This post is for Rabbit Write’s Lady Porn Day.

I’m not a big porn consumer, but I have no problem with porn in itself. When I have a problem with porn, it’s because I have a problem with how it was made: because there are labor issues, or questions of the actors’ consent. Sometimes, I get frustrated with the context in which porn exists or the stereotypes it expresses — but there, the problem is with the context and the stereotypes, not with porn in itself. I tend to think that most anti-porn anxiety arises from irrational grossed-out reactions and stereotype-created fears, and I try to open up conversations about the ethics of making porn whenever I can.

This isn’t to say I don’t get angry because many people in our society are pressured to have sex that doesn’t work for them — but that’s not the fault of porn. I certainly get frustrated by sexual stereotypes, but I don’t think porn created those stereotypes.

One stereotype I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — one that I see expressed over and over in BDSM porn — is the idea that BDSMers don’t love our partners, or that love can’t be part of a BDSM relationship. Last month I posted a quotation from the writer Patrick Califia that touched on this … here’s the relevant paragraph (which contains spoilers about the endings of three famous BDSM novels — Story of O, Return to the Chateau and Nine And A Half Weeks):

I still remember how crushed I was when I read Story of O and Return to the Chateau and came to the ending, where Sir Stephen loses interest in O and tells her to kill herself. I can also remember being furious with the way Nine And A Half Weeks (the book, not the movie) ends. The submissive woman has a public breakdown. She begins to cry hysterically, and is abandoned by her master, so that strangers have to obtain help for her. One of the cruelest stereotypes of S/M people is that we don’t love each other, that there is something about our sexual style that makes our relationships mutually destructive and predisposes us to suicide.

This came back to mind during a conversation I had a few days ago: I was talking to a girl who really likes BDSM sex but referred to non-BDSM sex as “love sex”. Because, you know, love is just not an ingredient in BDSM sex. “Everyone knows” that — the same way “everyone knows” that BDSM always arises from childhood abuse, or dominant sadism is for villains, or everyone who likes BDSM is damaged and miserable and irresponsible, or ….

Not to put too fine a point on it: fuck that.

I’m not saying there’s no BDSM smut out there with love in it. Anne Rice’s Beauty series ends with Beauty riding off into the sunset with her loving sadomasochistic partner (although of course the characters deal with all kinds of uncaring brutality first). But even nuanced BDSM erotica seems to fall into this trap more often than not — for example, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, which is so consciously written that it includes safewords, also portrays a main character whose most compelling BDSM relationships are with her enemies and whose love relationship is with a man who can’t stand to hurt her. (Carey took a very different tack later in the series, with other characters; I’ve always wondered whether she did so as a reaction to criticism.)

It’s easier to criticize than create. And all my porn critiques could come back and bite me soon, because I plan on releasing my own BDSM smut sometime this year (if only to see if the online publishing model can actually make money) … and I’m sure that what I produce won’t even be close to perfect. Yet one thing I really want to ensure I represent in whatever I write is love. There are plenty of BDSM fantasies that partly operate on the absence of love — that even demand it, perhaps because the fantasy is all about a vicious and emotionally distant dominant, or because much of the erotic tension is derived from how much the partners hate each other, or for lots of other reasons. And yeah, they’re hot ….

But it’d be so great if those weren’t the standard.

I’ll leave you with some thoughtful porn/erotica links I turned up lately:

* Gender and Misogyny: Responsibility and Erotic Writing, by Corey Alexander

* Rewriting Herstory Through Erotic Romance (Love, Anonymously), by Kama Spice at Racialicious

* 7 Ways To Create A Sex-Positive Critique of Porn, by Charlie Glickman

* Sex blogger Maymay wrote a critique of Lady Porn Day that I thought was interesting and important. Again, I really don’t care about what kind of porn an individual might like … but I think an activist event like Lady Porn Day has different responsibilities from an individual wanking in the bedroom, and that such an event should offer porn ideas that bust scripts and attack stereotypes whenever possible. In other words — I have no problem absolving people for their personal non-politically correct sexual desires, but if we’re going to talk about diversity of porn and trying to set new standards, then I think those conversations should make as much space for different sexual desires as they possibly can.

* And on a non-porn note, there is an actual study out there establishing that consensual S&M increases intimacy among participants. You’d think they could have just asked us rather than doing a study … but, you know, that’s cool.

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This piece is included in my awesome collection, The S&M Feminist: Best Of Clarisse Thorn. You can buy The S&M Feminist for Amazon Kindle here or other ebook formats here or in paperback here.

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