Juggalos, Kink, and The Mainstream(tm) World

One of my favorite writers, Nathan Rabin, became a dedicated Juggalo while attending the Gathering of the Juggalos for the purpose of writing a book. It’s the kind of “going native” association with one’s subjects that would make a social scientist cringe, but for a pop culture writer, it provides a valuable outsider-turned-insider perspective that I enjoy reading about.

This year’s Gathering, according to his field reports, has been dampened significantly by the current political climate. Moving the venue to Oklahoma City and reducing the availability of drugs has cast a pall on the proceedings, already facing the bizarre and daunting situation of being declared a gang by the FBI. In response, the Insane Clown Posse and their associates have announced a Juggalo March on Washington. The surreal nature of even uttering that sentence is truly a sign of the times.

Within the proceedings, there seems to be a muted tension and widespread inability to grasp these developments in their entirety. Some dedicated members of the group feel energized by the FBI’s designation, because it confers a type of “badass” real-world status. In contrast, Nathan points out, declaring fans of a music group to be a criminal gang is, in fact, an unconstitutional threat to their rights of association and free speech. The idea that Juggalos are actually conducting organized crime beyond the local distribution of controlled substances is patently implausible.

There are some odd parallels here to the world of kink. Many kinky people seem to delight in the disapprobation of the vanilla world, and wear it as a badge of authenticity. Certainly, our preferences and peccadilloes don’t conform to any mainstream notion of acceptability, in a moral or legal sense. A penchant for odd and often violent sex acts is no way to win the hearts and minds of a nation that traces its roots back to puritanism.

But as with the Juggalos and their misapprehension of gang status as a kind of power, being outsiders doesn’t make us better or more worthy in any way. It certainly doesn’t make us a force of change that threatens the establishment. As I have noted previously, a subculture that centers the sexual desires of heterosexual, cisgender and mostly white men isn’t even close to being revolutionary. It’s downright normal, in many respects. The only aspect of kink culture that challenges mainstream sexual mores is our outspoken insistence that sexual behavior is something we do because we wish to, not because we are obligated to propagate the species within the confines of Christian, heterosexual marriage. And as such, it requires the consent of all involved. The consent narrative in kink culture, as contrasted with its absence in mainstream culture, highlights just how mainstream our interests truly are – without a commitment to that narrative, most of us are just performing the same patriarchal, cishet sexual politics of our vanilla neighbors.

A march of kinky people for our rights conjures images and bizarre and unlikely as one made up of Juggalos. And as with this parallel universe of a subculture, being dangerous, disagreeable and edgy doesn’t equal speaking truth to power, any more than taking drugs and engaging in assorted acts of chaos and mayhem. The fact that straight, white cisgender men who enjoy being Dominant in their sexual relationships may feel put upon for their sexual preferences speaks more to their resentment at not being able to fulfill those desires with greater ease, as the wealthier and more powerful men in society are wont to do. It doesn’t mean that being a straight, white, Dominant man is a kind of oppression. The entire concept of sexual gratification as reward for winning the game of power and privilege is one steeped in patriarchy and rape culture, and flies in the face of our stated group values of consent, honesty and free self-expression. If sex is a game to be won, then one’s sexual partners are game tokens, not human beings with their own desires and agency.

If we really want to speak truth to power as kinksters, we can easily do so by supporting the political rights of our kinky friends who are transgender, queer, Black and Brown, immigrants, non-Christian, and disabled. They can tell us much about what it’s really like to live as an outsider, not someone who embraces an outsider identity because it makes us feel important, or someone who can easily shed that outsider identity and appear perfectly normal when it suits us.

Daily Affirmation for Codependency

Today I will accept responsibility for myself, my feelings and my actions.
Today I will accept that others are who they are.
Today I will offer love and support in proportion to my ability to give, their abiity to accept, and their ability to respond in kind.

Today I will not accept responsibility for the feelings of others.
Today I will not seek connections at the expense of my well being, safety or values.
Today I will not make change in another person a condiiton of my happiness.

Today I will move towards my visions and goals.
Today I will do at least one thing that represents my deeply held values.
Today I will do at least one thing simply because it brings me joy.

Today I will ask for what I want and accept the answer.
Today I will make what I cannot find elsewhere.
Today I will love myself unconditionally.

Born This Way

Was I born anxious?

According to my mother, I was an easy baby to raise. I was good-natured and well behaved.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious. Some research has indicated that babies learn to smile as a way to encourage their caregivers to pay attention to them, and that well behaved children are often afraid of being punished or abandoned.

My mother and my grandmother have both had anxiety and depression, as well, and it has sometimes manifested in eerily similar ways. All three of us have experienced anxiety around highway driving, for instance, and discomfort with crowds to varying degrees.

My symptoms started making themselves known when I was very young. Like most young children, I was easily frightened by certain sights and sounds. But unlike most children, mine persisted as a I grew older, and some have remained phobias to this day. I still feel afraid whenever I see the alien from E.T., for example. I remember seeing the film as a kid, and I don’t remember being afraid in that moment, but later, a family friend had an E.T. Halloween mask, and I know that that frightened me.

Other things that frightened me were Skeletor of the He-Man Universe, nutcrackers, and the band, Kiss. Now, a lot of people say they can really understand about Kiss, but this isn’t just a momentary startle or a feeling of general dislike. My mother took me with her to her bowling league on one occasion, and there was a Kiss themed pinball machine. The sight of that pinball machine was so terrifying for me that I would instantly scream and burst into tears. And unfortunately, the bathroom was on the other side of it. So when I had to go, my mother buried my face in her shoulder so that we could safely get past it without causing a scene.

I reacted similarly in places like toy stores. My grandmother even remarked that I was the only child she knew that refused to go to the toy store, because some of the toys frightened me so much.

Eventually, most of this behavior subsided, but then, the anxiety came out in other ways.

At 11, which happens to be the most typical age for anxiety disorders to manifest, I started pulling out my facial hair – my eyebrows and eyelashes. It got to the point that I was missing half an eyebrow, and my grandmother would use her makeup to disguise it so I wouldn’t get teased at school, at least not for that.

Even at this point, nobody thought that I needed help. Instead, they lectured me, and told me that I was distressing my mother, and that I just needed to stop doing it.

I developed other coping mechanisms. Overachievement. Food. Escapism. And eventually, sex. I still feel resentful that my caregivers’ approach to my mental health problems was to tell me to “stop doing that.”

I’ve been in treatment since college, almost 20 years now. And I’m pretty sure that my anxiety has been the result of both biological inheritance and upbringing. It makes me wonder how it got so bad, when I was still so very little. What was my underlying fear? It does seem like I was fixated on faces that seemed angry, or at least not pleasant to me. And children are very interested in facial expressions, since the mood of their caregivers is so closely tied to the childrens’ survival. Someone was harsh to me, and while some children get angry and lash out when they are treated this way, others, like me, internalize the stress until it erupts in strange and unsettling behaviors.

It wasn’t, and still isn’t, my fault. It’s easy to say, but harder to believe.

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

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

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

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

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

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Movies are always better with a restrained sissy.

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

Regarding Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bondage and a Movie – Irreversible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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