Friday, January 30, 2009

Playing at abuse (by Suzie)

        Nothing says feminism to me like photos of bound women.
        The latest Bitch has a review of “Playing” by Melanie Abrams. The book cover shows a woman with her wrists bound and her arms outstretched. 
        Reviewer Jennie Durant says the novel details a grad student who “becomes obsessed with brutal sexual games” to work out abuse in her past. An older doctor “introduces her to the thrilling and dangerous world of sexual domination and submission. … He shows her that sexual games are just that: games. It’s not unhealthy if it’s fun, if you enjoy it.”
        Choice is the heart of the feminist movement, Durant writes.
        I disagree. I don’t see feminism as fulfilling every woman’s desires. If I want to devote my life to painting unicorns on black velvet, that’s my choice, but I don’t see how it advances feminism. If a woman wants to submit to a man for fun or if she wants to submit to a man because she thinks that’s God's plan, that’s her right. It may be liberating for her, but I don’t see how it’s liberating for the rest of us. It’s not like women had to chain themselves to the White House fence to win the right to be abused.
      There are well-known works about women who welcome abuse, such as “Quills,” “Secretary,” “9½ Weeks,” “The Night Porter,” “Swept Away” and “The Story of O.” Are there many (any?) well-known novels or films that focus on men who like to be sexually abused by women?
       I understand that people don't want to be persecuted for their sexual practices, and that they believe they can keep their sexual desires separate from the rest of their lives. But I would not choose to see a doctor who enjoyed inflicting pain on (consenting) women, like the doctor in "Playing." That would require too much trust in a relationship in which the doctor already has power over me. Does this make me a BDSM bigot? Or, is this my right as a woman in a world where too many men dominate, degrade and abuse women? 
       I've had too many medical issues this week to sort it all out.