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[cw: this post is entirely about BDSM and may not be safe for work. Includes descriptions of sex acts (inc. fetishizing nonconsent) that not everyone may be comfortable with; social coercion into sex; some people with Very Firm Opinions about how your consensual sex life is evil]

Exciting things happened in the Land of Rolequeer while I was gone! Most notably, Maymay deleted all their stuff (?). I genuinely hope they’re all right and among friends, and that the deletion was by choice and not a result of bullying or other mistreatment. For this reason, this post will not contain citations; my apologies and I promise I did not make anything up.

Anyway. Maymay has prepared for us a helpful infographic!

Maymay’s framework talks about sensation, story, and felt sense. Sensation is the physical feelings you want to experience: for instance, you may want to be spanked, experience sexual arousal for a long period of time, or be bound with ropes. Story is the scenarios or roles in which you can experience it: for instance, being punished, taking a vow of celibacy, or being wrapped up for comfort. Felt sense is the psychosomatic impacts the experience has. Maymay argues that a rolequeer felt sense “instills camaraderie and cooperation, confuses authoritarian narratives, encourages compassion for those who are mistreated, focuses on peering behaviors, [and] undermines power imbalances”, while a BDSMy felt sense “instills obedience, demonstrates subordination to authorities, encourages gratitude for enacting mistreatment, exaggerates power imbalances, [and] focuses on one actor overpowering another.”

I actually think this is a really cool framework for thinking about scenes! As someone who primarily fetishizes stories, I appreciate having story explicitly drawn out as an element of sex, rather than being considered another “sex act”.

I like the emphasis on the psychosomatic impact, assuming Maymay is using that word in the standard meaning of “related to the interaction of the mind and the body.” (If Maymay is using the term in a nonstandard way, I apologize greatly and retract my discussion of psychosomatic impacts.) A lot of sex-positive discourse (including some of mine in the past) tends to assume that sex has about as much emotional effect on us as going for a jog. But for a lot of people that’s just not true. When we argue against things like “you shouldn’t have casual sex because you will fall in love and get your heart broken!”, we shouldn’t erase the very real fact that, for most people, sex has a strong emotional and mental impact, not just the physical.

Furthermore, I really like removing kink from the usual top/bottom binary. For one thing, as often as we say that dominant is a different thing from sadist is a different thing from penetrating partner, it’s really easy to collapse them into one singular unit. I knew someone who was a masochist but squicked by submission, and he had a very difficult time finding partners who wouldn’t assume that his desire to enjoy the sensation of flogging meant he wanted to be collared and called “slave.” Even when we discuss, say, sadistic submissives, it’s often discussed in a sort of “did you know there can also be THIS WEIRD THING????” tone. I myself had a hard time working out that I wasn’t into being tied up, because I’m a submissive, and all submissives like getting tied up, right?

For another thing, a lot of really sexy story ideas don’t feature an obvious top or bottom. When I enjoy a fantasy in which Alice gets infected with sex pollen and starts aggressively initiating sex with Bob, who is attracted to her but resists because he knows she can’t really consent, who is the top? What about in a hurt/comfort scene? What about the favorite rolequeer example of puppy play in which everyone is a puppy? The idea that BDSM involves a dominant and a submissive involves closing ourselves off to sexy possibilities.

First: for theory from someone who has devoted their work to breaking down binaries, the BDSM/rolequeer distinction seems really, uh, binary. The psychosomatic impact doesn’t have to be Subverting Power or Upholding Power. It can be totally unrelated to power (or at least as totally unrelated to power as humans can get).

Perhaps the most obvious example is sex that expresses people’s love for each other, on account of our culture literally never shuts up about it and large portions of the culture think this is the Only Acceptable Psychosomatic Impact Of Sex Ever Ever Ever. But it can also be an experience of being desired and wanted, or of aesthetic appreciation, or hatred, or of freedom from restrictions, or relaxation.

Second: this is using “BDSM” and “rolequeer” in extremely nonstandard ways. Maymay themself in Consent as a Felt Sense points out that you can’t know what the felt sense of sex is until afterward, sometimes quite a long time afterward, after you’ve processed your feelings about the sex. Logically, it seems like you also can’t know if you’re having rolequeer sex or BDSM sex until a long time afterward. But people seem to not just confidently declare that they’re having rolequeer sex, but to use “rolequeer” or “BDSMer” as identities. Isn’t Maymay’s whole point about rapists that anyone could be a rapist? Shouldn’t Maymay consider themself to be a BDSMer (if only by accident)?Perhaps Maymay should take a page out of the rationalists’ book and refer to themself as an “aspiring rolequeer”?

It is slightly amusing to me (given that I am, apparently, a “vocally anti-rolequeer” “leech, a cowardly, intentionally politically melodramatic, social capitalist popularity-seeking pitiful pop social justice putz”) to discover that I have been having rolequeer sex this whole time. Well, I don’t think I’ve had any sex that encouraged compassion for the mistreated, except in the general sense that I’m a nicer person when I’m happy. But other than that… fuck, undermining power imbalances is the good shit!

Mm, give me an Aliens Made Them Do It scenario where one gently pets and soothes the other one’s hair as he cries but continues to violate him, because he knows the consequences. Give me sex pollen fic where both characters are convinced, the morning after, that they raped their partner. Give me a sub humiliating her dom, whispering about how she’s the only one who will fulfill his sick, disgusting sexual fantasies and he better be grateful. Give me desperate, lusting gay boys who know homosexuality is wrong but they love each other and don’t care. Give me Christian abstinence porn. I am so disappointed about the absence of Christian abstinence porn, and I feel horrible writing it as someone only tangentially connected to Horrible Christians, so some of you survivors need to get on that.

I guess I’m not rolequeer really, because I’m sort of suspicious of this whole “have sex to make yourself a better person!” project. I am to rolequeer as a crossdresser is to those people who keep going on about how their genderfuck is subverting the patriarchy. Sorry, guys, I’m totally depoliticizing your sex with my asshole liberalism.

Third: I’m not really clear on why “the focus of the story” and “psychosomatic impacts” are the same category. Like… it is trivially easy for me to think of sex acts where the focus of the story is that I, Ozy Frantz, am a worthless human being, but the felt sense is warmth and happiness and affection. I suspect that this might be because of Maymay &co’s abusive experiences in the BDSM scene; I have been lucky to do humiliation play primarily with people who are extremely aware of my emotional health. That is (unfortunately) a privilege not everyone has.

Fourth: Maymay uses this taxonomy to argue that “your kinks are not BDSM,” because you can get access to the sensations that you desire to experience outside of a D/s context and therefore the D/s context is unnecessary.

But, uh… not everyone fetishizes sensation. This is one hell of a case of typical mind fallacy.

I’m sympathetic to this case of typical mind fallacy, because it took me a relatively long time to wrap my brain around the fact that not everyone is primarily into stories. Hence Tiny Ozy had a lot of conversations with their sexual partners like so:

Me: So what are your fetishes?
Them: Oh, you know, I like catgirls.
Me: What kind of catgirls? Like, they’re genetically engineered slaves? Or they’re another species that grew up around humans? Do you want me to be your pet and you scritch me and tell me how cute I am and then we have sex? I can totally eat food out of a bowl if you want me to! Or are we going for more of a feral thing here? I’m a wild cat and you tame me by leaving food out in bowls and then finally I trust you enough to allow you to–
Them: … … I just think that girls in cats’ ears are cute…?

I’m actually not totally clear on why story is a necessary part if you’re assuming everyone is a sensation fetishist. I mean, I’m an almost pure story fetishist and I’ve had lots of sex that was perfectly ordinary PIV with a story wrapped around it. It seems just as possible for a pure sensation fetishist to just get hit without fussing around with pretending to be roughhousing. I mean, These Things Aren’t Necessarily Related To Each Other is literally Maymay’s whole gig.

But if you’re a story fetishist… well, most of the time you don’t get infinite degrees of freedom in deciding what your story fetish is. Sometimes the story element is something like “feeling like other people are watching us” or “the process of sexual discovery” or “someone who doesn’t usually have attention paid to them getting lots of attention” that can be easily removed from a D/s or power exchange context, in which case Maymay’s argument applies. But sometimes the story element is something like “sugar daddies”, which is pretty much always going to have a power exchange element.

My kinks are BDSM, actually.

I’m not sure what Maymay would have me do.

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