If you really want to understand…

Public service announcement: if you really want to understand why someone does what they do or likes what they like, and you’re not just smugly looking to have your own opinion validated…try asking the question in an unbiased way.

A Facebook friend of mine just posted to say that she’s been seeing two guys who are into BDSM, and she’s not into BDSM, and she wanted some insights as to why people like it.  Except of course she didn’t just say “please help me understand why people like this,” she took on the pearl-clutching, self-righteous attitude I often see in vanillas: “Well I just don’t understand why there’s any need for people to hurt or humiliate others.  It seems like a mental health issue to me.  Can someone explain?”

Notice that in one fell swoop, she:

-Demonstrated that she’s horribly biased against BDSM

-Demonstrated that her biases aren’t even grounded in reality (BDSM doesn’t have to involve pain or humiliation)

-Declared, outright, that she thinks people into BDSM literally have something wrong with them/are crazy in the head.

Well I’m sure that won’t put anyone on the defensive.


And remember, this person is friends with me!  Albeit just on Facebook, but still.  I like(d) and respect(ed) her.  I thought she liked and respected me.  She knows I’m kinky and when I responded to her post she was like “Oh good, Cowgirl, I was hoping you’d show up.”  So WTF?

I told her that BDSM doesn’t necessarily entail pain or humiliation and that even when it does, it’s consensual, which is really damn different from being mean to someone who doesn’t want it.  Then – after a short internal struggle – I posted again to say that her phrasing was pretty offensive; if she really wants her question answered she might have asked it in a less biased way, like for instance not accusing kinky people of being sick.

She responded that she didn’t accuse anyone of being sick.  Which…okay, I suppose “it seems like a mental health issue to me” is technically different from saying “those people are mentally ill” but come on.  Come the fuck on.  How is it remotely acceptable to say that to someone?  How can she believe that she’s simply requesting information in a neutral way?

This woman works in child care.  If I said “I just don’t understand why anyone would want to be around children all day.  It seems kind of pedophilic to me.  Can someone explain?” do you think that would go over well?  What if I said, “but I wasn’t accusing you of being a pedophile.  I was only saying that you, and everyone like you, does things that I think a pedophile would do.”  Would that fix it?

This woman always seemed open-minded, intelligent, and balanced to me.  I was not expecting this streak of passive-aggression from her.  I’ve stopped responding to her post (I’m too angry right now and don’t want this to turn into a public bitchfight).  I’m hoping others will come along and back me up that she’s behaving badly.  So far, though, nobody has. 

Goddammit I just woke up and already I’m in a bad mood.


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3 responses to “If you really want to understand…

  1. I always try to give the benefit of the doubt and *try* to assume the person just *didn’t think* (by that I mean, sure it shows their internal biases, but I try to believe that they really *didn’t mean it* and are open to understanding, so attacking them or getting defensive is counter productive), but fuck it’s hard sometimes.

    I recently had a submissive man in email tell me that he thought I had a ‘nasty violent streak’ and that some of the things I am into are ‘repugnant’, but that he was still reading my blog to try and understand (I read ‘to see if you redeem yourself somehow’). Try as I might, each time I went to reply, I couldn’t prevent myself from getting angry and wanting to rant at him over his choice of language, so I just didn’t reply. He probably wonders what happened because I am sure he didn’t *feel* like he was being a judgemental jerk. Ugh.

    Sometimes with those people you get a ‘win’ (an “Oh god, I’m so sorry, I just didn’t think it through!’), but mostly you get a bunch of justification. If that happens, I’m done because you are right: they don’t WANT to hear it or understand, they just want to sneer and go ‘ewwww’ and are looking for people to do it with. Ugly.


  2. Brugmansia

    I think compulsively seeking to have one’s own opinions validated is a mental health issue.

    I actually sympathize with confusion about what makes the stuff I’m into hot – I can’t explain, myself, why small penises are so crazy erotic, nor denial games, nor seeing fear in his eyes. But I bet most vanilla people would be hard pressed to explain why THEIR fantasies are hot!

    Maybe it’s because I’m new to BDSM, but I am still captivated by discussions on the morality of consensual power exchange, and what (if anything) kinking on things like pain or humiliation say about a person’s psychology. It cracks me up when people (any people) think they are unbiased, but I do think a certain amount of honest bias can lead to interesting dialogue, at least interesting to me. I dunno … are self-hating kinksters a thing?

    But yeah, if you want people to share their perspectives on just about anything openly and honestly – and at length and in depth – a good strategy is to agree with them.

  3. marika grofno

    Send her the child-care analogue, please. might be a nice cold shower.

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