Cause I didn’t reject the status quo so that I could follow someone else’s rules, duh!
First off, a nice summary of Weiss’s book called Silicon Sadomasochism in a new-to-me blog called Color of Passion gives a run down of the main points of Weiss’s thesis and some Bay Area BDSM demographics:
Sociologically [Society of Janus] members are predominantly white married heterosexual professionals, with lots of Silicon Valley ‘techies’ and internet-based workers. They represent the ‘rich’ side of the polarised rich/poor society of the Valley and the Bay Area suburbs. They inhabit a superficially casual and non-hierarchical world of work with a strong culture of intense and flexible work plus equally intense consumerism, leisure and play. They have come to BDSM with no personal experience of the old closeted world of word-of-mouth groups and underground cultures. Instead, the new culture of BDSM fits comfortably into certain middle class values such as privacy, free choice, individual agency and autonomy. Unlike some segments of the middle classes, they are not risk averse, and are more like those who prefer to escape from their safe lives into high-risk leisures (BDSM for some, but rock-climbing or surfing for others).
Thinking further on the gendered aspects of the BDSM scene – the prevalence of male doms and female subs – Color of Passion had this to say:
… The rhetoric becomes increasingly problematic as Weiss examines the actual social moorings of play and roles in the day to day practice of the community, much of which mirrors wider oppressions in society. Many participant males were widely recognized to be sexists and clueless Doms…Yet community norms seemed to tolerate this. Men often assumed that women in the community were subs and there was a lot of low grade sexism and homophobia. Male subs had a very low status in the community and were often derided and seen as weak. Male Doms might refuse to see themselves as part of broader gender inequality in society, but many feminists in the community recognized that players cannot simply unilaterally announce their withdrawal from the world of social power. In effect, many male Doms simply embrace male privilege while finding an alibi to free themselves from the label of oppressors by claiming that sexism is ‘irrelevant’.
The BDSM culture is entrenched in the over culture and brings with it all the sexism, classism, homophobia and relationship problems found in larger society. Strangely, this is exactly what I have heard as a defense for the BDSM community, as in “yes the BDSM community has problems with rape and sexism but it’s reflective of larger social problems!” A sort of bad apples in every bunch defense. Which seems to me, but perhaps not to defenders of the BDSM community, like it should stand in direct opposition to the other argument they make of how BDSM is Safe Sane and Consensual and also deviant, dangerous, and darkly sexy and special.
Finally, the post offers a critique of Weiss’s work…
Weiss’s analysis is useful and plausible, but it could be pushed further. Firstly, by focusing on the Society of Janus it does not adequately portray the diversity of BDSM experience in the Bay Area. The Society of Janus, for example, has a particularly bad reputation for sexism and male domination and it may not be more broadly representative of BDSM. Behaviour in private play, professional domination, and associations with very different cultures may be very different.
If I understand correctly, Weiss’s Techniques of Pleasure is based on her dissertation so while the scope is certainly not exhaustive, I also wouldn’t expect it to be.
Anyway, I learned about the above article from Dirk Hooper’s Fetish Week roundup which I learned about in turn because my Fetlife privacy or lack there of post was featured in it. Thanks! Check out the round up for cool breadcrumbs of all sorts including a lot of continued chatter about 50 Shades of Grey. (You know, if you stop bitching about 50 Shades it’ll go away faster…this isn’t the making of an American classic, it’s just the hot summer read people will forget by Sept.)