Bound to Struggle, edited by simon strikeback, is “a zine anthology series that features the voices of a diverse group of practitioners of both kink and radical politics.” Some of what I read impressed me so much that I had to write about it here.
This unassuming little zine packs six essays on the theme of praxis, in which theory is viewed as inextricable from practice. Some essays are more academic than others, but all are accessible, thoughtful and personal. I love the idea of considering praxis and kink. I find many people are extremely resistant to examining their sexual desires, especially in relation to belief systems, because they worry that such desires will be shown to be “wrong” in some way and that such analysis will destroy their erotic pleasure.
Don’t get me wrong; I do see how approaching the erotic realm through a lens of morality, guilt/shame and censorship risks destroying pleasure, yes. But the problem here is not analysis, it’s an inappropriately moralistic stance. So what if you discover that your erotic triggers happen to be incompatible with your values and beliefs? Why assume that the only/best resolution of this would be to repress your libido or to destroy your pleasure? Why not consider re-examining your values and beliefs? Because if your beliefs are so rigid and narrow that they cannot meaningfully accomodate your sexual pleasure, that probably warrants giving them a closer look. For the way the body communicates can be complex and confusing, but I can assure you that flesh does not lie. I also wish people had a little more confidence in the resiliance and boundlessness of the erotic drive. The erotic imagination is not something you can analyze to the death. It is something, however, than you can repress the hell out of.
But I digress. My favourite essay of the collection, and the one I found the most critical, was Untitled by Delanna de Hautenbas who writes about female submission and feminist theory. In excavating what lies behind her motives and desires, she unearths questions and issues that most feminists have likely grappled with (regardless of whether they are vanilla or kinky) but does so without the usual defensiveness you often find in these types of personal essays. She answers questions with more questions, not satisfied with pat third-wave-esque answers like, “yeah, my tits are hanging out of my corset because I do it for myself.” Although I would have rathered that she not leave such issues unresolved, it’s a bit unrealistic to expect a more fleshed out analysis given such a short amount of space. In any case, her open inquiries task the reader to consider possible answers that move beyond unhelpful and superficial binaries (e.g., a woman who wears a corset is either (a) a victim of Patriarchal oppression or (b) is sexually empowered).
The essay takes a turn for the more interesting however, when she goes after kink’s sacred cow of consent, the definition of which is called into question. Ms. de Hautenbas writes, “The heavily-negotiated aspect that typifies a lot of kink (and perhaps necessarily so) is deeply unappealing to me. Its notions of consent seem to me so reflexively, uncritically bourgeois-liberal, so ‘legalistic,’ in the worst sense… Surely, there is a place amid the logorrhea of modern life, for subtle, non-verbal, but real, communication between people?” I loved this because, you know, if you draw up a contract specifying all the physical torture you are going on heap onto someone else and that other party agrees to sign it, there’s nothing to question because your relationship is not only consensual, it has the patina of legal authorization! Ha! Fetishized consent, that is worn like some kind of badge to separate deviants from the truly deviant, might keep your actions from being criminalized in the eyes of the state or might make your bdsm practices more palatable to the vanilla world, but it sure as hell will not protect you from a lack of self-awareness or the misdeeds of a top who is not fit to beat scrambled eggs, or what have you.
The other articles are also enjoyable reads. To give you a bit of a sampler, needles and thread, submitted by Anonymous, identifies similarities between kinky sex and activism: “we gear up before we start; we gauge risk for ourselves. we strategize and critique. we develop theory, we practice.” Wholly Owned Subsidiary by Raven Kaldera describes how non-egalitarian relationships, in particular, 24/7 D/s relationships, can be subversive and political, writing, “Those of us who follow this path… don’t believe that power automatically corrupts. It’s just that healthy and honorable ways to hold power aren’t taught to most people, and those who do it wrong get all the attention.”
Hopefully some of those quotes have piqued your interest. Volumes one through five of Bound to Struggle are available online. I picked up my copy in the anarchy/politics section in Quimby’s. Oh, and the Deforge and Fake (in photo above) are recommended and are available at Quimby’s as well. I’d recommend the Jacobs, but you’d be very hard pressed to find this darling jacket now.