulnerable minorities.

Article 4 of the UDHR and European Conventions on Human Rights prohibit slavery or servitude. Article 23(1) prohibits human trafficking. There are several conventions and treaties which the Nation-States sign in order to protect their citizens’s rights. Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women obliges the State parties to prevent trafficking and exploitation of women. The Convention for Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, considers trafficking done for the purpose of prostitution as evil and incompatible for human dignity and welfare.

Pornography is illegal in India under sections 292 and 293 of Indian Penal Code. In India, Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labor in any form. The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act penalizes trafficking for ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ with imprisonment of 7 years to life imprisonment. India is also a signatory to the Prevention of Suppression of Women and Children Convention.

Conclusion 

Every person has a right to choose a profession of his/her own choice. Prostitution and being porn stars does not make them less humans. They also do have equal and similar human rights as persons following other occupations. A porn star’s rights against forced sex are also a matter of human rights. The defense that the porn actors take up the work with consent is not a valid defense because ‘consent’ in the porn industry becomes very difficult to prove. The ambiguity remains intact as for what purpose she consented to.

Did she consent to do simple sex or sex in any form or her consent was gained by faking the terms of the contract. All these points become difficult to prove. Rising aggression and hostility towards female partners are effects of aggressive porn videos. These industries only focus on earning profits rather than the worker’s safety. Not only the porn industry but such content is publicized even by Hollywood like the movie- 50 Shades of Grey. The international and national laws are good on paper but when it comes to implementing these, the gap is never filled.

References:

  1. Sex trafficking, National Human Trafficking Hotline, https://humantraffickinghotline.org/type-trafficking/sex-trafficking
  2. Porn stars share dirty secrets, The Observer (July, 27, 2018, 3:14 A.M),
    https://m.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/porn-stars-share-industry-dirty-secrets/3478689/
  3. U.S.A v. Edward Bagley, http://www.justice.gov/usao/mow/news2011/bagley_indictment2.pdf
  4. Jorge Keek, The dark side of the adult film industry, Film Daily (July, 3, 2020), https://filmdaily.co/news/female-porn-stars-abuse/
  5. PJ Wright, A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies, Journal of Communication (Dec, 29, 2015), https://academic.oup.com/joc/article-abstract/66/1/183/4082427?redirectedFrom=PDF
  6. European Centre for Law and Justice, Pornography and Human Rights, European Centre for Law and Justice (July, 2019), https://eclj.org/geopolitics/pace/pornography–human-rights
  7. Ruth Akinradewo, The Dark of Pornography, Press Red (Dec, 05, 2019) https://pressred.org/2019/12/05/the-dark-side-of-pornography/
  8. Debby Herbenick, Feeling Scared During Sex, Journal of Sex and Martial Therapy (Apr,4, 2019)
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0092623X.2018.1549634
  9. Ana J Bridges et al, Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update, Violence against Women (Oct, 26, 2010) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210382866
  10. Supra note 7
  11. Robert W. Peters, Laura J. Lederer, Shane Kelly, The Slave and The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and
    Pornography, The Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society Issue 5, Pg.13 (2012)
  12. Supra note 11
  13. Kate Issacs, PornHub Needs to change or shut-down (Mar, 9, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/mar/09/pornhub-needs-to-change-or-shut-down
  14. James Melley, My sister found me in revenge porn online, BBC NEWS (Feb 25, 2020)
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/technology-49583420
  15. Souvik Ray, Top 10 most porn watching countries in the world: India on 3 rd India Times (July, 3, 2020, 4:51 P.M) https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.indiatimes.com/amp/news/world/india-3rd-most-porn-watching-country-in-the-world-up-from-4th-last-year-249212.html

 

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