P.S.A

The following post is written by MayMay:

THE FOLLOWING IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO USE THE INTERNET.

Among the effects of Paul Graham’s famous remark, “The Web is turning writing into a conversation,” is that people are beginning to understand the ways in which “content,” such as blog posts, are a first-class manifestation of information. This is fundamentally important: since “information is the detachment of a resource from capital already detached from land,” as McKenzie Wark theorizes in A Hacker Manifesto, the value inherent in blog posts has little to do with their association with a particular blog, but rather the ideas they inspire in any given reader. In other words, where you read a blog post is not as important as the author’s ability to transfer their ideas to you.

One of the prerequisites necessary to transfer ideas from one individual to another is exposure; if you never read this blog post, there is no possibility that the idea I’m writing about will make it into your mind. As a result, I’m frequently flattered by requests from group blogging initiatives to join them. However, I am also perpetually confused by these requests.

My response to such requests is always the same: “My blogis expressly CC BY-NC-ND licensed, and offers full-text RSS feeds; if you ever see something you want to cross-post to your non-commercial blog, don’t ask me, just cross-post it, even in full, without alteration, and include a link back to the original post on my blog.” Cross-posting my content in this way is not just the Internet equivalent of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” your cross-post also functions as a distributed backup copy and even a censorship circumvention node for me.

So, for the love of good and worthwhile ideas, do not hesitate to copy my content and republish it elsewhere. In fact, as long as you are careful not to decontextualize itand you include proper attribution, I’d far prefer you cross-posted my writing than asked me to write something similar from scratch. In the former, you’re rewarding my ideas (you are not stealing), and in the latter, you’re forcing me to reinvent wheels.

If the tables were turned, which would you prefer to be asked?

END OF TRANSMISSION.

A Thorn by Any Other Name: BDSM as a Sexual Orientation

Building on my previous post about #QuAKE — a term that performatively utters a sexual discourse outside the parameters of gender — I’d like to expound upon an argument within the BDSM community. The argument contends that, rather than augmenting an LGBT-driven praxis, BDSM is its own, separate, distinct form of sexual orientation, and ought to be treated as such.

I first came upon this argument in mid-2011, reading the blog of Chicago-based sex-positive activist and BDSM theorist, Clarisse Thorn. Her blog is required reading for anyone with an interest in the topic: her ideas are strikingly original, beautifully composed, and disarmingly approachable.

Clarisse references the idea in her post, “BDSM versus Sex, part 2“, writing,

We currently conceptualize sexuality through ‘orientations’: we have built a cultural ‘orientation model’ focused on the idea that ‘acceptable’ sexuality is ‘built-in’, or ‘innate’. Some BDSMers consider BDSM an ‘orientation’ — and I, myself, once found that thinking of BDSM as an orientation was extremely helpful in coming to terms with my BDSM desires.

My own experiences bear this theory out. Since as young as three, I have crawled into bed before drifting to sleep, visiting an erotic universe of my own creation. The place, if you can call it a place, reads like the juicy bits of a Terry Goodkind novel: vast dungeons, powerful magic, endless methods of confinement and torture, elaborate mechanisms of hierarchy and power, and a cornucopia of underworlds, shadow worlds, and alternate universes.

Sometimes I play a figure in these worlds; sometimes I observe omnisciently, twisting an outcome this way or that. (Curiously, I descend into the world as a dominant sadist, while in the flesh I veer towards submission.)

One night, years ago, something changed. Tucked under the covers, drifting into a dungeon-panorama-du-jour, I noticed that my cock had stiffened. The same thing happened the next night, and the next after that, until a clear pattern ensued. This started in middle school; I can’t recall quite when. It was a nonchalant affair.

At around the same time I became aware of “kink” and “S&M” as terms, but when it came to my personal sexuality, I failed to connect the dots. Doing so may have led to more usual patterns of masturbation, when in fact it took me until the ripe old age of eighteen to experience a self-induced orgasm.

In terms of my earliest experiences with sexual orientation, I inhabited a different planet altogether from the parameters defined by LGBT. My first hard-on, and the many to follow, stemmed not from a reaction to a particular gender (or a particular person), but from a shifting bodily response to an entrenched, deep-seated psyche-world.

And while, during high school and college, I started experiencing physical attraction to men, and then women, and then people in between — and as these attractions then led to hookups, dating, and all the rest of it — I’d often secretly return to my fantasy world to find the source of arousal that would otherwise be missing, when it wasn’t present in the bedroom itself.

BDSM invokes each of Bataille’s three categories of erotism — sex, violence, and religious ecstasy — situating the practice firmly in the realm of desire. BDSM may not merely be sexual — indeed, it is far more than that — but it also cannot not be sexual; and cannot thus not be a sexual orientation.

QuAKE, not LGBTQ

While “LGBT” is a common term, I don’t really like it. I have a hard time identifying with it, and when I speak or write about sexuality, it’s questionable whether I do so under its banner. (Some would certainly think so, but I beg to differ.)

I’ve never been sure which of the letters fits me best, even if you include “Q,” that Y-vowel of the sexuality spectrum.

Am I gay? Well, some might think so; I certainly sleep with more men than women, but I have deep and problematic issues with the term and its associations, never mind the many lads who fall under its banner. Gay men, on the whole, have a dreadfully limited scope of erotic practice, making even straight people look zesty in bed, which is saying something. A search on Manhunt for any checkbox denoting something more interesting than, say, “threesome” or “married,” yields a paltry show of profiles in even the faggotiest of cities.

Generally I self-identify as “bisexual,” which feels a little better, but still not quite right. For starters, it’s maddeningly unspecific. Additionally, it implies a buy-in of a gender binary, along with a parity of desire for said binaries. It also doesn’t help that many gay men treat bisexuality like an unwelcome dinner guest, wishing it would politely up and leave, or alternatively, confess to its own non-existence. (Dan Savage, of all people, lambasted the term for years, recanting only years later in a post still dripping with condescension and snark.)

If I’m not quite gay, and if we presume that bisexuality is a jolly fiction (never minding that “homosexuality” is a social construct), what does that leave? Lesbian? Well, definitely not. Trans? Not really. Queer? Well, hmm.

In theory, “queer” should account for a vast swath of the underrepresented sexual populace. In practice, it’s seemingly confined to a clique of crotchety, Adbuster-reading vegans who congregate at Diesel Cafe, or equivalent. I count queer-identified people as friends, and am glad they have a term to embrace, but it ain’t for me. Mired in a history of caustic politics, and ensconced in a social scene where I’ve never felt entirely welcome, “Queer” faces similar problems to “Bisexual”: it speaks volumes, without saying a goddam thing.

One purpose of this blog is to explore what I call Augmented Sexuality, a term influenced by @pjrey and @nathanjurgenson, who write about “cyborgology” and augmented reality, arguing that humanity, in its contemporary state, cannot be understood without accounting for the digital condition.

To this end, it makes sense to think about a sexual paradigm that encompasses the various forms of sexuality that transcend “LGBT(Q),” particularly those that find a primary source of expression online. Enter QuAKE.

The term, echoing “BDSM,” efficiently condenses more terms than its acronym implies. To wit:

  • Qu: Queer, Questioning
  • A: Asexual, Ambiguous, Alternative
  • K: Kinky, Kinsey
  • E: Experimental, Eclectic, Ethical (as in “ethical slut“)

More than the sum of its parts, QuAKE allows for a broad definition of sexuality that doesn’t give a (literal) fuck about gender; rather, it conceives of sexuality as a vast process, and fluid paradigm, through which emergent desires performatively utter themselves.

The term doesn’t necessarily seek to displace LGBT, as provide it with counterpoint, the better to illustrate the multifarious ways in which sexuality is constructed (or “prosumed,” to use another Jurgensonian term), irrespective of gender preference(s).

Further, it embraces the digital as a medium through which sexuality is, again, prosumed — perhaps unsurprisingly, owing to the sexual fluidity of cyberspace itself, and its seemingly endless ability to both facilitate and inculcate renditions of eroticism that would otherwise lack the means to exist, either quite so vividly, or at all. (Furries, anyone?)

“QuAKE” provides a monicker — a label, if you must — for those, as myself, whose desires fall outside the realm of gender preference, and instead veer towards kink, aesthetics, and a certain transcendence of (rather than subservience to) a singular, dreadedly Aristotelian version of the “real self.”

The trappings of LGBT represent an outdated paradigm that, in the name of liberation, unwittingly represses. Sexuality, particularly experienced through the shadowy, lustrous, poignant world of BDSM and alternative subculture, deserves a better term, and one that can evoke the vivid flavors of joissance oft sought after by those of us with the palate to appreciate them.

#QuAKE.